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creationism and creation science
Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973)
We do not know how the Creator created, what processes He used, for He used processes which are not now operating anywhere in the natural universe. This is why we refer to creation as special creation. We cannot discover by scientific investigations anything about the creative processes used by the Creator. Duane Gish, Evolution? The Fossils Say No!
..the evolution of the cosmos is more than just "compatible" with theism. Faith in a God of self-giving love...anticipates an evolving universe.* John F. Haught
Creationism is a religious metaphysical belief which claims that a supernatural being created the universe. Creation Science is a pseudoscientific notion which claims that (a) the stories in Genesis are accurate accounts of the origin of the universe and life on Earth, and (b) Genesis is incompatible with the Big Bang theory and the theory of evolution. Creation Science is an oxymoron since science is concerned only with naturalistic explanations of empirical phenomena and does not concern itself with supernatural explanations of metaphysical phenomena.
Creationism is not necessarily connected to any particular religion. Millions of Christians and non-Christians believe there is a Creator of the universe and that scientific theories such as the theory of evolution do not conflict with belief in a Creator. However, those Christians calling themselves creation scientists have co-opted the term creationism, making it difficult to refer to creationism without being understood as referring to "Scientific Creationism." Thus, it is commonly assumed that creationists are Christians who believe that the account of the creation of the universe as presented in Genesis is literally true in its basic claims about Adam and Eve, the six days of creation, making day and night on the first day even though He didnt make the sun and moon until the fourth day, making whales and other animals that live in the water or have feathers and fly on the fifth day, and making cattle and things that creep on the earth on the sixth day, etc.
Creation scientists claim that Genesis is the word of Abraham's god [AG] and thus infallibly true. They also claim that Genesis contradicts the Big Bang theory and the theory of evolution. Thus, those theories are false and scientists who advocate such theories are ignorant of the truth about the origins of the universe and life on Earth. They also claim that creationism is a scientific theory and should be taught in our science curriculum as a competitor to the theory of evolution.
One of the main leaders of creation science at the time I first posted this entry to The Skeptic's Dictionary was Duane T. Gish (1921-2013) of the Institute for Creation Research, who put forth his views mainly in the form of attacks on evolution. Gish authored Evolution, the Challenge of the Fossil Record (San Diego, Calif.: Creation-Life Publishers, 1985), Evolution, the Fossils Say No! (San Diego, Calif.: Creation-Life Publishers, 1978), and Evolution, the Fossils Still Say No! (Spring Arbor Distributors, 1985). (For an answer to the question about gaps in the fossil record, see Missing Links: Evolutionary Concepts and Transitions Through Time by Robert A. Martin.) Another leader of this movement is Walt Brown of the Center for Scientific Creation. Other main players in this movement are Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis and the folks at Creation Ministries Internatonal. Despite the fact that 99.99% of the scientific community considers evolution of species from other species to be a fact, the creation scientists proclaim that evolution is not a fact but just a theory, and that it is false. The vast majority of scientists who disagree about evolution disagree as to how species evolved, not as to whether they evolved.
"Scientific creationists" are not impressed that they are in the minority. After all, they note, the entire scientific community has been wrong before. That is true. For example, at one time the geologists were all wrong about the origin of continents. They thought the earth was a solid object. Now they believe that the earth consists of plates. The theory of plate tectonics has replaced the old theory, which is now known to be false. However, when the entire scientific community has been proved to be wrong in the past it has been proved to be wrong by other scientists, not pseudoscientists. They have been proved wrong by others doing empirical investigation, not by others who begin with faith in a religious dogma and who see no need to do any empirical investigation or prediction to support their beliefs. Erroneous scientific theories have been replaced by better theories, i.e., theories which explain more empirical phenomena and which increase our understanding of the natural world. Plate tectonics not only explained how continents can move, it also opened the door for a greater understanding of how mountain ranges form, how earthquakes are produced, how volcanoes are related to earthquakes, etc. Creationism is not a scientific alternative to natural selection any more than the stork "theory" is an alternative to the sexual reproduction "theory" (Hayes 1996). Creationism has not led and is unlikely ever to lead to a serious understanding of biological phenomena in the natural world.
Darwin & Gish
Darwins theory of how evolution happened is called natural selection. That theory is quite distinct from the fact of evolution. Other scientists have different theories of evolution, but only a negligible few deny the fact of evolution. In the Origin of Species Darwin provided vast amounts of data about the natural world that he and others had collected or observed. Only after providing the data did he demonstrate how his theory accounted for the data much better than the belief in special creation. Gish and other young earth creationists, on the other hand, assume that whatever data there is must be explained by special creation, because, they think, AG said so in the Bible. Gish claimed that it is impossible for us to understand special creation, since the Creator used processes which are not now operating anywhere in the natural universe. Thus, Gish, rather than gather data and demonstrate how special creation explains the data better than natural selection, had to take another approach, the approach of apologetics. His approach, and that of many other creation scientists, depends on attacking at every opportunity what they take to be the theory of evolution. Rather than show the strengths of their own belief, they rely on trying to find and expose weaknesses in evolutionary theory. Creation scientists actually have no interest in scientific facts or theories. Their interest is in defending the faith against what they see as attacks on AGs word.
For example, creation scientists, mistaking the uncertain in science for the unscientific, see the debate among evolutionists regarding how best to explain evolution as a sign of weakness. Scientists, on the other hand, see uncertainty as an inevitable element of scientific knowledge. They regard debates on fundamental theoretical issues as healthy and stimulating. Science, says evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, is most fun when it plays with interesting ideas, examines their implications, and recognizes that old information may be explained in surprisingly new ways. Thus, through all the debate over evolutionary mechanisms biologists have not been led to doubt that evolution has occurred. We are debating how it happened, says Gould (1983, 256).
"creation science" and pseudoscience
Creation science is not science but pseudoscience. It is religious dogma masquerading as scientific theory. Creation science is put forth as being absolutely certain and unchangeable. It assumes that the world must conform to its understanding of the Bible. Where creation science differs from creationism in general is in its notion that once it has interpreted the Bible to mean something, no evidence can be allowed to change that interpretation. Instead, the evidence must be refuted.
Compare this attitude to that of the leading European creationists of the 17th century who had to admit eventually that the Earth is not the center of the universe and that the sun does not revolve around our planet. They did not have to admit that the Bible was wrong, but they did have to admit that human interpretations of the Bible were in error. Todays creationists seem incapable of admitting that their interpretation of the Bible could be wrong.
Creation scientists are not scientists because they assume that their interpretation of the Bible cannot be in error. They put forth their views as irrefutable. Hence, when the evidence contradicts their reading of the Bible, they assume that the evidence is false. The only scientific investigation they do is aimed at proving some evolutionary claim is false. Creation scientists see no need to test their belief, since AG has revealed it. Infallible certainty is not the hallmark of science. Scientific theories are fallible. Claims of infallibility and the demand for absolute certainty characterize not science but pseudoscience.
What is most revealing about the creation scientists lack of any true scientific interest is the way they willingly and uncritically accept even the most preposterous of claims, if those claims seem to contradict traditional scientific beliefs about evolution. For example, any evidence that seems to support the notion that dinosaurs and humans lived together is welcomed by the creationists. And the way creation scientists treat the second law of thermodynamics indicates either gross scientific incompetence or deliberate dishonesty. They claim that evolution of life forms violates the second law of thermodynamics, which specifies that, on the macroscopic scale of many-body processes, the entropy of a closed system cannot decrease (Stenger).
Consider simply a black bucket of water initially at the same temperature as the air around it. If the bucket is placed in bright sunlight, it will absorb heat from the sun, as black things do. Now the water becomes warmer than the air around it, and the available energy has increased. Has entropy decreased? Has energy that was previously unavailable become available, in a closed system? No, this example is only an apparent violation of the second law. Because sunlight was admitted, the local system was not closed; the energy of sunlight was supplied from outside the local system. If we consider the larger system, including the sun, entropy has increased as required (Klyce).
Creation scientists treat the evolution of species as if it were like the bucket of water in the example above, which, they incorrectly claim, occurs in a closed system. If we consider the entire system of nature, there is no evidence that the second law of thermodynamics is violated by evolution.
Finally, although Karl Poppers notion that falsifiability distinguishes scientific from metaphysical theories has been much attacked by philosophers of science (Kitcher), it seems undeniable that there is something profoundly different about beliefs such as creationism and theories such as natural selection. It also seems undeniable that one profound difference is that the metaphysical belief of creationism is consistent with every conceivable empirical state of affairs, while the scientific theory of evolution is not. I can envision observations and experiments that would disprove any evolutionary theory I know, writes Gould, but I cannot imagine what potential data could lead creationists to abandon their beliefs. Unbeatable systems are dogma, not science (Gould, 1983).
Creationism cant be refuted, even in principle, because everything is consistent with it, even apparent contradictions and contraries. Scientific theories allow definite predictions to be made from them; they can, in principle, be refuted. Theories such as the Big Bang theory, the steady state theory, and natural selection can be tested by experiment and observation. Metaphysical theories such as creationism are airtight if they are self-consistent, i.e., contain no self-contradictory elements. No scientific theory is ever airtight.
What makes "scientific creationism" a pseudoscience is that it attempts to pass itself off as science even though it shares none of the essential characteristics of scientific theorizing. Creation science will remain forever unchanged as a belief. It will engender no debate among scientists about fundamental mechanisms of the universe. It generates no empirical predictions that can be used to test it. It is taken to be irrefutable. And it assumes a priori that there can be no evidence that will ever falsify it.
creationism as a scientific theory
Religious creationism could be empirical, however. For example, if it said that the world was created in 4004 B.C. and accepted that the empirical evidence indicates that Earth is several billions of years old, then the belief would be empirical refuted by the evidence. But if, for example, the ad hoc hypothesis is made that AG created the world in 4004 B.C. complete with fossils that make the Earth look much older than it really is (to test our faith, perhaps, or to fulfill some mysterious divine plan), then the religious belief is not empirical but metaphysical. Nothing could refute it; it is airtight. Philip Henry Gosse made this claim in Darwins time in a work entitled Creation (Omphalos): An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot, published in 1857. The idea never caught on. I wonder why. No I don't.
If the age or scientific dating techniques of fossil evidence is disputed, but considered relevant to the truth of the religious hypothesis and is prejudged to be consistent with the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is a metaphysical one. A scientific theory cannot prejudge what its investigative outcomes must be. If the religious cosmologist denies that the earth is billions of years old on the grounds that their own scientific tests prove the Earth is very young, then the burden of proof is on the religious cosmologist to demonstrate that the standard scientific methods and techniques of dating fossils, etc., are erroneous. Otherwise, no reasonable person should consider such an unsupported claim that would require us to believe that the entire scientific community is in error. Gish tried this. The fact that he was unable to convert even a small segment of the scientific community to his way of thinking is a strong indication that his arguments have little merit. This is not because the majority must be right. The entire scientific community could be deluded. However, since the opposition issues from a religious dogmatist who is not doing scientific investigation but theological apologetics, it seems more probable that it is the creation scientists who are deluded rather than the evolutionary scientists.
There are many believers in a religious cosmology such as that given in Genesis who do not claim that their beliefs are scientific. They do not believe that the Bible is to be taken as a science text. To them, the Bible contains teachings pertinent to their spiritual lives. It expresses spiritual ideas about the nature of AG and the relationship of AG to humans and the rest of the universe. Such people do not believe the Bible should be taken literally when the issue is a matter for scientific discovery. The Bible, they say, should be read for its spiritual messages, not it lessons in biology, physics or chemistry. This used to be the common view of religious scholars. Allegorical interpretations of the Bible go back at least as far as Philo Judaeus (b. 25 BCE). Philosophical analyses of the absurdity of popular conceptions of the gods were made by philosophers such as Epicurus (342-270). Creation scientists have no taste for allegorical interpretations.
creationism and politics
Advocates of creation science have campaigned to have their Biblical version of creation taught as science in U.S. public schools. One of their successes was in the state of Arkansas, which passed a law requiring the teaching of creationism in public schools. This accomplishment may seem significant but it must be remembered that until 1968 it was illegal to teach evolution in Arkansas! In 1981, however, the law was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge who declared creationism to be religious in nature (McLean v. Arkansas). A similar Louisiana law was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in 1987 (Edwards v. Aguillard). In 1994, the Tangipahoa Parish school district passed a law, under the guise of promoting critical thinking, requiring teachers to read aloud a disclaimer before they taught evolution. This dishonest ruse was thrown out by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1999. Another tactic was tried by creationist biology teacher John Peloza in 1994. He sued his school district for forcing him to teach the religion of evolutionism. He lost and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that there is no such religion. In 1990 the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that school districts may forbid the teaching of creationism since it is a form of religious advocacy (Webster v. New Lenox School District). Many religious leaders support this ruling. They recognize that allowing school districts to teach creationism is to favor one groups religious views over the religious views of others and has nothing to do with critical thinking or fairness in the science curriculum.
Creation scientists may have failed in their attempts to have evolution banned from the classroom and to have creationism taught alongside evolution. However, politically active creationists have not given up; they have just changed tactics. Creationists have been encouraged to run for local school boards to try to gain control of the teaching of evolution that way. School boards can determine what texts the schools may and may not use. Creationists who complain to school boards about the teaching of evolution are more likely to be successful in their efforts at censoring science texts if the school board has several creationists.
In Alabama, biology textbooks carry a warning that says that evolution is a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things. . . .No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about lifes origins should be considered as theory, not fact. In Alabama, it seems, if you wake up to snow on the ground, but no one saw it snowing, then you may only propose a "theory" as to the origin of the snow.
In August of 1999 the Kansas State Board of Education rejected evolution and the Big Bang theory as scientific principles. The 10-member board voted six to four to eliminate these topics from the science curricula. The Kansas Board did not ban the teaching of evolution or of the Big Bang theory. The Board simply deleted any mention of evolution and the Big Bang theory from the science curriculum and from the materials used to test graduating students. Creationists, such as Board Member Steve Abrams, a former head of the state Republican Party, hailed the decision as a victory in the war against evolutionists. A new Board restored the scientific theories to their previous place in February 2001. Creationists want children to believe that AG made them and every other species individually for a purpose. They do not want children to think that a divine power might be behind the Big Bang or evolution of species.
The main political organization of creationists, the Discovery Institute, which masquerades as an educational institution, has tried another tactic: it called creationism "intelligent design" and declared it was a scientific theory that is a worthy, but blackballed, alternative to natural selection. After its defeat in federal court in Dover, Pennsylvania, in 2005 where the local school board had mandated the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution, the Discovery Institute has supported so-called "academic freedom" legislation in several states. This is the creationists' latest ruse to get their religious beliefs taught in the public school science classroom. The only difference I can detect between this new onslaught of attempts to legislate religion and the kind of legislation passed in places like the Tangipahoa Parish school district that was ruled unconstitutional is that the proposed bills include other favored conservative political agenda items like global warming and cloning along with religious alternatives to evolution.
Nationwide, nearly half a dozen states are considering variants of such bills, some of which throw in the origin of life and climate change for good measure. Legislators in Florida recently introduced such a bill in response to new educational standards that were the first to formalize the teaching of evolution. Although two incompatible bills passed the state House and Senate, they died when the legislature went out of session; similar measures are still pending in other states. These bills appear to have originated at the pro-Intelligent Design think tank the Discovery Institute, and constitute part of its latest effort towards reducing the teaching of evolution in public schools.*
On June 26, 2008, the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) was signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal. Under the guise of academic freedom, the bill allows local school boards to approve supplemental classroom materials specifically for the critique of scientific theories such as evolution.
The text of the LSEA suggests that it's intended to foster critical thinking, calling on the state Board of Education to "assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories." Unfortunately, it's remarkably selective in its suggestion of topics that need critical thinking, as it cites scientific subjects "including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."*
It is likely, but not a foregone conclusion, that courts will see through this guise. The purpose is not to encourage critical thinking, as the legislation asserts, but to promote favored ideas.
At the same time that militant creationists are trying to censor textbooks that treat evolution properly, they complain of censorship against creationist works.* This tactic of fighting fire with fire has led creationist Jerry Bergman to argue that evolution (unlike Genesis?) teaches that women are inferior to men. The goal of militant creationists is to debunk evolution wherever possible, not to forward scientific knowledge. (See Revolution Against Evolution.) One of their favorite tactics is to blame all sin and crime on lack of proper Bible study and the teaching of godless theories such as evolution and the Big Bang theory. Marc Looy of the group Answers in Genesis says that the 1999 Kansas vote was important because
students in public schools are being taught that evolution is a fact, that they're just products of survival of the fittest. . . .It creates a sense of purposelessness and hopelessness, which I think leads to things like pain, murder, and suicide.
That there is no scientific evidence to support these claims is a matter of indifference to those who believe them. When science does not support their beliefs, they attack science as the handmaiden of Satan. I wonder what Mr. Looy has to say about Christian Identity (Buford Furrow Jr.) or Erich Rudolph or Operation Rescue (Randall Terry) and other Bible-loving groups that preach hatred and inspire violence and murder. What would he say about Matthew and Tyler Williams who, in the words of their mother, "took out two homos" because that's what AG's law [Leviticus 20:13] demands? (Sacramento Bee, "Expert: Racists often use Bible to justify attacks," by Gary Delsohn and Sam Stanton, Sept. 23, 1999.) These killers have certainly found a purposeful existence, but there is clearly no connection between purposefulness and the end of pain, murder, or suicide. Had more people been forced to read Biblical quotations on their schoolroom walls or in their textbooks, for all we know, there would be more, not less pain, murder, and violence.
The desperation of many creationists is evident from the fact that despite numerous corrections by evolutionists, they still try to get the public to identify evolution with Social Darwinism. This straw man tactic is common and is exemplified in the following letter to the Sacramento Bee. The letter was in response to an article on an expert who claims that racists often use the Bible to justify their hate.
It is Darwinian evolution, not holy Scripture, that justifies racism.... evolution teaches survival of the fittest, including (as Hitler recognized) survival of the fittest "branch" of the human family tree. Genuine evolution has no place for true equality. This same evolutionist thinking underlies the hatred that racist groups display toward homosexuals. They view homosexuals as defective and thus inferior. (-------10/3/99)
The view that Darwins theory of natural selection implies racism or inequality is a claim made by one either ignorant of Darwin's theory or by one who knows the truth and thinks a lie spread in the name of religion is a morally justified lie. (For those who think otherwise, I refer you to my response to comments from someone who thinks Darwin's views are racist.)
militant creationism evolves
The creation science folks accept microevolution but not macroevolution. This allows them to account for development and changes within species without requiring them to accept the concept of natural selection.
Macroevolution is the direct attempt to explain the origin of life from molecules to man in purely naturalistic terms. In doing so, it is an affront to Christians because it deliberately tries to get rid of [Abraham's god] as the creator of life. The idea that man is a result of millions of happy accidents that mutated their way from slime through the food chain to monkeys should be offensive to every thinking person (Sharp).*
What should be an affront to many Christians and non-Christian creationists is the insinuation that if one does not adhere to this Christians interpretation of the Bible, one is offending AG. Many creationists believe that AG is behind the beautiful unfolding of evolution (Haught).* There is no contradiction in believing that what appears to be a mechanical, purposeless process from the human perspective, can be teleological and divinely controlled. Natural selection does not require that one get rid of AG as the creator of life any more than heliocentrism requires one to get rid of AG as the creator of the heavens.
books and articles
Cramer, J. A., General Evolution and the Second Law of Thermodynamics, in Origins and Changes, D. L. Willis, ed., (American Scientific Affiliation, Elgin, IL, 1978).
Darwin, Charles. From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books (Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals). ed. E. O. Wilson.
Understanding Evolution website for teachers (UC Berkeley)
The Panda's Thumb - explaining the theory of evolution
The Emperor's New Designer Clothes by Vic Stenger
Does Evolution Rule Out God's Existence? by John F. Haught, Ph.D. Georgetown University
National Center for Science Education Scientific Evolution vs. Metaphysical Creationism
Science and Creationism - the National Academy of Sciences
Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science - the National Academy of Sciences
"Thermodynamics, Creationism, and Evolution" by John Patterson
WILL CREATIONISTS ABANDON CREATION-"SCIENCE"? Scientific Malpractice: The Creation/Evolution Debate, by Ivan L. Zabilka, 1992, Bristol Books, 160 pp. By Jim Lippard
Louisiana calls Darwin a racist by Fiona Morgan
Creationism: God's gift to the ignorant by Richard Dawkins
Deep Time Made Simple by Russell Seitz
The Scopes Strategy: Creationists Try New Tactics to Promote Anti-Evolutionary Teaching in Public Schools Under the guise of "academic freedom" creationists are co-opting some old heroes of the fight to teach evolution in the classroom for their anti-science campaign.
ICR concedes defeat over its graduate school The Institute for Creation Research is apparently conceding defeat in its lawsuit over the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's 2008 decision to deny the ICR's request for a state certificate of authority to offer a master's degree in science education from its graduate school. The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, finding (PDF, p. 38) that "ICRGS [the Institute for Creation Research Graduate School] has not put forth evidence sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact with respect to any claim it brings," granted summary judgment to the defendants in a June 18, 2010, ruling.
Details of Vatican evolution conference announced (Professor Saverio Forestiero, who teaches zoology at Torvergata University in Rome, said: "It is my view that this congress represents an opportunity, neither propagandistic nor apologetic, for scientists, philosophers and theologians to meet and discuss the fundamental questions raised by biological evolution - which is assumed and discussed as a fact beyond all reasonable doubt - in order to examine its manifestations and causal mechanisms, and to analyze the impact and quality of the explanatory theories thus far proposed." emphasis added)
The simple mind of Ray Comfort ("Protestant author Ray Comfort recently said that 'the Vatican has chosen to officially believe Darwin rather than Jesus' ... In the name of diversity, the Vatican is encouraging atheism, and that’s a terrible betrayal of Christianity.'")
A Harris poll in June 2005 found that 55% of American adults believe that evolution, creationism, and intelligent design should be taught in public schools.
Eminent biologist hits back at the creationists who 'hijacked' his theory for their own ends By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Bishop warns Blair over danger of creationism Robin McKie, science editor Sunday April 7, 2002 The Observer
According to a recent (2001) Gallup poll, Americans are about equally split regarding evolution. 49% believe in evolution and 45% believe in special creation. 37% of those who believe in evolution believe a god guides the process. An earlier poll had similar results.