Creationist Wisdom #381: Darwin Had Doubts

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in a Gannett newspaper with a website that doesn’t provide the paper’s name, but it’s probably located somewhere in Maryland or Delaware. The letter is titled It’s not unscientific to cast doubt on a theory.

Like Creationist Wisdom #378, the letter is a response to this column by Tom Krattenmaker: Evolution is about science, not opinion, so it’s part of an exciting series for the newspaper readers in that area. We’ll give you a few excerpts, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, and some bold font for emphasis. We don’t like to embarrass people (unless they’re politicians or otherwise in the public eye), so we’ll omit the writer’s name and city. Okay, here we go:

In response to Tom Krattenmaker’s recent column, I would like to counter that evolution is about science — and opinion. Since the days of Lamarck and Darwin, the theories of evolution that have been proposed have been based on scientific observations recorded in the present, but interpreted to suggest what may have happened in the past.

Ah yes, the letter-writer is firmly in the camp of the “Were you there?” school of thought. In his mind, the laws of nature may have been wildly different from those we observe today — sufficiently different to account for the otherwise impossible events recorded in Genesis, but somehow not different enough to interfere with the existence of the Earth, the Sun, etc. A tricky state of affairs, but certainly not beyond the abilities of an all-powerful intelligent designer. We’re off to a great start. It gets better:

I very much appreciate the fact that Krattenmaker did not resort to belittling the character of those who do not support the current theory of evolution. For in truth, many well-trained scientists do not accept Darwinian evolution as “settled science.”

Right — “many well-trained scientists” reject evolution. For a hint of how exaggerated that is, take a look at this from the National Center for Science Education: Project Steve: n > 1300. We’ll have more to say about that in a later post. Let’s proceed with today’s letter:

Darwin did not know all that we know today about genetics, microbiology, and biochemistry. These modern sciences have shown that DNA is marvelously copied with phenomenal accuracy, but there is no nuclear enzyme that could add new, orderly information to a cell’s DNA that would elicit new structures in an organism.

No “nuclear enzyme” that could add “information”? Who claims that such an enzyme exists? Further, we don’t know what the letter-writer means by “information.” Language should be used to impart meaning, not to obscure it. However, there certainly is a mechanism that is known to add new features to an organism. See How One Gene Becomes Two Different Genes. The letter continues:

Darwin himself suggested that the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record, and the fact of the Cambrian explosion cast doubt on his theory.

Oooooooh — no transitional fossils! Well, except for this list of transitional fossils. We’re told that Darwin was dubious of his theory not only because of that, but also the Cambrian explosion. Does the letter-writer know that “explosion” occurred over about 50 million years? See The Mystery of the Cambrian “Explosion”, and also Stephen Meyer: “I Don’t Use God of the Gaps”. Here’s more:

If he [Darwin] had reservations about his theory, what is unscientific if some scientists do today?

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Good point — we don’t know any more today than Darwin did 150 years ago. And now we come to the end:

The reader could learn more about this issue by watching (online) the upcoming debate between Bill Nye, the famous “Science Guy,” and Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis, which will take place Feb. 4 in Petersburg, Ky.

That’s a perfect example of why we advise against debates with creationists. Anyway, good letter. A fine addition to the collection.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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18 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #381: Darwin Had Doubts

  1. “Darwin did not know all that we know today about genetics, microbiology, and biochemistry.”

    Yet still he established a theory that blew a massive hole in thousands of years of creationist claptrap. What might he have achieved if he did have such knowledge?

  2. Curmy poses a rhetorical poser—

    “Does the letter-writer know that [Cambrian] ‘explosion’ occurred over about 50 million years?”

    Quite so. Was he there!?

  3. On the claim of the unreliability of “historical” science: I just realized that my refutation of that would be that historical science is what I do every time I try a chemical reaction. I’m certainly not “observing” the molecules while the reaction happens happens. (Some scientists do that with some few reactions, but you have to have a femtosecond laser, so it’s quite the effort).

    What I do is analyze the evidence left behind (the chemicals that formed) and reason from that what the original molecules did. OK, I don’t have to wait for billions of years to study the evidence, but the science I do is exactly as historical as who study evolution do.

    Take that, Hambo!

  4. FYI, Delmarva is the peninsula that includes parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

  5. ladyatheist says: “Delmarva is the peninsula that includes parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.”

    Thanks. I had no idea what it was.

  6. Delmarva sounds more like a Hindu deity. Or maybe a brand of margarine.

    They should have called the peninsula Warelandinia.

  7. Megalonyx says: “Delmarva sounds more like a … brand of margarine.”

    No, it’s a song:

  8. SC: “Does the letter-writer know that ‘explosion’ occurred over about 50 million years?”

    If I owned a publication or site I would not publish a letter like that unless the writer is willing to answer simple questions like that. Before anyone accuses me of bias against “creationists,” the fact is that Ken Ham, whom the writer mentions toward the end, would have no problem answering. Nor would (Discoveroid) Stephen Meyer. Meyer would agree that it took many millions, though probably nitpick that it’s less than 50 million, and try to spin that pathetic nitpick as another “weakness” of evolution. Ham, in stark contrast, would insist that it only took a day or 2.

    Unfortunately many readers will see only his reference to Ham, and ass-u-me that he’s a YEC. Having read well over 381 such “wisdoms,” from geocentric YECs to OECs who accept common descent, my educated guess from his choice of words is that he would refuse to answer the question, then whine about being “censored.”

  9. Garnetstar: “I’m certainly not ‘observing’ the molecules while the reaction happens happens. (Some scientists do that with some few reactions, but you have to have a femtosecond laser, so it’s quite the effort).”

    Thanks! As a chemist, I have been meaning to say something like that, but was fumbling for a good way to say it. technically, all science is historical. So, whether the writer understood what he was saying or merely uncritically parroted it, the objection to “historical science” is a desperate last resort. One that would not exist if there were the slightest shred of evidence for any alternate chronology of the history of life that would peacefully unite evolution-deniers. Specifically “more recent” chronology, because OECs and IDers would gladly embrace YEC if the evidence were there, but YECs would never accept any evidence for OEC, much less common descent.

  10. “It’s not unscientific to cast doubt on a theory.”

    But when you challenge a scientific theory, you should do so on scientific grounds, not with biblical teachings based on superstitious fears of ancient hominids.

    As soon as I finish building my time-machine, the first order of business will be to go back in time and save Jesus.
    Boy, will those Christians be pissed! Lynch mobs will be waiting for me when I get back!

  11. Jay: “As soon as I finish building my time-machine, the first order of business will be to go back in time and save Jesus.”

    Assuming he actually existed, of course. But then, if he did not exist, perhaps you could go back in time and sit in on the “Jesus invention meetings” of the Romans who came up with the idea. (If that’s the case.)

  12. Stephen Kennedy

    The letter writer has certainly been well indoctrinated by the AIG website, it read like Hambo himself, or one of his “scientists” had written it. When you go to the AIG website you always have to make sure your bull—- detector is on and working properly or you will end up lobotomized like this letter writer.

  13. @retiredsciguy

    I never heard about the Romans inventing him. History shows that he was already popular in underground cults long before the Romans had much concern about the religion forming around him. However, I never did see any convincing evidence that the Jesus of the bible ever really existed.

    It’s interesting that the messiah theme persists in numerous folk religions far predating Christianity.

    An evil-doer, usually a cruel and evil ruler, is oppressing the people.

    A prophesy is whispered throughout the land that one day a special baby will be born via some form of mystical union or process and become a future leader or king who will depose that dastardly evil-doer.

    Fearful of the prophesy, the evil-doer tries to hunt down the child and kill him.

    The mother somehow learns of the danger and flees with, hides or gives up the baby to someone else for safe keeping.

    Often, some mystical entities are involved in helping the child survive all attempts to destroy him and fulfill the prophesy.

    Later, as the prophesy unfolds, the child returns as an adult leader or warrior and takes down the evil-doer.

    Everyone goes hip-hip-hurray and lives happily ever-after.

    All hail the Flying Spaghetti Monster, blessed be His holy sauce. Amen.

  14. @Jay As I said — (If that’s the case.)

    I just heard of the idea last Fall when it was briefly in the news. You can google [Jesus Roman invention] and find some stuff on it.

    The point is, no one knows whether Jesus actually existed or not. There is, as far as I know, no evidence, no Roman records, no independent writings to corroborate the account in the Bible. Guess that’s why it’s called “faith”.

    Since the word “agnostic” literally means “not knowing” or some such, I guess we are all agnostics. It’s just that some agnostics tend to reject that label, and go with blind faith — as if that is somehow preferable. Go figure.

  15. I understand entirely and fully agree about the questionable documentation of his existence.

    However, using my time-machine to save Jesus was simply intended as a joke originally and wasn’t intended to be taken too seriously.

    It is interesting that blind, unreasoning faith always seems to be a mandatory requirement of religion. Just believe, believe, believe what you’re told, don’t ask logical questions to examine or guide your beliefs – or else.

    I never could understand that single-minded obsession with blind faith at any cost as a universal constant.

    Religious or not, blind faith in anything at all for ANY reason whatsoever is rationally unwise in the extreme. The same applies to science as well.

    As long as there are two or more religions claiming to be the only true religion, there will be constant wars and conflicts in the names of their respective gods, “My god can beat up your god!”, like their always has been.

    As time goes on, religious conflicts will increasingly become the most common reason for violence and wars in the world between those who want to advance technologically and those who want to remain in their respective, isolated, religious time-ruts where nothing ever changes or improves – and who also just happen to be sitting upon the resources those technologically progressive societies lust after and need.

    If there ever is peace on Earth, it will be that day when there is no one left alive to pick up a stone to throw at somebody else and religion will do more to blaze the path to that day more than any other single factor.

  16. Jay: “However, using my time-machine to save Jesus was simply intended as a joke originally and wasn’t intended to be taken too seriously.”

    Seriously? You actually do have a time machine??

    Yeah, I kinda figured you were joking. But if you did have a time machine, and you did actually rescue Jesus before the crucifixion, then today there would be no christian religion, so you would have no idea who Jesus was, so you wouldn’t have been able to rescue him, so the whole christian religion would have developed just as it did… these time machine conundrums hurt my little brain.

    Anyway, I’d like to say we are of one mind concerning religion, faith, wars, and the logical disconnect of considering blind faith to be a virtue. It’s a bit Orwellian, in a way.

  17. @retiredsciguy

    I rather well understand the complexities of the endless time-travel scenarios. If only forward or zero time-travel is considered possible, then no conflicts occur.

    Anything other time-travel scenario requires a detour through The Twilight Zone.

    I didn’t make the time machine, these famous D. I. scientists who did that:
    One Fine Day


  18. Very, very late, but for an excellent take on the “go back in time and see what Jesus was up to” trope, I highly recommend Michael Moorcock’s “Behold the Man.”