Mister Pterodactyl
Friday, December 10, 2004
Remember a while ago I said I’d be looking into ‘creation science?’ Well, you know what they say: “it’s good to keep an open mind, just not so open that your brain falls out.” I just couldn’t get my mind open enough. I may have strained something. So the creativity has been lacking over the last few weeks, thus the lack of blogging.

So, Steve suggested I check out the Institute for Creation Research, so I went to their website. Not impressed. The method used (at least in what I read) is simple: point out some flaw or gap in evolutionary theory (or, as it turns out, cosmology), claim that e.t. therefore requires a religion-style leap of faith, and conclude that creationism is at least equal in stature and should be taught alongside evolution.

Looking for another example, I ran across a group called Reason to Believe. They’ve written a book, ‘Origins of Life,’ in which they describe their idea of creationism. The start is very promising. First, they outline their interpretation of Genesis, which they say is consistent with current evolutionary theory (obviously, unlike the ICR guys, RTB has rejected the six-day creation, the 6000-year-old universe, and the Garden of Eden story). Then they begin an excruciatingly detailed discussion of evolutionary theory, and point by point explain why they think their model is superior.

You see that they’ve cherry-picked the parts of Genesis they want while rejecting the rest, but never mind that. They’re still, essentially, following the same process as the ICR. It’s true that there are gaps in evolutionary theory; for instance, the fossil record is incomplete, so microevolutionary changes in individual species (small beneficial mutations that become the norm) cannot be tracked to show the entire macroevolutionary progression (a species changing entirely, e.g. a fish becoming a vertebrate). It’s also true, and I don’t know this for certain but will give RTB the benefit of the doubt (they seem very knowledgeable), that there are apparent contradictions in the current theory; the appearance of the earliest organisms seems to have happened in an improbably short amount of time. What RTB has done is to accept current evolutionary theory in toto, then assume that no further progress will be made.

Armed with that assumption, they postulate an intelligent entity responsible for getting things started and moving them along. It’s not uncommon in research to make suppositions; that, after all, is what evolutionary scientists are doing. [One has to dig deep into it to realize that. I at least appreciate the level of detail they’ve provided.] But those suppositions are just that; they still have to be supported by evidence (note: that’s where string theory keeps running into trouble). They take the form 'we don't know what goes here; we think it's X and are looking for data that supports or undermines X.'

Of course the point of the debate is: what are we going to teach in school? Well, if you teach creationism, all you’re really teaching is ‘god did it.’ If you do that, why not just stop there? So instead of ‘just a theory, not proven fact’ (that drives me nuts), how about this: human knowledge is incomplete. There are lots of things we still don’t know. How the Big Bang started. How the structure of a brain produces personality, memory, imagination, and intelligence. How life began. Progress is, and always will be, ongoing.

Here's hoping this post gets the matter out of my system.

Out of your system-- Ha! I will needle, poke, pick, and cajol your system.

"God did it"-- it is reasonable to study and learn more about it.
"Random chance"-- Why study it?

"God did it"-- There are overarching morals and values. There is a case for human dignity.
"Chance did it"-- Only the fittest, strongest survive under any auspices without conscience.

Interesting post about Anthony Flew.
Steve, Flew's reasoning sounds like a good reason to doubt both theism and atheism. Doubt, not rejection.

That's why I think of myself as a Deistic Lutheran. I'm unwilling to forego the benefits that Christian tradition has accrued over the centuries, but I continue to doubt specific interpretations of the Bible. I try not to tell God what to think.

Though I do pray.
The general context here is whether Grantsburg, WI, should be allowed to teach about other theories beside evolution.
I wish I could remember more about science class when we were in school: whether evolution was taught as a theory or as a fact, whether any of the remaining questions about it were discussed. Perhaps if I had paid better attention.
I'm inclined to cut Grantsburg a lot of slack, since I was born there. (They had a fine Neonatal Unit back in 1963. Actually, I'm sure I was no trouble, and Mom was well designed to perform her task that day.)

Would I recommend teaching Creation Science? No, but I've been prejudiced against it by my public school and State University education. Steve and Lance, what would you agree on as the best resource to fix that?
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