Evolutionism is bad for the science of evolution.
Creationists are not against the science of evolution but evolutionism, although there’s no telling how many are unaware of that. For their part, many evolutionists deny there is such a thing as evolutionism. However, if we look at a number of things which creationists point out as failures of evolutionism, we see that they are examples of science gone bad due to evolutionism corrupting the scientific study of evolution. I like to call these examples “Evo Boo-boos” for short.
It all began with Darwin
Darwin was not an evolutionary scientist. I don’t say this because he had no degree in science, knowing that many good contributions to science have been made by amateurs, especially in his day. No, I say this because his book on the origin of species is more a masterpiece of rhetoric and rationalization than a solid scientific treatise, despite the citation of a number of scientific facts. He never formulated a clear, succinct, testable theory of evolution. He jumped from the observation of species-level variations in living things to the conclusion that all living things and their parts evolved from some very simple universal common ancestor.
Of course, he cited many examples and supporting evidence, but he never proposed a specific process to accomplish this great feat of nature, and he never proposed a test that might prove him wrong without also proposing a reason why the test might not be decisive after all. Evolutionists do the same today, for example, they are still using Darwin’s excuse for the fossil record not looking like a series of transitional fossils — somehow the fossil record tended to preserve vast numbers of specialized and distinct forms, and a relative handful of intermediate forms are held up as sufficient evidence for belief in all the ones that haven’t been found.
Darwin, unlike Mendel, didn’t do any experiments to study the patterns of variation from one generation to the next. Pure Mendelian variation would not allow Darwinian evolution at all. Darwin only included mutations (or “sports”) as a minor factor in inheritable variation. In Chapter I, of his book, “Variation Under Domestication,” he mentions such non-inheritable causes of variation as “excess of food,” but he seemed to rely mostly on “effects of use” over generations: “Changed habits produce an inherited effect… the great and inherited development of the udders in cows and goats in countries where they are habitually milked… is probably another instance of the effects of use.”
The problem was, Darwin was convinced that life had to have evolved from a simple common ancestor, and so if anything seemed plausible in favor of evolutionism, he took it as believable, or even convincing. Likewise any problem for a contrary view seemed totally insoluble to him. This is not the way science is supposed to work, but for Darwin and the many who wanted to believe that all life evolved naturally from a chemical goo, it was close enough and good enough.
Haeckel, the First Fudger
Ernst Haeckel could be called the first hoaxer or forger of support for evolution*, but to be charitable and avoid controversy over technicalities, I’m calling what he did “fudging.” Haeckel is famous for several things, one of them being the creation and promotion of the image of series of embryos supposedly showing the stages of evolution reproduced in embryonic development. You see, Haeckel wanted to believe in evolution, too, but he had different ideas about what drove the process. His illustrations were shown to contain a number of misleading inaccuracies. While some evolutionists today still see embryonic development as a key factor in evolution, the idea that embryos actually pass through or illustrate the stages of evolution their ancestors went through has been thoroughly discredited. Such images are still presented, however, as somehow showing support for universal common ancestry. It is still fudging in order to promote belief in evolution, not good scientific data, even when the modern examples use accurate images. Those who have studied embryonic development know that there are a number of differences that the images can’t show.
Starting Off on the Wrong Foot
The scientific theory of biological evolution does not address the question of how biological evolution began, but evolutionism does. Although a world that was Divinely Created could include natural processes that produced living things from chemicals apart from earlier living things, and this was the general belief in earlier times, the general evolutionary view requires such an event happened at least once, and it would have been much more believable if it were happening regularly today.
By Darwin’s time, however, there was little belief that anything but the smallest microbes could form spontaneously, and before Darwin died Pasteur had demonstrated decisively that they do not. Until it has been shown to be possible under some set of conditions, the scientific theory of evolution is a theory with no companion theory to explain how it began. This has not stopped evolutionists, in the spirit of evolutionism, from speculating about how life first arose (abiogenesis) and even present it as fact.
Darwin again set an early example, famously writing to a friend that life may have begun naturally in a “warm, little pond.” His followers were bolder, creating a classification for the (imagined) earliest forms of life, “Monera.” When a ship on a scientific mission dredged up some slimy goo, it was hailed as a remnant of the first chemicals that gradually formed into living things, and dubbed “Bathybius haeckelii.” Of course, it turned out be just ocean-bottom muck.
This Is Just a Beginning
There are many more examples, but there are many other things I want to do so I will post this for now and hope to show more examples in later posts.
* Michael Richardson et al, Anatomy and Embryology, 196(2):91-106, 1997 and Elizabeth Pennisi, “Haeckel’s Embryos: Fraud Rediscovered,” Science 277(5331:1435, Sept. 5, 9