A Critique of How Evolution Hurts Science
Dr John Sanford, Creation Ministries
Sanford starts by admitting that the talk is "not strictly scientific, and is a matter of perspective." This is certainly true and becomes very obvious as the talk continues.
His qualifications are that he was an evolutionist, but is now a Christian and creationist. Fair enough, that might indicate he knows both sides of the story or it might indicate he is now biased because of his religion. Either way I looked at the facts and the quality of his arguments and didn't pay too much attention to his background.
He claims his life is better with Christ and science is more exciting now. He takes a Christian view of science, and if he had to choose between faith in God and the latest science he would choose faith in God. This really invalidates his whole world view because he has virtually admitted that he will ignore (or manipulate) the facts in order to fit in with his preferred belief system. In the rest of the talk this bias becomes very apparent.
He then goes on to try to convince us how great Jesus is, saying if he had a choice between faith in God and death would choose death and that the ultimate test of reality is Christ. Again this shows he cannot be trusted to give any sort of fair account of reality. If he has already decided Christianity is true no matter what the facts indicate then he is effectively blinded by his faith.
Then to contradict what he has just says he suggests that a debate of faith versus science is not a good tactic because it has been used by scientists successfully in court cases. He points out that believers have basically won zero court cases in America but this is because creationists have no facts and have been exposed as liars, not because their tactics were wrong.
Because there are no facts supporting Christianity he has to admit that it is based on faith and so he resorts to the old defence of claiming science is also faith based. There are small elements of faith and facts in any world view but science is overwhelmingly based on empirical evidence and objective facts so this criticism is really invalid.
Then he claims Christianity is science based. Clearly this is untrue because it fails every scientific standard and he has admitted several times earlier in the talk that his belief is based on faith. He's very inconsistent about this issue throughout the talk.
So this is his strategy to win the debate in future. Clearly he is more interested in winning an argument and advancing his own world view than establishing what is actually true.
He claims the following are faith based scientific theories...
1. The spontaneous appearance of the universe. This is a great mystery of course, but there is clear evidence something happened almost 14 billion years ago. There is no firm theory saying what caused the Big Bang and some theories suggest our universe is just a part of a much bigger universe which could be infinite in time and space which would bypass the need for an initial cause. Whichever theory is true there is no justification in calling this faith-based when so much objective evidence exists.
2. The spontaneous appearance of life. There is plenty of research showing potential pathways for life to appear and really it might not be that difficult a process. It might not ever be possible to know for sure what the exact process was because it happened so long in the past and there was nothing to fossilise, but the hypotheses that exist are based on real empirical evidence, not faith.
3. The spontaneous ascent of life. The fossil and molecular evidence for this is just so strong that anyone who doesn't see it as a fact is just deluded. But he has already said he'll believe what his religion tells him ahead of scientific facts so his credibility is zero. In reality evolution has such a monumental amount of evidence that faith is irrelevant.
4. The spontaneous appearance of intelligence. The fossil evidence of human evolution is quite compelling (although there are gaps and varying interpretations in places). Not only do fossils show how the body changed, but there are also artefacts showing how tool use and other behaviours evolved. Again, no faith is required.
5. The spontaneous appearance of "truth". How would intelligent life discover truth in a directionless universe. He has already admitted the tools of science are good at establishing truth so I'm not sure exactly what he problem is here. Maybe this is more a philosophical issue than a scientific one.
So he really totally fails to show that science has much to do with faith. This is an argument used for many years and it really doesn't stand up to much scrutiny. There really is a fundamental difference between religion and science and he has already admitted that.
Next he launches on a rather weak and confused attack on science, presumably to show that although he has admitted it is responsible for so much good that it can be turned to evil purposes as well. He also introduces his great conspiracy theory where he claims science is used to empower the intellectual elite. Conspiracy theories aren't always wrong but one where almost every scientist participates in a period of hundreds of years is really showing how desperate he has become to discredit evolution and any other theory which contradicts his faith.
Naturally he mentions the Nazis and communists because what diatribe against evolution would be complete without trying to associate it with Hitler? I would remind him that Hitler was a devout Christian and any imagined association with evolution is irrelevant. He points out, correctly, that many of the "fathers of science" acknowledged god. That is true but at the time almost everyone believed in God, maybe because those who didn't were ostracised, tortured or persecuted in other ways. I would also point out that some of the more recent "fathers" (Einstein for example) didn't belief in a god, so the argument is basically invalid.
Maybe the ultimate example of twisting the facts was his treatment of the persecution of Galileo by the church. He tried to suggest that Galileo was the party who was punished for having beliefs not accepted by the establishment and that this was paralleled by creationists being rejected by the modern establishment (science). Sure, that's one angle but there is one big difference: Galileo was right!
Eventually he came back to original question: has evolutionary theory hindered science? He makes the rather obvious observation that if its wrong then it must have. True, basing a whole branch of science (biology) on a faulty theory would definitely hinder science but the fact that practically every biologist in the world works in that field without any obvious negative effects surely shows that evolution isn't untrue.
He then expanded on the great conspiracy theory: that evolutionary theory is a power the (intellectual) elite have used to hijack science and that evolution is a corruption of the spirit of science. He goes on to claim the "Darwinian agenda" (whatever that is) drives science.
The problem with conspiracy theories is that they are almost impossible to disprove because any evidence against the theory is just seen as part of the conspiracy. So its hard to take this conspiracy theory any more seriously than similar conspiracies about UFOs, the 9/11 attacks, alien reptiles controlling the world, or any other poorly supported theory.
As an example of the mindset of conspiracy theorists consider this: he says that almost all scientific grants support evolution, that all proposals accept it, and that all money and research just supports the materialistic world view. According to him that's because the elite don't want to give alternative theories a chance, but a more straightforward explanation is that other theories have already been tested and rejected and evolution is the only one which fits the facts.
Several more totally unsubstantiated claims follow. Among them that "true science" (which gives us health and wealth) is underfunded and "practical sciences" (agriculture, medicine, etc) are not not highly rated. I would have thought the opposite was the case but, like him, I have no statistics available. Then that "godly science should support god but it mocks him." Science should support the facts and ignore gods and that's what most science does. Most scientists are very hesitant to even mention religion and certainly avoid criticism of it. And that scientists who believe in creation have to hide their beliefs or they'll be ridiculed. Again there is no data to support this but if any of them have good evidence to support their beliefs I know a lot of people would be very interested to see it.
He finished the talk with some fairly standard criticisms of evolution, none of which have much validity. For example: evolution speculates about the distant past and that's not science. The word speculate is deliberately chosen and inaccurate. Evolution isn't just about the past and the whole argument is just wrong on every level. Then he claims that evolution concentrates on micro-evolution. Not true: the fossil record clearly shows macro-evolution happening. Then that we don't need evolution for modern technology. That's partly true but as the basis of modern biology evolution is important indirectly.
One of the more outrageous claims in the talk was that the American space program is driven by one mandate: to find life in space, and that Darwinists control the space program. I have no idea where this particular piece of paranoid conspiracy comes from. Obviously finding life in space would be a spectacular achievement but its far from being the space program's only mandate, or even its main one.
He mentioned what he called the "Big Bang fantasy" but didn't give a single reason why he thinks it isn't true. If you want to disprove the Big Bang you must offer a good alternative explanation for the cosmic microwave background, the expanding universe, the abundance of elements, and other factors, yet there was no mention of these in the talk.
As a criticism of evolution he mentions the "foolishness of junk DNA" which he claims is the "scientific blunder of century." (I'm not sure which century he meant). There's some truth in this because some junk DNA has now been shown to have functionality, but suggesting the whole concept of junk DNA was deliberately designed to denigrate the genome and to make it look less complex is not true.
Other criticisms were that neo-Darwinian theory is collapsing, that mutations are bad, and that good mutations are unselectable. I've never heard any of these ideas being discussed in respectable scientific areas but that could be part of the conspiracy of course!
Some final thoughts include the idea that science has shut down debate on the topic of evolution but that's also not true. Intelligent design material was published, discussed in scientific circles, shown to be false, and rejected. Not discussing subjects which have already been shown to be untrue isn't refusing debate, its just being sensible.
I'm sure people who desperately want to believe religion instead of science would find this talk quite compelling but if you look at it objectively the whole argument is full of holes and just can't be taken seriously.