Over at the DI blog, Jonathan Wells has a profoundly ridiculous essay comparing evolution to alchemy and marxism. It’s chock full of that shallow rhetoric for which he has become famous. Like this:
I recently found myself in a conversation with two college undergraduates, both of them seniors in the natural sciences (physics and biochemistry, respectively). At one point we were discussing alchemy, which they knew as a pre-modern attempt to transmute lead into gold. I asked them whether they could name any famous alchemists. They could not, though one of them dimly recalled hearing of “someone whose name began with A.”
I then predicted that Darwinian evolution would eventually fade into the same obscurity that now shrouds alchemy. Although I knew from previous conversations that my young friends were skeptical of Darwinian theory, they expressed considerable surprise at my prediction, if only because Darwinism is presently held in such high esteem by their professors.
Hey Glenn Morton, what do you think of that prediction? I’m sure my friend Glenn would just add it to the long list of such predictions about the imminent demise of evolution that have been issued over the last 150 years. This prediction has been made so consistently by creationists that even the Boy Who Cried Wolf can’t believe they still say such things with a straight face. It is an article of faith among creationists that “Darwinism” is going to collapse any moment now, and this is yet another article of faith that is entirely impervious to reality. A few examples of previous predictions, in chronological order. From a professor in 1903:
“It must be stated that the supremacy of this philosophy has not been such as was predicted by its
defenders at the outset. A mere glance at the history of the theory during the four decades that it has been before the public shows that the beginning of the end is at hand.”
From a 1904 book called At the Deathbed of Darwinism:
“Today, at the dawn of the new century, nothing is more certain than that Darwinism has lost its prestige among men of science. It has seen its day and will soon be reckoned a thing of the past. A few decades hence when people will look back upon the history of the doctrine of Descent, they will confess that the years between 1860 and 1880 were in many respects a time of carnival; and the enthusiasm which at that time took possession of the devotees of natural science will appear to them as the excitement attending some mad revel.”
George McCready Price in 1922:
“The science of twenty or thirty years ago was in high glee at the thought of having almost proved the theory of biological evolution. Today, for every careful, candid inquirer, these hopes are crushed; and with weary, reluctant sadness does modern biology now confess that the Church has probably been right all the time”
Harold Clark in 1929:
The world has had enough of evolution … In the future, evolution will be remembered only as the crowning deception which the arch-enemy of human souls foisted upon the race in his attempt to lead man away from the Savior. The Science of the future will be creationism. As the ages roll by, the mysteries of creation week will be cleared up, and as we have learned to read the secrets of creative power in the lives of animals and plants about us, we shall understand much that our dim senses cannot now fathom. If we hope to continue scientific study in the laboratories and fields of the earth restored, we must begin to get the lessons of truth now. The time is ripe for a rebellion against the dominion of evolution, and for a return to the fundamentals of true science.”
I could go on, but I think the point has been made. Evolution must be a pretty robust idea; it is forever on the verge of collapse yet never collapses. Perhaps the anti-evolution crowd has been engaged in the mass self-deception of wishful thinking all this time? It would appear so. Now Wells begins to explain why he thinks evolution is just like alchemy:
First, Darwinism is similar to alchemy in purporting to hold the key to transmutation. Alchemists sought the secret of turning lead into gold; Darwinists think they already possess the secret of turning bacteria into baboons.
So believing that one thing in nature can change into another thing makes one an alchemist? Someone better tell all those geologists who seem to think that they know how strontium turns into rubidium and how potassium turns into argon; silly geologists, don’t you know you’re believing in alchemy? I guess nuclear physics must be on the verge of collapse too. No doubt we’ll be hearing about “Intelligent Decay” soon, informing us that it’s impossible for uranium to turn into lead by “purely random processes.”
Of course, there are also significant differences between alchemy and Darwinism. One is that alchemists were self-consciously searching for The Answer; Darwinists think they already have It. Another is that alchemy contributed many insights, materials and tools to the development of modern chemistry; Darwinism has almost nothing to contribute to the development of biology.
Wow. Seriously, how freaking delusional does one have to be to utter that phrase? In public, no less.
The only things Darwinism can call its own are speculations about common ancestry and the transmutation of species that look increasingly implausible with each new piece of evidence.
Really? When paleontologists found yet another transitional fossil in Tiktaalik roseae, confirming their predictions of the creature’s anatomy, environment and age, did that make common descent “look increasingly implausible”? With the advent of genome sequencing providing volumes of data and the ability to compare the genomes of different species gene by gene, has that made common descent more plausible or less plausible?
You might want to ask Francis Collins. In his recent book he offered multiple lines of evidence for common descent based on genome sequencing, including the fact that one finds damaged and non-functional gene sequences at precisely the same place in the genomes of radically different species:
Finding a precisely truncated ARE [damaged copy] in the same place in both human and mouse genomes is compelling evidence that this insertion event must have occurred in an ancestor that was common to both the human and the mouse…
Unless one is willing to take the position that God has placed these decapitated AREs (1) in these precise positions to confuse and mislead us, the conclusion of a common ancestor for humans and mice is virtually inescapable. This kind of recent genome data thus presents an overwhelming challenge to those who hold to the idea that all species were created ex nihilo.
Oh heck, what does Collins know? He’s only the director of the Human Genome Project. As such, he’s just another member of the atheistic Darwinian conspiracy, so we don’t have to listen to him. Oh, he’s an evangelical Christian? Well that’s not good. How will we impeach his argument now? It’s not as though we can give a substantive answer to them and now our ad hominems are useless. Ah well, they’ll just have to make due with this kind of silly rhetoric from Jonathan Wells.
Update: I mistakenly attributed the post on the DI blog to Jonathan Witt when it was actually written by Jonathan Wells. My apologies.