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 Post subject: Creationism is, by definition, not science!
PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 6:34 am 
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Maybe I just read too much Slashdot, which has an over-abundance of passionate Scientific Realists, but I hear this claim often. For some, creationism _could_ be science if it were to meet certain criteria; for others, there is no way that it could ever be science while retaining its core defining attributes.

Where do you stand on this issue? Are creationism and science mutually exclusive? Tell me why.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2006 5:33 am 
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You've read too much at Slashdot. :D

"Creationism" and "science" are not mutually exclusive - hence the term 'Creation Science'.

"Science", literally defined, means 'study of'. To understand something, one must study it, correct? In science, when one wants to study something, one employs the principles of the Scientific Method:

from Wikipedia, since it saves me time
The essential elements of a scientific method are iterations, recursions, interleavings, and orderings of the following:

* Characterizations (Quantifications, observations, and measurements)
* Hypotheses (theoretical, hypothetical explanations of observations and measurements)
* Predictions (reasoning including logical deduction from hypotheses and theories)
* Experiments (tests of all of the above)
_______________________________________

The difference between Creationists and Evolutionists is the set of pre-conceived notions, or assumptions, that a person takes with them and applies to their scientific study. Now, I love it when people say, "There are no assumptions in science (or more directly, in evolution)," because nothing is further from the truth.

Each of us carries around with ourselves a set of assumptions - about yourself, about the world around you, about how you believe people should act and think and feel about any given situation. This is commonly called a worldview. Everyone has one, from the atheist to the Christian to the shintoist to the muslim - and everyone in between.

To say that an ardent proponent of evolution carries no assumptions into a scientific study is both silly and laughable, yet that is precisely what they charge Creationists with doing, as if that alone somehow destroys their claims.

Creationists, or more to the point, Christians (and believe me, not every Christian is a Creationist) are supposed to believe that a sovereign and all-powerful God created the earth, the universe, and everything in it in a span of 7 literal days (which is a topic I could also write a book on, as many already have done), when in fact there is no empirical evidence for its occurrence. No human was there to witness it firsthand and write down observations. (Yes, one could claim Adam was, but he arrived at the tail end of the deal and was not in any position to observe anything beyond his immediate surroundings)

Evolutionists, regardless of faith or sect or religious affiliation, charge that this notion is absurd, and that the universe was 'created' from the Big Bang. Now, mind you, it should be the Big Bang Theory, because there are indeed other theories out there, but by and large the Big Bang is being taught as fact, when in fact there is no empirical evidence for its occurrence. No human was there to witness it firsthand and write down observations.

Both systems of 'science' now must seek out ancilliary evidence to back up their claims. And both do so, utilizing the Scientific Method under their particular individual worldview.

If this is not enough, and you are still of the opinion that Creationists are just blindly accepting what an ancient text has to say about how the whole of everything came into being, you'll be very interested to know that several passages in the Bible itself tell believers to "prove all things, holding fast to that which is good" (1 Thes 5:21), and Jesus himself said that we are to love God "with all of your heart, all of your mind, and all of your soul." (Matt 22:37, emphasis mine). In order to love God with all of our minds, we must use them to understand and believe Him, and believe what he had to say. That is not accomplished by reading the Bible only, for the Creationist. That means learning about and discovering for ourselves how things work and why things occur and how things got to be the way they are, so that we might better understand and love God as He instructed us to do.

The Bible also says that all of Creation declares the glory (power) of God - so that no one is without an excuse not to believe in Him. Creationists (which should be all Christians) are out to do just that - show that what God said in the Bible is true.

Qualifying that last statement - the Bible is not a science textbook, nor is it a history textbook. It does, however, have much to say, both about science and about history, which went on across the 1500 years in which it was written.

AND ... *pant pant pant*

If you're still unconvinced, then I suggest you take a look at the founders of the major branches of science, and what their beliefs were.

The Scientific Method - Robert Boyle
Antiseptic Surgery - Joseph Lister
Bacteriology - Louis Pasteur
Calculus - Isaac Newton
Celestial Mechanics - Johannes Kepler
Chemistry - Robert Boyle
Comparative Anatomy - Georges Cuvier
Dimensional Analysis - Lord Rayleigh
Dynamics - Isaac Newton
Electronics - John Ambrose Fleming
Electrodynamics - James Clerk Maxwell
Electromagnetics - Michael Faraday
Energetics - Lord Kelvin
Entomology of Living Insects - Henri Fabre
Field Theory - James Clerk Maxwell
Fluid Mechanics - George Stokes
Galactic Astronomy - Sir William Hershel
Gas Dynamics - Robert Boyle
Genetics - Gregor Mendel
Glacial Geology - Louis Agassiz
Gynaecology - James Simpson
Hydrography - Matthew Maury
Hydrostatics - Blaise Pascal
Ichthyology - Louis Agassiz
Isotopic Chemistry - William Ramsey
Model Analysis - Lord Rayleigh
Natural History - John Ray
Non-Euclidean Geometry - Bernard Riemann
Oceanography - Matthew Maury
Optical Mineralogy - David Brewster

... all Christians, with a Christian worldview. They may not all have agreed on all of the tenets of the faith, but all believed in the Christian God as Creator. Were it not for their achievements in their respective sciences, the world would be a much darker place.

Kepler himself stated that science was "thinking God's thoughts after Him." And it is to that which Creationists hold.

Hope some of this makes sense to you. :D


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2006 12:13 pm 
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I don't think there's any argument that many seminal scientists were both Christians and creationists. Prior to Darwin, it was hard to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. But that's not the point I wish to argue.

Let me be more specific about the problem. This isn't the only way to express the problem, but it may help if we take it one aspect at a time rather than as a whole, since the whole is very large. Given that Christian Creationists (specifically, since there are non-Christian Creationists as well) believe that the universe was created by a supernatural being, how can the Christian account of creation be considered a scientific theory? By its very nature it postulates a supernatural mechanism -- God -- which can't be studied in the epmirical and repeatable way that we might study physics or chemistry.

In other words, doesn't supernatural creationism disqualify itself as a science precisely because it is supernatural?


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 08, 2006 5:19 pm 
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I was rather hoping for a come-back against my previous remark, but none has been forthcoming. What I said in that remark is not my own personal viewpoint, but rather one that I have heard from time to time. I think it leads to an interesting conclusion if pressed hard. The argument goes something like this.

Supernatural creationism disqualifies itself as a science precisely because it is supernatural.
So science can only study the natural, not the supernatural?
Yes. That's what science is: the study of nature. If you can study it scientifically, it's natural.
And origins can be studied scientifically, so thus origins are natural, not supernatural.
Right.
Actually, no. That was an error, and you should have called me on it.
How so?
Just because you can study something as though it were natural doesn't make it so.
Yes it does. That's Occam's Razor: don't include unnecessary elements. If we can explain something naturally, then the natural explanation is better than the supernatural one.
Well, leaving aside the question of whether excluding the supernatural always makes for a better theory, I note that you are looking for a better explanation rather than a truer one.
What's your point?
My point is if supernatural creation were actually true, could a natural theory still qualify as better on the basis of Occam's Razor?

Our naturalist faces an interesting dilemma here. He can either say that science is about finding the best natural explanations (whether they are true or not), and this leaves his opponent room to say that he has no grounds for claiming that any supernatural theory is false. I can grant the naturalist this position, and say, "evolution may well be the best theory that science can concoct, but I'm under no compulsion to believe it unless I also believe that origins are, in fact, a natural process. So if it happened naturally, it probably happened via evolution; but whether it happened naturally is not a question that can be answered by science."

Alternatively, he can say that science is concerned with truth, in which case he has to explain how science can be competent to answer whether events are natural or supernatural in nature, given that science deals only with the natural. This problem is particularly significant in questions which aren't subject to direct test, such as questions of history, as opposed to questions of current physical laws. So I can grant the naturalist this position, but offer the challenge, "if science deals only with the natural, then on what basis do you claim that the supernatural explanation is false?" Such a basis can't be scientific.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2006 9:14 pm 
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TFBW ~

I fully intend to respond, as soon as I have time to sit down as I did previously for several hours and craft the response. I do not enter into such conversations lightly, and the last week or so has left me with little free time outside of work and night classes.

I hope to have something posted soon.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2006 4:41 pm 
The supernatural quality of creationism is precisely what excludes it from the realm of real science. Answering serious questions with the consistent answer of "God can do anything" is not only meaningless science - it's bad rhetoric as well and betrays a certain mental laziness.

The creationist and the evolutionist see each other in the same light. "No matter what I say, this guy refuses to budge. And what's worse, he gives no value to my arguments, brushing them off as childish notions." But there is a very real difference in these two types of people.

The purpose of the evolutionist's argument is to examine the world and, through a type of reverse engineering, to figure out the laws that govern it. However, the creationist already knows the rules. His purpose is to prove what he knows to be the truth.

Thomas Aquinas argued well, I think, that if God created the world and all of its laws, then science can do nothing but prove his existence. Creationists need to sit back and relax. They don't need to defend their God, since most people, evolutionists included, believe in God already. They need to start making more advanced decisions, and considering the evidence, instead of bombarding us with deliberate logic errors and relying on the Bible to answer all the questions.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2006 3:06 am 
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Quote:
Answering serious questions with the consistent answer of "God can do anything" is not only meaningless science - it's bad rhetoric as well and betrays a certain mental laziness.

Even so, materialists or physicalists find themselves in a similar position. Where the creationist says, "all can be explained by God's intervention", the materialist/physicalist says, "all can be explained by natural substances and natural laws." Neither of these positions is inherently more admirable than the other: they are both grand, sweeping assumptions with no basis in evidence. The materialist/physicalist assumption is optimistic in that it makes science the king of all knowedge, but it's just a blind assumption in the end.

Quote:
The purpose of the evolutionist's argument is to examine the world and, through a type of reverse engineering, to figure out the laws that govern it. However, the creationist already knows the rules. His purpose is to prove what he knows to be the truth.

You're assuming that all creationists are ideologues, and that all evolutionists are analysts. There's no reason to assume that. One could easily say of Richard Dawkins that, "he already knows the rules -- his purpose is to prove what he knows to be the truth." In his case, the rules are that "all can be explained by natural laws alone". He's negotiable on the details of those natural laws, but not on their sufficiency.

Christian creationists think that the world is law-based because they think that their God is a God of unchanging laws. They think that miracles are rare exceptions to natural behaviour. Most naturalists/physicalists also have an assumption of uniformity as part of their outlook. This belief in stability is what makes the process of "reverse engineering" nature seem like a worthwhile pursuit. If your outlook involves a belief that the rules are likely to change without notice, then you aren't likely to bother putting in the effort to study the rules at all. It comes as no surprise then that many celebrated scientists were at least theists of some sort, and creationists too. (Pre-Darwin, creationism was the respectable position.)

Where creationists and evolutionists differ is not on a matter of rules, but rather on a matter of history. That in itself is a fairly detailed discussion that I'd rather hold separately: the difference between scientific determination of history, and scientific determination of rules. One set of rules can allow for many historical scenarios.

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Creationists need to sit back and relax. They don't need to defend their God, since most people, evolutionists included, believe in God already.

Most Americans believe in God, most Chinese don't. I'd need some hard data to know whether most American evolutionists believe in God. Either way, I don't see that this is entirely relevant. Creationism isn't about proving that God exists any more than evolution is about proving that he doesn't -- although both get used as though that were their ultimate aim, as often as not. Creationism is about engaging in a science that is compatible with one's other beliefs.

Quote:
They need to start making more advanced decisions, and considering the evidence, instead of bombarding us with deliberate logic errors and relying on the Bible to answer all the questions.

There's nothing in creationism which is based on logical fallacies, any more than there's anything in evolution which prevents logic errors. Both models are broadly backed by clever specialists and idiots alike. Many of the clever specialists are also idiots when they speak outside of their speciality. (Dawkins, I'm looking at you -- either study philosophy, or stick to talking about zoology.)

A good creationist does consider the evidence, but he's also entitled to interpret that evidence on the basis of beliefs (or suspicions) formed through other sources, such as the Bible. Evolutionists do the same thing: they adopt the principle of uniformitarianism because it's useful, not because it's backed by evidence. How could you even have evidence of uniformity over millions of years without assuming the same? It's not as though we've reached that position on the basis of millions of years of scientific observation.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 9:03 pm 
I had no idea that your reply would be so nonsensical.

"Neither of these positions is inherently more admirable than the other. They are both grand, sweeping assumptions with no basis in evidence."
Denying that evolutionism is based on evidence is, essentially, taking a redaction marker to 150 years of real science. This includes a huge and detailed fossil record, which, despite assertions to the contrary, contains a wide variety of transitional forms. It also includes observed evolution in single celled as well as multicellular organisms.

"Creationism isn't about proving that God exists..."
This is a semantic argument at best, over the meaning of "creator" and it's relation to "God". Creationism assumes a creator. If creationism is the means by which species have come to exist, then a creator (God, for example) must exist. I would argue that the entire purpose of creationism is to prove the existence of God.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 4:08 pm 
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Quote:
Denying that evolutionism is based on evidence is...

I made no such denial. Scientific theories of evolution are based on evidence. So are scientific theories of creation. I think it's important that a scientific theory offer an explanation of the physical facts (the evidence).

Even so, we may differ on a philosophical point or two here. You say "based on evidence" where I would probably say "related to evidence". I don't think a scientific theory has to be based on evidence, but it needs to say something about physical evidence. It's perfectly valid scientific practice to start with speculation and mathematics, then look for evidence to back up the theory. Relativity started this way, and it took technology a little while to catch up with the theory so that evidence could be discerned. It takes fairly extreme conditions (or extremely precise measurement) to pick the difference between classical and relativistic mechanics.

On the other hand, you'll probably say that creation theories are not scientific. Again, I say they are: they make claims about physical things; they are alternatives to evolutionary theories, and scientific for the same reasons. Whether or not specific theories (be they creation-based or evolutionary) constitute good science is a different question -- one which falls into the domain of the philosophy of science, rather than science itself.

So here we have a choice of disagreements. Based on what I've said above, would you like to concede that creation theories are scientific theories, loosely speaking, but of poor quality, or would you prefer to continue with your line that creation theories can not be considered scientific under any circumstances? In the former case, we'll move on to an argument about what constitutes good science; in the latter case I'll quiz you about the limitations of science, given your constraints on its practice.

Having said all that, I'd like to return to what I really did say in the first place, and the precise statement with which you disagreed.
You wrote:
Answering serious questions with the consistent answer of "God can do anything" is not only meaningless science - it's bad rhetoric as well and betrays a certain mental laziness.

I wrote:
Even so, materialists or physicalists find themselves in a similar position. Where the creationist says, "all can be explained by God's intervention", the materialist/physicalist says, "all can be explained by natural substances and natural laws." Neither of these positions is inherently more admirable than the other: they are both grand, sweeping assumptions with no basis in evidence.

Note that I've accused materialism and physicalism (the distinction between them is somewhat vague) of being metaphysical principles, not grounded in evidence. It so happens that the vast majority of people who hold to these principles also believe in evolution, but that doesn't automatically put evolution in the same category. So, to be precise, evolutionism can be grounded in evidence, but neither physicalism nor materialism can. (And to save typing, I'll just refer to physicalism alone from now on.)

There are two questions which arise from this. One queries the difference between evolutionism and physicalism in relation to evidence; the other is the question of why I bring up physicalism at all when the subject is evolution. That latter question is simpler to answer: I bring up physicalism as well as evolutionism because you use "creationism" as a counterpart to both. I think you need to draw a distinction between "creationism" which is a counterpart to "evolutionism", and something like "supernaturalism" as a counterpart to "physicalism".

To clarify, it's not necessarily creationists (or, more broadly, "intelligent design theorists") who believe that "God can do anything"; rather, that describes a class we might call "supernaturalists". A supernaturalist might also be an evolutionist, specifically a theistic evolutionist, claiming that God deliberately caused the world to be as it is through a process of evolution. Similarly, a creationist doesn't have to be a supernaturalist. The theory of "panspermia" suggests that life on earth is deliberately seeded from elsewhere by technologically advanced beings. Strictly speaking, this is a part-creation, part-evolution theory, but there's nothing about the supposed creators which necessitates an appeal to the supernatural.

So we have a creation/evolution distinction on the one hand, and a supernaturalism/physicalism distinction on the other. The former pair are scientific theories, but the latter two are not. Well, that's a simplification: the former two are more amenable to contradiction by evidence than the latter two, and that's one of the things I expect to see in a scientific theory. How would you contradict physicalism, for example? You'd have to come up with an example of something non-physical. The best attempt we've seen on that front so far are what philosophers like to call "qualia" -- roughly the "what-it's-like-ness" of a subjective experience. The more candid physicalists admit that "qualia" are a mystery, but many others dismiss them as not a problem.

Just one other point in closing. You might suppose that being a supernaturalist precludes one from being a scientist, but that's not the case. A supernaturalist can believe in a predictable, examinable, testable natural realm (the physical) which becomes the subject of scientific inquiry without believing that realm to be coextensive with the whole of reality. The primary difference between supernaturalist and physicalist scientists is that the former group believe themselves to be studying a part of reality, whereas the latter believe themselves to be studying it all.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 2:31 am 
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Note that I've accused materialism and physicalism (the distinction between them is somewhat vague) of being metaphysical principles, not grounded in evidence.


I think it's unfortunate that in your desire to find a world where creationism is a "science," you have had to cripple logic.

You're practically asking me to prove that there is an external reality in order to continue a discussion on evolution. Once I confess to you that my senses might be fooled by Descartes's "evil genius", well, I suppose that any further argument is foolish.

Don't tell me that evidence isn't evidentiary so that you can tell me that the ground I stand on is just as unstable as that beneath you. It's bad form. Argue against the other guy - not against the logical validity of argument.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 4:00 am 
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some guy wrote:
You're practically asking me to prove that there is an external reality in order to continue a discussion on evolution. Once I confess to you that my senses might be fooled by Descartes's "evil genius", well, I suppose that any further argument is foolish.

That's not at all my intention, and I don't follow how you picked it out of all that I wrote above. My criterion for evidence is that it be at least somewhat unequivocal. That is, if evidence E is to support theory T1 over theory T2, then evidence E must exist, be compaible with the truth of T1, and incompatible with the truth of T2. I'll even allow some wriggle room there, because different theories don't always contradict one another in a precise manner.

Physicalism and materialism are metaphysical claims that can't be based in evidence, because they explain all evidence in total. Let's take "dualism" as a counter-theory to "physicalism". The former suggests that "mind" is a different non-physical kind of substance, whereas the latter suggests that "mind" is merely an emergent property of matter arranged in a specific manner. What possible evidence could we find that would contradict one theory and support the other? All the evidence -- matter -- has been accounted for in different ways. The theories contradict each other, but not on any point which can be reduced to a matter of evidence.

The argument of creation versus evolution can be like that, or it can be a matter of evidence. When it comes to the distinction between evolution and theistic evolution, there's no evidence which favours one over the other. One describes evolution as happenstance, the other as divine intervention. On the matter of recent creation versus long ages, however, there is room for evidence. Usually the evidence isn't as unequivocal as we'd like, but that's a problem you almost invariably face when dealing with matters of history.


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