Why the One Appealing Part of Creationism Is Wrong

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Earlier this month, Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum, in Petersburg, Kentucky, held a debate with Bill Nye at the museum. Within the creationist crowd, Ham represents the young-Earth wing, which believes that the planet is around six thousand years old. He also has other extreme interpretations of biblical claims: for example, he believes that the Tyrannosaurus rex and other dinosaurs were actually vegetarians that lived in the Garden of Eden before the fall of Adam and Eve.

Ham often stresses a line of argument made within the broader creationist community, which resonates, at least somewhat, with the public at large. “There’s experimental or observational science, as we call it. That’s using the scientific method, observation, measurement, experiment, testing,” he said during the debate. “When we’re talking about origins, we’re talking about the past. We’re talking about our origins. You weren’t there, you can’t observe that…. When you’re talking about the past, we like to call that origins or historical science.” In other words, Ham was saying that there is a fundamental difference between what creationists call the “historical sciences”—areas of study, like astronomy, geology, and evolutionary biology, that give us information about the early Earth and the evolution of life—and other sciences, like physics and chemistry, which appear to be based on experiments done in the laboratory today.

On the surface, this does not seem completely unreasonable. There is, after all, a difference between an observation and an experiment. In the laboratory, one can have much better control when attempting to establish cause-and-effect relationships. However, to suggest that somehow this qualitative difference between observation and experiment translates into any sort of deep qualitative difference between the different sciences mentioned above is to demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of science itself.

Written By: Lawrence Krauss
continue to source article at newyorker.com

29 COMMENTS

  1. Of all the predictions resulting from evolution by natural selection
    my favourite is the Darwin/Wallace moth/orchid one, 130 years
    in the proof.

    Pity Nye didn’t ask Ham about that one- definitely not in the bible

  2. @OP – On the surface, this does not seem completely unreasonable. There is, after all, a difference between an observation and an experiment. In the laboratory, one can have much better control when attempting to establish cause-and-effect relationships. However, to suggest that somehow this qualitative difference between observation and experiment translates into any sort of deep qualitative difference between the different sciences mentioned above is to demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of science itself.

    This is a hackneyed old creationist tale in pretending that physics or biology follows different laws in a lab. It is nonsense. Anyone repeating this has no understanding of natural controls and repetitions observable in field work.

    Look at pictures 2 and 3 in this series: -
    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/04/ocean-acidification/liittschwager-photography

    @OP – Let’s consider some examples. In the field of evolutionary biology, scientists can postulate an evolutionary relationship between species, which suggests the development of some biological characteristic—legs, say, as animals moved from the sea to the land, or eyes, as organisms developed photoreceptors that helped to guide their search for food. One can then search for fossil evidence of such developments, looking for transitional fossils that demonstrate gradual evolution. It is a prediction that such transitional species existed. Given the sparseness of the fossil record, there is no guarantee of unearthing evidence of such species, but, in the cases of legs and eyes, the predictions have been validated by discoveries made over the past decades.

    The focus on fossils fails to look at the fact that evolution is an on-going process. The transitions of walking fish and the diversity of stages in evolving eyes are readily observable in living species.

    It is quite comical to see “drive-by” creationists in “smart-arse-mode”, arrive here proudly proclaiming that fins cannot evolve into legs and fish cannot walk on land, or that eyes types cannot demonstrate the developmental stages etc. – only for them to leave in “kicked-arse-mode” after the photographs of these “impossible features” on living organisms, have been linked to the discussion!

  3. There is very little that creationists can argue about with regard to the age of the earth, so all that they have is that it was a long time ago so without any hard photographic evidence they trot out the usual bullshit about sharp toothed carnivores actually being vegisaurs so as to allow them to have co existed with humans. We of course know that this is a load of self serving cock.

  4. All I need them to explain to me is why the creator saw fit to give a creature that lives its entire lives in the oceans (Whales) lungs. And just for good measure threw in a vestigual pelvic bones.

    • In reply to #4 by Reckless Monkey:

      All I need them to explain to me is why the creator saw fit to give a creature that lives its entire lives in the oceans (Whales) lungs. And just for good measure threw in a vestigual pelvic bones.

      I’ve always wanted them to explain why God gave men (and all male mammals) nipples. Artistic symmetry? A drunken WTF moment? Just because?

      I’ve never gotten an answer on that one.

      • In reply to #7 by Sue Blue:

        I’ve always wanted them to explain why God gave men [ ] nipples

        Answers in Genesis.

        AIG has answers for everything – which means, of course, they start with any kernel of truth (e.g. males have nipples), and spin it into creationist cotton candy. Child’s play.

        • In reply to #16 by bluebird:

          AIG has answers for everything – which means, of course, they start with any kernel of truth (e.g. males have nipples), and spin it into creationist cotton candy. Child’s play.

          ..and it really, really, really is in Genesis – once the believer masters the Ham-projectionist, subjective word-interpretation, reading technique!

          It’s just that these atheists and “historical scientists”, can’t grasp the noooo fizzsicks, noooo IDological biology, nooo geocentric Hamstronomy, nooo ethereal YEC dictionaries etc.!

        • In reply to #16 by bluebird:

          In reply to #7 by Sue Blue:

          I’ve always wanted them to explain why God gave men [ ] nipples

          AIG has answers for everything – which means, of course, they start with any kernel of truth (e.g. males have nipples), and spin it into creationist cotton candy. Child’s play.

          Answers in Genesis.
          >

          Wow, there is so much wrong with that AIG article, I don’t know where to start. They go into embryology, which begs the question why God had to make it so embryos would all have nipples that would remain after the Y-chromosome kicks off the development of male genitalia. You’d think God, in making men “first” and superior to women, would allow no traces of femininity to appear on a blessed male body. You’d think that male fetuses would be so uniquely different from female fetuses that there could be no question of their separate origin at the time of Creation. But no, all we get is quasi-scientific bullshit and stuff like “they’re there for sexual pleasure”. As if nipples, ducts, and glandular tissue are all necessary just for pleasure…when men already have a penis, scrotum, perineum, lips, and fingers with plenty of nerve endings for pleasure.

      • In reply to #7 by Sue Blue:

        In reply to #4 by Reckless Monkey:

        I’ve always wanted them to explain why God gave men (and all male mammals) nipples. Artistic symmetry? A drunken WTF moment? Just because?

        I’ve never gotten an answer on that one.

        I haven’t confirmed this personally but I have heard that some POW’s starving for prolonged periods in WW2 knocked about their testosterone levels causing them to express colostrum from their nipples. I’ve always meant to look this up and confirm it. It has led to some awkward thoughts though. ‘Cup of tea squadie?’ ‘Sure, ta’ ‘Milk with that?’ ‘No thanks’. Anyone else heard of this or am I mixing in the wrong circles?

      • In reply to #7 by Sue Blue:

        In reply to #4 by Reckless Monkey:

        All I need them to explain to me is why the creator saw fit to give a creature that lives its entire lives in the oceans (Whales) lungs. And just for good measure threw in a vestigual pelvic bones.

        I’ve always wanted them to explain why God gave men (and all mal…

        I think it’s because women were made first and he liked them so much he couldn’t throw away the extras he had left after he was done.
        (its in the bible).

    • In reply to #4 by Reckless Monkey:

      All I need them to explain to me is why the creator saw fit to give a creature that lives its entire lives in the oceans (Whales) lungs. And just for good measure threw in a vestigual pelvic bones.

      And some snakes have the merest remnant of back legs too

  5. It’s interesting that Krauss gives the time a photon leaves the centre of the sun to the surface as a million years. I thought it was less than that, something like 250,000 years. Either way, that somewhat weak sunlight I saw today in London, was created in the centre of the sun way, way , waaaaaaay, before Jesus was born !

    As to the 13 billion year old galaxies in the universe, the likes of Ham can only claim that there “is a book” giving the explanation, – in other words the supernatural “explanation” which explains nothing at all, and only creates a deeper mystery about the cosmos.

    • In reply to #5 by Mr DArcy:

      As to the 13 billion year old galaxies in the universe, the likes of Ham can only claim that there “is a book” giving the explanation, – in other words the supernatural “explanation” which explains nothing at all, and only creates a deeper mystery about the cosmos….

      I have a sneaky suspicion that his book is a tad out of date.

  6. I used Natural selection today to make a prediction to my students. I asked them about these little bugs we get in my region (Philly) called gnats. I call them “can’t see ums”. They dive bomb your face all summer long when you are at your kids baseball/softball games. Hell, they dive bomb your face any time you are outside in summer.

    Anyway, they were so bad last summer that when a kid hit a line drive, it cut through the black swarm of these critters. Last summer sucked to be outside but was awesome if you were a gnat.

    I predicted that this coming summer, the gnat population woud be very very low. We have had over 50 inches of snow and a prolonged “polar vortex” that has the ground frozen like the permafrost!

    Anyway, natural selection is a strong theory because i can use it to make predictions. The survival of gnat larva over winter is highly likely with a mild winter (2013′s was totally wimpy). But this year, a low % of gnats will successfully overwinter.

  7. it all seems to go back to what is in the bible as though that book is some authority. and why is it an authority? because they say: so. not because it works; stands up to the test of time; or can be useful for making predictions. it’s just because they say it is the first and last word. and, to top it all off, he claims it is unobservable because it is in the past but, as i understand it, everything we perceive is in the past in that it took time to be detected by our senses, and then for the signals to reach the brain for processing and interpretation – despite our subjective experience. ham, unwittingly or gratuitously – i can’t tell which – juggles terms and ideas, and thinks/hopes he’s come up with a seamless, cogent, and coherent whole which is not open to modification … oh, and nobody is saying that you can’t be a scientist and believe in god or be a young earth creationist. they are saying that it seems inconsistent and a mystery but not that it doesn’t or can’t happen.

    • In reply to #9 by Net:

      it all seems to go back to what is in the bible as though that book is some authority. and why is it an authority? because they say: so. not because it works; stands up to the test of time; or can be useful for making predictions. it’s just because they say it is the first and last word. and, t…

      Exactly! Why should/would the inane scribblings of intellectually-challenged donkey nomads be allowed to have any influence in the 21st century?
      My iPad can predict better than crumbling old papyrus shards ever will.

      It’s about time that humans came of age and rejected the idiotic ramblings from the past. I would not personally allocate any credence to documents published before 1700.

      Anything that any of the churches purported to be “fact” ever, I would reject. Even now in the 21st century religions are so out of touch that their existence needs to be challenged. They are unwanted, unneeded appendages to what normal humans perceive to be life.

  8. Why does anyone, especially Bill Nye, give a tinker’s cuss about what Ken Ham thinks? I can’t believe anyone with a brain would have a debate with someone who has the intelligence of a Neanderthal ( and that’s putting down Neanderthals). Ken Ham brings in an annual turnover of around $20 million, which would advance research into many human diseases and provide cures but instead indoctrinates so many susceptible humans into a litany of lies, deceit and promises of an afterlife that will never be fulfilled.

    Ken Ham, I challenge you to become human!

  9. This says it all. Go no further. When a religious take on the world can do this, we’ll talk!

    The stories that science does tell have empirical consequences, and make physical predictions that can be tested.

  10. Isn’t it time we started laughing at Ken Ham’s creationist views ?

    Creationist claim that time sped up, so that 13 billion years were compressed into 6000.

    If you think about it, the Dinosaurs must have been running around at 10,000 miles an hour, and their legs would have snapped every time they changed direction.

    Can’t we produce a funny DVD along these lines ?

    There are probably better absurdities to be exposed.

    Isn’t creationism an easy target for satire, like Zoolander and the fashion industry.

    Kids don’t read academic articles.

    We need to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

    • In reply to #15 by SydneySider:

      Isn’t it time we started laughing at Ken Ham’s creationist views ?

      Creationist claim that time sped up, so that 13 billion years were compressed into 6000.

      If you think about it, the Dinosaurs must have been running around at 10,000 miles an hour, and their legs would have snapped every time they…

      I’m all for more satire, even though the target is so soft because the religious indignation that follows just feeds back into the comedy. people in power who buy into this need to be made to stick their heads over the parapet so we can demand to know why we mustn’t laugh at their beliefs

  11. he believes that the Tyrannosaurus rex and other dinosaurs were actually vegetarians that lived in the Garden of Eden before the fall of Adam and Eve.

    the bible doesn’t state this which leaves me to the conclusion he must have been there

  12. Peoples such as aboriginal cannot record the past because they don´t have counting or writing system call the far distant past that they cannot know by any other means the time of dream.

    But Ham is getting worse than this because he is leaving aside egyptians for instance and other history recordings through writing, indicating that humanity invented writing and counting systems more than 6.000 years ago.

  13. In order to hold on to the Creationists’ preposterous notions it must be an absolute imperative to avoid learning anything at all about anything what so ever; no mean task when we are now able to access information so easily!

    How on Earth do they manage it I wonder?

    It really does appear that they live in a world of their own, cut off from reality.

    Weird!

    • In reply to #21 by Stafford Gordon:

      In order to hold on to the Creationists’ preposterous notions it must be an absolute imperative to avoid learning anything at all about anything what so ever; no mean task when we are now able to access information so easily!

      How on Earth do they manage it I wonder?

      Wilful intent to deceive through cultish practices of disinformation and indoctrination perhaps ??

  14. After the debate Ken Ham was questioned about plate tectonics, he was asked if The Earth was only 6000 years old and given the rate at which the plates move around the surface of the globe, if the continents were once all joined together then how could he account for their present positions? His answer, Oh well thats easy, the plates used to move around The Earth a lot FASTER in the past than they do now… they have merely slowed down a lot that’s all. Honestly, I don’t know how Bill Nye kept a straight face.

    • In reply to #26 by Haymaker:

      His answer, Oh well thats easy, the plates used to move around The Earth a lot FASTER in the past than they do now… they have merely slowed down a lot that’s all. Honestly, I don’t know how Bill Nye kept a straight face.

      You need to remember that these are one-dimensional answers, aimed at people whose education probably does not let them calculate the weight of a BigMac quarter-pounder- let alone the weight and inertia of a tectonic plate!

      .. Instant denial – babble-answers to anything, and understanding of nothing!

  15. Vegetarian tyrannosaurus?
    If these ignorant YECS were in any way educated as to the bone and muscular facial structure of carnivores and herbivores then they would not support such bollocks.
    YECS are a movement encouraging backwardness!

  16. In reply to #25 by Light Wave:

    In reply to #21 by Stafford Gordon:

    In order to hold on to the Creationists’ preposterous notions it must be an absolute imperative to avoid learning anything at all about anything what so ever; no mean task when we are now able to access information so easily!

    How on Earth do they manage it I won…

    HOMESCHOOLING!

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