One year ago witnessed the publication of what Ken Ham and others at the young-earth ministry, Answer in Genesis (AiG), clearly hoped would provide a comprehensive, alternative approach to explaining the origin of species and, more generally, biological diversity within a 6000-year time-frame. As the bold title, “Replacing Darwin: The New Origin of Species,” proclaims, this book’s author, Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson, seeks to replace Darwin’s thesis with a new vision of recent, very rapid, evolution within separately created “kinds.” This rapid evolution is attributed to a process that Jeanson has called CHNP (Created Heterozygosity and Natural Processes).
In the weeks after its release, AiG, who supported Jeanson’s work, promoted the book through their media outlets. Ken Ham promoted the book in tweets such as this one from Oct 27, 2017, saying: “Yes, ‘Replacing Darwin’ rocks the evolutionary world of Darwin’s ideas to its core—I challenge you to read it.”
As part of that marketing campaign, numerous sympathetic reviews immediately appeared on young-earth creationist (YEC) blogs and Christian news outlets. A couple of months later a promotional piece about the book written by Rick Barry (BS in foreign language education from Bob Jones University) was published by AiG. That article finished with the following statement: “Without doubt, Jeanson’s Replacing Darwin: A New Origin of Species will ignite controversy.”
Has the book ignited controversy? Certainly a book that claims to “replace Darwin” should be expected to draw significant attention from the scientific community and Dr. Jeanson’s creationist peers if its claims have any merit.
A year out from publication, Barry’s expectations for the book have not met expectations.
My own reaction to “Replacing Darwin”
Jeanson is an intelligent thoughtful person who is working tirelessly to help a cause that he earnestly believes. He and I have far more in common theologically, politically, and socially than our public differences about God’s means of accomplishing His creation would belie. No doubt we disagree on the subject at hand but I live in circles of people who share many of Jeanson’s convictions and so I am very interested in understanding their views as I interact with them. I assumed that this book would have some influence on shaping future dialogue and opinion within that community and so the publication of Jeanson’s book was of great interest to me.
I had pre-ordered the book from Amazon and received it on the release date. I thought it would provide a comprehensive young-earth perspective of the origins of biological diversity or at least some new insights into a YEC view of speciation. I thought it would be an important work, if for no other reason, that it would become the primary reference for YECs on this topic for many years to come. So it was with some anticipation that I opened my copy for the first time.
I read the book cover to cover including all footnotes within two days. My first response was a feeling of great disappointment. I have found that at times YEC literature challenges me to think more deeply about biological and geological principles. I frequently find I am a much better scientists after the exercise. For example, Todd Wood’s articles about biological diversity are thought-provoking and raise challenges that have made me a better biologist. Unfortunately, I encountered little novel or thought-provoking in this book. It didn’t present, despite its claims, any substantive challenges to mainstream biology. It was little more than an extended version of Jeanson’s previous writings for which I was already familiar.
I had anticipated that I would be inspired, or possibly provoked, to write several articles in response to the book but, instead, I quickly realized that the book was not going to be “The Genesis Flood” of YEC biology. Surprisingly and for me disappointingly, it doesn’t interact with—or in many cases even acknowledge the existence of—competing YEC theories for the origins of biological diversity. For example, Dr. Wood has developed a number of hypotheses of possible mechanisms of speciation within a YEC framework and yet Jeanson only cites his work one time and that citation isn’t even for his most relevant work.
With a long list of subjects I was more interested in writing about, no one—other than Jeanson himself—begging me to write a review, and, with limited time, I had had no reason to explore the book further. A year later, others more capable than myself, have reviewed the book (see below) and I recommend them to anyone interested in a detailed analysis of the content of the book.
While I saw no reason to write a review of the book upon its release, I am interested in how the book has been received. Now that it is a year old we can look back and evaluate the impact the book has had, or not had, both inside and outside the YEC community.
Has “Replacing Darwin” generated controversy or ambivalence?
The controversy that erupts around radical claims such as those made in “Replacing Darwin” is often not about the claims themselves, but reactions to such claims. Should scholars spend time—and in some cases taxpayer dollars—to rebut unconventional and unorthodox hypotheses or should they simply ignore them? This is a question I have often asked myself. There is no simple answer. One factor in deciding whether to respond or not is based upon how much influence the person who is promoting error has. A person that is very wrong but has no audience might be deemed not worth the time and effort to engage with. For example, Kent Hovind is a far fringe YEC who Ken Ham and other mainstream creationists regularly ignore and have, at times, even warned others to ignore. When Hovind speaks, almost no one listens, and no one responds. Ken Ham, on the other hand, has a broad sphere of influence. Thus he cannot be ignored lest he be given free reign to spread his suspect theology and fake science.
“Replacing Darwin” is a product of Ken Ham’s ministry and is therefore automatically afforded a certain degree of attention that otherwise would certainly not be given it. However, as we will see, its influence seems to be muted and, at this point, the book nearly forgotten. The sole exception might be a recent debate between Jeanson and Marshall University professor Herman Mays (see below.) A year after publication, it is debatable how important it may be for scientists to spend their time in order to interact with its content.
The response to “Replacing Darwin” has similarities to books about non-mainstream views of history, such as those written about how the Moon Landing was faked. Did the book “One First Step” (a treatise on the supposedly faked lunar landing) or other similar books ignite controversy? Not really. They produced some press and garnered excitement from those who were already true believers. A few individuals took it upon themselves to formally respond, but the evidence from the book was never taken seriously because it did not provide a more rigorously supported historical narrative. Thus, it has been rightfully ignored by the vast majority of historians, scientists, and the public in general.
Thomas W. Eagar, an engineering professor at MIT, sums up the formula used to present non-conventional theories (such as a 9/11 government cover-up) which he explains as “the use of the ‘reverse scientific method’. They determine what happened, throw out all the data that doesn’t fit their conclusion, and then hail their findings as the only possible conclusion.”(1) A similar description could justifiably be drawn from “Replacing Darwin.” In this case, Jeanson has a conclusion (taxonomic families don’t share common ancestors but species within families—”kinds”—all formed within a few thousand years) and is attempting to provide scientific justification for that conclusion.
Ambivalence from the YEC community
What is worse than ambivalence from the mainstream scientific community? Ambivalence and silence from YEC community peers. I have been surprised at how little discussion “Replacing Darwin” has generated among the YEC community. Of course, part of the problem is that there are only a handful of people in that community who would even be able to evaluate, much less even understand, Jeanson’s claims. Some of those few were given the opportunity to comment on the manuscript, but we don’t know what they thought about it because most have been rather silent about the book.
We can see an example from this past summer at the most influential gathering of YECs, the International Creation Conference (ICC). Jeanson did not even present a paper following the publication of a book that was supposed to unseat Darwin himself! This gathering of YEC experts from around the world included all who would have been able to assess at least some aspects of Dr. Jeanson’s work. There were several papers presented at the conference addressing the origins of biological diversity. For example, the presentations included a discussion of the formation of the “eKinds project.” This project is outlined in a paper related to the talk. Interestingly, the paper references Anderson, Lightner, O’Micks, Terborg, Tomkins and Wood, all YECs who have written about biological “kinds” and mechanisms of their origins–i.e. Jeanson’s peers with respect to the topic of his book. Who is conspicuously missing? That’s right, there is not a single reference to Jeanson, “Replacing Darwin” or any of his other publications. Likewise, a paper proposing an alternative mechanism of adaptation and diversification references Jeanson twice but only in the context of disagreeing with Jeanson’s interpretation of mtDNA data.
This eKinds paper was written and submitted at least six months after Jeanson’s book was released and several years after his primary journal contributions. This is quite remarkable. I have noticed a similar trend among other YEC writers who discuss kinds and speciation. It appears that Jeanson is widely ignored by his own peers! If Jeanson is not impacting his YEC peers, why should anyone outside the YEC community pay attention? Before Jeanson can expect the broader scientific community to sit up and take notice of his ideas, he needs to first establish his model as mainstream among his YEC colleagues.
I keep track of a large number of discussion boards that include YECs. “Replacing Darwin” moved the needle in discussions for a few weeks after the release of the book, but subsequent mentions have since fallen quiet. I have YEC friends who participate in exclusively-YEC discussion sites that tell me the same thing. The silence is deafening.
In 2016 Jeanson asked the question: Why Don’t More People Accept the Young-Earth View of Speciation? His response: “In summary, evolutionists are unaware of our scientific literature; and even when they become aware, they appear to prefer ignorance of the key scientific details.” I suggest he might consider asking a similar question: Why don’t more of my YEC colleagues accept my understanding of speciation?
Sure, most mainstream scientists are unaware of the YEC literature. Why would he expect otherwise? YEC writers don’t publish in places that mainstream scientists would be looking. Those who are aware of YEC literature, and have familiarized themselves with it, simply don’t find any compelling information that would change their minds or warrant any dialogue. Again, if it’s just one or two people saying they can replace evolutionary theory with their own, then come back when you have ten more people who have the expertise to interact with evolutionary biologists. In this way, all are able to evaluate whether or not an alternative model is a serious challenge to Darwin. After all, mainstream scientists are sinners like all of us, and many exercise their prideful nature. So, if they believed that creationists had made a compelling case for why some portion of evolutionary theory was wrong, some would be more than willing to use or even steal those ideas to expose some faults and make a name for themselves.
Silence from critics should not be interpreted as fear or the inability to respond. The reason for silence can be as simple as, there is nothing worth discussing.
If Ken Ham and Dr. Jeanson feel strongly that “‘Replacing Darwin’ rocks the evolutionary world of Darwin’s ideas to its core” and the mainstream scientific community is unaware of the book or being ignored and underappreciated maybe AiG should send a copy of “Replacing Darwin” to every biology professor in America as they have done with Ken Ham’s apologetics book, “Gospel Reset,” sending a copy to every pastor in America. They could also include tickets to the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter so that scientists could come and learn what they have been missing.
Dr. Jeanson complains that scientists don’t read his books, well neither do they read books espousing 9/11 or fake moon landing conspiracies. If evidence is presented that can’t be ignored, eventually some scientists will put their reputations on the line to bring those alternative theories to the attention of the broader community. The hill is steep for any new theory that wishes to claim their hypothesis better fits the data than a well-established theory. It, in fact, must actually explain data better than the reigning paradigm, not simply claim to do so. “Replacing Darwin” hasn’t climbed that hill.
Academic Reviews of “Replacing Darwin”
The mainstream scientific community has not been completely silent. A few academics have taken on the thankless task of evaluating this book for the rest of the community. After having read the reviews linked below I can say that I would have not been able to articulate my concerns as clearly as these authors have, nor would I have had the patience to pour over the details to the same degree. I thank them for their service to scientific community and the general public.
In particular, the author of EvoGrad blog has written comprehensive point-by-point critiques of each of the first seven chapters of “Replacing Darwin.” If he continues the series and reviews Jeanson’s entire book this student will have spent as much time as Jeanson did writing his book. YECs should ask themselves, if a graduate student can write such a complete rebuttal of a Harvard PhD’s work, is it any wonder that the mainstream scientific community shouldn’t feel it necessary to take this book seriously?
This particular article provides a comprehensive rebuttal to Chapter 7 of “Replacing Darwin.” In fact, this review is longer than Jeanson’s chapter itself! This chapter contains the crux of Jeanson’s thesis that evolutionary biology has a problem. If Jeanson fails to make his case here—and he does—his entire argument collapses and it hardly matters what he says in subsequent chapters.
The author of EvoGrad explores Jeanson’s contention about diversity of humans being created rather than mutations.
Dr. Herman Mays, Marshall University Professor of Biology with speciality in Evolution and Genetics reviews the first half of Replacing Darwin.
A critical review by Dr. Stefan Frello (PhD in Botany) along with Jeanson’s response published in Answers Research Journal which is Answers in Genesis’ own journal.
A debate with an evolutionary biologist. Dr Jeanson and Dr. Herman Mays (Evolutionary Biologists at Marshall University) participated in a debate over the content of Jeanson’s book.
Prior to the publication of Jeanson’s book Steve Sterley of Bernard University penned a critique of Jeanon’s prior writings on the FilthyMonkeyMen blog: Creationists Invent their own Mutation Rate!. At the time Jeanson was working on his book and Jeanson even responded and so was aware of the criticisms brought forth by Sterley, however, he does not seem to have understood his errors since he continued to make the same mistakes in his book.
Update 11/22/2018 (Thanksgiving): Answers Research Journal published two articles late Thanksgiving eve. The first is a critical response by Dr. Stefan Frello to Jeanson’s prior response to him. The second is the response by Jeanson to Frello’s article.
The timing of the article’s release and public notice on the Answers in Genesis website early Thanksgiving morning is a strong signal of just how little they desire to have their followers see these articles. And for good reason, Frello’s article points out many serious problems with Jeanson’ thesis.
Update 5/4/2019: Added link to EvoGrads latest reviews. I also did a search on icr.org, creation.com, Todd Wood’s blog, and creationtoday.org for any mention of Jeanson’s book and there is no review of his book nor so much as even a passing reference to the book. It has been generally ignored by his peers. Some of this surely is a resistance by competing organizations to promote their “competitors” but if that is the case it is yet another example of their not behaving as scientists.
Walch, Tad (2006). “Controversy dogs Y.’s Jones”. Utah news. Deseret News Publishing Company. Retrieved September 9, 2006.
Cover image: A gynandromorph swallowtail butterfly. A gynandromporph is a organisms that expresses characteristics of both sexes. I this case the butterfly is bilaterally split 50/50 male and female. I think of them as illustrating Jeanson’s attempt to meld evolutionary mechanisms and recent direct-creation together. Below is an example of the unusual condition. The butterfly in the center is half male and half female though combinations can occur in many other ratios as well.
The Mocker Swallowtail (Papilio dardanus) showing the female (left), male (right) and gynandromorph (center)
Editing provided by MC