In a section called Forum, in the January 2013 issue of Scientific American a one page article called “Creation, Evolution and Indisputable Facts,” written by a fifth grade schoolteacher, Jacob Tanenbaum, has an embarrassing number of factual, analytical and logical errors, misinformation and fallacious arguments.
Besides the exaltation of science as a savior, it also exhibits a disturbing trend among materialists, that being the vilification of Bible believing Christians and the belief that they are a threat to our very existence.
This post is an examination of that article in depth.
The article was titled “Creation, Evolution and Indisputable facts,” but apparently there were second thoughts about the title and the online version was renamed “A Science Teacher Draws the Line at Creation.” There are indisputable facts on both sides of the Creation/Evolution debate. The status of evolution in our education system is that it is an indisputable fact and they do not want it to be open to debate. There are, however those that do dispute it and they are not just Creationists. His article centers around three things;
- The Answers in Genesis (AiG) Creation Museum.
- His distorted and simplistic view of Biblical literalism.
- A poll that at best confirms a decades old trend.
The main question is, “A science teacher asks if scientists and biblical literalists can get along”
This is the subtitle of the article. This may have been a rhetorical question from his point of view. The answer that he didn’t consider is that they can indeed get along. This is evidenced by the fact that there are many scientists who are Biblical literalist’s.
Depending on the point he is making he begins changing the topics of his comparison. From science (general) to evolution (specific). From Biblical literalism (specific) to religion (general). He uses whatever term better suits the point he is trying to make. His goal is to demonstrate that Biblical literalism and science are not compatible, but he unwittingly sets up a straw man argument.
He tells us, “…this is not to say that religion and science are incompatible, many scientists believe in some kind of higher power.” and “…many religious people accept the idea of evolution.”
Straw man part 1: The brains. Smart people believe it, so should you.
He indirectly makes the claim that believing scientists can make religion and science compatible.
But because religion has a broad spectrum of beliefs this claim is really illogical. And it’s non-sequitur. Not all religions believe in a higher power. If this claim had any validity then scientists using science to verify a literal interpretation of the Bible should be fine. But he is disturbed by it.
Perhaps a higher power that hasn’t really done anything since before the Big Bang suits his claim better.
Of course, any kind of higher power is at odds with a materialistic worldview. His statement is an appeal to authority and is subjective.
Straw man part 2: The face. Your friends believe it, so should you.
Religious people accept evolution, like Hindus, for example? Once again, religion is a very broad term.
Biblical literalism has been replaced with religion. This serves to make his point, but it’s not relevant to the issue at hand.
Does he really think that if religious people accept evolution it adds to the credibility of evolution or religion in some way? Ask yourself, would it be a motivation for you to accept evolution because it’s ok with a religious person? Maybe if it was one of those scientists who believe in a higher power? This is of course another appeal to consensus and has nothing to do with the actual issue.
A lot of people are not aware that Creationists accept both science and evolution. What they do not believe about evolution is that it could have created the genetic material for all structures, organs and systems. Biology can soundly back up this view.
He implies that following the mainstream is how science can be verified. Speaking of his trip to the Creation Museum, “What disturbed me the most…was the theme, repeated from one exhibit to the next, that the differences between biblical literalists and mainstream scientists were minor.”
The term “mainstream” is a way of saying those who agree or are in lockstep with the consensus. But scientific truths are not decided by consensus unless there is a problem somewhere. Consensus is something to fill the gap when the science isn’t complete or doesn’t fit your interpretations. It enables you to hold majority opinion over legitimate dissenting viewpoints.
But does AiG really attempt to look mainstream? What he was seeing is that they successfully use the same data as evolutionists to come to different and verifiable conclusions. Another thing he was noticing is that they present their facts as if they were facts, just like evolutionists do. They make an appeal to the scientific method. They use the facts of science to support the facts of creation. He found it disturbing that Creationists can use the same tools as evolutionists and come to conclusions that support Creation. But he misinterpreted it as them trying to look mainstream.
Evolutionists, on the other hand, have the facts right in front of them that prove evolution is not possible, yet they keep on trying to prove that it’s right. They continue to present facts to students for years after science has falsified them. And they insist that evolution is the only answer.
He claims, “…a literal interpretation of Genesis cannot be reconciled with modern science.”
Think about this, at the turn of the 20th century modern science said we lived in an eternal and static universe. The Bible said that the universe had a beginning, and had expanded and would eventually grow old. All this was confirmed in less than a century. That is, in 1900 the Bible was wrong, but by the 1950’s it was right. And that is just one field of science. The fact is that Creationists can and do reconcile their views with science.
But what about Materialism’s view? Materialists do not like to face the fact that there are still many answers in the materialist’s worldview that have not been reconciled with science. Modern science cannot often be reconciled with modern science. Ironically, in the very same issue of Scientific American in which this article appeared, two back to back articles make opposite claims about the Swiss army knife notion of how the brain works. In the first, science has finally begin to recognize that the brain does not operate like a Swiss army knife,” but the next article uses the idea that the brain operates like a Swiss army knife to make a point. Are such metaphors even helpful or do they just appeal to ignorance?
When the science doesn’t fit the answers materialists expect, they simply keep looking for data or a new theory to support their answers. Materialism has reconciled its own viewpoints with science, in spite of what they claim, it’s still in the process. What materialists won’t admit is that there are scientific showstoppers in their own worldview. Materialists are not required to rescind there claims because the science does not confirm them. The fact is that decade by decade modern science is moving towards a more Biblical viewpoint. So just give it time. Biblical literalism is indeed being reconciled with science.
But the idea that Genesis cannot be reconciled with science is also a unbalanced comparison.
The events in Genesis cannot be tested by science. The only way to do that would be to recreate the event. Which, by the way, God says that he will. So scientists, be prepared!
He uses scientific storytelling, “Scientists tell us we live in a remote corner of a vast universe that existed billions of years before humans arrived.”
His choice of words is right on, “scientists tell us” rather than “science has verified.” Materialists use science to tell their own creation stories and they don’t require verification.
The once “factual” idea we live in a remote corner of the universe has been discarded for some time and it was never verified, it was held in the absence of evidence. He may not be aware of this, because his books and teachers told him it was true. It takes time for myths of this sort to fade away, because they were seemingly confirmed with science. Observations do not support his view. The universe looks generally the same in every direction, which does not suggest we are near any corner or edge. To say that the earth is in a remote area is also inaccurate and highly subjective. Remote in comparison to what? Is it because all the other planets with intelligent civilizations are clustered in some other part of the universe?
The size and relative age of the universe can and are being reconciled with Creationism ever since relativity was discovered. The evolutionary myth of humans appearing through evolution is not based on the science of biology, but on a selective view of the fossil record.
Additionally, according to evolutionists themselves, the “fact” of evolution is confirmed by consensus, not the scientific method.
He tells us, “the earth and universe could continue just fine without us.”
How does this answer the main question about scientists and biblical literalists getting along? This is not a conflict with Biblical literalism. My guess is that it stems from his fears about the future of the planet. He most probably believes science is the only way to save earth and that since he sees Creationists as opposed to science he also sees them as an obstacle to the future of the world. The irony is that it is precisely because of the use of science (through the lens of materialism) over the past few centuries that we have found ourselves so quickly in a place where the future of the earth is uncertain.
Contrary to what would Materialist’s expected, science has determined that we do exist in a very special place in the galaxy and solar system, and the conditions are so oddly favorable for our existence that scientists have come up with terms such as “the anthropic principle” and the “goldilocks zone” to identify this. This agrees with Biblical literalism which holds that the earth was created to be inhabited. Again, Biblical literalism is being confirmed by science.
He puts out a very general statement that is based a subjective interpretation, “…an ancient fossil record shows us that more than 99% of the species that once lived are now extinct.”
Actually the number of extinctions is not a problem for Biblical literalism, since the flood would have definitely been responsible for a great many extinctions. Yet, the great number of extinctions occurring presently is a serious problem. This rate does however fit with a literal interpretation of the Bible.
Both evolutionists and creationists believe geology records earth’s history. The materialist’s version of geology from Darwin’s day is quite different than that of today. And there are many anomalies with the fossil record from an evolutionary standpoint. As time goes on the theories and evidences from geology are slowly getting closer to the creationists viewpoint. Science is driving that convergence. The fossil record can be reconciled with a recent creation and the results of the Biblical flood. But both the materialists and creationists interpretations have problems. The certainty that the fossil record is ancient comes from a logical fallacy called card stacking, a.k.a. cherry picking. Data that doesn’t fit is discarded. The conclusion of an ancient rock strata does not work with all lines of scientific inquiry. The order of the fossils and layers are also a problem for evolutionary scenarios, and also the processes that formed the rock layers. As an example, theories about how the Grand Canyon was formed are still being debated. That may not be what you see in the textbooks however, because scientific debate on “scientific facts” is discouraged in our educational system. The textbooks he was educated with and his teachers presented an incorrect view as factual and he apparently hasn’t questioned it.
The idea that 99% of species are extinct is an estimate and most probably an exaggerated one. There are a number of factors that could reduce this number. For one, the scientific definition of species is malleable and has never been quite pinned down because it contains subjective elements. Meaning that scientist still debate classifications of living species and extinct ones. Secondly, fossils usually do not contain enough material to determine a specific species. In some cases they have found organisms that they once thought of as several species, that they now believe were actually a single species at different stages of development. Thirdly there is the problem of living fossils, organisms they once thought extinct that have been found alive. Not only does this provide evidence of the inaccuracy of using the fossil record as a timeline for evolution, but it skews the data on how many species are extinct. Fourthly they also include a buffer, estimate how many species they think they haven’t found yet, in that percentage to account for their ignorance.
He tells us our existence is something, “…we need to protect vigorously.”
This is a philosophical belief, its morality from materialism, not science. It also does not necessarily conflict with Biblical literalism. It’s also not a conclusion that you draw from science. Belief in evolution does not guarantee the protection of our existence and science cannot guarantee results that will protect our existence. History on the other shows that belief in evolution is more likely to lead to genocide, mass killings, eugenics and the invention of harmful devices, than it leads to a view that should be held by Biblical literalists, to love your neighbors and bless your enemies.
He is disturbed by the fact that, “…biblical literalists hold that we are God’s favorites.”
This is an odd statement. What has this to do with science? He must therefore know somehow that science must have determined that we are in fact not God’s favorites. Otherwise this is a very subjective and therefore irrelevant statement. But it disturbs him enough to make it a point. It hinges on how he perceives people who think that God loves them. Perhaps a reference to a study would have been helpful. Whether we are special to God or not is not a scientific issue. It apparently impacts his belief system in some way.
Being special to God also should make us value human life. Belief in evolution does not guarantee or even suggest this result.
He thinks that biblical literalists holding that, “…we live at the universes center…” is something science can object to.
The universe looks the same in all directions. This would be true if the earth was near its center. I don’t think science has determined whether the universe has a center, or where in fact, it might be if it had one. So to dispute that the earth was not at the center of the universe when it was created is not founded on science. It’s founded on the idea that the earth is not special, which is not a conclusion you can draw from science. It’s a belief from materialism. Once science has determined if and where the center is, then it can dispute the idea of whether the earth is at the center, until then it’s simply not evidence against Biblical literalism.
He misrepresents what the Bible says by telling his readers that the Bible says, “Earth’s resources are here for us to exploit.”
He uses negative terminology to misrepresent what the Bible says. Why does he feel the need to do that? The Bible does not tell us to exploit the Earth’s resources. More importantly (he may not have realized this) science doesn’t tell us we should or shouldn’t exploit the earth’s resources. His objection here is not based on science, but, once again, on his beliefs. This is not a conflict with Biblical literalism and science.
Then he reasons that because God promises to protect us and is going to destroy the world anyway he concludes that biblical literalism means, “we have little reason to safeguard our existence.”
His analysis is incorrect and grossly over simplistic. But he only had a single page for his arguments. His point is that if God is going to protect us and destroy everything else then why bother? This is a logical error. He uses the Biblical viewpoint as his data (which he doesn’t believe), but creates the consequences based on his own beliefs. This makes his conclusion seriously flawed.
But, safeguarding man’s existence is not a scientific issue. Species evolve, species become extinct.
On the evolutionary side, we have no more right to exist than anything else. Our hopes and dreams are arbitrary to science and evolution. The universe will eventually run out of energy and perhaps pass out of existence. Eventually, from the materialist’s viewpoint, we are doomed. Additionally, the materialist’s view of safeguarding our existence is based on the belief that man is the ultimate power, that science can be our savior, knowledge of science can change our hearts and that we have no recourse or appeal to God.
His view implies that Biblical literalism is actually a threat to our existence because there is no reason to safeguard it. In fact, Biblical literalism is not against safeguarding our existence. More importantly Biblical literalism is not responsible for creating the threats to our existence that exist today.
Then he demonstrates that he doesn’t recognize his worldview is no different than the one he opposes when, “Creationists begin with answers and work to prove those answers are right. This is antithetical to the scientific process”
He is referring to a statement made by AiG fairly often. While this may be true for the organization it is not true for Creationists as individuals. The organization is made up of various individuals that have all converged on the same answer. They didn’t start with the answer. The organization can start with the answers when presenting the case for Creationism, but it does not represent the process those answers were arrived at. Science is a factor in many people realizing the truth of the Bible.
But, whether you start with an answer or not doesn’t change the scientific method or process. It only changes what you will accept as a conclusion. An important question to ask is; do materialists work to prove that the answers they already believe are right? Absolutely. What happens when a materialist’s idea of what he should find is not verified or if it’s falsified? Do they accept what they find or do they try to find another way to the answer they already believe? There could be numerous examples here but just one will suffice. Materialists believe that science has not yet solved the problem of a natural origin of life because their answer is that life arose naturally and they will accept no other.
To compound this, materialists have a philosophical lockbox call “methodological naturalism.” Each question asked must have a materialistic answer or it’s not a valid question or valuable answer. Hence it causes a confirmation bias because only those questions that produce materialistic answers are counted as solved. Therefore science seems to always confirm materialism.
The fact is that we all begin with answers. We begin with whatever answers our culture provides us, which means, we all have choices to make. How many people examine the choices or do they just confirm them by believing what they’ve been told? In our public education system the children are taught the conclusions of materialism, and trained not to question those conclusions. They are sheltered from ideas that might cause them to examine those answers. Which results in people who can’t tell the difference between science and the beliefs of materialism. This is very obvious in his article.
He mistakes the struggle to understand and the analysis of data as a verification of evolution, “scientists struggled to explain what they saw in the natural world and in the fossil record. The theory of evolution was the product of that analysis. That is how science works.”
But that is not really what happened with evolution. Yes, scientists struggled to explain what they saw. Yes, evolution is the result of analysis. Many bad ideas are the results of analysis. The problem with evolution is that the answers came before the analysis was completed, along all major lines of scientific inquiry. They continually believed that the data they had was enough to prove the theory, because their goal was a materialistic answer. The answer of evolution was believed well before Darwin came along. The theory of evolution was just the result of analysis and the struggle was not just trying to explain what they saw, but to verify their belief system.
They were almost always looking for data to prove their theory rather than basing the theory on the data. They may have started with questions, but they came to answers before they finished the analysis. Because those are the answers they wanted. The analysis was always committed to confirming the answers. Today major scientific analysis into the evolutionary process is still searching to confirm the answers they had 150 years ago. But instead of using observation and experimentation they tell science stories and confirm the stories with consensus.
Interestingly, as an example he chose the Neanderthals. When they were discovered they were thought to be an ancestor of humans, later a sub species and now (within the last decade) they are being considered as fully human. But not all the textbooks have caught up to this. He is still using one of them. They are still being presented as an answer, evidence of an offshoot of human anatomical evolution. So the product of analysis was wrong for many years and now seems to be settling in an area that agrees with what Biblical literalism would expect.
A major problem with evolution is that it’s a biological process that still gets its main evidence from a study of rocks. They expected that an analysis of biology would confirm this, and it does, but only if you cherry pick the data.
The scientists were struggling with data from the rocks and extrapolating biological conclusions that predated the science by decades. Because evolution can be said to be the product of analysis of the fossil record doesn’t make it correct. For a time, mainly because of ignorance about the nature of biology and geology, evolution seemed like the best answer to a great many people. Questioning it quickly became anathema. In fact, evolution became the answer almost immediately after Darwin introduced his ideas, because materialists already believed it. They already had their answer. But this was nearly a century before they started to understand the complexities of the mechanism. Evolutionists now cherry pick and manipulate the biological and fossil data to support the materialist’s origins story. It is a product of analysis, but not a correct one. This is why they still struggle to explain why the natural world looks designed when their answer is that it evolved. They claim that design is an illusion and that if you disagree you’re deluded. But they still use designed things like cars and planes and electrical appliances. (see below) They maintain that design is an illusion not because of what they observe, but because of what they believe.
Then he again switches the specificity of his argument, from specific, evolution and creation, to general, science. He implies that if you reject evolution you have forgotten science, “The danger is that 40 percent of the American electorate seems to have forgotten what science is.”
He is probably referring to a recent poll that showed a creationist viewpoint was held by about 40% of Americans. It seems like a somewhat inflated number to me, but may represent an increase in that viewpoint over recent years. The polls over the past several decades do demonstrate that more than 80% of the population rejects the purely materialistic story of evolution. And as science advances, evolution is facing more and more challenges. He maintains that it’s because people “forget” what science is. That is ridiculous.
Once again, there are practicing scientists that don’t accept evolution. Where do scientists fit in to his group of those who have forgotten science? Is this opinion rational? According to him you must accept evolution or you have forgotten what science is. Perhaps he us unaware that the founders of most branches of science and fields of scientific study did science without believing in evolution.
If we forget history we are doomed to repeat it, if we forget science we don’t repeat it.
He calls this number dangerous. His perception of danger doesn’t come from science, but from his beliefs.
But interestingly he quickly reveals his concern is not about science but about the fate of materialism, “Considering that our nation put a man on the moon and invented the airplane and the internet, this development is extraordinary.”
It’s only extraordinary because his view of science is limited by his beliefs. He may be unaware that there were and are biblical literalists in all the fields that created those things and it doesn’t make them unable to do the science. How would the science that enabled us to do those things be affected by the belief in evolution or creation? In comparison, the origin of flight in any organism cannot be observed or tested using the same methods that were used to invent and improve airplanes. Airplanes, the space program and the internet don’t require imagination to see them work or consensus to prove they work.
He continues to demonstrate that he doesn’t understand the difference between the science that makes things work in the real world and the thought processes that make evolution seem like a fact.
He says of people who do not accept evolution, “…they do not reject science wholesale, they cherry pick it.” He says they are fine with electricity, cars, airplanes and plumbing, but “…They reject science only if it conflicts their beliefs or asks them to change their way of life.”
His view is that evolution is part of the scientific package. If you don’t accept it, it must be because of your beliefs. But once again he misidentifies materialism as science. Science cannot ask anyone to change their way of life. It is materialism that makes moral demands on people, using science to support those demands.
He also fails to recognize that the science that enables us to use electricity, cars and planes does not confirm evolution. He doesn’t realize that many evolutionists reject science. If the results of science conflict with a materialistic scientist’s beliefs those results are also rejected with the hope that something that works will eventually be found.
He also mistakenly compares the results of engineering with evidence for evolution. There is a vast difference in the science that produces the answers in these two areas. For example, how do you test your theories on airplane flight? You build an airplane and try to make it fly. If it doesn’t work you go back to the drawing board. That’s how science works. It’s an evolution of ideas through intelligent design. How do you test theories about the origins of winged flight in mammals? You start by imagining mice jumping out of trees. When you think you have a good theory, you ask other people to agree with you and attempt to gain the majority. If no one who is allowed to object objects then it becomes a fact. Airplane flight is confirmed by the plane in the sky. Evolution is confirmed by the consensus of scientists all imagining the same thing.
Do materialists find ways to reject the conclusions of science when it doesn’t confirm their beliefs? Yes, they do it in subtle ways. Here are just a few of many examples. One method is to just go on searching, this is not afforded to Creationists; they must accept the conclusions of consensus now. Materialists don’t accept the conclusions of science on the origins of life. Because they believe that life must have had a natural origin, not only do they refuse to accept what science demonstrates (cherry picking) but many of them expect life has arisen through these unknown processes all over the universe. Another way they reject the conclusions of science is that they just quietly ignore the problem, again cherry picking. The origin of butterflies is an example. Natural selection does not work in creating a butterfly because the metamorphosis stages could not be selected, so they set it aside and essentially ignore it. Another way they avoid the conclusions of science is they create a device to get around it. One of the falsifications of evolution is said to be out of place fossils, but when they find out of place fossils one method they use is to create imaginary lineages (ghost lineages) to make the fossil evidence fit. So he doesn’t recognize that in order to believe in evolution and materialism you have to reject science.
Then he uses some scare tactics, “When Americans selectively reject science, it handicaps us as a nation, in a knowledge based global economy.”
Science does not say one way or another if our success in a global economy should be a goal. How much impact does belief in evolution have on a nation’s economy? We know that biblical literalists use and design things with practical science, so what is his real reason for seeing them as a threat to our economy. Also, from an evolutionary standpoint other nations are all run by the same species, so what’s the difference if one nation or another is successful? His point here is based on his philosophical belief system, not science.
How does he explain the fact that America has been a leader in science for a very long time, and during that time the creationist viewpoint has been held by individuals in all areas of science? America is still a leader in many areas of science. If America is indeed losing ground in science how does he conclude that biblical literalism is a major force in the downward trend? This is a bias based on his materialistic philosophy and not science.
He does some more materialistic moralizing and gives science powers and abilities that it does not have, “We need to be open when scientific discoveries tell us our actions have consequences, raise doubts about our future and ask us to change.”
It’s interesting that he frames scientific discoveries in this way, causing it to become God-like, calling to us, asking us to follow a certain course. Scientists and teachers presumably being the ones who interpret the will of science. God also tells us our actions have consequences, asks us to think about our future, and asks us to change.
It’s only after a scientific discovery is filtered through a philosophical belief that it “tells us” anything that should motivate our actions. Interpretations of science from the evolutionary side have been responsible for millions upon millions of deaths since its introduction to the world, from death camps, to mass killings, to eugenics. But remember, science doesn’t kill people, people kill people with science. Creationist ideas on the other hand do not promote these uses of science. Science can actually help save or destroy; it’s the philosophy behind it that creates the consequences.
But since he doesn’t recognize that his viewpoint is more belief than science he states confidently, “So I’ll keep on teaching science, not belief.”
There is every evidence in his short article that he is unaware that he is heavily influenced by his beliefs. The results of science are filtered through his belief system. If this is an indication of what he has been teaching then he cannot “keep on” teaching science because it’s not something he has done in the past. If he teaches the standard materialist origins story in his science classroom he is indeed teaching belief. The evidence of this is that if he were to look through old science textbooks, some from even a decade ago they would contain factual errors confirmed by belief and not science. When new science disagrees with old science, one of the versions was based on belief. The desire to have the answers now is what drives scientists to declare an answer before the data is complete.
Finally he increases the pressure on the scare tactics, and basically states that if we don’t believe in evolution we could destroy our country or doom us to extinction. “…if students do not understand how science works, we can destroy our country’s future or even threaten our existence on this old Earth.”
I wonder how many people think that only religious fanatics use scare tactics such as this to promote their worldview. These are not fears that stem from an understanding of science, but fears from a materialistic, humanistic and nationalistic worldview. His beliefs. What kind of conclusion is he trying to draw with this statement? He is equating doom for our nation and a possible end of our existence on earth with biblical literalism and a denial of evolution. This is clear because he thinks that scientists who believe in a higher power are ok as long as they accept evolution; he also thinks religious people who believe evolution are fine. He also realizes that biblical literalists accept all of the practical conclusions of science. Can accepting evolution really be the key to success and survival? There is more going on here than he is willing to admit.
The reality is that science and how it works has no preference for good or bad, rich or poor, dead or alive. The method is the same. The truth or falsehood of evolution doesn’t change this. The Biblical worldview however does have a reason for seeing people succeed, to protect life, to use the earth’s resources wisely, to love and help others and uses science to help people. Evolution on the other hand provides no impetus to do any of these things.
There is at least there is one indisputable fact that we can learn from this. Many Materialists can’t tell the difference between science and their faith in Materialism.