Bad Objections to Evolution

Bad Objections to Evolution

It’s back to school time, and this video from Genesis Apologetics has been making the rounds of… well… I don’t really know where it’s making the rounds.  Maybe Christian home schools?  Videos like these are pretty typically posted on Facebook by evangelical/fundamentalist parents so school kids can be warned in case high school science teachers try to “propagandize” about evolution.  Something I’m pretty skeptical of actually happening; at least according to my grandkids, and my daughter who is a school teacher (2nd grade).

According to this report there isn’t much danger of “evolution propaganda”:

A recent survey of 926 public high school biology teachers has revealed that nearly three out of four are not aggressively endorsing evolution.  According to the survey, only about 28 percent of biology teachers are strong advocates for evolution and “consistently implement the major recommendations and conclusions of the National Research Council.”  Thirteen percent are just the opposite, and explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design.  Most teachers, called the “cautious 60 percent,” told interviewers that they are “neither strong advocates for evolutionary biology nor explicit endorsers of nonscientific alternatives.”

In fact, the problem may be that the science isn’t taught much at all. The report goes on to say:

Frustrated by these numbers, many biologists are opening up, says Louise Mead, education director for the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, which is headquartered at Michigan State University.

“Evolutionary biologists used to just put a hand up whenever people brought up the evolution controversy,” she said. “But there’s been a realization that we have to address the misconceptions. There has been a renewed focus on how we teach evolution and renewed outreach.”

Jim Stump, Vice President at BioLogos, has a response you can read here.  I agree with Jim right down the line in this response.  The main problem with sweet Kayla’s rant is that it is total bullshit completely counterproductive to the aim of the video: to provide “answers” to counter evolution.  Because each of her points has been thoroughly debunked by actual science, the Christian student “armed” with those talking points will be quickly and utterly disillusioned when they reach college and come into contact with the rebuttals. That disillusionment can lead to an actual loss of faith when the student realizes they were “propagandized” instead of told the truth by their so-called faith leaders.  As Jim says in the BioLogos article:

Narratives like the one in this video are attractive because they pit the plucky, faithful underdog from our tribe against an external threat. We’re wired to respond positively to that. But unfortunately the video only perpetuates echochamber thinking. It reinforces a stereotype that true Christian faith is bundled with a rejection of evolutionary science. For too many kids today, once they get out of the echochamber and find the science actually holds up, they feel they have to abandon faith too.

So, quick recap of the bad arguments:

“Life cannot come from non-life…” 

This confuses origin of life research with the theory of evolution.  Evolution is an explanation for the diversification of life on Earth, not for the origin of life on Earth.  Despite what we know about the state of the Earth 3–4 billion years ago and the complexity of the building blocks of life—DNA, RNA, amino acids, sugars—no entirely plausible scientific explanation for the spontaneous origin of life has been found. How life came from non-life, or abiogenesis, is still largely a scientific mystery.  Nevertheless, as I noted in this post: A Review of “A World From Dust- How the Periodic Table Shaped Life” by Ben McFarland, there are tantalizing clues from chemistry and physics that the laws of physics constrain the universe so that stars would form, that elements would be created in those stars (like carbon), and that the end life of those stars would spread those elements throughout the universe. The laws of chemistry constrain the randomness of the evolutionary process so that life can form. As RJS, the PhD chemistry professor who blogs at Jesus Creed said, the evolutionary process is an efficient search algorithm optimizing for specific functions.

“Mutation only loses information…”

As one commentator to Jim’s article said, “There is abundant evidence that mutation can generate significant, functional information at a rate far higher than required by evolution. One form of evidence can be found in your own body. You possess DNA that codes for hundreds (at least) of antibodies, each precisely tuned to match a protein on a specific pathogen that you have encountered in your lifetime. You were not born with any of those antibodies or with the DNA that codes for them. The DNA – and the information needed to produce those specific antibodies – was generated from a simple template by a process of random mutation and selection; part of the process is known as ‘somatic hypermutation’.”

If evolution is true, then “we’d have millions of in-between creatures running around…”

Jim’s answer is a pretty good one:

Did the teacher in the video seriously not have an answer for this? It is just a misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Evolution does not claim that currently existing creatures have evolved into other currently existing creatures. Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort thought they debunked evolution by holding up a picture of a crocoduck and asking why we don’t find any of these half crocodile, half duck creatures. But evolution claims that for any two organisms today, you could go back in time and find common ancestors of them. For crocodiles and ducks, that’s about 245 million years ago, and those common ancestors were neither crocodiles nor ducks. The “in-between” creatures aren’t running around today, but they were back before the two lineages diverged (but probably didn’t look like Cameron and Comfort’s picture!).

“All of the in-between fossils could fit in the back of my Prius…”

Creationists love to quote-mine the late Stephen J. Gould, Harvard paleontologist, who said, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology.” [Evolution’s Erratic Pace – “Natural History,” May, 1977]”

The problem for creationists is an enormous catalog of transitional forms have been found since the time 42 years ago when Gould wrote his book. Since Gould’s long, long ago retirement from the field, paleontologists have discovered:

  • the long series from Pakicetus to blue whales
  • intermediate forms such as Tiktaalik in the transition from fish to amphibians.
  • a long series of transitional forms from dinosaurs to birds
  • a long series of transitional forms from early hominids to humans.
Jim looking at skulls in the Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Photo Credit: T. Stump

Finally, the student’s speech both begins and ends with the oft-repeated claim: “It takes a lot more faith to believe in evolution…”

Jim’s answer is OK here, but what really bothers me about the answer is the pitting of faith vs. faith.  You know, your faith is in fallible men, but my faith is in the infallible God.  The implication is the Christian’s faith is in the God of the universe, who cannot lie and would never mislead anyone, and the Bible, which is the very WORD of God, inerrant and infallible, and can never be misinterpreted… if the plain reading is taken.  But Biblicism is just the opposite side of the coin as scientism.  They are both ideologies, subject to the mirror-image problems of fundamentalist mindset.  Besides, the theory of evolution is a scientific theory, it doesn’t require any faith at all.  It is a provisional explanation of the biologic diversity we observe throughout the planet’s history. You, the scientism ideologue, says it explains away the need for God to have created the universe, and shows belief in God to be delusional.  Well, guess what, you just stopped doing science and are now in engaged in metaphysical speculation.  And you, the Biblicist ideologue, says that if evolution is true then the Bible can’t be true.  That’s like saying if embryology is true then it can’t be true that God “knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13), or if meteorology is true then it can’t be true that the Father “sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).

As Christians, we can, and should, really do better by our kids.

46 thoughts on “Bad Objections to Evolution

  1. Fascinating…
    As Spock (Leonard Nimoy) would say.
    I must confess that I take a sort of perverse satisfaction in the fact that certain selfie-takers who climb the barriers, at say Yosemite, in order to perch themselves on sheer rock precipices, will not pass those genes on to future generations.


  2. “God hath Created the Banana the Perfect Size and Shape to Fit the Human Mouth.”?
    (At which point Ray Comfort demonstrates…)


  3. It’s a closed system of thought that tries to immediately discredit anything that might challenge it.

    A COMPLETELY Closed System.

    * Any evidence against The Conspiracy is Disinformation/Fake News planted by The Conspiracy.
    * Anyone who doubts the existence of The Conspiracy has proven themselves to be part of The Conspiracy.
    * Lack of evidence for The Conspiracy is PROOF The Conspiracy is so vast and powerful THEY can silence anyone.

    Except for the Woke One who KNOWS what’s REALLY Going On, sitting with those Dwarves in their filthy stable in the midst of Aslan’s Land, reciting “THE DWARFS ARE FOR THE DWARFS! WE WON’T BE TAKEN IN!”

    “And since they ‘won’t be taken in’, they can never be taken out.” — Aslan of Narnia


  4. goodness, the whole thing comes down to some ‘people of faith’ expecting for God to do everything super-fast, in an instant, or a day, or ‘six-days’ . . . . . well why not six trillion years?

    seems to me, that ‘evolution’ inspires a great amount of ‘wow’ in people who don’t ‘assume’ that God only performs at warp speed . . . . the magnificence of the Earth’s geology speaks to us of a Creator Who is capable of slowing down time to millenia to carve out river valleys and fjords and move continents around and form the Grand Canyon and still somehow, when He wants to, will use this same Creation to communicate to mankind, as when He called the wise men by a star, and the disciples by their art of fishing . . . .

    I think the fundamentalists are so far removed from ‘orthodox’ as to not understand that ALL healing is done by God. Not just the ‘quick’ recoveries seen and verified at places like Lourdes. But no, they forget that He is also the God of the Natural World . . . . sustaining it in being from moment to moment.

    Hubris. Lack of humility. Lack of appreciation for the profound voice of Creation that teaches them about God:
    ““But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
    or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
    8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
    or let the fish in the sea inform you.
    9 Which of all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
    10 In His hand is the life of every creature
    and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12)

    So the fundamentalist cares not for the Creation that he claims to believe happened suddenly in six days, rather he places his faith in a leader who authorizes the destruction of the great and pristine Tongass National Forest (AK), for private profit, this fragile ecosystem will be entered and deforested, and the bears, and the eagles, and the salmon in the sea will tell us, by their dying, that it was the hand of greed by which they perished. . . .

    People ‘play’ with the meanings of scripture, but they cannot ‘play’ with the Creation itself and harm it and not hurt something precious to the Creator they claim to believe in . . . . even sacred Scripture tells us that God is revealed to us ALSO in nature, and its creatures. So once a donkey talked. And they bought that as a ‘miracle’. But science could show them the way that donkey developed through thousands of years to become what he was at all: a donkey. A creature of God. A life form, sustained in life by God Himself. Would that the donkey lived at all not be miracle enough for them? Oh ye of little faith . . . . . to create a God so small that only you could control Him and all those who might believe ONLY what you say ‘the Bible says’. What a small god the fundamentalists have made for themselves, in order that they should be the ones who assume the power of control over others.


  5. So what are the best arguments against evolution. One of the features of debate is to be able to present your opponents best arguments, not just dismantle their worst. I know you believe in evolution, but if you were to try to argue against it, what are the strongest arguments you could make against it? (Even if you think these arguments are flawed or that you already know the way to answer them).


  6. Ok I don’t think I expressed exactly what I meant. I am not psychic. We might be entering a new dark age for as far as I know. What I meant is that evolution and fundamentalism are irreconcilable. Acceptance of one is the rejection of the other.


  7. There are religious implications to evolution that should be considered. One of them is the almost sure death of fundamentalism.

    Remember a wild animal is most dangerous when it’s wounded and fading.


  8. For what it’s worth, Darwin himself never did like the term “Evolution” because even in Victorian times the word carried baggage of Linear UPWARD Progress. As Chesterton put it, “The Victorians thought history ended well because history ended with the Victorians.”

    Darwin’s preferred term was “Descent with Modification”, which had no mention of directionality and all the other baggage of “Evolution”.


  9. And now for something completely different:

    Remember how this week started out here at IMonk?
    About economic exploitation and widening gap between rich and poor (now more than most Third World countries) such as gets pointed out by Pope Francis?

    And Christians let that all slide (if not cheer it on) while obsessing on Pelvic Issues and Young Earth Creationism.


  10. True that, and once one has found a transitional between two species in a evolutionary lineage the nay-sayers immediately complain that now there are two missing transitionals

    That’s why the “Show Me Transitionals” is a RIGGED argument.
    Goes like this:

    Grab a handful of change from your pocket.
    (This represents a finite number of fossils.)
    Place two of the coins about half a meter apart on a table.
    YEC points between them — “Where’s the transitional in between?”
    You put a third coin between them.
    YEC points to the resulting two gaps between them.
    You keep filling in the gaps until you run out of coins.
    (Remember, there is a FINITE number of fossils.)
    YEC points to ALL the gaps between the coins and Crows in Triumph.

    Years ago, when the GodsCreatures YahooGroup was melting down in a continuous Creation-vs-Evolution Celebrity Deathmatch, I actually got the main YEC Uber Alles guy to shut up with this example.


  11. It’s a conspiracy theory mindset that I see more and more in different spheres these days. I have a niece who is anti-vaxxer and thinks this way on that topic. When I tried a rational argument that the vaccines are well tested, overwhelmingly safe, etc., her response was “that’s what they want you to think.”

    It’s a closed system of thought that tries to immediately discredit anything that might challenge it.


  12. Rick Ro. I agree with your point of views. Billions, millions, Brazilians, I believe you illustrate a point, you believe God used evolution as a tool to create the world, you do not take the Bible literally in this area. This is what I believe, it is a metaphor for an ancient people and simple people like me to grasp the concept of a force that created life. So we believe that the evolution theory is correct as far as we understand, we are not debating it except we believe in God. I think some on the evolution side are putting those who believe like me in a pick of side position. That is what I sense that has happened in my lifetime. I do not think this is an issue that most Christians agonize over . However many in the secular world would not agree with jean above, in other words, evolution proves there is no God , that stuff just happens. Some of my friends tell me I my belief in God as Creator came from my early childhood and they are correct. My question to them is, I agree with the theory of evolution as best I understand it and can accept that God in whatever manner is behind it, what else do you want me to do? , drop my belief in God based on evolution, believing in God is Faith , believing the evolution theory is correct is Science. Can they co exist, yes in my world they can and do. I think the fight is pretty well over and a non issue except for a dwindling minority that have lost the war of public acceptance but certainly are free to observe their faith. If I got your post wrong , I am sorry if I used it to jump in but I did relate to it.


  13. People have been waiting for the death of ‘fundamentalism’ longer than they have waiting for Jetson cars. The battle between ‘watch your step’ and ‘do your thing’ is perennial is far more a matter of temperament than anything else.

    Contemplating ‘evolution’ and its religious implications are a wonderful tonic to the imagination. I use the scare quotes because I don’t think ‘evolution’ and its concomittent mythology ‘progress’ are quite accurate, but I can’t think of anything to change them to.


  14. The imagery is new to me, but the critique is susceptible to being thrown by anyone at anyone else. Picking out clobber tests that seem to fit your desired conclusion–at least if you don’t look at what comes before or after–is a favorite of Evangelicals. What is this but Wax Nose? And, of course, I have had the same accusation thrown at me. As a Lutheran my hermeneutic is the canon within the canon, and I am entirely comfortable with this. It provides poor guidance, however, for assessing evolutionary biology. Or reason to think an assessment of evolutionary biology is theologically important.


  15. The truth is, all the traditional Creationist tropes have been contradicted. There are many examples of so-called “transitional” species and the eye is now one of the best understood and highly attested examples of evolutionary change.

    Like spots on the highway all species are both destinations and the road to somewhere else.

    There are religious implications to evolution that should be considered. One of them is the almost sure death of fundamentalism.


  16. Not million, Rick–billions of years. Of course it’s possible to be a Christian and believe in evolution, just not be an “every word of the Bible is true, just as God wrote it in the King James Bible” kind of Christian. It’s not fair to the Bible, or to today’s scientists, to try to track an ancient people’s knowledge of the way the world worked to what we have discovered since. If those are your choices, you really do have to pick a side–but that doesn’t necessarily require you to stop believing in God.


  17. True that, and once one has found a transitional between two species in a evolutionary lineage the nay-sayers immediately complain that now there are two missing transitionals…


  18. Since there is an almost total lack of agreement between you and I on what constitutes “our worst impulses”, which will always find expression regardless of what hermeneutic we adopt, better we leave the rest of the discussion unposted.


  19. Ah yes, like the Rahn Curve where everybody is agreed about the endpoints. The disagreement is about what’s in between.


  20. “Avoiding the ‘wax nose’ use of the Scriptures is a valid objection for conservative Protestants who don’t want to be sucked into a hermeneutic approach that gives imprimatur to the worst impulses of modernity.”

    The real “wax nose” is forcing Scripture to speak to details that it was never intended to cover – such as the exact mechanics and timetables of creation. And the traditional hermeneutics were by no means innocent of giving imprimatur to the worst impulses of traditionalist societies, either.


  21. I don’t remember who first coined the phrase, but the objection was that with the proper hermeneutic the Scriptures could be taken to approve of whatever the commentator wanted it to approve of and condemn whatever the commentator wanted it to condemn, much as a wax nose could be bent into any shape desired.


  22. It all comes down to smelling out Traitors and Witches.
    And with YEC Christians, it gets elevated to Cosmic Importance.


  23. Regarding the Crocoduck:

    This is the “Jenny Hanniver”/Mythological school of composite critter design, patching together intact parts of different animals, from Griffins to The Jersey Devil to MLP’s Discord. (Which begs the question: can a Crocoduck speak in John DeLancie’s voice?)

    RL natural critters — even platypi and cryptids — are more harmonious in appearance. The pieces more-or-less fit together within the constraints of their family & genus.


  24. This is so much a conflict that doesn’t need to be occurring, but there is so much epistemological and methodological baggage involved that, like a pot with a very thin layer of water in it, any heat placed under it causes it to boil almost immediately.

    Avoiding the ‘wax nose’ use of the Scriptures is a valid objection for conservative Protestants who don’t want to be sucked into a hermeneutic approach that gives imprimatur to the worst impulses of modernity. Shouting at them “just evolve already, ya knuckledraggin’ baboons” has been tried (ad nauseam), and found lacking as a rhetorical method.

    I remember talking to a very thoughtful young Evangelical who told me that the Bible should be taken ‘as literally as possible’. I replied that, being the product of an infinite Mind, the last thing we should expect the Bible to be would be literal. He seemed to take it pretty well.


  25. What I find most frustrating about the “creation vs evolution” debate is the “MUST PLANT A FLAG ON ONE SIDE OR THE OTHER” stand that fundamentalists on both sides try to foist on their own kind, and the shaming that occurs if one doesn’t align with their way of thinking. (i.e., must believe in Creation if a Christian, must believe in evolution if a scientist, and if you DON’T… well, how can you call yourself a Christian or a scientist?!?!?)

    As for me and my household, I just see this as another grand mystery of God and His creation. If He wanted to create the world and its beasts in some glorious instant, fine. If He decided to create the world and its beasts over a million years, fine. None of that should get in the way of me loving God and loving others.

    Thanks for post today, Mike the Geo. Gives me some more angles with which to look at the mystery.


  26. +1,000. Same experience.

    It reminds me of the high-school textbook a friend showed me only a few years ago, it was his daughters. The textbook had a sidebar about how someday microcomputers might be able to call up and communicate with each other over phone lines.

    Many of the pseudo-science crowd are making arguments from that textbook.


  27. Ben: let me refer you to this series of posts: In particular note Chapters 3 and 4. Here is the money quote from Denis Alexander in Chapter 3:

    “Alexander then talks about the physical restraints on RNA molecule selection and protein evolution. He notes that in the structure of molecules it turns out that basic physical constraints mean that in most situations the full range of possibilities generated by randomizing the options is never achieved, and so natural selection can only act with reference to specific subset of possibilities. He cites a study by Ard Louis of Oxford that seemed to bear this out. You can read a summary of the study here ( The study found:
    “When you think about evolution, ‘survival of the fittest’ is probably one of the first things that comes into your head. However, new research from Oxford University finds that the ‘fittest’ may never arrive in the first place and so aren’t around to survive.
    By modelling populations over long timescales, the study showed that the ‘fitness’ of their traits was not the most important determinant of success. Instead, the most genetically available mutations dominated the changes in traits. The researchers found that the ‘fittest’ simply did not have time to be found, or to fix in the population over evolutionary timescales.”
    One reason this occurs is due to the discovery of “hotspot” genes. More than 350 such hotspot genes, meaning genes that are more “evolvable” than others have now been identified. Alexander cites the example of the 3-spined stickleback fish, which have evolved in the relatively (geologically speaking) short time period since the last retreat of the glaciers trapped ocean sticklebacks in freshwater lakes.
    The genes in this case is PITX1 gene that is involved making armor plating (with spikes). The main environment that they live in contains different predator. One environment, the freshwater lakes, contains dragonfly larvae that can catch the fish by latching on to the spikes. Hence, the environment allows stickleback to evolve with no armor plating. Alexander says:
    “So sticklebacks are predisposed to remarkably rapid changes in their pelvic spines at multiple levels: the relevant regulatory gene is located in a highly changeable area of the genome; the gene in question can act as a master-control body-armor switching apparatus; and variants reduce pelvic spines will be rapidly selected in environments where those spines decrease fitness. Without such clever “evolvability” living things wouldn’t exist – including us. It’s yet another example of “Goldilocks biology” – unless the evolutionary systems have these very particular kinds of properties, we certainly wouldn’t be here to discuss the question. But isn’t that a circular argument – we wouldn’t exist to have the discussion unless precisely these kinds of well-organized systems were in place? Precisely so, that’s just the point.”


  28. Long long ago in a galaxy far away (rural Georgia in the 70s) I made it all the way through High School without once ever hearing Evolution even mentioned. Biology was taught as a series of unconnected “facts” without any conceptual foundation at all, which is of course exactly what evolutionary theory provides. I have no idea how the teachers felt about this but I’m sure the school administration had zero tolerance for controversy. It’s sad that this same situation still obtains in many areas of our country.

    I remember the clumsy attempt by a graduate student to explain it in a Biology 101 class in college. He left the students even more confused and incredulous than they were before and was quick with the mantra, “It’s only a theory”. I also remember the first time I actually began to understand it. I was reading the great evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr’s WHAT EVOLUTION IS, and it suddenly clicked. I had one of those “Of Course!” ,moments.

    It’s really not so complicated that you can’t explain it to students. Or interested non-technical adults. Another excellent book I would recommend is Donald Prothero’s WHAT THE FOSSILS SAY.

    ps: Is it possible to find more wooden actors than are in these Creationist videos? And they just cry out for parody. After Kayla’s rant the door opens and Richard Dawkins walks in. “Kayla I’m glad you asked that question…” Or a 12 year old stands up in the middle of a Sunday School class decrying godless evolution and proceeds to explain it to the other members.


  29. “Because each of her points has been thoroughly debunked by actual science”

    In my youth, back in the 70s, I was interested in the debate between science types and the Erich von Däniken and similar pseudo-science crowd. One reason I lost interest over the years is that the pseudo- crowd routinely uses arguments that they know have been debunked. Corner them in a given setting and they may concede the point, but then next week they will be using it again somewhere else. This makes the debate uninteresting as an intellectual exercise, but it serves as a handy BS detector.

    See also: New Atheists.


  30. .. I don’t follow.

    > if variability really is random

    We’ve discussed Randomness on this site numerous times.

    > shouldn’t there be more ‘junk’ fossils

    Aren’t all fossil’s “junk”?


  31. “””high school science teachers try to “propagandize” about evolution. Something I’m pretty skeptical of actually happening”””

    Ye olde “both sides” card. 🙂 When there is only one side.

    These days that may quality as Evangelicalism’s favorite play.


  32. I think I’ve said this before, but my beef with pure materialistic evolutionism is that while natural selection is the powerful and most mentioned part of the theory, it is the ‘natural variability’ which is doing all the heavy lifting, and which seems to be much less talked about.

    It’s not the lack of transitional forms which surprises, but the lack of non-viable dead-end ones. OK, so completely non-viable forms wouldn’t even make it out of the womb (or egg), but there must be degrees of ‘adaptedness’ and one would expect forms all along that spectrum. And if variability really is random and frequent, shouldn’t there be more ‘junk’ fossils? I think this is where the theory of punctuated equilibria came from, though I’m not well-enough-informed to know if that is still in vogue or not.

    But thinking about it: how would you recognise a ‘junk’ fossil if you saw it? Because by definition: “that which has survived has adapted”, so though we can say “things that are extinct now didn’t adapt at some point in the past”, with fossils, I don’t see how there’s any way to tell the difference between “thing that was adapted for it’s time” and “thing that was no-longer-adapted for it’s time” or even “thing that was a unsuccessful mutation”. And somewhere in there you get into circular-reasoning.


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