Creation science

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Creation science is a part of the creationist movement that claims to offer scientific evidence compatible with creation according to Genesis. Creation science disputes the theory of the common descent of all life via biological evolution and argues in favour of creation biology. It also departs from the uniformitarian model of geology, in favor of flood geology, arguing for the historical accuracy of the global flood of Noah's ark.

Advocates are generally involved in the creation-evolution controversy. Some have spent many years arguing for inclusion of creation science in the science curriculum of U.S. public schools. Following a number of court decisions in the U.S. that deemed teaching the idea unconstitutional many adherents of creation science now argue for the teaching of intelligent design. The allied Teach the controversy movement argues that intelligent design is on par with the scientific theory of evolution and therefore that both should be taught in schools as equally worthy of consideration.

The United States' National Academy of Sciences states that "creation science is in fact not science and should not be presented as such." [1] According to Skeptic Magazine, the "creation 'science' movement gains much of its strength through the use of distortion and scientifically unethical tactics" and "seriously misrepresents the theory of evolution". [2]

History and organization

File:Creation vs evolution debate.jpg
Creation Magazine is a publication supporting young-earth creationist beliefs. This issue examines whether dinosaurs perished in Noah's flood.

Within the history of creationism, belief in a created universe was originally based purely on theology. The vast majority of Church Fathers and Reformers accepted Genesis straightforwardly, and even the few who did not, such as Origen and Augustine, defended an earth that was on the order of thousands of years old.

When geologists revised the age of the Earth to millions of years, some writers looked to studying geology within the Biblical timeframe detailed in the Ussher-Lightfoot Calendar. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the leaders were the scriptural geologists in Britain. About a century later, the Canadian George McCready Price wrote extensively on the subject. However, the concept only revived during the 1960s following the publication of The Genesis Flood by Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb.

Subsequently, creation science has expanded into biology and cosmology. However, efforts to have it legislated to be taught in schools in the United States were eventually halted by the Supreme Court's interpretation of the First amendment in Edwards v. Aguillard 1987[3].

Creation science as an organized movement is primarily centered within the United States, although creation science organizations are known in other countries. For example, Answers in Genesis was founded in Australia. Proponents are found primarily among various denominations of Christianity described as evangelical, conservative, or fundamentalist. While creationist movements also exist in the Bahá'í Faith, Islam, and Judaism, these movements do not use the phrase creation science to describe their beliefs.

Issues in creation science

Creation science has its roots in the ongoing effort by young-earth creationists to critique modern science's description of natural history (particularly biological evolution, but also geology and physical cosmology) while attempting to offer an alternative explanation of observable phenomena—an explanation they also describe as "science"—compatible with the Biblical account.

The proponents of creation science often argue that many observable phenomena fit more easily into the Biblical account than with the naturalistic worldview.[4] [5] The vast majority of mainstream scientists argue that this premise runs counter to the core principles of coherent scientific methodology and that literal interpretations of the Bible which demand a global flood, a young Earth, or special creation of created kinds can be shown incorrect with available scientific evidence.[6]

Creation science has therefore been considered by most who evaluate it[7][8] to be religious, rather than scientific, because it stems from faith in the Bible, a religious book rather than by the application of the scientific method. For example, the National Academy of Sciences wrote, "Religious opposition to evolution propels antievolutionism. Although antievolutionists pay lip service to supposed scientific problems with evolution, what motivates them to battle its teaching is apprehension over the implications of evolution for religion."[9] Creation science does not necessarily disagree that their oppositional stance is based on religion. Duane Gish, a prominent creation science proponent, has argued, "We cannot discover by scientific investigation anything about the creative processes used by the Creator." [10]

Creation science advocates argue that mainstream scientific theories of the origins of the universe, the earth, and life are rooted in an assumption of methodological naturalism and uniformitarianism each of which is disputed. The claim is made that because there was no human alive to make observations it is a matter of faith to decide whether one proceeds under the assumption that the Biblical account describes actual historical events, or under other assumptions. [11]

However, in other areas of science, for example chemistry, meteorology, or medicine, the assumptions of a naturalistic universe and uniformitarianism are not considered problematic to creation science proponents. As a matter of principle, creation science advocates single out the scientific theories that they have determined are most in conflict with their beliefs against which to level their philosophical critiques.

Religious criticisms of creation science

Fideists criticize creation science on the grounds either that religious faith, alone, should be a sufficient basis for belief, or that efforts to prove the Genesis account of creation on scientific grounds are inherently futile, arguing that faith is a necessary component of divine salvation.

Many Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic[12], Anglican, and Lutheran faiths, have either rejected creation science outright or are ambivalent to it, since much of Christian theology, including Liberal Christianity, considers the Genesis narrative primarily a poetic and allegorical work and not a literal history. Supporters of Young Earth creationism argue that Genesis has the style of a historical narrative and none of the earmarks of Hebrew poetry.[13]

Scientific criticisms of creation science

The United States' National Academy of Sciences has said that "creation science is in fact not science and should not be presented as such."[14] According to the NAS, "the claims of creation science lack empirical support and cannot be meaningfully tested." [15]

Creationists often claim that creationism, and more specifically creation science, is not only scientific, but that it is more scientific than evolution.

For a theory to qualify as scientific it must be:

  • consistent (internally and externally)
  • parsimonious (sparing in proposed entities or explanations)
  • useful (describes and explains observed phenomena)
  • empirically testable and falsifiable
  • based upon controlled, repeatable experiments
  • correctable and dynamic (changes are made as new data is discovered)
  • progressive (achieves all that previous theories have and more)
  • tentative (admits that it might not be correct rather than asserting certainty)

For any hypothesis or conjecture to be considered scientific, it must meet at least most, but ideally all, of the above criteria. The fewer which are matched, the less scientific it is; and if it meets only a couple or none at all, then it cannot be treated as scientific in any useful sense of the word. On these points, the National Academy of Sciences said:

Scientists have considered the hypotheses proposed by creation science and have rejected them because of a lack of evidence. Furthermore, the claims of creation science do not refer to natural causes and cannot be subject to meaningful tests, so they do not qualify as scientific hypotheses. In 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that creationism is religion, not science, and cannot be advocated in public school classrooms. [16] And most major religious groups have concluded that the concept of evolution is not at odds with their descriptions of creation and human origins. [17]

A summary of the objections to creation science by mainstream scientists:

  • Creationism is not falsifiable. Theism is not falsifiable, since the existence of God is typically asserted without sufficient conditions to allow a falsifying observation. God being a transcendental being, beyond the realm of the observable, claims about his existence can neither be supported nor undermined by observation, hence making creationism, the argument from design and other arguments for the existence of God a posteriori arguments. (See also the section on falsifiability, below)
  • Creationism violates the principle of parsimony. Creationism fails to pass Occam's razor. Adding supernatural entities to the equation is not strictly necessary to explain events.
  • Creationism is not empirically testable. That creationism is not empirically testable stems from the fact that creationism violates a basic premise of science, naturalism.
  • Creationism is not based upon controlled, repeatable experiments. That Creationism is not based upon controlled, repeatable experiments stems not from the theory itself, but from the phenomenon that it tries to explain.
  • Creationism is not correctable, dynamic, tentative or progressive. Creationism professes to adhere to the absolute Truth, the word of God, not a provisional assessment of data which can change when new information is discovered. Once it is claimed that the Truth has been established, there is simply no possibility of future correction. The idea of the progressive growth of scientific ideas is required to explain previous data and any previously unexplainable data as well as any future data. It is often given as a justification for the naturalistic basis of science. In any practical sense of the concept, creationism is not progressive: it does not explain or expand upon what went before it and is not consistent with established ancillary theories.

Its lack of adherence to the standards of the scientific method mean that Creationism, and specifically Creation Science, cannot be said to be scientific, at least not in the way that science is conventionally understood and utilized.

Scientists note that Creation Science differs from mainstream science in that it begins with an assumption, then attempts to find evidence to support that assumption. Conversely, science sets out to learn about the world through the collection of empirical evidence and the use of the scientific method.

Historically, the debate of whether Creationism is compatible with science can be traced back to 1874, the year science historian John William Draper published his History of the Conflict between Religion and Science. In it, he portrayed the entire history of scientific development as a war against religion. This presentation of history was propagated further by such followers as Andrew Dickson White in his essay A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. However, their conclusions have been disputed.[18]

Some opponents consider Creation Science to be an ideologically and politically motivated propaganda tool, akin to a cult, the purpose of which is to promote the creationist agenda in society. They allege that the term "Creation Science" was chosen to purposely blur the distinction between science and religion.

Subjects within creation science

Subjects within creation science can be into split into three broad categories, each covering a different area of origins research; creationist cosmologies, flood geology, and creation biology.

Creation biology

Main article: Creation biology

Creation biology centers around an idea derived from Genesis that states that life was created by God in a finite number of created kinds rather than through biological evolution. Creationists who involve themselves in this endeavor believe that observable speciation took place through inbreeding and harmful mutations during an alleged population bottleneck after the great flood of Noah's ark, which they claim was an actual historical event that happened in a manner consistent with its description in the Bible. Mainstream scientists argue that there is no physical evidence for a global flood event that is consistent with the methods and standards of scientific evidence (see below).

Creation biology disagrees with biological evolution (see creation-evolution controversy). Creationists contend that there is no empirical evidence that a new plant or animal species has ever originated as a result of the gradual accumulation of DNA through natural selection, producing new beneficial types of structures and functions which are totally lacking in the ancestral species, and which are not deleterious to the life-functions of the species. Popular arguments against evolution have changed over the years since the publishing of Henry M. Morris's first book on the subject, Scientific Creationism, but themes often arise: missing links as an indication that evolution is incomplete, arguments based on entropy, complexity, and information theory, arguments claiming that natural selection is an impossible mechanism, and general criticism of the conclusions drawn from historical sciences as lacking experimental basis. The origin of the human species is particularly hotly contested; the fossil remains of hominid ancestors are not considered by advocates of creation biology to be evidence for a speciation event involving Homo sapiens.

Defending evolution in the face of gaps in the fossil records, Richard Dawkins, biologist and professor at Oxford university, states "that's like a detective complaining that they can't account for every minute of a crime, a very ancient one, based on what they found at the scene. ... You have to make inferences from footprints and other types of evidence". Dawkins states there is a huge amount of evidence of evolution in fossil records.[19] Biologist J.B.S. Haldane when asked what would disprove evolution in exchange for a creationist concept replied "fossil rabbits in the Precambrian era", a period more than 540 million years ago, a time when evolutionists claim that life on Earth consisted largely of bacteria, algea, and plankton. Richard Dawkins explains that evolution "is a theory of gradual, incremental change over millions of years, which starts with something very simple and works up along slow, gradual gradients to greater complexity. ... If there were a single hippo or rabbit in the Precambrian, that would completely blow evolution out of the water. None have ever been found."[20]

Flood geology

Main article: Flood geology

Flood geology is an idea based on the belief that many of Earth's geological formations were created by the global flood described in the story of Noah's ark. Fossils and fossil fuels are believed by its followers to have formed from animal and plant matter which was buried rapidly during this flood, while submarine canyon extensions are explained as having formed during a rapid runoff from the continents after the seafloors dropped. Sedimentary strata are described as sediments predominantly laid down after Noah's flood.

Mainstream geologists conclude that no such flood is seen in the preserved rock layers and moreover that the flood itself represents a physical impossibility. Nevertheless, there continue to be many creationists who argue that the flood can explain the fossil record and the evidence from geology and paleontology that are often used to dispute creationists' claims. In addition to the above ideas that are in opposition to the principles of geology, advocates of flood geology reject uniformitarianism and the findings of radiometric dating. The Creation Research Society argues "uniformitarianism is wishful thinking". [21]

Creationist cosmologies

Main article: Creationist cosmologies

Several attempts have been made by creationists to construct a cosmology consistent with a young universe rather than the standard cosmological age of the universe, based on the belief that Genesis describes the creation of the universe as well as the Earth. The primary challenge for young universe cosmologies is that the accepted distances in the universe require millions or billions of years for light to travel to Earth.

Cosmology is not as widely discussed as creation biology or flood geology, for several reasons. First, many creationists, particularly old earth creationists and intelligent design creationists do not dispute that the universe may be billions of years old. Also, some creationists who believe that the Earth was created in the timeframe described in a literal interpretation of Genesis believe that Genesis describes only the creation of the Earth, rather than the creation of the entire universe, allowing for both a young Earth and an old universe. Finally, the technical nature of the discipline of physical cosmology and its ties to mathematical physics prevent those without significant technical knowledge from understanding the full details of how the observations and theories behind the current models work, let alone a critique of such work.

See also

References

1. ^  American Heritage Dictionary definition of creation science
2. ^  "The philosopher of science as expert witness", p. 43, in Cushing, J., Delaney, C.F. & Gutting, G., Science and reality: Recent Work in the Philosophy of Science, University of Notre Dame Press, 1984.
3. ^  Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, Second Edition, 1999, National Academy of Sciences.
4. ^  Project Steve: FAQs National Center for Science Education, 2003-2005

Further reading

A history of scientific creationism and its course in time can be found in Ronald L. Numbers, The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992).

Creation science

  • Batten, Don, Editor The Answers Book ISBN 0-949906-23-9 (Brisbane, Australia: Answers in Genesis, 1999)
  • Gish, Duane T., Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics ISBN 0-932766-28-5 (El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 1993)
  • Morris, Henry M., ed., Scientific Creationism ISBN 0-89052-003-2 (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1985)
  • Morris, Henry M. and Gary E. Parker, What is Creation Science? ISBN 0-89051-081-4 (El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 1987)
  • Mortenson, Terry, The Great Turning Point: The Church's Catastrophic Mistake on Geology — Before Darwin ISBN 0-89051-408-9 (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004)
  • Rana, Fazale and Hugh Ross, Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off, ISBN 1-57683-344-5 (Navpress Publishing Group, 2004)
  • Rose, Seraphim, Genesis, Creation and Early Man ISBN: 1887904026 (Saint Herman, 2000)
  • Roth, Ariel A., Origins—Linking Science and Scripture ISBN 0-8280-1328-4 (Hagarstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1998)
  • Sarfati, Jonathan, Refuting Evolution ISBN 0-890512-58-2 (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1999) forward and introduction
  • Sarfati, Jonathan, Refuting Evolution 2 ISBN 0-890513-87-2 (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2002) table of contents with links to chapters
  • Sarfati, Jonathan, Refuting Compromise ISBN 0-890514-11-9 (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004) introductory chapter and some reviews
  • Whitcomb, John C. and Henry Morris, The Genesis Flood ISBN 0-87552-338-2 (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1964)
  • Wilder-Smith, A. E., Man's Origin, Man's Destiny ISBN 0-87123-356-8 (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Co., 1968)
  • Woodmorappe, John, Studies in Flood Geology ISBN 0-932766-54-4 (El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 1993)
  • Woodmorappe, John, Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study ISBN 0-932766-41-2 (El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 1996)
  • Woodmorappe, John, The Mythology of Modern Dating Methods ISBN 0-932766-57-9 (El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 1999)
  • Wilder-Smith, A. E., Scientific Alternative to Neo-Darwinian Evolutionary Theory ISBN 9-99213-967-6 (Costa Mesa, CA: TWFT Publishers, 1987)

Criticism

  • Bates, V. L., 1976, Christian Fundamentalism and the Theory of Evolution in Public School Education: A Study of the Creation Science Movement [Ph.D. dissert.]: University of California, Davis.
  • Frye, R.M., 1983, Is God a creationist?: the religious case against creation-science, ISBN 0684179938, (New York: Scribner's, c1983)
  • Kitcher, P., 1983, Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism ISBN 026261037X (Boston, MA: The MIT Press, 1983)
  • Lewin, R., 1982, Where is the Science in Creation science? Science 215, pp. 142–146.
  • Pennock, R., 2000, Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism, ISBN 0262661659 (The MIT Press; Reprint edition, February 28, 2000)
  • Vawter, B., 1983, Creationism: Creative Misuse of the Bible, in Frye, R. M., ed., Is God a Creationist? The Religious Case Against Creation-Science (New York, Scribner's Sons), p. 71–82.
  • Numbers, R.L., 1992, The Creationists, ISBN 0679401040, (New York: A. A. Knopf: Distributed by Random House)
  • McKown, D.B., 1993, The mythmaker's magic : behind the illusion of "creation science", ISBN 0879757701, (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1993)
  • Tiffin, L., 1994, Creationism's Upside-Down Pyramid: How Science Refutes Fundamentalism, ISBN 0879758988, (Prometheus Books, August 1, 1994)
  • Zimmerman, M. , 1997, Science, Nonscience, and Nonsense, ISBN 0801857740, (The Johns Hopkins University Press; Reprint edition, December 1, 1997)
  • Synoptic Position Statement of the Georgia Academy of Science with Respect to the Forced Teaching of Creation-­Science in Public School Science Education, 2000, ISBN B0008JBPNY. (Georgia Academy of Science; March 22, 2000)

External links

Neutral

  • Edwards v. Aguillard 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling preventing the teaching of creation science in public school science classrooms
  • McLean v. Arkansas 1981 challenge to Arkansas' Act 590, which mandated that evolutionary biology instruction be balanced with "creation science".

Creation science

Criticism