Do Creationists have a point ?
Joe, a friend of mine and member of the Center For Inquiry Indiana had long been troubled by the Creationist claims that scientists cannot demonstrate evolution in the lab before their eyes. He thought their demand was reasonable and did not know how to respond to them. He wrote me a letter about it. The following is my reply to my friend and other secularist friends who might have a similar problem.
I understand your problem. All the scientific arguments for evolution are ignored by Creationists who demand to see evolution for themselves if they are to believe. This is an insincere demand. Don’t accept their premise. The fact is, they will not believe in evolution no matter what evidence we present in geology, astronomy, physics, biology, archeology, etc. They ask: Can you show us evolution in process, right before our eyes? They demand to see a new “species” or new “kind” of animal evolve in the lab or in field research. As you and I know, and they should know, this can’t be done with animals that have slow reproduction rates like elephants and humans. It can, however, be demonstrated with animals that have fast reproduction rates like single cell organisms, fish, and insects.
Creationists demand unreasonable scientific proofs of evolution. Because their emotional beliefs are not based upon fact and reason, they are immune to fact and reason. Their faith survives fossil, geological, cosmological, and biological evidence. Their beliefs easily survived the flat earth debacle and the egocentricity of the earth farce. It will survive all the evidence of evolution as well.
For non deists, evidence reigns supreme. We have no preconceived beliefs; we have open minds that can be changed as new evidence is discovered by scientific inquiry. So, the following response will make sense to you and I, but never to them.
First, I need to clarify what the word “species” means and what the word “kind” means. Species is a confusing term, too often misused and misunderstood. The pre-evolution concept of species was rejected by Darwin “…for if every form which has ever lived on this earth were suddenly to reappear, …it would be quite impossible to give definitions by which each group could be distinguished from other groups, as all would bend together by steps as fine as those between the finest existing varieties.” “In short, we shall have to treat species in the same manner as those naturalists treat genera, who admit that genera are merely artificial combinations made for convenience. This may not be a cheering prospect; but we shall at last be freed from the vain search for the undiscovered and undiscoverable essence of the term species.”
The species concept is based upon Creationists’ false claim that species are not related. Evolutionists, of course claim all life is related having arisen from a common ancestor. The modern biological definition of species is: “populations” of animals or plants that breed successfully together.” According to this concept there never is an exact point where a new species comes into existence except from hybridization or symbiogenesis, which I will explain later. The biblical term “kind” is ambiguous and useless. It usually refers to the pre-Darwinian definition of “species.”
When next you discus evolution with a Creationist and he challenges you to prove that evolution can create a new “species” or “kind” of animal, answer him by saying:
Here is how a new large mammal can be created, if not in the lab, then in the barn. The Good Lord, in His wisdom directed old Noah load on board the Ark two of each “kind” of animal. That means two donkeys and two horses, and two bison and two cattle, two lions, and two tigers among many other animal pairs. It is fair to assume God apparently considered donkeys and horses as separate “kinds” or “species.” If so, when the first mule was born, a brand new animal came into existence. How about a lion and tiger hybrid, a llama and camel hybrid, a bison and cattle hybrid, or the thousands of plant hybrids? Any reasonable person must acknowledge that these are new animals and new plants that were not present a million years ago, or even six thousand years ago? Natural and forced hybridization occurs in many wild and domestic animals and plants, and each time it does, a new entity is born into the earth. Depending upon environmental conditions, the new creature or plant will survive and thrive, or become extinct. It is a perfect example how evolution and DNA replication, recombination, and natural selection work.
New “kinds” of plants also occurred in the lab when Wild Mustard plants were purposely bred into cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, kale, and collard greens. Grocery stores are filled with new genetically designed fruits and vegetables that were not created during the biblical creation week. Ask a Creationist how it is possible that the earth contains many animals and plants that were recently designed and produced by science. Are they not obvious products of evolution? Ask them; how it is possible that organisms exists today that are neither animal nor plant, like the euglena; or neither male nor female like an asexual amoeba. As I recall, there was no mention of one-celled organisms being loaded on the ark. Should we assume they were created and evolved at a later time? What other explanation can there be?
Many new “kinds” of birds, fish, and amphibians, have been recorded and documented in our lifetime by laboratory and field studies. Blind cave fish are a good example of evolution. Natural events washed their sighted ancestors into dark caves where they did not need their sight, so they actually lost their eyes. Recently, scientists have brought several populations of blind cave fish back into the light and stimulated them to evolve back to having eyes. This seems to be a great example of evolution in an aquarium lab where Creationists can actually witness it.
Here is a partial list of new “kinds” or “species” documented in lab and field studies:
Blind cave fish and amphibians, many species of birds including Darwin’s finches, have evolved to a point where a subsequent generation can no longer mate with its progenitor. Several “species” of fish including guppies, many kinds of bacteria, thousands of symbiotic animals and plants that, like hybrids, were newly created when they combined. Lichens are a combination of two other organisms; algae and fungus depend upon each other for survival but can be separated in the lab and coaxed to live on their own. Salamanders are the first vertebrates that have been found to have incorporated chloroplasts into their cells and thereby been able to utilize the energy of the sun through photosynthesis. Slugs with chloroplasts no longer have to eat as their ancestors did; they just lie in the sun to soak up energy like a plant. Evolution has happened and is happening all around us, in the lab, in the field, and in the barn. Animal and plant populations are constantly diversifying alone their own evolutionary line creating new species over time. Occasionally, their distinct lines merge back together creating another new species. New species never occur within one or a few generations unless it is through hybridization or symbiogenesis as previously discussed.
Also Joe, don’t let Creationists fool you with micro and macroevolution. There is only one kind of evolution regardless of how long it takes. Evolution usually progresses slowly in step with the changing environment. Occasionally, it speeds up with punctuated equilibrium, symbiogenesis, and epigenetics. It is true that animals such as alligators, sharks, and coelacanths persist from the ancient past into present with little change, but keep in mind that evolution is always in operation keeping their mutating DNA in harmony with their static environments. Darwin’s theory has now been enhanced with the new concepts of hox genes, symbiogensesis, and epigenetics. These new discoveries help explain the diversity of life and the speed with which it has inhabited our good earth. The average person has difficulty understanding the new discoveries and new evolutionary science so we cannot expect Creationists will understand or be willing to learn about the wonders of science and awesome beauty of the natural world.
Comment: Generally, Creationists, cannot be convinced against their will. Even though you win a debate with them but they will remain firmly convinced you are wrong and have won the debate simply because you are a better debater. Creationists believe they have too much to loose to ever admit you are right and they are wrong. Giving up their beliefs seems to them to mean they must give up their friends, family, social standing in their community, their way of life, and possibly their jobs. Human behaviorists understand that a debate situation or an argument with so much on the line is the worst possible circumstance in which to try to convince someone to reject their previous ingrained beliefs and accept new beliefs. The very use of certain words can be automatic stumbling blocks. There is a story about the scientist who spent two hours explaining his new scientific break-though to a passenger sitting next to him on his flight back from a scientific meeting. The passenger was an educated man who was fascinated by the research and asked many excellent questions. Finally, he asked, “What do you call this scientific principal?” When the scientist answered, “Oh, it’s just evolution.” the man sputtered and never said another word for the rest of the flight. A grade school teacher who explains the theory of evolution to students by using terms such as “gradual change over long time periods”, or “natural survival of the most fit animals and plants” without using the term “evolution” will maintain an open door for further discussion and deprive their students of a controversial term to bring home and alarm their parents. Only after the information has been taught and absorbed by the students should the teacher use the word “evolution”.
Non deists are, too often, uninformed about evolution. They have trouble in presenting it in a simple easy to understand way. The best way, in my experience, is to ask a creationist if they have had their flu vaccine or an anti biotic. When they reply in the affirmative, a quick explanation on why new vaccines must be developed each year and why antibiotics are not as effective today as they were in the past can be presented. Evolution, of course creates new species of virus and bacteria. Medical science struggles to keep up with the gradual change of organisms through mutation and natural selection. Keep it simple.