We are accustomed to the creationists’ claim that they and the “evolutionists” work with the same evidence, but we start with different presuppositions. Creationists begin all their thinking by presupposing the existence of God and The Truth™ of the bible.
The creation scientists at Answers in Genesis (AIG) write about this often. They call it presuppositional apologetics. AIG says:
If we start off believing the Bible is the Word of God [scripture omitted], then we use it as our axiom. An axiom (often used in logic) is a proposition that is not susceptible to proof or disproof; its truth is assumed. … The battle is not over evidence but over philosophical starting points: presuppositions.
It’s true, of course, that science uses axioms. They’re imbedded in the scientific method. One is logic. We must accept the validity of Aristotelian logic as an axiom, because logic underlies all our intellectual efforts. Without it, for example, contradictions would be acceptable and experiments would be pointless. If logic is out … then it’s in! Life without logic is great. Well, illogically speaking, it is and it isn’t.
Axioms can’t be proved, but something that is truly axiomatic must be accepted. Without logic we’d be unable to recognize false conclusions, and without free will (another axiom), we couldn’t reject false conclusions. Anther fundamental axiom of science is the validity of sensory evidence (augmented by the evidence of our instruments), without which we have no verifiable information. There’s also the existence of objective reality, which is the source of the information we obtain from our senses.
The so-called axioms of religion, on the other hand, are different. They’re essential for a specific religion, of course, but they’re totally arbitrary. The Greeks, for example, accepted the existence of the Olympian gods as being axiomatic. But other religions have their own beliefs, and each of them functions independently of the others. People can and do switch from one religion to another. Atheists manage to function with no religious axioms. Therefore, no religion’s dogma is truly axiomatic, in the way that scientific axioms are.
AIG isn’t the only creationist outfit to claim that science is just an arbitrary presupposition. The Discovery Institute does it too. A good example is the latest post at their creationist blog: National Academy of Sciences: Dobzhansky’s “In the Light of Evolution” Mantra Is Not a Deduction, but a Premise. We’ll give you some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis.
They begin by mentioning Theodosius Dobzhansky’s 1973 statement, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” We all know that’s true, but watch how the Discoveroids misuse words and concepts as they attempt to create doubts. They tell us that:
[T]he National Academy of Sciences has presented an ongoing series of colloquia, “In the Light of Evolution.” … In the introduction to the series in PNAS [the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences], Francisco Ayala, Brian Skyrms and John Avise make it clear that evolution is to be viewed as a paradigm, not a conclusion from evidence.
[*Sigh*] That’s not what they say, because it’s totally wrong. A scientific theory doesn’t begin as an arbitrary paradigm, the way religions do, but as a conclusion from verifiable evidence. Once it’s well-established, a theory can be used a framework for understanding additional evidence. That’s the function of a theory. But a theory’s ability to function that way is not based on a presupposition of the theory’s truth. It’s the hard-earned — and always tentative — result of a great deal of evidence and tests that have established the usefulness of the theory — and the absence of evidence that casts doubt on the theory.
If there were evidence that contradicted the theory of evolution — the classic example is the ever-elusive Precambrian rabbit — the theory would be in doubt. But if a theory continues to predict verifiable results (as in The Lessons of Tiktaalik), its acceptance grows — as does its usefulness as a paradigm.
Then the Discoveroids quote from In the light of evolution VIII: Darwinian thinking in the social sciences. A portion of their quote is as follows:
Most scientists agree that evolution provides the unifying framework for interpreting biological phenomena that otherwise can often seem unrelated and perhaps unintelligible. Given the central position of evolutionary thought in biology, it is sadly ironic that evolutionary perspectives outside the sciences have often been neglected, misunderstood, or purposefully misrepresented. … The central goal of the “In the Light of Evolution” (ILE) series is to promote the evolutionary sciences through state-of-the-art colloquia and their published proceedings.
Note that the series, “In the Light of Evolution,” is referred to as ILE. The Discoveroids, being oh-so-clever, twist that around and say this:
For short, let’s refer to Dobzhansky’s remark as the “Light in Evolution” principle, or LIE.
Isn’t that precious? That’s why we love the Discoveroids. They go on:
Is the LIE a flashlight or a filter? Does it objectively illuminate facts to a candid observer, or does it determine what the observer is permitted to see? In other words, does the LIE shed light, or process it? The passage cited above makes it clear how the NAS views it: it’s a filter. It’s a framework, or paradigm, for interpreting all observations. Nothing makes sense except within the LIE.
Yes, yes! We see it now. We must cast off the straitjacket of evolution and free our minds to accept the wonders of Oogity Boogity! The Discoveroids continue:
Since the LIE is an axiom — a given, a premise — several conclusions deductively follow: [Brace yourself, dear reader, you're about to see an ark-load of Discoveroid conclusions.]
• All objections to the LIE are nonsense by definition.
• Outside the LIE framework, biological phenomena “can often seem unrelated and perhaps unintelligible” because the LIE stipulates what relatedness and intelligibility are.
• Of course “Most scientists agree that evolution provides the unifying framework for interpreting biological phenomena” because the LIE determines who is a true scientist.
• Since the LIE is assumed prior to religion and philosophy, those realms will also only make sense in the LIE framework.
• Any research that doesn’t explain things with the LIE is unscientific.
• Any activity that fails to promote the LIE is evil.
• Any interpretation that fails to pass the LIE detector will be impermissible in science.
Isn’t that great? But they’ve only begun. Here’s more:
It’s like Stalinism: anything that failed to advance the regime was a crime against the state. Researchers in the Soviet system became very adept, therefore, at interpreting every observation in light of Marxism-Leninism, economic determinism, and dialectical materialism. It made perfect sense (if you wanted to stay alive). So too, the editors at the NAS see to it that every paper published submits to the LIE and has the Darwinian imprimatur.
The Darwinian system seeks not just to control the message, but the very thought processes of the people. This has given rise to an Orwellian language called “Darwinian thinking.”
The Discoveroid essay is a long one. We have to skip most of it. Oh, we can’t omit this. It’ll be our last excerpt:
Advocates of intelligent design have an ace card, however. Since we do not believe that the human mind is an epiphenomenon of matter, but has an intelligent cause, we view our Darwinian thinkers as rational agents, too — but captives to self-deception. Deep down, they share our common rationality. This gives cause for hope that their minds can be awakened from dogmatic slumber.
There is hope for you, dear reader. But first you must become aware of the chains that bind you and cast them off. Only then you can you emerge from the Darwinian darkness into the bright sunlight to become an enlightened thinker — like the Discoveroids.
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