Science in Christian Perspective


Letter to the Editor


Revisiting the Fatal Flaw

John A. McIntyre, ASA Fellow
2316 Bristol St.
Bryan, TX 77802-2405 

From: PSCF 52 (June 2000): 147-148.

I would like to respond to Douglas Hayworth's perceptive comments in the March 2000 issue of PSCF (pp. 73-4) concerning my September 1999 article, "Evolution's Fatal Flaw." Hayworth makes the valid observation that the "fatal flaw" in the paper is not concerned with the science of evolution itself. Rather, it is concerned with the logical fallacy of statements by evolutionists concerning the meaning of evolution. And yet, the article is titled, "Evolution's Fatal Flaw."

Perhaps my background as a physicist will explain my choice of title. During some forty years of teaching physics, I had dismissed the criticisms of evolution with the thought that the evolutionists were scientists who knew what they were doing. But then, a creationist friend suggested that I read what the evolutionists were actually saying. And I found a Harvard professor saying that "the meaning of evolution is that man is the result of a purposeless and materialistic process that did not have him in mind," a Nobel Laureate asserting that "the message of evolution is that the human species was not designed," an Oxford professor stating that "the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design," etc. Now, as an outsider to the evolution community, I had to believe that these leaders of the field knew what they were talking about and were defining evolution as a process without a purpose, a logical fallacy.

Hayworth, of course, is correct when he notes that the above quotations are not from scholarly books or journals. And, John Wiester and the Education Commission of the American Scientific Affiliation have found the authors of high school biology textbooks to be cooperative in removing the "fatal flaw" from their textbooks. Nevertheless, a number of high school textbooks still recommend Richard Dawkins book, The Blind Watchmaker, with its subtitle "The Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design." And, I have seen television evangelists attacking evolution on the basis of statements like Dawkins'. Lay people will accept the evolutionists at their word; lay people cannot be expected to know what goes on inside biology research laboratories.

The "fatal flaw" has not just been restricted to popular books. The official definition of evolution by the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) in 1996 was: "The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution, an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process ..." This official definition included the words, "impersonal" and "unsupervised" so that the official definition of the NABT also contained the "fatal flaw."

However, as reported in the September 1999 issue of the Scientific American, historian Huston Smith and philosopher Alvin Plantinga were able to gain the attention of the NABT and inform them of the logical fallacy. Now the story becomes almost hilarious. In the fall of 1997, according to Scientific American, the Board of the NABT met to consider deleting the words, "unsupervised" and "impersonal," from the "Statement on the Teaching of Evolution" in order "to save biology teachers the grief of having to defend these words from the attacks of the creationists." (No mention of the logical fallacy of the words; the sole reason for changing the Statement was the attacks by the creationists.) Surprisingly, the Board voted down the proposal for the deletion of the words despite the logical fallacy the words introduced. But, then the Board reversed itself for the sake of good "public relations."

Here is an example of postmodernism with a vengeance. In voting down the deletion of the two words, logic was flouted to obtain an invalid philosophical conclusion. But then the decision was reversed because of the application of power (public relations). As the postmodernists have claimed, scientists obtain their results according to where the power is. Matters, such as logic, are irrelevant. Fortunately, through their contortions with logic and power, the Board of the NABT arrived at the proper conclusion about the definition of evolution.

To return to Douglas Hayworth's comments, the evolution establishment has eliminated the "fatal flaw" from the definition of evolution and the "fatal flaw" is being removed from the biology textbooks. Henceforth, evolution should join the other sciences in the proper investigation of nature. Unfortunately, the evolution establishment delayed 138 years after Darwin's publication of the Origin of the Species to desist from their attack on the Creator.