A review of one sentence of ‘Evolution Impossible: Why Evolution Cannot Explain Life on Earth’, a creationist book by John F. Ashton. This review was originally posted here.
Note: I was compelled to write a review of this book after finding that every reviewer on Goodreads is a Christian. After searching for a few minutes on Google, I could find only two reviews that were written by skeptics or unbelievers–all others were written by those already convinced of the book’s premise. I found this unevenness disturbing, and wanted to correct it. Note, too, that this was written after having read only three run-on sentences. I have not read this book. I read three sentences and dissected the missteps of reason and civility in them and extrapolated them to encompass the book as a whole. Any writer who is willing to stoop to duplicitous forgery is not likely to be a writer who deserves to be read, nor one who can very easily redeem himself for circulating flagrant lies.
My father passes me a book called ‘Evolution Impossible.’ It is about creation science and intelligent design. I turn my head away from it and look at it in brief, fleeting glances out of the corners of my eyes. I pick it up and open it to a page selected at random. I read the book: “recently performed analysis of human embryos shows no evidence of gill-like structures.” I then read that this disproves the theory of common descent, and I gasp. “Did he just”-!? He did. And he was wrong to do it. This man is a demagogue and I’ll tell you why.
First: this man is a hypocrite because if he applied the same fallacious reasoning used above to the teachings of Christ he would be forced to view Christ as a false prophet. Jesus was an apocalyptic seer who foretold that the world would end shortly after his ascent into Heaven. This did not happen. Does this false claim prove that Christ’s divinity is nothing more than a tall and intricate tale worthy of the likes of Joseph Smith? It probably should–infallible and omniscient beings do not make mistakes of the intellect, such as making false predictions–but for Christians it doesn’t. They interpret Christ’s words in obscure ways. Christ said that the time between his Ascension and the period of Revelation would be “a short time.” ~2000 years have passed since the death of Jesus, yet it is necessitated by their faith that Christians believe that we, in the words of Christian writer Henry J.M. Nouwen, are “living in that short time.” That 2000 years’ long short time. Right. That is, apparently, a reasonable interpretation, despite the fact that the average human lifespan in the time of Christ was around 50 years on a liberal estimate–60 years is too long for most; a timeline of 2000 years is the total opposite of brief. But if Dr. John Ashton, the author of ‘Evolution Impossible,’ was an honest man who applied his criticisms with equal consistency all across the board, without bias and with a disregard for ideological difference, he would refute Christological dogma just as he refutes evolutionary theory: with absolute force and without equivocation. “Embryonic humans don’t have gills, therefore humans did not evolve;” “Christ made a mistake, therefore he is not infallible and cannot be God.” Equal treatment. It’s only fair.
Second: not only is Dr. Ashton disingenuous towards his own religion, he also actively neglects evidence and writes without even an elementary understanding of logic. If it is true that humans in embryonic form have a physiology that is entirely unlike a fish’s, that is not reason to suspect that fishes are not related to us on the evolutionary tree and did not serve as our progenitors (a lot can happen in millions and billions of years). But the doctor thinks it does. He thinks this absence is a necessary reason to reject evolutionary theory; in other words, he seems to think that if humans don’t have gills as embryos then no possible conclusion can be drawn from this other than that fishes are not an ancient human ancestor–no gills, no evolution, he says, and no argument can be made to the contrary. This is a patently false position. Here are two flaws in his argument. 1. It is not true that because human embryos don’t have gills that fishes are not in our line of descent. Perhaps we have other fish features–similar genes, similar organs, similar basic facial features, etc. If we don’t have gills we have other things. 2. If it is proved that fishes are not our immediate ancestors, this is no problem. The gill problem is a cipher, a non-event. The theory of common descent is not made redundant. Comparative anatomy still proves that we have an astonishing likeness to other species. Geology and the fossil records have revealed no fossils that are anywhere but where evolutionary scientists predict they should be. We find trilobites, for example, in the eldest sediments, and humans in some of the youngest. No human remains have been found nestled among ancient trilobite shells in very old rocks. This would suggest that there has been a long period of evolutionary development of beings, in which trilobites came before humans. This is evidence in defense of common descent. It means that Dr. Ashton’s refutation was wrong, that it did not rely on necessary evidence. It did not even rely on sufficient evidence. He blatantly sidestepped alternative, complementary, and wholly uncontroversial explanations that do away with his conclusion that no gills means no evolution. In short, he lies.
Though I could go on, extend my diatribe, and harangue this man for hours, I will force myself to stop here. The point has been made. Point #1: the author is glib. He has double standards. He subjects one theory to (invalid) criticisms but doesn’t hold them to another. He does this because, as we have seen, to do so would invalidate that which he presents as an alternative, i.e., it would conclude that Christianity is false. (I will make a new point here. If science fails, creationism does not win. There is no either/or dilemma between the two, as the author implicitly assumes there is. There may be only one alternative, a third alternative, such as agnosticism or skepticism, both of which would be rational fall-backs, or there may be many. But without each alternative after the third having their own valid defense, the third alternative–skepticism–is the only way to go. For further discussion of the false either/or dichotomy, see here). Point #2: The nominal professor knowingly neglects alternative explanations. He is demagogic because he neglects to speak of evidences that would undermine his authority. He’ll tell you what sounds good, not what is true or what, for legitimacy’s sake, should be reasonably discussed. He lies by omission.
In summary, a book fraught with errors, composed by a man who for his own purposes refuses honest communication and favors falsehoods and half-truths. Do not read.