Judging PBS A Response


1. Evolution Happens So What?

PBS confidently instructs us that “evolution happens.” But should that matter? Even Darwin’s scientific critics agree that evolution happens. PBS is introducing equivocation into the discussion by failing to clearly define “evolution.” Some use “evolution” to refer to something as simple as minor changes within individual species that occur over short periods of time (Evolution #1). Others use the same word to mean something much more far-reaching, such as claiming that all living organisms are descended from a single common ancestor (Evolution #2), or that natural selection has the power to produce all of life’s complexity (Evolution #3). Used one way, “evolution” isn’t controversial at all (i.e. Evolution #1); used another way, it’s hotly debated (i.e. Evolution #2 or Evolution Read More ›

2. Following The Evidence Wherever It Leads

No one doubts that Darwin was a gifted scientist who made careful observations of the natural world. The same could be said for Sir Isaac Newton, an early proponent of intelligent design whose ideas inspired both modern physics and modern science as a whole. Yet despite the long-lasting success of Newton’s ideas, technological advancements in the early 20th century overturned Newtonian physics and replaced them with Einstein’s theories. If history is to be our guide, science must always be open to following the evidence where it leads, even if that means challenging orthodoxy. PBS urges viewers to believe that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Such a statement reverses the scientific process by putting conclusions Read More ›

3. The Role Of Natural Selection In Evolution Is Controversial Among Scientists

As noted in the Introduction, PBS asserts that the data “unequivocally” support the view that “[e]volution happens through natural selection.” In this dogmatic statement, PBS has again failed to clearly define “evolution.” If by “evolution,” PBS means that we can observe small-scale changes within species, then no one doubts that natural selection plays a role. But in fact, many scientists have questioned whether natural selection acting upon random mutation is sufficient to generate new species or new complex biological features. As evolutionary scientist Robert L. Carroll queries: “Can changes in individual characters, such as the relative frequency of genes for light and dark wing color in moths adapting to industrial pollution, simply be multiplied over time to account for the Read More ›

4. The Role Of Natural Selection In Evolution Is Controversial Among Scientists (Continued)

As discussed in Slide #1, proponents of Darwinism often employ the “Evolution” Bait-and-Switch, using evidence for small-scale changes and then over-extrapolating to claim that such modest evidence proves Darwin’s grander claims. In fact, this is precisely what PBS does in its online materials for “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial.” A PBS web slide asserts, “Evolution happens through natural selection,” and then goes on to discuss small-scale changes in the sizes of beaks in finches on the Galapagos Islands as supporting evidence. Such small-scale changes do not demonstrate that natural selection can cause large-scale evolutionary changes, such as the origin of new body plans or perhaps even the origin of new species. In fact, all of the finch species in Read More ›

5. Opening Darwin’s Black Box

“Darwin was ignorant of the reason for variation within a species,” writes Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe in his book Darwin’s Black Box, “but biochemistry has identified the molecular basis for it.”1 There were other things that Darwin did not know. For example, Darwin assumed that the cell was like a primitive blob of protoplasm that could easily evolve new biological functions. As Behe explains, “To Darwin, then, as to every other scientist of the time, the cell was a black box. … The question of how life works was not one that Darwin or his contemporaries could answer.”2 Modern technology has allowed biochemists to open Darwin’s black box, revealing a micro-world of mind-boggling complexity. Even leading proponents of evolution Read More ›

6. Darwinism: Grounded in Science

PBS observes that the famous 19th century naturalist, T.H. Huxley, declared that “evolution excludes creation and all other kinds of supernatural intervention.” But modern Darwinists have gone much further than Huxley. In Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences, leading evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala celebrates that “Darwin’s greatest accomplishment” was to show that the origin of life’s complexity “can be explained as the result of a natural process-natural selection-without any need to resort to a Creator or other external agent.”1 America’s great champion of evolution, the late Stephen Jay Gould, similarly announced that “[b]efore Darwin, we thought that a benevolent God had created us,”2 but because of Darwin’s ideas, “biology took away our status as paragons created in the image Read More ›

7. Evolving Views Of Embryology

PBS observes that Darwin boasted that embryology provided “the strongest single class of facts in favor of” his theory of evolution. But Darwin penned those words in the 1860s, and developmental biologists have learned much since that time. In fact, Darwin staked much of his evidential support upon the work of the 19th century embryologist Ernst Haeckel. After Darwin, it was discovered that Haeckel promoted fraudulent data to falsely support vertebrate common ancestry by overstating the similarities between vertebrate embryos in their earliest stages of development. Haeckel’s infamous embryo drawings obscured the differences between vertebrate embryos in their earliest stages, leading to widespread belief in the false idea that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” (i.e. development replays evolutionary history). The factual data Read More ›

8. Why Sexual Selection?

According to PBS, the male peacock’s beautifully-colored tail is easily explained using sexual selection: females prefer the colorful “eyes” on the tails of males. Has the evolutionary origin of the peacock’s tail been explained? Sexual selection merely pushes the question back: why should female peacocks prefer male peacocks with tails that have “eyes”? Absent a linkage to survival and reproduction, sexual selection is now a circular argument: male peacocks have beautiful tails because females prefer such tails, and females prefer such tails because they are, well, beautiful. Under sexual selection, explanations become arbitrary because traits are preferred simply because a biologist deems them “attractive.” But sexual selection rarely provides an external adaptive reason to explain why such traits should be Read More ›

9. Saving the Tree of Life

PBS asserts that “shared amino acids” in genes common to many types of organisms indicate that all life shares a common ancestor. Intelligent design is not necessarily incompatible with common ancestry, but it must be noted that intelligent agents commonly re-use parts that work in different designs. Thus, similarities in such genetic sequences may also be generated as a result of functional requirements and common design rather than by common descent. In fact, PBS’s statement is highly misleading. Darwin’s tree of life–the notion that all living organisms share a universal common ancestor–has faced increasing difficulties in the past few decades. Phylogenetic trees based upon one fundamental gene or protein often conflict with trees based upon another gene or protein. In Read More ›

10. The Myth of 1% Human-Chimp Genetic Differences

As if trying to suggest that those who question human-chimp common ancestry are ignorant, PBS asserts that “a schoolchild can cite the figure perhaps most often called forth in support of [human/chimp common ancestry]–namely, that we share almost 99 percent of our DNA with our closest living relative, the chimpanzee.” Such an argument raises two questions: (1) Is the 99% Human/Chimp DNA-similarity statistic accurate? While recent studies have confirmed that certain stretches of human and chimp DNA are on average about 1.23% different, this is merely an estimate with huge caveats. A recent news article in Science observed that the 1% figure “reflects only base substitutions, not the many stretches of DNA that have been inserted or deleted in the Read More ›