Thursday, April 15, 2004

News From the Home Front Regrettably, the student newspaper here at James Madison University has published this op-ed defending creationism. The title pretty much says it all: “Evidence Supports Creationist Position”. Actually, the headline on the jump page for the article is, in its way, even more amusing: “Evolution: Theory Invalid”. The editor who wrote that one certainly scores points for clarity.

The article is merely a repetition of some of the standard creationist talking points: Basic probability theory shows that life could not have originated by naturalistic means and transitional forms are lacking in the fossil record. I won't bother trying to reply here (I dutifully sent in my letter to the editor earlier today), but there is one part of it I'd like to mention.

To defend the idea that transitional forms are lacking in the fossil record, the article's author misuses quotes from the big three: Colin Patterson, Stephen Jay Gould, and George Gaylord Simpson. All three are presented out of context, but I found his remarks about Simpson especially interesting. Here's what appeared in the editorial:


George Gaylord Simpson, an influential paleontologist, wrote “The earliest and most primitive members of every order already have the basic ordinal characters, and in no case is an approximately continuous series from one order to another known. In most cases the break is so sharp and the gap so large that the origin of the order is speculative and much disputed.”.

Although Simpson penned these words in 1944, the latest fossil-finds fair no better for the evolutionist.


Here's what Simpson actually said:


The earliest and most primitive members of every order already have the basic ordinal characters, and in no case is an approximately continuous series from one order to another known. In most cases the break is so sharp and the gap so large that the origin of the order is speculative and much disputed. Of course the orders all converge backward in time, to different degrees. The earliest known members are much more alike than the latest known members, and there is little doubt, for instance, but that all of the highly diverse ungulates did have a common ancestry; but the line making actual connection with such an ancestry is not known in even one instance.


Simpson's point involved inferring specific lines of descent through the fossil record. It had nothing to do with other transitional forms exist or whether the fossil record is consistent with evolution.

For more examples of creationist misuses of the words of George Gaylord Simpson, follow this link.

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