There are many who claim their religious views are scientifically sound, based on “Creation Science”.
They might (on a good day) concede some sort of equivalence – a competition, say – between the religious apologist views in, for example, answersingenesis.org, or the UK Creationist movement https://www.csm.org.uk, and scientific views presented elsewhere (everywhere else, in fact, other than in religious apologists’ work) which come to very different conclusions. However, I intend to show that there is no more such an equivalence than there is between the Stork Theory of Where Babies Come From, and the mainstream biological one. Silly analogy? OK, maybe, but I want to get your attention.
I should point out that of course not all creationists subscribe to the “Young Earth” creationist view, that the earth is something less than 10,000 years old. Some are happy to accept a more rational view of the age of the earth and age of the universe, yet are still attached to a creationist view of how things came to be.
For ease of reference, I have in my title termed creation science religious apologist views as “Creation Science Apologetics” and the rest as “Mainstream Science”. The reader might accuse me of taking a biased view from the outset by choosing that terminology, but bear with me, and the justification will become clear.
I want now to draw some distinctions between apologetics and mainstream science.
- Religious apologists’ views usually start from a conclusion – “my religious text is true” – and interpret all information in such a way that it conforms with that conclusion. Mainstream science works without any preconceived view of what must be true, and follows wherever the evidence leads.
- Mainstream science works by peer review. Anything which is published is subject to such peer review, and is open to critique from anyone who wishes to present other evidence, or other interpretation. Thus the body of scientific knowledge is continually growing. Inevitably, what is accepted as correct at some point in time can later be rejected when new information is discovered. Sometimes this is presented as a weakness of science – “it keeps changing its mind; nothing is ever fixed” – but in reality it is a fundamental strength. Any scientific theory depends on falsifiability, the idea that it could be shown to be wrong. For example Dalton’s Atomic Theory, though still of great use in the understanding of chemistry and chemical reactions, said that all matter is made of atoms, which are indivisible and indestructible. This was later falsified when we understood more about the structure of atoms, and showed that they consist of component sub-atomic particles. Apologetics does not work by peer review – any views which conflict with apologetics do not find their way into apologetics texts or websites – they are roundly rejected, and only compliant views are accepted.
- Mainstream science works by developing hypotheses, and testing them to see if they are consistent with evidence. Once a hypothesis has been thoroughly tested and not found wanting, it acquires the status of a scientific theory. Any scientific theory provides predictions on what would be observed if it is sound. Those predictions are then tested by experiment. If the results are found to be repeatable, and to agree with the predictions, then the theory survives intact, for now. Note that I say “survives intact”, not “is deemed proven”. But as soon as results are found to be repeatable and inconsistent with the predictions, the theory has to be changed or even abandoned. The example I gave above of Dalton’s Atomic Theory is a case in point. So is the Theory of Evolution, except in this case all experimental evidence and further research, eg in DNA analysis, has so far shown to be consistent with the theory. If this were not the case, then science would have rejected it. In practice, the Theory of Evolution has been confirmed, and extended in depth by further understanding. It is part of Mainstream Science. In contrast, apologetics does not make testable predictions; instead, it focuses on offering explanations and rationalizations on how observations of the way the world works can be interpreted, so as not to conflict with religious dogma. Young Earth Creationism, for example, holds that the earth is less than about 10,000 years old, based on a literal interpretation of the Bible, particularly the Book of Genesis. To maintain such a view, YEC Apologetics has to discredit or “re-interpret” amongst other things ( there are too many others to list everything here) all of the following list of Mainstream Science disciplines and topics, most of which are independent from each other in the way they arrive at estimation of the timescales involved. I have arranged them in rough order of shortest timescales first (something over 10,000 years) to longest timescales (many millions, or even billions, of years).
- Thermo-luminescence dating
- Oxidisable carbon ratio dating
- Widmanstätten patterns in crystals of Ni and Fe, found in some meteorites.
- Mitochondrial DNA (early human female)
- Ice cores/ ice layering
- Fission track dating
- Speed of mineral replacement in petrified wood
- Growth rate of certain large crystals, eg gypsum
- Cosmogenic nuclide dating
- Growth rate of limestone stalactites
- Geomagnetic polarity reversals
- Geological erosion rates
- Milankovitch astronomical cycles
- Growth rates of corals
- Plate tectonics and continental drift
- Radiometric dating, eg uranium-lead (there are many others)
- Distant starlight
- Mainstream science comprises a vast and ever-growing body of knowledge in interlinked disciplines. Findings in any one discipline often have links and applications in what might at first sight appear to be entirely separate fields of enquiry. Modern medicine, for example, benefits from developments in physics, for example by Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI scanning), and in tribology and chemistry of materials , for example in prosthetic hip joints. A few moments’ thought will yield many other examples. These interdisciplinary links don’t just serve to offer us practical developments: they also serve as a continuous method of testing and verification of science – if it doesn’t work, ie doesn’t transfer across where it would be expected to, then its validity is called into question, and the science improves. A corollary of this is that one cannot take any one part of science in isolation, and chose to ignore or reject it on grounds of religious dogma, because other branches of science will already be heavily integrated and dependent on it. Apologetics, on the other hand, attempts to do just that, by focusing on some aspect of science which it recognizes at conflicting with its religious dogma, and attempting to undermine or discredit it in isolation. Apologetics is therefore by its nature inward looking, narrow, and small, without links to extending knowledge in any other field, except support for religious dogma.
- Mainstream science works to the benefit of us all by enabling the provision of much of what we take for granted and depend on in our modern and relatively long and secure lives, in comparison to even a few hundred years ago. Clean water, abundant crops, eradication or near eradication of the scourge of some diseases (smallpox, leprosy, polio), cures and treatments for other diseases, electronic communications, transport, entertainment such as TV and radio, refrigeration to keep food edible and safe for longer, GPS, new engineering materials, forensic science by DNA analysis– the list goes on and on. Apologetics has produced nothing of value to benefit the human condition, unless you count support for religious dogma as “of value”.
So if you regard apologetics are worthwhile, and want to argue that your “creation science” has got it right and mainstream science (such as the Theory of Evolution) is wrong, ponder the above and ask yourself “why do I believe that?” Am I really following the evidence where it leads, or am I a victim of confirmation bias, only interested in what reinforces my existing religious beliefs?
If you are attached, for example, to the claims and explanations in answersingenesis.org, it is a simple matter to check out some websites where Ken Ham’s ideas and statements are roundly debunked. Here’s an example, but if you look you’ll find plenty to keep you amused, and hopefully to get you doing some honest questioning.