---


The Evolution Fact FAQ
M. R. Leipzig (c)1997-1998
Last revision 27 January, 1998

If one is to surf the web today and try and make some sort of sense of the bewildering array of information (running the Gardnerian gamut of 'good, bad and bogus') so easily available there; one can become quickly mired in the voluminous mainstream scientific and less-than-mainstream pseudoscientific terminology, arguments and contentions. As an attempt to hopefully help 'clear the muddied waters', level the playing field (I speak hopefully, although not terribly optimistically, that this can be accomplished without the use of explosives; verbal or otherwise) and turn some of the intensely emotive partisan friction of the Creation/Evolution issue into light, I offer the following:

What is Evolution? (and, more importantly, what is not evolution.)

Before we proceed, it is essential that we set a few ground rules and delimit exactly to what we are referring when we speak of evolution in the context of the evolution\creation conflict. Thus: by definition, evolution is: (1.) precisely defined as any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next. The gene pool is the set of all genes in a species or population. This is the neontological (biological) definition.

Unfortunately, alleles themselves are rarely, if ever, preserved in the rock record as fossils; which are the key data units in the examination of the history of life on Earth. But, the expression of these alleles is preserved in the fossils of populations of organisms, which are readily available for examination. From this, it is readily apparent that (2.) life has developed (not 'progressed') from one or a small set of common ancestors as well as from 'simple' organisms to more 'complex' creatures over the span of geological time. This is one of the paleontological definitions of evolution.

Although already there may be some dissenters bristling over the relative merits of biological 'simplicity' or 'complexity'; I maintain that, in however a general or specific sense, a multicellular organism (say, a human, a blue whale, or a Velociraptor mongoliensis) is relatively more complex (systemically) than a unicellular blue-green alga; although I will concede that complexity is not a measure of a population of organisms success (viz.: bacteria and alga are much more voluminous and have been extant far longer than Homo sapiens), but is used here solely for purposes of differentiation between the neontological and paleontological concept of evolution.

Therefore, with these definitions in mind; evolution:

1. is a fact,
2. is also a number of theories,
3. is Science,
4. is also scientific,
5. is naturalistic and purely mechanistic,
6. is falsifiable,
7. is testable,
8. is predictive,
9. has been observed;
        9a. in the field
        9b. in the laboratory,
10. has occurred in the past,
11. is still occurring,
12. will continue to occur in the future.

Further, we can also note that evolution:

13. is not atheistic (nor Communistic, Marxist, Leninist, Stalinist, etc.), 14. is not evil, 15. is not mandated by law to be taught in US public schools, 16. is not a cosmological theory (i.e., "it don't do origins"), 17. is not a religion nor Religion, 18. is not determined by popular opinion (as can be said of any science), 19. is not a socio-political program or paradigm, 20. is not dependent on the supernatural, 21. does not claim that "Man came from apes", 22. is not progress, 23. has not, will not and cannot be proven (as can be said of any science), 24. Is not random nor relies on 'blind chance', 25. does not violate the second law of thermodynamics, 26. Does not deny (a) God(s), and finally, 27. Falsifying evolution does not prove Creation.

That said, let us examine every claim in turn and in detail that evolution:

1. is a fact,

"It is time for students of the evolutionary process, especially those who have been misquoted and used by the creationists, to state clearly that evolution is a FACT, not ("only a" - ed.) theory, and that what is at issue within biology are q estions of details of the process and the relative importance of different mechanisms of evolution.

It is a FACT that the earth with liquid water, is more than 3.6 billion years old. It is a FACT that cellular life has been around for at least half of that period and that organised multicellular life is at least 800 million years old. It is a FACT that major life forms now on earth were not at all represented in the past. There were no birds or mammals 250 million years ago. It is a FACT that major life forms of the past are no longer living. There used to be dinosaurs and Pithecanthropus, and there are none now. It is a FACT that all living forms come from previous living forms.

Therefore, all present forms of life arose from ancestral forms that were different. Birds arose from nonbirds and humans from nonhumans. No person who pretends to any understanding of the natural world can deny these facts any more than she or he can deny that the earth is round, rotates on its axis, and revolves around the sun.

The controversies about evolution lie in the realm of the relative importance of various forces in moulding evolution."

- R. C. Lewontin "Evolution/Creation Debate: A Time for Truth" Bioscience 31, 559 (1981).

Just as much as gravitation is a fact, is so evolution. It has been observed, in both the laboratory and the field, and through the evidence of the fossil record. It is not debated in mainstream science that evolution has occurred (and is still occurring); but it is the mode and tempo of evolution that is being debated.

2. is also a number of theories,

Even before the time of it's formal introduction to science by Darwin, there have been many differing and different theories advanced to explain the fact of organic evolution and the diversity of life on Earth. Some are over 100 years old, while others are quite recent innovations. Some have been discarded as erroneous, while others have, literally and figuratively, tons of evidence which support them.

A general listing of these theories include Darwinism (descent with modification by natural selection; and in and of itself a set of theories; i.e., 'Strict Darwinism', 'General Darwinism', etc.; and an 'umbrella' term sometimes used in other evolutionary theories as a basis, which is then modified), Lamarckianism ("inheritance of acquired characteristics"), saltationalism (evolution proceeding by major leaps or jumps), gradualism (slow, uniform accumulation of modifications), punctuated equilib rium (periods of stasis followed by brief, intense periods of speciation), phyletic gradualism (speciation occurs gradually over a species' entire range), orthogenesis (evolution that follows a single direction or specific trend continuously, "straight- line" evolution, often appearing to be independent of natural selection), creationism (a religious, non-scientific, pseudoscientific preconceived dogmatic construct), etc.

With the exception of creationism ('Scientific', Biblical or otherwise), the remainder are or were scientific theories. Orthogenesis, Lamarckianism, saltationalism (to a certain degree), and creationism have been largely been abandoned or supplanted by other theories or combination of theories. In fact, the union of molecular biology, genetics and natural selection (Darwinism) lead to what is known as the Modern Synthesis. That is, the Modern Synthesis is a theory about how evolution works at the level of genes, phenotypes, and populations whereas Darwinism was concerned mainly with organisms, speciation and individuals.

One of the most recent, and generally least understood, theories of evolution is Punctuated equilibrium:

Some palaeontologists think evolution is a hierarchical process.

The theory of punctuated equilibria attempts to infer the process of macroevolution from the pattern of species documented in the fossil record. In the fossil record, transition from one species to another is usually abrupt in most geographic locales -- no transitional forms are found. In short, it appears that species remain unchanged for long stretches of time and then are quickly replaced by new species. However, if wide ranges are searched, transitional forms that bridge the gap between the two species are sometime found in small, localised areas.

For example, in Jurassic brachiopods of the genus Kutchithyris, K. acutiplicata appears below another species, K. euryptycha. Both species were common and covered a wide geographical area. They differ enough that some have argued they should be i n a different genera. In just one small locality an approximately 1.25m sedimentary layer with these fossils is found. In the narrow (10 cm) layer that separates the two species, both species are found along with transitional forms. In other localiti es there is a sharp transition.

Gould and Eldredge, the authors of punctuated equilibria, interpret this in light of theories of allopatric speciation. They concluded that isolated populations of organisms will often speciate and then invade the range of their ancestral species. Th us at most locations that fossils are found, transition from one species to another will be abrupt. This abrupt change will reflect replacement by migration however, not evolution. In order to find the transitional fossils, the area of speciation must be found.

They also argue that evolution can proceed quickly in small populations so that the tempo of evolution is not continuous. This has lead to some confusion about the theory. Some popular accounts give the impression that abrupt changes in the fossil record are due to blindingly fast evolution; this is not what the theory of punctuated equilibria says.

Some PE proponents envision the theory as a hierarchical theory of evolution because they see speciation as analogous to mutation and the replacement of one species by another (which they call species selection) as analogous to natural selection. Speciation adds new species to the species pool just as mutation adds new alleles to the gene pool and species selection favours one species over another just as natural selection can favour one allele over another. This is the most controversial part o f the theory. Most biologists agree with the pattern of macroevolution these palaeontologists posit, but many disagree with the mechanism -- species selection. Critics would argue that species selection is not analogous to natural selection and there fore evolution is not hierarchical.

The theory of punctuated equilibrium was designed to replace the theory of phyletic gradualism (here, in and of itself, is a type-section instance of scientific nature of evolution: testing, re-analysis, re- interpretation and self-correction in action). Phyletic gradualists held that a species would slowly transform into another species over its entire range. Phyletic gradualism is often associated with the assumption of a uniform rate of evolution, but this need not be the case.

Although all this fact vs. theory exposition may seem a tad confusing, here's a concise binary clarification courtesy of Harvard's own Stephan Jay Gould:

"Well evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don't go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's in this century, but apples didn't suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.

"Moreover, 'fact' doesn't mean 'absolute certainty'; there ain't no such animal in an exciting and complex world. The final proofs of logic and mathematics flow deductively from stated premises and achieve certainty only because they are NOT about the empirical world. Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us falsely for a style of argument that they themselves favour). In science 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent'. I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

"Evolutionists have been very clear about this distinction of fact and theory from the very beginning, if only because we have always acknowledged how far we are from completely understanding the mechanisms (theory) by which evolution (fact) occurred. Darwin continually emphasised the difference between his two great and separate accomplishments: establishing the fact of evolution, and proposing a theory - natural selection - to explain the mechanism of evolution."

- Stephen J. Gould, "Evolution as Fact and Theory"; Discover, May 1981

3. is Science,

By definition, science (apart from being defined by definition) is:

[ME, knowledge, learning < OFr. < Lat. scientia < sciens, pr.part. of scire, to know.]

By all aspects of the definition, evolution is science.

4. is also scientific,

Let's take a quick look at the scientific method and see just how evolution stacks up:

Therefore, evolution is addressable and able to be investigated by the scientific method; is internally consistent, physically evidenced, observable (either directly or through the fossil record), is self- testing and self-correcting.

As evolution is both fact and theory; evolution is both science and scientific.

5. is naturalistic and purely mechanistic,

Invokes no God(s) nor supernatural constructs in its explanations. It is constrained by the natural laws of chemistry and physics and does not proceed randomly. Further, evolution and evolutionary theories all contain exactly less than one mi racle and less than one God.

6. is falsifiable,

Evolution is scientific because it is falsifiable. Unlike creationism, where no test, no procedure, no gedankenexperiment, can be postulated to disprove the notion of special creation or a creator; which is a belief system based on faith. Evolution, on the other hand, being based entirely upon facts and evidence, and which makes statements derived from those facts, can be falsified. Viz.: find a fossilized skeleton of Homo sapiens in an undisturbed stratigraphic sequence at the same level as a Tyrannosaur.

Evolutionary theory maintains that: 1. Tyrannosaurs are extinct, 2. They existed in the Cretaceous period of the Mesozoic era and 3. Are never found in rocks younger than approximately 66.6 MY (million years) old. Evolutionary theory also holds that Homo sapiens is a relatively recent addition to the biological sphere (if you look at the history of life on Earth from a geological standpoint), is currently extant and whose remains are never found in sediments greater than approximately 4 MY. Therefore, if one were to be found in an undisturbed section cheek-by-jowl with a T. rex...

7. is testable,

That is, evolutionary theory can be given to 'what-if' scenarios. For instance, if I happen upon an environment (some may think this a frivolous notion; but not at all. In recent years life- bearing environments have been found that were previously thought to be antagonistic to life, i.e., deep-sea vents on the ocean ridges, which were found to be teeming with, admittedly unusual, life), I can propose the test of which organisms I would expect to find there. Conversely, given an organism (extant or extinct) and it's adaptations; I can, through evolutionary theory, deduce the environment to which it is best suited.

For instance, let's look at the fossil record. If I find the remains of an organism, let's say one with wings; I can put it to the test that it was a flying organism. But, if I find that the wings are heavily modified and the theoretically-flying creature's remains are always found with fossil fish fragments and cephalopod pens; and the geology of the depositional environments indicate a cold, polar fringing-marine environment; my test would have failed. Seems they winged creatures are m ore well adapted to a pelagic, nektonic, open marine lifestyle (at least for part of the time). I am forced to develop another hypothesis and test that (this time in favour of organisms that 'fly' through the water). The hallmark of science is it's testability, re-analysis, re-interpretation and self-correcting nature. (BTW, if you haven't already guessed, I was talking about Aptenodytes patigonica.)

8. is predictive,

Logical outcome of item 7. Organisms can be used to predict their environment and environments can be used to predict the type of organism that could best exploit that portion of ecological hyperspace.

9. has been observed,

Finally, notice that evolution has occurred. The experiment started with populations of fish that produced skewed sex ratios and ended with populations that produced balanced sex ratios. Since the environment was held constant, the change in the populations was therefore genetic. In other words, the gene pool changed over time. This is the definition of evolution.

Conover and Voorhees, 1990, Evolution of a Balanced Sex Ratio by Frequency-Dependent Selection in a Fish, Science 250: p.1556-1558

10. has occurred in the past,

In the July 13, 1990 issue of Science, Gingerich et. al. report on an interesting fossil found in Egypt. It is a whale with feet. The skeleton is of the species Basilosaurus isis.

Current cetacea do not have external hind limbs. But whales, which are mammals, evolved from terrestrial mammals. This fossil, therefore, is a link between the two. The skeleton they show is long (16 m) and serpentine. The authors believe th is whale hunted in shallow mangrove or seagrass habitat. It's hind limb has a short femur and a slightly shorter fibula and tibia. It has no thumb and a greatly reduced second digit. The other three fingers are quite long (relatively). In short, another variation of the basic mammalian leg.

The authors speculate that the limbs were tucked in close to the body while the whale was swimming (and the osteology of the bones suggest that they are correct).

Gingerich, et. el., 1990, Hind Limbs of Eocene Basilosaurus : Evidence of Feet in Whales, Science 249: p.154-156

11. is still occurring,

Yes, evolution is still occurring; all organisms continue to adapt to their surroundings and "invent" new ways of better competing with members of their own species. In addition, allele frequencies are being changed by drift, mutation and gene flow constantly. Studying the process of evolution as it continues to occur is a major field of biology today. Although evolution has been observed and all the mechanisms have been shown to work, there is still no consensus on the relative contribution of each of the mechanisms to the overall pattern of evolution within a lineage.

12. will continue to occur in the future,

As noted by pre-eminent geologist James Hutton: "The present is the key to the past". Although Hutton's axiom is strictly uniformitarian, the premise is valid. Therefore, logically, today's present is tomorrow's past. What we see in the lab and the field regarding the fact of evolution today indicates that it will continue into the future as it has for the last 3.65 BY.

In addition, we can also note that evolution:

13. is not atheistic (nor Communistic, Marxist, Leninist, Stalinistic, etc.),

"Evolution is thus not only anti-Biblical and anti-Christian, but it is utterly unscientific and impossible as well. But it has served effectively as the pseudo-scientific basis of atheism, agnosticism, socialism, fascism, and numerous other false and dangerous philosophies over the past century."

Morris, Henry M. and Robert T. Clark. 1976. The Bible Has the Answers. San Diego: Creation-Life Publishers.

Morris and Clark's brutum fulmen aside, evolution is about as atheistic as World League Soccer. That may seem sort of a ridiculous comparison, but it is not. While soccer players may be atheist, Christian, Zen Buddhist, NewAge Crystal Voodoo Necromancer, Tree Hugging NeoDriud, or followers of Bob; the rules, officialdom, tenets and game of soccer says exactly nothing regarding the presence, absence, traits or idiosyncrasies of a supernatural being. It just plain does not concern itself with that premise.

That is precisely the same as for evolution. Evolution neither requires nor desires spirits, sprites, spooks, spectres, goblins, ghouls, ghosts or God(s). It says nothing, nothing, of the presence or absence of (a) God(s); and by definition , it cannot. Evolution, as shown above, is science. Science, by definition, is purely naturalistic. Therefore, the "God Hypothesis" is untenable for use or consideration in evolution. Succinctly put, evolution only concerns itself with the natural world; God(s) and the like, are, by definition, supernatural and therefore not a consideration, nor are they considered, when examining the natural world.

Evolution neither desires nor requires God(s); but it does make them unnecessary. Sometimes the creationists drop their scientific pretences and reveal their religious motivations by attacking evolution on the grounds that it is an "anti-religious" or "atheistic" theory (vide alta). The creationists would have one believe that evolution is atheistic, because it contradicts their naively literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis in the Bible. However, evolution is not necessarily atheistic. Evolution is a scientific finding, and science tells us, by design and definition, nothing about metaphysical (and oftimes silly) issues such as the existence of God. We know through science that evolution is a reality. Whether a God exists who used evolution to create life is an open question; although some, like the author, find the entire question illogical and irrelevant.

Some claim that evolution is communistic, Marxist or even anarchist. Using the method of dialectical materialism, Marx and Engels were able to discover the laws that govern history and the development of society in general. Using a similar method, Charles Darwin was able to uncover the precepts of evolution of the biological world. "Darwin applied a consistent philosophy of materialism to his interpretation of nature," states palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould. "Matter is the ground of al l existence; mind, spirit, and God as well, are just words that express the wondrous results of neuronal complexity."

Even if, by similar methods, Marx/Engels and Darwin devised revolutionary concepts; this in no way makes evolution and Marxism any more related than the fish is to the squid I caught while fishing.

14. Is not evil,

Even if was, by any standard you desire, it would not be a reason to assume it is wrong. Chemistry is responsible for millions of deaths every year; physics, accelerating bodies to 9.78049 m/sec/sec, kills those who believe gravity is not a fact; but we do not reject its findings because of this. How people use a theory is not a judgement of its accuracy.

Fortunately we do not face this dilemma. Evolution does not say what is right and what is wrong, but merely what has happened. A strictly historical account of the Auto de fe or Crusades would not say that they either were good or bad, rather, that they had happened (although it would note their religious underpinnings). Similarly, evolution does not say that any conclusions people might draw from it are good or bad. Evolution simply "is".

15. is not mandated by law to be taught in US public schools,

It is, and should, be taught in the science classroom because it is science and science is what should be taught in science class. As noted by the late Judge Overton in the 1980 Arkansas vs. McLean "Balanced Treament" case; "science is what s cientists do", and scientists 'do' evolution; not creationism. Never has it been legislated that evolution must, by law, be taught in the science class, is simply was because it is science.

It is wholly amusing (and somewhat aggrieving) to witness the machinations of the so-called "Scientific" creationists, who have been so enflamed in trying to achieve legislation for their battle-cry of "balanced treatment". This whole issue is so riddled with oxymorons, it's a lexicographer's delight. For instance, "scientific" creationism is promoted by only a few fundamentalist Christian types with a heavy doctrinal axe to grind and a thinly disguised, but ridiculously apparent, hidden agenda.

The Institute for Creation Research and the Center for Creation Research are self-professed ministries; and for that, they make no apologies nor have any qualms in accepting their tax-exempt status. They do no research whatsoever (that is, their so-called 'research' consists almost solely of their ransacking scientific publications for quotes from prominent evolutionary scientists which could be lifted from their original context and then perfidiously recontextualized in order to serve Creationist designs; they also spend considerable 'research' time being an 'outreach' ministry, financing expeditions to Turkey to ferret out gopher-wood ships and expend their remaining time floating horsetails in aquaria; such is their 'research ' activities), instead they content themselves with trying to 'disprove' evolution (about more later).

They require the signing of a statement of beliefs (all religious, all Biblical) in order to be counted with their little clan. Odd that this is so diametrically opposite to what real science is and what real scientists do. And yet these so-called, self-professed 'scientists' have the unmitigated temerity to call mainstream scientists closed-minded. I personally belong to 14 international geological, biological and paleontological scientific societies and have yet to be required to sign a single document confirming that I have a literal belief (or, for that matter, any beliefs) in anything.

Secondly, when one looks at the strategies of the creationists; their deceptions, shoddy work, and illogic, their 'secret' agenda becomes all too apparent. First they clamour for 'fairness' in balanced treatment; that is, they want their narrowly-sectarian, fundamentalist, Biblically-literalist religious dogma taught right alongside the science of evolution in the science classroom. Well, besides being unconstitutional; it's devious, disingenuous, and dastardly as well. If they truly wan t balanced treatment, then they would be lobbying to present all the theories of development of life on Earth.

Let's balance the treatment by including the fables, myths, parables, and legends of the Aaragon, Abenaki, Acoma, Ainu, Aleut, Amunge, Ange vin, Anishinabek, Anvik-Shageluk, Apache, Arapaho, Ararapivka, Arikara, Armenian, Arrernte, Ashkenazim, Assiniboine, Athabascan, Athena, Aztec, Babylonian, Balinese, Bannock, Bantu, Basque, Blackfoot, Blood, Bosnian, Breton, Brul, Bundjalung, Burns P aiute, Caddo, Cahuilla, Catalan, Cayuga, Cayuse, Celt, Chehalis, Chelan, Cherokee, Chewella, Cheyenne, Chickasaw, Chinook, Chippewa, Chirachaua, Choctaw, Chukchi, Coeur d'Alene, Columbia River, Colville, Comanche, Congolese, Concow, Coquille, Cow Cre ek, Cowlitz, Cree, Creek, Croat, Crow, Crow Creek, Cumbres, Curonian, Cushite, Cut Head, Da'an, Devon, Dihai-Kutchin, Diyari, Dogon, Duwamish, Egyptian, Elwha, S'Klallam, Eritrean, Eskimo, Esrolvuli, Eta, Even, Evenk, Flathead, Fijian, Fox, Fuegan, G aul, Gooniyandi, Gond, Govi Basin Mongolian, Grand Ronde, Gros Ventre, Haida, Han, Haranding, Havasupai, Hendriki, Heortling, Hidatsa, Hindi, Hmong, HoChunk, Hoh, Hoopa, Hopi, Hunkpapa, Hutu, Ik-kil-lin, Inca, Innu, Intsi Dindjich, Inuit, Iroquois, I sleta, Itchali, Itelemen, It-ka-lya-ruin, Itkpe'lit, Itku'dlin, Jicarilla Apache, Jotvingian, Kaiyuhkhotana, Kalapuya, Kalispel, Kamchandal, Kansa, Karuk, Katshikotin, Kaurna, Kaw, Kazahk, Ketschetnaer, Khanti, Khoi-San, Khymer, Kickapoo, Kiowa, Kirg hiz, Kitchin-Kutchin, Klamath, Knaiakhotana, K'nyaw, Koch-Rajbongshi, Kolshina, Kono, Kootenai, Koyukukhotana, !Kung, Kurd, La Jolla, Lac Courte D' Oreille, Lac Du Flambeau, Laguna, Lake, Lakota, Lao, Latgalian, Leech Lake Chippewa, Lemmi, Lower Brul , Lower Yanktonai, Lowland Lummi, Lummi, Malawi, Makah, Mandan, Maori, Maricopan, Martinez, Mayan, Mazatec, Mednofski, Menominee, Meryam Mir, Mesa Grande, Mescalero Apache, Metlakatla, Miniconjou, Mission, Moallalla, Modoc, Mohawk, Mojave, Morongo, M uckleshoot, Murrinh-Patha, Nadruvian, Nagorno-Karabakh, Na-Kotchpo- tschig-Kouttchin, Nambe, Namib, Natche'-Kutehin, Navajo, Nes Pelem, Neyetse-kutchi, Nez Perce, Ngiyampaa, Nisqualli, Nnatsit-Kutchin, Nomelackie, Nooksack, Norman, Norse, Northern Che yenne, Nyungar, Oglala, Ogorvalte, Ojibway, Okanagon, Okinawan, Olmec, Omaha, Oneida, Onondaga, Ordovices, Orlanthi, Osage, Osetto, O-til'-tin, Otoe, Paakantyi, Paiute, Pala Mission, Papago, Pawnee, Pazyryk, Pechango, Penan, Piegan, Pima, Pitt River, Ponca, Potowatomie, Prussian, Pueblo, Puyallup, Qiang, Quileute, Quinault, Red Cliff Chippewa, Red Lake Chippewa, Redwood, Rincon, Sac, Saisiyat, Sakuddeis, Salish, Salt River, Samish, Samoan, Samogitian, San Carlos Apache, San Idlefonso, San Juan, San Poil, Santa Clara, Sartar, Sauk-Suiattle, Selonian, Semigolian, Seminole, Senecan, Sephardim, Serano, Serb, Shasta, Shawnee, Shiite, Shinnecock, Shoalwater Bay, Shoshone, Sikh, Siletz, Silures, Sinhalese, Sioux, Siskiyou, Sisseton, Siuslaw, Skal vian, S'Klallam, Skokomish, Skyomish, Slovene, Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Soboba, Southern Cheyenne, Spokane, Squaxin Island, Steilacoom, Stillaquamish, Stockbridge, Sunni, Suquamish, Swinomish, Tadjik, Takhayuna, Tala, Talastari, Tamil, Tanaina, Taos, T arim, Tasman, Tatar, Tesuque, Tlingit, Toltec, Tpe-ttckie-dhidie-Kouttchin, Tranjik-Kutchin, Truk, Tukkutih-Kutchin, Tulalip, Tungus, Turtle Mountain, Tuscarora, Turk, Turkmen, Tutsi, Ugalakmiut, Uintah, Umatilla, Umatilla, Umpqua, Uncompagre, U-nung 'un, Upper Skagit, Ute, Uzbek, Vietnamese, Viking, Vunta-Kutchin, Wahpeton, Walla Walla, Wasco, Wembawemba, White Mountain Apache, Wichita, Wik-ungkan, Winnebago, Wiradjuri, Wylackie, Xhosa, Yahi, Yakama, Yakima, Yakut, Yanamamo, Yankton Sioux, Yankt onai Sioux, Yellowknife, Yindjibarnd, Youkon Louchioux, Yukaghir, Yukonikhotana, Yullit, Yuma, Zjen-ta-Kouttchin, Zulu, et al., ad infinitum del mundi.

Just when we're going to be able to fit all of this into the science curricula and still get to any real science is, of course, a yet to be addressed question; particularly by the creationists.

Secondly, when creationists try to procure 'balanced treatment', they often try and do this be attacking evolution; an utterly fallacious endeavour (see #27: the False Dilemma [a.k.a., bifurcation fallacy]). The status quo now, in the science classroom, is that evolution is 'in' and creationism is 'out'. What the creationists so desperately desire is to overthrow that status quo and retread it to read: evolution 'in', creationism 'in'. But notice what a precedence this sets. The status of evolution remains unchanged! In both cases, it is 'in'.

Now we can see just how truly unfounded and fundamentally inane are creationist attacks on evolution. By their own admission, in striving for balanced treatment, they are not trying to oust evolution (balanced = equal for both); therefore anything that the creationists have to offer must be defending or supporting creationism, on a scientific (definitely not religious) basis; and not an attack on evolution (however specious or irrelevant), for it's not the status of evolution that they're trying to change, but rather the status of creationism.

20. is not dependent on the supernatural,

In fact, must exclude itself from this realm. Evolution, as all science, must depend on exactly less than one miracle. No God(s) required nor desired.

21. does not claim that "Man came from apes",

Only misinformed types, typically with a single-edged doctrinal axe to grind, maintain this. In fact, it is about as matchless a "straw-man" argument as can be constructed. The facts of the matter are that evolutionary theories maintain that humans and the great apes share a common ancestor. Nowhere is the claim made that "man evolved from apes"; and no evolutionary theorist makes such a claim.

This is due, in my opinion, to the abysmal lack of scientific comprehension in the world today (fully 95% of Americans can be said to be scientifically illiterate (American Scientist, Sept/Oct, p. 439-444 [1])), the 'bad press' received by science in the media and the psuedoscientific pap they present under the guise of science; the generally poor reputation of science and scientists by non-scientists ("Science geeks", "math is too hard," "Why the hell should I care that the Cambrian began 560 MYA? Will that earn me $ 150K a year?" and the like), deliberate misinformation (finger pointed squarely at the so-called 'Scientific' Creationists and their thinly disguised anti- and pseudoscientific agenda, J'accuse!), and a failing of the scientific community in relating the incredible vistas, amazing worlds (past and present) and life-enriching fulfillment of our calling to those who are not scientists.

Although, in the final case there may be certain reasons for scientists not wanting to discourse with non-scientists. For his efforts in 'enlightening the masses', the late Carl Sagan of Cornell University was branded the "evolutionary god-pa pa of science", "that atheist Sagan" and "Sagan is probably a communist" by none other than good old Henry Morris of the Institute of Creation Research. Similar inanities and ad hominems are heaped upon Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Haw king, and a host of other scientists who try and keep science in the public eye. Can one scarcely blame science for refusing to cast "pearls before swine"?

22. Evolution is not progress,

Organisms simply adapt to their current surroundings and do not necessarily become "better" over time. A trait or strategy that is successful at one time may be deleterious at another. Studies in yeast have shown that "more evolved" strains of yeast can be competitively inferior to "less evolved" strains. An organism's success depends a great deal on the behaviour of its contemporaries; for most traits or behaviours there is likely no optimal design or strategy, only contingent ones.

23. has not, will not and cannot be proven,

There is a type of epistemological argument contra evolution.

Science maintain that that nothing in science can ever be "proven" and this includes evolution. Semantics aside, "proof" and "proving" are not something done in science. As the old saying goes: "Proof is for alcohol and mathematics"; natural science deals not with proof, but rather evidence. This is another distinction of science.

Continuing, the probability that evolution is the correct explanation of life as we know it may approach 99.9999...9% but it will never be 100%. Some would contend that this would lead to the conclusion that evolution cannot be a fact (see #1). This kind of argument might be appropriate in a philosophy class but it won't do in the real world. A "fact", as Stephen J. Gould pointed out (see above), means something that is so highly probable that it would be silly not to accept it. This point has also been made by others who contest the nit-picking epistemologists.

"The honest scientist, like the philosopher, will tell you that nothing whatever can be or has been proved with fully 100% certainty, not even that you or I exist, nor anyone except himself, since he might be dreaming the whole thing. Th us there is no sharp line between speculation, hypothesis, theory, principle, and fact, but only a difference along a sliding scale, in the degree of probability of the idea. When we say a thing is a fact, then, we only mean that its probability is an extremely high one: so high that we are not bothered by doubt about it and are ready to act accordingly.

"Now in this use of the term fact, the only proper one, evolution is a fact. For the evidence in favour of it is as voluminous, diverse, and convincing as in the case of any other well established fact of science concerning the existence of things that cannot be directly seen, such as atoms, neutrons, or solar gravitation ....

"So enormous, ramifying, and consistent has the evidence for evolution become that if anyone could now disprove it, I should have my conception of the orderliness of the universe so shaken as to lead me to doubt even my own existence. If you like, then, I will grant you that in an absolute sense evolution is not a fact, or rather, that it is no more a fact than that you are hearing or reading these words."

H. J. Muller, "One Hundred Years Without Darwin Are Enough" School Science and Mathematics 59, 304-305. (1959)

24. Is not random nor relies on 'blind chance',

In all aspects of evolution, natural laws and principles can explain what has occurred. These influences act as a controlling force that guides evolution to predictable outcomes. Evolution (at the molecular level) abides by the laws of chemical reactions (i.e., chemistry and physics) which can produce complicated organic molecules naturally (we have witnessed this in the laboratory). Organic evolution is directed by biological principles such as natural selection and genetics, which again we have observed in the laboratory. The odds are, at the moment of conception, over 70,000,000,000,000 (7.0x1013) to one that your genes will not come together in the combination now in your body. However, you are here and it was all controlled by the principles of genetics. Natural forces and laws govern and direct evolution, not "blind chance."

25. does not violate the second law of thermodynamics,

There has been much written regarding the old canard that "evolution is impossible because it violates the second law of thermodynamics". This is utter codswallop. Typically, if pressed, the individual making such a claim will mutter something about "everything in the universe tends toward chaos" and "you cannot derive order from disorder". This evidences not a problem with evolution, but a deep lack of understanding of basic science by the accuser.

Simply put, the second law of thermodynamics states that in a closed system, "No process is possible in which the sole result is the transfer of energy from a cooler to a hotter body." [Atkins, 1984, "The Second Law", pg. 25]. Another way of stating this is that the entropy of a closed system cannot decrease. Entropy is an indication of unusable energy and frequently corresponds to intuitive notions of disorder or randomness order of systems will not spontaneously increase. One may ask "What does this have to do with evolution?", and well one might. Where it does is in the creationist caricature of the 2nd law where they, in their sophomoric simplicity, claim that evolution derives order from disorder; and that is in violation of the 2nd law?

What creationists fail to note (whether out of ignorance or duplicity, one cannot reliably say, although it's probably both) is that the Earth and it's life are not a closed system. All they would need to do is arise early some morning, and f ace due east. Do they see that large, luminous ball of fusing hydrogen and helium hanging in the sky?

Creationists sometimes try to weasel around this by claiming that the information carried by living things lets them create order. However, not only is life irrelevant to the 2nd law, but order from disorder is exceedingly common in nonliving system s, too. Snowflakes, sand dunes, tornadoes, crystal growth, stalactites, graded river beds, and lightning are just a few examples of order coming from disorder in nature; none require an intelligent program to achieve that order. In any nontrivial system with energy flowing through it, you are almost certain to find order arising somewhere in the system. If order from disorder is supposed to violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics, why is it ubiquitous in nature?

One final 'argument' creationists pose is that the only true closed system is the Universe itself; therefore evolution, taking place in that universe, violates the 2nd law. Well, for reasons stated above, this is totally a fallacious claim. Regions of high energy flow can increase order at the expense of apparent disorder. Further, the solar system (of which the Earth-Sun portion thereof is which with what we are currently concerned) is not immortal nor infinite. One day, our sun will consume most all of it's nuclear fuel (in 5 or so billion years, so not to worry...yet), will go "red giant" and consume Mercury, Venus and quite possibly the Earth. If not consumed in this phase of stellar evolution, the Earth's oceans and atmosphere will be boiled off into space and the Earth itself left a charred, cold, very dead world. The bloated sun will consume the remainder of it's nuclear fuel in a very profligate manner, spend itself and finally 'wink-out', to become a dense, dead cinder in this region of space. Thermodynamics wins again, and the entropy bill for the Sun-Earth system will be paid in full.

Now, can the creationists out there answer how creation be valid when it violates the very 1st law of thermodynamics...where matter can neither be created nor destroyed?

Remember: "God did it." is not a valid hypothesis.

26. Does not deny (a) God(s),

There is no reason to "believe" that God was not a guiding force behind evolution. While it does contradict some specific interpretations of God, especially ones requiring a literal interpretation of Genesis 1, few people have this narrow of a view of God.

There are many people who "believe" in the existence of God and in evolution. Common descent could then describe the process used by God.

But more fundamentally, it is fallacious to utilize the terms "belief" and "believe" in natural science. Belief requires faith. Faith is accepting that which is unevidenced or unevidencable, typically without question. These concepts are totally alien and inimical to the mode, methods and machinations of science and the scientific method. Certainly, scientists may 'believe' and hold beliefs; but when they speak of them, in whatever context, they are speaking of a personal prejudice (yes, remember that they are also human; and therefore just as subject to human foibles as any other); they are not speaking of science.

As far as science is concerned, it cares not one whit what you believe, but cares infinitely more about what you think. Anyone can have and hold beliefs; although it is vastly more difficult, but infinitely more rewarding, to have thoughts.

27. And finally: Falsifying evolution does not 'prove' Creation.

This is known as the "False Dilemma"; inasmuch as that this argument (again, tremendously fallacious) claims that there are only two possible explanations for a certain circumstance, in this case the diversity of life on Earth; that is evolution or special creation. Some maintain that if evolution is shown to be in error (this itself is an erroneous supposition, for evolution is an observed fact; although theories of evolution could be shown to be erroneous and therefore would require re-analysis and possible abandonment of that particular theory of evolution, as was done with Lamarkianism), that this would automatically prove creationism. I think that if the gentle reader has slogged though all this thusfar, we need not once again note the multiple errors of that conclusion.

It can be demonstrated that there could be another possible explanation for the diversity of life on Earth, viz. for your reading pleasure:

"THE LGM UNIDIRECTED PANSPERMIA, THE EARTH IS JUST ONE BIG TEST-TUBE FOR EXTRATERRESTRIALS, MODEL".

You see, the "One, True" theory is this: that the Earth over the span of geological time (beginning just about 3.75 BYOSA [Billion Years Or So Ago]) was visited by a race of extremely patient extraterrestrial genetic bioengineers from the Dinwoody Cluster in the galaxy of Archeocetus.

Being relatively new to both space travel, blackholes, warp drives, and recombinant DNA; they decided to start small...proteinoid microspheres, protobioinformational macromolecules, paleoarcheviri...you know, simple critters. Dump 'em in the ocean, give 'em a stir and stand back to watch. Sort of a galactic sized ant-farm (of course, ants wouldn't show up until the Cenozoic; they're a late model addition). Occasionally, back on Arglebargle 4 (their home base), an Arglebarglian equivalent of an Einstein would show up at their tri-century geneticfests and show off his new invention.

The greatly revered Warroona (a state hero and developer of in situ in vitro protoretroviri) came up with the idea of external protection for creatures. This was too good to pass up. After all the diddling around with multiple appendages, a stab at sexual reproduction (a fairly good idea, as it turned out) and colonial critters; the Arglebarglians "Strangeloved" the entire Earth (our naively so-called "extinctions") to pave the way for Warroona's great next experiment.

It worked out great. Hoards of shelled, frustruled and carapaced critters skittered about and littered the ocean floor. And in the nutrient rich broth called 'seawater', they flourished. Unfortunately, the Arglebarglians didn't account for plant life (seems that archealga were merely an embarrassing by-product of one of their ships flushing out it's bilges before a return trip home), and this stuff was taking over. So much, in fact, that it changed the composition of the early atmosphere from reducing to oxidizing (by, of all things, by-products from their metabolism) and now was thinking about taking over the great unwashed plains that stuck nudely out of the oceans.

So, a pattern started to develop. Approximately every 22.6 MY or so, some bright, young Arglebarglian bioengineer would come up with some great, new innovation. Wanting to be first on the scene with such new advances, the Arglebarglians would turn their "death ray" on the Earth, and, again, "Strangelove" the planet. Although competent (and terribly patient) bioengineers, they were not overly good mechanical engineers.

Their Strangelove ray would at times be set too high (like the time 245 MYA, damn near took out everything), or too low (like 345 MYA, when the placoderms bought the proverbial ranch). But, it worked well enough for their purposes (they themselves evolved a culture that existed only for per diems, frequent flyer miles and a trophism for spaceport bars; but that IS another story) and their experiments progressed nicely.

New, young, bright AG (hey, let's shorthand these guys) bioengineers came up with the most improbable contrivances to give a whirl on their test-tube planet. Amphibians ("Water: Don't leave home without it.") to let animals conquer dry land (hey, the plants snuck out first...those slimes), the amniote egg, and other such innovations.

Then things went into high gear. More and more AG's were turning to Earth and it's growing ecology because it was (1.) a high profile project, (2.) chock full of new critters to mess with and (3.) a great way to milk research grants, expense-paid vacations, junkets with their comely secretaries, and tenure out of universities.

So, all in all, the pace of innovation accelerated. "Hey. Here's a trick we've never tried", remarked on particularly bright AG bioengineer after a frat party, "Let's take one of those scale covered, toothy characters and make 'em walk on [<hee, hee, get this>] their hind legs..."

"Wow!", remarked his frat buddies in a haze and din of alcoholic approval, "What a great idea."

Next came opposable digits, motile hands, encephalization and, of course, a refined bipedal stance. No, we're not to ol' Homo sap. yet. We're discussing archeosaurians here. Dinosaurs, gang. They beat us humans to the advanced-trait punch by over 100 MY.

Things were going swimmingly for the AG's and their experiments, particularly ichthyosaurs and mosasaurs...Fewer and fewer Strangelove episodes were necessary as they were content to tinker and fiddle with what was already available. Experiments included gigantothermy, facilitated endothermy, opportunism, gigantism, dental differentiation; experimenta ad infinitum. After a while, they noticed some smaller critters shivering in the cool polar nights, what with their naked skin and all, so feathers were developed as insulation. After yet another frat party, these feathers were noticed to be good for snaring bugs (a mistake that the AG's never caught). They also were aerodynamic. The bugs had flight, the pterosaurs (custom designed (by committee) after an intense 12 kegger frat party) had flight; why not little, feathered, flying dinosaurs?

All the while, one meek little AG bioengineer (who was never invited to frat parties) was told to get after the Terran bug problem. All of the frat guys were working on the high-profile (and typically large, noisy and fierce) archosaurs. Being a mousy sort of person himself, he took a totally different tack. He fashioned little, hyperactive bug-munchers.

They were small, though fairly buzzed on a terribly high metabolic rate; fueled by, yep, you guessed it, insects. They had to be insulated (again, naked skin was de rigeur for the AG engineers). Feathers were already in use, so something new had to be used. Fur made it's first appearance.

With all the archosaurs stomping around, it's good that the first mammals were small. They, by necessity, were also nocturnal, as most larger archosaurian predators were diurnal. Accordingly, their senses intensified and expanded, by necessity. Larger olfactory lobes, large eyes with colour stereoscopic binocular vision, hand [paw]/eye co-ordination, etc.

All was moving right along for the AG engineers. Oh, sure, there was the occasional cosmic conflicts; but comets, asteroids and the like plopped onto the Earth so infrequently that they weren't paid much mind. Besides, with _Utahraptor_, _Tarbosaurs_ and _Carnotaurus_ to play with, why worry about dirty cosmic ice-balls and hunks of rather unremarkable rock tumbling around the solar system?

After the "Big One" of 65 MYA, the Arglebargian bioengineers were most distraught. They were having trouble with their dinosaurian clans already, and the whole of the biosystem of the Earth was out of whack. Mountains were rising, epeiric seas draining, temperature cooling globally, then the "Big One". Killed every blessed <wink> creature over 25 kg in mass. That did not leave the AG's much to work with.

They tried an early dalliance with birds. Huge flightless carnivorous ratites were given the go ahead. After only a few million years (due to the K/T debacle being still fresh in the powers-that-be's minds), the program was scrapped. What was left to work with? "Well, there are the furballs", remarked one A G engineer, again one never invited to frat parties.

Grudgingly, the elders consented and soon grant proposals and all sorts of experiments were funded.

Hooves, claws, extensible tongues, protrusible lips, prehensile tails... all given the green light.

After myriad mammals marched across the face of the Earth, the elders again grew restive. "*YAWN*", commented one elder, secretly yearning for the good, old days. "Remember the Late Cretaceous? Now *THERE* was a time!". Hearing this was an upstart AG bioengineer who was also keen on ancient history books. "Late Cretaceous "eh? What was so special about that time and those critters...?"

His proposal for mammalian bipedalism, opposable digits, and increased encephalization was greeted with mixed results.

"Nahhh. We tried that once. Worked great, but remember what happened?"

"But this time is different!", protested the engineer. "These critters are already insulated, have a lower species and generic diversity and live in protected environments...[turning to an aid...what's that called again? Oh, yes...], in forests."

"Nahhh...once burnt, twice learnt. I know, let's make something new. With...pouches...webbed feet...poison glands!" exclaimed the elder after a 6 martini lunch.

In the end, both projects were funded, but as pilot projects. One on an island continent, the other on a larger continent next-door. Here, the AG's screwed up, for the first project had been started on the sly millions of years earlier over in the old Gondwana continents. But even the AG's were surprised by the rapid takeoff of the African project.

But, by this time, after all the 6 martini lunches and herds of tenured professors roaming the steppes of their home planet, the AG were in a bit of their own fix. Things at home were getting very messy indeed and a bit of housecleaning was in order. They weren't able to check their charges for a couple of million years.

When they finally returned, and saw what had happened to their project planet, they blanched. Never before had they seen a species spread like such wildfire over the face of a planet. In every niche, cranny, and environment. And, they had developed technology, science and civilization.

Unfortunately, they had their scopes set upon the noisome twee little burg of El Cajon, Ca., upon an even more noisome group called the "Institute for Creation Research". Investigating deeper, they noted there the worship of an ancient tome of Middle Eastern mythology, a total disdain for logic and reason, a penchant for out of context quoting, deliberate misrepresentations and out-and-out lies; all in the name of some "omnipresent", but strangely absent, deity.

After seeing all this, the AG's decided to give up 6 martini lunches, mothball the current project and return to Arglebargle to see if they could milk grants out of the system on another, perhaps more promising, planet. One not quite so far out i n the backwaters of some distant, and rather prosaic, galaxy...far, far away...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well, there you have it. The LGM theory. Neither evolution nor creation, but consistent with the fossil record and entirely plausible.

Unfortunately, it is not testable, falsifiable nor predictive. These are the attributes it shares with creationism.

It does though contain exactly <1 miracle and <1 deity, attributes it does not share with creationism.

And thus endeth the lesson.

This material is copyright(c) M.R. Leipzig, 1997-1998. All rights reserved. This article contains numerous references and copious original material. If a reference has not been cited, or cited improperly, please comment to the author (Leipzig@qgpc.com.qa or Mrl@qatar.net.qa) so that proper citation may be attained in future editions of this work.

Permission is granted for electronic storage, dissemination and telecommunication as long as citations remains intact.

I wish to thank Fred and David Rice, Dr. Martin Goldberg, Dr. Don Martin, 'Hector Plasmic', Dan Ceppa, Marilyn Burge, Judith Bandsma, Karl Schneider, and all the other WOA's of the FIDONET HolySmoke Echo; Wes Elsberry at the University of Ediacara, those at the Skeptic Tank, the creators and authors of the First Amendment, and frenzied, fulminating fundies the world over; without which whom this article would not and could not have been possible.


[1] Hively, Wm, 1988, How much science does the public understand?, American Scientist, Sept/Oct, p. 439-444.

Additionally: Culliton, BJ, 1989, The dismal state of Scientific Literacy, Science, V. 243

Byrne, G, 1989, U.S. Students flunk science, math, Science, V. 243

Further, in 1996, Carl Sagan again quoted the "95% scientific illiteracy rate" in his book "The Demon Haunted World."

---

The views and opinions stated within this web page are those of the author or authors which wrote them and may not reflect the views and opinions of the ISP or account user which hosts the web page.

Return to The Skeptic Tank's main Index page.

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank