I’m writing a series of blog posts about creationism as a demonstration of the decline of scientific knowledge in the US, especially after recent efforts by states to ban books and re-write science textbooks and curricula in schools.
An online discussion titled ‘The Controversy About Evolution’
caught my attention. Denial was one of those who actively denied basic concepts of evolution. Let’s take a closer look at Denial‘s arguments (shown in italics). (Please note, there is nothing personal in these attacks. I am just using her writing to illustrate some of the problems that occur over and over in these discussions.)
Denial:What scientific community are you referring to that is virtually unanimous? I am not a scientist by trade, but my degree is in physics, and I personally know a whole lot of people who are scientists (as in, with PhDs and careers in the hard sciences) who believe things happened as Genesis says, and without having to make complicated explanations about how time was expressed in language.
There are few biology scientists who do not support evolution,
and those few, such as Michael Behe, have not published their objections in peer reviewed journals. Behe’s professional work in biochemistry does not address evolution at all. Instead he and other creationists use public media to make their arguments rather than presenting actual research in support of their spurious and unsupportable claims.
It’s also sad, but true, that there are a number of non-biology scientists who are ignorant of modern biology, and who take a creationist view. But just as biologists are not quantum mechanics, physicists are not automatically qualified to comment scientifically, but they should at least understand the laws of thermodynamics. [Of course, they have every right to proclaim their religious or philosophical beliefs.]
Denial: Look, if you start with the assumption there is an all-powerful God, He could make things any way He wanted, including the way things are. There is nothing irrational about that. On the other hand, if you start with the assumption there is no God, you have to start inserting huge amounts of time to get around the real life evidence in front of all of us, that nobody ever sees things getting better on a large scale.
This is a non-starter in scientific terms since the concept of a god is based solely on faith, so we can’t create falsifiable hypotheses and much rely on faith resulting in the following:
how do you know there’s a god? “the Bible tells me so”
how do you know the Bible is true? “god inspired the writers”
but setting that aside, her paragraph illustrates the dangers of mixed metaphors. First the concept of an all powerful god is, by definition IR-rational – that is, it is beyond rational understanding, aka ‘supernatural’. That’s why god has no place in scientific discussions or science classrooms. Beyond this, her claims in this paragraph fall apart on geological, biological AND physics misstatements.
First, we know from overwhelming physical evidence
that the earth is billions of years old, and the hundreds of millions of years that life has existed has been more than adequate to produce the variety of life we see. It’s only young earther’s who have a problem here.
Second, ‘nobody ever sees evolution’ is a straw man argument —
we shouldn’t expect to see processes that takes thousands of years to happen in our lifetimes and therefore science does not claim that evolution is fast enough to be witnessed overnight. But, in actuality, there are cases where we can see evolution in action, such as the Galapagos finches and cichlid fish of Lake Victoria. Of course, the ‘enlightened’ creationist response is to accept these examples of what they term microevolution while continuing to deny ‘macroevolution’. In fact, there is a continuum of evidence that demonstrates evolution over the course of millions of years.
Denial: Everything runs down. It’s one of the most fundamental laws of physics.
This is the statement that jumpstarted my impulse to write a full rebuttal since it encapsulates the problems I warned about before. This is an ancient, yet perpetual, creationist canard – invoking the 2nd law of thermodynamics. [It’s interesting how creationists chose only the pieces of science that support their view, even though they don’t actually understand it]. It illustrates the danger of moving from one area of science to another . But there was a very important caveat that was ignored here – the 2nd law, aka entropy, only works in CLOSED systems.
Earth and its life forms are not a closed system, since we’re continually bombarded with solar energy. Under these conditions, there can be local areas of decreasing entropy (that is, the organizing involved in growing living organisms), even though entropy is increasing in the entire system. So, the argument that life could not make complex forms from simple ones is not supported by the 2nd Law. To say otherwise is to willfully ignore the facts of science.
As an aside, one of my favorite mnemonics for the 3 laws of thermodynamics:
- You can’t win
- You can’t break even
- You can’t get out of the game
Denial: What is really going on,
is that the majority of scientists in universities say they believe in evolution, because their jobs are at stake otherwise. If you look at scientists in other careers where there is more freedom to think, you will find a whole lot of scientists who believe in everything along the spectrum from intelligent design to just plain what the Bible says.
- First, this is pure speculation, unsupported by any evidence . The majority of scientists believe evolution because it is a FACT, not because their jobs depend on it. There is no evidence for this alleged conspiracy and no one has ever presented evidence of job loss because of these religious beliefs.
- Second, there is no evidence that biologists have less freedom to think than other scientists.
- Third, the ‘spectrum from intelligent design to just plain what the Bible says‘ is in fact an extremely narrow band, and is entirely outside the realm of science.
- And finally, ‘a whole lot’ is, at best, a nebulous term – I’ll close by throwing out my own unsupported claim that, in fact, we find very few creationists among scientists.
In my next posts I’ll address some of the many logical fallacies and false claims of creationism