Saturday, September 12, 2009

Evolution vs. Creationism - Part9

[Long posts scare me. Read time: 5.25min]

I have to return this book tomorrow, so I'm going to whip through the rest of it very quickly.

In Chapter 4, Scott presents a very interesting overview of the scientific community prior to the 20th century. Covering a wide range of people from Plato to Pope Pius XII, Scott points out some of the difficulties that Darwin's ideas faced. For instance, the idea that the world was stable and mostly unchanging [74]. She points out that many discoveries, however, challenged this view. For instance, discovery of the Americas lead to major rethinking of theological as well as scientific assumptions [76]. The scientific community of the mid-nineteenth century considered science to lead to "positive finality. Anything less than certitude was deficient." [80] Darwin's ideas were thus sometimes rejected as not rigorous enough and mere speculation... even though his methodology has since become the standard of science [81]. Scott also claims that Christians reject evolution because of a belief in Special Creation [81] or a need for a Design and Purpose [82].

Scott then discusses some of the political/religious reasons why Americans tended to reject Darwin's ideas despite the fact that, "[by the] mid-twentieth century in Great Britain, Europe, and North America, the scientific community no longer questioned whether evolution occurred." [86]

Scott appears to all but bemoan the lack of centralized education as the reason Americans still don't teach evolution in class [87-88] but then agree with the ACLU that teachers should be given free speech when it comes to teaching evolution [94]. Thus, as long as the educators teach what she likes, she seems willing to flip sides. This is not uncommon for us humans, but an editor should have pointed this out to her.

Chapter 5 covers the "invention" of Creation Science. Scott cites the uneasiness of Fundamentalist parents as more and more students attended high school in early 1900s. [91] My Alma Mater is credited as laying the foundation for Fundamentalism [92] and evolution is rejected for it's incorrect association with German ideals and the robber barons [93]. Scott then talks about the "three-ring circus" of the Scopes trial [93-96] which did little for either side of the controversy [97].

It was Sputnik, Scott claims, that pushed our government to promote science in the classroom... and science was evolution. This lead to a major resurgence of evolution in high schools which had all but disappeared in the years after Scopes [98]. The rest of the chapter is a brief look at the legal history of Creation Science in the courts with a culmination of the Lemon test and other rejections of religion in the classroom.

Most of chapter 6 is dedicated to taking down Intelligent Design. Scott criticizes irreducible complexity by pointing to Behe's mouse trap and the scientists who have made less complex versions [117-118]. Of course, she never cites any of these or gives an example, so these "less complex" options may not actually detract from Behe at all.

Scott next points out that Behe misrepresents the process of evolution. Rather than building piece by piece "like stringing beads", natural selection can build useful, less complex pieces that could form together to make an ultimately irreducibly complex feature [118]. Again, she offers no hint as to how these could, via mutation, combine. She also mentions the "scaffolding" idea: Masons build irreducibly complex arches by supporting the arch with scaffolding before placing the capstone. "The now superfluous components can be removed by natural selection," Scott points out [119]. And while she goes on to criticize Behe's "God of the gaps" argument [119], I don't feel that it is fair to say that her view of evolution is scientifically backed with the gaping holes in her own thinking.

It's true: Science may "come up with an additional mechanism" that fills in these gaps [119], but to put such faith in a current idea that has no cited basis in reality feels far-fetched to me. This is especially poignant when Scott later strips away the "dichotomy between 'natural' and 'intelligent' ...because some of the agents on the 'intelligent' side are actually 'natural'" including "extraterrestrials (if such beings exist)" [122]. Which reminds me of a lesson at Biola: If God exists, then we add nothing outside of reality to support our beliefs. Thus, arguably, the most natural force in the universe is God.

Scott makes an excellent observation, however:
Enamored of an ideological, political, or social goal, it is all too easy to misrepresent or ignore empirical data when they do not support the goal; certainly Creation Science is infamous for doing so. [126]

As is, it seems, the education community as well.

Scott next complains that "Intelligent Design proponents ... exploit public confusion about 'Darwinism' to promote doubt about evolution." [127] I'm convinced that if people like Scott actually defined "evolution" and stuck with the definition, IDers wouldn't be able to so easily sway people. Unfortunately for her, Scott seems unable to keep her own theories straight in her writing and has all but confused me more than once. It is little wonder there is confusion in the general public.

In the last few pages of her own writing in this book, Scott finally mentions the reasons I've always been less than convinced of evolution: The evidence against it. Yet Scott seems unwilling to accept that "evidence against evolution exists" [129]. Why? She doesn't say. But she does say, "Presenting evidence against evolution per se is only bad science" [130]. Ironic, since she's spent the rest of her work promoting the wonders of science's corrective measures when faced with evidence.

She concludes her words with a reminder that while evolution is a theory, it is not "just" a theory because theories are "the best [explanations in science]" [130].

I stopped reading on page 135 when Scott mentioned, "I do not present evidence for evolution" because it is the consensus of the scientific community and you'd need to read scientists or take college classes. This, after the opening when she criticizes IDers for not letting her reproduce their writings because their articles would not do their theory justice. [xviii]

So, now again, half way through a book on evolution, I learn that there is none to be found here. Despite my clear request for a book with the evidence.

Final thoughts on this challenge to come...

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father


Anne L.B. said...

I can't quite work myself up to feeling disappointed about such a bad book. Maybe because I didn't go through the pain of actually reading it. Thanks for saving the rest of us from it, Luke! :D

BTW, my session on Creation Science went over very well with the kids today. I got an email from a mom who said it was the only thing her son talked about all the way home.

Benny said...

I just get so peeved at how evolutionists talk about how naive it is for creationism to rely only faith, but no scientific evidence. But they seem completely unaware that their own beloved theory also requires a whole lot of faith, with seemingly even less scientific evidence - they just have faith in time and chance. We have faith in God the creator.

Frankly, I'd love to see a book that compares the two "faiths" and explains why theirs is so much more reasonable than ours.

Thanks for sharing. I have been so intrigued with creation science for the past 6 months or so, and get so excited when I find posts like this. It's still very new to me, this breaking away from the cultural indoctrination that evolution is science and Christianity is faith, and that there is no reconciling the two. But the deeper I dig, the more evidence and science seem to point to the creation account as well as the Genesis flood.

Anyway, didn't mean to blab on and on in your comment section. I just enjoyed the series, so thank you for writing it!


Jim said...

While you are clearly articulate, in the end you remain ignorant. Creationism - really? You will teach your children this nonsense? Shame on you.