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Preaching that Anti-Evolution Propaganda
By Tommy Huxley
Posted on: 4/20/2002
A review of Hank Hanegraaff's book, "The F.A.C.E. that Demonstrates the Farce of Evolution."
A review of Hank Hanegraaff’s book, The F.A.C.E. that Demonstrates the Farce of Evolution. Hank Hanegraaff, Christian Radio’s Bible Answer-Man, Parrots the Same Old Fallacies
There ought to be no doubt whatever that the popular forms of geology and paleontology should be included as sciences of Satanic origin.This latest anti-evolution book is tinier than most creationist books. But I felt compelled to respond to it because its author, Hank Hanegraaff, attacks evolution almost daily on his Christian radio program. Hanegraaff hosts the “Bible Answer-Man Show” from Rancho Santa Margarita, California, where he takes questions from on-air callers who ask for his opinion on every conceivable subject about Christian orthodoxy. He’s also President of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and a blunt, outspoken defender of Biblical inerrancy. He condemns rival interpretations of Scripture he doesn’t like and ridicules other Christian ministers, by name, who spout “aberrant Christian doctrine.” Since I have an hour’s drive home from work, I frequently tune in and listen to him with a mixture of incredulity and awe. Hanegraaff doesn’t shy away from voicing his emotional convictions, no matter how odd.
— George McCready Price
Satan himself is the originator of the concept of evolution.
— Henry Morris
The title of his book, The F.A.C.E. that Demonstrates the Farce of Evolution, uses FACE as a handy acronym to debate opponents. FACE stands for Fossils, Ape-Men, Chance and Empirical science (although in a previous book, his E stood for “Entropy”). He also includes debating acronyms to defend Biblical inerrancy like MAPS and FEAT, and the acronym ABORTION to refute… you guessed it! More about that, later.
Ad Hominem Attacks
Unlike creationist books that water down their religious aims, a full third of Hanegraaff’s book is devoted to Biblical apologetics. He attacks evolution for being anti-Christian, but his approach is often hypocritical. On page 147, Hanegraaff protests ad hominem attacks that “[Attack] people rather than argue principles. Ad hominem arguments are designed to distract attention from the real issue.”
I agree with that completely, which makes his following statements discreditable:
[Evolution’s] most significant consequence is that it undermines the very foundation of Christianity. (p. 19)(By enslavement, Hanegraaff’s not referring to a figurative disposition. He means that evolution literally advocates slavery, as in forced captivity and servitude.)
Evolution not only dispenses with God and attempts to make humans the center of the universe, but evolutionism is racist as well. (p. 24)
In the evolutionary hierarchy, black [races] are placed at the bottom, yellows and reds somewhere in the middle, and whites on top. (p. 26)
It should also be noted that Darwinian evolution is not only racist but sexist as well. (p. 28)
The consistent application of evolutionary principles inevitably leads to enslavement. (p. 29)
Granted, Hanegraaff cites loathsome quotes from historical figures, including Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley. But does 19th-century pseudoscience topple all the scientific findings of the past? Is Hanegraaff aware that modern genetics have since repudiated Darwin and Huxley?
Before I critique Hanegraaff’s scientific objections to evolution, I’ll address all his ad hominem attacks. He selectively quotes people who misrepresent evolution throughout history as proof of its depravity. Yet people abuse the Bible to justify the very evils Hanegraaff attributes to evolution, too. Besides, evolution can stand apart as a plausible mechanism in the natural world no matter how many people misrepresent it. And many would say the same about the Bible.
In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin wrote:
At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world.In an 1871 address, Thomas Henry Huxley said:
No rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average Negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the white man… It is simply incredible [to think] that … he will be able to compete successfully with his bigger-brained and smaller-jawed rival, in a contest which is to be carried on by thoughts and not by bites.Two bigoted testimonies, from two 19th-century men that steered evolution into the scientific mainstream. Hanegraaff recounts a few other ancient quotes as examples of evolution’s racist origins. Granted, these opinions are grotesque and indefensible. But does that mean Darwin and Huxley’s scientific contributions are offset by their beliefs in their racial superiority? Does that mean evolution doesn’t work in the natural world because two individuals tried to link it to a common 19th-century pseudoscience?
Of course not! If scientific theories were validated by their proponent’s social views, science would perish. What’s more, evolutionary biology since then has rid itself of the concept of race as a distinguishing trait. Although Huxley said that “Negroes” couldn’t compete with “bigger-brained” Caucasians, we now know that all people share the same cranial proportions.
In 1994, Princeton University published The History and Geography of Human Genes, a 1,032-page book that covered fifty years of research in population genetics, archaeology, and anthropology that states, “From a scientific point of view, the concept of race has failed to obtain any consensus and none is likely.” Later that same year, Discover magazine ran a special issue on the “Science of Race” that said genetic distinctions among the races were so tiny as to be insignificant. Again, this is the consensus among modern evolutionists.
Furthermore, creationists have written racist books, too. By Hank’s deduction, does that fact discredit creation science? In 1924, George McCready Price said that racial mixing violated God’s intentions and led to rapid degeneration after the Tower of Babel, which produced not only Negroes and Mongolians, but the apes as well, which Price called “degenerate or hybridized men.” So in Price’s view, the Tower of Babel triggered reverse evolution — apes evolved from men.
In 1941, Frank Lewis March said that hybridization was “the principal tool used by Satan in destroying the original perfection and harmony among living things.” As an example, Marsh said that the black skin of “Negroes” was one of many “abnormalities” Satan achieved with hybridization.
And as recently as 1991, Henry Morris wrote:
All of the earth’s ‘colored’ races — yellow, red, brown, and black — essentially the Afro-Asian group of peoples, including the American Indians — are possibly Hamitic in origin and included within the scope of the Canaanitic prophecy, as well as the Egyptians, Sumerians, Hittites, and Phoenicians of antiquity…So, Morris concludes, Negroes have a “genetic character” that limits them to “mundane matters” while the light-skinned races surpass them “intellectually and philosophically” due to their “genetic stock.” Apparently, Morris swallows the whole Bell Curve notion of racial differences in IQ being genetically determined. Since Hanegraaff enthusiastically cites Henry Morris’ books so often in his endnotes and bibliography, I’m surprised he overlooked that gem.
Often the Hamites, especially the Negroes, have become actual personal servants or even slaves to the others. Possessed of a genetic character concerned mainly with mundane matters, they have eventually been displaced by the intellectual and philosophical acumen of the Japhethites and the religious zeal of the Semites…
Neither Negroes nor any other Hamitic people were intended to be forcibly subjugated on the basis of this Noahic declaration. The prophecy would be inevitably fulfilled because of the innate natures of the three genetic stocks, not by virtue of any artificial constraints imposed by man. [Emphasis added]
Hanegraaff also forgets that racists abuse the Bible to support their bigotry, sometimes quoting the same scriptural passages he cites. “It is a persuasive and consistent theme throughout Scripture that all people are created in the image of God and are of equal value,” Hanegraaff says. He then quotes Acts 17:26 where God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.”
Hanegraaff actually quotes the above verse from the New International Version (NIV), but I quoted it from the King James to underscore the following example. On April 17, 1960, Bob Jones, founder of Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, said the following in a radio sermon titled “Is Segregation Scriptural?”
If you are against segregation and against racial separation, then you are against God Almighty, because He made racial separation in order to preserve the [Jewish] race through whom He could send the Messiah and through whom He could send the Bible. God is the author of segregation! God is the author of Jewish separation and Gentile separation and Japanese separation. God made of one blood all nations, but He also drew the boundary lines between the races.So, whose interpretation of Acts correctly explains God’s real position on race? Bob Jones’ or Hank Hanegraaff’s?
Frankly, I’m surprised any Christian would taunt his opponents for promoting sexism without feeling vulnerable. Hanegraaff says that Galatians 3:28 promotes “essential equality between the sexes,” and quotes a single passage from Darwin’s Descent of Man to demonstrate that evolution is sexist.
Surely, Hank is aware of the church controversies surrounding the ordination of women because the Bible says, “It is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church” (1 Corinthians 14:35) and that “a woman must not teach or have authority over a man; she must be silent” (1 Timothy 2:12). Likewise, he overlooks those Old Testament laws that permit fathers to sell their daughters into slavery (Exodus 21:7), and demand virgins to marry their rapists if the rapists pay their fathers a monetary fine for violating them (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).
In 1984, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution that endorsed female submission to men “because man was first in creation and the woman was first in the Edenic fall.” In 1998, the SBC followed-up with yet another resolution that called for female submission. Despite this, Hanegraaff calls evolution sexist because of a single quote from Darwin that’s 130 years old!
Is evolution responsible for slavery? According to Hank Hanegraaff it is:
Slavery is as repugnant to God as murder and adultery (1 Timothy 1:10). The consistent application of biblical principles inevitably leads to emancipation. The consistent application of evolutionary principles inevitably leads to enslavement… While Scripture candidly acknowledges the existence of slavery, it never condones it.First and somewhat curiously, Hanegraaff never explains why evolution leads to slavery. He doesn’t quote any cranks or document any historical connections. He only makes a vacuous allegation.
Second, Hanegraaff only cites the NIV rendition of 1st Timothy 1:10: “For adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers — and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.” But every other Biblical translation substitutes “kidnappers” for “slave traders,” and there’s a crucial difference. Kidnappers abduct people in violation of the law, while slaves are legal property.
Third, Hanegraaff overlooks the fact that the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America, was established in 1845 to preserve the institution of slavery by appealing to scriptural authority. And contrary to Hanegraaff’s claims, God did approve of slavery in the Old Testament, stating specifically:
Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.Finally, Charles Darwin was an abolitionist who published On the Origin of Species shortly before the U.S. Civil War started. Using Hanegraaff’s slippery-slope logic, I could suggest that the Darwinian Revolution hastened slavery’s end in America.
— Leviticus 25:44-46
Can a person be a Christian and accept evolution as a plausible scientific theory? Not according to Hanegraaff:
Under the banner of “theistic evolution,” a growing number of Christians maintain that God used evolution as His method for creation. This, in my estimation, is the worst of all possibilities.Here, Hanegraaff admits that scientific objections to evolution are beside the point. If evolution reflects the laws of science, then Christianity’s foundation crumbles. How, then, can he examine the scientific evidence with objectivity? Answer: He can’t!
It is one thing to believe in evolution, it is quite another to blame God for it. Not only is theistic evolution a contradiction in terms — like the phrase flaming snowflakes — but as we have seen, it is also the cruelest, most inefficient system for creation imaginable…
The most significant consequence, however, is that [evolution] undermines the very foundation of Christianity. If indeed evolution is reflective for the laws of science, then Genesis must be reflective of the flaws of Scripture. And if the foundation of Christianity is flawed, the superstructure is destined to fall.
Hanegraaff calls evolution “the cruelest, most inefficient method for creation.” But who died and made him God? Who is he to place value judgments on natural processes? Didn’t God himself say, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9)?
Although Hanegraaff calls theistic evolution “the worst of all possibilities,” he still quotes its proponents to his advantage. He constantly cites Michael Behe’s book Darwin’s Black Box: the Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, and enthusiastically recommends it to his radio audience for demolishing evolutionary arguments. But did Hanegraaff read Behe’s book? It doesn’t comfort creationists at all! On page 5 of his book, Behe states:
I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it. I greatly respect the work of my colleagues who study the development and behavior of organisms within an evolutionary framework, and I think that the evolutionary biologists have contributed enormously to our understanding of the world.In other words, Behe accepts the Darwinian view that all life originated from a common ancestor. He only rejects natural selection as the sole mechanism for change at the molecular level. When Behe takes on a biologist from Brown University, he says this on page 239:
Ken Miller, whose argument from imperfection I analyzed in the last chapter, is like myself a Roman Catholic, and he makes the point in public talks that belief in evolution is quite compatible with his religious views. I agree with him that they are compatible.How can Hanegraaff approve of someone who “blames God for evolution?” How can he recommend a book that’s written by a Roman Catholic who believes God employs “the worst of all possibilities?” Is Hanegraaff getting in bed with the Devil?
Hanegraaff’s Scientific Objections
Hanegraaff’s scientific objections to evolution are remarkably brief and recycled. Two thirds of his references are to other creationist books! And like most creationists, the few mainstream scientific works he does cite are typically outdated. For example, he cites a 1979 American Scientist article that’s skeptical about bird evolution, but ignores a 1998 issue of that same magazine that rips creation science to shreds for its incompetent grasp of geology!
The first letter of the FACE acronym stands for “Fossil Follies,” and Hanegraaff sings the same old song about nonexistent transitional fossils. But when it comes to critiquing specific intermediate specimens, he only takes on one — Archaeopteryx. I guess he considers all the Devonian fishes and Triassic therapsids irrelevant.
Like most creationists, Hanegraaff states that since Archaeopteryx had feathers, it was a bird. He dismisses all its reptilian features as anomalous, despite its toothed “jaws” instead of a beak, three clawed fingers on each forelimb (unlike the modern Hoatzin’s two pairs of baby digits that it loses by adulthood), abdominal ribs, and a long, bony, vertebrate tail that’s nonexistent in modern birds.
Hanegraaff then assails a straw man by citing the reasons why Archaeopteryx can’t be the “missing link” between reptiles and birds when most paleontologists don’t believe it is, either. He describes why it’s impossible for reptilian scales to evolve into flight feathers, although scientists claim the two developed apart from the same keratin component. (For example, feathers come in seven basic types, but only the “contour” feathers sustain flight, and even these are further divided into separate types, which undermines his fraying-scale fable.)
From there, the Bible Answer-Man concocts playful stories ridiculing Goldschmidt’s “hopeful monster” theory of birds hatching from dinosaur eggs when no scientist on Earth accepts that theory either. But Hanegraaff defends his misrepresentation by claiming that Gould and Eldredge’s punctuated equilibria theory parallels Goldschmidt’s theory, despite the fact that these two theories are entirely unrelated.
Ape-Men Fiction, Fraud and Fantasy
Paleoanthropologists believe our vast collection of fossil hominid skulls shows a clear history of human evolution, but Hanegraaff dismisses all “ape-men” fossils as bogus. But he doesn’t analyze or critique a single specimen! Instead, he ridicules four blunders that occurred between 70 and 107 years ago! Stephen Jay Gould previously called that “slaying the already slain.”
While whimsically recounting the elderly, age-old controversies surrounding Nebraska, Java, Piltdown and Peking Man, Hanegraaff ignores the more numerous and recent Homo erectus, habilis, and australopithecine discoveries. He also fails to point out that it was the evolutionists who corrected their mistakes, not creationists. If evolutionists were engaged in a dishonest conspiracy, why would they publicize their own deceptions?
Hanegraaff also spouts half-truths. On page 179, he states that “Peking man and Java man have both been reclassified as belonging to the same species: Homo erectus,” implying that anthropologists merely re-label past errors. But scientists have long known that the Java man skullcap belonged to a genuine hominid, while its femur and teeth belonged to a human and orangutan, respectively. The plaster casts, photographs, and x-rays of the Peking man skullcaps were properly identified, too, after they were compared to more recently unearthed Homo erectus skulls. These specimens weren’t reclassified so much as properly recognized.
Chance and Entropy
Hank’s “E” in his acronym actually stands for “Empirical science.” But since he repeats the same garbled mumbo-jumbo about entropy in a perpetual robotic mantra, I’ll stick with the above subheading. And since both his chapters gush the same old arguments from personal incredulity, I’ll address them together.
Hank gripes about the impossibility of life originating by pure chance, but biological evolution and the origin of life are two entirely separate topics. When you examine the solid, physical evidence, the oldest fossils on Earth are but single-celled organisms. And when you trace the fossil record through the geologic column over the past 600 million years, life forms differ from the plants and animals that lived before them. In other words, they changed.
That’s what scientists mean when they claim that evolution is a fact. Life changed through time. That’s no longer in dispute. Evolutionists only debate how these changes occurred, not if they occurred. And creationists can’t deconstruct this unconquerable fact, although they certainly try.
For example, Henry Morris claims that all the separate geologic strata were laid down at one time during Noah’s Flood. And this flood then miraculously stacked, sorted, and arranged the fossils in their proper geologic order, never once accidentally dropping a human carcass amid the Triassic reptiles, or toppling a dead Eocene mammal betwixt late Devonian labyrinthodonts.
It boggles the mind how a ferocious global flood could accomplish such hairsplitting precision. But then, this is the same Henry Morris who blamed Satan and Michael the Archangel for punching impact craters in the Moon’s surface.
Although Hank insists that creationists practice “empirical science,” I have yet to see one creationist submit a technical paper to Nature, Science, or the Journal of Molecular Evolution. If they thought their arguments withstood scientific scrutiny, they’d publish their findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Instead, creationists target local Christian bookstores where they’re guaranteed a sympathetic, uncritical audience.
But getting back to Hank’s “E,” here’s what he says about entropy:
While the law of energy conservation is a blow to the theory of evolution, the law of entropy is a bullet to its head. Not only is the universe dying of heat loss, but according to entropy — also known as the second law of thermodynamics — everything runs inexorably from order to disorder and from complexity to decay. The theory of biological evolution directly contradicts the law of entropy in that it describes a universe in which things run from chaos to complexity and order. In evolution, atoms allegedly self-produce amino acids, amino acids auto-organize amoebas, amoebas turn into apes, and apes evolve into astronauts.Hank spouts so much misinformation that I hardly know where to start. First, the second law of thermodynamics is not entropy; it’s a statement about the entropy, or disorder, of a system. The second law states that in any thermodynamic process that proceeds from one state of equilibrium to another, the entropy of the system, plus its environment, remains unchanged or increases.
The second law does not require the entropy of a system apart from its environment to increase or remain the same. Entropy may decrease on Earth as long as its environment (which includes the rest of the universe) increases by an equal or greater amount. This happens all the time! When a seed sprouts, its entropy is reduced at the expense of the increasing entropy of its environment. None of this violates the second law of thermodynamics!
Frankly, I can’t understand what young-Earth creationists know about physics that nobody else is aware of. For example, there’s an amicus curiae brief filed by 72 Nobel Prize-winning scientists supporting the appellees in Edwards v. Aguillard (the 1986 Supreme Court decision that barred Louisiana from plugging creation science in its public schools). And 29 of the 72 scientists that signed this brief are physicists.
Did you catch that? Twenty-nine Nobel Prize-winning physicists are on the record disputing creationists’ claims about entropy, even citing a 1983 paper by Stanley Freske in a footnote titled “Creationist Misunderstanding, Misrepresentation, and Misuse of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.” What does Hank know about physics that authorities like Luis Alvarez, Murray Gell-Mann, or Steven Weinberg don’t know? (Twenty-eight Nobel Prize-winning biologists signed it, too. Does Hank know something about developmental biology that every other scientist on this planet overlooked?)
John W. Patterson, Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Engineering at Iowa State University at Ames, writes an especially devastating critique of creationist errors about thermodynamic processes. And like Hank, Dr. Patterson sums up his case against creation science in a four-letter acronym too: Counterfeit Rhetoric, Apologetics and Polemics — CRAP for short.
Creationists garble many scientific topics, but none more so than recapitulation. In the late 1860s, a German biologist named Ernst Haeckel proposed his theory of “ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny” where he suggested that our embryos revisit the adult stages of our evolutionary ancestors during development. That is, our embryos pass through an adult fish stage, amphibian stage, reptilian stage, and so on until we become human fetuses.
Scientists thoroughly refuted this hypothesis in the 1920s. Yet Hanegraaff and other creationists claim that evolutionists still cling to Haeckel’s obsolete theories. But why? Why would the world’s evolutionary biologists revive a long-dead, discredited hypothesis that went the way of alchemy?
Because — Hank alleges — recapitulation justifies abortion! It’s possible that Hank and other creationists honestly misunderstand comparative embryology (see, for example, Embryology: Constructing the Organism).
Although human embryos display morphological similarities to other animal embryos during development, they do not pass through their adult stages. For example, the gill arches that appear in the embryos of land vertebrates are homologous to fish gill slits, but they’re not actual gill slits. The term is figurative. Creationists also confuse embryological homology (which does support evolution) with recapitulation. But Haeckel’s theory is obsolete. And the modern biology textbooks that mention recapitulation only do so to debunk it.
For example, there’s an online Creationist Encyclopedia that devotes more than 5,000 words to attacking recapitulation and those evolutionists who allegedly support it. As proof, it cites five books written in the 1960s, but it offers no specific quotes from those books to corroborate! It merely lists their authors, titles, and obsolete copyright dates.
The author at this site also cries, “EVOLUTIONISTS REFUSE TO ACCEPT THE FACTS! THEY CONTINUE TO TEACH AND PUBLISH THIS ERROR!” But when I e-mailed the webmaster of that site and asked him if he could cite any recent books or articles defending recapitulation, this was his entire response:
What??? In case you missed it, Ron Osterman told me that it’s my job to find the proof to support his allegations! But it’s his sole responsibility to prove his case! Why must I do creationists’ homework for them? Hanegraaff made a similar unsubstantiated claim when I called his radio program last September that I’ll address later.
I am sure that if you were to go to the public or high
school libraries of most major cities you would find
the information you are looking for. I, for one, do not
have the time for that.
Ron Osterman firstname.lastname@example.org
But first, let’s examine Hank’s claim that Carl Sagan endorsed recapitulation. On page 95 of his book, he says:
Incredibly, such facts have not stopped men like Carl Sagan from affirming recapitulation.I never saw the TV show or read the CNBC transcript that Hank rebukes — where Sagan discussed abortion with Phil Donahue. But I did buy a used 1977 edition of The Dragons of Eden and discovered that Sagan never defended indiscriminate abortion in that book.
Fully aware that it had “gone through various cycles of scholarly acceptance and rejection,” Sagan wrote:
Haeckel held that in its embryological development, an animal tends to repeat or recapitulate the sequence that its ancestors followed during their evolution. And indeed in human intrauterine development we run through stages very much like fish, reptiles, and non-primate mammals before we become recognizably human. The fish stage even has gill slits, which are absolutely useless for the embryo who is nourished via the umbilical cord, but a necessity for human embryology: since gills were vital to our ancestors, we run through a gill stage in becoming human.This idea, of course, is not science; it’s science fiction. For more than a century it has been well known that what Sagan referred to as “gill slits” are in reality essential parts of human anatomy. Far from being useless evolutionary vestiges, they are axiomatic to the development of a human embryo.
In The Dragons of Eden, Sagan stated that determining when a fetus becomes human “could play a major role in achieving an acceptable compromise in the abortion debate.” In his estimation the transition to human “would fall toward the end of the first trimester or near the beginning of the second trimester of pregnancy.”
Shortly before he died, I watched him reiterate this odd predilection. Using recapitulation as the pretext, he shamelessly defended the painful killing of innocent human beings. Without so much as blushing, he communicated his contention that a first-trimester abortion does not constitute the painful killing of a human fetus but merely the termination of a fish or frog.
On page 194, he said:
Since a baby born prematurely in the seventh month of pregnancy is in no significant respect different from a fetus in utero in the seventh month, it must, it seems to me, follow that abortion, at least in the last trimester, is very close to murder. Objections that the fetus in the third trimester is still not breathing seem specious: Is it permissible to commit infanticide after birth if the umbilicus has not yet been severed, or if the baby has not yet taken its firth breath? Likewise, if I am psychologically unprepared to live with a stranger… I do not thereby have a right to kill him… The civil liberties point of view is often muddled in such debates.Wow! Sagan’s opinion of late-term abortions is no different from that of Operation Rescue! Still, Sagan thought the pro-life argument of a zygote being fully human was equally misleading:
In the same way, the argument about the “potential” to be human seems to me particularly weak. Any human egg or sperm under appropriate circumstances has the potential to become a human being. Yet male masturbation and nocturnal emissions are generally considered natural acts and not cause for murder indictments. In a single ejaculation there are enough spermatozoa for the generation of hundreds of millions of human beings. In addition, it is possible that in the not-too-distant future we may be able to clone a whole human being from a single cell taken from essentially anywhere in the donor’s body. If so, any cell in my body has the potential to become a human being if properly preserved until the time of a practical cloning technology. Am I committing mass murder if I prick my finger and lose a drop of blood?Why does Sagan limit abortions to no later than the first trimester?
We might set the transition to humanity at the time when neocortical activity begins, as determined by electroencephalogy of the fetus… Undoubtedly there would be a variation from fetus to fetus as to the time of initiation on the first neocortical EEG signals, and a legal definition of the beginning of characteristically human life should be biased conservatively — that is, toward the youngest fetus that exhibits such activity. Perhaps the transition would fall toward the end of the first trimester or near the beginning of the second trimester of pregnancy.I’m not defending Carl Sagan’s abortion stance. I’m only pointing out that he didn’t advocate indiscriminate abortions at every stage of prenatal development. Instead, he believed that legal abortions should remain limited to the first trimester, an opinion he shared with an American majority that had nothing to do with evolution.
And Hanegraaff cited only a portion of what Sagan said about recapitulation. Immediately following his quote about our “gill stage in becoming human,” Sagan said:
The brain of a human fetus also develops from the inside out, and, roughly speaking, runs through the sequence: neural chassis, R-complex, limbic system and neocortex (see the figure on the embryology of the human brain on page 198).Sagan is discussing comparative embryology during structural development. All chordate animals, including people, follow a similar path when developing their notochord, gill slits, and aortic arches.
The reason for recapitulation may be understood as follows: Natural selection operates only on individuals, not on species and not very much on eggs or fetuses. Thus the latest evolutionary change appears postpartum. The fetus may have characteristics, like the gill slits in mammals, that are entirely maladaptive after birth, but as long as they cause no serious problems for the fetus and are lost before birth, they can be retained. Our gill slits are vestiges not of ancient fish but of ancient fish embryos.
Many new organ systems develop not by the addition and preservation but by the modification of older systems, as, for example, the modification of fins to legs, and legs to flippers or wings; or feet to hands; or sebaceous glands to mammary glands, or gill arches to ear bones; or shark scales to shark teeth. Thus evolution by addition and the functional preservation of the preexisting structure must occur for one of two reasons — either the old function is required as well as the new one, or there is no way of bypassing the old system that is consistent with survival. [Emphasis mine]
Early in their development, all these animals pass through what’s described as a “gill slit” stage, but that does not mean these embryos develop respiratory gills! Sagan acknowledged that human embryos get oxygen from their umbilical cords, and in the above quote, he explained what our “gill arches” were for — unfolding middle ear structures!
But if our embryos don’t develop gills, why do scientists call that step a “gill slit” stage? Because that’s exactly what those folds look like! Again, it’s a figurative term. Frankly, I wish biologists would choose another term since it appears to confuse and disorient so many people, particularly creationists who think they smell a rat. Perhaps “ear pouches” would suffice.
In the above quote, Sagan also speculated that these arches served another purpose in our evolutionary history while retaining their vestigial appearance. But on that point, he’s probably wrong. Their “appearance” is merely incidental.
But suggesting that these arches are vestigial does not promote recapitulation either. Sagan said nothing about human embryos repeating the adult stages of their evolutionary ancestors during gestation. When I called the Bible Answer-Man show on September 28, 1998 to explain to Hank that nobody, including Carl Sagan, believed in a theory that was debunked in the 1920s, Hank replied:
Well, that’s right, it has been debunked in the 1920s, but it’s still taught in textbooks in the State of California, my friend.Note that Hanegraaff makes this claim without citing one example of a current schoolbook in the State of California that promotes such pseudoscientific nonsense. Like Ron Osterman, Hank spouts hasty innuendoes for rhetorical points and leaves it to others to search for his proof!
What about the age of the Earth?
Hanegraaff never broaches that subject in his book. But more than once, I’ve heard him tell his radio listeners that he is a young-Earth creationist, although he frets that “some people use that term in a pejorative sense. I’ve never seen any persuasive evidence that the Earth is billions of years old.”
If Hank’s serious, then he suffers from the same cognitive dissonance he attributes to everyone else that disagrees with him.
A large chunk of Hank’s book defends the Bible’s authority, inspiration and inerrancy, defends the doctrine of Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead, and preaches that we are all sinners in need of eternal salvation. Frankly, I don’t object to that since his entire book is a religious polemic anyway. Indeed, these are red meat issues for Christians.
(Note: Hank Hanegraaff does have detractors among other fundamentalist Christians, though. Check out Doug Gilliland’s web site [Link Defunct - Ed.].)
What I do object to, however, is Hank depicting evolutionary biologists as racist Nazi collaborators. He even alleges that people only believe in evolution because it liberates them to pursue guilt-free, indiscriminate sexual promiscuity!
That’s funny when you consider the fact that a lopsided majority of Americans say they believe in God and either reject evolution outright or remain ignorant of its core science (especially here in the South, where state legislators are always trying to dumb it down.) Since so many of these same Americans still indulge in sexual immorality, Hank will have to find another scapegoat. The rate of divorce and marital infidelity among Protestant Christian ministers is as high as the rest of the nation’s. Can Hank blame that on evolution?
Hank should heed Jesus’ advice in Matthew 7:3-5:
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Here, let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own? You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.References
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