~ Happy Darwin Day! ~
In honor of Chuck's 201st birthday (and the recent fuss over natural selection) I thought it appropriate to share some photos from a "Natural Selection is not Evolution" display from the Creation "Museum" in Kentucky. During my visit in 2009, I managed to take photos of pretty much the whole display (which is a laughably transparent attempt to misrepresent the basic ideas of evolution and natural selection to promote AiG's particular brand of religious belief), which you can see below. This post is verbose, so feel free to just browse through the pictures (click on the images for a closer look).
The display is built on the usual creationist nonsense: e.g. that natural selection can't introduce new "information" (at least in the bizarre sense of the word used by many creationists), "mutations = loss of information", and lots of the usual equivocation with words like "kind." Like so many other displays in the "museum", it consists of a dash of selected scientific facts mixed with heaping piles of biblical literalisms and twisted logic. Not surprisingly, this is a great recipe for generating some pretty dumb sounding statements like:
... speciation has never resulted in one kind of organism evolving into another kind, such as a reptile evolving into a bird.and one of my favorite concluding remarks of all time:
Natural selection cannot (despite the common perception) be the mechanism for molecules-to-man evolution since it does not have the ability to create new genetic information (mutations cannot do this either).The setup for their inevitable "we're right, science is wrong" punchline starts with the sign hanging from the ceiling in the display room.
If you're wondering why they chose that title, the display goes on to imply the theory of biological evolution must be wrong because natural selection and evolution aren't the same thing... err, what? Yes, evolution is not the same thing as natural selection, just like your car isn't the same thing as your steering wheel or that the rules of algebra aren't the same thing as all of mathematics. None of this, of course, has any bearing on mathematics, your car, or the biological theory of evolution.
Now, in a real museum (remember, the Creation "Museum" is officially a ministry, not a science museum!) one would expect a display with a sign like this to clear up the basic definitions of and distinctions between these two concepts. Presumably drafted with ulterior motives in mind (that or it was just really poorly done?), the first sign hints at a definition:
Sounds like a reasonable distinction between evolution and natural selection, right? Well, not really... give it another read after you consider the following two points.
First, it's hard to deny - even for creationists - that natural selection happens. To accommodate this fact, a common approach seems to be to drive a wedge between microevolution and macroevolution. Then, simply scoff at the notion of anything being "millions of years" old and blindly claim all the evidence supports microevolution but not macroevolution. Having done that, natural selection is no longer a problem.
Second, a big assertion in the "museum" is that creationist pseudoscientists and real scientists are all working with the same facts... that they just have different world views that influence their interpretation of those facts, and that these "competing world views" lead to the discord between the claims of real science and creationist pseudoscience. This, of course, is complete BS. You simply can't put science and religion on a level playing field. By definition, creationists start with a core religious belief they assume to be true, then work to dismiss or rationalize away any evidence to the contrary. Real science works quite differently.
So what do they say about evolution and natural selection? First [bold emphasis is mine]...
Natural selection is the name Charles Darwin gave to an observable process, which results in small changes in the plant and animal world, such as fur color or plant height.Here and in the next sentence, they still aren't giving any real definitions. Instead, they frame the conceptual relationship between evolution and natural selection as belief, then follow up with a bona fide (though quite unrelated) quote from legitimate scientists, just for a little credibility:
A common perception popularized by many scientists is that natural selection is a primary mechanism for evolution. According to the National Academy of Sciences, "Natural selection... can have radically different evolutionary effects over different time scales."If you feel like this sign is saying a lot between the lines, or if your BS detector is going off, you're on the right track!
Continuing with this sign, they again leave the reader free to associate scientific knowledge with personal belief. They give a nod to Darwin for getting the ball rolling, drop the phrase "millions of years" which I presume they repeatedly mention just to make other young-earth creationists snicker? They finish up the sign by priming the reader for more on this non-existent conflict between evolution and natural selection.
Darwin believed that given enough time (millions of years) natural selection could lead to large changes (such as a dinosaur evolving into a bird) and was the underlying mechanism of unobservable molecules-to-man evolution. However, natural selection and evolution are different concepts, though today many mistakenly interchange the two.After that primer, they take a stab at defining natural selection and evolution using factually reasonable but still disingenuous definitions of the two concepts:
Notice they leave the reader free to view these as lay terms, not specific scientific concepts:
Evolution - as commonly defined today - is the idea that all life on earth has come about through descent with modification from a single-celled common ancestor. We refer to this as molecule-to-man evolution. Inherent in this process is the requirement for origination of new genetic information as organisms evolve from simple to complex.Here they mention a favorite flimsy and obvious straw man: the argument that mutation doesn't introduce "new genetic information" therefore the theory of evolution makes no sense (it turns out this requires you either ignore things like gene duplication and polyploidy, or make up your own very irrelevant definition of "information").
I laughed quietly to myself when I first read this next sign...
Despite the appearance that the sign may help clear up any lingering confusion about natural selection and evolution, it seems to instead dwell on the notion that natural selection is an insufficient mechanism for all of evolution. This, while true, is inconsequential and in this context quite misleading.
On a side note, check out the rate of branching after the flood in that "Creation Orchard" figure (bottom right in the figure above), which some have called "super evolution" due to the wickedly high mutation rates needed for such rapid diversification:
The next few signs/dioramas illustrate a couple of cherry-picked examples presented as evidence that "mutation = loss of information" despite plenty of real evidence that various types of genetic mutation do indeed provide the extra genetic information needed evolution. I'll leave it to you to ponder all the errors in the signs and read them without my interrupting.
(Closer look at the text in the above panel.)
Continuing on, there are more of these long-debunked creationist arguments against evolution. In particular, the infamously nebulous term "kind" which here seems to be something like the most recent common ancestors of (or all of?) a taxonomic family? Again, having conceded that microevolution does happen, the belief that all of the "kinds" share no natural ancestry requires some effort to try and rationalize away all the evidence to the contrary.
If all this talk of evidence and arguments just doesn't appeal to you, fear not! The ministry concludes wearing it's true colors: all you need to do is hang on to an unwavering belief in their particular version of Christianity, and the world will once again make complete sense.
PS: If you're into knowing the source of your information (or just like sending thank you cards)...