Science and creationism
johnlane at nccn.net
Sat Aug 21 18:18:27 EDT 1999
I applaud John Shuey's posting.
A little background on "creation scientists":
While in graduate school (University of California) studying evolutionary biology, to better
round out my education, I signed up for the Creation Research Institute's "journal". Then I
requested information for admission to their college. I learned in order to go to their
graduate school, you have to swear that you believe in the inerrant word of the bible, and
cannot attend their college if you don't. This tells you something about anyone who has a "Ph.
D." from such an institution (one of the foremost publishers of "creation science" texts) and
how much they know about or respect the workings of science.
My all-time favorite issue of their "journal" was entitled something like "2500 Scientists
Who Don't Believe In Evolution" and listed all 2500 of them (all but a minor handful having
lived centuries before Darwin was even a twinkle in his father's eye).
The most common error I see in print about this controversy, usually in "letters to the
editor," involves the misuse of the word "theory". Check any dictionary. The "theory of
evolution," like the "theory of gravity," or the "theory of special relativity," is not simply a
guess or anybody's speculation, as many proponents of creationism would like us all to think.
Thus, they will cavalierly dismiss any serious consideration of evolution with a backhanded
aside (often tinged with dismissive humor). Sally Daniels recent (totally uninformed) post was
of this same ilk.
Scientists themselves often make these matters worse when they confuse what is appropriate
for graduate students in science (debating how evolution works) with what is appropriate for
K-12 students in public schools (as with John Grehan's recent post). The answer is NOT to
present primary grade students with an even-handed choice between two models of "evolution":
standard scientific evolution vs. "creationism" -- for the reasons so well presented by John
Shuey on what is/is not science (vs. religious belief).
John Shuey wrote:
> A little background on science and the scientific method. To be a "science" a discipline
> must make predictions that are falsifiable. This is the essence of science - laying out a
> hypothesis and then testing it.
> So consider the following 2 cases:
> 1. An evolutionary biologist wants to test the idea that all arthropods are derived from a
> common ancestor. It true, then the theory predicts that there should be some very
> conservative and complex traits that have been passed along almost unchanged from the
> original ancestor to all its decedents. Structural things like how legs are articulated, how
> certain enzymes are patterned, what the exoskeleton is made of, DNA sequences for particular
> enzymes, mitochondrial RNA sequences, or even things like the chemical nature of the lipids
> (waxes) found coating the exoskeleton.
> Before (s)he starts looking at these structure though, (s)he make predictions pro and con
> relative to the particular hypothesis being tested. If the idea of a common ancestor is
> correct, then there should be close similarities between many of these traits being
> examined. It the hypothesis is false, then there was no common ancestor between these
> linages, and the traits would likely show no relationships.
> Well, this particular hypotheses has been tested.
> The reality is that crustaceans have very different exoskeletons and body chemistries than do
> insects. Likewise, spider legs are very different from millipedes and insects. The specific
> hypotheses is disproven. If these taxa share a common ancestor, then they did so long before
> the essence of "arthopody" evolved. But the patterns they see patterns in parts of
> arthropoda that are suggestive of common ancestry. The scientists discards the original
> hypothesis, refines new hypotheses, and starts a new round of testing to see which ideas are
> supported by the evidence and which are not. Likely they note that millepedes, insects and a
> few other groups seem to share many of the traits in question, so they start looking at more
> complex traits, testing the hypothesis in a more rigorous manor. If a hypothesis is true, it
> will withstand attempts to disprove it.
> 2. Now a "creation scientist" is interested in testing the same idea (only by definition,
> they believe the null hypothesis to be true, and the original hypothesis is simply
> impossible). "Creation science" discipline holds that a higher being created all life
> denovo. Hence, any perceived relationships in structure and chemistry are coincidental. Any
> lack of perceived relationships is coincidental. From our perspective, what is, just is,
> because that's the way it is. So, the creation scientist can't really figure out how to
> design a testable hypothesis, because creation science says that anything is possible because
> God made it that way. You can't prove creation by looking at the things created, and you
> can't disprove it either (unless its got a brand name sewn into the lining). Everything and
> every pattern observed, God made.
> So this "scientist" looks at the differences between spider and insects legs and says " Wow,
> God made them that way." They note that the mitochondrial RNA in all arthropods is
> incredibly similar (in fact in all animals) and they duly note, "Geeze, God made it that
> way". They note that crustaceans all have exoskeletons with calcium-based chemistry, and
> insects all have chitin-based cuticles, and again the evidences very clearly indicates that,
> "God made them that way". In fact, it really doesn't matter what you look at, sub-atomic
> particles, radioactive decay, RNA, or butterflies, God made them as he say fit. (Then the
> "scientist" gets distracted by the color of the ink in their pen, and they grab a different
> pen and look at it. They marvel in the intricacies of their God, that could create so many
> different colors of ink for them to enjoy. Soon they have new insights into the marvel of
> their religion and the supreme being that created everything in all his infinite wisdom).
> Marvel, revel, revel, marvel...
> Thus the very definition of science and the scientific method - formulating and testing
> hypotheses - is impossible with "creation science" because is makes no predictions that can
> be tested. Everything that is, God made that way.
> Thus, "creation science" is is not science - it is adherence to dogma. As science goes, it
> is indeed fraud.
> Now note that religion is not science, nor was it ever intended to be. Many of the best
> evolutionary biologists that I knew in grad school had religious affiliations, usually but
> not always Christian. I even know one that teaches at Liberty (Baptist) University - which
> is a pretty good testament that christian faith and evolutionary theory are not incompatible
> to the sophisticated mind.
> And don't even get me started on Occam's razor relative to ad-hoc religious explanations.
> . "What can be done with fewer assumptions is done in vain with more".
> This simple idea articulated over 700 years ago, underlies all modern scientific modeling and
> theory building. The elegance of evolutionary theory is that one (albeit complex) theory
> explains life on Earth and makes such powerful predictions (ranging from butterfly mimicry to
> the mode of action for new drugs) that it considered the unifying theory of biology. Or if
> you prefer, you can invoke somewhere between 2,500,000 and 20,000,000 separate creations
> events during a 7 day period.
> Just don't call it science.
> > In message <45F8A30CE009D2118F850000F805064D8FE512 at hqmail.gensym.com> Mark Walker writes:
> > > Neil Jones wrote:
> > >
> > > > Creation Science is, as I have said before, a FRAUD. It is not science
> > > > at all but Hebrew Mythology in mascarade.
> > >
> > > My information says that this statement makes you a liar. How can you
> > > honestly sit there and make such a statement? How the hell do you know?
> > Firstly your logic is plainly false. If I am lying then I must believe
> > that what I am saying is untrue. It is patently obvious that I do believe it.
> > If you believe that "creation science" is valid then where is your evidence?
> > It is my contention that it has been conclusively proved that it is a
> > total load of rubbish!
> > I have produced evidence that in order to be a member of the " creation
> > scientists'" association that one has to believe in a creed derived from
> > the mystical beliefs of Hebrew tribes people. This is totally contrary to
> > proper scientific principles.
> John Shuey
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