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Dissent from evolution

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Almost since the inception of the theory of evolution, a number of scientists have dissented from that theory. The price of such dissent has been high, and has varied from simple refusal of publication to denial of (or dismissal from) academic appointments. In the worst cases, those dissidents have been forgotten as though they never existed, or if they did, never dissented from evolution—until now. But today the scientific community stands divided as never before, between those who accept Darwinism as fact (and accept biological evolution and single-ancestor common descent as the only mechanisms for the variety of life on earth today), and those who, at a minimum, insist that that variety required something more.

Victorian era

In point of fact, Charles Darwin encountered the first resistance from his ideas as early as the immediate twelve-year period following the publication of the work for which he is most famous, The Origin of Species. To understand the nature of that opposition, one must understand fully what Charles Darwin intended to show. As Benjamin Wiker[1] explains, Darwin began as early as his return from his famous trip to South America, to make

a purely materialistic, reductionist account of evolution, one that completely eliminated the need for divine intervention and oversight.

When Darwin published The Origin, he turned to a number of colleagues for help in making his theory respectable. But three of those men questioned whether natural selection alone could account for the development of the mind of man. They insisted that God must have been instrumental in giving man a mind and a conscience. Ironically, one of those men was Darwin's co-author, Alfred Wallace. Another was Charles Lyell, the popularizer of uniformitarianism. The third was Asa Gray, the American botanist who agreed to support Darwin in North America but made no secret of his feelings that evolution must have had divine guidance.[1][2]

Darwin took exception to this and wrote The Descent of Man in 1871. In it, he suggested that all of man's intellectual, moral, and "spiritual" capacities were indeed the products of natural and sexual selection. Thus God was unnecessary.

According to Wiker, those three were not the only scientists contemporary with Darwin who rejected Darwinism. Sir John Herschel, the astronomer (and son of the discoverer of the planet Uranus), rejected Darwinism outright.[1] Captain Robert FitzRoy, commander of HMS Beagle, never accepted Darwin's theories.[3] Neither did Louis Agassiz, a zoologist at Harvard University.[3][4][5]

Early Twentieth Century

Main Article: Tennessee vs. John Scopes

The most celebrated controversy in the creationism vs. evolutionism debate was, of course, the case of Tennessee vs. John Scopes, tried before a court in Dayton, Tennessee, USA. At issue was the Butler Act, a law that forbade, not the teaching of evolution per se, but the specific teaching that man was descended from any lower order of animal. The accounts of the motivations of William Jennings Bryan differ widely, but some suggest that he was motivated to oppose evolutionism, not primarily on religious grounds, but on the grounds that evolutionism could be used as an excuse to exploit the poor, the notion being that they were somehow less than "fit."[6] In any event, Bryan was not committed to young earth creationism, and in fact disavowed any positive knowledge of the age of the earth during the cross-examination of him by Clarence Darrow.

The conclusion of that trial, more than any other single influence, established the primacy of evolutionism in the nation's schools, the specific handling of the case notwithstanding. Scopes was convicted, but the Tennessee Supreme Court disallowed his fine because the wrong authority had levied it. In so acting, that court said that the Butler Act was constitutional. Nevertheless the public attention was more favorable to evolutionism than to creationism, perhaps more so because creationism, at the time, was limited to old earth creationism and thus conceded the existence of a time scale that would, in the public mind, make evolution feasible. A systematic scientific challenge to evolutionism would not come until thirty-five years later.

The Genesis Flood

Main Article: The Genesis Flood

In 1961, John Whitcomb and Henry Morris published The Genesis Flood, a comprehensive defense of the literal history of creation and the global flood contained in the book of Genesis. Young earth creationism dates from the publication of that work. It is the most comprehensive dissent from evolutionism to date, and the most direct and forthright. Whereas evolutionism depends on an old earth, young earth creationism insists that the earth is young, and indeed exactly as young as James Ussher said it was. Young earth creationism provoked the first systematic search for evidence that the earth, the solar system, and the universe were all young.

This work would eventually impress a young college student known today only by his pen name of John Woodmorappe. When this student was in high school, he once suggested that one might breed a special bacterium that would consume all the DDT released into the environment, but his instructor said that that solution might work only after millions of years had passed.

Woodmorappe, quite simply, did not believe that the breeding of such a bacterium would take nearly that long. (And in point of fact, the genetic engineering of bacteria is a highly developed branch of bioengineering today.) That conversation caused the young Woodmorappe to question the tenets of macroevolution for the first time in his life.[7] Thus, when a worker for Campus Crusade for Christ lent Woodmorappe a copy of The Genesis Flood in his first year, Woodmorappe saw for the first time that evolution as an explanation for life's origins was woefully inadequate.

Woodmorappe followed up on Whitcomb and Morris' work, to show that Noah's ark could have sailed as described, and that flood geology had at least as much predictive value as did conventional uniformitarian geology. But his attacks on radiometric dating have been some of the most powerful testimonies to date against the conventional time scale and all that it implies.

The Scientific Divide

Nature of the challenge

The result has been a serious rift in the scientific community, between those who insist that the earth is old, and those who are beginning to appreciate that it is young. This does not mean that the dissidence from evolution is limited to young earth creationism. Old earth creationism has always been a source of dissent from evolution since its popularization in 1859, and remains so today. But the objection by old earth creationism to evolutionism has always been more philosophical than scientific. Young earth creationism is a direct challenge to all three pillars of Darwinism (uniformitarianism, abiogenesis, and common descent), whereas old-earth creationism leaves the first pillar unassailed and arguably spares the third as well.

The challenge to uniformitarianism has occurred on several fronts. The obvious one is the chronological, and geochronology remains today the sharpest point of contention. John Woodmorappe has found himself under attack both on scientific grounds[8] and on personal grounds, specifically his use of a pseudonym.[9] Steven Austin, the man most famous for developing a finding (in 1996) that radiometric dating required re-examination,[10] has been the subject of repeated accusations of fraud and even of sabotage.[11] Yet the challenge has continued, in the form of the work of the RATE Group and other groups.

Creationists have also challenged uniformitarianism in astronomy and cosmology. The most notable challenges in this regard have come from Russell Humphreys and John Hartnett. Humphreys first suggested a cosmological solution to the "starlight and time" problem and also proposed a model for the creation of planetary magnetic fields[12] that has successfully predicted three sets of measurements on the planets Uranus, Neptune, and Mercury. Hartnett has proposed a more thorough solution to the starlight and time problem that also obviates two concepts—dark matter and dark energy—that have been invented at various times to explain certain observations that the Big Bang theory cannot adequately explain.

Magnitude of the divide

The webmasters of the site titled Revolution Against Evolution maintain a list of "science academics, scientists, and scholars who are skeptical of Darwinism." As of May 29, 2008, that list had three thousand names on it.[13] Those names include many on hundreds of university faculties in America and throughout the world. Bergman[13] further quotes Gross and Simmons (2006) as estimating that 113,000 scientists currently exist in America alone who are skeptical of Darwinian claims.

The defense of Darwinism

In defense of their theory, evolutionists simply repeat the assertion that "evolution is...a fact"—and by "evolution" they mean Darwinism, not merely biological evolution. Austin Cline, writing in his own weblog, said this in 2004:

Evolution is taken as a fact - and while there might be disagreements about some of the details of how evolution proceeds, there are no disagreements about the idea that it does occur and that it is the explanation for the diversity of life on our planet. Ashtaroth's claim is exactly the opposite of the truth, which is that "almost no scientist puts any stock in any other attempted explanation for the diversity of life - especially creationism."[14]

The "Ashtaroth" mentioned here is not, of course, the classical Canaanite goddess of fertility, but rather a Wiccan salutation. The actual name of the author of that quote was Eldyohr. He wrote this:

the evidence against evolution and for creation is so strong that almost no scientist puts stock in the now defunct theory of Darwinian evolution.[15]

Eldyohr, of course, exaggerates, but so does Cline. The truth is that creationism has a significant following, and a large number of scientists, who are not necessarily creationists themselves, have expressed doubt that Darwinism can explain all that is observable about the universe, the earth, and life.

The counterattack of the Darwinists

The Darwinists are not content with allowing creationism to fall into the disrepute into which it would naturally fall if it had no predictive or other scientific value. Instead, they actively denounce creationists everywhere and refuse to admit that they deserve any place in the community of scientists. This hostility is most prevent in academic settings, especially in secular universities and institutions. It is less prevalent in industry and in certain fields of medicine[13], but does occur even in these settings.

Examples of this counterattack include:[16]

  1. Refusal by universities to allow some of their students to graduate, after they have completed their required courses of study, if those students express skepticism of Darwinism.
  2. Denial of tenure
  3. Expulsion from university
  4. Termination of employment, and circulation of recommendations to others that they not employ the persons so terminated

This discrimination is also directed against academic institutions that have an unabashed creationist mission. One such institution is the ICR Graduate School, which is currently (as of June 25, 2009) in a legal battle with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, after that Board refused to grant them accreditation and gave specious reasons for so acting.

The first popular work documenting these abuses of the academic process was Ben Stein's film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. More recently, Bergman documented multiple specific cases of such abuse in his work, Slaughter of the Dissidents.

Despite this widespread discrimination, skepticism about Darwinian claims appears to be growing. The achievements of Humphreys, Hartnett, the RATE Group, and others can only fuel this growth, by demonstrating that creationism, contrary to the canards of its critics, does indeed have great logical and predictive value.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Wiker B, "Charles Darwin: A Short Biography," Faith and Evolution, May 1, 2009. Accessed June 24, 2009. <http://www.discovery.org/a/9511>
  2. Paul S. Boyer. "Gray, Asa." The Oxford Companion to United States History. Oxford University Press. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. 24 Jun. 2009 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Charles Darwin: Terms, Events, and Important People from SparkNotes. Accessed June 24, 2009.
  4. Schaefer S, "Louis Agassiz," American Museum of Natural History. Accessed June 24, 2009.
  5. Klinghoffer D, "When and Why Anti-Darwinism First Arose," Kingdom of Priests, June 1, 2009. Accessed June 24, 2009. <http://blog.beliefnet.com/kingdomofpriests/2009/06/when-and-why-anti-darwin-sentiment-arose.html>
  6. Dreher R, "The ideological uses of science," Crunchy Con, June 1, 2009. Accessed June 24, 2009. <http://blog.beliefnet.com/crunchycon/2009/06/the-ideological-uses-of-scienc.html>
  7. "Biography—John Woodmorappe," Answers in Genesis. Accessed June 25, 2009. <http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/bios/j_woodmorappe.asp>
  8. Woodmorappe J, "Glenn R. Morton’s Misuse of Woodmorappe’s List Of Discrepant Isotopic Dates", The Creationists Answer, 2003. Accessed June 25, 2009. <http://www.trueorigin.org/ca_jw_02.asp>
  9. Woodmorappe J, "Pseudonyms: A Long, Honorable Tradition," The Creationists Answer, 2002. Accessed June 25, 2009. <http://trueorigin.org/ca_jw_01.asp>
  10. Austin SA, " Excess argon within mineral concentrates from the new dacite lava dome at Mount St Helens volcano," Journal of Creation 10(3):335–343, December 1996. Accessed June 25, 2009. <http://creation.com/excess-argon-within-mineral-concentrates-from-the-new-dacite-lava-dome-at-mount-st-helens-volcano>
  11. See for example, "200 Year Old Lava Dated 2.96 Billion Years Old?", accessed June 25, 2009. <http://web.archive.org/web/20020811084400/http://members.cox.net/ardipithecus/evol/lies/lie023.html>
  12. Humphreys, D. R. "The Creation of Planetary Magnetic Fields." Creation Research Society Quarterly 21(3), December 1984. Accessed April 29, 2008.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "3000 Darwin Skeptics," Revolution Against Evolution, 29 May 2008. Accessed 25 June 2009. <http://www.rae.org/darwinskeptics.html>
  14. Cline A, "Wiccan Creationism, Part 1," Austin's Atheism Blog, February 13, 2004. Accessed June 25, 2009. <http://atheism.about.com/b/2004/02/13/wiccan-creationism-part-1.htm>
  15. Eldyohr, "Evolution vs. Creationism: A Witch's Perspective," Adult Pagan Essay Series, January 24, 2004. Accessed June 25, 2009.
  16. Bergman J, Slaughter of the Dissidents, Leafcutter Press, 2008, table of contents. Reproduced by Wirth KH, Slaughter of the Dissidents official site, January 2009. Accessed June 25, 2009.