Religious fundamentalists and biblical literalists present any number of arguments that attempt to disprove evolution. Those with a sympathetic ear often fail to critically examine these creationist claims, leading to an ill-informed public and, perhaps more troubling, ill-advised public policy. As Aron Ra makes clear, however, every single argument deployed by creationists in their attacks on evolution is founded on fundamental scientific, religious, and historical falsehoods–all of them. Among their most popular claims is that evolution is a religion, that there are no transitional species, that there are no beneficial mutations, and that supposedly sacred scripture is the infallible word of God. Yet, as the evidence and data plainly show, each of these claims is demonstrably and unequivocally false. There is simply no truth to creationism whatsoever, and the entire enterprise rests on a foundation of falsehoods. This book explains and exposes the worst of these lies, and should be read by all who honestly care about following the evidence no matter where it might lead in pursuit of the truth.
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About the Author
Aron Ra is a science educator, secular activist, debater, and public speaker. He cohosts the Ra-Men podcast and writes at Reason Advocates on the Patheos network. He is the former Texas state director of American Atheists and current president of Atheist Alliance of America. He is also heading the Phylogeny Explorer Project, an effort to render the entire evolutionary tree of life as a navigable online encyclopedia. He is best known for his popular video series exposing the foundational falsehoods of creationism.
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Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism
By Aron Ra
Pitchstone PublishingCopyright © 2016 Aron Ra
All rights reserved.
THE 1ST FOUNDATIONAL FALSEHOOD OF CREATIONISM
"Evolution = Atheism"
In 2004, a Gallup poll reported that 35% of Americans believed that evolution was supported by the evidence. Another 35% said evolution was not supported by the evidence, and 25% admitted they didn't know enough to say. What this seems to imply is that only 35% actually knew what evolution is and what the evidence for it is. The 35% who say that evolution is not supported by the evidence should be grouped with the 25% who don't know enough to say (many of whom probably don't even know what evolution is). Thus, it is actually 60% who don't really know enough to say, but less than half of them would admit that.
At that time, Gallup said these figures had not significantly changed in decades. The situation has not improved. In 2012, Gallup reported that 46% of Americans still believe that God created humans in their present form; 32% say that God guided human evolution; and only 15% say that man evolved with no assistance from any deity. Put another way, the division in the American population between those who agree with evolution and those who believe in creationism is still roughly half-and-half.
The U.S. population seems pretty evenly divided over whether the human species is biologically related to other animals or whether we were "specially created" as part of a flurry of miracles. Even our collective politicians — seemingly all of them — are wrapped up in this controversy, yet it's hard to find even one of them who knows what it's about.
In the 2008 presidential race, Senator John McCain was one of very few presidential candidates to express any degree of understanding of what evolution even is, so it was especially ironic that he chose Sarah Palin as a running mate — someone who doesn't even know what science is. Sadly, the next presidential race four years later included:
Michele Bachmann, who got her law degree from the televangelist, Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma;
Ron Paul, who rejected evolution as being "just" a theory;
Newt Gingrich, who expressed his fear that his grandchildren would inherit "a secular atheist America dominated by radical Islamists";
Rick Santorum, whose decade-long crusade to usurp science was actually one of the primary catalysts driving me to activism in defense of secular political values;
and Rick Perry, my own state's governor, who seemed determined to destroy education altogether at every level, along with the economy, the environment, any remaining socially conscious benefit programs, and anything else he could possibly bring to ruin.
Soon after the first of two failed presidential runs, Perry returned to his office as governor. Texas then revised the state's Republican Party Platform to include the following:
Knowledge-Based Education — We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority. [Emphasis mine]
Yes, they really just came right out and said that, and they didn't even know that they should have been embarrassed by it. Apparently, the dominant party in my state believes that knowledge and understanding are bad, that citizens should obediently believe whatever they're told, and that their beliefs should remain "fixed" — that is, rigid, unreasonable, and not to be corrected even when they are known to be wrong. How can there be any justification for that?
Just to be sure we know which beliefs they want to remain "fixed" and unchallenged, the Texas Republican Party Platform also specifically opposed the teaching of evolution.
Controversial Theories — We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind. [Emphasis mine once again]
Some translation is required here. By "objective" they mean "subjective," and by "equal treatment of all sides" they mean the application of a double-standard in favor of their side only. By "theories of life origins," they mean to include evolution — the study of biodiversity — along with abiogenesis, Big Bang cosmology, plate tectonics, and everything else that isn't permitted or indicated by the Bible. What they call "controversial" is not controversial at all outside of religious dogmatism. So they want to portray scientific theories as if they were unsupported speculation, which they can treat as "challengeable." By this, they mean that mere high school teachers should be allowed to condemn levels of scholarship far beyond their own education rather than teach anything that they themselves refuse to accept or even comprehend.
The seemingly fair-minded reference to "strengths and weaknesses" is actually a subterfuge frequently employed by right-wing politicians to undermine evolution in the classroom. Discussions of the "strengths" of evolution are inhibited, to say the least; they are certainly never promoted by them and are often countered by parental protest. Many teachers avoid mentioning evolution at all for fear of inciting controversy. Even in the rare instances that a teacher understands the subject, and can adequately present it, this language allowing the "strengths and weaknesses" to be discussed permits religiously indoctrinated students to recite pseudoscientific nonsense, disrupting the lesson in an attempt to refute it. If nothing else, it discourages most science-minded teachers from even trying to teach evolution properly, while empowering creationist teachers to cite long lists of alleged weaknesses that are contrived, concocted, and promoted by religious organizations committed to the preservation of biblical literalism. These organizations also invariably endorse some degree of abstinence from (and raise an objection to) the general philosophy and methodology of science.
Teachers and students really should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of all scientific theories That could uniformly happen if religious fundamentalists didn't get so angrily defensive in any environment where their beliefs may be subjected to equal treatment by knowledgeable persons. However, these discussions would be much more appropriate in a college setting among educated adults rather than in high schools, where no one (including often the teacher) is likely to know what they're really talking about. Most high school teachers are in no position to condemn the work of expert specialists in any field of study, and students should never be encouraged to reject the findings of advanced scholarship — at least until they've been taught what those theories actually are, and what the evidence actually is.
Even if some theories really are controversial, they still cannot be rejected until they are adequately understood. How can you know where the flaws in any theory are if you don't know what a given theory is, or what it actually says? Defenders of the faith fear that children who are taught the science behind evolution will likely accept it, so instead the children are deceived, distracted, misinformed, and misdirected however possible in order to prevent them from understanding undesired concepts.
Why is it that there is such concern in so many schools (kindergarten through twelfth grade) about teaching evolution, yet there is complete consensus among scientists all over America and the rest of the world that evolution is the backbone of modern biology and a demonstrable reality historically as well?
In 1987, Newsweek famously reported that "by one count, there are some 700 scientists with respectable academic credentials (out of a total of 480,000 U.S. earth and life scientists) who give credence to creation-science." This was based on a list of signatures of scientists who "doubted Darwinism." That list was provided by the Discovery Institute, an "intelligent design" (ID) think tank dedicated to undermining evolution. Actually, the statement that bore these signatures was this one:
We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.
Phrased this way, I might have signed the statement myself even though I have no doubt whatsoever that all life evolved through natural processes without any supernatural influence. However, creationists seem to think that anyone who is skeptical about science has also rejected science to some degree, and must therefore believe in some sort of creation. That list of "scientists" also included medical doctors, mechanical engineers, and many others who aren't scientists at all — but there were some actual "earth and life" scientists in that group. The list was promoted as a "scientific dissent from Darwinism" and was meant to imply that a growing number of scientists were moving away from naturalistic theories, as if evolution were a theory in crisis. This is a lie that has been repeated many times over the last hundred years or so. It is a lie because all other polls consistently show the opposite trend over that same period.
The implication as Newsweek saw it is that the total number of collective geologists and biologists of any specialty who still believe in supernatural creationism over evolution via natural selection is only 0.14%, barely more than one-tenth of one percent. So if 99.44% equals "pure" (as it does in the silver trade), then Bill Maher was right when he said that evolution is supported by the entire scientific community.
Amusingly, one response to this "scientific dissent from Darwinism" was the National Center for Science Education's "Project Steve." This was a much longer list composed exclusively of actual scientists, all of whom support evolution and all of whom are named Steve or some variant thereof — Stephen, Stefan, Stephanie, Stevie, Estaban, etc. People who share variants of this name are estimated to represent only about 1% of the U.S. population. So the fact that this list has hundreds more names on it than the list of alleged dissenters of Darwinism is another jab at the silliness of creationist statistics.
Here is the statement endorsed by Project Steve:
Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools.
This sentiment has been echoed or paraphrased by many professional scientific and academic organizations across the country and around the world. If all those who signed the Discovery Institute's petition had seen this statement instead or been asked to examine both, then the weakness of the alleged dissent from Darwin would be that much more obvious, at least to degreed experts.
What about your average person in the street? Most people really don't understand science — what it is, how it works, what hypotheses and theories are, or even the purpose behind it. Sadly, even those on your school faculty or state board of education often need an education themselves before they can be trusted to govern how or what our kids will be taught.
Of course I'm referring to the infamous right-wing Republican-dominant voting bloc, which made our state's board of education into a source of international embarrassment. Back in 2005, shortly before all of that had blown up to the absurd proportions that it did, I had an opportunity to try reasoning with these people. I had been arguing evolution versus creationism in various web formats for many years by then, and I was convinced that I could change the mind of any reasonable person who still didn't understand the scientific perspective.
Of course, what I usually encountered were people who were determined to be unreasonable, who didn't even care what the truth really is, and who would stoop to any means necessary to preserve their precious beliefs. This requires a more confrontational challenge. Often such people would say that neither evolution nor creationism could be proven and that they both had either the same evidence or no evidence, and so both required an element of faith. To show how wrong that position was, I frequently repeated the following proposal:
I can prove that biological evolution is the truest, best explanation there is for the origin of our species, and that it is the only explanation of biodiversity with either evidentiary support or scientific validity. I can prove this even to your satisfaction over the course of a dozen mutual exchanges. The only trick to that is that you must properly address every point or query, ignoring none. If you repeatedly ignore direct questions, you will default this discussion, and I will be under no obligation to continue.
It wouldn't make much sense to do this in private messages, not if I meant to hold someone accountable to make a point for the common good, so the forum was always a public venue where the content would not likely be altered or deleted. Sometimes I would have moderators in case my contender repeatedly ignored direct questions (as creationists habitually do), then someone else could show an objective consensus as to when the discussion had become pointless to continue.
The trick is to get my opponent to think. Instead of simply telling them anything which they are trained to summarily dismiss without consideration, I would engage their minds with scientific quandaries and insist that they provide their own answers to them. Watching someone squirming to evade that is to watch an exercise in hilarious futility.
I didn't have any defined 12-step program. I never followed an outlined progression. I just wanted there to be an accessible limit of exchanges in which I should be able to present my case well enough even against ingrained misconceptions — enough posts to prove the point beyond reasonable doubt, but few enough that the more intrepid antagonists might take the bait.
Whenever I have seen creationists say that they could validate their position, it often involved substantial investment with high stakes, huge financial commitments, and no time limits on elaborate trials. These overly inconclusive and unfalsifiable challenges were designed to discourage all comers. So I did the very opposite: I tried to make it as simple and straightforward as anything could be with a minimal investment of time, where the onus was entirely on me, and where I could only "win" if the contestant admits that I have made my point. How could anyone confident in their own position possibly be intimidated by that?
Excerpted from Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism by Aron Ra. Copyright © 2016 Aron Ra. Excerpted by permission of Pitchstone Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
The 1st Foundational Falsehood of Creationism: "Evolution = Atheism" 13
The 2nd Foundational Falsehood of Creationism: Sacred Scriptures Are the "Word of God" 40
The 3rd Foundational Falsehood of Creationism: Human Interpretation Is "Absolute Truth" 79
The 4th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism: "Belief Is Knowledge" 110
The 5th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism: "Evolutionism" Part I: "Evolution Is the Religion of Atheism" 134
The 6th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism "Evolutionism" Part II: "Evolution Must Explain the Origin of Life, the Universe, and Everything" 161
The 7th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism: "Evolution Is Random" 188
The 8th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism: "There Are No Beneficial Mutations" 211
The 9th Foundational Falsehood: "No Transitional Species Have Ever Been Found" 237
The 10th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism: "The Evolutionary 'Tree of Life' Is Not Implied in Biology or the Fossil Record" 265
The 11th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism "Macroevolution Has Never Been Observed" 297
The 12th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism: Creation "Science" 323
The 13th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism: "Evolution Is a Fraud" 348
The 14th foundational falsehood of creationism: "Creation Is Evident" 378
The 15th Foundational Falsehood of Creationism: "Evolution Is a Theory, Not a Fact" 411
About the Author 440
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A great source to review and refute the misleading creationism
I have heard many of Aron R a ' s speeches and this was like having them all in one place. This is a very thought out refutation of Creationism and brings to light all its flaws. I highly recommend this book.