Myth: "Creation science" is science.
Fact: "Creation science" doesn't make predictions or offer verifiable evidence.
"Creation science" fails two important tests of science: it neither makes predictions nor makes claims that can be empirically verified. It simply makes proclamations by faith. Furthermore, creation scientists have yet to offer any scientific evidence that proves the case of creationism; their efforts are almost entirely spent critiquing apparent contradictions within evolution. Finally, the scientific credentials of the creation scientists are what we might charitably describe as suspicious.
In the last few decades, a movement called "creation science" has gained considerable influence among Christian fundamentalists. According to Henry Morris, director of the Institute for Creation Research, their studies require "no reliance upon biblical revelation," but utilize "only scientific data to support and expound the creation model." (1) Specifically, this model is the literal interpretation of Genesis as it happened 6,000 years ago. Discoveries in both geology and biology were already deconstructing this model by the mid-19th century, and by the turn of the 20th century most fundamentalists had simply conceded the scientific fight to evolutionists. In recent times, however, creationists have become determined to resurrect their scientific case, and fight against evolutionists on their own ground.
By presenting the creation model as science, creationists have re-raised the question of what "science" is. Philosophers of science have worked out a commonly accepted list of criteria (produced well outside the debate between creationists and evolutionists). To be accepted as science, a theory must have predictive value, must be coherent (or internally consistent), must be falsifiable (or verifiable), and must explain at least those phenomena explained by the current theory.
Creation science fails to meet these criteria in several ways. First, its claims are not falsifiable. (This doesn't mean a theory has to be false -- only that if it were false, there would be some way of verifying it. It's the same thing as being vulnerable without actually being hurt.) If you were to claim that life exists on a planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri, that would not qualify as science because there is no way of verifying it. It merely becomes an unsupported assertion. The claim that God made the earth is likewise unverifiable no one has yet found any way to test this claim. Evolution, on the other hand, has made countless claims that have the capacity to be proven false, if indeed they are.
Second, creationism has no predictive value. A theory must be able to make predictions which can then be tested for accuracy. Creation science makes "predictions" that already happened in the past or are unfalsifiable. Evolutionary theory passes this test because it has made accurate predictions concerning population densities, physiologies, chemistries, fossil find forecasts, and many other things.
Third, creation scientists have not come anywhere close to explaining all the phenomena of life to the extent that evolution has. It would be entirely fair, and no exaggeration whatsoever, to say that the difference between the two explanatory efforts is akin to the difference between a magazine article and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Here, creation scientists will probably protest. Although it's true that the Institute for Creation Research is a small organization, employing dozens of researchers who have written dozens of books, this is hardly the entire literary output of creationists. The book Anti-Evolution, by Tom McIver, is a bibliography of those Christian books touching upon any aspect of this debate, and he lists no less than 1,852 titles. (2) However, virtually none of these books makes a positive scientific description of creationism. There is almost no attempt to use the scientific data found in the world today to prove creationism. Instead, the overwhelming majority of these books forge a negative scientific critique on its opponent, evolution. When not doing that, they concern themselves with the theological or legal issues surrounding the debate. But when it comes to making a positive scientific case for their paradigm, the analogy of a magazine article vs. the Encyclopedia Britannica is entirely correct.
The near complete absence of a scientific theory of creationism has been an embarrassment to that movement ever since it started. Creation scientists claim to have scientific evidence -- tons and tons of it, according to their charming and affable spokesman, Duane Gish -- but they never produce it. The welcome page for talk.origins, the Internet discussion group where evolution and creation are hotly debated, says up front: "No one has ever presented a scientific theory of creation to us." (3) A study of 135,000 manuscripts submitted to 68 scientific journals over a 3-year period found that only 18 attempted to make a case for scientific creationism, and these were rejected because they were apparently written by laymen with a high-school level understanding of their subjects. (4) The simple fact is, creationists do not have any scientific evidence to support their hypothesis. If they had it, they would offer it.
So what is to be found in all the books and articles published by organizations like the Institute for Creation Research? Basically, attacks on evolutionary theory. The researchers seem stuck in a false dichotomy: they believe that if one aspect of evolution can be proven false, then it must all be false, and this automatically proves the case for creationism. An analogy best highlights the illogic of this approach. Imagine two historians debating an age-old controversy, whether or not Thomas Jefferson had an affair with Sally Hemings, one his slaves. If a crank scholar were so inclined, he could take this argument between two legitimate historians and offer this as "proof" that neither one of them knows what he's talking about, and that this constitutes "proof" that the American Revolution never occurred! Or, better yet, one historian might be proven clearly wrong, which offers even stronger "evidence" that the entire historical period is a complete fiction.
Nor are the "scientists" at the Institute for Creation Research what we might charitably call top-drawer. Most of them have degrees in fields other than what they are debating. And there seems to be an unusually high level of suspicious credentials at the IRC. Many are theologians who are passing themselves off as scientists. Some have claimed to have degrees which they actually did not have; some received their degrees from fraudulent diploma mills; others completely invented their educational backgrounds. (5)
Many books have been written debunking creation science, but two of the best are Abusing Science by Phillip Kitcher and The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins. These books address specific and frequent creationist arguments and show how they are fallacious. Another thorough deconstruction of creation science can be found in the talk.origins FAQs.
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1. Henry Morris, "Tenets for Creationism," Acts and Facts Series, No. 85, July 1980.
2. Tom McIver, Anti-Evolution (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1992).
3. Andy Peters, "Welcome to talk.origins!" http://earth.ics.uci.edu:8080/faqs/faq-welcome.html .
4. Eugenie Scott and Henry Cole, Quat. Rev. Biol. 60, (1985), p. 21.
5. A list of suspicious credentials at the Institute for Creation Research, along with other examples of blatant dishonesty, can be found at http://earth.ics.uci.edu:8080/origins/faqs-creationists.html .