Joseph Farah, the
blowhard owner of the Worldnutdaily, is once again demonstrating that one need not let little things like ignorance of the subject stand in the way of pontificating about that subject. In this case, the subject is evolution and his ignorance of that subject is on display for all to see. He begins with the standard blather about how no criticism of evolution is allowed:
It used to be that science followed facts.
Today, at least as far as evolution goes, facts follow theories.
When inconvenient facts are discovered, they are simply adapted to fit the theories.
The theories are constant. They are unquestionable, unassailable, unimpeachable. It’s just not considered good science to question them for any reason.
Using separate paragraphs for each of these trite assertions is a nice touch, but the assertions are flat wrong. Science doesn’t attempt to “follow” facts (whatever that might mean), it tries to explain facts. And anyone is free to question the theory of evolution, but the criticisms should at least be logical and based upon an understanding of the theory being criticized, which is where Farah’s criticisms fail miserably. To wit:
Take, for example, the latest findings in Australia. Last month, fossils of what were described as “the earliest species of sea turtle, believed to be 110 million years old,” were discovered in Queensland’s far west.
The scientists were startled by just how little sea turtles had changed in 100 million years. They had not evolved. But that did not alarm them. That did not get them to question their premises. That did not cause them to think their dating techniques could be wrong.
No, instead, they quickly came to the conclusion that sea turtles represent a highly evolved species – one that perfected its evolution 100 million years ago and never bothered to change because change was unnecessary.
How similar are these supposedly 110-million-year-old sea turtles to today’s sea turtles? Virtually indistinguishable – which is to say no different.
“For all intents and purposes, if you were to see one (of these fossils) they would look basically the same as sea turtles do today,” said South Australian Museum paleontologist Ben Kear.
And why is that?
“Sea turtles have hit on the winning design and they’ve stuck to it,” he said. “They’ve cracked the winning code, as it were, and it’s enabled them to survive when other creatures haven’t.”
It’s amazing they haven’t taken over the world, isn’t it?
“They’re one of the success stories of marine evolution – if you think about the marine animals that became extinct, well why did sea turtles survive?” Kear asked without wanting to hear the answer. “That’s the sort of question we can look at now.”
Ah, more of those 4 word paragraphs functioning as a written pause for dramatic effect. Here he does what many creationists do when reading reports from scientists, he projects thoughts and feelings on to them that he could not possibly know they had. For instance, he characterizes the state of mind of unnamed scientists, saying they were “startled” by the similarity between the fossil specimens and modern sea turtles and that they asked questions “without wanting to hear the answer”, without bothering to actually quote anything from any of them that might indicate a basis for such projections. But hey, when you’ve got a perfectly good myth to sell, who needs things like evidence? Naked assertion is plenty compelling when you are writing for people as ignorant as you are. But in point of fact these aren’t even the oldest sea turtle specimens ever found. In 1998, a specimen about 5 million years older was found in Brazil that was also quite similar to modern species, so the new finds certainly would not have “startled” any paleontologist in the slightest. What makes this new find interesting is that there are multiple specimens and they are remarkably well preserved, including one that has identifiable gut contents preserved. That’s exciting for a paleontologist, but hardly startling.
More importantly, you might notice that Farah never spells out why this is a problem for evolution. The implication is that evolution must be wrong because a species could not have survived for 110 million years without major changes. But this only betrays his ignorance of evolution. Why on earth would this be true? His terminology alone betrays the basis for his misunderstanding. When he says that scientists believe that sea turtles are a “highly evolved species” that “perfected its evolution 100 million years ago”, he is projecting his ignorance on to scientists. No scientist would say that sea turtles are “highly evolved” or had “perfected its evolution” because evolution is not a quest for perfection, but for adaptation. A species that is well adapted to its environment has no selection pressure and therefore it need not select novel traits. If a habitat remains substantially unchanged, natural selection merely reinforces the current traits precisely because they’re well adapted to that environment.
He also takes a shot at the dating of the fossils, but without any actual reason to doubt them. And like his previous assertions, he gets the basis entirely wrong:
What makes the scientists convinced the fossils of dead sea turtles that look remarkably like today’s sea turtles are really 100 million years old? It’s because of where they were found. They were found in an area of sediment that is believed to be 110 million years old. Therefore, that’s how old the bones are.
Could they be wrong about the age of the sediment? No, these scientists don’t make mistakes like that. If they did, it would shatter the very foundation of their work.
Well of course they could be wrong about the age of the sediments. But in order to establish that they’re wrong, you’d have to look at the radiometric dating results upon which the dating is based. There are many ways one might question the test results. You could question the preparation of the samples that were tested, for instance, or the plotting of the isochron itself. But that would require that you actually see the test procedures and results and understand them, but of course Farah has never seen them and wouldn’t understand them if he did. And the statement he makes shows that he doesn’t understand how such dating is done in the first place. The fossil is not dated that way because it was found “in an area of sediment” that is “believed to be 110 million years old”. They are dated that way because they are found in situ – not “in the area” – in a given sedimentary strata that has been assigned that age through radiometrically dating the radioisotopes found either within, or above and below, that strata.
Farah can’t dispute the actual test results, of course, because he hasn’t seen them and wouldn’t know what they meant if he did. So he does what Larry Klayman did on the radio the other day with the Schiavo case, he asserts that since they could be wrong, they must be wrong. But that, of course, is an idiotic argument and it’s not one that he would accept when applied to him. But his conclusion is the best part:
Keep in mind, these “fossils” are so well preserved that the scientists claim to be able to determine the 110-milliom-year-old sea turtles’ diet by examining the remains in their stomachs.
This is one example of hundreds, thousands, like it in so-called “evolutionary science.”
Gotta love the scare quotes around “fossils”, as though they weren’t really fossils. But even more, you gotta love the vague conclusion. It’s one example of….what? He doesn’t say. So let me give this pronoun the proper antecedent: it’s one example of millions of attempts by creationists to criticize what they simply do not understand, and to substitute vague implications for actual logic and argument. But since most of his readers are as ignorant and clueless as he is, Farah’s insipid ravings will undoubtedly be lapped up without question.