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

Frequently Asked Questions

and their answers

The following is a list of questions that appear frequently in the Usenet newsgroup Brief answers are given for each question along with a pointer to one or more relevant files. Outside links will open in new windows.


Question What is the purpose of the Usenet newsgroup?
Answer The purpose of the newsgroup is to provide a forum for discussion of issues related to biological and physical origins. See the Newsgroup Welcome FAQ.


Question What is the purpose of the Talk.Origins Archive?
Answer The purpose of the TO Archive is to provide easy access to the many FAQ (frequently asked question) files and essays have been posted to the Usenet newsgroup The Archive exists expressly to provide mainstream scientific responses to the many issues that appear in the newsgroup. See the Talk.Origins Archive's Welcome Page and the Talk.Origins Archive's Must-Read FAQs.


Question I thought evolution was just a theory. Why do you call it a fact?
Answer Biological evolution is a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time. That this happens is a fact. Biological evolution also refers to the common descent of living organisms from shared ancestors. The evidence for historical evolution -- genetic, fossil, anatomical, etc. -- is so overwhelming that it is also considered a fact. The theory of evolution describes the mechanisms that cause evolution. So evolution is both a fact and a theory. See the Evolution is a Fact and a Theory FAQ, the Introduction to Evolutionary Biology FAQ and the Five Major Misconceptions about Evolution FAQ: Evolution is Only a theory.


Question Don't you have to be an atheist to accept evolution?
Answer No. Many people of Christian and other faiths accept evolution as the scientific explanation for biodiversity. See the God and Evolution FAQ and the Interpretations of Genesis FAQ.


Question Isn't evolution just an unfalsifiable tautology?
Answer No. Evolutionary theory is in exactly the same condition as any other valid scientific theory, and many criticisms of it that rely on philosophy are misguided. See the Evolution and Philosophy FAQ.


Question If evolution is true, then why are there so many gaps in the fossil record? Shouldn't there be more transitional fossils?
Answer Due to the rarity of preservation and the likelihood that speciation occurs in small populations during geologically short periods of time, transitions between species are uncommon in the fossil record. Transitions at higher taxonomic levels, however, are abundant. See the Transitional Vertebrate Fossils FAQ, the Fossil Hominids FAQ, 29 Evidences for Macroevolution: Intermediate and Transitional Forms, the Punctuated Equilibria FAQ, and the February 1998 Post of the Month Missing links still missing!?.


Question No one has ever directly observed evolution happening, so how do you know it's true?
Answer Evolution has been observed, both directly and indirectly. It is true. See the Five Major Misconceptions about Evolution FAQ: Evolution Has Never Been Observed and 29 Evidences for Macroevolution.


Question Then why has no one ever seen a new species appear?
Answer Speciation has been observed, both in the laboratory and in nature. See the Observed Instances of Speciation FAQ and another FAQ listing some more observed speciation events.


Question Doesn't the perfection of the human body prove Creation?
Answer No. In fact, humans (and other animals) have many suboptimal characteristics. See the Evidence for Jury-Rigged Design in Nature FAQ.


Question According to evolution, the diversity of life is a result of chance occurrence. Doesn't that make evolution wildly improbable?
Answer Evolution is not simply a result of random chance. It is also a result of non-random selection. See the Evolution and Chance FAQ and the Five Major Misconceptions about Evolution FAQ: Evolution Proceeds by Random Chance.


Question Doesn't evolution violate the second law of thermodynamics? After all, order cannot come from disorder.
Answer Evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics. Order emerges from disorder all the time. Snowflakes form, trees grow, and embryos develop, etc. See the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Evolution, and Probability FAQs and the Five Major Misconceptions about Evolution FAQ: Evolution Violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.


Question Didn't Darwin renounce evolution on his deathbed?
Answer The Darwin deathbed story is false. And in any case, it is irrelevant. A scientific theory stands or falls according to how well it is supported by the facts, not according to who believes it. See the Lady Hope Story FAQ.


Question How do you know the earth is really old? Lots of evidence says it's young.
Answer According to numerous, independent dating methods, the earth is known to be approximately 4.5 billion years old. Most young-earth arguments rely on inappropriate extrapolations from a few carefully selected and often erroneous data points. See the Age of the Earth FAQ and the Talk.Origins Archive's Young Earth FAQs.


Question But radiometric dating methods rely on the assumptions of non-contamination and constant rates of decay. What if these assumptions are wrong?
Answer Radiometric isochron dating techniques reveal whether contamination has occurred, while numerous theoretical calculations, experiments, and astronomical observations support the notion that decay rates are constant. See the Isochron Dating FAQ and the Age of the Earth FAQ.


Question I heard that the speed of light has changed a lot. This means that light from galaxies billions of light years away might not really be billions of years old. Is this true?
Answer Barry Setterfield's hypothesis of a decay in the speed of light was based on flawed extrapolations from inaccurate measurements, many of which were taken hundreds of years ago. See the C-Decay FAQ.


Question If Earth is so old, doesn't that mean Earth's decaying magnetic field would have been unacceptably high at one time?
Answer No. The Earth's magnetic field is known to have varied in intensity and reversed in polarity numerous times throughout the planet's history. See the Alleged Decay of the Earth's Magnetic Field FAQ.


Question Isn't the fossil record a result of the global flood described in the Book of Genesis?
Answer No. A global flood cannot explain the sorting of fossils observed in the geological record. This was recognized even prior to the proposal of evolutionary theory. See the Problems with a Global Flood FAQ, the April 2002 Post of the Month A Flood Geologist Recants and the Talk.Origins Archive's Flood Geology FAQs.


Question What about those fossils that cut through multiple layers?
Answer They have natural explanations: tree-roots that grew into soft, underlying layers of clay, and fossils found in inclined strata. They can also be observed forming in modern environments. See the "Polystrate" Fossils FAQ.


Question What about those human footprints that appear next to dinosaur footprints?
Answer The "man-tracks" of the Paluxy Riverbed in Glen Rose, Texas were not man tracks at all. Some were eroded dinosaur tracks, and others were human carvings. See the The Texas Dinosaur/"Man Track" Controversy FAQ.


Question Didn't they find Noah's Ark? I saw something on TV about this.
Answer The producers of America's 1993 CBS television show, "The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark," were hoaxed. Other ark discovery claims have not been substantiated. See the Sun Pictures and the Noah's Ark Hoax FAQ.


Question The odds against a simple cell coming into being without divine intervention are staggering.
Answer And irrelevant. Scientists don't claim that cells came into being through random processes. They are thought to have evolved from more primitive precursors. See the Probability of Abiogenesis FAQs.


Question Creationists are qualified and honest scientists. How can they be wrong?
Answer The quality of an argument is not determined by the credentials of its author. Even if it was, a number of well-known creationists have questionable credentials. Furthermore, many creationists have engaged in dishonest tactics like quoting out of context or making up references. See the Suspicious Creationist Credentials FAQ, the Talk.Origins Archive's Creationism FAQs, Quotations and Misquotations and Creationist Arguments: Misquotes


Question What about Immanuel Velikovsky? Didn't he show that Earth has experienced a lot of major catastrophes?
Answer No, he simply claimed that certain written legends must have described real events. See the Talk.Origins Archive's Catastrophism FAQs and the Velikovsky FAQ.


Question Where can I find more material on the Creation/Evolution debate?
Answer Contact the National Center for Science Education [off site], or see the Talk.Origins Archive and its "Other links" page. Also see the Book Recommendations FAQ and the Creation/Evolution Organizations FAQ.


Question What about "intelligent design"?
Answer "Intelligent design" (ID) advocates often use the very same arguments that the young-earth creationists have used in the past. The Archive does have some FAQs on Behe's "irreducible complexity", Jonathan Wells's "icons of evolution", and Dembski's "specified complexity" (see questions below). Further essays on "intelligent design" can be found on our sister site, TalkDesign [off site], and at TalkReason [off site]. "The Quixotic Message," or "No Free Hunch" [off site] deals with ID claims in a humorous manner.


Question Doesn't irreducible complexity (as described in Behe's Darwin's Black Box) show that some biomechanical systems could not evolve gradually, but must have all their parts created at once?
Answer Behe's "irreducible complexity" considers only an unrealistically simplistic model of evolution. Evolutionary mechanisms that Behe doesn't consider, such as functional change and coevolution, make irreducible complexity not only possible, but expected. See Irreducible Complexity and Michael Behe FAQs and Irreducible Complexity Demystified [off site].


Question Hasn't Jonathan Wells shown that Darwinist claims about such "icons of evolution" as the peppered moth, Haeckel's embryos, and Darwin's finches have been disproven? If so, why are these claims still found in biology textbooks?
Answer Scientists have been complaining for decades about the poor quality of science instruction in school and about the content of science textbooks. However, Dr. Wells's arguments include many false statements, many misunderstandings of the science involved, and many misunderstandings of the significance of the subjects that he pontificates on. See the Icons of Evolution FAQs and The Talented Mr. Wells [PDF format, off site].


Question Doesn't William Dembski's "specified complexity" mean that an intelligent designer had to be responsible for the observed complexity and diversity of living things?
Answer The sophistication of Dembski's arguments is superficial. One of the most thorough examinations of Dembski's ideas is available on the Archive. See: Not a Free Lunch But a Box of Chocolates, A Presentation Without Arguments [off site], Mr. Dembski's Compass [off site] and The AntiEvolutionists: William A. Dembski [off site].


Question Isn't it true that scientists are abandoning evolution?
Answer That is not even remotely true. See: The Imminent Demise of Evolution: The Longest Running Falsehood in Creationism [off site], Project Steve: Humorous Testing of the Scientific Attitudes Toward "Intelligent Design," and Amicus Curiae Brief of 72 Nobel Laureates


Question If evolution is true, why don't you take Dr. Kent Hovind's $250,000 challenge and make yourself rich?
Answer Kent Hovind's $250,000 challenge is a propaganda ploy and nothing more, rather like the "doctorate" Hovind claims from Patriot University. See: Kent Hovind FAQs: Examining "Dr. Dino."


Question Don't you know that the earth is round?
Answer Yes, we do. We keep a copy of the "International Flat Earth Society" flyer here to document that real people in modern times do assert that the earth is flat, not because we think the earth is flat See: Documenting the Existence of "The International Flat Earth Society."


Question Where can I learn more about evolution?
Answer You might start with the FAQs. If, however, you want a thorough understanding of evolution, a library would be a more appropriate place to look. The following FAQs provide some good references: the Creation/Evolution Reading List, the Introduction to Evolutionary Biology FAQ, the "What is Evolution?" FAQ, and the Talk.Origins Archive's Evolution FAQs.


Question Isn't the Talk.Origins Archive just some website that has no particular credibility? Those FAQs and essays aren't peer-reviewed, and many are written by interested laymen rather than specialists, so they can be ignored, right?
Answer We encourage readers not to take our word on the issues, but rather to look at the primary literature and evaluate the evidence. While materials on the Archive have not necessarily been subjected to formal peer-review, many have been subjected to several cycles of commentary in the newsgroup prior to being added to the Archive. Most of our materials provide links and/or bibliographic references to enable the reader to evaluate the evidence for themselves. While anyone can decide to ignore our materials, the Archive has been recognized as a valuable online resource by many well-known groups, magazines, and individuals. Further, a number of college courses have chosen to use materials from the Archive in their coursework. See: Awards, Honors, and Favorable Notices for The Talk.Origins Archive.
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