One of the things I have tried to do, as a journalist who’s been cast in the role of a defender of science ever since the publication of The Republican War on Science, is to take on some of the attackers. That’s why I agreed to debate Jonathan Wells this coming Tuesday night, and it’s why I have debated a number of other folks as well, like Tom Bethell. I feel like it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Moreover, I can’t fairly criticize the scientific community for failing to engage, as I have done repeatedly, if I myself am not engaging.
So I want to thank everyone who posted comments to my last two posts about Wells; there’s truly a lot of food for thought there. It will be of immense help to me. Now with this post, in anticipation of the debate, I want to get a little deeper into the issues.
First of all, nobody yet linked this piece, by Kevin Padian and Alan Gishlick, which takes a fairly devastating look at how Wells’ last book Icons of Evolution distorted and misrepresented the science on evolution, specifically “misleading by the omission of important information.” Now that I myself have been through about half of Wells’ new book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, the Padian/Gishlick critique really rings true to me. This in particular is priceless:
Wells reminds us of those kids who used to write to the letters page of Superman comics many years ago. “Dear Editor,” they would write, “you made a boo-boo! On page 6 you colored Superman’s cape green, but it should be red!” Okay, kid, mistakes happen, but did it really affect the story? Wells cannot hurt the story of evolution; like a petulant child, he can only throw tantrums.
I actually thought Wells’ first chapter, in which he laid out his definitions, was not all that bad. It had the polished style and carefully PR-tailored arguments that mark the Discovery Institute as by far the premiere hub of anti-evolutionism in this country. Sure, the chapter was misleading in places, but it was tightly argued–and I liked that Wells started out by defining his terms.
But once the actual debunking of evolution begins, Wells quickly falls into the kind of stuff that Padian and Gishlick were criticizing. Let me give you some quotes to react to for yourselves, so you can see how misleading they are:
1. Of course, one can assume that Darwin’s theory is true, and then try to fit the fossil evidence into the picture suggested by that theory. There’s nothing unreasonable about this–but let’s state the reasoning up front: Theory rules, even without evidence. Fossils cannot provide evidence for descent with modification even when they’re from the same species, much less when they’re from entirely different species. Any claim to the contrary is just “a pernicious illusion” or “a bedtime story.” (p. 22-23)
2. Darwinists argue that the remarkable similarity of developmental genes shared by different animals points to their common ancestry, though that doesn’t explain how a relatively simple ancestral organism would have acquired all the developmental genes that are now found in its various and complex descendants. Even if the similarity of developmental genes were evidence for common ancestry, it would still constitute a paradox for neo-Darwinism. If genes control development, and radically different animals have similar developmental genes, then why are the animals so different? (p. 33)
3. Darwinists claim that all species have descended from a common ancestor through variation and selection, but they can’t point to a single observed instance in which even one species has originated in this way. Never in the field of science have so many based so much on so little. (p. 59)
There is pages and pages and pages of this kind of stuff. And then the most staggering quote of them all:
4. Thousands of articles have been published in hundreds of science journals, but as evidence for Darwinism’s grand claim they are just one long bluff. (p. 65)
To me, this is tantamount to saying, let’s reject the entire scientific process. Wells, a scientist himself, is throwing out the entire literature. One of the reasons I published The Republican War on Science is that I felt these kinds of sweeping attacks simply had to be stood up to; reading The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design makes me surer than ever of that conviction.
In any case, I don’t think 4 needs any further refutation, but let’s hear your reactions to Wells’ quotes 1-3 above….