email - November 2011

Definition Clarification

The definition of “evolution” continues to be controversial.

John wrote to disagree with us about what we wrote concerning the definition of evolution. This is one of those rare cases where we are both right.

Subj: Evolution definition
Date: 10/20/2011 9:55 AM

Do While,

I'm a big fan of your site and have learned a lot from it. Unfortunately, I'm writing concerning errors in your 3/11 email section, "Evolution Definition."

You quote a 6-point definition of evolution, which includes the formation of the universe and abiogenesis, and refer to it as the "court's definition." You further say that "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."

The decision (reached through the link you provide) clearly indicates that that definition is the definition used in the act under consideration. Further, lawyers from the evolutionist side did indeed object to it. From the decision:

"The emphasis on origins as an aspect of the theory of evolution is peculiar to the creationist literature. Although the subject of origins of life is within the province of biology, the scientific community does not consider origins of life a part of evolutionary theory. The theory of evolution assumes the existence of life and is directed to an explanation of how life evolved. Evolution does not presuppose the absence of a creator or God and the plain inference conveyed by Section 4 is erroneous (23).

As a statement of the theory of evolution, Section 4(b) is simply a hodgepodge of limited assertions, many of which are factually inaccurate.

For example, although 4(b)(2) asserts, as a tenet of evolutionary theory, "sufficiency of mutation and natural selection in bringing about development of present living kinds from simple earlier kinds," Drs. Ayala and Gould both stated that biologists know that these two processes do not account for all significant evolutionary change. The [sic] testified to such phenomena as recombination, the founder effect, genetic drift and the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which are believed to play important evolutionary roles. Section 4(b) omits any reference to these."—

I have to agree with Spencer that "your description of the court's definition of evolution in the McLean v. Arkansas case is incorrect."

Aside from that, keep up the good work! I look forward to it each month.

Thank you,


John is right. The definition did come from the law, so it can truly be said that it was “the Arkansas legislature’s definition.” I did not mean to imply that the court wrote the definition. I meant that it was the definition USED by the court. I did not build the truck I drive; but it is my truck because it is the one I use all the time.

Evolutionists certainly do object to the definition for the reasons John states, as should be evident from the rest of our original article. I should have said, "If it had been an incorrect definition (misrepresenting the theory as taught in Arkansas schools) then the lawyers for one side or the other would have objected to its use."

We agree that, “Mutation and natural selection certainly are not sufficient in bringing about development of present living kinds from simple earlier kinds.” That’s why it should not be taught in public schools.

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