Why do creationism’s supporters still argue about evolution?
Over the years I’ve participated in countless discussions with creationism supporters about evolution. My background is in basic science, but I later moved to computer programming analysis and design. Among many of my friends who pursued careers in science, there was a basic belief that evolution was such an established fact that there was no need to engage in discussions with those who denied evolution. Unfortunately, as the decades have passed, there are still many otherwise intelligent people who remain ignorant of the basic fact of evolution. If this were simply a personal preference or belief, it wouldn’t be troubling. But today’s world requires citizens to make decisions based on science when voting, serving on juries, or setting educational standards. We can’t afford to remain the only developed nation in which such a large portion of the population rejects evolution. We are destroying our environment as the right wing continues to ignore the FACT of global warming and the US loses its once high standards of education
When creationists enter the argument, they invariably use a variety of devices – some rhetorical, some seemingly logical or scientific. But in just about every case these arguments turn out to be misleading, lacking evidence, misstated or outright lies. The following is a presentation of some of Creationism’s biggest hits. Incredibly [or perhaps sadly], I’ve been able cull all my examples from just one discussion at http://hubpages.com/forum/topic/101355 The quotes in italics are from that earlier discussion.
Most of these creationist canards are examples of logical fallacies, so studying them can help understand and expose fallacies in other fields, especially given the ‘alternate facts’ approach of the Trump presidency.
“Evolution is just a theory”
Dictionaries can be confusing, while science is precise, and the scientific concept of a theory is not just some daydream; it’s a hypothesis backed up by evidence and has the ability to be falsified by new experiments. Some theories become so solidly defended that they become know as ‘laws’ although scientifically that’s not a precise term. Thus we have Newton’s Laws of motion and gravity, which are really just extremely well founded theories. Einstein and others expanded these laws with Quantum theory, that now has very strong evidence. In biology, there is nothing that has the solidity of evidence that the ‘theory’ of evolution holds. So the ‘just a theory’ argument shows either an ignorance of science, or an attempt to mislead by using varying definitions.
For those playing at home….
Take any substantial creationist attack on evolution and count how many of these tactics are used
“Evolution can’t explain how something came from nothing”
Typical argument: If you can answer how, life EVOLVED out of NOTHING. … not beginning with that one-celled organism that is proclaimed to be the first fruit of the tree of life, but THE NOTHING THAT CAME BEFORE the one-celled organism…. HOW DID NOTHING COME ALIVE?…
Creationists often confuse evolution and origin of species with origin of life itself. Evolution ONLY deals with what happens after life is present. There are theories of how life began, but that is a separate area and evolution will not be affected by the outcome.
“One swallow means it’s spring”
Creationists somehow are able to ignore thousands of scientists who agree about the fact of evolution, but then grasp at statements from some one person who disagrees, concluding that therefore evolution must be wrong.
I might have selected Anthony Flew, a former atheist, but I chose another rather highly esteemed authority on the subject: Dr. Richard Lumsden, whose degrees were earned at Harvard.
What I also know is that: Darwin was ‘just one man’ too. Moreover, the scientific facts structured during his lifetime were not ‘evolved’ enough to prove or disprove his “THEORIES” at that time. Since then, the fabric of science has developed in such leaps and bounds now that another HUGE SCIENTIFIC Ex-Atheist Figure “Anthony Flew” has also changed his mind based on the findings related to genetic DNA/RNA structures.
A particularly unfortunate choice of heroes, since Flew, an atheist turned deist did not reject evolution, but merely held the entirely logical belief that a ‘god’ was behind what we perceive as science. Like Einstein, this is a philosophical argument, ultimately about the origin of the universe, and doesn’t affect the story of billions of years of evolution.
“Give both a chance”
Similar to the previous argument, this one makes the seemingly reasonable argument that fairness dictates we present ‘both sides’. I’d be willing to agree with this, as long as we weight the arguments – I’d guess there are more than 10,000 scientists for every 1 who believes in creation. So if we give equal daily time to each ‘side’, we’d have science present its case for about thirty YEARS before we’d hear from the isolated creationist/scientist.
This is the usual argument over teaching creationism in schools. When they are offered the chance to present creationism in a philosophy or comparative religion class studying various creation myths, creationists invariably walk away.
“There is no missing link”
“A Genealogical Tree has leaves on the branches. There is the human in question at one end, then the parents of this person, then the grandparents, but each branch has leaves, provided that the parents had more than one child and each child had children. As the person digs deeper and discovers more members of the family, be they alive or dead, the branches and the leaves grow thicker, more full.
But where are the leaves on the ‘evolutionary tree’? There are none. Why? Because there are no links. There is no evidence of anything. No matter if the Scientific effort is archaeological, genetic, biological, mathematical and so on.”
Despite constant new discoveries of transitional fossils, creationists continue to make this claim. They demand to a see something that is half-man / half-ape, when again, this is a claim evolution does not make. Instead humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor.
“The odds are against it”
Another very popular creationist ploy:
“For reasons that are beyond my articulation skills to explain… and while this platform defies the scientific efforts to prove itself, with odds AGAINST an occurrence such as spontaneous generation having been calculated by scholars in a formula that measures somewhere at 1 to the 141st exponential power… in other words ‘non-existent’, this premise is perceived as a viable condition for the remaining processes of evolution to exact themselves….
is that the same way no actual link has been found to exist between man and his supposed cousin the ape, so no such possibility of creating life from an element lacking life, exists. No matter what type of advanced ‘lifeless’ elements are utilized, no matter what type of laboratory devices are available, life cannot be generated from nothing.
These are a few of the ‘facts’ that I find more than interesting, because they are irrefutable.”
Besides that last statement which makes a claim totally unsupported by anything previously discussed, this is the classic argument from incredulity
“gee, i cant imagine how this happened …THEREFORE it never happened”
These mathematical claims ignore the actual science – evolution is not totally random, but relies on natural selection to speed up the process.
“Absence of evidence is proof of existence”
This example evolved from a claim that a particular scientist later rejected evolution. Other participants pointed out there was no evidence for this claim. Here’s the creationist response:
“I’m certain he has books, articles or other documentation to the foundational structures undergirding his change of mindset. The thing is, NOT EVERYTHING is on the internet… (well not yet at least). So, you may find what you are looking for from the University where he last taught, or in a biography, or published diary (if one exists).
The fact that you are having trouble finding any documentation related to the reasons behind why he changed his premiss may not mean such writings don’t exist, only that they are not easily accessible.”
“Evolution defies 2nd law of thermodynamics”
However, Albert Einstein, said, “‘No matter how carefully we examine the energetics of living systems we find no evidence of defeat of thermodynamic principles.” *
Despite the fact that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is immutable, the Scientific community continues to experiment with that which is beyond them. In fact, a formerly unknown species can be made using the “law of deformation,”. This application then has the ability to cause some functional body systems to be “suppress(ed)” producing “monstrosities” instead of genetically enhanced creatures.
Such a structure is consistent [sic] with the Law of Thermodynamics. Still, the experiments continue.
This is one of my personal favorites – it usually shows up on day 3 or 4. This argument does nothing to falsify the fact of evolution, and is usually presented by someone who couldn’t tell you what the actual laws of thermodynamics are. those who actually know the laws, may appreciate this updated version, easier to remember:
1. you can’t win
The 2nd law only holds in a closed system, and in an open system such as the earth’s biosphere, entropy may indeed have local decreases without affecting the overall tendancy of entropy to increase . It’s amusing to watch creationists try to defeat one scientific fact by misunderstanding another one.
“Evolution denies god”
This is less common, but still frequent:
“One of the biggest reasons, besides the lack of evidence, that I do not believe in Evolution is the fact that many people who do, have “exiled God” from the equation. “IF” Evolution is a possibility, as far as I’m concerned, GOD IS IN THE EQUATION.
Another reason I fail to believe in Evolution is because many who do propose such a ‘theory’ to be the viable manner in which human life was formed, act as though they have the ‘facts’. They don’t. However, I may be wrong. Proof would better help me understand if I am wrong.”
This is just the argument from false premises
“Darwin was a Nazi”
Guilt by association is a common fallacy, but this form of the argument is particularly egregious and mendacious:
“Evolutionary theory” is not “grounded in human beings… as such. Darwin’s assumptions were grounded in something no one really wants to mention, that is: The man (Darwin) who came up with the theory of evolution actually uses this theory to propose “the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life”.
For this reason, people such as Adolf Hitler were great admirers of this ‘unproven theory’. In fact, Hitler is said to have dedicated much thought to accomplishing a philosophy that may have been spawned from the concepts of Darwin.”
“Bible claims anticipate science”
“I am sure there are many scientists who are Christian, or any other religion for that matter, who take their personal morals and beliefs (coming from their religion) and apply those to what they are studying. I am sure the Bible has played a role in many things, and the claims that the Bible stating that touching a dead body will make you ill lead to people washing their hands after touching the sick and the dead is not that far fetched of a claim”
Often after claiming they don’t take the Bible literally, creationists point to alleged historical or even scientific accuracies of the Bible. Then they make the unsupportable leap:
But the examples used are at best, nebulous:
‘He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.’
Apparently the good doctors and scientists ignored that small piece of advice, and women died as a result.
People of all faiths do science, but the results are due to science, not their faith Few if any scientists pray that their experiments will work; and even fewer search the bible for possible research topics. The bigger picture is most cultures define treyf , but for thousands of years people still died from bacterial and other diseases. The mere fact that some text said ‘be clean’ has nothing to do with modern medicine.
Similar over-reaching claims are made for ancient technologies :
The writer was referring to skulls showing evidence of trepanning. This wasn’t brain surgery in the modern sense – it’s drilling a hole in the skull – in former times it might be used to release humors or demons. This may relieve pressure from subdural hematomas, but is unlikely to cure migraines or other diseases and is hardly comparable to modern neurosurgery
“Argument from ignorance”
Commonly used in discussions of complexity, eg, the development of the eye. This is the argument from ignorance: I don’t understand X, therefore Y. It is a logical fallacy. Organic molecules are abundant in the universe, and on the early Earth they found conditions that were conducive for life, and life arose. The process isn’t fully understood, but to give up trying to find out how it happened and to say “God did it,” admits defeat and accepts ignorance. (Besides which it just pushes the process back one step with the forbidden question “Where did god come from?”
“Scientists are wishy washy”
Actually, I don’t recall encountering this one before.
Creationists want a definitive answer. During the discussion there was this lament:
Why must evolutionists ALWAYS have to include ‘may’ ‘could’ possibly’ and any other number of less than definitive words in their statements?
Scientists must be PRECISE, so those terms are appropriate for discussing science – unlike those who KNOW there is a god [and often also know all others are false], for example, entropy truly MAY decrease in some places while overall it will increase, as expected. Many facts of science are based on probabilities – eg, while no individual weather event can definitely be blamed on human- caused global warming, the FACT of significant global warming, combined with the known FACTS of the human contributions to global warming justifies the conclusion that some/many/most of the extreme weather events witnessed over the last decade MAY be caused by such human intervention. this gets back to OP’s constant demand for unambiguous ‘proof’ which is impossible
I realize it’s tough for some people to realize that there are few black & white issues in the world, but that’s just the way it ‘may’ be [possibly].
“Scientists don’t respond to creationists”
In truth, proponents of evolution know that it cannot withstand open criticism. Furthermore, they know that evolution cannot be tested nor is it any more scientific than intelligent design; in fact, it is less so. Therefore, in order for them to keep it ensconced in textbooks, they must suppress criticism of it and not allow its varied and numerous flaws to be considered critically. The situation that has arisen due to this irrational adherence to evolution is nothing short of “abnormal and undesirable in science.”
This sort of argument is dishonest – first quoting out of context [using a creationist website rather than the actual original source], then extrapolating from a 60 year old quote to claim something for which the writer presents no evidence — where is there such evidence of suppression? All the evidence is on the other side — eg, Texas textbook committees refusing to let evolution even be discussed in American science text books. The next sentence often concludes that since they won’t debate, evolution must be false.
It is true that most scientists 50 years ago, and many still today, were/are disparaging of creationist critics — a big reason for this is that they understood that any educated person could not possibly fail to see the reality of evolution. They underestimated the willful ignorance of the American public, especially when fueled by fundamentalist rantings, so they didn’t see the need to react more positively.
But ultimately, none of these creationist out of context quotes address the fact that evolution is true. At the same time, none of creationism’s proponents offer evidence for their argument that creationism is scientific. In politics, you can win with a negative campaign that proposes no ideas of its own, but that’s not how science works.
The atheist paleontologist, Stephen Jay Gould, once said:
‘Our ways of learning about the world are strongly influenced by the social preconceptions and biased modes of thinking that each scientist must apply to any problem. The stereotype of a fully rational and objective “scientific method”, with individual scientists as logical (and interchangeable) robots is self-serving mythology.’
Anyone who has actually read the works of Stephen Jay Gould would realize this was not a refutation of evolution, as Gould was one of the most avid advocates for evolution, both as a scientist and a popular author for the general public.
“Distortions of science”
’Once again, we join the discussion in progress:
…which in turn causes people to become immune to antibiotics, which in turn allows for mutation of the virus, which is actually a genetic loss, not improvement. Bacteria becomes resistant to drugs because they lost information… The antibiotic cannot lock onto the ribosome of the bacteria because that ribosome is lost in mutation… resistant only to the particular drug that caused the mutation.
This is scientific gibberish:
Beyond these mistakes, the writer misses a very basic fact — evolution does not make anything do anything. instead, natural selection allows the preferential survival of organisms that HAVE ALREADY mutated, when they can do better in the new environment. unlike invoking a creator, the process is totally random, ruled only by the laws of science. In this example, the mutation that allows resistance is already present when the organism confronts the antibiotic challenge.
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing:
there was an analogy held to by Aldous Huxley. … A proponent of Evolution, he made a remark about a monkey being able to type out the Complete Works of William Shakespeare given enough time. However, THE SCIENCE OF MATHEMATICS refutes such a possibility. What’s more, the theory of Evolution evolving from a one-celled live, organism IF THAT WERE EVEN PLAUSIBLE, into a complex, fully developed human cell, according to THE SCIENCE of MATHEMATICS, sits at a statistic with an exponential value of 1 to the power of 1000., which is SO REMOTE THAT EVEN THE ODDS OF A MONKEY EVENTUALLY (over millions or billions of years) TYPING OUT just ONE SHAKESPEAREAN PLAY ARE MORE REALISTIC.
There are examples of the Mathematical Equations, including factors associated with the numbers a person would be looking at (and comments made as a result of what is posted) for such a SCIENTIFIC FACT
Of course, the writer didn’t actually do the math, but was yet again quoting from a creationist website. Besides the questionable attribution to Huxley, the argument once again distorts the basic concepts of evolution.
Typical creationist claim: “We are discussing the ‘General Theory of Evolution’ (GTE), which was defined by the evolutionist Kerkut as ‘the theory that all the living forms in the world have arisen from a single source which itself came from an inorganic form.’
It is erroneous, then, to say that a human-tampered banana is proof, that human-tampered farm animals are proof, that a virus adapting to a virus is proof of GTE.
Show me, using the scientific method, evidence of a banana becoming something other than its kind, or a cow becoming something other than its kind, and you can claim evolution to be scientific”
Kind is a biblical not scientific term – often used to declare that we never see, as above, cows becoming ‘something else’. First creationists try to redefine the terms by supplying their own definitions, then they ‘disprove’ evolution by tossing out absurd statements. Evolution doesn’t claim that cows will suddenly become a different ‘kind’, but rather, over many generations, AND some sort of selective pressure, the population of cows may become different enough that eventually there are 2 distinct populations, which may eventually be recognized as species. The African jungle elephant is one example of this phenomenon. . A quick summary:
* mutation causes changes in genetic data
* changing environments apply different stresses
* natural selection results in reproduction of forms best adapted to new conditions
All the above come from just one discussion on Hubpages, but the distortions and misquotes used by creationists are similar wherever they pop up [not surprising really, since they habe no actual science to back up their claims]
For some of the best discussion and documentation of the creation & evolution debates, check out Talk Origins, one of the oldest ongoing newsgroups, pre dating the internet.
More on evolution
Ok, I’m well beyond the top 10 originally promised, but I couldn’t resist. And all these remember are from just 1 site. The internet can be a powerful tool, but it also makes it easier to perpetuate misinformation, distortions and outright lies. My intent here is not to start yet another creation – evolution discussion, although all comments will be welcome and accepted. Rather to provide some analysis for when you’re presented with these common ploys when you encounter these arguments.