Andrew posted a great article over a year ago entitled Evolution for Jehovah’s Witnesses. In that article he did a good job of answering the common objections Witnesses have been taught from the Watchtower regarding evolution.
One commentator on that article, with whom I had a brief exchange, was Vania. In her comments she made some statements that I’d like to examine here:
The post talks about evolution’s simplicity but I find it very confusing, everyone I talk to gives me a different definition and seems to have their own idea of what it is. Where there’s division there’s no truth. Truth is simple and clear, it’s evident to everyone, evolution seems to be everything but that.
She also stated that the examples we gave of evolution are really just something she defines as “adaptation,” and she gave the example of body-builders increasing the size of their muscles. [Though she failed to tell us how this practice could change their DNA so that larger muscles could be passed on to their offspring.]
Her conclusion was summed up in her statement: “Genesis remains true and always will.”
I’m preparing a future article entitled How Not to Think. But Vania’s comments have given us some real-life examples that are too good to pass up. Let’s take a look at them.
The Implied Syllogism
There is an implied syllogism in Vania’s statements which goes like this:
- Truth is simple, and clear with no divisions.
- Evolution is difficult for her to understand, and people she has met have given her different definitions of it.
- Therefore evolution must not be true, and the account of creation in Genesis must therefore be true.
Let’s take this one step at a time and determine if this is a valid argument, and if it’s true.
1. Is truth always simple and clear with no divisions?
No, unfortunately it is not. More than this, I would add that it is not always intuitive either. Let’s look at some examples:
The notion that the Sun orbits the Earth is simple, clear, and intuitive. It was what nearly everyone regarded as obvious common-sense for the vast majority of human history. It was also completely wrong. When Copernicus suggested the opposite theory: that the Earth orbited the Sun, his work was condemned as both unscriptural and unscientific by the religious leaders of his day.
Newton’s laws of physics are also, for the most part, simpler and more intuitive than Einstein’s theory of relativity. Yet it is the latter that more accurately explains how the universe operates (especially at a grander scale than our day-to-day lives usually entail.)
Quantum physics is not simple at all: in fact it is counter-intuitive. Yet it is the best explanation of the facts at the sub-atomic level.
So far we’ve seen that scientific truth is not always clear, simple, or intuitive. Now let’s look at what Jehovah’s Witnesses consider to be “The Truth.” How simple and clear is it?
Let’s take the fundamental Watchtower belief that their Governing Body was judged to be the “Faithful & Discreet Slave” of Jesus’ parable in the year 1919 after Jesus had spent some time looking over all the candidates. This is a critically important belief, because without it there would be no compelling reason for Witnesses to hang on each word the Governing Body pronounces (as hang, they surely do.) Judge for yourself whether this “truth” of theirs qualifies as simple and clear:
Okay, first of all you have to establish the year 1914 by taking the “seven times” of Dan. 2 and multiplying by 360 [according to a totally unrelated biblical formula of “a day for a year” — and pretending that a year consists of 360 days instead of 365.] that gives you 2,520 years for the “Gentile Times” — even though in that account in Daniel King Nebuchadnezzar, representing the Gentile power of that time, was off his throne for those “seven times,” lost to madness and grazing like a cow in the field — we’ll still pretend that the seven times represents the time when gentile kingdoms will rule the Earth before “spritual Israel” takes over.
Starting at 1914, you have to go back in time 2,520 years which brings you to 607 BCE. Now, in order for all of this to work out, you have to pretend that 607 BCE was the year that Jerusalem was destroyed [even though it is known to have occurred in 587 BCE.] Then we have to pretend that we arrived at 1914 by counting seven times from the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 BCE instead of admitting that we went the other way around.
To 1914 we then add the length of Jesus’ ministry: 3 1/2 years [arbitrarily NOT taking “a day for a year” in this case, because otherwise it won’t work out the way we intend]. That brings us to 1918. But the leaders of the Watchtower were in prison during that year, so we add the 3 1/2 days of Rev. 11:9, only this time we pretend that a day is 3 months instead of a year, so that equals 9 1/2 months, which brings us to the year 1919 when the Watchtower leaders were released from prison, thus proving that they were judged to be the “Faithful and Discreet Slave” by none other than Jesus himself [whom I’m sure would be as surprised as the rest of us to see his parable turned into this convoluted prophecy about some ex-cons]!
2. Is evolution difficult to understand? Does it have “divisions”?
As to being difficult to understand, this is something each individual will have to answer. But I would say that if you can understand the Watchtower’s dogmas (such as the typical reasoning displayed above) then you should have no trouble understanding the relatively simple notion of variation + natural selection over time (which evolution consists of).
However, the complexity of a theory really has no bearing on its truthfulness. Calculus, chemistry, and molecular biology are all difficult for most people to comprehend, but that doesn’t make them false. In science, a theory is considered tentatively true when it is the best explanation of the evidence, without regard to its complexity. In contrast, the Watchtower seems to manipulate or ignore the evidence in order to comport with its “truth” (as shown in the 1919 example, above.)
The theory of evolution can’t be blamed for the misinformed or inarticulate individuals who may offer their faulty notions about what it means. The Witnesses themselves are guilty of spreading such faulty notions by attempting to muddy the waters with their unique definition of “adaptation” presented as some vague sort of alternative to evolution.
Despite what the Watchtower would have us believe, amongst reputable scientists there really is no disagreement on the basic mechanisms of evolution. By contrast, religion — and especially Bible-based religion — is highly divisive. As an example, just ask yourself: who else besides the Witnesses, amongst the legions of Bible believers, thinks the year 1919 has any significance? Is this “truth” really “evident to everyone”?
3. Is Evolution false and Genesis true?
This conclusion is unsupported by the argument since at least one of its premises is false. Worse than that, the conclusion contains the logical fallacy of a false dilemma: If evolution were false it would not follow that the Genesis account was true.