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Creation vs. evolution

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Evolutionism is the belief in the theory that life on Earth is simply the result of random, natural processes, and ultimately attempts to explain the existence of humans by means other than divine creation. The theory of evolution (or general theory of evolution) is a philosophical perspective that stems from an atheistic worldview. In contrast, creationism is the belief that the universe and life on Earth were created through a supernatural act of God. The creation is described by cultures all over the world where one central theme is found to emerge - order from chaos.[1] The most well known description of the creation is told in the Bible.

Creationists agree that organisms evolve through time, and in fact, would take few exceptions to the basic mechanisms of biological evolution as put forth by Charles Darwin. Creationists would also agree that the processes of genetic recombination and natural selection can result in the formation of new species. In fact, creationists believe that extremely rapid evolution occurred after the Flood to create the species that we see today from the smaller number of species that were on the ark.

However, creationists find themselves at odds with evolutionists in regards to several hallmarks of the general theory of evolution. Most notably, these include:

Creationists generally feel that these aspects of the general theory of evolution] are simply unsupported by the scientific method, and largely the result of atheistic philosophy. As such, the belief that evolution alone is responsible for all organisms on earth is better classified as evolutionism.

Both evolution and creation science suffer from misconceptions about the structure of their theories as well as questions regarding how much their various parts can be called scientific or theories. Stephen Jay Gould described the secular side of this in the article Evolution as Fact and Theory,. Each concept's superstructure has (1) a collection of 'a priori' postulates, (2) a collection of theories that support or are derived from those postulates as well as observational evidence, and (3) a collection of predictions derived by those theories.[1]

Contents

Postulates

Modern science is founded on several postulates, but the most relevant for its difference with creationism are the principal of uniformitarianism and the idea that evolution and abiogenesis together are completely responsible for all life on earth. Uniformitarianism is the belief that the processes that are currently in effect are the same now as they have been throughout history.

For scientific creationists, the a priori beliefs which inform their interpretations are a belief that life was created outside natural processes and that divine revelation through religious texts such as the Bible describes history accurately.

It should be emphasized that these postulates are not scientific theories themselves, as scientists on both sides have claimed they are so plastic that they lack falsifiability. While most would agree that this is true of uniformitarianism, special creation, abiogenesis, and belief in divine revelation, some may object to claiming that evolution is not a theory. However, many scientists, including some of evolution's greatest proponents support this separation:

The fact of evolution is the backbone of biology, and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded on an unproved theory--is it then a science or a faith? Belief in the theory of evolution is exactly parallel to belief in special creation. (L.H. Matthews. British biologist and evolutionist. Introduction to a reprinting of Origin of Species)
Darwin continually emphasized the difference between his two great and separate accomplishments: establishing the fact of evolution, and proposing a theory—natural selection—to explain the mechanism of evolution.[1]
The axiomatic nature of neo-Darwinism theory places the debate between evolutionists and creationists in a new perspective...it is not valid for creationists to demand proof of the axioms, and it is not valid for evolutionists to dismiss special creation as unproved so long as it is stated as an axiom. (Evolution theorist C.L. Harris)

Miles and Ehrlich stated bluntly, "[Evolution] is outside of empirical science, but not necessarily false" in a 1967 article in Nature.

By contrast, secular science have attacked creationism because its postulates are supernatural rather than naturalistic. Occam's Razor has been invoked in an effort to show the holding of this postulate is irrational.[2], but creationists have declared the same about evolution, using a collection of their own writings to indicate that holding evolution as a presupposition cannot be founded on evidence, but rather taste. One example of this is by D.M.S. Watson, who forthrightly said that evolution was a theory universally accepted not because it can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible. Another example cited by creationists is Dr. Mark Ridley's admission in New Scientist that No real evolutionist uses the fossil record as evidence in favor of the theory of evolution as opposed to special creation.

Theories

Each school of thought has several theories derived from or supporting it. A given scientist may only agree with some subset of the theories. For example, in secular science there is a large group of theorists, Neo-Darwinists that believe in gradualism, while there are several who have made scathing attacks against a slow, steady progress of evolution. Other theories attempting to describe how evolution might work include punctuated equilibrium, and the hopeful monster theory. In addition to positing methods to drive evolution, secular scientists often appeal to the theory of superposition, reliability of radiometric dating, the theoretic geologic column, and proposed cosmologies to support their overall viewpoint.

In creation science, theories involving accelerated radioactive decay, geologies incorporating a global flood, creationist cosmologies, and a general young earth theory are woven together to support their claims. Furthermore, creationists often appeal to information theory and attempt to use the Second Law of Thermodynamics to show that evolution is impossible.

Some of these theories are more scientific than others. An evaluative scale was given in an oft-repeated quote by Kitaigorodskii A first rate theory predicts, a second rate theory forbids,. and a third rate theory explains after the event.

The minimum, then, is for a theory to describe data. The best scientific theories make predictions that can be tested and falsifiable hypothesis. Natural selection, gradualism, the theory of the geological column, singular accelerated nuclear decay, and a global flood have all been attacked as furnishing no predictions and/or no method to falsify them. Other theories on both sides, such as those suggesting a particular age for the earth or universe, have allowed accurate predictions well before known data.

It should be noted that, regardless of individual predictions made by creationist models in published literature, many scientists see creationist science as hopelessly unscientific, viewing it as unfalsifiable and nonpredictive. The following representative quote from Stephen Gould adequately demonstrates this assertion.

"Scientific creationism" is a self-contradictory, nonsense phrase precisely because it cannot be falsified. I can envision observations and experiments that would disprove any evolutionary theory I know, but I cannot imagine what potential data could lead creationists to abandon their beliefs. Unbeatable systems are dogma, not science.[1]

Predictions

Main Article: Creationist predictions

For those theories described above which are fully scientific, a collection of specific predictions can and have been made. Creation scientists, using a young earth or young universe model, have accurately predicted magnetic fields of other planets prior to our observations [3], rates of helium diffusion [4],[5], and radioactive carbon 14 retention in putatively ancient rocks [6].

Similarly, while its nature is such that it is very difficult for natural selection to predict things before they are otherwise known, the theory does explain in a reasonable fashion certain things that had not been known at Darwin's time. For example the "theory predicted that organisms in heterogeneous and rapidly changing environments should have higher mutation rates. This has been found in the case of bacteria infecting the lungs of chronic cystic fibrosis patients (Oliver et al. 2000)."[7]

Relationship of Postulates to Theories

Creationist scientists have a number of compelling arguments for creationism in addition to having a number of compelling arguments against the evolutionary view. However, creationists are very commonly attacked for using Scripture as the basis for their theories or having their models completely determined by revelation instead of observations. Creation scientists differ with regard to the degree to which they discuss biblical issues in their papers, but in their efforts to convince more of mainstream science to reevaluate what they consider dogma, creationists tend to advance their models based on their fidelity to observable data, using mainstream scientific equations in the derivation of their models.

However, it is common for creationists to consider the viability of a model based on whether it supports their postulates in a general way. For example, in discussing possible accelerated nuclear decay, Eugene Chaffin suggests that a certain change in activation energy for alpha particles would not allow for a great enough increase in decay if such a modification were limited to a year of duration. Thus that particular model would not be one he suggests pursuing.

Anti-creationists have also accused creationists of bad science or too quickly claiming certain problems prove the modern paradigm invalid. While the former would have to be addressed on a case by case basis, there is a history of creationists making claims that appear faulty, or at least hasty. One example of this is the view that the amount of lunar dust supports a young earth based on measurements of the amount of dust and meteor flux rates. However, later measurements suggested that early measurements were incorrect, invalidating this argument. Faulkner pointed this out, as well as tempered other claims (such as the claim that there should be fewer bright comets in an old solar system), in his article for the 4th International Conference on Creationism [8].

On the other hand, this over-enthusiasm toward validating the fundamental postulates is certainly not limited to creationists. Piltdown Man is a prime example of the scientific community's lack of self-criticism, even in what should be extreme situations. The "discovery" of a human skull, orangutan jaw, and chimpanzee teeth, passed off as a single fossil showing a transitional form fooled the world's best biologists for over forty years, even after a fluorine absorption test dated the remains as modern. The hoax was exposed in 1953 by a team of 3 paleontologists. Millar writes [9]

The molar surface were examined under a microscope. They were scarred by criss-cross scratches suggesting the use of an abrasive. 'The evidences of artificial abrasion immediately sprang to the eye' wrote Le Gros Clark. 'Indeed so obvious did they [the scratches] seem it may well be asked -- how was it that they had escaped notice before?' He answered his question with a beautiful simplicity. 'They had never been looked for...nobody previously had examined the Piltdown jaw with the idea of a possible forgery in mind, a deliberate fabrication.'

A more recent example of science finding what they are looking for is the Archaeoraptor Hoax, which fooled National Geographic into a 10 page color-photographic spread showing what was claimed to be a link between birds and dinosaurs. Storrs Olson, fossil bird expert from the Smithsonian Institute, is the only scientist on record to have attacked this claim. He did so in an open letter National Geographic is not receiving competent consultation in certain scientific matters. There is not one undisputed example of a dinosaur with feathers. None. The public deserves to know this. National Geographic admitted their error three months later.

Public education

Main Article: Public education

Today, public schools funded with tax dollars teach that life originated in an indescribable biological ooze untold millions years ago, that all life on the planet is related via macroevolution, and specifically that men and apes share a common ancestor. These ideas directly contradict the religious and historical beliefs of 45% of the American population who believe that God created humans separately from the animals less than 10,000 years ago.[2]. Yet they are taught as fact in schools funded by taxes taken from people who disagree with these views.

Since the 1950s, evolutionists have had a virtual monopoly in public education. This was not the result of legislation or Supreme Court rulings, however. There have been no laws or Supreme Court rulings prohibiting the teaching of creationism in schools. The cases to date have revolved around efforts by creationists to prohibit the teaching of evolution (in the Scopes Trial and others), and to require that creation science must at least be taught alongside evolution in public schools. These efforts were halted by the Supreme Court's interpretation of the First Amendment Establishment Clause in Edwards vs. Aguillard. But none of these cases prohibited teachers from teaching creationism or intelligent design in schools.

Other Views

While there are similarities within these two structures of thought, it should not be assumed that they partition the beliefs of all scientists. Hugh Ross, for example, believes in both evolution and creation. Michael Behe, author of the provocative Darwin's Black Box is certainly not a proponent of any young earth model, but makes a case in his book for why evolution simply cannot be true due to biochemical considerations. There are other scientists who have silently turned agnostic on the whole question, having not been compelled by the fossil record. Michael Denton, neither a Christian nor a creationist, wrote a vitriolic refutation to evolution in all its forms (Evolution: A Theory in Crisis). N. Macbeth, who also does not believe in creationism, rejects evolution in Darwin Retried, suggesting that having no theory whatsoever may be better than the existing one.

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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Evolution as Fact and Theory by Stephen Jay Gould. Discover 2 (May 1981): 34-37
  2. God's Numbers Newsweek. March 31, 2007.

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