In the Sunday, June 22, 2008, edition of the Dallas Morning News, columnist Steve Blow reported the results of a survey he conducted on the hot-button issues of evolution, stem cell research, and global warming.1 Seeking answers from “a trusted science source,” he sent five questions from recent Gallup surveys to the 18 University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center faculty members who are members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. The 16 scientists who responded generally agreed that evolution is true (although one also indicated his belief that humans were created in their present form recently). From this, Blow concluded, “If we want science taught in science classrooms, then only evolution belongs. All else is religion.”
Let’s say that in an effort to discover my bank account balance, I poll a set of financial officers that work in a top real estate firm. Fourteen give their opinion that my account is “plentiful,” and only one suggests that I contact my bank. I therefore conclude that my account must be plentiful and I dismiss the fellow who suggested that I check with the bank, convinced that he must be religiously motivated. After all, the majority ruled against him.
It seems that Blow followed a similar procedure. The UTSMC investigators are certainly top biomedical researchers. However, because a person is an expert on, say, cholesterol and bile acid metabolism, does this make him an expert on the origins of life? How would someone’s knowledge of advanced metabolism qualify him to speak authoritatively on the broad claims of molecules-to-man evolution? These are not overlapping disciplines. In addition, knowledge of evolutionary theory is not required for someone to investigate metabolic processes. Evolution is essentially a story that attempts to explain the unobservable past, while metabolism is a study of presently observable phenomena. In sum, Blow’s approach commits the “appeal to authority” fallacy.
Also, truth is not determined by majority vote. It doesn’t matter if everyone in the world tells me that my bank account is plentiful if the one person who knows—my banker—says I am broke. Thus, evolution is cited as true solely because the majority believe it.2
A third flaw in the Morning News article is that the conclusions do not logically follow from the survey’s results. Since 15 of 16 scientists believed in millions of years of evolution, Blow deduced that only evolution belongs in science classrooms. This is a non sequitur, reflecting a host of assumed and unproven (though often repeated) premises, including “evolution is science” and “any non-evolutionary origin theory is religion.” If the so-called evolution of particles-to-people is good empirical science, then why have there been no experiments that clearly and repeatedly demonstrate the transmutation of species?3
Also, why is the evolutionary worldview portrayed as science rather than religion? Evolution consists of representatives (often scientists) who teach its doctrines and persuade others to believe in its story, and even in its founder. It answers the big questions of origin, purpose, and destiny.4 Blow’s commentary is an attempt to prop up the “only evolution belongs” mantra. If macroevolution could be demonstrated by real science and shown to be more than just an interpretive filter, then there would be no reason for its defenders to resort to elitist bluster. Since there is no empirical evidence supporting particles-to-people evolution, its precepts become matters of blind faith.5
Blow also decries the disparity between the white lab coat-wearing scientists who believe in evolution and the public, 43 percent of whom (said Blow) admit to being creationists. He did not provide a source for this number, but it contradicts a Gallup poll taken one year ago in which 66 percent responded favorably to the same basic statement Blow presented to the scientists: “Creationism, that is, the idea that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.”6 Is this an honest mistake, or an attempt to marginalize creationists?
Scientists may have a greater tendency to believe in evolution not because of the evidence, but because they have been more deeply steeped in evolutionary dogma (and at times bullied by the evolutionary establishment, as the excellent documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed demonstrated). If this is the case, then Blow is guilty of the “bare assertion fallacy,” where a premise is regarded as true merely because it poses as true.
One of the prestigious scientists Blow surveyed agreed with the survey option that supported recent human creation. Blow dismissed this as a “discrepancy,” but perhaps this anomalous result should trigger deeper consideration of the creation position. Maybe this researcher is like the one financial officer who, in my story above, directed me to check with my actual bank to get the facts about my account, rather than the 14 who ventured general opinions mistakenly based on their extensive financial training. We propose that there is overwhelming historical evidence that empirical scientists have been trained to reject—the recorded eyewitness testimony to the original events of creation, the Flood, and the dispersion found in Genesis.7
Despite Blow’s survey, doctrines like “millions of years of death and mutations result in higher, more complex life forms” deserve criticism—not because they contradict religion, but because they contradict what we know and see in nature.
- Blow, S. Scientific survey on hot issues. The Dallas Morning News, June 22, 2008, Metro section.
- This is a red herring fallacy called argumentum ad populum.
- The phrase “transmutation of species” can be taken a variety of ways. Here we intend to represent the Darwinian concept to mean gradual morphing of shape and function over generations such that new useful structures and kinds are naturally developed. Of course, this has not been observed; see Parker, G. 1980. Creation, Selection, and Variation. Acts & Facts. 9 (10).
- Morris, H. 1982. Evolution Is Religion, not Science. Acts & Facts. 11 (5).
- Morris, H. 2001. The Scientific Case Against Evolution: A Summary Part 1. Acts & Facts. 29 (12).
- Gallup poll results. 2007. USA Today. Posted June 7, 2007, accessed June 25, 2008.
- This training is unfortunate, since the rejection of the biblical record is in no way necessary for the practice of empirical science. One of modern science’s greatest fallacies is that biblical Christianity conflicts with true science. See Morris, H. 2008. The Biblical Origins of Modern Science. Acts & Facts. 37 (2).
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer.
Article posted on June 26, 2008.