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another bit of creationist misinformation

Some of our local letter-writers are quite busy at the moment, pouring out their opposition to the fact and theory of evolution. Sometimes they seem a bit confused about how evolution works, but at others their letters contain an awful lot of misinformation...

[An earlier writer] managed to take the ploy of elephant-hurling (in debate) to new heights, by actually using elephants to 'prove' evolution.  (The earlier writer had used the example of increasing tusklessness in African elephants.)

What he did, in fact, was to demonstrate the very observable (and scientific) fact of natural selection - which is not evolution. Evolutionists use this decoy argument deliberately...

They do this because they know that the two key tenets of the theory of evolution (spontaneous appearance of life, and the changing of one species into a completely different one) are scientifically untenable. Cats have always been cats, dogs have always been dogs, birds have always been birds, whales have always been whales, humans have always been human (and never apes) - and elephants have always been elephants. I confidently predict no change in this scenario.

... I had to reject evolution because it is actually a faith - it is not based on evidence and cannot be tested.

Where to begin????

Well, natural selection isn't evolution - it drives evolution. It's a mechanism that drives evolutionary change in a population. It's certainly not a 'decoy' argument, but rather, part & parcel of the modern theory of evolution.

Up next - the claim that the origin of life & descent with modification are 'key tenets' of evolution. To the extent that descent with modification is evolution, I'll have to agree with that part of it. But the theory of evolution was originally developed as an explanation for the diversity of life. Abiogenesis (the origin of life itself) is an interesting & closely related problem, but it's hardly a key plank of evolutionary thinking!

As for the 'cats are cats, & dogs are dogs' argument, well, that's just plain silly. Comparisons of DNA sequences show quite clearly that these two groups, for example, shared a common ancestor relatively recently. So did humans and the chimpanzees - 'never apes' indeed! And even without that molecular evidence, there are some wonderful series of transitional fossils that show just that evolution of one type of organism from another that the letter-writer denies: birds from maniraptor dinosaurs, whales from artiodactyls... (If you're interested in the whale story you could also try the Thewissen Lab's website.)

In other words, the theory of evolution (the explanation for life's diversity) has a very solid basis in evidence (the fact of evolution). The Origin of Species pummels you with evidence, piles observation on observation & fact on fact, and that body of evidence has been continually added to since Darwin's great book was published in 1859. And like all scientific theories, evolution is testable. The theory of evolution has been repeatedly tested, & used as the basis for predictions, over the last 150 years. I saw a comment recently that it's probably the most thoroughly tested of any scientific theory. And yet there's nothing that has led us to consider rejecting it.

And that's not because the 'scientific establishment' won't let a pet theory be overturned, either. Provide evidence, & a mechanism, and that sort of scientific revolution does happen from time to time (as Darwin himself demonstrated with the Origin. Or think of Copernicus and the overthrow of the idea of an Earth-centred solar system). Any researcher who could conclusively demonstrate that evolution is not a viable explanation for life's diversity would be in line for a Nobel prize. But after 150 years of comprehensive testing of the theory, no one has even come close.

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You'd wonder what it takes for someone to write something like that to a paper. (I presume the original mini-diatribe was for a local newspaper.) Its very bizarre. Does the paper disclose who the writer is? I'm not asking to poke at them, but rather because its one thing to write something quite that bizarre anonymously on the 'net and another naming yourself in the local paper.

Yes, it was, & yes - the local paper doesn't publish letters over pseudonyms. I've seen worse, actually, & some of these folks get remarkably personal as well...

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