Creationist Wisdom #516: The Scientist

Today’s letter-to-the-editor — like so many others recently — appears in the Midland Daily News of Midland, Michigan. The letter is titled God had a hand in all that constitutes science. There’s a comments section at the end.

The letter-writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure. Although she claims to be a scientist, she gives no details, so we won’t use her full name. Her first name is Barbara. Excerpts from her letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

According to Norbert Bufka’s letter of Dec. 29, “evolution is science” and “creationism is religion-based.” How does one disenfranchise an inventor from his patent or an author from his copyright or the “inventor” of the universe from his creation?

Bufka’s letter is the second one here: Readers’ views. It was a brief response to an earlier letter written by Barbara. Then she says:

Bufka wants to relegate God to a restricted position when God had a hand in all that constitutes science. As a scientist, I could not ignore order and design. Those require intelligence. Intelligence can’t come from inanimate matter.

She’s a scientist? Perhaps, but only if that word is so distorted as to include creation scientists. Let’s read on:

The second law of thermodynamics also still holds and consider the fact that living substances cannot live without protein but proteins are formed by living substances. Protein and living substances had to come into being together.

Oh yeah — the second law of thermodynamics. As for proteins, it’s possible to create them artificially — see this in PhysOrg: Creation of ‘Rocker’ protein opens way for new smart molecules in medicine, other fields. Barbara continues:

Evolution has not been proved and no writer to this paper has yet supplied any proof except his own word. When he says that no scientists have doubts, that evolution is a proven fact, he doesn’t include me or any scientists I know or those about whom I’ve read. My objection is that macroevolution is false science and that it tries to erase a belief in God. I know that teachers scoff at God when discussing it.

There’s a lot of confusion here about the word “proof” in the context of a scientific theory. It would be better to say “overwhelmingly supported by all available evidence, and contradicted by none.” Anyway, it’s clear that Barbara moves in a strange circle of scientists. Here’s more:

As far as the proof of a Creator is concerned, one doesn’t have to be a scientist to recognize that he exists. Paul said in Romans 1:18-20: [big bible quote].

Ah, there’s proof! Moving along:

It should be impossible for anyone with an open mind to not recognize God’s workings, especially in nature. I have several books that show how science points to the existence of a supreme power. Such knowledge is available. There are also proofs that this world has probably existed no more than 10,000 years, i.e. the shrinkage of the sun. More on that will come later.

Ah yes, the shrinkage of the sun. That’s debunked in the TalkOrigins Index to Creationist Claims — see The sun is shrinking at such a rate that it would disappear completely in 100,000 years.

Barbara wraps up her letter with another scripture quote, which we’ll omit. Her letter is very scientific, and a fine addition to our collection.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #516: The Scientist

  1. Re “How does one disenfranchise an inventor from his patent or an author from his copyright or the “inventor” of the universe from his creation?” Wrong analogy. Consider instead, discovering a law of science. We may give props to the discovered, but whether or not the law works has nothing whatsoever to do with who discovered it. Science does not accept the opinions of authorities as a stand in for proof. Neither should the religious. They have been lied to often enough they should have learned that by now. (The Quran, for example, tells us that iron is a piece of heaven, a gift from above. The Bible tells us the world is flat. Yeah, yeah, that’s the ticket. See!)

  2. “The sun is shrinking at such a rate that it would disappear completely in 100,000 years.”???!! WTF is WRONG with these idiots? All you hae to do is walk outside in the summer and feel the heat and look up, for C—-t’s sake. That’s more laughable than the flat earth theory.

  3. michaelfugate

    How hot would that make the earth 10,000 years ago?

  4. Babs is a scientist? Whatever her field, she must have not been paying attention when the second law of thermodynamics was discussed. In fact, it sounds as if she wasn’t paying attention to much. Oh well, the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees her right to spout any opinion, regardless of how ignorant it makes her appear.

  5. Charles Deetz ;)

    Babs gives us a logic test:

    1. I could not ignore order and design.
    2. Those require intelligence.
    3. Intelligence can’t come from inanimate matter.
    4. Creator god!

    She uses a bible verse and her own ‘observations’ to summarily back up all four logical steps, I don’t think that is the way science works.

  6. I agree with SC’s humane policy of not holding up to public ridicule the identities of epistolary creationists unless they are clergy or the like. But I think an exception could be made for people who self-identify as scientists. Surely, by such an identification, they are inviting their fellow scientists to weigh in on their work and to have the pleasure of exploring their other accomplishments? Although I have no scientific credentials, I certainly enjoyed tracking down this woman’s numerous other letters. I think she is a young earth creationist who believes that anyone who likes Darwin is merely looking for a pretext for lots and lots of guilt-free (and probably twisted) sex.

  7. @Jill Smith: I agree that anyone with any scientific background would expect analysis and criticism — sometimes scathing — of their work. When I was a post-doc, there were the “Monday night fights” at the Marine Biological Lab in Woods Hole, where scientists would present their work. After more than 40 years I still remember one session where a young scientist was asked a question by one of the most famous senior scientists there. The young guy foolishly said something like “I don’t think you understand what I did.” There was absolute silence in the room for about 30 seconds because everyone knew that was a mistake. The senior scientist then said, very quietly, “I understand exactly what you did. What I’m trying to understand is why you wasted your time and ours on such a trivial result.” So yes, any scientist should expect criticism of even good ideas!

  8. Dave Luckett

    I just don’t understand where the idea that order must arise from intelligent causes (for which read “design”) comes from. It’s patently wrong, obviously wrong, blatantly and palpably wrong. Any system governed by rules displays order. Natural laws are rules. Systems governed by natural law display order. Must do. Can’t not do it.

    But natural laws show no evidence of personality. Lightning follows the path of least resistance to the earth, whether that path leads through a house or a church steeple – or a human body. Gravity makes llfe possible, but it doesn’t care if the toddler falls off the balcony, or what the rock hits as it rolls down the mountain. Natural selection eventually produced a species that could reason, but it will as blindly remove it if the environment no longer favours it. There’s no reason to suppose that there’s an intelligence behind these things. They operate blindly.

    So this explanation for natural law, that there’s an intelligence behind it, is no better than any other, at best, and to some extent contradicted by the evidence available. But there’s a further problem: a wrong explanation is worse than no explanation. “No explanation” does not lead to false conclusions, and “no explanation” does encourage further exploration.

    So natural law accounts for order. But if you want to account for natural law – which is a perfectly reasonable enterprise – better to face the fact that we have no explanation, and start from there.

  9. @Dave Luckett
    Order and design. Nature and art.
    You correctly point out that nature means according to rules.

    But design, on the other hand, does not alone account for order.

    Consider the playwright and the composer who release their work to the producer who chooses the venue and the performers. The performers engage with the audience. The performance is not just designed.

    There is no art so abstract that it can ignore nature.

  10. There are also proofs that this world has probably existed no more than 10,000 years, i.e. the shrinkage of the sun. More on that will come later.

    Just such an argument was advanced by William Thomson, better known as Lord Kelvin, in the nineteenth century, though even he argued in terms of millions of years, not thousands. And he was no crank: he was one of the premier scientists of his era.

    But he was wrong. His calculations were based on the assumption that the sun’s energy came from gravitational contraction (“shrinkage of the sun”), and it doesn’t. He had no way of knowing that, of course, since nuclear energy was yet to be discovered when he published his calculations. But he was still wrong, and proved reluctant to admit it even after the discovery of radioactivity had revealed there were sources of energy he hadn’t accounted for.

    It’s frankly incredible that this old chestnut is still around. The fact that it is offers a depressing commentary on the level of scientific literacy in the United States.

  11. “Design implies intelligence.”

    Creationists of all stripes are repeating this over and over and over; either thinking it to be true or hoping their endless repetition will make it true. “Repeat a lie often enough and people will start to believe it.”

    Actually, design in a living organism implies natural selection. And to suggest that God, The Grand Old Designer, is guiding evolution is to suggest that God is playing favorites by giving one species an edge over another.

  12. Dave Luckett:
    If I saw that comment at the International Skeptic’s Forum (formerly JREF), I would nominate it for a Language Award.

  13. @retiredsciguy
    “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
    Design is a path through limits.
    When you or I design something, we take account of the nature of the materials and tools that we have to work with. The design is the solution to a puzzle. But how can anything be a puzzle to God?

  14. ““Design implies intelligence.”
    “Creationists of all stripes are repeating this over and over and over”
    Not only creationists. The Fine Tuning Argument basically says the same.

    “Well, the fine tuning arguments go like this they say, “It’s much more likely that the universe would be just this way given a creator. It’s much more likely that the universe would be life-friendly given a creator than given just chance or naturalism.” That’s how that argument is supposed to go. There’s nothing quite analogous to that in the case of the stones and the pattern they form on the beach. There’s kind of an obvious explanation for it in terms of wave action and the like of that.”

    Note that Plantinga with his last sentence combines it with a God of the Gaps, even though he puts it in terms of probability.
    I more and more fail to see any substantial difference between apologists (those who claim to practice “philosophy” of religion) and creationists. I mean, Plantinga has some issues with Evolution Theory as well.

  15. “It’s much more likely that the universe would be just this way given a creator. It’s much more likely that the universe would be life-friendly given a creator than given just chance or naturalism.”

    1. How does having a creator differ from chance or from naturalism or both of the above or from something other?
    2. Life-friendly means that life is compatible with the natural laws. Assuming that creation is different from naturalism, how is it more likely that life is compatible with natural laws? Why is not, for example, life purely spiritual?
    3. What are the parameters that creation follows that allow us to estimate the likelihood of anything (such as life-friendliness), given a creator?
    4. What is the probability function which allows one to calculate the likelihood of the universe being life-friendly, given chance?
    5. What is the likelihood of the universe being life-friendly if it were (a) the universe were eternal or with eternal return (b) rather than being created, it were designed (c) rather than being either created or designed, it were manufactured (d) if it were organic (e) if it were mathematically determined?
    6. How life-friendly is the universe? If it is created, how life-friendly is it most likely to be? Why is not the universe more life-friendly (or less life-friendly)?
    7. If the universe is created, how likely is it to bear the evidence for evolution? How likely is it to bear misleading evidence for evolution? How likely is it to bear misleading evidence for like-friendliness? How likely is it to have human intelligence mistaken in calculating likelihood? If the universe is created, what is the likelihood that human intelligence is reliable?

  16. Hi A Beastwood, I liked your anecdote. Even though it reminded me unpleasantly of one of my first grad level English lit seminars where the professor heard my paper and said, “Writing like an angel does not entirely relieve you of the burden of having something to say.” Forty years later I still feel the ouch.

  17. I don’t think the IDers or the “Roids are capable of trying to answer any of these questions. They along with the Creationists want a universe that they can simply sit back and admire without the need for understanding. One in which what ever happens is what it is. No decisions, no worrying about right or wrong because all that can be laid at the feet of the supreme whatever. The questions you present are much to difficult and require far to much thought for simple minded people.

  18. @Jill Smith: That’s similar to many of the scathing remarks I heard when I was a scientist and went to seminars; some were even directed at my work! And the creationists are always crying that we’re being mean to them!

  19. Mike Elzinga

    In something like 50 years of observing it, I still find it mind-boggling that they bring up the second law of thermodynamics “argument” over and over and over despite the fact that there are many excellent sources from which they could learn the real stuff.

    When Duane Gish would have his head handed to him on a platter over that crap, he would turn right around in the next venue and use it again. Every ID/creationist, from Henry Morris to Duane Gish, to David L Abel, to Thomas Kindell, to Granville Sewell gets it wrong egregiously; and their followers just trundle mindlessly along in their footsteps.

  20. @Mike Elzinga: perhaps that’s because their followers, as with the leaders, haven’t the foggiest idea what thermodynamics is, let alone with it’s laws are! But oh, it sounds so cool and sophisticated!

  21. Mike Elzinga

    @ abeastwood

    There is indeed a strong urge among ID/creationists to have an “immutable 2nd law of thermodynamics” that is consistent with their notion of the world is running down since The Fall and the introduction of Sin. They go right past every formula and every explanation and immediately bend and break scientific concepts to fit with their preconceived sectarian dogma.

    This video by Thomas Kindell is about as complete a rationale as I have seen as it was taught at the Institute for Creation Research by Henry Morris. Since that time, the very foundations of Intelligent Design have been based on the notion that everything comes apart and, therefore, intelligence is required to put every atom and molecule in place to make a specified molecular assembly.

    When I was given talks on this many years ago, I had some hope that clearing up this misconception with church and lay audiences would eventually break the cycle of mind-numbing stupidity that inevitably ensues when ID/creationists present their “arguments;” but, alas, it was not to be. ID/creationism is a sectarian socio/political movement that is hell-bent on taking over; not one of them seems to care about being wrong about anything in science.

    Fortunately, reasonable people seem to get it; and now there are complete archives of ID/creationist crap that can be used as evidence of ID/creationist duplicity.

  22. @ video by Thomas Kindell
    I couldn’t go much beyond where he talks about the lack of morality if we are merely material etc.
    Why does no one ever notice that this is not an argument against evolution?
    It is against reproduction!

    One of the standard responses to the characterization of the 2nd law of thermodynamics against evolution is, if that were what 2lod says, then reproduction would be impossible. But here we have one of them telling his audience that if we believe in reproduction, then our lives are meaningless!