Friday, March 09, 2007

A "hunger for truth?"

Evolution: Scientific fact or faithful religion? by Jim Hinckley was published by the Kingman (Arizona) Daily Miner.

I submitted the following response;

As a scientist with a fondness for irony, I found much to enjoy in Jim Hinckley's recent ediorial on creationism. For example, there is his implication that he has a "hunger for the discovery of truth." We shall see.

There are many serious errors made by Hinckley in his March 8 commentary. The first is his two fold error regarding the sources of evolutionary biology. The minor part is that Anaximander of Miletus offered a Darwinian theory of evolution- this is not the case. Nor did Empedocles, who thought that isolated organs; hearts, spleens etc. had formed spontaniously and then "found" each other to assemble into whole organisms. But these are simple errors of fact. The deeper error was that it is a criticism of evolutionary biology that Charles Darwin was not the exclusive originator of evolutionary theory. He was not. The fact is that modern evolutionary theory is much stronger because it is the product of thousands of scientists working for well over a century.

Hinckley next confused the idea of "experimentation" with "observation." To study astronomy we don't need to create suns or galaxies, nor do we need to create life to study biology. An example from geology is that if we go and make observations about where oil has been found, we can go to where similar rock formations exist and find more oil. Geology, astronomy and evolutionary biology are histroical sciences which use a mix of direct observations from nature for the "big" theory, and much more limited experimental results for "fine tuning." Since we can now closely control gene sequences, evolutionary science has rapidly left field observations and moved to direct laboratory study. Hinckley seems to be ignorant of the last 15 years of biological science.

Hinckley is either grossly mistaken conserning Dean Kenyon, or he is a flagrant liar. Kenyon was neither fired, nor demoted, nor forbidden from presenting his research. Kenyon was told to teach a biology course for non-science majors from the textbook. He refused and was no longer assigned that class. The rest of Hinckley's screed consists mostly of what is called "quote mining," or the misrepresentation of an author's meaning by selective out of context quotation. All of the quote mined material used by Hinckley are found in lists of quotations compiled by creationist organizations who shamelessly wait for a scientist to die before manipulating their work. All of Hinckley's quotes are found and refuted in "The Quote Mine Project" online at

We have in Hinckley's essay is a perfect example of the creationist at work; attacking America's Constitutional protection of religious freedom, and undermining our fragile scientific and technological dominance in the world economy. His tools are half truths and out and out fabrications.

Gary Hurd, Ph.D.


Hayden said...

ugg. reminds me why I usually avoid reading articals like Hinkley's.

thanks for fighting, but do you think they will ever listen/concede? The rampant distortion is the most irritating.

Gary S. Hurd said...

Thanks for your encouragement. I have actually come across creationists who have rejected the young earth/intelligent nonsense when science is clearly and calmly presented.

It ain't easy though.