I think my friends at the "Agnostic Church" said it best:

"'Creation science' is oxymoronic, as nothing about creationism is the least bit scientific."

In all fairness, I do wish to point out that nothing about Agnosticism is the least bit Church-like.

The belief that scientific evidence of the physical development and evolution of the universe can be reconciled with the account of the Creation as given in The Holy Bible and other religious texts.

There is quite a bit of throroughly terrible creation science, because it is based on misunderstandings/distortions of both scientific principles and scripture. On the other hand, there is quite an honest and well-founded belief in Creation Science by some scientists who have found it possible to reconcile their rational understanding with their faith.

"If the universe has a finite stock of order, and is changing irreversibly towards disorder -- ultimately to thermodynamic equilibrium -- two very deep inferences follow immediately. The first is that the universe will die, wallowing, as it were, in its own entropy.... The second is that the universe cannot have existed for ever, otherwise it would have reached its equilibrium end state and infinite time ago. Conclusion: the universe did not always exist."
-- Paul Davies, God and the New Physics

What really drives me mad about Creation scientists is that they perpetuate the belief that evolution is irreconcilable with belief in a Creator God. This just gives Christians and Christianity a bad name among scientists and labels us all as irrational.

To me, the development of Creation Science speaks of a desperate desire to make Christianity more scientifically acceptable when there really is no need. In fact, it has the opposite effect.

To Tosta Dojen:
In your writeup, you take issue with "the knee-jerk reaction to creationism as something that cannot possibly be scientific". You then go on to state that "creationism can be held as a worldview with no supporting evidence".

Many philosophers of science would say (following Hempel; Popper goes even further, and as JerboaKolinowski rightly insists requires falsifiability by the possibility of contradictory evidence) that a worldview with no supporting evidence is ipso facto not scientific. It would help your position if you could explain in what sense you claim something is "scientific" which has no supporting evidence. Also, please note that the converse assertion is not true: something with supporting evidence might still not be scientific (e.g. the folkloric correlation between Yom Kippur in Jerusalem and hotter weather).

In actual point of fact, you can generate reams of supporting evidence for creationism. Say I assert that the world was created (say) 5761 years ago (at the time of writing of the original writeup), but with the appearance of much greater age (complete with oil, coal, fossil record, consistent astrophysics, and other facts indicating a much greater age). Clearly, there is much supporting evidence: all the appearances match a much greater age, which fits my assertion. But it's still not scientific: there is no evidence for the veracity of the most important part of my assertion (which too matches my assertion -- I specifically state that all facts point to a much greater age!). Popper and Popperians could rest at this early stage: such a theory would not be falsifiable. If, for example, my wife pointed out I'd been keeping 5763 year old cottage cheese at the bottom of our fridge, I could still claim that the world had also been created with what appeared to be 2 year old cottage, which had deteriorated slightly in the meantime...

But followers of Hempel are willing to accept more things as scientific than Popper, or at least they have a less stringent set of requirements. Accordingly, we have to go on a bit further to show the oxymoronicity of "Creation science".

In the case of "the world was created 5761 years ago with evidence consistent with earlier creation", it is by no means the simplest thesis consistent with these facts. It requires me to believe in all of modern science (so as to be able to interpret all signs as pointing to a much older world) AND in the specific claim of misleading evidence. This is ad hoccery of the worst kind, and flunks Occam's razor. Hempelians require explanation of all relevant data, but also the simplest explanation of all relevant data.

Finally, please note that many things are not scientific that could be claimed true. Popperians might say this of mathematical truth: despite claims on the lines of 1 cloud + 1 cloud = 1 cloud, which do nothing to contradict mathematics in general and 1+1=2 in particular, 1+1=2 has no possibility for falsifying evidence. Neither does modus ponens. Hegelians might talk of mathematics as being scientific (though I don't). But statements such as "If 1+1=3, then I'm green" are true, though unscientific due to lacking supporting evidence.

"Creation Science" specifically tries to claim scientific status, which implies having to produce supporting evidence, a coherent explanation for observations, and simplicity of the type required by Occam's razor. And without supporting evidence there is no science.

So one might hold Creationism as a worldview. I believe that to do so is a grave mistake, that on the one hand prevents us from properly investigating the world we find around us, and on the other hand forces us to accept many very complex constructs. But it is never a scientific belief.

If one believes in an omnipotent deity, and if in addition one goes by one of several religious beliefs which require it, then one may be forced to accept Creationism into one's worldview. Note that, by accepting Creationism as part of a larger system, the cost of accepting such very complex constructs may be lessened. In effect, one is "amortizing" the costs of belief in Creationism over other ("less expensive") beliefs, maybe a particular moral code, some aspect of the value of human life, or perhaps better chances of avoiding some vengeful God. But it always goes in this direction: because X believes in God and some sect's theology, X accepts their cosmology which includes Creationism. Just don't try to push the theology from the cosmology on scientific grounds: it doesn't work that way.

The essence of creation science, as Isaac Asimov explains in his article "The Threat of Creationism" (New York Times, June 14, 1981, Sunday, Late City Final Edition, Section 6; Page 90, Column 3) is that it is an attempt to gain political power for the religious right. This power centers on advancing conservative religious values through the manipulation of the school curriculum. Asimov gives seven different creationist arguments (parenthetical summaries are mine) along with reasons why the arguments don't hold water:

  • The argument from analogy
    (just as a watch is complex because it was designed by an intelligence, so life is complex because it was designed by an intelligence)
  • The argument from general consent
    (most people and religions believe in a creation story, so the story must be true)
  • The argument by belittlement
    (evolution is "only a theory" so it's probably wrong)
  • The argument from imperfection.
    (the evolution theory is imperfect and textbooks have mistakes, so the theory is thereby discredited)
  • The argument from distorted science
    (evolution contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics)
  • The argument from irrelevance
    (see below)
  • The argument from authority
    (the Bible is the inspired word of God, and any other explanations cannot be true.)

For the purposes of this node, the most salient argument is "The argument from irrelevance," which essentially states that scientific data are not relevant since all reality is created by God and thus all of our alleged scientific evidence is really arranged in such a way as to make us think that the world is billions of years old. As Asimov persuasively argues, that argument "is itself irrelevant, for it can neither be proved nor disproved." He also adds that such an argument presupposes a creator that is a "cruel and malicious prankster," which no creation scientist wants to assert.

Taken as a whole, however, Asimov is saying that creation science is an unfair attempt to smuggle religion into the classroom as the dominant idea. He asks rhetorically, "Do you suppose their devotion to 'fairness' is such that they will give equal time to evolution in their churches?"

The idea that creation science is not science does not discredit religion or science. It merely states that the two endeavors are separate, and that in order to do science one must agree to base one's arguments on verifiable evidence and falsifiable theories.

I've got two points to make about Creation Science, coming from my little corner of things.

I hear these arguments that go something like this.

Well, there are all of these gaps in the fossil record and attendant evidence that evolution hasn't explained yet, so clearly evolution is basically a load of hooey.

To which I, as an evolutionist, reply: bingo.

This is a problem with the teaching of science in general that I see. Science is not, as I experienced ever so delightfully, having an extremely large book thrown at you and being told to more or less memorize it. Science is not about books.

Science is about discovery and experimentation. Of course it hasn't explained all the evidence. If it had, Steve Gould would be out of a job, among other nasty consequences.

The thing you do with a imperfect theory is improve it, not roundfile it. This makes me belive Asimov's idea that Creation Science isn't about science, but something else, whether it be politics or something else more or less nefarious. Either way, it doesn't merit being called science.

So a lot of the creation scientists now can just call what they're doing "improving" evolution and it'll all be good, right? Thus, my second point.

I'm no biologist, but I've spent more time than I care to admit among them and in biology classes. And one of the things I noticed is that evolution isn't just a branch of the tree, it's the trunk. I'm not sure you can say that you think that the rest of biology is all cool, and you'd like to keep all the nifty genetics and taxonomy and other neat stuff, but not evolution. The logic and structure just wouldn't make sense; the scientific equivalent of a pink elephant in the room.

I've got nothing against creation science as a theory. It's a perfectly good theory. It is, however, a poor science. I find it no small oxymoron to teach the scientific method in one month of a class and creationism in the other.

Well, the writeup that prompted me to make this roundup of ideas regarding creation science has since, justifiably, been nuked. Still, let's sum up the argument:

  • Creation Science is not a science.
Regards cosmology, physics, evolutionary science, biology, or any other discipline treated of by creation so-called-science (with the possible exception of bible studies) the Bible has no value as evidence. Even though there are things in the Bible that are demonstrably true, this does not make the bible evidence, since there are also things in the Bible that are demonstrably false. The Bible only proves one thing. The belief of those who wrote it.

The basic hypothesis of creationism goes along the lines of:

We know from biblical evidence that the Universe is about 6000 years old. Therefore God created it 6000 years ago with fossils in the ground and light on its way from distant stars, so that there is no way of telling the real age of the Universe simply by looking at it.
The hypothesis is unfalsifiable, and therefore not a scientific one. I could just as easily say that the whole universe was created yesterday, or any other day in the past.

To find out how to put out a scientific hypothesis you can start by reading the node on the scientific method.

You will often hear believers of creation science put forth the argument that the theory of evolution lacks evidence to back it up, that it is full of holes and that it just as much a matter of belief as creationism. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is given that there are details of evolution that are not fully understood. However the main lines of the theory is backed by so much evidence that only a blind person could disbelieve it. We have even observed evolution happen right on the laboratory table.

But what about the missing links and simmilar holes in the evolutionary tree?

Yeah, what about them? In any scientific theory there are unexplained parts. For example, science has absolutely no idea how such a basic thing as gravity works. We do have a model theory that predicts its behaviour in detail though. It's called The Theory of General Relativity. But filling out such holes in our knowledge is what science is all about. This is where creation science is actually counter productive in that it points out that there are things we don't know, but does nothing to illuminate our knowledge of those things. Instead it offers some ad hoc explanation without a thread of evidence to back it up.

  • The claim that any established scientists support "creation science" is preposterous!
Still this claim is not infrequently put forward by supporters of creation science. Apparently the support from those scientists is based on "evidence", however requests to produce such are always made in vain.

You can test for yourself whether it is possible to find such a person. Try looking up "creation" or "bible" in journals on biology and paleontology.

No, there are absolutely no biologists, anthropologists, paleontologists, archaeologists or chemists that support any such claim. Anyone stating otherwise is quite simply either an ignorant or lying through his teeth.


Editor note - That's nice, but andersa why don't you just come clean and say what you really think about creation science?

Well ok, since you put it that way, let me give you a clue. Even though I feel strongly about this, I hope you notice the wink in my eye.

RANT ON

Creation science is a real and present danger to modern society!

Through hard work and rational thinking, the scientific community has singlehandedly build our civilization from scratch. Now these damn small minded individuals are on a fucking crusade that eventually will bring the whole world into complete and utter chaos.

Those idiots are a much greater danger to society, than those poor souls that are locked up on an american military base in the caribbean. They are aiming to seed our world with the idea that you are not supposed to think for yourself. Apparently we are all better off as mindless drones, destined to wander through a wasteland of mud huts, because once we stopped thinking a single rational thought, we have all forgotten how to build a proper housing for ourselves.

Don't for one moment think that this will stop with biology and evolution. No no. Once they have that screwed up, the heathen physicists, with their particle accelerators, trying to unravel the secrets of creation itself, will be the next to have to face this modern day inquisition, or maybe the doctors with their abominable medicines, stem cell research and their disregard for the benefits of prayer? And before you know it, it will even be a crime to simply teach science in schools!

If we were real smart, these kind of people would be registered in a central database and kept under close scrutiny by the relevant authorities, and not be allowed to spread their dangerous ideas to normal people.

RANT OFF


Sources: sci.sceptic FAQ - http://www.faqs.org/faqs/skeptic-faq/

Introduction

Not all creationists are creation scientists. A creationist is, at his or her core, someone who believes that a Deity individually created the animal and plant species we see on the world today. There are Apache creationists, African tribal creationists, Christian creationists, Muslim creationists, etc. and these groups have wildly incompatible beliefs.

Likewise, not all scientists are atheists. I knew many churchgoing biology professors at my college who had no trouble reconciling their religious beliefs with the fact of evolution; one scientist told me, "Science explains the how, religion explains the why." These men and women understand the power of a metaphor. Evolution contradicts nothing in the Bible on a metaphorical level (of course fundamentalist Christians insist on reading the text literally, which creates all manner of sticky continuity issues).

Creation science is a pseudoscience aimed at "proving" the religious belief that their God literally created all life on the planet in a more or less immutable form. For the purposes of this writeup, the creation science I'm referring to is the variety propagated by American Christian creationist groups, particularly the intelligent design group. They have been extremely clever and efficent at making their philosophy seem scientific to the voting public, and as a result they've been able to sway many a school board in this country to include their beliefs in school science curricula. Ultimately, their aim is to preserve the literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis.

Some extreme Christian creationists reject science entirely; among them you will find people who still believe that the Earth is flat and folks who believe that the Sun (and the rest of the Universe) revolves around the Earth. You will find among them people who would rather let a child die of an infection than take her to the doctor for antibiotics.

While mainstream Americans can (and generally do) dismiss folks with such extreme and easily-disproven notions, the intelligent design group is much more sophisticated and their arguments much more polished and convincing. Their public speakers all have advanced science degrees, and they are excellent orators. In the olden days, you'd see creationists exclaiming that "The Devil put dinosaur bones in the Earth to confuse you!" Today, they get into some fairly high-level debates over finer points of molecular biology; one virtually has to have a biology degree to understand how they're twisting the evidence.

But they're still selling the same fundamentalist ideology under a scientific disguise.

Ideological Issues

I knew a few people in high school and college who subscribed to creation science; they told me they believed evolution is fake. I talked with them and what it came down to was that they didn't want to believe that they're descended from critters that crawled out of the muck a billion years ago (how this is worse than being descended from a gent who was made from a handful of dirt, I'm not sure.)

Creationists don't want to think that, biologically speaking, the monkeys are our country cousins. They want to be special. They insist that we are God's chosen, that humans are not animals.

This may not seem like a big ideological problem, but it troubles me. Belief that you are one of God's chosen is a mental license to do reckless things, such as exhausting your natural resources and hunting other species to extinction (in the 1700s and 1800s, people refused to believe that hunting could drive animals to extinction; they were sure God wouldn't allow one of His creatures to be gone forever. And so went Steller's Sea Cow and many, many others).

If you think that you are not an animal, you will also probably believe that you are "above" the problems the rest of the world has and that you are somehow apart from the planet's ecology and environment. And if you think that you're God's chosen, won't you also think that He'll eventually bail you out if things go wrong? Is expecting to be bailed out of your problems conducive to really trying to solve them on your own?

And if you believe in Armageddon, believe that God will eventually destroy the Earth and send all his chosen ones to Heaven, can you really be committed to trying to keep society and the planet fit for future generations?

I think that this kind of fundamentalist Christian belief has as much effect on the public's behavior as social construction supposedly has on science. And I see public acceptance of evolution as reality as key to our society's truly coming to grips with our environmental and ecological problems and really making a commitment to do something constructive about them.

All the biologists I've ever known have related the same experience in their youth when they first learned of evolution: "Oh my God, everything makes so much sense now! The interconnectedness of all living things, gosh, the world is such a cool place."

Nothing in the field of biology would make any sense at all without the underlying principle of evolution. Nothing.

We don't necessarily know how evolution works, but it's as much a fact as water being wet or the sky being blue. It's just not as obvious because of the huge expanses of time involved. Humans aren't built to truly comprehend a thousand years, much less a billion. And too many people assume that, because they can't wrap their minds around an idea, the idea can't be true.

Scientific Issues

Creation science is not science because it is not falsifiable.

And regrettably, few laypersons truly understand what falsifiability means. Scientists have to try really, really hard to disprove their own hypotheses before any other scientists will take their research seriously. Real science involves actively seeking out results contrary to what you're trying to show.

In basic terms, if you've hypothesized that your pitcher has no leaks, you fill it up with water and see if anything leaks out. And then you X-ray it, then fill it with alcohol, and so on until you can prove that your pitcher is solid.

Creationists never try to disprove their beliefs; they only use data that supports their cause. Their coveted, cracked pitchers are safe on the shelf, wrapped in newspaper articles. They insist that their crockery is solid, and say they don't need to bring it out to prove it. Occasionally, they get a "scientist" (i.e. somebody with a Master's degree in science education or physical science) to take down a pitcher, carefully fill it with sand, and hold it up, proudly declaring, "Look folks, no holes!"

Switching metaphors, let's consider this hypothetical passage in the Bible: "And on the Second Day, God created the Heavens, and He painted the sky blue, for God favoreth that color." (Hey, it could have been written that way.)

Anyhow, other than the obvious results of this passage (picture a blue Bible and blue-coated ministers) imagine the ramification of scientists discovering that the sky appears blue due to Rayleigh scattering in ozone and other atmospheric gases.

"The ozone layer is a lie!" The strict Biblical interpretationists would cry. "God painted it blue! It's blue because of paint!"

Scientists might reply, "No, really, there's ozone up there. It's true; it protects us from solar radiation. The idea that it's paint is silly. But perhaps the ozone layer and other gases are God's way of 'painting' the sky blue?"

"No!" The paintists cry. "The Bible says it's paint, so it's paint! Ozone is a lie."

"Uh, by the way," other scientists interject, "We seem to be having a problem with the ozone layer ... it's breaking down. We need to do something to stop this ozone loss, or we'll be exposed to too much radiation."

"Ha!" say the paintists. "The sky is still blue -- how can this so-called ozone layer be breaking down then? The holes are in your 'theory,' not in the sky. There's no danger from radiation. God will protect the faithful."

Meanwhile, one sees "objective" articles in magazines and newspapers very mildly (and inaccurately) suggesting that "most scientists don't believe the sky is painted blue. Most believe the blue color results from a very thin layer of a chemical called ozone."

And so it might go. The argument rages unproductively as melanomas blossom and crops wither.

It really is that cut-and-dried, scientifically speaking. After all, the whole ozone depletion situation is still up in the air (excuse the pun), but we know ozone is real (just ask iceowl about the raging sunburn you get down in the Antarctic). Evolution is just as real, though (as with many other complex scientific issues) our understanding of it is far from complete.

I've heard people asking if there is any scientific "alternative" to evolution. That's a bit like asking if there's an "alternative" to gravity or aging. Evolution is a documented natural process and scientists are trying to sort out how it works. Dissent over evolution in the scientific community deals with the particulars of evolution (for instance, is it gradual, or do species change in sudden leaps?) rather than over whether or not evolution is real. Creationists such as the intelligent design proponents warp the nature of the scientific dissent in order to make their pseudoscience seem reasonable to the public.

Cold, Hard FAQs

nocte took me to task for not including any "hard facts" about evolutionary issues in this writeup. Fair enough, but entire 300-page textbooks are regularly written on the subject, and anything shorter would be in many senses reinventing the wheel here at e2. So, I point those of you seeking further factual information to:

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