Inspired Guesses, Creative Imagination, and Science
by Frank Sherwin, M.A.
The first point to make about Darwin's theory is that it is no longer a theory, but a fact" (Julian Huxley, Issues in Evolution, p. 41).
Although the evolutionary community would have the public believe the above statement, there is "a great gulf fixed" between evolution and the facts of science. How could such a wide chasm be spanned? Only by using one's imagination. More and more, macroevolution is seen as Dryden pens in the Dedication of King Arthur, "that fairy kind of writing which depends only upon the force of imagination."
Real science " ... is an interconnected series of concepts and conceptual schemes that have developed as a result of experimentation and observations" (Dr. James B. Conant, former president of Harvard). The Harper Encyclopedia of Science describes the scientific method as " ... techniques of controlled observation employed in the search for knowledge." In other words, science is knowledge obtained primarily through observation, not speculation or imagination.
With this in mind, consider the following quotes from various evolutionary publications. Regarding the origin of life, the late Isaac Asimov stated:
We can make inspired guesses, but we don't know for certain what physical and chemical properties of the planet's crust, its ocean, and its atmosphere made it so conducive to such a sudden appearance of life ... " (Omni, November 1983, p. 58).
"Inspired guesses" are not science; rather they are the use of one's imagination. Moving up the theoretical evolutionary ladder, imagination greets us at each rung.
In tracking the emergence of the eukaryotic cell, one enters a kind of wonderland where scientific pursuit leads almost to fantasy. Cell and molecular biologists must construct cellular worlds in their own imaginations.... Imagination, to some degree, is essential for grasping the key events in cellular history" (B.D. Dyer & R.A. Obar, Tracing the History of Eukaryotic Cells, Columbia University Press, 1994, pp. 2,3).
Webster's New World Dictionary defines "imagination" as "the act or power of forming mental images of what is not present" [my emphasis]. Indeed, the process of evolution itself is grounded in that which is not present.
Even with DNA sequence data, we have no direct access to the processes of evolution, so objective reconstruction of the vanished past can be achieved only by creative imagination" (N. Takahata, "A Genetic Perspective on the Origin & History of Humans," Annual Review of Ecology & Systematics, 1995).
Think of what the evolutionary community would say if creationists ever appealed to "creative imagination" in their literature! To those who erroneously see mutations (genetic mistakes) as an explanatory cause of evolution, the late Dr. Pierre Grassé, France's leading zoologist, cautioned in his book, "There is no law against day-dreaming, but science must not indulge in it" (Evolution of Living Organisms, 1977, p. 103).
Paleontologists have long been troubled with the abrupt appearance of fish in the fossil record. In explaining how one group of fish begot another, evolutionist Barbara J. Stahl mentions how two evolutionists deal with the absence of physical evidence.
While other paleontologists have barred a linear relationship between the parasemionotids and the semionotids because of the chronological discordance, Schaeffer and Dunkle mention the possibility that unknown parasemionotids might have lived long enough before the semionotids to have sired the group" [my emphasis] (Vertebrate History: Problems in Evolution, Dover Publications, N.Y. 1985, p. 157).
Evolutionary publications are full of similar exercises in imagination. Another example would be the mammal-like reptile "progression." Author Philip Johnson says, "An artificial line of descent can be constructed, but only by arbitrarily mixing specimens from different subgroups, and by arranging them out of their actual chronological sequence" (Darwin on Trial, 1993, p. 79). Such scenarios must be presented for the simple reason that the fossil record stubbornly fails to cooperate in producing tangible evidence for evolutionary suppositions.
Because whales, dolphins, and porpoises are mammals, evolutionists are forced to speculate that they evolved from even-toed land mammals such as cattle, pigs, or buffalo many millions of years ago. Hence, V.B. Scheffer, writing in National Geographic (vol. 50), relates the following imaginative tale:
"The whale's ascendancy to sovereign size apparently began sixty million years ago when hairy, four-legged mammals in search of food or sanctuary, ventured into water. As eons passed, changes slowly occurred. Hind legs disappeared, front legs changed into flippers, hair gave way to a thick smooth blanket of blubber, nostrils moved to the top of the head, the tail broadened into flukes, and in the buoyant water world, the body became enormous."
Some researchers claim that links have been found between marine mammals and land mammals (i.e., Basilosaurus), but these, like the previous quote, are highly speculative.
Another field requiring considerable imagination is human evolution, spanning, as evolutionist Ian Tattersall says, five million poorly known years or more (The Fossil Trail, 1995, p. 246).
In Ayala and Valentine's text, Evolving (1979), figure 12.7 states: "Many elements of the phylogeny [of the hominoids] are conjectural owing to the paucity of the fossil remains." Conjecture means guesswork or even fantasy. Things haven't changed much since the publication of this book. Sylvia S. Mader states in her Biology text (1998), " ... it is believed that the last common ancestor of the African apes and hominids (family Hominidae) lived during the Pliocene epoch. Unfortunately, this common ancestor has not yet been found" (p.353).
Paleoanthropologist Robert Blumenschine of Rutgers University said in a U.S. News and World Report cover story (1989): "The real question is whether we have enough imagination to reconstruct their lives" (the lives of early humans). Michael Lemonick of Time concurs, saying in his article, "How Man Began" (1994): "The only certainty in this data-poor, imagination-rich, endlessly fascinating field is that there are plenty of surprises left to come."
In a letter published by USA Today, David A. Frenz says in regards to human evolution: "This strange fiction issuing from the sands of Africa makes one thankful that these scientists avoided other careers of consequence. That they did not apply their energies to creating vaccines or structural members for high-rise buildings is a lucky stroke for society. Imagination in these cases is never an acceptable substitute for empirical results." But today, human evolution is still in the grips of imagination. On page 353 of Biology (1998), Mader states:
We can imagine that it was beneficial to be able to stand tall to look over grasses while searching for food or avoiding predators, that jaw and teeth changes were adaptive to a new (perhaps omnivorous) diet, and that an erect posture left the hands free to throw rocks or even manipulate tools as the brain grew larger.
Well, yes, one can imagine, but is this science? Indeed, one can only agree with John Horgan who said in his 1996 book, The End of Science, "No matter how far empirical science goes, our imaginations can always go further" (p. 30). People eventually arising from flatworms is an example of such a Herculean stretch of the imagination, but it totally lacks in scientific verification.
In Romans 1:21-28, Paul describes the terrible condition of the ancient world as they rejected their former knowledge of the one true God: "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened" (v.21).
This description fits today as well, exemplified by arrogant evolutionists, assuming reconstructions of animals and hominids springing from lower forms of life; which in turn are shown coming from primal, inanimate elements in a most unscientific and imaginative manner.
What is a responsible, fact-finding reader to do? Christians should first be alert to ambiguous language and artful renditions as we read secular literature, view cable channels, or browse natural history museums. Decide what is presented as scientific (observed) evidence and what is mere speculation.
Be critical of alleged "missing links" and "transitional forms." Ask, What is this evidence actually based on? Where does science stop and imagination begin?
Draw conclusions from that which is observed rather than treating "day-dreaming," "inspired guesses," and "creative imagination" as scientific fact.
* Frank Sherwin is a seminar speaker for ICR.
Cite this article: Frank Sherwin, M.A. 1998. Inspired Guesses, Creative Imagination, and Science. Acts & Facts. 27 (2).