Darwin Day Response to Creationist Chick Tract

Darwin Day CreationismI recently saw the trailer for the upcoming “God’s Not Dead” movie. A Christian college student discovers that his philosophy class is taught by a dictatorial atheist who demands that all students declare that God is dead. He refuses and is forced into public debates with his professor.

Until I’m able to review that movie, and in honor of Darwin Day, I’d like to critique a Chick tract that closely parallels that plot. These arguments are pretty weak, but with the Ham on Nye debate last week, it’s clear that weak evolution-denial arguments are popular in some circles.

Chick tracts are tiny comics handed out to spread the gospel. “Big Daddy?” opens in a biology classroom with a portrait of an ape titled “Our Father.” (As the story progresses, I’ll give my rebuttals in parentheses. Read along, and see if your favorite Creationist claim makes an appearance.)

The professor asks how many of the students believe in evolution. All but one student is on board, and the professor is furious at the holdout. He’s about to expel him from the class but thinks better of it. Destroying the Christian argument will make a good demonstration for the class.

You can’t mention the Bible in school

The student begins by using the word “Bible,” and the professor declares that that is illegal. Here we have the first of many footnotes referencing Kent “Dr. Dino” Hovind. While our nutty professor is wrong that mentioning the Bible is illegal, the footnote is wrong when it says, “it has never been against the law to teach the Bible or creation in public schools.” Teaching the Bible in a comparative religions class is fine, but it’s not legal to evangelize from the Bible or teach Christian creation as science.

Hovind is a poor authority. His doctorate is from a diploma mill, and he’s now serving a ten-year sentence in prison for federal tax evasion.

Does science prove anything?

The professor declares that science proves evolution. (No—mathematics proves things, not science. Science is always provisional. I would say: evolution is the scientific consensus.) He points to carbon-14. (A biologist would likelier point to the entire field of radioisotope dating, not just C-14, which can take us back only about 40,000 years.)

The many flavors of “evolution”

The Christian student argues that there are six kinds of evolution—cosmic evolution, chemical evolution, stellar evolution, organic evolution, macroevolution, and microevolution. Don’t worry about the distinction—it’s not much clearer in the comic. Creationists sometimes argue that “evolution” is ambiguous to justify their use of the word “Darwinism,” but I’ll stick with the term used by biologists.

The student says that all but microevolution are believed by faith. (Science is accepted because of evidence, not faith.)

Piltdown Man was a hoax

Next, he attacks fossil dating by stating that Richard Leakey found a modern skull under 212-million-year-old rock. (Nope. That skull was an early hominid dated to 1.9 million years.) Our precocious student then declares that Lucy was just a chimpanzee, not an early hominid. (I saw Lucy when it toured the U.S. in 2009. Our student is wrong again—the consensus is clear that Lucy is an Australopithecus.)

Next, we see a chart listing various hominid fossils, with comments dismissing each of them. But no biologist would include Piltdown Man (a hoax) and Nebraska Man (an error) on such a list. Other fossils are dismissed as irrelevant, but again, that’s Dr. Dino talking.

Note also that hominid fossils alone provide little evidence for evolution. Only given the overwhelming evidence for evolution from DNA evidence and the enormous variety of other fossils can we make sense of the hominid evidence.

Fossil dating uses circular reasoning.

Oh dear—Professor Frantic is losing this debate. He changes the subject to the old dates of fossils, and the student charges him with circular reasoning—we know that a layer is old because it has trilobites in it, but we know that trilobites are old because of the age of the surrounding layers. (Which is nonsense. Radioisotope dating is reliable only for igneous rock like basalt or granite. Fossils in a sedimentary layer can be dated by nearby layers of basalt laid down as lava, for example. If there isn’t any convenient igneous layer, new fossils can be dated by using other, known fossils if those fossils were reliably dated at some other site.)

The quick-witted student next brings up what Creationists call polystrate fossils—fossilized trees that intrude through many layers. If layers deposit very slowly, is a dead tree going to sit there, unchanging, for millions of years while the layers of sediment slowly accumulate around it? (The error, of course, is that layers are sometimes laid down very quickly. For example, land can subside during an earthquake. When that land is next to the ocean, many feet of sand can be deposited within hours.)

Embryology errors

The professor tries again and says that human embryos have gills, which proves that they evolved from fish. The student points out that Haeckel’s embryos are discredited. (Haeckel made a mistake—get over it.)

But here’s something I don’t get. I realize that Haeckel’s “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” has been discarded, but why do human embryos have gill-like features and then repurpose them? Why do they get a tail but then reabsorb it? Isn’t repurposing rather than building something in its final form clues to our earlier ancestors? Point me to something on this if you can.


The professor points to the human tail bone and the pelvis in some whales as vestigial structures. Mr. Smart Ass replies that both bones are useful because they anchor muscles and so aren’t vestigial. (Wrong again. “Vestigial” refers to something no longer used for its ancestral function. Wings on an ostrich are vestigial, not because they’re useless [they’re not] but because they aren’t used for flying. Similarly, the whale’s pelvis isn’t used for providing support for legs, which is what pelvises do.)

The student says, “Even if there were ‘vestigial’ organs, isn’t losing something the opposite of evolution?” (Dude—read a textbook on evolution! Animals evolve by becoming better suited to their environment. We might call that a loss [loss of eyesight in a cave fish or loss of walking for a sea mammal] but that perspective is pointless. By being selected by evolution, these animals have become fitter.)

And we have a winner!

After a bizarre turn where the student rejects the idea of gluons, our bedraggled atheist hero is ready to hear from the Bible. A beaten man at the end, he takes his ape portrait and resigns. The Christian victor wraps it up for his fellow students: evolution is a lie and Jesus saves.

Back in the real world

This is embarrassingly bad science. Creationists, study up on evolution before you try to attack it.

Believers, think about all the things you would do if you were God.
Then contemplate the fact that you worship a God who hasn’t.
— Tiger C. Lewis (paraphrased)

Photo credit: Chick Publications

About Bob Seidensticker
  • RichardSRussell

    Chick tracts are properly called “comic” books.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Wait–so Chick’s superhero is no more real than Thor or Aquaman??

      • RichardSRussell

        Ah, Thor! That reminds me of the comment that was making the rounds after the Avengers movie came out:
        Captain America. Met 2 gods face to face. Still a Christian.
        Iron Man. Met 2 gods face to face. Still an atheist.
        The Hulk. Met 2 gods face to face. Kicked the shit out of both of them.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker
        • Little_Magpie

          Poor Loki. );

          Yes, I am a fangirl. And? :)

        • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

          I love the pitiful moan at the end.

  • Eli

    I’m a biologist. The only time any “teacher” ever asked what we believed (in any class, not just science), it was a creationist asking.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      “Believe” was the verb used in the tract. “Accept” seems more appropriate, but my post was too long, and that observation got cut.

      • Eli

        Oh, no, I understand! This was just a comment on the tract and the fact that I think creationists aren’t just stawman-ing, but are projecting quite a bit when they think about what science teachers are like.

    • Greg G.

      When I was in 8th grade, one of my teachers asked for a show of hands. I don’t remember which class it was but it was not science. The options for belief in God was Yes, No , or Maybe. Two of us picked Maybe and the rest said Yes. He said where he was from in New England, it would have been the opposite. He didn’t state his position but I’m pretty certain he was not religious.
      Just another data point.

  • MNb

    “study up on evolution”
    Plus the four fundamental interactions. Plus cosmology.
    I have known this comic for a few years. It’s a textbook example of combining ignorance with strawmen.
    The movie will be about the same.
    The main actor, Kevin Sorbo, participates in about every movie that pays:


    Not exactly a guarantee for quality.
    But perhaps it provides a good training ground for recognizing logical fallacies.

    • Castilliano

      I find it funny that they drafted Hercules into their Jesus drama.
      I guess they really do love their Josephus and/or Tacitus, they wrote about both.
      Edit to add Tacitus. Thanks, Bob! :)

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Jo says little to argue for any claims in the gospel story, but he has no problem with a historical Hercules:

        these men were auxiliaries to Hercules, when he fought against Libya and Antaeus; and that Hercules married Aphra’s daughter, and of her he begat a son, Diodorus; and that Sophon was his son, from whom that barbarous people called Sophacians were denominated.

        Tacitus, another historian often claimed to provide extra-biblical evidence for Jesus, also believed that Hercules was real.

  • Nemo

    An atheist group did a response called “Who’s Your Daddy”. Look it up on Google, it’s hilarious. It changes the dialogue in the tract to be more realistic, and shoots down every strawman. I especially like what they did to the “we don’t know how atoms work, therefore Jesus binds them!” argument at the end.

    • Nemo

      I’ll also point out that while Haeckel’s drawings were debunked, our textbooks don’t use them “125 years later”. Far from it. They use actual photographs (you know, that “observational” science that creationists insist is the only thing that ever counts).
      Some types of sediment can deposit faster than others. Such is usually the case with polystrate fossils.
      We can observe the universe expanding. We can observe the afterglow of the Big Bang. The Big Bang theory has made numerous testable, observable predictions which have been confirmed. Big Bang Theory = observational science (if such a thing exists outside of creationist minds).
      We can observe new elements being created inside stars even now. We can see our sun fusing hydrogen into helium. We can tell from the brightness of stars which elements they are fusing together, and we know what happens to create new elements during a supernova.
      Not only does the chart not address some of the fossils stated by the strawman (truly the definition of fail), but despite believing humans are not apes, Hovind seems to imagine the Homo erectus was “quite human”.

      • MNb

        “The Big Bang theory”
        Don’t take over creationist terminology please. There is no such thing as a Big Bang Theory. In fact there are several theories describing the Big Bang.
        Like you write yourself the Big Bang is an established historical fact, just like the Boston Tea Pary is or the Agricultural Revolution some 10 000 years ago. Moreover we had a theory neatly describing the Big Bang well before those observations were made: General Relativity. Alexander Friedmann and George Lemaitre (only in science a commie and a catholic can cooperate) predicted it a few years before.

        • Nemo

          I’ve seen everyone use that term, not just creationists. In any case, a theory is not simply a wild mass guess, but is a well accepted explanation for some natural phenomenon. “Big Bang” is the worst part of it, since there was no explosion. Rather, it was a rapid expansion of space.

        • MNb

          “a well accepted explanation for some natural phenomenon”
          That’s part of the problem – there is no well accepted explanation for the Big Bang (understood as a historical event). Above mentioned General Relativity fails for a few reasons (mainly because it doesn’t account for quantum effects).
          Physicists simply are not out of the woods (yet).

          “Rather, it was a rapid expansion of space.”
          Exactly. I think it bad terminology to use the same word for the phenomenon and the theory describing it. Gravity is not the same as Theory of Gravity (or Electricity or Evolution or whatever).

          “I’ve seen everyone use that term”

          Sean Carroll doesn’t: he restricts himself to “Big Bang model”, defining it as “the picture of a universe expanding from a hot, dense state over the course of billions of years”
          A few paragraphs above he writes
          “In contrast, the “Big Bang event” is not really an event at all, but a placeholder for our lack of complete understanding.”
          I haven’t seen physicists like Lawrence Krauss and Stephen Hawking using “Big Bang Theory” either. Mano Singham over at Ftb does though (just checked).
          Normally I’m not nitpicking at stuff like this (unless I can tease bigots like Norm), but you’re too smart for such a mistake. Also I (and possibly you) am (are) not smart enough to avoid further mistakes after we have made this one, like Mano Singham.

        • RichardSRussell

          I am always at pains to point out the distinction between physicist Sean M. Carroll of Caltech and evolutionary biologist Sean B. Carroll of my own beloved University of Wisconsin – Madison. Each is just as distinguished in his own field, equally respected, similarly articulate, with comparable-quality books under his name, and just as much death on the TBs as the other, so one might easily imagine it’s just a single almost super-human intellect named Sean Carroll. But it’s not.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          (The bold comes through in my email notice of your comment, but not here. I’ve asked the webmaster.)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Hey–didn’t I hear that physicist Sean Carroll will debate William “Mad Bill” Craig 2/21 at 7pm New Orleans time?

          Live stream information:

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          RR: Did you see that the b tag works now? Weird.

          Bold away!

        • Niemand

          an established historical fact, just like the Boston Tea Party

          How do you know the Boston Tea Party really happened? Were you there? According to creationists, only personal witness is an acceptable form of testimony, and since none of us were there*, we can’t say whether the BTP actually happened or if it’s just a rumor put about by the British tea store The Boston Tea Party to make themselves seem more interesting.

          *Barring anyone here being a time traveler or long lived alien or something.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          According to creationists, only personal witness is an acceptable form of testimony

          Except when applied to their own beliefs. None of them were there to see God write the book of Genesis. It is also acceptable if you “know it in your heart.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Wow–it’s pretty cool to be able to rewrite the rules of rationality on the fly as you choose. What fun!

          Golly–I wish I were a Creationist.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve written earlier about the Flynn Paradox, where IQ scores have been rising 3 points per decade for nearly the last century.

          One example Flynn gives of how the kinds of problems we wrestle with has changed (which has prompted the uptick in IQ) is this: “There are no camels in Germany. Hamburg is a city in Germany. Are there camels in Hamburg?”

          He talked about giving this problem to rural leaders in some central Asian country. The answer: “I don’t know–I’ve never been to Hamburg.”

        • RichardSRussell

          I share MNb’s concern. Similarly, I prefer to refer to the fact of evolution and the theory of natural selection to explain it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That is a nice distinction. I’ll try to remember that.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Nice! That parody is here.

    • MNb

      It’s a nice parody indeed – or rather the original is a poor creacrap parody of this reworked version.
      It got something historical wrong. I mean, if you are accepting the scientific method you have to go the whole nine yards. Mithras didn’t have much to do with early christianity.



      • Nemo

        I personally roll my eyes whenever someone brings up Mithras or Horus myself. Otherwise, it dismantles the creationist arguments pretty well.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You don’t see any borrowing by early Christians from other religions?

        • MNb

          I’m hardly familiar with the subject, but as far as I know the scientific consensus (which we should accept as laymen) is that early christianity is a jewish sect expanded with Greek (mainly Platonic) philosophy. The fact that there are some similarities is not enough to postulate “borrowing”. That’s the whole point of those Roger Pearse articles (who is a scholar) I linked to.
          Just call me sceptical.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The options that seem in play to me for explanations for the supernatural elements within the early gospel story are:

          1. The gospel story is an accurate historical account.

          2. The similarities between early Christianity and other religions that preceded it (the dying-and-rising gods like Dionysus, for example) is because Christianity borrowed them, possibly inadvertently.

          3. There was no borrowing, but Christianity inadvertently came upon features that (coincidentally) it shares with other, earlier religions.

          And maybe others.

          The second option seems the obvious leading candidate to me. It raises eyebrows the least. That is, inadvertent borrowing is the least nutty option.

  • Little_Magpie

    (Yes, I did follow the link and look at the actual tract.)

    Seriously?: “Gluons are whack. Therefore what’s holding the nucleus together? Therefore, Goddidit.”

    facepalming so much.

    • MNb

      Pretty much my reaction the first time I saw it. It’s so bad I didn’t think it worth refuting. The parody underneath does a pretty good job.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        so bad I didn’t think it worth refuting.

        It is shooting fish in a barrel, but it’s for Darwin. It’s his birthday.

  • John Lev

    I like this version of Big Daddy better.


    • MNb

      Psssst …. BobS gave this link yesterday underneath.

  • Fallulah

    Wow I just bashed my head against my desk after reading that comic.

  • http://thephyseter.wordpress.com The_Physeter

    Chick tracts are so painful. They’re fun to make fun of, but dang…

    That bit about gluons is just awful. I guess gluons are a sinful human theory…because the Bible says it is GOD who “holds all things together.”
    Student: What holds atoms together?
    Professor: Gluons.
    Student: No, gluons aren’t real. Would you like to know what really holds atoms together?
    Professor: Oh, please tell me! You must be right, gluons don’t exist just because you said so! I’ll immediately believe anything you tell me that goes against modern science for no reason!

  • wtfwjtd

    Some of you younger whipper-snappers may not realize it, but this Chick tract has been around since at least the 70′s. I remember reading it as a kid; and while the Christian arguments against evolution have barely changed since that time, the mountains of evolutionary evidence keep piling up. My high-school aged daughter informs me, for example, that the project to map the Neanderthal genome was completed in 2010, and that there are hundreds of Neanderthal bone and fossil finds, with several nearly complete skeletons in the bunch. Yet, this Chick tract pretends it’s still debatable whether the Neanderthal even existed at all. And this just for starters… there’s plenty of other junk in this mess of Christian arguments to dissect and lampoon.
    That “Who’s your Daddy?” is great fun, BTW, I love it!

  • Ron

    Here’s an earlier Chick tract you won’t find on his website:


    Warning: contains some very disturbing moral values.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Wow. Pretty messed up. Nice commentary, though!

    • wtfwjtd

      Yea, that’s some pretty hideous stuff there. IIRC, that “Broken Cross” comic was a virulent, foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Catholic rant that would make haters and religious zealots everywhere smile. One of many, that were classic Chick shtick.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        It is rather fun to sit back and let Christian group A rant about how insane Christian group B is. A good example of schadenfreude, perhaps?

        • wtfwjtd

          A textbook example, I’d say!

    • MNb

      Somehow reminds me of my good friend Norm ….

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    (Just testing how the tags are working. Let’s try italic and bold.)

    Nope–I guess bold doesn’t work anymore …

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Let’s try the strong tag …


  • Administration at Patheos
  • Administration at Patheos
    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Yes, I’ve been using Chrome as well. I just tried this page on IE. Both of them show no bold.

      So you’re seeing the bolding correctly??

      • Administration at Patheos

        I’m seeing the bold on the urls only…

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ll try the b tag and the strong tag again to see what happens …

          OK–I guess it’s fixed now. Either b or strong works to boldify.

  • MNb

    Oh wow, iso the latest five comments we have a Tag Cloud now. Disqus really tries hard to make (following) discussions impossible.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’ve been playing around with the right column. I pruned a couple of things and added the Tag Cloud. Shouldn’t affect the comments, though.


      • MNb

        In the right column the latest five comments are gone for me. It’s not so much that I dislike the Tag Cloud; I miss those latest five comments. Now I’ll have to scan hundreds of comments for every article to find out if there’s something new.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You don’t get comments by email?

          OK–I’ve put the recent comments back in. Somehow they don’t look right to me. Let me know if that helps.

        • MNb

          Thanks. It helps enormously; I see that our good friend Wlad is back with a vengeance and otherwise I wouldn’t have known.
          I get only some (not even all) comments by email that answer my comments. But sometimes there is thread I’m interested in but only read, because I’ve nothing to add – which means say you or Kodie do a good job. These comments don’t arrive in my box.

        • MNb

          Ah – it looks like my enthusiastic remark about Wlad is premature. Never mind.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yeah–weird. I never used the Recent Comments thing, so I haven’t been tracking whether the comments are the latest or not.

        • MNb

          I’m happy again.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          OK–Recent Comments works again.

  • Y. A. Warren

    Do you sometime get the sense that you are paying back the playground bullies that made fun of your intellect? I do.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      That doesn’t really describe my growing up, but that’s an interesting idea. Righting the balance, even decades later, appeals to all of us, I imagine.

      • Y. A. Warren

        isn’t that why we continue war…to right the balance? When do we simply put our weapons down and start with a clean slate?