Re: Reply to creationist students #4

Stephen Jones (
Tue, 14 Apr 98 06:20:38 +0800

Steven (and Josh)

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


JA>Darwin himself was well aware of the state of affairs. He knew
>that his theory required that "the number of intermediate and
>transitional links between all living and extinct species must have
>been inconceivably great."(73) At the same time, he was very
>forward about the facts: "As by this theory, innumerable transitional
>forms must have existed. Why do we not find them imbedded in the
>crust of the earth? Why is all nature not in confusion instead of
>being as we see them, well defined species? Geological research
>does not yield the infinitely many gradations between past and
>present species required by my theory."(74) This, according to
>Darwin, was "the most obvious and gravest objection which can be
>raised against my theory."(75)

This was part of Darwin's rhetorical style of defence. He gave the
appearance of being honest before the facts (to appease his many
scientific critics), but he was in reality unswerving in pushing
his anti-creationist, materialist agenda:

"Darwin should have felt even more ashamed for having spoken in his
Autobiography of his imperceptibly slow "evolution" from belief into
mere agnosticism. As one who through much of his adult life had to
dissimulate his true views lest a deeply religious and beloved wife be
hurt, Darwin finally came to believe that he was not dissimulating
anything. He might have been cured of his illusion about the evolution
of his religious beliefs had he reread in his late years his early
Notebooks. Available since the early 1970s in easily accessible
edition, those Notebooks make it absolutely clear that the Darwin of
the late 1830s was a crude and crusading materialist. There was no
gradual evolution from the official naturalist of the Beagle who, as
behove a good fundamentalist, had lectured shipmates with Bible in
hand on the evil of swearing, to the author of those Notebooks." (Jaki
S.L., "The Absolute beneath the Relative and Other Essays", 1988,

JA>Darwin noted that "all the most eminent paleontologists...all our
>greatest geologists... have unanimously, often vehemently,
>maintained the immutability of species."(76) He later writes: "I do
>not pretend that I should ever have suspected how poor a record of
>the mutations of life, the best preserved geological section
>presented, had not the difficulty of our not discovering innumerable
>transitional links between species which appeared at the
>commencement and close of each formation, pressed so hardly on
>my theory."(77)

Josh, we must be careful here in falling into the trap of identifying
creationism with the "immutability of species". This was a medieval
doctrine that was based, not on the Bible, but on pagan philosophy:

"To step back into the nineteenth century would cause us culture
shock in many ways. One of the shocks would come when we
realized what was commonly believed about creation. Before
evolution became popular, creation was the accepted scientific model
of the universe and of humans. However, it was a type of creationism
that few of us would recognize and no biblical creationist did or
would endorse. The concept was known as the Great Chain of Being,
patterned not after Moses but after Plato. According to this concept
the Almighty had created a great ladder or chain of living things, from
single- celled organisms all the way up to humans, each organism
being a bit rnore complex than the one below it. All of nature fit into
this ascending organizational scale. Like the keys on a piano, each
organism was discrete but a bit higher in the organization and more
complex than le one below it. Just as there are no missing keys on a
piano, there could be no spaces or gaps in this ladder (no extinction).
This Great Chain of Being looked much like an evolutionary
progression, but it was static. Each organism was created by the
Almighty in its particular slot and did not evolve upward.With the
discovery of fossils...when it could no longer be denied that fossils
were legitimate remains of past life, some of which was extinct, some
people rejected the whole concept of creation. This misunderstanding
of the biblical account of creation helped pave the way for the
acceptance of evolution as the only viable alternative. It is not
unusual for people to begin with a wrong idea of what the Bible
teaches, reject that view, and then reject the entire Bible because "the
Bible is unscientific." This is what Darwin did. Most people today
believe that Darwin disproved biblical creationism and proved
evolution." (Lubenow M.L., "Bones of Contention," 1992, pp93-94)

SS>These quotations from Darwin's Origin of Species are correct and
>well-known among paleontologists.

This admission that some of Josh's quotes are "correct" contradicts
(at least in part) your original claim that:

"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."

SS>As I discussed above, Darwin and his successors did not use the
>fossil record as evidence for evolution or any specific theory of
>evolution until the 20th century, because the "innumerable
>transitional forms" between species were not found as fossils in his

They have not been found today either:

"Darwin predicted that the fossil record should show a reasonably
smooth continuum of ancestor-descendant pairs with a satisfactory
number of intermediates between major groups Darwin even went so
far as to say that if this were not found in the fossil record, his general
theory of evolution would be in serious jeopardy. Such smooth
transitions were not found in Darwin's time, and he explained this in
part on the basis of an incomplete geologic record and in part on the
lack of study of that record. We are now more than a hundred years
after Darwin and the situation is little changed. Since Darwin a
tremendous expansion of paleontological knowledge has taken place,
and we know much more about the fossil record than was known in
his time, but the basic situation is not much different. We actually
may have fewer examples of smooth transition than we had in
Darwin's time because some of the old examples have turned out to
be invalid when studied in more detail. To be sure, some new
intermediate or transitional forms have been found, particularly
among land vertebrates. But if Darwin were writing today, he would
probably still have to cite a disturbing lack of missing links or
transitional forms between the major groups of organisms." (Raup
D.M., "Geological and Paleontological Arguments", in Godfrey L.R.,
ed., "Scientists Confront Creationism", 1983, p156)

SS>But Darwin's argumentative style was to state anticipated
>objections to his theory, only to refute them in his next paragraph.

This is half-right. "Darwin's argumentative style" was indeed "to state
anticipated objections to his theory" but he did not "*refute* them-his
technique was to explained away the difficulties with skilful rhetoric,
as Himmelfarb points out:

"Like many revolutionaries, Darwin embarked upon this
revolutionary enterprise in the most innocent and reasonable spirit.
He started out by granting the hypothetical nature of his theory and
went on to defend the use of hypotheses in science, such hypotheses
being justified if they explained a sufficiently large number of facts.
His own theory, he continued, was "rendered in some degree
probable" by one set of facts and could be tested and confirmed by
another-among which he included the geological succession of
organic beings. It was because it "explained" both these bodies of
facts that it was removed from the status of a mere hypothesis and
elevated to the rank of a well- grounded theory." This procedure, by
which one of the major difficulties of the theory was made to bear
witness in its favor, can only be accounted for by a confusion in the
meaning of "explain"-between the sense in which facts are
"explained" by a theory and the sense in which difficulties may be
"explained away." It is the difference between compliant facts which
lend themselves to the theory and refractory ones which do not and
can only be brought into submission by a more or less plausible
excuse. By confounding the two, both orders of explanation, both
orders of fact, were entered on the same side of the ledger, the credit
side. Thus the "difficulties" he had so candidly confessed to were
converted into assets.This technique for the conversion of
possibilities into probabilities and liabilities into assets was the more
effective the longer the process went on.." (Himmelfarb G., "Darwin
and the Darwinian Revolution," 1996, pp334-335)

In particular regarding Darwin's Difficulties of the Theory" chapter in
the Origin, Himmelfarb writes:

"In the chapter entitled "Difficulties on Theory" the solution of each
difficulty in turn came more easily to Darwin as he triumphed over-
not simply disposed of-fee preceding one. The reader was put under a
constantly mounting obligation; if he accepted one explanation, he
was committed to accept the next. Having first agreed to the theory
in cases where only some of the transitional stages were missing, the
reader was expected to acquiesce in those cases where most of the
stages were missing, and finally in those where there was no evidence
of stages at all. Thus, by the time t{he problem of the eye was under
consideration, Darwin was insisting that anyone who had come with
him so far could not rightly hesitate to go further. In the same spirit,
he rebuked those naturalists who held that while some reputed
species were varieties rather than real species, other species were
real. Only the kindness of preconceived opinion," he held, could make
them balk at going the whole way-as if it was not precisely the
propriety of going the whole way that was at issue." (Himmelfarb,
1996, p335)

SS>Creationists like Josh Anderson love to quote Darwin's self-
>criticism--the objections--but always artfully omit Darwin's
>refutation of that same criticism.

See above. Even Darwin did not claim his suggested solutions were
"refutations" of the objections. The word "refutation" (and its
cognates) only appears *once* in the Origin, and that in a quote of
someone else. All Darwin claimed was that to the best of his
*judgment* most of the difficulties were apparent and those that
were real he *thought* were not fatal to his theory:

"Long before the reader has arrived at this part of my work, a crowd
of difficulties will have occurred to him. Some of them are so serious
that to this day I can hardly reflect on them without being in some
degree staggered; but, to the best of my judgment, the greater
number are only apparent, and those that are real are not, I think,
fatal to the theory." (Darwin C., "The Origin of Species", 6th Edition,
Everyman's Library 1967 reprint, p156)

While some creationists do omit Darwin's so-called "refutation" of
the objections, not all do. For example, Bird mentiones both Darwin's
difficulty and his proposed solution:

"A further example is the eye with its complex lens, retina, optical
serves, and other parts. Darwin wrote in 1860 that "the eye to this
day gives me a cold shudder," (Darwin F., ed., "The Life and Letters
of Charles Darwin," 1887, Vol. 2, p67) and explained his reasons as

`To suppose that the eye, with all of its inimitable contrivances for
adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different
amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic
aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I
freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. Yet reason tells
me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to
one very imperfect and simple each grade being useful to its
possessor, can be shown to exist; if further the eye does vary ever so
slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case;
and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an
animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of
believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural
selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be
considered real.'(Darwin C., "The Origin of Species," 1st ed., 1964
repr., pp186-87 ).

Although Darwinian conjecture was that the absurdity of forming a
complex eye by natural selection would be overcome, the "numerous
gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and
simple?' do not exist in nature and remain highly improbable, and his
wish that "each grade [is] useful to its possessor" multiplies the

(Bird W.R., "The Origin of Species Revisited," 1991 Vol. I, p73)

Mike Berhe also examines Darwin's attempted explanation of how the
eye came to be:

"Using reasoning like this, Darwin convinced many of his readers that
an evolutionary pathway leads from the simplest light-sensitive spot
to the sophisticated camera-eye of man. But the question of how
vision began remained unanswered. Darwin persuaded much of the
world that a modern eye evolved gradually from a simpler structure,
but he did not even try to explain where his starting point-the
relatively simple light-sensitive spot-came from. On the contrary,
Darwin dismissed the question of the eye's ultimate origin: How a
nerve comes to be sensitive to light hardly concerns us more than
how life itself originated." (Darwin C., "Origin of Species", 6th ed.,
p151, in Behe M.J., "Darwin's Black Box,", 1996, pp16-18).

SS>The classic case of this involves Darwin's discussion of the
>evolution of the eye: Darwin acknowledges that critics will say
>that intermediate steps can be of no use to an organism, but then
>Darwin explains in detail how the intermediate steps ARE useful
>and also gives examples of all those found in nature.

Darwin did *not* "explain in detail how the intermediate steps are
useful" - he just gave a brilliant *rhetorical* argument worthy of a
con-man. Here are the steps:

1. Appear to be candid in admitting the problem, to deflect the critics'
own objection:

"To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for
adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different
amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic
aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I
freely confess, absurd in the highest degree." (Darwin C., "The Origin
of Species", 6th edition, Everyman's Library, 1967, p167)

2. Weaken counter-arguments based on common-sense by appealling
to a past example where common-sense failed:

"When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned
round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but
the old saying of " Vox populi, vox Dei." as every philosopher
knows, cannot be trusted in science." (Darwin C., 1967, p167)

3. Use Fallacious, apriori, question-begging argument:

3A. "Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and
imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist..."
(Darwin C., 1967, p167)

Such "gradations" exist only as a series in unrelated animals.

3B. "...each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the
case;" (Darwin C., 1967, p167)

Begs the question. It is not "certainly the case" at all. Darwin has not
*shown* that these different "grades" of eyes were "each...useful to
its possessor". He just *assumes* they were by a tautologous
argument. In any even, he has to show that "each grade being"
*more* "useful to its possessor" than the previous "grade." That he
hasn't even formulated as the problem, let alone proposed a solution!

3C. "...if, further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited,
as is likewise certainly the case" (Darwin C., 1967, p167)

Again, begging the question. Again it is not "certainly the case".
Darwin has not *shown* that "variations" in the eye of the type
requeired even *occur*, let alone are "inherited".

3D. "...and if such variations should be useful to any animal under
changing conditions of life" (Darwin C., 1967, p167)

Too vague to be tested. What exactly are these "variations" and how
exactly are the "useful"? What "animal(s)" and what "changing
conditions of life"?

And why have the more primitive "grades" lasted, when the more
advanced "grades" are still with us:

"The swimming mollusc Nautilus, a rather strange squid-like creature
that lives in a shell like the extinct ammonites...has a pair of pinhole
cameras for eyes. The eye is basically the same shape as ours but
there is no lens and the pupil is just a hole that lets the seawater into
the hollow interior of the eye. Actually, Nautilus is a bit of a puzzle in
its own right. Why, in all the hundreds of millions of years since its
ancestors first evolved a pinhole eye, did it never discover the
principle of the lens? The advantage of a lens is that it allows the
image to be both sharp and bright. What is worrying about Nautilus is
that the quality of its retina suggests that it would really benefit,
greatly and immediately, from a lens. It is like a hi-fi system with an
excellent amplifier fed by a gramophone with a blunt needle. The
system is crying out for a particular simple change. In genetic
hyperspace, Nautilus appears to be sitting right next door to an
obvious and immediate improvement, yet it doesn't take the small
step necessary. Why not?" (Dawkins R., "The Blind
Watchmaker,"1991 reprint, pp85-86)

3E Claim that the real problem is our lack of imagination:

"...then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye
could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our
imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.."
(Darwin C., 1967, p167)

SS>Creationists always leave out the second part in their tracts:
>Darwin's refutation of his own rhetorically-presented objections! In
>the present instance, Mr. Anderson omits Darwin's own
>explanation for the lack of transitional fossils: poor fossil
>preservation, gaps in the stratigraphic record, and the rapidity of
>speciation in comparison to the slowness of sediment
>accumulation--reasons that are still valid today.

Josh does *not* "omit Darwin's own explanation for the lack of
transitional fossils". A little further on he says:

"For many years proponents of the theory of evolution have
argued that the imperfection of the fossil record or an insufficient
search on our part explains the otherwise perplexing lack of
transitional forms."

But these excuses are growing increasingly thin! Firstly, on excuse #1
"poor fossil preservation". Darwinists never cite in advance what
percentage of fossils could be expected to be found if their theory
was true, in order to test the theory and falsify it. What they do is what
Darwin did-blame the fossil record *in retrospect* when it fails ti fit
the theory:

"But I do not pretend that I should ever have suspected how
poor was the record in the best preserved geological sections,
had not the absence of innumerable transitional links between the
species which lived at the commencement and close of each
formation, pressed so hardly on my theory." (Darwin C., "The
Origin of Species", 6th Edition, 1967, p311)

The fact is that in most species there are *millions* of individuals
lasting for a *million* years or more, and some with short generation
cycles. That is potentially billions, even trillions of individuals. Also,
if evolution really happened by step-by-step, slow, small micromutations,
gradually, over long periods of time, there should be transitionals from
the transitionals, as Denton points out:

"Darwin's insistence that gradual evolution by natural selection
would require inconceivable numbers of transitional forms may
have been something of an exaggeration but it is hard to escape
concluding that in some cases he may not have been so far from
the mark. Take the case of the gap between modern whales and
land mammals...To bridge the gap we are forced therefore to
postulate a large number of entirely extinct hypothetical species
starting from a small, relatively unspecialized land mammal like a
shrew and leading successfully through an otter-like stage, seal-
like stage, sirenian-like stage and finally to a putative organism
which could serve as the ancestor of the modern whales. Even
from the hypothetical whale ancestor stage we need to postulate
many hypothetical primitive whales to bridge the not
inconsiderable gaps which separate the modern filter feeders (the
baleen whales) and the toothed whales. Moreover, it is impossible
to accept that such a hypothetical sequence of species which led
directly from the unspecialized terrestrial ancestral form gave rise
to no collateral branches. Such an assumption would be purely ad
hoc, and would also be tantamount to postulating an external
unknown directive influence in evolution which would be quite
foreign to the spirit of Darwinian theory and defeat its major
purpose of attempting to provide a natural explanation for
evolution. Rather, we must suppose the existence of innumerable
collateral branches leading to many unknown types. This was
clearly Darwin's view and it implies that the total number of
species which must have existed between the discontinuities must
have been much greater than the number of species on the
shortest direct evolutionary pathway. In the diagram opposite,
which shows a hypothetical lineage leading from a land mammal
to a whale, while there are ten hypothetical species on the direct
path, there are an additional fifty-three hypothetical species on
collateral branches." (Denton M., "Evolution: A Theory in
Crisis", 1985, pp172,174)

Even if only one fossil in a billion was found, there should be
enough fossil evidence to test the theory, especially when closely
related species and genera are considered.

Only if evolution was a directed (and hence rapid and `straight-
line') process, would the *degree* of lack of transitional forms be

"Because Darwinian evolution is a purposeless, chance-driven
process, which would not proceed directly from a starting point
to a destination, there should also be thick bushes of side
branches in each line. As Darwin himself put it, if Darwinism is
true the Precambrian world must have "swarmed with living
creatures" many of which were ancestral to the Cambrian
animals." (Johnson P.E., "Darwinism's Rules of Reasoning", in
Buell J. & Hearn V., eds., "Darwinism: Science or Philosophy?",
1994, pp13-14)

As for excuse #2 "gaps in the stratigraphic record", firstly as
Steven Stanley points out, long sections of the stratigraphic
record can be reconstructed by combining data from several

"The absence of transitional forms between established species
has traditionally been explained as a fault of an imperfect record,
an argument first advanced by Charles Darwin...This ancient
lament was intoned by some at the Chicago meeting: "I take a
dim view of the fossil record as a source of data," observed
Everett Olson, the paleontologist from UCLA. But such views
were challenged as being defeatist. "I'm tired of hearing about the
imperfections of the fossil record," said John Sepkoski of the
University of Chicago; "I'm more interested in hearing about the
imperfections of our questions about the record." "The record is
not so woefully incomplete," offered Steven Stanley of Johns
Hopkins University; "you can reconstruct long sections by
combining data from several areas." (Lewin R., "Evolutionary-
Theory Under Fire: An historic conference in Chicago challenges
the four-decade long dominance of the Modern Synthesis",
SCIENCE, Vol. 210, 21 November 1980, pp883-884)

Secondly, where there are no stratigraphic gaps, the expected
transitionals are *still* not found:

"According to Steven Stanley, the Bighorn Basin in Wyoming contains
a continuous local record of fossil deposits for about five million
years, during an early period in the age of mammals. Because this
record is so complete, paleontologists assumed that certain
populations of the basin could be linked together to illustrate
continuous evolution. On the contrary, species that were once
thought to have turned into others turn out to overlap in time with
their alleged descendants, and "the fossil record does not
convincingly document a single transition from one species to
another." (Stanley, S.M., "Macroevolution", 1979, p39) In addition,
species remain fundamentally unchanged for an average of more than
one million years before disappearing from the record." (Johnson
P.E., "Darwin on Trial", 1993, p51)

Excuse #3 "the rapidity of speciation in comparison to the
slowness of sediment accumulation", does not hold water
because Darwinian theory would maintain that while speciation
might be rapid, the species themselves (and their collateral
branches) would remain in stasis displaying the nascent
transitional features for millions of years thereafter. This should
be picked up in the fossil record, but it pervasively isn't.

The fossil record fits *perfectly* the prediction of a *directed*
`evolution' (ie. a progressive mediate *creation*), which occurred
with a direction and rapidity that left few traces in the fossil

SS>These three reasons are the main explanation of why transitional
>fossils are rare. In addition, as I stated above, we now
>understand the speciation process better, and most species form
>allopatrically, that is, by the geographic isolation of a
>subpopulation--a peripheral isolate--from the main species
>population, and this type of speciation automatically creates
>circumstances that make it extremely unlikely for all the
>transitional forms between separate species to be preserved as
>fossils. Typically what happens is that the descendent species
>re-enters the range of its ancestor, and it appears in the fossil
>record suddenly without the transitional forms, which must then be

See above. Firstly, this explanation doesn't work. Whether the
speciation happens in isolation or not makes no difference to the
fossil record. Palaeontologists have just as much chance of finding
the fossils of the the same number of members of an isolated
population as they would have if it they were on the ancestral

Secondly, the descendants of the post-specialtion transitional
fossils and their collateral branches would remain in stasis for
99% of the time, so there should be no reason why they could not
be found more often.

Thirdly, as Denton points out, even if this allopatric speciation/
punctuated equilibrium model is correct for many if not most species
(which I doubt) it fails to account for the *really big* transitions, such
as that between land mammal and whale:

"While Eldredge and Gould's model is a perfectly reasonable
explanation of the gaps between species (and, in my view, correct)
it is doubtful if it can be extended to explain the larger
systematic gaps. The gaps which separate species: dog/fox,
rat/mouse etc are utterly trivial compared with, say, that between a
primitive terrestrial mammal and a whale or a primitive terrestrial
reptile and an Ichthyosaur; and even these relatively major
discontinuities are trivial alongside those which divide major phyla
such as molluscs and arthropods. Such major discontinuities simply
could not, unless we are to believe in miracles, have been crossed
in geologically short periods of time through one or two
transitional species occupying restricted geographical areas.
Surely, such transitions must have involved long lineages including
many collateral lines of hundreds or probably thousands of
transitional species...To suggest that the hundreds, thousands or
possibly even millions of transitional species which must have
existed in the interval between vastly dissimilar types were all
unsuccessful species occupying isolated areas and having very small
population numbers is verging on the incredible!" (Denton M.,
"Evolution: A Theory in Crisis", 1985, pp193-194)

Since all naturalistic theories and models fail, the only plausible
explanation left is the intervention and gudiance of an
Intelligent Designer acting as Genetic Engineer and Selective



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