Why aren't creationism and natural science on the same intellectual level?



In the infamous creation museum a strategically very shrewd exhibit, where a scientist and a biblical scholar both study the same fossils, is being presented:

enter image description here

The sign says

“different scientists can reach very different conclusions, depending on their starting assumptions.”

The argument obviously is that both interpretations are on the same intellectual level and are therefore equally valid.

Why is this wrong? My gut feeling is that

  1. you use far more assumptions when starting from the position that the Bible is true (but is having more assumptions problematic in itself?),
  2. you are running into all kinds of problems when you state that "anything goes" (Stephen Law calls this "going nuclear") - effectively it states that no real knowledge whatsoever is possible.

I think key in this debate is the demarcation problem but my question is more practical: What is the best rebuttal against (the philosophical mindset of) this exhibit?


Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 931

The exhibit`s argument about reaching different conclusions is perfectly true. Your problem is that you don't want them to be equal. Fortunately, you reveal your assumptions in your question: that the Biblical scholar has to make a lot of assumptions. Is that true? Best start there. – TheDoctor – 2019-11-21T18:56:01.693

29Do creationists actually dig up fossils, do experiments, examine DNA sequences, etc.? Our do they just look up the answers in The Book? – Dan Christensen – 2015-02-02T19:02:15.450

12@DanChristensen: In a way I hope that they don't dig up fossils because they are not qualified to do that and would destroy them by accident (or even consciously, who knows...) – vonjd – 2015-02-02T19:05:13.720

3It's not clear to me what is meant by them being at "different levels". A definition of those levels would be required to answer whether they are at different levels. Also, the sign seems true, so I wouldn't offer any rebuttal. It's too vague, too, so ultimately useless as a defense of anything. Different scientists indeed reach different conclusions all the time. – Smig – 2015-02-02T19:10:24.217

@Smig: "the same level": I mean that it is justified to assume that one cannot decide which is true because both could be depending on where you started from. It is not about the verbatim wording of the sign but what is implied by the exhibit: That you basically arrive at the point where you started from. – vonjd – 2015-02-02T19:19:17.317

2Is it right to assume that God exists? Is it right to assume that God doesn't exist? – James Khoury – 2015-02-02T23:17:01.787

3Not a complete answer, so a comment, but yes, having more assumptions is problematic in itself. A scientific approach is expected to put work into challenging every significant assumption made, try to falsify it, and try to fit the available evidence without using that assumption. If an assumption can be removed while still fitting the evidence, then it should be removed, it's not an arbitrary or neutral choice to still keep assuming it if it's not justified. – Peteris – 2015-02-03T03:47:36.080

1@JamesKhoury In science, it is wrong to assume the existence of gods, demons or fairies. – Dan Christensen – 2015-02-03T04:47:44.560

@Peteris: Thank you - your comment seems so interesting in itself that I would encourage you to make an answer out of it :-) – vonjd – 2015-02-03T11:13:11.367

I find it laughable how most of the answers talk about what "science" is and they give their altruistic definition. But it doesn't match the real world at all. Real world science starts with not only assumptions but "desired results" also. Scientists need funding, so they have to solicit clients. Clients don't fund for the "science" but to prove a product is harmful or beneficial or even does anything at all. Scientists who don't report the results their client wants end up working at McDonald's. There is very little "real" science in science nowadays and probably always has been that way. – Dunk – 2015-02-03T21:11:47.353

The business about "different assumptions" is a bit of a red herring as well. Assuming only the existence of a Supreme Being (or even assuming specifically that God exists) is not nearly sufficient to lead a scientifically minded person to conclude Creationism. For that you have to assume a whole lot more. – RBarryYoung – 2015-02-03T22:47:45.220

@Dunk I don't think your comment is completely representative of reality, but it does hint on it. I believe this Chesterton inspired book is closer: "Science is a tool or a toy. When it is a tool, the real issue is, whose tool is it and what is it being used for? In our complicated, lop-sided society, science is an expensive tool and is funded by big government and big nusiness. The only time that the common man can use science as a tool or a toy is when he does so as a consumer. Hudge and Gudge are in cahoots with Sludge." – 10479 – 2015-02-03T23:05:27.563

pg127 – 10479 – 2015-02-03T23:05:44.623

@fredsbend:I agree, it is not that EVERY scientific study is tainted. But it is a case that so many are tainted that one must question the validity of most all studies. All I was really trying to do is point out that even science can't be relied upon to be honest and/or worthy of being the source of information to prove a point because far too often seemingly credible scientific studies have been set up (either consciously or unconsciously) with a goal of proving a desired result. – Dunk – 2015-02-03T23:20:09.593

16"In a way I hope that they don't dig up fossils because they are not qualified to do that" Shouldn't you actually be basing that assessment based on, I don't know, their actual qualifications, and not their religious beliefs? Or are you so intolerant as to say that no school should train and issue a degree in archaeological excavation to a person who demonstrates competence, because of that person's religious views? (In which case they are unqualified only because you and those who agree with you denied them the training) – Ben Voigt – 2015-02-04T00:54:28.563

3@BenVoigt: You got me, I am indeed very intolerant towards extreme religious views. Nothing good comes out of them. – vonjd – 2015-02-04T08:14:38.643

@BenVoigt: ... and yes, let me be not PC here: I would in general question any qualification of people seriously holding such views in our times, with all the evidence available. They are either indoctrinated, dim or malevolent (or all of the above). Fossils are too precious to be tampered with by persons that are at least intellectually dubious. Or would you give a flat-earther the task of doing the ballistic calculations for the coming Mars expedition? I wouldn't want to be on that rocket... – vonjd – 2015-02-04T08:36:34.473

There is far more evidence (cave paintings, carvings, legends, writings, etc., from ancient cultures around the world) for "ancient astronauts" manipulating life on Earth than the evidence (a few stories, from a small middle-east tribe) for divine Christian creation. Does that then place "ancient astronauts" on a far higher level than divine Christian creation? The single underlying assumption is the same in both cases: "The stories are true." – user2338816 – 2015-02-04T08:43:57.870

1@vonjd nice strawman. Our are you unaware that while some flat earthers may have also been Christian, that belief finds no support in any JudeoChristian text? You might as well disregard all American biologists because decades ago some espoused the idea that Africans weren't members of the same human species. – Ben Voigt – 2015-02-04T15:58:07.610

What if the basic life elements were created and introduced to our planet by some external force and then left to evolve through the processes of natural selection? Would both positions then be true? Creationism doesn't have to agree with the bible (does it?), which seems to be a common opinion held throughout this page. – Octopus – 2015-02-04T17:07:15.380

@Dunk Yes, the results of a lone study should not be taken as fact, but when multiple studies from many sources reach the same conclusions we can start to find some assurance in the conclusions. The quote is meant to show that science progresses only as long as there is an obvious purpose for its expected results, not that science (as if it's some kind of thing or person and not an idea) cannot be trusted. – 10479 – 2015-02-04T18:13:42.513

@fredsbend:If all studies come to the same conclusion then I guess there is some confidence. But what about when studies come to differing conclusions? Then we are once again back into the picking and choosing only the studies that support your desired conclusion and dismissing the other studies as being invalid for whatever reason, which there will always be a reason to question the results even for the studies that you agree with. It really is close to impossible to come up with a study that is bullet proof. – Dunk – 2015-02-04T18:18:32.933

1@Dunk That's why there's meta analysis. That discipline takes a large volume of studies with contrasting conclusions, normalizes the data, then creates a study about the studies. These kinds of studies show if there is a strong or weak tendency toward one conclusion or the other. – 10479 – 2015-02-04T18:30:25.343

What "starting assumptions" of scientists is it that creationists take issue with in this case? The idea that empiricism is valid? The idea that mathematics works? – Jack M – 2015-02-04T21:15:10.047

1@BenVoigt. How is the Christianity of any belief system in any way relevant? – TRiG – 2015-02-05T11:01:01.993


Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.

– stoicfury – 2015-02-06T03:56:19.420



The slogan

different scientists can reach very different conclusions, depending on their starting assumptions.

is misleading in the context of the "debate" between evolution and creationism.

Scientists aim to explain how the world works. If two scientists disagree about some issue, then at least one of them is wrong. That is, at least one of them has an idea that does not correspond to how the world works. That doesn't imply they are both equally right.

How would they sort out their differences? Scientific knowledge is created by noticing problems with current knowledge, proposing solutions to the problems, and criticising those proposals until only one is left and it has no outstanding criticisms. One way of criticising a proposal is to do an experiment, but it's not the only way. If the theory doesn't solve any problems, then it will be rejected without testing. For example, nobody tests the idea that eating grass cures cancer because that idea doesn't solve any problems.

Creationism doesn't rise to a standard where it can be considered a serious option for explaining anything in biology. If God made the world he could done it any way he liked. He could have made it 6000 years ago (or 5 seconds ago) and make it look billions of years old. Creationism doesn't exclude any conceivable state of affairs and so cannot explain anything about how the world works. Why do humans and chimps have about 96% of their DNA in common? God did it. Why? Dunno. God be godding. If we're going to accept that as an explanation, we might as well give up and just say "shit happens" and be done with it.

The theory of evolution does make predictions and solve problems, see any book on evolutionary biology by Dawkins. It also fits in with ideas from other fields such as the theory of computation and epistemology: see "The Fabric of Reality" and "The Beginning of Infinity" by David Deutsch.


Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 6 821

1@DavidZ: actually a version of it has been tested formally and intensively. Namely antioxidants that are found in many plants have been tested mostly for the likely preventative but also for potential curative powers. And are still being tested. The reason why plants are much less often tested than isolated substances/components is the huge potential for confounding factors in plants. – Fizz – 2017-11-25T00:01:17.917

"If two scientists disagree about some issue, then at least one of them is wrong." I thought this applies to anyone, not only scientists. At least if we don't consider questions like "What is more tasty/beautiful/etc?" – rus9384 – 2018-08-07T22:52:10.800

@rus9384 I was replying to a specific quote about scientists. Also, aesthetics may be objective, see "The Beginning of Infinity" by David Deutsch chapter 14. – alanf – 2018-08-08T07:23:53.670

@alanf, so you can prove that the food I like is not tasty? Nonsense. Objective statements are like "Majority of people find X tasty". But "X is tasty because I find it tasty" is not. – rus9384 – 2018-08-08T08:21:22.193

@rus9384 "X is tasty because I find it tasty" isn't the argument made in the chapter I cited. What you are saying is irrelevant. If you want to understand the argument then read the chapter. – alanf – 2018-08-08T08:35:50.833

@alanf, I'm wondering if there is somewhat normative aesthetics and descriptive. In this sense descriptive ethics also is always objective, this is not where philosophers argue in the field of metaethics. Same could be true for aesthetics. – rus9384 – 2018-08-08T08:42:56.680

@rus9384 Again what you're saying isn't relevant. If you want to understand the argument, then read the chapter. We can discuss it at this group http://fallibleideas.com/discussion or email me at alanmichaelforrester@googlemail.com

– alanf – 2018-08-08T09:04:14.827

@alanf +1 for "God be godding". – Billy Rubina – 2020-11-14T01:23:34.470

4Agreed. Citing the work of gods, demons or fairies cuts off any further scientific inquiry with an untestable hypothesis. As such, it cannot be science. – Dan Christensen – 2015-02-02T18:47:57.830

36The idea that eating grass cures cancer would solve a very important problem: cancer. So I suspect the reason this particular idea has been rejected is because it actually has been tested (albeit not formally) and found not to work. – David Z – 2015-02-02T21:42:24.857

No, the idea that eating grass cures cancer would create a load of problems. Why would grass happen to be adapted to solve a problem that evolution did not solve in the species in which the problem became a serious problem? – alanf – 2015-02-03T09:36:48.203


@alanf I don't know, why would a certain bark be adapted to cure headaches? It's not that the plant is adapted to help us, it's just a happy coincidence. There's nofundamental reason the same thing couldn't be the case with grass and cancer.

– rlms – 2015-02-03T10:39:53.713

Aspirin inhibits the production of a couple of different chemicals. This is the wort of thing that can happen by accident. Cancer is caused by the fact that our cell's self repair mechanisms only evolved to keep us alive for long enough to pass on our genes. Fixing that is not a matter of messing with a couple of chemicals, it involves solving difficult problems. Such solutions can only arise by processes involving variation, followed by selection for solving that problem. – alanf – 2015-02-03T11:12:02.963

2There is I think a fundamental difference between using evidence to predict the near future, versus using evidence to infer the past. If two scientists make contrary near-term predictions, whichever prediction is wrong will likely soon be identifiable as such. If two researchers offer contrary hypotheses about why something happened, however, it's entirely plausible that both hypotheses will remain forever plausible. – supercat – 2015-02-03T21:56:00.470

3You don't infer the past. You make guesses about it and criticise the guesses. Any hypothesis about why something happened in the past that is any good will have implications beyond the issue it was originally intended to explain. And those implications can be tested and will in general differ for different theories. Creationism doesn't get up to that level. It falls at the first hurdle by not even being a candidate to explain anything. – alanf – 2015-02-04T10:34:30.923

I don't believe your statement, "then at least one of them is wrong" is necessarily true. Imagine two uninformed scientists observing Schroedinger's cat, one says the cat is alive the other says the cat is dead. Seemingly the statements are contradictory, but according to quantum theory they are both correct. One observer says of light, it is a wave, another says it is a particle, these people disagree, but neither one of them is wrong. – Octopus – 2015-02-04T16:51:51.153

4If quantum mechanics is correct, then at least one of them is wrong. If they have not yet interacted with any system that carries information about the cat, then there are two versions of the cat, one is alive, the other is dead. So they're both wrong. After that information has arrived, there are two versions of each experimenters. One version of them would see the cat dead if they checked, the others would see it alive. So then in each version of them only one of them is right. See "The Fabric of Reality" and "The Beginning of Infinity" by David Deutsch. – alanf – 2015-02-04T17:12:01.623

2@Octopus "One observer says of light, it is a wave, another says it is a particle, these people disagree, but neither one of them is wrong" depends on exactly what they mean. If each means that light is only that thing, they are both wrong; if each means that light exhibits properties of that thing, both are right. Two people consider the number 12; one says it is divisible by 6, another that it is divisible by 4. As long as neither intends to add "...and no other integer", both are right, because 12 has both sets of properties. If either does intend that, (s)he is wrong. – MadHatter – 2015-02-05T07:16:23.657

@Octopus: Also, to say that a quantum system is sometimes a wave and sometimes a particle is no good. What is true is that quantum systems are described by Hermitian operators called observables that have a countable set of measurable values, and the amplitude of those outcomes evolves continuously in a way that can be represented by a wave equation. – alanf – 2015-02-05T09:42:58.620

@alanf: I would posit that a proper scientific theory should take the form "If conditions X are observed, then Y will not be observed". If a geologist says "when one sees certain patterns in the rock, one is unlikely to find evidence to suggest that they couldn't have been formed by volcanic activity", such a statement could not be false without evidence of its falsehood being discoverable (even if the rocks were formed some other way, and evidence existed but was not discoverable, the fact that it was not discoverable would make the claim that one would be unlikely to find it, true). – supercat – 2015-02-05T18:54:21.230

@alanf: If the geologist were to instead say "rock formations like this were formed by volcanic activity", such a statement could be false in ways that would not be discoverable, and should thus not be considered properly "falsifiable". Note that from a practical standpoint the former statement is just as useful as the latter (if the rock formations were actually formed by Zyngons from Rigel VII, but all observations will be consistent with their having been made by volcanoes, then any actions which would be appropriate if they were made by volcanoes would be appropriate... – supercat – 2015-02-05T19:00:09.353

...even if they were actually formed by Zyngons from Rigel VII. Note that the fact that all evidence will be consistent with volcanic formation does not in any way prove that those claiming the formations were actually the work of Zyngons are factually incorrect; the Zyngon theory should be disfavored because in the absence of information about how Zyngons decided what formations to build, it doesn't have any useful predictive power. – supercat – 2015-02-05T19:10:03.653

Knowledge is created by conjecture and criticism, as stated above, not by proving stuff: http://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/4028/how-does-induction-relate-to-falsifiability/12661#12661

– alanf – 2015-02-06T09:39:14.693

1"If the theory doesn't solve any problems, then it will be rejected without testing." As a pure mathematician I reject this notion outright :) – Kevin Ventullo – 2015-02-07T20:41:32.470

"Why do humans and chimps have about 96% of their DNA in common? God did it. Why? Dunno. God be godding. If we're going to accept that as an explanation, we might as well give up and just say "shit happens" and be done with it." Doesn't this very same argument apply to the anthropic principle, which is becoming rather popular nowadays within the theoretical particle physicists community? – landroni – 2015-02-08T14:58:18.757

The anthropic principle only makes predictions if it is tied to a further explanation that gives a measure over the relevant set of universes (i.e. - a way of counting them), that is motivated by some law of physics. There are other problems too, see entries for the anthropic principle in "The Beginning of Infinity" by David Deutsch. – alanf – 2015-02-08T23:23:51.383

"If two scientists disagree about some issue, then at least one of them is wrong. That is, at least one of them has an idea that does not correspond to how the world works." --- not always, alanf. Before the 1990s, string theorists believed there were five distinct superstring theories... The thinking was that out of these five candidate theories, only one was the actual correct theory of everything ..It is now believed ..that the five superstring theories are related to one another by the dualities described above. everyone's right. – robert bristow-johnson – 2015-04-11T01:08:57.217


You really need to change your grass/cancer example. I think the rest of your answer is great. But there are many people who think that eating, smoking, or otherwise using certain plants (incidentally colloquially called "grass"), can indeed cure cancer, and are trying to test, or get others to test the theories.

– Flimzy – 2015-11-29T20:39:55.933

2@robert bristow-johnson: if they thought their ideas contradicted, and it turns out they don't contradict, then they were wrong about part of the issue. your game is to take the common situation of someone being only partly wrong and call that non-wrong. (no comment is intended regarding actual string theory history) – curi – 2016-06-11T16:39:20.723

@curi, turns out the notion of "correct" and "wrong" is itself a problem. in your strict thinking, then all of us are wrong all the time. because we simply do not have the information nor the understanding of everything there is. but within the context of science, it is indeed possible to have different takes on how the universe works and all of the takes be "non-wrong". – robert bristow-johnson – 2016-06-12T01:21:05.420

if two ideas contradict, at least one is false. if two ideas contradict but you think they don't contradict, you are mistaken. this is a matter of logic. – curi – 2016-06-12T01:22:42.300

again @curi , you're not getting the lesson from the M-theory thingie. you logic is correct, in and of itself. but it might not be correctly applied in this case. maybe check out the difference between "efficient" and "final" causes.

– robert bristow-johnson – 2016-06-12T16:39:15.277


The big picture of current evolutionary theory draws from many different fields, like biology, paleontology, geology, physics (radiometric dating) and chemistry. There is a strong consensus between scientists that the results of their respective fields support the big picture, e.g. evolutionary synthesis is a consensus among biologists.

So, while different scientists may reach very different (i.e. incompatible) conclusions depending on their starting assumptions, they currently don't. Scientists in different disciplines start from different assumptions, but their results support and deepen evolutionary theory.

The sign you posted follows the Teach the controversy strategy, which tries to undermine this sociological state of affairs.

The practical rebuttal is to block the philosophical lures and give a sociological answer: currently, scientists starting from different assumptions do not, as a matter of fact, reach incompatible conclusions.

Bonus answer:

This counter-strategy is sound, but it may be counterproductive more generally as it obscures the fact that controversy exists in science without undermining science (scientific pluralism).

Taking biology as an example: scientists coming from evo-devo argue that evolutionary theory needs a rethink. They propose a broader framework, termed the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis, to account for epigenetic inheritance and other phenomena, claiming that neo-Darwinian synthesis is an incomplete theory.

So, the extended practical rebuttal is that scientists do not draw incompatible conclusions with regard to evolutionary theory, and where they do reach very different conclusions with regard to the current limits of evolutionary synthesis, these conclusions do not include, imply, support or suggest creationism.

This is, incidentally, also a rebuttal to the false dilemma that defenders of creationism in the form of "intelligent design" often make, a fallacy of exhaustive hypotheses in particular: "Intelligent" isn't the only conceivable alternative to evolutionary theory (supposing it is an alternative at all), so the weakening of evolutionary theory doesn't make "intelligent design" any stronger. Logically speaking, even showing modern evolutionary theory to be false would not change the probability of "intelligent design" being true a bit.


Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 5 212

3@DBK: In your answer, what do you mean by the thought: "The practical rebuttal is to block the philosophical lures and give a sociological answer?" This sounds way off! Your statement is strong evidence of sidestepping. You've even emboldened your answer to invite repeat as a meme. Shouldn't you consider your statement as typical of 'politics in science' and the resort to--as F.A. Schaeffer has said--"...sociological science" (one sees what one wishes to see)? – Darcy Davis – 2015-02-02T17:48:41.193


@DarcyDavis: I had to google Schaeffer's "sociological science" up… It seems to denote social engineering coupled with relativistic assumptions. I have a hard time understanding what that has to do with my plea for a sociological answer - unless one thinks that the admission that science is a social phenomenon and the establishment of a scientific description of it within sociology implies those consequences (which seems outlandish to me). …

– DBK – 2015-02-02T18:47:18.387

1… (Incidentally, my 'sociological answer' appeals to matters of fact, while it's the "different assumptions may lead to different conclusions"-thesis that tries to exploit a relativist/skeptic view of science.) … – DBK – 2015-02-02T18:48:01.300

… My rationale for a "sociological answer" is the following: The "different assumptions may lead to different conclusions"-thesis is formulated as an abstract possibility thesis. Instead of discussing ways in which it might be a correct assertion or situations to which it may apply ("philosophical lures"), one simply cuts off the relevance of this thesis to the current situation in biology and related sciences: the thesis simply doesn't apply here. How do we know it? Through sociological investigations that confirm the current consensus in the sciences, different assumptions notwithstanding. – DBK – 2015-02-02T18:48:37.350

Concerning your bonus answer: I agree, another form of development could be possible, like e.h. lamarckism. – vonjd – 2015-02-02T19:21:07.030


@vonjd: Yes, indeed parts of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis are being interpreted as introducing (and acknowledging) Lamarckian elements into modern synthesis.

– DBK – 2015-02-02T19:27:44.767


I think the honest answer is best viewed through the teachings of Karl Popper, notably the Falsifiability Criterion, according to which anything scientific has to supply a self refuting empirical criteria. That is, in the absence of an empirical way to test the hypothesis -- upon failure of which the theory is refuted -- the theory in question is hereby not falsifiable, hence not scientific.

As presented, this could be an ideal behind scientific making. As such, it may be perceived as a defining characteristic to which science always aspires, doesn't always achieve. As Creationism assumes the existence of god, it is not falsifiable (There isn't, by any definition, an empirical test upon failure of which we deny the existence of god) and as such it is being demarcated from the natural sciences.

I disagree that

The practical rebuttal is to block the philosophical lures and give a sociological answer ...

in an attempt to win the debate over the current state of affairs, as there is simply no need to give in to such historico-cultural matters in this context of knowledge. Claims such as The Incommensurability of Scientific Theories, whether formulated by Fayerabend or as it was plagiarized from Polanyi by Kuhn has long been given strong rebuttal themselves -- see Davidson in here for example.


Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 481


I like the phrase "Not even wrong" to describe something that's unfalsifiable.

– Bobson – 2015-02-04T15:11:08.163

I would suggest that it's important to distinguish between statements which could be false in undetectable ways, versus those which--if false--would be detectable as such. For example, a statement "any time X is observed, Y will not be" would, if false, be readily observable as false. Note that the statement as given would be true even if X and Y could be simultaneously present, if the circumstances that would allow the observation of X would preclude the observation of Y. – supercat – 2015-02-06T00:39:38.757


“different scientists can reach very different conclusions, depending on their starting assumptions.”

This is true so far as it goes, but it stops before the critical step that distinguishes natural science from creationism: scientists then check their conclusions against reality, and reject or change their assumptions if reality and conclusion don't match. Creationism can't do this, since their assumptions (that the Christian God created the world in the manner described in the Bible) are not open to question.

As a contrived example to contrast the two methodologies: the assumption is "a circle's circumference is three times its diameter" and the conclusion is "therefore, a circular object ten cubits across will have a circumference of 30 cubits". Someone following scientific methodology will find an object 10 cubits across and measure the circumference; when they find it to be around 31 cubits, they'll reject the assumption ("okay, maybe it's 31/10 times the diameter, maybe the ratio varies from object to object, maybe it's something else. I need to measure more things."). Someone following creationist methodology will simply accept that their assumption is correct, since it came from their holy book. Any counter-evidence will be ignored.


Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 284

1The $\pi$ example is brilliant! – abalter – 2015-02-04T15:17:31.333

1If you're building round objects with cubits I hope its a damn perfect circle, but probably its built with stones or wood or some other imperfectly shaped resource, Of all the variances I doubt you will get the perfect ratio that is pi. I'm pretty sure that's why the ancients figured 3 was close enough. Its not that it's not questioned (is it exactly 3?) it's that 3 was close enough for their purposes. Are you suggesting that creationists reject pi? – Octopus – 2015-02-04T16:59:46.637


@Octopus Actually Pi has been known to multiple DP for thousands of years: http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/history/HistTopics/Pi_through_the_ages.html

– Tim B – 2015-02-08T22:05:20.080

1presented for your edification here is the complete list of fractions in the bible: – hildred – 2015-02-09T07:12:46.890

@hildred: Is that comment incomplete, or are you claiming that the list is empty? If the latter, you are deplorably misinformed: the fraction one-tenth appears in Genesis 14:20 and then dozens of times after that. There are other fractions in the Bible as well. – Ben Voigt – 2015-12-24T17:33:48.133

@BenVoigt, the use of tenth has very little in common with modern fractions and has more to do with tithing than what we think of as math, Not that the fractions were not used, particularly in inheritance, but the language is not suited to fractions. The closest it comes is so many shares, which would be completely unsuited for expressing 22/7 and is even stresses the language to express one seventh. the closest would be to frame it in terms of inheritance, but inheritance is always unequal, and tithing is assumed to be a tenth, but not completely certain. This leaves what exactly? – hildred – 2015-12-24T18:40:02.787


A theory is a model that has predictive power.

When scientists talk about evolutionary theory they make statements to the effect of "If this is true we'd expect to see such and such". They then go and see if they can find "such and such". If they cannot then the model is revised. The model is always as consistent as possible with the entire body of evidence. This isn't always possible and results in scientific dispute. The by product of these disputes is a new model that is more consistent with the entire body of evidence than its predecessor. Both the new model and its predecessor have explanatory power but the new model explains more (see einstein vs. newton) this is known as verisimilitude.

Creationism is a model with little predictive/explanatory power. It takes a limited number of observations and attempts to show how they are consistent with a recent creation event. To do this its proponents have to stick to a small subset of the available evidence. Kent Hovind and Ken Ham are famous for this. The will produce a rudimentary mathematical model showing its possible the dogs you see today evolved from a common ancestor on the ark. This model has explanatory power, but it only attempts to explain one sliver of the available observations. It does not simultaneously explain the dogs we see today, the 350 foot deep chalk deposits at dover, and the well ordered fossil record at the grand canyon(see bunnies in the cambrian).

Interestingly enough if creationism/intelligent design proponents were to revise the model to be consistent with all the evidence you'd have something that looks very much like evolutionary theory.


Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 221

+1: I agree: They would have to concede that the potential to change is programmed into all living things (mutations and artificial selection, e.g. evolution from wolf to dog), they generally agree that microevolution is taking place and the would have to accept that it looks like as if macroevolution had occurred. – vonjd – 2015-02-03T09:52:07.167

1This issue with this display is they hyperbolize the ambiguity. The models produced within the scientific community are beyond our imagination's wildest visions of accuracy. They are honed to the finest edge and consistent with millions of experiments and observations. On a daily basis each and every individual on the planet trusts their lives to these models. To simply say "split the difference our approach is exactly the same we just started with different assumptions" is absolutely laughable. – nsfyn55 – 2015-02-03T16:25:46.177

Oh you sillies. I find that computers, airplanes, x-ray machines and antibiotics based on Biblical knowledge work JUST as well as those fancy-shmancy sciency-ones. Haven't we all had that experience? – Spike0xff – 2015-02-03T17:25:40.203

3+1 because they throw away most of the evidence because it doesn't agree with their theory, or dismiss radio carbon dating as fundamentally flawed. In my college physics classes, we liked to call that kind of cherry-picking, "your methodology is crap". – Ernie – 2015-02-04T00:29:27.197

The predictive power of evolutionary theory cannot be tested in most forms, at least not by humans with our current lifespans. Microevolution can be tested, but not macroevolution. It can only be inferred. – None – 2015-02-04T23:39:58.920

@bdares useful and testable predictions can be made about future knowledge of past events. For example, any useful theories of macroevolution and species formation will have discriminating opinions about what we would or wouldn't expect to see when analyzing new species - even if the species had formed long ago, the information is new and thus can support or falsify previous theories. Even now we are still finding new species of comparably large organisms, not even speaking about insects or smaller organisms, so there's plenty of things on which to test predictive power. – Peteris – 2015-02-05T05:45:09.377

@bdares - BINGO! All science does is build models with explanatory power. Everything is inferred. On a side note, your example is somewhat misguided because there is no mechanical difference between micro and macro evolution, If one is testable so is the other. I know you want to say life span is the limiting factor, but I retort. If a scientist dies is her work over? No another scientist can pick it up and continue using the evidence she's catalogued. Natural processes have left us a huge catalogue of evidence and we can make blind predictions about what we'll find then corroborate. – nsfyn55 – 2015-02-05T13:33:46.660

The reference to human lifespan was also to acknowledge that it would take what would be considered a very long time to make and execute any sort of rigorous experiment to test the theory, i.e. showing that it has real "predictive power". Any "newly found" species with characteristics that support the theory is not as strong evidence - there is plenty of precedent where evolutionary scientists create stories to explain different traits which are later explained better by completely different ideas. My point is that "predictive power" isn't the single best metric. – None – 2015-02-05T18:35:39.800

@Peteris: A claim that that no evidence will be discovered that is inconsistent with something having happened is fully testable; if by the end of the universe no evidence has shown that the thing didn't happen, the claim will be true whether or not the thing actually happened. By contrast, a claim that something actually happened is not testable, since it is impossible to rule out the possibility of some unidentified phenomenon producing evidence indistinguishable from that of the claimed event happening. Note that from a practical perspective, the former claim is... – supercat – 2015-02-06T21:50:43.170

...just as useful as the latter [whether gold deposits were formed by prehistoric rivers, or whether Zyngons used a matter transporter to create gold deposits in the same patterns as prehistoric rivers would have created, what matters is that knowledge of those patterns will help a miner predict where he'll find gold]. – supercat – 2015-02-06T21:55:56.547

1@bdares: "The reference to human lifespan was also to acknowledge that it would take what would be considered a very long time" This is not true. One can apply inductive reasoning. For instance, mathematicians have demonstrated the maximum distance between two primes. This did not involve sitting down with a sheet of paper and writing out every known number. "predictive power isn't the single best..." This is also untrue. Its the only metric...period. – nsfyn55 – 2015-02-06T23:41:33.750


Full disclosure: I am no expert in Scientific Methodology, and make no claim to be.

From my basic understanding of proper Scientific Method, I can point out the most misleading bit about that sign is the end:

“different scientists can reach very different conclusions, depending on their starting assumptions.

more specifically, the starting assumptions bit. Good science specifically starts with as few assumptions as possible. What's interesting here is that what the rest of the sign says is true.

It is indeed difficult/impossible to remove all assumptions from a scientist's brain, as things like culture and upbringing instil ideas seen as "obvious truths" in the scientist's mind, and therefore do not require questioning. It is both a beauty and a curse that a scientist in China with Buddist upbringing will start out with a vastly different set of 'truths' than a Western scientist with Christian/Atheist upbringing. More difficult still is recognizing that Western Science has it's own particular set of 'beliefs' that we do not question (because we don't view them as 'beliefs') that are not shared by our scientist friends in other cultures.

Setting aside THAT lengthy debate, let's focus on what we CAN recognize as an assumption: The Bible.

The interesting bit here is our Creationist friends do not view it the same way we do. In first-hand debates with like-minded Creationist friends, I've had people tell me, "If you can prove that Jesus was not resurrected, I'll stop believing today." Yet when pursuing the debate further, the same person pulled a King James Bible out of their pack, flipped it to a page, and began reciting a verse to prove me wrong.

The difference here is that Creationists tend to view the Bible as evidence, and view Darwin's Evolution as the assumption.

Alternatively, those favouring Evolution tend to see the Bible as an assumption (and thus should NOT be used as evidence) and look for other facts as supporting evidence.

If you re-read the sign now you may see how it can have vastly different meanings to the reader, based on the reader's primary assumptions walking up to it.

Thus, if your intent is to challenge the implied conclusion of the sign, you may wish to start with "The Bible as evidence, vs. The Bible as an assumption" (not admissible as evidence) point rather than trying to 'prove' anything just yet. 'Proof' becomes a very muddled word if both parties have a different definition of what 'evidence' is.

IT Bear

Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 171

1'Proof' a "very muddled word?" Not if one party is just plain wrong. – Dan Christensen – 2015-02-03T04:31:05.863

1+1: Good point: Nailing them down (no pun intended) on the point that they take the Bible as an assumption means that they cannot prove anything with it. – vonjd – 2015-02-03T08:05:38.933

4Maybe better to say proof is irrelevant if two parties are not communicating because they are using the same words to mean different things. I find that arguing with Creationists is pointless, because they have divergent concepts behind most of the necessary words: science, authority, proof, evidence, truth, God, etc. etc. They literally speak a different language. You don't understand them, they don't understand you. – Spike0xff – 2015-02-03T17:34:07.510

1Proof is for math. Science has supporting evidence. There is no such thing as a scientific proof. – None – 2015-02-04T23:40:54.093


One of the clearest answers in modern times was given by Stephen Jay Gould, in one of his books. Gould was a professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard, died about 13 or 14 years ago, but his books are still available and popular. He came up with the theory of evolution called punctuated equilibrium.

He dealt with this subject in his book Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections on Natural History, specifically Chapter 19: Evolution as Fact and Theory.

In this chapter he writes:

"The basic attack of modern creationists falls apart on two general counts before we even reach the supposed factual details of their assault against evolution. First, they play upon a vernacular misunderstanding of the word 'theory' to convey the false impression that we evolutionists are covering up the rotten core of our edifice. Second, they misuse a popular philosophy of science to argue that they are behaving scientifically in attacking evolution. Yet the same philosophy demonstrates that their own belief is not science, and that 'scientific creationism' is a meaningless and self-contradictory phrase, an example of what Orwell called 'newspeak.'"

"In the American vernacular, 'theory' often means 'imperfect fact'--part of a hierarchy of confidence running downhill from fact to theory to hypothesis to guess. Thus, creationists can (and do) argue: evolution is 'only' a theory, and intense debate now rages about many aspects of the theory. If evolution is less than a fact, and scientists can't make up even their minds about the theory, then what confidence can we have in it?..."

So, first you have to differentiate between evolutionary fact and evolutionary theory. The fact is that when we dig in the earth we find the remains of animals that are no longer on this earth and we have no written record of their existence. Second, as we dig deeper and deeper, the forms of those animals become simpler and simpler. Third, through established scientific methods (i.e., radiocarbon dating) we can establish the times that these animals existed. These are evolutionary facts. These are the world's data.

Gould further states:

"Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us for a style of argument that they themselves favor). In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.' I suppose apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in a physics classroom...Evolutionists have been clear about this distinction between fact and theory from the very beginning, if only because we have always acknowledged how far we are from completely understanding the mechanisms (theory) by which evolution (fact) occurred. Darwin continually emphasized the difference between his two great and separate accomplishments: establishing the fact of evolution, and proposing a theory--natural selection--to explain the mechanisms of evolution."

Evolutionary theory is how we explain these physical facts that we have dug up. An evolutionary theory must be able to explain the evolutionary facts that we have been presented with (dug up). If you present an 'evolutionary theory' that does not support the facts, then it is not a theory it is an unfounded conjecture - a guess. Calling a conjecture a 'theory' does not make it a 'theory' - as can be seen from Prof. Gould's quote above.

Scientific evolutionary theories have some variations (witness Gould's own punctuated equilibrium theory vs classical slow or gradual evolution), but they are all based on the facts that have been literally dug up.

Creationist 'theory' or better guess or conjecture, does not base itself on the evolutionary facts that have been dug up.

Swami Vishwananda

Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 3 667

Niles Eldredge was also involved in punctuated equilibria. See his "Eternal Ephemera" for a history of Darwinian theories. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punctuated_equilibrium

– Frank Hubeny – 2018-03-01T02:32:05.290

@FrankHubeny until his death, it was GOULD and Eldridge. Since his death, its been Eldridge that's been the voice and publications... – Swami Vishwananda – 2018-03-01T05:05:28.107


Creationism is to theology what alchemy is to science, or what arithmetic is to mathematics or what school-physics is to physics itself.

It was Kant who remarked of the 'proofs' of God that the one from Design is the one that most deserves respect. I placed the word proof in quotes as they are not proofs in the sense of mathematics, but as in 'argument for'.

For example, Aristotle, one of the founders of science in the Western tradition, treats evolutionary theory in his Physics and Metaphysics. He also treats chance and spontaneity as causes in themselves (ie, opposed to determinism). This, too, is not just in evolution but also for the universe itself. Compare the contemporary debate where the universe starts as a quantum event, as a spontaneous event. He also treats the theory of the One from a number of different perspectives. He considers the Pythagorean perspective which is consonant with Plato. He also considers his own perspective on the Unmoved Mover, an infinite principle, substantively and quantifiably and which is distinguished from the notion of the All or Whole, understood as that without lack.

This tradition should be distinguished from that of Lucretius, which itself derives from Epicurus. It is this tradition that sets its metaphysical face against that of Aristotle.

So, at bottom, and when considered rightly, they are at the same level in that they treat fundamental questions in fundamentally incompatible ways. However, in the history of ideas, they are intricately interwoven (as pointed out by Hegel in his History). They are a dialectic. Compare this with Hegel's notion of the dialectic of Being (theism) and Non-Being (atheism) as sublated into the Becoming of science and theology.

Mozibur Ullah

Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 1

1Thank you, but I am afraid I don't fully get your point. You are mentioning many interesting ideas yet at the end you are writing: "So, at bottom; and when considered rightly, they are at the same level"? – vonjd – 2015-02-02T17:18:20.797

4Metaphysics means at the foundations; so I mean at this 'same level', which is at the 'bottom', and which is the 'right' place to consider these questions at. – Mozibur Ullah – 2015-02-02T18:03:34.357


“different scientists can reach very different conclusions, depending on their starting assumptions.”

The sentence is correct, but it does not prove the point the creation museum wants to imply. What exactly is science and a scientific approach ? While there are many, many explanations, I think the most succinct explanation is that science tries to get information about something where people from different cultures and worldviews can agree to get the most accurate representation of the known observations together.

Let's say what that means if you are a scientist and you are investigating a tyrannosaur skeleton. What do you write in your observation book ?

"Found an incomplete skeleton at location XYZ. Started excavation at the timepoint XYZ and ended XYZ. Skeleton consists of X parts, please see the excavation map where the parts have been found and the photo page for each fossilized bone found. Strata seems to be in the Santonium epoch, I appended a sample for further observation. Tibia bone has severe fracture."

What this description shows is that it can be read, understood and accepted by everyone, both cavemen and scientists of the 25th century (Well, the Santonium epoch must be explained further, but it can be done). The scientist tells only the observations he/she made. Now he/she can make further statements:

The fracture seems to be relatively fresh, perhaps shortly before its death. I think it is probable that it was wounded, retreated to this position and starved.

This may trigger disagreement. The caveman looks at the location (it is geologically stable, so not much change) and says that a wounded animal would never choose such an exposed position. Another scientist says that he excavated many fossils and in his experience the fracture is not fresh. The 25th century scientist may shake his head and point out that the bone has been reexamined with XYZ technology and found to be fractured 2,5 years before the demise of the tyrannosaur. What is important is that everyone has in fact different experiences and they are arguing from their point of view. There is nothing wrong about it, each other can talk and argue together.

The concept is "methodological naturalism". It may be that you have deep inner convictions, are Christ, Buddhist, Muslim etc., but if you discuss scientific questions, you stick to the things which all participants accept. You do not try to find solutions which does not explain anything ("If I cannot explain that, I introduce God/demon/whatever"). That the dinosaurs are 4000 years old because your Bible says so is not a valid argument because a Buddhist does not believe in a Bible. But both can agree that there is an excavated bone which looks fractured. This works in reverse, too: If the scientist which wrote the report is a deeply believing Christ, but stick to the facts he/she is a better scientist than a humanitarian atheistic scientist letting his emotions clouding his judgement.

Some misconceptions uttered here:

scientists then check their conclusions against reality, and reject or change their assumptions if reality and conclusion don't match.

In your dreams. Really, scientists are humans and I am sick that we are painted as defenders of wisdom. Scientists are not better than other people ! They may have pet theories, build groups, hate each other's guts, fight for funds and act irrationally & unfair. (See the feud "Out of Africa" vs "Multiregionalism" in anthropology). But it does not mean that scientific work is not done and most scientists could not work together most of the time. But conflicts arise from time to time.

If two scientists disagree about some issue, then at least one of them is wrong. That is, at least one of them has an idea that does not correspond to how the world works.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Both scientists may be wrong. Both scientists may be partially right. One scientist may have the correct argumentation, but he/she is still wrong because the data the argumentation depends on is not correct. It may even be that there is not enough data or conflicting data to come to a conclusion, the question may be not resolvable (currently) and a discussion may be pointless. Everything is possible.

ADDITION: I thought the answer to the last question: "What is the best rebuttal against (the philosophical mindset of) this exhibit?" is quite obvious.

If you are someone which is interested to settle the question about a dinosaur skeleton and you never have encountered the Bible the question automatically arises: "Which information has the bible which is relevant to the excavation of the dinosaur skeleton ?" You are asking this question completely neutral and you are genuinely interested.

Does the bible mention dinosaurs ? No. There is a dragon, a leviathan and a behemoth. None of them has realistic properties or is remotely like a dinosaur. No seven heads or several horns, no throat with fire or smoke, no dinosaur capable to hide itself in mud. Apart from that, the descriptions are fantastic, the dragon is throwing stars down.

Given that, is the Bible at least consistent (meaning that it does not contradict itself) ? No. The bible states that the human came after the animals (Genesis) and two pages later it states that the animals came after the human. Adam and Eva were the only humans and had only two childs: Kain and Abel. How were humans then able to procreate ? In the New Testament the differences between the evangelists are stunning.

Given all that information, every information from the Bible or extracted from the Bible (the 4000 years BC often quoted are the addition of ages which are itself completely exaggerated from a modern viewpoint) is simply not relevant for the examination of the dinosaur skeleton and should never find its way into the discussion. This is a viewpoint which can be understood even by a religious Christian. If he/she can understand that people may come from a completely other culture and never came in contact with the Bible, he must contain the discussion to argumentations which can be shared. This disallows also "leaps of faith" by invoking explanations of indefeasible origins (supernatural, taboo).

Thorsten S.

Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 469

Not sure you're helping the OP, but great post. – Spike0xff – 2015-02-03T17:48:06.500

2Interesting but I think it doesn't answer my question. – vonjd – 2015-02-04T09:54:18.403

1@vonjd I hope my addition makes the difference between the viewpoints clearer. – Thorsten S. – 2015-02-07T13:02:24.743

"Wrong. Wrong Wrong." he said at least one of them is wrong. That is also what you said although you added some other things that doesn't disagree with "at least one of them is wrong". – Tim B – 2015-02-08T22:25:47.480

@TimB There are instances when scientists are acting on assumptions that belonging to one category automatically excludes belonging to another category (False dilemma). For example: In very rare instances people are born who not only share anatomically/hormonally a body of both sexes, but also have a chromosomal cross-over: They are also genetically a mix of both sexes. Therefore two statements of "X is a man" and "X is a woman" from scientist are both true ! (Both wrong is not correct because there is no absence of male/female properties). See also the reptile/mammal question of the Platypus. – Thorsten S. – 2015-02-10T21:59:56.260


I see two common themes in the previous answers:

  1. Unquestionability leading to weird and incorrect interpretations of evidence.
  2. Lack of motivation because of the availability of a cop out, "Dunno. God did it. End of discussion."

I'll start with the second one:

Lack of motivation

From an evolutionist perspective, I can see how you would come up with that, but from a creationist perspective, it completely misses the point of doing research.

Creationist research is not so much about curiosity as is it about a relationship with the One who made both them and the stuff around them. One of the best ways to get to know someone is to study their work. This is the primary motivation.

A secondary motivation is still curiosity because the Bible is not intended to be a scientific textbook. Where it mentions events and phenomena, it is accurate to the extent that people observed and recorded at the time, but the actual cause of such events is fascinating to discover and sometimes unintuitive at first, just like secular science. And in a loose sense of Matthew 6:33, it's a fantastic bonus to discover things that turn out to be useful in engineering.


Actually, from a creationist perspective, evolution has the same problem, because you cannot question the non-existence of any kind of authority beyond the highest-evolved animal at any given time or the (yet-unexplained) laws of physics. Try to publish an article that does question this, and most peer-reviewed journals will reject it because it goes against their religious beliefs.

From a creationist perspective, evolution is simply the origins component of a religion called humanism that worships humans and their accomplishments. From a creationist perspective, the creation/evolution debate is not religion vs. science, but religion vs. religion.

Bonus point

We often see science being used to prove evolutionary claims, and while I won't say a lot about the unavoidable circular arguments on both sides, I will point out that there are some things that simply cannot be tested as claimed, also on both sides.

For example, we can choose a star at random and measure its present composition. Anyone with sufficient equipment and the knowledge to use it can verify that, so it would be foolish to argue that point. But when you try to explain how the star got to be that way, you can't test that. You can't wait a few million lifetimes to see if a theory pans out that requires that timescale. You can try to accelerate it in a lab or look at other stars that are supposed to be on the same track, but then you have to verify that the accelerated test is an accurate representation of the slow version or that the other stars are in fact on the same track. So you still have to go the long way around.

In the same way, we can measure how much parent and daughter elements there are in a sample, but we can't say how old it is without introducing assumptions about the original amounts, contamination, variations in its half-life over long periods of time (we could only measure that recently), etc.

Therefore, creationists see two kinds of science:

  1. Observational science deals with things that can be tested completely at any time by anyone with the proper skills and equipment. It would be foolish to argue with the direct results of these tests, regardless of your personal beliefs.
  2. Origins science attempts to use these results, combined with logical speculation, to figure out what happened in the past. Because of the speculation part, despite rigorous attempts to use the most solid logic possible, it is still heavily influenced by the researchers' presuppositions. This makes origins science much weaker than observational science, to the point that it is always open to question.


Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 151

This is very clearly argued, but the "origins" part is badly wrong. Observational science can easily be worse than origins science because lots of it is indirect (must be, as the phenomena is not easily or accurately detected with our innate senses) and because if there is lots of evidence left behind by the originating process, you can get better observations of that historical process than you can of some present but difficult-to-experiment-on process. – Rex Kerr – 2015-02-03T19:48:14.857

1So with e.g. young earth creationism, this line of thinking might lead one to think, "well, the normal view is open to question, maybe they have a point?", when in fact it's closer to, "YEC is about as wrong as anything can be, violating literally dozens of very well-understood and observed phenomena". (Also, FWIW, papers get rejected by introducing any complicated but not obviously strictly entity unless they include very good reference for that entity. This yields conservative well-tested knowledge. If wanting that is a "religion", well, yes, it's a religion.) – Rex Kerr – 2015-02-03T19:51:55.960

I agree that creationists make this differentiation between observational and historical science because it fits their agenda "teach the controversy" but scientists don't do that because it is not clear what the difference should be. – vonjd – 2015-02-04T11:30:33.927

1-1 for trying the old "science is just another religion and their faithful are just as bad" rhetorical trick. No, isn't, and no, they're not. No false equivalence cookie for you. – Shadur – 2015-02-06T08:10:37.767

2Also, the entire 'theory' of Ignorant Design is almost literally #2 -- pretty much all of their arguments boil down to, essentially, "I don't understand how this could have happened, therefore no one else can either, therefore ID (and therefore, by induction, God)." If that's not laziness, it's willful obtuseness. – Shadur – 2015-02-06T08:13:47.497


I think the slogan is true, but I don't think it forwards the creationist worldview in any way.

Ultimately we form our beliefs taking into account previous assumptions about the world. If those assumptions are different, conclusions of our findings might be different. If the sign is meant to argue that scientists only reach their conclusions due to their assumptions (which I'd argue is true and perfectly acceptable), then the sign also admits the view it's supposedly defending to be victim of the same fault. An attack on evolution would need to attack those assumptions if it's not attacking the reasoning that built upon them.

For a more explicit illustration, we might refuse the assumption that the objective world exists, and therefore conclude that there's no evidence that dinosaurs existed.


Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 131


Creationism uses science's rules, but derives from an unscientific set of assumptions.

The creationist arguments that have been given to me all stem from one key scientific argument: a scientific theory which does not match the data is inferior to a theory which does. They argue that evolution does not match the data sufficiently, thus creationism is a preferable theory. Consider how much more elegant Newton's world was, but the data matches Einstein's.

The argument stems from a disagreement as to what one considers a scientific source: specifically the Bible. Most creationists (all of them I've talked to, but there may be counterexamples) believe the literal words of the Bible are Truth, and thus qualify as evidence in a scientific claim. Anything which contradicts the Bible is False, and false theories are not appreciated in science. They then pile on scientific evidence to defend their claim.

What I have found is that, if you accept the literal words of the Bible as Truth, the story they create with their scientific evidence is actually quite compelling. However, the general scientific community does not accept religious books as "bible truth." (such a strange topic, where "bible truth" becomes such an ironic idiom). When you remove the "evolution has to be false, because it disagrees with the Bible" datum, there is still a large body of evidence to back their claims, but it is eclipsed by the comparatively massive body of evidence disagreeing with their claims and agreeing with the theory of evolution. Daring to jump to generalities: for every one dataset claiming creationist truths, there's a dozen larger datasets refuting it.

My experience is that there is a relatively hard line drawn to distinguish creationism from other religous-scientific arguments. As best as I can tell, those that believe in creationism all believe the literal words of the Bible are true. There is a body of Chistians who are willing to hold a less extreme position and argue that some of the stories are metaphorical, not intended to be read as a literal series of physical events. These people usually hold a less conflicting position. I've found many who believe God created the world, but did so predominantly with the laws of physics. I do not categorize those people as creationists because their view is often not inconsistent with measured data (there is no evidence that God gave the "spark of life" to the first organism, but there is also no scientific evidence he didn't either.) These people are usually willing to accept evolution as a mechanism, and are willing to throw that mechanism away just as fast as science refutes it, for they are not tied to the mechanism but rather the message.

So, in conclusion, creationism and natural science are not on the same level, because they disagree about the credibility of a major source of data. However, it is not clear which one is on a "higher" level because of relative perspective. If you already believe in the literal truth of the words of the Bible, it seems natural science is missing something. If you believe otherwise, it appears creationists are trying to do bad science.

Cort Ammon

Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 16 681

4Creationism does not in fact use science's rules - or at least they stop using science's rules the moment they lead to conclusions they don't want to hear. If you follow a rule only so long as it's convenient you might as well not follow it at all. – Shadur – 2015-02-06T08:09:05.203


Logically, there are assumptions, reasoning, conclusions and facts. Ideally creationism and natural science would be on the same level in terms of the first three, however philosophically we are really only satisfied when we can test our ideas against the hard evidence.

We can't choose all of our assumptions, and we are only looking for the ones which are consitent.


Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 21


I think the fundamental problem here is not that different scientist can reach different conclusions, rather that assuming that a Biblical account is accurate and then arranging facts to fit that narrative is not science.

One of science's essential qualities is that there are no absolute truths and through reexamination all "conclusions" need to be revisited. That is not possible if we assume that Biblical facts cannot be refuted. They are neither self evident nor empirically verifiable - they are literary account. While the Bible maybe correct, it cannot be used as the starting point of a scientific inquiry.

Gratus D.

Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 111

I'm sorry, but I have to very strongly disagree with your statement of 'One of science's essential qualities is that there are no absolute truths'.

That is an epistemological claim that science literally has no ability to engage with or answer. The 'essential' qualities of science are the scientific method, period. It has a few steps and that's it (multiple ways to slice and dice them though) but roughly they are: Hypothesis, Test, Analyze, Conclusion – Aaron Marcus – 2015-02-04T17:31:50.723

You are right - I worded it poorly. I meant that science has the quality of falsifiability. My reasoning was that whatever is falsifiable also does not represent an absolute truth. However, absolute truth has other connotations beyond that, which are not related to science as you pointed out. – Gratus D. – 2015-02-05T16:08:48.907


"What is the best rebuttal against (the philosophical mindset of) this exhibit?"

The best rebuttal to me is that the Bible is a mythology that ignores the other mythologies of the world. And most other mythologies will easily agree with the discoveries of "modern science" about evolution (many already did way before Darwin). So, while Bible has a rigid mentality (typical of monotheisms), the other mythologies (polytheists) are more open and flexible, just like science. I have never seen a daoist or confucionist or hinduist deny darwinian evolution.

In short: Bible don't need science to be disproven, it needs other mythologies.


Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 1 364


“different scientists can reach very different conclusions, depending on their starting assumptions.”

This is a vague statement. Words are used to convey ideas. The same words can convey a different idea in different circumstances. Based on Ken Ham's (and the creation institute in general) public appearances, I suspect the idea the author is trying to convey is that

There is equally as much scientific evidence that Ken Ham's idea of the Christian God (formulated based on his own interpretation of Scripture) created the universe in one week approximately 6000 years ago as there is that no Supreme Being exists, the Bible is false, and the universe exists by accident.

Now if we consider the nature of science (the framework through which we learn about the natural world by observation and reason), we can see that the idea mentioned in the previous paragraph is clearly false as we have no means by which to observe God or subject Him to scientific investigation. So, although the statement appearing on the sign is obviously true (if one scientist assumes the Bible is true and another does not, they will reach different conclusions), I think its intended meaning is false. Contemporary western science just isn't in a position to answer the question "Does God exist?".


Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 101

I think the question is not "Does God exist?" (whatever God means) but "Is evolution a fact?" – vonjd – 2015-02-04T08:59:59.617

@vonjd If that's your question, I don't think this belongs in philosophy. Maybe it's a biology or a history question but it sounds like you want to hear an evaluation of the validity of Ken Ham's scientific claims. If you'd like to hear my evaluation of them, you should take any of them seriously. Whether or not God exists or was involved in the creation of the universe is an entirely different question. – sirdank – 2015-02-04T18:04:12.873

Some people study science, observe complexity, and realize creation. Regardless, all people choose belief via bias. – Noctis Skytower – 2015-02-05T18:29:35.270


Who decides that a piece of work is "art"? A group of people defining themselves as artists or art critics.

Who decides a theory is valid? A group of people defining themselves as scientists.

Don't jump on me! Not yet, at least. Let me finish.

I agree that "science" operates in a way more formally than, say, art. But there are many things accepted as incontrovertible truth by the scientific community without proof that they are actually true. True, they found big bones of giant reptiles. This proves dinosaurs existed. But how can they, just from the bones, decide the color of their skins, their cries, their social behaviour.

And that applies to many other scientific fields. As DBK said, the general consensus determines scientific truth.

But how often has science been wrong? Look at a simple thing like the atom. How many times have we discovered that we could split it into smaller and smaller pieces?

So, saying creationism and natural science are not on the same level because the former is not "exact" is wrong.

However, I do believe they are actually NOT on the same level.

Creationism is the history of what God made.

Natural science is the study of the rules God used to create.

The one does not exclude the other. It is like comparing history with physics.


Posted 2015-02-02T13:51:55.727

Reputation: 129

6This would be more persuasive if you demonstrated more knowledge of science, for example, how scientists have come to their theories about the color of dinosaur skins, cries, & behavior. VERY few things are 'accepted as incontrovertible truth' in science, and you may find that 'proof' is not used in science in the sense you seem to be using it. Also there's a well-known methodology (called the scientific method) that you have to follow to be a scientist: Printing 'scientist' on your business card doesn't cut it. – Spike0xff – 2015-02-03T17:42:39.437

What I like about your answer is that it is even an inner-theological conflict: The rules God used to create contradict creationism. – vonjd – 2015-02-04T11:35:11.503

1@Spike0xff I've actually studied in a Science High School, so I know about the scientific method: the same method Newton used to define his theories. Theories later contradicted by Einstein. Scientists come to their truth with suppositions. "Supposing that statement A is true, if nobody can demonstrate otherwise, than this my new theory is true..." Beware, I'm not trying to say science is a bad thing or is wrong, most of the discoveries look correct. Just that often the truth is what scientists convince the others to believe... ;) – algiogia – 2015-02-04T15:39:30.830

@vonjd how this contradicts creationism? – algiogia – 2015-02-04T15:46:26.120

But how can they, just from the bones, decide the color of their skins, their cry, their social behaviour. Well, since no one decides such things "just from the bones", it's a waste of everyone's time even to ask such an irrelevant question. (Have you stopped beating your wife yet?) – user2338816 – 2015-02-06T06:22:07.897

@user2338816 are you insinuating I'm a caveman or something? I thought at least on Philisophy one was free to expose his ideas. But I see trolls and ignorants are every were... – algiogia – 2015-02-06T08:36:53.020

1@algiogia My question is perhaps the most widely known example of a 'loaded question', one that has no intention of getting an answer but rather of confusing the issue and confounding the respondent. It contains a probably fallacious presupposition and attempts to limit respondent to a single answer. That's much like the question you asked. But you're right, I should've labeled it as such. – user2338816 – 2015-02-07T07:40:32.157

1"I agree that "science" operate in a way more formal than say, art. But there are many things accepted as incontrovertible truth by the scientific community without proof that it is actually true." - that is not how science works. Researchers put years of tedious work into developing a model (a set of rules which match their observations), eg. analyzing tracks, food in fossil's stomachs, distance to relatives, etc. for the probable social habits of Dinosaurs. Then they publish it for peer review, where a pack of other ravenous scientists try to refute their model. – Cygon – 2015-02-08T18:18:11.477

From an article dated 27 January 2010 on the National Geographic (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/01/100127-dinosaur-feathers-colors-nature/): "Pigments have been found in fossil dinosaurs for the first time, a new study says" and "The finding may also open up a new world of prehistoric color, illuminating the role of color in dinosaur behavior and allowing the first accurately colored dinosaur re-creations[...]". I'm pretty sure I've seen coloured dinosaurs in museums BEFORE 2010: scientists had guessed the colors based on modern reptiles.

– algiogia – 2015-02-09T09:14:40.700

"I've seen coloured dinosaurs..." And I'm pretty sure I've seen numerous statements from decades ago saying clearly the uncertainty and artistic license that is 90% of the exhibits in museums and "science" TV programs. It's not science unless it's in the proper language in a reputable journal. Maybe your confusing the science reporter with the scientist. Even words coming straight from a scientist's mouth is not science unless he is using the proper vocabulary, in the proper context. It's too bad that people are gullible and it's so easy to mistake crap for real science. – user6552 – 2015-03-25T19:29:51.157