Drive By Posting of Anti-Evolution Links: A Response

This is a response to a drive by posting of anti-evolution links by a young earth creationist. Such tactics are both rude and ineffective. Here's why.

On my Evolution of Man page, a man named Daniel used a tactic commonly known as drive by posting to disagree with the progression and evidence that I presented. Using my Facebook comment system, he presented a series of links without any explanation of what those links represent.

If you are reading this text box, then I have not finished editing this page yet. That will not harm its message, and that is why I have already uploaded it. I have spent approximately four hours writing this page, and I'm very tired. I hate to leave it sitting on my computer when it's already a useful page.

Over the next few days, I will edit it or have someone else edit it for me, and I will remove the text box at that time. I have a lot of hospital appointments limiting my time because my stem cell transplant (for leukemia) is coming up in less than a month.

Why Drive By Posting Is Rude

Anyone can throw up a series of links, as though they somehow constitute evidence. When you do so, however, you are asking all of the other readers of your comment to click your link or links and then read an entire web page or series of web pages to examine your argument.

Most people who are looking into the creation versus evolution controversy are already doing their own research. If you have evidence or an argument that contradicts what they have found, then your job is to present that evidence or argument. Once you have done so, then you can give links or references to further explain or to back up your argument.

On this page, I'm answering a specific post by a man named Daniel. Daniel is no one to any of us who read his comment on my Evolution of Man page. None of us have ever heard of him, and we know nothing about him. Thus, it is appropriate for him to tell us what he is representing and why, not send us off to do research to back up a position he has not even explained.

In a sense, the drive by poster is saying, "I'm really too lazy to tell you what I've read or to explain what I believe. Go take your precious time and research what I'm telling you to research because I don't want to waste my time on you."

So the first problem with the drive by posting of anti-evolution links (or any other links) is that it is rude.

Drive By Posting of Anti-Evolution Links Is Always a Gate to Misrepresentations and Falsehood

From a standpoint of a person who has spent 17 years following up on arguments by anti-evolutionists, I find Daniel's post more rude that most. I already know that a set of links posted by an anti-evolutionist will be full of misrepresentations and falsehoods, listed one after another. Presented one at a time, these falsehoods can be exposed, and after two or three, the argument will be over. No one will want to hear any more once they've seen that there's no basis to the arguments.

But many of my readers have not had that experience. You've never been in a position of researching young earth creationist claims one after another only to find one of the following three things:

  • Evidence that has not been thoroughly researched and proves to be unfounded rumor.
  • "Straw Man" arguments: Arguments that begin my mischaracterizing evolutionary theory, then questioning the logic of that mischaracterization.
  • "Quote Mining": Quotes pulled out of context in an attempt to make it sound like a scientist who believes in evolution is questioning the evidence for evolution when he or she really isn't.

That said, let's not leave this at just a claim. Let's actually look at Daniel's Drive By Posting of anti-evolution links and see what he's offered us.

I'm going through the links in the order he gave them, no picking and choosing.

Anti-Evolution Link #1: Poor Quality Quote Mining

Oops!

I need to point out here that I accidentally started with the links in Daniel's second post rather than the links in his first post. I'm not sure how it happened, though I think that I skipped his first post because it began with a link to the Conservipedia page on evolution. Since Conservipedia is similar to Wikipedia except that it's from only a small segment of the population, its evolution page seemed too general to address. The second link in that first post was from an Intelligent Design web site, and ID doesn't deny evolution, so it seemed irrelevant. At that point, I jumped to his second post and forgot I did.

None of that affects anything on this page, but I didn't want you to think I was trying to slip something by you.

Daniel's first link is a poor quality page of quote mines (see bullets above). First, all the reference are given as numbers, but there's no corresponding footnotes on the page! The numbers are also not linked, so there's no way to know what those numbers represent.

But let's look at the quote mines we can follow.

First, this person quotes "John Bonner, a biologist at Princeton," as saying that discussions of ancestral descent are "a festering mass of unsupported assertions."

What does that mean? Is this biologist from Princeton acknowledging that there's no evidence for evolution?

No, he's not, and even if he was, the quote is 50 years old, dating from 1961, the year I was born. It's from an article reviewing Implications of Evolution by G.A. Kerkut. The article was published in American Scientist.

The context of Bonner's quote, as with most quotes that have been "mined" by evolutionists, is phylogeny. His complete sentence is, "In the case of phylogeny our textbooks are little help; in fact they are, as a rule, a festering mass of unsupported assertions" (ref).

Phylogeny refers to the relationships between species found in the fossil record. For example, there is much debate today over finds like Australopithecus sediba. The leader of the study of the relatively complete skeleton believes it is a direct ancestor of man. Donald Johanson, on the other hand, who discovered the first Australopithecus afarensis skeleton, affectionately known as "Lucy," believes that A. sediba ought to be Homo sediba and is an offshoot, probably of Homo habilis.

This does not mean that A. sediba, A. afarensis, and H. habilis are not evidence for evolution or that they are not part of the hominin lineage. The evolutionary "tree" is more like a collection of evolutionary bushes. We can be confident that these three species are on the same branch as man, but we cannot know which are direct ancestors and which are side lineages that eventually went extinct.

When John Bonner writes in 1961 that the phylogeny of textbooks are a "festering mass of unsupported assertions," he happened to be discussing "the evolutionary sequence of invertebrate phyla" (ibid.). He was simply saying that we do not have evidence for the order in which the various invertebrate phyla evolved from one another (the "evolutionary sequence").

Link #1 Continued: Expanding His Quote Mine Without Basis

Beginning with this quote mine, the author of our first link moves on to Donald Johanson (which he spells wrong), the person who discovered A. afarensis and believes it's a clear ancestor of man. He quotes Johanson as saying that gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees "spring out of nowhere."

Despite the fact that it is irrelevant whether the Johanson quote is a quote mine, it almost certainly is. It is easy enough to find a web site that gives a reference for Johanson's quote so we can look it up ourselves. That web site is of course an evolution site because in most cases only the evolution side gives worthwhile references we can follow up on. The blogger who wrote that page has actually read the quote in context, and he gives a long list of hominoid fossils that may be related to orangutans.

Here we don't have to find out whether that's a quote mine or not because this quote is irrelevant to the evidence for evolution. Instead, it is our author's false expansion of Johanson's words that are not true. Our link #1 author adds the following to Johanson's quote:

The same is true of giraffes, elephants, wolves, and all species; they all simply burst upon the scene de novo [anew], as it were.

What??? It is very simple to refute claims that use a term like "all" because you only have to provide one example to show it not to be true. And I've already done that with man, whales, and birds. We could add sloths, placental mammals as a whole, the transition from reptile to mammal and from fish to amphibian, and a myriad of others. It's simple nonsense to say "they all simply burst upon the scene de novo."

Link #1 Continued: Irrational Statement Backed by Quote Mine

Our link #1 author then writes:

So many questions arise in the study of fossils (paleontology) that even many evolutionary paleontologists put little stock in the fossil record.

Really? Paleontologists, "evolutionary" ones, put little stock in the fossil record, even though the definition of their field is:

... the study of what fossils tell us about the ecologies of the past, about evolution, and about our place, as humans, in the world. (Univ. of Berkeley Paleontology web site)

Paleontologists, by definition, study fossils, yet this author wants to tell us that they "put little stock in the fossil record"? That's not even rational.

He then uses another quote mine to prove his point, telling us that D. Raup in an article titled "Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology" in 1979, says:

We are about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million species but the situation hasn't changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin's time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information.

It is true enough that David Raup wrote this. What our author doesn't tell us is that immediately afterward he also wrote:

What appeared to be a nice progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be much more complex and much less gradualistic. So Darwin's problem has not been alleviated in the last 120 years and we still have a record which does show change but one which can hardly be look upon as the most reasonable consequence of natural selection. (ref, emphasis in original)

How could a paleontologist make all those statements together?

Simple. In the 70's some paleontologists were very excited about the new "punctuated equilibrium" theory. This theory said that rather than consistent, gradual change over time, the fossil record shows sudden jumps followed by long periods of stasis.

So, taking the example of the evolution of whales, which we cover on this site, I give 8 families of cetacean ancestors which which span 28 million years from 53 million years ago (mya) to 25 mya. That's an average of 3.5 million years between these fossils, and cetacean ancestry is very well attested as fossil lineages go.

To men like Raup—and Eldridge Niles and Stephen Jay Gould, who developed the punctuated equilibrium theory—these cetacean ancestors occurred in jumps. They don't believe that the transitions between most of these families will ever be found because they don't believe that the evolution from, for example, pakicetus to ambulocetus occurred gradually. They would expect to find that there is a transition of a few thousand years, a very short time in which to find fossils, followed by perhaps a million or more years in which there is very little change. Thus, it is likely that we will find pakicetus and ambulocetus, but very unlikely that we will find the transition between them because it happened so quickly. "Quickly," of course, is by evolutionary standards, meaning a few thousand years.

But does this mean that such men think the fossil record does not prove evolution?

Not at all. Stephen Jay Gould, the founder of the theory, had this to say about ambulocetus:

If you had given me a blank piece of paper and a blank check, I could not have drawn you a theoretical intermediate any better or more convincing than Ambulocetus. Those dogmatists who by verbal trickery can make white black, and black white, will never be convinced of anything, but Ambulocetus is the very animal that they proclaimed impossible in theory. (Natural History Magazine, May, 1994)

In other words, Stephen Jay Gould, one of the most vocal proponents of evolution there ever was, considered Ambulocetus a perfect transitional fossil.

Did our David Raup, quoted above, agreed with Gould? In the very article that our link #1 author quoted, he wrote:

I think it is safe to say that we know for sure that natural selection, as a process, does work. There is a mountain of experimental and observational evidence, much of it predating genetics, which shows that natural selection as a biological process works.

Finally, Raup concludes the article by stating that his point is not to overthrow Darwin, but to simply make an adjustment:

If the ideas turn out to be valid, it will mean that Darwin was correct in what he said but that he was explaining only a part of the total evolutionary picture.

So our Link #1 author has proven to be nothing but a quote miner, citing scientists out of context in an attempt to make them sound like they were saying something they never meant. In addition, he throws in some false expansions of the out of context quotes without even making an attempt to back his assertions up with evidence.

Link #2: Profuse Ignorance

I'd really like to be nice about Daniel's second link (again, his Drive By Post—links that he is too lazy to summarize—is at the bottom of my Evolution of Man page), but Link # 2 is simply a collection of faulty arguments based on an elementary, and thus mostly incorrect, understanding of how evolution works.

He begins with a paragraph titled "Scientific Fact No. !," but all it really is is a confession that he doesn't understand how wings could evolve. He could try researching how wings evolved, but apparently he doesn't think that's worth his efforts. He finds himself qualified to dismiss evolution because he can't figure out the evolution of wings while sitting at his computer typing.

It really doesn't take a textbook, however, Most of us could figure it out by looking at a squirrel, then a flying, squirrel, and then a bat. Mystery resolved.

By the way, flying squirrels are not the only gliding animals.

His "Scientific Fact No. 2" is a confession that he hasn't looked at the evidence for the evolution of man. He hasn't noticed both the geographic and morphological sequence in the fossils that establish a surprisingly clear lineage for man. You can read about the majority of that sequence on my Evolution of Man page.

At this point, I would normally skip the rest of his confessions of ignorance, but his "Scientific Fact No. 5" deserves honorable mention. Somehow, he managed to find out that there is an error checking process when cells reproduce. From that, however, he concludes that young earth creationists, evolutionists, and every book on science ever produced is wrong, and that DNA cannot change from generation to generation.

Wow.

Let's move on.

Link #1 on Post #2:

Daniel put up two posts in my Facebook comments section of the Evolution of Man page. I really only want to look at three of his links, as this page is long enough already, so let's jump to his second post so that we have at least one link from it.

Please note that before I wrote this page I had only looked at his very first link. After I refuted it, I simply moved on to his second link, knowing that it would be as easy to refute as every link I've been sent for 17 years. As it turned out ...

There have a been a couple of exceptions to the "easy to refute" pattern. I mention one on my Creation Evidence page, which is Robert Gentry's Polonium Halos. I know that most others on the evolution side of the debate won't like my giving credence to that argument, but it's a good one, and Gentry is correct that it has not been refuted in a peer-reviewed journal. Refutations can be found, but they have not been published.

Note, though, that Daniel's links are not an exception. As I write this sentence, I have not yet looked at the link I'm about to refute. I'm just confidently expecting more of the same.

Let's call this link "Link #2-1" since it's the first link on his second post.

I just went to his "second" post to get the link, and I realized that I accidentally began with his second post. I put an explanation up at the top of the page, and now I'm moving on to his first post, even though it is a general article on evolution at Conservapedia.com.

We'll still call it "Link #2-1," however.

The Conservapedia article starts out okay. It begins by pointing that over 700 scientists have signed a statement expressing skepticism about "the theory of Darwinian evolution." That's not hard to believe. If well-trained scientists like John Baumgardner, Robert Gentry, Walt Brown, and Hugh Ross can openly oppose evolution and ignore the arguments of the huge majority of their comrades for decades, then there's little doubt that across the world there are at least 700 scientists who are skeptical about evolution. That is, however, a very small percentage of the world's scientists. Further, every one of them has philosophical reasons for opposing evolution that have nothing to do with scientific evidence, almost always because they believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible.

The article then references a stunning study showing that only about 28% of high school science teachers openly endorse evolution! Of course, it's also true that only 13% "explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design" (ref). And when intelligent design is mentioned, we need to remember that ID specifically dodges the issue of whether life evolved, so not all of even these 13% necessarily oppose evolution.

The next bit of "evidence" the Conservapedia article presents is 15 Questions for Evolutionists, which the article says we "cannot satisfactorily answer." Of course, several are answered right here on this site, a couple are absurd, and most show an astonishing ignorance of evolutionary theory.

For example, question #4 is "Why is natural selection ... taught as 'evolution,' as if it explains the origin of the diversity of life? By definition it is a selective process ... so it is not a creative process."

No, natural selection is not a creative process, which is why it is not taught as evolution. It is taught as the selective process of evolution, while mutation is taught as the creative process. Evolution is a two-step process. Mutation creates new modifications, and selection—or sometimes pure chance—eliminates many of the modifications.

Or take question #!3. It asks where are the scientific breakthroughs due to evolution. The answer to that question is completely dependent on perspective. The discovery of DNA explained how mutation occurs, producing the diversity of life that natural selection can act upon. Was that a breakthrough due to evolution? In a sense it was. We knew that mutations happen, and we knew that some of them are good, at least for the survival of the species in which the mutations happen. For example, we see that sort of evolution when bacteria evolve the ability to resist our antibiotics. DNA provided a mechanism to explain the evolution we see in a minor basis around us and on a major basis in the fossil record.

But is that a scientific breakthrough <em>due to</em> evolution? That depends on your perspective. Evolution is more the product of scientific breakthroughs, a theory that exquisitely explains the the scientific breakthroughs, and thus it provides a guiding light for what to look for next.

Of course, the article then goes on to quote mine to justify their question. They write:

Dr Marc Kirschner, chair of the Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, stated: "In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself. Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all."

What the writers of these 15 questions do not tell you is that Dr. Kirschner is complaining in this quote. In other words, as a chair of a biology department that is careful to take an inter-disciplinary approach, he finds it a problem that so many disciplines of science take a solitary road, not learning more from one another.

The same Dr. Marc Kirschner who works on evolutionary systems and pointed out that the lack of understanding of evolution has caused the spread of multiple resistant strains of bacteria? The man works for Harvard Medicine, he is not a creationist. His COMPLAINT is that a lot of biology has been going independent of evolution and we would go a lot faster if we took evolutionary theory into account. ("15 Answers for Creationists". Accessed 11/6/2015.)

What is much worse, is that in question 13, they state, "Evolution actually hinders medical discovery" (emphasis theirs). They then quote a Christian aircraft mechanic, writing on a creationist web site, who cites a book on back health by a physical trainer, who in turn cites a general foreman for a railroad's mechanical department as accusing evolutionists of teaching that the curvature in our backs is due to deterioration from walking upright.

I'm not kidding. They send us to a web site, which quotes hearsay from a physical therapist asserting that a railroad foreman teaches a class on backs in which he says that evolutionists attribute the curvature in our backs to deterioration from walking upright.

Is there a worse source that could be quoted to establish that "evolution actually hinders medical discovery"? It's double or triple hearsay based on no greater authority than a railroad foreman's supposed verbal statement in a class on backs for railroad workers!

But the Conservapedia doesn't stop there. I have to show you at least one more thing they've done. (By the way, you can find answers to all 15 questions with a search on Google. The questions are pretty silly.)

They make the statement in the seventh paragraph (if you include the indented quote about what Britons believe as a paragraph), that "the fossil record does not support the theory of evolution." To check out this assertion, I clicked on the footnote at the end of the sentence. The footnote includes four links, so I clicked on the first of those, which sent me to the web page of one Stephen Jones , a Christian with no scientific background. He does, however, collect quotes on evolution. [As of 11/1/2017, the link to Stephen Jones no longer worked, so I removed it.]

There were a large number of categories of quotes on that page, so I simply clicked on the first one. Surprise, surprise! The first quote on that page was the quote mine we covered above from David Raup, the promoter of punctuated equilibrium.

Sigh ...

Link #2-1 Continued

I do need to cover the first scientific quote on the Conservapedia page because I skipped it to tell you about how their assertion about the fossil record simply sent us to another quote mine.

In the sixth paragraph, just before their quote-mine-backed assertion about the fossil record, we find the first real scientific quote in the Conservapedia article. It quotes Swedish geneticist Dr. Nils Herribert-Nilsson as saying:

My attempts to demonstrate Evolution by an experiment carried on for more than 40 years have completely failed. At least, I should hardly be accused of having started from a preconceived antievolutionary standpoint.

Finally, a quote from someone who actually did oppose evolution and who really meant what he said!

Now, it's a secondhand quote, which is a sign of pitiful research. They send us to a page in a book by Arthur Custance, who is quoting Dr. Herribert-Nilsson rather than quoting Herribert-Nilsson themselves. But, as I pointed out, in this case the quote is from someone who denied evolution.

Finding thorough information on Herribert-Nilsson on the internet is difficult, but there is enough available. Dr. Nilsson espoused a theory called "emication." There is no thorough explanation of it on the internet, but it involved the belief that catastrophes destroyed most of life, creating tidal waves that moved fossils all around the world, away from the places where the species originally lived, and then sudden freezing in high altitudes quickly preserved those fossils. Then, when all the earth's organisms were few, then somehow genes came together to create new genes that produced higher life forms.

Conservapedia, the same web site that quoted him originally as speaking against evolution, quotes him as describing "emication" in this way:

At various periods in geological time, violent revolutions have destroyed all the earth's biota, only to have living forms reconstituted by a sudden coming together of organic molecules to form gametes possessing the capability of developing into some highly complex form such as a pine tree, and elephant, or a man.

This is a man who should be quoted to prove that the fossil record does not suppart evolution? Clearly he believed in some sort of evolutionary progress. To him much of life was destroyed, on repeated occasions, and then somehow when that happened, organic molecules "suddenly coming together" gained the ability to develop into "some highly complex form.

That is simply a bizarre version of evolution that never took hold. Dr. Nilsson died in 1955, which is before DNA was discovered.

Conclusions: Why Drive By Posting Is Both Rude and a Waste of Time

What you see above has been repeated by me at least a hundred times over the last 17 years. Someone comes by, tells me that some person has arguments I've never heard before. I go listen to that person's video or read their book or web site, and I find that they are using the same methods and rehashing the same arguments as everyone else.

I do not normally waste my time on Drive By Posting like what Daniel did. I already know that what I found above is what I will always find. In this case, however, I did it for you so that you could see what I mean when I say that for 17 years I've found the same things over and over and over again.

It is for this reason that when someone posts a link or recommends a book, I tell them that they should present their favorite piece of evidence instead. Let's look at the arguments one at a time. I already know what I'm going to find, but they are only going to know if they actually walk through the arguments with me.

Conclusion: Openness on Both Sides

I get asked all the time by young earth creationists whether I am open to their evidence. Yet to find one of them who will actually look at their "evidence" with me is a rare occurrence.

To encourage the supporters of evolution who might be reading this, I have found that many young earth creationists are forced to be open to evolution once they go through the evidence one argument at a time in person. The evidence for a young earth is so bad, and the answers from science are so compelling, that it is relatively common to have a young earth creationist stammer, then immediately switch to the Bible, not to argue with me, but to ask how I reconcile the Bible with the obviously strong evidence I am presenting to them.

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