I’m going to continue to steal from Joseph Conrad for a title. Could be lack of imagination. Could be all the cool titles are already taken.
Anyhow, a few weeks ago I commented on a posting by creationist David Buckna on the True.Origin Archive site. This seems to comprise four pages, the first three of which encompass 31 questions or topics for discussion. Presumably each of these is a challenge of some sort to modern science, not limited to biological evolution. Page 4 is an extensive collection of activities students are supposed to undertake, said activities having an aim toward challenging modern scientific theories, particularly biological evolution again.
I’m going to work through these four pages, creating a separate post for each topic. This is going to be a long term project, maybe stretching out the remainder of the year. Readers’ patience is requested. I will start here with the first item:
For starters, there’s a cartoon. It’s cute. I’m going to reprint it. Here it is.
Actually, “evolution” is still a theory. Just like gravity. In science a good theory is an explanation for a set of related facts. It’s testable, and it produces useful predictions that can lead to further study and progress. Please note the “DARWIN REPORT DUE” notice on the black board.
Creationists and some others like to associate modern theories of biological evolution with Charles Darwin exclusively. Facts are that the theory of biological evolution was around hundreds of years before Darwin. People wondered at the source of the varied species on this planet, and common ancestry was considered as a possible explanation. Serious studies of the fossil record even prior to the birth of Darwin gave still more serious consideration to the idea of common descent. But nobody could figure out a natural mechanism that would produce the branching of the evolutionary tree and the development of highly refined systems, such as the eye.
Independently of Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace came up with the idea of natural selection as the explanation. Darwin and Wallace published simultaneously in 1858. Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species in 1859.
Still, the mechanism for biological evolution was unknown. Darwin and Wallace provided only on part of the puzzle. The remaining part was the theory of genetics, developed by Gregor Mendel. Mendel did his work about the time Darwin’s theory of natural selection was being debated, but it was not reviewed by mainstream science until the first years of the 20th century when other researchers independently duplicated his work, and it was discovered that Mendel had done the first studies.
Regarding the teacher’s comment:
I grant you evolution was a theory to begin with… but it evolved into a fact a long time ago!
That’s a bit of creationist posturing. Truth is that evolution was a fact from the time it started happening on this planet and possibly on other planets. Since scientists started working with the theory of biological evolution over 150 years ago, the recognition of its factual basis has continually solidified. Although there may still be legitimate debate concerning the processes involved, the fact of biological evolution is well established. No valid scientific research has ever contradicted the fact of biological evolution.
I’ve done all of this, and I’ve only got through the cartoon. I’ve not even gotten to David’s item 1 on the first page. Before I get to that I need to diagnose the matter of a quote by creationist Phillip Johnson. That’s coming next.
Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.