Aug 20 2013

Creationism is Not Science

“In fact, we have solid proof in our hands that evolution’s a lie: the Bible. You see, we can’t depend solely on our reasoning ability to convince skeptics. We present the evidence and do the best we can to convince people the truth of God by always pointing them to the Bible.”

The above quote is from Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, from a radio commercial to promote his creation museum. Ham also says:

“You know, many of us would love to have the final proof that evolution’s a lie; the right scientific proof will silence those opposed to biblical creation forever, right? Well, no. You see, Romans Chapter one tells us that God has revealed himself to man in nature, so there’s no excuse for denying the witness of creation.”

These quotes are very revealing in multiple ways. First they show that creationists and creationism are not monolithic – there is a range of beliefs and strategies under the “big tent” of creationism. They are all united by their opposition to evolution, and essentially agree to disagree until the great evil of evolution is vanquished. Meanwhile they are stomping on each-other’s toes.

These quotes also reveal what creationism truly is – a bible-based faith. It is not science, it is not based on evidence, reason, or critical thinking. It is based entirely on faith in one particular interpretation of the Christian bible.

Ham, here, is at least being honest in that regard. It does also come off also as a surrender – Ham and other creationists now know they are not going to win against evolution in the arena of science. There is a simple reason for this – evolution is reality and creation is mythology. The fact that life on earth is the product of organic evolution and that all life shares common ancestry has been established by a mountain of evidence and is scientifically indisputable. Fighting against the evidence in the long term is a losing strategy.

The Intelligent Design (ID) movement (like the creation science movement before it) was an attempt to make a scientific argument for creation. It utterly failed. Its paper-thin arguments have all been thoroughly and repeatedly refuted. It never gained the tiniest shred of scientific respectability.

At best ID and creation science are useful foils – examples of pseudoscience that are educational in the debunking.

Ham is taking the opposite approach, at least in this latest commercial. Rather than the pseudoscience approach, he is taking the anti-science or mystical approach. He is not trying to say that science proves creation, but rather that creation is a matter of faith for those who believe in the bible (meaning a fundamentalist literal interpretation of the bible).

Although, he is trying to have it both ways (sort of) by using confusing language. His muddied language likely represents his muddied thinking – he says the bible is “proof” and “evidence” of creation. It is neither. The bible consists of many books and many literary genres, none of which should be interpreted as accurate historical or scientific documents. At best they are a people’s interpretation of their own history through the lens of their religious belief system.

Statements in the bible can only be considered “proof” if you already accept the premise that the bible is literally and unerringly true. That, of course, requires faith. “Proof” based on faith is simply faith.

Ham’s statements, most significantly, undermine the entire campaign to have any form of creationism taught in the public schools. His statements, coming from the president of the creation museum, are yet more evidence that anti-evolution sentiments and any form of creationism are religious faith, not science.

While I do think abandoning any pretense to “creation science” and admitting creationism is faith is a move in the right direction, I don’t expect this to mean an end to the conflict with evolution.

From Ham’s website he writes, under the banner of “Evolution vs God:”

In this fallen world, the battle being fought is one of authority. Will we look to God’s Word for answers? Or will we look to man and his changing, fallible opinions as the highest authority? Nothing better exemplifies this battle than the debate over our origins. In his newest film, Evolution vs. God, Ray Comfort, founder and president of Living Waters, brings to light the way evolutionary ideas are manifestations of a deeper problem.

This frames their world-view nicely – it is not about evidence or logic, it is about authority. The debate is framed as God’s authority vs man’s authority, not in terms of logic or evidence. They set up a false dichotomy – evolution or God. I don’t know if this framing is deliberately manipulative, or if they simply cannot see past the assumptions of their own world-view.

Either way, what this means is that if we are ever going to convince creationists to reconsider their rejection of science, we are not going to do so with logic and evidence. We need to understand and confront the way they are framing the question in the first place.

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