Creationists periodically get accused of believing in “hyper-evolution”. Chief among those making such a claim is Joel Duff of Naturalis Historia. Duff, who has also written for BioLogos, is a professor at the University of Akron. We’ve responded to him before when he tried to paint creationists as anti-science. He recently published a peer-reviewed paper along with another familiar face: David MacMillan. MacMillan calls himself a former young-earth creationist and claims to have written for Answers in Genesis at one point but I can find no evidence of such a claim outside his word. We’ve responded to him before when he attempted to blame creationists for coronavirus. The third author on the paper, Thomas Beatman, was Duff’s graduate student. Beyond that, he is an unknown. However, his presence with the other two confirms he is a virulent anti-creationist.
This trio of evolutionists opens their article by objecting to the way creationists separate micro and macroevolution. They argue essentially that macroevolution and microevolution are not possible to separate because macroevolution is simply microevolution over a longer period of time. The problem with this is trifold. First, this is not how it has been presented to the public. The most popular evolution website on a popular level, the UC Berkley website, clearly separates the two as you can see below.
Second, evolutionists themselves in the literature have admitted the two are not the same. ” Macroevolution, on the other hand, covers processes responsible for the divergence among genera or higher taxa” (Arnold et al, 2001). There is also this quote: ” The attractiveness of macroevolution reflects the exhaustive documentation of large scale patterns which reveal a richness to evolution unexplained by microevolution” (Erwin, 2000). The title of the Erwin paper is “Macroevolution is more than repeated rounds of microevolution”. Interestingly, Duff et al actually cite the Erwin paper but dismiss it with a hand wave of “broad consensus”. The problem is, consensus does not, and cannot define science. Further, there are countless examples in the history of science where the consensus has been wrong. Appealing to consensus generally means that you do not have a better argument.
Third, Duff and his coauthors cite three common definitions of macroevolution. All three come from college textbooks. None of them are from the peer-reviewed literature. I’ve brought forward just two definitions of macroevolution from the literature and clearly both do not mean the same thing as microevolution. I’m currently taking graduate school classes and we are required to use peer-reviewed materials to make our points. Books are specifically forbidden unless they are a collection of papers. Yet somehow Duff et al got this sloppy writing and poor citation through peer review. We’ve written about the problems with peer review before and this is just another example. Macroevolution and microevolution are clearly not the same thing.
The level of irony is turned up a notch as Duff et al then proceed to refer to creationists as science deniers. Duff and his coauthors have to know this is not true. There is no possible way someone like MacMillan, who claims to have been a creationist, does not know that creationists have no problem with empirical science. While the trio does mention that creationists distinguish between empirical and historical science, they claim creationists do not use the term the way evolutionary biologists use it. Harvard professor Dr. Jonathan Losos would disagree. “But evolutionary biology is a historical science. Like astronomers and geologists, we evolutionary biologists try to figure out what happened in the past. And like historians, we are bedeviled by the asymmetry of time’s arrow-we can’t go back in time to see what happened.” (Losos, 2017). Further, Duff’s friends at BioLogos have written about historical science in a similar vein. This is exactly the sense in which creationists use the term. That fact compels me to accuse at least Duff and MacMillan of deliberately misrepresenting what creationists believe in order to advance the narrative. I don’t like doing that as Dr. Duff and I have always had very cordial conversations but I don’t see how he can attach his name to this paper and honestly claim to have read anything in creationist literature. Given that MacMillan was associated with the slanderous mocumentary We Believe in Dinosaurs very little he says will surprise me.
The trio then go into a lengthy discussion of the history of creationist thought which is somewhat accurate though with the usual spin from theistic evolutionists. The more interesting statements in this paper are those for which this article is titled: accusing creationists of believing in “hyper-evolution”. In other words, Duff et al basically claim that creationists believe in evolution, just an incredibly fast version of it that spits out new species very quickly. Yet, as Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson pointed out in Replacing Darwin, while the absolute number of species required does seem large, the number of species required per kind is small. For example, Jeanson points out that if all the mammal species that exist arose in the last 6000 years, that would require a rate of a mere 9 species per year (Jeanson, 2017).
Further, Duff et al’s objection to rapid speciation is specious when you look at the evolutionary literature. Pereyra et al (2009) proposed that a species of brown algae had formed in less than 4000 years, very fast by evolutionary timescales. Other papers document the belief that African cichlids have diversified into the hundreds of species that exist today in the last 5000 years (Kornfield, 1978), and that two species of flounders diverged in just 3,000 generations (Momiglianoa et al, 2017). Now obviously the timescales on these articles are probably off. It probably happened much faster than what is reported because these papers are largely based on time trees that have a multiplicity of flaws. Regardless, even the evolutionary literature has examples of speciation happening quickly on their own timescale and they are easy to find. Duff et al should have looked for them before claiming that creationists are simply accelerating evolution.
Duff et al then proceed to quote an article by Drs. Jeanson and Lisle (2016) that makes it appear that they admit that creationists cannot explain where the line is between kinds. “Hence, robust YEC explanations for the origin of a vast number of species must explain not only how genetic mechanisms produce so many phenotypes, but also how these processes did not transform one ‘kind’ into another.” Yet Duff et al are guilty of exactly what they accuse creationists of, quote mining. The quote is from the introduction of the paper. No data has been presented, no tests run. The introduction lays the groundwork for the data to come. This quote is so far out of context it that I can’t help but feel they just went fishing for a quote they could twist. Here is the full context. “As derived elsewhere (Jeanson 2013), the Flood narrative indicates that ‘kinds’ do not naturally transform into other ‘kinds,’ implying the existence of a natural biological barrier to inter-‘kind’ conversion. Hence, robust YEC explanations for the origin of a vast number of species must explain not only how genetic mechanisms produce so many phenotypes, but also how these processes did not transform one ‘kind’ into another.” Notice it does not say what Duff et al want it to say.
Further, Duff et al somehow missed the rest of the paper where Jeanson and Lisle work through a mountain of testable data that demonstrates that creation science has a much more accurate explanation than evolution. They also missed this quote from Jeanson and Lisle: “In summary, we anticipate that the vast majority of metazoan ‘kinds’—perhaps nearly all eukaryotic ‘kinds’—will eventually be shown to derive >90% of their intra-’kind’ genotypic diversity from the creation acts during the Creation Week. If this turns out to be true, then converting one ‘kind’ into another ‘kind’ would appear impossible apart from miraculous genetic intervention. Since Scripture records no such event, our model naturally explains why ‘kinds’ cannot be converted into other ‘kinds(emphasis added).” Several other quotes make similar statements. Clearly Jeanson and Lisle think that they have an answer (so do I by the way). Duff et al apparently could not be bothered to finish reading a paper they cited, or they are being deliberately malicious. Given MacMillan’s history, the latter option is not off the table. But hey, it pushes the narrative so twist away I guess.
They go on to cite several ideas on the fringe of creationism that supposedly support their idea that creationism is evolving towards evolution. Frankly, the fringe should never define any group, but Duff et al seem intent on either misrepresenting creation science or trying to promote fringe creationists to creationist mainstream to benefit evolutionists. They then proceed into advice for evolutionary educators. Unfortunately, the article is so riddled with misrepresentations of both the creationist position and the peer-reviewed literature, that it will cripple evolutionary educators, not enlighten them. Which perhaps is a good thing….maybe Duff et all should write some more articles and help creationists out more?
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Stevan J. Arnold, Michael E. Pfrender and Adam G. Jones, “The adaptive landscape as a conceptual bridge between micro and macroevolution” Genetica 112-113(2001) p, 9-32.
R. Joel Duff, Thomas R. Beatman, and David MacMillan, “Dissent with modifcation:
how postcreationism’s claim of hyperrapid speciation opposes yet embraces evolutionary theory.” Evolution Education Outreach 13, no. 9 (2020), https://evolution-outreach.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s12052-020-00124-w
Douglas H. Erwin “Macroevolution is more than repeated rounds of microevolution” Evolution & Development 2, no. 2 (2000), 78-84, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1046/j.1525-142x.2000.00045.x
I.L. Kornfield “Evidence for rapid speciation in African cichlid fishes” Experientia 15, no. 3 (1978) 335-336.
Paolo Momigliano, Henri Jokinen, Antoine Fraimout, Ann-Britt Florin, Alf Norkko, Juha Merilä, “Extraordinarily rapid speciation in a marine fish” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114, no. 23 (2017), 6074-6079, https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/114/23/6074.full.pdf
Ricardo T Pereyra, Lena Bergström, Lena Kautsky and Kerstin Johannesson, “Rapid speciation in a newly opened postglacial marine environment, the Baltic Sea.” BMC Evolutionary Biology 9 (2009) https://bmcevolbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2148-9-70
Jonathan Losos. Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and Future of Evolution. New York: Riverhead Books, 2017.
Nathaniel Jeanson and Jason Lisle “On the Origin of Eukaryotic Species’ Genotypic and Phenotypic Diversity” Answers Research Journal 9(2016) pg 81-122, https://assets.answersingenesis.org/doc/articles/pdf-versions/arj/v9/genetics-heterozygosity-molecular-clock.pdf