Can "creation science" prove evolution?

Matt Walker of BBC Nature has written an interesting article on his Wonder Monkey blog Can religious teachings prove evolution to be true? He reports on how a mainstream scientist has used a technique from “creation science” to show that different types of dinosaurs evolved from one another, rather than being created separately.

Much of so-called “creation science” is bad science. This is not only because of the ways its advocates have often selected evidence and given improbable explanations of it, while ignoring good alternative explanations from reputable scientists. The fundamental philosophy of “creation science” is also unscientific, because its intention is to support a pre-existent theory rather than to determine the truth in a theory-neutral way. Now it is not just “creation science” which is guilty here, but others being guilty does not make one innocent.

Walker, however, reports on how one particular “creation science” technique, called “baraminology”, does seem to be a valid method, and has been used by biologist Phil Senter to examine variations among dinosaurs.

Walker explains (otherwise I know little about this subject) that creationists have used baraminology to conclude that all cats, including lions, tigers and domestic cats, have a common ancestor and so form one “kind” in the biblical sense (Genesis 1:11-12,21,24-25, 6:20 etc). However, this technique shows that there is insufficient evidence, in the form of “missing link” type fossils, of a common ancestor of dogs and cats, suggesting that dogs form a separate “kind”.

Bird-hipped dinosaurs Dr Senter has applied this technique to fossil dinosaurs and concluded that, even by the strict standards accepted by “creation scientists”, there is sufficient evidence that several apparently very different groups of dinosaurs have a common ancestor and form one “kind”.

The problem for creationists is the great diversity of dinosaurs within this “kind”. Their own technique has been used to provide evidence not just of the kind of micro-evolution or selective breeding which could have caused the observed diversity among cats, but also of large scale evolutionary changes from one species of dinosaur to another. A further difficulty for young earth creationists is that they would have to conclude that

in just a few thousand years, each “kind” of dinosaur begat the huge variation in fossils we see today.

It is reminiscent of evolution, just even faster paced.

Dr Senter points out that creationists’ room for manoeuvre, when citing the evidence, continues to diminish.

Walker concludes:

[Dr Senter’s] work, and my reporting of it, will hopefully take the discussion forward about what evidence is gathered and how, and what that evidence tells us.

So let the discussion evolve.

Will any creationists consider the idea that even some of their own evidence-gathering techniques may point to the veracity of evolution?

Indeed. Let the discussion evolve, or be created, here.

But it is sad that Walker also presents the issue, at the start of his article, as

Did God or evolution drive the emergence of life in all its resplendent variety?

That is the wrong question. Biologists may be able to prove that different species have evolved from common ancestors. But they cannot hope to decide by scientific arguments whether this evolutionary process was a product of blind chance or was designed by God to carry out his purposes.

0 thoughts on “Can "creation science" prove evolution?

  1. Pingback: Creation ‘Science’ Proves Evolution | Unsettled Christianity

  2. Have mine eyes gone into parallax? Has every term been inverted? Creation science proving the neo-Darwinian synthesis?

    Tell me again why I love Alan Sokal and his hoax!

    Why do I need to re-read this terminological tumbler several times and re-map my lexicon?

    I’m perversely dedicated to my terms, and I do love cross-indexing, and do love even the randomness of unstable memes, but … what?

    This is a bit like saying LeMaitre proved red shift! Call back the Hubble!

    Cheers,

    Jim

  3. Pingback: The Free Will Theorem: room for God to work in nature - Gentle Wisdom

  4. On science, I’m just a lay person, but I think my mind works reasonably well. Nothing working on nothing produces nothing, no matter what time frame you use. To believe otherwise is foolish. Operative word here is “believe”.

    Study the first 2 verses of Genesis with an open mind. Look up the Hebrew words translated there. There is no Biblical reason to contend that the earth itself is only 6,000 years old, or that Adam was the first intelligent inhabitant of this planet.

    When anyone gives me verses that show otherwise, I will consider changing my mind.

    I contend that there is no discrepancy between the Bible (properly understood) and actual science.

    Both scientific theory and careless theology are utter confusion.

  5. Q – “Did God or evolution drive the emergence of life in all its resplendent variety?”

    A – “That is the wrong question. That is the wrong question. Biologists may be able to prove that different species have evolved from common ancestors. But they cannot hope to decide by scientific arguments whether this evolutionary process was a product of blind chance or was designed by God to carry out his purposes” (Gentle Wisdom).

    Very nice. Thank you. I’ll sign up.

    I’d rather reorient this a little. For me. Pick your favorite flavor. We don’t have a TOE. May never. About as metaphysical as I get is, “a time for everything” (Ecc. 3) and with Jesus as the manifestation and full expression of, “a time for everything.” That’s Jesus – among other things (please do not read-in Jesus-denials here). Our knowledge (at least mine – short of a TOE) is scaffolded knowledge, broken incomplete, what we have is quite asymmetric, and profoundly qualified by levels of confidence which are tricky and variable. For me, that includes some – not all – of my knowledge of Jesus. I’m including intimate knowledge: daily prayer, daily listening, daily silent study of the scripture, daily personal communion. That too. Scaffolded.

    I know holistic thinkers think otherwise. Alas.

    But even if we discover a TOE, it may still turn out to be so vague and so ambiguous as to be useless. Not worthless. Useless. “Stuff necessarily exists.” Something like that. We don’t know. I don’t know.

    Back to scaffolded knowledge.

    The problem with “blind chance” is that that’s not the biological definition of chance at all! You probably know this. Scientists in their poetic moments write phrases like that even when they know better. In fact, there no such thing as chance (better randomness) as a single lexical entry in the sciences. Mathematicians have not yet “certified” a mathematical definition of randomness (last I looked!). And randomness in the natural sciences always depends on the baseline against which randomness is defined. Random versus (v.) / v. directed, v. constrained, v. rule-based, v. non-random, v. pseudo-random, v. distributed (e.g., central limit theorem).

    Even our definitions of randomness are – scaffolded.

    So even we discovered a TOE, it might still be a – long way – to The Way.

    Back to scaffolded knowledge.

    Perhaps a future-day Aquinas-prodigy will seize the brass ring and write a synthetic argument (combining all others) and thus situate such a synthetic argument into the matrix of our scaffolded knowledge. Or, such a synthetic argument might be a TOE. Or stop short of a TOE. Or be a stand-alone pending a TOE.

    The combinatorics are staggering.

    And profoundly unkind to our bounded rationality.

    In the meantime – I know – enough to know – Him – and what – He wants – me – to do and be.

    Scaffold-like.

    Cheers,

    Jim

  6. Peter Kirk … on a personal note to you … a good feel of gentleness in your wisdom here … a gentle feel … I’m envious and need to disciple myself a bit to the gentleness hereabouts … temper my Melville-esque passions (“from hell’s heart I spit at thee!”) .. lest I, Ahab, go down with the whale! … Peace and the Prince of Peace, to you Peter …

  7. Galveston, I agree.

    Jim, thanks for the endorsement. But I’m afraid I find your comments rather hard to follow. For me the only Theory of Everything is in Jesus Christ.

  8. Peter – “Theory of Everything is in Jesus Christ”

    Yes. My feeling is that’s true. The problem is that my personal knowledge of Jesus is not symmetric with all that Jesus knows (with Jesus’s knowledge), that is, my knowledge of Jesus is partial, fragmented, scaffolded, limited – “For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away” (1 Cor 13:9-10).

    As to my notes on randomness and the varieties of randomness, I do hope they were minimally coherent?

    More on why this is important …

    I agree with the usage “blind chance” more as a poetic phrase than as formally precise definition to replace “randomness” across all the natural sciences. No word-play there (feels pretty plain vanilla to me! – there certainly are scientific definitions of omniscience, but I’m not playing on them here, please know!). Cosmologists do come close to this usage too, that is, using the phrase blind chance, and scientists will use that phrase while knowing better when the same scientists return to work the next day at the bench.

    Now, here is a key – the workbench.

    At the workbench in the lab (to some extent working with humans and human nature), the differences between two different kinds of errors and the way we partition errors is a matter of life and death importance for the budget (including the budget of time we have to work with people – another matter). The two main partitions of errors are profoundly practical: 1) systematic and, 2) random. The systematic errors involve inaccuracies. Random errors involve imprecision. You sometimes see these usages confused or switched around. I know a professional surveyor who inverts them. The reason why this distinction and why the way we partition errors is life and death is because we can and we do waste time, emotional-heart energy, and we waste money if we belabor improving accuracy beyond what the precision of our work may afford!

    In prayer, I often feel corrected on one or the other or both of these kinds of errors (if I’m paying attention) in terms
    of proceeding with daily chores, my work with clients, the giving and receiving of unmerciful peer review from/with
    my peers, and especially, what love (agape) really means for me and my friends whose human natures are full of both
    kinds of errors! There is an agape dimension to this ramble. These distinctions have application to bible study too
    (but I won’t belabor that because too many people think this cognitive stuff kills the text). In daily life, many
    people know these differences intuitively. And in practical ways. I’m not saying everyone must learn all the technical details of these error partitions in order to live or to have faith. Your mileage may vary.

    Correspondingly, my witness and testimony to others about Jesus is likewise shot through with both categories of errors! This is what I mean above when I confess my partial knowledge. I am not in possession of the TOE! The TOE is in possession of me! I have a vivid and robust charismatic faith which torques me to trust that the Spirit of Jesus (Phil 1:19) can ameliorate, discipline, correct, mollify, or discount my errors in my testimony to others (and in their testimony to me) by entering intimately into others to show others what they need to know personally – “a time for everything.” This is not an excuse for my irresponsibility. But the Spirit of Jesus knows …. and knows how.

    But in all these ways – blind chance – is excellent poetry and I use it myself. It’s just not good praxis. It’s not representative of the way randomness is used in the real work in the sciences. And it can be misleading to use the phrase to audiences who mistake that phrase as truly scientific. The abuse of the phrase by religious people disheartens scientists who may just want to walk away from conversations with religious folk who are addicted to the caricature the phrase suggests. It can be plaguing. I’ll violate my own musings here before the day is through! I do it all the time.

    I hope this helps. And doesn’t confuse the issue.

    Cheers,

    Jim

  9. Jim, thank you for all this. Your musings on randomness and blind chance are interesting. The Free Will Theorem seems to prove that even quantum randomness is not truly random. I am suggesting that it is there that we see human free will and the hand of God in operation.

  10. From what I understand about the idea of evolution it was invented to try and explain the universe without needing God. It’s fundamentally opposed to the description of creation in the Bible. So why pay it any attention? If anyone wants to find out how life on this planet came about, it’s all there in Genesis.

  11. Nigel, I don’t think that is quite true historically. To simplify things, Darwin started out with some kind of Christian faith but felt compelled by the evidence to accept evolution, and then by church people to choose between it and his faith.

    Genesis tells us some things, but there are a lot more details which we can find out by examining the things which God has made. And the Bible encourages us to do that e.g. in Psalm 8:3 and Romans 1:20.

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