Creationist Wisdom #401: The Coelacanth

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the La Crosse Tribune of La Crosse, Wisconsin, and it’s titled Evolution remains only a theory.

Because the writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. His first name is Steve. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

In following the recent debate in your newspaper about the theory of evolution, I’m struck by the fact the combatants can find no middle ground. The reality is nobody has proven evolution anymore than anyone has proven creation. They both are matters of faith.

The theory of evolution — like the big bang theory, the theory of relativity and many others — is simply guesswork. It is based on observation, limited testing and assumption. And just as there seems to be evidence that contradicts creationism, there are red flags to evolution that get conveniently ignored.

Lordy, lordy. The letter continues:

First and foremost is the coelacanth, the fossil fish found alive and well in 1939 off the coast of Africa after a supposed extinction 64 million years earlier. It was easily identifiable because it hadn’t changed in all that time.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The Coelacanth is Steve’s best evidence against evolution! Well, we haven’t seen anyone use that before, so we’ll give him credit for originality. What’s his second-best evidence? Why are there still monkeys?

But he’s got it backwards. It’s not survival of an ancient species that disproves evolution (and today’s coelacanth has evolved from its fossilized ancestors, by the way). The theory doesn’t demand extinction. There are still bacteria, and sponges, and loads of other ancient animals that continue to exist. What would be killer evidence would be finding the fossil of a modern species that somehow existed long before it could have evolved — something like the legendary Precambrian rabbit.

But wait — he’s got more evidence. Let’s read on:

No human being has ever seen anything evolve anymore than they’ve witnessed creation. That doesn’t stop believers from speaking in absolutes. Many scientific theories are unproven and probably unprovable. Yet, like religion, those who even suggest this are beaten down from the bully pulpit.

No one’s ever seen evolution? What about Richard Lenski’s E. coli long-term evolution experiment? Steve sounds like he’s been “beaten down” quite a bit. We can’t imagine why. Here’s the end of his letter:

Evolutionists dismiss out of hand any seeming contradictions to their theory. This should not be part of the scientific method. Science is in flux, and tenets need to be refined or discarded to accommodate opposing facts.

If Steve’s best “opposing fact” is the coelacanth, it’s doubtful that evolution will be “redefined or discarded” in the near future. Nice letter, however.

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

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20 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #401: The Coelacanth

  1. Stephen Kennedy

    It is amazing how creationists seem to be convinced that the Theory of Evolution somehow requires that organisms that lived a long time ago must have either gone extinct or evolved into something else. Scientists had good reason to believe coelocanths were extinct since there did not seem to be any around. When living ones were discovered it just proved that we had not looked everywhere they could be, not that there was something wrong with the Theory of Evolution.

  2. waldteufel

    I’ll bet that the letter writer is unaware that because of gravitational time dilation predicted by the General Theory of Relativity, his GPS device would not work unless corrections for this effect were not programmed into the computers on board the GPS satellites. That Einstein and his silly guesses!
    Like all science deniers, the letter scribbler is woefully ignorant about not only science, but of the depth and breadth of his ignorance: An intellectual lightweight with a big mouth.

  3. “The reality is nobody has proven evolution anymore than anyone has proven creation. They both are matters of faith.”

    That sets off my Drool-o-tron, with its flashing lights and blaring sirens that scream “pseudoskeptic!” You know, the “kind” that drools that he has “no dog in the fight.” To which one quickly retorts “so that explains why you whine incessantly about one ‘dog’ and merely ignore the other.”

  4. waldteufel

    As to the Coelacanth argument, that howler puts the letter writer solidly at the intellectual level of one video blogger who uses the name AugustusLarch. 🙂 A real mental giant, to be sure.

  5. I didn’t know that the Heartland Institute was in the anti-evolution business. It’s good to see they aren’t a one-trick pony. You always need a fallback position, ya know.

    But, I do wonder what the geologists that work for their benefactors would have to say about this letter…

  6. Charles Deetz ;)

    The modern far-right conservative comes across so much like creationist and climate-change deniers. ‘Obama is a marxist.’ O really, do you know what a marsixt is? ‘Well he is taking away our freedoms.’ Okay, which ones? ‘The DHS keeps buying million of rounds of ammo.’ What does that prove? On on.

    This guy is sure evolution isn’t proven, and brings out ‘red flags’ that are more red herrings. Fifth grade persuasive writing class and he gets a D+.

  7. Perhaps a relevant question is why is the Heartland Institute, like its cousin the Dishonesty Institute, tax exempt? Neither these, nor other similar organizations that rant against science, do any social work as their primary reason/excuse for their existence.

  8. Here is an interesting take on why christian colleges can continue to turn out dedicated creationists, like the letter writers SC finds all the time:

    http://news.yahoo.com/colleges-create-creationists-062415803–politics.html

  9. And which “seeming contradictions to [evolutionary] theory” is Stanek moaning about being “[dismissed] out of hand”?

    If they are merely “seeming” then obviously there’s no issue. If they are actual, it’s truly astonishing how all those numbskull experts keep missing them. In either case, it seems only cretinists are astute enough to see them…

  10. waldteufel says: “Like all science deniers, the letter scribbler is woefully ignorant about not only science, but of the depth and breadth of his ignorance: An intellectual lightweight with a big mouth.”

    Some of them are, as you say, merely stupid — and ignorant, of course. Professional creationists are mostly scammers and charlatans. But some others, like this guy (if he is who I think he is), require a different explanation. My guess is that instead of thinking about it, he casually dismisses science the same way you would dismiss some crazy doomsday UFO cult.

  11. @SC:

    My “different explanation” is that these letter-writers are “transitional fossils” between the merely scammed (evolution deniers on-the-street), and those in-on-the-scam (professional creationists). This one seems much closer to scammer than scammed, or even to the “Morton’s Demonized” (what your explanation sounds like). That’s because he’s very selective in what he dismisses. Pseudoskeptics who say “they both require faith” but then subtly encourage faith in only the pseudoscientific “explanations,” must be at least partly aware that they’re selling snake oil.

  12. Frank J says:

    My “different explanation” is that these letter-writers are “transitional fossils” between the merely scammed (evolution deniers on-the-street), and those in-on-the-scam (professional creationists).

    I know. I see those between the charlatans and the droolers (both of those categories being hopeless) as a vast sea of confused individuals who have never received a decent education. Many of them are merely preferring their own religion and rejecting what they imagine are all the others (including science). They could be educated, and sometimes they manage to figure it out by themselves; but by the time they reach adulthood it’s mostly a waste of effort to try.

  13. SC: “…a vast sea of confused individuals who have never received a decent education.”

    IMO, almost no one receives a decent education when it comes to evolutionary biology and natural history. It’s bad enough that only a few hours are devoted, and the content is watered down, but even with more time and critical analysis – the real “kind,” which only “Darwinists” demand – it’s almost impossible to compete with the misleading sound bites that have pervaded popular culture. And probably would have even without the help of anti-evolution activists. Things like “missing link, ” survival of the fittest,” and the especially obnoxious “I hear the jury’s still out about evolution.” Not to mention the silly “monkey to man” diagram that the media loves. And how many people who saw “Jurassic Park” can name the geologic period before and after, much less state approximately how many years ago they were?

    The sad fact is that most people who have no problem with evolution, understand it as poorly as most evolution-deniers. And accept it, or more accurately a false caricature of it, for all the wrong reasons.

  14. @Frank J: “…almost no one receives a decent education when it comes to evolutionary biology and natural history.”

    Hear, hear! Unfortunately, about the only exposure to Earth Science that most students receive is somewhere around 7th grade, when many are in the “Why do we need to know this?” mode. Another problem is that most school districts have changed from 7th and 8th grade Jr. Highs, where in many states all teachers need secondary ed. certification in a particular subject area, to 6th through 8th grade Middle Schools requiring just elementary ed certification, allowing any teacher to teach any subject. Unfortunately, not all elementary ed types have a strong background in science, and their students wind up doing lots of “save the planet” recycling projects and building plasticine volcanos into which they pour baking soda and vinegar, and learn nothing at all of earth history.

  15. @DavidK: Thanks for the link to the well-written article. I highly recommend it to all.

  16. IMO, citing the coelacanth as “first and foremost” evidence contradicting evolution places the letter writer, Steve Stanek, squarely within the Scammers tent. Although I have to admit one must be quite a drooler to think that the existence of living coelacanths disproves evolution.

  17. @ waldteufel: I tried, I really did–but that link was just too atrocious. I managed less than 4 minutes

  18. I made it to “Darwin is the guy who started the whole Evolution Spiel”. I just know it only can become worse after that one.

  19. “I just know it only can become worse after that one.”

    I formally apologize, and beg forgiveness for posting that link to the creationist crackpot. My intent was to cause chuckles, not to suck the brains out of my fellow commenters here.