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Author Topic:   faith based science?
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Message 27 of 171 (676583)
10-23-2012 9:25 PM
Reply to: Message 20 by eclectic1993
10-22-2012 8:17 PM

To start with, by way of introduction, I've been studying "creation science" off-and-on since 1981 and discussing in on-line since around 1986. Because of what I've repeatedly found and observed, I have a very low opinion of "creation science" and I am appalled by the crass and consistent dishonesty of "creation science" and of its advocates.

"Creation science" started out in the wake of Epperson vs Arkansas (1968) which led to the striking down of the 1920's "monkey laws" and which explicitly disallowed the barring of teaching a subject matter solely for religious purposes, which was the sole reason that the teaching of evolution had been barred. The anti-evolution movement then scrubbed their publications and claims by superficially removing overt Bibilical references and quotations and falsely claimed that they were opposing evolution solely for scientific reasons. Thus "creation science" was created as a deliberate deception with the intent of circumventing the courts and of fooling the general public into supporting their political agenda. It was only as a secondary purpose that "creation science" expanded to be used as a tool in proselytizing (ie, to fool people into converting) and as a "support" for the faith of believers.

I draw a distinction between "creation science" and belief in a divine Creator, which is what should be meant by "creationism", though that term has been usurped by "creation science". A creationist (meaning one who believes in a divine Creator) does not necessarily believe in "creation science", but sadly too many have turned to "creation science" in the mistaken belief that it supports their creationist beliefs. Unfortunately for clarity and consistency in terminology, "creationist" and "creationism" as used here, including by me, generally refers to "creation science" and advocates and believers therein. I do try to draw the necessary distinctions where I can.

In far too many cases, "creation science" creationists believe that they must attack and destroy evolution and any other science that they believe conflicts with their theology. Such creationists who come here are therefore much more interested in conflict than they are in discussion. Hopefully, you are more interested in discussion.

To your Message 10:

First and foremost, when a creationist speaks about the problem of evolution, it begins with origins. This is why, technically, creationists and evolutionist cannot really debate, because they are not debating the same thing. I bet you all have seen this time and time again on this site.

That is not the actual barrier to discussion, but rather just one example of the actual barrier.

In order to discuss anything, we need to agree on the terminology that we use. "Evolutionists" (a creationist term that they've overloaded with negative connotations) use the term "evolution" properly, whereas creationists use it improperly, employing many misconceptions and misrepresentations. That is part of the "creation science" methodology of changing the meanings of words both in order to generate more confusion and in order to facilitate their misquoting of scientific sources, part of their on-going quote-mining efforts. As a result their distorted definitions of "evolution", the creationist draws "necessary" conclusions about evolution which are completely false while at the same time rejecting what the "evolutionists" are trying to explain to them. If we both use different meanings for the same words, how could we ever have any chance of understanding each other?

In your Message 20 we find an example of this (my emphasis added):

Mathematically, given enough time, its possible that all species will eventually die out due to enough mutations OR given enough time it is possible that species can change into higher forms. I believe the former to be true, based upon what we know. I think ToE leans toward the latter.

No, that is not what the ToE leans toward. What you are describing there is the "Ladder of Life", an old Lamarckian concept of evolution being a progression from lower life forms to ever higher ones culminating in the Acme of Creation, Man. That is an old, long-discarded view which lives on only in creationists' misconceptions about evolution.

Here's another one. Do you believe that for evolution to be true, then we should see one species give birth to another -- eg, a dog giving birth to a cat -- since evolution calls for one species to change into another? I don't know whether you personally believe that is what the ToE says, but many creationists do and we have seen many creationists make that exact claim about what evolution teaches and requires.

So, for creationists and "evolutionists" to be able to debate and engage in discussion about evolution, they need to both be talking about the same thing. Which means that creationists need to learn what evolution really is and what it really teaches and what its conclusions and consequences really are. Until they do that, we will not be able to make any kind of progress -- which of course is a goal of "creation science".

Second to 'origins of life' is another gap I've seen taken on faith.
That is the decoding/reprogramming of DNA to produce more complex forms/combinations of DNA.

You mean mutation? But we know that happens and we have observed it. Why do you say that's a "gap" that is "taken on faith"?

I've written code that appears to morph into something more intelligent. I've even written some basic self-replication programs. However, it only behaves in the way in which I programmed it to behave. If any of you have ever tried to write code that rewrites itself with each iteration using basic rules (external influences), then you know how nearly impossible it seems.

One of the fundamental problems is that both source code and machine code are very brittle. It takes very little to break it. But life's "source code" is not at all like computer code and is much more flexible and robust.

This is reaching back a couple decades, but have you ever heard of Thomas Ray's TIERRA program? Instead of trying to have actual machine code evolve, he created virtual machines to act as organisms and a flexible code for them to run. As I recall, they would "feed off of" system resources and they would reproduce with the possibility of mutations occurring in their code. The results were quite interesting. For example, they had theoretically worked out what the smallest possible functional code would be and then were surprised when a functional code had evolved which was very much smaller that that theoretical minimum, code which employed a programming trick ("unrolling the loop", as I recall) that nobody had ever dreamed of. The program also evolved parasites that had lost portions of their own function code but which would then, like a virus, hijack another organism's code in order to reproduce. I believe that you would agree that TIERRA did not behave exactly as they had programmed it to behave.

This is an important distinction for creationists to appreciate. I've certainly learned this in just a few days.
I believe that God created life from inorganic matter...and that triggered biological processes that we 'observe' today. I see now that ToE (I'll use this instead of evolution) adherents can believe God, natural processes of causality (abiogenesis), or advanced aliens using terraforming could have jump-started life which then follows the evolutionary process.

Generally speaking, is that correct?

Generally speaking, yes, that is correct. Evolution is the cumulative results of life doing what life does, mainly reproducing and surviving long enough to reproduce. Evolution depends on life existing. It does not matter how life originated, but rather all that really matters for evolution is that life exists and it reproduces. How it reproduces (ie, producing progeny that are very similar to, yet slightly different from, their parents) and how some individuals are better able to survive long enough and are able to participate in producing the next generation of progeny is the grist for adaptation. And how individuals can aggregate in separate populations and those separate populations can then change differently is one thing that drives speciation.

How life originated is a separate question from evolution, since it does not matter to evolution how life had originated. So then really evolution does not necessitate that God be excluded; it's simply that, since science cannot deal with the supernatural, supernatural causes cannot be considered in science.

But anti-evolution creationists maintain that evolution excludes God and will even claim that if evolution turns out to be true, then God either does not exist or is a Liar. They preach that God and evolution are mutually exclusive, whereas in reality the two are not at all incompatible. There should be no more conflict between science and religion over evolution than there is over gravity and, indeed, within science there is no such conflict. It is only within certain factions of religion that such conflict has been created.

The science that you are speaking (e.g. mutations) is where we agree. I think you'll agree with this example.
Billions of female monkeys each conceive one monkey. Let's say for the discussion that each conceived monkey has had its genome mutated, randomly of course.

Many of these monkeys will die after the first few cell divisions. Many will develop some and then die in utero. In fact, quite a few. Others will be stillborn. Those that live after birth may have some variation (hair length, eye color, size, defects, etc.). A significant number may in fact continue on as if nothing has happened, because some combinations of mutations do not have an immediate effect but linger for several generations.

I will go out on a limb and state that there are more ways to 'break' a species than to maintain it. (think intermarriages)

Err, "intermarriages"? Huh? I think you need to explain this one. But until then, ...

We could start with the question of what a mutation is, but you seem to be on the right track. While "mutation" can refer to all kinds of changes, such as during development due to external factors (eg, thalidomide), the only mutations that are of any interest in evolution are genetic mutations and, furthermore, only those genetic mutations that are carried in the germ cells (ie, sperm and ova). These mutations are few in number and fairly well understood.

For example, there's duplication, which is why we have multiple alleles, multiple copies of the same gene (eg, skin color is not black or white, but rather varying shades of brown because of greater or lesser numbers of skin color genes that are dominant (produces melanin)). I cannot think of any situation in which this kind of mutation would be deliterious. For that matter, when we have a gene mutate to produce a new protein, we don't lose the ability to produce the old protein because of the duplicates of that old gene that had been produced through this mutation.

There's also base substitution. This mutation will normally cause one amino acid within a protein's sequence to change. What effect this will have depends on the protein and the position within the protein that's been changed. In many proteins, a large of number of positions can accept just about any amino acid without affecting the protein; this is how we get the differences between species within the same proteins. It could have a profound effect, creating a new protein. Or it could disable the gene, or reenable a disabled gene. All kinds of possibilities, many of which are either potentially beneficial or at least neutral.

Now with base insertion and deletion, we get a "frame shift" which completely changes the amino acid sequence. I find it hard to not see this as most commonly disabling that gene.

There are others which you can read up on; eg here in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/...#Classification_of_mutation_types

From what I understand, most seeds that are planted fail to germinate, less than 50%. And I've heard that about half of all conceptions end up spontaneously aborting, most of them even before the zygote could implant itself. And I could accept that practically all such cases were due to genetic inviability, some mutation or other genetic abnormality (eg, mistake in either meiosis or in subsequent zygotic mitosis). And many later-term miscarriages and still-borns may also be due to their not being genetically viable. And we have the ones who do come to full term and are born, but who do not survive infancy or childhood; I could accept that many of these were not strong and healthy enough to survive and that this could in turn often be traced back to some genetic weakness.

However, here is where I would disagree with you, because you forget that those who do survive to be able to reproduce are viable. What happened to the individuals who got a deliterious mutation? They did not survive; they were eliminated from the gene pool. What happened to the individuals who got a neutral or a beneficial mutation? Being about as viable as their parents, they stood a good chance of surviving. As long as enough viable members of a population survive to reproduce, you should not see a species "breaking". And even if a deliterious mutation is carried by a viable member and passed on, when it does try to express itself that individual would wind up with the ones who don't make it.

I can't tell you how much open-mindedness I've had to muster as a Christian reading and studying science.

I would imagine that if you had not been taught that science was somehow in opposition to your religion, then you would have had no need to muster open-mindedness in order to read and study science. Now, who would have taught you that and why?

Of course I admit dogmatic faith since I can't prove that God exists 'scientifically'.

Nobody can either prove or disprove God, scientifically or in any other way. Douglas Adams' babblefish notwithstanding.

And yet, "creation science" has done the impossible: it has disproven God. How? Very simply by creating a way to test for God, though you first have to accept their premises based on their contrary-to-fact claims that basically boil down to "if the physical world is as we find it, then God does not exist." And, of course, the world is indeed as we find it. And as a result, "creation science" has caused many of its believers to leave the faith. Several "evolutionist" members here used to be young-earth creationists. In the schools, "creation science" "public school" materials urge the students to decide between their "unnamed Creator" and "atheistic evolution", which has caused some students to choose atheism (this has been documented in the elementary grades). Those, along with it keeping non-believers from ever being able to give Christianity any serious thought, makes "creation science" one of the leading contributors to the growth and spread of atheism.


You need to learn basic rigour in English and math
Most of the time, we share very little. What creationists call science and what evolutionists call science are often very different. For example, you confuse evolution and abiogenesis. Scientists don't do that. Creationists do. We just view science from very different places. It seems to me that creationists see science as a competing theology while scientists view science as a tool for figuring out how reality works. That is why you insist that there is religious faith as part of science. You project your own religious beliefs onto science and assume we believe things based on faith. At least that has been my observation in discussions like these.

I can accept this. I think it is a correct assessment.

Actually, Alfred only provided the first line, which he then followed with his usual gibberish.

The main body was written by Taq in Message 18. It was its clarity that alerted me to the fact that it couldn't have been written by Alfred.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 20 by eclectic1993, posted 10-22-2012 8:17 PM eclectic1993 has taken no action

Posts: 5074
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.7

Message 128 of 171 (677606)
10-30-2012 8:55 PM
Reply to: Message 37 by eclectic1993
10-25-2012 1:10 AM

I remember my science book in the 8th grade. My friends and I would point to the various transitions of man from ape and try to figure out which one we looked liked the most. During the 70s our science books indoctrinated us into the theory of evolution. I wasn't a Christian and had no other perspective. So I sucked it up. We began with something like primordial ooze, life beginning, then apes, eventually man. That's how evolution was presented in American public schools. . . . Evolution itself has morphed in meaning.

No, the meaning of evolution has not morphed. At least not among scientists. Yes, their knowledge and understanding of evolution has continued to be developed and refined, but the basic idea of what evolution is and how it works had not changed. The problem you encountered is a fundamental problem in science education: primary and secondary grade textbooks are not written by scientists, but rather by professional textbook writers, and as a result the science in the science textbooks is commonly quite awful and filled with errors and misinformation.

In the 1980's and 1990's, William J. Bennetta was involved in reviewing textbooks as part of The Textbook League -- while Wikipedia does not have an article on The Textbook League itself, reference to them is made frequently in articles on the textbooks they had reviewed. They seem to have been inactive for over a decade now and their website appears to have archived though it still can be reached at its old URL, http://www.textbookleague.org/, which provides a link to their index at http://www.textbookleague.org/ttlindex.htm. They reviewed not only science textbooks, but also history (appropriate with the right-wing push for historical revision), health, and even driver's education. One publisher that seems to keep coming up as sub-standard is Glencoe.

I became aware of Bennetta in the late 1980's in connection to the California State Board of Education (CSBoE) choosing a new biology textbook for the public schools. Bennetta was able to get a board of scientists to review the textbooks under consideration. They found none of the candidates to be acceptable since they were filled with inaccuracies, misconceptions, and just plain wrong information. There was only one book that was a little less bad than the rest and the scientists drew up a long list of corrections that had to be made to that book before it could even begin to become acceptable. Bennetta submitted their findings to the CSBoE along with that list of necessary corrections. The CSBoE got the publisher of that book to make a few of the corrections and then approved that book without informing Bennetta, basically going behind the scientists' backs to provide the students of California with a substandard biology textbook filled with misinformation and misconceptions.

So what you had gotten in your school books were what the professional textbook writer misunderstood evolution to be, not what scientists knew it to be. And the situation was undoubtedly made worse by that profession's history with evolution and with decades of appeasing the anti-evolution movement.

My church (UU) had informal "early bird" meetings before Sunday services in which a member or guest would offer an informal presentation on a topic of interest. At http://cre-ev.dwise1.net/EarlyBird.html, I've posted the hand-out to my presentation on "creation science" given around 2000. I refer you to it for the history of evolutionary thought and of the anti-evolution movement in the USA and so that I can keep this little history lesson brief.

The anti-evolution movement grew in the post-WWI era and reached its peak in the early 1920's at which time four states passed their "monkey laws"; it was an ACLU attempt to challenge the Tennessee law, the Butler Act, which resulted in the famous "Scopes Trial", though it never made it to the US Supreme Court because a lower appeals court overturned Scopes' conviction on a legal technicality. As a result, those "monkey laws" remained in effect until Epperson vs Arkansas (1968), which prompted the anti-evolution movement to create their "creation science" legal deception.

Now, just because only four states had these "monkey laws" doesn't mean that the other 44 states weren't also affected. For four decades anti-evolution forces also kept pressure on state and local school boards, teachers, and textbook publishers to keep evolution out of the schools. This is that long history I referred to of textbook publishers and writers being careful to appease special-interest groups such as the anti-evolution movement. And it should be noted that anti-evolution movement continues to use those same tactics on the local level today.

As I recall about the "monkey laws", they not only prohibited the teaching of evolution in the public school classroom, but in some of them even the mere mention of the word would be a violation of the law. And the penalty for violating the law could include dismissal, loss of one's teaching credential, or even being barred for life from ever teaching again. I'm not sure about the other states' "monkey laws", but I do distinctly remember that Arkansas' "monkey law" required being barred for life from teaching for even uttering the word "evolution" to a class. That is what biology teacher Susan Epperson in Little Rock faced because of a sneak-path side-effect from the textbook publishers.

In 1957, Sputnik caught us by surprise. You keep calling yourself "old", but do you remember the Cold War when it was a daily part of our lives? I mean "Atomic Cafe" stuff like "duck and cover" and nuclear war response drills in the classroom (in one class, I was the curtain monitor and it was my duty to close the curtains so that the flying shards of glass from the shock wave hitting the windows wouldn't CuisineArt us all to death) and the weekly testing of the Civil Defense sirens. In that environment, Sputnik exposed us as being behind the Soviets in rocket science (rockets being a choice delivery system for strategic nuclear weapons) and galvanized us into action to close that gap. Part of that action was to push for better math and science education, which included improved textbooks, textbooks to be written by the scientists themselves.

And that did it! Biology is one of the sciences and so actual biologists got involved in writing the new textbooks, resulting in the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) textbooks. And since evolution is a cornerstone of biology, the BSCS textbooks were of course filled with evolution. And Epperson's school board bought the new BSCS textbooks and mandated their use in the biology classroom. And Susan Epperson found herself caught in the middle: if she used the new textbook then she would be fired and barred from the teaching profession for life, but if she disobeyed her boss by not using the new textbook then she would be fired anyway. So she sued the state over its "monkey law", the case worked its way up through the court system, and in 1968 the US Supreme Court struck down the Arkansas "monkey law" as unconstitutional (Epperson v Arkansas) and the other "monkey laws" quickly suffered the same fate ... forty years too late! And the anti-evolution movement, suddenly deprived of their primary tool and suddenly unable to propose any anti-evolution laws because of their real motivation (purely religious) now had to practice deception and pretend that they were actually opposing science for purely scientific reasons, and so they created "creation science" by superficially scrubbing overly overt religious wording in their materials (AKA "the game of 'Hide the Bible'"). Which was exposed to the court system as being purely religious by Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) (though actually early by a lower-court decision against the Arkansas "balanced treatment law", Act 590, in 1981 (McLean v. Arkansas)), so they superficially changed their materials again replacing "creation science" with "intelligent design" (ie, changing the game to "Hide the Creationism"), which was in turn exposed for what it really is in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005). And we're not yet sure what the anti-evolution movement's next move is. After the public humilation of the Scope's Trial, they pretty much slinked back into the shadows to work at the grass-roots level. They seem to be doing the same again, though it's hard to tell since fundamentalists have also become much more active politically since the 1980's.

So the bottom line here is that (unless yours was a rare exception) biologists didn't write your jr. & sr. high biology textbooks, but rather professional writers did, writers lacking sufficient understanding of the science they were writing about and with a history of not always writing the truth even when they did know better. Evolution didn't change much nor did scientists' understanding of it, outside of their learning more and improving their understanding of it through research. What you were learning in school did not reflect what scientists knew and thought, but rather you were learning misconceptions from the writers' misunderstanding or self-imposed censorship.

However, this also indicates that creationists' distorted misrepresentations of are very likely not of creationist manufacture, but rather are based on the misconceptions that they had been mis-taught in school. Though once they have been taught the truth, it is still their fault when they continue to use the misrepresentations. For example, a local creationist activist uses the gross misrepresentation of punctuated equilibria as "the hopeful monster" in which a lizard lays an egg and a bird hatches from it. In our email correspondence, I requested that he explain to me how he understood punctuated equilibria to work. He responded with a very good and accurate description, which demonstrated to me that he did understand it very well. But then he continued to present the gross misrepresentation that he knew full well was wrong, thus demonstrating that he had no scruples about deliberately lying to his public.

The hard evidence consisted of various bone fragments and chips. Of course all of the evidence at that time could be placed on top of your desk. Not very scientific.

That's an example of quote-mining. In a refutation of that quote, it was stated that rather the physical evidence at that time would completely fill in a baseball diamond. Now it is incumbent on both of us to provide our sources. Where did you hear that claim? And I would need to try to track down that refutation, which I admit will be quite difficult. Though if given your source's source, my task should be more doable.

During the 80's I noticed that the presentation of evolution began evolving. The first one of course is that ToE ignores the primordial ooze bit and begins with hypothetical 1st life form. ( I refer to that as protobug above...my word). Another change that happened was the differentiation on a widescale of microevolution and macroevolution.

Its important to understand that the debate changed. I must admit a lot of the older creationists slowly adjusted to the new rules for debate. Me too!

I think part of what you've seen develop is what non-scientists have been learning through scientists' responses to creationist claims and arguments. Involvement in this "debate" is quite an opportunity for learning. In fact, one professor (David Ruse, I think) said that he enjoys participating in the debates because the audience is actually interested in what he's saying, unlike the sea of bored faces in his class when he gives the same lectures.

So, abiogenesis moved outside the purview of evolution.

I don't think it was ever there. Evolution requires some form of reproduction or replication to work. Abiogenesis doesn't provide that vital element, as far as we know. Whatever abiogenesis does and produces doesn't even begin to involve evolution until a mechanism for reproduction/replication arises. It's kind of like iron mining and automobile production; even though the one provides the raw material for the other, they're still two entirely different subjects.

I understand science needs to be broken into smaller buckets as knowledge increases. Now it is no longer an issue for ToE. I suspect that Charlie Darwin might roll over in his grave to know that his "Origin of Species" has nothing to do with the Theory of Evolution.

Huh? What are you talking about there? Please explain.

Evolution itself has morphed in meaning. We were taught over 30 years ago that evolution was ooze to man. Now the term evolution can be applied to random genetic variations within a species.

No, to reiterate, what you were taught over 30 years ago was written by a professional writer whose own scientific knowledge and understanding was questionable at best. Ever since the Grand Synthesis of the 1920's and 1930's, scientists have correctly understood what evolution is and how it operates. The problem is that the scientists weren't allowed to share their knowledge with public school students until the 1960's (remember BSCS and Susan Epperson?) and even after that school boards and textbook publishers have continued to keep the scientists' knowledge away from the students.

We can talk about the Grand Synthesis later if you'd like.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 37 by eclectic1993, posted 10-25-2012 1:10 AM eclectic1993 has taken no action

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Message 140 of 171 (677684)
10-31-2012 3:37 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by eclectic1993
10-20-2012 11:47 PM

I'm curious in learning from thinking evolutionists who have looked at the strengths and weaknesses of their knowledge and beliefs.

What 'holes in your understanding of origins (bangers and toe) have you had to accept by faith? Just because you use faith to fill in the gaps doesn't mean it is bad science or not true. For now, given our clearest empirical understanding of origins, what do you accept on faith?

After quite some time of trying to figure out what kind of bizaare British fare "bangers and toe" could be (bangers are a type of sausage often served up at Scottish games), I finally realized you were refering to Big Bang Theory and Theory of Evolution. Well duh! Apparently it's easier to confuse an eclectic mind.

But "faith" is the wrong word, especially with the meaning that I feel you're applying here. Such faith is the acceptance of an idea or belief not only in the absence of any evidence but also in the absence of any way to gather such evidence or in any other way to test or verify that idea or belief. Furthermore, such faith is held in spite of any contradictory evidence.

Now, certainly there are those who do approach science like many mainstream religionists approach religion, by unquestioningly accepting what they hear without thinking about it and without even understanding any of it. Examples that come to mind include my father circa 1968 when the first electronic calculators had hit the market; he "knew" exactly how they worked: "They have chips." (half a decade later in electronics class, I learned how integrated circuits are constructed and how their component regions work). Or our shop's QC NCO whose understanding of electronics was that it's all "FM" ("fucking magic") and PFM ("pure FM"); he only knew how to work with electronics, but with no understanding of how it worked. At that same time, I was reading some classic Asimov, including Foundation in which the Foundation on Terminus started exporting technology to its barbaric neighbors as a religion operated by technician priests who only knew that to make a particular device work you had to say this particular prayer and press that particular button, just like that QC NCO. But then those are not the type of people you're talking about, since you did specify "thinking evolutionists".

Another meaning of "faith" involves trust, as in "acting in good faith". So it's not that we mindlessly accept what scientists tell us as a form of religious faith, but rather that we trust them to know what they're talking about. After all, no single individual can know every piece of the totality of human knowledge nor can do all the primary research necessary to discover all that knowledge. Rather, we need to work as a team, with parts of the task and the learning of the skills and knowledge needed for those parts of the task delegated to others. And in working as a team, we need to trust each other to do our own parts of the task with due diligence and honesty. An analogy would be any large human endeavor, like the operation of a naval taskforce. The taskforce commander directs the operation of the taskforce, but he can't do everything so he delegates to each ship's CO the part of the operation that that ship needs to perform. Similarly, each ship's CO cannot do everything and so must delegate down to his XO and to the department heads, who delegate down to the CPOs, who delegate down to the PO1s, and so on. Everybody depends on everybody else to do their job and to do it right; everybody needs to be able to trust his shipmates. The radioman (now changed from RM to IT) must trust the ET to keep the radio equipment working and the ET must trust the EMs and ENs to provide the power for his equipment and everybody must trust the LS (formerly SK) to provide them with the parts they need, plus everybody must trust the CSes to provide them with meals free of contagion, etc. Like a sailor having to trust his shipmates, we "thinking evolutionists" have to trust scientists.

But that trust is not blind, nor do we trust scientists or anybody further than we can throw them. Same as in the Navy (or any other branch of the services). Units and commands are constantly subjected to inspections to ensure that they are indeed doing their job right. All maintenance actions are documented and even those are subjected to inspection in order to prevent gun-decking (AKA "pencil whipping", the act of falsifying records to claim that an action had been performed when in fact it had not). Similarly, everything a scientist does and publishes is subject to close scrutiny and testing and verification. A lot of research goes into attempting to verify and to duplicate other scientists' published results. For example, when cold fusion was "discovered", physicists everywhere waited anxiously to get their hands on that publication; the instant it was made available, it was widely FAXed to other physicists. They then tried to duplicate the results and could not. Cold fusion was not detected and it returned to being an unsupported idea, even though that didn't keep it out of Hollywood (eg, The Saint).

The reason for all this testing and verification is quite simple: because every scientists' own research depends on the research of other scientists, they need to be as certain as possible that that other research is sound. That can only be achieved by testing and verifying that other research. Despite creationist claims of a scientific conspiracy, this fundamental need to test and verify each other's research makes such a conspiracy virtually impossible. Furthermore, one of the surest ways to achieve fame in science is to be able to show that an established idea is wrong, which makes it even less likely for a scientific conspiracy to survive for long.

Several years ago in another forum, discussion led to a comparison between science and "creation science", which led to me presenting those ideas in a table. Since I can't translate that table to dbCodes, I'll try to present it as a list:

Comparison of Science / Scientists and Creation Science / Creationists:

      What they are trying to do:
    • 1a. The scientist is either trying to make a new discovery or to test or find corroborating evidence for a previous discovery, hypothesis, or theory.
    • 1b. A creationist is normally not trying to make a new discovery, nor to test or find corroborating evidence for a previous claim. As rustyb puts so succinctly in his signature, "I already know the Truth." There's little use in trying to discover something new about the "Truth" that you already know a priori, nor is there any use in testing it (which would probably be sacrilegious anyway), nor to try to add to its Completeness. Rather, what a creationist is normally trying to do is to come up with convincing claims and arguments against anything that appears to contradict "the Truth" that they already know.

      How they measure success:
    • 2a. The success of the scientist's efforts depends directly on the quality of his research and on the validity of the studies that he bases his research on. Therefore, a scientist is motivated to verify his sources and to maintain high standards of scholarship.
    • 2b. It doesn't matter whether that creationist had done a proper job of researching the claim, or had even researched it at all (though it does help to make it more convincing if there's something in the bibliography, even if that source had never actually been looked at -- remember that NASA document?). It doesn't matter if the claim or argument is valid, just that it sounds convincing; after all, the creationist already "knows" that it must be true.

    • 3a. Since scientists depend so much on the validity and quality of the work of other scientists, the scientific community is motivated to police itself against shoddy or falacious research.
    • 3b. When you research some other creationist's claim, you're not depending on that claim being true or valid; you're only depending on that claim sounding convincing.

      How they handle dishonesty:
    • 4a. Thus, a scientist who is discovered to be performing substandard or dishonest work loses his credibility and his standing in the scientific community.
    • 4b. And if a creationist claim is discovered to be false or a creationist is discovered to practice questionable methods, none of that matters, just so long as they still sound convincing. A creationist is far more likely to face censure for theological lapses than for shoddy or questionable scholarship.

      Of course, if a creationist claim starts drawing too much negative publicity, then it is no longer convincing and must be dropped, as quietly as possible, until everybody has forgotten about it, whereupon it can be resurrected and received as a "new" claim.

      How they handle mistakes:
    • 5a. Mistakes and hoaxes will still happen in science, but the near-constant scrutiny and testing will uncover them.
    • 5b. Mistakes and hoaxes will also happen in creation science, but in this case there is no mechanism in place to uncover them; indeed, there is much resistence against uncovering creationist mistakes and hoaxes.

Now of course, there's another question to consider. I've only been discussing what we don't know but scientists do. What about what scientists also don't know? The actual gaps in our collective knowledge.

Here again, it's a question of trust, only this time it's trust in the system. If there is a natural cause and/or explanation, then the scientific method is the best way to find it. It is not unreasonable to believe that we should be able to eventually close that gap in our knowledge.

Now, a common Christian response to a gap in our knowledge is to consider that gap to be proof for God. This is known as "The God of the Gaps" and crops up often in creationist arguments as well as in fundamentalist proselytizing patter. It is also the basis for "intelligent design" ("We cannot explain this, so that means Goddidit.") This false theology breaks down when those gaps in our knowledge start to close, thus diminishing their "proof" for God. Thus, the "God of the Gaps" is a frightened impotent god huddling in the dark terrified of Knowledge, instead of what should be the image of the Christian God as Sovereign over Nature.

On this subject, you should find the writings of Dr. Allan H. Harvey (http://steamdoc.s5.com/writings.htm), physicist and practicing Christian, to be of interest, especially his essay, Science and Christian Apologetics.

Now, creationists and especially IDists criticize science for excluding the supernatural, but that is very necessary for the scientific method to work. Since there is no way for us to observe, measure, perceive, or in any way even ascertain whether the supernatural even exists at all, there is no way to use supernaturalistic premises in our hypotheses. This is why "goddidit" doesn't work. I even opened a topic here asking just exactly how science using the supernatural is supposed to work and nobody was able to answer that question. Supernaturalistic explanations in science actually answer nothing and put a stop to any further investigation.

Please read my signature for more thoughts on this, especially the quotes of Wakefield and of Holmes. In another article, Wakefield pointed out quite correctly that when a scientist sees a mystery, he wants to solve that mystery, but when a creationists sees that mystery as proof of God, then he wants it to remain a mystery. That is yet another reason why "goddidit" does not belong in science.

{When you search for God, y}ou can't go to the people who believe already. They've made up their minds and want to convince you of their own personal heresy.
("The Jehovah Contract", AKA "Der Jehova-Vertrag", by Viktor Koman, 1984)

Humans wrote the Bible; God wrote the world.
(from filk song "Word of God" by Dr. Catherine Faber, http://www.echoschildren.org/CDlyrics/WORDGOD.HTML)

Of course, if Dr. Mortimer's surmise should be correct and we are dealing with forces outside the ordinary laws of Nature, there is an end of our investigation. But we are bound to exhaust all other hypotheses before falling back upon this one.
(Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles)

Gentry's case depends upon his halos remaining a mystery. Once a naturalistic explanation is discovered, his claim of a supernatural origin is washed up. So he will not give aid or support to suggestions that might resolve the mystery. Science works toward an increase in knowledge; creationism depends upon a lack of it. Science promotes the open-ended search; creationism supports giving up and looking no further. It is clear which method Gentry advocates.
("Gentry's Tiny Mystery -- Unsupported by Geology" by J. Richard Wakefield, Creation/Evolution Issue XXII, Winter 1987-1988, pp 31-32)

It is a well-known fact that reality has a definite liberal bias.
Robert Colbert on NPR

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