Friday, April 20, 2007

Three Pillars of Creationism

Glenn Branch, writing in Not in Our Classrooms, outlines three pillars of creationism, first espoused by William Jennings Bryan in 1925 and continually in use since.
  1. Evolution is in conflict with the actual facts of science -- in other words, it's bad science (this despite the fact that essentially all reputable scientists affirm it).
  2. Evolution is atheistic, anti-Christian, and immoral (again this despite the fact that numerous Christians from B.B. Warfield to Benedict XVI are fine with it -- Benedict recently dismissed a "God of the Gaps" view of science).
  3. It's only fair to consider the tax payers when developing a science curriculum -- thus, if the tax payers, the majority of whom apparently think that creationism ought to be taught, want an alternative theory then so be it -- (Yes Americans are all about fairness, but is it fair to charge the tax payers to teach bad science?)

The first pillar is suggestive that evolution is a theory on the verge of collapse, which isn't true. The second pillar is a reminder that Design theories ultimately have a religious foundation, and well what can we say about the third one?

From Not in Our Classrooms, p. 136)

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh man, Bob,

That line about all reputable scientists is really silly. To read these reputable scientists drag out every discredited peppered-moth, Miller-Urey experiment (with no O2!) and all sorts of uncaused causation of everything is to read one faith statement after another. Your headlong support of this ex post facto untestable "scientific" dogmatism says much more about your point of view than theirs.

Also, B.B. Warfield had no idea that amino acids oxidize, or that little bugs didn't spontaneously come out of puddles. You cite the "Authorities" that suit you but don't seem to be able to argue against the point that's being made, which is, science cannot happen retroactively with any certainty. You cannot study at something and say this came from blah because you have never seen blah. Way too many people, (perhaps you as well, but I don't know that) are unable to consider this critically. So just tell us why I.D. is so stupid.

Jason

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Jason,

I didn't say ID was stupid, I do believe that as a scientific theory its untenable. If science is, as I believe it to be, natural explanations for natural phenomenon, then positing a supernatural explanation short circuits science. Even the ID people admit that ID is not a theory ready for public consumption.

Evolution is rooted in two basic ideas -- common descent and natural selection. Common descent can be shown by way of DNA analysis, something Darwin knew nothing about -- but his theory suggested it should be tested. It is the idea of common descent that allows modern medicine to move forward -- even Behe admits to common descent. He just wants to stop too soon.

I believe that God is involved in the process, but as Ted Peters points out in Not in our Classrooms, we're talking about two different things -- to borrow from Aristotle, ID people confuse primary and secondary causes -- science deals with secondary causes, theology ponders the primary ones!

Anonymous said...

Hi Bob, Thanks for your comments,

I disagree that common descent can be shown from DNA analysis. It's no secret that to presume common descent from similar form and functions is to take as broad a leap as to say pond-skimmers arise spontaneously from mud because look at all those pond skimmers that weren't there yesterday. The many from the "all reputable scientists" category will cite scientific method as the route to understanding, and then circumnavigate the method by painting retroactive observations with a shade of a priori. That's not only bad science, it is, without the benefit of even one observation, presuming natural causes of all effects which is a world view, a bias, and a faith structure.

Additionally, the distinction between primary and secondary causes is also a false one; the posited secondary cause unavoidably stems from the first cause, that is, primary cause is material so, secondary cause, everything arises from material. What is the secondary cause if the vastly statistically improbable first cause is the starting point of "all reputable scientists"? What is the secondary cause, and how is the scientific method applied to it?

One more thing. Though natural selection is a facet of evolution, evolution is absolutely not rooted in common descent. It is rooted in phenotypic, upwardly mobile, endothermic reactions which are applied to the common descent of a bare few. Even my atheistic developmental biology teacher would admit that we have, at best, two-fifths of the phyla that we had at the "beginning". Vastly greater diversity of life, as far as the scientific method is concerened, came out of nowhere. And the idea of common descent, as I said, presumes chemical upward mobility. The only opposition to entropy in the known material universe.

To say that God is "involved" is kind of a cop-out. "All reputable scientists" would scoff at religious fence-walking, and it's kind of a shame that you are not calling them on their fath, as they call you on what little faith in Jesus Christ you show in your postings. Science cannot possibly deal with secondary causes in a vacuum. They try to isolate or eliminate every independent and dependent variable (obligitory steps in the scientific method) but they do so only starting from the base of knowledge that already exists from many observable, repeatable experiments in which people also isolated variables, none of which applies to, or is even possible in evolutionary "science". They start with a base of knowledge, just as with real science (see above) but that base of knowledge is first the wisdom of their own eyes regarding primary causation, as I said in my first post, uncaused causation of everything. The already overused: nothing+nobody=everything. That is the world view of the materialist even in their dreams. We live with the presumption of primary causes every second of our lives. To suggests that "all reliable scientists" don't do so is, in itself, a faith statement.

Tag, you're it,

Jason

Fr Chris said...

That most reputable scientists believe something doesn't mean it's good science, science being about as conservative and resistant to change as most other human institutions (Kuhn). But in this case, yeah, I don't think the ID folks have any particular insights that invalidate evolution. At most, they're piggybacking on whatever possible weaknesses scientists are themselves exploring, shifting to other criticisms when it turns out evolution stands up to the old ones.

On the topic of Benedict, if you haven't read it, I highly recommend reading his 'In the Beginning...': A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall. I'm a big Benedict fan anyway (excepting the culture war stuff, which is a fairly minor point in his theological work), but that book is one of my favorites. I found some insights there to sync up with Kathryn Tanner's recent book (I posted about it here), and his insights about good stewardship and the evolution debate are very valuable. It's well worth the $12 or so. :-D