In 1990, Dr. Tim Berra was Professor of Zoology at Ohio State University. His book, Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, was published that year by Stanford University Press. In a nutshell, Berra and his publisher maintained some of the highest academic standards in the world. The purpose of Berra’s book, as can be inferred from the title, was to show that creation is scientifically untenable. Berra believed that some academicians had been too easy on creationists. He felt it his job “to inform the public that creationism has no scientific validity and is a threat to the growth and spread of knowledge” (p. viii). In addition, he asserted that those who believe the biblical account of creation “have chosen to abandon reason and evidence in favor of dogma and blind faith” (p. ix). In chapter five of his book, Berra purported to refute 16 creationists’ arguments, and concluded: “There are others, but they are all of the same character—scientifically inaccurate, willful, or devious” (p. 132).
The irony of Berra’s caustic attack on creationism is that the very ideas he claims to see and denounce in creationists’ arguments are the concepts that plague his reasoning—namely, arguments that are scientifically inaccurate, willful, and devious. For instance, in his first chapter, What Is Evolution?, Berra compiled a list of several of his most “powerful” evidences that “prove” evolution. In that list he included embryology.
The embryos of vertebrates that do not respire by means of gills (reptiles, birds, and mammals) nevertheless pass through a gill-slit stage complete with aortic arches and a two-chambered heart, like those of a fish. The passage through a fishlike stage by the embryos of the higher vertebrates is not explained by creation, but is readily accounted for as an evolutionary relic (p. 22, emp. added).
Of course, the scientific community has known for over 120 years that mammal, reptile, and bird embryos never go through a gill-slit stage. This ridiculous and vacuous claim was first propounded by Ernst Haeckel in the late 1800s, but was almost immediately proven to be false (see Harrub, 2001; Wells, 2001). Even the late Stephen J. Gould, one of evolution’s most outspoken proponents, denounced Haeckel’s fraud as an atrocious black mark marring the reputation of science (2000, 109:42-50). Yet Berra paraded the long-debunked gill-slit mantra as evidence against creation.
As further confirmation of the superiority of evolution over creation, Berra listed horse evolution. On page 45, he included the oft-published diagram of the tiny Hyracotherium supposedly evolving into modern Equus. Again, this alleged horse evolution scenario has been shown to be false for more than five decades. The late Dr. George Gaylord Simpson admitted, “The uniform, continuous transformation of Hyracotherium into Equus, so dear to the hearts of generations of textbook writers, never happened in nature” (Simpson, 1953, p. 125, emp. added). In his 2000 article in Natural History, Gould soundly criticized science textbooks’ use of misinformation surrounding the evolution of horses. He wrote:
Once ensconced in textbooks, misinformation becomes cocooned and effectively permanent, because, as stated above, textbooks copy from previous texts. (I have written two essays on this lamentable practice: one on the amusingly perennial description of the eohippus, or “dawn horse,” as the size of a fox terrier, even though most authors, including yours truly, have no idea of the dimensions or appearance of this breed...) [2000, 109(2):45, emp. added].
In another glaring instance of scientific inaccuracy and/or willful deviousness, Berra included the English peppered moth in his chapter titled “The Explanatory Power of Evolution.” Under the heading “The Peppered Moth and Industrial Melanism,” Berra asked: “Can even air pollution drive evolution?” (p. 56). He then trotted out the standard canard that “the moths typically rest on lichen-covered tree trunks and branches, and their main predators are birds” (p. 56). He even included pictures of moths resting on tree trunks. Yet this information was shown to be false years before Berra wrote his book (see Wells, 2000, pp. 137-157).
Embryology, alleged horse evolution, and English peppered moths are just a small sample of the vacuous “evidences” that Berra used to allege the superiority of evolution over creation. The point to be made, however, is this: Berra was a recognized authority on zoology, whose work was published by a leader in the academic world. Yet at the time it was printed, the arguments had already been refuted, and in a mere two decades, they have become so glaringly false that the book is useless as a polemic in favor of evolution. The evolutionary community claims that a strength of evolution is its self-correcting nature. All that really means, however, is that every 20 years new evolutionary “evidence” has to be produced because the previously fabricated material has been so thoroughly debunked. How many times will evolution have to be refuted before it is discarded? Unfortunately, there is no end in sight to this vicious cycle.
Berra, Tim (1990), Evolution and the Myth of Creationism (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press).
Gould, Stephen Jay (2000), “Abscheulich! (Atrocious),” Natural History, 109:42-50, March.
Harrub, Brad (2001), “Haeckel’s Hoax—Continued,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2049.
Simpson, George Gaylord (1953), Life of the Past (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).
Wells, Jonathan (2000), Icons of Evolution (Washington, D.C.: Regnery).
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