Notes on Francis Hitching and the Watchtower Society

Alan Feuerbacher

As we have seen, the author of the Creation book borrowed much material from The Neck of the Giraffe. This includes the entire discussion on Archaeopteryx on page 80. He also borrowed much from young-earth creationists. It is easy to tell, because the errors in logic or the presentation of data are the same. For example, on the question of rich Precambrian fossiliferous deposits, on page 27 of his book Hitching quotes three scientists, from material published prior to 1961, as saying that there are none. Creation makes the same error on pages 59-63. On the question of mammalian jawbone and earbone evolution discussed on pages 80-81, Creation's argument is nearly the same as Hitching's, which is nearly the same as creationist author Duane Gish's in Evolution? The Fossils Say No! All err in being ignorant of the fossil evidence.

The rest of the Creation book does no better. In paragraph 5 on page 143 it cites an article in Scientific American ("Adaptation," p. 213, New York, September, 1978) by zoologist Richard Lewontin, a noted evolutionary theorist. He is supposed to have "said that organisms 'appear to have been carefully and artfully designed.' He views them as 'the chief evidence of a Supreme Designer.'"

The question at the bottom of the page further emphasized Lewontin's purported view: "What recognition does a zoologist give to design and to its originator?" Now, picture the answer a typical reader at a bookstudy would give to the question: "Well, as the paragraph shows, Richard Lewontin views the design of organisms as evidence for their being created."

A check of the Scientific American article shows that Lewontin said something very different from what Creation claims. In saying the above things he is alluding, not to his own viewpoint, but to the general viewpoint scientists in the 19th century had about nature. After describing what had been the general view of how the great variety of life forms came about, and stating that Darwin had tried to account for both its "diversity and fitness," Lewontin said:

Life forms are more than simply multiple and diverse, however. Organisms fit remarkably well into the external world in which they live. They have morphologies, physiologies and behaviors that appear to have been carefully and artfully designed to enable each organism to appropriate the world around it for its own life.

Lewontin's point was that organisms only appear or seem to have been carefully designed. Clearly referring to the 19th century view, he said:

It was the marvelous fit of organisms to the environment, much more than the great diversity of forms, that was the chief evidence of a Supreme Designer. Darwin realized that if a naturalistic theory of evolution was to be successful, it would have to explain the apparent perfection of organisms and not simply their variation. [italics added]

The rest of the article shows that Lewontin considers the viewpoint highlighted in the above quotation as erroneous, and that it has been corrected by the work of Darwin and his successors in the 20th century. In fact, the article is devoted entirely to demonstrating how the adaptation of an organism to its environment can be explained by natural, not supernatural, mechanisms. The abstract for the article is quite clear: "The manifest fit between organisms and their environment is a major outcome of evolution."

This complete misrepresentation is similar to what Creation did with a quotation from Popular Science magazine on page 96. Lewontin specifically complained about this practice:

Partly through honest confusion, but also partly through a conscious attempt to confuse others, creationists have muddled the disputes about evolutionary theory with the accepted fact of evolution to claim that even scientists call evolution into question. By melding our knowledge of what has happened in evolution with our doubts about how this has happened into a single "theory of evolution," creationists hope to challenge evolution with evolutionists' own words. Sometimes creationists plunge more deeply into dishonesty by taking statements of evolutionists out of context to make them say the opposite of what was intended. For example, when, in an article on adaptation, I described the outmoded nineteenth-century belief that the perfection of creation was the best evidence of a creator, this description was taken into creationist literature as evidence for my own rejection of evolution. Such deliberate misuse of the literature of evolutionary biology, and the transparent subterfuge of passing off the Old Testament myth of creation as if it were creation "science" rather than the belief of a particular religion, has convinced most evolutionists that creationism is nothing but an ill-willed attempt to suppress truth in the interest of propping up a failing institution. But such a view badly oversimplifies the situation and misses the deep social and political roots of creationism. [Laurie R. Godfrey, Scientists Confront Creationism, p. xxiv, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 1983]

Lewontin also complained about the practice of misquoting scientists, in the magazine Creation/Evolution, Fall 1981, on page 35:

Modern expressions of creationism and especially so-called "scientific" creationism are making extensive use of the tactic of selective quotation in order to make it appear that numerous biologists doubt the reality of evolution. The creationists take advantage of the fact that evolutionary biology is a living science containing disagreements about certain details of the evolutionary process by taking quotations about such details out of context in an attempt to support the creationists' antievolutionary stand. Sometimes they simply take biologists' descriptions of creationism and then ascribe these views to the biologists themselves! These patently dishonest practices of misquotation give us a right to question even the sincerity of creationists.

It is one thing to cite and describe opposing viewpoints. It is something else again to repeatedly attribute those opposing views to an author or to a publication that merely describes them, especially when it is evident that the description is for the purpose of dismissing it.

On a final note, it is likely that Creation got Lewontin's statement wrong via poor scholarship rather than dishonesty. Apparently the author was too lazy to do his own research, or he might not have mangled the quotation so badly. Lewontin's statement was apparently lifted from paranormalist Francis Hitching's book The Neck of the Giraffe, page 84 (page 65 paperback). Hitching's quotation of Lewontin is identical to Creation's, but his book was published in 1982, whereas Creation was published in 1985. Hitching apparently in turn lifted this from the creationist publication Impact, No. 88, October, 1980, from the article "Creation, Selection, and Variation" by Gary E. Parker, a well-known creationist. On page 2 Parker wrote:

As Harvard's Richard Lewontin recently summarized it, organisms "... appear to have been carefully and artfully designed." He calls the "perfection of organisms" both a challenge to Darwinism and, on a more positive note, "the chief evidence of a Supreme Designer."

See the magazine Creation/Evolution, Fall 1981, pages 35-44 for more details.

As has been stated, Francis Hitching has lifted arguments from creationists without attribution. The Watchtower Society has done the same, as will be shown here. We will examine several examples.

Impact is a monthly publication of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) in El Cajon, California. The institute is a six-literal-day creationist, trinitarian organization, which would ordinarily be condemned in Watchtower publications. In one instance, on page 180, footnote 3, Creation took its information directly from Impact. Arguing that many evolutionists use "the weight of authority" of scientists to get people to believe evolution, Creation said:

An example typical of views that often intimidate laymen is this assertion by Richard Dawkins: "Darwin's theory is now supported by all the available relevant evidence, and its truth is not doubted by any serious modern biologist." But is this actually the case? Not at all. A little research will reveal that many scientists, including 'serious modern biologists,' not only doubt evolution but do not believe it.3 They believe that the evidence for creation is far, far stronger.

Checking footnote 3 we find that it refers to Impact, September 1981, p. ii., which contained an article by Henry M. Morris complaining about Isaac Asimov's treatment of six-literal-day creationism. It said:

The "prophet" Isaac never mentions the fact that most of the great founding fathers of modern science (e.g., Newton, Pascal, Kelvin, Faraday, Galileo, Kepler, etc.) were theistic creationists, nor that thousands of fully qualified scientists today have repudiated the evolutionary indoctrination of their school days in favor of the much stronger scientific evidences for creation.

So Creation uses what is essentially a trinitarian religious magazine to make its point. It should be noted that Impact did not mention any specific evidence for its claim in the material Creation referred to. On page iv, however, it said:

Asimov also makes the arrogant charge that creationist scientists "have not made any mark as scientists." The fact is that a cross-section of the records of the scientists on the ICR staff, for example, or of the Creation Research Society, would compare quite favorably with those of most secular colleges and universities (including Asimov's own record).

This statement is misleading at best. Many investigators have found that few creation scientists have done any serious scientific work after becoming associated with the "scientific creationists." A background check of so-called "creation scientists" shows that many of them have degrees from 'diploma mills' or from organizations like the ICR. They often become engrossed, like physicist Robert Gentry, in trying to prove the earth is only six thousand years old. Outfits like the Institute for Creation Research have often misrepresented the credentials of "scientists" on its staff in order to make them look more authoritative than they really are. In actual fact, there are extremely few scientists or serious biologists who do not "believe in evolution." So Creation's last statement is not true and is based on a statement by prominent member of "Christendom," which has been demonstrated to misrepresent the credentials of its staff.

There is far too much information on these so-called creationist's scientific credentials to present here, but it is clear that the Creation book's reference is itself merely an appeal to authority rather than evidence -- an authority the Watchtower Society normally rejects, at that.

The above material shows that many of Creation's arguments came from Francis Hitching or six-literal-day creationists without attribution. Many of Hitching's arguments certainly came directly from six-literal-day creationists, which Creation has borrowed in turn. How many Jehovah's Witnesses are aware of this connection?

Chapter 4 of the Creation book relies heavily on the writings of paranormalist Francis Hitching, who has already been shown to have borrowed heavily from six-literal-day creationists. Here is another case in point. On page 44, paragraph 18 states:

The proteins needed for life have very complex molecules. What is the chance of even a simple protein molecule forming at random in an organic soup? Evolutionists acknowledge it to be only one in 10113 (1 followed by 113 zeros). But any event that has one chance in just 1050 is dismissed by mathematicians as never happening. An idea of the odds, or probability, involved is seen in the fact that the number 10113 is larger than the estimated total number of all the atoms in the universe!

This is misleading for several reasons. For one thing, no direct reference is given showing how this number was obtained, who derived it, what the conditions were, how long the time period was, etc. It turns out that it was taken from pages 67, 70-71 (pp. 50, 52-53 paperback) of Francis Hitching's book The Neck of the Giraffe, in a panel entitled "Can Life Form by Chance?" That is why Creation says that "evolutionists acknowledge" the probability to be only one in 10113 -- Creation calls Hitching an evolutionist because the author didn't bother to find his credentials. The argument, of course, is not attributed to anyone in particular, even though it is lifted from Hitching.

It gets worse. Hitching was merely quoting someone else's argument, which he reproduced in some detail with full attribution. The panel quotes Dr. Jean Sloat Morton, apparently a six-literal-day creationist, writing in Impact, December 1980, number 90. Impact is a publication of the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, and is quoted elsewhere in Creation. Hitching's quotation said:

... let us consider a simple protein containing only 100 amino acids. There are 20 different kinds of L-amino acids in proteins, and each can be used repeatedly in chains of 100. Therefore, they could be arranged in 20100 or 10130 different ways. Even if a hundred million billion (1017) of these combinations could function for a given purpose, there is only one chance in 10113 of getting one of these required amino acid sequences in a small protein consisting of 100 amino acids.

Creation is really plagiarizing the work of a young-earth creationist in the ICR pamphlet Impact, via Hitching. Note also that in the aforementioned paragraph, Creation claims that "Evolutionists acknowledge the chances to be 1 in 10113." That is an outright lie. It is not an evolutionist who is making the claim, it is a creationist.

In any case, this is a commonly used creationist argument, and is based on incorrect assumptions such as life must have originated completely in a form that we recognize today with DNA, RNA, enzymes, etc. No one today knows enough about biology to make even an estimate of the probability of proteins arising by chance, much less that for life itself.

Even in minor ways, Creation manages to distort what the original author of the Impact article said. The statement that "mathematicians usually consider 1 chance in 1050 as negligible" is turned into "any event that has one chance in just 1050 is dismissed by mathematicians as never happening." The statement that "Sir Arthur Eddington has estimated there are no more than 1080 (or 3,145 x 1079) particles in the universe" is turned into "an idea of the odds, or probability, involved is seen in the fact that the number 10113 is larger than the estimated total number of all the atoms in the universe." There is an obvious migration from tentative statements to authoritative, and a "dumbing down." The author of Creation has no idea what he is talking about and is clearly dishonest.

In Conclusion

The above material clearly shows the "Keystone Kops" nature of Watchtower science writings. This was noted in a somewhat more scholarly manner in the following opinion by author Alan Rogerson (Millions Now Living Will Never Die: A Study of Jehovah's Witnesses, p. 116, Constable, London, 1969):

A long acquaintance with the literature of the Witnesses leads one to the conclusion that they live in the intellectual 'twilight zone.' That is, most of their members, even their leaders, are not well educated and not very intelligent. Whenever their literature strays onto the fields of philosophy, academic theology, science or any severe mental discipline their ideas at best mirror popular misconceptions, at worst they are completely nonsensical.

The Bible says that its author is a God of truth, and so it would seem that a passage from James Moffatt's translation of Job 13:7-12 is applicable to the Watchtower Society's method of dealing with science:

Will you bring unfair arguments for God? Will you tell lies on his behalf? Will you be sycophants of the Almighty? Will you be special pleaders for God? Will it be well when he probes you? Can you deceive him like a man? No, he will punish you, if you are sycophants of his in secret. Should not his majesty cause you to shudder? Should not the dread of him seize you? Your maxims crumble like mere ashes, your arguments collapse like mounds of clay.

A Bit of Creationist Humor

From Science and Creationism, Ashley Montagu, ed.; Oxford University Press; 1984; p. 359; article "Repealing the Enlightenment" by Gene Lyons which originally appeared in Harper's Magazine, April 1982. At the 1981 "monkey trial" in Little Rock Arkansas, Dr. Norman Geisler of the Dallas Theological Seminary was called as a defense witness. Lyons wrote:

The most profound part of Geisler's testimony was his attempt to prove that the "Creator" of the universe and life mentioned in Act 590 was not an inherently religious concept. After citing Aristotle, Plato, and one or two other classical philosophers who supposedly believed in a God or gods without worshiping them -- albeit not as creators of the world "from nothing" -- Geisler offered his most thundering proof: the Epistle of James. He cited a line of Scripture to the effect that Satan acknowledges God, but chooses not to worship Him. "The Devil," he said, "believes that there is a God." Whee! If Geisler has not yet squared the circle in his meditations, he has at least, well, circled it. Who would have thought one could prove the Creator a nonreligious idea by means of hearsay evidence from Beelzebub? After unloading that bombshell, Geisler, too, hastened to face the cameras in the courtroom hallway. "We don't rule out stones from a geology class just because some people have worshiped stones, and we don't rule God out of science class because some believe in him." As I listened to Geisler I could not help but recall the words of the Rev. C. O. Magee, a Presbyterian minister who is a member of the Little Rock School Board. "Any time religion gets involved in science," Magee told the Gazette, "religion comes off looking like a bunch of nerds.... The Book of Genesis told who created the world and why it was created and science tells how it was done." Amen.