Jesus can walk on water, but can he withstand the scientific method?: The Science of Evolution and the Pseudoscience of Intelligent Design

More than half of Americans (55%) say that science and religion are “often in conflict.” Only 36% say science sometimes conflicts with their own religious beliefs. Of the 36% of people that report conflict between personal beliefs and science, 41% identify evolution as the conflict area. There is a misinterpretation of state of science and religion in America. Sixty percent of Americans reported belief in human evolution (Pew Research Center, 2009). The public misperceived a consensus with scientists on the issue of human evolution reporting that 60% of scientists agree with human evolution, when in actuality, 97% of scientists agree with human evolution (Pew Research Center, 2009). Only half of the American public perceives the rising conflict between religion and science, and most fail to recognize personal disagreement with science. The conflict has become a very controversial issue in America, resulting in court cases that decide school curriculum, refusal of essential medicines, and a discredit to the scientific image produced a decline of the interest, trust, and achievement of science.
American scientists attribute the problems of the scientific image to misinformation from news media and public lack of scientific knowledge (Table 1). While the scientific image of reliability, validity, and progress is declining, there is still a strong recognition of the benefits of science (Pew Research Center, 2009; National Science Foundation, 2008). The public recognizes the importanceof science, but lack the ability to evaluate the validity of a claim as scientific. Pseudoscientific claims, that look like science but lack supporting evidence or testability, contribute to the problem of science.
There are two reasons that pseudoscience is mistaken for science in America. First, the observer does not know what science is or how to evaluate claims (Table 2). Many Americans do not give correct answers to questions about basic factual knowledge of science or the scientific inquiry process. Over 50% of Americans scored poorly on a test measuring comprehension of the scientific process (National Science Foundation, 2008).
The second reason pseudoscience is mistaken for science is that it is intentionally misrepresented. The goal of pseudoscience is to convince people to believe the claims and use that belief to direct behavior. Those opposing scientific claims, such as Creationists, recognize the appeal of science and use that appeal to advance their claims.

Table 1.
Problems for Science: Media Coverage and Public Knowledge

Major
Problem
Minor/not
a Problem
That the news media...
%
%
Do not distinguish between well funded
findings and those that are not
76
24
Oversimplify findings
48
51
That the public...


Does not know very much about science
85
15
Expects solutions to problems too quickly
49
51

Note. Figures read across. Sample represents the United States adult population. Values indicate the percent agreement of the population.
Adapted from “Science achievements less prominent than a decade ago: Public praises science; scientists fault public, media,” by Pew Research Center, 2009.

Table 2.
2008 American Public Answers to Scientific Literary Questions

Question
Percent Correct
The center of the Earth is very hot. (True)
84

All radioactivity is man-made. (False)
70.5

Lasers work by focusing sound waves. (False)
49

Electrons are smaller than atoms. (True)
53

The continents have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move. (True)
77.5

Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth? (Earth around Sun)
How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun? (One year)
51

It is the father’s gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl. (True)
62

Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria. (False)
53.5


Note. a Data represent composite of correct responses to both questions. Second question only asked if first question answered correctly.
Adapted from “Survey of Public Attitudes Toward and Understanding of Science and Technology,” by National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, 2008.
The goal of this chapter is to present the characteristics of science and pseudoscience, present the claims and evidence for evolution and Creationism, and evaluate the relationship between them in a socially relevant manner. Creationism and science are two separate methods of inquiry. The hypotheses produced to support Creationism are essentialist questions. Science does not address essentialist questions because essentialist questions are not testable. Therefore, science cannot be used to test hypotheses that support Creationism.


I. Science

A professor in a behaviorism course told a story of a unique situation. The professor got into his car, buckled his seatbelt, and leaned forward to insert the keys in the ignition. As he leaned forward, he heard a clicking sound indicating the unlocking of his car doors. A scientific mind, he locked the doors and leaned forward repeating his previous motions. Again, the doors locked. Immediately he formed a hypothesis: The position of his arm caused the doors to unlock. He repeated the movement, this time raising his arm. The doors unlocked again. The next time he placed his arm back in the original position and turned his head: same results. He repeated the sequence several times, each time changing only one variable in the hopes of identifying the cause of the phenomenon. Finally, in frustration he swore and slapped both hands on his thigh. As he did, a click was heard and the doors unlocked. He found that the keychain door lock remote in his pocket had been situated at just the right angle to press unlock when he leaned forward. Each time he tested a new hypothesis, he performed an experiment. When a person uses logical, commonsense steps: decide on a cause, make an educated guess, test it, and revise hypothesis, they are practicing the scientific method.
Science is a self-correcting process that uses systematic empiricism to produce publicly verifiable knowledge about testable problems. Systematic empiricism implies that observable events are used as data. We learn about the world by examining it (Stanovich, 2010). Publicly verifiable knowledge is knowledge that is available to the public to be replicated and scrutinized. A testable problem is a problem that can be observed with or without supporting evidence. In science, problems are tested by developing hypotheses about the outcome and trying to prove them wrong.
The court system is an example of science. During a trial, two mutually exclusive hypotheses are presented (guilty or not guilty). Each side defends a claim and then scrutinizes the opposing side in an attempt to disprove it. The goal in this process is to find truth through argumentation. The justice system is self-correcting, in that there are mechanisms in place to identify inconsistencies and to test claims by trying to prove them wrong. Based on the evidence provided, its reliability and validity, the client may be let go or found guilty. The outcome of the trial is based on the collection of evidence (the observable data), the strength of the evidence (reliability and validity of the test), and the method of presentation and scrutiny (the design of the experiment).
Science is deterministic, parsimonious, and self-correcting (Pelham & Blanton, 2007). Determinism is the idea that all events have meaningful, systematic causes (Pelham & Blanton, 2007). Determinism assumes a cause for each effect. It is easy and natural for people to think in causal ways. This can be damaging when it reaches the level of superstition. Parsimony implies that when given two explanations for a phenomenon, the simplest one is chosen.. To be self-correcting is to be adaptable and ever changing for the better by an internal systematic process. Science is open to the public for scrutiny and must be replicable. This gives future studies the ability to take what is good from previous research and add to that knowledge with new ideas that will then be put to the test. If an error occurs in an experiment and alters the results, future replicating studies will find and fix the design error and support the findings, or reveal the mistake. In either case, science has advanced because knowledge of the phenomenon has increased.
The goal of science is the construction of good theories that advance knowledge. A theory is a testable concept or framework that explains a phenomenon. It is based on one or several hypotheses and substantiated by evidence. A theory is not a fact, but a set of facts strewn together by reasoning to describe a phenomenon and make testable predictions about future occurrences (Coyne, 2009). A theory must be falsifiable, that is, it must be worded in such a way that the predictions derived from it can be potentially shown to be false (Stanovich, 2010). A hypothesis, often mistaken for a theory, is a specific prediction that is derived from a theory, which is a more general and comprehensive statement. Hypotheses are not mere guesses or hunches, but predictions based on evidence and sound logic. Once enough hypotheses have been validated through empirical research, the theory will be brought up for discussion by the scientific community (Stanovich, 2010). The community then scrutinizes the theory, testing it for consistency with currently accepted and well-established theories. If the theory disagrees with what is known, the theorist must provide substantial evidence to support a shift away from the current consensus.


II. Pseudoscience

Pseudo science refers to claims, beliefs, or practices appear scientific even though they lack sufficient supporting evidence and plausibility (Kida, 2006). Pseudoscience claims are not scientific because they lack the necessary characteristics that make science a valid and reliable source of knowledge. Pseudoscience lacks a systematic process for progression and correction and uses invalid and unreliable methods to produce evidence for untestable claims. Claims are often unfalsifiable, supported by anecdotal evidence, and presented to the public in a persuasive manner (similar to that of a salesperson).
The goal of pseudoscience is to convince people to believe claims and use that belief to direct behavior. Pseudoscience claims are made by individuals or groups with an agenda for personal advancement, rather than the advancement of knowledge. A system that corrects false claims would be damaging. Claims are based on fatalistic thinking, intuition, faulty logic, and incomplete or invalid research (Stanovich, 2010). The claims are not valid or not worded in a testable manner to avoid the scientific testing that would reveal the lack of evidence for the claim. They are often vague and ambiguous, based on supernatural premises that cannot be measured with current technology, and contain elements that, by definition, cannot be experimentally controlled (Shermer, 2002).
Pseudoscientific claims are controversial because they discredit science, take advantage of ignorant people, and oppose established facts and theories. While the average American is scientifically illiterate, they believe that science is has benefited society (Pew Research Center, 2009). This implies that Americans believe they can trust science to produce truth, but lack the critical thinking skills to recognize it. Most Americans trust scientists, ranking them in the top three contributors to the well-being of society and only surpassed by teachers and members of the military (Pew Research Center, 2009). If a claim seems scientific, or is presented by a scientist, then people are more likely to believe it. People and groups use the scientific image for personal advancement at the expense of the scientists they falsely represent, and the people duped into believing their claims. When the claims are revealed as false, the scientific community’s image is discredited.
Pseudoscientific claims are often in opposition to fact. Claims draw attention when they are radical and all encompassing. People cannot make an informed decision when they are presented with false information. Decisions made on false information can have severe consequences. Eighty three million Americans spent 33.9 billion dollars in 2007 on alternative medicines that have no medical benefit (National Institutes of Health, 2008). Not only are they out large sums of money for a product that did not help, but they did not get treatment from medicines that do work. Children attend school to gain knowledge about the world. Science is the process of gaining knowledge in all areas of life. Students that are taught false information about what science is will miss critical knowledge for the future and be ill equipped to recognize deception in the future.

III. Creationism

Creationism is an umbrella term that refers to a variety of groups that believe in an ultimate creator of all things. It is common to clump all people underneath creationism into a single philosophy on all things when in actuality several subgroups under creationism have very defined, mutually exclusive beliefs. Subgroups of creationists may disagree with each other just as much as they do from evolutionists. Creationism is very popular in the United States, especially Christian Creationism. Non-Christian creationism as well as Christian exists in other parts of the world, but as a minor force. It could be argued that creationism and evolution are two branches in a belief bifurcation. Rather, the two are polar ends of a continuum (Scott, 2009).
Differences: Within the Christian groups, literal interpretation varies.

images.jpeg


Figure 1. The relationship between evolution and creationism in Christianity is a continuum rather than a dichotomy. (From Scott, 2009 p. 64)


A. Flat Earth Creationism.

To put it flatly, Flat Earthers believe that the Earth is flat. Evidence supporting the belief in a flat Earth is drawn from some aspects of scientific theory. Flat Earth creationists take an Occam’s razor approach and claim that a flat Earth is the simplest explanation for the perceptual events experienced when looking over the horizon. They assert that it is simpler to believe that the Earth is flat than to believe our eyes adjust and trick us into seeing stability when the Earth is spinning at a very fast pace. Gravity does not exist according to Flat Earthers. It is a made-up phenomenon, and when one jumps or falls from a chair, it is simpler to believe that the Earth accelerates toward the person rather than gravity pushing the person down. The evidence provided by the Flat Earth supporters is observational and reported by individuals rather than peer reviewed journals. Evidence is posted in blogs, forums, and public magazines. Most evidence is derived from the early work of one man, Dr. Samuel Birly Rowbotham, using trigonometry and a standing body of water to prove that the curve of the Earth is 0 degrees. While trigonometry equations are valid and reliable, in this instance, it has been misused. Birly claimed that he could see an island that was much farther away then he could have seen if the Earth was curved. He did not account for elevation, the variation of curve over Earth’s surface, or the effects they have on perception. The claims are not consistent with current established knowledge of human perception, and Birly has failed to provide sufficient support to discredit hundreds of years of consistent research.


B. Geocentrism.

Geocentrism is the belief that the Earth is the center of the universe and all other particles in the universe revolve around Earth. Geocentric beliefs gained popularity as the Ptolemaic model of the solar system and then were replaced by Heliocentrism, the belief that the sun is the center of the universe, in the 16th and 17th centuries due to scientists like Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo. Later, technological advances beginning with the Hubble telescope, aided in the discovery that an area close to the sun is the center of our orbit and the universe is much bigger than they previously thought.
Geocentrists often refer to the Bible for evidence. They refer to biblical texts that mention the travel of the sun and moon and the stationary state of the Earth. Specific verses include 1 Chronicles 16:30 “Fear before him all the Earth: the world shall also be stable, that it not be moved” and Ecclesiastes 1:5 “The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises (King James Version).” According to geocentrists’ interpretation, the passage from 1Chronicles implies that Earth is stationary and unmoving, like an anchor while the passage in Ecclesiastes implies that other objects move around Earth rather than Earth around other objects.
It is not logical to base belief on the perception of another person. The human mind is constantly searching for correlations and familiar patterns. Misperception occurs several times daily. The experiences in the Bible were written thousands of years ago and have been translated several times into several languages. It unlikely that the exact meaning of each word in the current translation is more than a vague concept of what the writer experienced.


C. Young Earth Creationism.

Young Earth creationists (YEC) practice a strict adherence to the literal interpretation of the Christian Bible. They believe that the Abrahamic God created Earth in six 24-hour days. They believe that God created all living beings as a new and separate species, reject the validity of evolution, and consider all science that supports it as pseudoscience. The “young” in YEC is labeled so because they believe that the Earth is about 6,000 years old, a belief based on the chronological recordings of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible (Scott, 2009, Institute for Creation Research (ICR), 2010).
Young Earth creationists are the most vocal and involved of all the creationist sub groups. Most members of this group come from Protestant Christian religions that emphasize evangelism, the responsibility to go out and bring salvation to the world. Protestant Christian religions have a large base of common beliefs based on the Christian Bible, which is the Protestant Canon version with 66 books (Figure 2).

Premises
The Bible does not coincide with Evolution
Belief in evolution has serious consequences.
e.g. It puts the authority of God in question, which is blasphemy.
Evolution directly contradicts the Bible
People that believe both evolution and Biblical validity are "picking and choosing" truth from the Bible.
The Bible must be accepted as a whole; that is, it is all true or none of it is true.

Figure 2. The basic beliefs of people in the Protestant Christian subgroup of Creationism.



D. Old-Earth Creationism.

Old-Earth creationists (OEC) accept that the Earth is old, but agree with the YECs that humankind was created new and separate from all other species. OECs base their beliefs on the Bible. There are four main subgroups of Old-Earth creationists. The first is Gap Creationism. Gap Creationists believe that there was a long period between the events recorded in Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 in the Bible. In Genesis 1:1, God creates the heavens and the earth. In Genesis 1:2, the Earth is described as a formless, dark, mass. This gap in time would allow the earth to have become ancient before the seven days of creation mentioned in the Bible. The second is Day-Age creationism. Day-Age creationists believe that God created all things in seven very long days. The days mentioned in the creation account of the first chapter of Genesis would have been thousands of years each allowing for an old Earth. The third group of OECs is Progressive creationism. Progressive creationism is the most common of the four. This view accepts most modern physical science but rejects most modern biological science (Isaak, 2005). The Big Bang theory is accepted as accurate and it lends evidence of the existence of God. Evolution of species to other species is rejected, but a belief in an order of creation of each organism revealed by fossil records is held. Accompanying this belief in organized and ordered creation is a belief that God created each species at an appropriate time. Intelligent Design creationism (ID) is the fourth group of OECs. Intelligent Design creationists claim that proof of a Creator is evident in life and creation. The basis for this belief is the complexity found in nature, which is attributed to God rather than chance. A watch is a common example of a creator. They argue that Earth and life are like a watch, they are so complex that they could not have been produced by chance and must have a designer, an intelligent designer.


E. Evolutionary Creationism.

The Evolutionary creationism view is based on the belief that God established and maintains the laws of nature that guide evolution and out of evolution, life formed (Scott, 2009). They believe humankind existed before the Biblical seven-day creation, but only received a soul when it reached an appropriate stage in evolutionary development. It is very similar to Theistic evolution with the difference being theology rather than science.

F. Theistic Evolution.

Theistic Evolutionists (TEs) believe that God created all things through the creation of natural laws. They agree with modern science on all findings, including the idea that one species can and has given rise to another (Scott, 2009). TEs vary in the amount of intervention they credit to God. Some TEs believe that God put into play the natural laws and stopped, while others believe that he has intervened at key points in history. The latter gives emphasis on God’s intervention during the origin of humankind.

G. Agnostic Evolutionism.

Agnostic Evolutionists agree with evolution and choose not to pass judgment on the existence of a higher power. Thomas Henry Huxley, a defender of Darwin in the nineteenth century, coined “Agnostic” (Scott, 2009). Agnostic Evolutionists choose to follow only what they have evidence for but do not negate things they do not have evidence, particularly the existence of God. They believe that if God exists, then the science will eventually find proof.


H. Materialistic Evolutionism.

Before discussing this belief, it is necessary to describe materialism (also called naturalism) and its variations. Methodological materialism (or scientific naturalism) is an epistemological view that natural phenomena have natural causes. Methodological materialists will only recognize knowledge that comes from empirical hypotheses that only reference natural causes (Scott, 2009, Forrest, 2000). Philosophical materialism (also called philosophical naturalism, metaphysical naturalism, or ontological naturalism) is an ontological view that all natural events have a natural cause and all explanations must be tested accordingly. Philosophical naturalism refutes the existence of all supernatural phenomena, including God (Scott, 2009, Forrest, 2000). Methodological naturalism includes a method and procedure while philosophical naturalism is a worldview. It is important to note that all philosophical naturalists are methodological naturalists, but not all methodological naturalists are philosophical naturalists (Scott, 2009).
Materialist evolutionism is at the far end of the spectrum, holding the position of the polar evolution end. The methodological materialists support the findings of science and accept evolution. Methodological materialist’s attitudes vary concerning the existence of God. Agnostics are materialists that do not question the existence of God, while Atheists are materialists that reject the existence of God.

IV. Method

Creationist research is bogged down by the tendency to use authority and intuition arguments as proof of a claim. For instance, the Pope, in Catholicism, is the head of the church and his word is God’s law. The pope renders judgments on how the church will address controversial issues. He is also a political figure, and that makes his decision based on more than just God’s will. He is biased and lacks the qualifications to make decisions in all areas of life.
They also practice flawed logical explanations. This is usually combined with the authority technique. Many Creationist claims are based on the idea that because the claim has not been disproven, then it must be true. Science cannot prove that God does not exist, but that does not infer support for the alternative, that he does exist. A tenet of science holds that the burden of proof lies with the claimant. Creationists claim the existence of a maker and they are the ones responsible for scientifically proving his existence.
Creationists make untestable claims and try to support them with science. The existence of an omnipotent creator is not testable. Given that science is based on testable questions, creationism, the belief that the universe is the result of the action or actions of an omnipotent, divine creator, is not science. It would be impossible to control or isolate the effects of an omnipotent being. Omnipotence is like faith in that, by definition, the phenomenon cannot be studied by modern science. For instance, a God that is omnipotent could have created the universe five minutes ago, or five billion years ago and made it to look as it does to us now and how would we know of the deception? It is not scientific to assume accurate observation from a being that can manipulate everything, including the reality of human experience and man-made measurement. This would mean that we know nothing to be true, not even our own reality.
Creationism, in many subgroups, is based on the theoretical construct of faith. Proof of a phenomenon negates faith of that phenomenon. If proof breaks the faith-based foundation of a belief system, then the belief system will crumble. Creationist subgroups are religions based on a foundation of faith, yet they continue to seek proof. They are attempting to validate and falsify a system that is by definition, unfalsifiable.
Creationists conduct research regardless of the scientific validity. These studies are posted on websites that are managed by like-minded people and in journals that are reviewed by others that have no regard for the scientific method. The research is not available to the scientific community, and therefore, results cannot be replicated. Replication provides self-correction and validity that is lacking in creationist studies.

Should creationists give up on science? Is there damage done when those of a scientific mind seek truth? One of the pillars of true science is openness. It is open to correction and advancement. The problem with much of the creation-supporting research is the bias held by the scientists. The experimenter is seeking truth, if the experimenter invests in the outcome, then the experiment is in danger of contamination by experimenter bias. It is not science when the experimenter is trying to support a theory; rather, good science tries to disprove what is thought to be true. Darwin set out to find evidence for a creator and gained more knowledge when the evidence did not support his hypothesis.


V. Creationist Evidence


The main evidence for Creationism as a scientifically validated belief come from the Bible, flood geology, archaeology, and biology fields. The Bible is a historical text that is incomplete. Flood geology is the study of the Earth, given the premise that a worldwide flood occurred around the time of Moses. Archaeologists in general agree that the field of archaeology only illuminates aspects of the Bible. They assert, with great protest from Creationist supporters that the evidence has not been dug up yet.

VI. Archaeology.

Archaeology provides knowledge about the culture in which the Bible was written (Hoerth, 2004). Many subgroups near the creationist end of the continuum rely on a literal translation of the Bible. Cultural and historical understanding of Biblical texts and those who wrote the texts grows and becomes more holistic as new information about the people, places, things, and events become available from the findings of archaeologists (Hoerth, 2004). Translation of the original Bible texts remains a work in progress.
Language is tied very heavily to culture. As cultural and historical understanding increases so does the current understanding of ancient texts. Accuracy of texts and the events they reference change with each discovery. It is important to note that many groups are basing their faith and lives upon a “literal translation” that is incomplete at best and in many cases incorrectly translated.
The story of creation in Genesis chapter one is similar to other creation stories of its time. During the time of Moses, the man given credit as the author of the Genesis, “The Memphite Theology of Creation” and “A Hymn to Amon-Re” were popular in Egypt (Hoerth, 2004). “The Memphite Theology of Creation” was composed several centuries before Abraham to justify Memphis as the ruling city in Egypt, though still popular during the time of Moses. This story of creation follows that Ptah created Atum, the creator god. Then Ptah created all other gods and their ka’s (souls) through Atum, which is referred to as the tongue of Ptah. It continues to explain the creation of the Ennead, the nine leading gods in the Egyptian religion. “A Hymn of Amon-Re” follows that Ptah made Amon-Re, who in turn made all things (the Earth and all living things). The other creation stories mentioned are similar to the account of the Bible in that they are lacking in precision and detail. The creation account in Genesis is a reference of the beginning activity of God and satisfies the natural curiosity over first things (Hoerth, 2004).

A. Flood Geology.

Insert history, techniques, and claims of flood geologists. Flood geology is term referring to studying geology with the premise that a flood occurred around the time of Noah that covered the Earth. All fossils are said to have been formed from this flood. Flood geologists do not believe that radiometric dating is a valid measure of fossil age because it would not be consistent with their belief that the flood occurred 6,000 years ago. All fossils, then, and all geographical formations can only be dated back to the time of the flood.


VII. Evolution

Plants and animals are intricately designed for living their lives. Humans developed a jaw with a fraction of the muscle of their primate ancestors. The jaw, however, did not lose strength. The vertical bite and muscle formation afford the human bite 40-50% more efficiency in the projection of power (University of South Wales, 2010). The quick and powerful bite of humans is suited to food sources, while the slow but brawny bite of apes allows them to chew for long periods, as is necessary when bamboo is on the menu. The muscle formation is an intricate system that produces more power than all the parts should be able to produce.
This complexity and intricacy seems to imply a designer. William Paley, an 18th century English philosopher, asserted that a watch is so intricate and complex that it is impossible to have been formed by chance and must have a maker. Charles Darwin, the English naturalist that is most associated with evolution, questioned the concept of a designer before he investigated origins. Several people had the thought of evolution before Darwin, but he was the first to use data to convince people of evolution in his book “On the Origin of Species.” Darwin’s purpose that resulted in this work was to find evidence that every species was formed by God separately and none of them are connected. Darwin tested the claim using empirical evidence and produced the theory of evolution instead of supporting the claim he sought to support.
Darwinism, the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection, states that life on Earth began with one primitive species that has gradually evolved over the last 3.5 million years. The first organism branched out over time to form new species (see Figure 3, Coyne, 2009). A species is a group of actually or potentially interbreeding populations, which is reproductively isolated from other such groups” (Teaching Evolution, n.d.).


A. Evolutionary change.

There are six key concepts in evolution. The first is the concept is evolution, which is the idea that species’ genetic makeup changes over time. That is, a species can evolve into something very different due to changes (often mutations) in the DNA that carry over to future generations. Humans are an example of change over time, in that they originated from an apelike ancestor and evolved into an upright, abstract thinking, species (see Figure 2). Species evolve at different rates. Some have not changed much in the last billion years like horseshoe crabs and gingko trees while others evolve rapidly like whales and humans (Coyne, 2009; Bruce, 2001). Evolution does not necessarily occur at a constant rate.

Figure 3. A = hypothetical species within this genus; I – XIV = 1,000 generations; a10, f10, m10, w10, z10= distinct new varieties or even sub-species;
A – L are spaced irregularly to indicate how distinct they are from each other, and are above broken lines at various angles suggesting that they have diverged from one or more common ancestors. From A, diverging lines show branching descent producing new varieties, some of which go extinct. The process is extrapolated for a further 4,000 generations so that the descendants of A and I become fourteen new species labeled a14 to z14. F has continued for 14,000 generations relatively unchanged and species B,C,D,E,G,H,K and L have gone extinct.
The Tree of Life image that appeared in Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection as a theoretical model of the evolution of species, 1859.


B. Gradualism


The second concept is gradualism. Change takes several generations and several generations take time. The evolution of the ancestral ape to humans included the evolution of new features like the size and shape of the skull that allows for a larger brain in humans but not its ape-like ancestors. The evolution of one to the other would occur over hundreds, thousands, or even millions of generations (Coyne, 2009). Early apes had short life spans, that increased as the species evolved to humans to be up to 122 years (Oldest Person, 2010). Hundreds of generations with this lifespan would still take thousands or millions of years to evolve. Some populations, like microbes, have very short generations (as short as 20 minutes). For these, hundreds of generations could only take days. Viruses, like the flu, evolve and become resistant to a vaccine in a single season after exposure (Robinson, n.d.). While some cases of quick change occur, substantial change usually requires thousands of years. All species evolve at different rates, usually induced by evolutionary pressures (e.g. the climate and food sources of the environment; Coyne, 2009).

C. Speciation

The third key concept, Speciation (splitting), is the process by which a single ancestral species splits into two descendent species (Coyne, 2009). Speciation has three steps. First, the gene flow between two populations is interrupted (populations become genetically isolated from each other). Second, genetic differences gradually accumulate between the two populations (populations diverge genetically). Third, reproductive isolation evolves as a consequence of this divergence (a reproductive isolating mechanism evolves) (Teaching Evolution, n.d.).
After the first split, each new descendent species can also split. Millions of years of splitting has produced the 10 million (give or take 5 million) species currently living and the estimated minimum of 17 million extinct and undiscovered species (Coyne, 2009; see Wolosz for more information on how species are estimated).
Evidence for speciation lies in the shared fundamental traits between species. These include the biochemical pathways that we use to produce energy, a standard four-letter DNA code, and the process by which that code is read and translated into proteins (Coyne, 2009; Knight, Freeland, & Landweber, 2001). Evidence for speciation is the discoveries of new species in newly formed environments (Byrne & Nichols, 1999; Van Halen & Maiorana, 1991), incipient speciation, where two species rarely interbreed (e.g. Fanello et al., 2003; Lehmann et al., 2003; Hoffman, 2004, Kennington, Partridge, & Hoffman, 2005), and ring species that show the process of speciation by the living succession of one species to another across a habitat (e.g. Wake, 1997). The salamander has seven subspecies that make a circle around California’s central valley. Ring species, like the salamander form a complete circle where the two adjacent ends, are so different they cannot breed (Wake, 1997).

D. Common ancestry

The similarities in living species are not enough to support the theory of evolution. Living DNA only gives information as far back as the oldest living generation. The fourth key concept of evolution is common ancestry. Common ancestry implies that it is always possible to look back in time, using DNA or fossils, and find descendants joining at their ancestors (Griswold, Logsdon, & Gomulkiewicz, 2007; Bruce, 2001). The DNA of species living since the first ancestral species is necessary to be able to trace the evolution of species. Fossils contain DNA and elemental characteristics of the species (Coyne, 2009).

E. Natural Selection

The fifth key characteristic of evolution is natural selection. Natural selection is the process by which traits become more or less common in a population due to their survival and reproduction value. Natural selection is a process where the best genes thrive and create a better species. It does not, however, produce perfection (Coyne, 2009; Pigliucci, 2002). Most evolutionary change is done through the process of natural selection.

F. Genetic drift

The sixth key characteristic of evolution is genetic drift, which is a non selective mechanism of change that has nothing to do with adaptation. Genes are proportionally unequal due to the number of offspring produced in a family and other environmental situations (Coyne, 2009). Genetic drift explains some non-adaptive DNA features that have remained over time (Scott, 2009).


VIII. Fossils

Fossil formation requires a very specific set of circumstances. First, the remains of a plant or animal must find their way to the bottom of a body of water and be covered by sediment before they decay or are scattered by scavengers. It is rare for land dwelling animals and plants to find themselves at the bottom of a body of water and even more rare that they get there in one piece and then covered by sediment (Coyne, 2009).

The hard parts (e.g. bone and shell) of fossils are replaced by dissolved minerals and form a cast. The cast is then compressed into rock by the pressure of building sediments above it. The soft parts of animals and plants do not fossilize easily. Over 80 percent of all species in history were soft bodied (e.g. worms, jellyfish, bacteria, and fragile creatures like birds), leaving a bias in evidence with few remains to study (Coyne, 2009).
Once remains have been fossilized, the next step in becoming evidence is discovery. Most fossils are too deep to be accessible. There is not a map indicating where to find fossils and the Earth has a very large surface area. Fossils are discovered when sediments are raised due to erosion via wind and rain or in some cases, by the digging of a construction crew.
If only a small percent of all living things were in the right place at the right time for fossilization (mostly marine organisms), and only a small percent of those remains were fossilized (hard parts), and of that number, an even smaller percent has been discovered by scientists, then we can assume the fossil record is incomplete. There are roughly ten million species alive today. It is estimated that the total number of species that ever lived is between 17 million and four billion. Scientists have been digging and documenting fossils for over 300 years and have uncovered 250,000 fossil species. With the most conservative estimate of 17 million species, findings consist of only .01 percent of all species (Coyne, 2009). The current fossil record is incomplete, but more complete than it was last year.


A. Method

Fossil records show the history of living things. The evolution of species can be visualized by placing fossils on the geological time scale, a timeline of when the remains were formed. Each fossil becomes a link between the two fossils dated before and after it. The process used to date fossils must be valid and reliable or the timeline will be faulty, and in turn, evidence for evolution discounted.
Fossils are dated using a relative timeline, that provides a sequential age, and an absolute timeline, that provides a numerical age of the material (Macrae, 1996). The relative timeline classifies subdivisions of the Earth's geology in sequence based on the relative age relationships, most commonly indicated by vertical/stratigraphic position (see figure x; Newman, 2001). The absolute timeline uses radiocarbon dating and radiometric dating to provide the number of years that decay of the material has occurred (Macrae, 1996).
Radiocarbon and radiometric dating are based on the decay of certain naturally occurring radioactive elements. These elements decay, or break down, at predictable rates. Chemists measure the half-life of the elements, (i.e., the time it takes for half of the radioactive parent element to break down to the stable daughter element). Age is calculated by comparing the proportions of parent to daughter element in a rock sample, and factoring in the half-life (Benton, 2001).
The most prominent absolute dating technique is carbon-14 dating. Archaeologists prefer carbon-14 dating but are limited by a half-life of 5730 years. This means that the method cannot date materials older than about 50,000 to 70,000 years (Benton, 2001; Newman, 2001). Radiometric time scale. In United States Geological Society). Radiometric dating is based on the decay of long-lived radioactive isotope series that occur naturally in rocks and minerals (Table 3). These isotope series have a half-lives ranging from .7 to 48.6 billion years, significantly longer than that of carbon (Benton, 2001). Scientists observe the subtle differences in the relative proportions of the two isotopes to produce dates for rocks of any age (Benton, 2001).
Table 3.
Date log for several long-lived isotopes.
|| Parent Isotope
Stable Daughter Product
Currently Accepted Half-Life Values

Lead-206
4.5 billion years
Uranium-235
Lead-207
704 million years
Thorium-232
Lead-208
14.0 billion years
Rubidium-87
Strontium-87
48.8 billion years
Potassium-40
Argon-40
1.25 billion years
Samarium-147
Neodymium-143
106 billion years






Since the first radiometric dates, geologists have made tens of thousands of radiometric age determinations and refined earlier estimates. The numerically calibrated geologic time scale has been continuously refined since the 1930s and the amount of change with each revision has become smaller over time (Macrae, 1996). Estimates can be cross-tested using different isotope pairs and having different labs make the estimates. Cross-testing has continually confirmed the accuracy of the ages produced (Benton, Wills, & Hitchin, 2000). New geological time scales are published every few years with up-to-date dates for major time lines (Benton, 2001).
Evolutionary claims are specific, falsifiable claims that are tested using the scientific method and reliable measures. In radiometric dating, geologists continue to produce new knowledge that increases understanding, corrects errors, and validates the method of testing as well as the overall theory. Results are published in peer-reviewed journals in all sub areas of science (e.g. geology, biology, psychology).

IX. Limitations and Gaps of Science

A. Falsifiability.

The principle that strengthens the findings of science also limits its range. There are questions that, by definition, cannot be answered by science. Essentialist questions, questions concerning phenomenon that cannot be measured, and questions concerning phenomenon that cannot be controlled are examples. In the case of Creationism, the existence of God, or a designer cannot be disproved. An omnipotent being cannot be measured or controlled. The designer defined by Creationists is not tangible, but revealed by his affect on people and the environment. Science is based on directly observable and measurable phenomena. Secondary observations (the designer’s effects) are limited to correlational analyses. Correlation does not imply causation, rather it opens the door to the third variable problem. There is always a possibility of a third variable that is causing the observed effects rather than the phenomenon of interest. Many instances of God’s presence are based on a correlation of an event and the individual or group’s assumption of his presence. In order to test for causation, the designer must controlled.

B. Incomplete data.

The fossil record is incomplete. Fossil formation requires a very specific set of circumstances. First, the remains of a plant or animal must find their way to the bottom of a body of water and be covered by sediment before they decay or are scattered by scavengers. It is rare for land dwelling animals and plants to find themselves at the bottom of a body of water and even more rare that they get there in one piece and then covered by sediment.
The hard parts (e.g. bone and shell) of fossils are replaced by dissolved minerals and form a cast. The cast is then compressed into rock by the pressure of building sediments above it. The soft parts of animals and plants do not fossilize easily. Over 80 percent of all species in history were soft bodied (e.g. worms, jellyfish, bacteria, and fragile creatures like birds), leaving a bias in evidence with few remains to study.
Once remains have been fossilized, the next step in becoming evidence is discovery. Most fossils are too deep to be accessible. There is not a map indicating where to find fossils and the Earth has a very large surface area. Fossils are discovered when sediments are raised due to erosion via wind and rain or in some cases, by the digging of a construction crew.
If only a small percent of all living things were in the right place at the right time for fossilization (mostly marine organisms), and only a small percent of those remains were fossilized (hard parts), and of that number, an even smaller percent has been discovered by scientists, then we can assume the fossil record is incomplete. There are roughly ten million species alive today. It is estimated that the total number of species that ever lived is between 17 million and four billion. We have been digging and documenting fossils for over 300 years and have uncovered 250,000 fossil species. With the most conservative estimate of 17 million species, our findings consist of only .01 percent of all species. Our current data is incomplete. Does that mean it is useless?

C. Nerdiness to the rescue?: Benefits of Science and Creationism

Science is driving force of the advancement of our species. Science is the tool we use to gain knowledge about ourselves, our neighbors, the past, the future, and our surroundings. Science is our method of gaining knowledge that leads to application. Physical and mental health is reliant on the findings of scientific research. Entertainment, utility, and comfort are all products of science. It is hard to separate a human from science, because it is the way we think, we behave, and the tools we use to so. Without a systematic process to figure out what works, or what is real, we would be fumbling in the dark, vulnerable to any attack on our mind or our body.
More than 50% of Americans do not understand the methods of science but most recognize the importance (Pew Research Center, 2009). Awareness of the deficit in scientific literacy has produced papers, television programs, and actions in people that strive to spread knowledge. There is a slight positive trend in scientific knowledge over the past decade (Pew Research Center, 2009).
Creationists have created a significant part of that deficit with pseudoscience. Many groups of creationists seek to spread their belief system and will go to great lengths to do so. They believe, like scientists do, that their cause is the only light in a dark world (Sagan, 1996). There are many benefits to strong belief systems. Research supports the hypothesis that people with a strong belief are more likely to recover from illness; but the research does not generalize to those with a strong belief in the evilness of antibiotics.
One of the many controversial issues today involves the fight between creation and evolution and which should be taught in America’s schools. The purpose of primary education is to teach children how to learn and how to think critically. It is important not to mislead children during a critical time when they form the basis for how they will view the world.
Advocates of creationism are pushing for creationist claims to be taught next to evolution in science class. To do so would mislead students and confuse them. Science is clear and concise, while creationism is vague and all encompassing. Science uses a systematic process that is backed by hundreds of years of repetition. Creationism is backed by anecdotal evidence, and persuasive appeals. Science is progressive and self-correcting, while Creationist claims are static and closed to change. All living things and functioning systems have one thing in common, they are moving. Science is moving, and changing every day. Creationist claims in the realm of science are exactly the opposite, stagnant and stable. The definition of stasis is to stand still, stable, and unmoving. Is it a coincidence that those are characteristics of all dead things? Am I implying that all Creationists are dead? No, but I am suggesting that that Creationism should function in the system in which it fits, and science will never be that system.


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