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Monday, February 04, 2008

Are Creationists Anti-Science?

Though I'm not sure it's accomplishing much, I've been having an ongoing discussion with several evolutionists over the past couple of days concerning my post yesterday on "Creationism and Peer Review."

While my post yesterday deals primarily with the intellectual bigotry of the dominant scientific community (which believes religiously in evolution), and the circular logic evolutionists often use for rejecting creationist arguments(refuse to give peer review approval of a creationist theory that is sound within its own worldview, then say lack of peer-reviewed material is proof that creationist arguments lack quality), there are some other issues in the realm of science and scientific interpretation which are more at the center of the impasse in this debate.

Today, Answers in Genesis features a piece on the common accusation that creationists reject science.

This issue is at or close to the heart of the difference between creationists and evolutionists today.

Contrary to the charge, creationists do not reject science, not in the least. Instead, they reject naturalism, which is a philosophy that has incorrectly become synonymous with "science" in modern language.

Science is the examination of the universe with intent to uncover how it is made up and how it operates.

Naturalism and materialism are doctrines or belief systems which posit that everything in the universe came about through natural processes with no supernatural influence or intervention. There is no room in this philosophy for God's creative work or influence over the universe.

Science simply examines the facts, where naturalism posits theological and philosophical conclusions about those facts. While they are related, one should not be confused for the other.

It is even harder for disciples of evolution to be objective than it is for the typical creationist, so I know that what I've just said and what Answers in Genesis has to say is of the highest order of blasphemy to them.

But for those of you with an open mind to consider all sides of the issue, I would recommend reading the "Do Creationists Reject Science?" piece. It'll shed a lot of light on why most evolutionists are speaking a different language.


19 comments:

mogmich said...

Yes, there is a very important difference between science and naturalism.

As a Christian I oppose naturalism strongly, because it is against all religion, even religion which is actually not in conflict with any scientific knowledge.

But I also oppose creationism, because it is in conflict with scientific knowledge: evolution

Creationists are against science, instead of just being against naturalism - that's exactly what is wrong with it.

Ferrous Patella said...

Yep. If you redefine science just like Behe did in the Dover trail, even astrology can be science!

Richard Forrest said...

If creationists don't want to accept the validity of science and the scientific method, that's fine. Nobody is demanding that they do.

However, if creationists claim that their religious convictions are supported by science, it is morally ambiguous to say the least to reject the fundamental principle of science, which is methodological naturalism. Many scientists are devout Christians, and others are adherents of other religions or none. This does not affect the way in which they carry out their research or submit their findings for publication. A belief in God cannot be tested using the tools of science. It is a matter of faith, and anyone who claims that their religious convictions are supported by science is as much anti-religion as anti-science.

The reason why the scientific community rejects creationist arguments is that they they are not scientific. This has nothing to do with competing worldviews. It has everything to do with the nature of science. There is no scientific research informed by any "creation science", so there are no scientific findings to be presented to academic journals informed by "creation science". The scientific community is not "refusing to give peer review approval" of creationist "science": there is no creation science to review.

Bob Ellis said...

I think you missed the entire point, Richard.

Naturalism <> science

Bob Ellis said...

mogmich, you really need to go back and rethink this one. Even though you say you aren't confusing naturalism with science, it's obvious you are. You still equate evolution with science as established fact. It isn't. It draws theological and philosophical conclusions not in evidence within the scientific data.

Bob Ellis said...

Ferrous Patella: it is evolutionists who have redefined science.

Naturalism <> science

There might just be something in existence outside the walls of this universe. Naturalism purposefully closes it's eyes and ears to such a possibility--or that something outside this universe might influence something IN this universe through means which supersede the laws of nature--, rejecting it out of hand.

Richard Forrest said...

Actually, science *is* naturalism, and anyone who tells you anything different is either ignorant or lying.

If we measure the time it takes for a ball to drop one meter in a vaccuum, we assume that we can repeat that experiment time and time again and that provided the set-up is identical, the result is identical. We make the same assumption if we are trying to figure out why a car won't start: we test hypotheses of why the engine isn't working, such as blocked fuel lines, dirt in the carburator and so on until we find the cause of the problem and fix it. We don't assume that the car won't start because God doesn't want it to, or because invisible pixies are messing about with it.

We carry out research in science - and I write as a scientist - using the premise that the universe behaves in a consistent and coherent manner. This is what naturalistic *means*, and it is the same premise we use routinely in our daily lives. If we ask a mechanic to fix our car, we expect that he will identify a problem and fix it, not claim that the car doesn't run because it is infested with gremlins. Without that premise any scientific research is meaningless. If the outcome of an experiment depends on the whim of a deity it is not repeatable, and offers us no insights into the behaviour of the physical universe.

Science investigates phenomena which can be observed and measured. It does so under the premise of naturalism. We formulate hypotheses on the basis of the information we observe and measure, and test them by gathering more information. If an hypothesis fails to predict the nature of the new information it is modified or rejected. If we do not have an explanation for a phenomenon which stands up to hypothesis testing, we conclude that we can't explain that phenomenon, and gather more evidence to try to find an explanation.

At no point in the scientific process do we conclude that if we don't have a naturalistic explanation, the explanation has to be the involvement of the supernatural. Such explanations are rejected not because all scientists are atheists - this is quite plainly are not the case - but because such explanations are unfruitful. "God did it" may be an explanation for the origin of living organisms which satisfies creationists, but it tells us nothing whatsoever about *how* life originated.

You need only to read the different interpretations of the Biblical account of creation peddled by different creationist organisations such as Answers in Genesis and the Discovery Institute to see how unfruitful supernatural explanation are. You will find no agreement on how old the earth is, if evolution happens, which processes lead to the diversity of living organisms, or even if the world is flat or round. None are offering any test of their "theory", and there is no basis of evidence on which any differences can be resolved. All any of these groups have to offer is the strength of their convictions. That is not science, and any pretence that it is is ignorant at best and dishonest at worst.

Bob Ellis said...

Richard, I think you meant to say "naturalism *is* science (at least in your estimation), but that's close enough.

Some of the creationist groups (I believe Discovery Institute may be more ID-oriented than creationist) do have technical articles on their websites, ones that really dig into the "science" of a matter, not so much the philosophical implications of the evidence. But you have to get beyond the introductions on the home page to find them.

You mentioned that "the universe behaves in a consistent and coherent manner." Why do you think that is? If the universe was the result of some random event, there would be no reason to expect it to act according to certain laws.

Just as a monkey could type away for hours at a keyboard, but wouldn't produce anything coherent or functional. But a programmer could sit down at that same keyboard and type the same letters and build a program that functioned, that did something, that behaved according to certain parameters (unless it was a Microsoft product), and functioned in a consistent and coherent manner.

Just something to think about.

sorceror said...

The key question is, what's the difference between 'natural' and 'supernatural'? Think about the difference between the notion of the 'powerful alien' (a staple of science fiction) and the notion of a 'god' in a religion. What's the essential difference between them? In the stories, they both do amazing, astonishing things. But a powerful alien is (ultimately, eventually) comprehensible - often in the story humans are able to figure out some way of duplicating its powers, or interfering with them, etc. Gods, though, are beyond what humans can do, and there's no point in trying to figure out why or how they do what they do.

The best definition I've seen is that the 'supernatural' is unknowable by humans - something forever beyond human ken, something we will never be capable of understanding. Different terms are used - the 'ineffable', the 'mystery', and so forth - but the basic idea is the same.

Epistemologically, the 'unknowable' is a troublesome concept. How can we, in practice, distinguish between something 'currently unknown but comprehensible' and something 'forever unknowable'? From a practical perspective, the only way to tell which category something falls into is to try to understand it; if you succeed, then it was knowable. The problem is, if you fail, you can't conclude that it's unknowable. It might be... but it also might be the case that you just didn't happen to figure out something knowable, and you or someone else might have better luck on a subsequent attempt.

Science doesn't address 'unknowable' things - the very word comes from 'scientia', Latin for 'knowledge'. It's not surprising that the supernatural isn't accepted as a scientific explanation; science is about knowable things. "Then a miracle occurs" is fine in theology, but in science, it's cheating.

Theophrastus Bombastus said...

"If creationists don't want to accept the validity of science and the scientific method, that's fine. Nobody is demanding that they do."

This is a straw man, Richard. Bible-believing scientists like me are eager and enthusiastic about new discoveries in science, because they validate my faith and reveal the power and glory of the Creator. My complaint is that evolutionists deny evidence, such as anomalies in the fossil record, make up stories to account for their beliefs and refuse to answer questions such as how to explain irreducible complexity. In a previous post I asked for some evidence for the spontaneous organization of a cell membrane; a seemingly simple structure common to all cellular life. Scientists who insist on naturalistic explanations for all physical phenomena have the burden of providing some answers. Instead we get endless descriptions of homologies, DNA sequencing and HOX genes that proves nothing. We get fanciful illustrations supposedly showing the evolutionary sequence from primitive to modern animals, when, in fact, the fossil evidence may consist of only a tooth or section of skull plate and several of the supposed specimens are fictitious, without any supportnig evidence. Further, the fossils shown are often found in strata that are out of order. Of course, there is always an explanation for such discrepancies, such as geological inversions (of a 500 square mile plate in at least one case!). The scientific method requires predictability, testability and falsifiability--all lacking in most evolutionary "research." Selective interpretation of facts, falsification of results and "just so" stories that are presented to students as facts does not make good science.

Leading biologists and paleontologists have asked some of the same questions that I raise. Gould unequivocally announced that neo-Darwinism is "effectively dead." He paid dearly for this when Dawkins and Dennet attacked him. Their attack had nothing to do with science, but that Gould had given "ammunition" to the hated creationists. Is this the scientific method that we should all accept without question?

Richard Forrest said...

No, I meant to say that science *is* naturalism. If I had meant something else I'd have written something else.

The Discovery Institute has had generous funding for over ten years, but has undertaken no research, has published no research findings based on ID "theory", and is lobbying to have the definition of science changed to accommodate supernatural explanations. Furthermore, the claims of the DI that ID has scientific status have been tested through the courts and on the basis of the evidence presented by both sides of the argument, a conservative judge ruled that ID is not science.

They may have articles on their web site which look scientific to non-scientists, but they are regarded by scientists as at best a joke, and at worst a dishonest attempt to hoodwink the undereducated. There is no science in ID.

You may believe that the universe behaves in a consistent and coherent manner because God created it that way, but such a conclusion is not one which can be reached through scientific enquiry. Scientific theories need to be potentially falsifiable, and unless you set limits on what your God can and can't do, you cannot falsify the assertion that God created the universe. The same is true of ID: there is no way in which the assertion that an unspecified but possibly supernatural "Intelligent Designer" has interfered with natural processes using unspecified but possibly supernatural methods can be falsified.

Scientists have no problem in accepting that science operates within limits, and that there are some issues which science cannot address. That does not mean that scientists as individuals don't believe in God or some other manifestation of the transcendent. It only means that science is not a tool which can be used to investigate such ideas.

Bob Ellis said...

Richard: regardless of syntax, I maintain that naturalism is NOT science. Science is the study of the universe around us, where naturalism draws a theological and philosophical conclusion that all matter and processes in the universe came about without supernatural influence.

If such is the case, I await proof of that. So far, I have seen none, only conjecture based on assumptions.

It is true that science can probably never measure God's power because it operates independent of the laws of this universe. That does not mean that science cannot investigate and measure the EFFECTS of a manifestation of that power. And if God did in fact create the universe and exert his influence on it from time to time (e.g. the global flood), then science is even now examining and attempting to define the EFFECTS of God's influence in the universe, even if they believe these effects came about randomly or even somehow without cause.

As for winged animals being below other organisms in the geological strata, who knows: maybe they were overcome quickly by a wall of water or mudslide that they were unable to escape from. Or perhaps the strata has shifted due to some huge geological event?

I don't know the answers to all these things...but neither do you.

There is no historical record for anything older than a few thousand years, regardless of whether you're a creationist or evolutionist. So we don't know exactly what happened or how it happened. We therefore develop theories based on our worldview, our presuppositions. Sadly, evolutionists are utterly blind to their own biases and presuppositions.

In the end, there are more critical unanswered questions in the materialist/naturalist paradigm than in the creationist's one.

Here are just a few:

How do you explain fossil eggs sitting around for the thousands of years evolutionists claim it would have taken to be buried by the slow processes claimed by evolutionists?

How did the bodies and bones of fossil animals stay intact despite the elements and predators that otherwise might have destroyed and dispersed them over a wide area?

How did lifeless chemical elements suddenly organize coherently and become alive?

How did material or biological elements in the universe achieve a high state of organization when the laws of nature tend toward disorder?

Where did all matter in the universe come from?

How do you know the earth is billions of years old?

Ferrous Patella said...

"Science is the study of the universe around us...."

You got a cite for that definition? It sounds so general as to be useless. It certainly is not specific enough to clearly define what we teach in science class in our public schools.

Bob Ellis said...

Ferrous Patella: are you saying that science is NOT the study of the universe around us?

Or would you simply disagree with me even if I said the sky was blue, just because I believe what the Bible says?

Richard Forrest said...

You wrote "Richard: regardless of syntax, I maintain that naturalism is NOT science. Science is the study of the universe around us, where naturalism draws a theological and philosophical conclusion that all matter and processes in the universe came about without supernatural influence."

Science is a very specific way of investigating the universe which uses the scientific method. This is an iterative process of gathering evidence, formulating and testing hypotheses and reformulating those hypotheses if that is what the evidence demands.

You wrote: "If such is the case, I await proof of that. So far, I have seen none, only conjecture based on assumptions. "

Science does not offer proof. It offers provisional explanations which can be potentially falsified. If you have a better, testable explanation for the evidence feel free to offer one. "God did it" is not testable - unless, of course, you can imagine a potential phenomenon which could not be explained in that way.

You wrote: "There is no historical record for anything older than a few thousand years, regardless of whether you're a creationist or evolutionist."

It's just as well that scientists don't rely on uncorroborated historical records for evidence in that case. Such records are hugely unreliable. Science relies on evidence we can observe and measure, and the dating of events and objects from the past relies on the same basic assumptions as does all science. Of course an all-powerful God could have created the universe 6,000 years ago, but if he did so he created a universe which has all the characteristics of enormous age. The pioneers of the sciences of geology and palaeontology, many of whom were ministers of the Church, approached the investigation of the geological and fossil record expecting to find evidence for the Biblical account of creation. What they found showed clearly and categorically that the Biblical account cannot be treated as literal history.

You wrote: "How do you explain fossil eggs sitting around for the thousands of years evolutionists claim it would have taken to be buried by the slow processes claimed by evolutionists?"

What on earth gave you the impression that "evolutionists" (whatever you may mean by the term) claim that all geological processes are slow? Do you think geologists have never heard of volcanos, mudslides, dust storms, floods or any of the other processes we see at work in the world around us? Continents move. Rocks are laid down, uplifted, and eroded. That's why eggs preserved millions of years ago can end up for us to find on the surface. This is very elementary geology.

You wrote: "How did the bodies and bones of fossil animals stay intact despite the elements and predators that otherwise might have destroyed and dispersed them over a wide area?"
For a variety of reasons. In the case of the formations with which I am most familiar, which are the Lias and the Oxford Clay, large vertebrates are preserved more or less complete in a small number of cases because they were submerged in a soft, anoxic sediment on the sea floor which reduced the availability of the carcases to scavengers. What we find in such specimens is that parts of the skeleton were not fully buried, and formed hard ground which was colonised by oysters and sacrophytes.

You wrote "How did lifeless chemical elements suddenly organize coherently and become alive?"

There is no magic "spark of life" which distinguished "lifeless" chemical elements from "living" elements. We don't know how life originated, though there are a several different theories which are being investigated. Science is full of unanswered questions. However, faced with such questions science tries to find ways of answering them. It doesn't reject the methodology of science.

You wrote:"How did material or biological elements in the universe achieve a high state of organization when the laws of nature tend toward disorder?"

Living organisms achieved their current complexity and diversity as the outcome of three and a half billion years of evolution. We know that evolution operates on populations of living organisms because we can observe it in action, we can replicate it in the laboratory, we can model it on computers, and we can test the predictions of evolutionary theory against the evidence. If you have a better, testable explanation for the evidence feel free to offer one.

I suggest that you expand your reading beyond the creationist sources on which you evidently rely on for information. Such sources are not reliable. I can recommend a reading list if you are interested in learning.

Doppelganger said...

"...descriptions of homologies, DNA sequencing and HOX genes that proves nothing."

And this shortly after you claimed to be a scientist...

Stuart said...

Bob writes:
"How did material or biological elements in the universe achieve a high state of organization when the laws of nature tend toward disorder?"

Its always amusing to meet somebody who thinks they are qualified to speak on thermodynamics cause they read some tract on AIG.

Systems tends to disorder in isolated enclosures, i.e., that is the system does not exchange matter or energy with its surroundings. In the case of open systems, all bets are off.

You can either read books written by actual scientists like "Time's Arrow" or "At Home in The Universe" by Kauffman or you can read AIG tracts written for the gullible. Spontaneous order is part and parcel for most systems. Illya Prigogine got a Nobel prize in Chemistry for his work on non-equlibrium thermodynamics which is a branch that deals with the physics of open systems and how order spontaneously arises. Prigogine wrote a book too, but the name escapes me for the moment. I recommend Kaufman's book, of the bunch it is the most accessible to the lay reader.

If you believe science is bewildered by order, than you are in serious denial.


"Where did all matter in the universe come from?"

I already addressed that in the previous thread. But this is typical of creationists, even after they received answers they keep repeating the question. Are you unable to learn, Mr Ellis? If so, just say so and I'll leave you alone.

But please don't pretend you didn't receive answers to your questions already.


"How do you know the earth is billions of years old?"

By analyzing rocks containing my good friends, U238, U235, Rb86, Nd, K40 and a few others.

Radio-isotopes don't lie.

Bob Ellis said...

Oh, but radio isotopes do lie, Stuart. That's why we got a reading of something like 2.8 million years off the Mt. Saint Helens lava dome that we know is about 30 years old.

You're relying on a test that relies on assumptions that are flawed.

Just like the whole house of cards that is evolution, materialism and naturalism.

Bob Ellis said...

I want to thank all who have posted comments on this post, regardless of whether I agree with you or not.

Unfortunately I need to end further comments on this thread. This blog is primarily concerned with current events, and since the nature of current events means they're a daily-changing and moving targets, I only have so much time to devote to each one.

It's obvious that some folks have a hard time getting beyond the confusion between science and naturalism/materialism, and find it difficult to consider any possibility of a supernatural force occasionally working in our natural world.

But I hope that there has at least been some food for thought here.

Thanks again to all who participated.

 
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