Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Bad Anti-Evolution Arguments Again

Remember that webpage I spent some time fisking the other day with the bad anti-evolution arguments? Well some of my readers went over there and engaged the writers directly and boy are they getting the runaround. The hand-waving is rather fascinating to watch. For instance, Rich Hughes gave a couple of rather detailed posts disproving specific claims made in the post and the Bill Tingley replied:

You can go all day long about why you think Darwinism explains everything and Intelligent Design explains nothing. The point of my article still eludes you.

No, Bill, the facts still elude you. For instance, even after I pointed out the other day that Darwin did not talk about abiogenesis or the origin of life at all in any of his published works, and in fact made statements implying that perhaps the first life forms were created, he still comes back with this claim:

Nevertheless, Darwinists, as did Charles Darwin himself, joined the two to put forth a materialist explanation for how life began and then evolved.

Apparently, reality is no barrier at all to his claims. Like this one:

Indeed, not even after 4,000 generations of forcing mutations in fruit flies have scientists been able to create any other species from fruit flies than the fruit fly.

Which is, of course, rank ignorance. Fruit flies are not a species, but literally hundreds of species. And yes, speciation within that family have been observed. And this:

For example, you claim that “common descent is one of the most powerful bodies of convergent evidence in all science”. Common descent seems to be a reasonable explanation of the evidence of the fossil record. However, that’s a conjecture. There has been no verification that common descent occurred. Indeed, the Cambrian explosion argues against it (at the very least requires explanation).

But his wife already demonstrated the depth of their knowledge of the Cambrian “explosion” by making the utterly false claim that it took place in a mere 10 million years. That’s off by at least 70 million years, and as we keep filling in the details of precambrian life with new fossil finds, it keeps getting broadened more and more. Something requiring explanation is hardly the same thing as “arguing against” a theory, particularly when there are perfectly reasonable explanations, none of which he or his wife even attempts to address.

And this:

You say that evolution occurs with descent with modification rather than saltations. Perhaps so, but you are surely aware of the school of thought called “punctuated equilibrium” which requires saltations.

For those of us who have participated in these debates for a long time, this is one of those red flag claims. When you see it, you can be absolutely certain that you are dealing with someone who, no matter how confidently they may speak on the matter, has absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. The false claim that PE requires saltations has been debunked time and time again, including by the guy who came up with PE. He wrote an entire essay on the subject, debunking the creationist claim that PE was a theory that required saltations or macromutations. And in this essay, he points out:

Continuing the distortion, several creationists have equated the theory of punctuated equilibrium with a caricature of the beliefs of Richard Goldschmidt, a great early geneticist. Goldschmidt argued, in a famous book published in 1940, that new groups can arise all at once through major mutations. He referred to these suddenly transformed creatures as “hopeful monsters.” (I am attracted to some aspects of the non-caricatured version, but Goldschmidt’s theory still has nothing to do with punctuated equilibrium–see essays in section 3 and my explicit essay on Goldschmidt in The Pandas Thumb.) Creationist Luther Sunderland talks of the “punctuated equilibrium hopeful monster theory” and tells his hopeful readers that “it amounts to tacit admission that anti-evolutionists are correct in asserting there is no fossil evidence supporting the theory that all life is connected to a common ancestor.” Duane Gish writes, “According to Goldschmidt, and now apparently according to Gould, a reptile laid an egg from which the first bird, feathers and all, was produced.” Any evolutionists who believed such nonsense would rightly be laughed off the intellectual stage; yet the only theory that could ever envision such a scenario for the origin of birds is creationism–with God acting in the egg.

Or as Jason Rosenhouse noted here, “As soon as you see a critic of evolution mention saltations in the context of explaining rapid evolution, you know you are dealing with a major-league crank. No one, not Gould, not Eldredge, not anyone, is talking about saltations. Punctuated Equilibrium has nothing to do with saltations. In fact, it has nothing to do with mechanisms at all. Gould and Eldredge have never suggested that anything other than classical neo-Darwinian mechanisms were necessary to explain the rapid bursts of evolution they described.” Quite right.

Faced with having had almost all of their factual claims shown to be false, they finally collapsed into that soft relativism that is virtually inevitable when someone runs out of evidence or sound reasoning to support their position. Bridget Tingley writes:

The reality is for every argument we put out someone will have a rebuttal. In turn, for every argument someone else puts out, we may have a different position with facts and evidence as well. The point is there are MANY view points to this issue – each feeling strong about their sides. The drawback, as our article states, is that only one position gets taught to our school kids. A prime example of what happens to us in the real world is spilling over to our kids. If you don’t search for it and fight hard for it, you are only going to get one side of an issue.

Which really just means, “No, we can’t defend these claims so we’re just going to say that this is really complicated and lots of people disagree, and therefore all positions are equally plausible and should be taught in schools.” And that is pure poppycock. Then her husband later said, “As for the Darwinists here, you still don’t get it. Your confusions will be addressed later.” Anyone wanna take a bet on whether any specific objections will ever be answered substantively? Or that either of them will ever admit that any claim they’ve made is false, even after having been shown the reason why they’re false?


  1. #1 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    October 18, 2006

    I loved how they dissolved into going completely off topic once they couldn’t battle the “Barbarians” who were refuting their poor science. The horrible logic and lies displayed here killed me.

    For example…I could have addressed that many schools are going to a math program that no longer allows kids to memorize their time tables. They feel this is not helpful to kids in the long run. Instead, they get mathematical examples built into story questions they have to deduce – often starting in the first grade. Is this really the answer to getting our kids better at math? Doesn’t each one of us remember doing our time tables 1 through 12 and can’t most of us still recall our multiplication process to this day? I still use it – antiquated as it is apparently these days. Do you still use it? Your kids might not get to use it in the future.

    Or, I could have addressed how many teachers and professors these days are saying anything they want in the classroom (that 9/11 was an inside job, or that Bush is a new Hitler or stating personal positions against the Iraq war, hatred of different political groups, etc.) and writing books on these topics that they make the kids buy as part of the class content. Do we really need to know a teachers personal opinion on world topics to have a solid class discussion? Who makes the decision for all of us that this type of teaching is acceptable?

    Or, that kids are being taught everything and anything about sex in our schools at the earliest of ages. Let’s talk birth control, oral sex, sodomy and everything in between. With visuals to boot. Do first graders really need to know about this stuff? Or is it for the best in a highly sexed up world?

    The red herring and straw-men fallacies are running rampant in those paragraphs. Now that they can’t defend their stance on evolution not being science, they have to switch gears jump off the track and enter a different race.

  2. #2 J-Dog
    October 18, 2006

    Ed – Link to the Dr. Dino Trial which began today (yesterday?) I know it’s not Dover, but this could be fun to post on for the next couple of weeks. I wish I could be the Reporter On The Scene!


  3. #3 Ginger Yellow
    October 18, 2006

    I could have addressed that many schools are going to a math program that no longer allows kids to memorize their time tables.

    It’s true. Children caught memorising times tables in their free time are taken outside and shot. As for algebra, let’s just say there is an alternative set of procedures.

  4. #4 plunge
    October 18, 2006

    I gave extra points for the “ad hominem irony.” i.e.: seize upon someone challenging what you say and saying that you are wrong, call this an insult and ad hominem, and then use this as an excuse to not answer the criticism. In other words, use an accusation of the ad hominem fallacy as an excuse to use it! :)

  5. #5 Rich
    October 18, 2006

    You’re doing Sterling work there, Plunge.

    *doffs cap*

  6. #6 dogmeatIB
    October 18, 2006

    I started to reply over there and then realized, I would likely be posting over there for hours, scream in frustration, acknowledge their idiocy, and give up. Soooo, I just decided to scream in frustration, acknowledge their idiocy, and cut out the middle man. ;o)

    You can tell you’re getting older when you prefer to let sleeping idiots lie. (multiple puns intended)

  7. #7 mah9
    October 19, 2006

    This site was publicised on UK Breakfast TV this morning http://darwin-online.org.uk/ Its aim is to place all of Darwins work on-line and to be free to view.

    Just wait for the quote mining to begin…

  8. #8 Chuck
    October 19, 2006

    I’m betting Ed knows about this, but I just found out about it and want to spread it around as widely as possible. A project to publish all of Darwin’s works online is available at http://darwin-online.org.uk

    The site includes many of Darwin’s notebooks, the original notebook documenting his trip aboard the HMS Beagle, as well as several editions of the Origin of Species, the Voyage of the Beagle, and the Descent of Man. All for free. There are 50,000 pages of searchable text and thousands of images from the notebooks and published works.

    This will be a valuable resource in the battle against creationism.

  9. #9 Chuck
    October 19, 2006

    Ah, well, I now see that mah9 has also mentioned the site. Well, the more the merrier.