False Argument #14: Microevolution And Macroevolution Are Creationist Fabrications

Posted in Biology, Blogosphere, Creationism, Evolution, False Arguments on  | 4 minutes | 1 Comment →

I read a comment on a thread the other day that seemed to be making a modified version of a false argument I heard proposed about six months ago in the blogosphere. Unfortunately I couldn't track down the comment, but I do recall the first place I heard its premise:

"First, just so everyone's clear: 'Macro-evolution' and 'micro-evolution' are made-up words concocted by creationists to make themselves sound scientific. Biologists don't use them. They're scientifically meaningless. They're just different stages in the evolutionary process; 'macro' is just 'micro' over a longer period of time. Also, 'macro-evolution' (if people insist on calling it that) has been observed, both in the field and in the lab. Just so we're clear."

Now in the author's defense, the error was quickly and professionally dealt with, for the most part. What was alarming is that this was not an amateur, fly-by-night writer. Contrary, this was a highly intelligent professional writer typified by cold, calculating logic with published books, albeit not in science, and the whole thing just goes to show that even the best of us aren't immune from occasional tainting by some outpost or another in the Great Culture Wars. What was most alarming is that I recall a substantial list of backpatter-type comments that were basically blindly supporting the assertion. It appeared to be the opposite of fundamentalist misunderstanding of science in a weird sort of way. In fact, I think the only three dissenters were a biochemist from the University of Toronto, a really good blogger I recommend spending some time with, and my bland self. To contrast, the list of people supporting the post was in the double-digits, and every one of them was somebody whom I would speculate accuses their favorite creationists of bad science. The moral of the story is that you never know what new batch of misinformation is on display in the blogosphere, even when it comes from an intellectual giant.

That creationists invented the terms to maintain an appearance of scientific validity is simply a baseless claim, although the separate claim that creationists tend to poorly exploit the differences between micro- and macro-evolution does hold water. Now I'm not going to add to a thread I already made some useless comments to, on a blog where I think I already rubbed the owner the wrong way, six months after the fact at that, but I am a little concerned about the writer's potentially misleading claim that macroevolution has been observed in the field and the lab. I'm mainly concerned with specificity of definition here, too, in case anybody feels to reply. I, personally, do not see how macroevolution is observable, if taking the word to mean the assumed totality of microevolution over eons of time. However, when defined simply as change beyond species, then sure, macroevolution has been observed to occur, and we are able to make inferences based on observable micro- and macro-evolutionary facts. It's hard to argue anything here because we're given absolutely zero definition of the terms for the context in which they appear.

At any rate, and unfortunately, we live in a time where there is no means of securing accuracy in scientific writing taking place outside peer-reviewed journals. Lots of propaganda flies around daily, and we never know the motivations of a given writer. Worse, we can't expect our editors and producers to filter out such errors, because they often do not, and most bloggers don't have editors anyways. Thus each individual should ruthlessly scrutinize every claim wherever it may be found, and serious inquirers ought to take Hamilton's admonition seriously:

"Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives operate equally upon those who support and those who oppose either side of a question. We, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society… This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so persuaded of their being right in any controversy."

*view the original post

One comment

  1. keddaw


    Correct me if I’m falling into the same trap as those back-patters, but I always understood evolution (especially from an ID view) as the change in one species to another over generations.
    It seems to me that the definition of species is important here and how we decide that two creatures are of a different species – the inability to have fertile offspring always seemed to be a good enough definition for me, but that is from 20 years ago in school… And also discounts creatures that do not reproduce sexually. Tricky.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *