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Refuting Evolution by Jonathan Sarfati, Part I


  10:25:55 pm, by Nimble   , 1469 words  
Categories: Books, Religion, Science

Refuting Evolution by Jonathan Sarfati, Part I

[Other parts of the review]

I picked up this book at a charity book sale for the SPCA out in Cochrane. It is morbidly fascinating to see books that purport to take down an entire scientific edifice. I took a pencil with me when I first started reading it, because I thought I might have a note or two to make about it.

Well, it's thoroughly annotated now.

Note that this is the 1999 edition. I understand that there is a later edition out there. However, unless it is an otherwise blank page that simply says "I'm sorry", its contribution is unlikely to be better than that of this edition....

This book is essentially a creationist response to the small NAS book entitled "Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science (1998)", to show how it's wrong and evolution is wrong and that many things you might have thought weren't evolution actually are... and are wrong.

It starts out with a doozy of an assertion in the Introduction, quoting the NAS book:

Many students receive little or no exposure to the most important concept in modern biology, a concept essential to understanding key aspects of living things - biological evolution.

However, it's hard to believe that "many students receive little or no exposure" to evolution. The whole secular system in America (and most other countries around the world) is underpinned by evolution.


What is this magical land where nigh all of the students receive education in evolution? How far would one have to stretch the definition of evolution to make the "underpinned" statement make any sense at all?

Chapter 1 tries to set forth a "both sides" - as if there would ever be just two - "are biased anyhow" proposal. Since evolution isn't a "movement" headed by anyone, Sarfati grabs quotes that will demonstrate such a bias, mortaring these bricks with numerous non sequiturs and digs at humanists and liberal Christians.

The one quote he uses by Boyce Rensberger goes on to describe how scientists are not as objective as you might think. They believe in their own ideas long before they assemble the hard evidence to prove it. Here is the tail end of that quote:

Motivated by faith in his own ideas and a desire for acceptance by his peers, a scientist will labor for years knowing in his heart that his theory is correct but devising experiment after experiment whose results he hopes will support his position

This is important. Sarfati may think he has caught the science community out with such an admission, but he has glossed over, intentionally or not, the most important part of the process of science.

We know people have biases, and that these biases could lead them to entirely different answers, not all of which can be correct.

The question has been and is to this very day: how do you control for all that?

The scientific method is one of the very best processes we have to help control peoples' biases. Things discovered with this process are at least in principle rediscoverable should the knowledge be lost, and the results are likewise in principle replicable by anyone else on the globe. Try to accomplish that with contradictory revelations!

"...devising experiment after experiment whose results he hopes will support his position"

Those are the differences right there: devising the means to try to show you are right, and hoping instead of asserting that the results will be supportive.

Sarfati also complains that science uses the “game” of seeing how far they can go using exclusively natural premises. One particular problem with this complaint is that creation scientists use this “game” themselves often enough; they just give in to supernatural speculation very quickly when gaps become too large.

Take a look-see at an example of creationist research:

In normal circumstances, the number of molecules in each of the four groups-three ortho and one para - is roughly equal. All the magnetic moments cancel out, so that water normally has no net magnetic moment of its own. However, God was under no requirement to create the water molecules in their normal order. For example, He could have created all the molecules with their proton magnetic moments lined up in a given direction, producing the maximum magnetic moment possible from the protons...

...In the previous article I put an arbitrary factor, k, into the equations. This alignment factor represents what fraction' of the maximum field God chose.

When a magnetic moment should be zero, as in Humphreys’ attempt to show the transformation of the earth from a sphere of water (which is what Genesis implies it is to start with) into what it is today, but a zero magnetic moment would not work, then God comes to the rescue. The true definition of "then a miracle occurs..."

The problem with invoking the Divine there is the same problem with religious claims in general: they devolve into he said/he said arguments with no agreed-upon method to resolve the claim.

Throughout this chapter, Sarfati constantly attempts to tar evolution in the sight of his fellow believers by tying it to atheists, Marxists and humanists. Atheists like it. Richard Dawkins said it allowed him to become an intellectually fulfilled atheist. E. O. Wilson left the Southern Baptist Church when he got to university and heard about evolution. Humanists have evolution-derived statements in their Humanist Manifesto.

Then he pulls a dishonest little switch, one of many in this tome, and goes from the 1973 Humanist Manifesto’s:

2. Humanism believes that Man is a part of nature and has emerged as the result of a continuous process

…to saying “This is exactly what evolution teaches” and then proceeding to use J. Dunphy’s “A Religion for a New Age” talking about taking over public schools with humanistic religion over “the rotting corpse of Christianity”, which he prefaces with:

Many humanist leaders are quite open about using the public schools to proselytize their faith. This might surprise some parents who think the schools are supposed to be free of religious indoctrination, but this quote makes it clear:

Besides the bizarre equivocation fallacy of swapping evolution for pushy humanism, were I in possession of a device which measured hypocrisy, it would be hot, blackened and smoking on the floor upon scanning that.

The crux of the issue is finally stated, pretty plainly, on page 22:

It might surprise many people to realize that many church leaders do not believe their own book, the Bible. This plainly teaches that God created recently and in six consecutive normal days, made things to reproduce "after their kind," and that death and suffering resulted from Adam's sin. This is one reason why many Christians regard evolution as incompatible with Christianity.

There you have it. You can pile on evidence from here as high as the moon and then some, but if it conflicts with their "literal reading" of the Bible, talking donkeys, billions of quail falling from the sky, red-eyed Jesus with a sword sticking out of mouth, infidelity-detecting abortion potions and all, then all bets are off.

Now of course, they seem to realize that people do not like being embarrassed by such facts as are available in our modern day, so it is the job of Sarfati and other such participants in creation science to muddy the waters.

"Same facts, different interpretations" is only one such tool.

What they do, and I will endeavour to share about the rest of the book, is come up with objections to science and science "facts" that need some serious delving to refute. As long as it is out of the range of laymen, both creationist and otherwise, it suits their purpose, no matter how cockamamie, concocted or cherry-picked.

In addition to blowing my theoretical hypocrisy meter out of commission, Sarfati then proceeds to do the same to my irony meter on the same page:

The only way to assert that evolution and "religion" are compatible is to regard "religion" as having nothing to do with the real world.

I need a new word for a combination of facepalm and belly laugh.

One subject that can be interesting in general is the extent to which science contradicts religions. Now, science can be harmonized to some extent with religions, including Christianity, but there is an extent to which some truth claims made by some religions cannot help but run afoul of the consensus reached by science. It is not just religions that suffer from this, but also movements and ideologies, like the New Age and anti-vaccination crowds.

Sarfati complains about this, decrying the lack of religious neutrality (with respect to creationism itself, how could it be otherwise?) and then insinuating through juxtaposition that it is because the NAS is full of atheists.

I will continue part II with Sarfati's version of the basis of modern science.

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