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J. Francis Hitching is a sensationalist television scriptwriter/producer and author best known for his involvement in the TV programs Ready Steady Go! and In Search of... and for writing several books on paranormal phenomena. He was born in 1933 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, and attended a private boys' school in nearby Warwick.
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society publication Life--How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or By Creation? quotes heavily from Hitching's The Neck of the Giraffe, controversially citing Hitching as an "evolutionist." Hitching in turn derives much of his material from Impact, an article found in the Institute for Creation Research's monthly publication Acts & Facts.
The aforementioned Watchtower publication will hereinafter be referred to as Life--.
Hitching on Darwinism
Life-- , in an effort to show that scientists have expressed lack of support for the theory of evolution, states:
- Francis Hitching, an evolutionist and author of the book The Neck of the Giraffe, stated: "For all its acceptance in the scientific world as the great unifying principle of biology, Darwinism, after a century and a quarter, is in a surprising amount of trouble." (p. 15)
However, in his book Hitching goes on to state:
- Evolution and Darwinism are often taken to mean the same thing. But they don't. Evolution of life over a very long period of time is a fact, if we are to believe evidence gathered during the last two centuries from geology, paleontology (the study of fossils), molecular biology and many other scientific disciplines. Despite the many believers in Divine creation who dispute this (including about half the adult population of the United States, according to some opinion polls), the probability that evolution has occurred approaches certainty in scientific terms. (pp. 12-13)
It becomes obvious that Hitching doubts the Darwinian process and not evolution in general, as implied by Life--.
Hitching on failures of evolution
Life-- references The Neck of the Giraffe, noting:
- Summarizing some of the unsolved problems confronting evolution, Francis Hitching observed: "In three crucial areas where [the modern evolution theory] can be tested, it has failed: The fossil record reveals a pattern of evolutionary leaps rather than gradual change. Genes are a powerful stabilizing mechanism whose main function is to prevent new forms evolving. Random step-by-step mutations at the molecular level cannot explain the organized and growing complexity of life." (p. 23)
However, Hitching's statement (p. 103) was that "neo-Darwinism" has failed where Life-- has replaced that with "the modern evolution theory," again implying that Hitching doubts the fact of evolution when in reality he only doubts Darwinian mechanisms.
Contrary to Hitching's claim genes are not primarily a stabilizing mechanism; they are heritable instructions for physical development. Natural selection, and not genes themselves, serves to reduce the genetic variation in a population . See also DNA will repair itself, thus preventing speciation.
For a discussion on the pattern of the fossil record see We should see a smooth continuum through the fossil record. For a refutation of the claim of the ineffectuality of mutations see Mutations don't produce new features.
Hitching on ignorance in evolution
- Then Hitching concluded by making this observation: "To put it at its mildest, one may question an evolutionary theory so beset by doubts among even those who teach it. If Darwinism is truly the great unifying principle of biology, it encompasses extraordinarily large areas of ignorance. It fails to explain some of the most basic questions of all: how lifeless chemicals came alive, what rules of grammar lie behind the genetic code, how genes shape the form of living things." (p. 24)
Note these supposed gaps in the explanatory power of evolution in fact involve areas that evolution does not attempt to explain. See Evolution is baseless without a theory of abiogenesis and Evolution doesn't explain the grammar of the genetic code.
Hitching on faith in evolution
Immediately thereafter Life-- notes:
- In fact, Hitching stated that he considered the modern theory of evolution "so inadequate that it deserves to be treated as a matter of faith." (p. 24)
The quote comes from a section of The Neck of the Giraffe titled "Dialogue with Dr Gish" in which Hitching states, in part:
- Considering that I believe living things have a common origin and have evolved over a long period of time, and Duane Gish doesn't, there turned out to be a surprising amount of shared ground between us...We were also at one in considering the neo-Darwinian explanation of major evolutionary change so inadequate that it deserves to be treated as a matter of faith. (p. 117, italics added)
For a response to the claim see Evolution should be treated as a matter of belief.
Hitching on spontaneous generation of macromolecules
Life-- gives a series of quotes presenting Hitching as an authority on abiogenesis:
- The dilemma this creates for evolution is expressed by Hitching: "With oxygen in the air, the first amino acid would never have got started; without oxygen, it would have been wiped out by cosmic rays." (p. 41)
- Hitching explained: "Beneath the surface of the water there would not be enough energy to activate further chemical reactions; water in any case inhibits the growth of more complex molecules." (p.41)
- "In other words," Hitching says, "the theoretical chances of getting through even this first and relatively easy stage [getting amino acids] in the evolution of life are forbidding." (p. 42)
For a defense of the possibility of the spontaneous formation of amino acids, see Miller's experiments had invalid assumption of type of atmosphere, Early molecules would have decayed, and Early molecules would have been destroyed by UV light.
Hitching on a protein molecule forming randomly
Life-- also notes:
- 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! (p. 44)
It should be noted that the above paragraph was unreferenced by Life--. Hitching (pp. 70-71) on the other hand quotes directly from the Impact article Glycolosis and Alcoholic Fermentation (Dec 1, 1980) by Jean Sloat Morton:
- To illustrate, 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 of these (1017) 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.
- By comparison, Sir Arthur Eddington has estimated there are no more than 1080 (or 3,145 x 1079) particles in the universe...Mathematicians usually consider 1 chance in 1050 as negligible.
Thus, the unreferenced argument in Life-- would appear to come not from an "evolutionist" but from a creationist.
For a refutation of the claim see The odds of life forming are incredibly small. See also Mathematicians regard events with probabilities smaller than x as impossible.
Hitching on the origin of the complete genetic code
In an effort to demonstrate that the genetic code must have come about in a single step Life-- states:
- Hitching says: "Proteins depend on DNA for their formation. But DNA cannot form without pre-existing protein." (p. 45)
For a refutation of this claim see DNA needs proteins to form; Proteins need DNA. See also Genetic code is too complex to have come to be in one step.
Hitching on evolution of the horse
Life--, in an attempt to demonstrate that the fossil record does not document the evolution of the horse, quotes Hitching:
- Evolutionist Hitching says of this foremost evolutionary model: "Once portrayed as simple and direct, it is now so complicated that accepting one version rather than another is more a matter of faith than rational choice. Eohippus, supposedly the earliest horse, and said by experts to be long extinct and known to us only through fossils, may in fact be alive and well and not a horse at all--a shy, fox-sized animal called a daman that darts about in the African bush." (pp. 66-67)
For a refutation of this claim see Horse fossils don't show evolution.
Hitching on fossil gaps
- Commenting on the lack of transitional fossils to bridge the biological gaps, Francis Hitching observes: "The curious thing is that there is a consistency about the fossil gaps: the fossils go missing in all the important places." (p. 71)
For a defense of this claim see Transitional fossils are lacking.
- "Fish jump into the fossil record," Hitching says, "seemingly from nowhere: mysteriously, suddenly, full formed." (p. 71)
For a defense of this claim see There are gaps between invertebrate-vertebrate.
Hitching on Archaeopteryx
- [Archaeopteryx's] fossilized remains reveal perfectly formed feathers on aerodynamically designed wings capable of flight. Its wing and leg bones were thin and hollow. Its supposed reptilian features are found in birds today. And it does not predate birds, because fossils of other birds have been found in rocks of the same period as Archaeopteryx. (pp. 79-80)
Life-- attributes these observations to a Science article affirming the observation that Archaeopteryx can fly and to Hitching's The Neck of the Giraffe (pp. 34-35).
Hitching affirms the observation that Archaeopteryx had thin, hollow leg bones like a bird and that some of its reptilian features (long, bony, feathered tail; clawed, feathered forelimbs; bony, toothed jaw; and shallow breastbone) are found in modern birds. In this, Hitching fails to demonstrate that modern birds have reptilian features to the degree that Archaeopteryx did and neglects to mention that Archaeopteryx is the only bird to have all of these features. For evidence that Archaeopteryx had reptilian features see Archaeopteryx is fully bird.
Hitching is further referenced to affirm the above observation that Archaeopteryx does not predate birds:
- But in , archaeologists from Brigham Young University discovered, in western Colorado, a fossil of an unequivocal bird, in rocks of the same period as Archaeopteryx. (The Neck of the Giraffe, p. 35)
Thus the "other birds" that Life-- referred to of the same age as Archaeopteryx was in fact a single, dubious fossil. In the Impact article Racine Debate (July 1,1978) by Marvin L. Lubenow:
- Recently, Dr. James Jensen, paleontologist at Brigham Young University, discovered in western Colorado the fossil remains of a bird thought to be as old as Archaeopteryx but much more modern in form.
It seems likely that the scientific information in Life-- was again derived from the Institute for Creation Research via Hitching.
Incidentally, Jensen subsequently re-identified his fossil find, restoring Archaeopteryx as the undisputed first bird. For further discussion on the status of Archaeopteryx as the ancestor of all birds, see Archaeopteryx was probably not an ancestor of modern birds and Nouy on Archaeopteryx being no true link.
Hitching on evolution of the mammalian jaw
In an effort to show that mammals could not have evolved from reptiles, Life-- notes:
- Mammals also have three bones in their ears, while reptiles have only one. Where did the two â€œextrasâ€ come from? Evolutionary theory attempts to explain it as follows: Reptiles have at least four bones in the lower jaw, whereas mammals have only one; so, when reptiles became mammals there was supposedly a reshuffling of bones; some from the reptileâ€™s lower jaw moved to the mammalâ€™s middle ear to make the three bones there and, in the process, left only one for the mammalâ€™s lower jaw. However, the problem with this line of reasoning is that there is no fossil evidence whatsoever to support it. (pp. 80-81)
This unreferenced argument is nearly the same as Hitching's in The Neck of the Giraffe:
- All reptiles have at least four bones on each side of the lower jaw, and one bone in each ear. With mammals, on the other hand, the position is almost precisely reversed--every known mammal, alive or extinct, has a single jaw bone and three bones in each ear.
- These bones are readily preserved as fossils. Yet there are no existing fossils of transitional forms showing, for instance, three or two jaw bones, or two ear bones. (pp. 21-22)
In turn, Gish notes in Evolution: the fossils say no! (1978):
- The two most easily distinguishable osteological differences between reptiles and mammals, however, have never been bridged by transitional series. All mammals, living or fossils, have a single bone, the dentary, on each side of the lower jaw, and all mammals, living or fossil, have three auditory ossicles or ear bones, the malleus, incus, and stapes...Every reptile, living or fossil, however, has at least four bones in the lower jaw and only one auditory ossicle, the stapes.
- There are no transitional forms showing, for instance, three or two jaw bones, or two ear bones. (p. 80, not verified)
Again it would appear that Life-- has presented unreferenced material from a creationist source by way of Hitching.
For a refutation of the claim see There is no fossil evidence for transition from reptile maxilla to mammal ear bones.
Hitching on depictions of ape-men
Life-- references Hitching:
- So the depictions of "ape-men" are, as one evolutionist admitted, "pure fiction in most respectsâ€¦sheer invention." (p. 90)
For a response to this claim see Pictures of apemen are based on imagination.
Hitching on design
In an effort to show that living things look designed, Life-- offers:
- Zoologist Richard Lewontin said that organisms "appear to have been carefully and artfully designed." He views them as "the chief evidence of a Supreme Designer." (p. 143)
Life-- references Scientific American, "Adaptation," by Richard Lewontin, September 1978, p. 213, in which Lewontin's original quote was:
- 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. 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. (not verified)
Hitching's treatment in The Neck of the Giraffe of Lewontin's statement is very similar to that of Life--:
- To quote Richard Lewontin of Harvard...many organisms "appear to have been carefully and artfully designed."
- It is, he says, both a challenge to Darwinism and "the chief evidence of a Supreme Designer". (p. 84)
And in the Impact article Creation, Selection, and Variation (October 1, 1980) by Gary Parker:
- 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."
Once again it seems likely that Life-- has borrowed from Hitching and that Hitching borrowed from a creationist source.
Incidentally, Lewontin had this to say about being misquoted:
- But the point of my article, "Adaptation" in Scientific American, from which these snippets were lifted, was precisely that the "perfection of organisms" is often illusory and that any attempt to describe organisms as perfectly adapted is destined for serious contradictions. Moreover, the appearance of careful and artful design was taken in the nineteenth century before Darwin as "the chief evidence of a Supreme Designer." The past tense of my article ("It was the marvelous fit of organisms to the environment...that was the chief evidence of Supreme Designer") has been conveniently dropped by creationist [Gary] Parker in his attempt to pass off this ancient doctrine as modern science. ("Misquoted Scientists Respond," Creation/Evolution VI, Fall 1981, p. 35; not verified)
Hitching on creationism
Hitching in The Neck of the Giraffe notes:
- If you once become committed to an unalterable explanation (the Biblical one), and you are forced to fit all facts within this framework, allowing no other possibility, you have by definition become unscientific. However much sympathy we may have for a belief in a Divine first cause shaping the forces that created the universe, and however well-meaning the scientific creationists may be, the strait-jacket of Genesis 1-11 is so restricting that to make all evolutionary facts fit within it inevitably ends in a perversion of science. (p. 120)
This statement is not found in Life--. It is part of a chapter in which Hitching criticizes creationism, demonstrating that it never was his intention to defend creationism.
- J. Francis Hitching. Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2008-05-06.
- Anon. Life--How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or By Creation?. Brooklyn, NewYork (1985): Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
- Hitching, J. Francis. The Neck of the Giraffe. Meridian, New York (1982): Ticknor and Fields.
- Di Maggio, Mario (31 January 1997). A critical analysis of the scientific material in the book: Life - How did it get here? By evolution or by creation?. Retrieved on 2008-05-06.
- Feuerbacher, Alan. Notes on Francis Hitching and the Watchtower Society. Retrieved on 2008-05-06.
- Feuerbacher, Alan. The WTS View of Creation and Evolution. Retrieved on 2008-05-09.
- Institute for Creation Research archives.
- Gene. Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2008-05-09.
- Natural selection. Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2008-05-09.
- Nedin, Chris (October 8, 1996). Archaeopteryx: Answering the Challenge of the Fossil Record. Talk.Origins. Retrieved on 2008-05-15.
- Study Guide BI 120: Biological Principles Fall 1996 Reptile-Mammal Transition. Retrieved on 2008-05-15.
- Lindsay, Don (20 May, 1997). Quote: Richard Lewontin. Retrieved on 2008-05-16.
- Feuerbacher, Alan. Francis Hitching: Commonly quoted by creationists.