email - February 2016

A Colossal Fossil Failure

Dr. Donald Prothero’s video fails to prove that evolution is true.

Michael first wrote to us in June of 2004.1 He wrote to us again in December, 2015, 2 and we gave him a chance to clarify his position last month. 3 That’s not the last we heard from him. He followed up with this email.

Having looked at your site it is clear that it's [sic] main aim is to scratch around for any information that may discredit evolution. There is nothing wrong with that, since any scientific theory needs to undergo peer group scrutiny to determine if it stacks up. However it is clear to me that some of the material on your site is biased, aimed at clouding the issue, or that you may not have a clear understanding of how evolution works.

There are numerous clips on uTube [sic] that could help you but I'll just refer you to two that I watched earlier today:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjFgcOId-ZY and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jw0MLJJJbqc

I strongly suggest you view them twice in order to capture all the information presented and to consider it without looking through the Creation glasses.

I also suggest that you make these links available on your web site, so that your readers may get a better understanding of what evolution is about and why it is important that we make the effort to better understand it and apply that knowledge to overcome the many challenges that face humankind now and in the future.

Regards,
Michael

We did look at those two links. The first one, by Dr. Prothero, is 81 minutes intended for an adult audience. The second one is just 45 minutes long, aimed at younger viewers. Both of them contained nothing more than the same old evolutionary arguments that have been debunked for years, which you see hashed and rehashed on most creationists’ websites, so we haven’t addressed them for years.

At first we wondered how Michael could think we had never heard them before. But when Michael watched them, these tired old arguments must have been new to him. Since they were new to him, he must have thought they were new to us. Perhaps they are new to others, so it is worth revisiting them.

Evolution: What the Fossils Say

The first video Michael recommended is “Evolution: What the Fossils Say (by Donald Prothero).” We not only want you to watch this video, we want you to watch it carefully. When you watch it, please analyze it. Ask yourself, “Is what he says true?” and, perhaps more importantly, “Is what he says relevant?” We think you will discover that not only is much of what he says not true, practically all of it is irrelevant. Which brings up a third question: “Why is he saying these irrelevant things?” Perhaps it is because, although these things are irrelevant to what the fossils say about evolution, they aren’t irrelevant to his real purpose.

His Conclusion

As with most presentations, you can consider it to have an introduction, body, and conclusion. We recommend that you watch the conclusion first. Drag the cursor over to the 1 hour 8 minute mark (1:08:00), and start there. His conclusion is that, “Everything in science will be rearranged if they [creationists] get their way.” He “proves” this by showing a cartoon saying that when creationism is allowed in school, children will be allowed to believe that 6 times 8 is 112.

Is this true? Is this relevant to the question of whether or not the fossil record supports the theory of evolution? Why did he say this?

Are creationists really to blame for Outcome Based Education, which gives trophies to losers, and tries to make "All students understand and appreciate their worth as unique and capable individuals, and exhibit self-esteem" by letting them believe 6 times 8 is 112 so as not to damage their delicate egos? 4 No, Common Core, and Outcome Based Education, are part of the Democrat agenda, not creationist ideas.

Why does he make that argument? It is a common debate trick called the “red herring,” used by debaters who don’t have the truth on their side. He wants to change the subject from evolution to Common Core. Don’t fall for that trick.

Furthermore, he wants to slander creationists to damage their credibility despite the fact that no creationist has ever said that 6 times 8 is 112.

The title of his slide at 1:11:10 shouts there will be “NO MORE OIL, GAS OR COAL” if creationism is taught in schools. At 1:15:38, he blames the abysmal state of American public education on “Fundamentalist Right-wingers” who are “stridently anti-woman, racist, homophobic, and anti-science” and have had “all the political power the last 10 or 20 years.” (We didn’t know Obama is a right-wing Republican. We learn something new every day.) This is just another red herring. What is a slide about Republicans being anti-woman, racist, or homophobic doing in a presentation entitled, “Evolution: What the Fossils Say?”

It is just fear mongering. Creationism is no threat to the oil supply.

But there is HOPE (the title of the slide shouts) because young people are rejecting religion. That’s because (he says) European socialism eliminates the need for religion.

In his conclusion, he makes it clear that he is an atheist Democrat who wants to stamp out all religion and defeat Republicans, and the theory of evolution is his lethal weapon to do it. OK. That’s his belief, and he is entitled to it. But, knowing that, go back to the beginning of the presentation and listen to his introduction.

His Introduction

After a two-and-a-half-minute introduction by the host, Dr. Prothero starts by plugging his books.

The book commercial ends, and the presentation starts, at the 4-minute mark with the slide titled, “IS EVOLUTION ATHEISTIC?” His first point being that there is absolutely no conflict between religion and evolution. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, or members of any other religion can believe in evolution without it damaging their faith. But since you have already watched the conclusion, in which he touts the theory of evolution as the ultimate cure for religion, you must realize he is a nice stranger offering you candy and a ride to school if you just get in his car.

Personal Attacks and Misconceptions

At the 10-minute mark, the personal attacks on creationists begin. Creationists aren’t qualified because their PhD degrees are meaningless—unlike his PhD degree which makes everything he says irrefutable.

At 12:26, it may look to you like he is finally going to start to make a technical argument; but you will be disappointed. Instead of trying to prove evolution, he says that misconceptions about evolution are false. So what? Who cares about misconceptions? Misconceptions are irrelevant. As you will see, however, in several of his slides he presents misconceptions about creationism, and he proves the misconceptions about creationism are false, as if this proves evolution is true.

For example, he says that the Bible says the Earth is flat. That’s a misconception. But proving the world is round doesn’t prove evolution is true. When Prothero says that Aristotle was wrong about the scala naturae (at 12:54) it does not prove that Darwin was right. At 14:10 he asks, “If God made Adam from dirt, why is there still dirt?” This is the “logic” he uses to prove evolution.

At 14:55, he admits that the 1925 story about horse evolution was wrong, and was known to be wrong for a long time. But it wasn’t corrected at the Field Museum of Natural History for many years, as we have previously told you. 5 At 16:25, he shows one of many contradictory human evolution diagrams, and tries to make the point that they don’t know which hominids evolved from which others, but it must be true.

At 18:04, he says that the evolutionary diagram of faunal succession in the geological column shown in children’s books isn’t correct. (The other video Michael told us about says the diagram is actually correct.) Then he says faunal succession really is correct in the Grand Canyon; but at 19:07, his slide says, “In the area around Dinosaur National Monument, clams are found ABOVE [capitalization his] dinosaurs, then mammals, then fish!” So, the faunal succession is wrong at DNM.

If that is hard to follow, here’s all you need to know. Wherever the geologic column agrees with the theory of evolution, it is proof that evolution is true. In those places where the geologic column is inconsistent with the presumed faunal succession presented by the theory of evolution, it means nothing.

Then he says some confusing things we can’t explain about how the Cambrian Explosion is real, but never happened. He says it is just another misconception.

Finally Fossils

Finally, at 24:35, he begins to try to prove evolution from the fossil record. Everything up to this point has been either a refutation of a straw man (a misconception) or a personal attack on creationists and religion. He spends the next 35 minutes trying to prove that there are countless transitional forms in the fossil record.

Transitional Forms

How does he know a fossil is “transitional?” The definition of a transitional fossil is like the definition of hard-core pornography.

In the obscenity case of Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964), [Supreme Court Justice Potter] Stewart wrote in his short concurrence that "hard-core pornography" was hard to define, but that "I know it when I see it.” 6

Prothero never defines the characteristics of a transitional fossil; but he knows one when he sees it. We laid out definite criteria for deciding if a fossil is transitional or not in “Parent of the Apes - Part 2” (What constitutes a “missing link?”) 7 Specifically, those four criteria involve similarity, timing, progression, and geography. None of the so-called transitional fossils he presented satisfy all of our criteria.

If he doesn’t like our criteria for a transitional fossil, OK. What are his criteria? He never says. His single criterion seems to be, if it looks like it could be transitional, and it fits the evolutionary story, it is transitional.

Let us point out that a bat looks exactly like an intermediate form between a mouse and a robin, but no evolutionist claims a bat is proof that a mammal evolved into a bird (or vice versa) because it doesn’t fit the evolutionary story, so it isn’t a transitional form.

At 30:07, he claims Tiktaalik is a transitional fossil. He falsely claims that creationists don’t admit that Tiktaalik existed. Of course creationists admit Tiktaalik existed. Creationists just don’t believe Tiktaalik, and the other “fishbians” he presented are transitional forms. Creationists believe they are species that bear some superficial resemblance in some respects. We dealt with Tiktaalik in detail when it was first described, 8 and again in a later issue,9 so we won’t repeat ourselves here.

At 39:22, he says the “mammal-like” reptiles must have evolved into mammals because their jaw bones turned into ear bones. No, we aren’t kidding—although I could not help kidding when I wrote the song, “I Heard it Through My Jaw Bones.” 10

At 48:09, he presented a series of whale transitional forms. We’ve addressed that myth several times over the years. 11 12 13 14 Of course, he glossed over all the troubling (for evolutionists) details. These fossils look intermediate, so they must be intermediate (despite the fact that some were found so far apart geographically).

His belief in transitional fossils is based entirely on appearance biased by hope. He sees what he wants to see.

Appearance doesn’t necessarily imply a biological connection. You know this from personal experience. You must have, at some point in your life, gone to a school program or youth sporting event, where there were lots of children and their parents. In some cases, you could see a strong family resemblance between parent and child, or between siblings. But how many times, when you tried to figure out who the parent of that really obnoxious kid is, did appearance deceive you? How many times have you said, in utter amazement, “Those two boys are brothers!?” You can’t tell genealogy simply by looking.

A Screwy Analogy

Dr. Prothero claimed (at time 52:00) that no matter how many intermediate fossils are found, creationists will always want more because no matter how close two fossils are, there can always be an intermediate. But, he says, if you accept that there will be some gaps, one can construct a sequence of fossils such as the one he showed at time 30:36.

Let’s apply his argument to an analogous situation to show the flaw in his logic. Suppose he said, “There are places in a hardware store where one can find layers of bins of screws in the expected columns. There are 1-inch screws and 2-inch screws; and right between them is a 1 ½ inch screw. It’s a missing link between them. But creationists will argue, ‘But where is the 1 ¾ screw?’ No matter how many intermediates you find, they always want one more ‘missing link.’ We can lay the screws out on a table showing a logical progression from long, fat screws with coarse pitch to short thin screws with fine pitch. Even if we don’t have every possible intermediate, we have enough to show the progression. The screws are right there—but creationists can’t see them. We have loose screws! We win!”

Yes, similar screws exist; but their existence doesn’t prove a genealogical relationship. Similar fossils exist; but their existence doesn’t prove a biological relationship.

Human Evolution

At 50:40, he starts talking about transitional human fossils. He says, “Thousands and thousands of hominid fossils have been found now. The vaults in the Kenya National Museum in Nairobi alone have tens of thousands of hominid fossils” which represent missing links. [53:07] That’s only slightly true (and mostly false). At the time when he made this video, there were only three alleged hominid skeletons (Lucy, Turkana Boy, and Little Foot). Last fall, many more bones from at least 15 individuals were found in a cave in South Africa. 15 Even so, that’s not close to “thousands.” However, there are thousands of isolated teeth and bone fragments that MAY have come from a primate species. There’s no way to tell for certain what species they came from, or if those species were biologically related.

At 55:03 he talks about Nebraska Man 16 and teeth. He says it is nearly impossible to tell a tooth of a peccary from the tooth of an ape—and he’s right. So how can you be sure a single tooth is from a previously unknown ape-man? You can’t, of course. Are evolutionists today any less reckless in their conclusions than Henry F. Osborn was when he discovered Nebraska Man?

Personal Attacks

One hour into the presentation he stops talking about fossils and continues making personal attacks. So, in only 35 minutes of his 81-minute presentation on fossil proof of evolution does he even pretend to address the fossil evidence.

He claims that creationists are mentally defective, suffering from cognitive dissonance. They just don’t see the evidence that is right in front of them. Actually, it is the evolutionists who are blind to the impossibility of evolution—and he admits as much when it says “we all” suffer from cognitive dissonance. “All” includes evolutionists. Whether or not creationists are mentally defective is irrelevant to the question of whether or not fossils prove evolution.

Then he starts taking cheap shots at unspecified creationists for being so stupid. He says tribalism makes it hard for people to go against their family, while ignoring the fact that tribalism makes it hard for PhDs to disagree with the prevailing academic prejudice.

At 1:04:03, he makes the stupid claim that we would not have cell phones if we didn’t teach evolution in public schools. He equates evolution with science. Anybody who doesn’t believe in evolution doesn’t believe in science. It is such a stupid argument, how could anyone make it with a straight face?

That’s when he starts his attack on the “science deniers” who refuse to see evolution happening all around us all the time (which, of course, is a different kind of evolution than the controversial kind). He cites peppered moths,17 if you can believe that!

Baby Fae

The only new argument he advances is at 1:06:50, where he brings up Baby Fae. Baby Fae was the infant who received a baboon heart transplant at Loma Linda Medical Center in 1984. Baby Fae’s body rejected the heart and she died a few weeks later. Dr. Prothero (who is not a medical doctor) says that Baby Fae would have lived if Dr. Leonard Bailey had used a chimp heart instead of a baboon heart. He says Dr. Bailey should have been sued for malpractice (and would have been if he had worked for a “regular hospital”—not one run by Seventh-day Adventists). When asked why he didn’t use a chimpanzee heart (because the alleged evolutionary distance between baboons and humans is greater than the evolutionary distance between chimps and humans) Dr. Bailey said, “I don’t believe in evolution.”

There are three fallacies in Dr. Prothero’s argument. The first is that, despite his evolutionary claim, a chimp heart would not have worked either. It would have been rejected, too. That’s why nobody has successfully given a human infant a chimp heart in the years since 1984.

The second fallacy is that the experiment was not a total failure.

Loma Linda University Medical Center made international news on October 26, 1984, when Dr. Leonard L Bailey transplanted a baboon heart into Baby Fae, an infant born with a severe heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Baby Fae died a few weeks later; however, this effort led to the successful infant heart transplant program, with transplantation of human-to-human infant transplants. 18

The third fallacy is that creationists never physically attack doctors or institutions doing medical research—but animal rights activists do. Why do animal rights activists resist using animals in medical research? Well, according to the Animal Liberation Front,

Science is finding new similarities between humans and other species. 19

In other words, because the theory of evolution proves that there is really no difference between humans and chimpanzees, it is immoral to do medical experiments on them without their consent. Ethical arguments rooted in the theory of evolution actually hinder medical research, not help it.

Science Against Evolution isn’t taking a position on the morality (or immorality) of doing animal research. We are merely pointing out that Dr. Prothero’s argument that creationism hinders medical research is false—but some evolutionists oppose medical research. Furthermore, whether animal research is moral or not has no bearing on whether or not the theory of evolution is true—it’s an irrelevant argument.

Real Quotes

Here’s an important point that we really want to emphasize: A significant portion of Dr. Prothero’s presentation is devoted to disproving what mythical creationists say. But only two of all the creationist quotations he uses were actually made by creationists. One was that Dr. Bailey said he doesn’t believe a chimp heart would have worked any better than a baboon heart because he doesn’t believe the evolutionary myth—and he was right about that. The other was that Wendy Wright said that she had never seen a real transitional fossil in a museum—and she was right about that. There aren’t any real transitional fossils in museums.

All the other “creationist quotes” were written by evolutionists mocking things that creationists supposedly believe. Things like the earth being flat, and 6 x 8 = 112, and the blindfolds and earplugs creationists use to “block out 90% of all science!” are fictional examples credited to creationists.

That brings us back to his conclusion, in which he stops just short of saying that religion is responsible for everything that is wrong in the world, and atheistic socialism is the answer to our problems.

Don’t take our word for it. We not only want you to LISTEN to Dr. Prothero’s video, we want you to ANALYZE it. We think you will see for yourself that his “reasoning” is strongly biased by his political and religious beliefs. He spends much of the presentation misrepresenting creationists so he can ridicule them for believing things they don’t really believe. He uses false guilt-by-association. (Creationists are anti-women and homophobic.) His observable proofs of evolution were that peppered moths evolve into peppered moths, and bacteria evolve into bacteria. The fossil proofs of evolution were just that some fossils look similar, but are slightly different. The similarities, he says, prove they evolved from a common ancestor, and the differences are because they evolved. He says paleontologists know how to tell what kind of creature a tooth came from, even if they have never seen the creature it came from. He showed that the geologic column accurately reveals evolutionary chronology—except where it doesn’t.

We did not go looking for the most foolish video posted by an evolutionist just to show how wrong it is. Michael really believed that this video was so good it would convince us that evolution is true. (The other video he recommended isn’t any better, but we don’t have space left to address it this month.)

We pointed out specific factual errors in Dr. Prothero’s video, with time references so you can check out exactly what he said. Despite our repeated request, in the 11 emails Michael sent to us, he has not given a single example of anything we have written that is incorrect. He hasn’t quoted anything we have written. He just argues against what he thinks we think, but haven’t written.

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Footnotes:

1 Disclosure, June 2004, “Confusing Faith with Science”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v8i9e.htm
2 Disclosure, December 2015, “Anti-Science”, http://www.scienceagainstevolution.info/v20i3e.htm
3 Disclosure, January 2016, “Michael’s Clarifications”, http://www.scienceagainstevolution.info/v20i4e.htm
4 Phyllis Schlafly Report (May 1993), “What's Wrong With Outcome-Based Education?”, http://www.ourcivilisation.com/dumb/dumb3.htm
5 Disclosure, February 2002, “Horses and Peppered Moths”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v6i5f.htm
6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potter_Stewart
7 Disclosure, October 2001, "Parent of the Apes - Part 2", http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v6i1f.htm
8 Disclosure, May 2006, “A Fishy Ancestor”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v10i8n.htm
9 Disclosure, March 2013, “Still Missing Links”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v17i6f.htm
10 Disclosure, April 2012, “I Heard it Through My Jaw Bones”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v16i7f.htm. You can listen to the song at http://scienceagainstevolution.info/music/JawBones.mp3
11 Disclosure, August 1999, “In A Whale of Trouble”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v3i11f.htm
12 Disclosure, November 2001, “Whale Tale Two”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v6i2f.htm;
13 Disclosure, December 2001, “Whale Evolution Corrections”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v6i3e.htm;
14 Disclosure, January 2008, “Indian Whales”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v12i4n.htm
15 Disclosure, October 2015, “Homo Naledi”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v20i1n.htm
16 Disclosure, April 2004, “Nebraska Man Sues for Re-instatement”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v8i7n.htm
17 Disclosure, February 2002, “Horses and Peppered Moths”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v6i5f.htm
18 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loma_Linda_University_Medical_Center#Proton_treatment_and_research_center
19 David Grimm, Science, Mar. 12, 2014 , “Animal Rights Extremists Increasingly Targeting Individuals”, http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/03/animal-rights-extremists-increasingly-targeting-individuals
20 http://www.animalliberationfront.com/Philosophy/Morality/Speciesism/Speciesism-index.htm