Feature Article - March 2014
by Do-While Jones

Red Herrings

Evolutionists use “red herrings” to avoid talking about evolution.

According to legend, escaping prisoners used smelly fish to distract pursuing bloodhounds and lead them away from their trail. Debaters use the term “red herring” to denote a stinky, irrelevant argument used by the losing debater to divert his opponent away from the issue at hand.

Because evolutionists can’t win a debate on the (lack of) scientific merit of the theory of evolution, they often employ red herrings to change the subject to religion, or some other irrelevant topic. Historically, we have advised against taking the bait and urged you to stick to a scientific evaluation of the theory of evolution; but we are reconsidering that advice. The winning strategy certainly is to stick to science, but there might also be some merit in pointing out instances when evolutionists use tricks to avoid talking about the scientific bankruptcy of the theory of evolution.

As you might suspect, this essay was prompted by the school of red herrings used by Bill Nye the Bowtie Guy last month. 1

Fear Mongering

Nye’s main red herring was fear mongering. I wasn’t the only one to notice that. In the Time magazine summary of the debate, Elizabeth Dias noted,

Nye sneaks in, for at least the fifth time, that the United States will be left standing by other countries if it doesn’t listen to science and teach real science in schools. 2

Nye’s “logic” goes like this:

  1. Technology is good, and makes our lives better. (He’s right about that.)
  2. Technology depends upon science. (Right again.)
  3. Evolution is real science. (He’s dead wrong about that.)
  4. If we aren’t teaching “science” (that is, “evolution”) in public schools we will go back to the horse and buggy days, and the practice of medicine will revert to bleeding patients with leeches. (Wrong!)

Equating “evolution” with “science” is a syllogistic fallacy called the “undistributed middle term” 3 because they aren’t the same thing!

Here are some questions Ken Ham should have asked Nye:

Did believing that apes started walking upright when they moved from the forest to the savannah make the invention of the cell phone possible? And, if it turns out that apes didn’t start walking upright because they moved to the savannah, but started walking upright because they ate meat, would our cell phones be any different? What if the engineer who invented the cell phone didn’t believe that apes evolved into humans? Would that have prevented him from inventing the cell phone?

Modern technology does not depend in any way on the theory of evolution. In fact, every hour of science class wasted on foolish stories about how a reptile grew breasts and became the first mammal is an hour not spent learning real science.

Medical doctors are taught how eyes actually work—not some silly fable about how some light-sensitive cells accidentally formed behind an accidental lens, and sent data to a brain that just happened to have image-processing software. Introducing evolutionary fairytales into medical schools, as some have suggested, 4 would set the practice of medicine back—not advance it.

I didn’t bother to count how many times Nye claimed that the United States will fall behind other countries if we don’t teach evolution in the public schools, but I’m sure it really was five or more times. Ham did not try to refute it even once. In the past, we would have said not to take the bait and follow the red herring; but now we think it would have been a good idea to point out that Nye’s main argument was bogus.


Nye’s second most frequent argument was

  1. Science makes predictions. (True.)
  2. Evolution makes accurate predictions. (False.)
  3. The Bible doesn’t make predictions. (False.)
  4. Therefore evolution, not the Bible, is real science. (False.)

Nye doesn’t seem to know what a prediction is. The English word comes from the Latin pre (before) and dicere (to say). A prediction is something said before it happens. The theory of evolution hasn’t made any predictions that have come true. That is, evolutionists have not predicted that if they subject a lizard to a certain kind of radiation it will grow breasts.

The many missing links that Darwin predicted would be found in the fossil record aren’t there.

Nye claimed the discovery of Tiktaalik was an evolutionary prediction that came true. It wasn’t. He was just repeating the party line we reported last March. 5

"Tiktaalik," he says, "was a great example of a prediction that you could make and go out and validate" - by discovering the right fossil. 6

Tiktaalik wasn’t a prediction. It was an example of distorting the evidence to confirm a prejudice. We told you all about Tiktaalik eight years ago.7

Of course, one of the best-known predictions of evolutionists is that wherever conditions make it possible for life to exist, life will evolve. Furthermore, evolutionists have predicted that we will find extraterrestrial forms of intelligent life. That’s the reason for the SETI project.

SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is an exploratory science that seeks evidence of life in the universe by looking for some signature of its technology. Our current understanding of life’s origin on Earth suggests that given a suitable environment and sufficient time, life will develop on other planets. 8

The number of intelligent forms of life able to communicate with us is predicted by the Drake Equation.

Frank Drake's own current solution to the Drake Equation estimates 10,000 communica­tive civilizations in the Milky Way. 9

But the predicted contact with space aliens has not happened. No evolutionary predictions have come true.

Nye made a serious tactical error when he claimed that verified predictions are evidence of truth; but Ham failed to take advantage of that mistake. Not only could have Ham have pointed out the evolutionary predictions that have not come true, Ham could have cited many examples of very specific, unambiguous biblical predictions made hundreds of years before their perfect fulfillment; but he didn’t. Ham used the Bible other times to prove creation; but he didn’t use the historical prophecies in Daniel, or the many Messianic prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus, to show that the Bible makes accurate predictions. We would not have brought up biblical prophecy—but Nye did, and Ham should have responded.

Fish Sex

Nye brought up fish sex, and asked, “Why does anybody have sex?” But he could not answer his own question! He correctly noted that sex is good because the shuffling of chromosomes that happens during sexual reproduction is like adding chlorine to the gene pool. It permits variations which allow species to adapt to a changing environment. But Nye admitted that the origin of sexual reproduction is inexplicable from an evolutionary perspective. Ham should have jumped on this opportunity—but he didn’t. Ham could have asked, “If birds and mammals both evolved from reptiles, shouldn’t birds and mammals have inherited the same kind of gender determination from reptiles?”

Mammals have male heterogamety. That is, all adult males are XY and adult females are XX. Birds have female heterogamety in which all adult females are ZW and adult males are ZZ. Some reptiles have ESD (Environmental Sex Determination).

While the sex of most snakes and most lizards is determined by sex chromosomes at the time of fertilization, the sex of most turtles and all species of crocodilians is determined by the environment after fertilization. In these reptiles, the temperature of the eggs during a certain period of development is the deciding factor in determining sex, and small changes in temperature can cause dramatic changes in the sex ratio. 10

If all reptiles had a common ancestor, why didn’t they inherit the same gender determination method? Evolutionists have no answer; and that isn’t the only problem evolutionists have with sex.

The origin of sex is such a problem for evolutionist that we have written extensively on the topic (usually in February to celebrate Valentine’s day). In our 2003 Birds and Bees 11 essay we talked about the several different kinds of sexual reproduction, all of which had to have evolved independently. In our 2004 article, Sex and the Single Bacterium,12 we compared sexual reproduction to asexual reproduction. Our February, 2006, issue dealt with love 13 instead of sex. (Loving, unselfish behavior is hard for evolutionists to reconcile with survival of the fittest.) Our 2008 February newsletter contained the Valentine Flowers 14 essay, in which we address the unanswerable question of how sexual reproduction originated in plants. Our February, 2010, discussion of Sex and Violets 15 was so long that it had to be continued in the March newsletter. Our 2011 February article, Bedbugs in Bed 16, dealt with the evolutionary problem of “the cost of sex” (no, it’s not what you are thinking). Each of those articles addressed a different unresolved question sexual reproduction poses for evolutionists. Ham could have said the theory of evolution can’t answer those questions, and he could have told how the Bible does—but he didn’t.

It Doesn’t "Matter"

Nye admitted he could not explain where matter came from, or how consciousness arose. He couldn’t really answer any scientific question put to him. But he insisted the theory of evolution is true, and that it is a settled issue.

Whenever someone says an issue is settled and no longer worthy of discussion, you can be sure of two things: (1) the issue is not settled, and (2) he is losing the argument. 17


Nye was coming from the position that there are no miracles, no supernatural processes. Everything must be explained by a natural process. There are miracles described in the Bible that can’t be explained by natural processes. Therefore, (Nye believes) those miracles did not happen, and therefore the Bible cannot be true.

Suppose we accept Nye’s premise (that is, if it can’t be explained by natural processes, then it could not have happened).

As we told you last month, The Origin of Life Foundation is no longer offering a prize for anyone who thinks they can explain the natural, unguided origin of life 18 because there is no natural explanation for the origin of life on Earth. Therefore, by Nye’s logic, there can be no living things on Earth. Nye’s own existence proves that his logic is wrong.

If there is at least one thing (the origin of life) that has happened that cannot be explained by natural processes, there could be more. Ham could have argued that the existence of life proves that miracles can happen—but he didn’t.


We still believe that, in a debate, it is best to stick to the compelling scientific evidence that the theory of evolution cannot be true, and one should not be distracted by red herring arguments.

But, when the evolutionist refuses to stick to science and insists on changing the subject, there could be some value in pointing out the errors in the evolutionist’s irrelevant argument (if it can be done easily and quickly).

The fear that the United States will fall behind other countries in technology and medicine if the theory of evolution is not taught in public schools is a red herring that is easily disproved.

The claim that the theory of evolution makes accurate predictions is false. The false predictions that the fossil record should be filled with innumerable transitional forms, and that life will evolve wherever possible, should be noted.

Don’t spend too much time filleting these red herrings, though. When an evolutionist makes the mistake of trying to make a scientific argument (bringing up sex, or the fossil record, or radioactive dating), use scientific evidence against evolution to gut the theory of evolution.

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1 Disclosure, February 2014, “Ham on Nye”
2 Elizabeth Dias, Time, Feb. 05, 2014, “What You Missed While Not Watching the Bill Nye and Ken Ham Creation Debate”, http://swampland.time.com/2014/02/05/bill-nye-ken-ham-debate/#ixzz2tFo7Cg2l
3 http://www.fallacyfiles.org/undismid.html
4 Disclosure, September 2002, “A Theory Dissolves”
5 Disclosure, March 2013, “Still Missing Links”
6 Hecht, New Scientist, 16 February 2013, “Evolution's detectives: Closing in on missing links”, pp 34-38, http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729041.900-evolutions-detectives-closing-in-on-missing-links.html?
7 Disclosure, May 2006, "A Fishy Ancestor"
8 http://www.seti.org/node/647
9 http://www.setileague.org/general/drake.htm
10 Developmental Biology, 6th edition, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK9989/
11 Disclosure, February 2003, “Birds and Bees”
12 Disclosure, February 2004, “Sex and the Single Bacterium”
13 Disclosure, February 2006, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”
14 Disclosure, February 2008. “Valentine Flowers”
15 Disclosure, February 2010, “Sex and Violets”
16 Disclosure, February 2011, “Bedbugs in Bed”
17 Anonymous, as far as I know. I’ll gladly credit the author if someone can tell me who said it first.
18 Disclosure, February 2014, “A Tale of Two Prizes”