15 Answers to John Rennie and Scientific American’s Nonsense--Argument #03
||Bert Thompson, Ph.D.
Brad Harrub, Ph.D.
3. [Creationists suggest that] evolution is unscientific because it is not testable or falsifiable. It makes claims about events that were not observed and can never be re-created.
There’s an old saying that “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks.” Once again, Mr. Rennie needs to consider the evolutionists’ “glass houses” before he begins hurling verbal rocks at the creationists’. The truth is, it is not just creationists with whom Mr. Rennie has a disagreement on this point. Knowledgeable, well-respected evolutionists have gone on record as stating that the General Theory of Evolution is neither testable nor falsifiable. For a concept to qualify as a scientific theory, it must be supported by events, processes, or properties that can be observed, and the theory must be useful in predicting the outcome of future natural phenomena or laboratory experiments. In addition, the theory must be capable of falsification. That is, it must be possible to conceive of some experiment, the failure of which would disprove the theory. It is on the basis of such criteria that most evolutionists insist that the concept of creation be denied respectability as a potential scientific explanation of origins. Creation, so goes the claim, has not been witnessed by human observers, cannot be tested experimentally, and as a theory is nonfalsifiable. Notice, however, that the General Theory of Evolution likewise fails to meet all three of these criteria. No one observed the origin of the Universe or the origin of life. Similarly, no one has observed the conversion of a fish into an amphibian or an ape-like creature into a man. Paul Ehrlich and L.C. Birch, both evolutionists, stated:
Our theory of evolution has become...one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus “outside empirical science” but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas, either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems have attained currency far beyond their validity. They have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training (1967, 214:349).
In a symposium at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia on the mathematical probabilities of evolution actually having occurred, one of the participants, Murray Eden, in speaking about the falsifiability of evolution, said:
This cannot be done in evolution, taking it in its broad sense, and this is really all I meant when I called it tautologous in the first place. It can, indeed, explain anything. You may be ingenious or not in proposing a mechanism which looks plausible to human beings and mechanisms which are consistent with other mechanisms which you have discovered, but it is still an unfalsifiable theory (1967, p. 71).
Let’s face it: neither creation nor evolution is testable, in the sense of being observable experimentally. Mr. Rennie even admitted that “the historical nature of macroevolutionary study involves inference from fossils and DNA rather than direct observation” (2002, 287:80, emp. added). The evidence is the same for both creationists and evolutionists. The inferences drawn from that evidence, however, are not. David Hull, the well-known philosopher of science, wrote as early as 1965:
[S]cience is not as empirical as many scientists seem to think it is. Unobserved and even unobservable entities play an important part in it. Science is not just the making of observations. It is the making of inferences on the basis of observations within the framework of a theory (16:1-18).
Data (a.k.a., “the facts”) do not explain themselves; rather, they must be explained. And herein lies an important point that often is overlooked in the creation/evolution controversy. Rarely is it the data that are in dispute; it is the interpretation placed on the data that is in dispute. Unfortunately, in today’s scientific paradigm (especially where evolution is concerned), theories rule over data. In his 2000 book, Science and Its Limits, philosopher Del Ratzsch noted that this primacy over data has had enormous implications for the practice of science, the end result being that the ultimate “court of appeal” has moved away from the actual data and toward the “informed consensus” of scientists. As he put it:
Pieces of observational data are extremely important…. [T]here is still room for disagreement among scientists over relative weights of values, over exactly when to deal with recalcitrant data, and over theory and evidence. But such disagreements often take place within the context of a broad background agreement concerning the major presuppositions of the discipline in question. This broad background of agreement is usually neither at issue nor at risk. It has a protected status…. Thus, objective empirical data have substantial and sometimes decisive influence on individual theories, but they have a more muted impact on the larger-scale structure of the scientific picture of reality (p. 71, emp. added).
In other words, when it comes to the “large-scale structure of the scientific picture of reality” (as in, for example, where the paradigm of evolution is concerned), don’t look for the actual data to make much of a difference. In such an instance, they have a “more muted impact.”
Both creation and evolution can be examined as scientific models. It is poor science, and even poorer education, to restrict instruction solely to the evolution model. When evolutionists like Mr. Rennie attempt to depict evolution as the only legitimate scientific model, they no longer are speaking in the context of scientific truth. Either they do not know what the data actually reveal, or they deliberately are attempting to deceive. Evolution fails to answer far more questions than it purports to answer, and the creation model certainly has as much (and often more) to offer as an alternative model. It is not within the domain of science to prove any concept regarding ultimate origins. The best one can hope for in this area is an adequate model to explain the circumstantial evidence (what Mr. Rennie refers to as “the inferences”) at hand. When one observes the undeniable design of every living thing, the complexity of the Universe itself, and the intricate nature of life, the creation model becomes quite attractive. It at least possesses a potential explanation for such attributes. The evolution model does not, but instead asks us to believe that design, inherent complexity, and intricacy are all the result of chance processes operating over eons of time.
John Rennie continued his attack on “creationist nonsense” by contrasting macroevolution with microevolution. And, as Rennie correctly noted, “…even most creationists acknowledge that microevolution has been upheld by tests in the laboratory…” (287:78). Of course we do. No argument there. We see the same variations in the plant and animal kingdoms that evolutionists see. Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics. Yet they still are nothing but bacteria. Beaks of finches in the Galapagos Islands do change. But the finches themselves have not “progressed” in any particular direction, and, to this day, they still are reproducing only other finches—not ostriches, lemurs monkeys, gorillas, or apes. Macroevolution—changing from one kind of animal to another—has been inferred, but never documented.
To support the sacrosanct theory of evolution, Rennie marched out the ever-popular hominid fossils as evidence of evolutionary progression that he suggested can be documented scientifically. This “evidence,” however, is hardly all it’s cracked up to be. First, the fossils represent (again!) only raw data. They do not speak for themselves, but must be interpreted. And as any seasoned (and honest) paleontologist can attest, sometimes the interpretations get in the way of the facts. One example comes pressingly to mind.
In the April 1979 issue of National Geographic, Mary Leakey reported finding fossil footprint trails at Laetoli, Tanzania. The strata above the footprints were dated at 3.6 million years, while the strata below them were dated at 3.8. As Marvin Lubenow noted: “These footprint trails rank as one of the great fossil discoveries of the twentieth century” (1992, p. 173). Why is this the case? Not only did Dr. Leakey discover three distinct trails containing sixty-nine prints, but, as she explained in her autobiography (Disclosing the Past), she also found footprints that depicted one individual actually walking in the steps of another!—something that only humans have the intelligence (or inclination) to do. In that autobiography, she wrote:
The Laetoli Beds might not have included any foot bones among the hominid remains they had yielded to our search, but they had given us instead one of the most graphic alternative kinds of evidence for bipedalism one could dream of discovering. The essentially human nature and the modern appearance of the footprints were quite extraordinary.
As the 1978 excavations proceeded, we noted a curious feature. In one of the two trails, some of the individual prints seemed unusually large, and it looked to several of us as if these might be double prints, though by no amount of practical experiment in the modern dust could we find a way in which one individual could create such a double print….
The prints in one of the trails did indeed turn out to be double, as Louise [Robbins, an anthropologist—BT/BH] and I and several others had expected, and at last we understood the reason, namely that three hominids had been present….
I will simply summarize here by saying that we appear to have prints left three and a half million years ago, by three individuals of different stature: it is tempting to see them as a man, a woman and a child (1984, pp. 177,178, emp. added, italics in orig.).
In her National Geographic article, Dr. Leakey admitted that the footprints were “remarkably similar to those of modern man” (1979, 155:446).
The specialist who carried out the most extensive study to date of the Laetoli footprints (at the invitation of Mary Leakey herself) is Russell Tuttle of the University of Chicago. He noted in his research reports that the individuals who made the tracks were barefoot and probably walked habitually unshod. As part of his investigation, he observed 70 Machiguenga Indians in the rugged mountains of Peru—people who habitually walk unshod. After analyzing the Indians’ footprints and examining the available Laetoli fossilized toe bones, Dr. Tuttle concluded that the ape-like feet of A. afarensis simply could not have made the Laetoli tracks (see Bower, 1989, 135:251). In fact, in an article on the Laetoli footprints in the March 1990 issue of Natural History, he wrote: “In discernible features, the Laetoli G prints are indistinguishable from those of habitually barefoot Homo sapiens” (p. 64). He then went on to admit: “If the G footprints were not known to be so old, we would readily conclude that they were made by a member of our genus, Homo” (p. 64, emp. added). Evolutionists, therefore, in spite of the evidence, have ascribed the footprints to australopithecines.
Interestingly, Mary Leakey originally labeled the Laetoli footprints as “Homo species indeterminate,” indicating that she was willing to place them in the genus of man, but was unable to decide upon a species designation. It is clear, of course, why she was unwilling to call them what they clearly are—Homo sapiens. If she had placed humans as far back as 3.7 million years, that would have destroyed every evolutionary lineage in existence—and any that could be envisioned in the foreseeable future. And so, rather than accept the data at face value, evolutionists scrambled to “explain them away” by labeling what were obvious human footprints as having been made by australopithecines. Paleontologist Niles Eldredge once commented: “We have been looking at the fossil record as a general test of the notion that life has evolved: to falsify that general idea, we would have to show that forms of life we considered more advanced appear earlier than the simpler forms” (1982, p. 46). In light of the evidence provided by the Laetoli footprints, could we not say, then, that, according to the evolutionists themselves, “the general idea” of evolution has been “falsified”? Indeed we could! [For a detailed discussion of the Laetoli footprints, see Lubenow, 1992, pp. 173-176.]
Second, even the evolutionists themselves have considerable difficulty trying to “interpret” the various finds. At an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science some years ago, anthropologists from all over the world descended on New York City to view hominid fossils exhibited by the American Museum of Natural History. Reporting on this exhibit, Science News had this to say:
One sometimes wonders if orangutans, chimps and gorillas ever sit around the tree, contemplating which is the closest relative of man. (And would they want to be?) Maybe they even chuckle at human scientists’ machinations as they race to draw the definitive map of evolution on earth. If placed on top of one another, all these competing versions of our evolutionary highways would make the Los Angeles freeway system look like County Road 41 in Elkhart, Indiana (see “Whose Ape Is It, Anyway?,” 1984, 125:361, parenthetical comment in orig.).
The public generally has no idea just how scarce, and how fragmentary (literally!), the “evidence” for human evolution actually is. Harvard professor Richard Lewontin lamented this very fact when he stated:
When we consider the remote past, before the origin of the actual species Homo sapiens, we are faced with a fragmentary and disconnected fossil record. Despite the excited and optimistic claims that have been made by some paleontologists, no fossil hominid species can be established as our direct ancestor…. (1995, p. 163, emp. added).
How, then, in light of such candid and forceful admissions, can evolutionary scientists possibly defend the idea of ape/hominid/human evolution as a “scientifically proven fact”? As one evolutionist put it: “There are not enough fossil records to answer when, where, and how H. Sapiens emerged” (Takahata, 1995, 26:343-372, emp. added). So, we do not even have enough fossils to know when, where, and how human evolution took place, yet according to Mr. Rennie, this somehow provides “proof ” for macroevolution?
Truth be told, more than 6,000 so-called hominid fossils now exist. Most such fossils can be placed into one of two groups: apes or humans. A few fossils do have odd characteristics or show abnormal bone structure. But does that mean humans evolved? No. It simply means that we have variations in bone structure—variations you can see all around you. Some heads are large; others are small. Some jawbones look angled; some look square. Some noses are pointed; some are flat. Does that indicate we still are “evolving”? Or does it mean that there are occasional differences in humans?
Remember this simple exercise the next time you see a picture of one of those ape-like creatures displayed prominently across the front cover of a reputable news magazine. Look at a skeleton (any one will do), and try to draw the person that used to exist with that bony framework. What color was the hair? Was it curly, or straight? Was the person a male or a female? Did he or she have chubby cheeks, or thin? These are difficult (if not impossible!) questions to answer when we are given only a few bones with which to work. The reconstructions you see as the end-product of an artist’s handiwork are not based merely on the fossil evidence, but also on what evolutionists believe these creatures “should” have looked like. And what about those pictures that we so frequently see gracing the covers of newsmagazines and science journals? As Boyce Rensberger admitted:
Unfortunately, the vast majority of artist’s conceptions are based more on imagination than on evidence. But a handful of expert natural-history artists begin with the fossil bones of a hominid and work from there…. Much of the reconstruction, however, is guesswork. Bones say nothing about the fleshy parts of the nose, lips, or ears. Artists must create something between an ape and a human being; the older the specimen is said to be, the more apelike they make it.... Hairiness is a matter of pure conjecture. The guesswork approach often leads to errors (1981).
In trying to strengthen his argument for fossil hominids, Mr. Rennie made the following statement. “But one should not—and does not—find modern human fossils embedded in strata from the Jurassic Period (65 million years ago)” (287:80, parenthetical item in orig.). [While we do not subscribe to the old-Earth timeline given by evolutionists, we do know, however—unlike Mr. Rennie—that evolutionists date the so-called Jurassic Period at 208-144 million years ago, not 65 million.] We are curious, Mr. Rennie, why you did not share with your readers the following information from Francis Barnes, an evolutionist and specialist in rock art of the southwest. Dr. Barnes reported the following information in the June 3, 1971 Moab [Utah] Times-Independent under the title of “Mine Operation Uncovers Puzzling Remains of Ancient Man”:
Lin Ottinger, Moab back-country tour guide and amateur geologist and archaeologist, made a find early last week that could possibly upset all current theories concerning the age of mankind on this planet. While searching for mineral specimens south of Moab, Ottinger found traces of human remains in a geological stratum that is approximately 100 million years old…. He carefully uncovered enough of what later proved to be the parts of two human skeletons.
Dr. [J.P.] Marwitt [professor of anthropology, University of Utah—BT/BH] pronounced the discovery “highly interesting and unusual” for several reasons. As the bones were uncovered, it soon became obvious that they were “in place” and had not washed in or fallen down from higher strata…. The rock and soil that had been above the remains had been continuous before the dozer work, with no caves or major faults or crevices visible. Thus, before the mine exploration work, the human remains had been completely covered by about fifteen (15) feet of material, including five or six feet of solid rock…. Due to some local shifting and faulting, it was uncertain, without further investigation, whether the find is in the lower Dakota, or still older upper Morrison formation.
Of course, despite evidence that these human remains are “in place” in a formation 100 million years old, the probability is very low that they are actually that old. The bones appeared to be relatively modern in configuration, that is, of Homo sapiens rather than one of his ancient, semi-animal predecessors (1971).
In an article in the February 1975 issue of Desert magazine, Dr. Barnes offered further clarification of this unusual find.
In addition, the dark organic stains found around the bones indicated that the bones had been complete bodies when deposited in the ancient sandstone.
…Mine metallurgist Keith Barrett of the Big Indian Copper Mine that owned the discovery site, recalled that the rock and sandy soil that had been removed by dozer from above the bones had been solid with no visible caves or crevices. He also remembered that at least 15 feet of material had been removed, including five or six feet of solid rock. This provided strong, but not conclusive, evidence that the remains were as old as the stratum in which they were found.
And that stratum was at least 100 million years old. Due to considerable local faulting and shifting, the site could either be in the lower Dakota or the still older upper Morrison formation.
Somehow, the university scientists never got around to age-dating the mystery bones. Dr. Marwitt seemed to lose interest in the matter, then transferred to an eastern university. No one else took over the investigation….
We may never know exactly how human bones came to be in place in rock formations more than 100 million years old. It is highly improbable that the bones are, indeed, this old. Yet, who knows?...
Part of the mystery, of course, is why the University of Utah scientists chose not to age-date the mystery bones and clear up at least the question of their actual age (pp. 38-39).
No, Dr. Barnes, it is “no mystery” that evolutionists decided not to date the bones. Since they already “know” that evolution is true, human bones appearing in supposedly 100-million-year-old strata is, well, unthinkable! Better to ignore them than to study and date them. Too much riding on the belief that evolution must be true: reputations, research grants, etc. But Mr. Rennie, what was it you said about “no modern human fossils” being embedded in 100-million-year-old strata? You might want to heed Paul Harvey’s advice and tell folks “the rest of the story.”
Actually, this type of “nonsense” should come as no surprise to those familiar with how evolutionists handle “out of place” fossils. The proposed timeline and fossil lineage for our alleged descent is so muddled and contorted that evolutionists themselves often have difficultly knowing which branches are viable versus which are merely dead-ends. This is evinced quite clearly by the discovery of Sahelanthropus tchadensis, announced in the July 11, 2002 issue of Nature (see Brunet, et al., 2002). This creature is purported to show a mixture of “primitive” and “evolved” characteristics such as an ape-like brain size and skull shape, combined with a more human-like face and teeth. It also sported a remarkably large brow ridge, more like that of younger human species—and yet is supposed to be older than all other fossil hominids. As The New York Times reported in its August 6, 2002 on-line edition under the title of “Skulls Found in Africa and Europe Challenge Theories of Human Origins”:
Two ancient skulls, one from central Africa and the other from the Black Sea republic of George, have shaken the family tree to its roots, sending scientists scrambling to see if their favorite theories are among the fallen fruit. Probably so, according to paleontologists, who may have to make major revisions in the human genealogy and rethink some of their ideas…. At each turn, the family tree, once drawn straight as a ponderosa pine, has had to be reconfigured with more branches leading here and there and, in some cases, apparently nowhere….
In announcing the discovery in the July 11 issue of the journal Nature, Dr. Brunet’s group said the fossils—a cranium, two lower jaw fragments and several teeth—promised to “illuminate the earliest chapter in human evolutionary history.” The age, face, and geography of the new specimen were all surprises…. The most puzzling aspect of the new skull is that it seems to belong to two widely separated periods…. “A hominid of this age,” Dr. [Bernard] Wood [a paleontologist of George Washington University] wrote in Nature, “should certainly not have the face of a hominid less than one-third of its geological age” (see Wilford, 2002, bracketed items added).
So are we now to believe that some fossil hominids experienced “devolution”? One scientist assessed S. tchadensis as follows:
The discovery consisted of a single, partial skull, albeit distorted, broken and recemented after burial, with no bones below the neck. It has excessively heavy brow ridges, a sagittal crest, and an ape-sized brain. The living creature would have been chimp size, but its (now distorted) face was (probably) flatter than most chimps and its teeth showed wear patterns more typical of hominids than chimps….
Unfortunately there is no direct way to date the new specimen. The six-seven million year age came from nearby mammal, reptile, and fish fossils, similar specimens of which are found in Kenya, several hundred miles to the south, and have been dated to six-seven million years old….
Summarizing the facts, we have one partial, broken, distorted, and recemented skull and a few teeth, which at best, point to a transition between chimp and the chimp-like Australopithecus, coupled with a poorly established date (Morris, 2002, 31:1,2, parenthetical items in orig.).
Reading this kind of assessment brings to mind Mark Twain’s comment in Life on the Mississippi: “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact” (1883, p. 156).
Exactly what, then, does Mr. Rennie’s parade of hominids actually show? Jeremy Rifkin summed it up well when he wrote:
What the “record” shows is nearly a century of fudging and finagling by scientists attempting to force various fossil morsels and fragments to conform with Darwin’s notions, all to no avail. Today the millions of fossils stand as very visible, ever-present reminders of the paltriness of the arguments and the overall shabbiness of the theory that marches under the banner of evolution (1983, p. 125, emp. added).
For a thorough examination of the fossil record as it applies to human evolution, we invite you (and Mr. Rennie!) to read our review, “Human Evolution and the ‘Record of the Rocks’ ” (Harrub, Thompson, and Lyons, 2002).