This article is from
Creation 16(4):4, September 1994

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Editor’s note: As Creation magazine has been continuously published since 1978, we are publishing some of the articles from the archives for historical interest, such as this. For teaching and sharing purposes, readers are advised to supplement these historic articles with more up-to-date ones available by searching creation.com.

The mathematical raven … and other odd tales


by Robert Doolan

A raven named Toto was once the star of a 'brainy bird' performance in France. The bird's trainer, known as Barini, claimed his raven could add up numbers and do amazing mathematical feats. Barini would ask his audience to call out numbers, which he would write on a slate, and show to Toto to be added or subtracted. The bird would supply correct answers by choosing cardboard numbers from a stand and flying them to his trainer.

The audience was impressed.

The feat worked well until Barini revealed his secret training technique. It turned out that Toto could not add up at all. The bird did not know even a single number. Barini performed the trick with a hidden lever and thread device which allowed him to raise, inconspicuously, any cardboard number he wished. The bird had simply been trained to choose whichever card on the stand was slightly raised.

Truth is not always what the majority thinks it is.

Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis showed this when he challenged common medical practices in Europe in the 1840s. More than 25 per cent of women in Europe's maternity hospitals died after childbirth. Scottish surgeon Joseph Lister agonized over similar tragedies in Edinburgh. Both men believed that the hospital doctors' unwashed hands, and unclean instruments, were spreading fatal diseases. Semmelweis in particular met fiery opposition from the medical fraternity of his day, but when the suggestions for greater cleanliness were tried, the death toll dropped, and the former majority view — that cleanliness was not the issue — was shown to be wrong.

History is saturated with accounts of those who have proved the majority view to be in error. The Wright brothers showed that heavier-than-air machines could fly. The discovery of some living coelacanth fish this century showed that the evolutionary establishment was badly mistaken in thinking these fish had been extinct for 70 million years. Horseless carriages, steamships which could travel at 15 knots, flights to the moon, telegraphs, telephones, and talking pictures … there's a lesson in them all for those who rely unthinkingly on the majority view.

People sometimes ask why creationist ministries spend so much time showing the flaws in evolution theory. Why don't we just concentrate on presenting the evidence for creation? A major reason is that people tend to defend the majority view, often passionately, until they can see reasons for abandoning it. The theory of evolution has become so established that most people who accept it don't even consider there could be a better explanation for the existence of the universe and themselves.

Even Skeptics' groups, which revel in critiquing dubious practices, display an acute blind spot when it comes to evolution. Show them as many flaws in the theory as you like — such as the lack of transitional forms, the illogicality of spontaneous generation, or even the problem areas with scales, feathers and hairs cited on pages 16-19 of this issue — but they refuse to abandon the theory. Not only are they unskeptical of evolution, they defend it vigorously. Yet, as former President of the Biological Society of Strasbourg, Professor Louis Bounoure, expressed it, 'Evolutionism is a fairy tale for grown-ups.'

The majority view of anything may or may not be correct. But when evolution is examined critically, its basic problems seem so insurmountable that the only real alternative view, creation, deserves to be examined rationally as a valid option.

The mathematical raven really didn't add up. Neither does evolution. And that's what creationists must keep pointing out so that people have a solid basis for accepting the Gospel. out so that people have a solid basis for accepting the Gospel.