email - March 2011

Evolution Definition

If you can’t quibble with the facts, then quibble with the definition.

Spencer sent us this brief email:

Hello sir. I think you mis-represent [sic] science and evolutionary theory in a very unreasonable and dishonest way.

Sent from my iPhone

We get lots of emails like this one, so we sent our standard one-sentence reply, “Can you give even one specific example?” Normally, we don’t get any response. Surprisingly, Spender actually replied.

Sure, in the 'Is Evolution Scientific' article your description of what the court's 'definition of evolution' (in the McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education case) is incorrect.  Your attempt to refute a mis-representation [sic] of science amounts to nothing more than a straw man argument.

Do you understand how supernatural intervention cannot be scientific, even if it is true?

Our article quoted the court’s complete definition correctly. So, we asked, “What is the true definition of evolution?” (We ignored Spencer’s attempt to change the subject.)

Spencer replied,

Maybe you didn't understand what I meant...  I said your description of the court's definition of evolution in the McLean v. Arkansas case is incorrect.

I think it is your intent to give a false and misleading account of biological evolution, and science in general, to promote your religious views.  Do you have any training in biology or evolutionary biology?

So, we tried to get him to be specific by asking, “What is wrong with our description of the court's definition?” (Of course, we ignored the personal attack, and the attempt to change the subject.)

Spencer did not reply.

The Court’s Definition

Spencer is not the first to make the charge that the court’s definition of evolution is wrong, so let us address it.

The court had to decide whether or not “evolution” should be taught in American public schools. But what kind of evolution is taught in school? Schools teach that modes of transportation have evolved from horse and buggy to spacecraft. Schools also teach that new varieties of dogs, horses, corn, and roses have been produced by selective breeding. Those kinds of evolution are irrelevant to the lawsuit because nobody disagrees with that, or objects to it being taught. Therefore, the law in question defined the objectionable kind of evolution to be:

  1. Emergence by naturalistic processes of the universe from disordered matter and emergence of life from nonlife;
  2. The sufficiency of mutation and natural selection in bringing about development of present living kinds from simple earlier kinds;
  3. Emergence by mutation and natural selection of present living kinds from simple earlier kinds;
  4. Emergence of man from a common ancestor with apes;
  5. Explanation of the earth's geology and the evolutionary sequence by uniformitarianism; and
  6. An inception several billion years ago of the earth and somewhat later of life. 1

We must point out to Spencer if it had been an incorrect definition (misrepresenting the theory) then the lawyers for one side or the other would have objected to its use. Furthermore, if the doctrine described by the definition was not being taught in public schools, there would have been no need for the lawsuit. Creationists would not have fought against it being taught if it were not being taught. Evolutionists would not have fought to keep teaching it if they didn’t think it should be taught. Therefore, it must be true that the court’s definition is an accurate description of what is being taught in public schools.

Evolutionists don’t like to admit this because the scientific evidence is against this definition. They are the ones who want to use rhetorical tricks, claiming evolution is just “change,” or variation in species.

Our shorter definition of evolution is, “The doctrine that unguided natural forces caused chemicals to combine in such a way that life resulted; and that all living things have descended from that common ancestral form of life.”

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1 McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education January 5, 1982,