Answers in Genesis Explains Science to Us

The entertainment never stops at Answers in Genesis (AIG) — the flagship website of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the Australian creationist who brought you the mind-boggling Creation Museum.

Today, AIG is giving their followers a lesson titled What Is Science? At the threshold, it must be said that there are some people who simply shouldn’t undertake some projects, and AIG’s explaining science is a good example of such a mismatch. Science is a topic they are absolutely unqualified to discuss; but they plunge in, oblivious to their manifest limitations.

Aside from the amusement value of AIG’s article, we think there is some benefit to be gained from reading it. You’ll become familiar with many of the fallacies and misunderstandings that plague creationists. So if we treat this as a case study in confusion and misinformation, we can slog through this thing with the comforting thought that we’re not completely wasting our time. Okay, let’s get started. The bold font was added by us:

Most people do not realize that many modern scientific ideas were actually developed in Christian Europe by men who assumed that God created an orderly universe.

True, and long before that, lots of brilliant work was done by men like Aristotle and Archimedes who lived in cultures that worshiped the Olympian gods. So what? AIG’s irrelevant introduction continues:

If the universe is a product of random chance or a group of gods that interfere in the universe, there is really no reason to expect order in nature.

Actually, that’s an interesting argument for the compatibility of science and monotheism. The Greeks observed a lot of order in nature; and when things didn’t work out as expected, they could attribute it to a conflict among the gods. Natural order is consistent with (albeit not necessarily dependent upon) some kind of Founding Fathers’ Deism; but AIG’s style of creationism doesn’t improve on pagan polytheism. If the world today fails to meet the creationists’ expectations (e.g., our bodies aren’t very intelligently designed), the blame is assigned to the Fall. Modern science is far more demanding; it doesn’t tolerate supernatural loopholes. Let’s read on:

Many of the founders of the principle scientific fields, such as Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, were believers in a recently created earth. The idea that science cannot accept a creationist perspective is a denial of scientific history.

Yes, there were early scientists who were young-earth creationists; everyone was back in their time. But that was before James Hutton pioneered the modern science of geology, which preceded Darwin’s theory of evolution. If AIG’s list of earlier scientists had known of Hutton’s and Darwin’s work, they wouldn’t have been young-earth creationists. It’s ridiculous to cite them as authorities in matters about which they knew nothing. We continue:

To help us understand that science has practical limits, it is useful to divide science into two different areas: operational science and historical (origins) science. Operational science deals with testing and verifying ideas in the present and leads to the production of useful products like computers, cars, and satellites. Historical (origins) science involves interpreting evidence from the past and includes the models of evolution and special creation.

Don’t throw up, dear reader. We’re not going to spend any time on that mess. Why? Because we already went through it last year in an earlier post: Creationism and Science. Trust your Curmudgeon — what AIG is saying here completely misrepresents the nature of science.

After skipping over that, we come to this:

The words creation and evolution can be used in many different ways. Evolution will be used in this book [m’god, this thing is part of a book!] to describe the naturalistic process that is alleged to have turned energy into matter, matter into galaxies, and molecules into man over billions of years. As creation is used through out this book, it is intended to describe the supernatural acts of God who created the universe and everything in it in six, approximately 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago. This perspective is often referred to as young-earth creationism. The true history of the universe is revealed to us from God’s eyewitness perspective in the Bible.

Aaaargh!! Here’s more:

Laws of nature are descriptions of the way God normally upholds the universe. But God is not bound by these laws. He is free to act in other ways in order to accomplish an unusual and extraordinary purpose. So, miracles are possible within the Christian worldview. Naturalistic scientists simply dismiss the possibility of the supernatural. They do this not for logical reasons, but because miracles are incompatible with their beliefs.

We interrupt that paragraph to mention one additional point that AIG somehow omitted — scientific disbelief in miracles is primarily because of a total lack of verifiable evidence for such phenomena. Is disbelief for that reason illogical? AIG’s paragraph continues:

But then again, they have no good reason to think that laws of nature should exist in the first place. The Christian can make sense of both science and miracles. The naturalist cannot account for either.

It rarely gets more messed up than that. Let us merely say that we have no problem accepting that there are laws of nature. In science, the word “law” (or the expression “law of nature”) refers to descriptions of observed regularities. It does not refer to either arbitrary decrees of gods or to man-made rules that are inscribed on parchment or chiseled in stone. Such regularities — or scientific laws — are observed because everything that exists has specific characteristics and acts accordingly — e.g., an electron always acts like an electron, and not a neutron. The laws of nature are an inevitable corollary of existence itself — not a capricious afterthought.

Egad — we just realized that we’re barely half-way through this thing at AIG. We hate to disappoint you, dear reader, but we’re not going any further. If you wish to continue your study of the creationist mind, we invite you to click over to AIG where you can carry on without us. Then, if you would, please share your insights with us.

Update: See ICR Says Scientists Don’t Understand Science.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “Answers in Genesis Explains Science to Us

  1. Do not “Aaaargh!” those two paragraphs, they are wonderful. AIG draws a direct link between creationism, religion, and miracles. I can’t think of a better nail in the coffin of ID efforts to appear non-religious, than a book written by them, for their students, stating explicitly that it’s religious and linked to the bible. Poor Barbara Forrest may find herself out of a job – with statements like this even your most junior legal intern can demonstrate the religious nature of creationism. No experts needed.

    If the universe is a product of random chance or a group of gods that interfere in the universe, there is really no reason to expect order in nature.

    This is just AiG showing their western bias. Chinese mythology is very polytheistic but the gods tend to be more ordered than the humans, not less ordered. But my guess AiG is pretending they don’t exist or don’t count. A culture with written records going back further than your origin myth tends to be a bit of a problem.

  2. Per the sidebar on the left, this is a book intended for students to use to respectfully counter the evolutionary bias and indoctrination in astronomical and geological evolution in their public school classes. Ergo the table with textbook references. They have a similar book for biology class.

    Forcing this on a kid in school should qualify as child abuse. They might not have physical scars, but they would have long-lasting mental handicaps.

  3. Wow, I tried to read it–but it hurt. It looks like their basic argument to “historical science” being validly interpreted by creationists is that NO ONE was there then. Natural laws are assumed to be regular and predictable, but NO ONE was there to confirm that. Erosion is regular but NO ONE was there to confirm that. Evolution happened, but NO ONE was there to confirm it. Therefore god and evolution are equivalent explanations for the evidence (because the aformentioned assumptions are based only in faith!).

    Too bad NO ONE has a time machine.

    Question to AIG: is forensic science historical or operational?

  4. The NO ONE was there argument is typical of my nieces’ answers to evolution. Their fundie mom and church have them well trained.

    Did you notice the “questions to consider” at the end?
    Here’re a couple:

    ■Since evolution and creation are both based on religious beliefs (basic presuppositions), why should one and not the other be taught as science in public schools?
    ■Would all scientific thought and advancement end if supernatural creation was accepted as a possible model for how the universe and life on earth began?

    Disgusting.

  5. Yes, they use the “no one was there” argument.

    When they bring up that argument, it is a sign of desperation. It is a sign that they recognize that the evidence for evolutionary biology is so overwhelming that they must go to the extreme of denying all knowledge of things which are not accessible to direct observation. Things which are too big, too small, too distant, too fast, too slow: They must deny knowledge that there is a center to the earth, that there are electrons, that there is a solar orbit of Pluto, … and, indeed, they have to deny that they know that “no one was there”.

    And they are willing to go such an extreme.

    Yes, they are that desperate.

  6. Most people do not realize that many modern scientific ideas were actually developed in Christian Europe by men who assumed that God created an orderly universe.

    See, science is compatible with religion because both believe in an orderly universe.

    But God is not bound by these laws. He is free to act in other ways in order to accomplish an unusual and extraordinary purpose.

    See, the only science compatible with religion is the kind that believes that the universe is not necessarily acting in an ordered manner.

    OK, AiG makes no sense, not a new observation.

    What is important is that the only religion that is and was fairly compatible with science is the kind that assumed that since the beginning there have been no major violations of nature’s regularities. An odd miracle or two might occur, but no massive interventions. Which, in fact, is agreeable with AiG’s creationism (yet not with the flood story), while the evidence is strongly against an unchanging world and life–in accordance with known regularities, of course. It’s ID in Behe’s form that is fundamentally opposed to science as it actually works–without intervention from an outside “intelligence.”

    The problem is not the assumed logic of creationists (minus the flood)–presumably laws and life could have been set up “in the beginning,” whenever that was. The trouble for them is that all of the evidence is contrary to life and the world being set up indifferently to time and the “laws of nature,” rather science has stuck with the “laws” as well as it could, and has found them to explain the world’s changes and the evolution of life. The world wouldn’t necessarily have to be that way, and yet it is. The AiG simply can’t accept that the provisional assumptions of early modern science simply continue to work–and oppose the miracle stories of the flood (some early geologists proposed a flood that worked according to nature’s regularities, but that never panned out).

    Science has given us the evidence to accept the regularities of nature. Ken Ham’s religion simply can’t accept that evidence.

  7. Of course, Ham fails to recognize that even if it were true that certain foundations of science are taken on “faith”, this in NO WAY equates the resultant findings of science and religious speculations. Science has EVIDENCE. Religion? Not so much.

  8. Gabriel Hanna

    @eric:

    A culture with written records going back further than your origin myth tends to be a bit of a problem.

    China’s recorded history only goes back 3,000 years. Not that it’s not impressive.

    @LRA:

    I think AIG is deliberately blurring the line between “faith” and “assumptions”. Almost everyone assumes that the outside world is real and not a hallucination or simulation like the Matrix, but this assumption is not a religion. Euclid assumed that two points define a straight line, and four other things, and developed geometry from them, but that’s not a religion either.

    I have quit using the word “faith” outside of a religious context because it encourages these sort of Humpty-Dumpty games (“what I mean by ‘glory’ is: there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”).

  9. Gabriel Hanna

    @SC: And here’s my obligatory quibble with your “Founding Fathers’ Deism” as only a few of them were Deists, and of those few Thomas Jefferson at least seemed to believe that God intervenes in human affairs.

  10. Gabriel – AFAIK TJ was one of the ones who didn’t think God intervened. That’s why he stripped all the supernatural stuff from the Jefferson Bible – he thought it was false, fake, added by later theologians. He even compared the moral teachings to the supernatural stuff as “diamonds in a dunghill.”

  11. Benjamin Franklin

    Oh, Signor Curmudgeon,
    There’s too much comedy gold in this piece to mine.

    My mind is a veritable whirling dirvish, unable to cogently construct comedic comme si nor comme sa.

    But then again, they have no good reason to think that laws of nature should exist in the first place. The Christian can make sense of both science and miracles. The naturalist cannot account for either.

    Must. Digest. Nonsense.
    Must. Reboot. Brain.

    “But if I build an Ark, they shall come.”

  12. @eric: Gabriel – AFAIK TJ was one of the ones who didn’t think God intervened.

    I keep quoting this and no one reads it.

    And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference!

    Yeah, he cut the miracles out of the Bible, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t think God ever intervened.

  13. “China’s recorded history only goes back 3,000 years. Not that it’s not impressive.”

    The Bible isn’t that old. Some of the Canaanite/Sumerian/Babylonian/Egyptian myths, heavily altered for inclusion in the Bible, may go back 3,000 years or more, but the version of the Bible we have now isn’t 3,000 years old. Technically, it isn’t even 2,000 years old (in the version we have now). At best, early versions of the Pentateuch were written/compiled very late in the Judean Kingdom shortly before the Babylonian conquest (roughly 2,600 years ago); much of what we now call the “Old Testament” came later, under Persian and later under Hellenistic influences.

    Also, Chinese writing goes back some 3,600 years if you include the oracle bones and other evidence which make the Shang dynasty a historical, rather than legendary, dynasty. There are cuneiform records in the Canaanite areas, that would later become Judea/Samaria, that go back roughly 3,300 years or so (ie, the Tel Amarna letters, etc), but these are so at odds with the Biblical story that the Bible thumpers don’t like to talk about them, since they don’t match the Biblical “history”, at all.

    “If the universe is a product of random chance or a group of gods that interfere in the universe, there is really no reason to expect order in nature.”

    Interesting that they should mention polytheistic gods, since the God of the Bible acts exactly like one of them – cruel, arbitrary, despotic, unpredictable, changeable, petulant, lacking in foresight, etc. – in fact the God of the Bible acts a lot worse than most of the pagan Gods of, say, the Greeks, or later, the Norse.

    Anyway, their logic is entirely @ssbackwards. We would expect that the universe produced by a God who performs supernatural miracles to be disorderly and capricious – which is in fact the universe, or Nature, that we observe in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. There is nothing orderly about the universe as depicted in the Bible. God is constantly messing with it, ordering floods, wiping out cities with fire and brimstone, etc. Nor is this just an Old Testament thing; the New Testament is dominated by people who expected the world to end at any moment, with the orderly laws of nature swept aside, the heavens rolled up like a carpet, to reveal a totally new reality not governed by the orderly laws of the universe as we now know it.

    As usual, the creationists can’t conceive of a universe operating by orderly laws without a “law giver” so they accuse the universe without a God of being “random chance”. Well, no, wrong. There is chance in the universe, but it is not random. It operates according to rules or laws which we can observe, test, and predict. If it didn’t, science would not be possible. Science doesn’t talk about God because God isn’t necessary to the process of observing Nature and deriving natural laws from these observations (Occam’s Razor).

    Precisely because Nature is orderly and predictable, a God is not necessary as an explanation. You can add on a God as an explanation, if you wish, but that is theology, not science. The creationists simply can’t understand this distinction.

  14. The word “deist” has had a shift in meaning. In the 18th century, it meant a belief that there was no supernatural revelation. 18th century deists often expressed a belief in divine providence: God’s care for creatures. The word today refers to a belief that God started the universe and let it run without further attention.

  15. techreseller

    Curmy,

    Given your strong constitution, we leave reading these sort of things all the way thru up to you. We weaker people are likely to have our physical systems overload upon reading the full text of these ravings. Keep up the summaries so that we may be informed without taking ill.