The Longest Running Failed Prediction in Creationism
AUTHOR: G.R. Morton
SOURCE: Answers in Science
COMMENTARY: Allen MacNeill
First, today is the 150th anniversary of the original publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species. So many people have written about this event that it would be superfluous for me to write about it here. However, some of what has been written about the Origin lately, mostly by creationists and supporters of "intelligent design", is that Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is "crumbling" and will soon be "dead".
Admittedly, I have written recently that the "modern evolutionary synthesis" is dead (see here for more), but in doing so I have taken pains to point out that the theory of evolution itself is most assuredly not dead. On the contrary, it is very much alive. Indeed, it has never been more vigorous than it is today.
But that's not what the creationists are saying. What they're saying (or trying to say) is that the whole concept of evolution itself is dead: the Earth and everything on it was created a relatively short time ago, and even if life on Earth has changed (a little), all of that change has been guided by the deity of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, etc.) Indeed, just this morning a new podcast was launched at the website of the Discovery Institute, in which neo-Paleyist and ID creationist John West asserts once again that "Darwinism is dead".
Is this news? And is it new? How long have creationists been predicting the demise of Darwin's theory of evolution? Apparently, they've been doing so since a few decades before Darwin published it. G. R. Morton has compiled a short list of quote from creationists predicting the impending overthrow of the theory of evolution (you can read it here). He introduces his anthology of science denialism with this:
In recent reading of [Dr. William] Dembski and other ID proponents I saw them make a claim which has been made for over 40 years. This claim is one that the young-earthers have been making. The claim is that evolution (or major supporting concepts for it) is increasingly being abandoned by scientists, or is about to fall. This claim has many forms and has been made for over 162 years. This is a compilation of the claims over time. The purpose of this compilation is two-fold. First, it is to show that the claim has been made for a long, long time. Secondly, it is to show that entire careers have passed without seeing any of this movement away from evolution. Third, it is to show that the creationists are merely making these statements for the purpose of keeping hope alive that they are making progress towards their goal. In point of fact, no such progress is being made as anyone who has watched this area for the last 40 years can testify. The claim is false as history and present-day events show, yet that doesn't stop anyone wanting to sell books from making that claim.
Morton's quotations from creationists begins with a quote dating to 1825, 34 years before Darwin published the Origin of Species. Apparently, what many historians have asserted was true: that the idea of evolution was "in the air" in the mid-19th century, and that Darwin simply codified and provided evidence for an idea that was already becoming generally well-known and at least partially accepted. The fact that Alfred Russell Wallace came up with the same mechanism that Darwin did for descent with modification — natural selection — is further evidence for the idea that evolution was "in the air" at the time.
It still is, and even moreso. Not only has the theory of evolution not "crumbled", it is currently undergoing its most rapid expansion since 1859. Darwin's original theory was limited strictly to biological evolution, but now his theory is being extended into astrophysics, geology, economics, psychology, sociology, and even literature and art history. It is this tremendous success that upsets the opponents of Darwin's theory, and that impels them (in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary) that the most widely accepted, most generally applicable, and most analytically powerful theory in all of science is on its way out.
In other words (and true to their creationist roots), they stare reality in the face and deny it.
As always, comments, criticisms, and suggestions are warmly welcomed!