Re: Reply to creationist students #2

Stephen Jones (
Fri, 03 Apr 98 06:12:28 +0800


On Wed, 18 Mar 98 14:42:06 -0500, Steven Schafersman wrote:

SS>Members of this email list may be interested in something I posted
>on the web at



This following multi-part post is a response to your web page post
above. For clarity I will format the posts as though they were
recieved via email with angle brackets and intials before yours and
Anderson's words, and anything else is my own words.

>A Reply to Creationist Students at Miami University
>Steven Schafersman
>The halls of Pearson Hall, the biology building at Miami University
>in Oxford, Ohio, were plastered with flyers bearing the provocative
>titles, "Macroevolution . . . Philosophy or Science?" and "The Case
>Against Neo-Darwinism . . . Examine the Facts for Yourself," and
>knowing my interest, a zoology professor kindly gave two of them
>to me.

Presumably the flyers critical of Neo-Darwinism were torn down by
this "kindly" "zoology professor"? If so, what ever happened to the
university as a cradle of dissent? Of "I don't agree with what you
say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"?

SS>The sheets advertised a website at
> titled "Evolution Reexamined: A
>Survey of the Scientific Case Against Darwinism" and written by
>Josh Anderson. The website requested that comments be sent to
>Josh Anderson or Larry Robinson, and so after quickly reading the
>website, I obliged with the following email message sent to Mr.

SS>Your creationist website is filled with all the classic methods
>used by creationists: quotes out of context, misleading quotes,
>irrelevant quotes, out-of-date quotes, quotes of creationist
>pseudoscientists posing as scientists, quotes of legitimate
>scientists used misleadingly to support contentions they did not
>intend and that are not true, quotes by "authorities" (such as
>Phillip Johnson) who are not scientific authorities but rather
>creationist apologists and polemicists, deliberate misunderstandings
>and misinterpretations of the evidence for evolution, willful
>misrepresentation of the theory of evolution, willful ignorance of
>evidence and decisive counter-arguments of your positions,
>deliberate ignorance of all the evidence and anti-creationist arguments
>presented in dozens of books by evolutionary scientists in recent
>years, illogical arguments, specious reasoning, half-truths and
>untruths presented as truths, sophistry posing as scholarship, and
>pseudoscience posing as science. You should be ashamed of
>yourselves. Steven Schafersman

This intemperate outburst is self-refuting. How could *one* website
be "filled with ALL the classic methods used by creationists"? You
reveal in fact many of the "classic methods" used by *evolutionists*
to discredit in advance any attempts by creationists to critique
evolution, so that their arguments don't even have to be considered.
But it is this very evasive tactics that makes me suspect that
Darwinists are trying to conceal something. Indeed, it is *you* a
mature man and Uiniversity Professor who "should be ashamed of
yoursel", not these young students!

SS>I soon received the following email reply, alternately impudent
>and courteous by turn, from Mr. Anderson:

After what you just wrote, I think you have got a hide to say that this
young student's respectful reply was "impudent"!

JA>Thanks for your response. I'm just about to leave for spring
>break so at the moment I don't have time to respond to your claims.
>However, for the moment allow me to say that to the best of my
>knowledge I did not misrepresent any of my sources. I can't think
>of any quotes that are taken out of context. The vast majority of them
>are self-contained statements that express concise ideas. When
>Steven Stanely said he didn't see any major phyletic transitions in
>the fossil record, that is what he meant. When molecular biologist
>Michael Denton said that the molecular data contradicts the theory
>that's what he meant. When Gould said that the lack of transitional
>forms in the fossil record was the trade secret of paleontology I
>don't think he was joking. When Crick and Hoyle say that prebotic
>evolution seems mathematically and conceptually very problematic I
>think they were expressing a concise, straight-forward truth. I
>could go on and on and on. The point is, you'll have to be much
>more specific if you accusations are to hold any water.

Agreed. How about pointing out *which* quotes are "out of
context", "misleading", "irrelevant", "out-of-date", etc. But first,
please state your criteria *in advance* so that the offending quotes
can be fairly evaluated.

JA>Please examine the ideas themselves and don't dismiss them
>because you believe they come from unworthy sources like Phillip

In fact this is what's called by philosophers "the genetic fallacy". In
science it doesn't matter where ideas come from. What matters is
whether they are *true*. You need to show *where* Johnson is
wrong, not just rule him out of court because he threatens your
cherished evolutionary dogmas. That sort of evasive tactics might
apply in politics, but it is not supposed to apply in *science*.

JA>If you can criticise the statements and propositions in the paper
>themselves then we can talk. Until then realize that I am aware of
>the arguments that are used by evolutionists to support macro-
>evolution. Ultimately I believe they are empty. If you think I have
>used illogical arguments or half-truths tell me, in the name of truth,
>where? Friend, I respect you position but so far you have only been
>making bold statements without any real backing or counter-

Mr Anderson is being more generous than I. I cannot even say that "I
respect your position", while you employ such ad hominem tactics.

JA>After break I would be more than happy to go dialogue with you
>about any of these issues. If you think I would help I would be more
>than willing to get together with you. I stand behind my research. In
>a sense you have payed me a very large but misguided compliment.
>If you think that I have the rhetorical power to manipulate hundreds
>of quotes and sources to say something that they do not in fact say
>then you have greatly over-estimated my capacities.

Good point!

JA>Again thank you for the response. No one could write so
>passionately unless they were concerned for the truth. That
>commands my respect. If you haven't done so read the entire paper
>and think things through again. I hope to hear from you after break.
>Josh Anderson

Unfortunately, I must disagree with Mr Anderson here. I do not
conclude that just because one believes "passionately" in something
that they are "concerned for the truth." If you were indeed
"concerned for the truth" you would calmly, courteously, patiently
and objectively listen to creationist arguments and where they are
right, give credit where credit is due. That you don't do that, indicates
to me that you are more "concerned" for protecting your `religion':
the materialistic-naturalistic theory of evolution.

SS>I expected such an answer: creationists really desire to be taken
>seriously by others--in the same way they see themselves! They are
>always asking scientists to respond to their criticisms of evolution,
>and when scientists do so, creationists bring up more off-the-wall
>arguments, and so it never ends.

Apart from stereotyping in advance all "creationists", without even
bothering to hear and grapple with what Mr Anderson has to say, this
is self-evidently false. If evolutionist *did* "respond" to creationists'
"criticisms of evolution" and forced creationists to "bring up more
off-the- wall arguments" then evolutionists would be winning and the
debate would soon "end" with evolutionists triumphant and
creationists defeated. But it is *precisely* because evolutionists
*don't* properly "respond to their criticisms of evolution" that
creationists keep bringing up the same arguments again and again.

SS>Entering into a dialogue with creationists is like stepping into a
>black hole where logic and evidence have meanings different than
>in the natural world of objective reality that we live in, and no
>ultimate agreement is possible.

This is a patently self-serving argument, adopted to protect you from
coming to grips with the *best* creationists arguments. While
"*ultimate* agreement" may not be "possible" between creationists
and evolutionists, it should be still possible to consider creationists'
arguments on their merits and respond to them, in order to at least
reduce the areas of disagreement.

SS>It is disingenuous for Mr. Anderson to want me to respond
>specifically to his creationist arguments, as if there was actually a
>controversy within science about the fact of evolution.

This is vacuous. The term "evolution" can be defined so broadly that
it is impossible to dispute that it is a "fact". For example, it can simply
mean "any change in any thing":

"The term 'evolution', as Mayr (1982) points out, has had many
meanings. In its loosest sense, it is used to describe any change in any
thing." (Selkirk D.R. & F.J. Burrows, eds., "Confronting
Creationism: Defending Darwin," 1988, p19).

What is necessary in a scientific theory to specify *how* that change
took place, as Darwin himself pointed out:

"In considering the Origin of Species, it is quite conceivable that a
naturalist, reflecting on the mutual affinities of organic beings, on
their embryological relations, their geographical distribution,
geological succession, and other such facts, might come to the
conclusion that species had not been independently created, but had
descended, like varieties, from other species. Nevertheless, such a
conclusion, even if well founded, would be unsatisfactory, until it
could be shown how the innumerable species inhabiting this world
have been modified, so as to acquire that perfection of structure and
coadaptation which justly excites our admiration." (Darwin C., "The
Origin of Species", 6th edition, Everyman's Library, 1967 reprint,

That the *how* is all-important can be seen by the fact that if a
supernatural Intelligent Designer has in fcat intervened at strategic
points in the history of life, then the better word to use is "creation".

SS>He challenges me to be "specific" and "criticise the statements
>and propositions in the paper themselves then we can talk," as if I
>don't have anything better to do with my time. While such a
>request seems fair, in fact any effort of mine to do this would be
>useless in argument with Mr. Anderson, since his reasons for
>accepting creationism and disbelieving evolution have nothing to
>do with "statements" and "propositions," that is, with evidence and
>logical arguments, because the scientific evidence and logical
>arguments for evolution are well-known and equally well-
>documented in scientific journals and books, and they haven't
>convinced him yet. What more does he think I can do?

How about stating exactly: 1) what it is you mean by "evolution"; 2)
what are the "evidence and logical arguments" to support "evolution"
(according to your defintion); and 3) what are the arguments
*against* it?

As for the last point 3), please (in Feynman's words):

"...try to give all the information to help others to judge the value of
your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in
one particular direction or another.'" (Johnson P.E., "Defeating
Darwinism by Opening Minds," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove
Ill., 1997, p46)

SS>Creationists like to get into public arguments with scientists
>because, when they do, it appears to the scientifically-untrained
>public that a genuine controversy exists within science about the
>truth of evolution, when actually that is not the case.

Again, you need to define "evolution". If "evolution" is just "change
over time" or "change in gene frequencies in a population", who
would deny it?

Besides, quoting "science" as though it was monolithic, is misleading.
Since the vast majority of scientists are not specialists in "evolution"
they are just believing what they are told by the tiny minority who
are. And even then they may be being misled by those with a
philosophical axe to grind:

"when scientists transgress the bounds of their own specialty they
have no choice but to accept the claims of authority, even though
they do not know how solid the grounds of those claims may be.
Who am I to believe that quantum physics if not Steven Weinberg, or
about the solar system if not Carl Sagan? What worries me is that
they may believe what Dawkins and Wilson tell them about
evolution." (Lewontin R., "Billions and Billions of Demons", review
of "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark" by
Carl Sagan, New York Review, January 9, 1997, pp30-31)

SS>This is the reason creationists are always seeking to debate
>scientists about evolution; no matter what the scientist says and
>how strong are his or her arguments against the creationist, the
>scientist will lose a debate because debating a creationist makes it
>appear to an audience that there must be a legitimate controversy
>concerning evolution and creationism, for the scientist was willing
>to publically debate a creationist over the issue.

Here you cleverly set up the definition of the terms "evolution" (a
fact) versus "creationism" (an ideology) so that you have already won
the debate before it even starts:

"The essay by National Academy of Sciences President Bruce
Alberts, "Evolution Versus Creationism: Don't Pit Science Against
Religion," was published in The Denver Post, September 10, 1996, p.
B9....One thing to notice right away is the title: the debate is set up as
pitting creationism (that is, an ideology) against evolution (no ism,
therefore a fact). No matter what the evidence may be, an ideology
(especially a religious ideology) can never beat a "fact" in a debate
conducted under scientific rules." (Johnson P.E., "Defeating
Darwinism by Opening Minds," 1997, p124)

SS>Just convincing an audience of the appearance of a scientific
>controversy is a victory for the creationist, even though it is a lie,
>and the scientist gives that to the creationist just by showing up. I
>have been active in opposing pseudoscience in the United States
>for over twenty years, and I have frequently advised scientists to
>not debate creationists in most circumstances.

This is the dogmatic language of a secular `religion' in power, and not
that of an open-minded science with nothing to hide.

SS>The truth is that the existence in nature of evolution, natural
>selection, microevolution, and macroevolution have been well-
>established by scientists for over 100 years, there is no legitimate
>scientific objection to them, and no reason to debate or "dialogue"
>about them.

This is misleading. First, the word "evolution" is vacuous and can
mean just about anything:

"Make sure people don't mislead you by using vague terms that
can suddenly take on a new meaning. In the creation-evolution
debate, the key terms that are subject to manipulation are `science'
and `evolution'. Everybody is in favor of science, and everybody
also believes in evolution-when that term is defined broadly
enough! But `science' has more than one definition, and so does
`evolution'. Watch out for "bait and switch" tactics, by which you
are led to agree with a harmless definition and then the term is
used in a very different sense. Here's an example of how you can be
deceived: "You believe in dog breeding, don't you? Well, did you
know that dog breeding is an example of evolution? Now that you
know that, and have seen all those breeds of dogs for yourself, you
realize that you actually do believe in evolution, don't you? Good.
That's enough for today. Later on we'll tell you more about what
evolution means." (It's going to mean that all living things are the
accidental products of a purposeless universe.)" (Johnson P.E.,
"Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds," 1997, p44)

Secondly, all creationists accept "natural selection", and
"microevolution". Indeed, regarding the latter it is the *Neo-
Darwinists* who have problems with the term!

The only real area of disagreement between creationists and
evolutionists (and indeed *between* evolutionists) is in the area of
"macroevolution". So bringing in the other terms is just a
smokescreen to make creationists look worse than they are. That
Darwinists indulge in these type of verbal tricks constantly, persuades
me that their theory cannot stand up on its own two feet. Otherwise,
why do it?

SS>Scientific issues are not decided that way, anyway, especially
>when they have been non-issues for over a century! Evolution is a
>fact, as factual as the existence of gravity and drifting continents,
>and its factualness has been a noncontroversial subject of
>instruction at all major universities in the world since the 1870's. In
>the United States, only Bible colleges teach that evolution is not

Firstly, this is just more manipulation of the word "evolution". Even
the most avid young-Earth creationist will agree that many things that
come under the umbella term "evolution" are a "fact". The real
question is whether *macroevolution* is "as factual as the existence
of gravity and drifting continents". These two examples are present-
day phenomena which can be observed and measured in the here and
now, and are accepted by most people. But "macroevolution" cannot be
observed or measured as Neo-Darwinism co-founder Theodosius
Dobzhansky admitted:

"These evolutionary happenings are unique, unrepeatable, and
irreversible. It is as impossible to turn a land vertebrate into a fish as
it is to effect the reverse transformation. The applicability of the
experimental method to the study of such unique historical processes
is severely restricted before all else by the time intervals involved,
which far exceed the lifetime of any human experimenter. And yet, it
is just such impossibility that is demanded by anti- evolutionists when
they ask for "proofs" of evolution which they would magnanimously
accept as satisfactory." (Dobzhansky T., "On Methods of
Evolutionary Biology and Anthropology", Part 1, "Biology",
American Scientist, Vol. 45, No. 5, December 1957, p388, in
Moreland J.P. ed., "The Creation Hypothesis", 1994, pp277-278)

Secondly, this is also just an argument from authority. That all
"universities" teach evolution is true and only "Bible Colleges" teach
that it's not true, is irrelevant. The real question is whether fully
naturalistic evolution can be demonstrated empirically to be a fact
without relying on question-begging naturalistic assumptions. After
all, if there is a God who really did guide and/or intervene in the
history life, then on the issue of macroevolution, the universities are
wrong and the Bible Colleges are right!

SS>The genuine scientific controversy about evolution--and its
>opposition by creationism--was the battle fought over a century
>and a half ago, and creationism lost then.

This is just Darwinist propaganda. That *some forms* of non-Biblical
"creationism", eg. the separate creation of each *species* in each
location (as taught by philosophical idealists like Linnaeus and
Agassiz), were shown to be false by Darwin's island evidence, does
not mean that "creationism" *itself* "lost" "the battle" for *all time*.

I've got bad news for you. Creationism is alive and well and
naturalistic evolution will be forced to concede that in the early years
of the 21st Century.

SS>As Thomas Henry Huxley said in the previous century about
>this battle, "We can't go on taking the time to slay dragons that are
>already dead."

Huxley's and your mistake is thinking that just because creationism
was *wounded*, that it was *killed*! But if you want to put your
head in the sand and ignore what's happening within creationism,
that's OK by me! It just makes our job easier.

SS>There are, of course, still problems, uncertainties, and mysteries
>about the mechanism of the evolutionary process, and these are
>objects of genuine investigation and controversy among
>evolutionary scientists today, but no legitimate scientist today
>questions the facts of evolution and natural selection, no matter
>how hard creationists try by the use of selective quotes to make it
>appear that they do.

No creationist "questions" *some* of the "facts of evolution" and
certainly not "natural selection".

But that there are "still problems, uncertainties, and mysteries about
the mechanism of the evolutionary process" after 140 years, is good
evidence that the "mechanism" at its heart, was *not* an
"evolutionary process"!

SS>Although I am under no illusion that my efforts below will
>convince Mr. Anderson of the error of his creationist arguments and
>beliefs I nevertheless am going to ignore my own advice and write
>replies after each paragraph copied directly from the website created
>by Mr. Anderson (and you can go to his website if you want to see
>his references). My remarks will be in blue text. I am undertaking
>this for the education and caution of Miami University students who
>are not trained in science and who have not already been
>indoctrinated by creationist polemics and sophistry, and who may
>thus fall prey to the superficial and specious arguments that Mr.
>Anderson uses in his website.!

So after all the lofty huffing and puffing about not wasting time
arguing against creationists, in the end you have no alternative but to
do it! The fact is that you have taught young people to be sceptical of
arguments cloaked in authority, and they have turned it against
Darwinism. Polls consistently show despite indoctrination in
evolution for over a century, a large percentage (if not a majority) of
university students do not believe in fully naturalistic evolution, but in
fact still believe in various forms of creationism

SS>I am both a scientist and a public opponent of pseudoscience, so
>I take a personal as well as professional interest in seeing that
>correct science is taught to students and other educated citizens.

If you really believed that you would also teach the problems with the
"science" called "evolution". And you would not use "science" to
further your materialistic-naturalistic philosophical and anti-theistic

SS>Furthermore, I am knowledgeable about creationist arguments; in
>fact, I have seen Mr. Anderson's specific arguments many times
>before. His arguments have been examined and refuted in books
>and essays written by a number of legitimate scientists, including
>myself, but these may not be readily available to the average
>person, so I am going to repeat some of those analyses here.


SS>Another major problem that scientists have to deal with when
>answering creationist arguments is the sheer density of untruths,
>half-truths, illogical arguments, misrepresentations,
>misunderstandings, etc. that are found in most creationist
>literature. It quickly becomes an enormous effort on the part of the
>scientist to cogently refute creationist arguments--which is why
>most scientists just ignore the stuff, despite the fact that the material
>angers them, especially when they think of how it confuses and
>misleads students and other individuals who have a real curiousity
>about the workings of nature.

Apart from defeating your own argument that "Evolution is a fact, as
factual as the existence of gravity and drifting continents", this
sounds like making excuses in advance in case you lose the debate!

SS>In most cases, not only must a scientist respond to every factual
>and logical error, but one often finds oneself obliged to explain
>scientific data, hypotheses, theories, methods, philosophy, and
>history to adequately impart an understanding of why the
>creationist is wrong.

In other words, evolution cannot stand on its own two feet but must
be bolstered by "philosophy", ie. materialism (matter is all there is)
and naturalism (nature is all there is), to make its case. But
if that "philosophy" is assumed apriori, then evolution is true by
definition. If matter and nature are all there is, then there is no
God, and nature had to do its own creating, therefore evolution
simply must be true, regardless of the evidence.

SS>In short, often the only way to refute a creationist is to give the
>listener or reader a basic science education: the science education
>that that person should have already received during his or her
>primary and secondary education--but often didn't. And this is an
>enormous effort on the part of the scientist writing the reply:
>notoriously, it is usually necessary to write much more than the
>creationist to correct his or her errors, confusions,
>misrepresentations, and illogical arguments.

You sound like a broken record! I think we have all got the message
that evolution is so complicated and mysterious that it can't be
explained to the uninitiated!

SS>This is why (sigh) almost all scientists ignore creationist
>propaganda, to the detriment of the nonscientifically-trained public
>who read this stuff and fall prey to its superficially convincing

The point is that "almost all scientists" would not know all that much
about evolution, let alone creation. And of those scientists who do
know anything about evolution, many of them have doubts about it,
but are afraid to speak out. Palaeontologist E.C. Olson, one of the
speakers at the Darwinian Centennial elebration at Chicago in 1959,
made the following statement on that occasion:

"There exists, as well, a generally silent group of students engaged in
biological pursuits who tend to disagree with much of the current
thought, but say and write little because they are not particularly
interested, do not see that controversy over evolution is of any
particular importance, or are so strongly in disagreement that it seems
futile to undertake the monumental task of controverting the immense
body of information and theory that exists in the formulation of
modern thinking. It is, of course, difficult to judge the size and
composition of this silent segment, but there is no doubt that the
numbers are not inconsiderable." (E.C. Olson, in Evolution After
Darwin, Vol. 1: The Evolution of Life, ed. by Sol Tax, University of
Chicago Press, Chicago, 1960, p523, in Gish D.T., "Evolution: The
Challenge of the Fossil Record", 1986, p17)

SS>I am a professional paleontologist who specializes in problems
>concerning the process of evolution in the fossil record, so to make
>my task easier I am only going to respond to two of Josh
>Anderson's sections, "The Challenge of the Fossil Record" and
>"Punctuated Equilibrium," because I know these topics pretty well
>and can respond to them easily without having to look up the
>references. But I assert that the other sections of his website are
>equally as bad as these two, and I could write similar responses to
>these if I wanted to take the time (I invite others to do so and put
>them on their own websites; tell me about them and I will be glad to
>link them here). I will provide some general scientific references at
>the end of my remarks (these would be a few of the ones that I
>claimed--in my original email response to Mr. Anderson--that he
>ignored in his attack on evolution) as well as the addresses of some
>good websites that discuss and refute creationist claims.

I do not expect that I will agree either with everything that Mr
Anderson writes, especially if he leans too heavily on specifically
young-Earth creationist distinctives. But YEC is not the only
creationist position:

"The essential point of creation has nothing to do with the timing or
the mechanism the Creator chose to employ, but with the element of
design or purpose. In the broadest sense, a "creationist" is simply a
person who believes that the world (and especially mankind) was
designed, and exists for a purpose." (Johnson P.E., "Darwin on
Trial", p115)

SS>My own email address is at the bottom of this page. As a Miami
>University geology professor, I would be happy to answer any
>email message from any Miami student about this topic (as I would
>about any geological or paleontological topic, and I might add that
>I get questions from individuals from all over the world who have
>seen one of my geological and paleontological websites, and I try
>to answer them all). Anything you send me, however, may be
>added to this website along with my response, so be nice!

I have no problem with my responses being added to your web site,
but I may be too busy to respond to evolutionist replies if there are a
lot of them. I would however like to hear feedback from creationists.



Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\
3 Hawker Avenue / Oz \
Warwick 6024 ->*_,--\_/ Phone +61 8 9448 7439
Perth, West Australia v "Test everything." (1Thess 5:21)