Seven articles are reprinted below:
1 Non-Creationist Biology is a Mess K DeMyer 108 2 Origins and the Nature of Science K Straughen 109 3 A Fishapod Too Far J H Williams 109 4 Protest Over Quotations J H Williams 111 5 Reply to DeMyer J H Williams 111 6 Biology Mess and Tiktaalik K DeMyer 115 7 Creationist Biology: Argument By Quotation J H Williams 116
Non-Creationist Biology is a Mess
(Investigator 108, 2006 May)
Non-creationist biology is truly a mess.
I cite the following in support:
"When discussing organic evolution the only point of agreement seems to be: "It happened." Thereafter, there is little consensus, which at first sight must seem rather odd." –
Simon C. Morris (palaeontologist, Department of Earth Sciences, Cambridge University, UK), "Evolution: Bringing Molecules into the Fold," Cell, Vol. 100, pp.1-11, January 7, 2000, p.11
"The origin of the [genetic] code is perhaps the most perplexing problem in evolutionary biology. The existing translational machinery is at the same time so complex, so universal, and so essential that it is hard to see how it could have come into existence or how life could have existed without it. The discovery of ribozymes has made it easier to imagine an answer to the second of these questions, but the transformation of an 'RNA world' into one in which catalysis is performed by proteins, and nucleic acids specialize in the transmission of information, remains a formidable problem." –
Maynard Smith J. & Szathmary E., "The Major Transitions in Evolution," W.H. Freeman: Oxford UK, 1995, p. 81.
"Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved." –
Francis Crick (Nobel Prize Laureate in Physiology and Medicine), "What Mad Pursuit," 1990, p.138.
"Crick is also a fervent atheistic materialist, who propounds the particle story. In his autobiography, Crick says very candidly biologists must remind themselves daily that what they study was not created, it evolved; it was not designed, it evolved. Why do they have to remind themselves of that? Because otherwise, the facts which are staring them in the face and trying to get their attention might break through." –
Phillip E. Johnson, Essay: "Evolution And Christian Faith"
"If it is true that an influx of doubt and uncertainty actually marks periods of healthy growth in a science, then evolutionary biology is flourishing today as it seldom has flourished in the past. For biologists collectively are less agreed upon the details of evolutionary mechanics than they were a scant decade ago. Superficially, it seems as if we know less about evolution than we did in 1959, the centennial year of Darwin's on the Origin of Species."
(Niles Eldredge, "Time Frames: The Rethinking of Darwinian Evolution and the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria," Simon & Schuster: New York NY, 1985, p14).
"There are a number of problems with hypothetical schemes capable of producing rapid, large, coherent changes in phenotypes. Equally large immediate changes in the genotype might be needed, and any large change in genotype or phenotype must surely be sufficiently disruptive to be lethal. And where would a large change in a phenotype or genotype come from? Moreover, suppose an oddity were to be produced, how would a population be established and maintained?"
(K.S. Thomson, "The Meanings of Evolution," American Scientist, Vol. 70, September-October 1982, pp.529-531, p.530)
"All scholarly subjects seem to go through cycles, from periods when most of the answers seem to be known to periods when no one is sure that even the questions are right. Such is the case for evolutionary biology. Twenty years ago Mayr, in his Animal Species and Evolution, seemed to have shown that if evolution is a jigsaw puzzle, then at least all the edge pieces were in place. But today we are less confident and the whole subject is in the most exciting ferment. Evolution is both troubled from without by the nagging insistencies of antiscientists and nagged from within by the troubling complexities of genetic and developmental mechanisms and new questions about the central mystery-speciation itself. In looking over recent literature in and around the field of evolutionary theory, I am struck by the necessity to reexamine the simpler foundations of the subject, to distinguish carefully between what we know and what we merely think we know. The first and strongest of our critics to be answered should be ourselves." –
K. S. Thomson, "The Meanings of Evolution," American Scientist, Vol. 70, September-October 1982, p. 529.
Origins and the Nature of Science
Kirk Straughen(Investigator 109)
In his article Non-Creationist Biology is a Mess (# 108, page 5) Mr. DeMyer presents quotations in an attempt to undermine evolution and prove by default that creationism offers a better explanation for the origin of life. Has he succeeded in establishing the veracity of his beliefs?
The answer is no, he has not. If we examine the quotations what they show is that scientists do not know everything, that science is a continuous quest for knowledge, and that progress can be slow and difficult.
Science, whether it is biology or astronomy, does not deal in Ultimate Truth. Rather, its conclusions are provisional, based on observation and experiment; with all findings and conclusions subjected to peer group review to ensure the truth has been elucidated.
When I say 'truth' I mean the least speculative conclusion based on known facts; facts that have been established beyond reasonable doubt by many independent investigations conducted by skilled experts.
Science is not omniscient — there will always be mysteries, perhaps even ones that are beyond our ability to understand. But does this justify positing a supernatural explanation for the origin of the universe or any other thing for that matter?
No it doesn't. In the past there were many supernatural explanations for phenomena that we now know have entirely natural causative agencies. Here is a very brief list:
Epilepsy - caused by demonic possession
Storms - caused by witchcraft
Bubonic Plague - caused by the Devil, the wrath of God (take your pick)
It is scientific methodology, not base superstition that has enabled us to understand the natural world and the forces that govern it, and the above clearly shows the folly of resorting to the supernatural in an attempt to understand the natural.
Why do scientists have to remind themselves that nature is not designed? Is it merely a case of pig headed atheists rebelling against God? No, it is not. Scientists have to remind themselves so they do not fall into the mental trap that Mr. DeMyer has fallen into, which can be expressed in the following syllogism:All things that display order and complexity are the product of intelligent design;Of course the problem is that the conclusion is only true if the premise is true — all things that display order and complexity ARE the product of intelligent design.
The Universe displays order and complexity;
Therefore, the Universe is the product of intelligent design.
Are all things that display order and complexity the product of intelligent design? Consider mineral crystals. Many have beautiful geometrical forms. Did an artificer sculpt them? No, they are the result of the blind forces of nature. Therefore, the argument breaks down for clearly not all things that display order and complexity are the product of intelligent design.
The fallacy of intelligent design arises from our tendency to project human attributes onto the fabric of nature. Early man was an artificer, a creator who brought into existence things that had never existed before — spears, clay vessels, huts and so on. The idea of creator gods probably arose when our forebears sought explanations of how things came to be — because they could make things they arrived at the erroneous but understandable conclusion that nature was the product of a more powerful man-like artificer. Many contemporary humans are still making the same mistake.
This mistake is natural and arises from intuitive thinking. But the problem is that Nature is often counter intuitive to the point of confounding what we think is sensible — quantum physics, which deals with the realm of subatomic particles is a good example of this fact. The nature of the world and its origin can only be revealed through the process of fearless investigation and the desire to uncover the truth, even if that truth shatters our most cherished beliefs. Blind adherence to religious dogma can't progress our understanding for it is an intellectual dead end.
Creationism can't provide any meaningful answers for this very reason. It merely claims God created. No mechanisms are elucidated, no mathematical formulae given, no proofs offered.
The best creationists offer are criticisms of evolution and that, by itself, is no proof at all. Indeed, it's like a man criticizing his neighbor's modest home in an attempt to prove his own rat-infested hovel is superior.
So, my advice to creationists is simply this: Put forward your best evidence for divine creation. Concentrate on this and you might be able to prove something, because you will never prove your beliefs are valid by merely criticizing evolution.
The following website may prove helpful to those people wishing to know more about science and life's origin.
Origin of Life on Earth
A FISHAPOD TOO FAR FOR GOD OF THE GAPS?
John H Williams
(Investigator 109, 2006 July)
"GOD SAID IT. THAT SETTLES IT!"
"God said it. That settles it!" This quotation was made to an observer at a Creationist Mega-Conference in 2005.
It underlines the futility of presenting evidence and rational argument when dealing with fundamentalists, who've long had to put a spin on key scientific revelations. Their most favoured 'explanation' being a God of The Gaps, they've maintained a quaint belief that there were no transitional fossils, thereby leaving evolution 'unproven'.
SCALES, FANGS, GILLS, NECK,
FORELIMBS, WRIST & FINGERS
The recent find of a new fossilised species, a 'fishapod' named Tiktaalik roseae which lived in the equatorial floodplains of the Devonian c. 375 mya, and found 1000km north of the Arctic Circle, at Ellesmere Is, Canada, presents creationists with yet another headache. (Time Magazine 17/4/06, based on an article in Nature, March, 2006 by Dr Neil Shubin and his Chicago University colleagues).
Again the apparent absence of transitional species is shown to be wrong.
In the same Time article, Prof Kenneth Miller of Brown University is quoted: "The argument that there are no transitional forms has been untenable for at least two decades."
CLUTCHING AT STRAW
Time Magazine (8/5/06) printed four critical letters of its Tiktaalik coverage:Interesting arguments with elements of denial, ignorance, and Michael Behe's Black Box Ideas (which were given short shrift in Investigator 95/26 and 98/18 by Dr Bob Potter).
Dwayne Spies criticises the "straw man" argument as an attempt to discredit ID/creationism, and accuses the authors of "evolutionary evangelism" (!) Michael Camp argues that one transitional fossil doesn't mean a Darwinian "slam-dunk": "it could be a link, or a strange animal". KW Mackenzie of NSW quotes a 19th century evangelist, Charles Spurgeon, who said of Darwin's theory, "There is not a hair of truth on this dog from its head to its tail", and asserts that the Theory of Evolution is in disarray due to the irreducible complexity argument, and the lack of 'in-betweens'. Mr Azuonye promotes "a Creator there at the 'kick-off' who then lets natural selection do its thing: "We must not box ourselves into one viewpoint".
Spurgeon's quote was standard issue for 19thC evangelists, not so relevant in 2006, but 'the more things change, the more they remain the same'!
There can be only one version of how we came to be, and to bolster faith-based dogma, creationists will, in my opinion, continue to clutch at straws. However, a degree of scepticism, in this as in other finds, is to be encouraged.
6,000 YEARS LEAVES NO TIME FOR EVOLUTION
Naturally, the evolutionary process wasn't observed, and, given aeonic time, and the complexity of biological change, the implied linear transition from species A to species C, via transitional species B is a massively simplistic.
The 'availability' of only six thousand years precludes significant evolutionary change, thus requiring a creationist, anti-evolution ethic, which, in its various forms, is hard at work desperately bailing out and reassuring its groupthink that the emperor is wearing clothes.
"IN THE CASE OF RAPTURE
THIS CAR WILL BE UNMANNED"
I have an old school friend whose adopted son is an Evangelical Pentecostal Minister in Indiana, and whose wife has the above quotation as a bumper sticker!
Despite the ever-present reality, millions believe the world is in the End Times, at the end of which there'll be a seductive-sounding Rapture, when some will be raised and the rest razed (The Rupture).
Mortality is too much of a full stop for many Earthlings, who are longing for a colon, while the Evangelicals – no hint of a question mark – are ready any day for the ! !
YOUNG EARTH 'STRATIGRAPHY'
Young Earth 'scientists' have their own 'geological column', during which a lot happened in a rather short time, with names of periods such as Noachian and Pelagian, all based on the literal reading of Genesis.
Where does this 'fishapod', part fish and part tetrapod, with the anatomical characteristics of both, fit within their scheme? It doesn't, unless it made an appearance before the Garden of Eden, then it may have gone extinct shortly after all members of the species swam thousands of kilometres to the sub-Arctic: seemingly pointless and unIntelligent for a Designed creature.
THAT JIGSAW PUZZLE KEEPS FILLING
Tiktaalik is "one more piece in a rapidly-filling jigsaw puzzle", a "crucial link between fish and the appearance of amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs and birds", exactly the sort of transitional animal predicted by Darwin.
He would have been pleased with another recent discovery of a well preserved 92 myo snake in Patagonia, by Cornell University paleontologists. This 1.5m long creature, named Najash rionegria, a contemporary of the dinosaurs, is helping to resolve a long herpatological debate about whether snakes derived from land or sea animals. This fossil's skeleton has hips and back legs, suggesting that it evolved from burrowing land dwellers (Source: Nature 20/4/2006, reported on in the UK's Guardian Unlimited 20/4/06).
MORE YET TO BE DISCOVERED
This rare find of Tiktaalik, a 'fish with fingers', reminds us of the as yet unearthed significant fossil finds which will augment the current store of geodata, and which will continue to enhance our understanding of our geological 'ancestry'.
I conclude with this fine quote from Bruce Alberts, President of the (US) National Academy of Science:"In evolution, as in all areas of science, our knowledge is incomplete. But the entire success of the scientific enterprise has depended on an insistence that these gaps be filled by natural explanations, logically derived from confirmable evidence. Because ID theories are based on supernatural explanations, they can have nothing to do with science."
PROTEST OVER QUOTATION ARTICLES
(Investigator 111, 2006 November)
In his article Non-Creationist Biology is a Mess (#108) Ken DeMyer thinks it's acceptable and appropriate to present a collection of quotations (seven in this case) attached to a highly opinionated and provocative title and only twenty of his own words (including the title).
That his work is published means that it is found editorially acceptable.
I request that in the future the Editor rules out 'articles' of this kind, and insist that contributors author their pieces in the usual way, using quotations, as do I, in support of their views.
It's noticeable that Mr DeMyer doesn't respond to articles debunking 'his views': or views that can be inferred from his quotations. I've raised this before, but aren't contributors supposed to be involved in some kind of debate?
It's one thing to 'snipe away from the sidelines', without 'owning' a point of view, another to expose one's thoughts to critical scrutiny.
I'd welcome his articles debunking my pieces on astronomy and neocatastrophism, for example, but think that he's too focussed ferreting out his next set of quotations. Prove me wrong, Mr D!
The suggestion that "evolutionary Biology is a mess" implies that another kind of 'explanation' isn't. I look forward to Mr DeMyers's article on how a benign supernatural hand put it all together a few thousand years ago.
John H Williams
[Editor's response to Willikams: Provided there is no copyright problem a list of quotations can acceptably present one's opinion. Whether a refutation refutes someone who used his own words or someone who expressed himself via quotes should not matter.
Mr Straughen in #109 answered DeMyer. The article about Tiktaalic (#109) also included points against DeMyer's quotes.
If DeMyer, or anyone else, doesn't respond to "debunking" then the debate was merely a short one. As with longer debates readers decide for themselves who won..]
"DUSTING FOR GOD'S FINGERPRINTS":
REPLY TO DEMYER CONCERNING P E JOHNSON
John H Williams
(Investigator 111, 2006 November)
This is a partial response to Ken DeMyer's article in Investigator #108, "Non-Creationist Biology is a Mess".
I'm critical of DeMyer's writing, since it comprises virtually nothing but quotations. In protest, this is my last response to 'his' work, and I'm requesting a new editorial policy excluding articles which are almost entirely made up of quotes.
I cite one of those quotes, from Phillip E Johnson's Evolution And Christian Faith (details of source and date omitted). Since I've been researching the background of the 2003 ID DVD, Unlocking The Mysteries Of Life, and one of the key figures in this film, and of the ID movement, is Johnson, I'm addressing his quote and what lies behind his words.
I should add that he's suffered a series of right brain strokes, which he believes are "signs from God", and has ceased "prideful debate" to spend "more time with his family and faith".
In his quote Johnson labels Francis Crick (the co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA) as a "fervent atheistic materialist". Then he asks "why biologists must remind themselves that what they study was evolved, not created?", then answers for them:"because otherwise the facts which are staring them in the face and trying to get their attentionmight break through." (Investigator #108, p 5).Those biologists, some of whom are likely not to be "materialist atheists", might respond, 'which facts?' Perhaps they are 'facts' included in Michael Behe's "irreducible complexity", or the bacterial flagellum which happened to remind Behe of a motorised propeller, and thus was inferred to be designed? And would any professional biologist respect a non-scientist with an obvious religious axe to grind? What, they may wonder, is Johnson's 'definition' of "facts"?
Phillip E Johnson is a retired professor of law, and has no scientific credentials. He is now 66, and became a 'born-again' member of the Presbyterian Church at age 38. He developed a strong dislike of evolutionary ideas, and likens them to atheism (as if that's especially abhorrent!) and materialism by which he may mean "with an interest and a desire for money, possessions etc rather than spiritual and ethical values", though another meaning is "the rejection of any spiritual or supernatural account of things (Collins Concise).
In short, Johnson is on a 'crusade': having noted a decline in public morality in the USA, he simplistically ascribes it to a decline in religious belief.
Naturally, if one studies history, this 'argument' is weakened by the unchristian things done by Christians and groups espousing (at least in theory) Christian values. The bee in Johnson's bonnet was buzzing while working in London in 1991: he read Dawkins, Asimov and SJ Gould, and his scathing criticism of their work, as "unscientific, illogicaland dishonest" is interesting, since Johnson has no formal background in biology, while his equivocations about what constitutes ID, and who is the 'Designer' show him to be intellectually dishonest. As the prime creator of ID, he's helped 'invent' an entity which isn't necessarily God, but is: a 'secular' and 'scientific god, but secretly his 'spiritual' God!
Despite his repeated claims of scientists' falsification of their evidence, his book, Darwin on Trial, was reviewed by biologist, Prof B Spitzer, who assessed it as "the most deceptive book" he'd ever read, "full of distortions, misinterpretations and outright fabrications." This deceitful creationist spin is all too familiar, and some of those who read it may revel in "Darwinism" being treated as if it were some kind of cult designed to elicit "atheistic materialism".
Ever the lawyer, Johnson used "selective advocacy" in quoting from SJ Gould's 1977 article in Natural History, in which Gould acknowledged the "extreme rarity" of transitional fossils: Johnson has repeatedly used that quote, but has changed "extreme rarity" to "absence" time and again.
Johnson vilifies science, and encourages the questioning of it, describing it as "falsified and illogical", which makes one wonder whether he feels that way as he boards a jet plane, or while in hospital receiving the latest medical technology! Why aren't miracles allowed in physics or chemistry? Why should biology be singled out as the only science that permits the supernatural? As biologist R Dorit of Yale University says, "The hand of God may well be all around us, but it is not, nor can it be, the task of science to dust for his fingerprints."
Johnson's goal of an American theocracy will never happen, but he can be credited with a strategy by which it might occur. To quote him:"Our strategy has been to change the subject bit by bit, to ID, which really means placing the reality of God before the academic world and into schools. It isn't really, and never has been a debate about science: it's about religion and philosophy."Johnson appears to value the concept of truth, yet his work shows poor ethics: he's been manipulative and mendacious, revealing a morally threadbare campaign quite alien to that which one would expect from a committed Christian apologist. It's as if he's in a court room, and, believing that science threatens his Bible-based world view, he's duty-bound to 'win', using whatever strategies he thinks are most effective in 'proving' that 'they' are wrong, and, by default, 'his client' is right.
"The objective of the Wedge Strategy is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from Creationism vs Evolution to the existence of God vs the non-existence of God. From there people are introduced to the truth of the Bible, the question of sin, and finally introduced to Jesus"
"The Wedge Strategy is intended to leave the scientific community looking close-minded in the short term, while our long-term goal is to re-define science."
(This is what was planned to occur under the previous ID-run Kansas Board: in "technological science", theories were to be viewed as "unsubstantiated guesses"!)
"The goal of ID is to create a theistic agenda cast as a scientific concept."
(Source of all quotes: wikipedia.org/wiki/PhillipEJohnson)
To summarise, I object to 'argument by multiple quotations', and it's obvious that a person quoted may well have a bias for a particular cause which is unlikely to be apparent to an uninformed reader. When one scrutinises someone's words and ideas, a lack of academic disinterest and scant respect for ethics may well be revealed. In Johnson's case, we observe a man poorly qualified to critique world-class biologists such as Gould and Dawkins; and, as a zealous fidei defensor, his crusade's a projection of a strongly held personal conviction.
For him, attack is the best form of defence, and his articles, books and videos all attest to a certainty that his belief in creationism is right, and, therefore a non-supernatural explanation must be wrong, the 'either/or' fallacy.
Clearly, his words effectively taint his argument and damage his credibility, as well as the credibility of the movement he's been instrumental in creating. His campaign has been, in essence, philosophical and political, and has nothing to do with the real debate that occurs between scientists on issues in evolutionary biology.
Dawkins R 1996 Climbing Mount Improbable, VikingIllustra Media 2003 DVD Unlocking the Mystery of Life
Johnson PE 1993 Darwin on Trial, Intervarsity Press
Johnson PE 1997 The Wedge Strategy: Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.htm
Johnson PE 'Darwinists Squirm Under Spotlight' interview in Citizen Magazine January, 1992
Spitzer B The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth? Draft July 2002 www.talkdesign.org/faqs/johnson.html
Thomas D 4/3/2001 'Science is the wrong tool for measuring God', in Los Alamos Monitor www.nmsr.org/johnson.htm
Forrest B The Newest Evolution of Creationism, in Natural History Magazine April 2002
Wikipedia: Phillip E Johnson (cited above)
Young M & Edis T Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism, 2nd Edition Rutgers Univ Press paperback, 2006
BIOLOGY MESS AND TIKTAALIK
(Investigator 115, 2007 July)
In the May 2006 Investigator I published a article called "Non-Creationist Biology is a Mess" in which I gave a number of quotes from scientists to help demonstrate that non-creationist biology is indeed a mess.
I noticed on the Investigator webpage that John H. William's essay followed mine and Mr. Williams discusses the fossil find of Tiktaalik roseae and claims it is evidence of macroevolution.
I would point out that Creationists have a number of arguments regarding the fossil find of Tiktaalik not being a transitional find.
They can be found at:
www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/4250Lastly, I would point out that even a well-known evolutionist admitted the supposed evidence for macroevolution using the fossil record is quite weak.
I cite the following:
"In any case, no real evolutionist, whether gradualist or punctuationist, uses the fossil record as evidence in favour of the theory of evolution as opposed to special creation." Mark Ridley (Professor of Zoology at Oxford University), 'Who doubts evolution?', New Scientist, vol. 90, 25 June 1981, p. 831
I also point out that a distinguished scientists stated the following:
"We then move right off the register of objective truth into those fields of presumed biological science, like extrasensory perception or the interpretation of man's fossil history, where to the faithful anything is possible - and where the ardent believer is sometimes able to believe several contradictory things at the same time.” –
Lord Solly Zuckerman (professor of anatomy at Birmingham University in England and chief scientific adviser to the British government from 1964 to 1971), Beyond The Ivory Tower, Toplinger Publications, New York, 1970, p. 19.
Creationist Biology: Argument By Quotation
John H Williams
Regarding Ken DeMeyer's "Biology Mess and Tiktaalic" in #115:
I'm annoyed at the repetition of his sweeping assertion, not backed up with evidence, that "non-creationist biology is a mess".
As I've pointed out, non-creationist biology is taught virtually everywhere in the world apart from some religious backwaters. Many biology students become nurses, vets, doctors and surgeons. The vast majority of the biology they do works.
What I think Ken means is that there's disagreement and debate about the precise nature of macroevolution. Distinguished scientists have been known to have their hobby-horses. Anatomists and zoologists (see Ridley and Zuckerman quoted in #115) may not see eye-to-eye with palaeontologists, anthropologists or geneticists, or other anatomists and zoologists.
To offer dated (1970s, 1980s) and out-of-context quotes – one can find many of these on creationist web sites – is an example of the simplistic creationist game plan. I'll deal with those two quotes in a separate article.
DeMeyer mentioned my article on Tiktaalik roseae (#109). I challenge him to, in his own words and citing credible research, demonstrate:
1. That Tiktaalic roseae is not a creature that lived in equatorial waters 375 million years ago.
2. If it didn't evolve how did it occur, and how it fits in with Noah's odyssey.
3. Why, if DeMeyer's deity (which is supposedly perfect and infallible) magically created this part-tetrapod part-fish, it became extinct.
4. What kind of fossil would satisfy a creationist that it was truly a transitional one, and why.Finally, could he enlighten readers on his qualifications in evolutionary science and palaeontology.
Numerous debates on religion and the Bible: