"Creation Science" vs Evolutionary Theory,
or Science vs Mythology
by Charles Hlavac
While the desire for knowledge for its own sake is the basis for 'science' and 'philosophy', it seems to be susceptible to various 'filters', some of which state that 'knowledge' comes also from sources other than observable events, rational deduction, or scientific analysis. These interpretations further imply that 'human knowledge' is insufficient to discover the 'truth', and that "God' is the keeper of the 'mysteries of life'. As Ernest Cassirer remarked when discussing Thomas Aquinas: 'Religious truth is supra-natural and supra-rational...'. He reminds us of Kierkegaard's 'religious life as the great paradox', and Tertullian's 'Credo quia absurdum'. (Cassirer, 72). These historical antecedents to our current 'creationism' vs 'evolution' debates have been further influenced by the advent of 'postmodern' philosophy and its impact on the meanings of 'truth', 'relativism' and 'science'. Further, various misinterpretations of the meaning of 'postmodernism' and 'science' themselves have given 'creationists' a segue to the introduction of their mythological 'sciences' into American public education and into circles of scientific and philosophical debate. These, along with political pressure from Christian fundamentalist groups on the public school systems and some Christian 'charter schools', have permitted a mythological approach to science to gain a foothold in the United States:
Moreover, nature is always stronger than principles. (David Hume, quoted in Kahan, Le Lionnais, ed., 104).
Science is on its theoretical side... one of the most subversive agents ever invented by man... controversy whirls around the figures of Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin, Einstein, and Freud like black clouds rumbling with thunder...(Burr and Goldstein, 398).
It is when science, as pure method, overthrows and/ or refutes cherished 'principles', that it becomes subversive, almost surrealistic. And philosophy is always there, challenging even the results of the 'method', the 'limits of knowledge', and creating the systematic (Socratic) 'doubting of the truth of what is claimed to be known' (Burr and Goldstein, 399). And as Bertrand Russell reiterates:
Philosophy arises from an unusually obstinate attempt to arrive at real knowledge (Burr, 406).
The traditional method of science is a combination of observation, experiment, hypothesis, and more observation leading to a theory or principle that can be repeated by others. The traditional mistake of science is sometimes it believes it's own results, and turns them into principles, such as the 'ether'. Philosophy then arrives with it's skepticism, and wants to know 'why are you convinced of the reality of the "ether"?'. Philosophy then becomes more 'subversive' than science itself. The 'weakness' of science in this respect is a really a fiction, but it is one which both postmodernists and creationists alike have used to 'prove' the 'fallibility' of science. It has become the modern essence of 'scientific method to limit its own pretension.' (Cohen and Nagel in Burr, 454). Scientific method concerns itself now more with 'verification', as a result of its encounters with philosophical skepticism, and less with attempts at 'universal principles' or metanarratives, as the postmodernists have claimed. The major criticism of the 'Creationists' and some postmodern philosophers is that science itself is a system of beliefs and that these beliefs involve a 'rationalistic-scientific-humanist' interpretation of life, or 'metanarrative'. As so defined, science then becomes another 'religion'. We even speak of Darwin's ideas as the 'Theory of Evolution' instead of the 'fact' of evolution.
Armed with that idea, Creationists then step in for equal time in public schools, claiming that Biblical theories of evolution are as valid as the 'humanist-science theories' .
The key word is 'Biblical'. While there have been creation myths in every culture and in every time, the keynote of the current debate is specifically the Christian fundamentalist's literal interpretation of the Bible. Imagine this 'debate" in terms of Nordic mythology:
Before the world, there was a great gulf of twilight. North of this was the Home of Mist, full of ice, and to the South, the Home of Fire, guarded by a giant with a flaming sword. A day came when the twilight came to life, warmed by the fires but shaped by the ice, and became the Giant Ymir, with a living body and cruel, cold heart. When he looked for food, he saw a gigantic cow, from whose udders flowed streams of milk, licking the salt from the glacier until a head of hair pushed itself up through the ice and revealed a mighty man, Odin, with a heart warm and kind. The sons of Ymir became a race of giants who worked evil on the earth, and the family of Odin began a war against the Ymir and his sons.
(Paraphrased from E.M Wilmot-Buxton, How All Things Began, The Junior Classics, Vol.3, p.197.)
While this story is commonly regarded as a 'myth', 'scientific creationism' is considered to be a viable theory of evolution by many. Why? Some of the 'Tenets' of Scientific Creationism are (to quote):
2. The phenomenon of biological life did not develop by natural processes from inanimate systems, but was specially and supernaturally created by the Creator.
3. Each of the major kinds of plants and animals was created functionally complete...
4. The first human beings did not evolve from animal ancestry, but were specially created in fully human form from the start...
Tenets of Scientific Creationism, Institute for Creation Research Graduate School (ICRGS), p. 50.
One of the 'sophistic' methods for inducing belief in 'scientific creationism' is the use of the word 'science' itself. Among many Americans, any use of the word 'scientist', 'doctor', 'expert', etc., leads to a certain credibility in that person's remarks, however absurd. In the catalog of the Institute for Creation Research Graduate School (ICRGS) and in many other Creationist publications, there are lists of 'prominent' scientists who support creationism. These include Ph.D's in geology, biology, astrophysics, physics, astronomy, and others. (See the ICRGS catalog, pps 10-12). The ICRGS purpose is to 'discover and transmit the truth about the universe...to correlate and apply such scientific data within...the framework of Biblical creationism....The long range goal is to prepare talented graduates in science and education for future Christian leadership' (ISRGS Catalog, p.4).
Some the 'lessons' learned by students of 'scientific creationism' follow directly from their version of a literal interpretation of Genesis. In order to maintain the 'reasoning' implied in a literal Biblical interpretation, two, among other, 'truths' have been put forward: First, since at the Beginning, there was only one Man and one Woman, who did Cain, their son, marry?
The Wife: If we now work totally from Scripture...than back at the beginning, when there was only the first generation, brothers would have had to marry sisters or there wouldn't be any more generations!
We're not told when Cain married or many of the details of other marriages and children, but we can say for certain that Cain's wife was probably his sister or a close relative....The law forbidding close marriages was not given until the time of Moses (Leviticus 18-20) (Hamm, Where did Cain get his Wife?, 18-19)
Second, and one my favorite examples of the logical necessity of literal interpretations is whether or not Adam and Eve had belly buttons!
No... Why? Because your belly-button (navel)... is a sign that you were once attached to your mother....But our first parents, Adam and Eve, did not develop that way. I believe that God would not have planted on them a false indication that they had developed in a mother's womb... the day they were created they might have appeared to be, say, 30 years old... (navels) would develop in their offspring as a result of processes later on. (Parker, Creation News, p.4)
The difference between 'science' and 'creation science' is not one of degree, or knowledge, or method. It is simply the difference between pursuing knowledge 'for it's own sake' and 'filtering facts' to support one's beliefs, as did early Marxist 'scientists' such as Lysenko.
Should the Norwegian myths have sustained their power over the centuries and became a predominant religious and political force, perhaps there would be 'ice creation stories' explaining where Odin's children came from and whether he had had a belly button!
In fact, I would recommend that all public school districts who have agreed to the elimination of 'evolution' as a science subject, and/ or to the inclusion of 'scientific creationism' in classrooms be also forced to include other creation stories such as those of the Rig-Veda, the Hopi Indians, and so on, if only to prove the point that 'science' is one thing and myth another.
To go back to Creationist mythology, there appears to be a mistake in Genesis, where God has an 'afterthought'. Can God have an afterthought, if He is perfect and omniscient? This occurs in two ways.
Notwithstanding feminist agreement as to the idea of woman being 'comparable to him (Adam)', woman is still an afterthought in this story of Adam and Eve. Since scientists are like 'detectives', as Copi tells us in his Sherlock Holmes analogy (Burr, 446), they would likely agree that under such circumstances of birth as described in Genesis, that neither Adam nor Eve had navels. As for Cain and Abel, however, such scientists would also wish to inquire as to the causes of their origins. If Adam was created first, and Eve only later, as an 'afterthought', did Adam have a penis and sperm-filled genitalia when he was initially 'created'? If so, why? Or were these, along with Eve's sexual organs, added when Eve was created, or perhaps later, after the feast from the 'Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil'? Was the original Adam genderless before Eve?
And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." (2:18)
Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. (2:22)
Karl Popper writes that 'All that we can do is to search for the falsity content of our best theory' (Magee, 223) and in defining scientific method, perhaps that part of science most vulnerable to criticism from the postmodern left as well as the Christian right: 'Science is perhaps the only human activity in which errors are systematically criticized and...in time corrected' (Magee, 222). It is this aspect of science which makes it available to an 'open society' and makes it appear 'subversive' to closed societies. It is just this aspect of philosophy, also, which, as Cohen and Nagel state, make it:
...something nobly devoid of all pettiness. Because it requires detachment, disinterestedness, it is the finest flower and test of a liberal civilization. (Burr, 457).
By skepticism... we arrive first at suspension of judgement, and second at freedom from disturbance. Sextus Empiricus (Magee, 43).
Burr, John R. Philosophy and Contemporary Issues, 4th Edition Goldinger, Milton New York: Macmillan, 1984
Cassirer, Ernest An Essay on Man New Haven: Yale University Press, 1944
Creation Science Facts of Science, No.1: Amazing Fossils...But How Old? Acacia Ridge D.C., Australia: Creation Science Foundation, 1996
Hamm, Ken Where did Cain get his Wife? Florence, Kentucky: Answers in Genesis, 1997 (pamphlet)
Institute for Institute for Creation Research Graduate School, 1996-1997 Catalog Creation Research Santee, California, 1995
Magee, Bryan The Story of Thought New York: DK Publishing (Quality Paperback Book Club), 1998
Parker, Gary 'Did Adam have a belly-button?', Creation News, p.4 Bayside, California: Creation Research of the North Coast, Spring, 1998
Le Lionnais, F., ed. Great Currents in Mathematical Thought, Vol II New York: Dover Publications, 1971
Nagel, Thomas What Does It All Mean? New York: Oxford University Press, 1987
Williams, Mabel and The Junior Classics, Vol. Three: Myths and Legends Dalphin, Marcia, Eds. Connecticut, USA: P.F. Collier and Son, 1948
Siegel, Harvey 'Why Everything Is Not Relative', p.35 Free Inquiry, Fall, 1998 Amherst, New York
© Charles Hlavac 2004