Monday, August 24, 2009

Evolution vs. Creationism - Part4

[Long posts scare me. Read time: 4min]

We live in a universe made up of matter and energy, a material universe. [M]ost individuals believe that the universe includes something in addition to matter and energy, but science is limited to the latter two. [pg 3]

I am so thankful that Scott started out her book with this acknowledgment. Science does not address everything, nor can it. But, for the material universe, it is well suited for the task.

Why?

Because, Scott gladly tells us, science relies on the natural world "as the arbiter of truth." [3] Unlike, say, Authority, which could be misinformed or lying; Revelation, which relies on supernatural powers with which at least someone disagrees (e.g. Greek gods, Muhammad, Mormons, Catholics can't agree on what is right); Logic, which requires that we properly understand the "real world" before it is of any practical application. [4]

But Science! Ah, Science; Science goes to the natural world for verification. Even so, Scott notes, this is "not perfect." [5] Scott then rambles on for a few pages about all the ways that Science has found itself wrong over time; constantly correcting wrong ideas, and ultimately getting us every closer to truth... but always open to further illumination. In fact, Facts are the "least important" aspect of scientific inquiry, behind Hypotheses and Laws with Theories at the top. And a Theory is "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses." [14]

Theories aren't just hunches. Instead, they rely on "inferential reasoning"... which makes them scientific and therefore... umm... well... er... she doesn't say. But she does want us all to know that "most people" don't use the term properly. [14]

Using the powerful scientific "if/then" model, we can test even evolution scientifically. And here we go:

1. If life came from a common ancestor, then distant past things should be different from what we see today. And, Scott assures us, "this is indeed what we see." [15] But we'll have to take her word as an Authority on that because she cites nothing here (though, she hinted at possibly doing it later in this book).

2. If evolution happened, simple organisms will be in old rock and more complex ones will be in newer rock. Again, we're told this is what scientists have found. No footnotes, references, or data whatsoever. All we get is one nice scientific sounding phrase: Cambrian period.

3. We should see "connecting forms between the major groups." There isn't as much of this, Scott admits, but there are two reference titles she mentions that demonstrate "good evidence" of connecting forms. [15] I don't have access to these titles, but there are enough books published by other scientists--who have read and studied much more than I--that question this interpretation of the fossil record to leave me still skeptical. But, we could all be wrong... so... <shrug>

4. We should not see jumbled sets of fossils. And we don't. Instead, things stay in their proper layers the world over. [16] If this is true--again, no sited evidence, but she's got to be basing this claim on something--I must admit that is intriguing. I don't know what kind Logic Creationists have against this observation. I'm guessing that they'd point to a tree or something. Of course, people disagree.

Scott closes this chapter with this:

Evolution, like other sciences, requires that natural explanations be tested against the natural world. ...The heart of creationism--that an omnipotent being created--is not testable by science, but fact claims about the natural world made by creationists can be. [20]

It's petty, but I didn't realize that evolution was its own science. Does gravitation have its own science? What about electron theory?

I mean, sure, she's writing a book on the topic, but does that mean it should be its own science?

But I do appreciate her comments about science's relationship to creationism. She makes a solid point, and one that is well worth remembering on both sides of discussion.


I may flesh out these ideas more in my next post. But for now, I leave you with just this brief summary of Scott's brief glimpse into the world of science.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

6 comments:

DyessFam said...

You are cracking me up! I'm loving your observations and commentary on this book/subject. I look forward to your next installment......

Anne L.B. said...

Okay, let me get this straight:

"Facts are the 'least important' aspect of scientific inquiry, behind Hypotheses and Laws with Theories at the top."

Aside from the ridiculous argument that theories are more important than facts to scientific inquiry, doesn't establishing a theory require the same type of CREATivity seen in CREATion?

Lynn said...

Luke: "1. ...she cites nothing here (though, she hinted at possibly doing it later in this book)."

Are you talking about the "hints" from the book's Preface [xvii] in which Scott explains, "The first few chapters (on science, evolution, creationism, and religion) are intended to provide the background information necessary to understand the controversy"? Or was it, "My intent is to provide a single reference that examines the creationism and evolution controversy from a broad perspective that includes historical, legal, educational, political, scientific, and religious perspectives. Although more depth in any of the topics can be found in serveral specialized books, this book presents, as its subtitle implies, an introduction." (Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction, by Eugenie Scott).

Luke: "2. ...If evolution happened, simple organisms will be in old rock and more complex ones will be in newer rock. Again, we're told this is what scientists have found. No footnotes, references, or data whatsoever. All we get is one nice scientific sounding phrase: Cambrian period."

There are references at the end of each chapter and more at the end of the book, organized by chapter. You can also find more science in the chapters about science, like Chapter 9: Patterns and Processes of Biological Evolution. In that chapter is a lengthy, seven-page treatment of the Cambrian period (which is more than a sciency sounding phrase) - as well as a rebuttal of Jonathan Wells', Icons of Evolution, a title found on Sonlight's short list of recommended resources on this topic.

Does your library not renew books? You're not only stopping half-way through the book, but you've missed a lot of content in what you have read.

Luke: "3. ...I don't have access to these titles, but there are enough books published by other scientists--who have read and studied much more than I--that question this interpretation of the fossil record to leave me still skeptical. But, we could all be wrong... so... "

Ooops. You tipped your hand. You keep complaining about the glaring lack of scientific detail provided; then, when you find some (among numerous other citations noted in Scott's "ramblings"), you "don't have access" to them, but, what does it matter because enough creationists have read and studied them and they know more than you do anyway so... shrug?

On second thought, maybe the book should go back to the library. :(

Luke said...

Lynn, so glad you're pushing me [smile]. Let's see how this plays out:

1. I don't remember the hints. Sorry. And I don't have the book in front of my anymore to go back and give you the passages that I felt were subtle statements of citing her research at some point.

2. I glanced through Scott's endnotes and didn't see anything that actually made reference to what she was discussing here.

3. "...the Cambrian period ...is more than a sciency sounding phrase..." Granted. I was just frustrated that she didn't have footnotes at all to back up her statements, so I felt that the use of the phrase was ostentatious.

4. I know there are rebuttals to works, then rebuttals of the rebuttal, then rebuttals of the rebuttals of the... and so on. I, frankly, don't have time or care enough about the discussion to try to keep up on it all. I am still moderately interested in the actual evidence that is out there, but people refuting one another's work gets tedious quickly.

Granted, what Scott quotes may be right on. If Icons is without merit, my hope is that will be come apparent. I, for one, however, am not particularly interested or invested in this subject. I think it's interesting and little more. I was hoping to be able to move forward a little by posting this challenge to you rather than getting caught up in more yelling matches between the two sides [smile].

5. You are not able to renew Inter-Library Loan titles. I could request it again if I wanted, but it's be a multiple week process again.

6. I tried to note the things I found interesting/important/bothersome in what I read. I may have missed the evidence I was seeking in a single read-through, but considering Scott said "I do not present evidence for evolution" I don't think I missed what isn't there.

7. This is the second evolution book that has encouraged me to stop half-way through. The first was Dawkins--because, like Scott, after 150 page he had yet to present any evidence--and the second was this title. Granted, a large part of why I stopped was because I wanted to read Scott's words and ideas and summaries (which, as I said a few times, I felt she did rather well), not wade through other people's articles.

8. No "Ooops" about it. I haven't read the creationist stuff either. I've heard from sources, like Scott, who, unlike Scott, say the data doesn't add up at all. If I were more interested in this topic, I would take the time to wade through it all. I'm not. I was hoping Scott would present some evidence rather than alluding to it. She didn't.

So, in that sense, the fact that I no longer have Scott's book is fine. What we should be bemoaning is my lack of the two titles she mentioned [smile].

~Luke

Lynn said...

you: "If Icons is without merit, my hope is that will be come apparent."

How would it become apparent?

I think this whole debate started at my blog when I saw the Sonlight recommended resources list on this topic. If you were to read and view those titles with the same scrutiny that you applied to Scott's book, it's possible you'd see why we're pushing back on this.

Luke said...

Lynn,

That could be true!

Of course, I'm not sure it would be.

Why? Because most of the complaints I've read about the titles Sonlight carries are from experts in a specific field of study who complain about one or two aspects of the texts. Their complaints are technical and specific, and open for rebuttal by those who are also experts in those fields.

My complaints against Scott's work are, on the other hand, mere observations from a single read-through with relatively little knowledge on the subject.

Granted, if I decided to devote my life to the study of this one subject--and really focus on a few titles--I may come to some conclusion about the validity (or lack thereof) of these works. But that is not my calling, my interest, or my passion... and, frankly, I don't see it making much of a difference either way. It is, as I said at the start, mildly interesting to me as a pass time, but little more.

Yet, I still hold to it: If the works Sonlight carries are wrong, I hope that will come to light and the curriculum is adjusted accordingly.

How would that happen? I'm not sure, but I don't see it happening any time soon after my experience with Scott's work. The evidence/data/information is sorely lacking.

~Luke