My last post (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/pondering-the-effectiveness-of-prayer/) neatly leads into a question that I have pondered a little recently.
Two blogs that I read have published very good articles on the subject and very conveniently they take opposing views.
In the yes camp there is http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/can-science-test-the-supernatural-yes/ and in the no camp there is http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/science-and-the-supernatural-2/.
Having pondered it and re-read the two posts above (which I do recommend) I have come to the conclusion that Neil is right and scientific tests on the claims of the religious are not tests on the supernatural. The supernatural will remain untestable because scientific tests by definition can only be on the natural. Let’s ignore for the moment that the supernatural is a moving goalpost anyway.
However, that’s not all.
There is a valid conclusion based on these tests, and that is; with the testable claims of the religious coming up false, it is valid to conclude that there is no supernatural entity. But it is not a proven fact.
If Jerry Coyne was in fact correct then I don’t think that Richard Dawkins would have made the ‘not quite sure’ quote that made a lot of press earlier this year (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9102740/Richard-Dawkins-I-cant-be-sure-God-does-not-exist.html).
Neil is also right at the end of his blog to say that this is about honesty. Jerry should have been more clear and honest in his piece, what he should have stated was that its valid to conclude that there is no supernatural because the testable claims that believers make are consistently shown to be wrong when scientific rigour is applied.
It might be a subtle distinction, but it is very important to be accurate and bravo to Neil for picking up on that.
There is currently a bit of noise going on in the UKabout a move to stop the teaching of creationism in science classes. Currently the guidance from government is that creationism should not be taught, this latest move is an attempt to firm up that guidance and make it enforceable. See http://evolutionnotcreationism.org.uk/position-statement/ for some information.
While I wholeheartedly agree that creationism should not be taught at all, anywhere, not even in religious classes, let alone science classes. Yes it can be referenced as an idea that is proven to be false and an example of the progress of science, it should not be taught anywhere as a fact.
My problem is legislation making the teaching of it mandatory. I have a problem with the micromanagement of every little detail of our lives and education. The science in the classroom should stand on its own, and the science of evolution does indeed stand on its own. It should not, and indeed does not, need specific legislation to put it there.
Where is Creationism Taught in theUK?
This report from 2008 (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/7426) says that there are 40 schools in theUK that teach creationism. I have no idea how accurate that is today. What I am more confident about is that the guilty school will be towards the extreme or fringe end of the religions represented.
I am not certain on the best answer to the problem of stopping extreme religious teachers putting forth creationism as fact and on the face of it, banning them might be the single most effective way. What concerns me is the follow on affects of this. The affected teachers will have further cause to fly the religious persecution flag and the teaching of evolution by them will be disgruntled.
My opinion is that this call is short sighted at best and it targets to specific an issue. Any legislation on the science that is taught is schools should be more general and specify that the science should be supported, this will cover creationism, and anything else that might creep in.
The cynic in me also wonders if there is also a motive to try and flush out staunch creationists. Get them to stick their heads up so that they can be specifically targeted. That is not that way science should be defended, its nefarious and low and not at all necessary.
Science can and should stand on its own evidence, the use of legislation or underhand tactics to prop it up or defend it only serves to distract people away from the message of the evidence.
In my last post on my journey into creationism (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/the-making-of-the-adult-creationist/) I mentioned how my final step into fundamental creationism came as the result of a chance conversation and the borrowing of a book.
After that, I purchased many books on the subject, none of which survive in my collection now. Those that I can recall are:
- Ark Search, self explanatory really, it’s a book about one mans mission to locate the final resting place of Noah’s Ark.
- Proof?, interesting book this, but I recall it being a bit weak.
- One very interesting book (whose title I don’t recall) was the personal story of a man who described himself as a scientist. One stand out story from the book was of the miraculous healing of a fracture in his skull. In the book he vividly describes the moment of the healing and how he related to it scientifically. In it he also explains why it accepted the literal creation account, which basically amounted to “it can’t not be literal because then you have to question the interpretation of other parts of the bible”.
- God, the Big Bang and Richard Dawkins, to be honest I don’t actually recall anything from this book, possibly because it was one of the earliest books I bought.
- There were many others of course.
There are two key themes that I recall being obsessed with during these early creationist years:
- The inerrant authority of the bible. This was mainly accomplished through what is called the Bibliographic Test. Explanations of which can be found at http://www.newmediaministries.org/Bible/Bibliographic_S.html and http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/ca/ca_06.htm
- Evolution can’t work because the can’t get fins from legs without having a limb that’s unusable in-between. You can’t have apes and reptiles having a common ancestor because they have different numbers of jaw and ear bones which can only mean some misshapen monster must have existed when one bone was fusing into another.
In my new found confidence on the subject I would pick arguments with atheists and evolutions accepting believers alike. I loved to argue how the flood is responsible for the sediment layers, or that carbon dating is flawed or that the debacle that was Piltdown Man is proof of poor science in all of evolution.
Point two above was my favourite point of attack. Evolution by imperceptible changes eventually brings about something different is all well and good for describing how bones change length or shape, but to change the number of bones between two points required a greater leap of faith; especially if that meant the fusing of a joint or the creation of a new joint. How on earth could an animal be deemed as fit to survive if it was crippled by such an obvious deformity?
For years I happy lived in that world, where the truth of the biblical creation was absolute and the rest of the world had been fooled by evolution. Quite how or why the majority of scientists were wrong I never fully considered, it seems preposterous now that I look back, but when you are so blinkered into knowing you are utterly right, rational thought can take a while to get through.