| Definitions and Impressions
An Anti-Science Posture
The Truth About Fraud
How Science Works
Evolution Versus Creation
A Matter of Attitude
THE SOCIETYS VIEW OF SCIENCE
The word science means different
things to different people. The basic meaning is simply knowledge, but it
usually implies organized knowledge, as contrasted with art. Science often means knowledge
that must be acquired through study, rather than everyday knowledge people acquire through
experience. Science can mean the organizations, public and private, which are dedicated to
discovering new knowledge about the physical world.
Likewise, scientist has several
meanings, but most often means someone trained in the sciences (an admittedly vague
definition), especially one who has the Ph.D. degree. An engineer, although trained in
science, is not usually considered a scientist.
Most scientists enter their profession out of a
curiosity of how the world works. They enjoy discovering new things that no one has seen
before. Their initial idealism often becomes tempered or derailed by the realities of
life, however, so that many older scientists become cynical. It is similar with doctors,
who often start in the medical profession with grand ideas of helping people, but get
caught up in making money.
People untrained in science often view scientists
as cold, calculating automatons selflessly dedicated to discovering new truths for Science
(whatever that means). This attitude is enhanced by the media, who are concerned more with
how a news story will fly rather than its content. Hollywood has contributed to the notion
of the aloof scientist. Many scientists themselves contribute to this attitude for typical
human reasons they like the publicity, they need money to work, etc. Some like the
adulation that comes with the star status of Nobel prize winners, or the money that comes
from writing best-selling popular books. Some find that by using the specialized jargon of
their profession, they get more monetary support than otherwise.
But the reality is that most scientists are
exactly the same as everyone else. They have their good points and their faults. Like
everyone else the majority are honest, hardworking people. They are usually concerned with
making a living as much as with discovering new truths. Sometimes scientists are
dishonest, like most everyone else.
When science mixes with politics, unpleasant
things can happen, just as when religion, business or other large human institutions mix
with politics. Politics has a darkening influence on anything it touches, perhaps because
it involves power to tell other people what to do and how to think. Since World War II,
the growth of the U.S. government has led to the politicizing of many branches of science,
especially those with military applications. Medical research has been particularly
politicized, partly because the research projects are so large that only government is
large enough to fund them.
It has become evident to me that the Society has
little understanding of real science. Here is a useful explanation of science, from The
Myths of Human Evolution: 29
.... science is storytelling, albeit of a special
kind. Science is the invention of explanations about what things are, how they work, and
how they came to be. There are rules, to be sure: for a statement to be scientific, we
must be able to go to nature and assess how well it actually fits our observations of the
universe. Science is theory, mental constructs about the natural world.
Some theories are better than others. Some have
been tested more severely than others. When theories remain unexamined for a long time,
they tend to take on mythic qualities. We are inclined to accept them as true, sometimes
in the face of rather plain evidence to the contrary.
For understandable reasons, the Watchtower
Society has developed an intense dislike for much of science, whether it be pure knowledge
or the institutional variety. Like so many others who are untrained in science, Watchtower
writers often misunderstand what scientific pursuits or institutions are all about. As a
result, they propagate their fears, misunderstandings and prejudices to the readers of
Watchtower publications. Unfortunately, because of their intense dislike of science, they
often grossly distort things related to science.
One of the problems is that the Societys
writers do not seem to have an understanding of fundamental science. Their understanding
appears to go no farther than what is available in popular books or light introductory
material. To illustrate, note the way the Creation book treats the structure of
An atom is a marvel of order, like a miniature
solar system. It includes a nucleus containing particles called protons and neutrons,
surrounded by tiny orbiting electrons.
Anyone familiar with physics knows that the
picture of the atom as a miniature solar system was abandoned by about 1920, when ideas of
quantum mechanics were being developed. This picture is still taught today in introductory
science classes, but it is entirely misleading. The truth is, no scientist has the
slightest idea what the atom looks like internally. The best that can be done is to
describe statistically what large assemblages of atoms do. No one has any idea what
electrons are doing inside atoms. An often used device is to refer to an electron
cloud. The old picture of electrons in orbits is simply not accurate.
The twelfth chapter of the Creation book,
Who Did It First?, goes to some lengths to describe the various wonderful
mechanisms animals have, and says that men have copied them. On page 159 it states:
All this copying from animals by humans is
reminiscent of what the Bible suggests: Ask the very beasts, and they will teach
This statement reveals a major misunderstanding
the author has about the development of the various inventions he describes. These were
almost all invented completely independent from any observations of animals. Many
inventions have been refined by observing the design of animals, but the author of
Creation misses the key point that people would never have understood what was involved in
animals design unless they already had the experience acquired from struggling with
their own designs. The clocks and compasses described on page 155 were not copied from the
equivalent structures found in diatoms and bacteria.
The author does this mainly to denigrate the
achievements of man. One example is found in the description of animal thermometers on
From the 17th century onward men have developed
thermometers, but they are crude compared to some found in nature. A mosquitos
antennae can sense a change of 1/300 degree Fahrenheit. A rattlesnake has pits on the
sides of its head with which it can sense a change of 1/600 degree Fahrenheit. A boa
constrictor responds in 35 milliseconds to a heat change of a fraction of a degree. The
beaks of the mallee bird and the brush turkey can tell temperature to within one degree
The author is desperately grasping at straws with
this description. How, one may ask, does the author know that a rattlesnake can sense a
temperature change of 1/600 degree? Surely not because men have invented accurate
The Society often exaggerates problems in the
scientific community to make its own position more secure. Note the tone in this excerpt
from the Awake! article Shenanigans in the Halls of Science: 31
It isnt supposed to happen. Not in the
hallowed halls of science. Not where dispassionate, objective pursuers of truth labor
tirelessly in their laboratories. Not where dedicated researchers, committed to finding
truth regardless of where the search may lead, seek to unravel the secrets of nature. It
is not supposed to happen in a united body of men and women fighting shoulder to shoulder
to turn back the ravages of disease for the blessing of mankind.
Who would suspect that dedicated scientists such
as these would manipulate their data to back their contentions? Or select what supports
their theory and discard what doesnt? Or record experiments they have never
performed and falsify data to buttress conclusions they could not prove? Or report studies
they had never made and claim authorship of articles they had never worked on or even
seen? Who would ever suspect such shenanigans in the halls of science?
It isnt suppose to happen, but it does.
Last year a science magazine reported: Kickbacks, fraud and misconduct are rife
among American medical researchers, according to a scathing critique published by a US
Congressional committee this week. The report says that the National Institutes of Health
has endangered public health by failing to police the scientists it
supports. New Scientist, September 15, 1990.
The article then reports on the fraud committed
by certain medical researchers, one Dr. Thereza Imanishi-Kari and others. A Nobel
laureate, Dr. David Baltimore, had coauthored a paper with these researchers, and when one
of the researchers brought the fraud to his attention, he tried to cover it up. One thing
led to another, and Representative John D. Dingell of the U.S. Congress forced an
investigation that ultimately led to a public airing of the fraud, and a rather
unsatisfactory resolution. Dr. Baltimore had become a powerful political force within the
NIH, and he protected his turf.
It is reprehensible that these medical
researchers committed fraud. But Awake! is not arguing coherently about the
implications of these admitted problems. The problems occurred within an arm of the U.S.
government, the National Institutes of Health. I hardly need expound on how much politics
is involved in any large government branch. In these three paragraphs Awake!
extrapolates the severe problems that occurred within one arm of the government to all of
science, not distinguishing between a politically controlled organization and science as a
whole. It implies that because there are problems in the NIH, all other science
organizations are equally suspect. It is true that other science organizations have
problems, but Awake! uses the worst example it could find to bring them all
The reason Awake! does this is suggested
from the titles of the two articles that preceded this one: The Bible Fought Disease
Before Science Did, and Pioneering Bloodless Surgery With Jehovahs
Witnesses. Its also a good shot just on general principles, so the readership
doesnt get too chummy with science. The Society has a long history of bashing
science and using problems in one area to cast doubt on the whole. This is illustrated by
the last paragraph of the Awake! article, on page 15:
Most people agree that such shenanigans should
not happen in the halls of science, yet it was a science magazine itself that carried the
report that such shenanigans are rife among American medical researchers.
Note that it was a science magazine that reported
the problem. Awake! seems to think there is something shady about this.
The Truth About
To illustrate what can be accomplished by a less
prejudiced stance, note what an article in Technology Review said about the recent
cases of fraud among certain science related institutions: 32
.... Researchers in the ivory tower once
regarded as saintly, thrifty to a fault with the public dollar, and, most awesome of all,
steeped in natures secrets and skilled in tapping them for humanitys benefit
have lately come down to earth.
University scientists work with companies seeking
to commercially apply (that is, derive financial gain from) their academic research.
Hardly the exploitable absent-minded-professor type, they often help found the companies
themselves. Whole universities, once deemed oblivious, even disdainful, of the profit
motive, now wheel and deal with the best of them. Meanwhile, academic researchers demand
more money than ever from public coffers, predicting widespread disaffection in the
R&D community and eventual economic calamity for the nation should they not receive
Add to the newly mercenary perception of academia
a straight-out series of black eyes misuse of federal funds (university yachts and
presidents home furnishings charged to the taxpayer), allegations of price fixing in
awarding scholarships, and cases of misjudgment, fraud, and plagiarism and
its safe to say the public has been rudely awakened. Researchers turn out to be just
plain folks. Like everyone else, they look out for themselves, they sometimes make
mistakes, and they bruise when they fall.
.... No longer regarded as demigods, some
academics worry that funds will dry up if disappointed and overreacting patrons begin to
question the value of the present research enterprise altogether.... as the world changes,
so too must the relationships between researchers and those who support their work. And
the greatest attitudinal change must be in how the research community regards the public,
not vice versa.
.... along with the publics growing
sophistication in matters scientific and technological.... has come the realization that
researchers work not only is understandable to, but is the business of, everyone
else. This doesnt diminish the value of the academic enterprise; it simply means
that R&D is a human endeavor like any other and that its practitioners should not
expect to be exempt from the usual rules.
Thus the deflation of the superhuman academic
scientist is actually a good thing and long overdue. Why, after all, should the desire to
make money, or the capacity to make mistakes, be so shocking? Researchers should seek to
apply their work to the benefit of their institution, their country, and themselves. Such
strivings are a basic human trait. So, too, of course, are frailties and excesses, though
ways of minimizing their adverse effects can also be evolved as long as the
environment is one of tolerance and mutual respect. Having discovered our partners
shortcomings doesnt mean we should quit working with them; on the contrary, it lets
us collaborate more effectively.
In that spirit, even the recent lapses and
scandals can be regarded as potentially beneficial to the long-term health of the research
enterprise. They underscore the need for public accountability, public communication, and
even public oversight, which should not be viewed as intrusions but as opportunities for
interacting more fruitfully with the rest of the world. Instead of regarding the recent
affronts to the academic image as a signal to defensively circle the wagons, researchers
should see them as little more than a wake-up call. The appropriate response may be, like
that of the guy who got slapped with after-shave in the television commercial,
Thanks, I needed that!
Another Technology Review article 33 examined some of the problems brought up in
the Awake! article about U.S. government science institutions:
Science has become a profession: grants and
research contracts are what it lives on. Whereas a rich dilettante like Lord Rayleigh
could retire to his country estate and do acoustics or whatever else he wanted, modern
scientists must sing for their supper. They do not sing to their patron, the U.S.
taxpayer. They sing to other scientists, who wield over them the power of professional
life and death via peer review.
Peer review, the evaluation of a
specialists work by others in the same field, is an inevitable consequence of
specialization. Example: though anyone can tell if a bridge design is truly bad the
bridge collapses it make sense to have other engineers check the plans before the
bridge is built. Science uses peer review to determine which projects to pay for and which
articles to publish, and, recently, to judge cases of alleged misconduct.
Peer review suggests trial by a jury of
ones peers, a jewel in the crown of Western democracy surely an excellent
model. But it takes more than a jury to have a fair trial. A lynch mob is also a peer
panel. Rules and procedures jury selection, rules of evidence, the requirement that
evidence be heard in public and a judge to interpret and enforce them are necessary
if fallible people are to render fair decisions. Specialist peer review is fraught with
biasing influences. Specialists compete with one another and, at the same time, fight
collectively for their profession.
Peer review is at best a treacherous servant, but
scientists often forget that a jury trial is more than a jury, and act as if the use of
peers automatically sanctifies the resulting decisions. Establishment scientists have been
treated well by peer review; scientific administrators use it. Both want to believe in it,
and the need engenders beatification by faith. Peer review is the distinguishing
characteristic of science, they say. It makes science what it is.
They are right in a way. Every scientist
is an informal peer reviewer. A scientists work affects science only if others
accept it. But formal review of grant applications, manuscripts, and fraud allegations
also makes science what it is, and here human failings can yield improper decisions whose
practical consequences and poor ethics propagate throughout science.
Peer review resists investigation. Only insiders
know the details of each decision. They may not tell the truth, and the technical
background needed to extract the facts is hard for outsiders to learn. Lacking the
omniscience of Orwells Big Brother, we must be content with horror stories of
reviewing gone wrong. Though such stories do not directly reveal the frequency of
mistakes, they show which human failings are involved, and thus the likelihood of trouble
and how to reduce it.
The federal government uses a variety of ways to
decide how to fund science. Department of Defense (DOD) managers can fund whomever they
like, without having to get advice. They do not compete for contracts with the scientists
they might choose. Instead, they shine in the success of the programs they manage, and
should something go wrong in a program, the manager is responsible. These are all good
features. Unfortunately, managers are subject to agency politics....
At the National Science Foundation (NSF), too,
managers make the final funding decisions but with the advice of peer reviewers. Managers
benefit from the peers specialized knowledge but have the authority to correct for
peer bias. As at the Defense Department, should something go wrong, the program manager is
At the National Institutes of Health (NIH)....
peer reviewers effectively make the final decisions; managers are nearly powerless. In
each discipline, a peer panel the study section evaluates grant
applications. By secret ballot, each panel member gives an application a numerical score,
and these scores largely decide its fate. An upper, advisory council can fund projects
slightly out of the order of their scores without attracting comment, as can program
Since peer review puts a scientists future
at the mercy of competitors, is it any wonder that career issues are a respected, if
unadmitted, influence on decisions? Would we not expect mutual assistance pacts to be
accepted facts of life? Should we be surprised that politics is especially ripe in
disciplines funded by NIH, where the power of scientists over one another is essentially
Politics is particularly bad in biomedical
research because biomedical scientists directly control the flow of money that supports
their disciplines. But even without politics, todays grant system, in which
scientists propose future research projects to an agency, would be bad.... The great ideas
in science in the next few years will be those not yet thought of. The system ought to
select people likely to think them, but, alas, it is inherently biased against such
speculation. Granting agencies want certainty, and reviewing peers fear unexpected
discoveries by their competitors.
When peers referee journal articles, they perform
a valuable service. They find mistakes and sometimes fraud, and they form a trial
readership whose reactions show what to change to hold a readers attention. A
referee who knows the field can clarify what is and is not novel in a manuscript.
Competent reviews take hours or days of hard work and are a tribute to those who do them.
Unfortunately, the power of referees, usually
anonymous, permits self-interest, jealousy, revenge, and other unworthy motives to
influence decisions.... Reviewing weeds out good manuscripts as well as poor ones....
The current attempt to deal with scientific fraud
is sciences first brush with formal self-regulation.
Self-regulation of any profession runs afoul of
collective self-interest and pack loyalty. When disciplinary committees operate in secret,
these influences have full rein. Need I enlarge on the ineffectiveness of the disciplining
of doctors by doctors?....
Universities routinely use peer panels to
investigate and judge fraud. This shifts responsibility but does not get justice done. A
powerful accused scientist or pack solidarity can frighten a panel into seeing no evil....
Secrecy gives full rein to subterranean forces,
and a major scientist can bring great force to bear. Panels at MIT, Tufts, and NIH all
said, wrongly, that no misconduct was involved in a paper co-authored by Thereza
Imanishi-Kari, Nobel laureate David Baltimore, and others. It is a matter of record that
Baltimore used both a letter-writing campaign and professional lobbyists in an
unsuccessful attempt to get Congress to halt Rep. John Dingells.... investigation of
the matter. (It was Rep. Dingells investigation that finally forced NIH to mount a
real investigation of its own.)
Media interest in the Baltimore affair is more
than instinctive celebrity chasing. Fake work impedes progress much more if a major
scientist is involved than otherwise, because others must pretend to agree with it if they
want jobs or grants. I know of no attempt by other scientists to duplicate the precise
experiments in the Baltimore affair. Scientists supposedly delight in proving one another
wrong, but they hesitate to embarrass someone with power and the willingness to use it....
Compare NIH with NSF, where managers make the
final decision about who gets funded. With responsibility comes accountability....
[certain] decisions show that NSF has power. If NSF wanted a university to investigate a
fraud, the school would remember the movability of laboratories before doing a whitewash.
Perhaps this power is reflected in the apparent lack of fraud in the parts of science NSF
The article goes on to make recommendations on
reforming the peer review system. How much more edifying this is than Awake!s
treatment of problems in the halls of science. It also gives one a better feel for the
issues Awake! prefers to leave out.
A series of four articles appeared in the January
22, 1990 Awake!, dealing with fraud in science. Given the above material from
calmer voices, note that the Awake! material takes on a less strident
The first article simply lists a number of
misdeeds by scientists. The second article says that competition in certain branches of
science can be fierce, there can be lots of pressure to publish papers, sometimes this
results in cheating, and now some of the cheating is coming to light. This article
illustrates the way the Society often takes quotations out of context, and therefore
distorts their meaning. Under the sub-heading Peer Review, a Safeguard Against
Fraud? on page 7, Awake! said:
Editors of science journals often but not
always submit papers to other scientists for review before publishing them. This
practice, called peer review, theoretically weeds out erroneous and fraudulent articles.
Science is self-correcting in a way that no other field of intellectual endeavor can
match, Isaac Asimov says. Science is self-policing in a way that no other
field is. He marveled that scandal is so infrequent.
But many others do not share this view. Peer
review is a lousy way to detect fraud, said previously quoted Dr. Drummond
Note that Asimov mentioned nothing about peer
review as the means by which science is self-correcting or self-policing. Awake! is
putting words into his mouth. Asimov is here speaking of science as a global body of
knowledge about the physical world, whereas all the references to peer review are talking
about science institutions in the U.S. or specific journal articles. What the context of
Asimovs statements would show is that he is speaking of the long term manner in
which science, as a body of knowledge, is self-correcting. He means that eventually, if
other workers would try to duplicate or build on incorrect or fraudulent results, they
would find out and correct the situation. Sometimes that may take a long time, but the
truth eventually will be found. In the case of Piltdown Man, the fraud took forty years to
be exposed, but exposed it was because it did not fit with other evidence. The Awake!
writer may not understand the distinctions, or perhaps he is trying to obfuscate the
Paleontologist Niles Eldredge commented on the
long term self-correcting nature of science. After describing the idealized notion science
philosopher Karl Popper advanced as the way things ought to be in science, he said: 34
In the real world, in the competitive fray that
is science, data forging, plagiarism and all manner of base and venal but utterly human
failings make a mockery of the counterimage of detached objectivity. Such pure,
dispassionate, cold logic is rare though more common, one assumes, than the
cheating of its opposite extreme. But no scientist, at least any worthy of the name, can
be expected to sit back calmly and devise still more critical tests for a pet idea (though
when he or she is emotionally attached to a theory it behooves our scientist to make sure
that all the avenues of obvious refutation of the system are well understood).
But scientists, as individuals, do argue in favor the the truth of this or
that favored proposition on the face of it not a very scientific mode of behavior
in strict Popperian terms....
Where Poppers views and the actual
day-to-day workings of science coincide is in the collective effort. Science is
competitive; it is, as Popper says, a collision of ideas with observations. If not all
individual scientists can be paragons of disinterest in the ultimate fate of their ideas,
if instead they tend to cling to favored notions sometimes in the face of rather plain
evidence to the contrary...., it is of no particular import. Science needs its advocates
of definite points of view. It is someone else who will blow the whistle; someone who, far
from committed to an idea, may just as emotionally be opposed to it or to its
proponents. It is the rivals who can be counted on to falsify an hypothesis, to claim that
someone elses pet idea just doesnt square with the evidence of our senses.
The last two articles in the Awake! series
attack the theory of evolution. Evolution is considered by most members of the biological
sciences to be as well established as the fact that the earth goes around the sun. Awake!
justifiably attacks this attitude, but in so doing it clouds issues more than it clears
them, and shows again the scientific ignorance of the Society.
Why do I say this? First, one must define what
one means by evolution. For many, evolution and Darwins theory are
identical, but the fact is that there are many theories of evolution. There is also the
general idea of evolution, apart from any theory, as simply being the observation from the
fossil record that life has changed progressively since it first appeared. This is not in
dispute, as the Society readily admits under the proper circumstances. The fossil record
shows life forms, even entire categories of life forms, appearing suddenly, existing for a
long time, and just as suddenly disappearing. The dispute among most people, excepting
six-literal-day creationists, is not whether evolution in this broad sense occurred, but
is about the mechanisms of this evolution. It should be noted that Genesis allows for God
creating everything progressively, as it assigns no chronology to creation.
Awake! here seems unaware of this
distinction, as the writer is intent on demolishing evolution. He presents little factual
evidence in the articles, but instead quotes what others say as to the factualness of
evolution. He refers the reader to the Societys book Life How Did It Get
Here? By Evolution or by Creation ?, but this book is itself an outstanding example of
Awake! quotes author Stephen J. Gould as
saying many times in one article that evolution is a fact. By reading the
article one can see that Gould is sometimes talking about evolution in the broad sense,
and sometimes about the mechanisms of evolution. But Awake! just lumps it all
together. Also quoted is biologist Michael Denton, who wrote one of the best critiques of
Darwinism Ive read. On page 9 Awake! said:
Molecular biologist Michael Denton referred to
this glib talk about evolutions being a fact and dismissed it with these words:
Now of course such claims are simply nonsense. Its much more than
nonsense. Its fraud. It deceives and misrepresents. It perverts the truth to induce
another to part with something of value.
Here is the context of what Denton said.35 Judge for yourself whether Awake! is
able to distinguish fact from theory.
[Darwins] general theory, that all life on
earth had originated and evolved by a gradual successive accumulation of fortuitous
mutations, is still, as it was in Darwins time, a highly speculative hypothesis
entirely without direct factual support and very far from that self-evident axiom some of
its more aggressive advocates would have us believe.
The fact that every journal, academic debate and
popular discussion assumes the truth of Darwinian theory tends to reinforce its
credibility enormously. This is bound to be so because, as sociologists of knowledge are
at pains to point out, it is by conversation in the broadest sense of the word that our
views and conceptions of reality are maintained and therefore the plausibility of any
theory or world view is largely dependent upon the social support it receives rather than
its empirical content or rational consistency. Thus the all pervasive affirmation of the
validity of Darwinian theory has had the inevitable effect of raising its status into an
impregnable axiom which could not even conceivably be wrong.
It is not surprising that, in the context of such
an overwhelming social consensus, many biologists are confused as to the true status of
the Darwinian paradigm and are unaware of its metaphysical basis. As the following quote
from Julian Huxley at a conference in 1959 makes clear:
The first point to make about Darwins
theory is that it is no longer a theory but a fact. . . Darwinianism has come of age so to
speak. We are no longer having to bother about establishing the fact of evolution . . .
Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene,
is even more emphatic, for him:
The theory is about as much in doubt as the earth
goes round the sun.
Now of course such claims are simply nonsense.
For Darwins model of evolution is still very much a theory and still very much in
doubt when it comes to macroevolutionary phenomena. Furthermore being basically a theory
of historical reconstruction, it is impossible to verify by experiment or direct
observation as is normal in science. Recently the philosophical status of evolutionary
claims has been the subject of considerable debate. Philosophers such as Sir Karl Popper
have raised doubts as to whether evolutionary claims, by their very nature incapable of
falsification, can properly be classed as truly scientific hypotheses. Moreover, the
theory of evolution deals with a series of unique events, the origin of life, the origin
of intelligence and so on. Unique events are unrepeatable and cannot be subjected to any
sort of experimental investigation. Such events, whether they be the origin of the
universe or the origin of life, may be the subject of much fascinating and controversial
speculation, but their causation can, strictly speaking, never be subject to scientific
Furthermore, not only is the theory incapable of
proof by normal scientific means, the evidence is, as we shall see in the next few
chapters, far from compelling.
Denton is clearly talking about Darwins
particular theory, not evolution in the broad sense. Denton also hits upon the key theme
of the evolution/creation debate. What people believe about how the universe came about is
fundamentally a subjective decision based upon criteria other than demonstrable proof. The
strict evolutionist believes that all natural phenomena must be explained without
reference to supernatural causes. The strict Bible student believes that the God of the
Bible put the universe in motion. Both are beliefs not subject to outside verification. Awake!
is unaware of the parallels.
What does the fossil record actually show? 36 In rare cases a series of fossils is found
that is consistent with the continuous gradual change Darwin predicted, but species
generally remain stable for long periods of time. Many evolutionists are coming to grips
with the fact that the evidence for Darwins theory of progressive gradual change of
one species into another is not generally found in the fossil record. Darwin also realized
this and postulated that the fossil record was too poor to show the transitional forms he
expected. He predicted that ultimately these forms would be found.
Within the last two decades many evolutionists
have given credence to a new theory, called punctuated equilibrium. This theory was first
advanced in 1972 by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge, in an attempt to account for the
lack of evidence of gradual change while retaining the basic notion that evolution had
occurred and could be explained. Niles Eldredge, in The Myths of Human Evolution,
said of the search for these forms since Darwins time: 37
Paleontologists just were not seeing the expected
changes in their fossils as they pursued them up through the rock record. Instead,
collections of nearly identical specimens, separated in some cases by 5 million years,
suggested that the overwhelming majority of animal and plant species were tremendously
conservative throughout their histories.... it has become abundantly clear that the fossil
record will not confirm this part of Darwins predictions. Nor is the problem a
miserably poor record. The fossil record simply shows that this prediction was wrong.
The observation that species are amazingly
conservative and static entities throughout long periods of time has all the qualities of
the emperors new clothes: everyone knew it but preferred to ignore it.
Paleontologists, faced with a recalcitrant record obstinately refusing to yield
Darwins predicted pattern, simply looked the other way. Rather than challenge
well-entrenched evolutionary theory, paleontologists tacitly agreed with their zoological
colleagues that the fossil record was too poor to do much with beyond supporting, in a
general sort of way, the basic thesis that life had evolved. Only recently has a
substantial number of paleontologists blown the whistle and started to look at the
evolutionary implications of the marked pattern of nonchange of stability
within species so dominant in the fossil record of life.
.... in the vast majority of cases.... [species]
have remained substantially unchanged through monumentally long periods of time. Species,
in other words, seem to be relatively static. There is frequently more variation
throughout the geographic spread of a species at any one point in time than will be
accrued through a span of 5 million or 10 million years.
This observation has two simple consequences,
both of tremendous importance to evolutionary theory. First, Darwins prediction of
rampant, albeit gradual, change affecting all lineages through time is refuted. The record
is there, and the record speaks for tremendous anatomical conservatism. Change in the
manner Darwin expected is just not found in the fossil record.
The second simple consequence is the observation
that species are stable and remain discrete, in time as well as space. They are
individuals in the true sense of the word: they have beginnings, histories, and,
So species themselves tend to remain stable, but
what about all the change that is supposed to have occurred? The Myths of Human
Evolution says: 38
.... the overall picture presented by the fossil
record confirms the most basic predictions we can make to test the very notion of
evolution: if all organisms are related by a process of ancestry and descent, older rocks
should contain more primitive members of a group than younger rocks. We should be able to
document progressively more advanced forms as we look in correspondingly younger rocks.
This is what we find.
But this very confirmation of the most basic of
evolutionary predictions has led us astray. As we have seen in the previous chapter, the
usual conception casts evolution as a gradual, steady process of adaptive change. And we
have already seen that the fossil record conflicts with that view. Now lets look at
the fossil record to see what patterns of evolutionary change are actually there. The
general agreement that older rocks produce more primitive fossils and that as we look in
younger rocks we usually find more advanced members of an evolving lineage has been taken
as sufficient evidence that the evolution of life is fundamentally a process of gradual,
progressive, adaptive change. But when we take a second, harder look at the fossil record
we begin to see the truly mythic qualities of this story. For the gross patterns of
evolutionary change so abundantly documented in the fossil record could have been produced
in a number of different ways. We are faced more with a great leap of faith that
gradual, progressive, adaptive change underlies the general pattern of evolutionary change
we see in the rocks than any hard evidence. In fact, a closer look at the fossil
record shows that another view, centering around the evolution, stability, and death of
individual species, predicts a pattern of change that fits the facts of the fossil record
much more closely.
The notion of gradual, progressive change
collides head-on with the stability seen in most fossil species, for the general
progressive sequence of lifes evolutionary history seen in the fossil record has
always been taken as confirmation of the underlying assumption that all change comes from
progressive generation-by-generation modification of species. What the record is really
telling us is that evolution, as suspected, has occurred. But we have greatly erred in
predicting what the pattern of change should look like in the fossil record. Rather than
taking the record literally, we have dismissed the lack of change within species as merely
the artifacts of an imperfect record. But the time has come to ask, instead, if the record
isnt telling us something that our theories ought to be able to explain
rather than explain away.
Summarizing all the above, the fossil record
shows discernable trends from species to species, but little evidence of change within
species. Eldredge proposes the theory of punctuated equilibrium to account for the
observations. Punctuated equilibrium has problems, however, since it does not explain how
large scale changes actually come about, but in essence, merely acknowledges that this
sort of change exists.
As the reader can see, there is far more to the
issue of evolution than is evident in reading Awake! It simplifies and obscures the
real issues so much that its readers are left in the dark. The Society focuses on the fact
that the how of evolution is not well established, and from that generalizes
that all the evidence for evolution is not established. This is fallacious reasoning. The
Myths of Human Evolution again makes relevant comments: 39
Some of the most mythic of scientific notions lie
in the realm of evolutionary biology. Evolution the proposition that all organisms
are related is as highly verified a thesis as can be found in science. Subjected to
close scrutiny from all angles for over a century now, evolution emerges as the only
naturalistic explanation we have of the twin patterns of similarity and diversity that
pervade all life. The basic notion that life has evolved is as certain as the existence of
gravity or the idea that the earth is spheroidal. We call such highly verified notions
facts when they consistently escape all attempts to prove them false.
Evolution is no myth.
But how life has evolved is another matter
entirely. Our standard expectation of evolution slow, steady, gradual improvement,
hence change, through time is indeed a myth.
The aforementioned Awake! articles
emphasize the point that evolution is a fraud. The heading on page 8 said:
Fraud is defined as an act of deceiving or
misrepresenting. It is the intentional perversion of truth in order to induce
another to part with something of value.
A Matter of
As this booklet has shown, Watchtower Society
publications often meet this description. Authors are quoted out of context, authors
statements are turned around to make them say what they had not intended, important
information is left out, information is used selectively, past mistakes are glossed over,
publication indexes are doctored to omit past mistakes. Need I go on? Ive set forth
at least one example of each of the above in this booklet, as well as many other abuses.
When Watchtower writers deal with evolution or any other matter they should strictly
adhere to the whole truth, even if it is distasteful. Anything less dishonors the God of
the Bible and disproves the Societys claim to speak for him.
The Societys handling of scientific
material is often similar to what is described in The Noahs Ark Nonsense: 40
Ark enthusiasts, like fundamentalists in general,
have difficulty in deciding whether they are for or against science, and for or against
scientists. When a scientist makes a statement they can use to support their views, they
gladly cite him as a scientist. They often regard their own views as
scientific..... [When it is convenient,] science is held in honor and there is
an effort to identify with it.... But when scientists disagree with their views, the ark
people tend to disparage scientists in general.
The November 22, 1991 Awake! article said
on page 15:
Scientists are unhappy if anyone outside the
scientific community passes judgment on their activities. They are adamant that they, not
outsiders and certainly not government agencies, are the ones who should judge their own
cases where misconduct or fraud is charged. But anyone within the scientific community who
dares to raise questions against prominent members may fare badly....
Substitute the words Jehovahs
Witnesses for scientists above and you again have a true
The January 22, 1990 Awake! article said
on page 15:
Alice, in the tale Through the Looking-Glass,
incredulous at the strange logic of the White Queen, could only laugh. Theres
no use trying, she said. One cant believe impossible things. The
queen responded: I dare say you havent had much practice. When I was your age
I did it for half an hour a day. Why sometimes Ive believed as many as six
impossible things before breakfast.
Evolutionists are the White Queens of today. They
have had infinite practice in believing impossible things.
I agree that evolutionists believe impossible
things with regard to the origin of new forms of life. But substitute the words
Jehovahs Witnesses for evolutionists above and you have yet
another true statement. The Watchtower Society has published reams of material attempting
to show that its religious interpretations of the Bible have more weight than the
observations of scientists. In many cases the Society makes claims about what science says
that are quite outlandish. In other cases it ignores huge amounts of evidence that is
hardly more than simple observation, to hold on to views that are not even those of the
Bible, but are instead Watchtower Society traditions. In doing so the Society shows a
cavalier disregard for the truth.
An observation of Steve Allens hit home
regarding what Ive already said about the Societys method of arguing and
handling in print difficulties with the Bible.41
I have noted that fundamentalists argue unfairly.
For the most part they deny problems of interpretation, simply asserting that the Bible
says what it means and means what it says. When, however, it is demonstrated that portions
of Scripture flatly contradict each other, then the fundamentalist promptly qualifies his
original assertion and interprets to his hearts content.
The examples Ive included in this booklet,
such as the difficulties with Revelation 6:8, show the truth of this assertion.
When fundamentalists encounter almost any
criticism of either the Scriptures or their church, they also respond by interpreting the
observations as anti-God. How dare you, they ask, presume to pit your
merely human intellect against that of God?
The answer, of course, is that (1) if there is a
God and (2) he did indeed share with us the benefits of his all-wise mind, then (3) it
would be the height of insanity to contradict any aspect of the divine philosophy. But
when the fundamentalist is asked how he knows that one particular opinion or another
represents the view of God, he responds by saying that the divine message came to us in
the form of the Bible.
How many times have I read just this sort of
statement in the Societys literature? Especially note what Ive said on the
subjects of how the Society views material it publishes and of how it views elders. Allen
The entire Bible? Yes, beyond question. His
entire case rests on the Bible being the literal word of God. Unfortunately he often
attempts to prove this, as regards one portion of Scripture, by referring to some other
portion. This puts him in the obviously untenable position of trying to prove the Bible
from the Bible.
The Society has often argued this way. Jesus is
quoted to prove the Flood occurred, Paul is quoted to prove the Bible is inspired, and on,
and on. The sad part is that this is often done after a presentation of other evidence
that is so weak the writer realizes he has to resort to quoting the Bible to salvage any
credibility at all.
An amusing example of this sort of argument comes
from Science and Creationism, 42
quoting an article that originally appeared in Harpers Magazine, April, 1982.
The article was about the 1981 constitutionality trial in Little Rock, Arkansas, of Act
590, the Balanced Treatment of Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act. The
state of Arkansas was trying to uphold the constitutionality of the Act:
The states most coherent witness by far was
Dr. Norman Geisler of the Dallas Theological Seminary.... The most profound part of
Geislers testimony was his attempt to prove that the Creator of the
universe and life mentioned in Act 590 was not an inherently religious concept. After
citing Aristotle, Plato, and one or two other classical philosophers who supposedly
believed in a God or gods without worshiping them albeit not as creators of the
world from nothing Geisler offered his most thundering proof: the
Epistle of James. He cited a line of Scripture to the effect that Satan acknowledges God,
but chooses not to worship Him. The Devil, he said, believes that there
is a God. Whee! If Geisler has not yet squared the circle in his meditations, he has
at least, well, circled it. Who would have thought one could prove the Creator a
nonreligious idea by means of hearsay evidence from Beelzebub? After unloading that
bombshell, Geisler, too, hastened to face the cameras in the courtroom hallway. We
dont rule out stones from a geology class just because some people have worshiped
stones, and we dont rule God out of science class because some believe in him.
As I listened to Geisler I could not help but recall the words of the Rev. C. O. Magee, a
Presbyterian minister who is a member of the Little Rock School Board. Any time
religion gets involved in science, Magee told the Gazette, religion comes off
looking like a bunch of nerds. . . . The Book of Genesis told who created the world and
why it was created and science tells how it was done. Amen.
I wonder how many people who write Watchtower
publications actually feel the way the minister expressed himself above. The December 15,
1991 Watchtower, pages 22-24, discussed the situation faced by Galileo when up
against the Catholic Church, and said:
The Bible teaches how to go to heaven, not
how the heavens go, said the 16th-century Italian scientist and inventor Galileo
Galilei.... Galileo believed that creation is governed by laws that men can learn through
study. The Catholic Church opposed this view.... What do we learn from Galileos
experience? A Christian should realize that the Bible is not a science textbook. When a
conflict appears to exist between the Bible and science, he need not try to reconcile
every discrepancy. After all, Christian faith is based on the word about
Christ, not on scientific authority. Besides, science is continually changing. A
theory that appears to contradict the Bible and that is popular today may tomorrow be
discovered to be in error and be rejected.
Those rather general statements about faith may
be true, but it is also true that the Bible and ones religion have to accomodate
matters that have been well established scientifically.
In fact, although the Bible makes many comments
on many subjects, it rarely touches on scientific topics. Very often things
that are at one time considered scientific gradually become so well accepted
that they become everyday things. For example, the Bible does not comment on
the fact that the earth goes around the sun (though the Catholic Church once said it did,
and The Flat Earth Society still claims it does), but this once esoteric idea is now
thoroughly commonplace. Likewise, the Bible makes no direct comment on many other things
that the Society claims it does, such as some of the topics discussed in this
The Watchtower article said of the
Catholic church hierarchy,
Galileos new ideas.... challenged their
reputation and power.... As biographer L. Geymonat points out in his book Galileo Galilei:
Narrow-minded theologians who wanted to limit science on the basis of biblical
reasoning would do nothing but cast discredit upon the Bible itself. For selfish
reasons stubborn men did exactly that.
Unless the Bible makes a direct statement on a
scientific subject it would be wise to take scientists seriously, or risk
taking on the position of Galileos tormenters or looking like a bunch of nerds or
even discrediting the Bible itself. Subscribing to certain Bible interpretations merely
because they have become traditional does no one justice. Playing loose with truth opens
the door to ridicule, as the following example illustrates: 43
A long acquaintance with the literature of the
Witnesses leads one to the conclusion that they live in the intellectual twilight
zone. That is, most of their members, even their leaders, are not well educated and
not very intelligent. Whenever their literature strays onto the fields of philosophy,
academic theology, science or any severe mental discipline their ideas at best mirror
popular misconceptions, at worst they are completely nonsensical.
No one should want to be included among those
described by Jean-Paul Sartre as ones who, since they are afraid of reasoning....
want to adopt a mode of life in which reasoning and research play but a subordinate role,
in which one never seeks but that which one has already found. 44
29 Niles Eldredge & Ian Tattersal, The Myths of Human Evolution,
pp. 1-2, Columbia University Press, New York, 1982. [back]
30 Life How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation?, p.
121, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, NY, 1985. [back]
31 Awake!, p. 12, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York,
Inc., Brooklyn, NY, November 22, 1991. [back]
32 Steven J. Marcus, A Splash of Cold Water, Technology Review,
p. 5, Cambridge, Massachusetts, November/December 1991. [back]
33 Charles W. McCutchen, Peer Review: Treacherous Servant, Disastrous
Master, Technology Review, pp. 29-40, Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 1991.
34 Niles Eldredge, Time Frames, p. 47, Princeton University Press,
Princeton, New Jersey, 1985. [back]
35 Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, pp. 74-77, Adler
& Adler, Publisher, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, 1985. [back]
36 A balanced view of what the fossil record contains and its relation to
evolution and creation is presented in The Status of Evolution as a Scientific Theory,
Robert C. Newman, et. al., Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, Hatfield,
Pennsylvania, Research Report No. 37, 1990. [back]
37 Niles Eldredge & Ian Tattersal, The Myths of Human Evolution,
pp. 45-48, Columbia University Press, New York, 1982. [back]
38 Ibid., p. 57. [back]
39 Ibid., p. 2. [back]
40 Howard M. Teeple, The Noahs Ark Nonsense, p. 121, Religion
and Ethics Institute, Inc., Evanston, Illinois, 1978. [back]
41 Steve Allen, Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, & Morality,
pp. 159-160, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, New York, 1990. [back]
42 Ashley Montagu, ed., Science and Creationism, p. 359, Oxford
University Press, New York, 1984. [back]
43 Alan Rogerson, Millions Now Living Will Never Die: A Study of
Jehovahs Witnesses, p. 116, Constable, London, 1969. [back]
44 Walter Kaufman, Existentialism, Religion, and Death: Thirteen Essays,
New American Library, New York, 1976. [back]