When a Fact Is Not a Fact
A fact is something that exists beyond question. It is an actuality, an objective reality. It is established by solid evidence.
A theory is something unproved but at times assumed true for the sake of argument. It has yet to be proved as factual. Nonetheless, sometimes something is declared to be a fact that is only a theory.
The theory of organic evolution falls into this category.
ON September 30, 1986, The New York Times published an article by a New York University professor, Irving Kristol. His contention is that if evolution were taught in the public schools as the theory it is rather than as the fact it isn’t, there would not be the controversy that now rages between evolution and creationism. Kristol stated: “There is also little doubt that it is this pseudoscientific dogmatism that has provoked the current religious reaction.”
“Though this theory is usually taught as an established scientific truth,” Kristol said, “it is nothing of the sort. It has too many lacunae [gaps]. Geological evidence does not provide us with the spectrum of intermediate species we would expect. Moreover, laboratory experiments reveal how close to impossible it is for one species to evolve into another, even allowing for selective breeding and some genetic mutation. . . . The gradual transformation of the population of one species into another is a biological hypothesis, not a biological fact.”
The article touched a raw nerve in Harvard professor Stephen Jay Gould, a fervent defender of evolution as a fact, not just a theory. His rebuttal of Kristol’s article was published in a popularized science magazine, Discover, January 1987 issue. It revealed the very dogmatism Kristol deplored.
In his protesting essay, Gould repeated a dozen times his assertion that evolution is a fact. A few examples: Darwin established “the fact of evolution.” “The fact of evolution is as well established as anything in science (as secure as the revolution of the earth around the sun).” By the time Darwin died, “nearly all thinking people came to accept the fact of evolution.” “Evolution is as well established as any scientific fact (I shall give the reasons in a moment).” “The fact of evolution rests upon copious data that fall, roughly, into three great classes.”
For the first of these “three great classes” of “copious data,” Gould cites as “direct evidence” for evolution the small-scale changes within species of moths, fruit flies, and bacteria. But such variations within species are irrelevant to evolution. Evolution’s problem is to change one species into another species. Gould extols Theodosius Dobzhansky as “the greatest evolutionist of our century,” but it is Dobzhansky himself who dismisses Gould’s argument above as irrelevant.
Concerning the fruit flies of Gould’s argument, Dobzhansky says mutations “usually show deterioration, breakdown, or disappearance of some organs. . . . Many mutations are, in fact, lethal to their possessors. Mutants which equal the normal fly in vigor are a minority, and mutants that would make a major improvement of the normal organization in the normal environments are unknown.”
Science, the official magazine for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, also spiked Gould’s argument: “Species do indeed have a capacity to undergo minor modifications in the physical and other characteristics, but this is limited and with a longer perspective it is reflected in an oscillation about a mean [a position about midway between extremes].” In both plants and animals, variations within a species will oscillate or move about like pellets shaken in a glass jar—the variations are held within the boundaries of the species just as the pellets are confined within the jar. Just as the Bible’s account of creation says, a plant or an animal may vary, yet it is restricted to reproduce “according to its kind.”—Genesis 1:12, 21, 24, 25.
For the second of his three classes, Gould offers big mutations: “We have direct evidence for large-scale changes, based upon sequences in the fossil record.” By saying the changes were large scale, one species changing into another in a few big jumps, he escapes the need for the nonexistent intermediate fossils. But in going from small changes to big jumps, he goes from the frying pan into the fire.
Kristol comments on this: “We just don’t know of any such ‘quantum jumps’ that create new species, since most genetic mutations work against the survival of the individual.” And Gould’s “greatest evolutionist of our century,” Theodosius Dobzhansky, agrees with Kristol. His statement about many mutations being lethal is especially true of large-scale, quantum-jump mutations; also significant are his words that ‘mutations that make big improvements are unknown.’ Lacking evidence for his large-scale changes, Gould falls back on the old timeworn dodge of evolutionists: “Our fossil record is so imperfect.”
Gould does, however, offer as “direct evidence for large-scale changes” what he calls one of the “superb examples,” namely, “human evolution in Africa.” But evolutionists generally acknowledge that this field is far from superb. It is a hotbed of controversy, a battleground over teeth and bits of bone that evolutionists with vivid imaginations turn into hairy, stooped-over, beetle-browed ape-men. Once again, Dobzhansky is not supportive of Gould: “Even this relatively recent history [from ape to man] is shot through with uncertainties; authorities are often at odds, both about fundamentals and about details.”
The last of Gould’s “three great classes” that he says proves evolution to be a fact is resemblance between species. (The current trend, however, is to discount physical similarities as proof of relationship; genetic similarities are the new vogue for proving relationship, even in cases where physical characteristics differ greatly.) Gould offers two examples of relationship proved by resemblance. First: “Why does our body, from the bones of our back to the musculature of our belly, display the vestiges of an arrangement better suited for quadrupedal life if we aren’t the descendants of four-footed creatures?”
A strange assertion. We can walk and run upright on two feet, do it continuously for many miles, with backbone and belly muscles very comfortable. Unless, of course, we spend most of our waking hours slumped inert in a chair, never exercising muscles of back and belly. But those trained for it can run down four-footed wild animals, exhausting them, and in the vast majority of cases, outliving them. We thrive on two feet; quadrupeds seem comfortable on four.
Gould’s second example: “Why do the plants and animals of the Galapagos so closely resemble, but differ slightly from, the creatures of Ecuador, the nearest bit of land 600 miles to the east? . . . The similarities can only mean that Ecuadorian creatures colonized the Galapagos and then diverged by a natural process of evolution.” What the similarities can and only do mean is variation within the species. The finches, for example, are still finches.
Gould ridicules believers in creation who argue that “God permits limited modification within created types, but that you can never change a cat into a dog.” He then asks: “Who ever said that you could, or that nature did?” Nevertheless, he believes in a much harder change. Cat to dog would at least be mammal to mammal, whereas Gould says “dinosaurs evolve into birds.”
Irving Kristol in his article in The New York Times concludes: “The current teaching of evolution in our public schools does indeed have an ideological bias against religious belief—teaching as ‘fact’ what is only hypothesis. . . . If believing Christians are persuaded that their children are not exposed to anti-religious instruction, one may reasonably hope that they will feel comfortable once again with this American tradition [separation of Church and State].”
Kristol shows the wisdom of this doctrine of separation when he says: “Theological issues can so easily become a focus of conflict.” That is exactly what the “scientific creationism” advanced by some creationists would become if it was taught in the classroom. Several of its contentions are not Scriptural. To name only one, that the creative days of Genesis are 24-hour days. The Hebrew word translated “day” can be and is used in the Bible to be 12 hours, 24 hours, a season, a year, a thousand years, or several thousand years, depending on its particular setting and usage.
The classroom is not the place to air religious differences. Neither is it the place, as Kristol says, for teaching hypothetical evolution as a fact, when in actuality it has itself become a modern-day religion supported only by dogmatism.
Gould appropriately says that “myths become beliefs through adulterated repetition without proper documentation.” True. That is how religious creeds were formed that say the Bible teaches that the soul is immortal, that wicked people are tormented in hellfire forever, that God is a Trinity of three persons in one, that the days of creation in Genesis chapter 1 are 24-hour days—and all of this without proper documentation from the Bible.
And that is also how the evolutionary litany that ‘evolution is a fact’ becomes a belief: through “repetition without proper documentation” from scientific evidence.
[Blurb on page 11]
“We just don’t know of any such ‘quantum jumps’”
[Blurb on page 12]
“This relatively recent history is shot through with uncertainties”
[Blurb on page 13]
Evolution—a modern-day religion supported only by dogmatism
[Box/Picture on page 12]
“Dinosaurs evolve into birds”?
Consider: Birds are warm-blooded, reptiles cold; birds incubate their eggs, reptiles don’t; birds have feathers, reptiles scales; birds have hollow bones, reptiles solid; birds have air-cooled engines, reptiles don’t; birds have four-chambered hearts, reptiles three-chambered; birds have a syrinx for singing, reptiles don’t. Plus much more. Cat to dog, which Gould ridicules, is a stingy step compared to the quantum leap from reptile to bird, which Gould accepts!
[Pictures on page 10]
Mutant fruit flies, while malformed, are still fruit flies
Normal fruit fly