|Feature Article - June 2002|
|by Do-While Jones|
Proponents of the theory of evolution lost another champion last month. Who is going to take the place of those who have promoted evolution in the past?
Stephen Jay Gould died on May 20. Time and Newsweek both wrote glowing obituaries for him in their June 3, 2002, issues.
Time ran the shorter obituary. Ironically, it didn’t mention evolution at all. It praised him for improving the quality of science writing. Although we disagree with his conclusions regarding evolution, there is no denying that he was an excellent writer.
Newsweek devoted a full page to him under a banner that said “appreciation.” They titled it appropriately, “Evolution’s Revolutionary.” The title refers to his theory of punctuated equilibrium, which certainly was a revolutionary contribution to the theory of evolution.
Punctuated equilibrium is a barely plausible rationalization of how evolution might be true despite the evidence against evolution in the fossil record. As a recognized expert in paleontology, Gould was well aware of the lack of evidence for evolution in the fossil record. He recognized that the fossil record shows animals appearing and disappearing without any trace of an ancestor or descendant, and remaining unchanged for (what he believed to be) long periods of geologic time. There is lots of evidence of minor variations in existing species in the fossil record; but there is no evidence of any species evolving into another species, which is what evolutionists need so desperately to validate Darwin’s theory.
Gould’s revolutionary idea was that evolution does not proceed gradually as Darwin said. If evolution did proceed gradually, there really would be innumerable transitional forms in the fossil record. Gould knew that the fossil record does not show gradual transitions (or even rapid transitions) of one species into another, and he wanted to reconcile the fossil data with the predictions of evolutionary theory.
Gould’s great contribution to evolutionary theory was to explain how evolution might occur without leaving a trace in the fossil record. He said that evolution doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it happens very rapidly. So rapidly, in fact, that it doesn’t leave a trace in the fossil record. That’s why there isn’t any valid fossil evidence to support evolution. Not only that, if his theory is correct, the fossil record should not have any transitional forms at all. The lack of transitional forms is considered to be strong evidence in favor of punctuated equilibrium.
The other explanation, of course, is that there is no evidence of evolution in the fossil record because evolution didn’t happen. But, since that explanation isn’t acceptable to evolutionists, most prefer to believe in punctuated equilibrium.
The writer of the Newsweek obituary was more impressed by Gould’s essay titled, The Panda’s Thumb, than by punctuated equilibrium. He says,
|“But, Gould noted, pandas have five digits in addition to their thumb, which is actually a specially adapted and enlarged wristbone. In Gould’s view, this confronts creationism with the awkward question of why an omniscient God did things in such a roundabout way. If species were created according to some intelligent plan, why not come up with a single design for a thumb and give it to any creature who needs one?”|
This is not a scientific argument--it is a philosophical argument. If Gould had designed pandas, he would have done it differently. It really comes down to the choice of a single word. Look what happens if we change just one word in the first quoted sentence.
|But, Gould noted, pandas have five digits in addition to their thumb, which is actually a specially DESIGNED and enlarged wristbone.|
That puts a whole different light on it, doesn’t it? Whether the panda has an additional digit because of a fortunate accident, or was intentionally designed, is either a matter of opinion, philosophy, judgment, or taste. Whatever it is, it isn’t science. The notion that “God did things in such a roundabout way” is purely speculative and subjective. What is so “roundabout” about creating a creature who has special needs, and giving it a special feature to meet those needs? It is only “roundabout” to people who believe in theistic evolution. (The theory of theistic evolution says that evolution was not guided by random chance, but instead guided by a god who is either too weak, too stupid, or too cruel to create things right in the first place.)
As we said, it is a matter of opinion as to whether or not the panda is well-designed or not, and we don’t mean to argue the question. What we do want to point out is that, regardless of whether or not the panda is optimally constructed, the panda’s thumb argument is philosophical, not scientific.
Shortly after Gould’s death, Dan sent us this email:
|I am sorry that i came upon your site by mistake, as i a was doing some research on Steven Jay Gould, who you insist on mocking. I would respectfully ask that you reconsider the name and content of your website to better fit your worldview, so that no one else will make the same mistake. If you don't want to believe in evolution, that is a perfectly valid statement, but please reconsider using the term science, which you and your associates clearly do not understand. feel free to respond if you wish to, however any replies after the first will be deleted and ignored.|
We sent this one-sentence reply: “What did we write that makes you think we were mocking him?” Dan did not reply.
It has never been our intention to make fun of Stephen Jay Gould, and we don’t think we ever have. Punctuated equilibrium, is a theory that doesn’t deserve to be treated seriously, and we have given it all the humor it deserves. We certainly do make fun of silly ideas, but we don’t intentionally make fun of the people who hold those silly ideas.
Regardless of our opinion of his theory, we honestly believe that Dr. Gould was a fine scientist who sincerely (but mistakenly) believed in the theory of evolution. The main point of this essay is that there isn’t an heir apparent to his position as foremost advocate of evolution in the world.
If you took a survey asking people to name the five greatest evolutionists of the 20th century, the most frequent answers would probably be Gould, followed by Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Stephen Hawking, and Richard Dawkins (not necessarily in that order). These five men have well-deserved reputations as excellent scientists because they have made recognized (although not necessarily correct) contributions to science. Three of them have recently died, and one is in very poor health. Who is going to fill the vacuum they have left?
We suppose that the second echelon of evolutionists consist of people like “Dinosaur” Jack Horner, Ian Tattersal, Donald Johansen, and the Leaky family. It is our subjective judgment that these people haven’t received as much public recognition as the first group of five evolutionists because they are fossil hunters. Perhaps that is because, although many people have heard of the australopithecine Lucy, very few could tell you who discovered her. The discoveries are more famous than the discoverers are.
Maybe fossil hunters don’t have as much prestige as other scientists because they keep arguing about the significance of their rivals’ discoveries, or complaining about the ethics of how their rivals made their discoveries.
Maybe the Indiana Jones movies have affected (or reflected) the general public’s view of fossil hunters. There was just one scene of Professor Jones teaching a class, so people tend to think of Indiana Jones as an action hero rather than a scientist. Maybe most people think of fossil hunters as Jurassic grave robbers rather than scientists. Furthermore, anyone crazy enough to spend a long, hot, summer in Montana, or east Africa, will find a fossil sooner or later. Fame in that line of work might be as much a result of luck as it is intelligence.
Regardless of the reason, we don’t see any of these people poised to fill the vacancy left by Gould. Apparently, the editors of Natural History don’t, either. When they needed experts in evolution, none of these people were called into service.
We really admired the fact that Natural History gave well-known intelligent design proponents Michael J. Behe, William A. Dembski, and Jonathan Wells, approximately a page and a half each to present the case for intelligent design in their April, 2002, issue. No doubt they are going to take a lot of heat for that. So much so that we don’t feel like complaining that a page and a half isn’t enough to adequately present the case for intelligent design. We often fail to keep our little “six-page newsletter” down to six pages.
Behe and Dembski (and Michael Denton) have published some original works that show great insight into biology. Dean Kenyon proposed a theory of “biological predestination” to explain the origin of life when he was an evolutionist. Although he has refuted his own theory and, as a result, now believes in intelligent design, his earlier work is still held in high esteem by evolutionists. We consider these four men to be great scientists because they have made identifiable contributions to the advancement of science.
We don’t want to demean Jonathan Wells by leaving him off this list, because his book, Icons of Evolution, is a terrific refutation of the theory of evolution. But we just don’t put him in the same class as the other four men we have just mentioned because we aren’t aware of any original research he has done himself. He has primarily presented the results of others in a clear and compelling way.
So, when Natural History needed first-class scientists to present the case for intelligent design, they had a wealth of talent to choose from, and they chose wisely.
Natural History, knowing the flak they would take by giving this opportunity to three excellent scientists to present evidence against evolution, gave equal time to three prominent evolutionists. Who did they pick? Kenneth R. Miller, Robert T. Pennock, and Eugenie C. Scott.
You may have heard of Eugenie C. Scott.
Eugenie Scott, a tireless battler against the forces of darkness on the evolutionary front, has been chosen for this year’s Public Service Award by the National Science Board.
Scott, a physical anthropologist, has for 15 years been the executive director of the National Center for Science Education, based at the University of California, Berkley. The award “highlights the importance of scientists taking the anti-evolution movement seriously,” she says. 1
Evolutionists claim that creationists never publish anything in the respected scientific journals. Since they don’t publish in peer-reviewed journals, creationists can’t be real scientists. We searched all the on-line back issues of Nature and Science to see if the three defenders of the evolutionary faith are “real scientists” by the evolutionists’ definition.
Scott has published two articles in Science, two letters to the editor of Science, and a book review in Nature. None of them, however, had anything to do with any scientific research she had done herself. They were all about how to “teach science.” Of course, to an evolutionist like Scott, “teach science” means “keep evolution in the curriculum, and censor any scientific evidence against evolution.” She may have been a scientist once, but in recent years she has been nothing but a full-time political lobbyist, and hasn’t published anything scientific.
The total number of articles published by Miller and Pennock in the respected journals Science and Nature is zero. Miller has edited a biology textbook, which is now in its third printing. But editing a textbook isn’t the same as proposing a new scientific theory that appears to explain what we observe in nature.
Miller’s claim to fame is a book called Finding Darwin’s God, in which he tries to defend the crumbling foundation of the theory of evolution. As you might suspect from the title, and is patently obvious in the last chapter (which he makes available on-line), the book is clearly religiously motivated. Evolutionists usually claim that since most books on creation science are religiously motivated, they are worthless. If they are to be consistent, they must consider Miller’s book worthless, too. (We, on the other hand, encourage you to evaluate books on their content, regardless of the academic background or motivation of the author.)
Pennock’s claims to fame are two anti-creation books. One is called, Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism. Interestingly enough, he also has chosen a religious reference for the title of that book. The other is Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives. (Notice that science comes after philosophy and theology in that title.)
We want to emphasize again that the fame of an author has no bearing on the quality of the argument. Our only point in bringing this out is that when Natural History needed three big guns to defend the theory of evolution, they no longer had people like Gould, Asimov, or Sagan. Nor did they pick any of the better-known paleontologists. They went to three relatively obscure people whose only claim to fame is that they still believe in evolution.
We hope it isn’t too late for you to find a copy of the April issue of Natural History in a library near you. (Although, we would not be surprised if the April issue is the only one that has mysteriously disappeared from your local library.) We invite you to read the articles on intelligent design, and the rebuttals by the three evolutionists. Evaluate the articles strictly on the strength of their arguments, ignoring the obscurity of some of the authors. When you do that, we think you will see that the arguments for intelligent design are stronger than the evolutionary rebuttals. (It isn’t a very good test, however, because neither side had enough space to adequately develop their arguments.)
Apparently, neither Miller, Pennock, nor Scott, will be able to fill Gould’s shoes any time soon. This isn’t so much a reflection on them, as it is a natural consequence of finding it hard to win an argument when the facts are overwhelmingly against you. As more and more scientists abandon the theory of evolution, and publish evidence against it, it will be harder and harder for an evolutionist to gain the prominence and respect of Stephen Jay Gould. We suspect that nobody will be able to do it. Gould is likely to go down in history as the last great scientist to believe in the theory of evolution.
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1 Science, VOL 295, 15 March 2002, “Evolution Champion” page 2009. (Ev+)