How Good Are Those Young-Earth Arguments?
A Close Look at Dr. Hovind's List of Young-Earth Arguments and Other Claims
by Dave E. Matson
Copyright © 1994-2002
Dr. Hovind: Evolution is a religion, not part of science.
Evolution does not postulate a creator or involve itself in supernatural concepts. Though it may help explain the existence of moral behavior, it offers no guide to moral living. It has neither a temple of worship nor a priesthood. It contains no sacred dogma which may not be challenged by new evidence. It is open to all who have the intellectual qualifications. Dr. Hovind, how in the world do you turn it into a religion?
"Scientific creationism," on the other hand, has been proven in a court of law to be nothing more than a thinly veiled religion. U.S. District Court Judge William R. Overton in 1982 ruled unconstitutional an Arkansas law which tried to sneak Genesis into the schools under the guise of science. Let me quote Ronald Ecker to sum up a few of Judge Overton's points.
In finding for the plaintiffs, Overton, drawing heavily from the experts' courtroom testimony, gave no quarter to the creationist defense. "Evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology," he wrote, and any student deprived of instruction "as to the prevailing scientific thought" on such topics as the age of the earth, geology, and relationships among living things "will be deprived of a significant part of science education." Science, Overton said, is defined as that which is "accepted by the scientific community"; science is "what scientists do," and "creation science" as defined in Act 590 "is simply not science." ... The creationists' two-model approach is "a contrived dualism which has no scientific factual basis or legitimate educational purpose."
(Ecker, 1990, pp.137-138)
Evolution meets all the criteria of a good science; scientific creationism fails as science. In the U. S. Supreme Court case of Edwards v. Aguillard a remarkable friend-of-court brief was submitted by 72 Nobel laureates, seventeen state academies of science, and seven other scientific organizations which exposed "scientific creationism" as a fraud. I know of no other document of belief supported by so many Nobel prizewinners!
Let's compare real science to "scientific" creationism.
Real scientists, as did Darwin, usually spend some time pointing out the possible weaknesses they see in their theories. This is done not only to highlight areas which need further study but in order to strike a balanced presentation that will not mislead the reader. Truth is the overriding goal. Creationists usually minimize or ignore the weaknesses in their theories unless the cat is out of the bag. Inserting their views into the public educational system is usually their goal.
Real scientists publish scientific literature, which can be very unorthodox, in refereed journals. This serves as a clearing house for ideas as well as a common testing ground.
Creationists, who apparently have nothing worth saying to the scientific community, invariably write for the layman. They have found it necessary to publish their ideas in special "creationist journals" because none of the hundreds of legitimate scientific journals find their work acceptable. Creationist journals mostly serve as a rallying point for the faithful, rarely as a means for criticizing their fellow believers.
Real scientists are quick to criticize their colleagues if they suspect an error. (Remember the cold fusion flap?) Catching errors improves their status in the scientific community even as it improves the level of science.
Creationists have a fortress mentality, and they are quick to circle their wagons. To admit error is considered bad form among creationists, and most of them must literally be smoked out before admitting any errors whatsoever. With no effective mechanism for weeding out error, errors are passed down like the family jewels. Today, one can buy many creationist books containing errors that should have been eliminated 20-30 years ago!
Real scientists are quick to test promising new ideas (however unorthodox) and those which don't pan out quickly disappear from the literature. Fame and fortune await any scientist who successfully advances a novel idea.
Creationists are largely concerned with protecting their dogma, not advancing new ideas that might question that dogma. Rejection is the likely lot of any creationist who questions the central dogma. Creationist arguments having serious errors, including arguments based solely on obsolete data, circulate indefinitely in the creationist literature.
Real scientists are often involved in meaningful laboratory and field work. They are looking for new data which might clarify, overturn, or confirm their views.
Creationists spend most of their time combing through books and technical journals for quotes with which to snipe at evolution, geology, astronomy, and other areas of science which challenge their central dogma. When they're not doing that, they can usually be found out on the stump drumming up support among the uneducated public.
Real scientists base their theories on the available evidence. They are not immune to the effects of prejudice, but they all understand that the facts dictate the conclusion. Conclusions are subservient to the data; data are not subservient to conclusions.
Creationists take their science straight from the Bible. Many creationist leaders have publicly stated, often in print, that any evidence at variance with their literal interpretation of the Bible should be rejected out of hand. Their a priori conclusions dictate what data are acceptable. That's not science!
No self-respecting scientist would ever think of signing an oath of allegiance to Darwinism as a condition for employment. Evidence is "king" in good science, and there is no room for competing loyalties.
Many creationist societies actually require a "loyalty oath," which is tantamount to an admission that their minds are closed! Such minds are slammed shut and rusted tight!
All good scientists admit that they might be wrong, that absolute certainty is not part of science. Scientists long ago recognized that our knowledge of the physical world is largely a product of inductive reasoning. In principle, inductive reasoning can yield a high degree of confidence, but it can never confer 100% certainty. The uncertainty of inductive reasoning follows from the fact that any set of observations can be explained, in principle, by an infinite number of hypotheses! One can never rule them all out no matter how much data one has. Thus, the proper scientific attitude includes a touch of humility no matter how great one's success.
Except for trivial details, creationists cannot conceive of the possibility that they are in error as that would take down their concept of biblical inerrancy. Since "scientific" creationism is really a branch of Bible apologetics, there is no room for compromise. "Scientific" creationism is there to defend the faith, not to probe the unknown.
Real scientists are often found in the great universities, where real science is done and advanced. None of those institutions take creationism seriously.
Creationists are usually associated with creationist societies. Those few "universities" where creationism is featured have either failed to get full accreditation or have done so only through the pulling of political strings. What discoveries have they made? Name their Nobel laureates!
Scientists build upon previous knowledge accumulated over the years, and only rarely participate in great, revolutionary breakthroughs.
Creationists fancy that they are in the process of overthrowing modern biology, geology, astronomy, anthropology, linguistics, paleontology, archaeology, oceanography, cosmology, physics, and numerous other branches of science. Some creationists (the flat-earth societies) would add the "grease-ball" theory of round-earth geography to that list. Anything that doesn't conform to their interpretation of the Bible is suspect and in need of revision.