When a person tries to accurately assess an argument, underlying assumptions are often some of the most difficult concepts to identify. Once those underlying assumptions are discovered, however, it is much easier to see the merits or demerits of a particular line of reasoning. In Neil Shubin’s national bestseller, Your Inner Fish, a faulty foundational assumption underlies the entire text. Shubin correctly (sometimes) identifies similarities that humans share with certain other organisms, but asserts that all similarity necessarily signifies ancestral relationship (an idea we have shown to be false in previous writings: Butt, 2010). He then falsely equates the terms “similarity” and “history,” and uses the two interchangeably. For instance, after a discussion of the inner ear, Shubin wrote: “The spinning drunk and the fish’s water-sensing organs have common genes: evidence of common history” (2009, p. 172, emp. added). While it is true that there is some similarity between the genes, the factual evidence stops there. Shubin’s false assumption that the similarity proves a common history is unsubstantiated, it is an unproved assertion not based on facts. Yet it is this false assumption that is the basis for his book.
On page 144, Shubin stated: “It turns out that such genes are a living record of some major transitions in the history of life” (emp. added). Again we see Shubin incorrectly equating what we do see (similarity between genes) with what we do not see (the erroneous concept of evolutionary history). Shubin again claims to see “history” in the human eye, when nothing exists but some similarity with other organisms. He writes: “Once we identify these multiple layers of history in our organs, we understand that we are simply a mosaic of bits and pieces found in virtually everything else on the planet” (p. 149).
When reading evolutionary-based materials, it is important to differentiate between the actual facts and the assumptions. The fact of the matter is, humans share some similarities with other organisms (although these are often greatly exaggerated by Shubin and others). The false assumption is that any organism that is similar must have some type of ancestral relationship. What we see in Shubin (and his work is typical of much evolutionary writing in this regard) is that he erroneously equates the terms “similarity” and “history,” and writes his books as though these two concepts are identical. Thus, when reading his book, it is imperative to understand that when he alludes to the alleged “evolutionary history of the human body,” all that he can actually mean is the similarity of our body to another organism. And, as we have written in other places (Butt, 2010), a common Designer is a much better explanation for such similarity than an imaginary evolutionary history.
Butt, Kyle (2010), “Shubin’s Inner Fish Can’t Swallow Proper Scientific Interpretation,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240390.
Shubin, Neil (2009), Your Inner Fish (New York: Vintage Books).
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