An evolutionary paleontologist wrote an article for Nature condemning the way creationists present the work of evolutionists, and he called for a more aggressive defense of evolution.
“Ignoring the creationist threat will not make it go away,” warns paleontologist Russell Garwood in his article “Reach out to defend evolution,” published May 16 in the journal Nature. This well-known journal often contains academic papers putting forth evolutionary positions, and its content is often reported in the popular press. Our weekly column News to Note addresses relevant topics currently covered by the media, so naturally Nature makes frequent appearances there. Apparently, one evolutionary paleontologist, noting one of these News to Note columns, decided he had seen enough. He wrote an article condemning the way creationists, especially Answers in Genesis, present the work of evolutionists to the public and called upon evolutionists to get more aggressive and proactive in their defense of evolution.
The problem, according to Dr. Garwood, is that the shrewd, calculating “creationist machine” uses evolutionary academic research as “fodder” to “feed anti-evolution disinformation.” Tennessee’s new “creationist bill that encourages teachers to discuss the ‘weaknesses’ of evolution,” he writes, is the machine’s “latest victory.” He says evolutionary “scientists can and should fight back. … As scientists, we owe it to the schoolchildren of Tennessee and elsewhere to find another way to beat it.”
So what prompted Nature to publish this call to arms proposing a battle strategy to “defend evolution”?
So what prompted Nature to publish this call to arms proposing a battle strategy to “defend evolution”? Garwood explains, ”the influential creationist organization Answers in Genesis . . . misrepresented the Nature paper” about the novel discovery of “a large dinosaur with feathers.” He says our article—featured in News to Note—“exploited” the “disagreement [among evolutionists] about the equivalence of dinosaur feathers and bird feathers” as “evidence against evolution.”
Garwood also complains that creationists present “perceived gaps in scientific knowledge (genuine or spurious) as evidence in support of theistic world views.” He points out—and we agree—that “good science thrives on unanswered questions,” and this is reflected when scientific literature admits “shortcomings in current knowledge.” However, he contends, “the creationist lobby uses the same literature to try to undermine science.”
Garwood complains that his own study on the harvestman (daddy long legs) was “twisted in the creationist media” into “evidence for the non-existence of evolution.” Last year Garwood reported that two well-preserved specimens proved “harvestmen have an early origin” and have not changed over millions of years. Actually, we also discussed that report on this website in the August 27 News to Note. We quoted Garwood’s comment, “We can’t yet be sure why harvestmen appear so modern when most land animals, including their cousins such as scorpions, were in such a primitive form at the time. It may be because they evolved early to be good at what they do, and their bodies did not need to change any further.” Then we offered another alternative: “Or is it that only 6,000 years ago they were ‘designed to do what they do, and what they do, they do well.’”
Garwood advises researchers to anticipate creationist tactics when they publish anything “that will attract an obvious creationist interpretation” and to head them off with an “accompanying blog post” to “explain the work and highlight flaws in any anti-evolution attacks.” He writes, “We are not helpless when it comes to countering creationist disinformation based on our results. I believe that science would benefit greatly if we did more outreach when we publish and publicize our research.”
One person commenting on Garwood’s article pointed out that his description of Tennessee’s Teacher Protection Academic Freedom Act was incorrect. Garwood’s erroneous rendering is “misinformation,” the commentator writes, and explains, “The bill reads: ‘Shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies. Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.’” The commentator adds, “The bill does not take sides on controversial issues, but legitimizes the work of teachers who are helping students develop a critical understanding of the issues.” This person’s comments are correct. Garwood does misrepresent the new law. And as we pointed out in our coverage of the law, (see “The Teacher Protection Academic Freedom Act”) many evolutionists say they invite open discussion of controversial scientific points but that there are no controversial points about the fact of molecules-to-man evolution, only about the way it happened.
Science does by its very nature involve gathering and interpreting evidence, testing hypotheses, and searching for answers in an ever-refining process. Affirming this process is neither an underhanded attack on evolutionists nor an effort to undermine science. However, pointing out that science is an ongoing search for answers through observation and controlled, repeatable tests highlights a vital distinction. There is a real difference between experimental (operational) science, which deals with how things operate in the present, and origins science, which deals with what happened in the unobserved past to produce what we are observing in the present. Well-controlled, objective tests that can be replicated for confirmation are used to find answers in experimental science but are not truly possible in origins science. For example, determining the strength of a metallic alloy under various conditions is a matter for experimental science. So is the design of new technological uses for the alloy. But theorizing about the chemical origins of life from non-living matter or the evolution of life from microbes to man or how the Grand Canyon formed are built on assumptions about unobservable, untestable, hypothetical, scientifically unverifiable processes.
The late atheist Ernst Mayr of Harvard, considered by many to be the greatest evolutionist of the twentieth century, acknowledged this distinction. In his book, What Evolution Is, he wrote the following:
Evolution is a historical process that cannot be proven by the same arguments and methods by which purely physical or functional phenomena can be documented. Evolution as a whole, and the explanation of particular evolutionary events, must be inferred from observations.1
But inferences are not the same as the experimental observations “by which purely physical or functional phenomena can be documented.” And inferences about origins are affected by worldview-based presuppositions. Mayr, like other atheists, chose to believe there is no Creator and therefore inferred an evolutionary naturalistic explanation of our origins.
Pointing out the difference between scientific observations (such as the structure of DNA or the anatomical features of fossils) and worldview-based interpretations of data (e.g., Mayr’s inferences from observations) might undermine the theory of evolution, but such critical thinking does not undermine science—either experimental/operational science or origins/historical science. And teaching this sort of discernment to schoolchildren will produce scientists and citizens who are not fooled by “smoke and mirrors” philosophical (actually, religious) assumptions masquerading as “the scientific fact of evolution.”
Garwood also claims that we (creationists) exploit legitimate gaps in scientific knowledge by giving God credit, making the unanswered questions of science “the lifeblood of this gappy god.” While evolutionists resist allowing a “divine foot in the door,”2 they are willing to violate observable principles of science—such as the fact that life does not randomly emerge from nonliving elements—to cling to alternate unverifiable explanations. We as biblical creationists, on the other hand, use the Bible as our basis for understanding the world around us, but we only invoke the “God did it” answer in unique cases, such as instances where God directly tells us in His Word of miraculous acts. Those miraculous acts include the original creation of life from nothing. That in no way diminishes a creation scientist’s zeal for understanding how the world actually works.
Only an eyewitness can offer a reliable account of events long past and not repeatable. God has provided His account of Creation and of the global Flood in the Scriptures. The biblical fact that organisms reproduce after their kinds (rather than evolving into new kinds) does not contradict scientific observations, but only the evolutionary just-so-stories about their origin. Furthermore, “gaps” in the fossil record are believed by evolutionists to be the missing transitional forms between kinds of organisms—fossils of evolving creatures not preserved or not yet found. In reality, however, the gaps often represent impassable boundaries between distinct kinds of creatures. The evolutionary transitional forms supposed by evolutionists to belong in the gaps never existed. These gaps are consistent with the biblical record of Creation in that God created various kinds of creatures to reproduce after their kinds, not to evolve from one kind into another. Their order in the fossil record is due to how they were buried during the global Flood recorded in Genesis. Thus information from God’s Word reveals the true nature of the gaps in the fossil record.
Taking a biblical stand does not undermine science; it illuminates science, just like reliable eyewitness testimony enables a detective to correctly interpret the circumstantial evidence at the scene of a crime. Furthermore, evolutionists have their own “god of the gaps.” The evolutionary “god of the gaps” consists of time, chance, and the laws of nature , which alone do not and cannot explain the incredible design of living and fossilized creatures or the massive geological formations that we see across the world. But the intelligent, holy, sovereign God of the Bible and His acts in history (as recorded in the Bible) can and do explain incredibly well what we observe.
As a News to Note writer, I try to apprise our readers of the latest scientific research, primarily that which is publicized through the media with evolutionary interpretations. I occasionally point out that the press has made claims the original authors did not. But primarily my job is to sort through the actual facts of scientific announcements and the worldview-biased claims about them. And because the Creator God has provided truth in His Word relevant to many of these claims, I share a biblical perspective on those claims. By showing that biblical truth is not in conflict with the real “facts” of science but often explains them, I hope to remove stumbling blocks to faith in Jesus Christ, who said, “
For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings [which include Genesis]
, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46–47).