Evolution (Way of the Master)

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Revision as of 23:18, 19 April 2009

A 250-million year old trilobite
Darwin's finches
Evolution is the title of the eighth episode from season two of Way of the Master.

Contents

Episode Synopsis

In the opening scene, shot in black-and-white, Kirk is meant to resemble Rod Serling and delivers a modified version of Serling's traditional Twilight Zone introduction:

"You've traveled to another dimension, a dimension not only of contradiction and speculation but also one that defies logic and is based on blind faith. A journey into a nebulous land whose limits are that of imagination. You've just crossed over into, The Evolution Zone."

Comment: This introduction lays the groundwork for the case against evolution presented in this episode. Kirk's assertions are that evolution is:

  • replete with contradictions
  • rooted in speculation
  • logically unsound
  • based on blind faith
  • nebulous
  • the result of an active imagination

In using the Twilight Zone imagery, they intend to represent evolutionary theory as being more science fiction than science.

As the particular objections he raises are usually attributed to creationism, this is the intellectual equivalent of "I know you are, but what am I?" This is an attempt to muddy the issue by making evolutionary theory appear to be, at a minimum, equally subject to the criticisms of creationism and support the idea that, lacking absolute knowledge, we should "teach the controversy."

This notion, popular with the Intelligent Design movement, establishes a false dilemma (by ignoring other creation myths) and relies on a general ignorance of scientific theories and methods in the hopes that public opinion, rather than evidence, will be sufficient to raise the status of their claims to a level which can compete openly with established scientific explanations.

Episode Walkthrough

Introduction

(0:53 - 2:21)

  • Kirk, "What you're about to see, was not planned. There was no script, there were no writers, there were no cameras, no production crew, no lighting, no graphic artists and no editors. The entire program 'just happened' ... there was a big bang in our production studio...and here we are."
  • Ray, "Could you believe that? Of course you couldn't. No one in their right mind could. And yet many evolutionists would have us believe that, in the name of science."

Comment: Ray and Kirk are fond of analogies which completely misrepresent the current scientific explanations they mean to denounce. Here they're combining big bang cosmology, abiogenesis and evolution into one theory. This false oversimplification isn't remotely accurate and any scientist who made such an elementary mistake would lose all credibility. In science, those theories are completely separate and in very different states.

Evolutionary theory is wholly unconcerned with the big bang and abiogenesis. Regardless of how the universe was created or how life began, evolution (descent with modification) does occur. This is a simple, scientific observation...a fact which requires an explanation (later discovered to be errors in DNA replication) and can be used within theories to explain other things. Evolutionary theory holds that the process of natural selection determines which of these changes (mutations) survive and which die off. Over long periods of time, this process is responsible for speciation (another observed fact) and it seems to be a reasonably sufficient explanation for the diversity of life.

  • Ray, "There was no creator. No space, no energy, no matter, there was nothing. And then there was this big bang and out came the sea and the land...the birds and flowers and trees and elephants and giraffes and horses and cats and dogs and, of course man and woman...and this took countless millions of years."

Comment: This program, which purports to be a critique of evolution, has started off with a lot of criticism of big bang cosmology and abiogenesis, which have absolutely nothing to do with evolution. Ray's statement seems absurd, because it is...yet it doesn't accurately represent any scientific theory.

His objection is structured in such a way that it implies that all of these things were directly produced by a big bang and he completely ignores the very thing he wants to argue against - evolutionary theory. The only portion of his statement which remotely correlates to evolutionary theory is his dismissive remark that, "...this took countless millions of years." Presented as an afterthought, it's meant to appear as absurd as the rest of his remarks.

  • Ray, "We're now gonna look closely at some of the believers of the theory of evolution and we want you to listen very closely to the type of language they use. True believers use, what we call, the language of speculation. They'll start off sounding like an expert, but because there's such a lack of factual evidence for the theory, they're forced to use words like, "we surmise", "we believe", "perhaps", "maybe", "could've" and "possibly." And then they'll end up saying things like, well, "I really don't know", "I'm not an expert." So watch for these phrases and these words."

Comment: As if misrepresenting the theory of evolution was enough, Ray prepares us for an incredibly dishonest adventure. Instead of speaking to actual experts who could provide scientific explanations, they're heading out to accost individuals on the street. This isn't an attempt to provide a scientific objection to evolutionary theory, it's a cheap theatric. It's a weak argument from incredulity which asserts that if these individuals don't have a good explanation, none exists and the theory is just wild speculation. If we were to use their methodology, no scientific theory would stand up.

The people being interviewed are being honest in their explanations. The "language of speculation" that Ray wants us to watch for is, in fact, honesty. Instead of acknowledging that these non-experts willingly admitted they weren't experts, he seeks to use this admission as an indictment against the theory. It's hardly surprising, given Ray's gross misunderstanding of evolutionary theory, that he would avoid experts and seek out lay people.

Ray falsely asserts that the individuals are forced to use words like "maybe" and "possibly" because of the lack of factual evidence for the theory. This is logically unsound. The fact that a lay person may not be aware of or able to explain the factual evidence for the theory does not mean that the evidence doesn't exist. If Ray were really interested in discovering factual evidence, he should have sought out experts. The fact that he did not do this, betrays his true motives and demonstrates the weakness of his position.

Finally, even if Ray had sought out experts, we might still have heard many of the words he mentions, because science doesn't assert absolutes. Science is concerned with discovering the most reasonable, most likely explanation based on the available evidence.

The honesty of scientists and the integrity of the scientific method is often taken advantage of by apologists like Ray. Any admission to a lack of absolute certainty is perceived as a gap into which the apologist can insert their own assertion that "god did it." Ray, and his ilk, assert absolute answers with no supporting evidence, while science presents sound explanations based on the available evidence.

Street Interviews

(2:22 - 6:52)

  • Ray asks several individuals, "Do you believe man evolved from apes?"

Comment: While each of the individuals affirmed that they believe this, Ray's question doesn't accurately reflect evolutionary theory in any sense beyond the colloquial. Evolutionary theory claims that man and ape evolved from a common ancestor, not that man evolved from apes, as we classify them today.

  • Ray asks a young girl to be more specific about the evidence which supports evolutionary theory. She gives a brief explanation which begins with the formation of the earth and quickly mentions that single-cell organisms eventually developed and, over time, evolved into humans.
  • Ray asks a young man, "How did it begin?. His response is, "I don't know. Probably the big bang theory."

Comment: The man's honest admissions that he doesn't know the answer, but accepts that the current scientific explanation is probable, are highlighted with graphics as two of the phrases ("I don't know." and "probably") Ray wants us to watch for. Admitting one's ignorance is not always an easy thing to do. In the face of a question which does not have the absolute answer Ray is seeking, this individual's response is the only honest answer and Ray despicably exploits his honesty as an indictment on evolutionary theory. This is particularly dishonest given the nature of the question asked.

The response should have continued, "...and you don't know, either."

  • Ray's response is, "What caused the big bang?"

Comment: While the young man's answer is fundamentally impossible ("probably an asteroid from another planet"), Ray is beginning to use the cosmological argument. One fundamental flaw in this line of reasoning is that the apologists' answer, that God is the uncaused first cause, denies the initial premise that nothing can exist without a cause.

  • Ray asks a girl about life emerging from the oceans, "When they came out, what came out of the ocean?" She responds, "I don't know, you tell me."

Comment: Ray's answer, if any was given, wasn't included and the clip cuts to the next interview.

Ray continues asking questions which, when answered honestly (especially by a lay person) must lead to the particular "language of speculation" responses he's looking for.

Other questions asked:

  • "Cause I'm trying to think...here is this sort of animal who's coming out of the ocean without lungs, so he comes out with gills, goes [gasping noises] runs back to water and just keeps coming out until lungs develop?"

Comment: Fossil evidence and the swim bladders of some modern fish support evolutionary theory regarding the evolution from gills and gill-like features to lungs in the earliest amphibians. Ray, in attempting to make this sound as absurd as possible, relies on the our inherent inability to properly conceive of large spans of time, portraying one individual creature, at one point in time. This oversimplification of speciation doesn't accurately reflect scientific explanations.

  • "This animal that came out, without lungs, and breathed and went back in, was he male or female?"
  • "He could have been alone? How did he reproduce?"

Comment: These questions betray Ray's misunderstanding of evolutionary theory and speciation. Asexual and hermaphroditic species can, sometimes, form new species but among sexually reproducing species, we wouldn't see one spontaneous jump to a new species, we'd see gradual changes which allow reproduction but still represent a fundamental change from the ancestor. These changes, eventually, result in the rise of a new species.

Evolutionary theory, like the individuals responding to Ray's questions, doesn't purport to have an absolute explanation for every aspect of origins. It is a continuing field of research, yet the fundamentals of evolutionary theory are the very basis of all modern biology. For answers to these questions, and many others, visit the [talk origins website].

The interview segment concludes with the question, "Do you think God had anything to do with this?". The response is, That's an area I've never explored but it's hard not to believe that, sometimes."

Comment: The camera freezes on his face and the still shot slowly zooms in on his face, as if this were some ominous admission that his lack of knowledge is support for the claim that God is responsible. Even if we were to discover that evolutionary theory is completely wrong, that still isn't evidence for the hypothesis that a god exists and is responsible for creating the universe. That hypothesis requires its own supporting evidence and testing. Something which has yet to prove fruitful, though Ray and other apologists would prefer to avoid that and simply proclaim that it is true.

This ominous zoom is an implied argument from ignorance. Ray's implication is that these answers are unknown to all believers in evolution and that the "real" answers are known to believers in creationism.

Episode 21 - Evolution

Missing Evidence

(6:53 - 8:55)

  • Kirk, "Ok, here's a simple lesson on evolution. The theory of evolution basically teaches that every living creature, like you and me, evolved from a single cell, billions of years ago.So that means that every animal supposedly transformed into another kind of animal, over time."

Comment: This is certainly a very simple lesson on evolution and, judging only the intent of Kirk's words, it's fairly accurate. Common ancestry is a foundational principle of the biological evolution of all life on Earth.

  • Kirk, "Now, the big problem evolutionists have is that they're finding a huge gap in the fossil record. In other words, when archaeologists dig up the bones of these dead animals, they don't find these transitional forms that helped one animal transform into another animal. And if you don't have those bones, you can't prove evolution ever happened."

Comment: Kirk makes three claims here,

  1. Scientists find huge gaps in the fossil record
  2. Scientists don't find transitional forms
  3. Transitional fossils are required to prove evolution occurred

The first is true, though 'huge' may make the statement misleading. The second is false and Kirk runs with this false statement...to the extreme. The third is simply false, as even without any fossils at all there would still be enough evidence to "prove" evolution occurred.

  • Kirk, "That's what they're calling, 'The Missing Link' and there's not just one, there would have to be thousands and thousands of those transitional forms. The truth is, they're not missing at all, they never existed in the first place."

Comment: Kirk's claim isn't supported by evidence and conveniently dismisses the bulk of scientific evidence which contradicts it.

  • Kirk, "Now, maybe you're asking 'what about the proof?' I mean, what about those science teachers that showed us those drawings of apes, all hunched over and then eventually straightening themselves up and becoming very 'man-like'? Well, remember, those are just drawings, that's not proof."

Comment: Kirk is correct, drawings aren't proof. In fact, many of the drawings of extinct species are simply artistic interpretations based on the available evidence, especially in the areas of soft-tissue and coloration.

  • Kirk, ""The real proof is in what we can find in the fossil record. The bones that we dig up. And that's what's missing, the actual proof."

Comment: Kirk is correct that the 'real proof' is in the fossil record, though he completely denies the existence of this evidence. The skeletal structures (the basis for the drawings he objects to) exist for a variety of species, including transitional forms. In denying the available evidence and relying on bad information, Kirk takes a real issue, an incomplete fossil record, and exaggerates it to claim that there's no fossil record.

  • Kirk, "In reality, this is what scientists actually have: [cut to Kirk and a chimp standing against a wall] Me..and the monkey. Apes and humans. The supposed transitional forms are what are known as the 'missing links'. But the truth is, there is no missing link. There's nothing to link apes to humans. The 'supposed' transitional forms simply don't exist...except in the imagination of evolutionists who want to justify their theory."

Comment: Essentially, he's claiming that the bulk of the scientific community is delusional and portraying fictional evidence in order to support their theory. This accusation takes all of the fossil evidence, all of the DNA evidence, all observations of genetic change, all observations of speciation, all of the reliable, consistent predictions of the theory which serves as the cornerstone for all of modern biology...and tosses it aside in favor of the idea that scientists are imagining that the evidence fits the theory.

Kirk's pseudo-conspiracy theory is supported only by accusations, not evidence. Intelligent Design creationists often attempt to exploit "gaps" in evolutionary theory (the Discovery Center's infamous wedge document is clear evidence of this) and most of their objections center around assertions that 'evolution isn't a sufficient explanation' or direct denial of the validity of evidence supporting evolution. The complete lack of evidenciary support for their own ideas prevents them from offering viable alternate explanations to challenge evolutionary theory and the easiest tactic is to simply misrepresent or deny the evidence which supports the theory of evolution.

Ancient hominids and hoaxes

(8:56 - 9:45)

Kirk provides four examples for us to consider...

  • Lucy - (Australopithecus afarensis)
    • Kirk's claim: "...nearly all experts agree that Lucy was just the skeleton of a 3-foot-tall chimpanzee"

Comment: This is simply not true. This claim has been made by a variety of creationists and makes an appearance in the Big Daddy? tract by Jack Chick. Australopithecines were the subject of much study and debate (as any scientific discovery should be). While many, like Sir Arthur Keith initially proclaimed that Lucy was possibly a chimpanzee and, at a minimum, more ape-like than man-like, the consensus view by 1950 was that australopithecines were far more similar to humans than chimpanzees. Sir Keith retracted his initial position:

"I was one of those who took the point of view that when the adult form was discovered it would prove to be near akin to the living African anthropoids—the gorilla and chimpanzee. Like Prof. Le Gros Clark, I am now convinced, on the evidence submitted by Dr. Robert Broom, that Prof. Dart was right and that I was wrong; the Australopithecinae are in or near the line which culminated in the human form." - Arthur Keith, (Nature March 15, 1947)

The consensus opinion among experts remains and Kirk's claims that "nearly all experts" agree that Lucy was a chimp is without basis.

  • Nebraska man
    • Kirk's claim: "...they created an entire skeleton with arms, legs, feet, hands, even facial features when all they really had was one tooth which, later, was found to be the tooth of an extinct pig."

Comment: The talk origins web site has a discussion about Nebraska man. In short, Nebraska man was an error, which was quickly corrected. The image to which Kirk is referring appeared in Illustrated London News (Smith 1922) and was drawn by Amedee Forestier. The image was accompanied by the following text, which was repeated in the article:

"Mr. Forestier has made a remarkable sketch to convey some idea of the possibilities suggested by this discovery. As we know nothing of the creature's form, his reconstruction is merely the expression of an artist's brilliant imaginative genius. But if, as the peculiarities of the tooth suggest, Hesperopithecus was a primitive forerunner of Pithecanthropus, he may have been a creature such as Mr. Forestier has depicted." - (Smith 1922)

Most scientists were skeptical of the discovery and few, if any, reputable scientists made any bold assertions that this was a confirmed human ancestor. Since the discovery of the error, Nebraska man's only significant mention is in creationist literature that hopes to discredit evolution by exploiting a mistake - a mistake which was discovered and exposed by scientists.

  • Piltdown man
    • Kirk's claim: "...the jawbone turned out to belong to a modern ape."

Comment: Piltdown man was a hoax, which was exposed by science. This is significant not only because it demonstrates the self-correcting methods of science but because the evidence which exposed the hoax supports evolutionary theory. The bulk of evidence regarding ancient hominids formed a clear evolutionary pattern and Piltdown man remained an anomaly - it didn't fit the pattern.

A single hoax does not disprove a theory and, in this case, exposing the hoax actually demonstrates the veracity of the theory. Piltdown man, once exposed as a hoax, was no longer used as evidence for evolutionary theory, yet continues to be referenced by creationists as evidence against evolution.

Interestingly, there are a number of Creationist hoaxes which continue to be used to support creationist arguments.

  • Neanderthal man - (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis)
    • Kirk's claim: " ...whose famous skeleton, found in France over 50 years ago, was that of an old man who suffered from arthritis."

Comment: Kirk begins by reducing Neanderthal man to a single skeleton when, in fact, many specimens have been discovered. While some of them have exhibited symptoms of arthritis or other diseases, neither arthritis nor rickets (the other common claim) explain the the distinct features of Neanderthals. Additionally, these diseases do not result in similar features in modern humans.

Misrepresenting Gould

(9:46 - 10:04)

Ray invites us to "listen to what the famous Harvard evolutionary biologist, Stephen Jay Gould said about the fossil record..."

"The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of palientology..."

— Stephen Jay Gould (as it appears in episode 21 of Way of the Master)

Comment: Despite the misspelling of 'paleontology' (and the amusement that their spelling includes the word 'lie' - pa-lie-ntology), the quote is technically accurate. The context in which they frame this quote, however, completely misrepresents Gould's position...and still doesn't support their claim. Kirk's claim is that "transitional forms don't exist" yet Gould's quote refers to them as 'rare' not 'non-existent'.

More quotes from Gould on this subject:
"Transitions are often found in the fossil record. Preserved transitions are not common -- and should not be, according to our understanding of evolution ... but they are not entirely wanting, as creationists often claim." - Stephen Jay Gould, "Evolution as Fact and Theory" (1983)
"But paleontologists have discovered several superb examples of intermediary forms and sequences, more than enough to convince any fair-minded skeptic about the reality of life's physical genealogy." - Stephen Jay Gould, Natural History, May 1994

Common Blueprints

(10:05 - 12:04)

  • Kirk, "Have you ever been mystified as to why human beings and apes have so many similar features? After all, compare our hands to the hands of apes - they're very similar - and our feet are a lot the same. In fact, we can make many of the same facial expressions and other things that apes can do to prove this point we hired an orangutan for the day and had some fun. Check this out..." [cut to a vignette of Kirk and the orangutan making similar facial expressions]

Comment: Kirk makes a number of expressions which are "aped" by the orangutan (which, incidentally, is derived from the Malay for man of the forest). He begins each one by describing an emotional condition and displaying the corresponding expression; happiness, embarrassment, disagreement, agreement and others.

  • Kirk, "Does this prove that men evolved from apes? No, not at all."

Comment: Agreed, this sort of similarity alone does not prove common ancestry and evolutionary theory isn't based on facile observations like this one. One possible description of the scientific method is; observation leads to an hypothesis which leads to evidence gathering, testing and falsification which leads to the development of a theory. The theory, if it holds, should be useful, and continually subject to revision (based on evidence) while making predictions which should be verified by evidence. Kirk is declaring that the observation of similarity doesn't prove anything - and he's right. The observed similarities he noted, and others, are the starting point, not the proof.

Kirk, and those who share his views, reject or ignore the evidence and consistently reliable predictions which supports the theory.

  • Kirk, "Think of it like this; think of the bi-plane and the 747 jumbo jet. They're both very similar. After all, they both have wings, they both have landing gear, cockpits...does that mean that the jet evolved from the little bi-plane? Not at all...it just means they have a common designer. The designer used a similar blueprint for each one."

Comment: Actually, it may be fair to say that the 747 did evolve from the bi-plane. While we're obviously not talking about biological evolution, the designs did evolve - with the guidance of the human mind. It's doubtful that a 747 could have been invented without relying on the early invention of the bi-plane. Creationists, like Kirk, will immediately point out that this claim of evolution necessarily requires a guiding intelligence - and they're correct. However, they've failed to consider why this process requires intelligence and the answer is remarkably simple: external intelligent guidance is required because planes are not biological organisms - they have no method of self-replication, no mechanism for changes in this replication and no selection filter to determine the results. A guiding intelligence is required to fill those roles.

Life, human and otherwise, includes the ability to self-replicate and this imperfect replication is filtered by natural selection. There's no evidence to support the idea of an intelligent designer and no reason to posit one in the first place.

  • Kirk, "It's the same with us. God, the creator of the world and the universe, is our common designer. He simply used a similar blueprint when creating the hands and feet and facial expressions of men and apes."

Comment: This ad hoc explanation for the similarity between man and ape is without justification or evidence. Evolution doesn't deny that life was designed, it just recognizes that natural selection is the designer. Similarities between species is explainable by purely natural means and Kirk is completely correct - there is a blueprint for life... it's called DNA. Speciation is an observed fact.

Lunch with an orangutan

(12:05 - 17:00)

  • Ray, "Despite the fact that there is no evidence when it comes to the theory of evolution, we're continually told that primates are our relatives. So we decided, we'd have a little fun and call a number of airlines and ask if we could have a 'relative' fly on the plane with us."

Comment: This adventure in absurdity is a cheap theatric to ridicule evolutionary theory. A thinly veiled equivocation fallacy, they rely on the common understanding of 'relative' while arguing against a very different meaning of the word.

  • Ray, talking to various airlines, "I'm flying with a friend, um, and I'd like to take a relative with us. He works in the movie industry so he'll have two managers with him and the reason for the managers is he's a little slow intellectually and he's also got physical problems with underdeveloped feet. He can't stand upright. Uh, his name is Bam Bam, he's actually an orangutan and what we want to do is take him on the flight, with two managers, is it possible to do that?"
  • Airline representative, '"No sir, we can't transport animals..."

Comment: Ray goes on to question the airline representatives about whether or not they believe that we "came from apes", though none were willing to address the question.

  • Ray, "Despite the fact that airlines won't allow primates on planes, for obvious reasons, there are some scientists who'd have us believe that primates are just about as intelligent as human beings."

Comment: Intelligence is irrelevant to whether or not airlines will allow primates on planes just as whether or not airlines allow them on planes is irrelevant to whether or not we're related.

  • Ray, "So Kirk and I took an orangutan to lunch to see if it [claims of ape intelligence] was true."

Comment: Ray spends the next few minutes pointing out all of the stupid things that the ape does, like sucking on their tracts, demonstrating a lack of etiquette, stuffing his mouth like an untrained beast. He also notes that the ape also broke the 10th Commandment (coveting Ray and Kirk's lunches - though one might think this is an argument for intelligence and desires similar to humans, Ray apparently doesn't notice) and used a fork (though Ray was fearful that he would be stabbed).

This entire exercise is a red herring and while Ray may shrug it off as a bit of fun, the fact remains that rather than addressing evolutionary theory they're attacking straw man after straw man. While they're both quick to claim that there's no evidence for evolution, they have yet to demonstrate an understanding of the theory or seriously address any of its claims.

  • Ray, "The incident reinforced the fact that the primate is limited when it comes to the unique ability, the human ability, to reason, to invent, to appreciate the sound of music."

Comment: Ray's real objection is one of sophistication". His examples are also flawed in that he's comparing two modern species without regard to the divergent variation which has occurred since the time of our last common ancestor. The current mental state of either species is completely irrelevant to their evolutionary ties. Ray's understand of evolution seems to be more similar to the 'ladder-view', complete with goals and value judgments. Evolutionary theory is better represented by a 'tree-view'.

By way of analogy, Ray's objections about the ape could be made of a human with severe mental retardation. Would Ray be willing to claim that this was reasonable evidence to claim that such an individual is not related to humans?

  • Ray, "You see you don't get orangutans forming themselves into an orchestra. You don't get them forming themselves into a court system to mete out justice to its fellow creatures. This isn't because he's a prehistoric man who's less evolved than us, but it's because he's another species."

Comment: Ray is absolutely correct and clearly, if he thinks this is a valid argument against evolution, he has no concept of evolution. Evolutionary theory doesn't claim that modern apes are less evolved than humans (the ladder view), it doesn't claim that they're prehistoric men...evolution claims that modern apes and modern humans (which are scientifically classified as apes) are descendants of a common ancestor.

Ray's spent so much time arguing against his straw man version of evolution that he's failed to notice that his final sentence completely negates every single objection he's just raised.

Discrediting Darwin

(17:00 - 18:17)

  • Kirk, "The revered father of evolution, the man who really made the theory popular is Charles Darwin. He wrote Origin of Species and the Descent of Man. Ladies, listen to what he had to say about women.."
"The chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shown by man attaining to a higher eminence in whatever he takes up than woman can attain; whether requiring deep thought, reason or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands."
  • Kirk, "Did you hear that?! He's saying that man has evolved to a higher eminence over women in, basically, anything he decides to do. Whether it requires reason, imagination or deep thought. Darwinian evolution, at its core is not only male chauvinistic but it's also very racist. Charles Darwin wants us to believe that black people are less evolved than whites."

Comment: Darwin's personal views on race, the sexes and even evolution are completely irrelevant to the assessment of whether or not evolutionary theory is true. This is an ad hominem attack, and a particularly weak one. This is just as irrelevant as the false claims that Darwin recanted on his death bed. As Ray and Kirk are unable to provide any reasonable criticism of evolutionary theory they are forced to resort to flawed arguments and irrelevant commentary in an attempt to make evolution distasteful. Unfortunately, the truth, however distasteful isn't threatened by such tricks. Evolutionary theory isn't sexist or racist, science deals with facts not opinions.

It's a bit ironic, however, that they chose to attack Darwin's views on women. One wonders if they've read their own Bible which not only denigrates women but supports slavery.

Expert testimony

(18:18 - 19:10) Ray, "If we can't convince you of how unscientific the theory of evolution is, perhaps these following experts can.."

  • Ernst Chain (1906-1979), Nobel prize winner in medicine said, in reference to the theory of evolution, "I would rather believe in fairies than in such wild speculation."

Comment: Chain was not alone. Other knowledgeable scientists have objected to evolutionary theory, for a variety of reason. However, the truth of the theory is not dependent on the opinions or preferences of any individual. Chain's primary objection (that the probability of the origin of DNA molecules by sheer chance is too small to be seriously considered) is an outdated objection to abiogenesis, not evolution. Additionally, his objection is an argument from ignorance - even if we were to discover that the true probability was enormously small, that has no bearing on whether or not it actually occurred because 'unlikely' does not equate to 'impossible'.

Modern theories refute Chain's objection by noting that it's based on fundamentally flawed assumptions. The first 'life' forms need not resemble modern proteins, they could have been single, self-replicating molecules or any number of other simple living things. The formation of these simple polymers is a natural function of chemistry and the element of 'sheer chance' is limited.

  • Sir Arthur Keith (1866-1955) Physical anthropologist who "wrote the forward to Darwin's Origin of the Species, 100th anniversary edition" said, "Evolution is unproved and unprovable. We believe it only because the only alternative is special creation, and that is unthinkable."

Comment: This quote, cited by a number of creationists, appears to be completely fraudulent. Firstly, Sir Keith died in 1955 and couldn't have written the forward to the 100th edition of Origin of Species in 1959. He did write an introduction to an edition of Origin of Species but in 1928, over 30 years prior to the centennial. The quote attributed to him does not appear in that edition or in any other known work.

The quote is designed to make it appear as though Keith's acceptance of evolution was a reaction to his rejection of special creation. Sir Keith's writings make it clear that the opposite is true...he accepted evolution as the best explanation based on evidence and rejected special creation based on a lack of evidence and its inability to explain observations. Writing about Darwin's observations of different species on the Galapagos Islands...

"And why should each of the islands have its own peculiar creations? Special creation could not explain such things."
"The Origin of Species is still the book which contains the most complete demonstration that the law of evolution is true."
  • Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-2003) British journalist and philosopher said, "I myself am convinced that the theory of evolution, especially the extent to which it's been applied, will be one of the great jokes in history books in the future"

Comment: An obviously flawed argument from authority, this quote from Muggeridge does nothing to further Ray's stated goal of demonstrating that the theory of evolution is 'unscientific'. What is unscientific is Ray's attempt to discredit evolution.

The opinion of any individual, philosopher or scientist, has no bearing on whether a proposition is true or false.

Rejection of the Bible

(19:11 - 19:20)

  • Kirk, "A wise man once said, man will believe anything as long as it's not in the Bible."

Comment: This quote is commonly attributed to Napolean Bonaparte, though we've been unable to identify the source. While this is meant as an amusing indictment of man's visceral rejection of God, it's actually an interesting point to ponder. In truth, whether consciously or subconsciously, rejections of Biblical claims are justified. We have no autographs and no reliable evidence to support the claim that it is divine in origin.

One might propose an alternate version, directed at fundamentalists, "Some people will believe anything as long as it's in the Bible."

Every claim, whether from an ancient book or a close friend, must be critically examined before belief or rejection can be justified. If a single source makes numerous claims, its reliability can be evaluated by looking for clarity, consistency and correlation to known facts. If it is found to be self-contradictory, confusing, or in contradiction to known facts, it is reasonable to doubt or reject it's validity. If it promotes values commonly considered immoral while proclaiming that these are moral absolutes, it is worthy of ridicule and opposition.

Street Interviews 2

(19:22 - 21:29)

Ray's and his crew head back out into the streets to ask lay people (and one PhD biologist) questions about evolution..

Transitional Fossils

  • Question (apparently asked of a lay person): "Can you give me any example of a transitional form, going from one kind of animal to another kind?"
  • Response: "I can't think of anything right off the moment."

Comment: We've already addressed the absurdity of asking random people to answer scientific questions. If they don't know the answer or get it wrong, you've proved nothing. The fact that this individual couldn't think of a transitional form is completely irrelevant to the question of whether or not they exist. The following list is a small sample of transitional forms which connect birds and reptiles, reptiles and mammals as well as apes and humans...feel free to investigate:

Eoraptor, Herrerasauras, Allosauraus, Archaeopteryx, Cryptovolans pauli, Sinornithosaurus, Pelycosauria, Therapsida, Australopithecus africanus, Homo hablis, Homo rudolfensis, Homo erectus, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.

Creator vs. Nature

  • Ray, "The parrot that's on your arm, God created. How could any, how could science make a parrot?"
  • Man with parrot, "Science? Nature made it."
  • Ray, "Nature made itself?"

Comment: Ray deliberately redirects the mans response by lodging yet another objection to abiogenesis. He's perfectly happy to accept that his God always existed, yet the idea that matter might have always existed is rejected and replaced with this concept of 'making itself'. It's a way to hide the special pleading behind his own beliefs. The gentleman seems to miss this idea about nature making itself and continues referring to the parrot in his answers.

  • Man with parrot, "Yes, absolutely..."
  • Ray, "So it made the parrot..."
  • Man with parrot, "...evolution."
  • Ray, "So, evolution made it?"
  • Man with parrot, "Mm hmm"
  • Ray, "So you don't believe God created things?"
  • Man with parrot, "Well, I don't know what you're referring to as God."

Comment: This is a very valid point. Ray presumes, as so many do, that his concept of God is clearly understood by everyone else. God is an esoteric and ill-defined term, even among people who share common beliefs. Well over 1000 denominations of Christians in addition to the multitude of other religions attest to this fact. Asking Ray to define what he means by 'God' is essential to answering this question correctly. In casual conversation, it may be reasonable to presume a generic concept of God and, in many cases, it may be reasonable to assume a generalized 'Christian' definition - but when confronted in this fashion, asking for specific definitions is critical.

  • Ray, "The Creator."
  • Man with parrot, "To me, evolution, nature, is God"

Comment: Ray gives an incredibly narrow definition of his concept of God, designed to assume the very thing he's arguing for - creation. The interview ends here, in a not-so-subtle attempt to abuse the equivocation fallacy - relying on his intended audience's concept of God to make it appear as though evolutionists 'worship' evolution. The truth is that this man's answer is reasonable. If your definition of 'god' is, essentially, 'that which is responsible for the current state of every living thing' - evolution and nature fit the bill.

What convinced you evolution was right?

  • Ray, "When it comes to evolution, what was the scientific fact that convinced you that it was right?"
  • Young woman, "Um, I would say, how it all got started, like...explaining how we have elements that were brought to Earth by, you know, like, let's say, meteorites, or whatever. That it all got started in the ocean and um, organisms grew and, you know, people evolved from there.."
  • Ray, "Do you believe in the Bible?"
  • Young woman, "Uh, yes I do."
  • Ray, "Do you believe in Adam and Eve?"
  • Young woman, laughing, "Yes I do."

Comment: Some may suspect that her laughter indicates that she doesn't 'really' believe the Adam and Eve story. An alternate view is that she's aware of the contradictions that Ray is about to present and hasn't found a satisfactory way to reconcile her Biblical beliefs with the scientific answers she accepts and that this is nervous laughter. While there are plenty of Christians who accept evolution, it requires a rejection of the literal acceptance of Biblical claims in favor of a more allegorical view.

  • Ray, '"Did Adam used to be an ape?"

Comment: Ray's misunderstanding and misrepresentation of evolutionary theory rears its ugly head again. By presenting an absurd straw man of evolution, he hopes to exploit the confused nature of this individual to convince her, and others, that evolution is unsupported.

  • Young woman, "No."
  • Ray, "Did he crawl up out of slime?"
  • Young woman, laughing, "No."
  • Ray, "So which are you gonna go? Did God create man in his own image and tell him to bring forth after his own kind, or did he begin as some slime from a meteorite from outer space?"
  • Young woman laughs, uncomfortably. Her response isn't shown.

A real expert

Ray begins to question a young man as text on the bottom of the screen informs us that he is an evolutionary biologist with a PhD in Biology..

  • Biologist, "Non-random changes come about as a result of selection. Ok?"
  • Ray, "Who's doing the selecting?"
  • Biologist, "Selecting is being done by the ecosystem..."
  • Ray, interrupting, "And where did this come from?"
  • Biologist, "...it's being done by predators..."
  • Ray, interrupting, "Where did it come from?"
  • Biologist, "...it's being done by geological processes. Well here..." [acknowledges Ray's interruption] "This is the big question, this is where atheists and theists both have a problem, ok? And I'm going to admit to it, ok? The problem we have is at the beginning."

The camera freezes and zooms in on the biologists face as his final sentence is echoed. "In the beginning... God created the heavens and the earth" is dramatically displayed.

Comment: It's unfortunate, though predictable, that the one potential expert they interviewed was cut off in order to misrepresent his case as an admission of the failure of evolution. As noted previously, this program is supposed to be about evolution, yet many of the objections address abiogenesis. This biologist points out that neither atheists nor theists can know, for certain, what happened at the beginning. What he's not allowed to point out is that the various scientific explanations, despite the fact that they aren't conclusively proved, have a distinct advantage over the theists proposition that God created everything in that they don't rely on unproven supernatural causes or rely on blind faith in ancient texts.

Ray, when presented with an explanation (natural selection) that he cannot argue against, falls back on the common practice of pointing to a gap, or unanswered question, and implying that the absence of absolute knowledge about the process somehow negates the knowledge we do possess. As if that wasn't bad enough, he further implies that it's acceptable to plug God into those gaps. This god of the gaps tactic is popular among Intelligent Design creationists as it sounds very good to those who already believe and may convince the uninformed. However, even if evolutionary theory proved to be incorrect, this still doesn't stand as sufficient evidence to justify their claim of an intelligent designer.

Turn off your brain

(21:30 - 23:04)

  • Kirk, "Here's a very interesting fact; in the last couple of dozen times that I've witnessed to someone, I can honestly say that the subject of evolution has not come up, even once. Why? Because I didn't bring it up. I didn't have to. And it doesn't come up on its own because it's often a non-issue."

Comment: Kirk is essentially correct, though his reasons may not be. Evolution is a non-issue, to many, because it's a scientific fact. Debating evolutionary theory is as absurd, to some, as debating theories about gravity, sexual reproduction or relativity. Evolution is a non-issue, to others, because they realize they're not experts. It's unfair to imply that the subject doesn't come up because people subconsciously reject it, secretly know that God really created everything or are afraid to evaluate the merits of the theory.

  • Kirk, "When you learn how to speak to a person's conscience, and circumnavigate the intellect, the subject of evolution seems to disappear."

Comment: When you circumnavigate the intellect, a lot of subjects seem to disappear. Appealing to someone's emotion or conscience may be an effective way to get them to accept supernatural claims, but it has no effect on whether or not those claims are actually true. If one's goal is to discover truth, and not simply accept propositions that feel good, circumnavigating the intellect is counterproductive.

  • Ray, "Now this is real good news for people like me. It means I don't have to become an expert in the 'fossil record'. And it also means I don't have to learn words like 'Rhinorhondothackasaurus'."

Comment: This idea that voluntary ignorance is preferable to critical thought is a common theme in their ministry. They begin with the flawed assumption that their beliefs are true until proven false, they proceed to misrepresent the subject they wish to criticize and then after making a very weak attempt at attacking the intellectual issues by way of attacks on straw men, they conclude with an appeal which amounts to; Those pesky scientists with all of their 'facts' are just confused and attempting to confuse you, ignore that stuff and go with what you 'feel'.

  • Kirk, "Now, are we trying to be anti-intellectual or avoid talking about the subject of evolution? Of course not."

Comment: Most definitely. As we've demonstrated throughout this response, they've completely avoided talking about evolution by misrepresenting it, objecting to abiogenesis (which isn't part of evolutionary theory), seeking the opinions of lay people, dangling red herrings, attacking straw men and misrepresenting experts.

You cannot, say, speak to a person's conscience and circumnavigate the intellect and expect an immediate claim that you're not being anti-intellectual to carry any weight. It's as if, at the end of this response, we were to add, Now, are we trying to say that Ray and Kirk are wrong? Of course not.

Buy the book

  • Kirk, "That's why we have The Evidence Bible. And this is packed full of teaching on the subject and includes quotes from teachings from Charles Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould and William Huxley."

Comment: The Bible isn't a demonstrably reliable authority on anything and filling it with quotes from scientists and philosophers doesn't change that - especially as we've already witnessed how dishonest and unreliable their selected quotes are. If the quotes and 'evidence' presented in the various episodes of this program are an example of the quality of their evidence Bible they may have actually made the Bible less reliable. An impressive feat, to be sure.

  • Kirk, "And it will show you that the theory of evolution is unscientific, that it's based on blind faith; so that you don't need to panic and upset yourself every time you read in the newspaper or see something on the news that talks about man evolving from apes."

Comment: Concepts and facts which contradict your personal beliefs can be very uncomfortable and abandoning deeply held beliefs, like religion, when presented with evidence and rational argument, isn't always a pleasant process. Realizing this, Ray and Kirk are hoping to spare their viewers the anxiety and agony of discovering that their views might be incorrect. It's clear that they are true proponents of the 'ignorance is bliss' camp.

Rather than encourage everyone to investigate claims on their own, Ray and Kirk are essentially saying, We've done the work for you, so you don't have to think about this stuff. With their new 'evidence Bible', creationist are presented with a very comforting over-abundance of arguments from authority.

  • Kirk, "You can have confidence in God's word that we are made in God's image. And true science, even our common sense, supports the Bible and not the theory of evolution."

Comment: The assertion that science supports the Bible and not the theory of evolution is completely without support, which might be why they immediately move on to another subject. It may be a comforting assertion for believers, but that doesn't make it true.

The Purpose of the Church

(23:05 - 25:19)

  • Ray, "Let's look at the church and ask, 'what is the purpose of the church on Earth?' Well, we're here primarily to glorify God and to lead lost sinners to the savior. We know, there's gonna be a day of judgment and we have to present every man and every woman perfect before a perfect God and a perfect law they must face on Judgment Day. We want them to 'put on' the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved from the wrath that's to come."

Comment: This perfect God and his perfect law, according to Christian dogma, created imperfect beings who are incapable of living up to his law and has decided to punish them for this failing. In order to rectify this conundrum, this perfect God decided to create a loophole by which his imperfect creations can be granted salvation. By taking human form, he sacrificed himself, to himself, to circumvent a law he created.

Why would a perfect God create imperfection? How can a law be considered perfect if it punishes people for things beyond their control - the imperfections of their very essence? How can a law be considered perfect if it includes infinite torture for finite crimes? Why would a perfect God need to create a loophole in a perfect law and how could a truly perfect law need or be circumvented by such a loophole? How is the punishment of one person for the crimes of another, perfect? How can 'sins' be inherited and why is that considered just?

Put on Your Parachute

  • Kirk, "Let's look at an analogy that's going to make a very important point. Let's say, you're on an airplane and you're trying to convince another passenger to put on a parachute because you know at any moment he's gonna have to jump 25,000 feet out of the plane. You have two lines of reasoning. The first is; you try to convince him that the plane was made by Boeing. Now, this is important because it will give credibility to the emergency card which will tell him about the parachute. So, you point out the fact that the maker's name is written all over the plane. He doesn't buy it, he thinks the plane happened by accident. Then, you tell him that it's a relatively new plane. He thinks it's an old plane. You say you have proof, so does he...and as long as you disagree, he ignores the emergency card and you find yourself in a frustrating and perilous situation."
  • Ray, "The second line of reasoning is much easier. All you do is you tell him about the law of gravity and you say what it will do to him if he jumps. 25,000 feet on his frail body. His eyes widen with fear and he says, 'Hey, would you pass me that emergency card, thing...I want to check it out?'"

Comment: All analogies fail, on some level, but this analogy barely gets out of the gate. The initial premise is that you're trying to convince someone to put on a parachute because you know that he's going to have to jump at any moment. The second line of 'reasoning' is simply a fear tactic, a threat...and it's just a veiled version of Pascal's wager. They establish this as a reasonable option because their first line of reasoning failed.

Looking at the first example, why did their first line of reasoning fail? Because they never gave a single reason to justify putting on the parachute. The maker of the plane, the emergency card and the age of the plane are all completely irrelevant when trying to explain why someone should put on a parachute. One could be on a new, Boeing plane, complete with emergency cards and still not have any good reason for putting on a parachute.

Their analogy is just as much a straw man as the 'arguments' they've made against evolution in this episode and it's filled with even more flaws. In their analogy, Boeing is God, the emergency card is the Bible and the parachute is Jesus. A more accurate analogy might go something like...

You're on an airplane and you're trying to convince someone to put on a parachute because you know they're going to have to jump out of the plane and fall 25,000 feet. First, you try to convince him that the plane was made by Boeing. Now, this is relevant because you're convinced that Boeing is going to force everyone to jump out of the plane, parachute or not. So you point to the carefully woven fabric on the seat in front of you and claim that it has Boeing's name written all over it. He points out that it doesn't say Boeing anywhere on the seat. You reply that it doesn't 'literally' say Boeing, but only Boeing orders fabric like that. He's unconvinced, as he's seen similar fabric before. You then explain that this plane wasn't manufactured like other planes, it was secretly modified to cause seatbelts to malfunction and the side of the plane is rigged to explode at 25,000 feet. He's convinced this is, most likely, an airplane like any other. You say you have evidence, he asks to see it. You pull out the emergency card, and show him Boeing's name, a description of the eminent calamity and instructions for putting on the parachute. He points out that there are mistakes on the card and that other people have different emergency cards with names other than Boeing, some of which don't mention parachutes or calamities. You claim that those are fakes and you have the 'real' emergency card. He's skeptical and asks how you know yours is true. You point out that the emergency card says it's true. He looks under the seat for a parachute and doesn't find one. You explain that he has go up to the cockpit and ask for a parachute by saying the secret phrase, 'I've been a bad boy and need a spanking.' He tries this and is met with blank stares and confusion. You tell him that he didn't try hard enough...He asks the flight attendant if he can move to another seat
  • Ray, "Now, you and I want to convince sinners to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. We can talk to them about God and his existence, we can talk to them about the age of the earth and how old it is our how young it is and this leads to all sorts of discussions which often end in arguments. Or, we can tell them about the jump - that he has to pass through the door of death, and face a holy God and a holy law, whether he believes in God or not, on the day of judgment. We show him the Ten Commandments, stir the conscience and bring the knowledge of sin. He realizes his danger and sees his need to put on the Lord Jesus Christ."

Comment: Reason bad, guilt-trips good. Got it. Ray is wise to recommend that his viewers avoid arguing about troublesome facts and focus on emotions like guilt and fear by threatening them with hell. He certainly hasn't equipped them to do anything else, though it's unclear whether anything more is possible.

The Atheist Test

(25:20 - 27:08)

A short interview is shown, featuring a teenager from a previous episode and demonstrates the 'atheist test', in action.

Closing Comments

(27:09 - ) Kirk encourages those who are looking for more information on evolution and evangelism to visit their website, purchase their 'Evidence Bible', their 'Way of the Master' book, their 'Foundation course' which many churches are using to "train up" their people.

Comment: For those who are seriously looking for more information on evolution, visit a library, search the web, or visit one of the sites listed below.

External Links

The Way of the Master
Season One Episodes:

1. The Firefighter   2. The Mirror of the Ten Commandments   3. The Motive of the Sinner   4. The Summary of Salvation   5. Practice What You Preach   6. Idolatry—The Darling Sin of Humanity   7. The Beauty of a Broken Spirit—Atheism   8. WDJD?   9. Blasphemy, Sabbath, Parents   10. Murder   11. Adultery   12. Theft   13. Lie and Covet

Season Two Episodes:

1. God's Wonderful Plan   2. Conscience   3. Alcatraz, Al Capone, Alcohol   4. True and False Conversion   5. When Things Go Wrong   6. The Satanic Influence   7. How to Witness to Someone Who's Homosexual/Gay   8. Evolution   9. How to Witness to a Loved One   10. The Fear of God   11. Ice Breakers—Gospel Tracts   12. The Greatest Gamble  13. How to Get on Fire for God

Season Three Episodes:

1. Islam   2. Mormonism   3. Witchcraft   4. Buddhism   5. Roman Catholicism   6. What Hollywood Believes   7. New Age   8. Humanism   9. What America Believes   10. Jehovah's Witness   11. Judaism   12. Spiritual Battle   13. Hinduism

Cast
Ray Comfort — Kirk Cameron
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