I immediately referred Bob to the people at the NCSE. He wrote to them explaining the situation, and they responded with excellent advice and support. Bob was able to use their suggestions along with some of the position statements found in the NCSE's Voices for Evolution in defense of his continued push to teach the science he felt he was obligated to present to his students, but his supervisors remained firm in their policy of steering clear of specifically mentioning evolution or "deep time" chronology.
So my situation here is tenuous. I am under censure for mentioning numbers ... I find that my "fire" for this place is fading if we're going to dissemble about such a basic factor of modern science. I mean ... the Scopes trial was how long ago now??? I thought we had fought this battle ... and still it goes on.
Student: Many schools in Arkansas are failing to teach students about evolution according to the educational standards of our state. Since it is against these standards to teach creationism, how would you go about helping our state educate students more sufficiently for this?Governor Huckabee's answer has several problems and is laced with some very important misconceptions about science. Perhaps the most insidious problem with his response is that it plays on one of the most basic of American values: Huckabee appeals to our sense of democracy and free expression. But several court decisions have concluded that fairness and free expression are not violated when public school teachers are required to teach the approved curriculum. These decisions recognized that teaching creationism is little more than thinly veiled religious advocacy and violates the Establishment Clause.
Huckabee: Are you saying some students are not getting exposure to the various theories of creation?
Student (stunned): No, of evol ... well, of evolution specifically. It's a biological study that should be educated [taught], but is generally not.
Moderator: Schools are dodging Darwinism? Is that what you ... ?
Huckabee: I'm not familiar that they're dodging it. Maybe they are. But I think schools also ought to be fair to all views. Because, frankly, Darwinism is not an established scientific fact. It is a theory of evolution, that's why it's called the theory of evolution. And I think that what I'd be concerned with is that it should be taught as one of the views that's held by people. But it's not the only view that's held. And any time you teach one thing as that it's the only thing, then I think that has a real problem to it.
Student: Goal 2.04 of the Biology Benchmark Goals published by the Arkansas Department of Education in May of 2002 indicates that students should examine the development of the theory of biological evolution. Yet many students in Arkansas that I have met ... have not been exposed to this idea. What do you believe is the appropriate role of the state in mandating the curriculum of a given course?The governor goes on for a bit and finishes his sentiment, but the moderator keeps the conversation going:
Huckabee: I think that the state ought to give students exposure to all points of view. And I would hope that that would be all points of view and not only evolution. I think that they also should be given exposure to the theories not only of evolution but to the basis of those who believe in creationism ... .
Moderator (to student): You've encountered a number of students who have not received evolutionary biology?
Student: Yes, I've found that quite a few people's high schools simply prefer to ignore the topic. I think that they're a bit afraid of the controversy.
Huckabee: I think it's something kids ought to be exposed to. I do not necessarily buy into the traditional Darwinian theory, personally. But that does not mean that I'm afraid that somebody might find out what it is ...
Although I have no expertness in evaluating the plausibility of scientific claims, my appraisals are nevertheless worth stating, both because almost anyone trying to figure out what is true overall must engage a field in which he is not expert and because many educational officials and virtually all judges who must discern if educational decisions are constitutional will lack special scientific competence. (p 101)No matter how much we might wish otherwise, because of our constitutional framework and the patchwork system of US education that emphasizes the political role of state and local school boards, critical decisions about what constitutes valid educational goals are necessarily in the hands of people with little or no expertise in either education or the particular subjects to be taught. (Science education would be well served if all school board members, administrators and judges had anywhere near Greenawalt's grasp of the issues involved in the evolution/creationism dispute. If his notes are any guide, he has read widely in the literature of both sides. Besides referencing such well-known philosophers of science as Hume, Popper, Lakatos, and Kuhn, he discusses the works of philosophers particularly interested in the evolution/creationism debate, including Philip Kitcher's Abusing Science, Larry Laudan's "Science at the bar: Causes for concern" and Robert Pennock's Tower of Babel and Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics. Among scientists, he is familiar with Kenneth Miller's Finding Darwin's God and numerous works by Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, Niles Eldredge, and others. Nor does he neglect the creation science and ID side, citing works by Henry Morris, Jonathan Wells, Phillip Johnson, Alvin Plantinga, William Dembski, and Michael Behe.) Greenawalt admits that "it may seem that I give more credence to critics of dominant evolutionary theory than would the overwhelming majority of practicing scientists" (p 89), but goes on to point out that the primary issue in the law is not the scientific validity of the critique but whether including it in public education transgresses constitutional boundaries.
Modern science seeks to discover natural explanations for physical events. We cannot be certain that natural explanations will always suffice, but physics, chemistry, and biology have made amazing advances by assuming that they will. If we had powerful evidence that science could not conceivably explain some phenomena, this evidence of limits could be one small part of science courses; some people believe such evidence exists about evolutionary processes, but the uncertainties there are matched by those in other areas of science. In any event, it is too soon to conclude that any difficulties with evolutionary theory, even if they exist, cannot be rectified by scientific explanation. (p 114)Coming to the nitty-gritty, Greenawalt has no great difficulty identifying "creation science" as a religious program. "[W]hat makes the theory religious is that religious premises explain why the practitioners reach the conclusions they do" and no attempt to edit out scriptural references and to substitute "abrupt appearance" for "divine creation" can disguise that (p 116).
The dominant neo-Darwinian account has enough conundrums for text writers, science teachers, and boards of education to conclude that teachers could usefully discuss them and, further, suggest that whether the dominant theory, and particularly the pre-eminent place it accords natural selection, may require substantial revision or supplementation is an open question. I do not claim that scientific evidence supports this qualified presentation of neo-Darwinism better than an unqualified account, only that the choice is within the range of constitutionally permissible judgment — something judges have to assess by the balance of scientific opinion and their own sense of the strength of arguments. (p 124)However, Greenawalt immediately goes on to say:
Were educators to go further and insist that intelligent design is probably a needed supplement to natural selection and other aspects of neo-Darwinism, or that intelligent design is the alternative to unvarnished neo-Darwinian theory, they would step over the constitutional line, because such judgments could now be made only on religious grounds. (p 124That the proponents of ID may have taken Greenawalt's positions to heart in recent days should now be clear. In the case of the Dover, Pennsylvania, school district's attempt to present ID, the local school board — at least following the court challenge — has denied that it will curtail the teaching of evolution in any way and presents ID merely as one possible alternative to evolutionary theory (see RNCSE 2004 Sep/Oct; 24 : 4–9).
I have proposed a middle course somewhere between what evolutionists insist is the only sound scientific approach and what proponents of Genesis creation and intelligent design seek. This counsel of moderation may have little appeal for opposing camps who standardly accuse one another of dogmatism and dishonesty. (p 125)The problem is that he has left us with no way to tell what his "middle course" might look like in practice.
Examine the data and observations supporting the conclusion that one-celled organisms evolved into increasingly complex multi-cellular organisms.IDnet–NM formally asked the State Board to replace that statement with this one:
Evaluate the data and observations that bear on the claim that one-celled organisms evolved into increasingly complex multi-cellular organisms.And what was finally adopted? Here's the statement the State Board approved 13–0 on August 28, 2003:
Understand the data, observations, and logic supporting the conclusion that species today evolved from earlier, distinctly different species, originating from the ancestral one-celled organisms.There were sixteen other changes proposed by IDnet–NM, and none of those was accepted by the Board of Education. IDnet–NM's plea to the board to delete the phrase "Explain how natural selection favors individuals who are better able to survive, reproduce, and leave offspring" was denied, as were all the rest of their suggestions. (For details, see the article "Do NM's science standards embrace intelligent design?" available on-line at http://www. nmsr.org/embrace.htm.)
While much language in the standards was not changed, an important caveat was added which stated in part, " ... these standards do not present scientific theory as absolute. ...
Further, "for-the-record" questions posed by ID-net confirmed that the SDE's [State Department of Education] intent for the new standards was that (1) evolution would not be taught as absolute fact and (2) teachers would be allowed to discuss problems with evolution.
Renick's final evaluation of the situation: "If there is ever a dispute over intent and meaning of the Standards in the area of biological evolution, these policy statements may be referenced for clarification ... [and] will essentially neutralize the impact of the remaining dogmatic language.
Strand III, Content Standard V-A, Benchmark 9–12.16:Even the word "controversy" does not appear anywhere in the standards.
"[Students shall] [u]nderstand that reasonable people may disagree about some issues that are of interest to both science and religion (e.g., the origin of life on earth, the cause of the big bang, the future of earth)."
K-4 Benchmark II: Know that living things have similarities and differences and that living things change over time.and:
5-8 Benchmark II: Understand how traits are passed from one generation to the next and how species evolve.
9-12 Benchmark II: Understand the genetic basis for inheritance and the basic concepts of biological evolution.
Strand II, Standard II, 5–8 Benchmark II:and:
Biological Evolution7. Describe how typical traits may change from generation to generation due to environmental influences (e.g., color of skin, shape of eyes, camouflage, shape of beak).
8. Explain that diversity within a species is developed by gradual changes over many generations.
9. Know that organisms can acquire unique characteristics through naturally occurring genetic variations.
10. Identify adaptations that favor the survival of organisms in their environments (e.g., camouflage, shape of beak).
11. Understand the process of natural selection.
12. Explain how species adapt to changes in the environment or become extinct and that extinction of species is common in the history of living things.
13. Know that the fossil record documents the appearance, diversification, and extinction of many life forms.
Strand II, Standard II, 9–12 Benchmark I:and:
Biodiversity8. Understand and explain the hierarchical classification scheme (i.e., domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species), including:
classification of an organism into a category
similarity inferred from molecular structure (DNA) closely matching classification based on anatomical similarities
similarities of organisms reflecting evolutionary relationships.
9. Understand variation within and among species, including:
mutations and genetic drift
factors affecting the survival of an organism
Strand II, Standard II, 9–12 Benchmark II:
Biological Evolution8. Describe the evidence for the first appearance of life on Earth as one-celled organisms, over 3.5 billion years ago, and for the later appearance of a diversity of multicellular organisms over millions of years.
9. Critically analyze the data and observations supporting the conclusion that the species living on Earth today are related by descent from the ancestral one-celled organisms.
10. Understand the data, observations, and logic supporting the conclusion that species today evolved from earlier, distinctly different species, originating from the ancestral one-celled organisms.
11. Understand that evolution is a consequence of many factors, including the ability of organisms to reproduce, genetic variability, the effect of limited resources, and natural selection.
12. Explain how natural selection favors individuals who are better able to survive, reproduce, and leave offspring.
13. Analyze how evolution by natural selection and other mechanisms explains many phenomena including the fossil record of ancient life forms and similarities (both physical and molecular) among different species.
From the beginning of the development of these science standards to their adoption by the State Board of Education, we were guided by two principles. First, important content should be introduced in early grades and strengthened year after year, so that our students will be scientifically literate when they leave high school. Since evolution is the only accepted scientific theory of the history and unity of life on earth, it is unambiguously central to our life-science standards, beginning in middle school and with increasing sophistication in high school. Second, students should understand the process of scientific inquiry in addition to specific scientific content, so our standards require that students learn to use scientific thinking to develop questions, design and conduct experiments, analyze and evaluate results, make predictions, and communicate findings. In a classroom where those standards are met, students will understand that scientific methods produce scientific knowledge that is continually examined, validated, revised, or rejected, and they will understand the difference between scientific knowledge and other forms of knowledge.Sharon Dogruel, Program Manager, Curriculum, Instruction and Learning Technologies, said:
Mr Renick tried to use our scientific-inquiry standards to attack our life-science standards when he addressed the Board of Education on the day of their final deliberations. However, the members of the New Mexico Board of Education saw science as a unified whole, not as a house divided against itself, and unanimously adopted the standards without modification or caveat.
Over 14 months, members of the science standards writing team worked diligently to craft standards in which science content, scientific thinking and methods, and societal and personal aspects of science were integrated into a coherent framework for exemplary science education. Members of this team considered all issues at great depth and, in the area of biological evolution, they were confident that the standards respected the backgrounds and beliefs of all students while remaining perfectly true to science. Based on the extensive development and thorough public review process completed for the science standards, coupled with the strong support from New Mexico teachers, and the praise and congratulations from numerous state and national science organizations, the team and the Department recommended that the New Mexico State Board adopt the standards without further modification.It appears that Renick and the people he interrogated disagree about whether his comments reflected any reality in the standards. In our view, his behavior was boorish and his conclusions are disingenuous.
The board was poised for [its] final vote when Joe Renick attempted to distort the intention of the standards by suggesting that teachers had to treat evolution according to his own perspective. Using a tactic that focused on student inquiry, he tried to manipulate the meaning of scientific inquiry, as elaborated in the standards, into a discussion of a controversy that may be political, philosophical, or even religious, but is not scientific. The writing team was clear: There is no controversy regarding the principles of evolution as presented in the standards. Mr Renick's attempt to undermine the standards failed.
I was appalled at this attempt to discredit the hard work of so many educators, scientists, parents, and the public, including Mr Renick's fellow members of NM IDnet. Any statements that the New Mexico science standards open the door to "alternatives to evolution" or that science instruction in New Mexico should cast doubt on the principles of evolution are completely false. New Mexicans can be extremely proud of their science standards, and it is unfortunate that some people continue to advance misrepresentations at a time when we need support for strong science education.
The Public Education Department requires all school districts to align their curricula to the New Mexico Science Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Performance Standards. Therefore, all science teachers in New Mexico should be teaching about evolution in the appropriate grades and courses, according to their districts' curricula.So far, nothing that the "intelligent design" movement has produced meets the criteria of acceptance by mainstream science or is consistent with sound scientific inquiry.
Further, because of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and a wide-reaching United States Supreme Court case, New Mexico public schools are not permitted to endorse a particular religion, teach religion, or teach "creation science" or any of its variations that advance the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind.
… Third, the state must remain neutral in matters pertaining to religion. In no way do the science standards support the teaching of notions of intelligent design or creation science or any of its variations.
Fourth, fundamental to science and the New Mexico science standards is the role of inquiry in learning about the world. There is no place in science instruction for the teaching of notions that are not or have not been investigated through rigorous scientific means or that are not consider by the mainstream scientific community to be consistent with sound scientific inquiry.
I was appalled when President Bush signaled his support for the teaching of 'intelligent design' alongside evolution in public K–12 science classes. Though I respect and consistently protect the rights of persons of faith and the curricula of religious schools, public school science classes are not the place to teach concepts that cannot be backed up by evidence and tested experimentally.He added, "It is irresponsible for President Bush to cast 'intelligent design' — a repackaged version of creationism — as the 'other side' of the evolution 'debate.'" His incisive essay ends with the sobering thought, "When the tenets of critical thinking and scientific investigation are weakened in our classrooms, we are weakening our nation. That is why I think the President's off-hand comment about 'intelligent design' as the other side of the debate over evolution is such a great disservice to Americans."
Pseudoscientists love to use "abracadabra" words to dazzle an ill-informed audience, and for creationists, the word "entropy" fills the bill nicely. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that, in an isolated system, the entropy tends to increase. As entropy may be considered a measure of disorder, the orderliness of living systems and the complexity of organic molecules are taken by creationists to be a violation of this law of physics, requiring divine intervention.
An example of this sort of thinking is provided by Henry Morris (1989: 32, emphasis in the original):
The universe is not "progressing from featurelessness to states of greater organization and complexity," as Davies and other evolutionary mathematicians fantasize. It is running down - at every observable level - toward chaos, as stipulated by the scientific laws of thermodynamics. Local and temporary increases in complexity are only possible when driven by designed programs and directed energies, neither of which is possessed by the purely speculative notion of vertically-upward evolution.
An even less intellectual effort is provided by Ross (2004: 108):
One feature of the law of decay (the second law of thermodynamics, or the entropy law) seems especially beneficial in the context of sin: the more we humans sin, the more pain and work we encounter.
Thank God for torture chambers, and congenital diseases!
A perfectly adequate response to such nonsense is to point out that the earth is not an isolated system, and therefore the condition required by the Second Law is not met. We can surely say more than just this, however. After all, entropy is not merely some nebulous concept of disorder, but an exactly defined quantity in physics. For example, 18 grams of water at 25° C has an entropy of 70.0 Joules per Kelvin (Lide 2004-5: 5-18; 6-4). Since entropy can be calculated precisely, it is possible to determine what restrictions the laws of thermodynamics really place on evolution. To do this, we should first look at how entropy is defined mathematically.
The change in the entropy of a system as it goes from an initial state to a final state is
which simplifies to
if the temperature is constant throughout the process. In this equation:
S is the entropy in units of Joules per Kelvin (or J/K),
ΔS is the change in the entropy during the process,
Q is the flow of heat in units of Joules (or J) (Q is positive if heat flows into the object, and negative if heat flows out of the object), and
T is the temperature in units of Kelvin (or K).
For example, suppose that two cubes of matter at temperatures of 11 K and 9 K are brought together, 99 Joules of heat spontaneously flow from the hotter to the colder cube (as shown), and the cubes are separated. If the heat capacities of the cubes are so large that their temperatures remain essentially constant, the change in entropy of the entire system is
Notice that this change of entropy is a positive quantity. The entropy of any system tends to increase, as energy flows spontaneously from hotter to colder regions.
To examine the change of entropy necessary to generate life on earth, begin with a square, one meter long on each side, at the same distance from the sun as the earth (93 million miles) and oriented so that one side fully faces the solar disk. The amount of radiant power that passes through this area is called the solar constant, and is equal to 1373 Joules/second (Lide 2004-5: 14-2). In the absence of the earth's atmosphere, the entropy of this sunlight would equal this energy divided by the temperature of the sun's surface, known from spectroscopy to equal 5780 K. The result would give the entropy of this amount of sunlight as 0.238 J/K every second.
A more sophisticated analysis of the energy and entropy that reaches the surface of the earth is given by Kabelac and Drake (1992: 245). Due to absorption and scattering by the atmosphere, only 897.6 J of energy reaches one square meter of the earth's surface through a clear sky every second (731.4 J directly from the solar disk, and 166.2 J diffused through the rest of the sky). For an overcast sky, all the energy is from diffuse radiation, equal to 286.7 J, according to Kabelac and Drake's model. The entropy that reaches this square meter through a clear sky every second is 0.305 J/K (0.182 J/K directly from the solar disk, and 0.123 J/K diffused through the rest of the sky). For an overcast sky, all the entropy is from diffuse radiation, equal to 0.218 J/K (see figure, p 32).
So, for one square meter on the earth's surface facing the sun, the energy received every second from a clear sky is 897.6 J, and the entropy received is 0.305 J/K. If we are to apply these numbers to a study of life on earth, we must spread these quantities over the entire earth's surface (of area 4πr2) rather than the cross-section of the earth (of area πr2) that receives the rays perpendicular to the surface. Therefore, these numbers must be reduced by a factor of 4 to represent the energy and entropy that an average square meter of the earth receives every second, as 224.4 J and 0.076 J/K, respectively.
The average temperature of the earth's surface is 288 K (= 15° C = 59° F) according to Lide (2004-5: 14-3). To maintain this temperature, that one square meter must radiate 224.4 J of energy back into the atmosphere (and ultimately into outer space) every second. The entropy of this radiation is
Assuming sunny skies, this one square meter of ground gains 0.076 J/K of entropy every second from sunlight, and produces 0.779 J/K every second by radiating energy back into the sky for a net entropy creation rate of 0.703 J/K every second. In effect, the earth is an entropy factory for the universe, taking individual high-energy (visible) photons and converting each of them into many low-energy (infrared) photons, increasing the disorder of the universe. As long as life on earth decreases its entropy at a rate of 0.703 J/K or less per square meter every second, the entropy of the universe will not decrease over time due to this one square meter of earth, and the Second Law will be obeyed.
How much energy and entropy are contained in life on the earth's land surface, compared to a lifeless earth? The average biomass occupying one square meter of land is between 10 and 12 kg, mostly as plant material (Bortman and others 2003: 145). Taking 11 kg as an average,we can calculate how much energy it would take to create this biomass from simple inorganic chemicals. This can be done by reversing the process, and asking how much energy is released when combustion reduces plant life to ashes. The answer is the heat of combustion, which for wood (which we may take as representative of plant life) is 1.88 x 107 J/kg (Beiser 1991: 431). Multiplying these two numbers together, the energy required to generate the amount of life currently found on an average square meter of land is 2.07 x 108 J.
If this life is generated at the earth's average temperature of 288 K, its entropy decrease will be
The earth's bodies of water are relatively sterile, and can be ignored; if life on land can be generated, the sparse amount of life in water can certainly be generated as well.
We are now able to determine what restrictions the laws of thermodynamics place upon the evolution of life on earth. According to the First Law of Thermodynamics, heat is a flow of energy and must obey the Law of Conservation of Energy. The average square meter of land surface on earth receives 224.4 J of energy from the sun every second, and contains
2.07 x 108 J of energy stored in living tissue. The ratio of these two values is
If all the solar energy received by this square meter is used to create organic matter, a minimum of 10.7 days is required to avoid violating the First Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that in an isolated system, the entropy tends to increase. The average square meter of land may balance the entropy increase due to radiation by generating a maximum entropy decrease of 0.703 J/K every second through the growth of life without violating this law. The difference in entropy between this square meter with life and the same square meter in the absence of life is 7.18 x 105 J/K. The ratio of these two values is
A minimum of 11.8 days is required to avoid violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
The Third (and final) Law of Thermodynamics, which states that S = 0 J/K for a pure perfect crystal at 0 K, has no application to creationism.
Shades of a Creation Week! As long as the evolution of life on earth took longer than 10.7 or 11.8 days, the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics are not violated, respectively. Even for an overcast sky, these numbers increase to merely 33 and 43 days respectively. As evolution has obviously taken far longer than this, the creationists are wrong to invoke entropy and the laws of thermodynamics to defend their beliefs.
Of course, solar energy is not going to be converted into the chemical energy of organic compounds with 100% efficiency. It takes a growing season of several months to reestablish the grasses of the prairie, and forests can take centuries to regrow. What this study has shown is that the time constraints for these two laws are very similar. Can creationists seriously argue that there has not been enough time for the sun to provide the energy stored in the living matter we find on earth today? If not, then they cannot honestly rely on entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics to make their case, either.
Beiser A. 1991. Physics. 5th ed. New York:Addison-Wesley.
Bortman M, Brimblecombe P, Cunningham MA, Cunningham WP, Freedman B, eds. 2003. Environmental Encyclopedia. 3rd ed. New York: Gale Group.
Kabelac S, Drake FD. 1992. The entropy of terrestrial solar radiation. Journal of Solar Energy Science and Engineering 48 (4): 239¨C48.
Lide DR, ed. 2004¨C2005. CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. 85th ed. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press.
Morris HM. 1989. The Long War Against God. Grand Rapids (MI): Baker Book House.
Ross H.2004. A Matter of Days. Colorado Springs (CO):NavPress.
The chemical composition of fossilized vertebrate tissues is the result of the uptake, exchange, and loss of chemical elements, in two different sets of circumstances. First, during the life of the animal. ... Second, during the diagenetic evolution of the mineralized tissues (i.e., fossilization) this original organization of the chemical elements is altered ... [emphasis added]Statements such as these are so common in paleontological literature — especially as throw-away remarks in prefaces and introductions — that they tend to roll smoothly off the brain without critical evaluation. But this passage is quite ambigious. Fossilization, here defined as the “diagenetic evolution of the mineralized tissues,” is a process. Unmineralized tissues apparently cannot undergo fossilization. But can unmineralized tissues be fossilized? “Fossilized” also implies a process-dependent definition of “fossil,” because, under the time-dependent definition, becoming a fossil simply is a matter of getting old, something that hardly qualifies as a process; calling a bone “fossilized” simply because it is old would be as meaningless as calling an old chair “antique-ized.” So if unmineralized tissues can be fossilized, then there must be some way of becoming fossilized other than through fossilization, and T rex soft tissue could be described as “unfossilization-ized fossilized tissue.” But if unmineralized tissues cannot be fossilized, this would imply that unmineralized tissues cannot be fossils. What, then, are “fossil” leaves, soft-body animal “fossils”, and petrified wood?
This is fossilised bone in the sense that it’s from an extinct animal but it doesn’t have a lot of the characteristics of what people would call a fossil.As with Bocheren, this statement sounds reasonable until you think about it. “Characteristics of what people would call a fossil” presumably refers to decay of soft tissue, petrifaction or some other process. But what does “fossilized bone in the sense that it’s from an extinct animal” mean? Here Schweitzer clearly intended to use “fossil” in the time-defined way, but instead of simply using the word “fossil”, she adds the chronological qualifier “from an extinct animal” to “fossilized” — a term that connotes process. This leads to exactly the same confusion that we encountered in Bocheren. And again, as with Bocheren, I do not mean this as a critique of Schweitzer’s science. I cite these passages in order to demonstrate that we think so little about how we use “fossil” and related terms that even careful and accomplished scientists use them in careless and ambiguous ways.
A petrified substance, strictly speaking, is nothing more than the skeleton, or perhaps image, of a body which has once had life, either animal or vegetable, combined with some mineral. Thus petrified wood is not in that state wood alone. One part of the compound or mass of wood having been destroyed by local causes, has been compensated by earthy and sandy substances, diluted and extremely minute, which the waters surrounding them had deposited while they themselves evaporated. These earthy substances, being then moulded in the skeleton, will be more or less indurated, and will appear to have its figure, its structure, its size, in a word, the same general characteristics, the same specific attributes, and the same individual differences. Farther, in petrified wood, no vestige of ligneous matter appears to exist.More modern variants simply embellish this story with chemical language, substituting atoms, molecules, or minerals for “diluted and extremely minute” substances, for example. Pulling a book off my shelf at random, I encounter this:
After an animal dies, if it is to become a fossil, it must be buried before the elements destroy the carcass, completely…. After burial, minerals carried by percolating groundwater are deposited in vugs within the bone structure, or they may actually replace bone salts, literally turning the bone to stone. (Jacobs 1993: 47)Both passages give readers the sense that scientists have a pretty good understanding of what happens to fossils in the ground. In reality we have no such understanding. Indeed, it is only in the past 15 years that paleontological geochemists begun to address, in a serious and organized way, basic questions about why some things endure long enough to become fossils. To date, these efforts have revealed important details about the chemical behavior of some fossils in some settings, but we are a long way from the kind of systematic knowledge implied by the cited passages.
Bone is made out of calcium (sodium) hydroxyapatite, a mineral that is not stable at temperatures and pressures at or near the surface of the earth. This means that bones can change with time, which in turn means that most no longer have original bone matter present after fossilization. This is especially likely if the bone is bathed in the variety of fluids that is associated with burial in the earth. ... If, however, no fluids are present throughout the history of the burial … the bone could remain unaltered, which is to say that original bone mineralogy remains. This situation is not that common, and is progressively rarer in the case of older and older fossils.This explanation of what happens to buried bones is vastly better than most. It makes the important but seldom articulated point that bone will not necessarily decay just because it is unstable, and leaves open the possibility that unaltered bone and soft tissues can survive. The authors make no implausible claims, and it is possible that a century from now we will know that everything they wrote was entirely correct.
Would evolutionary theory have predicted such an amazing discovery? Absolutely not, soft tissue would have degraded completely many millions of years ago no matter how fortuitous the preservation process. Will evolutionary theory now state — due to this clear physical evidence — that it is possible dinosaurs roamed the earth until relatively recent times? No, for evolutionary theory will not allow dinosaurs to exist beyond a certain philosophical/evolutionary period. (Sherwin 2005)The discovery of intact T rex soft tissue indeed would challenge prevailing scientific thinking, if not, as the author claims, “evolutionary theory”. This discovery can be reconciled with the Tin Man story only by invoking extraordinary causes. These invocations come across as makeshift attempts to prop up an exhausted hypothesis — which in fact they are. From the same BBC article previously cited:
Dr Schweitzer is not making any grand claims that these soft traces are the degraded remnants of the original material — only that they give that appearance.Rich Deem, writing at the creationist site godandscience.org, explains:
She and other scientists will want to establish if some hitherto unexplained fine-scale process has been at work in MOR 1125, which was pulled from the famous dinosaur rocks of eastern Montana known as the Hell Creek Formation. (BBC 2005; emphasis added)
[Schweitzer] indicated that the bones have a distinct odor, characteristic of “embalming fluids.” Therefore, it is possible that the bones landed in some chemical stew that preserved the soft tissue inside from decomposition….The new study reveals that the cortical bone within T rex [femora] may, under certain conditions, retain cellular and subcellular details. Under normal conditions, fossilization replaces living material with minerals. In this case, the soft tissue was protected from degradation, possibly through some chemical process, then desiccated to prevent further changes. (Deem nd; emphasis added)Creationists know a weak spot when they see one, and dodgy phrases like “some hitherto unexplained fine-scale process” and “some chemical stew” advertise a weak spot like a giant gorilla balloon over a used car lot. The fact that the weakness is in our understanding of fossils, not of evolution or the age of the earth, is a subtle distinction that creationists do not make and their audience does not grasp.
Anti-evolutionists get a lot of mileage out of this chestnut because it uses scientific terms like “thermodynamics” and “entropy” to bolster their contention that evolution is unscientific. In fact, local increases in complexity/order are not only completely consistent with thermodynamics, but even expected by the theory. Nevertheless, anti-evolutionists contend: “Evolutionary theory stands in obvious defiance of the Second Law” and “Evolution teaches that life increases in complexity, and therefore defies the second law. …The second law says that everything in our world and in the universe is like a wound-up clock that is running down” (http://www.pathlights.com/ce_encyclopedia/Encyclopedia/18law03.htm or http://evolutionfacts.com/Appendix/a25.htm; see also http://www.cryingvoice.com/Evolution/Physics.html (link broken)). This ruse works best with an audience that is already inclined to hope that evolution is not true, and requires that the audience does not already understand thermodynamics. This burdens the defender of evolution with having to explain not only all of evolutionary theory but thermodynamics on top. I’ve found that the following explanation often works pretty well to help folks understand basic implications of the Second Law as it relates to life on earth and evolution.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics has to do with entropy — the entropy of the universe increases during any spontaneous process. A traditional way to understand this is that disorder increases in an isolated (closed) system. This is where some muffins come in handy.
One caveat: Do not look for the muffin example to cover all of physical theory comprehensively. It discusses entropy in terms of the classical theory of thermodynamics. Quantum mechanics and relativity theory put a different spin on it. Since we do not really have conservation of energy in general relativity, it is hard to say what a really comprehensive thermodynamics will look like once the physicists work it out. However, the more Einsteinian versions of thermodynamics thus far all look far worse for the anti-evolutionist objection than does the classical theory. For a more advanced treatment of classical thermodynamics, see http://www.entropylaw.com/.
1) The Bible is the written Word of God, and because we believe it to be inspired thruout [sic], all of its assertions are historically and scientifically true in all of the original autographs. To the student of nature, this means that the account of origins in Genesis is a factual presentation of simple historical truths.
2) All basic types of living things, including man, were made by direct creative acts of God during creation Week as described in Genesis. Whatever biological changes have occurred since creation have accomplished only changes within the original created kinds.
3) The great flood described in Genesis, commonly referred to as the Noachian Deluge, was an historical event, worldwide in its extent and effects.
4) Finally, we are an organization of Christian men of science, who accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The account of the special creation of Adam and Eve as one man and one woman, and their subsequent Fall into sin, is the basis for our belief in the necessity of a Savior for all mankind. Therefore, salvation can come only thru [sic] accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior.