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Orestes Brownson on Darwin’s Descent of Man

Written by kolbecenter on . Posted in Philosophy, Uncategorized

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Orestes Brownson (1803-1876) was one of the greatest Catholic apologists in the history of the United States–some would say the greatest.  A convert to the Catholic Faith, Brownson entered the Church after having earned a stellar reputation as an original writer and thinker, a member of the intellectual circle that included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. His  Review offered a bold and uncompromising defense of the Catholic Faith which earned the respect and admiration of the entire episcopate.  On May 13, 1849, Brownson received a letter from Bishop Kenrick of Philadelphia, signed by the Archbishop of Baltimore and by all of the American Bishops in attendance at the Council of Baltimore in 1849, to encourage him by their “approbation and influence” to continue his “literary labors in defense of the faith.” The fact that Brownson later lost the support of many of the Bishops when he rightly upheld the authority of the Church above that of the state in her proper sphere does not diminish the extraordinary character of this recognition by all of the American bishops of his skill as an apologist. When Charles Darwin published his speculations on the origins of man and living things, beginning with his Origin of Species and continuing with the Descent of Man, Brownson recognized immediately that the Emperor of Evolution was naked but that his nakedness needed to be exposed swiftly, lest the world begin to admire the magnificence of the Emperor’s New Clothes as described by the disciples of Darwin.  Brownson’s critique of Darwin’s Descent of Man rings as true today as when he penned it one hundred and fifty years ago.

Mr. Darwin’s theory of the descent of man from the ape or some other of the monkey tribe depends on his theory of the origin of species by means of natural selection.  Which in its turn depends on the theory of progress, which we refuted in our review of Sir John Lubbock’s theory of the origin of civilization; or, perhaps, more remotely on Herbert Spencer’s theory of evolution as set forth in his First Principles of a New System of Philosophy, which itself depends on the theory of the correlation of forces.  If Sir John’s theory on the origin of civilization is untenable, or if Herbert Spencer’s theory of evolution is evidently false, unproved, and unprovable, Darwin’s theory of the origin of species is an untenable hypothesis, and his theory of the descent of man falls to the ground.  We proved, in our review of Sir John Lubbock’s theory, that man did not begin and could not have begun in utter barbarism, and that the savage is the degenerate, not the primitive man; for man, when deprived of foreign and supernatural assistance, either deteriorates or remains stationary.  We will only add here, that progress is motion forward, if taken literally, and is, if taken figuratively, an advance from the imperfect toward the perfect and necessarily demands a principle or a beginning, a medium, and an end, none of which can be asserted without the supposition of a Creator, who in his creative act is at once all three.  You must have a starting-point from which progress moves, an end toward which it moves, and a medium in and by which it moves.  These three things are essential, and without them progress is inconceivable: and these three are all independent of the progressive subject.  There can, then, be no progress without God as its first and last cause, and the divine creative act as its medium, and even then progress only in the line of the specific nature of the progressive subject, whether man or animal.  The transformation of one species into another, no matter by what means, would not be progress, but the destruction of one species and the production of another, a higher species if you will, but not the progressive development of a lower species.

Herbert Spencer’s doctrine of evolution is open to the same objection.  In all evolution there must be motion, and then somewhere a starting point, an evolving subject, and a medium of evolution, for there can be no motion, unless we have forgot our mechanics, without a first mover at rest.  Herbert Spencer denies creation, or a creator distinct from the cosmos.  He must then assume the cosmos is self-existent, eternal, then immovable, immutable, and consequently incapable of evolving any existences or forms of existence not eternal in itself.  The cosmos, instead of being in a constant state of flux and reflux, as old Heraclitus thought, and as Mr. Spencer holds, would be at rest and immovable, both as whole and in all its parts.  There could then be no change of phenomena any more than of substance, no new combination of matter, motion, and force, no alterations of concentration and dispersion of forces.  All the forms and phenomena of the cosmos must be absolutely unchangeable and eternal as the cosmos itself.  Consequently there could be no evolution, for evolution necessarily implies change of some sort, and change of no sort is admissible.  If the cosmos is not created by God, who is distinct from the cosmos, it is eternal and, if eternal, no change of any sort is admissible in it, as theologians tell us, none is admissible in God.  The theory of evolution, like the modern theory of progress, is untenable, and must be dismissed.

Yet, without assuming one or the other of these theories, Mr. Darwin cannot assert his origin of species by means of natural selection, or by any other means, except that of creation, which it is his purpose to avoid; and what is worse if he accepts either, he is still unable to assert his theory, for the evolution theory denies all change, and the origination of any new forms; and progress is predicable only of the specific subject in the line of its own specific nature.  We have read Mr. Darwin’s books with some care, and, though not an absolute stranger to the subject he treats, or to the facts he narrates, we are a little surprised that even a professed scientist could put forth such a mass of unwarranted inductions and unfounded conjectures as science.  Not one nor all of the facts he adduces, prove the species originate in natural or artificial selection.  In all his inductions he is obliged to assume the progress of the species as the principle of his induction, while he ought to know that the assumption of the progress of the species negatives the origin of species in selection.  But, and this is fatal to his theory, he nowhere adduces a single fact that proves the species is progressive, or a single instance in which a lower species by its struggles for life, as he pretends, approaches a higher species, or in which the individuals of a lower species lose any of the characteristics of their species, and acquire those of a higher or a different species.

The theory of natural selection assumes the Malthusian principle, that population has a tendency to outrun the means of subsistence, and applies the principle to every species, vegetable, animal and human.  Hence, follows with individuals of every species a struggle for life, in which the weaker go to the wall, and only the stronger survive.  Well, be it so: what then?  Why, these the stronger individuals give rise, or the struggle for life, in which only the stronger survive, going on for a long series of ages, gives birth to a new and higher species.  Is it so?  What is the proof?  We have found no proof of it, and Mr. Darwin offers no proof of it.  Because only the stronger survive, it by no means follows that these in any series of ages give rise to a new and distinct species, that these stronger individuals acquire any new characteristics, or that they lose any of the characteristics of their original species.

The gardener knows that plants and flowers are affected by climate, soil, and cultivation; but he knows also that the changes or improvements produced in this way, if they give rise to new varieties in the same species, do not, so far as known, give rise to a new species.  Mr. Darwin compares domestic animals with what he assumes to be wild animals of the same original species, or the species from which he assumes they have descended.  But this proves nothing to his purpose; for it is impossible for him to say which is the primitive, which the derivative, whether the domestic races have sprung from the wild, or the wild from the domestic, or whether the differences noted are the result  of development of the primitive type, or of reversion to it.  The assumption that the domestic races have been tamed, or domesticated from the wild, is a mere assumption of which there is no historical or scientific evidence: at least Mr. Darwin adduces none.  There is no authority for assuming that the domestic goose has sprung from the wild goose.  Why not say the wild goose has sprung from the domestic goose?  The wild duck from the tame duck? The wild boar from the domestic pig? Some naturalists contend that the several varieties of the dog family have descended from the wolf, the fox, and the jackal; but supposing them to be only varieties of the some species, of which we are not assured, why not make the dog primitive, and the wolf, fox, and jackal derivative?  There are no know facts in the case that render it necessary to suppose them, rather than the dog, the parent stock of the whole species.  Indeed, scientists have no criterion by which they can determine whether the tame variety or the wild represents the primitive type, and their only reason is the assumption , that all species begin at the lowest round of the ladder, and reach their perfect state only by progressive development.  But this is a perfectly gratuitous assumption.  Mr. Darwin adduces no fact to prove it.

So far as there are any known facts or certain principles in the case, species are immutable, and their only development is in the explication of individuals.  So far as our scientists have any knowledge on the subject, there is no progress of species.  Individuals may find a more or less favorable medium, and vary from one another, but the specific type remains always the same as long as it remains at all, and is reproduced essentially unaltered in each new generation.  It is even doubtful if abnormal types are ever really transmitted by natural generation.  Cardinal Wiseman inclines to believe they are, at least to some extent.  We doubt it, and explain the facts which seem to favor it, by the continued presence and activity of the causes which first originated them.  There are monstrous births, but they are not perpetuated.  The cardinal mentions a family with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, and we have known at least one six-fingered and six-toed individual, but, if perpetuated through three generations, as the cardinal asserts, there did not arise from the family a distinct variety in the human species; and, in the case that came under our own observation, neither the parents of the man nor his children had more than the normal number of fingers and toes.  In any case, after two or three generations, if reproductive, the abnormal individuals revert to the original type.  The breed may be crossed, but not permanently improved by crossing.  The crossing, as every herdsman or shepherd knows, must be kept up, or the hybrid, after a few generations, eliminates the weaker and reverts to the stronger of the original types.

There is no evidence, as we have already said, of the progress of the species.  The sponge today does not differ of the sponge of four thousand years ago; and if the wild peach of Persia is poisonous, our cultivated peach, the fruit of which is so delicious, if neglected and suffered to become wild, would most likely, under the same conditions of climate and soil, become as poisonous as is the Persian wild peach: thereby proving that, whatever the effects of cultivation or changes of its habitat, the species remains always unchanged.  Even in the cultivated peach traces of its original poisonous qualities are found, if not in its pulp, at least in its meat, of which it is unsafe for any to partake largely, unless proof against prussic acid.  The florist produces, by culture and proper adjustment of soil, great and striking changes in the size, color, and beauty of many varieties and species of flowers, all of which, if neglected and suffered to run wild, revert, after a while, to their original type, which neither natural nor artificial selection alters or impairs.

Then the survival of the strongest, in the struggle for life, does not effect the species, far less originate a new species.  There is no evidence that the rat is more intelligent today than was the rat any number of centuries ago, although, according to Mr. Darwin, we must suppose only the strongest have survived, and the process of natural selection  has been constantly going on.  The bee constructs her cell, and the beaver his house and dam, not otherwise nor more perfectly than did either at the remotest period in which man has observed the habits of either.  Wheat grown from grain deposited in Egyptian mummies three thousand years ago, is as perfect as that which is grown from the seed subject to three thousand years of additional culture and struggle for life.

These observations, which might be indefinitely extended prove that, whatever effect natural or artificial selection may have on individuals of the species, it has none of the species itself, and in no case originates, so far as human observation goes, a new species.  Consequently all the facts and arguments Mr. Darwin adduces in support of his theory of the descent of man from the ape, or to prove the species ape by natural selection has generated or developed the species man, count for nothing.  If no instance can be adduced of the development of a new species by natural selection, and instance of a lower species towards a higher, there is and can be no proof that man has originated in a lower species.  All the analogies between man and the lower animals, physical or intellectual, adduced by Mr. Darwin, prove simply nothing to the purpose.  It was in bygone days a favorite theory with us, as it perhaps still is with many others, that man, while he is something more, is also resume of the whole lower creation, or of all orders of existences below him.   When we were engrossed with the study of the comparative anatomy and physiology of the brain, we conjectured that there is a just gradation  in its convolutions and relative size, from the lowest animal that has a brain distinct from mere ganglia, up to man.  We regarded man, in fact, as including in himself, in his physical and animal nature, the elements of the entire creation below him, and hence rightly named its lord.  So that our Lord, in assuming human nature, a human soul and a human body, assumed the elements of the entire cosmos, and, in redeeming man, redeemed the whole lower creation and delivered the earth itself, which had been cursed for man’s sake, from bondage.  In being made flesh and redeeming the body, he redeemed all animal and material nature, which returns to God as its last end in man for whom this lower world was made, and over which he received the dominion from his and its Maker.  But we never saw in this any evidence that man had been developed from the world below him, or that any animal race by transformation had become man.  Supposing the gradation assumed, which we are rather inclined to accept even yet, it by no means follows that the higher grade is in any case the development of the next grade below.  Indeed it cannot be, for development of any grade or species can only unfold or bring out what is already in it, or what it contains wrapped up, enveloped, or unexplicated.  Therefore its development cannot carry it out of itself, or lift it to the grade next above it.  The superior grade is a superior grade by virtue of something which it has that the highest inferior grade has not, and therefore is not and cannot be developed from it.

Say what you will, the ape is not a man; nor, as far as our observations or investigations can go, is the ape, the gorilla, or any other variety of the monkey tribe, the animal that approaches nearest to man.  The rat, the beaver, the horse, the pig, the raven, the elephant surpass the monkey in intelligence, if it be intelligence, and not simply instinct; and the dog is certainly far ahead of the monkey in moral qualities, in affection for his master and fidelity to him, and so is the horse when kindly treated.  But let this pass.  There is that, call it what you will, in man, which is not in the ape.  Man is two-footed and two-handed; the ape is four-handed, or, if you choose to call the extremity of his limbs feet, four-footed.  In fact, he has neither a human hand nor a human foot, and, anatomically considered, differs hardly less from man than does the dog or the horse.  I have never been able to discover any of the simian tribe a single human quality.  As to physical structure, there is some resemblance.  Zoologists tell us traces of the same original type may be found running through the whole animal world; and, therefore, the near approach of the ape to the human form counts for nothing in this argument.  But here is the point we make; namely, the differentia of man, not being in the ape, cannot be obtained from the ape by development.

This sufficiently refutes Darwin’s whole theory.  He does not prove the origin of a new species either by natural or artificial selection; and, not having done that, he adduces nothing that does or can warrant the induction, that the human species is developed from the quadrumanic or any other species.  In reading Mr. Darwin’s books before us, while we acknowledge the vast accumulation of facts in the natural history  of man and animals, we have been struck with the feebleness of his reasoning powers.  He does not seem to possess, certainly does not use, the simplest elements of the logical understanding, and apparently has no conception of what is or is not proof.  He does not know how to reduce facts to their principles, and never, so far as we have been able to discover, contemplates them in the light of the principles on which they depend; but looks at them only in the light of his own theories, which they as often contradict as favor.  Patient as an observer, he is utterly imbecile as a scientific reasoner.  Two-thirds of his work on the “Descent of Man” is taken up with what he calls Sexual Selection.  Many of the facts and details are curious, and neither uninteresting nor uninstructive to the student of the natural history of beasts, birds, fishes, reptiles, and insects, or even of man; but, as far as we can see, they prove nothing in favor of his theory of the origin of species by means of natural selection, nor of his theory of the descent of man from the ape or any other animal.  We could concede all his alleged facts, and deny in toto his theory.  Some of them we might be unable to explain, as for instance, the mammae of the male; but we could explain them no better with than without his theory.

Mr. Darwin, though his theory is not original with him, and we were familiar with it even in our youth, overlooks the fact that it denies the doctrine of the creation and immutability of species, as taught in Genesis, where we read that God said: “Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may have seed in itself upon the earth.  And it was done.”  “And God created the great whales and every living and moving creature which the waters brought forth, according to their kinds, and every winged fowl according to its kind.”  “And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds, and cattle, and everything thing that creepeth on the earth.” Genesis I, 11,21,25.  Now this doctrine, the doctrine of the whole Christian world, and which stands directly opposed to Mr. Darwin’s theory, is, as say the lawyers, in possession, and therefore to be held as true until the contrary is proved.  It is not enough, then, for Mr. Darwin to set forth his theory and ask us as Christians, as believers in Genesis, to accept it, unless able to disprove it; nor is it enough for him even to prove that it may be true.  The onus probandi is on him who arraigns the faith and convictions of the Christian world, which are the faith and convictions of enlightened and living mankind.  He must prove his theory not only may be, but is, true, and prove it with scientific or apodictic certainty, for only by so doing can he oust the Christian doctrine from its possession, or overcome the presumption in its favor; and till he has ousted and made away with that doctrine, his theory cannot be legally or logically entertained even as a probable hypothesis.  This he hardly pretends to have done.  As far as we can discover, he does not claim apodictic certainty for his theory, or profess to set it forth for ant thing more than a probable hypothesis, which he leads us to suspect he hardly believes himself.  But in the present case we must prove it to be true  and indubitable, or he has no right to publish it at all, not even as probable; for probable it is not, so long as it is not certain that the Christian doctrine in possession is false.

This principle, which is the principle both of ethics and logic, is disregarded by nearly the whole herd of contemporary scientists.  They make a point of ignoring Christianity, and proceed as if they were perfectly free to put forth as science any number of theories, hypotheses, conjectures, guesses, which directly contradict it, as if they were under no obligation to consult the universal faith of mankind; and theories too, not one of which, even if plausible, is proved to be true, or deserving the name of science.  We by no means contend that the general belief of mankind, or the consensus hominum, is in itself an infallible criterion of truth; but we do maintain that it is, as the lawyers say, prima facie evidence, or a vehement presumption of truth, and that no man has the moral right to publish any opinions, or uncertain theories or hypotheses, that are opposed to it.  It can be overruled by science that is science, by the truth that is demonstrated to be truth, and which cannot be gainsaid.  He who assails it may plead the truth, if he has it, in justification; but not an uncertain opinion, not an unproved theory, or an unverified hypothesis, however plausible or even probable it may appear to himself.  Sincerity, or firmness of conviction on the part of the defenders of the adverse theory or hypothesis, is no justification, no excuse even; and no one has any right to assail or contradict the Christian faith, unless he has infallible authority for the truth of what he alleges in opposition to it.  And this no scientist has or can have.

We respect science and bow to its authority, if it really be science; but the theories, hypotheses, and even the inductions of the scientists from the few facts they have observed, are not science, are at best only unverified opinions.  Induction is simply generalization, and cannot of itself give anything beyond the simple facts generalized.  It can only attain to what scientists call a law, which is itself only a fact, not a principle.  We can never attain the principle by induction, because without it no valid induction is possible, any more than there is a valid conclusion without a medius terminus.  Without the principle of causality no induction is possible, and this principle is either falsified or denied by all professed scientists with whom we have any acquaintance.  We therefore treat as uncertain all their inductions and theories so insolently put forth as science, whenever they go beyond the sphere in which they can be brought to a crucial test and practically verified: and such are all those which oppose the doctrines of divine revelation, as believed and taught by the Holy Scriptures and the church of God.

Men are as morally responsible for the opinions they publish as they are for any of their deeds; and no man has the moral right to publish any thing that he knows to be false, or any thing against Christianity that he does not know to be absolutely true and unquestionable.  We say nothing of a man’s opinions, so long as he keeps them to himself, for we know nothing of them; they are matters between his own conscience and his sovereign judge, and society can take no cognizance of them.  But when a man publishes his opinions, he performs an act,- an act for which he should be held responsible in the exterior court as well as in the interior, as much as for any other act he performs.  If he has no an infallible authority for his opinion, and if it is an opinion against Christian dogma or morals, he commits by publishing it a grave offense against society, whether the civil law takes cognizance of it or not.  It is no excuse that he sincerely believes it, or that it is his own honest opinion, so long as he does not know it to be true, or has not infallible authority for asserting it.  False or erroneous opinions, if published, are not harmless things.  He who leads us into error, who robs us of the truth, or of our Christian faith, harms us more than he who picks our pocket, and commits a greater outrage on society than he who takes the life of a brother.

We are discussing the question from the point of view of ethics, not from the point of view of the civil law, though we utterly repudiate the doctrine, that every man is and should be free to form and publish his own opinions whatever their character, and that he can do so without committing any offense against society.  We utterly repudiate the doctrine, that that no one is morally or socially responsible for the opinions he forms and publishes.  But, where society has no infallible authority to determine what is true and what is not, what is and what is not the law of God, or the truth God has revealed and commanded us to believe, it has no right to publish any one for opinion’s sake; for it can act only on opinion, and, therefore, on no higher authority than that of the opinions it punishes.  What is called freedom of opinion and of publication, or, briefly, the freedom of the press, although incompatible with the rights of truth, and the safety of society, as our own experience proves, must be protected, because modern society, by rejecting the infallible authority of the church of God, has deprived itself of all right to discriminate in matters of opinion, and therefore of the right even of self-protection.  The fact is, society, uninstructed by an authority that cannot err, is incompetent to deal with opinions, or to impose any restrictions on their publication; but we cannot so far stultify ourselves as to pretend that this is not an evil, or to maintain with Milton and our own Jefferson, that “error is harmless where truth is free to combat it.”  “Error,” says the Chinese proverb, “will make the circuit of the globe while Truth is pulling on her boots.”  The modern doctrine is based on the assumption that truth is not ascertainable, is only an opinion.

But from the point of view of morals, or tried by a rigidly ethical standard, such scientists as Darwin, Sir Charles Lyell, Sir John Lubbock, Taine, Buchner, Professor  Huxley, Herbert Spencer, and others of the same genus, who publish opinions, theories, hypotheses, which are at best only plausible conjectures under the imposing name of science, and which unsettle men’s minds, bewilder the half-learned, mislead the ignorant, undermine the very bases of society, and assail the whole moral order of the universe, are fearfully guilty, and a thousand times more dangerous to society and greater criminals even than your most noted thieves, robbers, burglars, swindlers, murderers, or midnight assassins.  Instead of being held in honor, feted, and lauded as the great men of their age and country, and held up as the benefactors of their race, they richly deserve that public opinion should brand them with infamy as the enemies of  God and man, of religion and society, of truth and justice, of science and civilization.  They are such men as, if we follow the injunction of St. John, the apostle of love, we should refuse to receive into our houses, or even to bid good-day: Si quis venit ad vos, et hanc doctrinam nor affert, nolite recipere eum in domum, nec ave dixeritis.- 2 John, 10.

We are thus severe against these men, not because we are narrow-minded and bigoted, not because we have an overweening confidence in our own opinions or hold them to be the measure of the true and the good, nor because we dislike science that is science, or dread its light; but because they do not give us science, but their own opinions and speculations, which they can neither know nor prove to be true, and  which we know cannot be true, unless the religion of Christ is false, God is not, and heaven and earth a lie.  We condemn them, because the truth condemns them; because, instead of shedding light on the glorious works of the Creator, they shed darkness over them, and obscure their fair face with the thick smoke that ascends at their bidding from the bottomless pit of their ignorance and presumption.  Their science is an illusion with which Satan mocks them, deludes and destroys souls for whom Christ has died, and it comes under the head of the endless “genealogies” and “vain philosophy,” against which St. Paul so solemnly warns us.  It is high time that they be stripped of their prestige, and be treated with the contempt they deserve for their impudent pretension, and be held in the horror which all men should feel  for the enemies of truth, and whose labors tend only to the extinction of civilization, the abasement of intelligence, to fix the affections on the earth, to blunt the sense of moral obligation, and to make society what we see it every day becoming.  They are Satan’s most efficient ministers.

Orestes Brownson, Brownson’s Quarterly Review, July 1873

Answering Skeptics: A Brief Evaluation of the Nye-Ham Debate

Written by kolbecenter on . Posted in Philosophy, Uncategorized

Answering Skeptics: A Brief Evaluation of the Nye-Ham Debate

This article offers a brief evaluation of the recent debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham with recommendations for an effective response to skeptics who adhere to an evolutionary world-view.  Although Ken Ham made many good points in his remarks, he did not succeed in exposing the philosophical bankruptcy of Bill Nye’s “mainstream” position and the flagrant contradictions between what is observed in nature and the laboratory and Nye’s evolutionary belief system.  Time will not permit me to review the debate in detail, so I will concentrate on a few key points which should have been established to decisively refute Mr. Nye’s evolutionary account of origins.

An effective defender of the true doctrine of creation before a skeptical audience must:

1) Establish the existence of God first and foremost through metaphysical argumentation, rather than through probability arguments. For example, one can demonstrate the existence of God by an argument from contingency which does not require any appeal to empirical science. Similarly, one can refute the belief of Carl Sagan and so many contemporary evolutionists that the “cosmos is all that is, that was, or ever shall be” by showing that anything that is, was, and always shall be MUST be the way it is; and that, since the cosmos could be other than it is, it fails to meet that standard.

2) Establish the authority of Scripture on the foundation of the historical record of the life, miracles and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ who, in turn, established the Catholic Church as the Guardian of His Revelation and the guarantor of the Holy Scriptures. To cite the Bible as one’s authority without laying this ground-work is irrational and completely unconvincing to a skeptical audience.

3) Show with examples that the Christian doctrine of creation provides the best possible framework for scientific and medical research.

4) Show with examples that the evolutionary account of origins was established in the nineteenth century upon speculation in geology and biology unsupported by empirical evidence and that twenty-first century natural science findings contradict nineteenth century evolutionary speculation and harmonize perfectly with God’s Revelation as defined by the Church Fathers, Doctors, Popes, and Council Fathers in their authoritative teaching since the time of the Apostles.

5) Show with examples that faith in the evolutionary account of origins has retarded scientific and medical research during the last 150 years, while faith in the Catholic doctrine of creation has fostered fruitful scientific and medical research.

6) Show with examples that faith in the traditional Christian doctrine of creation produces healthy, happy individuals, families and societies, while faith in the evolutionary account of origins has produced a deluge of death, disease and disorder in the lives of individuals, families and societies.

7) On this foundation, ask the audience whether it is more reasonable to trust the Revelation of God as preserved in His Church from the time of Jesus for a reliable account of the origins of man and the universe or to trust in the wild speculations of fallible human beings which have been shown to be irrational, speculative, unsupported by evidence and destructive of life, liberty and happiness.

This approach works, even with many skeptical individuals whose hearts have not been completely hardened against the Truth, and this is the approach that we take through the Witnesses for Christ evangelization project. Since this is not the place to elaborate on each of these seven points, I will elaborate on just three of them, the first, the fourth and the fifth.

I argued in the first point above that we should establish the existence of God first and foremost through metaphysical argumentation. In light of the traditional theology and metaphysics of the Catholic tradition, the key distinction to be made in the origins debate is not a temporal distinction between historical science and operational science. The key distinction is a metaphysical distinction between the order of creation and the natural order of providence.

Since Protestantism is a very recent development in Church history, it is hard (from a Protestant perspective) to appreciate the significance of the fact that Descartes was the first influential thinker in Christendom to speculate that it was more reasonable to explain the origin of stars, galaxies and other kinds of creatures in nature in terms of the material processes going on in the present than by divine creation. In reality, we do not see–nor has any man ever recorded seeing–stars, galaxies, life, new kinds of creatures, or even new organs coming into existence naturalistically; and it is thus more reasonable, based on God’s revelation and thousands of years of human observations, to believe that these entities came into existence through divine creation than through any observable material process. To argue otherwise is to make an act of faith in naturalism, which is much less reasonable than a Christian’s act of faith in Jesus Christ and His Revelation.

I say that it is hard to appreciate the perversity of Descarte’s naturalism from a Protestant perspective because a Christian who does not evaluate ideas in light of the entire history of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church, rather than in the framework of the last five hundred years, cannot appreciate the folly of thinking that an idea like Luther’s sola scriptura or Descartes’ naturalism that had no precedent in the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church for fifteen hundred years could be a key to plumbing the depths of divine revelation or unlocking the secrets of nature.

The devotees of naturalism, like Bill Nye, cannot point to any production in six thousand years that would justify man’s faith in nature’s ability to produce stars, galaxies, life, plants, animals, or even organs of a body. On the other hand, Jesus Christ proved his total mastery over nature before thousands of witnesses, raised corpses to life in a split second, created complex functioning organs by fiat where they did not exist, and continues to work these very same miracles through the members of His Mystical Body the Church, as documented by impeccable testimony from innumerable witnesses for two thousand years. Thus, instantaneous fiat creation of life, bodies, and organs of the body is a matter of observation, confirming the credibility of the Christian doctrine of creation; whereas, Bill Nye’s blind faith in the naturalistic formation of life, organs, plants and animals is based on nothing but irrational longing and wild speculation. His fatal error is not his faith in the consistency of natural causes over time, but his rejection of the divine order, over and above the natural order, metaphysically distinct from and superior to the natural order of things.

I argued in the fourth point above that an effective defense of the true doctrine of creation must:

Show with examples that the evolutionary account of origins was established in the nineteenth century on speculation in geology and biology unsupported by empirical evidence and that twenty-first century natural science contradicts nineteenth century evolutionary speculation and harmonizes perfectly with God’s Revelation as believed by the Church Fathers, Doctors, Popes, and Council Fathers in their authoritative teaching, since the time of the Apostles.

In this regard, it is essential to show that the geological time scale was formulated in the nineteenth century on the basis of the principles of Lyellian geology which have been invalidated by the work of Berthault, Lalomov, Schieber and others. To this day, index fossils are used to assign dates to sedimentary rocks; and all other data from radiometric dating, ice cores etc. are interpreted on the assumption that the dates assigned to these “index fossils” are correct. This is circular reasoning, and it flies in the face of a mountain of empirical evidence.

In addition to the work of Berthault and Lalomov which have empirically demonstrated that large sedimentary formations can be laid down rapidly, Schieber has demonstrated that mudstone, which makes up two-thirds of the sedimentary rocks all over the earth, can also be laid down rapidly in turbulent environments. In defending the historical reliability of Genesis 1-11 in regard to the Flood, apologists should not fail to point out that evolutionists are trying to shoe-horn twenty-first century scientific evidence produced with twenty-first century scientific tools into a nineteenth century geological framework–and it doesn’t work!

Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5730 years and should be absent from coal or bones that are more than 100, 000 years old, but numerous published studies show that C-14 is present in coal and bones at every level of the geological column. Moreover, coal from formations dated (within the nineteenth century Lyellian geological framework) at 30 to 300 million years contained C-14 in the same amounts, indicating that all of the material that made up the coal was deposited at the same time and that the hundreds of millions of years do not exist.

Bill Nye repeatedly–and rather disingenuously–said that mainstream science welcomes revolutionary research that challenges the status quo. In reality, as evidenced by the treatment of Dr. Thomas Seiler at the AGU conference in Singapore where he presented clear and convincing evidence of the presence C-14 in dinosaur bones allegedly tens of millions of years old, mainstream science greets such revolutionary research with intimidation and censorship. Dr. Seiler’s research was accepted and presented without any objection to the methodology or content of his presentation from the attending scientists, only to be removed from the conference website, without explanation, at the protest of the two non-Asian scientists who were present in the room when the presentation was made!

Ken Ham had a perfect opportunity to challenge Bill Nye to take coal and dinosaur bones from collections in various parts of the United States and have them dated for C-14 using accelerator mass spectrometry. He could have said, “Mr. Nye, if you are as open to new discoveries as you say you are, why don’t you duplicate the research of Dr. John Baumgardner, Dr. Thomas Seiler and other scientists, and C-14 date dinosaur bones and coal from various parts of the geological column and publish the results for all to see? If there is no C-14 in any of the samples, that will be a strong confirmation of your evolutionary world-view. However, if all of the samples contain C-14, that will be a strong confirmation of the view I am defending.”

Had Mr. Ham done this, he would have called Mr. Nye’s bluff for all the world to see!

Defenders of the historical reliability of Genesis should also be prepared to mention the discovery of soft tissue, DNA, blood and bio-molecules in dinosaur bones and other partly-fossilized plants and animal remains dated at tens or hundreds of millions of years according to the mainstream nineteenth century evolutionary framework. These published evidences effectively falsify this outdated geological framework that Mr. Nye defends as the only “show in town” in the twenty-first century.

The fifth point cited above was that a defender of the true doctrine of creation must:

Show with examples that faith in the evolutionary account of origins has retarded scientific and medical research during the last 150 years, while faith in the Catholic doctrine of creation has fostered fruitful scientific and medical research.

This topic is addressed with several examples in the paper on the Kolbe website entitled “The Negative Impact of Faith in the Evolutionary Hypothesis,” which was published in 2012 with the blessing of Pope Benedict XVI in the proceedings of a conference held at Gustav Siewerth Akademie in Germany. Here I will just mention two particularly flagrant examples of evolutionary anti-science in regard to embryology and so-called “junk DNA.”

From the time of Darwin until today, his disciples have argued that similarities in structure among diverse life forms prove that they all evolved from a common ancestor. According to German anatomist Ernst Haeckel, the existence of similarities in embryos of various kinds of organisms proved that the higher life forms “recapitulated” their evolutionary history before birth and that they had all descended from a common ancestor. To make this “proof” more compelling for his contemporaries, Haeckel doctored drawings of the embryos of fish, salamanders, chickens, turtles, rabbits, pigs, and human beings to exaggerate their similarities and minimize their differences. Although Haeckel’s fraud was discovered and exposed during his lifetime, the evolutionary hypothesis demanded common descent, and the concept of embryonic recapitulation continued to exert a profound influence on the study of embryology for many decades.

According to Jane Oppenheimer in her work Essays in the History of Embryology and Biology, Haeckel’s influence on embryology was considerable, “acted as a delaying rather than an activating force; and . . . was stifling to immediate progress.” One of the leading lights in the study of embryology in the twentieth century, Gavin R. de Beer wrote that “Haeckel’s theory of recapitulation . . . thwarted and delayed the introduction of causal analytic methods into embryology,” since “if phylogeny was the mechanical cause of ontogeny as Haeckel proclaimed, there was little inducement to search for other causes.” De Beer’s observation implied that Haeckel’s influence had come to an end by the 1950′s-but this was far from being the case.

The foremost apologist for evolution of his generation, Sir Julian Huxley, argued in the 1950′s that “embryology offers the most striking proof of evolution.” And to this day, biology textbooks all over the world argue that similarities between embryos of fish, amphibians, reptiles, humans and lower mammals constitute evidence for the evolutionary hypothesis. Typical of examples too many to cite is the caption that accompanies drawings of embryos of various life-forms from a widely used American biology textbook published in 2002. Entitled “Embryonic development of vertebrates,” it states:

Notice that the early embryonic stages of these vertebrates bear a striking resemblance to each other, even though the individuals are from different classes (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals). All vertebrates start out with an enlarged head region, gill slits, and a tail regardless of whether these characteristics are retained in the adult.

Although Haeckel’s distorted drawings do not accompany this caption, the statement gives the impression that human embryos–as members of the vertebrate phylum–possess gill slits. But this is patently false. The pharyngeal arches in human embryos have no connection with gill slits whatsoever but develop into the outer and middle ear, and into the neck bones, muscles, nerves, and glands. Moreover, after the discovery of DNA, confidence in the truth of the evolutionary hypothesis led many evolutionary biologists to predict that similar body parts in diverse organisms would be controlled by the same genes.   This, however, proved to be false, as embryologists have discovered that the realization of the same body plan–such as five digit extremities–in diverse organisms (such as whales and humans) is controlled by different genes and is achieved through totally different embryonic pathways.

Indeed, the idea of embryonic recapitulation not only led embryonic researchers down the wrong pathways–it has also led to a denigration of the unborn child. All over the world, abortion advocates have used the alleged similarity between human and lower animal embryos to trivialize abortion in the early stages of pregnancy, in spite of the fact that the Michael Richardson photographs of the human embryo and the embryos of the chicken, pig, fish, and salamander at the same stage of development, published in Scientific American, utterly refuted the bogus notion of embryonic recapitulation.

Richardson’s photographs not only show that the human embryo is distinct from the other kinds of creatures from the beginning of her embryonic development. They also show that the other kinds of creatures are distinct from each other in their development as well! This photographic evidence completely contradicts the evolutionary predictions of all of the leading evolutionists from Darwin to Haeckel to Julian Huxley down to the present, but it agrees perfectly with the traditional Christian doctrine of special creation–that God created all of the different kinds of creatures by fiat in the beginning.

But there is more to the story. To appreciate how much faith in evolution has retarded scientific progress in embryology, consider a recent book by evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne at the University of Chicago entitled Why Evolution Is True (published in 2009). In it, Coyne argues that embryology still offers strong evidence for the truth of the evolutionary hypothesis. His reasoning reveals the fundamentally anti-scientific nature of evolutionary faith. He writes:

One of my favorite cases of embryological evidence for evolution is the furry human fetus. We are famously known as “naked apes” because, unlike other primates, we don’t have a thick coat of hair. But in fact for one brief period we do – as embryos . . .

Ideally, in making a presentation to a skeptic like Bill Nye, we should pause at this point and ask if he thinks that Dr. Coyne’s thinking is reasonable. The answer will almost certainly be that it is. One can then proceed to follow Dr. Coyne into the maze of evolutionary pseudo-scientific reasoning, as he pontificates:

Now, there’s NO NEED for a human embryo to have a transitory coat of hair. After all, it’s a cozy 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the womb. Lanugo can be explained ONLY as a remnant of our primate ancestry (emphasis added)

At this point, one should ask the skeptic (if only rhetorically) whether he thinks that Harvey, Maxwell, or Faraday would have reasoned in this way. Would they have said, in effect, “I do not understand why this hair–the lanugo–exists on the body of a human embryo, therefore, it MUST be a hold-over from our primate ancestry”?

The point that MUST be brought out is that none of these great scientists would ever have concluded that “Because I cannot understand the function of this particular trait (of a plant, animal or human), therefore, it has none.” That is an anti-scientific attitude! In reality, it was already well-established when Dr. Coyne published his book, that the lanugo has an ingenious and important function. As an anatomy textbook published in 2003 explains, the key to the mystery of the lanugo is the existence of the cheesy varnish that covers the little babies skin in the womb of her mother:

This substance covers and protects the skin of the fetus from the constant exposure to the amniotic fluid in which it is bathed. In addition, the vernix caseosa facilitates the birth of the fetus because of its slippery nature and protects the skin from being damaged by the nails. Gerard J. Tortora and Sandra Reynolds Grabowski, Principles of Anatomy and Physiology (John Wiley and Sons, Tenth Edition), 2003, p. 154.

And, as any teacher of embryology worth his or her salt teaches today: 

Vernix caseosa is a culmination of sebaceous gland secretions and dead epidermal cells, and the lanugo hair helps retain it on the outer skin surface. Philip R. Brauer, Human embryology: the ultimate USMLE step 1 review (Hanley & Belfus), 2003, p. 95.

Thus, Bill Nye’s “mainstream” colleague with a Ph.D. from Harvard has demonstrated that his evolutionary faith actually fosters an anti-scientific attitude which replaces the presumption of stable form and function that characterized the work of Maxwell, Faraday and Pasteur, with an evolutionary presumption of flux and dysfunction which retards the progress of scientific and medical research.

Let me give one more example.

Although faith in the evolutionary hypothesis has resulted in immense harm to millions of victims of abortion and abortifacient contraception, that same evolutionary faith has contributed to an equally serious threat to scientific progress and public health in the realm of molecular biology. It can be demonstrated that faith in the evolutionary hypothesis has delayed the recognition of the functionality of so-called “junk DNA” (or non-coding DNA which does not code for protein) and has thus retarded the discovery–and, at least in some cases–the cure of many genetic disorders.

The origin of the term “junk DNA” has been traced to a paper by Dr. Susumnu Ohno in 1970 in which Dr. Ohno speculated that just as fossils of extinct species litter the geological record, so DNA that has lost its function litters the human genome. Although some scientists argued that DNA would not have been conserved for the alleged millions of years of evolutionary time if it had no function, the term “junk DNA” began to be widely used to describe the bulk of the human genetic material that does not code for protein.

The Human Genome Project officially began in 1990, and the data it uncovered proved to be quite a surprise. By 2007, with the results of project ENCODE made available, it finally became clear that the most important factors in genome functioning reside in non-protein-coding DNA. One of the pioneers in establishing the functionality of “junk DNA”, Prof. John Mattick, recently claimed that “the failure to recognize the implications of the non-coding DNA will go down as the biggest mistake in the history of molecular biology.” This prediction will most likely be fulfilled, not only because of the way that the “junk DNA” concept has retarded the scientific investigation of genetic material that does not code for protein, but perhaps more importantly because of the way that the evolutionarily inspired “junk DNA” concept has delayed the medical understanding and treatment of serious genetic disorders.

In recent years, medical researchers have identified numerous elements of “junk DNA” that play a key role in the prevention or development of a host of human diseases. The website of the International Post Genetic Society posts summaries of dozens of reports from scientific journals documenting links between human diseases and non-protein coding genetic material. For example, an article on “junk DNA”-related factors in diabetes and heart disease reports that:

Gene hunters at Johns Hopkins have discovered a common genetic mutation that increases the risk of inheriting a particular birth defect not by the usual route of disrupting the gene’s protein-making instructions, but byaltering a regulatory region of the gene. Although the condition, called Hirschsprung disease, is rare, its complex genetics mimics that of more common diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

‘It’s a funny mutation in a funny place,’ says study leader Aravinda Chakravarti, Ph.D., director of the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine. ‘But I think the majority of mutations found in major diseases are going to be funny mutations in funny places.’

Far from being a problem, the finding is good news, he suggests. ‘Mutations in the protein-coding sequence can’t really be fixed, but those outside the protein-coding regions — perhaps we can fiddle with them, perhaps they are ‘tunable.’ The protein should be fine if we can just get the cells to make the right amount,’ he says.

‘Our finding really underscores the fact that health and disease can be affected by all regions of a gene,’ he continues. ‘For diseases like diabetes and heart disease, just as for Hirschsprung disease, multiple inherited factors contribute to the disease, and these factors are not just going to be in protein-coding regions.’

Faith in the evolutionary hypothesis and the related concept of “junk DNA” has unquestionably retarded the understanding and treatment of a host of diseases caused by factors other than protein-coding genes. In all of these cases, the belief that random natural processes over long periods of time produced biological entities with nothing more than “vestigial” functionality led to a lack of interest in (and funding for) studying that functionality.

On the other hand, throughout the last 150 years, Catholic and non-Catholic Christian believers in the true doctrine of creation have argued that embryological evidence would eventually establish the distinct pattern of human embryological development and the functionality of most, if not all, of the non-coding DNA. If the “mainstream” scientific community so dear to Mr. Nye had operated within the framework for scientific research provided by the Catholic Church, it would have initiated the study of the non-coding DNA decades ago, leading to medical discoveries that would have undoubtedly led to cures or preventive treatments for a host of genetic disorders and diseases. And it is important to point out that–as strange as it seems to those who have not studied the history of evolutionary errors–Dr. Ohno’s false evaluation of the non-coding DNA as “junk” was completely rooted in his faith in the false, speculative nineteenth century geological framework of Lyell, Darwin and their disciples. Remember Dr. Ohno’s reasoning: Just as fossils of extinct species litter the geological record, so DNA that has lost its function litters the human genome.

In reality, rightly understood, fossils of extinct species do not testify to hundreds of millions of years–which is why we find C-14, soft tissue, DNA, and intact bio-molecules throughout the fossil record. The non-coding DNA in the human genome is not the relic of hundreds of millions of years of evolution, and the fact that it is all functional contradicts Mr. Nye’s blind faith in long ages of evolution in more ways than one. In the first place, the functionality of the entire genome testifies to the magnificent design of the entire system. In the second place, it testifies to the recent origin of the human genome in light of the destructive effects of what geneticist Dr. John Sanford calls “genetic entropy.”

Simply stated, “genetic entropy” refers to the destructive effect of mutation on the integrity of the genome, a process which can be compared to the cumulative effect of “bugs” in a computer program. As Dr. Sanford has demonstrated in his book Genetic Entropy, in contradiction to Mr. Nye’s repeated assertion that evolution “increases complexity,” even “mainstream” geneticists recognize that mutation is NOT a creative force introducing new functional information into the genome. Indeed, the integrity of the human genome testifies to the fact that it has not been subject to genetic entropy for hundreds of thousands of years.

Researchers Kimura and Kondrashov have shown that the vast majority of mutations have a slightly-harmful effect on an organism. These slightly-harmful mutations accumulate, producing a steady degradation of the genome, and imposing a time limit on the existence of vertebrate lineages–a time limit much lower than the millions of years evolution requires. Moreover, there is no evidence that the destructive effects of mutation can be reversed, so that these destructive mutational effects would have rendered the human race extinct if they had been going on for more than tens of thousands of years. The history of the mainstream scientific community’s false predictions regarding “junk DNA” and the terrible consequences for medical research demonstrate that Mr. Nye’s evolutionary belief system is anti-science and that the acceptance of the Christian doctrine of creation favors fruitful scientific research and would have led to a much earlier investigation of non-coding DNA.

I hope that the little that I have written here suffices to show how much more effectively the “science guy” could have been refuted by presenting the arguments outlined here in light of the rich treasury of Catholic theology and philosophy.

Hugh Owen