My discussion on the Jehovah’s Witnesses and evolution

June 12, 2019 • 9:45 am

Lloyd Evans, an ex-Jehovah’s Witness (JW), runs a regular video series, the John Cedars Channel, in which he criticizes that bizarre religion and tries to support ex-JWs and to address those on the fence.

Last week I had a Skype conversation with Lloyd in which he asked me to respond to a number of anti-evolution statements made in JW pamphlets. (The religion is obdurately creationist.)

The statements that I was asked to address were rather convoluted as well as ignorant, but I did my best. The resulting video is below, and I haven’t watched it. I wasn’t really aware that I was going to be filmed, so I was wearing my usual Hawaiian shirt and may evince some annoying mannerisms. So be it: the biology is what’s important here.

52 thoughts on “My discussion on the Jehovah’s Witnesses and evolution

  1. Having had dialogue with numerous JWs, I can say that they are the most hypnotized, mule-headed and one could even say “brain-damaged” individuals I’ve ever met. When you appreciate the cost of of entertaining anything that questions said cult (shunning/disfellowshipping), you can understand why they’re allergic to reason.

  2. Hawaiian shirt looks sharp, man. Jimmy Buffett, that private investigator name o’ Magnum, the cast of From Here to Eternity, and I all approve.

  3. When a JW comes to your door and asks to discuss your faith/religion, say “sure – right after we discuss your sex life.”

    1. When they would approach me on the street, usually I’d ignore them but sometimes I’d say “I know you! You’re really Michael Jackson in drag!” I’d read that at one time the child molester Gloved One would conceal his identity and go out to do JW the proselytizing thing. My comment stopped them cold, especially the old ladies.

    2. When they came to my door, I warned them they were wasting their time. After a not so long discussion they had to go consult with their elders and promised to come back with those elders, which they did a few days later.
      After a somewhat longer discussion over some (non-alcoholic) drinks, the elders left too. Apparently I’m a hopeless case (which I actually told them beforehand).
      No need to discuss their sex life, their arguments are stale and and debunked long ago.

      1. “No need to discuss their sex life, their arguments are stale and and debunked long ago.”

        Uh, ok…

  4. The JWs always refused to answer the only question my Mum put to them, in fact the only thing she would say to them. It was: “My son is a haemophiliac, do you expect me so sit back and watch him die when a transfusion would save him and would you deny your children the right to life?”

    The JWs in the UK have a habit of infesting the area around railway stations these days and there are always dreadful pamphlets on display, my friends and I often grab as many as we can as the local recycle bins are always happy to be filled.

    1. There’s a Jehovah’s Witness couple in my apartment building; they leave pamphlets on a table in the lobby and put up announcements of their events. Sometimes, but not always, I’ll toss them in the trash. Sometimes I just don’t give a damn; sometimes I have twinges of guilt and question whether it’s right for me to do that.

      They’re extremely nice, compassionate, helpful people but it’s more than a bit unnerving to know that however nice and compassionate and helpful they are — I’m damned to hell according to their religion. But then, according to their tenets, they’re probably damned, too, since only 144,000 of them will get to pass through the Pearly Gates.

      1. A Christian I worked with always used to defend the JWs, saying they nice compassionate and caring people. My response is how can you call someone compassionate and caring when they would allow their children to die through lack of blood.

        I once tried to set up a file of deaths caused by JW beliefs but in the end got so angry ditched the project but I do remember reading stuff where they showed no sign of guilt after a child or relative had died when they could easily have been saved by a simple transfusion.

      2. Actually to be fair, they believe that the 144,000 chosen ones will go to heaven. Other believers will live eternal lives in paradise on earth. The rest of humanity will either die at armageddon or stay dead (not be resurrected like the dead believers). Definitely no hell in the picture at all, which is one of the (few) redeeming features of the religion.

        Source: Brought up in the religion, I tell part of my story below.

        1. I would definitely be more prepared to believe in a religion that doesn’t send unbelievers to hell. (That’s just me, being contrary).

          But they’re still daffy.

          cr

          1. Oh they’re daffy as, no question about that. My poor mum was in thrall to this silly religion for the last sixty years of her life. She adapted it to her iron will though. She believed in a compassionate god so she decided that since her unbelieving husband and sons were good people, they would definitely be spared come the big day. Woe betide any 30 year old “Elder” who tried to tell her differently.

        2. Thank you for the correction. Even though I’m an unbeliever, I certainly don’t want to misrepresent their beliefs. For atheists, who will stay dead once they die, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are right on, and that’s okay with me. I concur with them on that.

  5. Wonderful interview.
    Most of us here know the material but it’s nice to hear it from PCC(E), again.
    Aloha,

  6. Excellent interview and comments on the foolish creationist rags!

    As a former JW who has looked extensively at their nonsense on evolution, I can say that no one at their headquarters has the faintest clue what they’re talking about with regard to evolution. While they pretend to get their information from “divine guidance”, almost all of their writings are borrowed from other creationists.

    Not long ago a couple of older JW women came to my door, and I decided to test them when they told me that pre-Noahs-Flood animals like dinosaurs didn’t eat meat. They came back a few weeks later and I showed them prints of the famous Mongolian Velociraptor/Protoceratops fossils entwined in a death embrace. The women’s eyes glazed over and they refused to acknowledge that the animals had killed each other. When people are so completely deluded as to deny the evidence in front of them, they’ll accept anything — which defines them as a cult.

    1. The problem is not finding evidence—there’s mountains of it. The problem is that no amount of evidence will ever be enough. The disconnect is not in the scientific or historical record, it is in the brains of anti-evolutionists. Their desperate psychological need to manufacture arguments against what they perceive to be attack on their faith where none exists overrides all other concerns.

  7. From my experience with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I have to say I was surprised at the relative sophistication of the material they cited (I only watched the first segment, so it may have gotten worse). They seemed intent on making an actual argument, however readily rejected, than on bullying based on, say, Biblical sources. In other words, the appeal, such as it was, was to reason and logic rather than authority, which seemed to me untypical of JWs.

    When I was in a Jesuit seminary in Sheridan, OR in the early ‘60s two JWs hiked a considerable distance up a hill and knocked on the door of the seminary in an effort to convert an entire community of Jesuits. You gotta admit, they got balls.

    1. Not sure what you mean by “relative sophistication”, but their material is NOT sophisticated — it’s almost entirely borrowed from creationists of whatever variety suits their purposes. So it’s sophisticated only to the extent that creationist material is.

    2. They make many converts among the Jesuit seminarians, Gary?

      Or was it more a clash of an irresistible force confronting an immovable object? 🙂

  8. They seem to be having a resurgence here too – I see them all the time in Ottawa and my parents in Montreal have had stuff “left for them” (and they came to the door once while I was visiting a few months ago).

  9. It’s worse than that. It’s a source of enormous pride to religious folks that they have a “faith” strong enough to resist what “appears” to be evidence that contradicts their religious precepts. In their own minds and within their particular cults, it is actually a GOOD THING to reject that evidence. If you look at the creationists who actually have advanced science degrees from major universities, like Georgia Purdom, the Science Director of the Creation Museum (who holds a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Ohio State University) and Kurt Wise (who holds a Ph.D. in Paleontology from Harvard), they freely admit that there is tons of evidence that “seems” to support the occurrence of evolution, but that their faith compels them to reject that evidence. It’s sheer madness.

    1. That, to me, is a very important fact — the pride in resisting such ‘temptations’ as evidence. Isn’t Pride a Cardinal Sin, or was that a Filipino cardinal?

  10. The propagandists who produce these JW brochures and points of dogma must be totally bonkers. All of it must be just repeating what was put out over the last decades by previous scientifically illiterate bozos. How do they live with themselves?

  11. What happened to the Neanderthals — I wouldn’t be surprised if one day we find signs of life on a nearby planet, send of a ship and find a bunch of Neanderthals saying, “Oh jeez not you guys again…”

    1. Last they wrote about it, they argued that Neanderthals were just another variety of humans. Not for any good reason, but only because they must have been Adam’s descendants and Adam was created 6,000 years ago.

  12. Sub

    JWs never fail to deliver infuriating literature. The latest one I got asked “would you like to end suffering?”

    They’re practically evil.

  13. That was a very good video covering all the common pushes or disputes the creationist throw out and it is always best to here it from someone like PCC than from lessor brands like our Mr. science guy.

    I do not know much about the Jehova group but always threw them in close with the SDA people. Both are very much against evolution and spend lots of wasted time attempting to knock it down with nonsense. I might also mention that many of the SDA group fell in with Trump so they are members of two cults competing with each other for science ignorance.

  14. I haven’t finished watching the interview, but early on the issue of speciation was raised (so my question may be answered later in the interview), but I’ve never found an explanation of what for me is a conundrum: if homo sapiens are/is? a distinct species(and not a subspecies), how could homo sapiens interbreed with others in the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals, Denisovans, etc. (et al.?, who are not homo sapiens, and produce fertile offspring?

    I do understand that in some rare instances hybrids can be fertile and I find this article written for the layman about “pizzly bears” https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2010/05/when-polar-bears-and-grizzlies-breed-they-can-produce-fertile-offspring-why-can-t-other-species.html (are they really subspecies then?); but does something like this apply to the genus homo?

    Could someone please explain this to me?

    1. I’m not an expert, but…It appears they were not distinct enough. Humans and Neanderthals split between 800,000 and 400,000 years ago, which isn’t huge. I have seen them referred to as subspecies. Chimps and humans split 7 million years ago and are still 97% genetically identical. If it wasn’t for the fact that humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes and Chimps have 24 pairs I suspect we might actually be able to interbread with them. Jerry gets into this in his discussion later in the film.

    2. Horses and donkeys…

      Also, ring species.

      I suspect a lot depends on exactly how a ‘species’ is defined and where the line is drawn.

      (And however much rickflick is not an expert, I’m an order of magnitude more not an expert 😉

      cr

  15. In Melbourne recently I had a chat with a pair of JW’s about creationism, having told them that I am a 100% Darwinist.
    Strangely, they had not heard of Ken Ham so I told them that their version of creationism was very diluted and that they should believe that the universe was created about 6,000 years ago and that no changes had happened to plants and animals since then.
    They seemed quite amazed that anyone could believe anything so ridiculous!

    1. Rank and file JWs are largely ignorant of other creationists, because they receive all the information they need from the Watchtower Society. The Writing Staff, though, is very much aware of the various creationist groups, since they borrow freely — but without attribution — from many of them.

  16. This was so good, I put aside everything else and lapped up every minute. I was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness. Around the age of 12 I was struck by a dangerous idea “I’ve got a feeling this religion is actually nonsense”. The idea that evolution wasn’t so ridiculous after all also emerged in my head at the same time. My horrified mother arranged for a weekly meeting with an elder, who was armed with the ancestors of this material (it’s evolved a bit since the 70s, but is still recognizably a close related species :).

    Sadly I was brutally beaten in those debates. After all I was just a kid who already preferred math(s) and physics to the messy subject of biology. He was a grown man who was fully prepared with the vaguely plausible-to-the-uneducated-mind talking points seen in the video.

    Seeing our dear host so convincingly and smoothly put those same arguments to the sword today was truly cathartic for me. Thank you so much.

    Incidentally, in my (extensive) experience, JWs are good people, just a bit unsophisticated and naive. On an uncharitable day I’d say a bit dim. Although I do have a theory (which is mine, and based on nothing but a hunch), that if you followed the money to the people in charge of the global organisation you’d find they were evil bastards.

    Bill Forster (still annoyed that WordPress makes me post by the name of my chess programming blog).

    1. “Sadly I was brutally beaten in those debates.”

      Oops! That startled me. On first reading, it sounds like you had the ‘truth’ beaten into you. On re-reading, I think it means you were soundly defeated intellectually.

      I think if it wasn’t for their strange ideas about blood transfusions, JW’s would be fairly inoffensive. Completely nutty, but harmless.
      You don’t find them campaigning against blood transfusions for everybody else, for example, unlike anti-vaxxers do with vaccinations.

      cr

      1. Sorry for my confusing wording, I don’t know why I put it that way. I am actually being a bit hard on myself, I don’t recall the details but I wasn’t soundly defeated intellectually. It was more that I didn’t have the tools at the time to do the job. I was probably going “But scientists believe it so it must make sense”, and he was definitely going “But it doesn’t make sense, because 1) A hurricane in a junkyard doesn’t build an aeroplane, 2) A mechanical watch definitely has a designer …. N) And besides Duane Gish is a scientist and he doesn’t believe it – look it says so right here”.

        Today any intellectually curious person can readily convince themselves of the truth of evolution because it is a startlingly simple and accessible idea and it explains so much so comprehensively. There’s a real joy in reading about how comparing strands of DNA from different species with a simple lab flask experiment OR a powerful computation both confirm observation of the relative difference in the species’ morphology. How radiometric dating and geological layering fall in step with the same observations.

        But people refuse to look and somehow think theological nonsense is more profound and more beautiful. It makes me mad.

        1. It makes me mad too. It’s pleasing to know you survived your early indoctrination and became a wise and perceptive person who understands science. I just wish there were more who fit that description. Perhaps in 50 years, the US of A will enter the 20th century and skip right through to the 21st with the rest of modern humanity.

  17. Do not be put off by the 1hr 4m length!

    Our host (& Lloyd) educated me into a clearer understanding of speciation.
    Loved the banana & fly examples.

    Then all the seemingly unscripted rebuttals of the JW claims were well worth watching.

    The joining of abiogenesis with evolution was new to me and in retrospect seems an unwarranted division. Brilliant.

    Marvelous to be able to watch this from all the way down here in Western Australia, home to many of our earliest life forms (stromatolites) & even rocks plus, of course, the parallel development of marsupial equivalents of many mammals.

  18. I’ve read What Is Life, but for a book offering tantalizing insights into abiogenic origins I much prefer Nick Lane’s The Vital Question.

  19. Fantastic video Jerry. Here’s one “diehard Jehovah’s Witness” who completely accepts Evolution now. Thanks for putting this out there along with Lloyd.

    Thomas

  20. Small mouth-o : the fossil record of the coelacanth group of fishes is good until the Jurassic period (145 million years ago) and less good until the mid-Cretaceous at about 90-100 million years ago. not “hundreds of millions of years ago”.
    The origin of terrestrial tetrapods from lobe-finned fishes took place in the interval about 355-340 million years ago.

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