Note to Creationists:
The ONLY WAY one can prove "divine creation" as it is described/assumed in the Genesis story is to find evidence that complex, living organisms can emerge, -- fully formed -- without parents and from a matrix such as water or dirt. You need to show a working example of a complex living thing coming into existence without parents.
That is the ONLY way you can prove your version of "divine creation".
(Or at least, give us a detailed, working hypothesis for the process of such an event.)
Heard It All Before...
Here are my replies to the common fallacies and arguments often made about the theory of evolution. (Note that I am trying to demonstrate here why such arguments are either based on misconceptions or faulty logic, and not necessarily reflect what I ultimately believe.)
(This is a rough draft and work in progress. I will continue adding and editing as time permits)
1. Strawman Misconception: The theory of evolution demands that all species evolve into new species over time. Therefore, existence of ancient or unchanged species disprove evolution.
One of the most common creationist misconceptions about evolution is the idea that everything is destined to evolve into different species, and that the existence of ancient species in the present day "disproves" evolution.
The evidence actually suggests that evolution only happens under the right conditions, such as with organisms that are adaptable in a variety of conditions and environments and when populations become isolated into different environments with different challenges, pressures or opportunities. But once an organism becomes specialized within a niche, it is more likely to remain that way. If conditions change in which the organism cannot adapt, then it will most likely go extinct.
An analogy might be job skills and positions in the economic environment. Like genetic variability, not everyone has an equal set of skills.
Now, supposing there are a group of people who work for two different companies. One is an established, longtime company with various management heirarchies and another is a startup company based on some kind of new, promising technology.
Upper management decides the positions for the established, longtime company. They hire the most skilled workers who occupy the job positions. The job duties are specific and don't change, but the employees are the best ones performing the work. However, it's more difficult for them to advance to a higher position.
The startup company group comprises of several multi-talented colleagues with no upper management. Over time, their roles in the company may evolve depending on the niche into which they are best skilled at. One person may focus mainly on programming. One person may focus mainly on graphics. One person may become so successful in their work they advance their position and gain more power. And so on.
Over time, changes in technology may favor the new company over the old company. If the old company does not adapt quickly enough, the employess who were skilled in the old and soon-to-be-obsolete technology will find their positions and livelihood phased out of existence.
Except for the janitors and custodians, who are able to find work at the newer company.
Meanwhile, economic and technological conditions enable the growth and increased power of the new company. Without an upper management, the original workers are able to advance their positions and power fairly rapidly.
The analogy here is that the companies represent the environment; the changing technology represents conditions that must be adapted to. Upper management represents the pressures acting on the organism (such as predators). The employees represent species.
With a favorable environment and fewer pressures, the employees have more opportunity to diversify and advance. In a more established environment with more managers, they are more likely to become boxed into a niche. If technological conditions change and they cannot adapt, then they become obsolete.
It's a simplification, but it's an analogy to the question of why some ancient forms of life still survive to this day, while others die out. The algorithms are a bit more complicated. Not every organism has the genetic toolbox to undergo major alterations.
The more kinds of selective pressure on an organism, the more likely it will become refined in its niche. It may become so specialized in a niche that it may not adapt quickly enough in response to environment changes, and will then go extinct.
On the other hand, an organism which is a generalist, with fewer selective pressures, may eventually occupy a niche if an opportunity opens up for one. For example, populations of an early omnivorous mammal may have become geographically separated and they adapted to different environmental or dietary conditions. Subsequent populations become more specialized depending on factors such as environment, predator or prey relationships, etc.
Most species that have ever existed on Earth have gone extinct. Living fossils are species that are so successful and well adapted to the niche in their environment that they have not gone extinct, or occupy a stable environment (such as the deep ocean) that is unlikely to undergo major changes.
See also: Frogs, Crocodiles and Insects
1a. Strawman: The theory of evolution demands that all creatures evolve into more advanced life forms over time. Therefore, the existence of simpler and more primitive life forms invalidates evolution.
The idea that a life form is "more primitive" and therefore should or ought to become more "advanced" is a subjective human perception. All present day forms of life are the end result of millions of generations of ancestors who were able to successfully adapt to their environment, survive and reproduce. The creationist strawman view is that evolutionary theory expects older species to die out when they give rise to the newer and more "advanced" species, or progressively evolve in all ways. But the older species, if it is successful, may in fact exist as a contemporary of the newer species for a very long time, or "evolve" in less dramatic ways, or ways we would not expect. For example, the echidna, which is an egg-laying mammal, has a large brain. From the "common knowledge" understanding of evolution, that is not something one might expect for such a "primitive" mammal.
2. Rhetoric: "If we came from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?"
This is a variation of the "all things must evolve into something superior" fallacy. Moreover, it is based on the fallacious perception that evolution must always follow a path in the direction of current "modern" species.
The combination of changes/mutations that lead to a particular population evolving into a different and successful lineage usually start in only one individual, and the same combination is unlikely to be repeated elsewhere, in another individual, in a different population. If that mutation is successful, then it eventually multiplies over the generations, particularly if that population is isolated from other populations.
The hominin lineage was just one branch of the primate family tree, and had its own unique characteristics. Whatever may possibly evolve from monkeys millions of years from now may be rather different from either monkeys or humans depending on the environment. ...For example, some populations could become better at being able to digest grass, and some may become more carnivorous and predatory. An evolved, super-intelligent baboon may appear more like something from a sci-fi movie than a member of the hominid line (but the resulting conflicts that might arise with humans would hinder the unopposed progress of such a trait.)
3. Fallacy: Challenging creationist assertions or assumptions (even incorrect ones) is "an attempt to disprove God" (or "hating God"; "rebelling against God"; etc.)
I have frequently seen this accusation following any story or article that upends previously held assumptions about prehistoric life (even subject matter that was never mentioned in the Bible), for example news stories about finding new dinosaur fossils with feathers, or even correcting creationist misinformation (such as Harun Yahya's misidentified animal skulls).
The only thing that is "disproven" are the erroneous ideas and presumptions held by Creationists. How very arrogant of these creationists, many of whom are quite misinformed or ignorant, to presume they have all the answers and can speak for God.
4. Fallacy: Evolutionary biologists who disagree with one another invalidate the theory of evolution.
The only set premise for evolution is that life arose from existing life as opposed to being formed by supernatural or "magic" means. But not everyone is in agreement on the details of the mechanisms. Furthermore, it is the job of scientists to explore different ideas and hypotheses, which are exchanged and reviewed by peers for consideration.
For some odd reason, creationists love to quote-mine evolutionary biologists such as Stephen Jay Gould, who proposed the punctuated equilibrium hypothesis. All this implies is that speciation came about at a more rapid pace than what was originally thought. How and why creationists interpret this as dismissing evolution must have to do with their own falsely dichotomous notions. Moreover, it is falsely dichotomous to assume that evolution can only happen one way or the other way, when possibilities exist for both ways to occur.
5. Fallacy: What Darwin wrote (or what is written in science textbooks) is taken as gospel; set in stone. New information that disputes old information, or saying that there are gaps in the fossil record, invalidate the theory of evolution.
The theory of evolution is not like a religious text where the specific hypotheses and details are meant to be set in stone like dogma. Rather, it should be viewed more like a constantly unfolding detective investigation that is always undergoing revisions due to more pieces of the puzzle being revealed. Saying that there are gaps in the fossil record does not imply those puzzle pieces will never be found. Perhaps someone will be curious enough to embark on their own research into finding them.
Some creationists have the strange assumption that if a newer idea supplants the older idea (and/or their strawman misconception), it invalidates the theory of evolution. Of course, this does nothing of the sort. What it does do is give us more information about the details. I have actually read creationist sites that argue, " 'evolutionists' used to argue that our opposable thumbs led to human evolution. Now they're arguing that it was upright walking..."
In fact, reading some of Harun Yahya's declarations one might conclude that he believes that "evolutionists" follow Darwin's 19th century writings like the Quran -- which is of course, nonsense. Darwin's main significance is that he introduced the *idea* of evolution into mainstream thought - that life forms arise from previous life forms instead of being separately created by some supernatural force. The idea that "evolutionists" worship Darwin is probably a case of massive projection on the part of the religiolous who themselves still have the perspective that they need some kind of central authority figure on which they need for guidance. (Ironically, evolution can explain this tendency in the fact that as a tribal species, humans tend to look towards the alpha male)...
Speaking for myself, this writer has never formally read "Origin of Species", but drew upon my personal observation of the similarities between living things; as well as studying fossils of prehistoric life, and even observing parallels in the business world regarding competition, supply and demand and so forth.
6. Fallacy: Science says it's the "truth" but scientists are always changing their theories.
It is no small task to uncover millions of years of Earth history. "Science" is about investigation and discovery. "Science" does not claim to have the ultimate and final truth; rather, there will always be new knowledge to uncover. And every piece of evidence is like another puzzle piece can help us better understand the bigger picture. Yes, mistakes will be made. Mistakes will be acknowledged. Mistakes can be learned from. It's an ongoing process. Understand that it is a conceit of the human ego to demand that everything be answered for you all at once.
7. Lie: There are no transitional fossils.
This is a baldfaced lie based on a profound misunderstanding of what a transitional form should look like. Many creationists promote the belief that a "transitional form" is either half of one modern-looking creature combined with half of another creature, or nonfunctional body parts slowly emerging into functional ones.
Note that a 'transitional form' does not necessarily represent a 'missing link' species. It is simply defined as having some structural characteristics of two major groups. In fact there are many transitional fossils that have now been discovered.
8. Strawman: Transitional forms would be a combination of one present day creature and another one, such as a "crocoduck".
The absurd premise here is that an organism must be anticipating the future by partially transforming into a future species. Whoever invented this idea has no understanding of the nature of change with regard to unknown future circumstances. It would be like trying to say that a 1950s car ought to look like half 1930s car and half 1970s car, or that at one time, there was an animal that was 1/2 wolf and 1/2 a chihuahua.
(Even most creationists do not dispute the idea that domestic dogs originated from a wild ancestor that was more like a wolf or dingo. Therefore, if Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort and Harun Yahya believe that a "transitional form" ought to look like 1/2 of one species and 1/2 of another, then by their "logic", they should believe that at one time, there was also a "Wolhuahua").
To demonstrate even further the non-logic of this idea, let's suppose a line of present day animals lived for another 10 million years, and in that time, gradually acquired changes to the point that their descendants looked substantially different than the ones we know in the present day. Would we know what those future descendants would be, or what they would be called? The point is, at no point in time can the future be predicted. Therefore, the whole idea that something is "half of one thing and half another", like a chimera, is a bit of fallacious reasoning based on the false dichotomy that transitional forms are just half of modern species that we take for granted now, but didn't even exist millions of years ago.
Transitional forms would actually be defined as sharing foundational characteristics of two different phylogenic orders - not necessarily characteristics that look like present day species, but characteristics that would likely develop further in future generations. For example, the bones attaching to the forelimbs of the earliest tetrapods are precursors to shoulder blades found in later vertebrates.
9. Strawman: "According to the ToE, organisms ought to be able to 'evolve' or 'morph' any possible trait. For example, insects ought to be able to evolve a bony skeleton."
The ToE does not teach this. The ToE says that organisms are derived from earlier basal forms that "set the framework" for the traits of subsequent generations. All subsequent generations (orders, genus, species, etc.) will share the basic traits of the basal ancestor. We should expect insects to produce insects, roses to produce roses, vertebrates to produce vertebrates, felines to produce felines, etc. This concept of a nested heirarchy is explained in this video.
The "insect" suggestion is a fallacy based on the idea that insects are a more "primitive" life form. While they do not have the advanced intelligence of mammals, they are quite evolved along in their own ways, very successfully filling many niches.
9a. Ginormous Strawman: "Evolution suggests that a dog can give birth to a cat..."
I have seen this utterly ignorant statement repeated numerous times by creationists. I don't know who the original author was, but it was probably a creationist and it was NOT based on anything any evolutionary biologist ever said or suggested. NO evolutionary biologist has ever suggested that a dog can give birth to a cat, that cats came from dogs, that different species are born overnight or that one species of a present day animal can transform into another.
What biology does teach us is that dogs and cats share a same common ancestor, a carnivore that lived between 55-35 million years ago. (For simplicity's sake, we'll just call it "Carnivore" here.) One carnivore population diverged one way and a cousin population diverged another way - possibly due to radiating over different kinds of environments with different types of prey animals in the different environments. Over time, the different environments favored the populations with the best survival strategies that fit those particular environments.
Or perhaps the two different methods of hunting both proved successful in their own right. The cat-like carnivores were better at sight-hunting and stalking their prey; the dog-like carnivores relied more on their sense of smell and rushed/chased down their prey. These basic strategies developed along their own tangents and advanced over time so that in the present day, cats and dogs are noticeably different. A dog is built for long-distance chasing down of prey, and a cat is built for silently sneaking up on prey.
This is how [what creationists refer to as] "macroevolution" works, and it takes millions of years to get the noticeably different species.
Also, creationists who cite the "cats and dogs" example do not seem to be aware of the wide variety of other Carnivora species in the world -- many of which display differing degrees of cat-like or dog-like traits. For example, the grey fox has vertical pupils, can climb trees and is attracted to catnip. If it weren't for the black nose and long snout, it would look very much like a cat. It's as if the original Carnivora ancestors came with a toolbox of different traits that are expressed to different degrees.
(Here's a video of a grey fox obviously enjoying some catnip.)
10. Fallacy: Proving that dinosaurs co-existed with man is evidence for a young earth (and/or disproves evolution)
Some creationists such as Ken Ham and Kent Hovind have practically created an industry out of attempting to prove that dinosaurs co-existed with humans. ...Yet nobody makes a fuss about turtles, frogs or birds, which have been around for as long or nearly as long as the sauropod dinosaurs.
Creationists are really barking up the wrong tree with their obsession with dinosaurs. It would not disprove evolution (or prove a 'young earth') if they were still alive today; only disprove the idea that they all died out. But they sure are a big draw for children, as Ken Ham will probably attest... (along with Noah's Ark).
10a. Misconception: Soft tissue was found inside T. Rex bones, proving a young earth.
The way creationists tell it, they would have you believe that a dinosaur bone was cracked open and marrow was discovered inside.
In fact, the "soft tissue" was only discovered after bone fragments were put in a solution of acid and left for three days. The acid dissolves bone and minerals, but not soft tissue proteins. What appeared to be red blood cells were also discovered under a microscope. These discoveries did not change the researcher's idea that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago -- only the previously held notions about fossilization.
The discovery was made by Dr. Mary Schweitzer, who also noted comparisons between the T. Rex bones and the bones of birds.
Schweitzer, incidentally is a Christian - one who believes in an ancient earth and evolution. She does not take kindly to being misrepresented by creationists.
Furthermore, "soft tissue" with regard to fossils discoveries in general refers to the fossilized remains of other parts besides bones (such as skin, marrow, organs, etc). It does not mean that part of the discovered remains were soft and unfossilized. For example, if the fossil contains skin impressions, that is what is meant by "soft tissue".
11. Strawman: Evolution advocates "survival of the fittest" -- that is, only the strongest survive and the weakest perish.
First, the theory of evolution "advocates" nothing. It is the understanding of a process, much like the understanding of chemistry explains chemical reactions.
Second, Darwin did not invent the phrase "survival of the fittest". This was actually coined by Herbert Spencer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survival_of_the_fittest regarding parallels in economics.
Third, it does not imply that only the "strongest" prevail. What it does imply is that those with the best strategies for survival and reproduction prevail into the next generation. For example, cooperative, nurturing individuals who live in social groups may have more surviving offspring than less cooperative individuals; thus more of their genes get passed on to future generations. Humans are the obvious example of this sort of success. We became far more successful than any other primate not because we were "stronger", but because of our cooperative and altruistic nature. We have become the most successful species precisely because our altruistic natures have helped us prevent other humans from succumbing to illness and injury.
12. Strawman: People who believe in evolution are all atheists who are trying to disprove/deny God or Allah.
Many interpret the Biblical creation story as an allegorical opening narrative to establish the relationship between God and mankind, written in the language and understanding of the Bronze Age. St. Augustine of Hippo wrote:
Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]
The pioneers of modern evolutionary theory were in fact Christian; they simply did not believe in a literal account 6 'days' and they believed in continuing on a quest in pursuit of knowledge of natural history. This includes Carl Linnaeus, the father of the modern taxonomic classification system; who first classified humans as primates. Darwin was a Christian, and many of his fellow contemporaries (including Sir Richard Owen, who described the first Archaeopteryx fossil) were also Christians/Creationists. In fact, literal Biblical "fundamentalism" has its roots in the late 19th Century/early 20th century http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalist_Christianity
13. Strawman: Evolution claims that everything came from nothing.
Creationists are usually referring to the "Big Bang" when they make this claim. The "Big Bang" falls under the subject of cosmology, not biology. Evolution is an explanation for the diversity of life -- not the beginning of the universe.
13a. Strawman: Evolution claims that life arose from nothing.
Evolution is the explanation for the diversity of life, not the origins of life. The term for life originating from non-living matter is called abiogenesis. Ironically, while evolution teaches that life began very simply and became more complex over time, creationism teaches that complex life was suddenly created from "nothing" (or dirt) via God.
13b. Strawman: Evolution says we all came from rocks.
No evolutionary biologist has ever made such a claim. This is a lie invented by creationists, possibly through a misunderstanding about the formation of stromatolites, which are the oldest known fossils. Stromatolites are rock-like structures formed by micororganisms. The rock-like structures are signs of activity of microorganisms. Nobody ever claimed that life came from the rocks themselves.
14. Misconception: Fossil clams found with their shells shut indicate rapid burial; therefore Noah's Flood. Because everyone knows that clams open their shells when they die.
Clams ALREADY bury themselves in sediment. They live just below the surface of the sand or mud. And they can die with their shells closed, particularly if they are already buried and crowded by other clams. Whoever came up with this "argument" apparently never bothered to do any research beyond their local Sunday clambake.
Furthermore, another type of shelled creature (brachiopods), which are one of the most commonly found fossils and often mistaken as 'clams' by the uneducated, also die with their shells closed.
15. Strawman: Evolution says we all came from monkeys and therefore are just animals and don't need moral values.
"Evolution" recognizes us as humans with our own unique traits, specialties and societies. We are who we are. Does it matter where we came from? Creation myths say we were created from dirt... does that mean creationists think we are mere dirt? The only difference between the six day creation myth and the theory of evolution is the amount of time involved... and it has been said that time is irrelevent to God.
Do we not appreciate how much time and effort it has taken to create masterpieces?
What if the ancients had already had knowledge of humanity's genetic relationship with other primates? Perhaps the Creation story would have had Adam and Eve's "punishment" be to be trapped in an animal-derived form, with their challenge being to overcome the more primitive animal-like inclinations.
Therefore there needs to be no moral conflict with the idea that we had an animal origin - we can interpret it as the challenge we were given.
16. Strawman: 'Evolutionists' say that Neandertals were not human, when they are fully human.
This is yet another typical example of creationists' intellectual laziness. Scientists have never denied that Neandertals were humans. But Neandertals were a different species of humans. They were not our own species (Homo Sapiens sapiens), but they were their own species (Homo Sapiens neanderthalis) although still humans.
"Humans" (actually, hominins) is a category or family, just as "canids" is the dog family and "felids" is the cat family. Millions of years ago, there were more species of hominins than there are now. (Such as the "hobbit people", to name one). Our own species is the last surviving member of the hominin family.
17. Misconception: "Lucy" was just a chimpanzee.
Many creationist sites attempt to pass off this "argument" by pointing out that the australopithecine skull has a brain case that is proportionally more like a chimpanzee than a human. They conveniently ignore the fact that it was not "Lucy's" skull that led scientists to classify australopithecines as hominids, but its pelvic structure -- which had a distinctly human-like shape -- unlike any other ape. The pelvis of all other apes and primates is elongated in shape, while the pelvis of "Lucy" is shortened and bowl-shaped, allowing for better balance when walking upright.
Moreover, certain characteristics of the skull and teeth have more in common with humans than chimpanzees. For example, australopithecines had much shorter canine teeth and a foramen magnum (point at which the neck attaches to the skull) set more underneath the skull, whereas chimpanzees have long canines ("fangs") and a foramen magnum set more back on the skull (compared to Australopithecines. Reference
17a. Misconception: "Lucy's" bones could be interepreted to be those of a gorilla.
This was an illustration Ken Ham used in the debate with Bill Nye to suggest that the "Lucy" fossil was all up to the interpretation depending on one's bias. This is a very uneducated assumption: NO biologist who understands comparative anatomy would mistake the "Lucy" fossil for a gorilla. A gorilla has a more robust bone structure and a more elongated pelvis. This only demonstrates the magnitude of ignorance displayed by creationists.
18. Fallacy: "Homo Erectus" is a fraud, because the skull of Java Man was reconstructed from a few fragments and a lot of imagination.
Since the discovery of "Java Man", there have been a number of other H. Erectus skulls found, including several skulls recently found in Dmanisi. See the larger section "Homo Erectus: Just Another Race?"
19. Fallacy: "Archaeopteryx" has been declared a fraud by scientists.
If Archaeopteryx was deemed a fraud by scientists, then it would have long been removed from the world's museums. But to give a little background on the origins of this story:
In 1985, astronomer Sir Frederic Hoyle examined photos of the famous Archaeopteryx fossil and suggested that it appeared to have been forged using a veneer of cement to create the impression of feathers, because he could not believe that such detail could be preserved in the rocks.
The famous first fossil was discovered in the Solnhofen limestone beds of Bavaria, which had a reknowned fine-grained quality of such that they were used as lithography stones. Hoyle had been unaware that other fossils from that location (such as this dragonfly) were also found preserved in exquisite detail.
20. Fallacy: The Coelacanth (which was purported to be a "missing link") was discovered alive in 1938. It had not evolved legs; therefore evolution is false.
Coelacanths were an entire order of fish, not just one fish. They were not considered a "missing link"; there was no reason for the discovered species to evolve legs, and this idea is entirely based on ignorant misconceptions. See my lengthier reply here.
21. Fallacy: "Tiktaalik" was just another fish.
Ordinary fish do not have articulated neck vertebrae or a forelimb structure that is connected to a scapula (shoulder blade) - these are the characteristics that led to its classification as a transitional form. See my lengthier reply here.
22. Fallacy: Evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.
The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics predicts entropy within a closed system. Life on Earth is not a closed system, since it derives a constant source of energy from the sun.
23. Fallacy: Piltdown Man and Nebraska Man were found to be hoaxes. Therefore evolution is false.
Like a mantra, creationists love to repeat the nearly 100-year-old story of "Piltdown Man", which was a fabricated combination of a human and orangutan skull. But as soon as radiometric dating technology became available, scientists discovered the hoax and declared it a forgery.
Since then, there have been many advances made in the fields of paleontology, molecular biology, etc. as well as all the subsequent information accumulated to date.
Also during the very early part of the 20th century, doctors were also claiming that cigarette smoking was healthy. Of course we know this is not the case. Should we therefore reject what the modern day medical profession has to say due to the mistakes doctors 100 years ago claimed?
- "Nebraska Man"
The idea that scientists will typically "construct an entire skeleton from a single tooth" urban myth was based on an article published in the London News. This was a newspaper, not a science journal, and no "scientist" ever took the claim seriously.
The popular press typically like to publish stories they think will sell, and will often jump the gun on what they think is a interesting story. The popular press is NOT to be taken as a representation of the scientific community's official position.
This video elaborates more in depth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwywMP4Sxgo
Note that the popular press likes to make sensational headlines of ANY news item they think will grab peoples' attention, including stories related to religion. The Shroud of Turin is always a favorite topic.
Moreover, the inherent fallacy in these arguments is that falsely planted information will invalidate a premise or idea.
Now, supposing there was a historic inn which wanted to make itself become more notable and famous. The inn started advertising that George Washington slept there 200 years ago. ...Which wasn't true, but they always made sure to advertise the story.
Because this restaurant chose to fabricate a tale about George Washington, does this mean that George Washington never existed?
Here's another example. A police detective is looking for evidence in a murder case. Somebody plants some false evidence in an attempt to lead them away from the real suspect. The detective also finds what they think is evidence, but is later discovered to have nothing to do with the murder. Does the planted and irrelevant evidence invalidate the murder? Of course not.
24. Fallacy: During the Cambrian Explosion, everything just BANG! suddenly appeared fully formed, from echinoderms to chordates (mammals).
The Cambrian Explosion was a term coined by scientists to describe a period of time (lasting several million years) when all the major phyla were represented. (Which did not appear "all of a sudden" either, but over time span representing several million years.) And what the creationists don't understand is that this does NOT mean that modern species suddenly appeared! What the scientists mean is that all the major groups in their earliest beginning stages were present in this time period. For example, chordates first appeared as simple eel-like creatures with a central nervous system.
Moreover, the implied fallacy is that life began during the Cambrian Explosion, when there is fossil evidence for life before the Cambrian (the Precambrian period). (Also note that the strata of this time period are so old, one should expect greater loss of these layers via plate tectonics.)
25. Variation or adaptation isn't evolution.
Evolution is formally defined as "any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next" Sorry, creationists, but you don't get to redefine scientific terminology!
Creationists acknowledge and even propose evolution, but they're reluctant to call it that! YECers such as Kent Hovind and Ken Ham even propose that the "kinds" Noah took on the ark were more generalized looking creatures that later "rapidly evolved" into different species of their "kinds" after they left the ark. (Even though other YECers question the idea of "punctuated equilibrium"!!!). In other words, they're accepting evolution on a species level… but they haven't thought this through far enough to figure out that these more generalized and less specialized creatures they're proposing would bear a closer similarity to each other.
26. Fallacy: If evolution is false, then [my religion] is true.
This is the fallacy of the false dichotomy. For one thing, not all followers of the various religions even agree on the same interpretation of scriptural doctrine. Not all take the scriptural passages so literally, and view them as metaphorical instead.
Second, In order for one's side and position to be true, one must also build a strong case for that side or position. All "evidence" for God/Allah seems to come down to anthropomorphizing an assumed creator. In other words, a rhetorical, emotional and subjective perception, as opposed to something that can be measured or identified. A person's subjective experience as a singular conscious being, living in human society, creates the assumption that whatever created life on earth must also be similarly like a human, or just a single human. Why? Because that is the form of existence that most people understand and relate to.
Yet even if evidence can be strongly interpreted as being "intelligently designed", it does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that it was "intelligently designed" by the Abrahamic God. One person may attribute creation to one god, another to several gods; and another to aliens who "planted the seeds of life on Earth" or some entirely different scenario that has not even been imagined yet.
Religions which place humankind as the reason and center of all existence also fail to explain why there are so many life forms which are useless or unknown to us, such as all the prehistoric creatures which went extinct before the existence of humans, creatures which can only exist deep in the ocean, etc. benign parasites which are only endemic to specific species like seagulls, etc.
27. Fallacy: The probability of amino acids coming together to form complex DNA strands are astronomically high and therefore impossible.
Only if one calculates this according to the idea that all should come together at the same time, and not in a series of steps. But viewed as a series of steps, the odds for each successive step becoming a working part of the sequence decrease. Richard Dawkins famously illustrated this example in his "Weasel" program:
27a. Evolution is like expecting a tornado passing through a junkyard to assemble an airplane. No scientist has ever proposed that life suddenly came together in a chaotic or random event; that complex life forms were assembled all at once, or that chaos was involved in creating complex life. It has always been seen as a very slow, step by step building process of functioning and being tested within a given environment.
28. Fallacy: The Bible (or Q'uran) contains some wonderfully truthful passages of wisdom; contains historially accurate events, etc. Therefore, evolution is false.
This is an example of the Fallacy of Composition.
The Bible (and Q'uran) comprise a collection of "books" that were told and written over the centuries. Some of the stories, (such as Noah's flood), are very old; probably told in oral tradition by the nomadic tribes and suspected to have been borrowed from earlier stories from other cultures. Other "books" may have been actually recorded as civilization advanced and writing methods improved.
It is most likely that thousands of years ago, only the most educated and privileged were taught to read and write; the rest of the population was illiterate and so the stories were passed on by storytelling. So the older stories may have been changed or embellished over time. (After all, who doesn't enjoy an epic tale?)
So it may very well be that there was an actual, historical King David, while Noah's Flood was an exaggeration and the creation story in Genesis was just a "best guess" coupled with a moral. In other words, just because King David may have really existed, and there are many words of wisdom based on learned observation of people and society, does not mean the Creation story is also true.
29. Fallacy: "Evolution is in doubt or has been disproven by real scientists" [usually followed by quotes by scientists, reprinted in creationist literature]
I have often seen "creationists" declare with authority that they have the "scientific proof" that evolution has been disproven by scientists. Usually this is followed by the standard quotes by scientists, taken out of context and reprinted in creationist literature.
A word to creationists: before you claim to be an authority on anything these scientists have said, I might recommend you READ THE ENTIRE BOOKS THEY'VE WRITTEN instead of a sentence or paragraph cherry-picked by some disingenuous author who isn't concerned with its actual context.
30. Evolution is not "real science" because one cannot directly observe a change from one "kind" to the next.
To claim evolution is not a science is to claim other fields of science based mostly on detective work (such as archaeology and forensics) are also not sciences. First, each discipline requires a background education in a number of established foundational subjects. Each piece of evidence is methodologically examined, recorded and subject to peer review. Fossil discoveries are observed in their respective locations, their characteristics observed and recorded. They are compared and contrasted with other fossils and with extant species. Evolution is also based on a history of observed patterns in biology and the fossil record, and predictions (such as the possible locations of where to find certain prehistoric species; DNA relationships, etc.) and have so far been proven to fit the model.
30a. Fallacy: We have never witnessed one "kind" change into another "kind".
No scientist has ever proposed that new species are suddenly born from very different species. Present day species represent the different directions that their extinct ancestors took. The greater the differences, the longer the time span of divergence. YECers seem to rely on the most uninformed and rudimentary "common assumption" notions to continually propose this as a dilemma.
31. Evolution is "just a theory".
The word "theory" as it is used in science is not a synonym for "hypothesis" or "speculation" (as it is often used in common lay language). A "scientific theory" as it is formally defined is "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_as_theory_and_fact
7 misused science words. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/just-a-theory-7-misused-science-words/
32. "Polystrate" tree fossils demonstrate that rock strata can form quickly, contrary to the scientific belief that rock layers take millions of years to form.
Polystrate tree fossils (such as this Lycopsid in Canada's Joggins Formation) are associated with coal bearing deposits, which are in turn associated with swamps and wetlands. Tree species that grow in swamps have such a strong root system that they often remain upright even in death. Swamp waters also contain tannins which can act as a preservative and prevent rapid decay.
More recent examples can be seen today, such as in any forested swamp region.
33. Fallacy:: "Evolution is a fairy tale..."
Fairy tales are almost always morality tales that have several themes and elements in common: 1. Good vs. evil; 2. Supernatural occurrences; 3. Talking animals 4. A hero/savior comes to the rescue; 5. Good triumphs over evil and the "good" characters "live happily ever after". Sound familiar?
Evolution has nothing to do with morality, "good" or "evil", and evolutionary biologists have proposed a concrete, step by step basis for the mechanisms of evolution. There is no invocation of "magic" involved in the process.
34. Fallacy:: "Evolution is a "Just So" story.
Anyone familiar with Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories" knows that they are fanciful tales about how certain species came to be the way they are, based on a Lamarckian (non-genetic) event that happens to an ancestral individual. In this regard, the Genesis story of Adam and Eve more closely resembles a "Just So Story" (or, "How Humans Came to Be Aware, and Also Why We Die, Why It Sucks More to be a Woman, Why Women Are Afraid of Snakes and Why Snakes Have No Legs")
And the story of Noah's Flood barely qualifies as a "Just So" story at all, given that there is barely any evidence at all to support the idea of a global flood that left only two surviving members of each species. Perhaps it was meant to explain why fossil seashells can be found in higher elevations? Perhaps that was the inspiration for the story, and audiences liked the story so much it was retold through the generations.
35. Evolution is a religion.
If one defines "religion" as a learned subject matter that influences one's worldviews and/or behavior, then one must also include a myriad of other studies/influences/interests including politics, psychology, philosophy, art, fitness and health, one's career, etc. as "religions".
People who take up the creation/evolution "debate" often do so in order to correct the fallacies and misconceptions of creationists, and/or find the subject matter interesting in the way that some people become fascinated with solving mysteries.
There are many people who are fanatical about sports, hobbies, activities such as geocaching, etc. ... so why don't those qualify as "religions"?
In terms of a legal definition: time and time again, the court system has rejected the idea that evolution is a "religion" as opposed to what is more commonly defined as a religion, which involves a supernatural agent and usually rituals and/or places of worship. The supernatural agent of the various religions is something that cannot be tested or measured, and is based on post facto interpretations which come down to a matter of cultural/emotion based opinion. No one has been able to prove the exact nature of any alleged supernatural agent; where it is located, if it is single or plural; etc.
36. Evolutionists [sic] believe in "uniformitarianism" - that is, world conditions were always the same as they are now.
False. Evolutionary biologists acknowledge that catastrophic events did indeed occur from time to time and in fact were the cause of major extinction events (such as the extinction of the dinosaurs, usually associated with a major meteoric impact that occurred at the end of the Cretaceous period). Catastrophic events would include severe weather, fire, earthquakes, droughts, disease, volcanic eruptions, meteor impacts, climate change, and so forth. …And yes, even flooding. They even acknowledge that major flooding occurred in the Middle Eastern region at the end of the last Ice Age. ...They just don't believe that there was a flood that covered the entire world, since there is little evidence to support that conclusion.
37. The Earth is 6,000 years old, based on the geneaology records of the Bible.
More likely, this is simply as far back as the Hebrew tribe began keeping records of their ancestors; and they may have only kept records of the notable ancestors. When they couldn't remember any farther back, they decided to name Adam and Eve as the first humans. This helps explain why Abel and Cain found wives in a neighboring village: the wives were non-Hebrews.
38. The Bible provides a detailed eyewitness account of Creation.
First, if mankind was the last thing that was created (on the sixth day), then who, exactly, was the "eyewitness"? Second, the "creation" of life is only summarized, with no real details on how this life was allegedly created. There is no detailed description of how life created (what was the method; what were the mechanisms; where was it created? etc.) It's as "detailed" as an autobiography of Picasso summed up in a paragraph:
Picasso learned to paint in the 1880's. He created his Blue Period paintings between 1901-1904. He created his Rose Period paintings in 1904-1906. He created his African influence paintings in 1907-1909. Then he wanted to try something really different, so he created Cubism in 1909-1912. Then he created some more famous paintings after that. Then he got old and died, but his fame lives on. The End.
39. Lie: The original scientists were Christians (or, Christians invented science)
According to Wiki, the practice of observing and recording the natural world has been around since the time of the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians. The Ancient Greeks (most notably Plato and Aristotle) were the forerunners of the modern scientific method. Scientific advancements and achievements also took place in ancient China and India.
Creationists may possibly be confusing the general history of science with the fact that the early 18th and 19th century pioneers of modern biology (including Darwin) were Christians. They did not, however, adhere to a strict literal interpretation of Genesis.
40. Fallacy: Everything has to have a Creator.
This is based on an anthropomorphic perception that everything must have a causal agent. In earlier times, people believed the 'gods' were behind weather events and so on, but we now have a better understanding which has largely demystified such events. Furthermore, even if life was initially created, we don't know if the "creator" was God (as defined by various ancient scriptures) or something else.
41. Fallacy: "Something bad must have happened to you to cause you to believe [sic] in evolution."
Creationists who make this kind of conjecture obviously don't have the imagination or experience to consider any other reasons. Those may be: - a natural interest in the sciences; not having been raised in a Fundamentalist literalist household; - questioning why we refer to a being we can't see; - education that allows one to better understand some aspects of biology, cosmology, geology, etc.; - recognizing the dishonesty and inaccuracies of creationism.
...And even if something bad *did* happen to a person in question, that does not invalidate the idea in general.
This can also work both ways: someone with a miserable life chooses to believe in God because it gives them faith and hope.
42. Fallacy (Ad Hominem): Hitler was an atheist/evolutionist.
Hitler was raised a Roman Catholic. In his infamous book, "Mein Kampf", Hitler made repeated references to "God" and "the divine Creator".
However, in his later years, Hitler expressed anti-Christian sentiments:
"Pure Christianity-- the Christianity of the catacombs-- is concerned with translating Christian doctrine into facts. It leads quite simply to the annihilation of mankind. It is merely whole-hearted Bolshevism, under a tinsel of metaphysics." (p 119 & 120)
But note the reasons for his rejection of Christianity. The rejection was not due to the theism of Christianity, but that he felt the ideology would impede upon establishing a Nazi state. In the quote above, he is equating Christianity with Communism!
That Hitler was anti-Christian does not mean that he was an atheist. In fact, Hitler spoke out against the "atheist movement" (which he also associated with Communism); books that were related to "the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism..." were in banned in Germany. (After all, why give the "master race" the idea that they were descended from lower primates?)
Moreover, he expressed admiration for Islam for not being "meek and flabby" like Christianity.
Hitler repeatedly spoke of a "creator" or "god" who oversees the natural order of things, but this was probably not the Christian god. Perhaps Hitler's notion of "the creator" was closer to the idea of a Nordic or Teutonic god whose "providence" had more to do with the idea of greater strength and power than mercy and empathy.
The Big Question about Creation "Science": A Challenge and Invitation
Creationists are putting great effort into their attempts to disprove evolution. Like a mantra, they repeat over and over again that "evolution is destroyed" and trumpet each latest fossil find as more evidence that evolution is being "destroyed", (despite quite the contrary view among Western scientists.)
Yet I have seen no evidence to support their alternative proposal. What, exactly, would their alternative be? Ancient creation myths say that complex life forms were all miraculously and independently created from water or mud.
The only "evidence" they have ever proposed are rhetoric and appeals to emotion.
Evolution merely says that life forms are derived from other life forms.
So what is the alternative? In order for the creationists to make a case in favor of their argument, the burden of proof is on them to provide the convincing evidence.
Creationists want us to believe that complex life forms such as humans and animals were each miraculously and independently created from water or mud by some unseen supernatural being.
Yet no one has ever observed such an event happening, despite this being the apparent "hypothesis" among creationists. All life as we know it has originated from previous life, and has its beginnings at a microscopic, cellular level.
The scientific method requires testing and peer review. The scientific method involves writing a hypothesis, listing observations, explaining why those observations support the hypothesis an showing the results of the test. The hypothesis must be capable of being falsified.
Can the "mud and water" creation theory pass such a test?
Can anyone propose a theory on how a clay statue can be miraculously brought to life, or complex living animals can be generated and brought forth out of water?
(Incidentally, that "came from water" idea might be interpreted as tetrapods having evolved from fish.)
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