Rives on Darwin’s ‘Gravest Objection’


The Worldnutdaily loves putting up “articles” with these short little video clips from David Rives, a bad creationist evangelist and even worse singer. The latest one is just Rives quoting a famous passage from Darwin and offering his take on it, without a shred of evidence or even an attempt at an argument. Here’s the passage:

Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.

Rives ignores the obvious fact that Darwin wrote this in 1859 and we’ve had more than 150 years now to find new fossils. I’m sure well over 99% of all the fossils we have were found after that date, and they include a great many intermediate forms. Of course, then you run into the standard creationist tactic of moving the goalposts. They demand to see an intermediate between Species 1 and species 2. So you find one, species 1.5, and they demand the ones from 1 to 1.5. And when you find that, they want the one between species 1.25 and 1.3. The decimal point can move forever. Nothing short of every single species that has ever lived will satisfy them, and even that wouldn’t do it; they’d just say, “Well there’s no proof that one actually evolved from the other.”

But there is a long history of them making very specific claims about intermediate forms, openly mocking the idea that there could possibly be marine mammals with feet and legs as evolution demands. Then those forms were, in fact, found. But no number of false predictions for creationism or accurate predictions from science will ever satisfy them because evidence is quite irrelevant to them. Faith trumps all.

Comments

  1. Chiroptera says

    This is really telling about the basic mindset of these idiots among the Christian Right. Science has progressed a lot since 1859; quoting a book written over 150 years ago as if it were relevant shows that you know nothing about science or how it works. Hell, quoting a biology paper that is over 15 years old may be pretty dodgy itself; science advances, and things that were question in the distant or even near past may not be questions any more.

    These nuts think that everyone quotes scriptures and worships authority figures just like they do. People don’t accept evolution because of its incredible explanatory and predictive power in contemporary research; no, people believe in evolution because St. Darwin said so and wrote about it in the Book of the Origins of the Species.

  2. matty1 says

    I know it wouldn’t help but there are perfectly good reasons not to expect a record of every step in evolution.

    -Conditions for fossilisation are rare.

    -Finding the right rocks is also rare.

    -Using a standard model of sympatric speciation we would expect the changes to be going on in only part of a species range so you have to dig in exactly the right place.

  3. Chiroptera says

    And I’ve said this before: I think people make too big a deal about fossils, at least as far as providing evidence for evolution. I’ve always felt that the most convincing evidence for common descent is the nested hierarchical classification of the species.

    So much so that way back in high school, when I was a young earth creationist, when I learned about the classification I thought to myself, “uh-oh.”

  4. matty1 says

    : But fair go there, 150 years is as nothing compared with the out-of-date-ishness of their literature.

    This is as they say a feature not a bug, they claim their literature was written at the time. Thus adding history and literature to the list of subjects they know nothing about.

  5. slc1 says

    As I understand it, Michael Behe, erstwhile biochemist professor at Lehigh, Un, in his book, Darwin’s Black Box, criticized the notion that whales evolved from a hoofed wolf like creature that lived millions of years ago, based on the lack of intermediate forms. He used that criticism to question common descent. Unfortunately for the good professor, since he wrote that book, some 12 intermediate forms have been discovered, particularly after the researchers started looking in Pakistan, forcing the professor to admit on the witness stand in the Dover trial they he now accepts common descent. Ambulocetus, Pakicetus, Basilosaurus, etc. anyone.

  6. thisisaturingtest says

    Rives is also touted by WND (and himself) as a lecturer on “biblical astronomy and empirical science.” His lectures, though (at least the ones on WND), all appear to be random mining and quoting of astronomical factoids, which are empirical, followed by “therefore god,” which is not.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    slc1 #7: As I understand it, Michael Behe, erstwhile biochemist professor at Lehigh, Un, in his book, Darwin’s Black Box, criticized the notion that whales evolved from a hoofed wolf like creature that lived millions of years ago, based on the lack of intermediate forms.

    Yes he did. So did Michael Denton in his earlier Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, and Philip E. Johnson in Darwin On Trial, and it was probably repeated in Of Pandas and People. Land mammals to whales and the origin of bird feathers were the two favourite fossil gaps in the 1980s and 1990s. Hilarious, isn’t it?

  8. slc1 says

    Re Reginald Selkirk @ #9

    Based on an interview Denton gave to the Un. of California extension service in 2002, he too has retreated from his previous criticism. His current position seems to be that, in his opinion, natural selection can’t account for all evolutionary change, a position not too far from that of biologist and Un. of Toronto professor Larry Moran.

  9. Reginald Selkirk says

    His current position seems to be that, in his opinion, natural selection can’t account for all evolutionary change, a position not too far from that of biologist and Un. of Toronto professor Larry Moran.

    I have heard that he backed off his earlier claims, and shifted more to cosmological arguments in his later book Nature’s Destiny (which I did not read).
    From Wikipedia:

    Denton still accepts design and embraces a non-Darwinian evolutionary theory. He denies that randomness accounts for the biology of organisms, he has proposed an evolutionary theory which is a “directed evolution” in his book Nature’s Destiny (1998). Life according to Denton did not exist until initial conditions of the universe were fine tuned (see Fine-tuned Universe)

    That doesn’t sound anything like what larry Moran thinks. Denton still thinks goddidit, and is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, so fuck him very much.

  10. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    . . . then you run into the standard creationist tactic of moving the goalposts. They demand to see an intermediate between Species 1 and species 2. So you find one, species 1.5, and they demand the ones from 1 to 1.5. And when you find that, they want the one between species 1.25 and 1.3. The decimal point can move forever.

    Some do, but you also have creationists who deny we’ve found any fossils. I recall Richard Dawkins encountering one when talking to one of the leaders of the inappropriately named Concerned Women for America. There’s a video of that encounter.

  11. matty1 says

    I’d have to check but as I recall Larry Moran thinks other biologists sometimes pay too little attention to ‘random’evolutionary change like genetic drift. That’s about as far as you can get from criticising evolution for being random.

  12. says

    slc1 wrote:

    Based on an interview Denton gave to the Un. of California extension service in 2002, he too has retreated from his previous criticism. His current position seems to be that, in his opinion, natural selection can’t account for all evolutionary change, a position not too far from that of biologist and Un. of Toronto professor Larry Moran.

    No, it’s quite far from it. There’s a big difference between saying “natural selection can’t account for all evolutionary change so God must have done it” and saying “natural selection can’t account for all evolutionary change so we also need to look at the effects of genetic drift and other forms of non-adaptive change in populations.”

  13. says

    One of the biggest weaknesses of creationists is that they cannot conceive of the idea that everyone doesn’t think like they do. That’s why they’re always saying atheists are angry at God, because the opinion that God doesn’t exist is beyond their comprehension. This is also why they so obsessed with quote mining Darwin or inventing stories about a deathbed recantation. They think he’s out Jesus and that we regard his writings are infallible and unchanging, because that’s how they see the babble.

  14. davem says

    we’ve had more than 150 years now to find new fossils. I’m sure well over 99% of all the fossils we have were found after that date

    Indeed, the last 20 years has seen a veritable explosion in the discovery of intermediate forms. Any book written more than 20 years ago is hopelessly out of date.

  15. =8)-DX says

    The greatest irony lies not in our current knowledge about evolution, but in the fact that Darwin himself anticipated AND responded to these arguments himself. Seriously people, read the book, without Origin, the creationists wouldnt have a leg to stand on. Apart from matty1s points I seem to recall Darwin also..

  16. =8)-DX says

    ..mentioning how by his theory the very mechanics of natural selection and speciation would tend to prefer large homogenous populations (larger chance of fossilisation) being later replaced by by fitter subspecies having evolved in relative isolation and small numbers, as well as the idea that transitional forms (suxh as those living between habitats) would tentd to be eradicated by dominant groups.

  17. kantalope says

    Doh – DX beat me to it. That sounded like one of Darwin’s “this is the objection – I’ll tear it apart in a minute things.” And Darwin does take his time on this one so it is no surprise that Rives would not get there: it is almost ten pages later that Darwin gets to the point that not every corpse is going to make it to fossildom. Search for ” stratum full of such intermediate links” on this page and keep reading:

    http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F376&viewtype=text&pageseq=1

  18. slc1 says

    Re Ed Brayton @ #15

    Again, based on the interview I cited previously (apparently, it is no longer available), his position was that he really had nothing to offer as an additional mechanism to natural selection and did not posit a supernatural explanation. As I recall, he didn’t mention genetic drift, Moran’s favorite alternative.

    By the way, it is my information that he is no longer affiliated with the Dishonesty Institute and, in fact, that he isn’t particularly religious.

  19. says

    But there is a long history of them making very specific claims about intermediate forms, openly mocking the idea that there could possibly be marine mammals with feet and legs as evolution demands.

    This one, actually, got the most amusing response. I remember in response to Tiktaalik, one of the head lunatics at Conservapedia said that it was probably an “antediluvian laboratory chimera, an out of place specimen from a society known to be inordinately cruel.” Which, if my translator is correct, translate to “a wizard did it”.

  20. says

    The use of the ‘Darwinst’ as a slur is related to the problems religious people have in allowing interpretations to change for their holy books. They also equate Darwin’s works as our holy book and asume that a crack in Darwin’s theories can lead to a gaping hole in modrn evolution theory. The fact that what we have learned since then has actually made the basic theories more solid is uninteligible to many of them.

  21. sosw says

    And I’ve said this before: I think people make too big a deal about fossils, at least as far as providing evidence for evolution. I’ve always felt that the most convincing evidence for common descent is the nested hierarchical classification of the species.

    Both the fossil record and hierarchical classification are impressive in that they’re considerably better than one might expect.

    Genetics is a third area that provides strong evidence for evolution (and more details about the mechanisms behind it).

    Of course all of these lines of evidence are interconnected and confirm each other.

    In my opinion the evidence for evolution is stronger, by a ridiculous amount, than should be required to convince any reasonable person.

    I found evolution to be self-evident long before I knew about most of the evidence for it, and scratched my head at knowledgeable people conceding that it is somehow counter-intuitive. As far as I can tell, the only people who reject evolution are ones who have formerly been miseducated and hold false preconceptions they are unwilling to examine critically.

  22. Reginald Selkirk says

    slc1 #21: By the way, it is my information that (Denton) is no longer affiliated with the Dishonesty Institute and, in fact, that he isn’t particularly religious.

    If you have a credible source, feel free to cite it, and show that you haven’t misinterpreted it as badly as you did the previous point.
    .
    Michael Denton and Molecular Clocks
    by Larry Moran, 2006

    Denton doesn’t buy it. He thinks the molecular clock proves Intelligent Design Creationism….
    In other words, Michael Denton can’t imagine how stochastic evolutionary processes might work, so God did it…

    This analysis is based on citations from Nature’s Destiny. You can see that Denton still thinks Goddidit and that Larry Moran disagrees with him about that.

  23. Reginald Selkirk says

    Michael Denton lecture excerpt on ID the Future

    On this episode of ID the Future, we listen in on a a few minutes from a lecture given by CSC Senior Fellow Michael Denton.

    Dated September 10, 2012.
    And would ID The Future have an accurate understanding of the currency of who is and is not affiliated with the Discovery Institute?

    The ID The Future (IDTF) podcast carries on Discovery Institute’s mission of exploring the issues central to evolution and intelligent design (ID)…

  24. Reginald Selkirk says

    I will stop now because I don’t especially care what Michael Denton now believes. I read his first book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, and found that his understanding of numerous fields of science was wildly distorted. Having found his first book to be garbage, I feel no obligation to read his subsequent efforts, and if he has shifted his position this would certainly not influence my own position on anything.

  25. slc1 says

    Re Reginald Selkirk @ #25

    Someone calling himself Lenny Flank posted the following comment over at Panda’s Thumb.

    Gee, isn’t it surprising that Witt never mentions the fact that Denton used to be a Fellow at Discovery Institute, but left because he thinks ID is a load of crap

    http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/11/denton-vs-squid.html

    I don’t know where “Dr” Flank got his information. However, a quick perusal of the thread doesn’t indicate anyone taking issue with the statement.

    By the way, the Wiki article on Denton claims that he self-identifies as an agnostic.

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