Don’t try to tell me creationism isn’t a science stopper


Oh boy, Answers in Genesis has published their assessment of the James Webb Space Telescope. They’ve already decided that it’ll be great for taking pretty pictures of stars, which they’ll no doubt use to illustrate their beliefs, but it’s bad, fallacious science. It’s secular, naturalistic, and saturated with evolutionary thinking!

So obviously, there are some awesome observational science aspects (observable, testable, repeatable) to this mission, such as observing and studying the farthest regions of the visible universe that were previously hidden to us. However, as seen from the many news reports published by the media (especially from NASA), the overall objectives for JWST are saturated in evolutionary (and really naturalistic) thinking. For example, NASA states on one of their websites, “The primary goals of Webb are to study galaxy, star and planet formation in the universe. To see the very first stars and galaxies that formed in the early universe, we have to look deep into space to look back in time (because it takes light time to travel from there to here, the farther out we look, the further we look back in time).”

You must understand the binary distinction that AiG makes about science. Good science is “observational” science: the work that just describes what you see right now, that doesn’t draw any inferences about cause and effect, past or future. It’s fixed and static. That leaf is green. That rock weighs 80 kilograms. The temperature right now is -24°C.

Bad science they lump into a category called “historical” science, because, as we all know, historians don’t draw any conclusions from the past, don’t make inferences about causes, don’t see any kind of links between historical events, ever. It’s all lists of dates and battles and kings, you know, kind of like what you see in the book of Genesis, which is good “observational” science. All that stuff about hypothesis testing, and induction, and experiment, and theory, and interpreting and predicting connections between events, the tools that scientists have relied on and found productive since at least the days of Francis Bacon…well, that’s just bad, with only occasional exceptions.

Note, these objectives fall into the category of science that’s called historical science (making assumptions about the past based on evidence in the present), which, by the way, can be useful in certain applications (like in forensic science when analyzing crime-scene evidence) but only when used through a biblical “lens” and logical worldview.

OK, so you’re allowed to use historical science, but only to solve murders. And all murders must be viewed through a biblical “lens”! I think that means they’re all committed by witches.

In case my sarcasm is obscuring this fact, no, these distinctions that AiG makes between observational and historical science are total bullshit. They make this bogus dichotomy all the time — it’s practically the first thing they tell you in the entranceway to their Creation “Museum” — but all it really is is a way for them to throw out otherwise totally unremarkable scientific ideas that they find objectionable because they reveal that their interpretation of the Bible is false. They don’t like that we can look at the universe and see that reality contradicts their biblical version of events.

Therefore, the JWST is a priori wicked and false.

However, in this instance, these statements for the JWST are clearly secular (and unbiblical), which inevitably means they’re also fallacious (this is the result of every unbiblical worldview). Notice the claim of “looking” back in time (when looking at objects deep in space) in order to see how everything in the universe began through cosmological evolution (i.e., the big bang). But note that when making this claim, they’ve already merely assumed cosmological evolution (by assuming star/planet formation occurred in the early stages of galaxies) in order to prove cosmological evolution (via “looking” back in time). This is a logical fallacy called begging the question.

Wrong. Science builds on prior observation and experiment to build models of how the world works, which are then continuously tested with further observation and experiment. The space telescope is built on a body of science and technology, driven by the fact that there are things we can’t observe now with existing technology. It was lofted into orbit to see phenomena that we were unable to see before, and that’s the entire point: if we could just assume that we already have all the answers, then there would be no need to spend $10 billion to make a better telescope. Astronomers will use this tool to test their predictions about what lies out there.

It may generate new theories, or it might provide further confirmation of cosmological evolution. That’s what the creationists actually fear, that this OBSERVATIONAL science will provide even more information showing that their HISTORICAL interpretation of biblical history is petty and silly, and that the “science” in their book of Genesis is nonexistent or false.

Comments

  1. leovigild says

    They seem not to understand that looking far out into space is literally looking back in time. It’s not “making assumptions about the past based on evidence in the present”. It is purely observation, which should be fine from their point of view. In fact, if we wanted to know how distant regions of the universe look today we’d have to use inference, reason from cause to effect, etc.

  2. Collectivist Parasite says

    I’m trying to wrap my head around the aside of analyzing crime-scene evidence through a Biblical lens.

    “What have you got for me, Bob?”
    “So far, I can tell you that the victim’s suit is a 50/50 linen/wool mix…”
    “OK fellas, pack it up! The vic obviously had it coming.”

  3. birgerjohansson says

    Ken Ham is a heretic who wants to limit Zod’s power.
    It is written that to Zod long periods of time is like how mortals experience a short time span (I only know the passage in Swedish, feel free to write the Merican translation from Hebrew).
    Thus, Zod has no time limit for doing stuff.
    Let’s see… what was the penalty for false prophets again?
    (you can substitute that penalty with “stuff him into a sack with several skunks)

  4. says

    @leovigild at some point they’ll whip out the “appearance of age” argument if they’re Young Earth Creationists. The Universe is only 6 thousand some years old, but it looks billions of years old because God created it to look that way. The obvious question of course is why God made it look that old when it isn’t. The answer is of course more handwaving.

  5. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 1

    At this point Ham would insist the God made light at some point in-between us and object, thus making us THINK the universe is old for… reasons. At this point I’ve given up on trying to figure out the true motives of these people; whether they actually believe the nonsense they spout or they’re just grifting the redneck who can’t stand the thought they are related to black people… I mean “monkeys.” It’s dangerous, society-destroying bullshit regardless of the intent and it needs to be stopped.

    Fuck freedom of speech and religion! All “liberty” has done is allow humans to poison the environment, make the greedy rich, and lie about reality. It’s time to start doling out punishment for lying whether that lie is that global warming isn’t happening or “God.”

  6. says

    they’ve already merely assumed cosmological evolution (by assuming star/planet formation occurred in the early stages of galaxies

    No, they have hypothesized that’s how it works and want observational evidence that supports the hypothesis. Though I think it’s safe to say that they know how it works, and want really cool-ass pictures. Hubble already photographed stars forming (back in the past because of light speed) which I would think is a problem for a theory that creation was a one-time event; it’s still ongoing. It’s observational.

  7. raven says

    AIG is consistently wrong about everything.

    Evolution isn’t just a historical science either.
    It is also observational.
    We can see it happening all around us in real time.

    The current example everyone is familiar with is…the Covid-19 virus.
    This virus has been evolving as we watch. It first appeared as a novel virus jumping from some animal reservoir. We had original virus, new mutated virus, Alpha, Delta, and now we are in the Omicron wave. Followed by more variants in the future.
    This is classic evolution happening right now.

    PS Ultimately, AIG likely does some serious damage to xianity.
    If xianity was true, then they wouldn’t have to lie all the time about science and everything else.

  8. PaulBC says

    Wait, it didn’t crash into the firmament shortly after launch? Now how do I apply my biblical lens to this?

  9. KG says

    It may generate new theories, or it might provide further confirmation of cosmological evolution.

    Or it could* reveal that the earliest galaxies, as seen from Earth, spell out in Hebrew “Made by God, Son, & H. Spirit, 4004 B.C.”. So the astronomers are risking their entire worldview being overturned – something creationists never show the courage to do.

    *In the sense of “It’s logically possible” i.e., not self-contradictory.

  10. Akira MacKenzie says

    Gah! I’m sorry that my screeds are getting more than a litte “Tankie,” but I don’t know what to do about this shit and the timer for fixing civilization before it collapses is running out.. Education has failed. Empathy has failed. The “Free Marketplace Of Ideas” has–like all markets–failed. Unless we’re willing to just throw up our hands, flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age, and hope that humanity (if it survives) get’s in shit together in a few thousand years, then maybe we need to start getting draconian on the Right–be it religious, culture, or economic–before it’s too late.

    I REALLY don’t feel like dying because society fell back into barbarism.

  11. says

    Today’s observational tools were build on “historical” science: That of finding cause and effect. A thermometer can tell me the temperature because scientists figured out a pattern from historical observations about liquids expanding or condensing based on heat. The thermometer is a tool that operates on that cause and effect relationship.

    To throw out “historical science” is to throw out all methods of observation, including our built-in senses.

    On some level, I suspect a lot of Creationists just want to throw out the notion of causality, since positing a completely random, causeless universe is the easiest way they can fit their god into the current data.

  12. Dennis K says

    @8 PaulBC — Is it not obvious? They shot it through one of the water holes. Bet you didn’t know the JWST doubles as a submarine. They won’t tell you that, of course — gotta keep the grant money pouring in.

  13. Dennis K says

    @14 Bronze Dog — I use to think the anti-science, creationist creed should push them back to quill pens and parchment by candlelight — never mind ink-pens or electronics. Now I realize even that gives science too much credit. I’d suggest hieroglyphs, but again, you’re trapped into accepting the temporal persistence of stone.

    Pesky cause and effect, getting in the way to Enlightenment. How about grunts and snorts?

  14. PaulBC says

    which, by the way, can be useful in certain applications (like in forensic science when analyzing crime-scene evidence)

    It’s revealing that they threw in this disclaimer, because it’s the direction my mind was wandering before I read this: if you can’t make any hypotheses about causes then you can’t try to solve crimes. You can’t even diagnose an illness. “We just make observations. Have a nice day!” This objection is obvious enough that they anticipate it. Their resolution ​

    but only when used through a biblical “lens” and logical worldview.

    is inadequate to say the least. It is not only scientists who apply naturalistic assumptions when looking for the most likely explanation of events.

    If I think my milk is going sour because my neighbor the witch has put a hex on it, the Bible is less likely to set me straight than even the most rudimentary understanding of microbiology. They ostensibly want to go back to a world in which received knowledge is the only guide. They’re lying of course. They want the fruits of science: satellite broadcasts and jet travel, exposure through social media, but they want to keep their followers in ignorance. I’m not saying that they secretly believe in a naturalistic universe, just that they are such masters at compartmentalization, that they are capable of ignoring contradictions to their worldview that benefit them personally.

  15. specialffrog says

    How do creationists know when the Bible was written? It could be from the 19th century and all evidence to the contrary just ‘historical science’?

  16. rblackadar says

    @12: More than a guess — its rate of expansion, and other properties, are a perfect fit with a supernova recorded by Chinese astronomers in 1054. Wikipedia on “Crab Nebula” tells the story.

  17. bcw bcw says

    @20, though you’d need to add on the delay due to it’s distance of about 6500 light years. So about 5500 BC, or about the age of the universe. :>) .

  18. birgerjohansson says

    I want to squeeze in a reference to “The Nine Billon Names of God” but Answers in Genesis would have no f*cking idea what I was writing about, since that crowd do not read ungodly Science Fiction (unlike Scientology kooks, an altogether weirder brand of cult).

  19. says

    Despite the doom and gloom I have reason for optimism.

    On occasion I have mentioned that I am on a couple of politics boards on nextdoor, in Arizona. While it’s hard to spontaneously communicate about it since I got there, I’ve had success over the long term. Since I got there I’ve been interacting with a group of locals to provide opposition to Trumpkins and their misinformation/rhetoric. I’ve continuously had at least one place to practice dealing with people like this. It’s a rational outlet for the aggression because we all have politically aggressive instincts and we are responding to political aggression. Not physical aggression. As far as I’m concerned the first person to go physical loses, and we are a species that responds to aggression and makes a physical/social distinction even if part of this problem involves others moving to physical.

    I’ve been practicing describing how the political behavior works out in the open among opponents and allies alike. Role-modeling opposition and different ways of dealing with individual challenges, and explixitly making myself available for criticism. I’ve seen many of the worst examples of ignorant, impulsive political aggression leave, often with lots of whining. I’m working on control and this isn’t exclusive to me, I just grew up in the dark forest.

    There are a range of political behaviors that get labeled “bad” after labeling that have been there the whole time and just pointing that out and explicitly refusing to stop engaging with or using without group agreement is withering. Name-calling, mockery and sometimes humor in general, goading, harsh criticism, it started with gossip. We all gossip, it’s good or bad situationally, and what matters is if someone can move to another communication mode when appropriate. Like showing a present tense “steal” without just testamonial evidence, usually the gossiping commentator.
    Or explicitly goading someone (who was previously critisizing my goading while goading another) into explaining “BLM riots” or just “permissive about political violence” because I know they have no reason but racism and insurrectionist defensiveness to make the claim, and I explain I ask the questions to find out. Showing the ugliness to the others on the board using the words that people try to pretend are just insults. It’s not uncomfortable to do anymore.
    Vague, non-specific complaints about “vulgarity”, and “incivility” follow and I pressure every one to get specific. There are patterns to it.

    Get a “wing-person”. I’ve noticed they will spontaneously show up. The left needs to get better with this. More later.

  20. lumipuna says

    specialfrog:

    How do creationists know when the Bible was written?

    That’s a good question.

    I get the impression that creationist argumentation is generally intended for other Christians, and the authority of Bible (and hence commitment to “interpreting history through a biblical lens”) is taken as given. If this needs to be justified to secular heathens, then there’s some relativistic handwaving like, “It’s not possible to interpret evidence entirely without background assumptions, and the tradition based on biblical worldview is as good as any. Your own secular tradition got started just because someone wanted to disprove the Bible!”

    There seems to be this general assumption that written accounts of ancient history are trustworthy, as long as they plainly state what happened, and as long as they could have been written by an eyewitness (or someone who heard from multiple eyewitnesses, or something like that). Conveniently, there isn’t much external written history that explicitly disputes the historical events described in the Bible. The dating of early Sumerian etc. writings can be always shoehorned into the biblical timeline so that they aren’t older than Tower of Babel, which was supposedly ca. 2000 BC.

    Of course, if no historical inference is allowed, then we cannot know the distant past before written sources. Much of the Genesis narrative accounts events that supposedly took place before writing was invented in-narrative, and in some part before humans (with their oral tradition) even existed. Since Christians already accept the biblical narrative as reliable, and since there are many explicit accounts of divine revelations, it’s only “natural” to assume that early world history was revealed to humans by God at some point to be written down. When exactly that happened, isn’t very relevant, though traditionally it is assumed to have happened when God gave the law to Moses. That would be ca. 1400 BC, according to a common fundamentalist interpretation of biblical timelines. Supposedly, for the Hebrews living at the time, approximately the entire Genesis would have been divinely revealed prehistory that they wrote down, while the historical account of Exodus would have been based on living memory.

  21. says

    From AiG’s statement: “such as observing and studying the farthest regions of the visible universe that were previously hidden to us.

    Feh, they’re drawing a conclusion and don’t even realize it! How do they know these are in the farthest regions of the visible universe? How do they know they are not just very close but very dim light sources?

    And Marcus @6: No, there really are a large number of unanswered questions regarding the details of how matter evolved (materially, not biologically) back then. For instance, dark matter may be black holes, and Webb might be able to help figure that out.

  22. skeptico says

    But note that when making this claim, they’ve already merely assumed cosmological evolution (by assuming star/planet formation occurred in the early stages of galaxies) in order to prove cosmological evolution (via “looking” back in time). This is a logical fallacy called begging the question.

    Isn’t it begging the question to insist that science must only be viewed “through a biblical lens”?

  23. Akira MacKenzie says

    Despite the doom and gloom I have reason for optimism.

    I don’t see any reason. Just this afternoon, I drove down to the local grocery store to pick up some lunch. Along the way, I noticed a sign for a candidate for the upcoming school board elections. His sign promised in bold red letters “NO CRT, NO MANDATES.” I’m absolutely certain that our shitty, semi-rural, white-flight-refuge town will gladly give him the post. A cursory glance of the news reveals there are millions of such assholes, some of them backed by Proud Boy thugs, running for small-town school boards throughout this shithole country. Soon our educational system will be in the hands of fascist trash like this. You can bet science education will be next to be censored after they are done with history, and the right-wing theocrats that now control the SCOTUS will eventually reverse Edwards v. Aguillard the same way they will reverse Roe v. Wade.

  24. nomdeplume says

    The only reason this AiG garbage is not recognised as evidence of severe mental disorder is that it hides behind the label “religion”.

  25. PaulBC says

    PZ’s heading also made me think of a bumper sticker I saw over 25 years ago: “Fundamentalism stops a thinking mind.” (a takeoff on the anti-abortion slogan) Not only is creationism a science stopper, that part doesn’t even seem to be a secret. If all the “answers” are in Genesis, why look anywhere else? (In practice, of course, they realize they need competent scientists, but not among their movement members.)

  26. Akira MacKenzie says

    Like I’m sure a lot of us here, I enjoy listening to God Awful Movies. Even after I listen to the weekly installment, I often go into the back catalog to listen to something while I unwind.

    One episode that comes to mind is called Time Changer wherein a liberal 19th century science teacher is sent into the future to see the dire consequences of his somewhat liberal views on Christian salvation. (Well, “dire” to Christian fundamentalist filmmakers, that is.) At a couple of points in the movie, the teacher tells students to always make sure that science lines up with the Bible, if it doesn’t then it just isn’t true.

    I can only assume Ken Ham and Co. are fans.

  27. R. L. Foster says

    @23 — I read that as a kid. I read all of Clarke’s works up to the Rama books. I’ve never been the same.

  28. dstatton says

    There is also this:

    So, for this mission, the JWST will not actually be “looking” back in time. Rather, it’ll be examining distant galaxies (which indeed are very far away in space) that have been in existence since the beginning of creation for thousands (not billions) of years.

  29. starman91 says

    @Raging Bee: Crab nebula was 1054 CE. There are even pictographs at Chaco Canyon in NM where the Anasazi saw it and recorded it appearing.

  30. beholder says

    Seems like biblical creationists always wait until after a groundbreaking discovery in science before pointing to the Bible and saying, “See? It was in here all along. You just need the proper interpretation.” Well, that or they completely deny entire fields of science which make “6,000 years” or “original sin” look patently ridiculous.

    For once, I would love to hear Ham and co. predict what our fancy-pants space telescope will find before it finds it. Give us some specifics, please.

  31. Pierce R. Butler says

    And all murders must be viewed through a biblical “lens”! I think that means they’re all committed by witches.

    Now, that’s not fair (to the witches). We can, and do, blame a plethora of murders on Palestinians Philistines.

  32. gijoel says

    which, by the way, can be useful in certain applications (like in forensic science when analyzing crime-scene evidence) but only when used through a biblical “lens” and logical worldview.

    Stabler: What have you got Polawski?
    Polawski is in medical coverall: There are an elevated levels of ozone near the deceased and their burns are consistent with a lightning strike.
    Stabler: Looks like an act of God. Put out an APB on Yahweh, it’s time we asked him some hard questions.

    DONK DONK.

  33. unclefrogy says

    there is no reason that this country will remain its advantage as a rich and powerful country and an important part of the worlds economy. While that leadership and preeminence on the world stage owes a great deal to our history of conquest and our geographical separation the continuation of that position will depend of our science and engineering.
    he anti science fundamentalists and their racist compatriots along with the ultra capitalist will succeed in making those countries which do prize science and the free exchange of ideas and the search for knowledge become the dominate ones world wide..
    Or they the “true believers” may in fact fail in their attempt to bring us back to god.

  34. StevoR says

    @ ^ gijoel : God & 38. Pierce R. Butler :

    Taking the Bible as, well, gospel, God has killed far many more people than Satan as this epic youtube clip notes :

    Gods Death count

    Hope this works and thanks again Silentbob.

  35. Walter Solomon says

    …the overall objectives for JWST are saturated in evolutionary (and really naturalistic) thinking…

    But of course. If your worldview establishes a conclusion (“godidit”) before even formulating a question, where does scientific inquiry fit in?

    There would be absolutely no reason to invest as much time or money that went into developing JWST into a project that is supposed to study the early universe if you already supposedly know how and when it was created from an ancient book.

  36. captainblack says

    An Entity that created the universe a short time ago but made it so it looked old would seem to be a lair from the first. That would make a believer in such an Entity a follower of a rather different God than the one they seem to think.

  37. says

    used through a biblical “lens” and logical worldview

    Apart from the contradiction in terms in that sentence, wouldn’t it be nice if these people would abstain from everything not found in the bible?

    cars/planes
    telephones
    radio/TV
    computers/smartphones/internet
    washing machines
    refrigerators
    electricity
    printing press
    antibiotics
    firearms

    That would render the internet a better place immediately, and the world a better place not much later.

  38. blf says

    @44: thinking?
    No, wait, They™abstain from doing that anyway.

    slavery?
    Er, no, that “lens” is full of it.

    ice cream?
    Very probably not mentioned at all… so yeah, please abstain.

    swimming in hot lava?
    Also very probably not mentioned. Seems a pity, but certainly a sensible omission.

    not swimming in hot lava?
    Also also very probably not mentioned. Go to it! (Ignore the contradiction with the previous example of something not-mentioned — They™ ignore contradictions all the time.)

  39. says

    @Akira MacKenzie 29
    It’s fair if your immediate needs are different with your situation. But what I posted after the part you quoted is a range of general irrational political behavior that has shown up in posts connected to the proud boys. This is about interfering with the political behavior that abusive people of many kinds use by openly pointing it out and challenging it as it’s own political thing. It’s where I am.

    What are your immediate material political obstacles related to these problems? I can not join a nextdoor board where you live. Maybe someone else here has something I don’t.

  40. Pierce R. Butler says

    rsmith @ # 44 & blf @ # 45 (responding to used through a biblical “lens” and logical worldview) – neither “lens” nor “logic” appears in the bible either.

  41. PaulBC says

    Seeing “biblical lens” repeatedly has started to form an image in my mind of God with a giant magnifying glass ready to smite the unfaithful like ants with a focused beam of sunlight. Of course, that image is not biblical, not because it is too horrifying but because nobody knew about lenses. (Archimedes knew about concave mirrors, though that was later, and AFAIK they were never practical as weapons.)

  42. Pierce R. Butler says

    PaulBC @ # 48: … concave mirrors… AFAIK they were never practical as weapons.

    They were quite effective one sunny morning, but useless as of the afternoon that same day.

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