"Evolution is the Scientific Consensus—So You Should Believe It!”
“Everybody’s doin’ it. So, you should, too,” the little boy’s classmate says. After giving in and engaging in the inappropriate behavior and getting caught, what does the little boy’s mother say? “If everybody jumps off a cliff, are you going to jump with them?” We’ve all likely heard sound reasoning like that from an authority, and yet the truth of such logic must not have “sunk in” with many in the evolutionary community.
Recently, we received an e-mail at Apologetics Press responding to an article we posted a few weeks back titled, “Bill Nye: The (Pseudo-)Science Guy” (Miller, 2012a). The gentleman’s comments were not atypical of many of the comments we receive from the evolutionary community, but one line of reasoning, in particular, is representative of the mindset of many. Thus, we felt it was worth a formal, public response. The argument this individual based his contention on was that the scientific consensus on a subject—whatever it may be—should be ultimately accepted (i.e., considered as “gospel”), and any further scientific investigation and/or discovery should be viewed in light of the veracity of the scientific consensus on that subject. Specifically, he applied the concept to the idea that belief in Darwinian evolution is the scientific consensus today and therefore, should be accepted—not resisted, as we do at Apologetics Press. This gentleman is hardly the only one who espouses such a view. So, it is worthy of consideration to see if it holds up under scrutiny.
Perhaps the first objection one should have to such a mindset is that it falls into the category of logical fallacies known as Argumentum ad Populum—appeal to the majority (Archie, 2012). The variation of this fallacy known as “Bandwagon,” is the idea in which someone attempts to “prove a conclusion on the grounds that all or most people think or believe it is true” (Archie). In other words, just because a lot of people believe in something (like macroevolution), that does not make it true—and the number of people who believe in it should not be cited as evidence in support of the proposition. Just because bloodletting was “the most common procedure performed by surgeons for almost two thousand years,” that should not have made it an acceptable idea, though it carried the weight of consensus behind it (“Bloodletting,” 2012). Just because the consensus in medicine in the recent past, before the discovery of germs, was not to worry about cleanliness in operating rooms, that does not mean that such entrenched practices should not be questioned. Just because the consensus over millennia was that life could arise spontaneously from non-life (Balme, 1962)—a belief held even as late as 300 years ago when Francesco Redi conducted his experiments that began casting doubt on that idea—that does not mean that such a preposterous idea should have continued to exist. Just because the “consensus” in certain evolutionary circles only 100 years ago was that certain races should be considered inferior in the evolutionary chain (cf. Darwin, 1859; Stein and Miller, 2008), did that mean that everyone should have accepted the “consensus” and taken part in eliminating those deemed “weaker” or “less fit” by evolutionists?
“Majority rule” is hardly a suitable mindset for scientific investigation. Scientific breakthroughs are not made by the majority—but rather, by innovative individuals thinking outside the box, not thinking in the same way the majority thinks. In fact, the “consensus” view is often times the very viewpoint that is wrong because of the “herd mentality” humanity tends to have—the same mentality that Moses warned against in Exodus 23:2. Just because there is a consensus in this country among the rank and file Americans that evolution is false (cf. Miller, 2012b), that should not be taken as evidence for or against evolution—whether or not the population is deemed “scientific” enough in the minds of the science community’s self-promoting “credentials police.” There exists an overwhelming consensus (84%) in the world that some kind of god(s) exists (cf. “Major Religions of the World…,” 2007), and yet one can be assured that the atheistic evolutionary community would not want to appeal to the “consensus” argument in that case. Consider further: even if it is now the scientific consensus among the biology community that Darwinian evolution is true, what about before evolution had become consensus in that field? Should the “consensus rule” have been applied then, disallowing the spread of evolutionary theory? If so, then the biology community is in error for breaking their own rules and needs to go back to the old viewpoint in order to be consistent.
In truth, accepting the consensus view on a theory is a dangerous practice. Scientific theories are not “bad guys.” Theories are important in order to make scientific progress. However, a theory (like the Theory of Evolution or the Big Bang Theory), by its very definition, is not known as absolute, but rather, as a possible explanation of something. A theory tacitly acknowledges the potential that it may be incorrect and that there may be other theories that fit the facts better, that will one day be proven as legitimate. This makes accepting the consensus view on a scientific theory a dangerous practice, since the theory may be wrong. A scientific law, however, is not based on “consensus” or speculation, but on the evidence—the facts. Therefore, there should be “consensus” about the laws of nature, even if there isn’t. However, what makes them valid should not be, and is not, based on “consensus.” The goal of science should be the pursuit of truth—not consensus; truth—not what’s popular. That is what has and will lead to further scientific progress in this country and in the world.
The consensus in this country that has existed since its inception—that Creation is true and Darwinian evolution is false—has no doubt played a role in the scientific breakthroughs that individual scientists have made that have led to our nation’s success. Such breakthroughs are to be expected according to the biblical model. In this area, it is clear that following the “consensus” has been a good thing. It seems evident, based on God’s dealings with nations in the Bible, that He views the spiritual state of a nation by its consensus views on various matters, and He responds accordingly with blessings or punishments. In the past, God has showered this nation with blessings—scientifically, economically, militarily, and in many other ways—in large part due to the “consensus” of Americans that the God of the Bible is the one true God (cf. Miller, 2008). Sadly, the consensus is changing, and we should expect God’s blessings to diminish accordingly. May we encourage you always in your pursuit to boldly speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), doing your part to make the American consensus one that believes in and seeks to obey the one true God of the Universe.
Archie, John (2012), “Philosophy 103: Introduction to Logic Argumentum Ad Populum,” Introduction to Logic, Lander University, http://philosophy.lander.edu/logic/popular.html.
Balme, D.M. (1962), “Development of Biology in Aristotle and Theophrastus: Theory of Spontaneous Generation,” Phronesis: A Journal for Ancient Philosophy, 7[1-2]:91-104.
“Bloodletting” (2012), Science Museum Brought to Life: Exploring the History of Medicine, http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/techniques/bloodletting.aspx.
Darwin, Charles (1859), On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (London: John Murray).
“Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents” (2007), http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html.
Miller, Dave (2008), The Silencing of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Miller, Jeff (2012a), “Bill Nye: The (Pseudo-)Science Guy,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=2842.
Miller, Jeff (2012b), “Literal Creationists Holding Their Ground in the Polls,” Reason & Revelation, 32:94-95, September (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), http://www.apologeticspress.org /APPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1093&article=2040#.
Stein, Ben and Kevin Miller (2008), Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Premise Media).