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Bad Science

Creation Science has constantly been criticised as ''bad science.'' Is this true? I am not gong to rehash lots of arguments here, Ben, but am trying to point out some basic principles you might have in mind when you read the arguments for yourself.

All science (and theology) faces pressure to be dishonest. I mean dishonest in the sense of providing answers to suit what people want to be true, rather than what really is the fact of the matter. As we know, some scientists cheat, and falsify their results, and get caught.

Creation science faces an extra pressure in all this. Science strives to be impartial; the scientific method is based on that impartiality. It is designed to seek what is true, and regards showing that its own ideas and hypotheses are wrong, is actually to make progress! Creation Science does not do this. It rules one of its facts "off limits" from being challenged or disproved. It says the literal and factual nature of the Genesis stories cannot be challenged. It is unashamedly biased from the beginning.

In principle, a scientist is open to having everything disproved and starting again. A creation scientist does not do this. They are determined to prove evolution wrong. This is bad science.

On reflection it is also bad theology!

Theology should be open to being "disproved'' as well. I use the inverted commas because proof in science and proof in theology are two very different things. In fact, theology would not usually use the word. But while science is open to evolution being disproved, creation science will not allow itself to be convinced that its theory is not true. This is, ultimately, a denial of God, for it says God is not able to handle the fact that the Creation Scientist's theology might be wrong. It is a theology that lacks courage- a theology full of fear.

I will quote one writer at length in support of what I have just written.
The Creation Research Society... maintains an institutional commitment to the claim that "all of [the Bible's] assertions are historically and scientifically true in all of the original autographs... [and] that the account of origins in Genesis is a factual presentation of simple historical truths."....

in general it can be said that creation science is very different from ordinary science. Unlike evolutionary scientists, creation scientists do not accept their theory on the basis of its broad explanatory power. They do not make any efforts to extend its scope or deepen its reach. They do not take their theory's problems seriously. Their work does not lead to new discoveries. Rather, they spend their time and effort fighting a rear-guard action against evolutionary theories.

The author of this paper, What Christians Should Think About Creation Science is Kenneth Kemp from the Department of Philosophy at Texas A&M University.

At the end of this page I have some critical links on the quality of creation science's science. Not much is served by rehashing what is readily available elsewhere. However, Kemp goes on to say,

The creation science critique of evolution suffers from three problems.
First, many creation scientists do not seem to understand evolutionary science. Evolution is, in one sense, not so much a particular theory as it is an approach to questions (note the plural) of origins. Since there are a number of distinct questions of origins that might arise (about the central features of the universe or of the solar system, about life, about the diversity of species, or even about the diversity of human languages), there are a number of distinct, supplementary, and even logically independent evolutionary theories.
Evolutionary biology, for example, has nothing to say about the origin of life. It was developed in answer to the quite distinct question of the origin of (i.e., the diversity of) species, as Darwin's title indicates. The question of the origin of life is the subject of another evolutionary theory, one on which, though much work has been done, much remains still to do. Much of the creation science critique of evolution suffers from the unwillingness of the critics to sort these theories out.

Kemp also says many creation scientists do not understand particular evolutionary theories.

Henry Morris, for example, argues that discovery of the coelacanth posed a serious problem for Darwinian theories of evolution:
The chief candidate for such a transitional form [sc., between fishes and amphibians] was long supposed to have been the coelacanth....
The coelacanth was believed to have finished this transition sometime in the Mesozoic....
Evolutionists were embarrassed when it was discovered in 1938 that these fishes are still alive and well, living in the waters near Madagascar.
But discovery of the coelacanth presents no problem for Darwinism. Morris overlooks the fact that Darwinian evolution suggests the diversification of species by branching-at one point in their history, some coelacanths, under environmental pressure, diverged from the hitherto prevalent form. These coelacanths became amphibians, while others, not subjected to the same environmental pressures, remained in the pretransitional state.

Kemp gives another example of such misunderstanding and goes on to say.... Unfortunately, these misunderstandings are not isolated cases; they are typical of what one can find in creation science literature. On my reading of the debate over the years, he is very kind at that point. I seem to recall other writers talking not of misunderstanding but of deliberate selective quoting, and misrepresentation, on the part of creation science advocates.

Kemp goes on to say:

Second, creation scientists tend to misrepresent the character of disputes among evolutionary theorists. There is, for example, currently a dispute over whether the evolution of species occurs at a steady rate over time. Some palaeontologists argue that biological equilibria are punctuated by (geologically) brief periods of fairly rapid change. Many biologists deny this. Somehow many of the defenders of punctuationalism have found their conclusions cited by creation scientists as though they denied the fact of evolution, when in fact they have only challenged certain details of how evolution occurs.

Such claims that disagreement about detail disprove all of evolution are not uncommon, and smack of desperate fearguard [I wrote rearguard but my PPC digitizer interpreted r as f. It's actually true, so I've left it uncorrected.]argument , dishonesty or of least, plain bad science in the sense that they do not understand that the very nature of science is to progress by debate and dispute over details.

Third, says Kemp,

creation scientists seem to misunderstand the force of anomalous facts, those that cannot readily be explained by the current theory. Though, of course, in some sense scientists should be (and are in fact) disturbed by facts that seem inconsistent with theory, such facts never have, and indeed should not, be taken as requiring immediate abandonment of the theory. Newton's theory of gravitation was never completely successful in predicting the locations of the planets, First it was the orbit of the moon that created the problems. By the time that was solved, Uranus had been discovered, and its orbit remained seriously anomalous until the discovery of Neptune. In the mid-nineteenth century the problem was Mercury, whose orbit was only reconciled with theory on Einstein's development of the general theory of relativity. Even now, there remain problems with the orbits of the outer planets. To adapt a phrase from Imre Lakatos, theories not only come to birth, but they lead their lives, in a sea of anomalies. Theories must be judged then, not on the basis of whether they are free of any anomalous facts, but on the basis of whether they continue to make progress in the solution of the problems that face them, and whether they tend to lead to new insights into the natural world. Evolutionary theories have a good track record here; creation science does not. indeed, creation science literature rarely contains more than (often misguided) criticisms of evolution.

I think myself that there are so many holes and ridiculous ideas in creation science, that to use anomalies to criticise science and claim evolutionary theory is wrong, while holding a creation science view is not just dishonest, it's patently stupid!

Some Links The Talk Origins Archive
Quoting them: is a Usenet newsgroup devoted to the discussion and debate of biological and physical origins. Most discussions in the newsgroup center on the creation/evolution controversy, but other topics of discussion include the origin of life, geology, biology, catastrophism, cosmology and theology. The Talk.Origins Archive is a collection of articles and essays, most of which have appeared in at one time or another. The primary reason for this archive's existence is to provide mainstream scientific responses to the many frequently asked questions (FAQs) that appear in the newsgroup and the frequently rebutted assertions of those advocating intelligent design or other creationist pseudosciences.
Is it really a science?
Religious Tolerance. Org has an excellent section or origins.


Posted April 30 2006

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