AIG: Teach Both Evolution and Creationism

This one is a bit of a classic. It’s from the creation scientists at Answers in Genesis (AIG) — the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia, famed for his creationist ministry, Answers in Genesis (AIG) and for the mind-boggling Creation Museum.

AIG’s headline is Think About It! The author is Dr. Gary Parker, described at the end of the article as “a leading creation scientist and former AiG speaker.” His bio page at AIG says his doctorate is in Education. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

“Think about it!” What a sane and yet sensational idea. What a rallying point for both creationists and evolutionists. The Scopes trial showed it was foolish to teach only creation; is it any wiser to teach only evolution?

Observe that Gary ignores the question of whether teaching creationism in public schools is legal. He knows it’s not, so he ducks that and asks instead if it’s “wise” to exclude creationism That leaves Gary some wiggle room, which he eagerly exploits:

A detailed doctoral study by Richard Bliss demonstrated that students using a two-model (creation-evolution) approach to origins showed more improvement in inquiry skills than those using the now traditional evolution-only approach. (By the way, the two-model students learned evolution concepts better than those taught evolution only.)

Gary has a footnote for that “detailed doctoral study,” and here it is:

Richard B. Bliss, A Comparison of Two Approaches to the Teaching of Origins of Living Things to High School Biology Students in Racine, Wisconsin. Dissertation, University of Sarasota (ERIC Ed 152568), 1979. See also, R. B. Bliss, “A Comparison of Students Studying the Origin of Life from a Two-Model Approach vs. Those Studying from a Single-Model Approach,” Acts and Facts, Impact No. 60 (June 1978).

Acts and Facts is part of the Institute for Creation Research website. Bliss wrote a few articles on the subject for them, but we can’t find a link to that footnoted article. It’s not important. Neither is that nearly 40 year-old doctoral dissertation. Let’s read on:

Furthermore, a two-model approach cannot be accused of indoctrination; can evolution only? Surely, the only way students can “think about it” is when they have access to all the relevant data and the true academic freedom to explore both models of origin.

Yeah — students should have all that good creationist data. Gary continues:

Even if various pressure groups (ironically operating under the guise of “academic freedom”) succeed in censoring and suppressing all views except evolution, the case for creation will still be studied in science classes. The case for creation will be evident in sets of adaptations working together, such as we see in the woodpecker; in the growth and birth of a baby; and in the fantastic molecular integration within cells, such as the relationship between DNA and protein. Because of the way things have been made, the case for creation will always be present in the subject matter of science itself, especially in lab and field work.

Right! When you start with the unshakable belief that everything was divinely created, then whatever you see will be creationist evidence. Here’s more:

One other special feature of creation is so obvious we often fail to notice it: its beauty. I once took my invertebrate zoology class to hear a lecture on marine life by a scientist who had just returned from a collecting trip to the Philippines. Toward the end of his lecture he described the brightly colored fish he had observed at a depth where all wavelengths of light were absorbed except for some blue. In their natural habitat, the fish could not even see their own bright colors, so what possible survival value could the genetic investment in this color have? Then he challenged the students to pose that question to their biology professors.

Okay, that’s enough. Gary goes on to say the same thing over and over again. Each time he uses different words, but that’s all he has to say. There’s no point in giving you any more excerpts. Instead, let’s think about his argument.

First, it’s a very old argument — it goes all the way back to the time when our ancestors were still living in caves. All religions in human history have some version of the same thing. “I don’t understand this, therefore Oogity Boogity!

The “modern” version is probably best expressed in William Paley’s watchmaker analogy. It was known to Darwin and to everyone else in his day. It’s still the foundation of the Discoveroids’ intelligent design “theory.” But is it a good argument? No, it’s really quite bad — see David Hume’s rebuttal. We wrote about Paley’s argument and offered our own objections here: Rethinking Paley’s Watchmaker Analogy.

We can certainly approve of teaching students about Paley’s argument, and the reasons why it’s not persuasive. That will help students learn how to think. But it’s inexcusable to blindly rely on Paley’s argument to make a case for creationism.

When two explanations are available, one based on understandable, evidence-based facts, and the other based on incomprehensible events caused by an inherently unknowable entity (the gods, the Discoveroids’ designer, etc.), which explanation should we accept? We discussed this before in Sherlock Holmes and the Mystic.

Let’s wrap this up with one more excerpt from Gary’s article. It’s right at the end:

All you need is an inquiring mind, a sharp eye, and a willing heart. “Think about it!” What’s the more logical inference from our scientific observations of genetics and the fossil evidence: time, chance, and the evolution of matter, or plan, purpose, and irreducible properties of organization pointing to special acts of creation?

That’s the proper question. What’s your answer, dear reader?

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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16 responses to “AIG: Teach Both Evolution and Creationism

  1. My “inquiring mind” tells me that there is evidence for evolution and that “intelligent design” is wistful thinking. The evidence for the former is solid whereas the latter just doesn’t have any supporting evidence that fits the scientific criterion that it be falsifiable.

  2. Hmm, since the predators of the nicely colored fishes couldn’t see the colors either, the colors weren’t selected against when the deep water guys evolved from brightly colored shallow water guys, would be my answer to the “challenge” Gary’s probably apocryphal speaker suggested. It should be pretty easy to tell by comparing the DNA of the deep water fish and related shallow water fish.

  3. Not entirely off-topic, and in fact pertinent to most pages on your blog: you helpfully provide links to the relevant ICR/AiG/ID article, paper, biography etc at the top of your very entertaining posts. A side effect of this is to boost the “domain authority” of their websites and to lend “link juice” to the articles, papers etc. You are boosting their search engine optimisation (SEO), which I don’t think they reciprocate much. Does Hambo link to your posts when you write glowingly of his grand schemes?

    As I commented a day or two ago, the results of this search:
    https://www.google.co.uk/#q=geologic+column
    are dominated by ICR, AiG and creation,com propaganda about the geologic column, with just one talkorigins article as a lone voice on page 1. This is obviously not down to any one website or blog, because links from a single domain can’t have that much influence. But every little helps! As rigorous scientific minds, of course our instinct is to provide a link to the subject in question. That’s the web, and that’s communication. But ideologues and theocrats aren’t going to ruffle the complacency of their delicate supporters in such a way.

    So the link metrics all point in the wrong direction I’m afraid. Why not give the verbatim title of the page you’re posting about and say which site it’s on? We can all copy/paste into a search engine if we want to read the source.

    Calling all those with influential blogs – get your SEO hats on and write about the geologic column! Those students need you.

  4. I agree with Seen from Space. At the very least, avoid using any scientific vocabulary in the text of the links you provide.

  5. Richard Bliss received his “Doctorate” from the University of Sarasota located in Florida. In the 1984 spring issue of “Scientific Integrity”, William V. Mayer pointed out that this university has been characterized by the
    “Philadelphia Inquirer” as a diploma mill in a Florida motel (see Lovejoy’s
    College Catalog).

    Bliss has accused evolutionary scientists of “intellectual dishonesty”. He also claims to be “a recognized expert in the field of science education” and is co-author of a “two-model” book that is being pushed for use in the public school system. Bear lists the “University of Sarasota” as a “short residency” (total residency may be as short as six weeks) school. The school is the equivalent of California “Approved,” but is not accredited.

    So here we have one creationist flake referencing another creationist flake with a phony degree as an education “authority”. What a surprise!!

    Also see this for more examples of phony creationist [redundant] credentialism: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/credentials.html

  6. Seen From Space says: “you helpfully provide links to the relevant ICR/AiG/ID article, paper, biography etc at the top of your very entertaining posts. … You are boosting their search engine optimisation (SEO), which I don’t think they reciprocate much.”

    All my links to creationist websites are “no follow” links, which have no SEO effect.

  7. Derek Freyberg

    OK, Dr. Parker, let’s teach creationism in schools alongside evolution.
    But which version of creationism shall we teach? – the Christian, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Shinto, the (pick your religion), because they mostly disagree on how creation occurred, that being the way of religions.
    You know the rules: can’t favor one religion over another (though I know you’d like to, ’cause you write for Hambo).
    So you’d be happy with “turtles all the way down” taught alongside Adam and Eve?
    No – I didn’t think so.
    Let’s just stick with science.

  8. Regarding fish colors – a recent episode of “Nova” on PBS addressed the subject. When viewed through a yellow filter, the otherwise drab colors come to life – they fluoresce in a wide variety of vivid colors, highly visible in the dim light. Also, the episode pointed out that the fish have eyes which have, in effect, a yellow filter, and can see the fluorescence clearly.

    Cool stuff.

    Hopefully the students will pose the reverend’s question to their biology professors. They might learn something.

  9. Creationism might be an apt part of a course on Scientific epistemology.

  10. ….he described the brightly colored fish he had observed at a depth where all wavelengths of light were absorbed except for some blue.

    My question would be directed to the “doctor’s” apparently creationist friend: How do you know they are brightly colored? If you can tell, so can other creatures. Or perhaps they don’t spend their entire lives at only that depth. Not really a difficult issue.

    I also watched the NOVA Ed referred to. It is excellent, watch it if you get the chance. I’ve been diving for more than thirty years and learned lots of interesting new stuff.

  11. Teacher…1st creationism! This is a science class, there is NO science evidence for it. This part is now finished.
    Kids go home and make xtian parents cry for jesus….day 2..new science teacher. Unfortunate but most likely case.

  12. “I don’t know but I’m studying it” is always a better answer than “God did it therefore I don’t have to think about it”. Bliss appeals to the latter argument as a valid line of inquiry repeatedly above. IMHO, that equals a gigantic threat to science education.

  13. So Hambo advocates teaching both sides now. I eagerly await the new evolution wing of the creation museum.

  14. RetiredSciGuy

    …and we should teach astrology alongside astronomy, or at least, Ptolemy’s “Theory” along with modern astronomy.

    Moon landing deniers are quite vociferous, as well. Should we give them a place in science classes, as well? And then there are the flat earthers and several other flakey ideologies.

    There will be little time for teaching actual science.

  15. If you want to get a reaction from the public, suggest that the choice be offered for basketball and football, whether the high score or the low score is the winner. (Like golf and racing.)

  16. Eric Lipps

    Creationists are hypocrites. They say they only want their ideas to get a fair hearing in the classroom. But they also tell us that the theory of evolution is not only wrong but evil as well. So why should it be taught at all, even alongside creationism?

    And that’s what they really want: a return to those thrilling days of yesteryear before the Supreme Court found anti-evolution laws unconstitutional (for the obvious reason). Then they can ban its teaching state by state and press for a federal prohibition.