“Evolution, the Grand Experiment” Chapter 2, Evolution’s False Start: Spontaneous Generation 322 B.C.-1859 A.D.

Chapter 1 Review

Dr. Carl Werner opens chapter two of “Evolution, The Grand Experiment” with the words, “Even Scientists Can Be Wrong!”

In sum, the chapter discusses and old disproven theory called: “Spontaneous Generation (SG).” SG was a theory life came from non-life or non-parentage. For instance, that maggots come from rotten meat idea. Werner also hopes to show how science and scientists aren’t always accurate and are often wrong, and it takes a brave scientist to point this out.

For the record, scientists like atheists PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins admit often that science is and can be proven wrong. That’s what makes it science. An idea is generated, it is tested, and if it is tested wrong, it gets thrown out.

I also want to remind my readers that this book was chosen by creationist Mark Tetzlaff for the following rationale:

“I believe that Dr. Werner is a honest researcher. He examines the evidence in great detail and contrasts how evolutionists and creationists interpret the evidence. In his book, he never states his opinion or interpretation of the evidence, but simply explains the evidence, how others have interpreted it and leaves it to the reader to make their own choice. This book does not provide answers to our origin or development, but it does provide a tremendous amount of information that teaches us a great deal about the world in which we live.”

Let’s explore Dr. Werner’s honest research …

Chapter two’s opening paragraph says (I included bracketed statements to refer to Werner’s footnotes):

History teaches us that even scientists can be wrong. In the past, scientists had some rather strange ideas concerning the origin of life. They believed that living organisms could come into being rapidly and “spontaneously” over a period of just a few days or weeks. Remarkably, the theory of spontaneous generation, which originated around the time of Aristotle (fourth century B.C.), was perpetuated over 2,100 years [two footnotes]. It was considered an “article of faith” [footnote] by many biologists until it was finally disproved by Louis Pasteur in 1859. The story of spontaneous generation is one example where scientists, confident in their beliefs, were proven wrong after thousands of years.

That’s what the book says. Let’s check Werner’s footnotes. There were three footnotes above. The first one references D.B. Fankhauser and J. Stein Carter (2004). The work is called Spontaneous Generation and it can be found online at this address. The link isn’t direct, so to find the material click the “lab 1” tab, and then click the section designated “spontaneous generation.”

The quote that Werner has chosen to influence the first paragraph of chapter two is:

Among these ideas, for centuries, since at least the time of Aristotle (4th Century BC), people (including scientists) believed that simple living organisms could come into being by spontaneous generation. This was the idea that non-living objects can give rise to living organisms. It was common “knowledge” that simple organisms like worms, beetles, frogs, and salamanders could come from dust, mud, etc., and food left out, quickly “swarmed” with life.

Notice how it says, “[P]eople (including scientists) believed that simple living organisms could come into being by spontaneous generation.” There you have it. Stupid old scientists believed what some people believed happened. Carter and Fankhauser don’t explain which scientists “believed” this information.

What is this beacon of academia that Werner has so eruditely chosen to support his argument that scientists are fools? It’s a syllabus from a little community college called Clarmont College located in Batavia, Ohio. “Opened in 1972, the college offers more than 50 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide range of subjects.”

Clarmont College speaks for itself. Anywhere you can get an associates degree is a place that should be hailed as a stalwart of top-notch science in America.

The second footnote says, “Author’s Note: Aristotle died in the year 322 B.C Pasteur disproved spontaneous generation finally in 1859 A.D.”

That’s it. Werner reminded himself that it may have taken 2,100 years to slaughter a “belief” system.

The third footnote is a reference to a portion of an article written by one H.C. Bastian (1870). (Where Werner can, he abbreviates names to initials. I find it cute.) After some poking around, I found that it’s referring to Henry Charlton Bastian (wiki).

The footnote quotes the first few sentences (read the entire piece here) — and remember this is 1870:

In all ages it has been believed by many that Living things of various kinds could come into being de novo, and without ordinary parentage. Much difference of opinion has, however, always prevailed as to the kinds of organisms which might so arise. And although received as an article of faith by many biologists — perhaps by most — in the earlier ages, this doctrine or belief has, in more recent times, been rejected by a very large section of them. Definitely to prove or disprove the doctrine in some of its aspects is a matter of the utmost difficulty, and there are reasons enough to account for the wave of scepticism on this subject, which has been so powerful in its influence during the last century.

What it leaves out is that Bastian recognized that the above portion was bogus in light of microscopic evidence that had recently come on the scene. Bastian explains that “Germs” were a relatively new concept, and rudimentary microscopes were showing things that science had never seen before.

This statement, which Bastian later explains was bunk is where Werner found his quote “article of faith”. Despite the very fact that Bastian himself didn’t believe in such an “article of faith”, that’s the only place Werner could find the quote he was looking for that included the word “faith” — which backs up his idea that evolution is just a flimsy, insubstantial idea based on a religious notion.

And what bulwark of scientific fair and un-biased information — as Tetzlaff established this book to be — did DOCTOR Werner find such an amazing proof of scientific stupidity? The article (not in full) can be found on this web site: http://www.asa3.org. What does ASA stand for? Well, it’s American Scientific Affiliation: A Fellowship of Christians in Science. What is the purpose of the ASA? Why it’s to bring the lost to Christ.

This is fair and honest!

Let’s  move on to the experiments that show how some scientists thought spontaneous generation occurred?

There’s an experiment where a scientist puts wheat and dirty, sweaty underwear in a jar and mice would appear. And yes, there is a photo of a hand putting wheat in a jar and then holding what is supposed to be dirty underwear.

This fine experiment was conducted by Dr. Jan Baptista von Helmont (1580-1644).

After this first proof of “bad science”, as Werner puts it, he says, “In retrospect, it seems obvious that Dr. von Helmont’s proof was really nothing more than bad science. The mice did not come from underwear; they simply crawled into the jar to eat the wheat.”

I’m thinking that the dirty, sweaty underwear was added to make this book a tad more interesting. The original experiment was done with merely a shirt as even Werner’s own footnotes explained. It would make the book’s target 10-year-olds giggle when they read the word “underwear.” I want to point out that this is what creationists find to be reputable science discussion. Let me quote the rest of the “bad science” section:

How is it possible that Dr. von Helmont and other prominent scientists merely accepted the theory of spontaneous generation without adequately testing it to determine the theory’s validity? How is it possible that these ideas were believed for over 2,100 years?

During von Helmont’s time questioning spontaneous generation was tantamount to questioning science itself. Would anyone dare to challenge the prevailing scientific thought of the day? Could the majority of scientists be wrong? Only a courageous scientist would be able to stand up against the proponents, for those who objected to spontaneous generation were thought of as fools. Supporters of spontaneous generation pointed out that it was “obvious” the mice had emerged from the underwear. Besides, there were other lines of evidence to support the theory of spontaneous generation, such as the formation of maggots on rotting meat.”

As you can imagine, there are pictures of the maggot experiment. Then Werner does pond scum. And finally, we arrive at Louis Pasteur and how he finally debunked the “theory” of spontaneous generation.

All of those details are brought to you by that stronghold of academia at accessexcellence.com, which is the web site for C. Everett Koop’s National Health Museum Web site that supports elementary school teachers with science instruction. The web site has since closed down its support, but its doors remain open as a reference site.

So far, Dr. Werner footnotes information for his book from elementary school reference web sites and from Christian Web sites who’s goal is to bring people to Christ.

He writes in an elementary fashion to be accessible to fifth graders. He makes a joke of scientific inquiry and tries to say that only courageous scientists will oppose the status quo. He makes scientists out to be complete bumbling idiots.

But let’s break this down further. This idea prevailed for 2100 years. That’s two millennia. It preceded Christ by over 300 years. What are the ramifications of disproving spontaneous generation? Science discovered the germ theory of disease. Since spontaneous generation has been debunked, science has made great advancements in health care. Life expectancy has shot up. People like my mother can be given multiple organ transplants and continue to live an amazing life through the ability to inhibit her body from rejecting another person’s organs! How amazing.

What does this tell me? Jesus had a remarkable opportunity to debunk a scientific theory 2,000 years ago that had prevailed for OVER 300 years (really since the beginning of time). Instead, he proceeded with the then current idea that disease came from “demons”. He performed exorcisms on diseased people. Instead of saying, “Hey, the spontaneous generation theory is going to be debunked in 2000 years, you should know about germs and how simply washing your hands can avoid ‘demons’. Yes, my good people, to save yourselves from worlds of sickness, pain and obvious ignorance to what really causes disease, you should know about germs.”

But he didn’t. He didn’t even say that prayer was the cure, but it seems that most Christ followers today seem to think that’s a more acceptable form of health care than scientifically-based health care. The all-powerful, all human, all god man, omniscient and all knowing, he kept the status quo too. He let humanity keep believing that demons were the culprit for disease. That doesn’t sound like the all-knowing god I was raised to believe in, does it? If scientists were stupid for over 2,000 years, what does that make Jesus who could have knocked that out of the park even earlier? What does that make Jesus, who was supposedly around since the beginning of time. Jesus is Infinity years old and he couldn’t debunk science either. Meanwhile, Christians everywhere benefit from scientific discoveries that Jesus should have “saved” humanity with 2,000 years ago.

But this book is balanced right? Next chapter, creationism’s flaws! … Psyche.

That’s fine. Let’s go with it, right? Werner’s fair and balanced. Surely there will be a chapter coming up detailing controversies of creationism, right? Creationism predates evolution by over 6,000 years. Surely in 6,000 to 10,000 years there has been an issue with creation science, right?

Let’s see what he has to say in Chapter three, which is titled, “Darwin’s False Mechanism for Evolution: Acquired Characteristics, Antiquity –– 1889 A.D.

5 thoughts on ““Evolution, the Grand Experiment” Chapter 2, Evolution’s False Start: Spontaneous Generation 322 B.C.-1859 A.D.

  1. Dr. Carl Werner got his degree in biology from the University Of Missouri and I do agree that scientists do make mistakes. And the second chapter of his book is a huge one. The disproven theory of spontaneous generation had nothing to do with evolution but it was a proposed explanation for abiogenesis which has nothing to do with evolution. Frankly, I thought the University Of Missouri had a much better curriculum than that.

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      He got his undergraduate in biology from U of Missouri according to this book. His bio doesn’t list from where he rec’d his doctorate of medicine … at the age of 23.

  2. To give him some credit and maybe shedding a light on his agenda, creationists often confuse abiogenesis with evolution and claim since abiogenesis is false, so is evolution. On second thought, that isn’t giving him any credit.

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