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Quotations about Evolution

Last updated Aug 3, 2001

Update (May 24, 2000):

I've exchanged e-mail with Steve Rudd, webmaster at http://www.bible.ca/ and Don Patton about this page.

You can read my side of the thread here.

This is a collection of quotations from Don Patton on the subject of evolution. The original collection of quotations can be found at http://www.bible.ca/dp-index-quote.htm. This document lists the same quotations, but includes the surrounding context (usually just the paragraph in which Patton's quotation occurs).

I do not know when this collection was assembled, but it appears to be around 1994, judging by the date of the most recent source.

Bold text represents the part of the passage quoted by Don Patton (my apologies to Lynx users, who may see both bold and italic text as underlined. I have not been able to find a satisfactory way of distinguishing between italicized and quoted text). Text in [brackets] represents my editorial annotation. Where an ellipsis ([...])appears at the end of a paragraph, it means that the paragraph continues in the original text; and an ellipsis at the beginning of a paragraph means that I have omitted the original beginning. Centered headers, below, are his categories; the rest are mine.

All typos, except where indicated, are mine.

Table of Contents (the Good Parts Version)

Age of the Earth

Nothing obviously wrong with this quotation:

Limestones of Inorganic Origin. Calcium carbonate may be precipitated from sea water by inorganic chemical processes. Changes in atmospheric partial pressures of carbon dioxide produce corresponding changes in carbon dioxide solubility. Because of these relations, there is a direct connection between atmospheric carbon dioxide and the amount of dissolved calcium ion in sea water. [Patton introduces an ellipsis, apparently solely to mark the beginning of a new paragraph.]

If the carbon dioxide dissolved in sea water decreases, some bicarbonate ions change to carbonate, thereby causing precipitation of calcium carbonate. The precipitate forms a fine, crystalline cloud which settles to the bottom.

— W. C. Krumbein and L. L. Sloss, Stratigraphy and Sedimentation (W. H. Freeman, 1963), p. 223.

Andrew MacRae, well-known to talk.origins readers, had this to say about this quotation:

[T]his quote only demonstrates that, sometimes, under the right conditions, limestones can form by inorganic processes. One look at the rest of any texbook on sedimentology, and you will realize that most limestonare not inorganic anyway. Most are biogenic, and consist primarily of microscopic or macroscopic shells (or at least these make up a considerable fraction, and often almost all, of the rock volume). This is true of limestone production today too, most of which is in association with biological activity. The need for enough biological activity to produce the many cubic kilometres of biogenic limestone observed in the rock record is a fundamental problem with "young Earth global flood" claims. Therefore, Patton must dispute it. He seems satisfied to say inorganic limestones exist, while ignoring their relative rarity or the fact that most limestones in the geologic record simply did not form this way. You can probably find a quote in the same book that points this out.

-- Andrew MacRae, Usenet discussion


Patton mentions various ``indicators of young earth,'' listed in William D. Stansfield, The Science of Evolution. These are all discussed in more detail in the section, Descriptions of a Young Earth.

The Fossil Record

The chapter from which this quotation is taken deals with the ``controversy'' between gradualism and punctuated equilibrium. Dawkins's point is that the argument is trivial, compared to the amount of media furor it has raised.

Before we come to the sort of sudden bursts that they [Eldredge and Gould] had in mind, there are some conceivable meanings of `sudden bursts' that they most definitely did not have in mind. These must be cleared out of the way because they have been the subject of serious misunderstandings. Eldredge and Gould certainly would agree that some very important gaps really are due to imperfections in the fossil record. Very big gaps, too. For example the Cambrian strata of rocks, vintage about 600 million years, are the oldest ones in which we find most of the major invertebrate groups. And we find many of them already in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say, this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists. Evolutionists of all stripes believe, however, that this really does represent a very large gap in the fossil record, a gap that is simply due to the fact that, for some reason, very few fossils have lasted from periods before about 600 million years ago. One good reason might be that many of these animals had only soft parts to their bodies: no shells or bones to fossilize. If you are a creationist you may think that this is special pleading. My point here is that, when we are talking about gaps of this magnitude, there is no difference whatever in the interpretations of `punctuationists' and `gradualists'. Both schools of thought despise so-called scientific creationists equally, and both agree that the major gaps are real, that they are true imperfections in the fossil record. Both schools of thought agree that the only alternative explanation of the sudden appearance of so many complex animal types in the Cambrian era is divine creation, and both would reject this alternative.

— Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1986, pp. 229-230


No problem with this next quotation, except for its misattribution:

Until recently, vertebrates have been known from rocks no older than the Middle Ordovician (about 450 million years ago) (1, 2). In 1976 and 1977 the known range of the vertebrates was extended back about 20 million years by discoveries of fish fossils in rocks of latest Early Ordovician and earliest Middle Ordovician age in Spitzbergen (3, 4) and Australia (5). This report of fish material from Upper Cambrian rocks further extends the record of the vertebrates by approximately another 40 million years.

— John E. Repetski, ``A Fish from the Upper Cambrian of North America,'' Science, Vol. 200, p. 529, 1978 [attributed by Patton to Daniel I. Axelrod, UCLA].


In this quotation from Darwin, Patton ignores Darwin's answer, thus giving the impression that he has none. I imagine the ellipsis sets some kind of record:

But, as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth? It will be much more convenient to discuss this question in the chapter on the Imperfection of the geological record; and I will here only state that I believe the answer mainly lies in the record being incomparably less perfect than is generally supposed; the imperfection of the record being chiefly due to organic beings not inhabiting profound depths of the sea, and to their remains being embedded and preserved to a future age only in masses of sediment sufficiently thick and extensive to withstand an enormous amount of future degradation; and such fossiliferous masses can be accumulated only where much sediment is deposited on the shallow bed of the sea, whilst it slowly subsides. These contingencies will concur only rarely, and after enormously long intervals. Whilst the bed of the sea is stationary or is rising, or when very little sediment is being deposited, there will be blanks in our geological history. The crust of the earth is a vast museum; but the natural collections have been made only at intervals of time immensely remote.

At this point, Patton's ellipsis skips from Chapter 6 to the beginning of Chapter 9.

In the sixth chapter I enumerated the chief objections which might be justly urged against the views maintained in this volume. Most of them have now been discussed. One, namely the distinctness of specific forms, and their not being blended together by innumerable transitional links, is a very obvious difficulty. I assigned reasons why such links do not commonly occur at the present day, under the circumstances apparently most favourable for their presence, namely on an extensive and continuous area with graduated physical conditions. I endeavoured to show, that the life of each species depends in a more important manner on the presence of other already defined organic forms, than on climate; and, therefore, that the really governing conditions of life do not graduate away quite insensibly like heat or moisture. I endeavoured, also, to show that intermediate varieties, from existing in lesser numbers than the forms which they connect, will generally be beaten out and exterminated during the course of further modification and improvement. The main cause, however, of innumerable intermediate links not now occurring everywhere throughout nature depends on the very process of natural selection, through which new varieties continually take the places of and exterminate their parent-forms. But just in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.

-- Charles Darwin, ``The Origin of the Species,'' 1859, chapters 6 and 9.

Nowadays, our view of the fossil record is much more complete than in Darwin's day, and the innumerable transitional forms that he speaks of above are still not found in such profusion as he expected (see the next quotation). This is indeed one major flaw of his theory, as originally proposed.

Since then, various adjustments to the theory have been proposed, to account for the sudden appearance, stasis, and disappearance of species in the fossil record. The most successful of these, I believe, is Eldredge's and Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium, which is referred to in some of the other quotations in this document.


The main problem here is that Patton omits Darwin's prediction: that there would be many finely graduated intermediates. This is not what current theories predict.

That individual kinds of fossils remain recognizably the same throughout the length of their occurrence in the fossil record had been known to paleontologists long before Darwin published his Origin. Darwin himself, troubled by the stubbornness of the fossil record in refusing to yield abundant examples of gradual change, devoted two chapters to the fossil record. To preserve his argument he was forced to assert that the fossil record was too incomplete, too full of gaps, to produce the expected patterns of change. He prophesied that future generations of paleontologists would fill in these gaps by diligent search and then his major thesis--that evolutionary change is gradual and progressive--would be vindicated. One hundred and twenty years of paleontological research later, it has become abundantly clear that the fossil record will not confirm this part of Darwin's predictions. Nor is the problem a miserably poor record. The fossil record simply shows that this prediction was wrong.

— Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall, The Myths of Human Evolution (Columbia University Press, 1982), pp. 47-48.


The next quotation is from a review of Steven M. Stanley's book, Macroevolution. Pattern and Process (Freeman, 1979). Again, Patton attempts to construe the lack of smoothly-graduated transitionals as a problem for evolution, whereas this is just what is predicted by modern evolutionary theories.

Stanley's contributions to biology include the development of techniques for the estimation of rates of evolution in the fossil record at the level of the species. This volume contains the results of his analyses, a wealth of well-illustrated data on rates of speciation, extinction, and the diversification of higher taxonomic categories. He discerns a scala naturae in the average duration of species in different groups: mammals, amonites and trilobites, 1 to 2 million years; echinoderms, 5 million years; marine mollusks, 10 to 15 million years; and planktonic forams, 25 million years. In marked contrast to the relative longevity of species is the speed with which adaptive radiations occur; the diversification of the angiosperms (Darwin's ``abominable mystery'') in 10 million years, 20 orders of mammals in 12 million years, and 20 families of ammonites in 8 million years. This inconsistency has created a major problem for evolutionary biologists. Darwin and most subsequent authors including G. G. Simpson have held that most evolutionary transitions occur within established lineages by phyletic gradualism guided by natural selection. But fossil species remain unchanged throughout most of their history and the record fails to contain a single example of a significant transition. [Bear in mind that this comes from a ten-year-old source.] Similarly, it is difficult to account for the greatly accelerated pace of evolution during periods of adaptive radiation. An alternative model of evolution, that of punctuated equilibria, introduced by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould in the early 1970's, more fully accounts for these same observations. According to this major conceptual breakthrough, rapid evolution is typically associated with speciation events that occur cryptically in small isolated populations, often at the edge of a species's geographic range. (This model does not require macromutations of the type that characterized earlier punctuational schemes.) It satisfactorily accounts for why the transitions for[sic] one species to another are not seen in the fossil record, why gaps are biologically meaningful, and why there are so few unbroken sequences of chronospecies known. Stanley follows Eldredge and Gould in recognizing that phyletic gradualism is too slow to account for the diversity of life, and his view of macroevolution is in the punctuational mode.

— David S. Woodruff, ``Evolution: The Paleobiological View,'' Science, Vol. 208, p. 716

In short, Stanley is saying that the fossil record does not show any examples of one species transforming over a long period of time. He is not questioning evolution, he is merely talking about the way it proceeds.

Creation Science?

This next quotation comes from an article that is philosophical in nature, rather than a hard collection of facts. The first paragraph is mostly irrelevant, but is included to give the flavor of the article.

My main objection to this quotation is that Patton tries to muddy the distinction between the biological theory of evolution, and all other meanings of the word `evolution.'

An evolutionist need not be a Pangloss of a Pollyanna; he may recognize that the absurd is widespread. Evolution is not predestined to promote always the good and the beautiful. Nevertheless, evolution is a process which has produced life from non-life, which has brought forth man from an animal, and which may conceivably continue doing remarkable things in the future. In giving rise to man, the evolutionary process has, apparently for the first and only time in the history of the Cosmos, become conscious of itself. This opens at least a possibility that evolution may some day be directed by man, and that the prevalence of the absurd may be cut down.

Evolution comprises all the stages of the development of the universe: the cosmic, biological, and human or cultural developments. Attempts to restrict the concept of evolution to biology are gratuitous. Life is a product of the evolution of inorganic nature, and man is a product of the evolution of life. In a sense, the discovery of evolution reinstates man in the station from which he was demoted by Copernicus: man is again the center of the stage--at least of the planetary, and quite possibly of the cosmic one. Most important of all, the stage and the actor not only have evolved but are evolving.

— Theodosius Dobzhansky, ``Changing Man,'' Science, Vol. 155, No. 3761, p. 409, 1967


Again, Patton ignores inconvenient explanations:

At the outset we should realize that the great majority of biologists accept as demonstrated the fact that organisms have evolved. To be sure, no biologist has actually seen the origin by evolution of a major group of organisms. Nevertheless, races and species have been produced by duplicating in the laboratory and garden some of the evolutionary processes known to take place in nature. The reason that major steps in evolution have never been observed is that they require millions of years to be completed. The evolutionary processes which gave rise to major groups of organisms, such as genera and families, took place in the remote past, long before there were people to observe them. Nevertheless, the facts which we know about these origins, some of which will be discussed in Chapter 7, provide very strong circumstantial evidence to indicate that the processes which brought them about were very similar to those found in modern groups of animals and plants which are evolving all around us today.

-- G. Ledyard Stebbins, Processes of Organic Evolution, 2nd edition (Prentice-Hall, 1971)

Several comments about this quotation: first of all, if Patton were interested in the current state of knowledge in biology, he could have picked something better than a twenty-year-old source.

Secondly, he omits the first part, which says that speciation has been observed in the laboratory. This creates the false impression that no evolution has been observed.

Thirdly, by omitting the latter part of the paragraph, Patton implies that the only admissible evidence is first-hand observation. One can turn this around and say that if the creation was a one-shot event in the distant past, then there is no admissible (first-hand) evidence to support it. In fact, creationists often use this argument to argue that evolution is as much of a religious belief as creationism. They seem to miss the point that only one of the two has any indirect evidence.


Here, Patton ignores the part that would weaken his case:

As I mentioned at the end of Chapter 1, there is enough information capacity in a single human cell to store the Encyclopedia Britannica, all 30 volumes of it, three or four times over. I don't know the comparable figure for a willow seed or an ant, but it will be of the same order of staggeringness. There is enough storage capacity in the DNA of a single lily seed or a single salamander sperm to store the Encyclopedia Britannica 60 times over. Some species of the unjustly called `primitive' amoebas have as much information in their DNA as 1,000 Encyclopedia Britannicas.

Amazingly, only about 1 per cent of the genetic information in, for example, human cells, seems to be actually used: roughly the equivalent of one volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Nobody knows why the other 99 per cent is there. [...]

— Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1986, p. 116.


No problem with this quotation. The part that Patton omits basically just expands on the part that he quotes:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case. No doubt many organs exist of which we do not know the transitional grades, more especially if we look to much-isolated species, round which, according to my theory, there has been much extinction. Or again, if we look to an organ common to all the members of a large class, for in this latter case the organ must have been first formed at an extremely remote period, since which all the many members of the class have been developed; and in order to discover the early transitional grades through which the organ has passed, we should have to look to very ancient ancestral forms, long since become extinct.

We should be extremely cautious in concluding that an organ could not have been formed by transitional gradations of some kind. Numerous cases could be given amongst the lower animals of the same organ performing at the same time wholly distinct functions; thus the alimentary canal respires, digests, and excretes in the larva of the dragon-fly and in the fish Cobites. In the Hydra, the animal may be turned inside out, and the exterior surface will then digest and the stomach respire. In such cases natural selection might easily specialise, if any advantage were thus gained, a part or organ, which had performed two functions, for one function alone, and thus wholly change its nature by insensible steps. Two distinct organs sometimes perform simultaneously the same function in the same individual; to give one instance, there are fish with gills or branchiae that breathe the air dissolved in the water, at the same time that they breathe free air in their swimbladders, this latter organ having a ductus pneumaticus for its supply, and being divided by highly vascular partitions. In these cases, one of the two organs might with ease be modified and perfected so as to perform all the work by itself, being aided during the process of modification by the other organ; and then this other organ might be modified for some other and quite distinct purpose, or be quite obliterated.

-- Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species, 1859, Chapter 6.

Today, a biologist might go on at some length about the words ``successive'' and ``slight.'' In particular, in species which use sexual reproduction, the modifications need not be successive (i.e., an organism might simultaneously inherit one change from its mother, and one from its father). As for ``slight,'' our understanding of genetics is far better than it was in Darwin's day; in particular, a small change to an organism's genotype (DNA), or its environment while it is gestating, can result in significant changes in the phenotype (body).

But these are minor objections; Darwin's main point still holds.


Again, Patton ignores inconvenient explanations, and confuses statistical ``miracles'' with theistic ones:

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. But this should not be taken to imply that there are good reasons to believe that it could not have started on the earth by a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions. 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. Perhaps in the future we may know enough to make a considered guess, but at the present time we can only say that we cannot decide whether the origin of life on earth was an extremely unlikely event or almost a certainty--or any possibility in between these two extremes.

— Francis Crick, Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature (Simon & Schuster, 1981), p. 88.

Patton attempts to use this quotation to disprove the theory of evolution by Darwin's own argument (see the preceding quotation). But it should be pointed out that while the origin of life on earth is still a mystery, this does not invalidate the theory of evolution: evolution deals with the changes in living beings after they already exist. The question of the origin of life is more properly the realm of abiogenesis.

What Patton is doing here is like saying that if we do not know when or how money was invented, then modern theories of economics are invalid.

Laws of Science

Descriptions of a Young Earth

All of the quotations in this section come from The Science of Evolution, by William D. Stansfield (Macmillan, 1987), pp. 80-84. All quotations are consecutive, except where noted.

The quotations are presented here in the order in which they appear in the book; since Patton quotes them out of order, I have inserted notes to help keep track of them.

Geologists now assume that most of the water in the oceans was produced by volcanic outgassings. [Quotation #1] It has been estimated that seventy volcanoes the size of Mexico's Paricutin producing 0.001 cubic mile of water per year for 4.5 billion years of the earth's history could account for the 315 million cubic miles of water in the oceans today. There are now approximately 600 active volcanoes and about 10,000 dormant ones. Six hundred volcanoes comparable to Paricutin could account for the present oceans in approximately 0.5 billion years. Since volcanic activity presumably was much greater during early earth history than at present, creationists argue that the age of the oceans would appear to be considerably less than 0.5 billion years. [Quotation #10]By this methodology, creationists stand guilty of the ``crime'' they ascribe to evolutionists, namely uniformitarianism. [Quotation #10 continues further down, but Patton omits the ellipsis] Perhaps the earth is now experiencing greater volcanic activity than the average; there is no accurate way of knowing. How much water vapor was lost to space during the early warmer stages of geological history is also a big unknown.

Of course, half a billion years is still too long to help young-earth creationists.

In this next quotation, Patton ignores inconvenient weaknesses:

[Quotation #2] Uranium salts presently appear to be accumulating in the oceans at about one hundred times the rate of their loss. It is estimated that 6*1010 grams of uranium is added to the oceans annually. Under uniformitarian rules, the total concentration of uranium salts of the oceans (estimated at less than 1017 grams) could be accumulated in less than one million years. Again there is no way of knowing if present rates have been operating constantly throughout geological time or if the estimates of rate and total uranium content are accurate.

And again:

[Quotation #3] The atmospheric content of helium-4 (the most abundant isotope of helium) has accumulated from the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium in the earth's crust and oceans, from nuclear reactions caused by cosmic rays, and from the sun. If the present rate of accumulation of helium has been constant throughout four billion years of the earth's history, there should be thirty times as much helium in our atmosphere as is presently there. Little is known about how helium escapes from our atmosphere. Until more light is shed on this problem, arguments of atmospheric age based on these kinds of calculations are highly suspect.

And again, twice:

[Quotation #4]One estimate for the amount of meteorite dust settling to earth places it at 14.3 million tons annually. If this rate has been constant throughout five billion years of geological history, one might expect over fifty feet of meteorite dust to have settled over all the surface of the earth. Some creationists suggest that the failure to find a fifty foot layer of such dust in the geological column argues against a long earth history. It is obvious that as the dust settles on the earth it would become incorporated with terrestrial materials into the geological strata and therefore would not appear as a discrete band. [Quotation #4, cont.] The average meteorite contains about three hundred times more nickel than the average earth rock. Perhaps our entire crustal content of nickel and iron could have a cosmic origin. If one assumes that the meteorite fallout rate was much greater earlier in the earth's history, one would argue for an earth considerably younger than five billion years. [Quotation #5] No meteorites have been found in the geological column. Creationists submit that evidence of meteorite showers should have appeared by now; their absence should be interpreted as support for the concept of a very young earth (perhaps only 5,000 to 10,000 years old). The rarity with which contemporary meteorites are found, however, makes it much less likely that ancient ones would be found by geologists.

And again:

[Quotation #6] It has been estimated that just four volcanoes spewing lava at the rate observed for Paricutin and continuing for five billion years could almost account for the volume of the continental crusts. The Columbian plateau of northwestern United States (covering 200,000 square miles) was produced by a gigantic lava flow several thousands of feet deep. The Canadian shield and other extensive lava flows indicate that volcanic activity has indeed followed an accelerated tempo in the past. The fact that only a small percentage of crustal [Patton says ``crystal,'' though this may just be a typo] rocks are recognizably lavas has been offered in support of the ``young earth'' concept. However, it is unlikely that the smaller lava deposits would escape extensive erosion, and many of them could have been largely weathered away.

In this case, Patton might as well have just quoted the entire paragraph:

[Quotation #7] Some geologists find it difficult to understand how the great pressures found in some oil wells could be retained over millions of years. Creationists also use this currently puzzling situation as evidence that oil was formed less than 10,000 years ago.

Once again, Patton ignores inconvenient facts:

[Quotation #8] If humanity is really about 2.5 million years old (as claimed by Dr. Louis Leakey), creationists calculate from conservative population estimates (2.4 children per family, average generation and life span of forty-three years) that the world population would have grown from a single family to 102700 people over one million years. The present world population is about 2*109, an infinitesimal part of the 102700. They conclude that humanity was created only a few thousand years ago. It was pointed out in the first chapter that although populations tend to have large reproductive potentials, the limiting factors of the environment prevent unlimited geometric increase. The size of a population may fluctuate over various lengths of time, but the long-term picture is one of stability. Populations need not continually expand in order to survive over long periods of time. Many more limitations to population growth were undoubtedly imposed on primitive huans than are faced by modern people. For one thing, primitive humans were gatherers and hunters. Scarcity of food was probably severely restrictive of human population growth until relatively recent times (a few thousand years ago), when humans learned how to raise their own crops and domesticate animals (the dawn of agriculture).

Patton gives this next quotation under the heading, `Dr. Stansfield's ``Answer'' '. That is, Patton does not claim to believe this:

[Quotation #10, cont.] All of the above methods for dating the age of the earth, its various strata, and its fossils are questionable, because the rates are likely to have fluctuated widely over earth history. A method that appears to have much greater reliability for determining absolute ages of rocks is that of radiometric dating. For some inexplicable reason, the nuclei of certain elements become unstable and spontaneously release energy and/or particles.

We now skip a few paragraphs in which Stansfield explains what radiometric dating is.

Here, Patton mainly ignores the part that would have weakened his case:

[Quotation #9] It now appears that the C14 decay rate in living organisms is about 30 per cent less than its production rate in the upper atmosphere. Since the amount of C14 is now increasing in the atmosphere, it may be assumed that the quantity of C14 was even lower in the past than at present. This condition would lead to abnormally low C14/C12 ratios for the older fossils. Such a fossil would be interpreted as being much older than it really is. Various correction factors have been calculated to take into account the disequilibrium between C14 production and decay. The correction is small for relatively young fossils, but amounts to about a 25 per cent reduction from an uncorrected age of 10,000 years. [Quotation #9, cont.] Creationists argue that since C14 has not yet reached its equilibrium rate, the age of the atmosphere must be less than 20,000 years old. It is possible that a greater concentration of water vapor existed prior to the Biblical flood (presumably about 5,000 years ago). This water vapor may have retarded neutron production by cosmic rays and consequently diminished the yield of C14. This would give early fossils a low C14/C12 ratio and therefore the appearance of great antiquity. On the other hand, if a lower concentration of water vapor existed, there may have been a greater amount of C14 produced; the increased C14/C12 ratio in the fossil would be interpreted as a relatively young age. The water-vapor content of the atmosphere has varied considerably in the past, thereby disturbing any C14 equilibrium that may have been attained. Because the C14 method is useful only for very recent fossils, it has been mainly used by archaeologists who have found it to yield ages in fairly good agreement with historically dated materials.

We skip a paragraph in which Stansfield explains the use of U238-to-Pb206 decay in dating events millions of years old.

And again, Patton ignores that which does not suit his needs:

[Quotation #11] If we assume that (1) a rock contained no Pb206 when it was formed, (2) all Pb206 now in the rock was produced by radioactive decay of U238, (3) the rate of decay has been constant, (4) there has been no differential leaching by water of either element, and (5) no U238 has been transported into the rock from another source, then we might expect our estimate of age to be fairly accurate. Each assumption is a potential variable, the magnitude of which can seldom be ascertained. In cases in which the daughter product is a gas, as in the decay of potassium (K40) to the gas argon (Ar40), it is essential that none of the gas escapes from the rock over long periods of time.

It is obvious that radiometric techniques may not be the absolute dating methods that they are claimed to be. Age estimates on a given geological stratum by different radiometric methods are often quite different (sometimes by hundreds of millions of years). There is no absolutely reliable long-term radiological ``clock.'' The uncertainties inherent in radiometric dating are disturbing to geologists and evolutionists, but their overall interpretation supports the concept of a long history of geological evolution. The flaws in radiometric dating methods are considered by creationists to be sufficient justification for denying their use as evidence against the young earth theory.

Note that assumption (3) has been tested and found to be good; and isochron dating allows one to easily detect and discard samples which fail the other assumptions, or at least to compensate for them.

Fossil Man

While the problem here is real, Patton omits the explanation of why one might expect it:

[...] Dryopithecid fossils disappear eight or nine million years ago. There are no in-between types known. There are, in fact, no ape fossils from anywhere after about eight million. One contributory reason for this may have been the scarcity of apes; as the tropical forest began to shrink during the Miocene, the dryopithecids shrank too, perhaps already beginning to show the long-term dangers of an extreme ``K'' reproductive strategy when faced with a less-than-ideal environment. But surely more important in explaining the rarity of all forest fossils, ape or otherwise, is that tropical forests do not preserve them. The soil is too acid. Bones are eaten away by that acid and by bacteria before they can begin to undergo the slow process of fossilization.

At any rate, modern gorillas, orangs and chimpanzees spring out of nowhere, as it were. They are here today; they have no yesterday, unless one is able to find faint foreshadowings of it in the dryopithecids. Pilbeam assumes that the relationship exists, and has so indicated on a chart he has constructed--although he does leave a huge gap in it, and makes no attempt to link any specific dryopithecid with any living ape. He contents himself with the observation that dryopithecids are primitive apes with certain things in common, things that they do not have in common with a second group of Miocene apes that he has also succeeded in sorting out and lumping together: the ramapithecids, named after the aforementioned Ramapithecus.

— Donald C. Johanson and Maitland A. Edey, Lucy: the Beginnings of Humankind (Simon & Schuster, 1981), p. 363.

Andrew MacRae points out:

[T]he situation is no longer as bad as Johanson and Maitland thought in 1981. A good summary article is: Martin, R.D., 1993 (May 20). Primate origins: plugging the gaps. Nature, v.363, p.223-234.

Pekin man was less fortunate. Java Man went into Dubois' locker for a time. But Pekin Man seems to have gone to Davy Jones' locker, and for good. He disappeared, one of the first casualties of the war in the Pacific, half a million years after he had died the first time.

— William Howells, Mankind in the Making: the Story of Human Evolution (Doubleday, 1967), p. 165.

[What does he mean by ``Davy Jones' locker''? I haven't read the surrounding text, so I don't know what Howells says happened.]


Here, Patton adds to the text:

The taxonomic status of KNM-ER 1805, whose estimated cranial capacity is 582 cm3 (9, 14) is uncertain and workers have questioned whether its affinities are with Homo or Australopithecus (15). The evidence presented above shows that KNM-ER 1805 [Patton inserts the words "[Homo habilis]". See notes.] should not be attributed to Homo. In keeping with this, Fig. 4 shows that the shape of the endocast from KNM-ER 1805 (basal view) is similar to that from an African pongid, whereas the endocast of KNM-ER 1470 is shaped like that of a modern human. As noted by Radinsky (6), shape differences may be the result of a packaging phenomenon that reflect size differences.

— Dean Falk, ``Cerebral Cortices of East African Early Hominids,'' Science, Vol. 221, p. 1073, 1983

The text says quite plainly that it is unclear whether the fossil in question is a Homo or an Australopithecus. But Patton's insertion implies that there was no doubt that it was a Homo.

Notes: In an earlier version of this page, I complained that the words "Homo habilis" were not surrounded by brackets to indicate an editorial addition. It has since been explained to me that this was a typographical error: the brackets are there in the original handouts, but were not caught by the OCR software that was used to scan in the handouts. As of Feb. 23, 2000 or so, the insertion appears in square brackets and in a different color.


Now Patton omits a crucial bit of context:

The hominoid distal humerus is ideal for multivariate analysis because there are such subtle shape differences between species, particularly between Homo and Pan, which are difficult to distinguish in a trait by trait (univariate) analysis (64). Multivariate analysis shows that although chimpanzees and human humeri overlap in almost all metrical characteristics taken one at a time, they differ when all traits are treated together in a single analysis where the bones are treated as integrated complexes. The study is still piecemeal, however, in that the distal humerus is not a separate unit but part of the larger complex of the forelimb and the total adaptation of the animal. Unfortunately, the fossil record is not complete enough to allow precise reconstructions of entire limbs and animals of all species of early hominids. With 16 measurements and over 300 comparative specimens, the multiple discriminant functions are able to separate all hominoid species very effectively (see Fig. 4b) (38). The results show that the Kanapoi specimen, which is 4 to 4.5 million years old, is indistinguishable from modern Homo sapiens, the Kromdraai A. robustus fossil is about equally distant between Pan and Homo, and the large specimen from East Rudolf (KNM-ER 739) is unique among all of the hominoids tested (62, 63). None of these fossils bear a special relationship to the combined sample of knuckle-walking apes (chimpanzee and gorilla). Nor do any of the fossils have a lateral ridge on the posterior surface of the trochlea and olecranon fossa, which is present in all of the 124 knuckle-walking apes sampled.

— Henry McHenry, ``Fossils and the Mosaic Nature of Human Evolution,'' Science, vol. 190, p. 428.

In context, it is clear that the author is talking about a single bone, not the entire body.

Geological Column

No problem here:

We are lucky to have fossils at all. It is a remarkably fortunate fact of geology that bones, shells and other hard parts of animals, before they decay, can occasionally leave an imprint which later acts as a mould, which shapes hardening rock into a permanent memory of the animal. We don't know what proportion of animals are fossilized after their death--I personally would consider it an honour to be fossilized--but it is certainly very small indeed. Nevertheless, however small the proportion fossilized, there are certain things about the fossil record that any evolutionist should expect to be true. We should be very surprised, for example, to find fossil humans appearing in the record before mammals are supposed to have evolved! If a single, well-verified mammal skull were to turn up in 500 million year-old rocks, our whole modern theory of evolution would be utterly destroyed. Incidentally, this is a sufficient answer to the canard, put about by creationists and their journalistic fellow travellers, that the whole theory of evolution is an `unfalsifiable' tautology. Ironically, it is also the reason why creationists are so keen on the fake human footprints, which were carved during the depression to fool tourists, in the dinosaur beds of Texas.

— Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1986, p. 225


The following entry was contributed by Floyd Waddle (I have not confirmed it independently). Patton's quotation appears at http://www.bible.ca/tracks/dating-radiometric.htm

By THE END OF THE SUMMER of 1981, we had a lot of similar bones to think about. The Brandvold site and Nose Cone were clearly part of one bone bed. They were in the middle of the anticline on the north side of the eroded center. If you crossed over the center, you came to camp. There you found Camposaur. And if you continued on, you found the children's dig, which we had created near the top of a steep ridge where Bob Makela liked to demonstrate how well his Toyota jeep handled inclines. He'd get a passenger, put the Yoda, as it was called, in four-wheel drive, and then shoot up the hill until he brought it to rest at a 45-degree angle. Kids loved this ride. We created the children's dig not because we wanted to employ child labor but because Jason was there for each field season, Bob's son Jay came down sometimes, and we had a lot of visitors who brought their children. Often they would stay for only a few days, but we needed a place for children to work, where they could actually do some good. The children's dig was a pit on the same horizon as Camposaur and so similar in the bones that came out of it that we could afford to take some chances with a bone or two getting smashed or lost. We did keep an eye on it and mapped the bones in their original locations before the kids started on them with ice picks and whisk brooms to liberate them from the mudstone.

It was fairly obvious that the Brandvold site and Nose Cone were part of the same deposit. And it was equally clear that Camposaur and the children's dig were part of one deposit. But was it an the same deposit? Late in 1981, we had our answer.

I had been sitting on the hill behind the kitchen one day, looking down on Camposaur and north toward the Brandvold site, when the thought came to me again, but this time more forcefully, that each of these deposits had the same black, battered bones of adult and juvenile malasaurs.

I decided to try a simple test right then. What I used was a Jacob staff--a five-foot-long board with a Brunton compass attached. The staff is used to measure vertical distances between beds of rock. The Brunton compass, a common gadget in geological fieldwork, has a level and can be set to compensate for a slope in the ground so that you get a true reading of vertical distance. I started my measurements at the bottom of the anticline, in the first hadrosaur nesting ground. This nesting ground was the lowest fossil layer we identified in the anticline, and it clearly existed on both sides of the eroded scoop that separated the Brandvold/Nose Cone bones from the Camposaur/Children's bones. I measured from the first nesting ground to the other deposits on each side. And I found that the vertical distance was the same to the Brandvold/Nose Cone site as it was to the Camposaur/Children's site. By this fairly crude test (the Jacob staff is an instrument for quick estimates, not precise information), I confirmed my suspicions. All four sites were on the same fossil horizon.

We didn't get a final confirmation for this conclusion until the end of the summer season three years later in 1984, our last season at the dig. The season's work was just about over and I was walking around the anticline with Will Gavin, the graduate student who had done a study of the geology of the Willow Creek anticline. We were up on the ridge, where the children's dig had been, and he was showing me some of the peculiar geological features that he had found. In the hillside just above the bone deposit that the children had been working on, Will noticed an ash bed. This wasn't something he had found previously. He saw it as we were standing there. Ash itself was not unusual; we had found it at the Brandvold site. But this was a definite layer of ash sitting just above the bones, something we hadn't noticed at the other sites.

We immediately set out to check them. The first stop was camp, where we realized that we were standing on the ash layer. Bentonite, the stuff that turns to wet cement in the rain, is a mineral that is, in essence, volcanic ash. At the Camposaur pit we could see the layer nicely delineated, just as it had been at the children's dig. We spent all that day checking the other sites, and we found the same ash layer precisely the same distance--18 inches--above the layer of bones. This held for the Brandvold site, for Nose Cone, for two other pits of bones, which, up until that point we had not connected to the big deposit, and for some test pits we had been digging to see how far the deposit extended.

There was no question anymore. We had one huge bed of maiasaur bones--and nothing but maiasaur bones--stretching a mile and a quarter east to west and a quarter-mile north to south. Judging from the concentration of bones in various pits, there were [Patton omits the ellipsis for ``up to''] up to 30 million fossil fragments in that area. At a conservative estimate, we had discovered the tomb of 10,000 dinosaurs.

I should point out that, although we suspected from the start that these were maiasaur fossils and we knew they were hadrosaurs, it was when we found parts of several skulls in Camposaur, in 1982, that we positively identified the animals buried in this bone bed as maiasaurs. At that time, in the early '80s, there was no other single deposit known with so many fossils of one kind of dinosaur. And it was just one kind. In all the years and all the pits we dug in that big bone bed, the only other things we found were carnosaurs' teeth and one small dinosaur of unknown variety that was rolled up in a fossilized mudball.

What could such a deposit represent? None of the bones we found had been chewed by predators. But most of the bones were in poor condition. They were either broken or damaged some other way, some broken in half, some apparently sheared lengthwise. They were all oriented from east to west, which was the long dimension of the deposit. Smaller bones, like hand and toe bones, skull elements, small ribs and neural arches of vertebrae, were rare in most of the deposit. At the easternmost edge of the deposit, however, these bones were the most common elements. All the bones were from individuals ranging from 9 feet long to 23 feet long. There wasn't one baby in the whole deposit. The bone bed was, without question, an extraordinary puzzle. First there was the terrible condition of the bones. As early as the first Brandvold site, we thought that a mud flow might have done this. However, on reflection, the condition of the bones argued for something other than animals just being buried alive, even in a vicious mud flow from a breached lake. As I mentioned before, it didn't make sense that even the most powerful flow of mud could break bones lengthwise when they were still padded in flesh and tied together by ligaments. Nor did it make sense that a herd of living animals buried in mud would end up with all their skeletons disarticulated, their bones almost all pointing in one direction and most of the small bones at one edge of the deposit. It seemed that there had to be a twofold event, the dinosaurs dying in one incident and the bones being swept away in another.

Jeff Hooker, an MSU graduate student, had worked on the fossils from the big bone bed and was the first to question seriously the idea of a herd dying in a mud flow. He was studying the bones from Camposaur--4,500 bones, representing 27 individual dinosaurs--and he began to notice certain things about the damage they had suffered. First of all, the ones that had broken showed clean breaks, not jagged, splintery breaks. Fossil bones break this way, cleanly, like rocks. Fresh, or dry but unfossilized bones splinter. The Camposaur bones looked like they had been broken after they had been fossilized.

Furthermore, Hooker thought the bones that appeared to have been sheared lengthwise had not been broken at all. He suggested that the bones had lain on the ground, as they would have if the dinosaurs had died and rotted aboveground, and that because this was a volcanic environment, which the presence of the volcanic ash suggested and which is consistent with the known geology of the area, the ground- water would have been very acid. That groundwater could well have eaten away or dissolved parts of these bones, leaving them looking as if they had been neatly sliced lengthwise. Perhaps before or perhaps after the acid had partly dissolved these bones, fossilization had begun. Fossilization can occur before burial. That same groundwater could have been rich in minerals, starting the fossilization when the bones absorbed these minerals. It was after fossilization that the bones were swept along, in something like a mud flow, and deposited in their current location.

The layer of volcanic ash resting just a foot and a half above the bones was the key to how all these events could have occurred. You may remember the devastation and widespread ashfall caused by Mount Saint Helens. That was a little volcano. Volcanoes like that were a dime a dozen in the Rockies back in the late Cretaceous. There were much bigger volcanoes, in the Rockies, to the west of the site, and also south of the site, in what are now the Elk Horn Mountains near Great Falls. What Hooker suggested was that the dinosaurs, a herd of Maiasaura, were killed by the gases, smoke and ash of a volcanic eruption. And, if a huge eruption killed them all at once, then it might have also killed everything else around. That would explain the lack of evidence of scavengers or predators gnawing on the bones. They would have been dead, too, or perhaps they would have fled the heat, gases and fires of the volcanic eruption, not returning until the corpses had rotted. Without carnivores what we would have seen from a helicopter would have been a huge killing field, with the rotting corpses of 10,000 dinosaurs. The smell would have been overpowering. And the flies would have been there in the millions (there were flies in the Cretaceous). It must have been one hell of a mess.

Over time, of course, the stench disappeared and the killing field turned into a boneyard. Perhaps beetles were there to clean the bones. The bones lay in the ash and dirt. Some fossilization occurred, as well as some acid destruction of the bones. Then there was a flood.

This was no ordinary spring flood from one of the streams in the area, but a catastrophic inundation. Perhaps, as John Lorenz thought, a lake was breached, turning the field of death--now covered with partially fossilized, partially dissolved skeletons, unconnected by ligaments, flesh and skin--into a huge slurry as the water floated the bones, mud and volcanic ash into churning fossil soup. The bones of the maiasaurs would have been carried to a new location and left there as the floodwaters or mud settled. Had this occurred, the bones would have acquired their uniform orientation, and the smallest pieces, weighing the least, would have been carried the farthest. Finally the ash, being light, would have risen to the top in this slurry, as it settled, just as the bones sank to the bottom. And over this vast collection of buried, fossilized dinosaur bones would have been left what we now find--a thin but unmistakable layer of volcanic ash.

That's our best explanation. It seems to make the most sense, and on the basis of it we believe that this was a living, breathing group of dinosaurs destroyed in one catastrophic moment.

— John Horner, Digging Dinosaurs, 1988.

Note that Horner goes to some length to explain why these dinosaurs couldn't have been killed by a flood (the flood that he mentions scattered the bones after the dinosaurs were dead).

Furthermore, when he speaks of a ``catastrophic inundation,'' he means something on the order of a lake dumping its contents in a torrent. This is nowhere near the biblical flood.


Here, Patton quotes again from W. C. Krumbein and L. L. Sloss, Stratigraphy and Sedimentation, the same quotation as in the section, Age of the Earth.

Noah's Ark

To demonstrate that the human population of Noah's ark could have grown to the current world population, Patton says:

Formula for predicting population from growth rate, P=(Po)*(Ert) according to college text, PRECALCULUS MATHEMATICS. Growth in 1991, 1.7%. Using conservative growth rate of .85%, 2 people plus 2500 yrs.= world population of 3.37 Billion.

The formula is good, and Patton's number is certainly in the right ballpark, give or take twenty or thirty years. But how did he arrive at it?

Patton uses the formula

p = p0 * er*t

where p is the current population, p0 is the initial population, e is the mathematical constant 2.7183, t is time (in years), and r is the growth factor.

If we set p0 to 2 and r to 0.0085 (his growth rate of .85%, divided by 100), we find that p = 3,386,785,846, or 3.3 billion, as he says. Unfortunately, this is not the right way to do it.

To illustrate, imagine that the annual growth rate is 100% (i.e., the population doubles every year) and that the initial population is 100 people. Using Patton's method, we set r = 1.00. To find the population after one year, we set t = 1. We thus find

p = 100 * e1.00*1 = 272

That is, setting r = 1 sets the annual growth factor to 172%!

(Oh, and just in passing: using Patton's formula, we find that at the time when Christ was born, the world population was 140.)

In fact, we need to set r = ln(1+(annual growth rate/100)); or more simply, we need to use the formula

p = p0 * gt

where g is the ratio of one year's population to the previous year's population (that is, if the annual growth rate is 1.23%, then g = 1.0123; for a growth rate of 0.85%, use g = 1.0085).

Correcting for Patton's mistake, we use the correct formula and a growth rate of 0.85% per year, and find the final population after 2500 years: p = 3,096,000,000. Close enough, but let's try a few other growth rates, just out of interest:

Growth rate g Final population
0.75% 1.0075 259,219,000
0.85% 1.0085 3,096,000,000
0.95% 1.0095 36,884,000,000
1.7% 1.0170 4,012,500,000,000,000,000

From this, it is obvious that 0.85% is not a conservative estimate, but a necessary one. Anything too far from 0.85% gives nonsense results.

The next question is, naturally, how good is this estimate, over the past 2500 years? The U.S. Census Bureau and the United Nations have tables of estimated world population, at http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/worldhis.html and gopher://gopher.undp.org/00/ungophers/popin/wdtrends/histor, respectively.

If we calculate annual growth rates for the U.N. data, we find the following (note: some growth rates are not given, since the population estimates from which they would be derived came from different sources) :

Year Population (in billions) Annual growth rate
0 0.30
1000 0.31 0.0033%
1250 0.40 0.01%
1500 0.50 0.09%
1750 0.79
1800 0.98 0.43%
1850 1.26 0.50%
1900 1.65 0.54%
1910 1.75
1920 1.86
1930 2.07 1.07%
1940 2.30 1.06%
1950 2.52 0.92%
1960 3.02 1.83%
1970 3.70 2.05%
1980 4.45 1.86%
1990 5.30 1.76%
1994 5.63 1.52%

As this table shows, it is only in the twentieth century that the growth rate rose to anywhere near 1%. Patton's estimate of 0.85% comes from taking a modern growth rate and halving it, but even this is a gross overestimate.

Scriptural Age of the Earth

I'll probably leave this section pretty much alone, since I have very little interest in whether the Bible supports a young or an old earth.

I'll only mention here that Patton cites a Gallup Poll, conducted in Nov. 1991, that asked what version of origins people believe. Presumably his point is that the truth is whatever the majority believes.

Other

Final Tally

Out of a total of 27 quotations (more or less), I count:

Missing Quotations

I have been unable to track down a number of quotations. This can be due to a number of reasons:

Given Patton's track record so far (see previous section), I don't really plan to invest much more time chasing his references. If, however, you wish to contribute, any of the following, please do so. I will give credit.