Recently one of my more devout friends got into a mini-debate about so-called Creation Science and the veracity of the Bible as a scientifically true book. His pièce-de-résistance was the article quoted below. It’s not my purpose here to refute Creation Science itself, but to refute calling it true science. It is, like phrenology, a pseudo-science.So let’s begin with the main thrust of the article.
“Here are fourteen natural phenomena which conflict with the evolutionary idea that the universe is billions of years old. The numbers listed below in bold print (usually in the millions of years) are often maximum possible ages set by each process, not the actual ages. The numbers in italics are the ages required by evolutionary theory for each item. The point is that the maximum possible ages are always much less than the required evolutionary ages, while the Biblical age (6,000 years) always fits comfortably within the maximum possible ages. Thus, the following items are evidence against the evolutionary time scale and for the Biblical time scale. Much more young-world evidence exists, but I have chosen these items for brevity and simplicity. Some of the items on this list can be reconciled with the old-age view only by making a series of improbable and unproven assumptions; others can fit in only with a recent creation.”
That said, I think it important for us to lay down a few definitions of what science and the scientific method are. According to the New American Oxford Dictionary, science is “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment [emphasis mine].” And the scientific method is “a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses [again emphasis mine].” In short, science is a method of knowing how the world works through hypotheses, proposed explanations of how the world works, and testing those hypothesis to verify them, or more rigorously show they are not falsified. As Einstein said, “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.” (It is not a coincidence that the Age of Reason/Enlightenment also began roughly in the mid 17th century. Modern science is deeply rooted in it.)
Having Your Cake and Eating It Too
In the article, the author lays out several pieces of what he considers evidence. I want to focus on two pieces because they exemplify nicely what I think is wrong with Creation Science besides its name.
According to astronomical observations, galaxies like our own experience about one supernova (a violently-exploding star) every 25 years. The gas and dust remnants from such explosions (like the Crab Nebula) expand outward rapidly and should remain visible for over a million years. Yet the nearby parts of our galaxy in which we could observe such gas and dust shells contain only about 200 supernova remnants. That number is consistent with only about 7,000 years worth of supernovas.
Uranium and thorium generate helium atoms as they decay to lead. A study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research showed that such helium produced in zircon crystals in deep, hot Precambrian granitic rock has not had time to escape. Though the rocks contain 1.5 billion years worth of nuclear decay products, newly-measured rates of helium loss from zircon show that the helium has been leaking for only 6,000 (± 2000) years. This is not only evidence for the youth of the earth, but also for episodes of greatly accelerated decay rates of long half-life nuclei within thousands of years ago, compressing radioisotope timescales enormously.
So what could possibly be wrong here? Well, there are a few problems.
- Selective memory. The article is selective in its use of evidence, specifically only the evidence that comports with the hypothesis: the biblical chronology of our universe is true and is thus scientifically accurate. If this is considered science, how does Creation Science deal with evidence that doesn’t go with the program? The answer is: It does not. Ironically, a Creationist has refuted this articles take on supernovae using scientific observations of supernovae remnants hundreds of thousands, even millions, of years old disproving the Young Earth theory on these grounds. Here is another by a non-Creationist.
- Defeating Your Purpose. The “evolutionary” theory of our universe is based on physics, a study of the physical world using mathematics to represent, describe, and predict natural phenomena. What nuclear physics tells us is that it can take billions of years for supernovae to occur because that is how long it would take such massive objects as stars to burn enough of a their nuclear fuel to explode. So Young Earthers are using the remnants of well understood phenomena to “prove” the time span needed for that phenomena to exist is impossibly long. If that isn’t scientifically contradicting oneself, I don’t know what is.
- Where’s the Beef? Under a Shell. Now the point of the article is to list some data or interpret data in such a way that the Earth can scientifically be considered 6,000 years old . Yet, this is exactly what he didn’t do. He attempted to falsify the “evolutionary” theory of our universe. OK, but the author provides no evidence whatsoever nor–and this is critical—a means of testing that evidence to support the Creationist hypothesis on how our universe was created and evolved, pun intended. Remember, science is about testing hypotheses not merely asserting their truthfulness. The Bible and the fundamentalist ideological understanding of it are all the “proof” that is needed. Now that might be good religion or pseudo-science but it is piss poor science.
Keep It Real
Again it is not my intention to disprove Creation Science. I leave that to myriad people on the Internet with the time and inclination to attempt do so. And their Creationist opponents to refute the refutations. My problem is honesty. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ which means I love truth…come what may. Creation Science is not grounded in a respect for truth, but a need to define it. And that leads to intellectual dishonesty if one isn’t careful. It is intellectually dishonest to call punching holes in a theory, however unsuccessfully, appealing to the miraculous and providing no evidentiary support for one’s own theory science. If you don’t follow the rules of science, it isn’t science. It is a sophist shell game at best and chicanery at worst.