The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

Life: How did it get here? By evolution or creation?
Reviewed by a former Jehovah's Witness
Corey Carroll

Life: How did it get here? By evolution or by creation? Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. Copyright 1985. Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.

First, some background: The Jehovah's Witnesses are basically old-earth creationists; that is, they interpret "day" in Genesis to mean a time period longer than 24 hours. Second, this book is the primary book the JW's use in their campaign to fight evolution. Third, the JW's don't get politically involved in things, so it is unlikely that they will pressure the teaching of "scientific creationism" in schools.

This is the book that really changed my faith in the Jehovah's Witnesses as a religion who have the "Truth". Earlier, about 5 years ago, I and my family had studied this book in weekly bookstudies, held at believer's houses. Each study lasted an hour, and usually 10 or 12 paragraphs were covered in each study.

This was the book that made me a firm creationist. Until I started reading

The book is divided into two main parts. The first part details the standard 'problems with evolution' arguments, in an attempt to prove creationism (something which is logically invalid). The last part of the book reveals the true motives behind the book. Look at what the last chapter, "What Choice Will You Make?", on page 248, paragraph 5 has to say:

Do not be surprised that the theory of evolution has become so widespread in modern times despite the evidence against it. The real message of this belief is that there is no God, that he is unnecessary. From where would such a monumental lie originate? Jesus identified the source when he said: "The Devil... is a liar and the father of the lie."-John 8:44.

Thus, the motives of the book are to show that basically, evolution is a Satanic theory. My own father has used this tactic on me, telling me that I have been "tricked" by Satan and his demons, and the demonic influence of college,, and all other sources of evolutionary knowledge. He has even quoted scriptures to me such as Colossians 2:8, Matthew 11:25, 1 Corinthians 1:19, Isaiah 29:14, and 1 Corinthians 3:19.

At first glance, you can see that the book is lacking in informational content. It is written on an 8th grade level. Over half of the book is devoted to pretty color pictures, as opposed to words. Little quotes are cited on the margins of the pages, such as : "The primary scientific evidence is a pitifully small array of bones" (p.85), and "Why did 'inferior' apes and monkeys survive, but not a single 'superior' 'ape-man'?" (p.84)

The pictures of life on earth are depicted as noble, wonderful, God-like. Look at the pictures of humans. A particularly humorous picture is the one on page 33, showing the animals that were created on day 6, supposedly exactly the same as the 'kinds' today (they have a modern-day elephant, giraffe, bear, dog, tiger, rabbit, and a cow). Another humorous picture is on p.34, with a depiction of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Note the makeup on Eve. I guess God created her with lipstick and eyeliner, eh?

The 'meat' of the book is laregly contained in the following chapters:

Chapter 1, "Life - How Did it Start?" is just introductory and contains little useful information. After acknowledging that creationism isn't really a science, however, it tries to prove that evolution is not a science either, because no one can "really tell" what happened in the past. Nothing original here.

Chapter 2 is particularly notorious in its misleading use of quotes. By selective quoting, the chapter makes it appear as if evolution is a science on the verge of collapse. This sets up the rest of the arguments in the book to disprove evolution. Most of the quotes only are dealing with questions on how evolution happened, and the tempo and mode of evolution, not the fact of evolution happening.

Chapter 3, "What Does Geneis Say?", is especially funny. Apparently it is their "Scientific Theory of Creationism". Notable in this theory is that they do not claim that all life was created in six literal 24-hour days. Rather, they claim that each Genesis "day" could have encompassed millenia. However, I have heard some Witnesses say that the dinosaurs were killed off in the flood, and Jehovah started getting the earth ready for life a mere 48,000 years ago (implying that all life has been created within 48,000 years), due to their interpretation of a Biblical "day" as 7,000 years. However, they believe that man is only 6,000 years old.

Chapter 4, "Could Life Originate By Chance?" contains the usual probability arguments against abiogenesis. After making it look like evolution depends upon a theory of biogenesis to make it complete (which it does not), it quotes Hoyle's Evolution From Space and even an Impact pamphlet for its probabilities. The arguments in this book are based on the assumption that for life to have started would require a modern-day cell with DNA, proteins, enzymes, etc. No thought is given to the evolution of the cell from simpler elements.

Chapter 5, "Letting the Fossil Record Speak", asserts that evolution predicts:

  1. Very simple life forms gradually appearing
  2. Simple forms gradually changing into complex ones
  3. Many transitional "links" between different kinds
  4. Beginnings of new body features, such as limbs, bones, and organs.
After oversimplifying matters, and neglecting the facts regarding the likelihood of fossilization, they set out to make it look like no transitional forms exist. Notoriously, they attack the evolution of the horse, on bad assumptions that horse evolution is gradual and continuous, is progressive, and leads from the changing and replacement of one "kind" of animal to another (Eohippus to Equus).

Chapter 6, "Huge Gulfs - Can Evolution Bridge Them?" expounds upon the differences in vertebrates, namely, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. It is an example of the "we don't understand how a [wing, beak, eggshell] could have developed, therefore it didn't happen" argument. In particular, they claim that Archaeopteryx is not a transition from reptile to bird, because it has feathers, and not scales. They fail to note the reptile-like skeletal features of Archaeopteryx, of course, because it is contrary evidence that they do not want to deal with.

Chapter 7, "'Ape-Men' - What Were They?" sets about to prove that none of the early hominids were transitional or ancestral to Homo sapiens. It harps on Piltdown man, and the speculative nature of different artist's representations of ancient skulls in real life, while ignoring the trends in enlargement of brain case, changes in teeth, and the changes in the shape of the face. Notable, too, is the drawing on page 94 of the Australopithecus skull, chimpanzee skull, and the human skull. IMHO, the chimpanzee skull is not drawn accurately; where are the large pointed teeth?

Also, it tries to discredit radiocarbon dating that gives ages greater than 6,000 years to man, using the views of Robert Gentry, a six-day creationist (although making it look like it is from a reputable "scientific journal"- see p. 96). It also tries to explain away earlier hominids as degenerate races of Homo sapiens.

Chapter 8, "Mutations - A Basis for Evolution?" uses one of the worst arguments in the whole book. First of all, they make it look like all mutations are deleterious. In reality, there is a spectrum of mutations, ranging from deleterious to neutral to beneficial. In addition, a mutation that is deleterious in one environment could be advantageous in another environment. Next, they use this argument, which is based on a false assumption:

In his book, The Wellsprings of Life, science writer Isaac Asimov admitted: "Most mutations are for the worse." However, he then asserted: "In the long run, to be sure, mutations make the course of evolution move onward and upward." But do they? Would any process that resulted in harm more than 999 times out of 1000 be considered beneficial? If you wanted a house built, would you hire a builder who, for every correct piece of work, turned out thousands that were defective? If a driver of an automobile made thousands of bad decisions for every good one when driving, would you want to ride with him? If a surgeon made thousands of wrong moves for every right one when operating, would you want him to operate on you? (p.101-102, par. 9)
This argument does not apply, because we are dealing with populations, not individuals. As computer programs show, natural selection works. No evolutionist is saying that any one organism suddenly gets 1000 good mutations and evolves "upward". Rather, species develop relatively few mutations, and over time, the ones that are advantageous to survival propagate through the gene pool. The neutral ones become distributed by chance, and the deleterious ones are selected against.

The rest of the book is devoted to proving the existence of God by using the argument from design. The next chapters talk about the wonderful universe, the conditions on earth that make life possible, the design of living things (ignoring, of course , the horribly bad design in many living things), animal adaptations, instinct, and finally, the "Human Miracle". Then the book goes into chapters such as "Why Do Many Accept Evolution?", and "Can You Trust the Bible?" After establishing the "reasons" people believe in evolution, and the inerrancy of the Bible, they set out their basic JW doctrines (resurrection, eternal life on earth, etc etc) and try to convince the reader to become a convert.

All in all, I give the book a horribly bad rating. Useful information in the book is probably on the order of 5%. I have read much better creationist books, such as Darwin on Trial.

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