For the purposes of this article, I consider Creationism, also falsely know as “Creation Science,” as the same thing as “Intelligent Design.”
While in reality, there are subtle differences; the Intelligent Design movement is merely a renewed attempted at hijacking science for the sake of religion, by the religious right in this (and other) countries. As the principles behind these two beliefs are the same, I can treat them as the same, for the purposes of this article, because I am only interested in dealing with their principles.
First I will define Creationism using creationist’s own definition. Attempting to understand what you attack is an essential part in any argument, after all.
The web site conservapedia.com defines creationism as the belief that the earth and universe and the various kinds of animals and plants was created by God or some other supreme being. Newadvent.org defines it as, in the widest sense, the doctrine that the material of the universe was created by God out of no pre-existing subject. The doctrine that the various species of living beings were immediately and directly created or produced by God,
We have a general consensus here about the meaning of creationism. That some deity (or if we’re taking about Intelligent Design, it could be an alien, a scientist or anything else) created life on this planet.
There are many different forms of creationism, which all have different ideas about the age of the earth, evolution, the heliocentric solar system, plate tectonics? pretty much anything you can think of. But one thing they all agree, is that there was a creator which prompted the spawn of something from nothing, of order from disorder.
I’m not in the least interested in attacking the details and intricacies of each model since, there is so much variation. Each of these various forms of creationism are all subject to a common fatal flaw, which prevents any of them from being considered science, and thus must be rejected from being taught in a public science classroom.
But, before I go into that, it is important to explain what science is in the first place. The scientific method is taught early on in public schools; I first learned about it in middle school. However, most teachers and schools teach it incorrectly, which may be a reason why the unstudied still confuse creationism for science.
The first step in the scientific method is to characterize a set of observations. This means, to first create a model, then make observations of a phenomenon, and interpret these results, with respect to this model.
If the observations fit into the proposed model, it is ready to be tested, otherwise the model must be revised. We draw a hypothesis, based on how we think the model will react when certain conditions are applied. Hypotheses are generally given in an “If? then?” format. “If I apply this condition, then, according my proposed model, this will be the result.” The purpose of testing then hypothesis is to observe whether the behavior of the system is contrary to what the model predicts. In other words, it is to see if the model is false.
A scientific experiment always has the potential to be falsified, and that is essentially the goal in a scientific experiment. In science, it is far more useful to falsify incorrect models than to predict true ones. The goal of science is not really to try to find out what is true, but to eliminate false models, thereby converging upon, what observations tell us is the ‘most true’ model.
Let me explain this with a simple example. I am sitting at a pond and I notice something interesting about the ducks there. “All ducks are white,” I think to myself. “All ducks are white” is my model, which further observations seem to verify. Without knowing any better, I come up with a hypothesis, “If the ducks in this pond are white, than all ducks are white.”
To test this, I call my friend, who is duck watching at a pond in a different town. He tells me that the ducks there are gray. Well, since my hypothesis that “all ducks are white” has been proven false, I must revise my model. “All the ducks at this pond are white,” is my new model. My observations tell me that no gray, or any other color duck is around, so this model seems to work for this particular pond.
I create a new hypothesis to test this model: “If the ducks I observe today are white, then the ducks that go to this pond will always be white.” I set up a video camera, year round, and observe the duck color. I see gray and blue ducks in the summer. I must therefore revise the model again. “Only white ducks come to this pond, except for the gray and blue ducks in the winter.” I must verify this model and come up with another hypothesis to test.
However, if you notice one important thing about this example, was that from the beginning there was always a way to prove the model false. In other words, there was the potential for falsifiability, by using new information from observations. As of right now, our model says that only white, gray and blue ducks exist in this pond, but the potential for that model to be falsified is always there, if a pink duck were to come in, for example.
If we are clever in our observations, we can falsify old models and replace them with more accurate ones, which we test.
The potential for falsifiability is a fundamental feature of science, that is (until now, of course) generally poorly understood, sometimes even by scientists themselves. In science, we are only interested in improving and making new models that are potentially falsifiable by making new observations. That is, in essence, the definition of science.
Therefore, anything that is not potentially falsifiable cannot, therefore, be considered science. If a model is not scientific, it is not testable, and therefore cannot be studied as such.
What is something that is not falsifiable? Well, any model that relies on something that is unobservable (directly or indirectly) cannot be falsified. Meaning, if you cannot observe a phenomenon, there is no way to test it, and there is no potential for falsifiability.
For example, I cannot create a scientific model that says “An invisible person removes all the pink ducks from the pond,” because there is no way I can observe the presence of an invisible person. This model cannot be tested, and is not falsifiable. It cannot be proved false, which is not, understand, the same thing as saying it is true. What cannot be proven false is not necessarily true. It is merely an untestable model, which means that it is an unscientific model.
Similarly, the model of creationism and its ilk, states that God (or whatever) is the creator of life. However, since God is not observable, such a model can never be tested, and there is no potential for falsifiability.
“Wait, a creator is not observable you say? What about all the evidence. Just look around, there’s trees and animals and bacteria and people. There is evidence that God exists all around you.”
These physical things, however, are not evidence that God exists. Rather, they are only evidence that the physical exists. Even though these things exist, there is nothing about these things that inherently show that they were created. Because, there still is no way to test the model that God “did it.” God isn’t in the business of submitting to scientific experimentation, or so I’ve heard.
Some creationists say that the complexities of living systems prove that there is a creator that biological systems are too complex to have been generated by evolution.
But remember what I stated earlier! The goal of science is not to show something is true, but only to show that it may be false. If it is true that biological systems are too complex to have formed by evolution, then it shows only that evolution is a flawed model (though I am not saying it is, of course). It does not prove that these systems were created. If our current understanding of evolution is false (which you m
ight call neo-Darwinism) that does not prove creationism true. It only shows evolution to be false.
“But what about the Bible! That’s direct evidence that God exists. After all, it was written by God!”
Though I credit the Bible for its extreme cultural significance, the belief that something was written by God is not proof that it was written by God. After all, nobody was around then. We cannot empirically determine that the Bible is the absolute word of God, because it would be impossible to make that observation.
This is a fallacy known as “begging the question.” You begin with the assumption that God word is absolute truth, and that the Bible was written by God. Then conclude that a creator exist because the Bible, and God, says so. However, anything that starts with an assumption based on belief, and not evidence, cannot be science. Because models based on beliefs cannot be falsified.
I’m sorry to say this, to all those creationists who have been misled, but creationism is not science. It is inherently impossible to create a scientific model of creation based on the existence of God, because such a model cannot be tested.
This is not to say that God does not exist, or that there are spiritual forces beyond the universe that played a role in our creation. However, creationists and theists must be resigned to the fact that, if a God exists, science cannot and will not prove it so.