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

Feedback for March 1997

Listed below are some of the letters received from readers of the Talk.Origins Archive in the month of March 1997.

I submit to you that the heliocentric theory of planetary motion is not a "fact" in science or otherwise. Rather it is a theory and also a matter of perspective. What are the facts are the raw data: the observations that one makes. Much of this raw data (i.e. the facts of heliocentricity) are also the facts of geocentricity. When the ancients looked up into the sky and observed planetary motions, these observations were the facts from which they developed their ideas (i.e. hypotheses, theories, and laws).

Response from the editor:

Heliocentricity is more than just a matter of perspective. The planets orbit the Sun. They do not orbit the Earth. See Francis Graham's critique of geocentrism for a more detailed explanation.

If most everyone in this world believe in evolution and the survival of the fittest, then why try to save the unfit or endangered specia? You need to get rid of your theory of evolution or let the endangered specia be part of the advancement through survival of the fittest. There is another theory of origins: creation by intellengence (God) cause and effect we see as having design. The Bible tells of a different atmosphere with long life and warm growing season etc. Creation shows that Noah's flood produced the new continents, one mile deep sediment rock and gas, coal, oil etc. And this creator loves you and wants to make you good to spend eternity with him if you will say yes to him.

How about a page one the scientific evidence of creationism?

Response from , author of "Evolution, Chance and Metaphysics":

Ferris emailed this to me directly, so I guess he wants me to respond. Here is what I replied in email:

No simple description of the way things are will justify any claim of how things ought to be. If My daughter breaks her arm, is it right that she has a broken arm? Shall I leave it, because what is, is right? Of course not.

Evolutionary science is a description of how things came to be the way they are. Despite what you may have been told by people who should know better, there is no evidence of a worldwide flood and flood models cannot explain the fossil or geological record at all. That is false. Anyone who has studied the issue in detail, and who tells you otherwise, is a liar. Sorry.

Survival of the fittest is perhaps the most misleading phrase in the history of science. Darwin greatly regretted using it at Spencer's and Wallace's insistence, and wished in old age that he had used the more expressive phrase "natural preservation". Now, if I said that I wished to preserve species, you'd think that was a noble thing. Since that is a description of what natural selection actually does, the implication of "might is right" that critics of evolution claim is inherent in the theory is wrong.

Evolution by natural selection does not preclude the moral and theological view that God is the creator of all things and that providence operates in human history. Neither does it in any way support it. This is also true of electronics, astrophysics and materials science. They are none the worse for not being theology and science simultaneously; neither is evolutionary science.

I have no objection to your religious beliefs, or to Christianity in general, unlike some noisy atheists, but you must understand - science neither confirms nor denies religion of any stripe, no matter what the popular press and general insterst books may say. What it does do is deny the truth of some interpretations, such as the 'literal' interpretation of Genesis. However, nonliteral interpretations of Genesis go back before Jesus, and are certainly around in 2nd century Christian scriptural studies.

You might consider what the import of Genesis actually is: God is not part of the universe, the universe is not part of God. Stars and the Sun are not gods, humanity has a special covenant with God not shared by the rest of the universe, etc. These are theological statements, matters of faith, not science. Anyone who uses the Bible as the source of science is as misguided as anyone who uses science as a source for faith.

I hope this helps put things in perspective. Please go and read the FAQs for the newsgroup before jumping back with answers not your own. I am happy to discuss anything within my competence that is not in those FAQs, but life is too short to spend repeating what has been already said by others, in many cases, far better than I can now express. Point your browser to the FAQs </>.

As to why there is no FAQ on the scientific evidence for creationism, most Darwinians would say that there is none to present. However, Douglas Cox has written his own pro-creationism FAQ (it is an Old Earth Creationism, I believe), and he posts it occasionally on I personally think it ought to be included on the FAQ site, but I gather it is linked from the archive anyway.

In reference to the Noah article: Do not under estimate the power of an almighty God!

Response from :

The question is not about the power of God, but about his actions. No one would claim that an omnipotent God is incapable of causing a planetary flood. The point of dispute is whether God DID cause such a flood. Just because God CAN do something, that is no proof that he DID do it.

Some people who read the Bible say that the Noah story is about a real flood. Others believe it is a parable, such as Jesus' story of the Workers in the Vineyard.

In order to determine which group of human interpreters to trust, it makes sense to examine all available evidence which might help to weed out the incorrect interpretation. So far as I have been able to determine, the view that Noah's flood was a literal planetary deluge is incorrect. This does not mean the Bible is wrong, just that some people are wrong about what it teaches. It also does not mean that God didn't have the power to make a flood: it only means that he didn't actually exercise that power.

I have a question that I have not seen addressed in your pages. While watching a mini-debate between a creationist and an evolutionist, the creationist brought up a topic I have never seen discussed. The creationist mentioned the problems with complex body structure that only seem to work when all of the pieces are together. The example given was the eye, which was described as a complex organ that can not work unless all the pieces are there (i.e., the retina, cornea, the rods and cones, and the pigments). The creationist asked what how could a useless thing like whatever was the precursor to the eye evolve when it would not have worked without all of the parts that are now present.

Response from :

Creationists often cite complex physical structures or organism behaviors as evidence against evolution, saying that they have too many parts that depend upon each other to have evolved naturally. The eye is a favorite example. Most arguments of this nature follow the form of the "argument from incredulity," i.e., "I can't figure out how this happened so it must be a miracle."

The "many parts working together" argument usually ignores the evolutionary advantages provided by partial or incomplete systems, or that some of the parts evolved from other features with a different function. In the case of the eye, one can see that partial sight is better than no sight at all. Starfish, for example, have light-sensing cells in a depression, what amounts to a weak eye with no lens. It is advantageous for the cells to be in a depression, for this allows the starfish to judge to direction of light sources more easily than other creatures with light-sensing cells not in a depression. An organism with 25% sight should, on average, be better able to survive and reproduce than another organism with, say, 15% sight. It is this differential success of natural selection which keeps evolution from being an completely random process.

Richard Dawkins provides a good counter to the eye argument in his book The Blind Watchmaker. E.T. Babinski neatly summarizes the eye argument on the archives under Cretinism or Evilution? No. 3: An Old, Out of Context Quotation. Mickey Rowe has provided a detailed description of The Evolution of Color Vision. Other resources can be found by searching the archive using the search term "evolution NEAR eye".

I find it rather presumptuous to summarize all creationists in one small group, as you seem to have done in the article on creation evolution. Yes, there are some creationists who do not really know what they believe, and they do rant on about there little statements that destroy evolution, but many have studied, and have found reasonable reason to disbelieve the theory of evolution.
I reccomend you study what creationists really believe, before you make definative comments such as these.

Response from Chris Stassen, author of "The Age of the Earth":

Most of the files in this archive are aimed at answering creationist claims, particularly ones which are frequently posted to the USEnet newsgroup. This does not mean that we assume that every creationist would make every one of the claims discussed here. If you feel that a specific FAQ is out of line in this regard, please identify it so that it can be reviewed.

It is not necessary to lecture FAQ authors on the study of creationist beliefs. Most have put in a lot of effort studying creationist claims. Some are ex-creationists. At least a few have read more creationist literature than nearly every creationist in

I read your article on the Age of the Earth. I thought it was very well written and I enjoyed reading it. That said I am a young-earth creationist. I am eighteen and studying to become an engineer. I have heard and read many times an argument that i would like you to comment on. If the exponential decay of certain elements is consistent than you could determine accurately the age of certain objects. What happens if for some reason(Like the Earth's magnetic field) it is possible that something might have changed the rate of decay. It is something that I have heard quite a lot about and was curious what an answer to that would be?

Response from Chris Stassen, author of "The Age of the Earth":

Constancy of radioactive decay is discussed in The Age of the Earth FAQ. Summarized briefly, the response to the argument which you mention is four-fold:

  1. There is no known way to significantly alter the decay rate of isotopes used for geological dating.
  2. Experiments show that extremes of temperature, pressure, charge, and magnetic field have no measurable effect.
  3. There are theoretical reasons (based on the physics of the decay process) for expecting decay rates to be constant.
  4. Historical evidence, both geological and astronomical, indicates that decay rates have not changed noticeably with time.

The evidence limits change to rates of decay greater to no more than about one part in 10-10 per year, over a span of a few billion years. Theoretical considerations limit physical effects (e.g., those induced by pressure) to no more than a tiny fraction of one percent. In order to produce billion-year isotopic ages in a one-year catastrophe, young-Earthers require a change by a factor of at least 109 in the very recent past. That is not just barely beyond the bounds of plausibility indicated by the evidence; it is ten to twenty orders of magnitude past it.

If young-Earthers are ever going to successfully explain old isotopic ages as expected features of their history of the Earth, it will not be via accelerated decay.

I find the description of the Second Law of Thermodynamics in the FAQ file very informative. However, I have found no explanation for the beginning of the Universe that satisfies the First Law, namely, Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but only transferred form one system to another and transformed from one form to another (Hecht, Physics, Brooks/Cole Co., 1994). Many Creationists attribute the source of the energy necessary for the Universe to exist to God. As yet, I am only able to reply that, really, we do not have a very good scientific understanding of time, so it is not possible yet to speak of the beginning of the Universe. Can anyone help me off a better reply? Please respond to if possible.

Response from , author of "Creation Science and the Earth's Magnetic Field":

The seemingly paradoxical response is that there is no valid reason to believe that the beginning of the universe should obey the first law of thermodynamics, nor for that matter, any law of physics at all. This becomes easier to understand once you realize that the laws of physics, as we call them, are really nothing more than a set of logical recipes that we use to understand how the universe functions. Just as it makes no sense to talk about what someone's personality may have been like, before the moment of conception, so it makes no sense to insist that the laws that describe the function of the universe must have been in force prior to the existence of the universe itself!

The only logical recourse is to realize that the universe is, or may be, a subset of some ill-defined meta-universe, and that the laws of nature are most likely also subsets of some equally ill-defined set of meta-laws. At this time we can only address these as philosophical propositions, as we have no genuinely applicable knowledge. It is not uncommon to see the moment of conception of the universe couched in the phraseology of quantum mechanics, such as calling the big bang a quantum fluctuation.

That approach does have some merit, and the key is that even within the universe, and within the framework of established physics, the first law of thermodynamics is not applicable at the level of individual quantum events. The first law is a description of the behavior of a statistically significant sample, and at that level energy is neither created nor destroyed. However, this is not the case at the level of individual quantum events, where energy can indeed be created from nothing. This quantum violation of the first law is most directly visible in the complex modern theory of vacuum fluctuations, where the seemingly empty vacuum is modeled as a seething sea of virtual particles, coming in and out of existence, on a time scale hidden behind the cloak of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Should such a virtual pair be seperated, the result would be the sudden creation of a real particle, very much from nothing at all. Models show this can happen, for instance, at the event horizon of a black hole, and it is the basis for Stephen Hawking's revolutionary theory of thermal radiation emission from black holes. Thus, it is not inconsistent with known physics, to ascribe the beginning of the universe to some similar effect.

As you can see, a genuinely detailed discussion would be extensive, and well beyond the scope of this forum. Big bang cosmology is a really quite fascinating, but quite complex as well. I recommend some online resources, if the reader want's to persue the matter in more detail. The Cosmology Tutorial from the web pages of the Microwave Anisotropy Probe mission is a good place to start. Another good Cosmology Tutorial comes from UCLA astronomy professor Edward Wright, a veteran of the well known COBE mission. These may not tell you everything you want to know, but they will get you started anyway.

In Februaury I posted a note that Frank Steiger was kind enough to respond to. However, I believe he misunderstood my point and I fear I was not clear enough. I was responding to Laurence Moran's "What is Evolution?" FAQ and proposed that much of what is taught in school about evolution is misinformation. I was not specific and did not give any examples, and I fear that Frank thought I was claiming evolution is false. First of all, let me state that I am firm evolutionist (though I was a creationist until my early 20's) and want to thank you all for such an excellent resource. Your work is greatly appreciated. Let me be more specific about my previously expressed concern. First of all, I have to admit I have not looked at a high school biology text for many years. Perhaps things have changed for the better, I sure hope so. When I was in high school, the textbooks that I saw all treated the topic of evolution in the same manner. Evolution was presented as a ladder of progress (as opposed to a bush of related species with no inherent direction of progress) with humans as the inevitable end product and purpose of the process. They all presented horse evolution from Eohippus (now Hyracotherium) to contemporary Equus as an example of the "ladder" of evolution presenting all of the related species as being part of one lineage (as opposed to some branching off on their own and dying out) leading to the obviously superior horse. I could think of more examples, but you should get the gist of what I'm saying. Maybe I'm wrong, but my understanding is that these views have not been taken seriously by evolutionary biologists for several decades. These may seem like trivial points, but considering that junior high and high school biology are for many people the only exposure they have to evolutionary fact and theory, I feel that this can have a profound impact on how people perceive evolution and helps explain why so many people are either undecided on the issue of evolution or refute it outright. I can't tell you the number of times I've been having an informal discussion on evolution with someone and they will bring up one of the many objections creationists always belabor (such as the 2nd law not allowing evolution) that I believe is rooted in the (mis)information presented in grade school. I would appreciate your views regarding my concerns and again, thank Frank Steiger for his previous response even though it seems he misunderstood me. Keep up the good work!

Mark Sando

Response from , author of "Darwin's precursors and influences":

There are textbooks and there are textbooks :-)

High school biology (or any other) textbooks are usually several years out of date, given that authors of high school texts are not usually themselves front rank research scholars. These scholars write university-level textbooks if they write any at all. Even so, many myths are perpetuated in textbooks. A recent example was highlighted in the journal Science last year on the topic of mitochondrial inheritance, which plays so prominent a role in the "African Eve" hypothesis.

The authors of this paper showed clearly that it is just not true that no paternal mitochondria make it into the mammalian egg. Yet, this claim is repeated in such books as Dawkins' Extended Phenotype, an Oxford U Press book on biology and several works including those of Gould and various evolution textbooks.

A more commonly known perpetuated error is the so-called 'biogenetic law' of Ernst Haeckel, which reappears in popular texts some 90 years after it was abandoned. The Hydracotherium-to-Equus 'line' of ED Cope was repeated by such luminaries as Simpson, Rensch and Dobzhansky, although each retracted as it became obvious that the horse phylogeny was a bush not a branch.

Thomas Kuhn, the historian and philosopher of science noted in his classic (and often wrong) Structure of Scientific Evolutions that textbook history is false and revisionist, making forebears of prominent names in order to gain credit and credence for the textbook author's preferred theories. Textbooks are educational tools rather than instruments of art, and they need to be continually revised and criticised to prevent errors remaining or creeping in. In this respect the insistence by creationists and other antiscience activists on censoring and 'balancing' scientific information in high school texts is especially worrying. There are enough mistakes already.

Nearly everything I learned about science, let alone biology, in high school was wrong. But then, nearly everything I learned in history was wrong as well. If you read a higher level educational textbook, you are likely to escape most of the errors that are popularly perpetuated, and then you can go on to read the primary sources (which in science are often easily available) and discover how much and how little agreement actually exists in the scientific community.

All of which is a long-winded way to say - I think you are right.

This is the first time I've seen your web site. I assumed from the header "The Evolution/Creation Debate" that you would give equal (unbiased) representation of both sides of the debate--thus the term "debate". But it's very clear from the articles you have available you are anti-Creation and pro-Evolution. Would you consider some articles that put Creation in a better light? Does anyone really know the answer? And what if both sides are right?

Response from :

Please note the Other Web Sites location in the FAQ Archive. There you will find quite a number of links to pro-creation sites. There are no rules barring pro-creation files from this site, but I don't know that anyone has actually bothered to make such a submission. Jeffrey Cox chose to place his (Creation) FAQ on his own web site.

What if we are all wrong? Then we are all wrong, but we do try not to be. I know how much effort towards factual reliability I put into the FAQ files that I wrote, and I presume most of the other authors have made a similar effort. In my own personal, admittedly biased opinion, there is no debate, and never was; the young-Earth creationists get everything wrong all the time, with bewildering consistency. I don't write my FAQs strictly for them, but for people who really don't know, but really want to know, and have enough personal fortitude to rely on their own ability to understand what I say, rather than accept it blindly. I think that these files are, for the most part, quite fair in their treatment of the opposition, and as already noted, we do carry enough hyperlinks to allow the creationists to speak for themselves.

If the dust falling on the moon is not as much then how much is there?` How old should the moon be by the amount of the dust?

Response from Chris Stassen, author of "The Age of the Earth":

According to both mainstream sources and the creationist paper (Snelling and Rush 1993, p. 34) referenced in the Age of the Earth FAQ: the Moon probably receives about 10,000 tons of meteoritic material per year, which amounts to about 2cm (depth) accumulation per billion years.

It is impossible to derive an accurate age for the Moon from dust influx. First, the quantity of "dust" on the Moon is not known with great precision, and not all dust on the lunar surface is meteoritic in origin. Based on chemical signature and allowances made for very large meteorites, anywhere from 2%-15% of the regolith could be meteoritic in origin. The regolith is thought to be about 5-10m deep on average. This yields a range of 0.1-1.5m for the depth of meteoritic material on the Moon.

Second, there is no reason to assume that meteoritic influx rates have always been the same as those today. In fact, there are reasons to suspect that the influx rate was much higher in the early days of the solar system. The most that can be said is roughly what Snelling and Rush (p. 39) say in the conclusion of their paper -- that the quantity of meteoritic material present on the Moon appears consistent with the mainstream age and history of the Moon.

Piltdown is not used any more nor Nebraska Man, but they were used extensively. In fact Nebraska man was touted by evolutionists in the Scopes Evolutionary Trial as the BEST example of evolution known to date. Further, it was that tooth which was not entered in the first (lost) trial that persuaded the court to allow evolution in schools! The famous horse series was kept in museums for thirty years after the truth was shed on it. It is STILL in one of the most popular fossil guides in the country sold at museums (I bought one) and rock, fossil, and mineral shows. Java man, Neanderthal, Lucy, Archaeopteryx are still used while most poleontologists know that humans were found with Java Man, Neanderthals were not sub-human nor were they ancestral to mondern humans even though they are ALWAYS listed as ancestors on charts. Lucy's kind was never anything but ape. In fact the Leaky's found human stone huts in strata below these apes. In 1986 Science magazine reported that completly mondern birds were found in strata at least as old and since the report 75 million years older than Archaeopteryx. And that's just the ones that come readily to mind!

Looks like a PRIME case for "the pot calling the kettle black."

Bradey Donald

Response from :

Nebraska Man. I have carefully examined the Scopes Trial transcript ("World's Most Famous Court Trial", 1926, National Book Publishing Company) and have found no indication that Nebraska Man was even mentioned, much less cited as the best evidence available. Henry Fairfield Osborn described Nebraska Man in 1922 on the basis of two teeth, and organized the field work that revealed the misclassification in 1927. I have not found any scientific work which continued to utilize Nebraska Man as if it were valid after 1927. In several years of requesting specifics on who might have presented Nebraska Man at the Scopes Trial, no one has been able to respond with actual information. Even the Institute for Creation Research has indicated that Nebraska Man was not introduced as evidence in the Scopes Trial. See also the Fossil Hominids FAQ by Jim Foley.

Scopes Trial. The Scopes Trial was a single trial. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100, but the conviction was overturned on appeal due to the fact that fines over $50 had to be recommended by the jury. No further evidence was presented in appeal. The Butler Act in Tennessee remained on the books until the late 1960's. For details on the trial, see Ray Ginger's 1957 "Six Days or Forever?".

Horse exhibit. The much-maligned horse exhibit was a product of early 1900's work attempting to illustrate the evolutionary mechanism theory of "orthogenesis", which stated that evolutionary trends were predestined, innate, and pretty much linear progressions. The fossils themselves are still perfectly good examples establishing evolutionary transitions, but the theoretical framework which the original exhibit promoted has rightly been rejected, since the transitions which the fossils do illustrate are not linear progressions, show no sign of innateness, and reveal nothing regarding predestination.

Intermediacy. The supposition that fossil finds must display a precise ordering to establish intermediacy is false. Some notable SciCre-ists have asserted forcefully that when considering fossil specimens, a species known by a later specimen cannot possibly be the ancestor of a species known by an earlier specimen. If it were true that the fossil record faithfully recorded the beginning, end, and duration of all species, and we knew that information for the species in question, then the objection given would have some weight. Unfortunately, neither of those two necessary conditions are true. Consider the following illustration, showing a hypothetical lineage of five species. The blocks in green show the periods for which fossil specimens for each species have been collected.


Species A is the common ancestor, yet the situation of the known fossil record has the oldest fossils belonging to species B. Only species E is known entirely from more recent specimens than species A. The sampling of fossil collections does not give us complete knowledge of the residence times of species. Without that information, it simply is erroneous to state that no later fossil can represent a species that is ancestral to an earlier fossil.

Response from Jim Foley, author of the "Fossil Hominids FAQ":

None of these examples has any validity, and most are already refuted in the archives.

Nebraska Man: someone has lied to you. Nebraska Man was not even used in the Scopes trial, let alone as "the BEST example of human evolution" (and the ICR now admits this). Nor was Nebraska Man "used extensively" elsewhere (I'll grant that Piltdown was). Most scientists were skeptical that Nebraska Man was even an ape, let alone an ape-man, and it had virtually no effect on the study of human evolution.

Java Man was not found with human fossils. You are probably referring to the Wadjak skulls, which were found about 60 miles away in much younger deposits.

Neandertals: true, they are not sub-human. Most scientists do not consider them ancestral, and they are not usually listed as such nowadays. But Neandertals are different from modern humans, in ways that have nothing to do rickets or arthritis.

The 'stone huts' you refer to were nothing of the sort; they were very low piles of stones that are no longer thought to be artificial. Even if they were artificial, there is nothing about them that would exclude their being constructed by Homo habilis or H. erectus. The Leakeys never claimed they were made by modern humans.

Under The General Anti-Creationism FAQ Jim Meritt has one entitled "The Bible is harmonious throughtout." His response is "Given the amount of editring it went through, you would expect it to be reasonably harmonious ..." This implies that the sole purpose of the editing was to render it harmonious. There is no evidence for such a claim. A few of the NT texts that are available to reveal some editing to make it marmonize with other known texts. But these are few and far bewteen.

He continues: "but it still contains contradictions. For example, Matt. 27:5-8 vs. Acts 11:18-19 and Matt. 1:16 vs Luke 3:23." The first two aren't even related to each other i
[Feedback as received was truncated here. -CS]

Response from Chris Stassen, author of "The Age of the Earth":

Mr. Meritt seems to have been the victim of a keyboard bounce (the "11" should be "1"). He was probably referring to the means of Judas' death. The first reference (Matt. 27:5-8) says that he hanged himself; the second (Acts 1:18-19) says that he "fell headlong" and his body burst open. Personally, I don't see this as a major problem, but inerrantist Gleason Archer did think it worthy of inclusion in his Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties.

I recommend Archer's book to both Christians and non-Christians who wish to discuss supposed Bible contradictions. Archer argues for the inerrantist position, but it is fairly easy to tell the solid answers from the strained ones. Many of the commonly cited problems really are non-problems (and some fairly tricky problems are almost never mentioned); Archer's book would greatly improve the level of debate on the topic.

This really is a great resource. I am a Christian, but I am also a scientist at heart, and I really appreciate the way that your views have been presented here.

I have one question:

I am doing a project for Calculus class that involves radiometric dating processes. We've come up with a mathematical model very similar to the one your articles describe, but we'd like some independent data to test it out.

Do you have, or know where we might find, some sample readings of Rb-87 / Sr-86 and SR-87 / Sr-86 ratios? This would greatly benefit the credibility of our project....

Thank you very much!

Response from Chris Stassen, author of "The Age of the Earth":

The isotope measurements are almost always reported along with the age computation, in the primary (technical) literature. My recommendation would be to get Dalrymple's The Age of the Earth (which references hundreds of technical papers), and obtain a few of the references which he supplies for Rb/Sr ages.

You should be interested to know that I am reading this web site from Washington University's Library where I am regularly doing research on evidence supporting creation and evolution. My friend reading this with me is a Biology instructor. We were both amazed at the audacity of the author of this article to cast stones at Duane Gish's claims on the fossil record. If Gish can document (and it appears as though he can) that a reputable evolutionist claimed that there were no precambrian fossils known at that time, then there should be no qualms about that statement. Hence, he no more "lied" than the evolutionary establishment. And if you are making attacks that his booklet prints "lies" then I am glad that you did because you have just given creationists a GREAT opportunity to reveal how biased evolutionists really are in your attacks on creationists and creation science.

I had assisted Miss Sitzes in teaching one of her classes and as we were going through the textbook we noted the "evidence" for evolution included little more than "embryonic recapitulation". The very popular textbook showed a deceptive DRAWING of a human embryo with arrows pointing to what it called "gill slits" in the neck of the fetus. Then went on to tell the usual fairy tale of how the embryo goes through the stages of its past evolutionary sequence (ie. from fish to Gish). How incredibly ironic that Mr. Gish brought this "evidence" for evolution up in a famous debate with Ernst Mayr. Mayr then claimed that "no reputable biologist" had used embroyonic recapitulation as evidence for evolution since it was decisively debunked in the 1920's. Yet it is STILL in textbooks read by literally millions of students every year.

Brad and Miss Sitzes

Response from the editor:

Duane Gish of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) wrote a pamphlet called "Have you been brainwashed?". Until very recently, it claimed that Precambrian fossil record was empty. This claim is untrue, but because Gish wrote it almost 20 years ago, when much less was known about the Precambrian fossil record, it would have been hard at the time to fault him for much more than overblown rhetoric. However, when Gish admitted to knowing for several years that his tract contained a falsehood, even while he continued to generate money with it, he forced us to question his integrity. Honest scientists are required to retract claims they later discover to be false, but it took Gish nearly ten years plus an embarrassing confrontation to face up to his error and revise his pamphlet. This type of behavior is typical of prominent young-earth creationists in general and of Gish in particular. See Creationism and Error for more examples.

Haeckel's idea that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" -- that embryos revisit the adult stages of their evolutionary ancestors during development -- is no longer accepted by any reputable biologist, as Ernst Mayr correctly points out. While it is certainly true that embryos exhibit morphological similarities to their evolutionary ancestors during development, they do not pass through the adult stages of their evolutionary ancestors. For example, the gill arches that appear in the embryos of land vertebrates are vestigial structures that are homologous with fish gill slits, but they are not actual gill slits. The reader is probably confusing a biology textbook's mention of embryological homology (which is indeed strong evidence for evolution) with advocacy of recapitulation. Recapitulation is an old, discarded concept, and I seriously doubt any current biology textbook discusses it except to expose its flaws.

Hi, my name is guillaume and I am a first year student in zoology at the University of Swansea (UK), and one my lecturer (geology) argued that human were not evolving anymore because of all the mixing of DNA and because there are no isolated population who can evolve. However I am sceptic, and I do believe that we are still evolving, maybe not in Darwin's way of evolution (survival of the fittest), but in other ways... I would like your opinion on this matter. Thank you.

Response from , author of "Evolution, Chance and Metaphysics":

Your lecturer is alluding to the well known theory of allopatric speciation. When two species are isolated physically, either in time or in space, they are said to be allopatric (literally, a different fatherland). Breeding populations that are isolated in this way will both differ in their genetic 'profile' due to sampling 'errors', and will accumulate genetic mutations that will eventuate in speciation.

Since humans are in effect one very big breeding population (or actually, a 'metapopulation' in the jargon of evolutionary biologists) the opportunity for allopatry to occur is restricted. Remember, in evolutionary terms, as little as a fraction of a percent of interbreeding is enough to prevent complete isolation.

However, there are other forms of speciation, although it is thought by many that allopatric speciation is the major form. There is partial isolation ('parapatry') where there is enough isolation in a peripheral population for a new trait to become fixed. There are several forms under the term 'sympatric' speciation, where new ecological roles are adopted and selection will tend to make them reproductively isolated. The essence of a species is reproductive isolation from other populations.

So, humans might evolve through symptric speciation, or if a breeding population became isolated, from the main body (say, in a Martian colony) then humans would continue the process of evolution. However, it is thought to be the case that evolution occurs mostly in small groups rather than across an entire species or even a general population of any size. So don't expect the science fiction scenario of humans gradually turning into large browed intellectuals to happen any time soon or later.

One thing about the conjecture that humans are not evolving any more I would like to point out: humans are no less subject to selection now than before we developed a technological society. It's just that the selective pressures on us, as on all other species in our neighbourhood, are the results of technology: chemical, behavioural and other 'social' outcomes cause changes in who gets to reproduce and who doesn't. If those pressures are maintained long enough, and we do not go extinct in the meantime, we will change our genetic and outward makeup to adapt.

I hope this helps.

I am a Humanities teacher at college here in Montreal, teaching a class which includes a look at evolution. One of my students is doing a paper on evolution vs. creationism and she describes herself as a "creationist Christian". I am convinced evolutionist but I am not interested in "converting" her to my thinking. Rather, I would like to know whether I can "deepen" her own Christian beliefs by guiding her to sources which can make a better Christian critique of Darwin than often found in fundamentalist attacks. Would anyone out there have any good suggestions for more intelligent Christian views of evolutionism or other suggestions? Thank you...

Response from :

A major problem in creationist thinking is that of assigning attributes to science that are not part of science. Science by its nature does not deal with matters of religion and physical beliefs. A typical creationist distortion in this regard is that evolution requires that the development of living things must have come about by mere chance. This is a complete falsehood. Postulate, if you care to, that the initial primeval single celled creature was created by Divine miracle; the evidence supporting evolutionary change would be unaffected. The creationist thermodynamics argument is basically flawed in that they are forced to postulate that the laws of thermodynamics which (they claim) won't permit evolution to occur are "overcome" by an "energy conversion program" (read God). This "energy conversion program" does not in exist in thermodynamics. Thermodynamics is limited to the mathematical treatment of certain basic equations. Metaphors and qualitative theories are simply not part of thermodynamics; they represent creationist ascribing attributes to science that are not part of science.

It is true. The internet IS the best source of misinformation available. Keep up the good propaganda, I mean,

Response from John Wilkins:

Truly great propaganda tends to make vague reference to unspecified source material. Often, it quotes out of context to establish a point on the basis of the appearance, rather than the substance, of a phrase or sentence.

This site's FAQ pages make reference to publicly available and checkable sources you can go and read yourself, and make informed criticism of should you choose to. It sounds to me like debate and education, not propaganda.

However, if your definition of propaganda and misinformation is whatever you do not agree with, then it may be, by that definition, just that.

Why do you have no FAQ on ring species (artic tern; herring gull - black-backed gull etc.)? I think these are the ultimate examples for speciation happening.

Response from Chris Stassen, author of "The Age of the Earth":

That would be a nice inclusion for one of the FAQs. The topic is touched upon in the "Criticisms of the Biological Species Concept" section (2.2.2) of the Speciation FAQ, which would probably be the logical place to add such a discussion. The FAQ currently says:

In addition, experimentally showing that A doesn't interbreed with B doesn't preclude both interbreeding with C.

... which introduces the concept of species rings, but does not give any specific [pun intended] examples.

Mr Foley; Your site is brilliant, especially the compendium of Prominent Hominid Fossils. It is the first site I link my students to as we study the net. Thank you. Joe

Joe Renfro

Response from Jim Foley, author of "Fossil Hominids FAQ":

Delighted to hear you find the Fossil Hominids FAQ useful. Please spread the word among your colleagues!



Response from Jim Foley:

Funny, I thought the Fossil Hominids page, which is what I assume you are responding to, did list lots of transitional forms. At least, I have yet to receive a coherent explanation of what else they could be, or why any of my arguments are incorrect.

I've found your website to be both stimulating and refreshing in regards to current information, informative discussion and insight into the evolution vs. creationism arguements that often pervade the schools, school board meetings and other third-party groups interested in foisting their personal agends on the educational community.

My students found it to be a wealth of information that provided them support in their classroom discussions as we studied evolution in both their first and second year of biology. This site has also provided them a springboard to other sites which they could explore at their leisure in regards to both sides of the evolution-creationism discussion.

Keep up the good work.

P.S. Could you also provide, where possible, references cited or a bibliography or a recommended reading list at the bottom of some of the major articles?

Response from Chris Stassen, author of "The Age of the Earth":

If you feel that a specific FAQ is lacking in references, please let us know so that it can be reviewed. Much effort has been put into supplying references for the FAQs on this site.

By the way, there is also a separate reading list FAQ which provides book recommendations on several relevant topics.

Wow I love this wed site. Being a novice net surfer and old Creationist this site is great. I do wonder though is the amount of information on the pro-evolution perspecitive done by design or did it just evolve this way? You will pardon my choice of words. It is not a cheap shot just a question.

I will definetly take your advice and read as many FAQ's as possible for my own edification as well as to avoid being flamed. As I review in my mind the FAQ's I have read the whole theory of Biological Evolution hings on a solid explination on Abiogenesis.

novice at everything

Response from Chris Stassen, author of "The Age of the Earth":

My impression is that it's a bit of both design and accident. The "design" part is to compensate for the fact that there are many more anti-evolution web sites than there are anti-creationism web sites. (To paraphrase Rush Limbaugh: "we don't have to give equal time; we are equal time.")

The "accident" part is due to a lack of qualified creationists in It is one thing to type in claims from someone else's book, but quite another to understand a field in sufficient depth to defend arguments or write a FAQ which stands up to criticism. There has been at least one attempt by a creationist: the so-called FAQ (creation). To me, it reads as a strange mix of Biblical interpretation (which would make a young-Earther choke, since it argues for an old universe), strawman arguments, and standard creationist canards (such as an attempt to argue against biological evolution by attacking abiogenesis). In my opinion, a pro-evolution FAQ of equally low quality would not be accepted into this archive.

In response to "Is ICR's Henry Morris racist?" Dr. Morris would agree that just because some people are more or less intelligent etc. than some other people does not make them more or less valuable. Why does that seem to be such a hard concept to grasp? Dr. Morris is merely making an observation. Truly scientifically minded persons should understand this. After all, is not the aim of science to remain objective without passing value judgments? Or maybe there are too many "scientists" overstepping their bounds. It's not that difficult to see that there is a big difference in making a racial observation and being racist. If we would quit putting so much pressure on individuals to perform to a certain standard in this life, in order to be accepted by peers (which may do just as much harm as racism)we would see the value that each person has no matter what color etc. just because they a re human, and therefore made in God's image. I am sure Dr. Morris would agree! (Those of us who have been hurt by this concept of "proving yourself worthy" by being athletic or smart etc. is less obvious than those people who have been hurt by racism.)

Response from the editor:

Henry Morris stepped far outside the boundaries of science when he concluded that:

Often the Hamites, especially the Negroes, have become actual personal servants or even slaves to the others. Possessed of a genetic character concerned mainly with mundane matters, they have eventually been displaced by the intellectual and philosophical acumen of the Japhethites and the religious zeal of the Semites. [emphasis added]

While no one can argue that standardized intelligence tests bear out the correlation between race and certain measures of intelligence, drawing a causal connection is unwarranted. In other words, there is no proof that race determines intelligence or that intelligence is wholly (or even mostly) heritable. Correlation is not causation. But that doesn't stop Morris from drawing a causal connection. He concludes that "negroes" have a "genetic character" that has allowed mostly light-skinned "Japhethites" and "Semites" to surpass them both intellectually and philosophically. This is not a scientific observation; it's a racist assertion. There is no science to support the idea that cognitive abilities are immutably genetic.

This is a splendid archive and I will alert my friends to check it out. Have only just surfed here so I've not checked it all out by any means.

I would very much like you to add a link to my site, Genesis Continuous. This site has had almost 900 visits since September '96, so the interest is growing rapidly with sometimes 30 hits a day.

Every bit of this work is backed up either from known and accepted scientific facts and from sound common sense.

Response from Chris Stassen, author of "The Age of the Earth":

Your web page is interesting, but there are a few things which don't make sense to me. Perhaps these comments will lead to some clarifications in your paper:

  • The figure which you quote for lengthening of the Earth's orbit around the Sun is suspiciously similar to that usually quoted for the lengthening of the day (mainly due to tidal interactions with the Moon). I would recommend re-checking your reference to be sure that you are not confusing the Earth's rotation about its axis with its orbit about the Sun.
  • The "earliest recognizable fossils" are not a mere 1,000 million years old. Stromatolites have been found in many locations, in rocks at least 3,000 million years old. There is fairly definitive evidence of life (prokaryote fossils from both South Africa and Australia) in rocks that are roughly 3,500 million years old.
  • It would be nice to have an explanation for the means by which accretion of mass should be expected to cause a spiral orbit. The concept of "lessening friction" is introduced but not explained.
  • An influx to the Earth of "4380 million tonnes per million years" sounds like a lot of extraterrestrial material. But it is negligible compared to the mass of the Earth (about 6 * 1021 metric tons). In 5,000 million years at the rate you quoted, the Earth's mass would be increased by about 2 * 1013 tons, or roughly 0.0000003% of its current mass. This does not seem sufficient to account for vastly reduced gravity in the Mesozoic, nor for growth from a Mercury-sized body over the age of the Earth.

First, for those who say that creation is not a scientific theory: According to the philosopher Karl Popper a theory is scientific when it can be falsified by observation. The basic statement of creation is that life can not be generated by accident but needs divine intervention. Life out of dead material is not possible without an act of God. This statement can be falsified and will be falsified if someone observes the awakening of life out of dead material. Even if man would create life out of d.m. the "creation" statement would be falsified.
Second, a theory is like a chain, it is as strong or as weak as the weakest link. The theory of evolution has a lot of weak links and even a "missing" link namely "abiogenesis". I have studied chemistry and there is no way that, STARTING from the basic materials proposed by Miller, life can develop spon- taneously.
The "Evolution theory" is a religion developed in the 19th century, with a new bible the "Origin of Species". The first pope was Darwin and the first master of inquisition was Huxley. Today we have the priests Dennett, Gould and as bishop Dawkins. The dogma's of catholicism have become the dogma's of the "evolution theory".
Who am I ? I was an evolutionist. A good book:The facts of life.Shattering the myths of Darwinism. Richard Milton.(not a creationist)isbn 0552141216

Response from Chris Stassen, author of "The Age of the Earth":

I don't see how vitalism is central to the creationist position. It doesn't matter to many creationists whether the properties of the simplest forms of life are entirely explained by everyday physical/chemical processes.

Evolution as creationists define it (encompassing biological evolution, abiogenesis, geology, cosmology, and usually several strawmen) is not "a theory." It is a large bundle of theories, which are not completely inter-dependent. Though it is a common creationist tactic, it is not reasonable to pretend that (usually overstated) criticisms of the origin of life can refute common ancestry.

Milton is "not a creationist," but he does uncritically "borrow" many claims from the low-quality non-technical creationist literature. The end result is that Milton's book (at least where it touches my area of interest -- the age of the Earth) is nearly indistinguishable from low-quality non-technical creationist literature. For example, Milton pushes the "moon dust" argument, which even some major creationist organizations (such as ICR and CSF) have been smart enough to abandon.

Can you present data demonstrating ANY transitional forms that have EVER been discovered? Can you present data explaining how genetic mutations which improve a species (the supposed method behind evolution) can occur? Why are there layers of fossils showing species supposedly separated by millions of years all preserved together?

Response from , author of "Creation Science and the Earth's Magnetic Field":

The idea behind feedback is that one reads, or at least looks at the FAQ archive, and then responds. Try it sometime.

1) Read the Transitional Vertebrate Fossils file. You will find a lot of well documented transitional forms described.

2) Look at the appropriate section of the Introduction to Evolutionary Biology file, and another relevant part of the Meritt FAQ, both of which address the point. Your implied assumption that mutations are always harmful is quite wrong. Even the viewers of 60 Minutes know that, from the report they aired (twice) about a mutated gene in a closed Italian community that protects its carrier from arterial deposits caused by high fat diets. They were even able to trace the mutation to a specific individual who was a common ancestor to all people now carrying the beneficial mutated gene.

3) Your final assertion appears to be simply false; there are no such fossil deposits known to me. You should be more specific. What fossil deposits? Where are they? Who discovered them? As far as I can tell, non exist.

Finally, this is not a debate forum; the newsgroup is a debate forum. This is a feedback page. If you want to read the archive and offer a response, this is the place to do it. For those who have not yet noticed, if there is a specific topic you are interested in looking up, the archive does have an index page. You can go there and lookup transitional, or whatever else you want to track down.

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