Indeed! In fact, when teaching the Scientific Method, I took great pains to emphasize that scientific theories, from the Theory of Relativity to Evolutionary Theory to Atomic Theory, should not be dismissed because they are “just theories.” A theory that has stood the test of time is a Big Deal.
That being said, I also emphasized that when an experiment/observation is made that contradicts a theory, the theory is usually refined, as opposed to being thrown out completely.
Creationists appear to miss this idea entirely. They seem to think that if they can find one tiny inconsistency in the data, the whole theory of evolution will collapse like a house of cards. Instead, like all scientific theories, if the observation holds up, the theory would be (and in fact, has been) refined to reflect these new observations.
Isaac Asimov wrote a wonderful essay on this topic, entitled “The Relativity of Wrong.”
It always has seemed to me that the people are unable to handle any sort of uncertainity. I get the feeling that if you tried to explain quantum theory to them and its implications and effects, they’d be soundly against it as well.
Also, I agree that they don’t understand scientific terminology. Like with any other study, specific words have specific meanings. I blame this partially on scientists and teachers for not getting the language across correctly.
It’s kinda like law. There is no good reason to use ppm, ppb, and ppt. They’re awful measurements, imprecise, and not easily compared as each has to be recalculated due to weight. If Congress was full of chemists, we’d see actionable limits in molarity or something. Plus, the actionable levels would have some sort of deviation built in.
Well, sir, it’s been my experience that a tendency to be literalistic is a common characteristic of the Biblical Creationists. While they are prepared to concede that portions of the Bible are not literal narrative, they assert that those portions are “obvious” and that any part that is not “obviously poetic, fictional, or metaphorical” (read a psalm, one of the fables told by the prophets or Jesus’s parables, and Daniel/Revelation as examples of those three categories respectively) is to be understood as the literal truth, revealed by God through inspiration (usually understood as verbal quasi-dictation) to the human writers. There are exceptions to each statement in that paragraph, of course – but it functions as a fairly accurate generalization. It’s evident in discussing law with them as well, by the way – the idea that “law” is an overarching concept including judicial rulings, not a collection of statutes, is somehow liberal pettifoggery.
Given this, then, and the all-too-human need for some form of certitude – there is nothing scarier than not knowing when you feel that much depends on knowing the answer – they cling to the Biblical text as verbatim truth.
Any reading of Scripture that does not correspond to that literalism, then, is regarded as downgrading the Bible or discarding it entirely (see this post for a case just today where I was so accused despite my explicit statement earlier in the thread to the contrary.
And, most obviously, since evolution operates on the scientific principle of studying the natural world through exclusively natural mechanisms, evolutionary theory will exclude the possibility of direct divine intervention as not a testable, falsifiable hypothesis, and will proceed to interpret the world as “having no need of that hypothesis” ;).
And since it is quite possible to date Creation as reported in Scripture from internal evidence, given the hypothesis that everything contained therein is to be read as literal reportage (with the exceptions noted above), and evolution (and cosmology) require a much longer time scale, any such effort is seen as a direct assault on God.
I think Joe Cool, who is a conservative Christian who understands science, could do a far better job of explaining this line of thinking than I’m doing, but in his absence, allow me to offer the above as my interpretation of the problems Creationists have with evolution.
It’s occurred to me that creationists are sort of like the Amish. They’ll accept science up to a point, beyond which they won’t.
For example, creationists have never challenged the theoretical basis of the internal combustion engine, or the computer, or television. Those are all things that can be demonstrated and are irrefutable. Likewise, gravity works, even on the weekends, so it’s difficult to challenge.
On the other hand, evolution and cosmology aren’t easily demonstrated on a day to day basis, and, since they do contradict biblical creation, whereas engineering, medical research, and, say, forensics, don’t, because there’s nothing for them to contradict.
So, in a sense, creationists can accept science they can, more or less, see, and reject what they can’t.
You know that’s an interesting point. I hadn’t really thought about the day to day aspects. I mean I considered that they might not have learned about it, but I didn’t consider that the whole “seeing” aspect…
I was drawing an analogy. Maybe not perfect, but I think the point was clear. The Amish accept certain technology, but reject anything beyond a certain point. The creationists accept certain areas of science, but reject anything beyond.
My mother is something of a Creationist. She has certainly never given much study to the theory of evolution, but she is perfectly willing to condem it. Her reasoning goes something like this:
<watching discovery channel>
Her: “Wow, look at that (insert amazing animal), now how could that have evolved?”
Me: “Well, you know, given alot of time and some natural selection…”
Her: “Humph, you’re crazy. Nothing like that could just spring out of pond scum”
Me: “Why don’t we just change the channel…”
Her other objection (building on #4) that she has expressed is that evolution contradicts the literal reading of the Bible. Her reasoning is that we can’t pick and choose which parts of the Bible to read in different ways, since then people will just ignore the difficult parts and only focus on what is easy.
In light of the two paragraphs that preceded this, there is the false implication here that this accusation was made by a “Biblical Creationist”, someone who “cling[s] to the Biblical text as verbatim truth”. In fact, it was made by someone who does not appear to believe in the Bible at all. Probably a believer in evolution, no less.
Sorry for the implication, which I had not recognized until you pointed it out, Izzy. (I noted on another thread in GD quite recently that non-believers as well as Biblical literalists tended to take offense, for some reason, at a person who reads the Bible “seriously but not literally” – so the concept was there in my mind at least.) I regret any offense to badchad, Biblical Creationists, or other readers of this thread for the erroneous – and unintentional – implication.
No need for all that many apologies Poly - at any rate, we are clear now.
Perhaps, but this actually undermines your thesis, beyond merely failing to support it. Because these non-believers are clearly not motivated by an emotional need for certitude, or by a need to uphold the word of God. So if some non-believers also tend to dismiss the “seriously but not literally” POV, then maybe - just maybe - there’s something more to the literalist POV than these emotions that you right it off with. Like maybe it is something that a rational person might happen to find convincing, however much you don’t.
Query though - does she believe that the sun goes around the Earth? The Bible says that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and that particular passage was, at one point in time, the basis for declaring that it was blasphemy to teach that the Earth orbited the sun. Galileo went to trial before the Inquisition on just that issue. It took the Church in the neighborhood of 300 years to apologize for that incident. Every time someone raises scripture as a reason why evolution can’t be true, I think of Galileo.
Two “philosophers” in the town of Chelm (celebrated town of fools, in Jewish folklore) were debating if the sun moves or stands still. So one said “it has to move. After all, Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, which proves that normally it moves”. And the other said “to the contrary! Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and it’s been standing still ever since…”
My take on the creationist/evolution debate is that if a person believes that Genesis is the way the world was created , then evolution and the big bang seem to contradict their whole world view. Some , but not all of them adopt a “head in the sand” type of posture. They think that anything that contradicts the bible is either out right lies or just misguided thinking. Genesis states that God made all that we know of in 6 days. Science says that the universe was made over millions of years. They cant both be right. It either took a week or it didnt. The old argument of “God can do anything ,so a day could be as long as he wants it to be” is just nonsense. Then there is the creation of man and Adam and Eve. Allegedly god droped them into eden and we all decend from them. How does one explain the remains of neanderthal man and cro magnon man? A lot of the time you get the “intelligent desighn” counter argument. Then you have dinosars. We have proof that they existed from all of the bones that have been found.To my knowledge there is no mention of them in the bible. In my expierience a creationist will either give you a blank stare and shuffle their feet or tell me some yarn about Leviathan, the behemoth or St. George and a dragon. If creationsts cant see these basic truths for what they are, how can they even begin to realy grasp evolution?
Well, that’s part of it, certainly. But there also is a political agenda at work. There are people who who despise “secular humanism” and would like to return to a world where schools taught religion, specifically, Christian religion. Evolution is a convenient wedge point because: a) it directly contradicts Biblical teaching in a way that gravity and relativity do not; b) many people do not see the “harm” in offering alternative theories when they are presented in friendlier garb such as “Intelligent Design” or “Young Earth”; and c) experiments directly validating the biological theory of evolution cannot be performed in a laboratory setting (unlike experiments validating gravity and thermodynamic laws), so evolution is more vulnerable to the attack on the grounds that it’s “just a theory.” Add in a healthy dose of anti-intellectual bias and, particularly, the contempt that some people have for scientists who seem to be “know-it-alls.”
Another factor that, IMHO, has exacerbated the issue is the mania for standards and performance testing that has swept the school system. Now, the goal is to get students to pass the performance test, so if the school board decides that subject X isn’t going to be on the test, then there is a disincentive to teach it.
I read a speculative fiction story several years ago (probably in Analog) that did get evolution to synch up with Genesis.
How, you ask?
Time dilation. A theory descended from relativity that when an observer moves sufficiently fast, time “slows down” for that observer relative to a stationary observer. I’d have to work out the math to check, but I seem to recall that at a speed of roughly 1 millionth of a mile per year slower than lightspeed (as measured by the stationary observer), the accelerated observer will experience a subjective time period of six days of 24 hours each while the stationary observer will experience an objective time period of five billion years. (Added on preview to address BURNER’s post and clarify my point: With time dilation, both the Genesis time frame and the scientific time frame can be right. Understanding this, though, requires an understanding of modern physics.)
The deeper issue, I suppose, is the difference between religion and science in their fundamental approach to explaning observations. Religion involves a belief in an explanation without any independent evaluation of the explanation, because the religious authority / community leader / family / culture / sacred text says so. Science involves belief in an explanation only after thorough independent evaluation of the explanation, all in an effort to avoid “because I said so.” To expand on what tdn noted, a person who commits wholeheartedly to one paradigm for evaluating an explanation will have a very difficult time accepting an explanation developed from the other, radically different paradigm.
Hmmm… I don’t think an actual red-blooded creationist has responded thus far, but please correct me if I’m wrong. If a creationist would like to participate that has not yet done so, I hope you are not put off by the tone of the debate. It is not my intention to denigrate – I honestly just want to examine and debate the justifications used to separate evolution from the rest of science.
Libertarian, if I may, I submit that your point and tdn’s point #1 are restatements of point #4 in my original list, perhaps without the “thoroughly studied their religion” modifier. Conflicts with their religious views are at the heart of this objection. Obviously, I disagree with their objection, as I suspect each of you do also, so no use preaching to the choir.
tdn, I considered adding a point about the “common sense objection” to evolution, which I feel correlates to your second statement. I mean, c’mon – flying reptiles?? Bacteria that can digest nylon?? Who would believe that nonsense?! Yet, there are many areas of science which also fail the “common sense” test, so as befitting the theme of this thread, I cannot see why evolution is singled out.
IzzyR, I hope you don’t mind if I pick on you for a bit. Rightly or wrongly, I consider you to be the closest one to holding a creationist’s position in this thread.
I am not directing this at creation scientists, primarily because I doubt we will be able to lure one into a debate in this forum. Furthermore, I consider “creation scientist” to such an oxymoronic term that I cannot take them seriously. And I disagree with your implication that the general public at large distrusts evolution. I consider it to be a small but vocal minority that doesn’t agree with the majority of scientists on this issue, however it does appear to be a larger contingent in the States than throughout the rest of the world, unfortunately.
Do you actually wish to contend that the science behind evolutionary theory is out of step with the many other realms of science which most creationists seem willing to accept, thereby giving creationists a valid reason to object on these grounds? I want to make sure you indeed hold this position before I spend time deconstructing it.
This is exactly the issue I wish to probe. What is it that is so magical about evolution that causes this reaction, as opposed to say, lightning, earthquakes, tornados, magnetism, gravity, chemistry, quantum mechanics and the thousands of other topics which do not require a supernatural influence? Each of these is at least as complex as population changes in allele frequencies, but you rarely see anyone campaigning for Intelligent Design to explain butyl acrylate formation.
cormac262, I am pleased that my meager contribution to this board was able to convince you to de-lurk. Welcome to the SDMB!
But why single out evolution for this approach? No other branch of science needs divine intervention to avoid the creationist’s wrath. And even if they do want to claim divine responsibility, e.g. the Big Bang, it is still considered a problem for evolution, not astronomy or cosmology. Why?? (I realize you are only speaking by proxy for the creationist’s viewpoint).
I have several problems with this view:
[li]Anyone can see evolution displayed quite easily, if they open their eyes. The fossil evidence alone is overwhelming, and with the advent of the Internet, you don’t even have to leave your home to see it. The nested hierarchy of various species, their geographic distribution, vestigial structures, DNA and body type similarities are all examples of evidence that supports evolution and is very accessible. Other, more specific examples such as bacterial resistance to antibiotics and nylon digestion can be viewed by anyone with some interest.[/li][li]There are many other branches of science which are not easily “seen”. I doubt any creationist has seen an atom, yet there are no outcries for warning labels about “Atomic theory”. Quantum mechanics is another area which fits this description. They cannot see oxygen or hydrogen, but are not worried that water electrolysis is invalid science.[/li][li]Even if this were true, why do they not hold “Creation vs. Astronomy” or “Creation vs. Cosmology” debates, and petition lawmakers for astronomy textbook warnings?[/li][/ul]
So, I cannot simply accept that creationists reject what they can’t see. Otherwise, they would be rejecting a great deal more of our scientific knowledge.