Perhaps the most common misperception about evolution from those who deny it is encapsulated by the question, “If man came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” While memes asking this are a Facebook semi-regular, the dozen or so fulltime professional creationists actually know that evolution does not teach this. On the Answers in Genesis website, Tommy Mitchell wrote, “The evolutionary concept of the origin of humans is not based on humans descending from modern apes but argues that humans and modern apes share a common ancestor.” Similarly, John Morris of the Institute for Creation Research noted that, “Evolutionists insist that both man and the apes came from an ape-like ancestor. Also, evolution does not propose that all members of a type evolved into another type, but that only a small group of individuals, genetically isolated from the others, evolved.”
While Mitchell and Morris disagree with these conclusions, they do acknowledge that these positions accurately reflect what evolution teaches and they stress that the field does not hold that monkeys turned into men. However, they and other Young Earth Creationists ask an equally misinformed question, which could be paraphrased as, “If evolution has been proven, why are there still evolutionary biologists?” They consider the expanding and refining of evolutionary knowledge to be a weakness. As Ken Ham Tweeted, “I’m glad the Bible’s not a textbook like those used in public schools, as it would change all the time.”
That’s because, while Darwin nailed the basics that random mutation and nonrandom natural selection cause species to adapt to their environment and evolve over succeeding generations, his theory has received periodic upgrades. That is consistent with how science works. The finding of transitional fossils, the discovery of DNA, and Mendel’s experiments with heredity helped further our knowledge of evolution. Yet YECs insist the theory’s adaptability and refinement show it to be flawed, and they sometimes dub these changes “Revisionist Darwinism.”
However, the Wright Brothers are not invalidated because today’s jets fly 100 times faster and 5,000 times farther than their original creation. Alexander Graham Bell is not a fraud because we carry a small phone that can perform multitudinous functions, while his bulky stationary contraption served just one purpose. Antibiotics, vaccines, and open-heart surgery should not be avoided as “revisionist medicine” just because physicians once treated patients with trepanation, bloodletting, and homeopathy.
Science is not static, an unbending set or rules, but is the continual search to refine, expand, and yes, revise knowledge. It is an unending cyclical process that is self-correcting and self-criticizing, which invites scrutiny, and which changes when warranted by the evidence.
And this owning up to previous errors is laudable. I wrote a post about the hunt for Bigfoot and included a tidbit that no North American primate fossil has ever been found. A reader pointed out this was in error and she included a link to reputable source, Popular Science. The article quoted a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History as saying a 43 million-year-old primate fossil was discovered in Texas. I thanked the reader for bringing this to my attention. I want all nonsense exposed, even if that nonsense appears on this blog. I have adjusted my thinking with regard to North American primate fossils and will never make this claim again. I will not deny what the paleontologist said, nor declare him corrupt, inept, or a Sasquatch hunter’s shill. I will not posit that he was wrong, then seek out evidence to support this preconceived conclusion.
By contrast, Young Earth Creationism relies on faith and the rejection of facts its proponents find unpleasant. Not only can they not accept evidence that contradicts their religion, they are incapable of incorporating newfound knowledge into their belief system.
Brian Dunning at Skeptoid compared the reactions from biologists and creationists when scientists learned DNA was the genetic material by which inheritance passes from one generation to the next. The response of the former, Dunning wrote, was to welcome and celebrate the news: “The discovery of DNA and the understanding of genetics, unknown in Darwin’s time, was a huge windfall. Whole chapters of proposed mechanisms were thrown out of the evolution textbook, volumes of new chapters were added, and unanswered questions were explained by the thousands. The theory of evolution improved immeasurably. Genetics was the single most important discovery in the history of biology.”
Meanwhile, the creationists fittingly refused to evolve their thinking. Dunning wrote, “Did anyone go back and improve Genesis? Did they add a footnote or a verse to explain how the thing with Adam’s rib worked, given the new understanding of genetics? No. The most important and significant discovery in the history of biology was completely ignored.”
Even though religion is the central feature of their lives, YECs criticize the concept of faith by declaring evolution to be just another belief system. Yet if that were true, things like the DNA discovery that expanded knowledge would be rejected.
YECs confuse faith with trust. Trust is accepting what reputably-sourced, continually proven evidence shows. Faith is believing something regardless of the truth, facts, or proof. Something that one believes on faith could be true, but this truth is not necessary for the belief to continue.
As an example of the difference between trust and faith, Dunning explained why he believes what calculators tell him. These instruments have been so reliable and consistent that he can reasonably trust their conclusions. By contrast, if the calculators’ long-term performance was spotty, Dunning’s uncompromising acceptance of the revealed equation would be faith.
He added that humans used to think Earth was flat and supported on the back of a giant turtle. Scientific breakthroughs have since shown our planet to be round and orbiting a star. Most people accept this, though a few deny it. But some who accept these truths still use the previous delusions regarding Earth’s shape and motion as reasons to reject what biologists teach today.
What science has previously taught should be rejected if the reason for the revision was arrived at through the Scientific Method of observation-hypothesis-prediction-experiment-analysis-interpretation-publication-replication. But it should not be rejected if the reason for doing so is to hold onto an unbending position in order to protect a pet cause.