Let's Teach Creationism

From: Susan Brassfield (Susan-Brassfield@ou.edu)
Date: Wed Jan 26 2000 - 13:56:05 EST

  • Next message: Cliff Lundberg: "Re: The Kansas Science Education Standards"

    This was also posted to the other list I am on and thought it might make
    for interesting reading.


     #### begin cross post ####
     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.

     ##### name of sender witheld ####


     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
     their theory.

     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
     in it.

     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
    this one.
    --Albert Camus


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