Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A modern day miracle: Ken Ham delivered the decisive blow in the creationism debate

So I was thinking about this earlier, and it seems to me that, in the question of whether or not creationism is a viable scientific field of study, despite Bill Nye's very good, factual answers, it was Ken Ham the creationist who delivered the decisive blow in the debate. Alas, for young earth creationists, it was against Ken Ham.

When asked what would change their minds, Ken Ham's response was, in effect, "nothing". "Well, I'm a Christian," he explained. And that was indeed explanation enough: evidence does not and cannot trump belief. By contrast, Nye responded with "evidence".

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the difference, the only answer you will ever need to "is creationism science?" Scientists reshape ideas to fit evidence, not the other way around. Nye responded as a scientist. Ham responded as a zealot. Ham has every right to be as zealous and as closed-minded as he likes. But that is not science. It is a direct rejection of science and rational thinking.

So I would say that Ken Ham, even more than Bill Nye, delivered the decisive answer in last night's debate: no, creationism is not science. It is a belief system based on a literal reading of select parts of a scientifically inaccurate book. Nothing less and certainly nothing more.

20 comments:

  1. Whether the Bible is "science" or not, creationism has a variant "theory" which is seldom discussed, namely, that HUMANITY appeared on this planet some 6,040 years ago, and that other life forms are indeed quite ancient. As to the accuracy of age estimates for the latter, I have an article titled "The Radiocarbon Clock Gets a Checkup." I'll email it to any interested parties.

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    1. The "Carbon dating is not accurate" theory argues that Carbon-14 as a measure of age should be recalibrated because the decay of Carbon-14 is influenced by the total amount of Carbon-14 in the Earth's atmosphere, which may be have been significantly different, especially very long ago.

      That's a reasonable argument, and may impact the precision of carbon dating going back extremely long periods. I'm all game when it comes to arguing whether the Early Jurassic period was 200 million years ago, or 190 million years, or that the first tools found are 2.3 million years old, or 2.1 million years old.

      However, archeoligists have found Mesopotamia alone clear evidence that modern humans introduced agriculture and animal domestication 12 thousand years ago (circa 8,000 - 10,000 BC). This is referred to as the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A period.

      The amount of Carbon-14 has not changed THAT drastically in 12,000 years. If it had, Earth would be a very different place.

      But let's move further back: there are complex tools like fish hooks that are more than 50,000 years old, and te species homo sapiens has lived on Earth from about a quarter million (that's 250,000) years ago. A predecessor Homo fossil was carbon dated at 2.3 million years with similarly aged stone tools in Africa.

      Ten millenia ago, there may have been factors that impacted the amount of carbon -- but no to THAT order of magnitude.

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    2. Forget dating past twenty thousand years with C14

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  2. Thanks Rachel! I'd say that pretty much covers all "science" based on theology.

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  3. Actually, it's not a "theory". A theory is the end goal of science. It's built of millions of facts, thousands of laws, and countless hours of work and research by tens of thousands of scientists around the world. A single, inconvenient fact could bring a theory crashing down, which is why long-lived theories such as evolution and relativity are so wonderful; they've withstood more than a century of scrutiny by the greatest minds in the world. A century and a half in the case of evolution.

    A theory contains, explains, and predicts all the facts and is contradicted by none of them.

    Creationism has no facts on its side. It offers no explanation. It can make no predictions. Creationism isn't a theory. It's barely even a hypothesis.

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    1. Creationism is neither a theory nor a hypothesis. It's belief without basis, or if you put a prettier word around it, "faith".

      Once upon a time, people believed that the earth was flat, and the Sun revolved around the Earth. Those who believed otherwise were labelled heretics, tortured and killed for hypothesizing otherwise.

      Then, something rather interesting happened: that the Earth was NOT flat became provable, even to the narrowest minded, simplest people. Once common folk could travel around it without falling off the edge, well, that ended that.

      Creationism is no more than the willingness to ignore all measurable observations and evidence to the contrary with the simple, statement, "I believe otherwise."

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  4. There are different sorts of creationism. The notion that the creationism of Ken Ham is based on a "literal" reading of the Bible is nonsense. A literal reading is a reading based on exactly what the words say.

    In the case of Genesis 1-2, the literal reading reveals that each of the days is initiated by God saying something, not sunrise or sunset; that in fact the sun, and therefore 24 hour days, do not even enter the picture until day 4; that each day starts on the morning of the preceding day, rather than at the end of the preceding day as it is with solar days, which do not overlap; and that at least the seventh day, the sabbath, never actually ends - much less ending in 24 hours.

    Now it's fine to reject all this, and to posit that 24 hours ought to be read into the account, and to try to defend it is Ham did. As far as I'm concerned, good luck with that, but whatever it is, it's not a literal reading.

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  5. When you get into the details of physics, chemistry, biology, evolution and genetics, they overlap in ways that confirm the correctness of each other. Furthermore, mathematics acts like the bloodstream of all the sciences and holds them all together. To say that one part or one science is not correct, you end up refuting all of the sciences. Ham tried to do exactly that. Accept the convenient pieces and reject the others. It doesn't work that way. They are all inextricably connected. To refute one is to refute many or possibly all of the sciences.

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    1. As he did with his holy book. Genesis must be taken literally, but the stuff about polygamy? Well, you know, poetry.

      Ham's theology is cherry-picked, and so is his "science".

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  6. Since when did the words, Christian, zealot and close-minded become interchangeable? This makes as much sense as saying being a Scientist, makes you narrow-minded and incapable of holding beliefs. Nonsense. Regardless of how Ham came off in the debate, your characterization of Christians, in this critique, is based on unfounded generalizations and irrational assumptions.

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    1. Pretty sure that the article classified Ham as a zealot and close-minded not "Christians".

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    2. Stutteringhand, the context of Ham's words make that usage interchangeable, in this instance, with the other terms, because he used "Christian" as a -- indeed, the sole -- justification for keeping a closed mind.
      Since there is a question about it, let me state clearly that I do not in any sense think that they are generally interchangeable terms and was not attempting to imply otherwise. Ham's used "Christian" for "evidence won't change my mind"; the word choice was not mine, but the implication behind his words is very, very clear. He is a zealous (and, by definition, closed minded) believer, and evidence cannot sway him from it.
      Again, I'm simply writing about what Ham said. I do not mean to imply that those are characteristics of Christianity in general, or that it is a tenet of that faith to hold to preposterous and demonstrably false claims like YEC. To be honest, I don't think my post *did* imply that, but if it will help to state unequivocally that I'm not making that claim, I am happy to do so.
      YEC is a factually unsupportable theological claim masquerading as science. Science is about finding supportable positions. YEC is not science. That is my point.

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    3. Of course Christians are not all zealots and close-minded. Likewise, many people who aren't Christians are.

      However, anyone who is unwilling to consider evidence or apply rational thought despite provable science is by definition close-minded. I would categorize this as anyone who insists that humans haven't been around longer than 6,000 or so years.

      I believe that anyone who is not willing to consider the existence of God, of a deity or deities, or of a superior species who created us is likewise close-minded.

      I'm not sure why zealotry is considered a negative. In its simplest form, a zealot is someone who shows zeal (or fervor) for a cause. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having passion for your beliefs.

      I think there is something irrational about believing in things so zealously that all evidence to the contrary is thrown to the wind. This is the issue I have with people who accept be Bible (or most religious texts) at their literal word. These were books written centuries or millennia ago, and the world is a different place. Laws, society, and certainly knowledge of the world in which we live is different now.

      Let me give you a simple example:

      Leviticus: 10:20-21

      All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be detestable to you. There are, however, some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground.

      Well, there are no 4 legged birds. And insects? They have 6 legs.

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  7. Mr. Brockman makes a good point that is often overlooked. When creationists use the word "theory," as in "evolution's just a theory," they think it means "hypothesis." In science, a Theory is a hypothesis that's been tested and re-tested and acid-tested until it resolves into a solid. It's not just a "merely theoretical" position that is no better than any other assertion.

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  8. Thanks, Mr. Diggory for saving me the trouble of talking about scientific theories. Evolution can be proven by simply pointing to the fact that biological matter can evolve to become resistant to antibiotics.
    Funny-mentalists amuse me. They have no compunction about snipping scriptures TOTALLY out of context and using what they snip as "proof" of what they wish to force others to believe. Example? Okay. How 'bout the refusal of some modern "Christians" insist that the world is flat because of a snippet of scripture that says that God will call his people from the 'four corners of the earth." A-HAH, the earth has to be flat because of the "corners" they yanked out of context.
    If someone wants to believe something even though it is completely absurd, I've zero problems with it.
    HOWEVER, WHEN THEY WANT TO FORCE NON-SCIENCE DOWN THE THROATS OF PUBLIC SCHOOL PUPILS, THAT IS WHEN I DRAW THE LINE.
    Christians (not all of them, of course) want to shove Christian prayers down the throats of pubic school pupils, never mind that the kids who attend those schools are NOT all Christians...shove it down their throats anyway. Then bitterly complain that our country is going to hell in a hand basket because we've taken their god out of the classrooms. Yeah, uh huh...just look into any classroom in which an algebra test is being given and tell me that there is no prayer going on!
    Even the Pope has called the Adam and Eve story a myth, along with the Noah story. Yet they choose to take their bibles as though God had written them himself rather than use the wonderful brains with which they were born.
    Do i believe in God? Yes. But I believe that she gave us a BRAIN with which to understand what is based on facts to understand what was written to whom and when it was written. As they used to say in the good old days -30-

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  9. Some Christians do not know that Romans 1:20 makes it clear that a 14 billion year old universe, and all evolution are God's invisible tools. And many of these same Christians forget that one of their favorite writers, Oswald Chambers, also said "A fanatic is one who entrenches himself in invincible ignorance."

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  10. There are a lot of people who put a lot of faith in science. It seems there are people who worship science as much as Christians worship God. Can science do no wrong? is it never mistaken? If it is mistaken, how can it always be trusted? Don't scientific standards change? Which standards are ultimately right? Who decides? To think that the Bible has no true facts as some suggest, is an unfounded assumption. Why can it not be accurate? Is the Bible's accuracy to be judged by science? Science is always changing.

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    1. Henry, sure, science can and does get things wrong. What makes science the more accurate guide is that it understands that; its goal is getting it right, and so it will shed the wrong so soon as it finds it. Religion claims to get it right, period. There aren't updated-for-accuracy versions of the Bible being made as we discover errors.

      Consider the debate. When asked what would change their minds, one person essentially said that reality could never change his belief, and the other said evidence. One person had already made up their mind, and evidence would have no bearing on that; the other had arrived at a conclusion based on the evidence, and changing evidence would potentially lead to a new conclusion.

      As for people claiming that the Bible "has no true facts", I'm sure there are people who make this claim, but I'm not one of them. In fact, I would guess those people are in a minority. Heck, Richard Dawkins argues that the Bible has its uses as literature. But interpretations that fly in the face of demonstrable realities? Those are not useful, to anyone.

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  11. perhaps folks need to read "A Scientific Approach to Christianity" by Nuclear scientist Robert W. Faid who proves Science and Creationism go hand in hand.

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