According to creationists, every science is false


Remember what right-wing Christians mean when they talk about “academic freedom”. They really mean freedom from standards.

Here’s a letter from a Christian who is still indignant that the Institute for Creation Research was denied the right to hand out science degrees over ten years ago.

It is fitting to reflect and contemplate the future ramifications following events of significance. One such event transpired shortly after this author applied for admission to the Institute for Creation Research Graduate School (ICRGS). The school was established in 1981 with a unique purpose in providing graduate-level education in fields of science that are particularly relevant to the study of biblical apologetics. Its former graduates earned Master of Science degrees in Science Education, Astrophysics/ Geophysics, Biology, Geology, and General Science,1 and many are now teaching or participating in Christian ministries in various communities.

As a Christian educator, I felt that formal education from one of the world’s leading creation science ministries would serve me well as an important augmentation to the graduate degrees already earned from secular universities. However, only four days after my application was submitted, the board of directors of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) voted to close the doors of the ICRGS indefinitely, effective 30 June 2010. The board reached this painful decision after a long legal battle with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that ultimately resulted in a ruling against ICR and the end of this important educational institution.

He makes a long defense of the ICR, but somehow cannot say outright that the organization teaches as a conclusion that the Earth is less than ten thousand years old. This is a telling omission: their fundamental assumptions are so ridiculous that they dare not say them aloud, choosing instead to claim failings by real sciences that are not there. He cannot defend the process by which the ICR reaches their conclusions, and therefore tries to take them off the table. We’re going to play word games, instead.

For the ICRGS, the quality of education was never the issue, but rather the creation content within the curriculum. The THECB declared that the ICR Grad School program could not be called “science” because it was based on the creation model rather than evolution. To keep creation science and intelligent design out of the classroom, it is often argued that they do not qualify as science. Often the definitions used for such purposes are arbitrarily established to exclude other worldviews and frequently too stringent, also inadvertently ruling current or historic inquiry as unscientific.

The “creation model” is false. It doesn’t work. It was invented in the last century to paper over a primitive literalist interpretation of the Bible, and it’s so indefensible that the only thing he can do is claim real science is also false, therefore creationism has equal standing.

In the 1981 case of McLean vs Arkansas, the judgment defined the essential characteristics of science as being guided by natural law; explanatory by natural law; testable; tentative; and falsifiable. Anti-creationists have added additional requirements, such as Michael Ruse and Eugenie Scott who stated that science deals only with what is repeatable and can be subjected to testing. By such definitions archaeology does not qualify as science, since it is instead a search for intelligent agents rather than material causes. In a historical context, the hard sciences like physics or chemistry also cannot be reduced to these definitions. Much of the early developments of science were not guided by or explained by existing laws or known natural processes.

Archaeology is repeatable, testable, and makes hypotheses that can be criticized and evaluated. Ask an archaeologist! They have strong principles for evaluating evidence, and have arguments that are resolved by going back into the field and collecting empirical observations. That they recognized that intelligent agents, that is, human beings, are part of the process of historical change is not a criterion for rejecting the discipline as a science. Humans are real. They can be observed. We can see the consequences of their actions. So, studying them can be done scientifically.

My physics and chemistry friends are going to be surprised to learn that what they do doesn’t count as science, but going to church does.

That early science was built on guesswork and assumptions does not mean they were somehow unscientific. Our understanding was hammered out of chaos — people made hypotheses about nature, tested them, and re-evaluated their ideas until they conformed better and allowed better predictions about the natural world. Yes? That’s not a strike against science. It’s also the case that we don’t know exactly how life arose, so we make hypotheses about chemical possibilities, and go into the lab, or collect organisms from obscure places like deep sea vents, and test those ideas. That’s what science is!

These exclusionary definitions are especially problematic when we consider the many areas of science that attempt to explain one-time historical events, such as the big bang, the origin of life or biological processes. None of these hypothetical scenarios were observed, nor are they repeatable, allowing testing in any adequate manner. All attempts to reproduce the conditions that gave birth to the first cell have failed. In reality, such events fall well outside the statistical realm of possibilities and contrary to the known laws of science (2nd law of thermodynamics). Experiments in these areas of historical science are based on philosophically derived faith in unseen and unobservable processes.

He doesn’t understand the concept of repeatability, does he? No, we can’t fire off another Big Bang in the basement of the physics building. But we can study the properties of matter and energy and try to understand how they could have arisen. We can build colliders and see how tiny bits of matter interact. We can also observe consequences — the Big Bang theory didn’t arise out of some guy reading one sentence of a holy book and inflating it into a textbook worth of glurge. Instead, it was derived from seen and observed astronomical processes.

It’s telling that when their beliefs, based entirely on flawed interpretations of an extremely limited and internally contradictory text, are questioned, they choose to lash out and whine petulantly that physics, chemistry, biology, and archaeology aren’t real sciences, anyway. It’s kind of pathetic.

I’ll tell you what the ICR doesn’t qualify as science, and it’s simple. Are you free to question the accuracy of your source material? Do you get to revise your interpretation of the evidence to conform to the observable facts? Or are you required to hold certain tenets of faith?

All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the creation week described in Genesis 1:1–2:3, and confirmed in Exodus 20:8-11. The creation record is factual, historical, and perspicuous; thus, all theories of origins or development that involve evolution in any form are false. All things that now exist are sustained and ordered by God’s providential care. However, a part of the spiritual creation, Satan and his angels, rebelled against God after the creation and are attempting to thwart His divine purposes in creation.

Case closed. Asserting your conclusion in the absence of evidence, and in defiance of any possible evidence, is anti-science.

Comments

  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    In reality, such events fall well outside the statistical realm of possibilities and contrary to the known laws of science (2nd law of thermodynamics).

    I’d love to know if any of the bozos repeating this nonsense has ever responded to an explanation of why it is simply, horribly wrong.

  2. Richard Smith says

    described in Genesis 1:1–2:3, and confirmed in Exodus 20:8-11

    Clearly, when your claim and your evidence come from the same single source, it has to be true. The Bible is nothing if not not repetitive.

  3. PaulBC says

    Often the definitions used for such purposes are arbitrarily established to exclude other worldviews and frequently too stringent, also inadvertently ruling current or historic inquiry as unscientific.

    I have never figured out how creationists manage to thread the needle between (a) “The Bible is the Word of God and you must believe in its literal truth or you are going to hell.” and (b) “Wow, man, like what if each have our own reality, so what’s true for you isn’t always true for me. Government shouldn’t be so judgmental about truth.”

  4. says

    Forget doing science, most of them couldn’t make it halfway through a Martin Gardner puzzle book. They would throw it across the room in frustration and then burn it, unable to grasp that solving such puzzles would teach more scientific skills than anything they believe they know.

  5. dean56 says

    “In reality, such events fall well outside the statistical realm of possibilities and contrary to the known laws of science …”

    I know people (in-laws, unfortunately) who say, with straight faces, “if there are error bars or artificial margins of error it isn’t science”.

    It makes their conclusions easy to reach (for them) and most of the rest of the family sad.

  6. PaulBC says

    I know people (in-laws, unfortunately) who say, with straight faces, “if there are error bars or artificial margins of error it isn’t science”.

    What do they think counts as science? There are very few things I bother to measure to better than 3 significant digits, and that’s when I really care about precision.

  7. mathman85 says

    He doesn’t understand the concept of repeatability, does he?

    No, he doesn’t. Nor does he understand the concept of observability. He’s pulling the typical creationist canard, à la Ken Ham, that implies that the only legitimate observation is direct observation (and ideally direct visual observation). No, we can’t recreate the Big Bang in a lab. But we can observe the evidence that it left behind in our local presentation of spacetime; e.g., the cosmic microwave background radiation and the fact that the universe is still, to this day, expanding.

  8. mnb0 says

    “None of these hypothetical scenarios were observed.”
    Yawn. Observed: almost all galaxies moving away from each other. Perfectly repeatable.
    Observed: cosmic background radiation. Perfectly repeatable. By anyone who takes the effort and has the means.
    Extrapolation: 13,7 billion years ago our Universe was concentrated in a point. That point is called Big Bang.
    That extrapolation might be wrong, but I’ve yet to meet the first creacrapper who even tries.

    “contrary to the known laws of science (2nd law of thermodynamics)”
    Let’s assume this is correct, for the sake of argument. “Goddiddid” is not the alternative. And abovementioned observations
    remain just as repeatable.

    These people fail even on their own incorrect terms.

    @4 and 7 PaulBC: “I have never figured out how …..”
    Simple. They don’t care about consistency nor coherence, both necessary conditions for science. That’s why @1 RobG’s question is useless. They just shrug that off.
    Hence when meeting creationists only three reactions make science. Stay anonymous, run away from them or mock them. Whatever you do, don’t try to be reasonable. That’s especially difficult for professional scientists, which is why they so often “lose” debates from creacrappers.

    “What do they think counts as science?”
    Everything that seems to confirm their predetermined conclusions.

  9. PaulBC says

    RobG@1 Actually, they “respond” pretty regularly on PandasThumb among other places. Their responses are fallacious, but they keep hammering at it anyway.

  10. larpar says

    These people don’t have a clue. You don’t have to kill Mr. Boddy twice to know that it was Mrs. Peacock in the conservatory with a candlestick.

  11. pilgham says

    I learned a new word, “perspicuous” which means he’s been reading really old, old creationist books.

  12. Rob Grigjanis says

    PZ @2: So I did some poking around, and at least some of them know they haven’t nailed the argument from entropy.

    The problem for creationists is that we have yet to generate a rigorously formulated entropy-based hypothesis that clearly shows that life cannot arise through natural undirected processes. However, evolutionists generally have failed to produce a reasonable argument which agrees with observation that the second law of thermodynamics does not prohibit evolution.

    I thought the second sentence was hilarious.

  13. nomdeplume says

    The claim about the 2nd law of thermodynamics is a dead give away every time. As is the nonsense about historical and experimental science. This clown is a graduate of Ken Ham University.

  14. ajbjasus says

    Isn’t the crappy thermodynamic argument even remotely plausible if the earth is treated as a closed system?

    This gives away the ludicrous ego and earth centric arrogance that colours all these clown’s thinking.

  15. Rob Grigjanis says

    ajbjasus @15:

    Isn’t the crappy thermodynamic argument even remotely plausible if the earth is treated as a closed system?

    You mean by ignoring little details like photosynthesis? Actually, no, not even then. Even if you ignore where their stored energy comes from, the work being done by organisms is still increasing the net entropy of the system consisting of them plus their immediate environment.

  16. mcfrank0 says

    PaulBC @7:

    Electronic calculators were rapidly replacing sliderules when I was at school and my professor for Feedback Systems was adamant in denigrating “precise” calculations stating that in the real world we would be lucky to to find devices that were accurate within even one decimal place.

  17. garnetstar says

    The guy doesn’t seem to know that the big bang doesn’t have to be statistically probable or conform to the known laws of this universe, because this universe and its laws didn’t then exist. “All attempts to reproduce the conditions that gave birth to the first cell have failed.” No, they haven’t.

    And, to add to what all have said above: the silliness of creationists’ interpretation of the reproducibility requirement. What must be reproducible is not evolution (or big bang, etc.) itself: it is the observation of natural features, which are the data.

    What must be reproducible is that one scientist examines, say, a Tiktaalik specimen, records certain features, measurements, etc. Any other scientist must be able to reproduce those measurements and findings, on that specimen and on other Tiktaalik specimens. The observation of consistent changes in beaks of finches on separate islands must be reproducible, not live visuals of finches' beaks changing in reali time as the finches radiate out to those islands. Someone must be able to radioactively date chunks of the Hawaiian islands and determine their ages, and someone else must be able to reproduce that finding, not reproduce the formation of the islands.

    It’s the data, which are observations of features of natural world, that must be reproducible from one study to the next, one experiment of observation and measurement to the next, not the event(s) that formed those natural features.
    I think that perhaps no other error might so much demonstrate creationists’ utter lack of understanding of how science works.

    I also notice that the ICR didn't give degrees in chemistry: that's not because it isn't relevant to biblical apologetics, but because 1) chemistry's way too difficult and boring for most people to care about, and 2) actually learning it would destroy creationism for good. So, they just don't.

    As for chemistry not being science: PZ, remember that "debate" where you learned that the carbon atom is irreducibly complex and proved intelligent design? One of the high points of your creationist-adjacent activities, I think.

  18. whheydt says

    Re: PaulBC @ #10…
    My materials science professor told us that, if we gave the modulus of elasticity of steel to more than 3 significant digits on a test, it would be marked wrong unless we also specified the temperature.

    I “grew up” using a slip-stick. Handheld calculators were just barely coming in, and very expensive (e.g. $400 for a 4-function one) by the time I left college. When I took a course in celestial navigation, it was mentioned that most people actually working as navigators were saving up to get an Acutron, because they were more accurate than a ships chronometer.

  19. dean56 says

    “What do they think counts as science?”

    Whatever their minister tells them is science.

    I must admit I haven’t had much communication with one niece: I asked in a family text string how stupid someone had to be to believe in the “massive” election fraud trump and his goons were pushing. She replied “I believe there was.” I replied “Now I know the required level of stupidity.” Haven’t gotten a message since.

  20. PaulBC says

    I’m going to note that I agonized about whether saying “3” significant digits, which is indeed very precise. In real life, I am pretty lucky to get anything to better than 5% relative error. E.g., just how level is that “level teaspoon” of salt, anyway, and have you really checked if the utensil is what it says it is? (With water and a gram scale perhaps, but how good is that scale?) When doing my taxes, I suppose I have what looks like more precision, but it’s possible I’m missing a deduction (forgot some contribution to a school foundation) or misunderstanding one I’m claiming (got something in return for the contribution that I should have taken off) and nobody will ever notice. The daily fluctuation of investments also adds error bars. I can’t think of anything that doesn’t have them unless it is pure calculation.

  21. whheydt says

    Re: PaulBC @ #21…
    Three significant digits is a pretty good “rule of thumb”. That’s pretty much what you get with a slide rule (unless the first digit is a “1”). It’s also about what you’ll get from any reasonably portable set of log tables.

    These days, electronic components like resistors are typically about 5% tolerance. Back in the day, the standard ones had a 20% tolerance, 10% resistors were expensive and “high precision” were 1% or even 0.1%. Laser trimming to value has been a real boon.

  22. Anton Mates says

    I’d love to know if any of the bozos repeating this nonsense has ever responded to an explanation of why it is simply, horribly wrong.

    The younger ones do, sometimes. Many young people grow up believing and advocating creationism but also like the idea of science, so they jump into science class or online conversations and trot out these arguments honestly expecting them to work. The arguments get torpedoed, they wade into the scientific literature trying to find better ones, and eventually they accidentally educate themselves out of being creationists. The process usually takes several months or years, but it happens. Happened to Charles Darwin, in fact.

    But yeah, by the time they hit middle age they’re usually deaf to counterarguments. By that time the entire discussion is purely performative; the veteran creationist preacher isn’t even listening to himself, let alone his opponent.

  23. birgerjohansson says

    “No, we can’t fire off another Big Bang in the basement of the physics building”
    Nerds: “Challenge accepted!”

  24. PaulBC says

    Anton Mates@23 I wonder how common that is. David MacMillan is the only documented YEC recovery instance that comes to mind.

  25. garysturgess says

    I can just about understand the archaelogist one. In between all the training for marksmanship, advanced whip use, and appropriate degree of force to be used when punching Nazis (c.f. the documentary “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) I am frankly very impressed they have time to learn how to do actual science as well. :)

  26. PaulBC says

    garysturgess@26 Destroying about 90% of the artifacts in the process doesn’t help either.

  27. says

    “Every science is false” is just so reflexively Popperian that no creationist would get it: The entire mechanism of “science” in Popper’s scheme is “provable falsity.”

  28. ajbjasus says

    Rob @15

    Whoops my bad, I meant ONLY remotely plausible, being overly charitable to them !

  29. drut says

    I’ve always thought that if evolution were truly false then so is every theory in science. Clearly, this is not the case. Physics and chemistry seem work the same in everything everywhere including the mammalian body.down to the nucleus of a cell.

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