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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.


Q. What is the purpose of the Usenet newsgroup?
A. 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.


Q. What is the purpose of the Talk.Origins Archive?
A. 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 Welcome Page and the Talk.Origins Archive's Must-Read FAQs.


Q. I thought evolution was just a theory. Why do you call it a fact?
A. 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.


Q. Don't you have to be an atheist to accept evolution?
A. 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.


Q. Isn't evolution just an unfalsifiable tautology?
A. 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.


Q. If evolution is true, then why are there so many gaps in the fossil record? Shouldn't there be more transitional fossils?
A. 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 and the Punctuated Equilibria FAQ.


Q. No one has ever directly observed evolution happening, so how do you know it's true?
A. 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.


Q. Then why has no one ever seen a new species appear?
A. 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.


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


Q. According to evolution, the diversity of life is a result of chance occurrence. Doesn't that make evolution wildly improbable?
A. 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.


Q. Doesn't evolution violate the second law of thermodynamics? After all, order cannot come from disorder.
A. 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.


Q. Didn't Darwin renounce evolution on his deathbed?
A. 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.


Q. Where can I learn more about evolution?
A. 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.


Q. How do you know the earth is really old? Lots of evidence says it's young.
A. 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.


Q. But radiometric dating methods rely on the assumptions of non-contamination and constant rates of decay. What if these assumptions are wrong?
A. 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.


Q. 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?
A. 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.


Q. If Earth is so old, doesn't that mean Earth's decaying magnetic field would have been unacceptably high at one time?
A. 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 FAQ on the Earth's Magnetic Field.


Q. Isn't the fossil record a result of the global flood described in the Book of Genesis?
A. 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 and the Talk.Origins Archive's Flood Geology FAQs.


Q. What about those fossils that cut through multiple layers?
A. 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.


Q. What about those human footprints that appear next to dinosaur footprints?
A. 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 FAQ on the Texas Dinosaur/"Man Track" Controversy.


Q. Didn't they find Noah's Ark? I saw something on TV about this.
A. 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 FAQ on Sun Pictures and the Noah's Ark Hoax.


Q. The odds against a simple cell coming into being without divine intervention are staggering.
A. 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 FAQ.


Q. Creationists are qualified and honest scientists. How can they be wrong?
A. 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 and the Talk.Origins Archive's Creationism FAQs.


Q. What about Immanuel Velikovsky? Didn't he show that Earth has experienced a lot of major catastrophes?
A. 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.


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


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