I don’t normally go to creationist blogs looking for fights, but when a church posted a little animated video yesterday, titled, “Evolution is impossible, really funny!!” temptation got the better of me. At any rate, it’s an opportunity to share something really cool (if you don’t already know about Tiktaalik roseae, the “fishapod”) and to say something about the peculiar style of argumentation that’s become common among evangelicals.
The post is here, with a video that features a cartoon fish who gets the idea to jump up on land and evolve into humans. As the fish flops around helplessly on dry land, the ‘camera’ pulls back to reveal the bones of other fish who have apparently tried the same thing.
Ha, ha! See? Evolution is impossible! A fish would die on dry land!
I rolled my eyes. I grew up with this kind of pat-yourself-on-the-back ignorance.
“Don’t comment,” I thought. “You’re never going to convince these people of anything, and you’re just wasting your time.”
But I used to be one of those people. I grew up thinking they had the answers, and that they knew better than those worldly, blinded-by-sin scientists.
A time came when I actually started reading some science, and my mind began to change. Maybe one of the church blog’s readers could be enticed into looking at science. So in the the comments I suggested this site: http://titkaalik.uchicago.edu/
It took a full day, while other comments were approved, and a follow-up post nagging them about it, but it has just appeared. It links to a site about this:
This is a 375 million-year-old fossil fish that is a transitional species between lobe-finned fish and later amphibians. It had gills, scales, and fins, but also nostrils on top of its skull, a flexible neck, and ribs and lungs. It was discovered in 2004 on Ellesmere Island, the northernmost island of the Canadian archipelago.
The discovery was no accident. Jerry Coyne writes about it in his book Why Evolution is True (p. 37):
This is where the prediction comes in. If there were lobe-finned fishes but no terrestrial vertebrates 390 million years ago, and clearly terrestrial vertebrates 360 million years ago, where would you expect to find the transitional forms? Somewhere in between. Following this logic, Shubin [the lead researcher] predicted that if transitional forms existed, their fossils would be found in strata around 375 million years old. Moreover, the rocks would have to be from freshwater rather than marine sediments, because late lobe-finned fish and early amphibians both lived in fresh water.
Which led the researchers to Ellesmere Island, which led (after five summers of searching) to this remarkable species. When I first saw it, I immediately thought of this:
And some people think evolutionists are just being snarky by putting these on their cars. The funny part is that the Darwin fish was around years before Tiktaalik was discovered. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you have a strong theory.
While I was waiting to see if my link would be posted (and writing this post), the church posted a series of comments from Allallt, a blogger whose comments I always enjoy. But although Allallt tried nobly to get the creationist to engage in an intelligent discussion, the creationist replied with crap like this:
Scripture teaches that everyone knows that God exists, but that some are just suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. This includes you. It takes more faith to believe in evolution than God. The teachings of evolutionists that at some point nothing exploded and became everything, and that everything we see came about by chance mutations, if true, is a greater miracle than any described in the Bible. Macro-evolution has not been observed. It is nothing more than a statement of blind faith based on looking at this world with illogical presuppositions.
Creationists and Christian apologists loooove to talk about presuppositions, love to caricature natural history (which they don’t appear to understand even on an elementary level, the fish video and the above paragraph being typical examples), and they love to wrap people up in meandering philosophical discussions that go nowhere and which consistently fail to address the actual evidence of science. This, unlike evolution, is by design.
Allallt and the creationist went back and forth, with the creationist dragging the discussion ever deeper down the rabbit hole… because when you don’t have science to back you up, it’s simply more effective to have tiresome discussions in which you throw around big words and write in paragraphs that are long enough to disguise the fact that you’re evading the point. The argument goes nowhere, but even against someone like Allallt, the creationist comes off looking reasonably intelligent, at least to those who are ignorant of science. (And I do think the problem is one of willful ignorance rather than lack of intelligence).
To anyone who knows even a little of natural history, the creationist’s arguments sound silly and woefully ill-informed. Allallt replied,
A word of caution, if you want to convince any intelligent people you need to understand the thing you are arguing against first.
Yes. But the point, I think, isn’t to convince anyone so much as it is to assure believers that their views aren’t an intellectual embarrassment.This is a big deal. No one wants to be a fool. Thus, their most effective style of argument is one of pseudo-intellectual distraction, characterized by a torrent of grandiose false statements and misrepresentations, held together by the repeated mantra that any part of science they refuse to accept “is a statement of faith, not science.”
It seems to boil down to, You think we believe crazy stuff on the basis of insufficient evidence? Well look at scientists! So do they! See? It’s faith vs. faith!
It’s frustrating. But I know from experience that some of the people in these churches are curious, and can’t bring themselves to dismiss evidence once they know it exists, or tolerate intellectual dishonesty once they recognize it as such. And there are other people working hard to shield them from that evidence, and to inoculate them against it in case they do see it.
But for the curious ones, the ones who don’t already know all they’re ever going to know of this world, it’s worth our time to point to the wonders of nature, such as Tiktaalik roseae, and say, “Look at that! Isn’t it cool? What can we learn from this?”
Update 2:18 p.m. – Well this is strange. The page at Opelousas Church of Christ has mysteriously vanished. The rest of the blog is there but not that page: http://opelousaschurchofchrist.com/2012/12/31/evolution-is-wrong/. I don’t know if it’s a technical glitch or if they thought the better of it once I posted this. The church had just replied: “I put the video up because I thought it was a funny attempt to show how macro-evolution is impossible and has never been observed. Whether this video misrepresents evolution from simple organisms to complex human beings is irrelevant to me. Either way, Evolution is impossible. Evolution is just sinful man’s attempt to suppress the truth of God’s existence so they can live under their own authority and do whatever they want. In spite of this suppression of the truth, it doesn’t change the fact that there will be a day in which every one of us will be judged for what we believe and practice.” I had just replied to this, thanking them for posting the link and challenging their readers to examine the evidence for themselves, “ignoring the divine gun being held to your head” (referring to his threat of divine judgment) when the page disappeared.