Combatting creationism with science

Posted: August 1, 2007 in Celebrating Diversity, Christianity, Creationism, Evolution, Random Observations, Rants, Science

I found an interesting link/post via one of the comments, entitled “Combatting creationism with History.”  The premise being, of course, that the Bible is a quaint collection of melded cultural myths, an archaic holdover from the scientific dark ages to which people cling out of a sense of maudlin sentimentality, if nothing else.  Gee, nothing new there, to be sure.

I guess I am curious as to why creationism needs to be combatted?  Why does it so often seem that the scientifically-illuminated feel honor bound to “destroy” or otherwise “combat” the theory of creationism on a scientific basis?  Is there a core belief among these warriors of science that a belief in the causality of creation rather than random chance is some sort of dangerous delusion from which people need to be rescued?  Are they some sort of moralistic/scientific crusaders who see it as a mission to release people from their intellectual servitude to such antiquated ideas about the origins of our universe?

Then can we all just right now stop calling it the “theory” of evolution, and accept that it has, for all intents and purposes, been accepted among the vast majority of the scientific community as a natural law, akin to the Laws of Thermodynamics?  And therefore, that attempting to find fault with some of the premises of evolutionary theory puts one in the “flat earther” category, calling gravity “magic” and insisting that ideas such as entropy and exothermic reactions are so much heretical nonsense?

What I find interesting in these “scientific” viewpoints is the tacit assumption that our modern creation “myth” was culled together from various ancient sources and “tuned” to fit modern theology by some nameless group (perhaps the Council of Nicea?).  And yet, there seems little credence paid to the idea that the Babylonians or Chaldean or whomever could have instead been influenced by a creation tradition found among many of the tribal people they conquered and/or enslaved.  The Babylonians were well-known as a pollyglot of various cultural traditions incorporated from assimilated people.  Why is it so far-fetched to assume that their creation mythology could have been influenced by the long-standing oral traditions of captured ancient Hebrews whose culture predated their’s by thousands of years?  I’m just asking.

I recently visited the Pacific Science Center in Seattle on my last trip back to the States.  Yeah, I know. What was I thinking? Christians are all supposed to be all, “because God did it!” and shun such heretical institutions as this.  However, what I did find interesting was a video presentation on gravity and space, wherein the featured scientist related that recent stellar measurements and observations from the Hubble telescope suggested that the universe is in fact expanding at an increasing rate, rather than at a slowly decreasing rate, as has been the prevailing theory.  Almost like things were being pulled, rather than pushed.  His comment was something to the effect that, “I guess we don’t really know anything about gravity, like we thought we did.” 

So, for years, the Big Bang theory and its exploding singularity required that after the initial release of energy, the universe would expand to a finite limit, and then slowly collapse back in upon itself as gravitiational forces took over (yes, folks, I did actually go to college.  Yes, yes, more heresy, I know).  However, now it would seem, just the opposite appears to be taking place.  Hmmm.  Wait, you mean a scientific discovery has set the entire acacdemic world on its ear, and radically altered pre-existing theories?  Why, that NEVER happens!  Okay, okay, it happens all the damn time.

Now, with all that said, I think about the derision with which the anti-creationism crusaders view our quaint little Biblical narrative.  Of course, then I also think about the repeated Old Testament references to God “stretching out the heavens.”

I guess I take issue with the idea that simply because a concept is in the Bible, it must therefore be held as presumptively unscientific. My visits to places like the Pacific Science Center serve only to bolster my faith, not lead me to doubt it.  To me, the discoveries of science only point that much more decisively towards a creative force, one deeply mirrored in the Biblical narrative.  No, in many cases, not literally, but certainly conceptually.

To me, there is a great deal of scholarship out there which is summarily dismissed not because it is scientifically inviable or logically flawed, but merely because it is creationist in its context.  This hardly seems to support the kind of inherent skepticism required by the scientific method.

I guess I find it difficult to lend credence to those who would (and I must say, justifiably so) criticize many Creationism defenders’ reliance on the “just because” or “well, it’s obvious” defense, when the scientific evolutionists continue to refer to biological organisms adapting or reacting to changes in their evironment, without any references to the actual biological/physiological mechanism whereby genetic code is reprogrammed based on input from external stimuli.  What “drove” the early amphibians to seek land vs. water?  And for the love of pete, stop anthropomorhpizing “Nature” in all your freaking documentaries.  An amorphous “Nature” is given the causal force behind adaptive change, without really explaining what this force is, or how it influences the genetic make-up of species to “spontaneously” adapt to new conditions.

So I guess, ultimately, it is to my mind a “pot-n-kettle” kind of argument.  Don’t claim the moral and/or scientific highground if you can’t provide any better answers to the questions of ultimate causality than those wacky creationists.  Science and creationism don’t have to be mutually exclusive, unless of course, that is the internally mandated and pre-determined viewpoint.

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Comments
  1. Diganta says:

    I think Creationists call it ‘theory’ since they don’t at all understand (or pretend the same) the proofs. For your information I can quote from Einstein :
    “To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot. “

    They will always shift goalposts. If a fossil is discovered to cover a gap between two species, they’ll shout – “Look, there are two gaps now, on either sides of the fossil”. Although they don’t interfere (they might any day) directly in eloping the proofs, they are publicizing their view with trumpets. Sad !!

  2. h3nry says:

    Hi there,

    The main and most important reason (which I think you did not mention…) why we need to declare war on creationism is this: they are pushing their religious views into the school system and even science classes (e.g. the famous Scope trial).

    The problem is, if all science and education are left alone then it is all good. But science and education are threatened.

    Recent Turkish creationism movement has seen beautifully crafted creationists books being distributed into various college and university campuses…

  3. Steve B says:

    Again, the question I present is, “What is the danger?” What is the “threat” that creationism presents to our society, to our culture, and to our school-children? I am by no means one who suggests that creationism replace evolution in educational curriculum. I am, however, part of that group which suggests that it should be addressed as another theory. I also think that some of the flaws in evolutionary theory should be more in the forefront, rather than presenting it as an incontrovertible fact. Problem is, if you try, you are usually lumped in with the “creationists” and summarily dismissed as a religious kook.

    they are pushing their religious views into the school system and even science classes

    So what? What, as you see it, is the ultimate effect of this, such that it should be aggressively opposed on all levels?

    I imagine I could present a fairly convincing argument that forcing secular humanism and new-age spirituality on school children can be every bit as harmful as addressing creationism in science class.

    But science and education are threatened

    Again, by what, and with what potential results? I hear a lot about how “bad” or “dangerous” those wacky creationists are, but I’d like to here more specifcis about what will happen to us if we let those crazy Bible-thumpers run about unchecked?

    Anyone?

    Oh, and Diganta, how do you feel about “punctuated equilibrium?” Isn’t that sort of shifting goal posts to deal with inconsistencies in the fossil record?

  4. Diganta says:

    “punctuated equilibrium” – Not at all. Please study the environmental changes happened at that time.
    Nowhere in the theory of evolution it was stated that it is a homogeneous process. The theory of punctuated equilibrium is the first to throw lights on the topic of ‘rate of change’ due to evolution.
    The theory is very simple – “rate of change” due to evolution varies with change in environment, since environment drives evolution.

  5. Steve B says:

    since environment drives evolution

    By what mechanism?

  6. Rob B. says:

    In my paleo class, the topic of what drove change and adaptatiion in the fossil records had to do with two things. The adaptation to the enviromental changes due to continential drift and the changes in food sources.

    As Pangea broke up, for example, the amount of coast line, shallow water biomes increases and the land masses get wetter as the ocean breezes can care more air into the central part of the continents. This effects plant life which opens up for the species that exploit those plants, which opens up the area for the carnivores, and so on.

    It’s not real shocking that the geologist think that geology dictated evolution is it?

    Still, the theory is that anytime you opened the door for an autotrophic organism you allowed for that area to have new lifeforms to feed off of it and as a result has changes in genetic adaptation to exploit that area through speciation to the enviroment.

    It’s basically like having an all you can eat resturant where everytime they open a new entree the people that can get there first “win.”

    And for the record, because I know Steve knows this, I study and work with this all day and I’m still a creationist.

  7. h3nry says:

    Using your so-what approach: is there any harm in teaching astrology, numerology or alchemy in schools? Is Santa Clause being taught as a prominent subject in the educational systems?

    So what if the above are being taught? I too would like to to know what is so dangerous about it.

    Now of course creationism is no question a religious theme. Creationism is not science nor history, yet your group has been trying hard to push creationism into these classes – and this effort has been conclusively and comprehensively destroyed in the courts time and time again.

    This is our kids you are talking about, for Heaven’s sake Steve!

    I have no problem in having the teachers to highlight the various areas of concerns in evolution as it is a healthy exercise. You highlight and teach the problems out of positive and constructive scientific enquiry and our never-ending quest for knowledge, not because of religious agendas.

  8. […] beg to differ. Steven Bervin of the blog Tattered Bits of Brain has posted a reply entitled “Combating creationism with science.” After a short introduction, Steven writes the following; I guess I am curious as to why […]

  9. thisworldofours says:

    The whole question of evolution vs. creation, or the big bang really just revolves around one key issue. If you beleive in the literal meaning of genesis one, or an equivalant view from anther religion, then creation is the natural and logical offshoot, all of the evidence for evolution and the big bang and such can now be explained because a God that can create the universe and verything in it could decide to put the light enroute to the planet earth, and put rocks in places where they “shouldn’t be”. On the other hand if you don’t beleive in the literal nature of genesis onw or its equivalant then looking at the evidence and applying simple logic, the natural and logical offshoot is the oppinion of the greater scientific community today. the question then becomes a matter of faith, which would explain the “war” against creationism, and the strong feelings of the creationists about evolution and the big bang being taught in public schools.

  10. Steve B says:

    h3nry:

    You say “it’s for the children!” Okay, you’ve established that you feel it is “bad for children” to be exposed to or taught about creationism in a school. You still haven’t said why?

    So I remain curious as to what you see are the impacts, the consequences, the ramifications. What will HAPPEN to our children if one day our courts fail us and permit this craziness to enter the classrooms?

    Rob:
    as a result has changes in genetic adaptation to exploit that area through speciation to the enviroment
    As I understand it, the concept assumes a pre-existing set of genetic markers or traits, a “pool” of dominant and recessive aspects which allows for a species to “optimize” to it’s environment, i.e. – those that can digest and metabolize the new food source the best remain dominant, those that can’t die out, and development of the species shifts towards the new variant. Cool, sure, standard stuff.

    I propose that this is still variation within a species, and does not address the appearance of new, unrelated species. What “drives” the appearance of feathers on a lizard instead of scales?

    My ultimate point is not so much that creationism can answer these questions any better than evolutionism, but that the theories of evolution don’t have the answers either…and yet are categorized in scientific circles as fact, natural law, etc., despite some significant shortcomings and myriad issues still “under advisement.”

  11. h3nry says:

    G’day Steve,

    It is bad for the children for the same reason as teaching astrology etc in the classrooms.

    Education stresses on the learning of skills (eg. using computers, sports, foreign languages) and bodies of knowledge (eg. literature, history, and science). Tell me, how and where does creationism fit in?

    The best answer is science – but is creationism a science? Does it offer anything scientific? No. It simply says intelligent-designer-did-it. Evolution might have its areas of uncertainty, but that is just perfect normal, much as in say astrophysics and chemistry. We use scientific methods to solve the problems, and this is a great pleasure and enlightening thing to do.

    Now, here is the main point: education teaches children how to learn, how to think, how to judge, how to be moral and so on. Evolution is a science, and science teaches critical thinking, problem solving and so on. How does the god-did-it explanation of life teach our kids anything substantial?

    In short, creationism is not a body of knowledge nor it teaches any of the fundamental skills set such as problem-solving. The impact is a great waste of resources as it has no values. The impact is superstitution is being taught at schools. The impact is that it dumbs down our kids.

    Leave science along and leave it to deal with questions of life. Leave the kids along to let know grow in a healthy and positive way.

    Thanks.

  12. Steve B says:

    My point is that there is a large portion of the ID/Creationism clan that ISN’T satisfied with the “because God did it” approach. I am by no means suggesting that the Bible be used as a science book!

    Science is the tool of choice in determining the what and the how of biological and physiological processes.

    To me, creationism comes into play when we talk motive force. The part that comes before the “bang.” Science struggles to explain original causes, and postulates that certain things must have happened, even faced with a lack of concrete evidence, because X or Y must have happened in order for the theory to remain valid!

    This, to me, is it’s own kind of “faith.”

    And I’d be a lot more appreciative of the “keep religion out of schools” idea, if there wasn’t already some much new age spiritualism, thinly veiled buddhism, and open teaching of islam and other religious ideals in the schools. It just rings a little hollow to suggest that removing Christian influences from the school is the way to ensure children grow in a healthy and positive way. IMHO.

  13. h3nry says:

    Hi Steve,

    OKay so you have established that creationism is good for explaining original causes – this is fair enough. Using this line of argument creationism should also cover physics and astrophysics – not just evolution too. In fact, creationism is more applicable to these scientific areas and it should be taught in those classes too.

    Now, science has not explained original forces, again true. Putting the origins aside, evolution has more than adequately explained how species and variations of species come to existence. This is where creationism becomes non-applicable.

    I am completely with you this time that the new age spiritualism and other religious ideals to be kept out of schools (except for religious educational institutions of course)…

  14. […] creationism, intelligent design, education, God, evolution, science. trackback This is a question asked by a fellow blogger Steve at Bits of Brain. Specifically, he would like to know what the impacts […]

  15. Noah’s Ark Just Won’t Float

    This is a picture of the Noah’s Ark scale “model” exhibit at The Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY operated by Answers in Genesis. Please look at it carefully. Now, I don’t have a bone to pick with anyone, but how can we hon…

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