by John Rennie, Editor in Chief
July 2002 issue of Scientific American, pp. 78-85
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Opponents of evolution want to make a place for creationism by tearing down real science, but their arguments don't hold up. This article does an excellent job addressing a number of the critical elements in these arguments, revealing the errors in the following 15 creationist claims:
1. Evolution is only a theory. It is not a fact of scientific law.
2. Natural selection is based on circular reasoning: the fittest are those who survive, and those who survive are deemed fittest.
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.
4. Increasingly, scientists doubt the truth of evolution.
5. The disagreements among even evolutionary biologists show how little solid science supports evolution.
6. If humans descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?
7. Evolution cannot explain how life first appeared on earth.
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.
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.
10. Mutations are essential to evolution theory, but mutations can only eliminate traits. They cannot produce new features.
11. Natural selection might explain microevolution, but it cannot explain the origin of new species and higher orders of life.
12. Nobody has ever seen a new species evolve.
13. Evolutionists cannot point to any transitional fossils - creatures that are half reptile and half bird, for instance.
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.
15. Recent discoveries prove that even at the microscopic level, life has a quality of complexity that could not have come about through evolution.
Some additional comments point out the importance of widely publicizing this issue, somehow attempting to reach the general public, so that our population has a more accurate, realistic perception of what science is and how it works. This is especially important considering the increasingly technological world we live in, and the practical success that science has had in pushing back the veil of ignorance and superstition which has impeded understanding and control of natural phenomena, e.g. the causes of disease and natural disasters. An accurately informed citizenry is critical to the funding of future applications of science and for widened career opportunities for everyone.
In addition, a number of excellent resources are added. Unfortunately, the role of science teachers, as a means for an effective public outreach, is not emphasized. With that in mind, I would have added a few more resources which directly provide effective tools for teaching about science and evolution, e.g. our ENSIweb site, the Understanding Evolution site, and the NAS book: Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science.
Related commentary in this same issue of Scientific American: