Misrepresenting and Misunderstanding, A Response to Scientific American: Part 2

This is a continuation of my last blog post responding to the Scientific American Article: “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense”. Today, I will talk about three arguments that John Rennie, the editor in chief of Scientific American, states creationists use against evolution. To be perfectly honest, I have never heard these arguments before and they are terrible! I cannot see anyone from any of the creationists groups intelligently using these arguments [see my last blog post: Is Evolution Fact or Faith? A Response to Scientific American: Part 1 for an explanation of the different creationist groups].

An apparent atheist commenter at the bottom of Rennie’s article said this: “I'm sorry, but this wasn't very helpful. The creationists I meet don't even think about using the vast majority of the arguments refuted here and the few they do (1 or 2) are used in a different way with a totally different range of understanding the definitions used here.” This speaks to Rennie’s complete misrepresentation of all creationist standpoints, particularly biblical creation. Even though these three supposed arguments are, in my opinion, completely useless, they are worth talking about and Rennie does make points in responding to them which I can argue against. I know I am not addressing Rennie’s list of “creationist arguments” in numerical order, but I would like to get these particular arguments off my plate before I continue. Be well assured, I will respond to all the arguments.

The first of these so-called “creationist arguments” is this: “2. Natural selection is based on circular reasoning: the fittest are those who survive, and those who survive are deemed fittest.” This argument doesn’t even really make sense to me. It was obviously created by a person who has little understanding of evolution. Rennie responds “‘Survival of the fittest’ is a conversational way to describe natural selection, but a more technical description speaks of differential rates of survival and reproduction.” Rennie represents the evolutionary worldview really well here. This argument doesn’t apply to evolution, as Rennie points out. In evolution, the absolute fittest don’t always survive and those who survive aren’t always the fittest.

The next problem with this bad “creationist argument” is that it is trying to disprove natural selection. As a biblical creationist, I do believe that natural selection is scientific because it is observable and repeatable, but it does not follow that it proves evolution. We will talk in depth about natural selection in another post later in this series. The main point I would like to make is that any “creationist” who came up with this argument has a flawed understanding of evolution and observational science.

The second “creationist argument” I’d like to address is this: “5. The disagreements among even evolutionary biologists show how little solid science supports evolution.” At least I understand this one, but the argument is no less ridiculous. Rennie responds by pointing out that although evolutionists might disagree on minor points, the very basics of evolution are agreed upon. What he said there was true, evolutionists do agree on the basics of evolution while arguing over the specifics. All beliefs and religions have disagreement within their ranks. If what this argument said was true, then no belief system would be true. If it is true that disagreements in an organization make that group’s core beliefs invalid, then no group in all of history has been valid.

Rennie makes the statement in his response that evolution is universally believed amongst biologists. As I showed in the introduction of this series, there are many scientists, including biologists, who do not believe in evolution.

Rennie also takes the time to point out that “dishonest creationists have shown a willingness to take scientists' comments out of context to exaggerate and distort the disagreements.” He brings up the example of the punctuated-equilibrium model, co-created by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge, and how creationists have twisted it to make it, and Gould, sound stupid. Rennie describes the punctuated-equilibrium model: “Punctuated equilibrium explains patterns in the fossil record by suggesting that most evolutionary changes occur within geologically brief intervals--which may nonetheless amount to hundreds of generations.” He argues that “they [creationists] present punctuated equilibrium as though it allows new species to materialize overnight or birds to be born from reptile eggs.”

While it is true that punctuated equilibrium does not state that a new species can form overnight, it does show weakness in evolution. Dr. Don Batten who has a Ph.D. in Plant Science explains punctuated equilibrium this way: “PE [punctuated equilibrium] consists of two aspects:

(1) an observation—that the fossil record is characterised by

(a) abrupt appearance of species, and

(b) stasis, or lack of substantial change, throughout a species’ range in the fossil record; and

(2) a theoretical attempt to explain how this pattern can fit an evolutionary (naturalistic) model for the origin of species.

Gould and Eldredge claimed that the abrupt appearance of species could be explained by the transition occurring quickly, geologically speaking, in small, isolated populations such that the transitional forms would be highly unlikely to be preserved.”1

In layman’s terms, punctuated equilibrium is evolution making jumps in the fossil record. When we look at the fossil record, we see fully formed species and a lack of evolutionary transitions between them. Punctuated equilibrium states that species go through long periods of stasis, not evolving and making fossils. Then these species evolve rapidly and in isolated areas so very few fossils are made. Finally, the newly evolved species go into stasis producing many fossils over a long time. Punctuated equilibrium is the idea that these jumps and periods of stasis have occurred repeatedly in Earth’s past producing the fossil record (including the gaps) we see today.

This points back to the so-called clear evidence in the fossil record for evolution that I talked about in my last post. As it turns out, there is such a lack of transitional forms, and therefore a lack of evolution, in the fossil record that evolutionists had to come up with a theory to explain the lack of evidence, hence punctuated equilibrium. Rennie contradicts himself by stating that the evidence for evolution in the fossil record is obvious and then defending a theory that exists because of a lack of that same evidence.

The third “creationist argument” is: “6. If humans descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” This argument comes from a complete misunderstanding about what evolution teaches. Rennie responds by showing two misunderstandings that the arguer has about evolution: 1. Evolution states that monkeys and man evolved from a common ancestor not that man evolved from monkeys. 2. Evolution teaches that a new species branches from an older species not that a new species replaces an old one (although it can occur if the older species becomes extinct).

I am surprised to hear myself say this, but Rennie is right here. This argument does not apply to evolution and should not be used by creationists. Always be careful to know what your opponent believes before you start making accusations about their beliefs.

I would like to remind you that, as a biblical creationist, I would not use any of these arguments. Rennie is misrepresenting many creationists through these arguments and, as we will see in future posts, he will continue to misrepresent biblical creationists in many other “creationist arguments”.

Thank you for reading this post. My next post will talk about how unscientific evolution really is.

You can contact me at: contactkirkfrench@gmail.com

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Kirk F.


1Punctuated equilibrium: come of age? Dr. Don Batten, http://creation.com/punctuated-equilibrium-come-of-age

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Comment by PhiloNibbler on August 1, 2015 at 1:55pm

Kirk, when I was in high school the arguments presented by John Rennie were ones I learned and even used on my first website (luckily, that page has long disappeared from the web). I still have my high school biology books which present the argument of natural selection as a tautology and evolution as only a theory and not a fact. Even AIG acknowledges these arguments being used by well meaning Christians. AIG also presents arguments that have been outdated and shouldn't be used. Why is it not used anymore as much? This is because of moving goal posts, but the evidence of these being used before is clear. TalkOrigins and TrueOrigins both have articles about it as well as many other sites that a simple google search provided. Furthermore, as shown on TalkOrigins, the "evolution is not a fact" argument is still used to a point as a disclaimer in textbooks by well meaning Christians and IDers. Here is a video by Kirk Cameron presenting evolution "as just a theory". Show yes these arguments are still out there and they are still used by some just not as prevalent.

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