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by Massimo Pigliucci
Denying Evolution Copyright 2002 by Sinauer Associates Inc., 23 Plumtree Road, Sunderland, MA 01375 USA
Fax: 413-549-1118 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com www.sinauer.com
ISBN 0-87893-659-9 (pbk.)
A response from Les Sherlock Feb 2021 (originally posted 2009)
Chapter One: Where did the controversy come from?
Chapter Two: Evolution-creationism
Chapter Three: One side of the coin: The dangers of anti-intellectualism
Chapter Four: Scientific Fundamentalism and the true nature of science
Chapter Five: Creationist fallacies
Chapter Six: Three major controversies
Chapter Seven: Scientific fallacies
Chapter Eight: What do we do about it?
Coda: The controversy that never ends
I had a short period in which to read and assess this book because it was on loan - on principle I would not pay money for such a book! Therefore the best I can do is to refer to items that seem to me to be inconsistent, invalid, or simply untrue. I apologise for the length of this response, but for anyone capable of ploughing through Pigliucci’s 140,000 words (my estimate), this is a stroll in the park! There is far more to which I would have liked to have responded, but to do so would require a book of similar length, so I tried to limit myself to the key points.
Chapter One: Where did the controversy come from?
In this chapter is discussed the history of the evolution/creation debate. From the emotive language, for example...
"Bryan verges on the hysterical”
...and the rewriting of history in the first chapter (e.g. the claim that the discoveries that the earth revolves around the sun and that it is not flat were opposed by the church, when at least as much, if not more, opposition came from outside the church), it is immediately apparent that this book, far from being a balanced consideration of the creation/evolution debate, is little more than the usual rant from an evolutionist against creationism.
On page 12 he refers to his debate with Kent Hovind and says,
“One of his rhetorical devices was to ask a child in the audience if he believed humans came from bananas.”
However, since he gives no explanation regarding the point Hovind was making, he is not being entirely honest here. Since I have not heard the debate I cannot know exactly what was said, but having heard Hovind myself, I am aware he would most likely be using this as a light-hearted example in two possible ways:
 To show the evolutionists’ logic is faulty when it claims apes’ DNA is 98% identical to humans so this proves they are 98% human. Bananas’ DNA is around 50% identical to humans, but this does not make them 50% human! Of course, more recent research shows the true figure is significantly lower than 98%. See Quote 1 (which points out chimps have about 12% more DNA than humans, so a 98% similarity is impossible) and Quote 2.
 To follow the obvious logic that since evolutionists claim that when different species have identical sections of DNA this proves they are on related in the evolutionary tree, then since bananas have around 50% similar DNA to humans, they too must be related in the evolutionary tree.
In fact on page 221, referring to the way this relationship is determined between organisms, after asking...
“…what would we measure that is common to plants, fungi, algae and animals to determine which is more closely related to which?”
...he answers by describing the method of comparing their DNA:
“The letters (A, T, C and G relating to the chemicals: adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine) at corresponding positions can be compared among different types of organisms, and these can be grouped on the tree of life according to which letters they share at each position along the DNA molecule.”
(words in brackets mine)
So according to this statement by Pigliucci, he does believe he is a distant cousin to a banana! Let’s have some consistency here: either these relationships can be calculated by DNA comparison, in which case he is related to bananas, or he is not related to bananas and relationships cannot be calculated in this way.
Since he mentions the banana incident several times in the book, it is clear the point stung him; and the fact that he gives no indication what was actually meant by the banana reference demonstrates he is using the ‘straw man’ technique (putting up a false argument in order easily to defeat it) in order to discredit Hovind. It also implies he has no answer to the point, since having introduced the subject it is the ideal moment to shoot Hovind down in flames. However, In ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ Richard Dawkins makes the point that humans are distant relatives of bananas, so even Pigliucci’s evolutionary colleagues disagree with him on this point!
In fact he tells us what his answer was: a joking suggestion that Hovind might need therapy for his obsession with bananas. So other than humorous repartee, he has no answer, in which case it would seem his impression of successfully winning the debate may be more the result of seeing the incident through rose-coloured glasses than anything else.
“…in 1899, there was not a single prominent scientist left in the United States to defend creationism, and the movement became entirely religious – a position that, despite the protests of some of its most vocal proponents, it retains to this day.”
This claim is quite simply untrue. One example (among many) is Robert Gentry, a world authority on polonium radio halos, who has had many papers published in the major scientific journals. Another example is Dr Sanford (see later). Pigliucci is using this deception to bolster his claim on page 2 that creationism is not a scientific theory, or even a viable theory of anything! See here for a list of creation-scientists, past and present.
“…according to Ronald Numbers, pretty much the only people believing in a literal interpretation of the creation story were the followers of Ellen G. White, the members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.”
Once again, this is totally untrue. Christians from all the different denominations have believed in creation since long before Darwin and up to the present day. This is trying to undermine the longevity of widespread belief in the literal truth of the Bible.
“…late nineteenth-century American Christians were in many ways much more accepting of science than their late-twentieth-century counterparts.”
He continues the typical evolutionist mantra on the same page by claiming that late nineteenth-century American Christians in many ways were more accepting of science than those at the end of the twentieth century.
He is trying to make creationism ‘religion’ and evolution ‘science’. But creationists have always been accepting of science: their dispute is with the evolutionary interpretation imposed upon the undisputable scientific facts.
“The problem with creationism is that it rejects a priori the possibility of entirely naturalistic explanations of the world. This is different from the case of science, which rejects the possibility of supernatural explanations not as a matter of principle, but of methodology: what kind of research would one do, what kind of methodology would one use, if the premise were that God can do whatever He pleases whenever He wishes to do it?”
This is a false premise. If Pigliucci had gone a little further back in his section on history, he would have been obliged to record that many of the key scientists of the past were Christians: for example, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday and Louis Pasteur, along with the long list that can be seen from the link given earlier. The work of these Christians was the foundation for our present knowledge of the world, and they believed the Genesis account of creation was literal truth. Indeed, it was because of this belief they undertook their research, believing a universe created by an Intelligent God would be orderly and operate by consistent laws that could be investigated and discovered.
“While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.”
In other words God has promised that the systems keeping the earth functional will remain constant and unchanging: the opposite of what Pigliucci claims God would do. Bear in mind while local harvests may fail at times in some places, elsewhere in the world they continue, and the principle that given the right conditions planted seeds will produce a crop remains constant.
However, once again he is using here the usual evolution rant that evolutionists are scientific and creationists are not, as he does on page 32:
“…creationism is a religion and evolution is not.”
However, observable scientific processes most certainly do not favour evolution and disprove creation: rather, it is the reverse. Furthermore, it is self-evident that many evolutionists – a prime example in addition to Pigliucci being Dawkins – are atheists, and therefore they reject the possibility of Intelligent Design on the basis of their religious belief that God does not exist, regardless of the mass of evidence that strongly supports it. His dismissal of a world-wide flood is an example of this.
…parts of the creationist doctrine, such as the occurrence of a worldwide flood about 4,000 years ago, can in fact be subjected to empirical test: They are falsifiable, and they just happen to be false”
Wearing his evolutionary blinkers, he refuses to consider the geological and fossil evidence in any way other than that which suits his own belief system. It is noticeable that this is the only reference to the flood I found in the book: surprising as he spends significant space on the fossil record, etc., but says nothing about the creationist explanation. He writes off the flood, giving absolutely no evidence for his claim: presumably we are supposed to take his word for it!
Chapter Two: Evolution-creationism
“…they believe not only that Earth is 6,000 years old, but that it is flat and is the centre of the universe, precisely as the Bible says”
Page 37 (quoting Daniel 4:11 & Matthew 4:8 in footnote 2).
Daniel 4:11 The tree grew and became strong; Its height reached to the heavens, And it could be seen to the ends of all the earth.
Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
The Bible does not say the world is flat and the centre of the universe. The Daniel passage is prophecy that a kingdom would arise with power and influence right around the world. Not that a physical city or country could be seen from every place on earth.
His claim that the Earth would have to be flat in order for the kingdoms of the world to be seen from a mountain, mentioned in Matthew 4:8 is ludicrous! Even if the earth was flat it still would not be possible to see all the kingdoms of the Earth – human sight cannot focus in sufficient detail at such distances. Furthermore the Romans were in occupation of Israel, so Matthew certainly knew of the existence of Rome: he would also know that Rome could not be seen from any mountain in Israel. Therefore why would he assume a flat Earth would enable anyone to see it in its entirety? This passage is quite obviously referring to a supernatural vision of the type mentioned regularly throughout scripture.
“I then occasionally ask why they don’t believe that Earth stands still while the sun moves around it and that our planet is flat, since both notions are also present in the Bible” (quoting Joshua 10:12-14 in footnote 3)
Joshua 10:12-14 Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: "Sun, stand still over Gibeon; And Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon." So the sun stood still, And the moon stopped, Till the people had revenge Upon their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the LORD heeded the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.
Here, he clearly wants to be able to have his cake and eat it. On page 123 he says he has,
“…observed the sun rising hundreds of times in the past…”
Therefore using his reasoning on page 38, is the reader supposed to understand that he believes the sun moves around the earth? Of course not! Everyone knows that here he is speaking from his personal perspective (i.e. what he appears to be seeing from our planet’s surface), rather than what is actually taking place in the universe. So he wants us not to take his words literally when he uses them, but insists on taking the words of the Bible literally when the same device is used there! Hardly an example of consistency! If these examples of ‘Biblical error’ are the best he can come up with, then it demonstrates the weakness of his case. Bearing in mind the Bible was written at a time when all sorts of myths and ‘old wives tales’ were believed as fact, it is remarkable that the Bible is so free of them: surely one more piece of evidence of its Divine origin?
For example, when there are myths that claimed the world was supported on the back of a huge animal standing on a succession of turtles, the Bible said:
...He hangs the earth on nothing.
At at time there were all sorts of crazy myths about the origin of the world, the Bible said:
...the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
We now know the constituent parts of an atom cannot be seen - indeed, atoms themselves are not visible to the naked human eye - yet every physical object in the universe is made up of atoms.
At a time when no-one had any idea about the makeup of blood, the Bible said:
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.
We now know that the same blood types are the same in every nation of the world.
Pigliucci needs to remember that the Bible was written between 2,000 - 3,500 years ago, to people without any of the scientific knowledge we now possess; so it had to be using language they could understand in order for it to be accessible to them.
He claims in footnote 4 on page 38 that Bishop Usher’s calculation for the beginning of the creation of the earth on 22 October 4004 BC is...
“a good example of doubtful accuracy.”
It is actually a good example of Pigliucci’s ignorance of the subject. Usher’s calculations were based on the Jewish calendar and feasts as well as the Biblical genealogies, and he had good reason therefore for proposing that day of the year.
His Biblical ignorance continues in footnote 5, where he produces the tired old argument that Genesis 1 and 2 give conflicting accounts of the creation. It is glaringly obvious to anyone not so prejudiced as he, that chapter one gives a chronological account (as evidenced by the days being numbered), while chapter two looks back in greater detail at some of the creation events, which is not therefore chronological but centres on the peak of God’s creation – man; hence it begins with the creation of man and continues looking at the things affecting his life. The same thing can be seen later on in Genesis, where in the account of the flood a description is given in verses 7:1-12 and then it goes back again and gives a more detailed account of what happened in verses 7:13-23 before continuing the narrative. There is more on this subject here.
Further Biblical ignorance is shown in his description of the ‘gap theory’ (pages 38-39). The proposed gap (produced by Christians, brow-beaten into believing that an old earth was scientifically proven and trying to align this with the Bible) is between verses 1 & 2 of chapter 1, not between chapters 1 & 2 as he claims! He says,
“…it is adopted in one fashion or another by most practising Christians…”
How does he know that? It is not so amongst most practising Christians I know (and that is quite a few!). This is another blatant attempt to make creationism appear to be believed only by a fanatical minority of Christians.
In this chapter he contrasts the conflicting theories of scientists...
“…differences among scientists are the bread and butter of scientific progress.”
...with the varying theories of creationists claiming they demonstrate their disarray. For example:
“…the difference between proponents of intelligent design theory… and young-Earth creationists… spans a theological and scientific abyss.”
However, in reality the enormous gap, for example, between evolutionists who believe in the big bang, and evolutionists who believe there never was a big bang is just as large, if not larger, than any seen between creationists. This is yet another attempt to discredit creationists and bolster his case. Yet in reality, the opposing arguments of evolutionists on the big bang theory disprove each other and together demonstrate there is no scientific evidence free of serious problems to show how the universe could have come into being without an intelligent cause bringing it about.
:Referring to the Institute for Creation Research, he says:
“…if the conclusions of a scientist’s “research” put him at odds with the Bible, he had better change the interpretation of his results accordingly.”
There is an old saying that when you point a finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you. This gross mischaracterisation of the creationist’s position with regard to scientific research would more properly be directed to the evolutionist lobby, which has consistently refused valid scientific research to be published in the major journals when it is realised the results are at odds with evolutionary theory. Examples can be seen in ‘Creation’s Tiny Mystery’ by Robert Gentry, but there are many more, some of which will be referred to later.
On the description of creation in Genesis chapter one, he says:
“This implies that plants (and light) existed before there was a sun.”
This is another example of Pigliucci’s Biblical ignorance. Revelation 21:23, speaking of the future, says,
The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.
The source of light in Genesis one before the sun was formed is the same as that in Revelation 21.
“…one would feel justified to ask what on earth was on God’s mind when He created the universe with the appearance of being old.”
The universe only appears old when viewed through the eyes of the uniformitarian evolutionists and the old-earth creationists (who have capitulated to the brow-beating of the evolutionists' claim to have scientific proof), who interpret the data to suit their particular world view. To the creationist, the processes required for God to create the world, along with the events that have taken place since then, have resulted in the way the world now appears. More on this topic later.
Turning to the process of natural selection plus mutation, he says:
“Creationists usually do not understand this point and think that selection can only eliminate the less fit, but Darwin’s powerful insight was that selection is also a cumulative process”
Yet one more example of the constant stream of derogatory comments about creationists! How mutation (which is a random mistake in copying cell information) plus natural selection acting on random changes in the environment can produce the changes required to produce the billions of highly sophisticated systems in all living things are not mentioned at this point. So on page 56, Debski in particular and the Intelligent Design Movement in general are criticised in regard to ‘design’, but the arguments they make on this topic are not even mentioned! One can only assume he has no answer.
Also on page 55 he goes on to claim:
..."that can build things over time despite the lack of a plan.”
This claim contradicts the position he takes later in the book, when on page 199 (quoted in chapter six), he accepts that a plan, called a ‘program’ on that page, is indeed essential.
On page 57 Behe’s use of a mousetrap as an example of irreducible complexity is ridiculed, and in footnote 34 we are told of web sites showing mousetraps with fewer pieces – even down to one part. This is a ludicrous argument and demonstrates the straws evolutionists are grasping at in order to counter irreducible complexity. The mousetrap was a simple illustration to explain irreducible complexity: a system that can only function with every part in place. The fact that other mousetraps could be conceived operating with fewer pieces is irrelevant. The one Behe described cannot, these simpler traps could not evolve into his, and that is the point. This specific mousetrap could only work when all the parts were complete, in the same way that many (if not all) of the molecular systems seen in living cells can only work when everything is complete. Therefore they could never evolve gradually – everything must appear simultaneously or not at all.
On page 58 Pigliucci invokes molecular redundancy as the answer to this problem:
“…if the gene is duplicated (by mutation), one copy is freed from immediate constraints and can slowly diverge in structure from the original, eventually taking over new functions.”
Very convenient: but this conflicts with basic evolutionary dogma, which has natural selection as the sole means by which the least helpful to survival is eliminated and the most helpful is preserved. In molecular redundancy the additional gene has no function, so can mutate freely. However, if it has no function, natural selection cannot act on it and so there is no control to ensure the gene can evolve in the way required. So here is another example of the heads-we-win-tails-you-lose arguments used by evolutionists. Natural selection is the means by which all living forms appeared, and yet at the crucial molecular level, irreducibly complex systems appear without natural selection!
When asked, “Can you give an example of a genetic mutation or an evolutionary process, which can be seen to increase the information in the genome?” Richard Dawkins was unable then, or since, to do so satisfactorily. Where are the examples of this in Pigliucci's book? Nowhere!
Pigliucci accepts biologists have no idea how this could take place, but believes they will do one day: so at the present time, as with all the key areas in evolutionary theory, you have to believe it by faith. He claims it is like the evolution of the eye, which years ago was unknown, but:
“today biologists know of several examples of intermediate forms of the eye, and there is evidence that this structure evolved independently several times during the history of the earth”
This is a sweeping statement that ignores the immense gaps between all forms of eye presently known. It is now known that the most elementary eye in the simplest life form in the fossil record is still incredibly complex, with nothing in the record to show how it came about. Furthermore any change to any of these eyes would result in loss of function, so natural selection would prevent any development toward a more sophisticated eye.
The answer to the classic creationist question, “What good is half an eye?” is,
“Much better than no eye at all!””
A blind person may possess all the elements of eyes, and yet due to a very small defect be unable to see anything at all. In his case he has much more than half an eye, and yet is no better off than if he had no eyes at all. This claim is invalid.
“…there is no evidence so far in nature of irreducible complexity in living organisms.”
OK, prove it! Behe gives several examples in Darwin’s Black Box, published 1996. So if Pigliucci wishes to write off irreducible complexity then he should prove the point by explaining the transitional steps that would produce them. He does not even mention the examples Behe gives, apart from the blood-clotting cascade briefly mentioned on page 240 and the flagellum, which he admits he cannot explain. This demonstrates it is a case of avoiding an argument for which he has no answer by pretending it does not exist. In footnote 40 on page 59 he claims to be close to an explanation. Well, the copyright of his book was taken out in 2002 and now in 2021 we still have heard nothing of a complete explanation, so it would appear he was not as close as he imagined! On page 240 he describes ‘simpler’ versions found in other bacteria; but it has to be said the diagram accompanying this gives the impression of a much less complex mechanism than it is in reality.
“…there is now evidence of self-organisation in precisely one of Behe’s favourite examples of irreducible complexity: the assembly of bacterial flagella.”
The only evidence of which I am aware, is the proposal that there is one part-way stage that could be a viable mechanism. This is still in dispute, but even if it were the case, a pump suddenly appearing, and then from there jumping to the completed flagella in such a complex mechanism, are certainly examples of irreducible complexity because there is no other part-way stage that could function. It is the equivalent of seeing a man on an island 42 metres away from the nearest land, claiming he must have got there by jumping across, and when challenged that it is impossible for a man to jump so far replying by saying, “There is a rock just below the water level 10 metres out, so he doesn’t have to jump all the way in a single leap.” Just as no man could leap 42 metres in two jumps, so the flagella could not evolve in only two stages.
Research suggests that, contrary to the flagellum evolving from the ‘pump’, it is the other way around. The ‘pump’ devolved from the flagellum (i.e. it is a loss of information, not an increase). Quote:
“Where Do Type III Secretion Systems Come From? It seems plausible that the original type III secretion system for virulence factors evolved from those for flagellar assembly...”
In Behe’s second book, The Edge of Evolution, published in 2007, five years after Pigliucci’s, he points out that in addition to the irreducible complexity of the construction of the flagellum, the order in which it is assembled is also critical and could never have been reached by a process of trial and error. Regarding his critics’ attempts at discrediting his claims about the flagellum and the ‘type III secretory system’ Behe says:
“…none of the papers seriously addresses how either structure could be assembled by random mutation and natural selection, or even how one structure could be derived from the other by Darwinian processes”
The Edge of Evolution Page 267
On Page 60 Pigliucci refers to:
“…evolutionists who ask why God would do such a sloppy job with creation that even a mere human engineer could easily determine where the flaws were. For example, why is it that humans have haemorrhoids, varicose veins, backaches, and foot pain? If one assumes that we were “intelligently” designed, the answer must be that the designer was either incompetent or had an evil sense of humour…”
I find it difficult to understand why Pigliucci would include such an obvious red herring: an old chestnut that has been answered many times over. If the ailments he mentioned were the result of poor design, then every human being living would suffer from every one of them.
If Pigliucci wants to criticise creationists, then he should do so on the basis of everything they say, not carefully selected bits to create straw man arguments. God created everything perfectly designed for a very different environment to the damaged world in which we live. Sickness and death appeared as a result of man rejecting God and choosing to be independent of Him. The problems he mentions are the result of sickness, aging, mutation and/or accidental damage, none of which would have been the case now had this rebellion not occurred.
On page 61 he reproduces a diagram of ‘better design’ for the human body from S. J. Olshanski, B. A. Carnes and R. N. Butler If humans were built to last. (Scientific American March 2001: the PDF can be downloaded from the link). However, if such people, with their torso leaning forward, were to stand with their feet together, they would fall on their faces because they would be unbalanced! (See the PDF.) At best, the muscles would be under constant strain. Apes are knuckle-walkers for this very reason: they can only walk upright for short periods because they are unbalanced and it takes effort not to fall down.
The evolutionist fallacy that people suffer from bad backs because the spine evolved for four-legged creatures, not two, was exposed to me as untrue when a vet, speaking on BBC Radio Four, pointed out that four-legged animals suffer from bad backs just as much as two-legged humans!
Pigliucci also claims that the human body should have thicker bones. I am 77 this year (2021) and, like millions of other people, have never had a broken bone. Why would we want thicker bones? It would make us heavier, therefore less agile, and we would need bigger muscles to perform the tasks we are presently able to do. This would mean we would need more food to produce the extra energy required. In other words our bodies would be less efficient.
It would be possible to prevent all deaths due to car accidents by reducing the speed limit to one mile per hour. However it would be totally impractical to do so. A balance has to be found between practicality and safety, and I would suggest our Creator got the balance right in the design of our bodies!
It is also a denial of natural selection, which is supposed to produce the optimum design. According to evolutionary theory our ape-like ancestors did have bodies leaning forward. So natural selection, according to Pigliucci, has abandoned a superior shape for an inferior one! But a person leaning forward has lost some of the advantage of height, so it is difficult to see how this proposed ‘improvement’ would be advantageous, even from an evolutionary perspective.
Also included is the idea that the knee joint should be able to bend on both directions. While Pigliucci admits that this would make standing still very difficult, neither he nor the originators of the diagram have any idea how it could be designed, saying that further rectifications would be needed. In other words, they have no idea how (and therefore, if) it could be achieved, but they include it in order to make the list longer!
“What science necessarily has to exclude is the possibility of supernatural agency because such a hypothesis is utterly untestable by definition (given that a god can do whatever it pleases without having to follow natural and understandable laws).”
Here Pigliucci blows his cover and admits that he refuses to countenance the possibility of a Creator God because of his personal religious viewpoint, and therefore he has no alternative but to believe in evolution, since there is no other way everything could exist. He has decided that God will not produce a universe that runs by “natural and understandable laws.” Yet many key scientists of previous generations made their scientific investigations precisely because they believed the God who never changes would create a universe operating on consistent laws that could be investigated and understood.
"For I am the LORD, I do not change
So regardless of any evidence creationists bring, Pigliucci will not accept it and will always find an excuse for avoiding it, as can be seen by his response to the issues in this book. On page 66 he says:
“Philosophers of science have long recognised that there is no such thing as science free of ideology or immune from social pressure.”
Exactly! So please do not try to pretend that evolutionists are considering the evidence from a purely objective viewpoint, while creationists are doing so from a subjective one!
“…what leads to emergent objectivity in science is the fact that it is an activity carried out by a variety of people subscribing to different and contrasting world views and ideologies… ID on the other hand, is defended only by people subscribing to a particular ideological position, bent on defending a set of beliefs…”
This puts an artificial distinction between scientists and creationists. The variety of people in science he describes includes many scientists who are creationists. The fact that their evolutionary colleagues refuse to consider their findings gives the lie to the supposed balance Pigliucci claims as a result of this variety. Research pointing toward a creationist position is often refused by the scientific journals, thus preventing the peer review required for Pigliucci’s claim to be true. ID may be defended by people subscribing to creationism; but evolution is defended by people subscribing to that viewpoint, so there is no difference! However, since Pigliucci has spent some considerable space in the book showing the divergence of viewpoints among creationists, it is hardly consistent now to be claiming they all subscribe to the same ideological position.
As an aside, there is a significant distinction between the position of the Intelligent Design Movement and Creationists. See the link for details. For the purpose of this book I am treating the two as similar since they both deny the possibility of a naturalistic cause for everything.
It should also be remembered that many creationist-scientists began life as evolutionists. The fact that they made such a major world-view switch on discovering their scientific findings did not support evolutionary dogma demonstrates that far from being intransigent Bible-thumping fanatics, prepared to stick to unscientific theories regardless of the evidence, they are people of integrity, prepared to accept what previously would have been the unthinkable, when faced with insurmountable scientific evidence.
“Wouldn’t ID be the end of science? …this would be the end of science because no further questions could possibly be meaningfully asked… If creationists wished to play fair and proceed in the way that science would, they would be forced to ask, “What do these designs tell us about the designer?” – just as the structures and functions of living organisms make biologists ask “What do these tell us about the environment? …intelligent design proponents shy away from this sort of follow-up because it would open up a Pandora’s Box of internal theological conflicts, as we have already discussed.”
The silly argument at the start of this quote is exposed as invalid by the fact that there are presently (and always have been) creationist-scientists working in every branch of physics, producing valuable work. They accept ID and it has not prevented their success in scientific research (other than the difficulty in getting their findings published, of course). On the other hand, evolutionary theory has frequently led to dead-ends and delayed progress: for example the claim that around 100 human organs were vestigial from previous evolutionary forms – when they have now been found to have function; or that 95% of human DNA is junk left over from the past – when 30% of DNA had already been identified as having function at the time he wrote the book, and the ENCODE project destroyed the idea in 2012. So through evolutionary dogma a massive percentage of human DNA now known to be functional was written off as useless.
“What could count as evidence for ID?”
Here as elsewhere, Pigliucci insists, as do most evolutionists, that the creation of all things (i.e. the universe, and the many different living forms) must have come about by natural processes we can observe today. This is what he calls falsifiable evidence, and is clearly a ruse designed to remove any possibility of considering ID. It is obvious that if there were an Intelligent Designer, then the processes that took place to create everything would not be in evidence today. This would be like expecting to see in the average car driving along the road all the processes that were required to build it. Since, for example, no welding process takes place during its use, yet is essential in its construction, it is clearly impossible to do so. On examining the car one would be able to see the weld joints, but to insist that they could only have appeared as a result of processes taking place within the car itself would be ridiculous: but this is exactly the scenario in this debate – the car is the world, the welds are living forms emerging from non-living matter, and no known natural processes can produce it/them.
Evolutionists will immediately say that if there are no scientific principles to create the world that we can observe, then creation is not scientific. This is untrue however: using Occam’s razor (quoted several times in the book: e.g. page 185...
“simpler hypotheses should be preferred whenever the evidence does not warrant more complex explanations”
...if science cannot produce any scientific process or observation demonstrating abiogenesis (and it cannot) and scientific observation shows abiogenesis (life arising from inanimate matter) to be contrary to provable laws (and it does) then logically it must have occurred some other way, the only alternative being intelligent design. It is a clear case where falsifiability applies equally both to evolution and creation: if evolution were true, then the processes that created everything would be evident in the world; but if creation is true, then the processes required will not be evident. The fact that in the key areas these processes are not evident proves the case for creationists, while the evolutionists’ claim that “we don’t know now but will do in the future” removes the falsifiable element, and according the Pigliucci – see later – makes it unscientific and “nonsense!”
This shows that those taking the evolutionary position have a priori ruled out the possibility of creation. There are two falsifiable issues:
1. if evolution were true then living matter would form out of inanimate matter.
2. if evolution were true then intermediate forms would be all around us.
With scientific observation of these their case would be proven. The fact that neither have ever been observed, proves evolution is an invalid theory.
“Evolution has produced at least two major forms of HIV in humans, and a third one may be in the process of emerging.”
“…the HIV virus is changing rapidly, under our very eyes. The reason is that new mutations occur in populations of the virus, and these are selected to adapt the virus to changes in its own environment (and the virus evolves much faster than its host because of its much shorter generation time).”
However, in spite of the very short generation time of HIV, which means it will have gone through more generations during its history, every one containing more 'individuals', than all the mammals that have existed on the Earth even by evolutionary calculations, yet it is still HIV virus. It has not changed into anything else. If all those generations are not enough to change it into a higher form of life, how can the much fewer generation of mammals do so? DNA in HIV is considerably smaller than in mammals, so there is much less to evolve in order to bring about significant change. This is yet one more observation of the real world that proves the creationist case.
Note also this is another case where the word ‘evolve’ is used to refer to any kind of change. Even Pigliucci does not claim HIV has evolved into a new and higher form of life, but he still says it has evolved. The kind of change he is looking at here is fully accepted by creationists, who would point out that while this certainly takes place, there is no example anywhere of it going beyond giving the specimen a better ability to survive under certain conditions: it can never turn it into a different kind of life form. This is 'bait-and-switch': looking at one thing to prove something different. Here he looks at natural selection, which is the shuffling or loss of pre-existing DNA code, and claims it proves evolution, which requires the appearance of DNA coding never previously seen in the species. It is like claiming a tsunami destroying a coastal village is proof that a tsunami can create a coastal village!
A similar situation can be seen in malaria:
“The number of malarial parasites produced in a single year is likely a hundred times greater than the number of all the mammals that have ever lived on earth in the past two hundred million years!” and yet all we can see is “…a few point mutations, the occasional gene duplication in malaria; but no new, useful protein-protein interactions, no new molecular machines”
The Edge of Evolution by Michael J. Behe, page 194.
Over and over again we see the same thing: very limited change taking place in species, which can never turn them into something else. The reason is obvious: changing sophisticated DNA coding by random processes (i.e. mutations) can only make it deteriorate. It can never make it become more sophisticated and more complex.
“Evolution is not a theory of the origin of life.”
This is the equivalent of a television company broadcasting the Olympics without showing the start of any of the races. More accurately it is like a biology teacher lecturing a class on the facts of life, starting with the fertilised egg in the womb and when asked, “How did it get there” saying, “That is not relevant!” It is a ruse to avoid the one question that proves the evidence of a Creator, since no scientist has ever produced any successful notion how a living organism could appear from inanimate matter. If the likes of Pigliucci wish to stick strictly to evolutionary change, rather than the event that began the process, that is up to him, but he should not criticise creationists for considering one of the central issues of creationism. However it is certainly not logical to say that the question, “How did the process of evolution begin?” is not relevant to the theory of evolution.
There are only two possible alternatives for the highly complex system of the simplest organism capable of independent life to emerge from the mythical ‘primordial soup’ (no geological evidence for its existence has ever been found): all the elements came together in a single event and somehow were fused at that moment into a living cell; or by some unknown process the different elements gradually accumulated together, eventually reaching the point where it could spring into life.
The idea that so much material could come together in a single event is so ludicrous that even the evolutionary atheist Fred Hoyle had to find a way around it with his version of Intelligent Design in The Intelligent Universe.
The best chance evolutionists have is the gradual accumulation idea: but different elements gradually coming together, with some kind of guidance system (natural selection) to promote the best and remove the worst and form a living thing of ever increasing complexity is exactly what evolution is about. Of course, natural selection would not be able to function with inanimate matter, and it is difficult to see what kind of system could control this kind of accumulation of elements. The chance that they could all assemble by totally random processes, particularly when some are incompatible and can only exist together in the protective structure of a living cell, is so remote that it can be discounted completely.
“Evolution is also most definitely not a theory of the origin of the universe.”
On the other hand creationism certainly is such a theory, and creationists are therefore perfectly entitled to address it! These two points are further blatant attempts to restrict the field of argument to favour the evolutionist and put the creationist at a disadvantage.
“…creationists – contrary to all principle of sound science and critical thinking – start out with a preferred conclusion and then try to find evidence to back it up.”
Since by his own confession Pigliucci has decided that a Creator does not exist and will not countenance any line of reasoning pointing in the opposite direction, he is doing precisely the same thing.
His section on anti-rationalism (pages 83-92), apart from the usual rant against creationists, has little to say on the creation/evolution debate. However, since Christians with creationist beliefs have been at the forefront of promoting education down through history, the implication that creationists are anti-education, or given the chance would decrease the quality of education, is clearly nonsense.
Chapter Three: One side of the coin: The dangers of anti-intellectualism
“…creationists such as Jonathon Wells… have attacked evolutionary biology… Wells calls for public protest against taxpayer-funded research in evolutionary biology, joining analogous cries by young-Earth creationists such as Kent Hovind.”
Here we get more of the ‘creation destroys science’ fallacy. Before we go on, let us be clear of the distinction between 'evolution' that refers to all living things appearing from a single cell that sprang from inanimate matter, and the change that can be seen through natural selection. The first requires an increase of 'specified complexity' while the other is a shuffling of pre-existing DNA code and/or a decrease of 'specified complexity'. See the link for more detail. In order to make the distinction clear, I shall refer to ‘evolution within species’ as ‘natural selection’, since that is what it is.
The main-stream creationist position is that ‘natural selection’ is what can be seen all around us, and such research into it is valuable. Their complaint is against the notion that these changes can go on to produce ‘evolution of species’. Because evolutionists make no distinction between change resulting from the shuffling, loss of, or damage to existing genetic information on the one hand, and the addition of specified genetic information to a genome that will code for a novel function to the species on the other, they constantly point at the former as proof of the latter. This is one of the bed-rocks of creationist reasoning, and yet Pigliucci makes no mention of it at all anywhere in the book. Once again one is forced to assume he has no answer to give.
“…the fact that I am an atheist (by which I mean somebody without a belief in the supernatural, not somebody who knows that there is no god) is irrelevant to what is allegedly a “scientific” debate.”
Firstly, if Pigliucci has no belief in the supernatural, by definition he therefore believes God does not exist. Secondly, it is of profound relevance to the debate, since it means he has made his mind up before he looks at any scientific evidence that evolution is fact. The fact that some theists and Christians have been brow-beaten by the likes of him, Dawkins and other atheists, past and present, into the accepting the belief that evolution is fact because they think it is scientifically proven (when it is not) does not invalidate this point. Contrary to Pigliucci’s claims, Dawkins makes it very clear that the logical end to evolution is atheism.
Chapter Four: Scientific Fundamentalism and the true nature of science
“Christianity is made up of a series of partially contradictory stories backed by little evidence.”
This is another example of a wild claim with nothing to support it. In a book that purports to be a serious look at the creation/evolution debate, it does Pigliucci no credit at all to be making statements that he is either unwilling or unable to support with evidence.
“A naïve falsificationist would maintain that one piece of evidence contradicting a given hypothesis is enough to bring the hypothesis down.”
Page 129, Footnote 17
Stephen Hawking would not agree:
“…you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory”
A Brief History of Time, page 11
“Facts need to be interpreted, and this interpretation is performed in the context of a framework of understanding… As such, the interpretations remain provisional and subject to revision…”
Exactly! There is little or no dispute about the provable, observable facts in the creation/evolution debate: it is in the interpretation of them that there is difficulty. However, despite what Pigliucci says, his interpretation of the facts in regard to evolution are certainly not provisional and subject to revision: he has decided that there is no Creator and come what may he will stick to it.
“First, it should be obvious (but apparently it isn’t to many creationists) that if we do not have an explanation for a phenomenon or a collection of facts, this does not automatically imply that the intervention of a supernatural force provides the correct account. It simply means that we currently do not know or do not understand what is going on.”
It does mean, however, that the theory therefore is unobserved, unproven and believed by faith, not by scientific evidence. This quote is yet one more example of the never-ending torrent of demeaning or abusive insults to creationists that is found in this and so many other evolutionary books. It is a sad reflection on them that they seem to be incapable of conducting any kind of debate without resorting to this cheap device, presumably to divert attention from the weakness of their argument.
Even if Pigliucci’s statement quoted here were valid, then it can equally logically be said that while you “do not currently know or understand what is going on” you have no ability to prove that God was not responsible! Evolutionists do not know how the universe came into being; they do not know how the first living cell came into being; they do not know how irreducibly complex systems can be formed: but Pigliucci will tell you he certainly knows it has nothing to do with a Creator! For all his clever talk about what science is and is not, his beliefs are not consistent with his claims.
“If your hypothesis is not refutable (i.e. falsifiable) no matter what the evidence, then it is useless (of course it may still be true, but there is no way to verify it).”
It is untrue that the theory of creation is unfalsifiable. For example, if it could be demonstrated that a living cell can emerge from inanimate matter by natural causes; if the fossil record showed an uninterrupted series of transitional forms and such forms were plain to be seen living among us; if there were no irreducibly complex systems in living things: then creationism would be shown to be faulty. These are three clearly falsifiable areas in creationism.
However, the theory of evolution is certainly unfalsifiable, because in spite of the scientific evidence that has piled up, proving it is impossible, evolutionists continue to cling to it. Inanimate matter turning into a living organism is absolutely impossible and every scientific observation ever made proves this. The amount of change required to produce modern chimps and humans from a common ancestor is six million years or so, when the greatest mutation preserved by natural selection ever seen was only two-fold, is mathematically impossible. The more research is done into DNA the more complex it has been seen to be: there would be more chance of creating a computer program to build this website by randomly generating computer code than there would of the simplest DNA forming by unintelligent means. No matter what evidence is produced, evolutionists twist it into agreeing with their theory, making it unfalsifiable.
Chapter Five: Creationist fallacies
To continue the last point: when scientists proclaim that their findings prove that a Creator-God does not exist (as does Pigliucci, Dawkins and many others) the Christian is perfectly entitled to examine their so-called falsifiable evidence for its validity. So in what way is the theory of evolution falsifiable?
If the creationist points to the impossibility of a living cell emerging from inanimate matter, he is told...
“it must have happened because we are here”
...when the fact we are here simply proves we had a beginning and not what form that beginning took; and...
“we will know one day”
Thus abiogenesis is made unfalsifiable.
If he points to the fact that apart from a disputed handful of examples, there is no trace, either living or fossilised, of the billions of different transitional populations that must have existed to enable the evolution of species, he is told...
“the fossils are there, we just haven’t found them yet”
“this is due to punctuated equilibrium”
Niles Eldredge and Stephen Gould (mentioned on page 163 and discussed later)
...or Richard Goldschmidt’s now discredited ‘hopeful monsters’ –
“the sudden appearance of novel forms of animals and plants”
(mentioned on page 165)
Thus this too becomes unfalsifiable i.e. If fossils are there, evolution took place; if fossils are not there, evolution took place! It is self-evident that the fact these different theories have been proposed proves evolutionists know they have a problem here: they just won’t admit it when discussing creation.
If the creationist points to irreducible complexity, he is again told by Pigliucci that we will know how these systems formed one day in the future: once again making it unfalsifiable at the present time.
So at every turn, by evolutionary reckoning the key points become unfalsifiable: if the evidence is there evolution is proved; if it is not there, evolution is still true. Thus by Pigliucci’s definition it is no longer scientific evidence but “useless,” to quote his own words.
On pages 165-166 Pigliucci mocks creationist Duane Gish for a very crude caricature of Goldshmidt’s ‘hopeful monsters’ proposal, when he said that
“Mama reptile surely must have been surprised when she looked into her nest and found a bird among all her offspring.”
Clearly Pigliucci is unaware of what takes place in his own country. In my library I have a publication with a cartoon drawing showing precisely that scenario included in a text book produced by evolutionists and supplied to schools in America no more than a few years before his Denying Evolution was published. Evolutionists should put their own house in order before complaining to creationists about distorting their ideas, when all the latter are doing is repeating what the former have said. Pigliucci later bemoans errors in textbooks, but can hardly criticise creationists for quoting from them, when so many people, including some of those teaching science in schools, use these distortions as valid evidence for evolution.
On page 166 is another diatribe about the large difference of opinion between creationists, which he describes as
“…perhaps one of the most damning pieces of evidence that creationism is not science.”
As previously mentioned, none of these differences are any greater than the difference of opinion between scientists regarding the big bang. Although Pigliucci claims the origin of the universe is not directly related to evolution, since evolutionists like him claim their ‘science’ disproves the existence of a Creator, they must therefore have some viewpoint regarding how everything came into being on its own! Without some way for the universe to create itself, a Creator of some kind is essential. In fact it is only evolutionists who claim the universe made itself without the input of any kind of intelligent designer, and they have to be accountable for their claims. So by Pigliucci’s logic that the difference of opinion between creationists proves it is not science, these evolutionist’s whose ideas about the formation of the universe conflict is not science either – he can't have it both ways!
“Moreover, one cannot pretend to consider a statement such as “an intelligent designer did it” as a “theory” in the scientific (or any other) sense. The latter is no theory at all. In fact it isn’t even a hunch because it does not provide even potentially an explanation of the phenomenon at hand. It is simply another way to say, “I don’t know.””
Well, Pigliucci has already told us he doesn't know how key aspects of evolution happened, so this is pot calling kettle "black." However, the problem here is not with creationism, but with Pigliucci’s definition of scientific theory, which makes any consideration of anything other than evolution impossible. I ask the evolutionist, “I know you don’t believe it, but what if there really was an intelligent designer?” There is no way for you to consider it because you have skewed the field of enquiry in such a way as to destroy the possibility of looking at any alternative other than evolution.
In this section Pigliucci points out that ‘theory’ in the scientific sense is different to ‘theory’ meaning:
“a hunch somebody has about something”
Quite! The word has two distinct meanings, both of which are valid and commonly used! Likewise, the word ‘evolution’ in the ‘evolution of species’ sense (increase in the specified complexity of DNA) is radically different to ‘evolution’ in the ‘evolution within species’ sense (natural selection: shuffling, decrease in, or at best neutral change to DNA) – two totally different processes. Yet, like most (all?) evolutionists, Pigliucci calls both “evolution,” pointing to ‘natural selection’ and claiming we are seeing ‘evolution of species’.
He complains about creationists calling evolution a theory and therefore unproven. However, the use of the word ‘theory’ meaning ‘an idea not as yet proven’ (e.g. “my theory is that the butler did it”), is perfectly valid and commonly used throughout the English-speaking world. The fact that scientific ‘theories’ are in the sense of ‘the theory of music’, for example, is irrelevant: when creationists say, “Evolution is only a theory,” they are not using the word in that sense. This is yet another example of nit-picking innuendo, pretending that all creationists are ignorant of ‘real’ science. Such rhetoric will delight his fellow-evolutionists, but it is hardly rational argument!
“Adaptation = Mutation + Natural Selection. That is, adaptive evolution is the result of (at least) two forces. One of them, mutation, is truly random as far as we can tell.”
That’s a relief then: in an Internet debate I had with evolutionists, they were insisting that mutation was not random!
In this passage, Pigliucci describes a debate with Duane Gish, criticising him for continuing to insist on the point that evolutionists...
“would want you to believe that complexity arises out of randomness,”
...after he had explained that natural selection is not random. However it is Pigliucci missing the point here. If the process begins with randomness, as Pigliucci believes (the above quote from page 169) then logically the result must also be random.
Obviously what Pigliucci means is that since natural selection ensures only the most advantageous mutation survives, then the result will not be random – either ‘beneficial’ or ‘detrimental’ – but usually beneficial. However, this reasoning comes as a result of his confusing ‘evolution of species’ with ‘evolution within species’ (i.e. ‘natural selection’).
The well-known example of insects on an island will make this point clear. Through mutation some of the population lost their wings. When a strong wind came along it blew those with wings into the sea, destroying them. The wingless ones survived. Therefore natural selection gave those insects with the mutation a better chance of survival. Pigliucci, on page 197 gives the example of fish losing their eyes when their habitat is dark caves. This is beneficial because their eyes, unable to see in the dark, are vulnerable to damage followed by disease and death.
So by Pigliucci’s terms this was not random since it was beneficial. However, it was only beneficial in the ‘natural selection’ sense, since losing a faculty is ‘downhill’ change and the opposite of what ‘evolution of species’ requires: for new species to form, new faculties must appear – ‘uphill’ change.
Therefore when considering the changes we see around us, we can see that the result is truly random: the outcome could either be beneficial or detrimental to ‘evolution of species’. Because the amount of data in DNA is so huge, the comparatively small number of possibilities of beneficial mutation as a step toward a different kind of living thing is heavily outweighed by the huge number of possibilities of detrimental mutation. In any other area statisticians would consider the chance of it happening even once to be totally impossible: which is why we have no examples of it taking place. Of course, with the holy cow of evolution everything changes and the impossible suddenly becomes inevitable!
However, the vast number of illnesses and disabilities that result from mutation prove the point: in the early 2000's doctors announced that over 1,000 human ailments were the result of mutation. On the other hand no-one can identify any examples of improvement to humans through mutation: in fact recently UK evolutionist Steve Jones announced that evolution in humans had stopped (because of medical intervention, etc.), which he could only have claimed had there been no known human beneficial mutations.
“We’re as good as we can get, says evolution expert.”
Guardian.co.uk, 7 October 2008
“…organic life comes from inorganic matter…"
(and later in the paragraph)
"life does come from inorganic matter.”
Here is another example of double standards. He complains when creationists talk about the origin of life, claiming it is nothing to do with evolution. Now here, and in greater detail elsewhere in the book (see later), he insists on the privilege of telling us that life indeed comes from inorganic matter. Let’s have some consistency here, Mr Pigliucci: if you do want to discuss the subject of abiogenesis, as you do in this book, then do not criticise creationists for doing so; otherwise maintain your position that it is irrelevant to the creation/evolution debate (which is what the book is supposed to be about) and do not discuss it.
“The geological evidence is very clear: The Grand Canyon formed slowly over a period of hundreds of millions of years…”
This comes in a section in which Pigliucci has referred to the creationist’s references to the Mount St Helens volcano as evidence that huge geological change can take place very rapidly. It is yet another example of Pigliucci making claims for which he gives absolutely no evidence whatsoever. Why does the St Helens incident have no relevance on the matter? We are not told. We are presumably expected to take his word for it! It is unacceptable to make such references in a book purportedly dealing with the creation/evolution debate thoroughly, without giving reasons for these claims. How else can the reader make an intelligent decision on the validity of the argument? Either give evidence for claims when they are made, or do not make them!
“…it is amazing what poorly designed organisms we all are. Although we wonder at the complexity of the human eye, we cannot understand why it includes a blind spot that could easily have been avoided (and in fact is not present in the squid’s and octopus’s eyes, which otherwise are very
similar to the vertebrate version).”
This is another evolutionist fallacy. While biologists like Pigliucci and Dawkins do not understand the reason for eye design and so make such silly claims, a real expert in the field (Peter W V Gurney, ophthalmologist: see here for a comprehensive report.) has pointed out that if our eyes were wired the way they suggest, we would be unable to see in bright sunlight as it would dazzle us: this is not a problem for squids and octopuses in their underwater habitat, where direct sunlight does not tend to be a problem! Since a human with normal healthy eyes is not normally aware of the so-called blind spot, this clearly is not any kind of problem.
“…the problem is that creationists do not make a distinction between different origins debates. For them the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the origin of species are all one and the same.”
This is yet another example of the “if they don’t believe evolution it’s because they are stupid” insinuations. Of course creationists know these topics involve different scientific specialities: this is why in creationist publications creationist biologists speak to biology; creationist geologists speak to geology; creationist astronomers speak to astronomy, and so on. Each of the three issues Pigliucci mentions are fundamentally involved in the study of creation, and it would be absurd if creationists did not consider them.
“The scientific status of creationism is in no way superior to flat Earthism.”
This wild claim is so ludicrous it really deserves to be ignored. There are many highly qualified scientists, all over the world, who having earned their degrees in universities where they were taught evolution as fact (and many of whom now lecture and conduct research in universities), have never-the-less, often as a result of their own research, concluded that creationism presents a more satisfactory explanation of origins than evolution. This cannot be said for the fanatical minority subscribing to any flat Earth theory, which has been destroyed by simple observation from satellites in space. Pigliucci demonises creationists in this way in order to try to establish his belief that any ‘real’ scientist would be bound to see that evolution is established fact. The presence of such scientists taking a contrary view is fatal to this argument!
“Fallacy 11: Science is a religion.”
This is yet one more straw man. No creationist would make such a statement. They certainly say that the theory of ‘evolution of species’ is a religion, because it leaves observable, scientific fact behind in all the key areas and is dependent on the faith that it happened by naturalistic causes alone: i.e. it is based on the religious faith that God does not exist. It is a religious faith because they have never produced scientific proof for this belief. Rather, they rely on circular reasoning: God does not exist because evolution is a fact; evolution is a fact because God does not exist.
“No self-respecting scientist or educator – religious or not – would want to limit the freedom of speech or expression of any party, including creationists.”
This sounds very reasonable. However, in the real world over and over again scientists who are creationists are blocked from publishing in any of the scientific journals, no matter how good or valid their work. Ironically the same thing happens to some evolutionists: on the Internet is a document, supported by many evolutionary scientists who believe the big bang theory is flawed, complaining that their views are censored from the scientific journals. These people who are quite happy to see creationists excluded are now ‘hoist on their own petard’! If Pigliucci really believes freedom of speech should not be limited, perhaps he would like to start persuading his colleagues?
Chapter six: Three major controversies
“There is one thing even more vital to science than intelligent methods, and that is, the sincere desire to find out the truth, whatever it may be. (Charles Sanders Pierce)”
The problem is that evolutionists are so wedded to their belief they refuse to take the scientific arguments of creationists seriously, as is the case in this book where they are either ignored altogether, or glossed over with little attempt to produce a rational argument.
“The goal of this book is not to provide a laundry list of creationist complaints and scientific answers, partly because that would be an exercise of limited use, but also because it has been done so much more thoroughly by other people.”
Firstly, note his claim that creationists give “complaints” while evolutionists provide “scientific answers:” yet one more example of his patronising denigration of scientists who are just as well qualified in their field as he is, but who accept the claims of creationism. Secondly, we now have the excuse for his ignoring some of the key issues of the debate: someone else has given the answers! So this book is padded out with material that may be of interest and have minor implications to the debate, but the heart of the matter is frequently barely given a mention. Therefore, anyone wishing to read about the main issues in the creation/evolution debate is obliged to look elsewhere by Pigliucci’s own definition: they will not find them in his book. The problem is that, having read some of these other people’s work, I am well aware that they are just as unable as he is to answer the questions satisfactorily. A glaring example is Dawkins’ ‘Greatest Show on Earth’. See here for my discussion on the book.
Pigliucci’s summary on page 193 of the creationists' reasoning regarding the second law of thermodynamics (entropy) is reasonable (except I would substitute ‘bring about and maintain’ in place of ‘maintain’ in point 2):
“(1) The second law of thermodynamics predicts that the amount of disorder is bound to increase and can never decrease.
(2) Living organisms, on the other hand, are a clear example of highly ordered systems. Therefore their very existence contradicts the second principle, unless supernatural intervention is called upon to maintain their existence.
(3) Furthermore, evolution is a process whose main characteristic is to increase in complexity over time. Therefore it flies in the face of the second principle, which predicts that eventually the universe will reach the state of maximum disorder known as thermal death. (4) Hence, either the second law or evolution is wrong. Since the second law is accepted by every physicist, it has been repeatedly confirmed experimentally, and we do not know of any exception to the principle, evolution must be discarded.”
Regarding the laws of thermodynamics he says:
“Morris (a creationist) maintains that the simple availability of energy from outside a given system… is not enough to allow the evolutionary process to take place… On the one hand there must be a “program,” so that the process can be directed toward a particular outcome… On the other hand there has to be a “conversion mechanism” that transforms raw energy (e.g. from the sun) into high-quality energy that can be used by the system to do the work… If one just has bricks and energy, the house will never be built. Although the biosphere has materials (provided by Earth) and energy (provided by the sun), Morris maintains that it lacks both a program and a conversion system. Therefore evolution is impossible.”
“In order for evolution not to be at odds with thermodynamics, whatever order is created during the evolutionary process simply must be more than offset by the disorder created by the same process. This is exactly what happens because the entire biosphere receives huge quantities of energy from outside sources, mostly the sun.”
However, this in no way answers the point that Morris made: without a program and a conversion mechanism, the sun’s energy can do nothing. ‘Evolution of species’ has neither of these things.
“…contrary to the statement by Morris… evolution is not defined as “change outward and upward.” First of all, “out” and “up” with respect to what?"
With respect to the point from which the life forms began to evolve, of course!
Even though most biologists would agree that evolutionary change has been accompanied by an increase, in one form or another, in the complexity of living organisms, there are many exceptions to the pattern. For example, parasites are usually less complex than their close evolutionary relatives, and cave animals tend to lose their eyes, which are among the most complex structures in the animal kingdom. Since the appearance of parasites and of forms adapted to caves is the result of evolutionary processes, it follows that evolution is not necessarily a process that increases complexity.”
This is a typical example of looking at ‘natural selection’ and calling it ‘evolution of species’. It proves my point that he is looking at ‘decrease’ and calling it ‘increase’. His muddy thinking on this is like seeing a building being demolished and saying it is an example of a building being built. Because he calls both processes ‘evolution’ he is then free to use the vast amount of evidence of detrimental change and call it proof that things become more complex, better and bigger.
Note that he says “…eyes are among the most complex structures…” as though the loss of such complexity is more significant than the loss of simple structures. This is self-evidently untrue: one example being the demolished building just mentioned: its building requires architects, blueprints or plans from the architect, bricklayers, joiners, plasterers, electricians, plumbers, (to name a few), transport of materials to the site and at least weeks of skilled work. To destroy it, all is required is a random, unintelligent earthquake, hurricane or flood, happening in just minutes. But to Pigliucci the building and destroying processes are the same!
Another example is sickle cell anaemia, which is the result of a single letter change in DNA. It takes many DNA letters to code for the complex functions in blood, yet the change of just one is enough to create a massive dysfunction and early death. It would be an enormous task for mutation to assemble all this DNA in the correct sequence, overcoming irreducible complexity, to create everything necessary for blood to function, yet one simple mistake is all that is takes to put it well along the path to becoming useless. See Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe for a description of the huge complexity of the blood clotting mechanism.
According to the creationist model, everything began perfectly and is now on a ‘downward’ slope, with mutation eating into what was originally perfect DNA and creating damage to all living systems. So parasites becoming less complex and creatures losing their eyes (‘natural selection’) is exactly what this model would expect. Evolutionists, however, claim everything developed from a single cell, which means that there has to be a constant increase in complexity (‘evolution of species’), in order for new features to emerge. That is the opposite of what Pigliucci has just described. It is this kind of woolly thinking that has enabled the theory of evolution to survive as long as it has.
“It would be a truly unexplainable phenomenon if very complex life forms popped out of nothing without any previous history connecting them to simpler forms. Then the creationist explanation of the world would have an advantage over naturalist evolution.”
But this is precisely what is seen in the fossil record! There are no undisputed connecting forms between any of the life forms there; and even the simplest organism that evolutionists can conjecture, which is supposed to have sprung from the primordial soup, is still very highly complex in its molecular structure. At best is a handful of disputed specimens. There is no clear and undisputed example of a creature at a part-way stage in developing an organ or progressing from one life form to another.
“The argument is that even allowing for energy and materials to come into the biosphere from outside, thereby rendering it an open system, does not necessarily imply the existence of a process such as evolution that creates a new order. There is no doubt that creationists are completely right in this sense… Two more elements are needed: a program to guide the construction process (the blueprints) and a conversion mechanism that translates this program into the final product (the workers who can read the blueprints and assemble the materials in the proper way, while using the correct amount of energy). Therefore, just saying that Earth and the sun provide materials and energy to the biosphere does not explain the existence of an evolutionary process that creates order. That is entirely correct… evolution needs a flow of energy (from the sun) and materials (from the Earth) to occur, but these are not the whole story. A program and conversion mechanism are indeed necessary”
Page 199 (Emphasis mine)
So after explaining the second law and how it relates to ‘open’ and ‘closed’ systems, we reach the admission that the creationist position in this regard is correct and more than a flow of energy from the sun is indeed required. Then he goes into another “creationists don’t understand the issues” attack. He claims that they have shifted the topic: now they claim that evolution needs “more than thermodynamics to occur,” when at first they were claiming “evolution is incompatible with the second principle.”
It would seem it is Pigliucci who does not understand the issue. As his quote (shown above) from Morris says, the creationist’s position is that the reason evolution is incompatible with the second principle is that it proves that evolution cannot take place with no outside source to guide mutation (for example).
In the same way the second law proves a perpetual motion machine is impossible, as he says in note 3, page 102; but while an outside source – man – keeps a machine maintained and fed with fuel, it can continue to work without stopping. So it is all an intrinsic part of the same argument. Once again he is nit-picking.
Having established that the creationist is correct in saying a program (or ‘blueprint’) and a conversion mechanism are indeed necessary, he then says science does have an answer. (Actually this is another example of his poor use of language – he actually means ‘evolutionists have an answer’ since both parties are scientists applying science to their answers). So what is the answer?
“The blueprint is the genetic instructions encoded in the DNA (or other nucleic acids, such as RNA) of any living organism. The conversion mechanism is (mostly but not uniquely) photosynthesis.”
Here he contradicts Dawkins, who in the Greatest Show on Earth says DNA is not a blueprint!
So having accused creationists of switching the argument, he now does the same thing himself and switches his answer. DNA is not a blueprint for evolution of species, it is a blueprint for all the needs of life in its present form. Photosynthesis is not a conversion mechanism for evolution of species, it is a conversion mechanism to produce energy from the sun for existing life forms to continue to exist – it has no power to change those forms into a new species. As Pigliucci has made clear, mutation is the only means by which the new information required for new species to form can appear in the DNA. But mutation is entirely random, as he has also pointed out; so by his own definition there is nothing in the coding of DNA to guide mutation in any direction. Since random activity will always reduce the orderliness of a system of specified complexity and result in entropy, any change produced by mutation will always be ‘downhill’: therefore something more than DNA is required in order for evolution to do what Pigliucci claims. What and where is that ‘something more?’ Pigliucci clearly does not know!
Having said that DNA and photosynthesis are the answers, on page 200 he then asks the obvious creationist question,
“Where did DNA and photosynthesis come from? That is another very good question on which scientists are working very hard, and to which we have only partial answers.”
So once again it all boils down to ‘I don’t know but we will do one day!’ Having belittled creationists for their ‘take’ on this issue, at its heart his response is the unscientific ‘I believe it but can’t give you the proof’ argument that has been the bedrock of evolution ever since Darwin said that the fossil evidence of his theory would be found one day. 'On the Origin of Species' was published in 1859; so we have been waiting 162 years for the scientific evidence of the theory (as opposed to the viewpoints of some scientists). How much longer do we have to wait?
“Now we have satisfactory answers to the relationship between thermodynamics and evolution, and – additionally – we have even shown how evolution has all necessary and sufficient elements to proceed without violating any law of physics”
Really? Where? Certainly not in this book! He has not given any answer to the question, “How can there be no entropy in DNA when mutation takes place?” The fact that we can see over 1,000 human ailments as the result of mutation proves that the specified complexity of our DNA is definitely reducing. Furthermore, since Pigliucci accepts a ‘blueprint’ is essential, where is the blueprint for the origin of life? No DNA existed at that time, so even he cannot claim it was the blueprint there!
“Having begun by appealing to physics, the creationists’ turning to the existence of a supernatural God definitely violates not only all four principles of thermodynamics, but all laws that physics has established so far!”
Utter nonsense! As I have already pointed out, when all the laws we can observe are unable to explain how things are begun but rather demonstrate fatal flaws in the evolutionary explanation (and Pigliucci has been unable to demonstrate to the contrary), then the existence of an intelligent designer is the only other alternative. Indeed, the scientific method was founded and developed by Christian scientists like Isaac Newton who believed that the God of the Bible is unchanging and would therefore create a universe that functions on unchanging laws, which could therefore be observed and investigated.
“There is no such thing as a modern-day “primitive” organism that we can examine to tell what our earliest ancestors looked like.”
Since it is obvious that the highly complex structure of the simplest living organism capable of independent life could not spring up out of inanimate matter, this impossible obstacle is avoided by claiming there must be viable simpler life forms, although no-one has been able to show how a simpler life form could fulfil the functions that define ‘life’ from ‘nonlife’ (described on page 211). However, since there is no undisputable evidence anywhere on the planet to show they ever existed, and no scientist has ever been able even to conjecture what they would look like, we must, yet again, take the evolutionists’ word for it and believe it by faith.
“Chirality is a property of any chemical structure characterised by the three-dimensional arrangement of that structure’s atoms and molecules. For example, all amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, can in theory come in two versions, which are mirror images of each other. They are called left-handed and right-handed forms… the organic compounds (a general term for carbon-based compounds…) found in space or in meteorites come in equal portions of right- and left-handed forms. This is not true of the compounds that are actually used by living organisms on Earth, which are found in only one version.”
Chirality is one more argument against the primordial soup (or pizza) theory. How could a 50/50 mixture of right- and left-handed elements arrange themselves into single chirality? In addition, at death single chirality begins to break down, ultimately becoming a 50/50 mix, and one method of determining the time of death is by measuring the chirality. So the only place in the universe where single chirality can be found is in a living cell, where the ‘machinery’ can maintain it.
In this section Pigliucci uses chirality as the evidence that life could not have come from outer space, because all compounds coming from there are in “equal portions of right-and left-handed forms;” but this is exactly the case on the Earth. It is noticeable that on this page he says...
“…extraterrestrial organic compounds have random chirality…”
...carefully avoiding to mention that all terrestrial inanimate matter is exactly the same in this respect! So if it makes life from space impossible, by the same argument it makes life springing up on Earth impossible too. This is yet another example of having his cake and eating it! Let’s make this abundantly clear: when Pigliucci cites chirality as proof life could not spring up from space, this is science; when creationists cite chirality as proof life could not spring up on earth, this is not science! Quote:
“Creationism is not a viable theory of anything, and it is certainly not a scientific theory.”
That’s the kind of evolutionist logic we have come to know and love! It is also noticeable that nowhere in the book does he mention chirality as a creationist argument that requires a response! Another example of leaving out the things he can’t answer and only including the things he thinks he can.
“It was (the Russian, Alexander) Oparin, together with the British biologist J. B. S. Haldane, who came up with the idea of a primordial soup – that is, the possibility that the ancient oceans on Earth were filled with organic matter formed by the interaction between the atmosphere gases and energy provided by volcanic eruptions, powerful electric storms, and solar ultraviolet radiation. We had to wait until the 1950s for Stanley Miller to attempt to reproduce the soup experimentally.”
“When lightning, or ultraviolet radiation, hits simple gases in a mixture, more complex organic molecules do indeed form. Even if Miller’s experiments turn out to have been a dead end at explaining the particular problem of the origin of life on Earth, they surely demonstrate that energy can build complexity, in accordance with both the second principle of thermodynamics and the theory of evolution.”
The experiment may show greater complexity appearing, but not specified complexity. One reason the experiment signally failed to demonstrate how life could emerge is that the chirality problem remained unsolved: so in accordance with the second principle of thermodynamics, the random effects of lightning etc. could never assemble the required elements in any specified order that would enable a living organism to appear. Therefore Millers experiment demonstrated that the second principle does indeed disprove the theory of evolution. Note in this quote that he accepts Miller’s experiment was a failure at explaining the origin of life – it was “a dead end.”
However it is interesting that having criticised creationists for pointing to abiogenesis as a factor against evolution because this topic is nothing to do with evolution, in this book about creation vs. evolution, he goes into this detail on that very topic!
He explains some of the processes taking place in a cell:
“1. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) encodes the information that eventually will give rise to proteins.
2. Messenger RNA (mRNA) then carries the information to specialised structures know as ribosomes. (RNA stands for ribonucleic acid, which is the same as DNA, but with an extra oxygen atom and a few other chemical differences.)
3. Inside the ribosomes (which are made of both nucleic acids and proteins), the message is translated into proteins by virtue of a second type of RNA, known as transfer RNA (tRNA). Transfer RNA has the peculiar ability to attach itself to the mRNA on one side and to amino acids (the blocks that make up proteins) on the other side. Thus a chain of mRNA is paralleled by the forming chain of amino acids, which in turn will eventually result in the final protein.
4. The proteins, most of which (but not all) are enzymes, are the “doers” of the cellular world, in that they are both the building blocks of cell structures and membranes, and the builders themselves, in the form of enzymes capable of catalyzing all sorts of chemical reactions, including the replication of DNA and the transcription of its message into RNA – which, of course, closes the circle!”
After explaining a little of the function of DNA and proteins, showing their need for each other to function, he suggests the possibility of a hybrid protein-nucleic acid origin to avoid the chicken/egg problem, but points out that the problem with the primordial soup theory is
“Because the organic compounds would be freely bumping into each other within the ocean, unless their concentration was extremely large, it is difficult to see how dense enough pockets of organic molecules could have formed often enough to allow some significant prebiotic chemistry to occur”
As an alternative, he mentions the primordial pizza idea:
“…early organic chemistry occurred in dry environments, most likely on the surface of minerals with physical properties conducive to accumulating and retaining organic molecules in place”
He admits that no-one has any idea how this alternative idea would work, but...
“We should see some progress in this area in the next few years. But an even bigger question is, “What happened after the primordial pizza? There is still a very large gap between a semicatalytic, semireplicating nucleoprotein and the first living “organism,” whatever that may have been.””
So once again, all the scientific evidence for this will appear sometime in the future! He then lists on page 211 his distinction of life from nonlife.
“The ability to replicate
The ability to react to the environment (behaviour, not limited just to the special meaning that the word has in animals)
·Growth (i.e. reduction of internal entropy at the expense of environmental entropy; note that even single cells grow immediately after reproduction, so this is not a property restricted to multicellular life)
Metabolism (i.e. the capacity of maintaining lower internal entropy, including the ability to self-repair)”
After more description, he lists on page 212
“…the general path leading to the origin of life…”
“1. Primordial soup or pizza (simple organic compounds formed by atmospheric gases and various sources of energy)
2. Nucleoproteins (similar to modern tRNA)
3. Hypercycles (primitive and inefficient biochemical pathways (“made up of self-replicating nucleic acids and semicatalytic proteins that happen to be found together in pockets within the primordial soup or on the primordial pizza” quoted on page 212), characterised by emergent properties)
4. Cellular hypercycles (more complex cycles, eventually enclosed in a primitive cell made of lipids)
5. Progenote (first self-replicating, metabolizing cell, possibly made of RNA and proteins, with DNA entering the picture later)”
“The problem is that each step is really difficult to describe in detail from a theoretical standpoint, and so far (with the exception of the formation of organic molecules in the soup and of some simple hypercycles) has proven remarkably elusive from an empirical perspective.”
In other words, “We have no idea,” and the largely failed Miller experiment of 1952 is the best we have! 69 years of experiments have still not produced anything better! Oceans of speculation, not a drop of observational scientific evidence! The description of the requirements for even a single celled organism to live, would require a huge amount of specified complexity in their DNA.
This can be seen in the smallest living organism capable of independent life known to man. The microbe called Pelagibacter. At www.genome we are told it has 1,308,759 nucleotides, with 1,354 protein genes and 35 RNA genes. Although there are smaller organisms, these are incapable of independent life: they require higher organisms in order to survive. No scientific observation can produce anything capable of Pigliucci's list that could be significantly smaller than this; but the possibility of such a large number of elements combining in the correct order by random means is so astronomically small it could never happen - even in an infinite number of universes!
The stages of development assumes steps that would require huge leaps of change in DNA to create - far greater than any mutation ever observed. No wonder they have "proven remarkably elusive from an empirical perspective!"
“Consider that the fossil record shows “modern-looking” bacterial cells a few hundred million years after the formation of the Earth – that is, about 3.8 billion years ago. This tells us that whatever happened before the formation of these bacterial cells happened very fast (by geological standards, nothing creationists can exploit), but there is no record of it.”
Actually it is exploitable, since it proves that there is very little time for the massive number of possible alternatives to form randomly. The fact there is no record of what happened before these 'modern-looking' cells shows once again it has to be believed by faith, and not by scientific evidence. It is also interesting that he claims the origin of life happened so comparatively quickly, while the development from there to the simplest forms of life we do see in the fossil record took so long. Yet surely the greater problem would have been abiogenesis? Why should the next step have taken so long, when the change from the simplest organism to man was so very much faster?
He finally discusses A. G. Cairns-Smith’s theory of clay crystals (starting on page 213), but discounts it because they do not allow the kind of activity required. It is fascinating that he still makes no mention of chirality – an absence which once again can only be interpreted as meaning he has no idea how it can be surmounted.
In the chapter on fossils he cites, on page 217, punctuated equilibrium as a valid alternative to Darwin’s gradual evolution with many intermediate stages linking one species to another. In fact it is the only explanation he gives for the huge gaps. On page 238 he says:
“The current consensus seems to be that there is enough empirical evidence to grant punctuated equilibrium real existence, although we do not know how this mode of macroevolution occurs when compared with more traditional, gradual, evolutionary change.”
Punctuated equilibrium is impossible! Look at the challenge to see how much change has to take place in DNA. Even if change takes place in every single generation, the jumps from a single cell organism to modern humans are impossibly high. So this theory, by trying to solve the problem of the missing transitional forms massively increases the problem of the amount of change required when it does take place.
After summarising the evolutionist position, on page 225 he gives two alternative ‘creationist’ explanations of the fossil record, which I summarise as:
 the Cambrian explosion was when God created life and
 if the Cambrian explosion was not when God created life, so many beneficial mutations could not occur in such a short period of time.
However, the first is not accepted by what I would call ‘mainstream creationism’ for some of the reasons Pigliucci gives for his rejection of it (along with the fact they conflict with Bible teaching), and no further information is given about the second. So this adds little to the debate. However he points out:
“Another major point raised by creationists… is that the (Cambrian) “explosion” was simply too rapid to be the result of a natural process… But that can still mean tens of millions of years, and consequently hundreds of thousands or millions of generations…”
Yet another example of his “creationists are stupid” claims! Creationists are well aware of the lengths of time involved in evolutionary theory. The fact remains that tens of millions of years simply is not long enough to give time for the amount of change required, and millions of generations not enough for mutation to work the miracle evolution requires. More detail on this later.
While it could be argued that simpler organisms have smaller DNA, which would take less time to evolve, one does not have to go very far along the chain before finding the opposite: for example frogs, which surely must be considered a long way down the evolutionary chain, have more DNA than humans!
"…current estimates of the length of the Precambrian are on the order of 4 billion years – a much longer time than the period that has elapsed from the beginning of the Cambrian until today (570 million years)."
“…when one compounds the odds against soft-body fossilization with extreme antiquity and high degree of disintegration of Precambrian rocks, it is easy to see why it has been so hard to find evidence of life before 570 million years ago.”
On the other hand it may simply be that it never existed in the first place!
“Creationists seem to imply that the only naturalistic possibility is for a mind-bogglingly high number of mutations to occur simultaneously, and somehow generate a new type of organism in a single saltational event (such as a fully formed bird from a dinosaur egg).”
This is a fair point: they do! Perhaps not quite such a leap as a fully formed bird from a dinosaur egg - that is the domain of the hopeful-monster brigade! But the point that scales turning into feathers, (remembering that feathers and scales are made from very different material, so one would not naturally arise from the other) or forelegs into wings, for example, could take place gradually over thousands or millions of years is ludicrous, since most of the intermediate forms would be at a serious disadvantage.
“…let us assume we are considering an organism whose generation time is 25 years, the likelihood of occurrence for any given mutation is one in a million (per generation per gene – an empirically reasonable estimate), and the total population size of the species is 1 million individuals (probably a gross underestimation for most species). Given these conditions, on average each gene will mutate within the population once every generation (in different individuals, of course). This means that during the 15 million years of the Cambrian explosion, each gene would have mutated 600,000 times! Certainly this is more than enough change to provide the necessary raw material for natural selection.”
If this were the case then we would see millions, if not billions of examples, both fossilised and living, at part-way stages between all life forms.
Here we reach the point where the theory of evolution collapses. When pointing out the facts, agreed by both evolutionist and creationist alike, I have never yet had one give a satisfactory answer to this problem. Pigliucci blithely says each gene will mutate every generation: what does that mean? Will just one nucleotide mutate in every gene, will every nucleotide mutate in them, or just some? Will the gene totally change its function each time, or simply remain the same with a minor variation? How much change is required to produce the next transitional species from the last one? How many generations, and therefore how long, will this take?
Firstly he claims a mutation every generation in a population of one million. He ignores the fact that once a mutation has taken place, the newly formed species is now a population of one! Mutation cannot be spread like a cold! It can only proliferate by the descendants of the mutant multiplying and, through natural selection, displacing the previous species. So if he says a population of one million is required, how long will it take to reach that point? We will use his own figures to calculate this.
Figures on the Internet vary, but a minimum date for homo sapiens first appearing seems to be around 200,000 years ago. To be generous, let’s say just 50,000 years ago. If allowing for massive deaths through disease, disaster, predators, etc., we assumed the population doubled once every 1,000 years (i.e. every 40 generations of 25 years), then by now we should see a population of approx. 569,295,000,000,000 people in the world! Since we do not, one is bound to ask, “If evolution is fact, where is everybody?” Present population growth is a doubling every 39 years. To reach the present world population from one pair of humans requires the population to double just 31.5 times! See here for more details.
However, that is not the point I am making. It was just to demonstrate that if we assume on average the population doubling every generation, then we are being very generous to the evolutionary position. In this case, it would take 20 generations (500 years) to reach a population of 524,288. This is half the number Pigliucci requires: obviously one more generation would be needed. But including all the previous generations, about one million new mutants will have existed.
When I first wrote this piece, according to the Human Genome Project web site there are 3,164,700,000 base pairs in human DNA. It is now accepted there is at least a 5% difference between humans and chimps, although since chimps have over 10% more DNA than humans, it is obviously at least double that! Dr Geoff Barnard (see later for his bio.) has pointed out that while some of our proteins are 99% identical to chimps’ (which presumably is where the 2009 Natural History Museum sponsored book title “99% Ape” comes from), this accounts for less than 2% of the total human DNA! In addition, some of chimps’ proteins are nothing like ours; we have proteins that they do not have, and they have proteins we do not have. There are seven pericentre inversions between chimps and humans on chromosomes 4, 5, 9, 12, 15, 17 & 18; and the recombination hotspots are very different between humans and chimps. The difference between ape and human is much greater than the evolutionist would have us believe.
However, calculating on a 5% difference, this means a minimum of 158,235,000 base pairs have changed since the two species branched out from their common ancestor; and if we assume a similar amount of change took place in the two branches, 79,117,500 had to mutate in each branch. It is now known that up to 100 base pairs can mutate per person per generation. That being the case, assuming we could have 100 base pairs mutating ‘accurately’, this would require 791,175 mutations (or transitional species). According to Pigliucci’s calculation requiring 1 million individuals in order to get each required mutation, this would take 395.5 million years: just to produce the difference between chimps and humans! Bearing in mind the time from the beginning of the Cambrian explosion to the present day is supposed to be 570 million years, it is obvious that there is absolutely no time whatsoever for the required amount of changes to take place to produce all the life forms presently seen.
However there are two further problems for the evolutionist. Firstly, the odds of getting an ‘accurate’ mutation of 100 base pairs is so remote (since there are four possibilities for each pair, this is 1 x 4, 100 times) that a population of trillions over trillions of years would be required to have a chance of it happening just once: the odds for any specific combination of 100 are 1 in 6,000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 (6^60: 6 followed by 60 noughts)! Even if there were one billion viable alternative mutations of one hundred base pairs, this only reduces the odds to 1 in 6, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 (6x10^51: 6 followed by 51 zeros)!
Secondly, not only does the mutation have to produce the right kind of change, it also has to be in the right place. Regarding the mutation not of 100, but just of one base pair, Behe says:
“…the probability that one of those mutations will be in the right place is one out of a hundred million.” The odds of getting a double mutation are “about a hundred million times a hundred million (10^16).” “…With a generation time of ten years and an average population size of a million people, on average it should take about a hundred billion years for that particular mutation to arise —much more than the longest evolutionary estimate of the age of the universe”
The Edge of Evolution by Michael J. Behe, page 110
Secondly, University of Rochester evolutionary biologist, H. Allen Orr has said:
“Given realistically low mutation rates, double mutants will be so rare that adaptation is essentially constrained to surveying — and substituting — one-mutational step neighbours. Thus if a double-mutant sequence is favourable but all single amino acid mutants are deleterious, adaptation will generally not proceed”
Quoted in The Edge of Evolution, page 106
So if the most that natural selection can favour is a double-mutation, then it would require 39,558,750 different transitional forms to produce chimps and humans from their common ancestor. No room for punctuated equilibrium there!
Thirdly, Dr J C Sanford (Cornell University Professor of genetics for over 25 years, who has published over 70 scientific publications and has been granted over 25 patents), says:
“Man and chimp differ by at least 150 million nucleotides representing at least 40 million hypothetical mutations (Britton, 2002).So if man evolved from a chimp-like creature, then during that process there were at least 20 million mutations fixed within the human lineage (40 million divided by 2), yet natural selection could only have selected for 1,000 of these. All the rest would have had to have been fixed by random drift – creating millions of nearly-neutral deleterious mutations. This would not just have made us inferior to our chimp-like ancestors – it would have surely killed us.”
Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome
He makes it very clear in his book that the downward trend due to mutation is reducing the specified complexity of our DNA: the opposite of the requirements of ‘evolution of species’.
Finally, the only suggestion I have received from an evolutionist, is that the mutations would not be linear, as in my calculations, but taking place across the entire population, thus enabling a lot of mutation to appear quickly. This sounds reasonable, until one realises that all these mutants at some point have to interbreed, in order to bring the mutations into a single species. The problem is that the point is very quickly reached where the differences between these mutants would be so great, conception would be impossible.
I have gone into some detail on this point, because, whichever way you approach it, the demonstrable facts prove that mutation plus natural selection is helpless to create the kind of change required for ‘evolution of species’.
Once again, in this section on fossils, it is interesting to see what has been omitted. The main-stream creationist argument is that the fossil arrangement can be explained by the world-wide flood, followed by huge but more localised natural disasters. This is confirmed by the scientific observation of the Mount St Helens event showing how geological formations can occur very rapidly – in a matter of days, weeks or months – and the fact that all radiometric dating methods are heavily influenced by assumptions – e.g. that we know what the starting condition were, change has always been constant and no events have ever happened to affect the samples being measured). It is completely ignored here and not answered anywhere in the book.
Chapter Seven: Scientific fallacies
“For a biologist, microevolution refers to changes in a species over short periods of time that can be explored with the conceptual and mathematical tools of population genetics and ecology. Macroevolution, on the other hand, refers to changes that occur over much longer periods of time; this is usually the research field of the palaeontologist.”
Of course, ‘microevolution’ is what I have been calling ‘natural selection’, and macroevolution I have referred to as ‘evolution’. The problem with these ‘micro’ and 'macro' terms, and the reason I avoid using them, is that it can lead to the assumption that lots of microevolution = macroevolution; while in reality the two are opposites - microevolution is usually a shuffling or loss of DNA information, while macroevolution must be an increase in order to code for features not previously seen in the species. So the one will never lead to the other.
“…what then causes macroevolution in animals? By and large we still do not know. Before creationists start quoting the preceding sentence (out of context) as proof of their correctness on matter of evolution, let me clarify what I mean. Plenty of research has been done… likely to lead eventually to a satisfactory answer to the question of micro- versus macroevolution… all that follows from the fact that we do not know something is that we don’t know it (yet).”
If you don't know it yet, then by definition you have no observable scientific evidence for your claim. The problem is that generally speaking, evolutionists, far from saying they do not yet know that macroevolution has taken place on a massive scale over millions of years, they say they do know and it is an established, proven, scientific fact. There is no argument over microevolution as defined here: creationists and evolutionists alike accept it takes place on a regular basis. The entire controversy is over macroevolution, and here we have the admission that there is no scientific evidence for how it could take place - otherwise we would know what causes it. Thus evolutionary argument becomes unfalsifiable, and therefore by Pigliucci’s definition, unscientific. While the answers to key arguments remain unknown, they remain unproven.
“Where, then, is the scientists’ fallacy in explaining macroevolution within the context of creation-evolution discussions? It lies in the pretence that we have a full answer when at most we have a few (tantalizing) clues.”
So don’t call evolution proven, scientific fact, when by your own admission it is not!
“Science is both objective and subjective. It is subjective because it is done by human beings, and we cannot avoid being influenced by the times and cultural milieu in which we find ourselves.”
Exactly! Although he goes on to describe the objectivity of science, it is clear from the frauds like Piltdown man, described on pages 243-244, that subjectivity does, at least at times, overrule objectivity. He points out that eventually science brings out the truth: so for example it was science that disproved the validity of Piltdown man. However it must be pointed out that only provable, scientific fact can enable subjectivity to be overruled by objectivity, and while evolution rests on unfalsifiable premises (as it does in every key area: abiogenesis, chirality, total absence of transitional forms both living and in the fossil record, and irreducible complexity), it is open to subjective influence. If there were key elements that could be demonstrated with falsifiable evidence to be fact, then it would certainly be permissible to excuse a minority of areas where such evidence is not available: but when every key area comes into this category, it is a very different matter.
Additionally, his claim that creationists are unwilling to accept their mistakes (citing human footprints alongside dinosaur footprints on pages 245-246) can be seen to be false when, for example, such creationist organisations as Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International publish corrections to past mistakes, as can be seen from the links. It must be pointed out, though, Creationists can only react to current scientific thinking, and if that is not based on accurate data, then the reactions are equally likely not to be so: hence the reason for some of their past mistakes.
On page 249 Pigliucci cites the lack of variety of background in creationists, but seen in scientists is:
“…incredibly varied social and cultural backgrounds…”
as proving their subjectivity. This is one more example of the “If he’s a creationist, then he’s not a scientist” argument. The creationists’ arguments I have used (albeit imperfectly) have originated from scientists, so he is creating a false division and thereby using the straw man technique.
At its heart, the argument is not between scientists and non-scientists, but between creation-scientists and evolution-scientists. Since many creation-scientists began life as evolutionists, often rejecting the theory as a result of their own scientific research, the background of creationists is just as varied as that of evolutionists.
Chapter eight: What do we do about it?
Chapter 8 looks at ten icons of evolution dealt with by
“Jonathon Wells, an intelligent design creationist at Discovery Institute in Seattle,”
A number of the issues have already been dealt with, however:
“Wells’s Argument: The famous pictures of embryos of various vertebrates at different stages of development produced by nineteenth-century embryologist Ernst Haeckel are a fake…
The Real Story: The drawings in question were indeed fudged, but they are not complete fakes, and the fact of their being fudged was discovered by biologists, not creationists."
Pigliucci is once again nit-picking. The fact is that Haeckel’s idea of embryonic recapitulation, which could only have seen the light of day as a result of his ‘fixing’ the drawings, is totally discredited. The fact that it was biologists who discovered the fraud simply begs the questions, “Why did it take them so long,” and “Why have so many evolutionary textbooks continued to promote the idea as established fact proving the theory of evolution, even right into the 21st century, when it was exposed as fake decades earlier?”
In the section on Archaeopteryx, claimed as transitional but disputed by creationists, Pigliucci makes another classic error of logic:
“Wells also does not seem to understand that ancestors can live simultaneously with their descendants… Scientists know of several species… in which the ancestor (i.e. the original species) is still around today, simultaneously with its descendant (i.e. the species assumed to have evolved from it).”
There is all the world of difference between an individual’s direct relatives (i.e. parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren) living simultaneously and two different species (one assumed to have evolved from the other) doing so! However, since natural selection claims to favour the best suited, one expects populations of the less-suited to become extinct and therefore not be living alongside the evolved creatures that superseded them. The obvious question then is, why did all the intermediate forms become extinct while the ‘complete’ forms still remain, when the former are supposed to have evolved and survived long enough to evolve yet again because they were better adapted than the ‘complete’ forms from which they developed?
“Well’s argument: The most famous textbook case of natural selection, the peppered moth, is a fake. Textbook pictures of dark and light moths on polluted trees trunks are staged. The moths don’t actually rest on tree trunks. The original work on this case has been completely dismissed.
The Real story: “(A) Again, the peppered moth case has been revised by evolutionary biologists, not by creationists. This is another case of self- correction in science. (B) The current evidence still very strongly points toward natural selection in response to pollution, but the story is more complex than the original peppered moth research done by Bernard Kettlewell in the 1950s was able to show. (C) There is nothing wrong with staging pictures for illustrative or didactic purposes…”
Firstly, Pigliucci, both in his outline of the Well’s argument and his reply, ignores the key points. The peppered moth has always been presented as an example of ‘evolution of species’, when in fact nothing new has appeared: all that has taken place (if indeed anything happened at all – this too is in dispute) is the proportion of light to dark coloured moths changed, both of which were in existence before the trees became polluted. There is nothing wrong with staging pictures, as long as they show the true picture. In fact the moths do not usually rest on tree trunks but among the leaves in the tree tops. Therefore pollution on tree trunk would have no effect on them. So, portraying them on tree trunks, which is not their normal habitat, is a fraud akin to the Haeckel incident.
Although once again Pigliucci points out it that it was biologists who discovered the distortion of the real story here, once again one has to ask, “Why is this evolutionary con-trick still in so many text books, and still taught in some schools as fact?” Creationists have been pointing out the error for very many years, and have always said that it is indeed evidence of natural selection! Their complaint has always been that it is not evidence of ‘evolution of species’, which he now accepts.
It is interesting to note his reluctance to admit that the peppered moth is not evidence for ‘evolution of species’, but nevertheless is giving grudging agreement to Well’s argument.
“Wells’s Argument: Observed instances of natural selection in Darwin’s famous Galapagos finches have been improperly extrapolated to show that they could explain macroevolutionary difference among species. In reality, the environmental conditions reversed the direction of natural selection, leading to no net change in the current populations of finches…
The Real Story: (A) Extrapolation is a legitimate tool of scientific investigation… However, it does need to be used carefully, which was not the case in the textbooks cited. (B) The importance of the findings regarding the finches is to show that natural selection can cause meaningful morphological changes over a fairly brief period of time… The fact that selection reversed itself in this case over a short period does not imply that it cannot be sustained for longer periods. (C) Even though some of the species of finches do hybridize, as Wells points out in his chapter, modern genetics as demonstrated the existence of several distinct species of finches (not one as Wells claims), all derived from a single ancestral stock… (D) Contrary to what Wells states, countless examples of natural selection have been measured in the field…”
Pigliucci is moving the goalposts here. Evolutionists produce the finches as evidence of ‘evolution of species’ (not merely that they show change can take place quickly), and at my visit to the Natural History Museum in London, the rolling display told me it was the best example we have. Now he accepts that the change that is seen was simply an example of the normal kind of backwards/forwards variation in shape and size that takes place in response to the local environment. No new DNA information has appeared; no step toward a new species has been seen. Note that while he talks about several species of finches, they are still finches and not any other kind of creature. Therefore it is not ‘evolution of species’, but ‘natural selection’.
Once again, “countless examples of natural selection” is exactly what creationists expect to find. What we are waiting for is countless examples of ‘evolution of species’!
He says it gives perfect proof of the rapid change that can take place. Exactly the point creationists make: the large variety in life forms we see today is the result of the down-hill change taking place comparatively quickly from a very much smaller variety of living things at the time of the flood. This is the opposite of evolution, since no new DNA information (other than damage from mutation, so wings and eyes can be lost, but not created where they did not previously exist) has resulted in new ‘kinds’ of life forms.
The evolutionist may try to claim that since these changes can come rapidly, then new life forms can form rapidly too. However this would be based on their error in using the word ‘evolution’ in two different ways. The changes seen in the Galapagos finches, for example, take place throughout the population, since all share similar DNA coding: some will have coding for long thin beaks that is recessive, and coding for short thick beaks that is dominant. For others it will be the other way around. If the food source is best obtained with thick beaks, then those with these beaks will tend to survive, coding for thin beaks become less prevalent and very quickly the population will be seen with thick beaks.
It is even possible for coding to disappear altogether through this process, and it would then require birds with that coding to enter the population from elsewhere in order for thin beaks to become possible again. This is ‘natural selection’ because it is variation in pre-existing DNA coding (not ‘evolution of species’ which requires the appearance of new coding) and can take place very rapidly because the coding that is changed is shared throughout the population, all of which experiences the same environmental pressures.
Mutation can only effect the creature experiencing it, and the odds of two birds experiencing the same mutation are so astronomically high this can be discounted as a possibility. Therefore many generations will have to come and go before it can displace, through natural selection, the rest of the population; and as we saw it is likely to be at least 20 generations before one million mutants can have lived.
On page 259 Pigliucci points out the difficult in getting errors in textbooks corrected, and it is a fair point. However he must accept that it is of considerable irritation to creationists where their viewpoint is discredited on the strength of erroneous information in textbooks teaching evolution as fact. Many people have been persuaded about the validity of evolution on the basis of these fraudulent cases. Indeed one has to wonder how well the theory would survive if all of these errors were indeed removed – particularly if they were replaced by the creationist interpretation of the provable scientific evidence! If you ask the man in the street for evidence of evolution of species, the most likely reply will be the peppered moth and the Galapagos finches, both of which, as Pigliucci has shown, are evidence for ‘natural selection’, not ‘evolution of species’. Common belief in ‘evolution of species’, therefore, is based on erroneous data, as has been the case ever since Darwin published his work.
In a section on the problems within education, on page 265, Pigliucci points out that the belief in the supernatural diminishes as a result of education, although not nearly as much as he would like. This is hardly surprising, bearing in mind that atheistic evolutionists have such a stranglehold in the education system and in the media. After a child has had 10-15 years being told evolution proves there is no god, unless he has balancing information elsewhere he is unlikely to be able to withstand such brainwashing.
In his section on how to improve education, on page 280 he suggests teachers could use creation to give an
“understanding of how science works and why creationism is pseudoscience.”
He is to be congratulated for moving, if only slightly, in the direction of allowing creation to be discussed in the classroom. However it has to be pointed out that if the teachers distort the claims of creationism in the same way he has done in this book, the apparent fair-handedness will be no more than an illusion.
Coda: The controversy that never ends
He briefly sums up his ideas in this short section.
Appendix A: Introduction to and excerpts from David Hulmes’s Dialogues concerning natural religion, where the topic of intelligent design is discussed most thoroughly
Appendix B: Bryan’s last speech
I only briefly skipped through the two appendices, because of lack of time and wishing to concentrate on Pigliucci’s own words. Such old ideas contained in them, which may be of historical interest, do not add a great deal to the debate.
He complains that creationists do not read books by evolutionists. The fact that I have read his book gives the lie to that claim; however, who could blame them if it were true? Why should anyone deliberately allow themselves to be subjected to a constant stream of insult and abuse? If Pigliucci and his colleagues learned to be a little more civilised in their approach, they might find creationists would be rather more inclined to read their work!
I am pleased to have had the opportunity to read this work. It is some time since I read a book that gave me such convincing evidence for the weakness of the evolutionary case. I do see, however, how anyone unfamiliar with real creationist arguments could be fooled into believing otherwise by Pigliucci’s straw man presentation of them here.
It is ironic that years after writing this book, Pigliucci has joined forces with The Third Way, which is a movement of atheistic scientists who therefore refuse to accept any form of creation, but also have realised that Neo-Darwinian evolution is contrary to scientific observation. So they are frantically flailing around trying to find a naturalistic theory that can create a Big Bang from nothing, create an irreducibly complex organism from inanimate matter, and millions of times over increase that irreducible complexity without any kind of intelligent control. It has to be said that they mostly appear to be ignoring the first two issues, even though they are quite clearly essential because without a universe and a living organism in it, there can be no life forms! The home page of their website says:
"The vast majority of people believe that there are only two alternative ways to explain the origins of biological diversity. One way is Creationism that depends upon intervention by a divine Creator. That is clearly unscientific because it brings an arbitrary supernatural force into the evolution process. The commonly accepted alternative is Neo-Darwinism, which is clearly naturalistic science but ignores much contemporary molecular evidence and invokes a set of unsupported assumptions about the accidental nature of hereditary variation. Neo-Darwinism ignores important rapid evolutionary processes such as symbiogenesis, horizontal DNA transfer, action of mobile DNA and epigenetic modifications. Moreover, some Neo-Darwinists have elevated Natural Selection into a unique creative force that solves all the difficult evolutionary problems without a real empirical basis. Many scientists today see the need for a deeper and more complete exploration of all aspects of the evolutionary process."
In other words, at least some of the observations made by creationists that Pigliucci rejected in this book, he now accepts as valid. Of course, the sentence writing off creationism as unscientific in the above statement is in itself unscientific! A scientific theory is one that takes into account all observations and abandons any hypothesis that conflicts with any of them. The very existence of The Third Way is evidence that all naturalistic theories proposed are incapable of creating either the universe or the living things in it that we can observe and they also conflict with observation. At the same time there is no observation that conflicts with what one would expect to see had there been a Creator. Therefore creation is most certainly in keeping with scientific methodology.
Pigliucci's attitude is the same as that of some 18th century scientists who believed that it was impossible for heavier than air machines to fly, so would not consider it. Based on his religious belief that God does not exist he refuses to take a scientific attitude and automatically discounts any hypothesis that involves Intelligent Design. Never was there a clearer case of:
But God shows His anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because He has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn't worship Him as God or even give Him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.
Romans 1:18-22 (NLT)
In spite of Pigliucci’s parody of Bryan in the Scope’s trial, his last speech (on page 306) is well-considered and intelligent: particularly when bearing in mind the limitation of scientific knowledge and general outlook of the day.
I conclude with one small part of what he said, which is as true today as the day he said it!
P306 William Jennings Bryan, one of the prosecutors at the Scopes trial:
“Christians must, in every state of the Union, build their own colleges in which to teach Christianity; it is only simple justice that atheists, agnostics and unbelievers should build their own colleges if they want to teach their own religious views or attack the religious views of others… Some of the more rash advocates of evolution are wont to say that evolution is as firmly established as the law of gravitation or the Copernican theory. The absurdity of such a claim is apparent when we remember that anyone can prove the law of gravitation by throwing a weight into the air, and that anyone can prove the roundness of the earth by going around it, while no one can prove evolution to be true in any way whatever… the evolutionary hypothesis, carried to its logical conclusion, disputes every vital truth of the Bible. Its tendency, natural, if not inevitable, is to lead those who really accept it, first to agnosticism and then to atheism. Evolutionists attack the truth of the Bible, not openly at first, but by using weasel-words like “poetical,” “symbolical,” and “allegorical” to suck the meaning out the inspired record of man’s creation.”
Quotations from 'Denying Evolution are used on the principle of ‘fair use’
All scripture is taken from the New King James Version.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations labelled NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004.
Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream,, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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