There was an article at Phys Org addressing the five most common misunderstandings about evolution, and on one level I applaud them for trying to set the record straight. But in so doing, the author falls prey to some misunderstandings of her own.
As a creationist, I’ve worked hard to have a better understanding of evolution than most evolutionists. I’ve studied their arguments well enough that I can intelligently discuss the issues. Now that’s not to say they’ll ever agree with me, but I try to use logic, reason and evidence to support my case.
The author of this article, Paula Kover of the University of Bath, is basically making the case that, if you don’t believe evolution, then you just don’t understand it. There’s no other explanation. So she begins by lamenting two incidents of evolutionary ignorance. Former Cricket star Shane Warne once asked, “if humans evolved from monkeys, why haven’t today’s monkeys evolved”? And then a teacher from a primary school in the UK said that evolution is a theory and not a fact.
Of all the egregious mistakes one could make, these must be among the worst! It must be embarrassing for evolutionists to admit that 20% of the UK’s population doesn’t accept evolution. Yes, they’ve worked so hard to indoctrinate students into believing evolution, introducing them to the theory by the time they’re 10 or 11-years old. What’s gone wrong??? Fire that teacher! This epidemic is worsened by the fact that other hard sciences, like physics and the theory of relativity, are not questioned. But it’s a tragedy that the general public questions evolution because- according to this author- it has “complete acceptance by scientists”.
Wow. The bigger tragedy for me is that there are scientists who just don’t get it. Scientists with prestigious academic degrees and doctorates believe that evolution is completely accepted and unquestioned by scientists. With this type of scientific literacy, it’s no wonder scientists are so exasperated by their efforts to convince the public that evolution equals truth.
Of course I reject the premise that evolution is completely accepted by scientists. It may be accepted by many scientists, but there are plenty of scientists who don’t, and she conveniently (perhaps intentionally) fails to mention this- as if truth isn’t helpful. Another problem I have with such thinking is that it elevates science to a god-like status that mustn’t be questioned. Scientists, however, are human; this means they’re prone to making mistakes, and can be influenced by money, power, politics, and their own ideologies and worldview, just like anyone else. I’ve documented many instances of scientists being wrong about their beliefs; this happens because new evidence can falsify once solid conclusions. The best explanation of the data today may be overturned with new data tomorrow. So don’t be fooled into thinking that we have to accept the consensus opinion of scientists. Science isn’t open to a vote.
Kover goes on to present her theory on why the theory of evolution is questioned by the general public, and she begins by addressing the claim that evolution is “just a theory.” Now even though she admits scientists refer to the “theory of evolution,” what they mean is that it’s a recognized and well-substantiated explanation of the data. She goes on to provide examples of accepted theories, such as the effect gravity has on an apple when it’s dropped, or antibiotic resistance.
Okay, where should we start? There are so many holes in her argument that I’m not sure where to begin. In truth, I agree we shouldn’t refer to evolution as “just a theory”. That’s giving it too much credit. If someone says that evolution is just a theory, I’d explain that evolution is really an unsubstantiated hypothesis. To call it a theory suggests that it has as much standing as the theory of gravity or antibiotic resistance, but it doesn’t.
Real science is based on the scientific method: observation, experimentation, investigation, and the formulation of explanations or hypothesis that can be tested. Evolution fails to meet this criteria; we can’t observe evolution happening, nor can we do repeatable experiments to substantiate such claims.
Kover compares the theory of evolution to other theories that are well-substantiated in order to give evolution credibility, but that’s comparing two very different concepts; she’s using a bait-and-switch tactic, and this is one reason why some people believe in evolution. When a well-respected scientist claims that believing in evolution is just as logical as believing in gravity… well, who wants to admit they don’t believe in gravity? The obvious conclusion is that we’d better accept evolution so no accuses us of being a stupid gravity-denier. At least that’s how science shaming works- convince the public that evolution is just as valid as any other well-accepted scientific theory, and they’ll be forced to accept your premise without question; they can’t deny one without denying the other.
But those who make this type of comparison ignore how very different the belief in evolution is from gravity. Even though we can’t see gravity, we can observe the effects gravity has in the present, and we can test those effects, make predictions, create hypothesis, and then confirm them. This can be done without having to rely upon unprovable assumptions. Evolution, however, has never been observed, nor can it be tested to substantiate those claims- it’s entirely based upon circumstantial evidence. If I’m on earth and drop an apple, I can observe the apple falling to the ground. But I can’t observe a dinosaur turning into a bird.
As for antibiotic resistance, we can observe this within a single generation. We’ve observed antibiotic resistance after reviving bacteria in the bodies of people who had died long before we began using antibiotics, demonstrating that the chemicals needed for resistance already existed in the bacterium’s DNA. In other words bacterial resistance is simply natural selection, not evolution. But claiming that an ape-like organism evolved into a human is something entirely different.
Next, Kover addresses the claim that humans are descended from monkeys. I find this objection humorous. Evolutionists are quick to jump on anyone who makes the mistake of implying that humans evolved from monkeys, so I play along with this game by referring to these extinct animals as ape-like creatures or organisms, and that usually satisfies them. When someone makes the mistake of saying humans evolved from monkeys, an alert evolutionist is quick to react, explaining that we only share a common ancestor with apes and monkeys, who are our closest living relatives. But the common ancestor we’re related to was neither human nor a monkey, but was an ape-like creature. Fine. If we have to play the semantics game, we can do that. So, if you don’t believe in evolution, make sure you get it right so that they can’t accuse you of misunderstanding evolution (as quickly).
But to her other point, Kover claims humans and chimps share more than 90% of their genetic sequence. This claim, however, is fraught with problems. Firstly, this 90% claim has dropped substantially over the years. Secular scientists used to claim we shared about 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees, but now Kover uses the figure of 90%, which itself is an incredible chasm. This means evolutionists are getting further away from our supposed ancestry with chimps than what was hyped for decades. And secondly, the difference is closer to 70% once all relevant factors are considered. This is a failed predicted by evolutionists, but they’re still using it to advance their agenda.
The third claim Kover rejects is that natural selection is purposeful. This point is interesting because her implication is that it’s a mistake to think evolution intends to advance in a particular direction. The problem with such a position is that, if we accepted evolution to be true, then what are we to make of the apparent progression we observe from a single celled organism evolving into a more complex organism, which in turn improves on up the line until we have intelligent humans with the ability to manipulate their environment, contemplate and change their future, and even worship God? All this implies purpose and a direction. Yet an evolutionist must deny that evolution had any of this in mind when the first living organism appeared. They must argue that all this is the result of blind forces of nature acting upon genetic traits, environmental factors and mutations. I think it’s more reasonable to conclude that humans never would have appeared if evolution was true, and that’s a good reason to reject evolution. Evolutionists must deny that natural selection is purposeful because to admit this would be to admit some kind of design or pattern was at work, and that would require a creator, and that’s forbidden in the realm of secular science.
Kover’s fourth misunderstanding is that evolution can’t explain complex organs. She attempts to dispel this myth by assuming that an organ- like the eye- could have had another function before sight evolved; in this scenario an organism might have evolved light-sensing organs, giving it a survival advantage favored by natural selection. She goes on to claim that this theory has been proven correct by studying animals with primitive light-sensing organs. But the problem with this is that her claims are unsubstantiated stories without merit. The animals with light-sensing organs haven’t evolved sight, so to claim the existence of light-sensing organs in animals proves that an animal without an eye could evolve an eye is ridiculous. All it really proves is that certain animals have eyes, while other animals have organs for sensing light. It doesn’t mean that one evolved into the other, or that these light-sensing organs eventually turned into eyes used for sight.
Lastly Kover rejects the claim that religion is incompatible with evolution. She makes it very clear that evolution is not a theory about the origin of life, but is a theory to explain how species change over time. Whew, I’m glad she cleared that up.
Actually, I’m not sure how Kover is able to reconcile point number three with point number five. Those religions which worship God (or some kind of supernatural being) tend to believe that God created humans on purpose (in his image). Yet Kover insists that evolution/ natural selection is not purposeful. So which is it? Is it purposeful or not? I’m not sure how religion can be compatible with evolution if God created man on purpose and in his image.
Still, whether or not evolution and religion are compatible depends upon the type of evolutionist you’re interacting with. Some evolutionists, while insisting that evolution has nothing to do with the origin of life, end up violating this rule at some point. For instance they may claim that life originated elsewhere in the universe, that earth was seeded by aliens, or perhaps an organism survived the journey to earth on a comet. Other evolutionists may explain how simple molecules could have formed complex proteins and somehow became self-organized by purely natural methods to become the first living organism. So it’s disingenuous for evolutionists to claim that evolution isn’t about the origin of life.
I’m not sure about Kover’s religious beliefs, but it sounds like she’s pleading with religious folks to trust her when she claims there’s little conflict between evolution and most religions. I think she realizes this is one of the sticking points as to why people don’t believe in evolution; therefore she feels compelled to convince us that it’s not true. Now it may be that some religions are more compatible with evolution than others, but such an admission isn’t enough to dismiss any real incompatibilities. Just because Pope Francis declares that evolution isn’t incompatible with the Catholic faith doesn’t make it so. I don’t know how well Pope Francis understands evolution or the creation account in Genesis, but I doubt he’s thought it all the way through. Moreover, Kover cherry-picks religious persons who accept evolution, but doing so doesn’t resolve anything. I think it only serves to ignore the substantive reasons why certain religions are incompatible with evolution.
Further, Kover makes it sound like it’s okay for religious persons to believe that God created the first living organism… as long as going forward we accept that evolution is true and reject any religious teachings inconsistent with evolutionary theory. I’m not sure how playing by these evolutionary rules demonstrate compatibility between evolution and religion. If Christianity, for example, teaches that animals reproduce after their kind, then how is that compatible with a theory denying this, while insisting that all living organisms are related to a single common ancestor? The only way to do this would be to reinterpret what the Bible teaches so that it conforms to evolutionary teaching. But I’d hardly call that compatible; I’d call it compromise.
The one thing I’ll agree with Kover on is her last quote by Reverend Malcom Brown from the Church of England, who said, “Good religion needs to work constructively with good science.” Absolutely! And that’s why I reject evolution; I don’t believe evolution is good science. Studying the effects of gravity is good science, and it doesn’t require compromising one’s religious beliefs.
In conclusion, Kover has taken the position that the general public doesn’t accept evolution because they misunderstand it, and if we can somehow clear up these misunderstandings, then everyone would accept evolution, and all would be good with the world. But such thinking only serves to undermine religion. There’s a reason why many people reject evolution, but it’s not because they don’t understand it (even though they may not). People reject evolution for two main reasons: firstly, it’s not true, and secondly, it’s incompatible with many religions. It’s not much harder to understand than that.