Author: Michael Cranford (mikec@sail.labs.tek.com) Title: Should Forrest Mims have been hi

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====================================================================== Author: Michael Cranford (mikec@sail.labs.tek.com) Title: Should Forrest Mims have been hired by Scientific American? ====================================================================== What follows are selected excerpts from an open letter by Forrest M. Mims III to Daniel Jimenez (this was written in May, 1991). I have not made any changes (not even spelling corrections) to the text. [ ... ] The reaction of various skeptics to all this has been quite interesting. One spent minutes trying to convince me that whales evolved from "cow-like creatures" (his words). Yet he could identify absolutely no fossils that demonstrate any such transition. (Yes, I am aware of the recent finds in Egypt; no they aren't cow-whales.) Living aside my views and questions, often skeptics are unable to give a straight answer to Charles Darwin's own doubts and questions about evolution expressed in "The Origin of Species." (Could that be because they have not read the book?) Sometimes they become rather disturbed when I remind them that Marx, Hitler and assorted white supremacists were great admirers of Darwin. Marx asked Darwin if he could dedicate his famous book to him, but Darwin wisely declined. Incidentally, Darwin was surrounded by servants and lived off inherited wealth and allowances his entire life he was an abolitionist (and argued against slavery with Captain Fitzroy while aboard the HMS Beagle), but he was very comfortable with the racist views of his class-conscious England. Among the very first entries in his diary on his arrival in Brazil aboard the Beagle is this passage: "This war of extirmination [sic], although arrived on with the most shocking barbarity, will certainly produce great benefits. It will at once throw open four or five hundred miles in length of fine country fo the produce of cattle...women who appear over twenty years are massacred in cold blood [because, he was told] they breed so." This certainly gives new meaning to he phrase "survival of the fittest." Want to find out more about Darwin? This quotation can be found in Charles Darwin, a new book by John Bowlby (W.W.Norton Company, New York, 544 pages with many photographs, drawings and maps, 1991). I recently reviewed this and another book about Darwin for The Philadelphia Inquirer. For some reason all but the last 14 words of this quote have been cut from my edition of Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle. So far most of the skeptics I've encountered have apparently been armchair scientists. They seem to be worried more about God than anything else. It's no wonder that some of them seem so threatened by and become so emotional over the evolution- creation debate, especially when I tell them I used to accept Darwinian evolution until I began studying fossils in museums as a young adult. To the best of my knowledge, I've yet to be questioned by a skeptic who has actually collected a fossil in the field; few have even bothered to read "The Origin of Species." [ ... ] They simply have no answer for questions like these: 1. From what did the insect evolve? (All fossil insects are clearly insects.) 2. From where did the wing evolve? (There is absolutely no fossil record of the supposed evolution of any form of wing.) 3. From what did the bat evolve? (The first fossil bats are quite clearly bats.) 4. How did the feather evolve? (There's no fossil evidence of any kind for feather evolution. Some poorly informed skeptics dredge up the silly idea about "frayed scales," not realizing that old canard was long ago rejected.) 5. From what did trilobites evolve--to say anything of all the other fantastic creatures in the Burgess shale and the even greater assortment found recently in southern China? (The Cambrian explosion is often termed the greatest riddle of "evolution.") 6. Why has evolutionary biology been companied by some of the most blatant cases of scientific fraud ever perpetrated and many of the most famous personality rifts in science? (This is personal--in the sixth grade I was taught that Piltdown man was a legitimate fossil and human ancestor. Later I learned that the fraud had been uncovered when I was much younger, but Piltdown man was still in the biology books and the teacher didn't know any better!) 7. Why are reconstructions of fossil hominids always black? (Tom Gray, co-discoverer of the Australopithecine anthropomorphized by the name "Lucy" once showed me some plaster casts of this famous fossil. They provided no clue whatsoever to the skin color of the creature which they once supported.) [ ... ] On the other hand, we find a very small group of rather insecure folk who seem threatened by someone who has written about and practiced science for more than two decades. Why? Because I don't believe they are cousins of butterflies and bumble bees. For the sin of failing to subscribe to their philosophy, they would deprive me of my living and censor my works--without ever having searched any of my books or articles! How they can pronounce judgement when they ow nothing about my work and then classify themselves as objective seekers of truth, which is what a scientist is supposed to be, is beyond me. Will they next censor the 49 Jewish physicians in New York who published a statement about their advocacy of creationism? Will they purge the textbooks of the writings of the hundred of famous scientists over the centuries who believed in a Creator God? In view of what has happened during past episodes of blacklisting and censorship over religious, political and scientific beliefs, these people must be taken very seriously. If they are not confronted and exposed as censors and blacklisters, their name calling, as history has clearly demonstrated, can eventually escalate into something much worse than simply losing a position. [ ... ] Note that Mims resorts to a number of standard creationist tactics in an effort to "prove" his point : 1. He wants a fossil of a "cow-whale" when evolution doesn't predict that one exists (straw man argument) while ignoring the overwhelming evidence that biological evolution has in fact occurred. 2. He suggests that doubts about evolution in "Origin of the Species" are applicable today (over a century of evidence in favor of evolution has been collected since Darwin's time). 3. He suggests that Darwin was a white supremacist (a strange statement from someone who was raised in the southern part of the U.S. (Texas). Also note that he objects to the black fossil hominid reconstructions! 4. He repeatedly suggests that skeptics haven't even read "Origin of the Species" yet he clearly misattributes a statement made by a sailor (that Darwin was quoting) to Darwin in an effort to smear Darwin as a racist. Creationists have become famous quite for misquoting. 5. He claims to have once accepted evolution until he studied fossils yet he seems unaware of the massive evidence in favor of evolution. Why are there are no paleontologists, who essentially "live and breathe fossils", who agree with him. 6. He fails to note that cases of scientific fraud in evolutionary biology were in fact discovered by evolutionary scientists and not creationists. 7. He complains about the poor quality of biology textbooks and teachers while ignoring the glaring fact that creationists in Texas and California have been the leaders in the systematic removal of evolutionary biology from pre-college science textbooks. 8. When did the scientific community decide that science should be defined by 49 Jewish physicians? How many physicians, of any ethnic or religious group, would it take to "prove" that the earth is flat and located at the center of the universe and should science be a slave to this "proof"? 9. He tries to rewrite history by suggesting that members of the scientific community are engaged in censoring ideas and textbooks like past events but fails to note which groups of people were (and are now) engaged in these activities (see number 7 above). Etc, etc. (The rest is left as an exercise for the student). P.S. The "name" of the Australopithecine (Lucy) actually came from the Beatles song. Martin Gardner (a theist who accepts evolution) has stated that Mims is "guilty of the sin of willful ignorance".

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