A few weeks ago I posted a summary of the Coffin Creation Seminar given
here in McMinnville Oregon. A week or two after the seminar I wrote a
fairly long letter to the organizer of the seminar here in McMinnville
(who was the one responsible for inviting Coffin), where I showed
numerous examples where Coffin had misrepresented evolution and
oversimplified the issues. The individual I sent the letter to
forwarded a copy of my letter on to Harold Coffin, who sent me a letter
Both letters were quite long so I won't go into too many details here,
but I would like to hear this group's response on a couple of the issues.
I also have a request for all you t.o. netters at the end of the post.
1. Dr. Coffin argued that because of the nature of his audience
he was forced to simplify the issues in order to not talk over their heads.
He claimed that if he had directed his comments at someone of my
knowledge he would have lost 99% of his audience. I see two problems
a) The problem was not that the issues were simplified for a novice
audience, they were instead misrepresented. In other words, in my opinion,
the audience was worse off after the seminar than before. Certainly there
are ways to present concepts in a simple fashion without distorting them
in counterproductive ways. Of course his distortions were not
conterproductive to creationism--just counterproductive to science.
b) His claim that his simplifications were due to a naive audience
sound hollow in light of his profuse compliments at the end of each of
the sessions of the seminar. He praised his audience as being a truly
exceptional audience who had asked highly perceptive and technical questions.
It was truly depressing to sit there and listen to his compliments, because
it was clear that he really believed it. If this was a skeptical audience,
I can't imagine what an average audience would be like...
2) At one point in my letter (after demonstrating some concepts
that he simply got wrong due to poor scholarship) I made a statement
something like: "Dr. Coffin contradicts mainstream science in many
other areas as well..." To which Coffin responded that it is impossible
to be a creationist without contradicting much of what mainstream
scientists are claiming (true enough!). But what he went on to say is
what bothered me the most. In reference to the fossil record, he said
that there is so much controversy in science (due to the as yet unfilled
gaps in the fossil record) that evolutionists are not sure which way to go.
He made reference to controversies surrounding puntuated equilibrium,
gradualism, gaps in the fossil record, the adequacy of natural selection
to evolve past certain limits, etc, etc. He says that most scientists,
will of course, if backed into a corner, still claim to believe in evolution,
but that there is so much confusion and dissarray in the ranks as to call
into question the whole field. He claims that to abandon creation now is
like "jumping out of a plane just before it is going to land because you
are afraid it is going to crash".
Now I think that if I hear a claim like this one more time I'm going
to puke. This is a standard creationist ploy that has been used for the last
50 years. I certainly have personally heard it for at least 20 years. I'm
tired of people taking what is one the best indicators of health in a
scientific field, and painting it in such a distorted way as to make it
appear that it is a weakness.
This argument is a subtle argument based on authority. That is, it
is an end run (around the physical evidence), based on the alleged
conflicting statements of evolutionary scientists (that is, a claim to
their authority--however misrepresented they may be). I think that it is
time to counter this argument on its own terms. Do any of you out there
have some good references to statements made by scientists that
evolution is not in danger of being thrown out? If you do, I would
appreciate it if you could send them to me. I would like to put together
a simple refutation of this claim. Also, many of you out there are either
Ph.D.'s or graduate students in various fields of science, could some of
you send me a few sentences describing how you perceive the controversy
currently found in evolution science? Please include your degree and
university affiliation (if you are an academic). I will put them together
with quotations from the references that I already have (and hope to get)
from you all, and I will repost it back to the net as a resource for all
of you when you encounter the old "evolution is about to fall apart"
Thanks for your help,
/* Please do not hold my employer responsible for my views or statements,
I do not represent my employer, or anyone else, in any official
capacity. My comments are my own opinions, nothing more, nothing less. */
P.S. Also, those of you who have collected a lot of creationist material,
if you know of statements made in very old creationist publications where
this argument is made, could you pass on these references to me. It would
be useful to show that creationists have been crying wolf for a long time
now. It would help to show that what they call controversy is science in
good form, doing what it does best.