This was also posted to the other list I am on and thought it might make
for interesting reading.
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I thought this was a terrific article, and so am sharing it with you all.
It's from the February, 2000 issue of "Liberty", the monthly magazine
published by the Liberty Foundation, 1018 Water Street, Suite 201, Port
Townsend, Washington 98368. It IS copyrighted (obviously), so please credit
both publication and author.
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LET'S TEACH CREATIONISM
by Bart Kosko
Fundamentalist Christians are correct: creationism should be taught in the
schools. But they won't like the results.
The Kansas State Board of Education voted in August to allow state techers
not to teach evolution of the Big Bang theory of cosmic creation. Then New
Mexico's State Board of Education voted 14-1 in October to ban creationism
from the state curriculum.
The New Mexico declaration went too far. There is one point where the
creationists are right: Schools should teach creationism in science classes.
Creationism offers an ideal case study of the scientific method. But
creationists may not like the result.
All good theories should have a central claim and creationism does: God
created the world. Most versions further claim that God created Earth and
that He created the life forms on its surface.
But science demands mechanisms. It demands to know how something happens. So
what is the mechanism of creationism? How did God create the world? Did He
just say, "Behold!" and the world appeared? Then how does this "beholding"
work? Does it have a mathematical description? Does it obey the law of
Creationism just asserts that a miraculous power did something miraculous.
does not say how. So it barely counts as a theory at all. It also does not
say what this miraculous power or creature is or how the power or creature
works. It puts forth one miracle to explain another and yet it describes
neither. So creationism looks more like a restatement of the creation event
rather than an explanation of it.
Scientists do not have these problems when they explain where the latest
variety of yellow sweet corn comes from. Farmers grow large fields of corn
and look for an occasional mutation. Sunlight might cause the mutation when
random photon hits part of a DNA coil in a corn plant and changes its
blueprint. Farmers plant the seeds from the mutated corn and repeat the
process until they produce a new variety. This theory of creation uses only
the mechanisms of variation and selection.
Science also demans testability. That means that some evidence could lead
to reject the theory as false. What evidence would contradict the claim that
God made the world? Does it matter that the universe expands until it ends
a heat death (as it looks like it will) or if gravity makes it contract back
to a point? What possible data would refute the claim?
Creationism must fill in the blank: God did not create the world if -- what?
Here science draws a hard line. No such negative data means no scientific
theory. A scientific theory must in principle risk something in test. That
what makes it scientific.
We may not be able to directly test the Big Bang theory in a laboratory, but
we can test some of its logical consequences. We do not have to replay a
video of the universe to see if there was a Big Bang just as we do not have
to see a mountain form to test theories about mountains. Big Bang theories
predict that the primordial explosion that caused the world left footprints
as background noise hissing throughout the entire expanding universe.
such background noise led to a Nobel Prize. But the more important point is
that the lack of such data would in time have led scientists to reject the
Big Bang theory.
Scientists would also reject the Big Bang theory if the universe contained
more helium than hydrogen or if it contained less matter than anti-matter.
They would reject the sweet-corn theory if variation and selection did not
produce new varieties, or even if they did not produce their gene
at the predicted rate. Creationists have offered no such critical tests of
And scientists have found indirect ways to test the Big Bang theory in their
labs. Creationists have often said such tests were impossible.
The Big Bang theory asserts that the universe started cooling fractions of a
second after the super-hot Big Bang explosion. That should have produced
strings and other "topological defects" in the structure of space-time. But
the same mechanisms should produce string-like vortices when heated liquid
helium cools into a super-fluid state. Something like this happens when
freezes to ice in an ice-cube tray and leaves lines and cracks and other
defects in the ice cubes. Two teams of scientists found just such vortices
1996 and they might well have found otherwise.*
Creationists have offered no indirect lab tests of their theory. Science
demands evidence and it does so ruthlessly: It proportions belief to
evidence. Strong claims require strong evidence. And no evidence requires no
belief. So what is the evidence for creationism? Where are the footprints?
say that the Bible says God created the world is to reason in a circle
because that just restates creationism. Creationists often criticize
competing theories but they have so far failed to produce a single atom of
evidence for their mechanism-free hypothesis. That alone warrants no belief
Science also shaves with Occam's Razor: It favors the simplest theory that
explains the facts. That undercuts the conceptual need for creationism even
if it does not address its popular appeal. What we can explain with
creationism we can explain without it.
So creationism has its place in any study of the scientific method. It
a rare example of a popular theory that has no mechanism or testable content
and one that lives on despite a complete lack of evidence and predictive
power. Creationism belongs in textbooks because it is a textbook example of
* Bauerle, C., et al., "Laboratory Simulation of Cosmic String Formation in
the Early Universe using Superfluid 3He," Nature, vol. 382, 332-334, 25 July,
1996; Ruutu, V.M.H., et al., "Vortex Formation in Neutron-irridated
Superfluid 3He as an Analogue of Cosmological Defect Formation", Nature,
vol. 382, 334-336, 25 July, 1996. >>
For if there is a sin against life, it consists not so much in despairing
of life as in hoping for another and in eluding the implacable grandeur of
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