It’s the arrogance of creationists that gets me

Before my email went down, I was engaged in an exchange with an Indonesian student.

He wrote to me asking if he could ask me a few questions about evolution. All right, it’s an excess of manners to ask if you can ask, but OK, I told him to go ahead. For future reference, anyone, I’m not into formalities or deference — just put your questions up front, boldly. I’ll either answer or not. When someone is that cautious, though, it makes me suspicious.

His next email informs me that he is writing a book to correct misconceptions about evolution in the Indonesian community, and that he is an undergraduate. A bit presumptuous, don’t you think? Most undergraduates are just learning about evolution and lack the knowledge to write a book, but maybe he’s precocious, and maybe he’s exceptionally well educated, and maybe he’s going to narrow the focus of his book to something appropriate. There are undergraduates who are mature enough to do a good job presenting the scientific perspective, but you’re going to have to show me that you’ve got the chops.

His question, though, floored me. He tells me he’s been reading Harun Yahya’s “beautifully illustrated” Atlas of Creation, and that he wants to know if ‘living fossils’ that have been totally unchanged for hundreds of millions of years exist, and gosh, isn’t that a problem for evolution? And then, I knew he’s playing a disingenuous game and trying to trap me.

Yahya’s book is a transparent fraud full of stolen images that strikes one note over and over again: here’s a stolen photo of a fossil. Here’s another photo of a modern animal. See? They’re identical! Therefore evolution is false. Nobody with even a glimmering of an education in biology would fall for it. Stasis is part of evolutionary theory, and besides, a superficial photo of a fossil or animal with murky provenance, selected specifically for their similarity, is not evidence of much of anything. Creationists have no respect for the evidence, though, so anything that reinforces their faulty assumptions is acceptable, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re Islamic or Christian creationists.

So here’s a guy whose source of information about evolution is a creationist propaganda book, who claims that he has sufficient authority to write his own book about evolution, and he’s asking this fucking stupid question. It wouldn’t be stupid from a layman, but he’s making this obnoxious pretense of authority, and most offensive of all, he thinks I’m stupid enough to fall for it.

I see this over and over again. Creationists have this absurd confidence that they have discovered the great flaw in evolution that thousands of scientists who studied it for years have missed, and they love to spring ‘zingers’ on us that they’re sure will stagger us and send us reeling backwards, to quit in defeat like the professor in Big Daddy.

It’s not going to happen. Trotting out some poorly referenced factlet and your profound misconceptions about evolution aren’t going to shock me. I’m also not at all impressed when you’re the kind of weasely coward who can’t even be honest about your intentions.


  1. John Harshman says

    You show a photo of a fishing lure, but that isn’t, to me, the weirdest thing in the book. At least the lure is a version of the fossil he pairs it with. But how about this one?: every single photo of a fossil crinoid (there are several) is paired with a photo of a living feather-duster worm. Not even the same superphylum. He also shows a fossil spider crab and pairs it with a living crab spider, but at least that’s within phylum.

  2. says

    The entire book is bizarre. What about the bit where he photoshops skeletons to add random limbs and claims that’s what evolution predicts?

  3. benedic says

    Mr Yahya is at present cooling his creationist passions in a Turkish prison for a few too many escapades with young women . Perhaps he will write another atlas with his Indonesian admirer??

  4. stroppy says

    Young, naive, and not too bright. Raised by pigeons. Give him a few years for the space between his ears to ossify before he becomes the kind of arrogant, irredeemable jackass you want to cartoon throttle with both hands until his eyeballs pop out.

  5. jrkrideau says

    Creationists have this absurd confidence that they have discovered the great flaw in evolution that thousands of scientists who studied it for years have missed

    Reminds me of economists solving psychology’s great problems and psychologists settling all those history problems.

    Or xkcd

  6. Ted Lawry says

    Speaking of arrogance and worse, the Intelligent Design “belief tank,” the Discovery Institute, has surpassed even itself if that’s possible. Their web site touts a video <a href=”>Human Evolution: The Monkey Bias – Science Uprising Episode 8 which is part of their “Science Uprising” videos series. The video is available youtube

    SU-8 shows excerpts from a PBS video <a href=">In Search of Human Origins with Don Johanson Part 1</a>. A more complete transcripts is <a href="">here</a>.

    The subject is alleged manipulation fo the world famous humanoid fossil called “Lucy” to make it look more human-like. Here’s what the Discovery Institute’s video (SU-8) said:

    (SU-8 4:20) “This PBS documentary shows anthropologist Owen Lovejoy manipulating the fossils to make Lucy walk upright.”
    (PBS voiceover Don Johanson 0:37-0:45) “The perfect fit was an illusion that made Lucy’s hip bones seem to flair out like a chimp’s. But all was not lost.”
    (PBS excerpt NO voiceover) Shows Lovejoy using a power grinder on what seems to be the fossil!
    (SU-8) Shows an audience member staring in disbelief.
    (PBS voiceover Don Johanson) “As a result the angle of the hip looks nothing like a chimp’s but a lot like ours.”
    (SU-8 Casey Luskin) “So Lucy’s pelvis had to be reconstructed using quite a bit of evolutionary interpretation and imagination.”

    Note that Luskin doesn't say "fraud" but the clip of Lovejoy using the grinder, as the DI shows it, certainly implies it!

    What is wrong with this picture? This is what Don Johanson actually said, with the part SU-8 left out in italics. (The PBS video is at Transcripts of the PBS video are at

    (PBS voiceover Don Johanson 0:37-1:33) “The perfect fit was an illusion that made Lucy’s hip bones seems to flair out like a chimp’s. But all was not lost. Lovejoy decided he could restore the pelvis to its natural shape. He didn’t want to tamper with the original, so he made a copy in plaster. He cut the damaged pieces out and put them back together the way they were before Lucy died. It was a tricky job, but after taking the kink out of the pelvis, it all fit together perfectly, like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. As a result, the angle of the hip looks nothing like a chimps, but a lot like ours.”

    In other words, SU-8 turned off the voiceover which would have explained that Lovejoy was grinding up a plaster copy not the fossil itself, even though SU-8 accused him of “manipulating the fossils to make Lucy walk upright." The suppressed part of the voiceover also explained Lovejoy’s reasons and why they showed that Lucy had the pelvis on an upright walker.

    An earlier segment (0:00-0:37) of the PBS video gives additional reasons.

    OWEN LOVEJOY: When I put the two parts of the pelvis together that we had, this part of the pelvis has pressed so hard and so completely into this one, that it caused it to be broken into a series of individual pieces, which were then fused together in later fossilization.

    DON JOHANSON: After Lucy died, some of her bones lying in the mud must have been crushed or broken, perhaps by animals browsing at the lake shore.

    OWEN LOVEJOY: This has caused the two bones in fact to fit together so well that they’re in an anatomically impossible position. (emphasis added.)

    When the video wasn’t making paleontologists look dishonest, is was busy Leaving Stuff Out. See 4:07 where Luskin says they didn’t find Lucy’s feet, showing a picture of Lucy’s skeleton with a big red circle showing that the left leg ends at the knee. Yes, but there are several bones below the knee for the right leg, what do they tell us about whether Lucy walked upright? Luskin doesn’t say!

    Johanson goes on to talk about the footprints at Laetoli which were solid evidence that someone was walking upright 3.5 million years ago. Again, Luskin says nothing!

    But never mind mere facts, let’s talk about stupidity. If Johanson and Lovejoy had committed scientific misconduct, they would never have done it in front of TV cameras! Other than Trump’s “lawyer” Giuliani, no one is that stupid! Either Luskin et al. are themselves too stupid to think of that objection, or they are sure that their followers won’t think of it. From the adulatory youtube comments, Luskin was right about that!

    Luskin is a lawyer, so he ought to know what is and is not libel. I am not a lawyer, but it sure sounds to me like an accusation of serious scientific misconduct involving a world-famous fossil. Incidentally Lovejoy and Johanson are still alive which means they could sue if they want to.

    Of course the publicity might help the Discovery Institute, which currently seems to drowning in a sea of public disinterest. On the other hand, being publicly convicted in open court of deliberate lying might take some of the wind out of their sails. It might even move social media to start fact-checking creationist claims. That would be really worth something!

  7. birgerjohansson says

    A major portion of creationists are arrogant. And – with a few exceptions- muslims take everything to eleven, a heritage from a certain wanker who demanded his relevations should be followed literally .
    The smart and considerate muslims (like the British mufti Abu Layth) tend to get physically attacked.

  8. PaulBC says

    The arrogance of thinking you have noticed something everyone else missed is a common feature of adolescence (sometimes extending into early adulthood). Well at least it was for me, and I doubt I’m that atypical. (Note: that it is possible to notice something new, just not very likely, and it usually assumes you first learned what everyone knows already.)

    Creationists never seem to lose it somehow.

  9. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    I wonder if he’d have any interesting thoughts if you asked “What percentage of animals do you think are living fossils? How many would you anticipate under creationism (and why), and under evolution (and why)?”

  10. lumipuna says

    the Intelligent Design “belief tank,” the Discovery Institute

    How about “ink tank”?

  11. woodsong says

    So we see one page of the book (is this Yahya’s book, or someone’s editorial comments on it?), on which is pictured a fishing lure (as noted above) and a plush toy. What point was Yahya trying to make with these images, again?

  12. Ichthyic says

    “the Discovery Institute, which currently seems to drowning in a sea of public disinterest”

    …for over 15 years now. really. it’s not even a thing any more, barely was even during the days of Kitzmiller/Dover.

  13. wzrd1 says

    IRT evolution, I’ve always began with the premise that, “Most significant mutations aren’t rewarded with survival” and proceed from there.
    It matches, well, reality. Indeed, it matches “conserved regions” of DNA/RNA quite well, as something significant results in deleterious effects that just can’t or are unable to survive or replicate.
    Meanwhile, the nautilus is fine, thank you, as is and hasn’t had to change to survive in a novel environment, making an excellent counterpoint.