REPLY #1 TO|
"EVOLUTION VS. CREATIONISM"
Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.
Italicized/emphasized comments prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).
(R) Permit me to reply to your pontification.
(MB) Absolutely! I welcome all replies.
While organized religion is, of course, far older than the sciences involved in evolution theory, Creationism did not come about until the 1900's.
(R) This statement is absurd: all of the early men of science, such as Newton, Faraday, Kelvin, etc. belived in creation.
(MB) I said "Creationism" and not "creation". Yes, there is a distinct difference between the two.
A belief in "creation" is nothing more special than adhering to the basic precepts of any version of Yahvistic religion (or, indeed, of *any* religion that attributes the existence of the Universe to the actions of one or more supernatural or superior entities).
"Creationism" on the other hand refers to a specific brand of Christian Fundamentalist belief that originated in the United States in the early 1900's. Its major tenet is that the Judeo-Christian Bible is a completely unerring and literally truthful account -- both from a historical and scientific viewpoint. The major promoters of Creationism's arguments against science, in general, and evolution, in particular, are the members of the Institute
for Creation Research.
There are two qualifications for membership in the ICR. First, members must possess a degree in some field of science. This does not mean that those members must possess a degree in the field of science that they choose to attack, however. For example, the man widely considered to be the intellectual leader of the ICR, Dr. Henry M. Morris, has a Ph.D., but it is in hydraulics. That's a field of science, to be sure, but certainly not biology,
geology, cosmology, or any other subject which he argues against in his efforts to promote Creationism and attack evolution. Most other ICR members have similar backgrounds.
Second, prospective ICR members must sign a sworn oath that states, in part, that the Bible is literal truth and that, in any case where the Bible and science conflict, that the Bible is always right and science is always wrong.
Two quotations from Morris should demonstrate the slant of the Creationists:
"It is precisely because the Biblical revelation is absolutely authoritative and perspicuous that the scientific facts, rightly interpreted, will give the same testimony as that of Scripture. There is not the slightest possibility that the facts of science can contradict the Bible and, therefore, there is no need to fear that a truly scientific comparison of any aspect of the two models of origins can ever yield a verdict in favor of evolution." -- (Morris, 1974, Scientific Creationism, pp. 15-16)
"The only way we can determine the true age of the earth is for God to tell us what it is. And since He *has* told us, very plainly, in the Holy Scriptures that it is several thousand years in age, and no more, that ought to settle all basic questions of terrestrial chronology." -- (Morris, 1978, The Remarkable Birth of Planet Earth, p. 94)
It should go without saying that statements such as these are antithesis to the scientific method, logical thought, and even to common sense.
(R) This belief in an orderly universe created by a rational God, which was therefore knowable through empiricism was a primary foundation of modern science. It was a move beyond the superstitions of the ancient world wherein what ideas on the origin of the universe had a distinctly evolutionary flavor.
(MB) The notion that the Universe can be understood by observation based upon evidence and experiment is the underpinning of modern science. This idea was not invented recently, however. It was known from at least the time of the ancient Greeks. It wasn't until technology advanced sufficiently for us to be able to conduct precise observations and experiments did "modern science" begin its explosive growth.
The beliefs of religion have always been an impediment to the advancement of science. Indeed, it is interesting to note that the word "empiric" originally meant "quack" or "charlatan". Religion is based upon faith and not upon logic or evidence. I once read a passage in a Catholic guide to the Bible that advised the reader to "...not be concerned over seeming contradictions or conflicts..." with Biblical accounts for the astounding reason that "
...since the Bible is the Word of God, it cannot possibly be wrong". There is no room for doubts or questions, and no tolerance for contradictory evidence. It's simply "God said it, I believe it, that settles it". In no way, shape, or form, can this be considered to be anything even remotely resembling science.
It grew out of "concern" (a politically-correct term for ignorance, fear, etc.) that science would eventually be able to prove conclusively that the Bible is not an unerring account of how Man and his world came to be.
(R) Why must someone who disagrees on your particular view of how the universe came into being be "ignorant?" This is simply an insult, isn't it, devoid of any real meaning beyond insulting one's mother on a playground?
(MB) Not at all. "Ignorance" applies to those who hold some belief either without facts or in spite of the facts and who refuse to modify those beliefs when the facts are presented to them. One cannot be "ignorant" in matters of pure philosophy, but certainly can be in matters of science.
(R) Were Newton and the others ignorant, because they believed in Creation?
(MB) As stated previously, there is a difference between "creation" and "Creationism". "Creationism" applies to a US-specific brand of Fundamentalist Christianity, while "creation" is a belief which is not unique to any one religion.
Since religion - especially the Fundamentalist variety - is based on faith instead of fact, anything that might erode that faith would inevitably cause the religion itself to crumble.
(R) The Bible is an account of historical events. Your statement here is pure arrogance.
(MB) I don't dispute that the Bible is, in part, an account of historical events. However, it is also a compendium of stories, poetry, allegory and prophecy. The problems arise in Fundamentalism when they attempt to blur the lines between those parts - or, indeed, to claim that there *are* no such separate parts.
(R) Ah, behold the evolutionist! He believes in FACTS, whereas the ignorant Christian merely has faith in things which never occurred. How do you know they never occurred. Are you sure that Christ never rose from the dead, for example? How can you be sure that He didn't?
(MB) How do resurrection stories apply to a discussion of evolution or science? If somebody chooses to believe those stories or to dispute them, that does nothing either to support or refute evolution. But, since you asked, you deserve an answer. No, I do not believe that anyone, including Jesus, has ever risen from the dead. Neither do the Jews - and they were witness to the whole thing!
(R) Have you ever examined the alternatives and considered how flimsy they are?
(MB) I *always* examine the alternatives. I have read the Bible cover-to-cover and have made an extensive study of it as an exercise in scholarship. I've done my homework, so to speak. That is why I find it impossible to accept the idea that the Bible is "literal truth". It is valuable for its historical parts and for its insights into the lives of those described within its pages. But, to consider it to be "scientifically authoritative" is unsupportable.
Consider an alternative to the resurrection story. Jesus only "appeared" to those who already believed in him as "the Messiah". It is reasonable to consider the possibility that his followers stole his body to support their claim that he had risen from the dead and, later, ascended into Heaven. Consider that there is no independent verification or witness of those events other than what is reported in the Gospels. "History" written from the
point-of-view of the historian is always suspect.
(R) Have you ever seen evolution occur? Has ANYONE ever seen it occur? Isn't it just a highly sophisticated inference based on interpretation of ambiguous sceintific data?
(MB) Evolution occurs and is observed all the time in the laboratory. There is no interpretation or inference required. The evidence is real and is readily available for anyone to see. The only scientific doubts which remain are those concerning the exact mechanics of evolution. The fact that evolution occurs is no longer is question.
(R) How does this make it a FACT? Isn't the evolutionists' particular interpretation based on faith, too? It is not faith in science, but faith in what certain scientific measurements might mean based upon conjecture and presumption.
(MB) Not at all. Raw data is not dependent upon interpretation. For example, we don't have complete knowledge of how the Sun shines, but nobody questions that it does, indeed, shine. Yes, it is possible to draw incorrect conclusions from raw data. However, when numerous and independent examinations made on the same data produce the same results, it becomes all but assured that such results are accurate.
The Creationists needed a specific target on which to focus their efforts. They could hardly attack and defeat the entire discipline of science, so they concentrated on one particular theory.
(R) Many scientists are Creationists, so these statements sound strange too me.
(MB) No, while many scientists have some degree of religious beliefs, only a few are Creationists. As stated before, most of those few do not dispute the areas of science in which they are educated.
(R) It is not science that is seen as the enemy at all, but a grave misinterpretation of scientific data and the unwarranted conclusions drawn from it.
(MB) If that is the case, one would think that any such errors would have been successfully documented and refuted by the Creationists. To date, they have not succeeded in refuting any part of evolution - much less the whole theory. On the contrary, because their efforts have resulted in more critical examination of the issues involved, evolution is stronger today than it has ever been, and Creationism is becoming even less credible.
In fact, they concentrated on one specific small part of one particular theory - the notion that Man and Ape evolved from a common ancestor. At first, they didn't bother with the remainder of evolution theory. They figured that the Biblical story of Man's separate creation by God would be sufficient, but this turned out not to be the case. When the initial assault failed, they broadened their horizons to attack larger and larger portions of the whole theory. When these attacks failed, they tried to
win by denigrating the word "theory".
(R) What does "theory" mean to you?
(MB) A scientific "theory" is an explanation for a set of observations and data that has been subjected to extensive testing and examination and has survived to the point where it is generally accepted as being accurate. The term is not applied loosely and is distinguished from a "hypothesis" or a "law".
(R) An evolutionist would seem to define it as "that which I have chosen to believe as fact, in the face of a great amount of contrary evidence."
(MB) That definition applies to items of pure faith and not to anything related to science.
When this also failed, they tried to attack the whole of science by ascribing all sorts of unrelated theories and questions to evolution. For example, even though evolution is a theory concerned only with how life on the Earth has progressed and diverged since the first life form appeared, the Creationists go as far as to attack evolution since it can't explain how the Universe itself was created.
(R) How is that not a relevant question? Creation says God created the universe, while evolution seems to state otherwise. It seems to me that that is one of the main disagreements.
(MB) From a scientific point-of-view, the question of how the Universe came to be belongs to the fields of cosmology and astrophysics. Evolution is concerned with life on planet Earth. To attack evolution for not explaining things outside of its scope is pointless. There is absolutely nothing about evolution that disputes the notion that some supernatural entity is responsible for creating the Universe. In fact, it is entirely reasonable to believe that evolution is that entity's
plan for the progress of life on the planets he created. Evolution only seeks to detail how that progress has occurred.
The fact that the stupefyingly silly arguments made by the Creationists have any audience at all is testament to the scientific illiteracy of the average member of the general public.
(R) The fact that the outrageously falacious claims of evolution are taken as gospel truth by many otherwise intelligent and critically thinking people is testimony to the sad and inevitable results of of intellectual arrogance and Theophobia.
(MB) The way to demonstrate the validity of that statement would be to detail a single falacious claim of evolution. However, try as they might for the past few decades, the Creationists have failed to do so. Nor have they been able to support any of their own alternative ideas. Finally, they have advanced a vast number of arguments against evolution and science which have all been successfully refuted. They have even lost a landmark case in the Supreme Court while trying to get
their ideas into the schools under the guise of being "science". Yet, Creationism still finds adherents. That doesn't speak well for the state of their scientific literacy.
(R) I do agree that the general public is scientifically illiterate, however: does that mean they are wrong?
(MB) Only when they choose to believe in clear bunk instead of documented fact.
Of course, that's the environment in which religion has always flourished. A good example of the mindset of those individuals came from one of the many Creationists with whom I have been embroiled in a long series of E-Mail messages arguing this issue. After I had completely debunked this particular individual's arguments, his final comment was "I don't care what you say. I won't believe in evolution even if it is proven to be true." Needless to say, this is not what one might consider an
(R) Oh come on: are you prepared to say that you would believe in Creation if some of your pet arguments in favor of evolution were demolished?
(MB) It makes no sense to continue to believe in something after it has been debunked.
If evolution should ever be disproved, I would have no choice but to abandon it. This does not necessarily mean that I would jump on the Creationism bandwagon, though. It would have to be proven to me in and of itself. If it cannot do so, I would have no problem with honestly answering "I don't know" when asked how life on Earth came to be the way it is.
On the other hand, if Creationism - or any other tenet of any religion - is proven to me, I would have no problem embracing it. To do otherwise would be foolish.
But, this is the essential difference between the intellectual mindset and the religious one. The intellectual accepts truth even if it is not appealing or if it flies in the face of other beliefs. He loses nothing if a long-held belief is suddenly overturned in favor of something better. If the religious individual's beliefs are challenged, he cannot so easily change them since there is more to religious faith than an arbitrary set of facts.
Religion promises all sorts of goodies to those who "keep the faith". If that faith is shaken, the believer also faces giving up the reasons why he adhered to the faith in the first place. Indeed, he might have to acknowledge that a major part of his life had previously been based on something that no longer exists. That is a terrifying prospect for believers. Better to "keep the faith" than have to fill all those emotional and ideological holes.
(R) This is disingenuous. Your belief in evolution is based on faith, too (even as you assert, as does the creationist of creation, that it is a FACT!) Is it really the idea of creation that is so disturbing, or is it its implications? But once again, evolutionists are INTELLECTUALs who believe in FACTs!
(MB) My belief in evolution is, indeed, based upon facts. Why should this be such an unacceptable concept? Would it be better, for example, to base the verdict in a court of law on evidence or on what would make the judge happy?
To claim that something is "fact" requires having facts to support it. Evolution has them. Creationism does not.
Again, I have no major problem with "creation". However, I have a problem with Creationism making claims such as that the Bible is proof for the idea that the Earth is only 6000 years old. That flies in the face of every piece of evidence available. Yet, they steadfastly adhere to it since it one of the central tenets of Creationism. To admit error would risk having to accept that the whole idea would then collapse under its own weight.
Creationists have produced a lot of literature and vitriol espousing their arguments. Without exception, every single specific claim they have made has been conclusively debunked. They haven't had a new idea in at least 20 years and have failed to make the first dent in any theory of science.
(R) How many major universities that one may get a Ph.D. in science would welcome a doctoral student who proclaimed "I am a creationist, and I hope to learn more of the techniques of science to explore this explanation of the origon of life?"
(MB) That depends on what he intended to have as the subject of his thesis. There is little or no problem with controversial subjects so long as the research is sound and the arguments are valid. Einstein was controversial at first. Creationism's ideas would finally be accepted, too, if they could also survive scrutiny. When it fails, Creationism's proponents don't seek to improve their ideas, they try to denigrate others.
(R) Who gets all the research money? Who has access to the scholarly journals?
(MB) Anybody can submit a paper to scientific journals or apply for research grants. The fact is that Creationists are not even *submitting* any scholarly work. A 1985 survey of 68 scientific journals found only 18 submissions dealing with scientific support for Creationism out of 135,000 total submissions from 1980 to 1983. That's *submissions* and not printed articles. At the time of the survey, 15 of those submissions had been rejected on the grounds of poor scholarship and the
other three were still under review (and were subsequently rejected).
(R) By the way, I am curious to know what you would consider "a major dent in a theory of science?"
(MB) How about a famous example? Science used to believe that there was no such thing as "empty space". Instead, a substance known as the "ether" was thought to exist. It was justified by the argument that light waves had to be conducted through something much as sound waves are conducted through the air. In the late 1890's, what came to be known as the Michelson-Morley experiment was conducted to measure how the speed of light was affected as it passed through the ether in
different directions. However, the experiment was a spectacular failure and resulted in the abandonment of the ether theory while paving the way for Einstein's theories about the particulate nature of light.
(R) No doubt anything inconsistent with evolution would be summarily dismissed as garbage. Hence--no contributions to science. Oh, yes: "conclusively debunked"--in who's eyes? The evolutionary faithful, no doubt!
(MB) Only garbage is dismissed as "garbage". None of Creationism's attacks or alternative ideas are summarily dismissed. They are all debunked by the scientific method -- showing where they contain flaws in interpretation or argument. For example, Creationism's attempts to demand that Carbon-14 dating be able to accurately date dinosaur fossils, or its claims that evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
The day when they would willingly invite Stephen J. Gould to speak about evolution from a church pulpit and when their Bibles contain a disclaimer sticker about how the contents "have not been proven" and how "alternative theories exist" will be the day when we might consider allowing their silliness to invade the schools.
(R) This one may top all. The closed shop also exists in academia, as I have indicated above.
(MB) To paraphrase Timothy Ferris (from "The Mind's Sky"): Just because one idea might fail to gain universal hegemony does not mean that all competing ideas are equally valid.
The proponents of weak ideas are the ones most likely to complain about "closed shops". However, the history of science is one in which the strongest ideas survive -- not the loudest ones. The continuing debate and the need for competent scholarship inherent in the scientific method ensures that all ideas are heard, but only the best are listened to.
(R) It sickens me to hear close-minded people loudly proclaim how open-minded they are: this is not true and you know it. Oh, excuse me, you are defending FACT, and we only have faith.
(MB) Yet, are you not defending your faith in just the manner that you are decrying in science? What is wrong about asking for facts rather than just kneeling down to demands that one *must* believe in something else?
One final note: It was interesting to hear the Pope recently declare that evolution is compatible with Catholic teachings. It remains to be seen how this will go over, but it could be a sign that reality may win after all.
(R) Reality as defined by an evolutionist: that which I assert to be true, based upon my belief in certain interpretations of ambiguous scientific evidence, while denigrating all other interpretations, especially those made by ignorant individuals who are so identified by a belief in the Bible and the God presented therein.
(MB) Reality, as defined by what's out there for us to observe uncolored by any overriding ideas pertaining to items of pure faith.
(R) One last thing: do you believe in objetive, value free science? You do?! Let's get together some time: I have some swamp, er, some farmland in south Florida that you might be interested in buying sight unseen.
(MB) I'm not going to try to tell anybody that science is free from personal agendas, tenure battles, and paradigms. However, beyond those petty concerns lies the truth of the Universe. That is what science seeks to understand. Evolution is just one small part of that. This is independent of whether or not I decide to indulge in shaky real-estate deals...
(R) Now that you probably hate me, let me say that I like your website and that I
agreed with what you wrote about the election.
(MB) I don't hate anybody - and certainly not anybody with whom I'm engaging in a discussion. On the contrary, if I never heard any disagreement with what I write, how would I know that anybody had read it and that it had presented its arguments in an effective and stimulating manner? Supporting my statements helps ensure that I do my homework and makes sure that I don't get complacent.
(R) I hope you take no offense at my comments: I don't like to attack people, but I will attack ideas that they express if I have radically different ones that I think have faults. Please take what I wrote in that spirit.
(MB) I always do. In fact, I would expect no less from anybody - to include myself. My skin is much too thick to be offended by somebody who disagrees with me. Actually, "offense" is something I'm going to address when I finish my "Political Correctness" essay.
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