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The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

Feedback for July 1996

Shown below are some of the letters received from readers of the Talk.Origins Archive in the month of July, 1996.

I have searched long and hard for such concise and intelligent arguments for the debate between evolution and creationism. As a student studying paleoanthropology and paleontology at the University of Florida I am constantly being engaged in debate on this subject, if not by a fellow student, then by a representative of a religion currently "recruiting" on campus.

Your forum has given me good answers to these very common points of attack by creationists without going into complex explanations which they will not understand or try to understand anyway. Thanks for the forum and keep up the good work.

Holly R.

There is a Web site called 'The FAQ (Creation Answers) Homepage'. It contains some cogent and well-argued points (along with some fallacies), and the maintainer of it makes (I think) the valid point that there is no easily located link to his document on the archive. There is a link from this site back to the archive.

I'm going to try to prepare a detailed rebuttal of most of the points, and in fairness think it would be a good idea to provide a link to the site from the archive.

It's important to remember that not all creationists fit into the Young-Earth-Fundamentalist-Darwin-is-Satan charlatan mould that is represented in much of the discussion of creationism on the archive. There are some people making a genuine effort to reconcile their beliefs with scientific evidence, allowing limited reinterpretation of the bible in the light of the evidence.

Regardless of how misguided we may think their efforts to be, they should be given an opportunity to present their opinions as well, if only to bring these more sophisticated arguments into an open forum for repudiation.

Ian R.

Response from the editor:

The Talk.Origins Archive has had a link to Jeffrey Cox's "Creation Answers" FAQ since he put the web page into place. [Site is no longer listed since it has ceased to exist except on The Wayback Machine - September 2003.] While it is true that I mislabelled the link to his page, it is only because he renamed his web site. If I am remembering correctly, he used to call it something like the " Creation Answers Homepage". Recently, however, he seems to have retitled it "The FAQ (Creation) Homepage". I would have been happy to rename the link if Mr. Cox had simply told me about it. But then if he had done that, he wouldn't have been able to complain that the big bad archive was trying to suppress his viewpoint. In any case, I have updated the name of the link to reflect the current title of Cox's web page.

By the way, this type of complaining is nothing new for Jeffrey Cox. This is the same person who once accused the FAQ writers of perpetrating "net abuse" by refusing to produce FAQs that agreed with his opinions. He seems to feel that he and creationists like him have been treated unfairly, and to emphasize the point he occasionally couches his arguments in conspiratorial terms. On his web page, for instance, he writes, "I presume they [the evolution supporters] want to hide the association between this site and the newsgroup to make it less likely that people browsing there will come here." Well, frankly, I hope lots of people visit Cox's page. In the long run, there's no better cure for creationism than creationism itself.

One other thing. On Jeffrey Cox's web page, he has mislabelled the link to the Talk.Origins Archive. He calls it the " FAQ (Non creation answers) site". If he's going to be upset that his site was mislabelled, he should at least try to label other sites correctly.

I think you guys should be more open-minded & not diss someone's new technology until you've tried it. The earth's not flat nor is it's history something we can spectulate about too much since proportionally speaking we've hardly been here for long at all.

I have two questions. Why is the THEORY of Evolution presented as fact when in FACT it is but a theory? In our education system, why isn't creation taught as a theory of the origin of man along with evolution?

Wayne L.

Response from the editor:

Answer to first question: Evolution is both a fact and a theory. See the FAQ on this subject.

Answer to second question: In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the teaching of creationism in public schools violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Therefore, it may not be taught in public school science classrooms.

I have just discovered this site am quite beside myself with delight. As one who is continually defending science in the Evolution vs. Creationism battle, I find the information contained here most interesting.

Thanks, Eric J.

Have you The Creation Hypothesis edited by J.P. Moreland? This anthology blows ICR-style anti-evolutionary arguments; it provides a powerful reformulation of the design argument for the existence of God. IMNSHO, this is the strongest anti-evolution book I have ever read; as evolutionists we need to become familiar with this book and refute it.

Jeff Lowder (co-founder of Internet Infidels)

Response from the editor:

Thanks for the tip. Isn't it interesting, though, that a book entitled The Creation Hypothesis spends time attacking evolution? It seems that creationists can only define their "science" in the face of evolution.

There is another flaw in Hanegraaff's response to the question about the Second Law of Thermodynamics in your June Feedback file. The flaw is his statement: "Evolution postulates that everything goes from randomness to complexity and from disorder to order."

This is equivalent to stating that evolution is progress, when in fact it isn't. In biological systems, evolution is brought about by random changes in genetic sequencing, more commonly known as mutation. The vast majority of all genetic mutations are either neutral or deleterious with respect to the overall fitness of the organism in question. Only a very small percentage of genetic mutations are advantageous. In fact, advantageous mutations are exquisitely rare. Natural selection, which the Second Law of Thermodynamics does not affect, favors organisms with genetic advantages over those with neutral or deleterious genetic mutations. "Evolutionary progress" is a dangerously over-generalized description of the process.

As creationists usually do, Hanegraaff commits an inductive fallacy by making a hasty generalization and misses the point by drawing an irrelevant conclusion about one of his basic arguments.

Frank W.

Excellent Web site. Navigation's a bit of a problem, tho. It would be nice if the BACK button pointed back to the big FAQ list rather than the homepage. It means you have to go back down a layer (minor quibble).

I'd also change some of the data in the FAQ on Evolutionary remnants.

I'm no expert on the biology and zoology, but I do know my medicine. In the FAQ it's claimed that poor design features of humans include: the grasp reflex, the Moro reflex, and fontanelles.

The reflexes mentioned are reflexes in very young babies that usually disappear very early in life. They have no obvious survival value, but we just don't know enough about brain and neuron development to say for sure that they AREN'T essential.

Fontanelles, on the other hand, are definitely important. They form part of the system of suture lines in the foetal and infant skull that allows: (i) the skull bones to glide over each other during birth - thus saving many women from dying in childbirth, and (ii) allow further growth of the brain before the skull fuses solid. When children have early fusion of the fontanelles or sutures, they have an increased chance of skull deformities.

I'm also unconvinced about the "poor design of the knee". It seems pretty good to me, and the poster did not mention what was wrong with the design, just asserted it.

And the prostate is NOT bad design per se. It is important (but not essential) for sexual function so it should be around the urethra. When it does cause problems it's usually at 60+ years of age... and THIS is where the prostate supports evolution over "Perfect Creationism" in evolutionary terms, anything which causes problems after you're 60 is irrelevant. In the wild, almost no-one would live that long, so there's no survival value in evolution selecting it out. But a Perfect Creator would never had made an organ like that!

However, there are still plenty of examples of bad design.

  1. Appendages (not necessarily bad for survival, but of no use)
  2. BAD Design

And I'm sure there are more.

Chris L.

Your Website is a godsend. I'm a writer who is constantly looking for information about evolution, because it goes into my book, and I'm constantly dealing with people who "don't believe in evolution". Your answers here should help me greatly. Thank you.

I am a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine--a country which has recently been invaded by the legions of various American missionary organizations. I live and teach English in a town of 50000 people in the center of the country. An American fundamentalist from Pennsylvania regularly gives "talks" at my school. As a result, my students and other teachers at my school have come to me with questions such as, "Is it true that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time?" When I answered that question in the negative, they responded that they had "seen the picture." It easy for fundamentalists to take advantage of people in less developed countries, because they do not have the access to current science like we do in the states. Unfortunately, I do not have a computer in Ukraine. At the moment, I am on vacation, and I have printed out about 150 pages from this site. This information will return with me to Ukraine and will be a huge help in countering the fundametalist influence. Just thought you might like to know that your work here (at this site) will have a practical use. Thanks.

Matt F.

Great stuff. Glad I found this page. I love your definitions. After reading the information on the Ark scam I've decided to erase Mark Twain's name from "The Petrified Man" and getting one of the networks to do a show on it. Should be easier to make money with it than with a chain letter.

Mike P.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Queensland (Australia), studying Anthropology this site and the information it contains is a real gold mine - excellent stuff!!.

It's good to see a nice layout of the pages, and the recent change in graphics has made it much faster to access, which is more important than looking good. I think that maybe a few more guest speakers, or links to professionals' pages would be advantageous. An email subsription which sends a different discussion to people every other day or something would also be a much loved addition. And as for those people who put the Archive down..... they could always not come here .... or alternatively, take a non biased view when entering the archive no one here is asking people to take sides....isn't that what discussion as opposed to argument is all about?

I recently heard a speaker discuss astronomer Hugh Ross's book 'The Fingerprint of God'. Ross evidently accepts cosmic evolution, beginning with the big bang. However he rejects biological evolution in its totality, complaining that such a process would take far too long. I can dismiss this as an uninformed viewpoint, but Ross goes on to propose a number of phenomena, conditions and quantities which he claims prove the supernatural, miraculous origin of life and that life is only possible on our planet. These are very sweeping assertions. I have not read the book or even a review of it. Please tell me, someone, if Dr. Ross's assertions have any scientific merit and whether I would be wasting my time to pursue the matter any further.

Bob B.

Recently, in a debate with a creationist friend of mine, he threw the example of the bombadier beetle at me. I was stumped and had no ready answer. Is this example a bogus claim just like Gish's bullfrog proteins? If so, how?


Response from the editor:

Richard Dawkins writes the following in his book, The Blind Watchmaker (Norton, New York, 1987, pp. 86-87):

Anti-evolution propaganda is full of alleged examples of complex systems that 'could not possibly' have passed through a gradual series of intermediates. This is often just another case of the rather pathetic 'Argument from Personal Incredulity' that we met in Chapter 2. Immediately after the section on the eye, for example, The Neck of the Giraffe goes on to discuss the bombardier beetle, which

"squirts a lethal mixture of hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide into the face of its enemy. These two chemicals, when mixed together, literally explode. So in order to store them inside its body, the Bombardier Beetle has evolved a chemical inhibitor to make them harmless. At the moment the beetle squirts the liquid out of its tail, an anti-inhibitor is added to make the mixture explosive once again. The chain of events that could have led to the evolution of such a complex, coordinated and subtle process is beyond biological explanation on a simple step-by-step basis. The slightest alteration in the chemical balance would result immediately in a race of exploded beetles."

A biochemist colleague has kindly provided me with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, and enough hydroquinone for 50 bombardier beetles. I am now about to mix the two together. According to the above, they will explode in my face. Here goes...

Well, I'm still here. I poured the hydrogen peroxide into the hydroquinone, and absolutely nothing happened. It didn't even get warm. Of course I knew it wouldn't: I'm not that foolhardy! The statement that 'these two chemicals, when mixed together, literally explode', is, quite simply, false, although it is regularly repeated throughout creationist literature. If you are curious about the bombardier beetle, by the way, what actually happens is as follows. It is true that it squirts a scaldingly hot mixture of hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone at enemies. But hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone don't react violently together unless a catalyst is added. This is what the bombardier beetle does. As for the evolutionary precursors of the system, both hydrogen peroxide and various kinds of quinones are used for other purposes in body chemistry. The bombardier beetle's ancestors simply pressed into different service chemicals that already happened to be around. That's often how evolution works.

June 1996
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August 1996
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