Recently in Evolution of Creationism Category

One thing I’ve loved about living in Australia this past year is how much more generally pro-science the culture seems to be (PT blogmeister Reed Cartwright was just in Canberra to visit collaborators, but sadly he forgot Prof. Steve Steve). We have the annual Australian National Science Week coming up next month – can you even imagine having a National Science Week in the United States?

2016-04_Australasian_Science_cover_373.jpgAnother thing I’ve loved is how there seem to be many independent media outlets interested in science. I got to write a short popular article on the Evolution of Antievolutionism paper, which ended up on the cover of Australasian Science, for instance, and participate in several other talks or radio shows.

The most recent radio show was:


On May 30, 2016, Bill Dembski announced:

I had the opportunity at the end of this month (May 2016) to update an interview I did four years ago at

What I was dealing with in The End of Christianity is a more narrow problem, namely, how to account for evil within a Christian framework given a reading of Genesis that allows the earth and universe to be billions, rather than merely thousands, of years old. I’m an old-earth creationist, so I accept that the earth and universe are billions of years old. Young-earth creationism, which is the more traditional view, holds that the earth is only thousands of years old.

The reason this divergence between young-earth and old-earth creationists is relevant to the problem of evil is that Christians have traditionally believed that both moral and natural evil are a consequence of the fall of humanity. But natural evil, such as animals killing and parasitizing each other, would predate the arrival of humans on the scene if the earth is old and animal life preceded them. So, how could their suffering be a consequence of human sin and the Fall? My solution is to argue that the Fall had retroactive effects in history (much as the salvation of Christ on the Cross acts not only forward in time to save people now, but also backward in time to save the Old Testament saints).

In this long interview, chock full of surprising comments on his fellow Christians, Dembski mentions Panda’s Thumb, and quotes our own Andrea Bottaro extensively, saying he “got it exactly right.”

By David MacMillan.

David has been fascinated by the creation/evolution controversy for many years. Growing up, he was fully committed to creationist apologetics. He purchased a lifetime charter membership to the Creation Museum and even had blog posts featured on the Answers in Genesis website. During college, he continued to actively pursue creation apologism as he earned a degree in physics, but began to recognize the mounting religious and scientific problems with young-earth creationism. His renewed investigation uncovered more and more misconceptions implicit in creationism, and he eventually rejected it as both theologically indefensible and scientifically baseless. He now writes extensively about young-earth creationism for several websites.


Note added December 30, 2015: This article has been cross-posted at Naturalis Historia, the blog of Joel Duff. As David MacMillan notes below, in a comment, “He gets a slightly different readership and has attracted the attention of AiG before so it will be neat to see whether they deign to reply.”

As the strict young-earth creationists at Answers in Genesis work to complete their Ark Encounter “theme park”, they have expended an impressive amount of energy organizing the millions of species of land animals alive today into a handful of small groups they call “baramins”. They claim these groups represent the original created kinds of which Noah would have brought pairs onto the ark. This consolidation of numerous species into single “baramin” groups is driven primarily by the space on Noah’s purported vessel. The smaller the menagerie the Ark was purported to have contained, the more feasible it seems, and so the “baraminologists” at Answers in Genesis have gone to great lengths to explain how the vast array of species today could have been represented by a relatively low number of ancestral pairs.

One well-known hallmark of modern young-earth creationism is the dogma of separation between “microevolution” and “macroevolution”. Although early opponents of Darwinian evolution categorically denied that speciation or natural selection were possible at all, advances in genetics and biology made this position completely untenable. In response, creationists (particularly the young-earth crowd) protested that while “microevolution” was a viable, observable process in biology which they accept as “change or speciation within a kind”, the notion of “macroevolution”, or “change between kinds”, remains impossible. These definitions beg the question by presuming such things as discrete “kinds” exist, but creationists are nonetheless insistent that while adaptation or speciation within a particular “baramin” is observable (and, indeed, necessary in order to account for the present observed diversity of life), there is never any overlap between separate kinds. Their most well-known example of “kinds” is the difference between cats and dogs, where they explain that the diversity of dog breeds is the result of “microevolution” from some original dog/wolf kind, but that dogs will never “macroevolve” into cats.

Unfortunately for the young-earth model, the push to minimize the number of animals riding on the Ark has exposed a major problem with this view. Ironically, this problem is perhaps nowhere more apparent than with the very clade (the technical/evolutionary equivalent of the term “kind”) to which cats and dogs belong: Order Carnivora.

The Answers in Genesis website has repeatedly posted large, detailed lists of various species, families, and orders with attempts to organize them into baramins. One of the largest such postings, by retired veterinarian Jean Lightner, organizes the majority of Order Carnivora into eight distinct “baramins”: felines, civets, dogs, hyenas, bears, weasels, mongooses, and red pandas.


Figure 1. The eight major carnivorous “baramins”, as claimed by young-earth creationists at Answers in Genesis.

Zack Kopplin, who has been opposing the antievolution nonsense in Louisiana since 2008, has an interesting new article in The Daily Beast:

Kopplin, Zack (2015). Creationism Whistleblower: ‘Academic Freedom’ Is Sneak Attack on Evolution. The Daily Beast. December 28, 2015.[…]olution.html

Kopplin has really gotten the goods on what these “stealth creationism” bills mean on the ground – of course, what they mean is straight-up creationism taught in the public schools. Kopplin quotes from documents he has obtained from Louisiana school districts.

Also – it looks like Kopplin somehow got an interview with a former employee of the Discovery Institute – evidently someone who eventually saw that what was really going on there was apologetics for a very specific sectarian view, rather than actual science.

Here’s one of the good quotes from Kopplin’s article:

(Update: paper preprint and bonus material available free here)

It is 7 am in Australia, but this is finally out on Thursday afternoon in the U.S.…just in time for the tenth anniversary of Kitzmiller v. Dover! I will do a longer post a little later, but for now - be sure to check out the Supplemental Material!

Matzke, Nicholas J. (2015). “The evolution of antievolution policies after Kitzmiller v. Dover. Science, Published online Dec. 17, 2015. ([…]057.abstract |

See also: PDF of character maps for characters 1-111 of the Matzke (2015) phylogeny of antievolution bills. These are the presence-absence characters; there are more characters but in a larger file, we’ll see how PT handles this one first

Kitzmas is Coming!


The tenth anniversary of the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision, which came out on December 20, 2005, is right around the corner. There have already been some good retrospectives, including a series of pieces by the York Daily Record, another series in Reports of the National Center for Science Education, and a “What If Intelligent Design Had Won?” discussion by Eugenie Scott and Kenneth Miller in York College, Pennsylvania, in November. There will undoubtedly be more to come; please post links in the comments when you see them come out.

adam-and-eve-cast-out-of-paradise-after-eating-from-the-tree-of-knowledge-in-the-garden-of-eden.pngI would like to introduce everyone to James Downard, and his website Troubles in Paradise (TIP). TIP is available at or

James Downard is an activist with decades of experience tracking the creationists, stretching back to encounters with Stephen Meyer in Washington state in the early 1990s. In 2010, he did a guest post for PT, “An Ill Wind in Tortuca”, available at:[…]wind-in.html

Troubles in Paradise is a massive review of the creationism/ID movement, its people, and its arguments, along with a similarly massive review of relevant scientific evidence and literature. TIP primarily covers the movement up to about 2004, which of course was just about the peak of the ID movement, leading up to the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover case.

I think it is extremely valuable to the pro-science community to have such a historical review available: the ID movement actively tries to conceal what it was saying pre-Kitzmiller, and of course the “intelligent design” label itself was an attempt to disguise connections to creation science. (And, “creation science,” particularly the whitewashed version put forward for the Edwards v. Aguillard case, was its own attempt at obscuring connections to religious fundamentalism.) (On this, see especially: Matzke, N. (2009), “But Isn’t It Creationism? The beginnings of ‘intelligent design’ and Of Pandas and People in the midst of the Arkansas and Louisiana litigation.” In: But Is It Science?: The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy, Updated Edition, eds. Pennock & Ruse, Prometheus Books, 377-413; google Scholar)

Today in 2015, it is not uncommon for commentators new to the creationism/ID debate to start producing writings almost totally ignorant of the history of the issue. Hopefully Downard’s effort will help correct this problem, and will serve as a resource that science fans can link to and cite.

Troubles in Paradise is really several books’ worth of work, so if you’ve ever gone to the bookstore and bought a science book, please think about making a similar donation so that Downard can continue his efforts.

Below, I post Downard’s short description of the project, which includes a Q & A email interview I conducted with him, and links to his GoFundMe page, Please reblog, retweet, and spread the word! PS: James Downard’s Twitter is: @RJDownard – Nick Matzke


Short description of Troubles in Paradise, by James Downard:

Welcome to TIP, a new open access resource for defenders of sound science who get really unsettled by the claims of antievolutionists (be they Young Earth Creationists or the newer brand of Intelligent Design) but may not have all the best science information ready to drop on their claims.

The TIP files (all in pdf format) cover all aspects of antievolutionism (from paleontology and biology to the social and political ramifications of antievolutionism as they play out in schoolrooms and school boards or in state legislatures, Congress, or even candidates for President.

The Old TIP files form the base of the project, drawing on over 5500 sources, and step by step I am updating that material with a much larger set of newer data (over 36,000 sources and counting, including over 14,000 technical science sources aimed at claims popping up in over 6000 antievolutionist works) to keep TIP constantly current. The new modules also have an index to help locating all specific topics and people covered.

There are more pdfs & offsite web links in Other Stuff, including the 3ME illustrated guide to the Cambrian Explosion, and the origin of birds and mammals, the perfect heavy brick to lob at antievolutionists who make the mistake of claiming “there’s no evidence for macroevolution.” 3ME not only shows how wrong that is, it also pulls back the curtain to see just how antievolutionists manage to evade all that evidence (not a pretty picture, but has to be done).

Check out all the material here on TIP, all open access to download and share freely with anyone you think needs evens stronger evidence to counter the claims of antievolutionists.

Q & A with James Downard:

Q: Why did you decide to call your project “Troubles in Paradise” (TIP)?

The folks at Uncommon Descent are accusing me of being a Nazi (“Nick Matzke - Book Burner?”, “Will Our Darwinist Friends Be Telling Us Next That ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’?”, It Gets Even Better) for using my free-speech rights to criticize the prestigious publisher Springer for publishing crypto-creationist/ID meeting held at Cornell (but not sponsored by Cornell) in 2011. They seem to think that I, single-handedly, with the mighty power of the Panda’s Thumb blog, crushed the otherwise inevitable publication by Springer.

Update, February 4, 2013. NCSE has just reported that the Colorado bill has failed to make it out of committee. First in the nation, for this year at least! Unhappily, the vote was 7-6, which is entirely too close for comfort.

January is barely gone, the groundhog may or may not have seen his shadow, and the National Center for Science Education reports that already 8 anti-science bills have been filed in 6 states: Colorado, Missouri (two bills), Montana, Oklahoma (two bills), Arizona, and Indiana.

As Barbara Forrest notes, “Creationists never give up.” The bills have been carefully sanitized, but all will allow teachers to teach the purported strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, most commonly “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” According to NCSE, the bills are also generally “protective” in that they forbid state and local authorities to prohibit such teaching. The bills pretend to foster debate, but the language is clearly code words for creationism.

Scientific American has posted what you might call a compendium of articles on evolution – some from the archives, some brand new.

The featured articles include a new article by Lauri Lebo, who details the manner in which creationists hide their true intentions by using code words such as “helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” Indeed, in a display that gives chutzpah a bad name, they invoke the name of John Scopes, because he stood up for academic freedom.

By now everyone has heard how the pro-terrorism group Revolution Muslim threatened South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker by stating “they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh,” posting a picture of the murdered film director, and helpfully including their addresses at South Park studios, and the address of Comedy Central’s offices. The threat was issued after South Park’s episode “200” in which all the people that South Park ever made fun of, led by Tom Cruise, teamed up to get back at the town. To protect themselves from the ridicule of South Park citizens, they plotted to capture Muhammad and steal his secret ability to not be made fun of. To avoid breaking the rule against depicting the prophet Muhammad, Stone & Parker dressed Muhammad up in a bear suit.

(Never mind that Muhammad had co-starred sans censorship in the 2001 episode “Super-Best Friends”, since played as a rerun hundreds of times without controversy, and that Muhammad appeared hundreds of more times amongst the other Super-Best Friends in post-2001 intro graphics for the show.)

After the threat was issued, and after Comedy Central began to kowtow to the terrorists by increasing the censorship of the show, the sequel episode “201” revealed that it had not been Muhammad in a bear suit after all, but Santa Claus. Despite the complete non-depiction of Muhammad in the show (in the non-bear-costume shots, Muhammad had been hidden behind a CENSORED box), Comedy Central has now taken even the censored version of episode 201, and the old Super-Best Friends episode, off its website.

Anyway, what’s the connection to evolution? Well, I was watching a CNN discussion which featured a clip scrolling through’s blogposts. Here’s the cowardly “kill people who disagree” (I’m paraphrasing, obviously) post…

Just last week over at the Thinking Christian blog there was a huge stink raised over the alleged inappropriateness of linking ID to creationism. After much argument the anti-linkage people more or less conceded that there were some good reasons to link ID to a somewhat generic definition of creationism (relying on special creation), but still protested loudly about how inappropriate it was to make the linkage, because most people (allegedly) would assume that creationism = young-earth creationism, and linking ID to young-earth creationism was oh-so-wildly unfair.

Well, it’s now a week later, and, what do you know, but right there on the latest blogpost on William Dembski’s Uncommon Descent is a big fat advertisement for a straight-up young-earth creationist conference. And who is endorsing the conference? Dean Kenyon, Discovery Institute fellow, coauthor of Of Pandas and People, and one of the most-cited inspirational figures in the whole ID movement, who is mentioned dozens of times in Stephen Meyer’s new book Signature in the Cell. Here he is, endorsing young-earth garbage:

According to US biophysicist Dr. Dean Kenyon, “Biological macroevolution collapses without the twin pillars of the geological time-scale and the fossil record as currently interpreted. Few scientists would contest this statement. This is why the upcoming conference concentrates on geology and paleontology. Recent research in these two disciplines adds powerful support to the already formidable case against teaching Darwinian macroevolution as if it were proven fact.”

…proving that, yep, he’s still YEC, as has been his consistent position since at least 1980, even though this was widely doubted over on the Thinking Christian blog, and even though Stephen Meyer and all other ID advocates systematically obscure this fact.

So who is the one confusing ID and YEC? Not me. They do it themselves.

Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water again …


… another shark appears, begging to be jumped.

One of Ray Comfort’s favorite examples of the invalidity of evolution (besides the banana) is sex. A while back Comfort objected to critical remarks about his book by PZ Myers. Comfort is quoted as saying

“Let’s go back even further (100 million years ago) to pre-pre-elephants that also contained males and females. At what point of time in evolutionary history did the female evolve alongside the male? And why did she evolve? Then explain, if you would professor, why horses, giraffes, cattle, zebras, leopards, primates, antelopes, pigs, dogs, sheep, fish, goats, mice, squirrels, whales, chickens, dinosaurs, beavers, cats, human beings and rats also evolved with a female, at some point of time in evolutionary history. Professor, I know you believe, but please, give us who are healthy skeptics some empirical evidence. Remember, stupid people like me want good hard evidence before we, like you, become believers in Darwin’s theory,” Comfort said.

In other words, if evolution is true who were Cain and Abel canoodling with? Erm, sorry about that. Wrong story line. PZ then smacked Ray around in more detail here. Comfort’s remarks are at the level of the old creationist question, “If we evolved from monkeys how come there are still monkeys?”

However, intelligent design, we are told, is not creationism and is a much more sophisticated and ‘scientific’ enterprise. Or is it? On Uncommonly Dense, William Dembski’s group blog, we find this gem in a post by “niwrad”::

It is unimaginable that reproduction and genitals arose by Darwinian evolution (that is for random mutations and natural selection). First, as a matter of principle: evolution needs reproduction; without reproduction no evolution. Therefore how can reproduction be the effect of evolution if evolution is an effect of reproduction? It’s an impossible causality inversion. Second, for a technical reason: how could the male organs arise independently from the female organs given the cCSI they share? In fact the Darwinian processes work in the single individual. They are blind and unaware of the processes running in other individuals. Random mutations that happen in a genome have nothing to do with the mutations in another one.

”.… Darwinian processes work in the single individual”? It’s hard to conceive of the level of ignorance necessary to make the argument in that post. Apparently the notion of “coevolution” is foreign to the UD poster. But then, it only yields 186,000 hits on Google Scholar.

It’s fun to see UD in bed with Ray Comfort. Somehow I think they were made for each other. And I don’t think it was coevolution: It’s a straight lineage, ancestor to descendant.

Creationist Evolution in Texas: Updated

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Update above the fold

The Texas Freedom Network sent a memo to journalists and bloggers today with some additional information (original TFN blog post about the creationist claims). TFN identifies specific instances where Don McElroy McLeroy, Chair ot the Texas State Board of Education, claimed that neither he nor any member of the Board supported the teaching of intelligent design creationism and that their machinations over the science standards has nothing to do with religion. For example, McElroy McLeroy claimed

I don’t know of a single board member that has ever advocated teaching creationism, teaching ‘intelligent design’ or teaching supernatural explanations in the science classroom.

(Audio of the November 19 hearing, Committee of the Full Board Part D, at around 1 hour 45 minutes.) That’s flatly contradicted by the “Strongly Favor” responses McElroy McLeroy and the other creationist Board members gave to the Free Market Foundation’s questionnaire.

More incredible given McElroy McLeroy’s claim above, as recently as August of this year McElroy McLeroy himself explicitly argued for the inclusion of supernatural explanations in science. In an opinion piece in the Austin American-Statesman on August 2. 2008, McElroy McLeroy argued (pdf):

For the supernaturalist, the phrase ‘natural explanations’ does not just undermine his view of science but actually excludes it by definition. If science is limited to only natural explanations but some natural phenomena are actually the result of supernatural causes then science would never be able to discover that truth–not a very good position for science. Defining science to allow for this possibility is just common sense.

Science must limit itself to testable explanations not natural explanations. Then the supernaturalist will be just as free as the naturalist to make testable explanations of natural phenomena. The view with the best explanation of the empirical evidence should prevail.

And so it has: McElroy McLeroy seems not to have noticed that the testable claims of supernaturalism have been uniformly contradicted by the evidence. For example, creationist claims about the age of the earth are false (McElroy McLeroy is a young earth creationist).

I can’t decide if McElroy McLeroy knows he’s lying or is simply incapable of remembering his own claim made in writing just a few months ago. But then, is anyone surprised? Lying in the service of what is perceived as a higher purpose is evident in the circles he frequents, and I suppose that after a while it becomes so routine as to be unnoticeable to oneself.

Late edit In a comment below Joshua Zelinsky notes that he blogged on another more recent McLeroy example.

Original Post below the fold

expelled movie exposedAlthough “Expelled” has been receiving mostly negative reviews from the mainstream media and scientists, creationist organizations other than the Discovery Institute, AIG and ICR (both Young Earth Creationists) have remained cautiously silent. For instance, The Reasons To Believe (RTB) Scholars appeared to be suspicious about Expelled but refrained from any recommendations but now that they have seen a pre-release screening they have sent an email which can be found on the Calvin College ASA discussion list.

Dear RTB Chapter members,

With the impending release of “EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed” (April 18), the Reasons to Believe scholar team thought it best to prepare a statement of our position, a guide for answering questions from chapters, networks, and apologists. Keep in mind that the mission of RTB centers on reaching out to science-minded people with two purposes:

In the Economist, an article explores how scientists are trying to explain religion. In a project titled “explaining religion” that involves scholars from 14 universities, researchers from many different disciplines are attempting to unravel the biological explanation for religion. The project receives funding from the “New and Emerging Science and Technology” programme of the European Union. The same programme also organizes the Tackling complexity in Science project and I noticed the absence of any ID relevant proposals.

At the NewScientist blog, we find a posting which raises more questions than it answers

After confirming the news that the movie is without much of any scientific content, and makes ill chosen references to Nazis, Amanda Gefter, opinion editor, describes the Q&A that followed.

On Uncommon Descent William Dembski claims that Richard Dawkins has admitted that life could be designed and thus wonders: “Is ID therefore scientific?”. As I will show this is a logically flawed conclusion.

First of all lets point out Intelligent Design does not claim merely that life is designed but that such design can be detected via scientific methods. In this aspect if differs from science which admits that design always remains a logical possibility, however science also accepts that if such design is ‘supernatural’ no scientific method can detect such design.

Although Behe has referred to Miller as an ‘intelligent design proponent’, Miller himself is on the record in many different forms that we should not conflate Miller’s faith with his scientific position.

On November 13th, 2007 Nova will present Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial” and as part of the experience, Nova is providing an excellent companion website. One of the features involves the perspective of various scientists on defining the concept of science

Miller has two segments in which he explains both the scientific method and religion and addresses what he considers some of the abuses of logic (“a gross mischaracterization to take a scientist in the past … and say that Newton worked based on a hypothesis of design)

On Isaac Newton Running time 1:34
Science vs. Religion Running time 2:29

Miller Wrote:

What Intelligent design pretends to do to be in the tradition in Newton, What intelligent design actually is, to be perfectly honest, is in the tradition of the middle ages where they stop investigation by saying we cannot answer this mystery it is the work of God “the designer”. This is a science stopper

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