Skeptic » eSkeptic » August 4, 2010

The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

In this week’s eSkeptic, Jonathan Lowe reviews the film Darwin: The Voyage that Shook the World, produced by Creation Ministries International and Fathom Media, 2009. Novelist Jonathan Lowe is editor of

Film still and DVD cover below are from the film Darwin: The Voyage that Shook the World, copyright © 2009 Con Dios Entertainment Pty Ltd and Fathom Media. All rights reserved.

Distorting Darwin

a film review by Jonathan Lowe

IN A RECENT DOCUMENTARY FILM produced by Creation Ministries and Fathom Media, Charles Darwin is first admired as a curious and meticulous observer before his conclusions are then explained away. The movie has high production values, with live actors in period costumes, and impressive graphics. Subtitles appear in 18 languages. There is an air of authority about the docudrama, with the producer boasting that it “matches or exceeds” the quality produced by Hollywood films. Even the dismissal of Darwin’s theories comes on gradually, and is not hammered home, but rather casually discussed. Yet the conclusion is that modern science has since shown that Darwin erred, particularly about the length of time for geologic and biologic processes. The producers never consider, as most Christian scientists now accept, that the universe began with the Big Bang billions of years ago. Instead, a literal interpretation of Genesis is assumed, along with a young Earth. So several examples of localized glacial floods that Darwin somehow “missed” are cited in support of the Genesis account of a worldwide flood. Much is implied, since actual discussion would reveal no direct link in logic.

Just as the producers of Ben Stein’s film Expelled deceived interview subjects by not disclosing the true nature of the project, Fathom Media failed to inform three professional historians of science that this film about the subject of their professional study was actually an anti-evolution creationist tract. The three historians are noted Darwin scholars: Peter Bowler, James Moore, and Adrian Desmond. Not only did the producers not deny the charge, they admitted it was true. According to the CEO of Creation Ministries UK, Phil Bell, they established a “front company” called Fathom Media in order to convince experts such as Peter Bowler, who otherwise would not likely have agreed to be interviewed if they knew the film was an “overtly Creationist” production: “At the end of the day, [when] people see ‘Creationist’, instantly the shutters go up and that would have shut us off from talking to the sort of experts, such as Professor Bowler, that we wanted to get to.” Distinguishing between lies of commission and lies of omission, Bell explained that the interview deception was more of the latter: “Well, it could be called deceptive. But I think, at the end of the day … more people are concerned about how we’ve made a documentary, that’s a world-class documentary, clearly with wonderful footage, with excellent interviews, and balanced open discussion,” and that he had not violated the 9th commandment of bearing false witness against the historians because “Nobody was told any lies.” Right.

What follows are claims made in the film, followed by responses from scientists that I interviewed. Responding to the claims are John R. Hutchinson, Brian Charlesworth, and Nick Matzke. Dr. Brian Charlesworth is a Professorial Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. He obtained his Ph.D. in genetics at Cambridge, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago. He received the Darwin Medal of the Royal Society in 2000, and the Darwin-Wallace Medal of the Linnean Society in 2010. His research interests include population genetics, molecular evolution and genome evolution, and he has published over 200 research papers and three books. Dr. John Hutchinson holds a Ph.D. in Integrative Biology at the University of California, and earned a National Science Foundation bioinformatics Post Doc at the Biomechanical Engineering Division of Stanford University. He lectures in Evolutionary Biomechanics, and is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Theoretical Biology. Nick Matzke is a graduate student instructor in Integrative Biology and Evolutionary Biology at Berkeley, and holds degrees in biology, chemistry, and geography. He is former Public Information Director at the National Center for Science Education.

Claim: The chance of the four bar mechanisms of the human knee joint occurring by evolution is zero. There are too many changes that have to occur simultaneously.

John R. Hutchinson: “This ‘irreducible complexity’ argument makes numerous fatal flaws. An important one is that evolution proceeds by using old structures for new functions. It is thus a logical fallacy that the changes must occur simultaneously. Furthermore, the “four bar linkage” system of the “human” knee is seen (with subtle or striking variations) in virtually all land-dwelling four-limbed vertebrates (tetrapods), and so it is not an exclusively human feature. Our system shows subtle modifications of the general tetrapod theme that are specializations for bipedalism from a more primitive system of ligaments, but still reveals the community of descent in its common structure. Considering the similar (but varying according to function) morphological patterns in these ligaments, this is actually strong evidence for evolution.”

Claim: Darwin was influenced by books on geology postulating a long, slow process of deep time, and so he overlooked evidence that geological processes occur rapidly. He also transferred his pre-conception of deep time to geology. Today he would be disappointed by the evidence for his theory.

Hutchinson: “Of course some geological processes proceed swiftly but others, like continental drift (which Darwin didn’t know about but is important for evolutionary science today), have been proven (as much as science can prove things) to be painfully slow. To allege that Darwin would be unhappy about the current state of the evidence presupposes the assumption that all geological processes are fast. Thousands of expert geologists today would not agree with that statement, which would give Darwin succor, not lament.”

Claim: Darwin’s famous finches can be explained by climate changes with cycles longer than the short time of his observations. Finches’ beaks get bigger and smaller in reaction to climate over tens of years, not tens of millions.

Hutchinson: “Peter and Rosemary Grant’s studies since the 1960s of the finch populations have shown some slow and some “fast” changes as a result of (or correlated with) the local environment, but this in itself was not surprising. It is exactly what evolutionary theory predicts: rates will vary depending on environmental conditions. The recorded changes within finch species have been small relative to the changes that are inferred to have happened over thousands or millions of years between finches. Hence, observations have strengthened, not weakened, evolutionary theory.”

Claim: The genomes of plants and animals show much redundancy. This goes against the idea of randomness. There is an abundance of information that is utilized for adaptation, and this is unexplained by any selective mechanism.

Hutchinson: “This is a total non sequitur. Some redundancy is understood as gene duplication, which is a rather random event. Some makes sense as building safety factors against the loss of critical genes by genetic damage or error. It is not unexplained. It is completely reasonable in a modern evolutionary sense. Things that can be ‘utilized for adaptation’ cannot be ‘unexplained by any selective mechanism’ because the very process of adaptation involves selection.”

Matzke: “The genomes of animals and plants, at least those with large genomes like humans, are mostly junk. And whatever you’ve heard from creationists, or even certain poorly-informed scientists, saying that ‘junk DNA’ isn’t junk is mostly wrong. The fundamental fact supporting the idea that most DNA is basically junk is the fact that genome size in complex multicellular plants and animals varies hugely (~100 times smaller to ~100 times larger than the human genome), and doesn’t correlate with organismal complexity. Some ferns and salamanders have genomes dozens of times bigger than the human genome. Some fish are 10 times smaller. They all have roughly the same number and type of genes, and roughly equivalent complexity.”

Claim: The beauty of the peacock’s tail worried Darwin because it serves no function as camouflage, and a huge amount of genetic information went into creating the tail’s intricate structure. Darwin created the theory of sexual selection to explain why the tail feathers are so beautiful, but experiments have shown that females cannot detect some of the features, and none have any real effect on selection.

Hutchinson: “This is misconstruing a large body of research on sexual selection. As in any field of science some ideas have changed over two centuries, but sexual selection is still heavily favored as a major evolutionary mechanism. In some cases the targets of selection are counterintuitive, and females may choose traits that are not obvious or are indirectly correlated with obvious traits. But that is not a fatal flaw for sexual selection. It has just modified it. That evolutionary biologists and not creationists have discovered this information is rather telling. Creationists have contributed nothing to this area.”

Charlesworth: “There is indeed a large body of research confirming that female animals do favour males with ornaments such as the peacock’s tail, just as Darwin postulated. Sexual selection is one of the best documented phenomena in evolutionary biology.”

Claim: Darwin made the mistake of believing that layers of sediment and lava occurred in long ages in the Andes, when in fact the lava was injected in much more recent volcanic activity. Liquid rock was injected as parallel silt in preexisting soft sediment, negating the need for deep time.

Hutchinson: “Intrusions of volcanic material can enter into many younger/older rocks and confuse dating, but that does not pose any significant problem for the theory of deep time. It is just a methodological challenge for determining precise ages. A vast body of astronomical, paleontological, geological, chemical/physical, and other evidence overwhelmingly shows that the universe is billions of years old and the Earth about 4.7 billion years old. There is no convincingly contrary scientific evidence.”

Claim: Darwin believed that some races were inferior to the white race, which predisposed him to believe that some humans did not come from the same source.

Hutchinson: “This was the predominant view of many people worldwide at the time and probably since the dawn of human culture. It is a classic historiographic error to judge people of the past by today’s standards and not the standards of their time. It is thus no surprise that Darwin had some views that some today might consider racist. But compared against the cultural norm of the time Darwin was actually progressive, e.g. in disfavoring slavery.”

DVD cover from Darwin: The Voyage that Shook the World, copyright © 2009 Con Dios Entertainment Pty Ltd and Fathom Media. All rights reserved.

Charlesworth: “Darwin in fact proposed that all humans originated in Africa from a common ancestor with chimps and gorillas. Modern research in paleontology and genetics has confirmed this view, with many fossil intermediates between apes and humans, and a high degree of DNA sequence similarity among modern humans that shows that they shared a common ancestor much more recently than their common ancestor with apes. Given the record of racism and slave-ownership among creationist Christians in the U.S. and elsewhere, it is unfair to point to some remarks of Darwin about inferior races. In his autobiography, Darwin mentions his friendship with a black taxidermist in Edinburgh, whom he describes as an intelligent and pleasant person, and of course he abhorred slavery.”

Claim: The argument for evolution is circular, and full of errors. Naturalism is a paradigm of philosophy and there is no quarrel between religion and science — the quarrel is between naturalism and science.

Hutchinson: “This trots out some old chestnuts of creationism that have been thoroughly demolished in the past by scientists and philosophers. Evolution is descent with modification. That is not circular. The claim is idle semantics at best. Science does not work except in a naturalistic paradigm, so the two are inseparable. What happens between religion and science/naturalism is up to the individual to decide.”

Charlesworth: “Biologists study evolution in exactly the same way as other scientists deal with historical phenomena. They examine the available facts concerning what contemporary processes could operate to explain them on the assumption that these would have operated in much the same way in the past as in the present (just as we all assume the sun will rise tomorrow), and see how well they explain the historical patterns. This works amazingly well. In the Origin of Species, Darwin provided a whole series of facts about biology that make perfect sense in the light of evolution — descent with modification. Subsequent research has thrown up a huge number of others. Any of these can of course be explained as an arbitrary whim of a Creator, so creationism can never be falsified, in contrast to evolutionary hypotheses. In addition, the mechanism of evolution by random mutation and natural selection (and some other processes unknown to Darwin) is a typical scientific theory, which has been receiving ever-increasing support over the 150 years since Darwin. Any good book on evolution lays this out. The creationists disparage evolutionary biology because it conflicts with their religious beliefs, and they are simply not prepared to face up to the evidence. While there are plenty of open questions, and the accepted interpretations of many specific phenomena have changed over the years, this is true of even the most solidly established sciences such as physics. Science would grind to a halt if we had complete explanations of everything. Appealing to non-natural processes to explain away difficulties simply means you are not doing science.”

Skeptical perspectives on Charles Darwin
DVD cover How Darwin Became an Agnostic
(DVD $23.95) with Dr. Mario di Gregorio

Dr. Di Gregorio, historian of science, explores Darwin’s debt to Hume, the great skeptic, and gives an inside and intimate look into the life of Darwin, how he abandoned special creation in favor of evolution, and the relationship between science and religion in Darwin’s time as well as ours.
ORDER the lecture DVD

DVD cover In Darwin’s Shadow
(DVD $23.95) by Michael Shermer

Wallace, co-discoverer of natural selection and the greatest naturalist of his age, was also involved in spiritualism and seances and theorized that human intelligence was not a result of natural selection. In In Darwin’s Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace, Shermer explains this apparent contradiction with modern psychological theories. ORDER the lecture DVD

book cover Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be
(hardback $18.95) by Daniel Loxton

This spectacularly illustrated introduction to the theory of evolution takes us from Charles Darwin to modern-day science. Along the way, Evolution answers common questions (and clears up misunderstandings) that sometimes confuse people about the history of life on Earth. “An in-depth guide to life’s history gives clear answers to kids’ questions about evolution.” —Science News magazine. ORDER the hardback book

film still

film still from The Passion of the Christ

The Passion of Saint Mel (Gibson that is)

In this week’s Skepticblog, Michael Shermer discusses Mel Gibson, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

READ the post




  1. Bad Boy Scientist says:

    I liked this discussion. It is always interesting to see how experts address (popular) misconceptions. As I read this review of that ‘documentary’ I started think, “We wouldn’t need to have this discussion if we had a more science literate population.”

    Then I reflected, “This discussion wouldn’t be compelling to the science illiterate – most of them would tune out after the first Latin phrase.”

    One of the great tragedies of the post-enlightenment world is that the anti-science camp is better at speaking to “Joe Sixpack” than are scientists (who speak their own language). There is no wonder that they are ‘winning’ the hearts and minds of the public.

    • TL Thmopson says:

      If we had a ‘more scientific literate population’ then maybe you would be less inclined to post straw man arguments against the ‘anti-science camp’.

      So many posts against the small-minded little people, the ‘susceptible public’, Joe Sixpack, etc. Maybe this is how one feels evolved.

      Where is the, uh, Skepticism?

  2. Dan Lynch (Stonecherub) says:

    Will we ever learn?

    Here is yet another example of impressively credentialed scientists presenting erudite refutations of bullshit generated in support of the political assertion, “My god is better than yours! BETTER!!!” (With the unspoken corollary, “And I’m better than you.”)

    “My god is better than yours,” isn’t about god and certainly isn’t about science, it’s about you and me – politics! If I can bring my ideas into the public discourse and suppress yours, I win – politics. The average, “I don’t believe in evolution,” American has no use for evolution or need to understand it. They get to keep their artificial immunity to the dread diseases of mankind even if they are mainly interested in the controversy, in who wins and who loses – in the politics.

    It’s evolution that’s controversial when, by rights, the assertion of a better god should be controversial, particularly in a country where a national religion is prohibited by the Constitution. That said, bigotry seems to be enjoying a renaissance of late in terrified America, so maybe “My god is better” is an idea whose time has come.

    I do get down on my knees and thank almighty god for the creationist ferment that has concentrated the attention of some of the best thinkers of our generation so that evolution is one of the best understood and best explained of scientific concepts. Amen.

    • Bad Boy Scientist says:

      Good point. The *real* battle isn’t about evolution v creation.
      It isn’t even about science v religion.

      The battle is over evidence-based reasoning v truth by assertion (AKA truth from ‘authority’). The latter gets people to accept “God’s ways aren’t man’s ways” or other notions which undermine their confidence in their own thinking. The result is they are ripe to be controlled by persuasive or charismatic ‘leaders’ – they lose the tools (and will) for bullshit detection. (Do not under estimate this political power – unlike reasoning followers these people will literally do anything they can for their leaders.)

      The place where too many science educators go wrong is starting with the assumption that their audience is familiar with and accepts the value of evidenced-based reasoning (what some call critical thinking). We need to reinforce HOW to engage in evidence-based reasoning and WHY doing it is in your best interest.

      When the public gets comfortable assessing things based on evidence we won’t have to keep explaining the fallacies of astrology, ufology, homeopathy, creationism, cryptozoology, parapsychology and reality TV. People will be able to figure it all out by themselves.

  3. Loughlin Tatem says:

    Nothing will ring true about Darwin or evolution as long as there reigns the fear of hell.

  4. J says:

    Having completely lost my faith in God, I am not worried I will be struck dead for this “heresy”. Considering also, that my Pentecostal Born Again Christian Aunt seems to think a week gone by with out some reference to de-emphasizing, or outright decrying Darwin is far too much time wasted, I would like to point to the sea change in much of world society, though predominantly in the West in regard to the supremacy of Science versus that of Religion (any) that has brought this dissonance about in the first place.

    For literally thousands of years science and scientists have had to cow-tow to religion(s) and local church hierarchy to be allowed to wonder, study, say, print, publish, consider, contemplate, test, seek out, think, postulate, or even contemplate if out loud, non-faith based, non-church sanctioned materials in regards to the world in which they found themselves. Scientific thinkers or those interested in answer outside of their respective and all consuming faiths would often times find that their “Right to Life” was itself in jeopardy in so much as questioning as much as blasphemously outright disagreeing with said religious institutions.

    Men and women who wanted to seek fact not settle for “truth” have been sanctioned, pilloried, ridiculed, tormented, tortured and killed in ages past as well as socially, educationally and mentally quashed at every turn for daring to disagree with the GOD-MAN centered universe. They have been stymied and lampooned for having the temerity to search for answers about life and the world they saw around them outside of the religious texts and closed ended answers set forth from their local “bastions of faith” and the satisfied and unquestioning authority within.

    Today, and for the better part of the last century certainly, and some of the century before, religious people of all denominations have found their most sacred beliefs and “holy ideologies” pulled up short and told that it is they who must now find cultural legitimacy and significance and valuation through being supported by and/or proven by science, or risk ridicule, disdain and dismissal. I could say “pay-back’s a bitch” but to me it isn’t personal. Whereas for a person of Faith, this is all incredibly personal, in an insecure, invasive “I have to have total agreement in MY beliefs sort of way”.

    I am however pretty sure science has yet “progressed” to the point at which religious communities need fear violence or abusive coercion. Never the less, I suppose what people of faith fear is to them, just as dire. Some how the “Secular Humanization of the World” to them appears to lead to quite inhuman consequences. Social breakdown, perversion, anarchy, women in pants. It is ironic that to people for whom Atoms, genomes, DNA, stem-cells etc, concepts and things they never wished to acknowledge in the first place, things they don’t want to believe exist or have any value, they now wear on their standards and use as rallying cries for “preservers’ of the faith” from us “God-less heathens”. Granted, I imagine it is quite galling to have to ones world view analyzed and expressed or presented in the very language of the “other”, the enemy. To be told that to be “real” and “true” and “viable”, by societies currently held views, that one must “measure up” to systems and standards one once considers folly and outrage must be uncomfortable to say the least. Alienating even.

    No wonder they are angry and desperate and trying the truly excellent tactic of “lets start by assuming everything I say is true and then I will show you why”. Pure science at least says “What is going on here and how can I find out”, or “I have an idea, lets test it”.

    For so long in our world, people of faith were believed without question in their take on the issues and nature of the world in which people lived (and boy you had better believe it or we have a really creative way of making you see the light to GOD through physical pain) by the majority of people in their worlds. Today however, those of the fundamentalist religious set in much of society find it is they who are begging to be heard and allowed to be considered worthy (for your own good) and to be once again seem as the sole possessors of truth and now they claim, fact.

    I think, religion and science don’t exist in the same world, well on the same plain anyhow. I think also, that there is a great deal of faith in science at times and some scientists can be less than scientific now and then, whether for monetary or personal bent, I do not know, never the less, I don’t see a whole lot of Science in Faith. Unless it is to be found in that “God-Gene”. A literal, biological background for a need for a Higher Power, moral absolutes, social bigotry, control, “us and them” social skewing, and the insatiable need of close-minded people to believe that the “bad” people one does not like, will “get theirs one day”….

    Truly then, the “science of” or “science in” creationism is not even skin deep, it is usually just a preachy, self-satisfied veneer that covers a whole lot of insecurity, wishful thinking and a desire to manage, control and pass judgment (with authority) over others.

    Religious Fundamentalists were really better off either staying out of the “game” all together, and telling people they “know something we don’t know and they are going to Heaven and we aren’t so nah nah nah nah nah…”

    Expressed in it’s current literary form: “Left Behind”. If they are right, and I am wrong and GOD is coming for them and we who are not of the faith(s) will be left on earth to be tormented and suffer and die, so be it. I’d rather stay here and writhe in science, study, theory and fact than go float on some silver lined cloud and listen to “The Bible On Tape”, in my Pentecostal Aunt’s self-satisfied, preachy voice:

    “Well it says in The Bible”… “That GOD created the chicken first…” mmmm(nods head sagely).”

    Well, I guess that solves that conundrum….

  5. Dennis Saliny says:

    Just a quick comment and I have not read the whole post—only the first few paragraphs. I think that if I was an evolutionary and Darwinian recognized expert and well credentialled and acclaimed in my field—I would want to know EVERYTHING about anyone who wanted to interview me, discuss my work and thoughts—due a thorough due diligence before I agreed to an interview. Wonder why those 3 did not do that—especially if one is approached by folks who are new/unknown to the evol. community—that would certainly raise my suspicions and to try to get clarifications and details.

    Now I will read the rest of the review and see what the totality of the story is.

    Regards to all……….Dennis

  6. Jeffrey Couch says:

    I don’t understand, if God is so smart and omniscient, how is it He couldn’t figure out how to have us evolve to meet the challenges of a changing planet? It truly must be a political reason behind the church denying God having the smarts to incorporate evolution in all His creation.

    • Peter says:

      Are you just being funny or are you assuming there is a god?

      • TL Thompson says:

        He’s not trying to be funny. He’s knocking down straw men to feel superior, and oh so enlightened, posing under the umbrella of science and, of all things, skepticism. Funny, indeed, but clearly not intentional!

        What started as a scientific theory has degenerated into pseudo-scientific dogma, if I may paraphrase Karl Popper.

        So many appeals to academic authority (again funny, but not intentionaly so!) despite the dubious track record and herding/sheepish tendency of the same… Where is the skeptical attitude when we need it?

        Maybe we should rename this newsletter ePartisan.

        • James Smith says:

          Actually most Christians believe in evolution, it’s only the Protestant cult and a few others that believe in the creationism nonsense. Personally, if there is a god, I believe it’s a bit arrogant to assume that He would make the world the exact same way a human engineer would design, say, a car, rather than through the beautiful process of evolution. I mean He did make the universe, didn’t He, why is he stumped by evolution?

  7. Phil says:

    I wonder what the average number of offspring is for critical thinkers compared with god believers. I suspect it is lower. In which case critical thinkers are fighting a loosing battle in strict evolutionary terms!

  8. Bill Wagner says:

    I listened to an interesting discussion by a local psychiatrist about “love”. In summary, he said there is no such thing. It is really our mind trying to handle personal greed. “Love” also “developed” over many years as different animals, including man, began to understand that there was safety in numbers, and that an emotional attachment allowed for increase and permanence of the numbers.

    While some present at the discussion may have agreed with the premise, some I am sure would have suggested that “love” was a gift from God.

    I suspect that none present would have been willing to announce a personal belief that they have no “love” for anything or anyone.

    While I enjoyed the article on Darwin, I suggest that those who wish others to consider the issues carefully and thoughtfully weaken their ability to stimulate such careful thought by insisting that the reader accept as a condition to such thoughtful consideration a conscious acceptance that the concept of God must be false. Publishers sometimes also fall into this trap. I would prefer to access these articles with the first thought that I will be given an opportunity to engage in stimulating and thoughtful consideration of many a vast interesting educational experience of modern discoveries and new ways of thinking about old things. I don’t want to search out the publication on the web with the forethought that I am going to an “Anti God” web site to improve my knowledge.

    While this publication does a pretty good job on this issue, the readers comments which are published indicate that the readers (or at least those to take time to comment) focus too much on the “Anti-God” content.

  9. Jonathan Lowe says:

    You are perceptive. As the reviewer, I can tell you that I myself am a Christian, and do believe in God. (Also wrote a Christian horror novel titled “Awakening Storm.”) But this is faith. I also have an interest in science, and have studied astronomy, and so I do not believe in a young Earth, or that God could not have utilized evolution. Interestingly, when I did research for an article for Sky & Telescope, I learned that the Catholic church (I’m protestant, however) operates a telescope on Mt. Graham in Arizona. So it’s possible (albeit rare) to have faith and still bend to proven theorems. Many use “God” as a tool of greed. Think Benny Hinn, Ken Copeland and the like. It is interesting to me that those who are the most dogmatic end up falling the hardest and furthest off the cliff of reason and morality. Copeland’s parachute won’t open when that $20 Million jet he flies “for the glory of God” catches flames. Dressing like Michael Jackson might aid Hinn in catching the donations of the poor people he robs, but he (and the makers of documentaries like this one) do no service to religion by pretending to be what they don’t even understand. “I don’t know” is a wise statement, not a weak one. Faith isn’t stupid, either. It’s what it is. Human.

  10. Bob Pease says:

    The comments are much better than the article.

    It is a boring clone of other attempts to expose the stupidity and hoodwinking of a susceptible public with both shady and jaded rhetoric.

    I find the
    “God utilizes Evolution as a means of Creation” as an oldie but goodie , but on analysis it is Orwellian Wordplay.
    It’s really re-defining “Creation” to fit current liberal religious standards

    Incidentally, It is the approach that I got from the Jesuits in 1952 in Denver.

    RJ P

  11. frank says:

    here indeed is the chance for skeptics to show their mettle!

    “descent with modification”

    – are you kidding? by that definition most, if not all creationists would be evolutionists!!!

    creationists allow Natural Selection to operate – but ONLY within the genepool they define as a “Kind”

    to refute the creationist it is NOT sufficient to merely produce evidence of ‘modification’. they already accept that the ‘deck of cards’ can be shuffled to play any hand.

    what needs to be produced is evidence that the original deck of cards was produced, not by an outside agency, but by game itself.

    perhaps this is one of those “open questions” that Hutchison referred to.

    come on skeptics! lets get serious or be sidelined.

  12. Phil says:

    Could not God have created the universe via the Big Bang? Science cannot explain what the bang was, why it banged, or what came before it (if anything.) This would obviously be more of a real theory involving faith than believing evolution is a myth and sticking to the error of a 6000 year old Earth. Proving there is or isn’t a God is not the point. Such a thing cannot be proven anymore than string theory can be proven, at this point. What can be proven–stick to that. Get off the soap box. Calm down, grab a coffee. I hear it’s now been proven that coffee actually aids longevity. Of course you won’t live long anyway, in terms of cosmic time. You want the radical Muslims to accept “there is no God?” That’s a big pill to swallow. How about just pointing them in that direction and letting them come to their own conclusion?

  13. TL Thompson says:

    What should high school students (and collegiates) be taught about evolution today? This seems to be a central concern of the partisan debate.

    How about this:

    For several generations, school kids were taught that the Miller-Urey experiments of the 1950’s validated, once and for all, Darwin’s theories, and the subsequently developed Primordial Soup Theory. (This indoctrination continues to this day…)

    However, in light of our current understanding of cellular reproduction, we now recognize these experiments to be naive, and that the conclusions drawn from them were wildy exaggerated and specious. Indeed, there are no serious scientists engaged in Miller-Urey style experiments today. Attempting to create life out of the Primordial Soup is silly, and an exercise in futility — although, to be fair, back in the 1950’s this was not so obvious.

    Our scientific advances lead us to conclude that Darwin’s musings about the origination of life in a ‘warm, shallow pond’ are not scientifically supported. Darwin’s theories were developed the Dark Ages of molecular biology, and he should not be judged harshly for his mistakes.

    Try to make this claim, which I submit is true, in the public arena, and you will be shouted down as, of all things, unscientific. You will be called a creationist, and worse.

    Darwinism has degenerated into pseudo-scientific dogma, promulgated by a decidedly non-skeptical, non-scientific academic herd. Politics rules the day in all of the social sciences, and this corruption has made inroads into the life sciences as well.

    Skeptics of the world, unite!

  14. Andy Ciecielski says:

    It will never cease to amaze me that people are so intent on having to believe in something. It’s like their cheering for their favorite team and no amount of reason can discourage them. Evidence combined with reason has shown to be the best route to the truth. But what chance does reason have in a world crippled by emotion. Believing is not knowing…

    • TL Thompson says:

      True enough! Unfortunately, that which we (generously) refer to as science has been profoundly corrupted by politics, as well as a (statistically measurable) herding tendency among scientists. Pseudo-scientific dogma prevails.

      Evidence and reason are, sadly, subjective constructs.

      It’s one thing to maintain a faith in the principle of science, quite another to the reality. As often as not, ‘evidence combined with reason’ leads to false conclusions. This is the lesson of history. In a manner of speaking, ‘knowing’ is not knowing, either. Truth emerges as a last resort, over the very long run.

      • James Smith says:

        “Evidence and reason are, sadly, subjective constructs.”

        You sound like an elitist liberal postmodernist. Is morality also relative?

        Anyways, if evidence combined with reason lead to false conclusions too often, what’s the better alternative?

  15. Lawrence says:

    But does it all really matter? Both sides can actually prove nothing! Actually it is all very simple. That is the problem! You don’t have to believe that there is something beyond the mind – you have to experience it! Without the experience there is no point in debate. With the experience behind you, all debate is álso likely to be pointless. Moreover, nobody is likely to believe you when you relate your experience. You will probeably be slotted into a category – you know, nut, crank, etc. Believe me – IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER – but, if it keeps you off the street, then OK, go for it!
    I believe Christ was a mystic! I also believe that a religion could have been founded on the “casting the first stone” story alone. I also believe that Darwin (and everybody else for that matter) could not have functioned without what D H Lawrence called the GREAT LIFE FORCE (y’know, the gas that fuels the universe). Actually, Darwin comes across as a very nice guy. The labels are irrelevant!

  16. Lawrence says:

    Lawrence also says that he is sorry if anyone finds his message impertinent. He is aware that it is wrong to be preachy and personal.

Patreon: a new way to support the things skeptic creates

Get eSkeptic

Science in your inbox every Wednesday!

eSkeptic delivers great articles, videos, podcasts, reviews, event announcements, and more to your inbox once a week.

Sign me up!

Donate to Skeptic

Please support the work of the Skeptics Society. Make the world a more rational place and help us defend the role of science in society.

Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE PDF Download

Wisdom of Harriet Hall

Top 10 Things to Know About Alternative Medicine

Harriet Hall M.D. discusses: alternative versus conventional medicine, flu fear mongering, chiropractic, vaccines and autism, placebo effect, diet, homeopathy, acupuncture, “natural remedies,” and detoxification.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods.

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

FREE PDF Download

The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

FREE PDF Download

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and can you tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

FREE PDF Download

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Mind altering experiences are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

FREE PDF Download

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

FREE PDF Download

The Yeti or Abominable Snowman

5 Cryptid Cards

Download and print 5 Cryptid Cards created by Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton. Creatures include: The Yeti, Griffin, Sasquatch/Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and the Cadborosaurus.

Copyright © 1992–2018. All rights reserved. The Skeptics Society | P.O. Box 338 | Altadena, CA, 91001 | 1-626-794-3119. Privacy Policy.