RNCSE 21 (5-6)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
21
Issue: 
5–6
Year: 
2001
Date: 
September–December
Articles available online are listed below.

This issue also included the article Doubting Darwinism Through Creative License

A Tale of Two Entities: Whales and Hippos

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
A Tale of Two Entities: Whales and Hippos
Author(s): 
Gregory S Paul
Volume: 
21
Issue: 
5–6
Year: 
2001
Date: 
September–December
Page(s): 
32
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Raymond Sutera's article on the early evolution of whales (RNSCE 2000; 20 [5]: 33-41) missed one effective and entertaining way to rebut anti-evolutionist arguments about the impossibility of whale evolution. During their presentations on intermediate forms, anti-evolutionists often use a picture of a cow and a whale to prompt their audience into laughing at the silly notion that one could have evolved from the other. It is a classic comparison of irrelevant extremes, carefully crafted to leave a false impression via gross omission of important facts.

Recent research has provided us with a ready-made answer for the "Bossie-to-Blowhole" challenge. To begin, show an audience pictures of a cow and a whale. But then ask if anyone knows what living hoofed mammals — even-toed artiodactyl ungulates, specifically — do exhibit a form intermediate between cows and whales. Mention that they have all probably seen them at the zoo and on television, and, if they are lucky enough to have traveled, in Africa.

Then show a photograph of the so-obvious-how-could-anyone-not-think-of-it answer — hippos — both the standard Hippopotamus and the pygmy Choeropsis. These living artiodactyls are as adapted for life in the water as for life on land. Although the legs remain functional, they are reduced to the point that hippos can go no faster than a trot; they cannot gallop. There is also some webbing between the toes. As in whales, the bones are unusually dense allowing the beasts to submerge easily. The overall form of hippos is much more hydrodynamically streamlined than in other ungulates because they are encased in smooth, hairless skin and thick coats of fat similar to the blubber coverings of whales. The result of all these adaptations is that hippos swim better than other ungulates, but not as well as whales. Hippos give birth both on land and in the water, and the young nurse underwater.

Of course whales did not directly evolve from modern hippos any more than humans evolved from living chimpanzees. Hippos serve as a living demonstration that hoofed beasts can have whale-like aquatic adaptations, thus directly refuting the creationist claim that the anatomical and lifestyle gap between modern ungulates and modern whales is far too great to be bridged. The opposite is true — hippos exhibit many of the intermediate terrestrial-aquatic features and habits predicted for the ancestral protowhales.

Furthermore, it now appears that the phylogenetic relationship between hippos and whales may be much closer than previously realized. The fossil evidence seemed to favor the extinct carnivorous mesonychids as the closest relatives of whales, but it turns out that this was due to lack of some critical evidence. Molecular data links hippos and whales (Luo 2000). New fossil remains, including key data from the ankle region, verifies that whales are not closely related to mesonychids. Instead, whales evolved from primitive artiodactyls (Gingerich and others 2001; Thewissen and others 2001), and although exact details remain obscure, the closest living relatives of whales may be hippos.

But even if hippos are not the closest living ungulate relative to modern whales, they are the kind of whale-like hoofed mammals that anti-evolutionists dare not mention, so it is up to us to be sure that everybody knows about the existence of an "impossible" intermediate between hoofed land animals and whales. And after doing so, ask the audience why they should have confidence in the claims of anti-evolutionsts who fail to inform their audiences of such fundamental information.

References

Luo Z. In search of the whales' sisters. Nature 2000; 404: 235-7.

Gingerich PD, ul Haq M, Zalmout IS, Khan IH, Malkani MS. Origin of whales from early artiodactyls: Hands and feet of Eocene Protocetidae from Pakistan. Science 2001 Sep 21; 293: 2239-42.

Thewissen JGM, Williams EM, Roe LJ, Hussain ST. Skeletons of terrestrial cetaceans and the relationship of whales to artiodactyls. Nature 2001 Sep 20; 413: 277-81.

About the Author(s): 
Gregory S Paul
3109 N Calvert St
Baltimore MD 21218
GSP1954@aol.com

More on Birds and Dinosaurs

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
More on Birds and Dinosaurs
Author(s): 
Kevin Padian, NCSE President
Volume: 
21
Issue: 
5–6
Year: 
2001
Date: 
September–December
Page(s): 
33–37
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
The topic of the evolution of birds always interests NCSE readers, and so it was not surprising to find so many good questions in our mailbox that we thought it would be interesting to collect them all together and respond in a single column. First, however, I have to apologize to readers and thank John Ruben of Oregon State for pointing out a misstatement on my part. I said that some dinosaurs such as Beipiaosaurus and Sinosauropteryx had beta-keratins in their integumentary coverings (RNCSE 2000; 20 [5]: 28-31). Sorry! Rather, the alvarezsaurid dinosaur Shuvuuia, which is close to oviraptorids, has beta-keratin in the filamentous, featherlike integumentary structures on its head (Schweitzer 2001). More importantly, like birds and unlike other reptiles, these structures lack the alpha-keratins found in reptile scales and all vertebrate skin. Beipiaosaurus and other feathered and "fringed" non-avian dinosaurs are in the same clade of birds and closely related theropod dinosaurs, but, contrary to what I noted, they have not yet been tested for keratins. They have the same kinds of integumentary structures, which appear to be homologous to the feathers on today's birds as well as to those of ancient birds such as Archaeopteryx and Confuciusornis. Because all these animals have the same kinds of structures, and they are in the same clade of closely related animals, we infer that all these structures lacked alpha-keratins, and that hypothesis must be tested by future discoveries. I apologize for creating confusion: I was thinking of one animal and writing about another, and my fingers got ahead of my brain (or vice versa). For more information on feather biochemistry and evolution see Brush (2001 and his previous papers cited therein).

Readers Ask

What is a bird in the first place?

Any taxon, or group of organisms, has a definition and a diagnosis. The definition is expressed as a function of descent, or relationship. For example, most of us (but see papers in Gauthier and Gall 2001) define Aves as living birds, plus Archaeopteryx and every animal that evolved from the common ancestor of Archaeopteryx and living birds. This would include extinct forms such as Confuciusornis and Hesperornis (Cretaceous birds that are more distantly related to living groups) as well as birds such as the moa and the dodo (which are within the group of living birds).

The diagnosis of a taxon such as birds proceeds from the definition, in part, and it comprises the diagnostic features that were present in the common ancestor of the group as it is defined. What features did that common ancestor have that its relatives outside birds did not? These are the diagnostic features. To reason this out, we do not have to find the exact common ancestor. Rather, we infer from these features what the most basal ("primitive") members of the bird lineage shared that non-birds do not share.

As you can imagine, it is more difficult to give birds the easy diagnosis of "feathers," now that we have full-blown feathers on dinosaurs that are not birds but are closely related to them (and these feathers, like bird feathers, lack alpha-keratins). However, Archaeopteryx and the other basal birds had a full complement of flight feathers, with primary and secondary feathers, and they also had arms that were approximately as long as their legs, unlike their non-flying feathered dinosaurian relatives. There are other more technical features of the skull, vertebrae, girdles, and limbs that separate birds from other dinosaurs (see Padian and Chiappe 1998).

How did feathers evolve?

We are getting closer to a fuller understanding of how feathers evolved. The simplest structures that seem to be related structurally to feathers are seen in the dingy, furlike, thick covering of Sinosauropteryx and its relatives. The first specimens discovered were not preserved well enough to reveal what later discovered specimens did: that these structures were branched (Xu and others 1999). Moreover, there are several kinds of feathers, in addition to these fringe-like structures, on some related non-avian dinosaurs such as Caudipteryx and Protarchaeopteryx (Xu and others 2001; Padian and others 2001). Some of these are flattened, with vanes composed of highly aligned barbs, like typical bird feathers of today. Others have a more down-like aspect, and still others seem to be almost brush-like, gathered at the base into a distinct stalk. Archaeopteryx, the first known bird, preserves no evidence of the latter two types, but has fully developed flight feathers. Many beautifully preserved specimens of the early Cretaceous bird Confuciusornis seem to have a "halo" of feathers that are not flight feathers, but rather look like simpler filamentous structures. And the development of actual feathers has much in common with this evolutionary transition from branched, filamentous structures to vaned, barbed feathers. Of course, we have no records of the actual developmental patterns involved in these ancient structures, and there are many differences between them and the feathers of living birds, too.

Don't other extinct animals have feathers?

The bizarre integumentary structures of the (presumed diapsid) Triassic reptile Longisquama have recently been likened to feathers (Jones and others 2000), and have even been called "para-feathers" (Maderson and others 2001). They are long, frond-like structures, but their resemblance to feathers is superficial at best (Reisz and Sues 2000, 2001). They appear to have a central stalk with intermittent, internal pith-like structures superficially like feathers (and also to some plant stems). However, the vane-like structures on either side of the stalk appear to be solid, with wavy corrugations that lack barbs, and the whole thing is surrounded by a discrete band of tissue. The entire structure is not planar but three-dimensional. Nothing of their composition is known, and only one specimen is adequate to provide good details. For these reasons, although Longisquama has been known for over 30 years, no one has considered its structures feathers or feather-like until recently, and this claim has not met much acceptance – to the contrary, there is considerable skepticism. Most qualified observers agree that the similarities to feathers are merely superficial. Because, as I noted in my previous piece, there is so little support for this hypothesis, Longisquama cannot be claimed to have feathers. Moreover, if these were feathers, birds should be closely related to Longisquama, but no one claims this or offers any additional evidence in support. So, if there is no relationship to birds, how can these be feathers?

How do we know that the feathered Caudipteryx and Protarchaeopteryx are non-avian dinosaurs instead of secondarily flightless birds?

Good question, especially since they share some morphometric features with true birds (Jones and others 2000). They could indeed be flightless birds, but phylogenetic analyses of the entire range of skeletal features (as opposed to a few morphometric similarities) do not imply this. Caudipteryx is considered related to the oviraptorids by several independent studies (reviewed in Sereno 2001). Isolated morphometric features are interesting, but they have to be assessed as part of a phylogenetic analysis before we can use them to help to determine relationships. Sometimes these similarities are misleading. For example, hummingbirds have unusually short wings, even for their size. Their backs have not become longer, though, and we know this because we can compare a lot of different measurements in the skeletons of other birds related to hummingbirds to demonstrate that it is the wings that have shortened. We also have an explanation: hummingbirds produce lift on both upstroke and downstroke, which are far more symmetrical actions than in other birds. Like any features, morphometric ratios can change, often for very different reasons. We must examine the context of the morphometric difference in order to use it as a character in phylogenetic analyses.

What if these specimens are all faked?

Indeed. Was not National Geographic embarrassed by the specimen of "Archaeoraptor" that turned out to be a mixture of two or more animals assembled by the Chinese villagers who sold the specimen? Yes, but the specimen was still being studied by computerized tomography (CT-scan) to check just this question when National Geographic went ahead with its report. The specimen was never described scientifically, the artifice was quickly discovered (Rowe 2001), and part of the find became the new small dromaeosaur Microraptor (Xu and others 2000). For details on the history of this specimen, see Padian (2000). Tampering has come to be almost automatically suspected in many cases of specimens discovered from certain areas, because they are collected and prepared by local people who know that more complete or more attractive specimens will bring more money when sold to commercial fossil dealers. When there is doubt, the pieces are disassembled, more closely examined microscopically, and CT-scanned if possible. Usually this happens only when there is reason to suspect that some features are unexpected or out of proportion.

Birds are said to have fingers that represent II, III, and IV of the pentadactyl hand, whereas theropod dinosaurs have I, II and III, so they cannot possibly be related, can they?

Some inferences from limb development have been used to support this conclusion (Burke and Feduccia 1997). However, no bird embryo appears with the developmental precursors of all 5 fingers (and not simply the cartilage condensations associated with the developing digits). Unfortunately the remaining 4 fingers do not come with numbers on them, so this evidence is inconclusive. Sadly, we have no prospects of developmental series from Mesozoic dinosaurs. What we do have, however, is a robust phylogeny of archosaurian reptiles (Padian and Chiappe 1997, 1998; see accompanying figure) that shows (on the basis of trees constructed from many other characters) how the hand was reduced from a 5-fingered ancestor. In all archosaurs (including crocodiles) the 4th and 5th digits are smaller than the other two. In the first dinosaurs this is still true; in theropods the 5th is at first reduced to a nubbin (Dilophosaurus) and then lost, and the 4th is only represented by the metacarpal (palm bone). This too is lost in all more derived theropods, in which only I, II, and III are preserved. III is lost in tyrannosaurs, and both III and II are lost or greatly reduced in alvarezsaurids such as Mononykus. What is interesting is that the three digits of Archaeopteryx and the other birds preserve the exact forms, proportions, numbers of phalanges, and wrist connections as those of the three-fingered theropod dinosaurs. Coincidence? Not likely.

However, there may be a resolution even to the embryological problem. Wagner and Gauthier (1999) suggested that a mutation may have shifted the embryological II-III-IV series in theropods to a I-II-III position such as we see in living birds. A plausible mechanism, based on other developmental examples; it remains to be seen whether tangible evidence in this case will emerge.

What's the take-home message?

Glad you asked. We often encounter creationist arguments that science cannot be authoritative because scientists disagree about the answers to many major questions. Science does not command unanimity or even consensus; as scientists, we do not have to (and should not) accept conclusions that we do not understand or have no expertise in. Though science does not demand consensus, the fact is that science does produce consensus – not by commanding it, and not by ignoring important discrepancies among positions, but by working hard to answer unanswered questions and find conclusive evidence. Most of all, science works by conducting scientific business out in the open in the forum of peer-reviewed scientific research literature. The consensus is not forced but persuaded. However, there is no rule that scientists have to agree. A corollary is that the fact that not everyone agrees on a conclusion does not mean that the conclusion is incorrect. We like to say that science is open-minded but not empty-headed. Contrary ideas and opinions can be held; no vote is taken, no censure given to those who disagree.

However, as conclusions become stronger, the bar becomes higher for those who wish objections to be taken seriously. They have more evidence to explain away. They have to come up with a better hypothesis that explains all that evidence and more. And they have to show us that they are using methods of science that the community of scientists in that field accepts. I made the argument that in the case of the origin of birds, the vocal opponents (who actually are far fewer than their representation in the "even-handed" media suggests) do not treat the vast majority of evidence that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs; they have no rival hypothesis to be tested; and although they do not use cladistic analysis (which is standard for all branches of systematic biology), they do not provide or justify a better method. This debate, which began scientifically in the modern sense in 1973, has gotten to the point where it is no longer scientific, for the reasons just noted.

Many creationists use a literal reading of the Bible as a litmus test for scientific pronouncements. This reading is their authority in all matters, and so it is sometimes difficult for them to understand how science can be authoritative if it is not authoritarian (that is, if there is no governing body deciding the validity of scientific conclusions). How can scientists disagree about something this important and expect us to respect their work? As I noted previously, the scientists involved in this debate do not disagree that birds evolved from reptiles; the questions are which reptiles and how. However, not all views are equally supported by evidence or equally justified by methods. In 1971 we could easily say that the origin of birds was an open question; this is much more difficult to say in 2001. On the other hand, most scientists from many disciplines used to think, on the basis of good evidence, that there was no way that the continents could move.

Thanks again to John Ruben, Brent Warner, Steve Hunter, Alan Brush, John Hutchinson, and other correspondents for good questions and information.

References

>Brush AH. The beginnings of feathers. In: Gauthier JA, Gall LF, eds. New Perspectives on the Origin and Early Evolution of Birds. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. p 171-180.

Burke AC, Feduccia A. Developmental patterns and the identification of homologies in the avian hand. Science 1997; 278: 666-8.

Gauthier JA, Gall LF, eds. New Perspectives on the Origin and Early Evolution of Birds. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.

Jones TD, Ruben JA, Martin LD, Kurochkin EN, Feduccia A, Maderson PFA, Hillenius WJ, Geist NR, Alifanov V. Nonavian feathers in a Late Triassic archosaur. Science 2000; 288: 2202-5.

Jones TD, Farlow JO, Ruben JA, Henderson DM, Hillenius WJ. Cursoriality in bipedal archosaurs. Nature 2000; 406: 716-8.

Maderson PFA, Hillenius WJ, Martin LD, Ruben JA, Jones TD, Geist NR. Reconstructing Longisquama skin. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 2001; 21 (3, suppl.): 76A.

Padian K. Feathers, fakes, and fossil dealers: How the commercial sale of fossils erodes science and education. Paleontologica Electronica. http://palaeo-electronica.org/2000_2/editor/padian.htm. Last accessed February 7, 2002.

Padian K, Chiappe LM. Bird origins. In Currie PJ, Padian K, eds. Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs. San Diego: Academic Press, 1997. p 71-9.

Padian K, Chiappe LM. The origin and early evolution of birds. Biological Reviews 1998; 73: 1-42.

Padian K, Ji Q, Ji S-A. Feathered dinosaurs and the origin of flight. In: Carpenter K, Tanke D, eds. Mesozoic Vertebrate Life. Bloomington (IN): Indiana University Press, 2001. p 117-35.

Reisz RR, Sues H-D. The "feathers" of Longisquama. Nature 2000; 408: 428.

Reisz RR, Sues H-D. Longisquama does not have feathers. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 2001; 21 (3, suppl.): 92A.

Rowe, T. The Archaeoraptor forgery: A high-resolution X-ray CT analysis. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 2001; 21 (3, suppl.): 95A.

Schweitzer MH. Evolutionary implications of possible protofeather structures associated with a specimen of Shuvuuia deserti. In: Gauthier JA, Gall LF, eds. New Perspectives on the Origin and Early Evolution of Birds. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. p 181-92.

Sereno PC. Alvarezsaurids: Birds or ornithomimosaurs? In: Gauthier JA, Gall LF, eds. New Perspectives on the Origin and Early Evolution of Birds. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001, p 69-98.

Wagner GP, Gauthier JA. 1,2,3 = 2,3,4: A solution to the problem of the homology of the digits in the avian hand. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 1999; 96: 5111-6.

Xu X, Zhou Z, Wang X. The smallest known non-avian theropod dinosaur. Nature 2000; 408: 705-8.

Xu X, Zhou Z-H, Prum RO. Branched integumental structures in Sinornithosaurus and the origin of feathers. Nature 2001; 410: 200-4.

About the Author(s): 
Kevin Padian
University of California Museum of Paleontology
Berkeley CA 94720-4780
kpadian@socrates.berkeley.edu

Creationism in the Comics

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Creationism in the Comics
Author(s): 
Jon P Alston, Texas A&M University
Volume: 
21
Issue: 
5–6
Year: 
2001
Date: 
September–December
Page(s): 
41–43
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

Introduction

A contemporary source of fundamentalist religious education, including creationism, is Jack T Chick's Chick Publications (PO Box 3500, Ontario CA 91261). In addition to books and videotapes, Chick Publications publishes a series of 32-page full-size comic books and a series of small 24-page black-and-white tracts in picture form. Millions of these comics and tracts have been distributed, published in English and more than 90 foreign languages; the cover of the comics claim that over 450 million tracts have been printed during the last 35 years. One of the aims of the publications is to reinforce already-established young-earth creationist beliefs; it is assumed that the reader already believes in a literal 6-day creation roughly 10 000 years ago. At 13 cents apiece, the tracts are also intended to be inexpensive yet effective witnessing tools. Perhaps the most startling use of these comics-format materials was to support anti-evolution legislation in Arkansas (see RNCSE 2000; 20 [5]: 5-6).

For readers who have never seen these materials, I describe and analyze three Chick publications — one tract (Big Daddy?) and two comic books (Primal Man? and The Ark). The last two resemble the Classic Illustrated Comics® popular a generation ago.

All three have very clear messages. For example, Big Daddy?, in addition to "informing" readers that evolution is false, coaches students to reject evolution in their classes and to present anti-evolution arguments to their teachers. The comics also repeat a theme common to creationist thought: evolution is false and has been disproved by both science and Scripture, but many, if not most, evolutionists are liars and refuse to admit the falsity of their position (Morris 1985; Whitcomb and Morris 1961).

Robert T Pennock (1999: xvi-xvii) has noted that Big Daddy? offers students protection from being "brainwashed" into accepting evolution and is representative of creationists' current aggressive rhetoric. These publications also reflect a mindset that is prepared to accept very simplistic messages presented in a very dogmatic form. In addition, these comics include an implicit minor theme: that the theory of evolution and those who "believe in" it are evil. The theory of evolution, according to some of the most vocal creationists, was promulgated by Satan following the collapse of the Tower of Babel: "The real author of this vast religious complex — this great world religion of pantheistic, polytheistic, demonistic, astrological, occultistic, humanistic evolutionism — can be none other than … the Devil" (Morris 1984: 109).

The Ark

The Ark opens with a bemused Russian diplomat ordering a collection of books on the Ark for his superior, Colonel Solkov. After reading the Genesis 8: 2-4 account of the Flood aloud to his staff, Solkov announces that a recently discovered photograph taken by a Russian pilot in 1945 shows Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat. This photograph is proof that atheism, and therefore communism, is false. The Russians fear that a current expedition of Christian scientist-explorers to Mount Ararat will prove the existence of the Ark, causing people to reject communism and become interested in the Bible.

The next sequence of panels shows the expedition of Christian explorers taken into custody by Colonel Solkov. Alerted to the crisis, the sponsor of the expedition prepares to send someone to rescue the explorers. First, however, the prospective rescuer is briefed about the Ark. The briefing includes a discussion of the evil that existed before the Flood, including pornography, divorce, and homosexuality. This is followed by the story of Noah, a discussion of the size of the Ark (with appropriate pictures), and a pseudoscientific explanation of the water vapor canopy and underground water that made the flood possible. Finally, the prospective rescuer hears how the animals entered the Ark, all the people except for Noah and his family drowned, and the Ark eventually settled on Mount Ararat.

The briefing then presents modern accounts of witnesses who have seen the Ark. Following an aerial sighting in 1916, a party of 150 military engineers was sent by Czar Nicholas II to Mount Ararat. A group of 100 men reached the Ark, entered it, and inspected cages large enough to hold dinosaurs. Unfortunately, in the chaos of the October Revolution, the documents proving that the Ark was discovered fell into the hands of the Bolsheviks, and Trotsky ordered the messenger to be shot. Another set of panels illustrates another discovery of the Ark under ice; a piece of hand-tooled timber is dated to be 4000 years or more old. A photograph of the Ark is reproduced in one of the last panels.

This section of the comic book parallels two of the accounts of discoveries of the Ark found in Charles Berlitz's (1987) book — either the discoveries have been suppressed by authorities or the evidence for them has been lost in one way or another. The idea that the Ark has been located and can be reclaimed derives from the notion that locating the remains of the Ark would establish once and for all the claim by young-earth creationists of the primacy of Scripture in historical and scientific, as well as theological, knowledge.

The Ark quite clearly states that there are conspiracies to hide the truth about the Ark. It claims that the KGB has convinced many Americans through its agents' "penetration" of Christian seminaries that the Ark is a "fairy tale"; it claims also that through the KGB, most professors and teachers in the US came to believe and teach that the Bible is wrong and evolution is true. It is only because of conspiracies of communists, atheists, liberal Christians, and secular teachers that evolution is accepted. There is a cold war to keep the "truth" from the public. Thus readers of the comic book will finish convinced that there are numerous proofs for the existence of the Ark on Mount Ararat; they will also be convinced of a secular conspiracy to keep knowledge of the Ark from the world of believers.

Primal Man?

The second comic, Primal Man?, starts with seven pages of ape-like men and women fighting and hunting; only on page 8 is it revealed that the events all took place on a movie set, supervised by a lavender-clad effeminate director. A group of creationists (one of whom, Jim Carter, also appears in The Ark) visits the movie set and challenges the expert consultants on the truth of evolution ("one of the cruelest hoaxes ever invented"). There is mention that many professors reject evolution but do not say so because they are afraid of either being ridiculed or losing their jobs.

The next series of panels "prove" that evolution is false. Radiometric dating techniques are rejected, as are various pieces of fossil evidence. There is mention of the human footprints supposedly found with dinosaur footprints in Texas, a finding later found to be spurious but often not disavowed by creationists. Several panels present arguments that the earth is only 10 000 years old, including familiar claims about erosion and dust on the moon.

Following his discussion with the creationists, one actor decides that if evolution is wrong, then he must have a soul; he then realizes that he must become saved in order to be able to go to heaven. In contrast, the last panels show the movie's producer admitting that films depicting evolution brainwash and morally damage children, but asserting that because he serves his god — money — he will continue to make evolution movies.

The lessons in this comic book are clear. Those who believe in evolution are venal; only a sinful or misguided person can believe in evolution. There are proofs that evolution is wrong, a number of which are presented in order to reinforce creationist beliefs.

Big Daddy?

The tract Big Daddy? is cruder but just as effective. It begins in a classroom with a vaguely Semitic professor, behind whom is a painting of an ape eating a banana with the caption "Our Father". The teacher asks his students, "How many of you believe in evolution?" One student in the class says that he does not believe in evolution. Unlike the other students, he is neat and well-dressed; his hair is short and carefully combed. He is polite, a demeanor that other tracts and videos (see for example Hovind 1997) recommend for those wishing to witness the creationist position to teachers and fellow students.

Shouting, sweating, and gesticulating, the professor decides to "systematically tear your [the student's] little beliefs to shreds in front of the class!" The student is called a "fanatic" and threatened with jail for referring to the Bible. Yet he goes on calmly and politely to demolish the "basic concepts" of evolution, dismiss the Lucy fossils as "an unusual chimpanzee", and present the class with a reproduction of a Chick Publications poster of nine pictures illustrating bogus claims of evidence of human evolution, including Piltdown Man. For more information, the reader of the tract is referred to a video of Kent Hovind's series "The Creation Seminar".

The student continues to demolish the theory of evolution with standard well-worn creationist arguments. He ends by suggesting that atomic nuclei could not hold together without divine intervention, adducing Colossians 1: 17 ("by him all things consist") as evidence.

The professor admits that all of his evolutionary beliefs have been falsified, and then tells a university official that he cannot teach evolution any more. The response is "What? Are you crazy? GET OUT of OUR university! After you've apologized to everyone for your rudeness and ignorance, we MIGHT let you back in" (emphasis in original). This statement is a close paraphrase of what the professor first told the student defending creationism. The last page states that evolution is "the big lie" and that people have souls; people therefore need to repent of their sins and acknowledge Christ in order to be saved and go to heaven when they die. Jack Chick's theological position is that the "lie" of evolution leads to eternity in Hell. (An image in another comic is of a large conveyor belt full of people who will be dropped into Hell's abyss unless they are saved.)

Though crude, this tract repeats many of the creationists' arguments against evolution and its supporters. It implies that most evolutionists know that evolution is false and that their arguments can easily defeated. Teachers are defensive and irrational about their evolutionary beliefs.

The creationist, anti-evolution tract and comics by Chick Publications claim that much evidence exists for their viewpoint. They support a type of voodoo science with irrelevant or mistaken information. They buttress their arguments with conspiracy theories, unproven "data", and ad hominem attacks.

References

Berlitz C. The Lost Ship of Noah: In Search of the Ark at Ararat. New York: GP Putnam's Sons, 1987.

Hovind K. Answers About Creation. Cleveland (OH): American Portrait Films, 1997.

JTC [Chick JT]. The Ark. The Crusaders 1976: 7.

JTC [Chick JT]. Primal man? The Crusaders 1976: 6.

JTC [Chick JT]. Big daddy? [tract] Ontario (CA): Chick Publications, 1992.

Morris HM. The Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Grand Rapids (MI): Baker Book House, 1984.

Morris HM. Scientific Creationism. Green Forest (AZ): Master Books, 1985.

Pennock RT. Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism. Cambridge (MA) : The MIT Press, 1999.

Whitcomb JC, Morris HM. The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and its Implications. Phillipsburg (NJ): The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1961.

About the Author(s): 
Jon P Alston
Department of Sociology
Texas A&M University
College Station TX 77843-4351
alstonj@unix.tamu.edu