Evolution – Distortions & Misconceptions by Creationism Supporters

Creationism as a Distortion of Reality

Some while ago, on another forum, I joined a discussion about creationism titled The Controversy About Evolution .  A writer I’ll call Denial was one of those who actively denied basic concepts of evolution. Let’s take a closer look at  Denial‘s arguments. (Please note, there is nothing personal in these attacks. I am just using her writing to illustrate some of the problems that occur over and over in these discussions.)

Denial:What scientific community are you referring to that is virtually unanimous? I am not a scientist by trade, but my degree is in physics, and I personally know a whole lot of people who are scientists (as in, with PhDs and careers in the hard sciences) who believe things happened as Genesis says, and without having to make complicated explanations about how time was expressed in language.

There are few biology scientists who do not support evolution, and those few, such as Michael Behe, have not published their objections in peer reviewed journals. Behe’s professional work in biochemistry does not address evolution at all. Instead he and other creationists use public media to make their arguments rather than presenting actual research in support of their spurious and unsupportable claims.

It’s sad, but true, that there are a number of non-biology scientists who are ignorant of modern biology, and who take a creationist view. But just as biologists are not quantum mechanics, physicists are not automatically qualified to comment scientifically on evolution. [Of course they have every right to proclaim their religious or philosophical beliefs.]

Denial:Look, if you start with the assumption there is an all-powerful God, He could make things any way He wanted, including the way things are. There is nothing irrational about that. On the other hand, if you start with the assumption there is no God, you have to start inserting huge amounts of time to get around the real life evidence in front of all of us, that nobody ever sees things getting better on a large scale.

This paragraph illustrates the dangers of of mixed metaphors. First the concept of an all powerful god is, by definition IR-rational – that is, it is beyond rational understanding, aka ‘supernatural’. That’s why god has no place in scientific discussions or science classrooms. Beyond this, her claims in this paragraph fall apart on geological, biological AND physics misstatements. First, we know from overwhelming physical evidence that the earth is billions of years old, and the hundreds of millions of years that life has existed has been more than adequate to produce the variety of life we see. It’s only young earther’s who have a problem here.

Second, the ‘nobody ever sees evolution’ is a straw man argument — we shouldn’t expect to see processes that takes thousands of years to happen in our lifetimes and therefore science does not claim that evolution is fast enough to be witnessed overnight. But, in actuality, there are cases where we can see evolution in action, such as the Galapagos finches and cichlid fish of Lake Victoria. Of course, the ‘enlightened’ creationist response is to accept these examples of what they term microevolution while continuing to deny ‘macroevolution’. In fact, there is a continuum of evidence that demonstrates evolution over the course of millions of years.

Denial:Everything runs down. It’s one of the most fundamental laws of physics.

This is the statement that jumpstarted my need to write a full rebuttal since it encapsulates the problems I warned about before. This is an ancient, yet perpetual creationist canard – invoking the 2nd law of thermodynamics. [It’s interesting how creationists chose only the pieces of science that support their view]. It illustrates the danger of moving from one area of science to another . But there was a very important caveat that was ignored here – the 2nd law, aka entropy, only works in CLOSED systems. Earth and its life forms are not a closed system, since we’re continually bombarded with solar energy. Under these conditions, there can be local areas of decreasing entropy (that is, the organizing involved in growing living organisms), even though entropy is increasing in the entire system. So the argument that life could not make complex forms from simple ones is not supported by the 2nd Law. To say otherwise is to willfully ignore the facts of science.

As an aside, one of my favorite mnemonics for the 3 laws of thermodynamics:

  • You can’t win
  • You can’t break even
  • You can’t get out of the game

Denial What is really going on, is that the majority of scientists in universities say they believe in evolution, because their jobs are at stake otherwise. If you look at scientists in other careers where there is more freedom to think, you will find a whole lot of scientists who believe in everything along the spectrum from intelligent design to just plain what the Bible says.

First, this is pure speculation, unsupported by any evidence . The majority of scientists believe evolution because it is a FACT, not because their jobs depend on it. There is no evidence for this alleged conspiracy and no one has ever presented evidence of job loss because of these religious beliefs. Second, there is no evidence that biologists have less freedom to think than other scientists. Third, the ‘spectrum from intelligent design to just plain what the Bible says‘ is in fact an extremely narrow band, and is entirely outside the realm of science. And finally, ‘a whole lot’ is, at best, a nebulous term – I’ll close by throwing out my own unsupported claim that, in fact, we find very few creationists among scientists.

Critical Thinking

Glendower:   I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur:        Why, so can I, or so can any man 
                              But will they come when you do call for them?

                                                         –Henry IV, Part 1

Science evolves, Faith is static

As science evolves it finds better and better ways to describe the real world. On the other hand, superstition and pseudoscience continue to muddle the waters. Science is the rational, incremental pursuit of knowledge. The only real way to progress is to design and conduct studies, report the results in peer reviewed journals and proceed to the next question. Problems come in interpreting the results, of course, and journalists have a responsibility to fairly represent the studies’ conclusions – often they’re taken out of context or oversimplified

Unfortunately, as the American public becomes less scientifically literate  more people can be misled [not helped any by those who think creationism is a science]. Basic statistics should be a part of everyone’s education, probably more important for people than geometry or trig or calculus. Critical thinking is required if we’re to have an informed populace. And it matters because anyone can vote, serve on a jury, etc, no matter how ignorant [ie, lacking in facts, not stupid]. The solution is not to narrow the franchise but rather to raise the level scientific knowledge and other important information in everyone’s daily life. This involves not only information but also how we organize that information.

Critical thinking gives us the tools to evaluate information and it’s a process that can easily be learned. In a way pseudoscience and beliefs in paranormal are some of the easiest fallacies to debunk. At first many of these claims appear to be invulnerable, but once you learn which questions to ask these claims are easy to deny. I first started reading the Skeptical Inquirer when Martin Gardner talked about it in his column in Scientific American in the 1980s. By investigating claims of the paranormal using scientific methods it’s easily shown that basic scientific methods deny these extraordinary claims.

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

More about Creationist arguments

Creation Myths

For example the book of Genesis can’t stand up to a rational, scientific reading – it’s actually a conflation of at least 2 earlier creation myths and the order of creation is different in each story this – in one place it says man was created after the animals, in another that animals were created first – it also says light was created before the sun which is the source of our light. These errors show problems in using an ancient text to describe the modern world.

By allowing the religious to define atheism many thinkers have been forced on the defensive. Atheism is not firm knowledge that there is no God, for who can prove a negative? Rather atheism is merely the acknowledgment that we find no evidence FOR the existence of any god. Some would call this agnosticism but there’s really no difference. It’s not an easy or comforting conclusion, but, it means we need to seek a moral basis somewhere other than “do this or you’ll go to hell!”

Skeptic Magazine and Free Inquiry are other sources for developing your critical thinking skills.
Science is under attack from many quarters these days. These books give some excellent introductions and explanations of some of the more common misconceptions and misguided attempts.

 

“The distaste for” progress” and machine-civilization which is so common among sensitive people is only defensible as an attitude of mind. ” George Orwell

Here are several books that focus on specific areas of irrational thinking and also show that the right has no monopoly on faulty thinking. These books give some excellent introductions and explanations of some of the more common misconceptions and misguided attempts.The Secret Origins of the Bible Tim Callahan

Proof of Creation

The Evolution of God

Goddess Unmasked: The Rise of Neopagan Feminist Spirituality
Quite a mouthful of a title, but an excellent book debunking ‘Goddess spirituality’s fraudulent promises of a newage of peace and justice.   Davis “exposes the complete want of archaeological evidence for this claim, revealing the ovement’s nineteenth century roots in radical Romanticism” (from the jacket)
cover
Higher Superstition : The Academic Left  and Its Quarrels with Science.. A thorough examination of the results of applying a confused literary philosophy to science.   Covers postmodernism, feminism, radical environmentalism, multiculturalism and AIDS activism — each of these areas has tremendous strengths, but the deconstructionist approach (aka political correctness) often leads to absurd positions.  None of these discussions can be dismissed with soundbites, and this book is heavy going in places, but essential for anyone trying to work or think within modern science and academia. cover

Life’s Dominion – Ronald Dworkin  – arguments  on deciding the taking of life – abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment
Heisenberg’s War – scientists’s responsibilities during war

Related work:

One of the more absurd and inane ideas is that of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution.  ID has no scientific backing – there’s no actual research supporting it, there’s no peer reviewed articles [as Michael Behe one of its chief proponents admitted under oath in the2005 trial in Dover PA. ]  So it’s sad to see Northwest Great Books Institute  include Behe’s  Darwin’s Black Box as one of its selection for their annual meeting in Bellingham WA.