Popular Science—It May Be Popular, but It’s Not Science!

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The magazine Popular Science often jazzes up evolutionary ‘science’ to appeal to a broad audience.

The magazine Popular Science often jazzes up evolutionary “science” to appeal to a broad audience. But the January 2002 issue shows just how far “popular” science can stray from reality, especially when it comes to evolution. Three articles rehash some of the same old evolutionary errors found in technical journals, yet many Christians are unprepared to uphold the authority of Scriptures in the face of such “popular” assaults.

To tantalize readers, Popular Science raises difficult questions about the theory of evolution—the evolution of man, feathers on dinosaurs and the classification of animals. Yet while the articles raise questions about the details of evolution, they never question the theory as a whole (or acknowledge that the whole debate about evolution lacks a testable scientific foundation). After all, molecules-to-man evolution is a matter of faith, believed at all cost, no matter where the shifting sands of evidence lead.

“Man of the Year: A 3.5 million-year-old fossil suggests the human family tree is a lot more complicated than we knew.”

This Popular Science article reviews the discovery of a new 3.5-million-year-old “prehuman” skull that belongs to a completely different primate than “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis), previously thought to be the most likely ancestor of modern man. Paleontologist Meave G. Leakey announced this new find in March 2001, naming it Kenyanthropus platyops (“flat-faced human from Kenya”).

“The history of the ancestry of humans and human-like primates is more complex than has been previously thought,” admitted Frank Brown, a geologist on the research team. Popular Science admits that many other primates may yet be discovered, and “the evolutionary tree of the human race may turn out to be full of branches and dead ends.”

Answers in Genesis has repeatedly shown that the so-called precursors of humans, such as Lucy, are humans or ape-like primates that are not our ancestors, not “missing links.”1 The evidence for an evolutionary link between primates and humans is based on mostly conjecture. This new skull is nothing different. (See the article New Hominid Skull from Kenya.2)

For more information on alleged ape-men, see Q&A: Anthropology.

“A Dino with Feathers: A new fossil find from China hints at the mysterious origin of birds.”

Popular Science reviews the discovery of a well-preserved fossil of the “feathered” dinosaur known as a dromaeosaur. Researchers announced this new find in April 2001.

Although the discovery does reveal some amazing detail, it has not ended the debate among evolutionists. Some say the dromaeosaur is a link between dinosaurs and birds, while others hotly disagree that birds descended from dinosaurs. Others again say they did, but this creature is not in the line of descent. Such endless surmising is inevitable when one is “arguing from silence” about things no-one has ever seen.

One interesting problem for scientists is to explain the purpose of these “feathers” on a creature that clearly did not fly. The latest theory is that the feathers evolved for warmth. But it’s misleading to call these things “feathers” in the usual sense of the word, because they lack all of the complex characteristics of the true bird feathers. It would seem impossible for random chance processes to create the complex new information required for scales to evolve into feathers.

For more information on whether birds really evolved from dinosaurs, see Q&A: Dinosaurs (Did birds really evolve from dinosaurs?). Any time you hear about a new “sighting” of a “feathered dinosaur”, AiG has a ready list of generic responses in Yet Another New “Feathered” Dinosaur?

“Looks Can Be Deceiving: New genetic tools bring surprises about who’s cousin to whom in the animal world.”

Our increased knowledge of DNA—the molecule of heredity—has thrown traditional biology into turmoil. The old classification system based on appearances is being challenged by geneticists, who are comparing the DNA of various animals and finding some surprising dissimilarities.

An article in the January 2002 issue of Popular Science highlights some of these surprising dissimilarities, such as the “grebe,” a bird that looks like a duck but whose DNA resembles a flamingo! The same article claims that chimpanzees are closer to humans than orangutans and gorillas.

Long before DNA analysis became popular, biologists struggled with classification, especially when completely different types of animals—such as killer whales and sharks—had superficial similarities because they lived in similar environments. The Creator gave them many similar designs, but they are obviously different “kinds” that could never mix.

The lesson of DNA analysis is particularly interesting for creationists, who do not carry around the baggage of evolutionary theory. To us, it appears that speciation occurs quickly and is a part of God’s design (see Q&A: Speciation). It would not trouble creationists if further analysis revealed that some diverse creatures, such as flamingos and grebes, were simply variations of the same God-created kind. Christians, above all, should know the danger of jumping to conclusions based on outward appearances.

Creationists accept DNA analysis as a tool for comparing animals, but our fundamental disagreement with evolutionists leads to different conclusions: we believe that the changes we see in the living world are not going to be the kind which demonstrate the possibility of the upward evolution of new, more complex animals to occur. The changes that we see are merely variations within the same “kind” that God created in the beginning (Genesis 1: 21, 24–25). Evolutionists, on the other hand, assume that the apparent similarities between animals—whether morphological or genetic—indicate some historical link in an evolutionary tree. This approach is based on false presuppositions that reject the clear revelation of God’s Word in Genesis 1. They are not science so much as secular humanist philosophy and guesswork.

For more information on DNA analysis and the evolutionary tree, see Q&A: Genetics (How does the field of genetics affect the creation/evolution debate?) and How to Read an Evolutionary Family Tree.

The January issue of Popular Science is yet another reminder that Christians have no reason to fear that some new “scientific discovery” might undermine the accuracy of the Biblical account. All three of the Popular Science articles on evolution rehash old errors and conjectures that have no basis in testable reality. We are told that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7); there is no need to let evolutionists” latest attacks shake our faith in the absolute authority of God’s Word.


  1. See also Oard, M., Did Lucy walk upright? TJ 15(2):9–10, 2001.
  2. See also Lubenow, M., New hominin skull from Kenya, TJ 15(2):8–9, 2001.


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