Pharyngula

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I’ve been having some fun with a bizarrely didactic creationist comic book by one Jim Pinkoski that purports to explain all the flaws in evolutionary biology. What it really is is the most astounding collection of bad creationist arguments I’ve ever seen gathered in one place. I’ve been trying to slog through rebuttals, but unfortunately, it’s like every word and phrase is so far off kilter that it’s going to take me forever to get through it. One putative “problem” that I’ve already dealt with is that we only use 10% of our brains, and so scientists are stupid and untrustworthy, but here’s another one: evolution requires that everything be extraordinarily brilliant. Or in comic book speak,

Evolutionists are saying that “teeny-tiny” life forms somehow willed themselves to “evolve,” which means that we must credit
MICROBES
with being smarter than Albert Einstein!!!

How many errors can we find in that one sentence? Well, evolutionists have never said anything of the sort, evolution isn’t a matter of willing new features into existence, and no one credits bacteria with high intelligence. Pinkoski illustrates this bogus concept with a “steg-o-moeba” trying to will itself into becoming a stegosaurus.

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Here’s a closeup of that little amoeba wishing it were bigger and had eyes. Cute. But totally divorced from reality.

This is entirely contrary to what evolutionary biology actually teaches: there is no intelligence behind changes. There are variations within populations, and the variants that are most successful at coping with local, short-term conditions are represented at a higher frequency in subsequent generations. Pinkoski’s ideas are actually anti-evolutionary, and even have a technical term associated with them: orthogenesis. If there were actually a program of evolution driven by the will of organisms, that would be evidence against evolution. You can’t refute modern biology by inventing a thoroughly silly argument, and pointing out how silly it is—because evolutionary biologists will also tell you how silly it is. It is a classic straw man.

It gets better. Take one straw man, and compound it with a gross misunderstanding of how animals develop, and turn it into a mega-straw man, a Tyrannosaurus rex of straw.

If “evolution” is true, then each major life form would have to evolve it’s own eyes (as well as every other major organ of its body)!

Again, if evolution is true, it predicts exactly the opposite: new species do not evolve the majority of their features anew, but inherit them from the parent species. Homo sapiens did not have to generate four limbs, a head, a pancreas, a spine, etc. de novo—we got those from our predecessors. The process is called descent with modification, not descent with reinventing everything all over again every time.

Orthogenesis, weird ideas about evolution without inheritance…Pinkoski is about to ratchet the absurdity up a few notches with his very own novel thoughts about bilateral symmetry.

Common sense tells us that “evolving” all the individual parts of the eye is impossible, but I want to address an aspect that most overlook—

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If the “eye” really evolved, when did all these animals decide that 2 eyes were better than only 1 eye??
“Evolution” depends largely on mutation—and it only makes sense that if an “eye” suddenly mutated into existence, then that animal would only grow 1 of them!!
SO WHERE ARE ALL THE 1-EYED T-REXES, 1-EYED ALLOSAURS, 1-EYED STEGOSAURS, 1-EYED VELOCIRAPTORS, ETC.?? WHERE?!!

Ouch. That’s so stupid it hurts to read it. Apparently, Pinkoski has this vision of evolution in which each new species arises from an amoeba, which has to sprout each of its organs by force of will, and each step lingers about long enough to limp about and leave fossils of its pathetic intermediate state. It’s not just eyes, it is the whole shebang.

Believe it or not, “bilaterally symmetrical” prove how impossible evolution is! Just like it was stated on the previous page about the evolution of the eye, the same thing applies to arms, to hands, to feet, to ears, to fins and to wings, etc.!

EVOLUTION SAYS THAT EACH OF THESE ORGANS EVOLVED BY MUTATION, AND IF THIS WAS TRUE THE MUTATION WOULD HAVE BROUGHT FORTH ONE OF THESE BODY PART AT A TIME! SO, WHERE ARE THE 1-FINNED TURTLES, 1-WINGED BIRDS, 1-FLIPPERED PORPOISES, AND THE 1-ARMED 1-EARED 1-LEGGED “APE MEN”??

Evolution is refuted because there are no fossils of one-winged pigeons lacking a pancreas and a beak? If there were collections of the kinds of organisms Pinkoski describes, we’d have to reject evolution, because clearly there would be some extremely peculiar piecemeal assembly of animals going on—the kinds of transformations that would violate modern biology’s conception of organisms as integrated wholes.

Just as I’ve inherited four limbs and a head from the great and ancient tetrapod class, so too is bilateral symmetry an inheritance from ancestors even farther back. Bilateral symmetry is over half a billion years old. What it reflects is the presence of signalling molecules that define dorsal and ventral (back and front), molecules that define identical domains on the left and right sides. Your left and right eye are not independent creations, but are instead the product of the same genes expressing themselves in response to simpler signals that are active on both the left and right sides of your head during embryonic development. It actually requires specific, additional mechanisms to break symmetry, and vertebrates that are normally lopsided, like flounder, are generated by a secondary modification of initially symmetrical forms.

Pinkoski’s argument rests on a total absence of awareness about what biological evolution really says. Creationism is an intrinsically ignorant enterprise that crumbled away long ago for people who actually study the evidence, and only persists in those who refuse to examine the science behind it, and think that stacking misconceptions on top of one another is a path to the truth. This particular creationist story got nothing right.

  • Evolution does not occur because individuals want it to happen. Mutations arise by chance, and populations evolve by the survival of favorable (and sometimes not so favorable) variants.
  • Every new species is not an independent creation. It inherits a full suite of characters from its parent population, and modifies their expression.
  • Intermediate forms are not incomplete or non-functional or lacking in major characters. Every species is complete and successful in itself, but is different. Evolution is about acquiring differences, not a drive towards some superior, more complex form.
  • Bilateral symmetry is not a problem for evolution. Mutations that generate a feature on one side of an animal tend to be in response to molecular signals that are present on both sides of the organism; paired features are often easier to evolve than asymmetries in animals that are inherently bilateral.

The disturbing thing is that this pack of lies is part of a series of which a quarter million copies have been distributed by Amazing Facts, a “media ministry” (I guess that’s what they call it nowadays to avoid the taint of the word “televangelism”) based in Roseville, California, and led by a
genuine, literal troglodyte, Doug Batchelor. It’s 56 pages long, and every sentence is either cockamamie nonsense or outright lies. As a science educator, I have to look at this thing and think…boy, do I have a lot of work to do.