Creationist Wisdom #566: Transmutation

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Post-Bulletin of Rochester, Minnesota — home of the Mayo Clinic. It’s titled Darwinism is too often confused with evolution in debate of issue. The newspaper has a comments feature.

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 Rex. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

Evolution and Darwinism are two different subjects.

Not really. But in our experience, what biologists call evolution is often derisively referred to by creationists as “Darwinism,” a pejorative term they’ve coined to suggest something like Marxism, as if the suffix “ism” brands it as an ideology and not a science. Is that what Rex has in mind? Alas, no. Stay with us, you’ll see:

The further the distance an individual is from the sciences, the stronger the illusion that evolutionary biologists are objective. Those who are most prone to idealize the objectivity of evolutionists are people who know almost nothing about science, people for whom it has become a kind of religion.

Rex implies that he is not distant from the sciences, therefore he is under no illusions about the defective thinking of biologists. Let’s read on:

Evolutionary thought has a long historical development with theology playing a primary role. [Aaaargh!!] Evolution cannot be understood without understanding the history of its development and the underlying “materialist religion,” which controls the science and evidential reasoning.

Uh huh, the theory of evolution developed out of theology. We continue:

Science confirms evolution, but this is confined to microevolution, which includes change and local adaptation and differentiation of populations. This is completely different from Darwinism.

Okay, now we see where this is going. Rex is dancing the micro-macro mambo, discussed in Common Creationist Claims Confuted. Does Rex have anything new to say? Oh yeah! Here’s more:

The central thrust of Darwinian evolution is macroevolution — that bears can be transformed into whales — and science does not confirm this mythical set of process. Science does not confirm macroevolution or speciation, which is called transmutation.

Transmutation? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! That’s a word from alchemy — using the philosophers’ stone to transmute base metals into gold. Or maybe he’s thinking of Dracula’s transmutation into a vampire. Moving along:

Macroevolution is a myth borrowed from fictions dating back to the dark ages. Macroevolution (Darwinism) is superstition. Conclusions drawn from “imagined processes” and never determined by actual data or actual findings are called superstition.

No doubt about it — when Rex uses the term “Darwinism” he’s thinking about Dracula. Another excerpt:

Darwinian “processes” of macroevolution are “umbilically linked to the imagination” — not scientific data.

Those quote marks are in Rex’s letter. We don’t know what they mean. And now we come to the end:

Macro-evolutionary processes cannot be detailed, documented, verified, validated or tested. These are mythical processes exclusively. So let’s not confuse evolution science with Darwinism.

That’s good advice. Thanks, Rex.

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18 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #566: Transmutation

  1. Eddie Janssen

    You would think that macro-evolution would be the simplest of all evolutionary concepts:

    1. every organism has at least one parent, let’s call her mother
    2. every child is of the same species as its mother (with a few exceptions ofcourse)
    3. take 20 years for every generation (every other number is fine, but it will change the math…)
    3. think of your 10th, 100th, 1000th great-grandmother and she will still be human
    4. think of your 10,000th great-grandmother however, and she is probably not Homo sapiens.
    5. think of your 1,000,000th great-grandmother and she certainly is not Homo sapiens
    6. think of your 15,000,000th great-grandmother and she is not even a mammal.
    7. think of your 27,000,000th great-grandmother and she is probably a member of the small shelly fauna.

    How much macro-evolution do you want? And it is mostly very gradual.
    And yes, you do have a 27,000,000th great-grandmother otherwise you would not exist. Unless ofcourse you think the earth is only 6000 years old.

  2. Eddie Janssen, you don’t get it. Pay close attention to what Rex writes:

    “macroevolution — that bears can be transformed into whales”
    You are talking about micro evolution. And 27 000 000 steps of micro evolution still result in micro evolution. Take Rex’ sensible advise: don’t confuse macro evolution with Darwinism.

  3. Charles Deetz ;)

    Okay Rex, game on: Take a quick overview, even some research, and tell us what hominids are different (created) species and which are the same (micro-evolution). You don’t even have to justify your answer, just do the task. Here is a biased list the way science has them classified to get you started.

  4. michaelfugate

    I think a better question for Rex is “how do you define a species?”

  5. For years I’ve heard Young Earth Creationists describe evolution as the fantasy of “a cat turning into a dog.” Calling that a “transmutation” would actually be a rare instance where a denialist made sense.

  6. A bear can’t turn into a whale. However, a whale can turn into a Bear, as evidenced by William Perry.

  7. waldteufel

    Rex is just another run of the mill creationist who displays no knowledge of evolution specifically, and one without a clue about the methods and findings of science generally.

  8. @ Eddie Janssen: Good post, but you can illustrate the same basic principle of gradualist change over a far shorter time frame viz:

    Using the 20 years per generation benchmark, and assuming English ancestry:

    Your 37th great-grandmother was a contemporary of Chaucer and spoke Middle English, which would be semi-intelligible to your ears.

    Your 50th great-grandmother spoke the Anglo-Saxon of the Beowulf poet; if you had undertaken no prior study of Old English, you would comprehend very little of anything she said.

    Your 75th great-grandmother spoke some dialect of Old Saxon or related dialect of the Ingvaeonic Group–but might as well have been speaking Mandarin for all the sense you could make of her words.

    But of course, your 75th great-grandmother had no difficulty at all talking to your 74th great-grandmother, who in turn had no difficulty taliking to your 73rd great-grandmother, who had no problem talking to your 72nd great-grandmother, and so forth and so on. Each mother and daughter would not have doubted that they were speaking the same language–as indeed they were, but with a few barely perceptible variations that, over less than 75 generations, would result in mutally incomprehensibility between the two end points in the series.

  9. @Lemmy, William Perry is an interesting case study: He was a whale that turned into a Tiger, than a Bear, and finally an Eagle.

  10. Pete Moulton

    I’m confused, Mark. Didn’t Mr Perry also go through a refrigerator stage in there somewhere?

  11. Especially with the “whale” clue, I had been assuming that you were talking about Sir William Parry, the famous explorer, and had been plagued by a typo. As to William “Refrigerator” Perry, I don’t think I’ve ever shaken hands with someone whose hands were so enormous.

  12. Mega assumes “Eddie Janssen’s English ancestry:”
    That name sounds very, very Dutch or Flemish. And chances are likely that his (and my) 75th great-grandmother was not living in what’s now called the Low Lands, because in the 5th and 6th Century they were largely inhabited. In other words: this assumption is as superfluous as Rex’ talk about transmutation.

  13. The solution to the micro/macro mambo is simply this. Microevolution is a mechanism, macroevolution is an observation. There is no macroevolution mechanism. Macroevolution is evidenced by the fossil record where changes over extended periods of time can be observed. All of which is based on the accumulation of microevolutionary mutations followed by natural selection or sexual selection or drift at work.

    The creationists need to get past Darwin. Evolution would still be here whether Darwin was here or not. If not Darwin, someone else would have discovered natural selection. Oh, wait, someone else did, Alfred Russel Wallace. And if not him, then someone else.

  14. When you can only interpret the world through the lens of religion, then everything becomes religious. Evolution is religion, atheism is religion, halloween is religious, etc. etc.

    I don’t believe any amount of rational explanation will penetrate his filter.

  15. In addition to my previous comment Rex has another profound lesson to teach us:

    don’t confuse polyglottery with Lachmannism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Lachmann

  16. “The central thrust of Darwinian evolution is macroevolution — that bears can be transformed into whales—and science does not confirm this mythical set of process [sic}.”

    Bears into whales? That’s mythical all right. And evolutionists, of course, make no such claim, though they do posit (with plenty of evidence) that sea creatures can evolve into land-living ones and vice versa. Creationists live to argue against a cartoon of evolution (which they’ve drawn), but that has nothing to d with disproving the real thing.

    “Science does not confirm macroevolution or speciation, which is called transmutation.”

    Only by morons. No, let’s be fair: morons wouldn’t know any of those words. But that only makes it worse: Rex knows the words, but clearly doesn’t understand them, or doesn’t care that he’s conflating entirely different ideas.

  17. Ken Phelps

    @ed: “I don’t believe any amount of rational explanation will penetrate his filter.”

    No, but it’s important that everyone else sitting around the campfire knows he’s the village idiot. Conversational intolerance, a la Sam Harris.

  18. Darwin did, indeed, speculate about bears involving into whales, in the first edition (but if I recall correctly not later editions) of On the Origin of Species. A couple of years ago, Peter Hitchens, intellectually challenged brother of the late lamented Christopher, used this as evidence that evolution had been promulgated in order to undermine religion. I have (shameless self-advertisement) blogged on this: http://wp.me/p21T1L-3j and http://wp.me/p21T1L-42.The fact of the matter is that whales have evolved, not from bears, but from close relatives of pigs, as conclusively and independently shown both by the fossil record (micro-macro, anyone?) and molecular phylogeny.

    “Darwinian evolution” is a useful expression, meaning evolution by way of random change followed by natural selection. Not all biological evolution is Darwinian, since some if not most is the product of random drift, and there is brisk debate about whether Darwinian evolution is relevant to the development of human ideas and institutions.

    But anyone who describes evolution science as “Darwinism” deserves the same kind of contempt that we would bestow on someone who described the modern atomic theory as “Daltonism”.