Abusing Science
by Philip Kitcher

This is a defense of the theory of evolution and an attack on Creation Science. It reflects the author's narrow mindedness. His smugness oozes out everywhere. His attitude ranges from contempt to dismissiveness. His hatred for bible-believing Christians is a manifestation of his politically correct social-democrat assumptions. He is generally successful at refuting the Creation Scientist arguments against evolution and at destroying their credibility. His defense of evolution does not lay a glove on Johnson's more sophisticated attack, which had not been published when this book was written. Furthermore, his intolerance and dogmatism demonstrate one of the major objections that Creation Scientists and critics like Johnson have against the dominating scientific class.

Circular Reasoning

Some of his arguments for evolution fail because they are circular, that is, they rely on evidence that already assumes the theory to be true. This is another of the objections to evolution theory that his critics often raise--and they are right. Here are some examples:
"It is now possible to examine the differences between kindred proteins in humans and chimpanzees (to cite just one example), and, because the proteins reflect the structure of the DNA, this helps to expose the molecular steps that have taken place in the transformation of species." (17)

"If I hypothesize that two contemporary forms are related to a recent common ancestor, then studies of anatomical and biochemical similarities can test the extent of the relationship." (61)

"... use of fossils does not even presuppose evolutionary theory; all that it assumes is that there is a correlation between the sequence of fossil forms and the sequence of strata." (65) This presupposed that the species were not created at the same time, which presupposes that Creations Science is wrong.

"An evolutionary ornithologist discovers two related species of birds. ... (69)

"Animals that share a recent ancestor turn out to have proteins with similar structures." (136)

"There is an ongoing debate about the mechanism of evolution. That debate does not touch the fact of evolution." (150)

"For we can know that a species is related to an ancestral population by evolutionary descent, even though the details of the transition are controversial." (150)

"... we know that the mammals evolved from the therapsids because we can recognize similarities and trends in the fossil record." (150) Why should we assume things with similar structures have common ancestors? Do rocks and crystals that have similar structures to other rocks and crystals necessarily get their structure from common ancestors?

He redefines the principle of natural selection and makes the false claim that it is not a tautology. In his definition "genes that are more fit become prevalent in a population." (58) This changes natural selection from a tautology about the members of a species who will have more surviving offspring in the future to a tautology about the genes that will become prevalent. Genes were unknown to Darwin. Fitness equals greater representation of genes in future generations. So the genes that will be prevalent in the future population are the genes that will be prevalent in the future population. This is an undeniably true part of the theory of evolution.

Natural selection is undeniably true within each species. It is not disputed by the Creation Scientists. Yet Kitcher points to examples of natural selection within species as if these examples were relevant to the issue of the origin of species. He doesn't seem to be aware that this principle, which pertains to breeding populations, does not apply across species that do not interbreed.

Other Arguments

He uses the Clinton defense (the accusation is not new) in response to charges of tautology and slipperiness (60).

He shows that the second law of thermodynamics applies to closed systems and not to the theory of evolution in our sun-powered world.

He claims that transitions series of fossils have been found that link fish and amphibians, reptiles and mammals, and reptiles and birds. (108) Later he qualifies this. Seymouria and Diadectes are not transition forms between amphibians and reptiles, they are hypothesized to share a common ancestor who is still undiscovered who is the actual link between amphibians and reptiles. (113) So the charge that the link is missing turns out to be true after all. He refers to "a common ancestor" instead of "a missing link" and often gives the impression that the common ancestor is as established fact rather than an unproven hypothesis.

When Creationists point to cave drawings of dinosaurs he replies "There is an obvious explanation. The picture is a crude representation of some other animal." (121) This is obvious as long as your mind is closed to the really obvious explanation that the pictures of dinosaurs are pictures of dinosaurs.

The alleged footprints of dinosaurs and humans found in the Paluxy river bed in Texas turned out to be a hoax. "During the Depression, a few local inhabitants made money by carving tracks in pieces of rock." (122) "The Paluxy finds are discussed in C. G. Weber, "Paluxy Man--the Creationist Piltdown," Creation/Evolution 1981(6), 16-22." (204)

He asks: "Overlooking such niceties as the fact that some teleosteans are deep-sea fish, let us ask what accounts for their success in resisting the Flood." (134) The answer is obvious to me. They are fish. They can survive in water.

He claims that the theory of evolution have been fruitful but that Creation Science leads nowhere. But it seems to me that the teleological approach of creation by design has been fruitful in scientific fields such as medical science. If we think of each organ as having been designed for a purpose, we can understand the organs better. The concept of a healthy or a diseased organ makes more sense under the design paradigm than under the random generation paradigm.

His criticism of the Creationists' explanation of the isolation of the marsupials applies with much more force the evolutionists' explanation. "Indeed, if the marsupials were really driven across by eutherian competition, then we would expect the competition to be snapping at their heels--otherwise would not the wombat have stopped to dig a burrow, the koala have settled in a convenient tree? In that case, the bridge would have to be cut very quickly." (142)

He says that many evolutionary biologists "would argue that there is no basis for a distinction between the processes of microevolution and those of macroevolution." (144) But this argument is wrong. The basis for the distinction is that there is proof of microevolution but no proof of macroevolution. We know that microevolution sometimes occurs. We only speculate that macroevolution sometimes occurs. It is a big leap to suppose that macroevolution is responsible for all species. Macroevolution is an analogy drawn from sparse evidence of microevolution.

Flaws in Design

"... unless there are independent criteria of design, then praise of the Creator's design is worthless" Leibniz asked "... why praise him for what he has done, if he would be equally praiseworthy in doing the contrary?" (138)

"Any competent engineer who wanted to design a giant panda could have done better." (139)

"Ruminants have acquired very complicated stomachs and a special digestive routine. ... Their inner life could have been so much simpler had they been given the right enzymes from the start." (139)

"... nature's ways are rather repulsive ... the scavenging of vultures, the copulatory behavior of the female praying mantis ... Surely an all-powerful, all-loving Creator, who separately designed each kind of living thing, could have found some less repugnant (and, I might add, more efficient) way to get the job done." (139)

Political Bias

Kitcher's political bias and hatred of bible-believing Christians show up throughout the book but more frequently toward the end. When he describes "Falwell's printed letter soliciting (tax-deductible) contributions" (165) I can detect his contempt for the evil tax-deducting, bible-believing enemy of evolution. He wants the likes of Falwell to have no say in what gets taught in our socialized schools. If Creation Science is allowed to be mentioned in American schools, it should only be for the purpose of discrediting it. It should not be presented as a respectable theory. He would prefer it not be mentioned.

It would be wrong to require teachers who do not believe in Creationism to teach it as though it were a legitimate alternative to evolution. He doesn't see the possibility that it could be wrong to force teachers who believe in Creation to teach evolution as a fact. Nor does he see anything wrong with forcing teachers who believe in moral absolutes to teach moral relativism as a fact. He would require teachers to tell what they believe are lies when those lies are politically correct, but he would forbid teachers to present alternatives to politically correct dogma, even if they were to present them as mere possibilities. For example, he would forbid teachers to say that intelligence is correlated with race. He wants political correctness to be forced on kids. Children should continue to be taught moral relativism and be allowed to make up their own minds about moral issues--except they should not be allowed to decide between Creation Science and evolution or between race differences and equality. Those issues are too important to the liberal ideology to be left to chance or free choice.

Year Read: 1999


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