Can You Tell Me Anything About Evolution?
November 1981 Presentation at the American Museum of Natural History
By Colin Patterson

Audio CD and Annotated Transcript


What would happen if you awoke one morning and suddenly realized that you no longer accepted the scientific theory on which, thus far, you had based your life's work? This is precisely the experience paleontologist Colin Patterson conveyed to the Systematics Discussion Group nearly twenty years ago in his now famous presentation.

On November 5, 1981, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Colin Patterson gave a presentation entitled "Evolutionism and Creationism" to the Systematics Discussion Group. The presentation was taped, and an unauthorized (bootleg) transcript was made. Now, 19 years later, Access Research Network has obtained the original audio tape of Patterson's historical presentation. After several months of careful work, in consultation with a witness to the 1981 presentation, ARN is releasing to the public the original audio tape, and an edited transcription of the tape. The transcript includes a large amount of previously unreleased material, notably the 40 minute question-and-answer period, where Patterson interacts with evolutionary biologists such as Niles Eldredge, Keith Stewart Thomson, Stanley Salthe, and James Farris. The transcript also includes an historical introduction by Paul Nelson, biographical footnotes and literature citations.

Here are a few of Patterson's famous comments that you can now listen to and read in their full context:

"But it's true that for the last eighteen months or so, I've been kicking around non-evolutionary or even anti-evolutionary ideas."

"Now, one of the reasons I started taking this anti-evolutionary view, well, let's call it non-evolutionary, was last year I had a sudden realization. For over twenty years I had thought that I was working on evolution in some way. One morning I woke up, and something had happened in the night, and it struck me that I had been working on this stuff for twenty years, and there was not one thing I knew about it. That was quite a shock, to learn that one can be so misled for so long."

"So either there is something wrong with me, or there was something wrong with evolutionary theory. Naturally I know there's nothing wrong with me. So for the last few weeks, I've tried putting a simple question to various people and groups of people. The question is this: Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing, any one thing that you think is true?"

"Well, I'm not interested in the controversy over teaching in high school, and if any militant creationists have come here looking for political ammunition, I hope they'll be disappointed."

"I shall take the text of my sermon from this book, Gillespie's Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation....He takes it for granted that a rationalist view of nature has replaced an irrational one, and of course, I myself took that view, up until about eighteen months ago. And then I woke up and I realized that all my life I had been duped into taking evolutionism as revealed truth in some way."

"Well, we're back to the question I've been putting to people, 'Is there one thing you can tell me about evolution?' And the absence of an answer seems to suggest that it is true, evolution does not convey any knowledge, or if so, I haven't yet heard it."

"Now I think many people in this room would acknowledge that during the last few years, if you had thought about it at all, you've experienced a shift from evolution as knowledge to evolution as faith. I know that's true of me, and I think it's true of a good many of you in here."

"So that's my first theme. That evolution and creationism seem to be showing remarkable parallels. They are increasingly hard to tell apart. And the second theme is that evolution not only conveys no knowledge, but seems somehow to convey anti-knowledge, apparent knowledge which is actually harmful to systematics."

No longer do you have to depend on incomplete transcripts or bootleg tapes. Now you can experience the full impact of listening to the complete original recording of this amazing talk with the assistance of a well-annotated transcript that required hundreds of hours to compile and transcribe. And this entire product has been carefully reviewed by one of the original witnesses of the event who assisted us in identifying the speakers during the lively discussion session that followed the talk, material which has never before been available and reveals the full impact of Patterson's presentation on his peers.

Can You Tell Me Anything About Evolution?
November 1981 Presentation at the American Museum of Natural History
By Colin Patterson

Audio CD and Transcript
Item #C010
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