Section One: Beyond Biology

Beyond Biology

Creationist arguments span the whole of science, not just biology, and that is why they find some scientists unprepared. An evolutionist does not necessarily know much about the Big Bang, in the same way that a cosmologist may be at a loss discussing the theory of natural selection. One of the recent challenges of creationists is the anthropic principle (AP), which (in one of its many versions) is the idea that the universe is so fine tuned to sustain life that it must have been designed.

The AP is flawed in many respects. For example, it reaches conclusions out of an argument based on the statistical improbability of the known set of physical constants, while we only have one universe to study and don’t know how improbable the values of such constants really are. However, it is true that physics is only now beginning to understand (with superstrings theory, which represents a possible reconciliation of quantum mechanics and relativity theory) why the elementary particles have the characteristics that they have. Once again, science is a continuous challenge, and our ignorance justifies neither supernatural nonsense nor intellectual arrogance.

Of course, it is easy enough for creationists to point out that science has had its share of frauds and hoaxes, the famous Piltdown man (an alleged link between humans and chimps) being the most celebrated one. The figure shows two views of the jaw of Piltdown man, which turned out to be that of an orangutan (combined with a human skull). It is indeed important for scientists to acknowledge these occurrences, and furthermore to use them as lessons to avoid similar mistakes or embarrassments in the future.

Such hoaxes provide plenty of interesting material to other researchers, such as psychologists and sociologists, not to mention philosophers of science. However, it is also good to point out that it is exactly the self-correcting, peer-reviewed process on which science is based that uncovers the frauds. Because of the principle of consilience of all scientific evidence referred to above, such artifacts eventually do not fit in the general scheme of things, and therefore are unmasked as not genuine. Even hoaxes and frauds can be used to illustrate how the scientific process works at its best.

Of course, one should point out that creationists can be mistaken as well, but that they do react in a different fashion. Consider for example the infamous pictures of alleged human and dinosaur prints found in the Paluxy River in Texas. The prints were discovered in the early 1900s and creationists have used them as major evidence of the flaws of evolutionary theory throughout the 1960s and through the 1980s. But geologists clearly demonstrated that no human being left those prints (they are in fact metatarsal dinosaur tracks, together with a few pure and simple fakes).

But did the creationists back track on this embarrassing incident (which, again, was uncovered by scientists)? Not really. John Morris, of the Institute for Creation Science, did admit in 1996 that there was a problem: “I am of the opinion that the evidence is, at best, ambiguous and unusable as an anti-evolutionary argument at the present time.” Notice the extreme ambiguity in his words. But creationist Duane Gish, as recently as 2000, wrote: “…undoubted dinosaur tracks have been found. In the same strata and very close by, other tracks have been found that some claim are human, although such claims are controversial” (in a booklet ironically entitled Have You Been Brainwashed?). There is no “controversy” surrounding the prints, only the creationists’ stubborn refusal to bow to the evidence.

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