Big Daddy? (Chick tract)

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(Addition to second comment "debunking" the evidence for each of the other theories.)
(Forget this farce, let's just abandon science)
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Let's think about the implications of this.  Most creationists believe that God creates things on a macro level but then the universe still mostly adheres to laws of physics and lets them work.  But if the student's Bible quote is to be interpreted as God holding together atoms, then this involves a staggering number of tiny little miracles occurring at every moment.  Apparently God did not create an efficient, self-sustaining universe.  Instead, he created a bureaucratic nightmare in which every event, no matter how trivial, must be personally monitored by God.  And if God ever takes a break, even for a second, then every atom in the universe will spontaneously fly apart.
 
Let's think about the implications of this.  Most creationists believe that God creates things on a macro level but then the universe still mostly adheres to laws of physics and lets them work.  But if the student's Bible quote is to be interpreted as God holding together atoms, then this involves a staggering number of tiny little miracles occurring at every moment.  Apparently God did not create an efficient, self-sustaining universe.  Instead, he created a bureaucratic nightmare in which every event, no matter how trivial, must be personally monitored by God.  And if God ever takes a break, even for a second, then every atom in the universe will spontaneously fly apart.
  
It almost goes without saying that science itself would be effectively meaningless in such a universe.  Science works off the assumption that things happen in a predictable and orderly way, and that patterns which were observed in the past can be used to predict what will happen in the future.  Not so in the mind of Jack T. Chick.  In his version of reality, even the movements of individual atoms are constantly at the whim of what God feels like doing with them.  It's pretty much a given that an omnipotent God can make things fall up as easily as down; but in THIS universe, falling up should happen all the time.  God has to personally micro-manage even the tiniest laws of physics all over the universe!}}
+
It almost goes without saying that science itself would be effectively meaningless in such a universe.  Science works off the assumption that things happen in a predictable and orderly way, and that patterns which were observed in the past can be used to predict what will happen in the future.  Not so in the mind of Jack T. Chick.  In his version of reality, even the movements of individual atoms are constantly at the whim of what God feels like doing with them.  It's pretty much a given that an omnipotent God can make things fall up as easily as down; but in THIS universe, falling up should happen all the time.  God has to personally micro-manage even the tiniest laws of physics all over the universe!
 +
 
 +
Also, it is patently absurd to claim that anyone with such an understanding of science (as we can assume this professor has) would behave in such a way. Disproving Evolution does not prove the bible (see [[false choice]]), nor does admitting a lack of omniscience prove that Evolution is not true (see [[God of the gaps]]).}}
  
 
===The wind-up...===
 
===The wind-up...===

Revision as of 13:58, 22 April 2009

First page of Big Daddy?

Big Daddy? is a Chick tract whose description on Chick's website is, "A student proves evolution is full of holes." It is an excellent example of Chick's work, featuring cutely oversimplified situations and lots of misrepresentations of scientific facts. This tract was originally published in 1972, but underwent a revision in 1992, with Kent Hovind acting as a consultant.

Contents

Synopsis

An overbearing college professor, who looks suspiciously like various racist anti-Jewish caricatures, harangues his students about the truth of evolution, but he is put in his place by an unusually Aryan looking, clean cut, preppy student who defends God and the Bible.

Tract walk-through

There are already a couple of good refutations of the bad science in this tract on the web (see below), so this page will concern itself mainly with religious concepts and the portrayal of atheists. In some cases, the reader is referred to other sites for more detailed responses to the science mistakes.

Introduction of conflict

(Panel 1)

  • Professor: "How many of you believe in evolution?"

Comment: In the first panel of the cartoon (see above), there is a picture on the wall behind the professor depicting an ape holding a banana; the picture is titled, "Our Father". Right away, Chick plays on a popular misconception of evolution. Modern apes are not "fathers" to humans, even in the figurative sense of "ancestors". Rather, modern apes and modern humans share a common ancestor. In fact, apes are a superfamily of primates that includes humans, which means that humans are apes. But the picture on the wall does not represent anything in our ancestry.

Also worth noting is that Chick is making a religious allusion with the picture title, which sets up the false message that evolution is a competing religion to Christianity, rather than an accepted science. The professor's words, also, support the notion that evolution is religion, by asking if students "believe in" it. This kind of ambiguous wording always invites an opportunity to use the equivocation fallacy, as the phrase "believe in" has multiple meanings.

(Panel 2)

  • Students: "WE DO SIR!"

(Panel 3)

  • Professor: "Anyone disagree?"
  • Evangelist student: "I do, sir!"

(Panel 4)

  • Professor: "You can GET OUT of MY class!! After you've apologized for your rudeness and ignorance, we MIGHT let you back in!"

Comment: Chick launches an appeal to emotion by painting as ugly a picture of the atheist professor as he can. The student hasn't actually said anything rude, yet the professor screams at him for no apparent reason, with little sweat beads flying off his head.

It is hard to imagine any professor actually reacting like this after bothering to pose the question to the class in the first place. Either he wants to argue with a creationist or he doesn't. If he doesn't, he shouldn't have brought it up at all, or he should say "Let's chat after class." If he does want to argue, he ought to be a little better prepared. If the professor's composure is shaken this early, he clearly doesn't understand his subject as well as he should. But then, it's easy to rattle an opponent who is a fictional straw man rather than a real person.

(Panel 5)

  • Professor: "On second thought, perhaps I was a little bit hasty. I think I will systematically tear your little beliefs to shreds in front of the entire class!"
  • Evangelist: "Thank you, sir!"
  • Another student: "Crazy man!"
  • Professor: "Sit down!"

Enter religion

(Panel 6)

  • Professor: "What makes you think evolution is untrue?"
  • Evangelist: "Because the Bible says that each kind..."
  • Professor: "HOLD IT, YOU FANATIC!!"

Comment: Note that the disembodied laugh "HAW HAW" in the panel, presumably coming from another student, is a classic utterance in the Jack Chick universe. Often comes from liberals, non-Christians, and demons.

(Panel 7)

  • Professor: "I could have you jailed for that!!"

Comment: No he couldn't, obviously. It's remotely possible that somebody who was extremely ignorant of the first amendment might say that, but there do not seem to be any documented cases of teachers threatening to jail students for talking about the Bible. The US Constitution prohibits schools from proselytizing students in an official capacity, but it does not prevent the Bible from being discussed, nor does it place any restrictions on non-disruptive students offering their religious opinions.

  • Footnote: "It has never been against the law to teach creationism in public schools."

Comment: As a matter of fact, it has. In the 1990 case of Webster v. New Lennox School District, a 7th Circuit court ruled that teachers cannot take it upon themselves to teach creationism. Doing so is a violation of the 1st amendment, just as if it had been ordered by the school.

We can be charitable and assume that neither Jack Chick nor Kent Hovind had heard about the Webster case when the tract was republished in 1992. However, even without this precedent, the claim is a red herring. The professor is not planning to teach creationism, and according to the case of McClean v. Arkansas (1981), he cannot be required to teach creationism. The student, on the other hand, is not teaching the class; he is offering an opinion, which is perfectly all right. As noted earlier, the professor is acting like an ignorant caricature.

  • Professor (continuing): "How dare you even mention the word Bible in this school. You know it's unscientific?? -- If you talk to me, it will be ONLY in scientific terms! Do you understand?"

(Panel 8)

  • Professor: "Young man, the evidence is overwhelming. ALL of the schools teach it. It's accepted everywhere. DNA proves it! Science proves it! Carbon-14 proves it!"

Comment: Some of these are legitimate points, although many rely on argument from authority or popular appeal. For instance, the fact that evolution is taught in all the schools is not evidence that it is true. Rather, evolution is a standard part of a biology curriculum because biologists recognize it with near unanimity as well-established science. Furthermore, the reference to Carbon-14 is odd, since the half-life of that radioactive isotope (5,730 years) makes it useless for dating objects beyond about 60,000 years before the present — far too recent to study evolutionary changes in most species.

(Panel 9)

  • Professor: "FACTS - FACTS FACTS! Huxley - G. Gaylord Simpson - Darwin - even NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and TIME magazines know it..."
  • Evangelist: "Sir?"

Comment: More appeals to authority. Scientific theories such as evolution are not treated as correct because they are endorsed by famous people. They are understood to be correct because they have been through the gauntlet of the scientific method and peer review. They are accepted because they are well confirmed in their own right and make testable predictions.

Creationist view of evidence

(Panel 10)

  • Evangelist: "Are there not six basic concepts of evolution?"
  • Professor: "Yes!"
Written on the board:
  1. Cosmic Evolution - Big Bang makes hydrogen
  2. Chemical Evolution - higher elements evolve
  3. Evolution of stars and planets from gas
  4. Organic Evolution - life from rocks
  5. Macro-evolution - changes between different kinds of plants and animals
  6. Micro-evolution - changes within kinds

Comment: Another bit of equivocation occurs here, because "evolution" is generally understood to mean only "biological evolution." It is true that evolution can also mean simply "change," but this is not what evolution is assumed to mean in normal scientific parlance. Hence, only the last two items are actually concepts recognized as "evolution," and the other four are issues in other sciences — or, in the case of number 4, misrepresentations.

Furthermore, the descriptions of each theory (whether or not actually related to evolution) are mostly inaccurate, misleading, or grossly oversimplified. For example, there is no currently accepted scientific theory which stats that life came from rocks, though it is a common misrepresentation from creationists. Similarly, science does not define "kinds" of animals, though again this is a common misrepresentation. A more accurate definition of Macro-evolution would be speciation, and micro-evolution should be "changes within a species". Also, in reality, both of these processes are identical, and jointly referred to as "Evolution".

(Panel 11)

  • Evangelist: "Only the last one has been observed and can be called science."
  • All other students: "He's got a point there!"

Comment: ...But not much of one. Modern science rarely relies on direct observation. Science is about taking observations and generalizing them into broader models that explain how the world works. These models can be tested through the predictions they make. Gravity has never been "seen," but its effects are measured all the time. If you predict exactly how a falling object will move in a controlled experiment, you can get it right to a very high degree of accuracy. The movement of planets also cannot be seen directly, since it happens very slowly, but it can be extrapolated from measurements we can make.

In the same way, "macro-evolution" has been observed, in the sense that the DNA models and fossils combine to form a coherent and consistent branching tree of ancestry. It is broad patterns and testable models that form the foundation of science, not rulers and test tubes.

The distinction between macro-evolution and micro-evolution is a phony one, anyway, because there is not a clear difference between the two; see the Macro-evolution article for more details.

Similarly, background radiation from the big bang, the formation of new elements through fusion, the formation of new stars, and the creation of organic material from inorganic compounds have all been visibly observed, as well as thoroughly tested.

  • Professor: "I don't like your attitude! Let's discuss prehistoric man."

(Panel 12)

  • Professor: "Here is the first and most famous clue to early man, The Neanderthal Skullcap! Modern dating methods show man to be older than Darwin could have imagined!"

(Panel 13)

  • Professor: "Lucy, the oldest known ancestor of humans, is 2.9 million years old."

Comment: Lucy is a representative of the species Australopithecus afarensis. She is not assumed to be a human ancestor of any kind. She is simply a branch of the hominid lineage.

(Panel 14)

  • Evangelist: "Only 2.9 million? Richard Leakey found a normal human skull under a layer of rock dated at 212 million years... I'm sorry sir, but most experts agree that Lucy was only an unusual chimpanzee not a missing link."
  • Footnote: (For details, watch this Kent Hovind video.)

Comment: A thorough refutation of the first claim can be found at EvoWiki.

The second claim is completely unsupported. No doubt most creationists believe that Lucy was a chimpanzee, but "experts" don't.

  • Professor: "WILL YOU SIT DOWN!"
  • Evangelist: "Yes, sir!"

A fossil learns about fossils

(Panel 15)

  • Professor: "Pieced together by fragmentary fossil evidence, science can show the stages of man's long march from ape-like ancestors to sapiens! With wonderful names like proconsul-australopethicus afarensis to homo habilis to homo erectus and on and on to modern man!"

Comment: The professor just looks so gleeful and delighted with himself as he spouts off the names of species classifications. Because, you know, in the creationist mind, people only like doing science because they get all hot and excited at the chance to pronounce fancy Latin words. By the way, it's nice that Chick at least used the more correct phrase "ape-like ancestors" rather than simply "ape ancestors".

(Panel 16)

  • Evangelist: "Sir, I have in my possession a similar chart showing some amazing findings which are finally made public! May I show it?"
  • Professor: "This should be interesting! Yes, let's see it! Science always has the answers."

Comment: No one with the slightest amount of familiarity with science would make such an arrogant claim. Science is a continually ongoing quest to answer difficult questions. If there weren't any unanswered questions left, then science as we know it would end. There will always be frontiers of science where certain things remain unknown and mysterious. Apologists will always wish to use this as an excuse to accept a God of the gaps theory.

Apologetic literature frequently takes a very slanted view of science, because apologists are used to viewing one source (i.e., the Bible) as "the absolute truth." They naturally assume that science is competing with the Bible in claiming to know everything. Those who take a scientific view of the world do not see science that way. Instead, they recognize that there are and always will be many unanswered questions, and science is constantly evolving to accommodate new information.

(Panels 17-18)

  • These panels contain eight misleading pictures of hominids showing a progression from "Lucy" (represented as a chimp, as discussed earlier) to "modern man", who is captioned with "This genius thinks we came from a monkey."

Comment: The rebuttal at Talk Origins already contains a very thorough refutation of this chart. Among the fossils listed, two are known hoaxes that are not claimed as part of the lineage; two are indeed recognized as more or less equivalent to modern humans; one appears to have been completely made up by Chick; and the remaining three are misrepresented and discussed on other pages at Talk Origins.

(Panel 19)

  • Professor (thought bubble): "He's killing me! I've gotta play it cool!"
  • Professor: "All of these layers of the earth are millions of years different in age. We can tell the age of these lectures from the fossils they contain."
  • Evangelist: "But sir, how do you date the fossils?"

(Panel 20)

  • Professor: "That's a good question. We can tell the age of fossils since we know the age of the layer of rock where they were found."
  • Evangelist: "Sir, isn't that circular reasoning?"

Comment: Talk Origins refutes this claim. Geological strata are dated in multiple ways which mutually support each other. The presence of known fossils offer just one type of dating.

(Panel 21)

  • Evangelist: "How can you say the layers are different ages? Petrified trees* are often found going through many of the layers. Some are even upside down running through 'millions of years' worth of rock."
  • Footnote: See pictures of these on www.drdino.com.

Comment: Polystrate trees do not cause problems for layer dating (Talk Origins link), nor have they been considered a problem since the 19th century.

By the way, it's kind of funny that links to Kent Hovind's website all go to the index page and not the specific page that supports the claim. You have to either hunt around for the appropriate page or just trust that it's actually there.

The specious arguments continue

(Panel 22)

  • Professor: "Well, here is proof of evolution. Human embryos have gill slits proving man evolved through the fish stage millions of years ago!"
  • Evangelist: "Sir, Earnst [sic] Haeckel made up those drawings in 1869 and they were proven to be wrong in 1874. Those folds of skin are not gills. They grow into bones in the ear and glands in the throat.**"
  • Footnote: (Another Hovind video)
  • Professor (thought bubble): "I hate him!"

Comment: Significance of vestigial gill slits is discussed on Talk Origins.

  • A student: "Wow! Wrong for 125 years and still in our book!"

Comment: It would be interesting to see which book the students are looking at. Biology textbooks, if they refer to Haeckel's embryos, treat them as being of historical interest and do not use them as "proof" of the real similarities among embryos (Talk Origins link).

(Panel 23)

  • Professor (thought bubble): "(Gulp) He's destroying me!"

Comment: Does anybody ever actually gulp in their thoughts?

Vestiges of the author's sanity

  • Professor: "Vestigial organs like the human tail bone prove we evolved from animals with tails!"

(Panel 24)

  • Evangelist: "Sir, there are nine muscles that attach to the tail bone... it is not 'vestigial'!"

Comment: Non sequitur. What does the fact that the tail bone has muscles have to do with whether it is vestigial or not?

(Panel 25)

  • Professor: "Whales have a vestigial pelvis. This proves they evolved from a land dwelling creature."

(Panel 26)

  • Evangelist: "I'm sorry sir, but those bones serve as anchor points for muscles. Without them whales cannot reproduce. They have nothing to do with walking on land."


Comment: "Vestigial" does not mean "useless".

  • Evangelist: "Even if there were "vestigial" organs, isn't losing something the opposite of evolution?"

Comment: No, it isn't. "Evolution" means change, and losing something is change. In biological evolution, organisms adapt to changes in their environment, and this can involve both gaining and losing parts.

Forget this farce, let's just abandon science

(Panel 27)

  • Evangelist: "Sir, what is the binding force of the atom?"
  • Professor: "It's gluons!"
  • Professor (thought bubble): "Gotcha!"
  • Evangelist: "Wrong sir! Gluons are a made-up dream. No one has ever seen or measured them... they don't exist! It's a desperate theory to explain away truth!"

Comment: Here, Chick seems to be saying that anything that has never been seen or measured must not exist. This is an odd claim, considering that the tract is about to reach the part where they tell you to uncritically accept the existence of God. The claim is also false: gluons have been confirmed experimentally. [1]

(Panel 28)

  • Evangelist: "We know that the electrons of the atom whirl around the nucleus billions of times every millionth of a second... and that the nucleus of the atom consists of particles called neutrons and protons. Neutrons have no electrical charge and are therefore neutral --BUT--

Comment: It is terribly disingenuous of Chick to bring the laws of physics to bear here, and at the same time display total ignorance of them. Electrons do not "whirl around the nucleus billions of times every millionth of a second..." Electrons, being charged particles, would radiate away their energy if they did this. Since 1924 and the work of Louis de Broglie, it's been known that electron orbits are held stable because they act like standing waves.


(Panel 29)

  • Evangelist: "Protons have positive charges. One law of electricity is: LIKE CHARGES REPEL EACH OTHER! Since all the protons in the nucleus are positively charged, they should repel each other and scatter into space. If gluons aren't the answer... what is?"

(Panel 30)

  • Professor: "I don't know!"
  • Evangelist: "I'm sorry sir, but I can't hear you."
  • Professor: "I said -- I don't know. You tell me!"

(Panel 31)

  • Evangelist: "Sir, may I quote from the Bible?
  • Professor: "YES, YES, YES !!"
  • It says that Christ, the Creator, 'Is before all things, and by him all things consist (are held together).'" (footnote: Col. 1:17 Bible-icon.png) "Also it says, 'All things were made by him (Christ); and without him was not anything made that was made.'" (footnote: John 1:3 Bible-icon.png)

Comment: Whoa! Is he actually saying that atoms would just fly apart if God didn't personally hold every single one of them together every instant of every day? That is an astounding claim!

Let's think about the implications of this. Most creationists believe that God creates things on a macro level but then the universe still mostly adheres to laws of physics and lets them work. But if the student's Bible quote is to be interpreted as God holding together atoms, then this involves a staggering number of tiny little miracles occurring at every moment. Apparently God did not create an efficient, self-sustaining universe. Instead, he created a bureaucratic nightmare in which every event, no matter how trivial, must be personally monitored by God. And if God ever takes a break, even for a second, then every atom in the universe will spontaneously fly apart.

It almost goes without saying that science itself would be effectively meaningless in such a universe. Science works off the assumption that things happen in a predictable and orderly way, and that patterns which were observed in the past can be used to predict what will happen in the future. Not so in the mind of Jack T. Chick. In his version of reality, even the movements of individual atoms are constantly at the whim of what God feels like doing with them. It's pretty much a given that an omnipotent God can make things fall up as easily as down; but in THIS universe, falling up should happen all the time. God has to personally micro-manage even the tiniest laws of physics all over the universe!

Also, it is patently absurd to claim that anyone with such an understanding of science (as we can assume this professor has) would behave in such a way. Disproving Evolution does not prove the bible (see false choice), nor does admitting a lack of omniscience prove that Evolution is not true (see God of the gaps).

The wind-up...

(Panel 32)

At this point the professor walks out of the classroom, carrying his "Our Father" picture and looking dejected.
  • Professor: "They'll understand why I'm quitting. They're intelligent, logical, compassionate scholars. Everything will be alright [sic]! I'll simply tell them I can't teach it any longer!"

(Panel 33)

  • Professor: "I'm sorry, gentlemen, but I can no longer teach evolution. It can't possibly be true!"
  • Some administrative guy (not pictured): "WHAT? Are you crazy? GET OUT of OUR university! After you've apologized to everyone for your rudeness and ignorance we MIGHT let you back in!"

Comment: Aha! It's an ironic twist, you see? The administrator is dismissing the hapless professor with the very same words that the professor used earlier to dismiss the student! Get it? Get it?

...and the pitch

(Panel 34)

  • Student 1: "Then man killed the Creator, if Jesus is God in the flesh."
  • Evangelist: "Right! Jesus came to earth to shed His blood for you, to wash away your sins so you could have eternal life with Him."
  • Student 2: "Then we didn't evolve! The system has been feeding us THE BIG LIE! We really do have a soul!"
  • Footnote: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16 Bible-icon.png

Comment: Well, the bad science is finished; now we're just left with the wrap-up and standard plea. This is the standard creationist false choice -- either evolution in all its particulars is true, or the precise fundamentalist religion based on Jack Chick's literal interpretation of the Bible is true.

In reality, there are many more alternatives, even if any of the evangelist's arguments did refute evolution.

  1. Many details of evolution as it is currently understood may be wrong, but a future revision of evolution may get it right.
  2. The theory of evolution may be completely wrong, but some other naturalistic theory will explain the diversity of life.
  3. A different interpretation of Christianity may be correct, which in no way resembles Chick's version.
  4. Some other religion may have it right rather than Christianity.
  5. All religions are wrong, but a completely unknown supernatural situation turns out to be true.

Some of these are obviously more plausible than others, but the point is that eliminating known alternatives doesn't make Christianity true, to say nothing of one sect's version of Christianity.

(Panel 35)

  • Student 3: "What happens if I die without believing this?"
  • Evangelist: "Then you'll die in your sins -- and be eternally lost."
  • Student 4: "What should we do to go to heaven?"
  • Evangelist: "Repent of your sins. Surrender your life to Christ, acknowledge that He died for your sins and receive Him as your savior. Then you will go to heaven when you die."

Comment: See Pascal's wager.

(Panel 36)

"THE BIBLE SAYS THERE'S ONLY ONE WAY TO HEAVEN!"
(See the main Chick tract article for the standard final page blurb.)

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Apes, Lies and Ms. Henn | Big Daddy? | Dark Dungeons | Gun Slinger | Here, Kitty Kitty! | There Go the Dinosaurs

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