- Part 1: Introduction and the Introduction
- Part 2: Darwin Didn’t Know About Chromosomes!
- Part 3: Darwin 1, Old-Timey Creationists 0
- Part 4: All Your Evidence Are Belong To Us
- Part 5: An Admittedly Weak Chapter
- Part 6: Jeanson’s Fulcrum Fails
- Part 7: TBA
- Part 8: TBA
- Part 9: TBA
- Part 10: TBA
Now for the final chapter of Part II, a mercifully short one compared to Chapter 5, this time centred around timescales.
Chapter 6 – A Stitch in Time
Prior to Darwin, the scientific community had already settled on a span much longer than several thousand years. Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology had already laid down arguments for millions of years, and Darwin simply followed suit — as the quote above illustrates.
But is one field — geology — sufficient evidence to conclude an unimaginably long span of time? Or are multiple independent lines of evidence required to verify millions of years of earth — and species’ — history? Have Lyell’s arguments stood the test of time?
Had Darwin taken a more critical view of his own arguments, he might have found ample reason to question the accepted geologic timescale.
Yes, geology is certainly sufficient evidence to conclude that that the earth is billions, not thousands of years old, and Lyell’s (and his contemporaries) ideas have stood the test of time, only being further supported by modern research both in geology and other fields such as astrophysics and molecular phylogenetics (despite what Jeanson claims later).
Consider again the visible variety in breeds and species: The former has far more diversity than the latter. According to the evolutionists’ own timescale, in just 12,000 years, humans have produced hundreds of horse and donkey breeds. Long hair, short hair, all sorts of coat colors, ponies, Clydesdales — the amount of variety is remarkable. Yet the proponents of this timescale turn around and stretch the origin of just seven equid species over several million years. This position is as logically deficient as the species fixity position of 1859. If the greater variety in breeds took 12,000 years, then surely the lesser variety in species took the same amount of time — or less. By the evolutionists’ own logic, species must have arisen in 12,000 years or less.
But breeds are different from species – practically by definition, breeds can interbreed while species (usually) can’t. The logical inference is that in order for what are initially considered 2 breeds to change to the extent that they’re considered different species, a greater amount of time is required. The even more obvious point here is that human-directed breeding involves artificial selection with astronomically higher selection coefficients than natural selection in the wild does. Jeanson anticipates this objection and responds:
As a last objection, some might claim that humans accelerate the process of selection; therefore, no conclusions can be drawn about the speed of speciation in the wild. This assertion assumes the very point in question. In a debate, arguments cannot be won by simply asserting the truthfulness of one side.
So Jeanson’s rebuttal here is basically “this assumes evolution”. But of course it doesn’t, it’s an observation of the rates of change of animals that humans domesticated and breed for different purposes (be it aesthetics or useful traits) and the rates of change of wild animals in nature, as well as the obvious fact that artificial selection is stronger than natural selection.
So, there’s an apparent contradiction between his claim that all species arose within the last few thousand years and the observation that large-scale changes don’t seem to happen in short timescales in nature. He responds by saying that because the habitable area of the planet is so vast, and because humans have only explored (never mind rigorously monitored) only a tiny fraction of it, humans wouldn’t have noticed the formation of the overwhelming majority of new species: we wouldn’t have been privy to this rapid pace of speciation if it were actually happening. His thesis then, is that (on average) all species in the wild are evolving “within their kind” at a similar rate to species that humans modify through artificial selection. He argues this applies to both Darwin’s time and now.
You might have been rejecting my arguments by mentally citing multiple independent geologic lines of evidence. Effectively, this form of reasoning rejects Darwin’s argument a priori — that it can’t possibly be true because it contradicts so much geologic evidence. The problem with this rejoinder is that multiple independent mammal and bird families all show the same breed-species pattern.
This isn’t true at all. Darwin’s argument was that artificial selection by humans that resulted in breeds demonstrates that selection can result in the diversification of morphology. The timescale Darwin had in mind was influenced by 2 separate lines of evidence:
- The observation that artificial selection is much more powerful than natural selection, implying that natural selection requires longer periods of time to achieve similar results.
- The ancient geological record of life on earth.
Pointing out that inferences from palaeontology suggest that the timescale is longer than human history isn’t an a priori rejection of anything that Darwin argued.
Stood next to scientific disciplines dedicated to the study of earth history, the breed-species analogy might seem weaker.
If these breed-species arguments were the strongest evidences for a recent timescale for the origin of living species, then we might simply chalk them up as a weird anomaly in a sea of evidences for ancient history. However, though these new connections were weak, they were not the end of the controversy on the timescale of species’ origins. They were the beginning.
So… Jeanson devoted an entire chapter of his book to a line of evidence that he admits is pretty weak? Yes, it’s an incredibly weak argument, because it ignores every line of evidence (e.g. from geology and palaeontology) that Darwin had available to him that strongly suggested that the timescale was greater than a few thousand years. There’s no “controversy” in science about the timescale of species’ origins, at least not on the level that he asserts. This is just a continuation of his claim in the last chapter that there’s been a scientific battle between evolution and creationism raging ever since Darwin when in reality creationism isn’t even remotely a contender.
This chapter serves to set the stage for the final part of the book: “Part III: Dawn of a New Era”, where Jeanson attempts to marshal the “research” he’s been doing for the last 6 years or so at ICR and AIG to argue that it supports young earth creationism, flying in the face of all the other evidence, although he will take a few weak jabs at that as well.
Comments and queries are welcome.