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Deception by Omission

Jorge A. Fernandez
© 2002 by Jorge A. Fernandez.  All Rights Reserved. 


he Talk.Origins (TO) website (http://www.Talk.Origins.org) is promoted, among other things, as an educational site, a place for obtaining information on evolution and answers to the numerous criticisms to this theory.  Although TO states that it is a “forum for discussion”—presumably unbiased—much evidence testifies to the contrary.  I’ve been observing the TO site from the sidelines for quite some time and have until now restrained myself from responding to the materialistic worldview that this organization pushes on the unsuspecting.  It is particularly distressing to me to read the feedback letters from young people and watching those impressionable minds being manipulated through TO indoctrination. 

To be fair, and to emphasize that this is not a witch-hunt, I must say that some of the volunteers at TO undoubtedly have good intentions and are sincere in their efforts.  However, in this particular arena good intentions and sincerity are not enough (I’ll return to this point at the end of the article).  The full, unbiased disclosure of truth is what is essential here and TO doesn’t even come close to providing it.  In any event, this article is my first, albeit brief, critique of the Talk.Origins site and I herein intend to expose some of what TO doesn’t tell its readers.

I should begin by saying that almost immediately after deciding to write these words I was overcome with a sense of awe at the magnitude of the task—let me explain:

Talk.Origins is very hard to target—a fact that may be so by design.  For example, if a person disagrees with TO on the ‘fact of evolution’, these people will employ a definition of evolution [“Biological evolution is a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time”] that makes it impossible to disagree and, if one does argue, then that person comes across as being uninformed or irrational or fanatical.  This might be acceptable if only it remained right there. 

But it doesn’t!  That statement about evolution (which happens to be accurate, i.e., genetic characteristics of populations do vary over time) is subsequently modified / extended throughout TO’s many articles and feedback responses so that not only is the person to accept the (empirically corroborated) fact of change, but also that this change is the sole causing agent for the diversity and complexity within an organism (internal organs, cellular structures, etc.) as well as outside of the organism including Earth’s entire flora and fauna.  The metaphysical extrapolation of the data that is required to accomplish this feat is somehow missed by TO—either by ignorance or by design.  What’s more, if we are to remain exclusively within the natural (material) realm then the term ‘evolution’ must somehow be further extended to include life from non-life, i.e., the emergence of life itself must also be accounted for by the ever-stretching definition of evolution.

There’s more.  The origin of the basic materials that make up all objects (living or not) must also somehow be accounted for so yet other forms of evolution enter the scene—chemical, stellar and planetary.  In fact, the universe itself must also be accounted for by evolution.  Thus, whether they hypothesize a Big Bang, a quantum fluctuation, aliens from another dimension or some other natural explanation, the universe began and has ‘evolved’ to what it is today.

Few would argue with the notion that ‘things change.’  But to take the step from ‘things change’ to ‘and therefore, that’s how it all got here’ is a leap of blind, irrational faith that would send even the most fanatical snake worshipper reeling.

The bottom line to all this is that the fundamental concept of evolution is clearly a manifestation of a metaphysical—not a scientific—worldview and, just as with any other religion, the facts must continually be interpreted and adjusted to fit with this belief.

Essentially then, TO is a propaganda machine for philosophical naturalism using the more acceptable and palatable cover of methodological naturalism.  Evolution theory is nothing but the scientific operational model to support this metaphysical position.

TO attempts to cover this point by stating that in their group they also have Christian and other religious evolutionists—people that believe in God, believe in a creation by a deity, but also believe in evolution (i.e., middle-grounders).  TO employs this strategy to give its visitors a sense of universal appeal, i.e. that anyone, regardless of their beliefs, may subscribe to evolution.  But again, exactly what evolution are they referring to?  The one that says “things change” (this is science), or the one that says “that’s how everything came to be” (this transcends science and is philosophical naturalism—a metaphysical position)?  TO uses the two interchangeably.

Yet, anyone who knows the score realizes that middle-grounders are at best marginally tolerated by ‘pure-blood’ naturalists—as these say, “the hypothesis of God is unnecessary!” Why, then, do the pure-bloods tolerate these naturalistic ‘misfits’?  There are probably many answers to this question but two are worth briefly mentioning: ‘divide and conquer’ and ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’  Thus, naturalists welcome whatever sows dissension among creationists and, therefore, anyone disagreeing with the fundamentalist Christian position in any way while accepting any part of the evolutionary doctrine is embraced by them (at least for now).

The focus of this article is on those deceptions invoked by the TO writers, which are mostly achieved by omissions, as is demonstrated in the illustrations below.  It is often what the people at TO do not say that makes TO a propaganda/indoctrination site as opposed to an educational site.

The Talk.Origins FAQ page (http://www.Talk.Origins.org/origins/faqs-qa.html) gives readers a shortened version of TO’s position.  On February 13, 2002 this site had 24 questions, with brief answers and links to “relevant files.”  My responses (R) to selected entries (Qs & As) taken verbatim from the TO FAQ page, reveal how the TO writers have selectively omitted essential facts in their efforts in order to lend credibility to the TO perspective:


Q:“I thought evolution was just a theory.  Why do you call it a fact?”
A:“Biological evolution is a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time.  That this happens is a fact.  Biological evolution also refers to the common descent of living organisms from shared ancestors.  The evidence for historical evolution—genetic, fossil, anatomical, etc.—is so overwhelming that it is also considered a fact.  The theory of evolution describes the mechanisms that cause evolution.  So evolution is both a fact and a theory.”
R:Clearly there would not be a creation-evolution controversy if it were universally agreed and adhered to that evolution meant solely “a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time.”  There is a creation-evolution controversy (a major one at that) precisely because evolution means far more than what TO leads its readers to believe here.  The controversy exists because evolution—the full-fledged manifestation of evolution (including Neo-Darwinian macro-evolution)—is for many a metaphysical belief that elevates the philosophy of materialistic naturalism (hailing purely natural laws and processes, including time and chance, as our “creators”), and dismissing God (a Creator with purpose) as an irrelevant product of superstition. 

After all, why is it that so many people are offended by the theory of evolution to the point of fiercely opposing it?  Why is it that emotions run so high and intellectual battles persist?  Because of ignorance?  Hardly!  Although there will always be uninformed people on both sides of any dispute, a great many well-educated people in science, mathematics and other disciplines are among those who disagree adamantly with the precepts of evolution.  Evolution is offensive because it is bad science and is as equally bad a metaphysic—in short, on close examination, evolution fails on all counts.  There is a controversy precisely because of clashing metaphysics—the same type of conflict that exists when Christian theology comes face-to-face with Islam, Buddhism, or even atheism, to name just a few popular counter-Christian belief systems.

Despite all of this, TO promotes the view that the creation-evolution controversy is a war of ‘religion versus science’—‘emotion versus reason.’  This view is held mostly out of ignorance, but there are undoubtedly those within the TO organization that understand the matter well enough to know better.  However, TO does very little to educate its audience on the philosophical foundation of its position.  This is deception by omission.


Q:“Don’t you have to be an atheist to accept evolution?”
A:“No.  Many people of Christian and other faiths accept evolution as the scientific explanation for biodiversity.”
R: Two points here.  First, TO wants to assure its visitors that “Christian and other faiths” are compatible with evolution.  I would again say that all beliefs are compatible with evolution as long as evolution is confined to speaking about (observed) biological change.  But as we all know (or should know), this is not the way that it is. 

Evolution, as a manifestation of methodological naturalism (the operational version of philosophical naturalism), makes countless assertions into metaphysical areas with cosmological and biological origins representing just a few of these.  TO makes no attempt to make known this subtle yet all-important aspect of what ‘accepting evolution’ comprehensively means.  TO lures ‘people of all faiths’ into their camp with assurances of compatibility.  Deception by omission.

The second point concerns the latter half of their answer: “...evolution as the scientific explanation for biodiversity.”  Such a statement suggests the necessity of concessions, compromises, and ‘special’ interpretations of the Bible in order to satisfy the (naturalistic) theory of evolution as the explanation for biodiversity.  After all, not doing so entails opposing the formidable and authoritative pronouncements of the “scientific establishment”—and who wants to do that?  [Besides, exactly how would the average person go about challenging this “scientific establishment”?]

I ask, whatever happened to the answer that, “Biodiversity is part of God’s creation”?  Specifically, if a person believes in God as the Creator of everything then this ‘everything’ includes the biodiversity that we observe.  Of course, maybe in this arena ‘everything’ does not mean everything?  Nowhere does the Bible even hint that a gelatinous substance was formed and that from this goo there emerged ‘simple life’ that diversified—over eons—into zebras, humans, and the rest of the biological community. 

Quite to the contrary, concerning man’s origin, the Bible very clearly states that ‘from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female’ (Genesis 1:27; Mark 10:6).  It bears pointing out that this foundational event in the biblical record defies any kind of evolutionary ‘interpretation’ that doesn’t compromise either evolutionary dogma, the credibility of the biblical record, or both.  The Bible contains numerous other assertions that cannot be reasonably answered under the paradigm of evolution unless the Bible receives ‘special’ interpretation—the kind that denigrates the historical validity of the biblical record in order to accommodate popular contemporary beliefs.  This then is the bottom line:  the Bible has to be distorted in order to accommodate the edicts of evolution.  TO never mentions any of this, preferring instead to shamelessly assert that evolution and Christianity are somehow ‘compatible.’

Besides, “...evolution as the scientific explanation for biodiversity” is nothing more than a tautology in the sense that it is the “scientific community” that dictates what is admissible and what is not.  Is it any surprise that this same community embraces philosophical/methodological naturalism and frowns heavily upon anything that even remotely suggests anything other than material causes? 

I can think of no better illustration of this than the case of intelligent design theory (ID).  Leaving out numerous details, ID is having a difficult time being accepted into the scientific establishment as a bona fide scientific theory simply because it has metaphysical—in fact theistic—implications.  After all, if the logical conclusion is that specified and complex design is present, then a designer is the only available option and the big ‘G’ immediately enters the realm of possibilities.  Naturalists were quick to pick up on this rather obvious and, to them, highly unpalatable conclusion and as a result ID is being treated by many as if it were advocating the practice of human sacrifices.

The fact of the matter is that ID is as robust a scientific theory as one should reasonably expect, having all of the components—foundation, logical/mathematical formulation, explanatory/predictive power, etc.—that other widely accepted scientific theories have.  For more details on this I recommend two sources:  The Design Inference, Cambridge University Press, 1998 by William Dembski and Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology, InterVarsity Press, 1999 also by William Dembski. 

To summarize this point, ID is not being scorned because it is bad science or illogical, but because it crosses the line that separates one metaphysical worldview from another.  The “people in charge”, i.e., the naturalistic scientific establishment, are unwilling to allow that to happen—naturalism must be protected at all costs, from their point of view.  Why doesn’t TO mention or elaborate on any of this to its readers?  Deception by omission.


Q:“Isn’t evolution just an unfalsifiable tautology?”
A:“No.  Evolutionary theory is in exactly the same condition as any other valid scientific theory, and many criticisms of it that rely on philosophy are misguided.”
R: Evolution is largely an operational manifestation of a philosophically naturalistic foundation—to deny this is to be either uninformed or deceiving.  There simply cannot be an area of scientific inquiry without some philosophical foundation for the obvious fact that science is conducted exclusively by humans (no aliens, please!) and all humans—whether they acknowledge it or not—subscribe to some philosophy regarding their internal being (consciousness) and their external world (the universe).  For TO to state that philosophical criticisms are misguided is an act of willful ignorance at best and unmitigated deceit at worst.

As far as the ability to ‘falsify’ evolution consider the following:

  1. Nobel laureate Dr. Francis Crick promotes ‘directed panspermia’ (i.e., ‘DNA originated somewhere ‘out in space’ and somehow made its way to Earth’), apparently having recognized the odds against a natural earthly cause for DNA.[1]
  2. Richard Dawkins (The Blind Watchmaker, W. W. Norton, New York, 1986) assumes the number (1020 by his accounting) of theoretically possible planets that may exist in the universe in order to provide sufficient opportunities for the highly improbable event of life to occur naturally (i.e., without intelligent direction).
  3. Barrow and Tipler (The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Oxford University Press, 1986) go far beyond Dawkins in that they invoke entire universes (theoretical, of course) as the potential arenas for (natural) life to emerge.
  4. Kauffman (The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution, Oxford, 1993) takes a different route than Dawkins, Barrow and Tipler.  Kauffman brings into the panorama a hypothetical set of laws by which life may emerge here on Earth solely through (only) natural process.

Now, some may choose to argue that these distinguished gentlemen are simply doing ‘science’—proposing theories to explain observations, among other things.  However...

The term to remember here was ‘falsifiable’—and, to take just one example, we might ask ourselves how one goes about falsifying an infinite number of universes.

Here’s the point to all of this:

If we are allowed to propose essentially anything (aliens, parallel universes, 1020 planets, extra dimensions, time travel, etc., etc.) in order to uphold our theory then how will it ever be possible for that theory to be truly falsifiable?  As clever and imaginative as we humans are, wouldn’t we be able to—don’t we—contrive just about anything that would allow us to retain the position or theory that we cherish? 

Well, not always.  All human cleverness and imagination could not save the phlogiston theory, the notion of blood humors, the geocentric model, and many other now defunct ideas.  There is, however, one major difference where evolution is concerned—a difference that makes evolution impervious to that which toppled these aforementioned and now extinct ideas.  That difference is the intimate and critical connection between evolution and philosophical naturalism—a metaphysical (i.e., religious) connection. 

As the universally recognized and accepted authority on what is admissible as ‘scientifically valid’, the scientific establishment (anchored in naturalism) has constructed the rules so that evolution is the de facto answer.  This matter may be expanded in many directions so I’ll end on this note:  eliminate evolution and what are the remaining options?  Naturalists know well that to eliminate evolution is to eliminate the single possibility for a natural explanation of the origin of life and of biodiversity.  Therefore, evolution must be sustained even if this requires hypothesizing the preposterous or the unfalsifiable.  The only other alternative, the supernatural, is simply not admissible.

One further example of this, not listed above, of how the establishment is committed to defending its position at all costs is the case regarding transitional fossils.  The transitional fossil evidence is highly suspect and a great deal of controversy exists within and outside of scientific circles—certainly not what the evolution advocates (particularly Darwin himself) ever expected.

So what do the evolution advocates do?  Is the validity of the theory even questioned?  Never!  Instead, ingenious mechanisms such as Goldschmidt’s ‘hopeful monsters’, the ‘emication’ idea of the Swedish botanist and geneticist Nils Heribert-Nilsson and the more palatable ‘punctuated equilibria’ of Gould and Eldredge were proposed—whatever it takes to lend credibility to a theory weakened by the empirical data.  There is a fine line between scientific ‘ingenious mechanisms’ and metaphysical ‘sorcerer concoctions’ and it is a historical fact that even reputable men of science have crossed this line many times in order to support a paradigm.  So once again I must point out that if naturalists essentially have a carte blanche in what they may propose to uphold their pet theory, in this case evolution, then it will be extremely difficult if not impossible for someone to falsify their position.  Why doesn’t TO expound on this fact?  Deception by omission.


Q:“No one has ever directly observed evolution happening, so how do you know it’s true?”
A:“Evolution has been observed, both directly and indirectly.  It is true.”
R:Need I repeat it?  Yes, if evolution is confined to saying that, “biological evolution is a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time” then TO’s conclusion of “it is true” is an accurate statement.  However, it’s what TO doesn’t say that makes their answer deceiving, and this continuous deception makes TO an indoctrination site for advancing philosophical naturalism—buyers beware! 

For the record, every informed creationist that I know of accepts changes, mutations, adaptations and even speciation—there is no dispute here.  The real dispute is in the naturalists’ extrapolation from (observable) genetic ‘change’ to (unobservable) Neo-Darwinian macro-evolution to (unobservable) ‘cause for being’.  Such an extension is no longer science, it is a metaphysical transfiguration.  TO does not inform its readers of this, since to do so weakens the case for their apparent true objective:  Deception by omission.


Q:“Then why has no one ever seen a new species occur?”
A:“Speciation has been observed, both in the laboratory and in nature.”
R: This is absolutely true [speciation as science defines it has been observed] but, as I have stated already, there is no dispute here.  However, TO does not get to the core of the matter and leads its readers to the notion that the origins controversy is one of science versus religion—that creationists deny the fact of speciation and are thus “ignorant”.  Why don’t they mention the critical point, namely that creationists do accept speciation—but the dispute is about the causing agent of speciation, biodiversity and, ultimately, biological origins?  Why do they make false accusations against creationists, instead of facing the empirical roadblock to the arbitrary extrapolation of Neo-Darwinian macro-evolution from the variations observed in speciation?  Deception by omission.


Q:“Doesn’t evolution violate the second law of thermodynamics?  After all, order cannot come from disorder.”
A:“Evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics.  Order emerges from disorder all the time.  Snowflakes form, trees grow, and embryos develop, etc.”
R: TO is here propagating one of the most odious of all myths in the creation-evolution controversy, this being that the creationist argument involving the second law of thermodynamics is either invalid or has been amply refuted.  This is simply not true.

The essential information that TO is either ignorant of (or is concealing from its readers) is that when snowflakes form they do so according to thermodynamic principles that produce patterns (i.e., symmetric crystalline structures) that are far from the asymmetric, far more complex structures required for life.  What’s more, symmetric structures occur naturally because thermodynamic equilibrium is a natural state.  On the other hand, life—any life—is actually a departure from thermodynamic equilibrium; a significant departure that requires large amounts of directed energy to be sustained, according to requirements defined in advance by every organism’s genetic code.

Similarly, the example of “trees grow and embryos develop” is again an oversimplification based on either ignorance on the part of TO, or a willful concealing of the whole truth from their readers.  The point is not that organisms grow but how they are able to grow.  The typical, shortsighted response is that “they are receiving energy from the sun—it is an open system and this energy provides the fuel for growth”.  Recently, Harvard’s own Ernst Mayr served up precisely this “open system” explanation in his latest book, What Evolution Is [Basic Books, 2001, page 8].  True, energy is being supplied but the main point is being missed (intentionally?).

Let’s take a blow torch to a tree or an embryo, thereby supplying it with plenty of energy, and then let’s stand back and watch them grow.  Of course, what’ll happen is they will be incinerated!  Energy is not the key; energy reception, utilization and storage is the key.  In other words, there must be a highly sophisticated and fully functional energy management system—a system that enables input, conversion, storage and output—if a tree is to grow or an embryo is to develop.  This is the crux of the creationist argument involving the second law of thermodynamics and not some easily discarded strawman.  Why doesn’t TO present the real issue and respond to it?  Deception by omission.


Q:“The odds against a simple cell coming into being without divine intervention are staggering.”
A:“And irrelevant.  Scientists don’t claim that cells came into being through random processes.  They are thought to have evolved from primitive precursors.”
R:Let’s just focus on the ending words of their answer, “...from primitive precursors”.  Evolution advocates have always believed that it was possible for nature to begin with “simple, primitive life” and evolve over eons towards ever-increasing complexity.  This is, after all, a major postulate of evolution.  There’s just one problem with this hypothesis and it’s a whopper of a problem!

As science and technology advance, what we are finding is that the notion of “simple, primitive life” is receding at an ever-quickening pace.  It is now clear that the idea of a ‘simple gelatinous goo’ actually necessitates a level of complexity that cannot be explained naturally even letting the imagination run rampant.  Likewise, the ‘simple’ cell has been found to be anything but ‘simple’.  In fact, the cell is now understood to be of a complexity that eludes all scientific attempts to quantify it and the more we study it the more complexities are being unveiled. 

These are just a few of the reasons why those that want to uphold evolution while retaining naturalism (their metaphysical position) have come up with aliens or with hypothetical natural mechanisms of self-organization or with other contrivances—it’s the only way to explain these vast directed complexities while keeping the big ‘G’ out! 

Thus, when TO uses the words “...from primitive precursors,” why don’t they mention to their readers the fact that the concept of a primitive organism is a philosophical ideal for which there is not a single shred of empirical scientific evidence?  Why don’t they mention that current scientific evidence leads to but one reasonable conclusion, namely, that the simplest conceivable organism must be anything but simple or primitive if it is to be capable of carrying out any of life’s functions.  Is TO ignorant of these facts?  I don’t believe they are.  Deception by omission.


At the beginning of this article I had stated that “the full, unbiased disclosure of truth is what is essential here and TO is not even close to providing this”.  Aside from the obvious fact that complete, unbiased information is always better than partial or distorted information, it is infinitely more so in this arena than in any other.  Why?

Well, it’s because of the stakes.  Clearly the majority of TO supporters belong to the atheist/agnostic/naturalist camp.  Hence, to them there is no afterlife (certainly not one in the Christian sense) nor is there a personal God; a judgment by Jesus Christ; accountability to a Creator; heaven or hell.  This belief is their choice and no one is denying their right to this choice.  However...

To those that visit the TO site in search of answers—people that may be undecided and seeking unbiased information—to these people TO owes the courtesy of behaving in an informative capacity and not as an indoctrination site. 

But it goes far beyond being just courteous or professional.  It is morally irresponsible to misguide people through omission into any position that has eternal consequences—yes, eternal consequences.  That last statement may sound religiously biased but is actually a logical result since, regardless of who is right or wrong in this matter, the ultimate end is of eternal consequences (whether an eternity in the grave, or an eternity in heaven or hell).

This, then, is my strongest criticism of TO.  If TO is going to educate, then educate they should!  To educate means to present all sides in truth and completeness and accuracy.  Education is the antithesis of indoctrination.  In this article I have presented but a small sample of the many cases where TO is guilty of being nowhere near complete, accurate or truthful.  In some cases this may have been through their ignorance, and in other cases through deliberate intent—I’ll not pretend to know which of the two is the case.

One thing is clear, if intellectual integrity and ethics mean anything to the TO staff, then after this article I would expect to see one of two things—ideally it would be both:

  1. A clearly stated disclaimer at their website indicating that their goal is about promoting the theory of evolution—to the point of demanding ‘special’ interpretations of the Bible—and, more generally, about promoting a naturalistic, materialistic view of the universe (a la Carl Sagan).
  2. A truthful, accurate and complete presentation of views other than evolution or naturalism (e.g., intelligent design theory) alongside their own preferred views.  If they are unclear as to what these other views are, then they should conduct a serious, scholarly inquiry and not simply post some incomplete or distorted version of what they believe the other side has to say on the matter.

I cannot see how Talk.Origins will be able to acquire a status of objectivity and truthfulness without adding at least one of these attributes to their site.  As it stands, Talk.Origins is an affront to the ideal of intellectual integrity, scholarly pursuit and moral responsibility. 

Jorge Fernandez
March, 2002


[1] Crick, Francis, Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981) 192 pp.

pp. 51-52:
If a particular amino acid sequence was selected by chance, how rare an event would this be?
This is an easy exercise in combinatorials.  Suppose the chain is about two hundred amino acids long; this is, if anything rather less than the average length of proteins of all types.  Since we have just twenty possibilities at each place, the number of possibilities is twenty multiplied by itself some two hundred times.  This is conveniently written 20200 and is approximately equal to 10260, that is, a one followed by 260 zeros.
Moreover, we have only considered a polypeptide chain of rather modest length.  Had we considered longer ones as well, the figure would have been even more immense.  The great majority of sequences can never have been synthesized at all, at any time.  [emphasis added]

p. 88:
An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.  ...The plain fact is that the time available was too long, the many microenvironments on the earth’s surface too diverse, the various chemical possibilities too numerous and our own knowledge and imagination too feeble to allow us to be able to unravel exactly how it might or might not have happened such a long time ago, especially as we have no experimental evidence from that era to check our ideas against.  [emphasis added]

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