Regarding the 2002 Scientific American article by John Rennie:

"15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense"

By: Sean Pitman, MD

Februrary 2016



This is an old, but well known, article attacking the credibility of a number of popular creationist arguments.  Of course, there are many unfortunate creationist arguments – a few of which are listed within this article.  I’ll give you my own take on each of these as listed in the SA article, as well as my response to some of the mistaken arguments often used against creationists that are also cited by John Rennie in his article:


1. Evolution is only a theory. It is not a fact or a scientific law.


First, one must understand that not even a scientific “law” is equivalent to absolute fact.  In science there is always the possibility of being wrong given additional evidence.  There are also different levels of science.  A scientific theory is at a pretty high level of credibility and reproducibility.  The problem with the common creationist argument that, “evolution is only a theory”, is that evolution really isn’t a scientific theory at all – especially when it comes to the Darwinian mechanism of random mutations and natural selection.   This mechanism of evolution is statistically untenable beyond very low levels of functional complexity and the fanciful stories built around it are not based on something that can be tested in a potentially falsifiable manner.  They are nothing more than just-so stories, not a valid scientific theory by any means. 


So, as in the SA article, most evolutionists end up falling back on the “fossil record” at the apparent evolutionary patterns observed within this record.  However, these interpretations of the fossil record and geologic column are not as favorable to the evolutionist position as many would like to believe.  There are many fundamental problems within the fossil record and geologic column that strongly undermine Neo-Darwinism. 



2. Natural selection is based on circular reasoning: the fittest are those who survive, and those who survive are deemed fittest.


Any statement that can be empirically tested in a potentially falsifiable manner is not a circular statement or argument or hypothesis.  It is for this reason that the proposed mechanism of “natural selection” is not a circular hypothesis or argument – despite the confusion of many creationists regarding this concept.  Many people, on both sides of this issue, simply do not understand the concept of a truly circular argument.  On this point, creationists are on no better ground than are many evolutionists.


3. Evolution is unscientific, because it is not testable or falsifiable. It makes claims about events that were not observed and can never be re-created.


What is “unscientific” about evolutionary claims isn’t the direct observations of genetic mutations within various populations, genetic similarities between breeding populations, or the patterns and other features within the fossil record.  These are directly observable facts.  What is not an observable fact is that pattern similarities necessitate an evolutionary relationship between different types of animals or gene pools.  That is the Darwinian assumption that is based on an unwarranted leap of faith that somehow the Darwinian mechanism is capable of explaining, not only a nested hierarchical pattern, but novel functional systems at high levels of functional complexity.  This leap of faith is not at all scientific.  It hasn’t been demonstrated or tested and is demonstrably untenable statistically beyond the lowest levels of functional complexity.  This is the key problem that Rennie fails to address (Link).


4. Increasingly, scientists doubt the truth of evolution.


The problem with Rennie's argument that papers supportive of ID aren’t found in the mainstream scientific literature is that such papers are consistently blocked and those who do try to published such argument are at great risk of losing their jobs and/or reputations within the scientific community.  Very few are brave enough to do this.  Just ask those like Richard Sternberg or Raymond Damidian.  I would agree, however, that those scientists who support ID concepts are still in the significant minority.  Yet, it does seem that more and more scientist are at least open to the idea that the evolutionary mechanism (random mutations and natural selection), in particular, does seem too limited in its potential to explain the diversity of life that we see on this planet (Link).  In this the ID community is, I think, gaining some significant ground. 


5. The disagreements among even evolutionary biologists show how little solid science supports evolution.


Not a very good creationist argument.  I agree with Rennie on this one.


6. If humans descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?


Again, not a good creationist argument… as pointed out in the SA article.


7. Evolution cannot explain how life first appeared on earth.


This is a valid argument – but, as Rennie points out, explaining the origin of the first living things on Earth really has nothing to do with Darwinian evolution from that point onward.


8. Mathematically, it is inconceivable that anything as complex as a protein, let alone a living cell or a human, could spring up by chance.


Rennie argues that “natural selection” is not based on “chance” – which is true.  What is rather nonsensical, however, is that Rennie appeals to a form of Dawkins’ “Methinks it is like a weasel” evolutionary algorithm where a collection of randomly generated character sequences evolve into the works of Shakespeare!  There you have it!  Evolution in action! 


However, what Rennie failed to point out (as did Dawkins) is that in real life natural selection doesn’t know, ahead of time, what the target sequence is.  Natural selection cannot select, in a positive manner, to keep certain characters in place according to some target template, one character at a time.  That’s not how things work in real life – not at all.  And, this is a fundamental error in the understanding of most evolutionists when it comes to their views of how things can actually evolve over time.  What really happens is that natural selection can do nothing, nothing at all outside of pure random chance, until a novel sequence happens to be produced by random chance alone that also happens to produce a reproductive advantage.  And, when it comes to higher and higher levels of functional complexity, the rate of success declines dramatically – along an exponential curve.  That, in a nutshell, is the fundamental problem for evolutionists – which most of them don’t understand at all (Link).


9. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that systems must become more disordered over time. Living cells therefore could not have evolved from inanimate chemicals, and multicellular life could not have evolved from protozoa.

Actually, the 2LoT only deals with thermodynamic systems.  It doesn’t deal with what most people view as “ordered” or “unordered” mechanical systems.  It also doesn’t deal with the functionality of a system.  The 2LoT only deals with the transfer of heat energy and the ability of this transfer to drive “useful work”.  That’s it.  Most creationists (and evolutionists by the way) don’t understand this concept in sufficient detail.  However, the SA article did correctly point out that the Earth is not a closed thermodynamic system.  There is plenty of thermodynamic energy flow, from the Sun, to drive evolutionary progress – if only there were an adequate mechanism to take advantage of this thermodynamic energy flow!  You see, the problem isn’t with a lack of enough raw energy to drive evolutionary progress. The problem is with having enough pre-established informational complexity to correctly direct the raw thermodynamic energy to produce novel systems at higher and higher levels of functional complexity.  Without pre-existing information, raw energy just makes things hot.  It does not, by itself, creative novel systems of functional complexity beyond very very low levels (Link). 


10. Mutations are essential to evolution theory, but mutations can only eliminate traits. They cannot produce new features.


This isn’t true.  Mutations can and do produce qualitatively new features and systems of function.  It is just that they only do so at very low levels of functional complexity.  They cannot produce novel systems of functional complexity beyond the lowest rungs of the ladder because of the problem of exponentially expanding non-beneficial gaps with each step up ladder.   Again, this is the key point that evolutionists, like Rennie in this SA article, fail to comprehend. 


11. Natural selection might explain microevolution, but it cannot explain the origin of new species and higher orders of life.


Rennie pulls a bit of slight-of-hand here.  He explains how natural selection can drive the production of “new species”, which is true, but fails to explain that “new species” are defined in many different ways which have nothing to do with the production of novel systems of function beyond very very low levels of functional complexity.  Also, the proposed merger of complex organelles, such as mitochondria and other single-celled organisms by Lynn Margulis, has never been demonstrated in the lab nor is it likely to have ever happened even given billions of years of time.

For further information on mitochondrial evolution see: Link.


12. Nobody has ever seen a new species evolve.


As Rennie points it, this isn’t true.  New species have been observed to evolve – depending upon how one defined “species”.  However, no qualitatively new systems of function have been shown to evolve beyond very very low levels of functional complexity – not beyond those requiring a minimum of a least 1000 specifically arranged amino acid residues (Link). 

13. Evolutionists cannot point to any transitional fossils--creatures that are half reptile and half bird, for instance.


Creationists should not use this argument because morphology that can appear “transitional” may or may not be based on anything that is actually “transitional” genetically.  Interpreting fossils is a lot more “magic” than real science – especially when it comes to determining the mechanism responsible for the supposed “transition”. 


14. Living things have Fantastically intricate features -- at the anatomical, cellular and molecular levels--that could not function if they were any less complex or sophisticated. The only prudent conclusion is that they are the products of intelligent design, not evolution.


In short, Paley was right – Rennie is wrong.  The appeal to intermediate steppingstones within the proposed pathway of something like the evolution of the human eye is based on the idea that, “if a few reasonable intermediates can be found, the gaps between these are most certainly crossable by random mutations and natural selection.”  The problem with this notion is that the gaps between the proposed steppingstones are absolutely enormous – far to wide for the evolutionary mechanism to cross this side of trillions upon trillions of years of time.  Also, once again, the notion that “comparative genetics” supports the evolutionary story is nonsense if the mechanism can only explain the hierarchical pattern, but not the massive gaps that exist in sequence space between selectable steppingstones at these higher levels of functional complexity (for more information on this see:  Link).


15. Recent discoveries prove that even at the microscopic level, life has a quality of complexity that could not have come about through evolution.


Rennie sites the arguments of Kenneth Miller regarding flagellar evolution in an attempt to explain how complex multipart systems, such as a rotary bacterial flagellar motility system, could have evolved from more simple systems with fewer parts.  He even sites the TTSS “toxin injector” subsystem as a starting point for flagellar evolution.  Of course, it is not known that the TTSS system devolved from the fully formed flagellar system – not the other way round.  It is easy to explain how evolution can proceed downhill.  It is quite another thing to explain how evolution can proceed very far up the hill.  The problem, yet again, is that the gaps in sequence space between the proposed steppingstones in flagellar evolution are simply far far far to far apart for the evolutionary mechanism to cross in what anyone would consider a reasonable amount of time.  It just doesn’t happen in real life.  Not a single proposed steppingstone in the flagellar evolution pathway has ever been observed to be crossed nor is it likely, this side of trillions of years of time, that such an observation will ever be realized.


Also, Rennie's argument in the SA article that a system that can be “reduced” without losing all function means that the concept if “irreducible complexity” is nonsense is itself nonsense.  Look, just because I can take the motor out of a car and the lights still work doesn’t therefore mean that the motility function of the car doesn’t require a minimum number of specifically arranged parts.  The same thing is true for the bacterial flagellum.  Just because 75% of the parts can be taken away and the remaining parts can still work as a toxin injector doesn’t mean, therefore, that the motility function of the flagellum doesn’t require a minimum number of specifically arranged parts before the motility function, in particular, will start to work to a selectable advantage.  This minimum requirement creates a “gap” between itself and the next lower “steppingstone” system.  The same is true for sentences within the English language.  Take away the majority of a sentence and you might still have shorter phrases that are still meaningful.  However, there remains a gap between these shorter phrases and the larger sentences where there is no smooth gradation of selectably functional/beneficial steppingstones (Link).


For further information on the notion of flagellar evolution see the following Link.   




. Home Page                                                                           . Truth, the Scientific Method, and Evolution   

. Methinks it is Like a Weasel                                                    . The Cat and the Hat - The Evolution of Code   

. Maquiziliducks - The Language of Evolution                    . Defining Evolution    

. The God of the Gaps                                                           . Rube Goldberg Machines  

. Evolving the Irreducible                                                        . Gregor Mendel  

. Natural Selection                                                                   . Computer Evolution  

. The Chicken or the Egg                                                           . Antibiotic Resistance  

. The Immune System                                                              . Pseudogenes  

. Genetic Phylogeny                                                                 . Fossils and DNA  

. DNA Mutation Rates                                                              . Donkeys, Horses, Mules and Evolution  

. The Fossil Record                                                                  . The Geologic Column  

.  Early Man                                                                             . The Human Eye  

. Carbon 14 and Tree Ring Dating                                          . Radiometric Dating  

 . Amino Acid Racemization Dating                           . The Steppingstone Problem

.  Quotes from Scientists                                                             . Ancient Ice

 . Meaningful Information                                                            . The Flagellum

 . Harlen Bretz                                        . Milankovitch Cycles

 . The Evolution of Mitochondria                        . Meyer vs. Marshall Debate

 . Kenneth Miller's Best Arguments




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