AIG: How To Understand the Universe

This one is a bit of a classic from the creation scientists at Answers in Genesis (AIG) — the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the ayatollah of Appalachia. Their title is something they hear all the time: “Doubting Evolution Is like Doubting Gravity”, and it has no author’s byline. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Why does this argument fail? [They’re talking about the one in their title.] We’ll show you. Take a pencil or pen. Hold it in the air. Then drop it (and observe it as it falls) to the floor. That’s gravity. Next, make a single-celled organism — like an amoeba — turn into a goat. Too difficult? OK, let’s make it easy. Just turn the amoeba into a paramecium, another type of single-celled creature. Go ahead. We’ll wait. . . . No? As you can see, there’s a fundamental difference between operational science, which can be tested through repeatable experimentation, and historical science, which cannot.

[*Groan*] One again, it’s the false distinction made by Hambo’s creationists between “Operational” (or “Observational”) science and “Historical” science. To preserve their biblical myths (recent creation, Adam & Eve, Noah’s Ark, etc.), they claim that “historical” science which contradicts those bible tales is a belief system based on unproven assumptions, because there is no way to go back in time and use observational science to prove those assumptions are correct. We’ve written about this several times, originally in Creationism and Science. It’s also discussed in Common Creationist Claims Confuted. Our favorite rebuttal is in The Lessons of Tiktaalik.

Okay, you know what AIG will be talking about. Let’s read on:

Operational science involves the scientific method — observing the data, proposing a hypothesis, performing experiments, and drawing conclusions. Historical science involves interpreting past events through a preconceived worldview. That’s why evolutionists and creationists, interpreting the same evidence through their opposing worldviews, can come to starkly different conclusions.

Yeah, we’re the ones with a “preconceived worldview.” They say:

The irony of the argument — “doubting evolution is like doubting gravity” — is that the scientist who proposed the theory of universal gravitation, Sir Isaac Newton, was a young-earth creationist. … Because Newton believed the Genesis account that God created the heavens and the earth, he assumed orderly physical laws, such as gravity and the three laws of motion, would rule them both.

Newton’s mind must have been strange indeed. Orderly physical laws don’t leave any room for the unpredictable and incomprehensible chaos of miracles. After that, AIG tells us:

These constants of nature do not make sense in a world that began by chance without the Designer. [Huh?] If we live in a random, chance universe consisting of only matter in motion, how can we account for the mathematical laws of nature that govern everything from a massive star to a tiny electron? Only the biblical worldview can support the uniformity of nature, without which the practice of science would be impossible. The fundamental laws of nature operate consistently through time and space because the omnipotent, immutable Creator ordained them and is upholding the cosmos by His power [scripture references].

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Do these people ever listen to themselves? Probably not. They continue to babble, right to the end of their post:

No wonder the Bible calls an atheist a fool [scripture reference]. Conversely, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” [scripture reference]. In order to have an accurate framework for understanding God’s world, we must start with God’s Word, beginning with His revelation of Genesis.

That’s it, dear reader — the best thinking from ol’ Hambo’s creation scientists. Reject at your eternal peril!

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22 responses to “AIG: How To Understand the Universe

  1. Operational science involves the scientific method — observing the data, proposing a hypothesis, performing experiments, and drawing conclusions. Historical science involves interpreting past events through a preconceived worldview. That’s why evolutionists and creationists, interpreting the same evidence through their opposing worldviews, can come to starkly different conclusions.

    No, it’s not.

    What they refer to disparagingly as “historical science” is observational science, relying on data (fossils, rock samples, etc.) to infer what happened. Paleontology is basically forensics with a long time frame.

    As for the “preconceived worldview” of genuine scientists, the folks at AIG need to take a good, long look at themselves in a mirror. Their worldview is about as preconceived as it could possibly be: everything must conform to Genesis. Anything that doesn’t must be made to fit somehow, if possible, and if that isn’t possible, labeled as irrelevant or as deliberate falsehood.

  2. Charles Deetz ;)

    When your worldview has multiple observational facts that dispute your calculated/historical age of the universe, maybe your worldview should be questioned. Guessing that there is some future solution for the starlight problem despite all the physics we know, for example, is not science, it’s denial.

  3. Michael Fugate

    Immutable unless their god decides to mutate them. Comic.

  4. Michael Fugate

    Then there is his example. How is looking at a chimpanzee and a human and invoking evolution any different than dropping a pencil and invoking gravity?

  5. If we relied on what we can perceive with our unaided (without what modern science only tells us about) senses and what we read in the Bible, we would not know about microscopic life. The majority of life, including the beginning of human life.

  6. The whole enterprise of geology would go down the drain if it cannot tell us anything about the past. Once the mining and oil exploration companies employ “creation geologists” we’ll take their “science” seriously.

  7. The constant regular behavior of the universe is most parsimoniously explained by the *absence* of supernatural entities (gods etc.) who could change it.

  8. Dave Luckett

    Of course the problem with what Ham’s disciples call “observational” science is that it can’t deal with any phenomenon outside the human time frame. It can deal with gravity by dropping objects. It can’t deal with the Casimir effect – virtual particles that appear momentarily in vacuum – nor with evolution by direct observation that way. The first happens too fast, the second too slowly

    (Oh, sure, species separation has been directly observed in the field from historical records, and in the lab, but of course Ham discounts that as not transition between “kinds”, where “kind” means whatever he wants it to mean.)

    The Universe contains many phenomena that happen too fast or too slowly for direct human observation. Ham, of course, wants to stunt and blind science on general principles, so it’s no surprise that he denies it the ability to observe and understand these phenomena through inference from evidence. That denial is of the evidence, sure, but is also denial of the validity of sound inference. It constitutes an assault – a feeble one, to be sure, but still an assault – on the very structure of rational thought itself.

    But that, of course, is what Ken Ham is all about. For him, there is no such thing as rational thought about anything. Everything is faith, faith is everything, for Ham.

  9. @ Dave Luckett
    Not just things which are too fast or too slow, science can also tell us about things which are out of reach. How do you know that the sun is not a giant ball of burning coal? Where you there? We even know what is going on in the centre of the sun. Not much “observational” science there either.

  10. So creacrappers suck at epistemology as well. How unsurprising.

    “Then drop it (and observe it as it falls) to the floor. That’s gravity.”
    Nope. What we observe is a relocation. Calling it gravity is an excellent example of “interpreting present events through a preconceived worldview”, Even the words past and present already belong to a preconceived worldview; when using a stopwatch we actually observe a ticking clock. Not to mention that the moment the pencil hits the ground the event of relocating belongs to the past.
    Of course every regulat here already realizes that repeatable experiments are an integral part of Evolution Theory. Wikipedia has a lemma on this topic:

    The observational/ historical science distinction does make sense. You can dig up a fossil only once. You can observe a particular supernova only once. Hitler invaded Poland only once. Sure, the Red Army did it twice, but the differences are way too big to call this “repeatable”.
    As a result the certainty of “historical science” is actually bigger than the certainty of “repeatable science”. In philosophical terms: the Problem of Induction by Simple Enumeration doesn’t pop up. And there is only one theory that makes sense of all the historical data called fossils.

  11. Agreed. I just like to add that the deepest hole dug in Earth is only about 12 km. Any deeper, and we can ask, how do we know that there is anything at all there, were you there?

  12. Off-topic for this post, but I think of interest to this blog: How flowering plants conquered the world

    The reasons behind the incredible success and diversity of flowering plants have been debated for centuries. Charles Darwin himself called it an “abominable mystery”, fearing this apparent sudden leap might challenge his theory of evolution.

  13. The loudmouth buffoon has NO idea what Newton believed! If I lived in Newtons time I would have declared myself xtian too! They burnt people at the stake then!!! Just as many atheists in the mideast praise allah, they kill atheists over there!!! The fact that he studied the occult says more about Newton then his self stated xtianity.

  14. Let me play God’s advocate. As an atheist, I can give no reason for the fact that the laws of nature are unchanging. One of the least bad arguments for the existence of God is that it explains all this; the laws of nature are unchanging because they reflect God’s will, which is unchanging, and is manifest on every occasion of their operation. This view is called occasionalism, and dates back at least as far as al Ghazali in the 11th centruy CE

  15. The point of a creationist argument is not to understand the universe.
    It is to reassure the fearful that they don’t have to think about evolution.

  16. And if you ask the Hamians, how do you know about Jesus and the Resurrection, were you there? the answer you’ll hear is “from witness accounts in the Bible”.

    Because the writings of an anonymous author pushing an agenda by invoking anonymous witnesses to a magical event in a time people believed in magic is, somehow, more reliable than a combination of observation, experimentation and deduction.

  17. @Paul Braterman
    I have heard that the influence of Al-Ghazali is the reason for the deteriorization of Islamic culture. But I have also heard that denied.

  18. @Draken
    But if you ask how we know that there was a burst of micro-evolution after the Flood, or that there is a barrier to the extent of micro-evolution, what eye-witness account is there? The Bible does not mention anyting about – for or against – evolution.

  19. Indeed. The dates are wrong (too early), he had a good point in criticising the excessive influence of Aristotle (so did al Biruni, no less), and his philosophy could indeed inspire the study of science, as reading the mind of God

  20. PaulB is helpless: ” I can give no reason for the fact that the laws of nature are unchanging.”
    The problem with the god-explanation is that gods are supposed to perform miracles – which by definition means that the laws of nature are not unchangable.
    @TomS: the looting of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258 en the decline of the Turkish Empire from say 1700 on probably have more to do with it. They urged a difficult religious question: “if Allah is with us, why does he allow those heathens to beat us?” The common answer is radicalization, ie purging everything that’s perceived as impure. Freethinking is then one of the first victims.

  21. Re “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” … uh, that would be the God of Love, no?

    The Discoveroids keep blathering about design but they never mention anything about the designs they claim exists, The field of “design” is quite robust and deconstructing designs is done all of the time by … wait for it … designers. What hasn’t AIG employed any design experts? Why are they always hiring scientists, often in fields far from design?

    Could it be they are afraid of what they might find if they took their claims seriously? (Bwa ha ha hah!)

  22. Designs do not accomplish anything without action.
    This is particularly true about supernatural designs for natural results. What sort of supernatural action is needed to produce an effect in the natural world? An effect in the natural world seems to follow natural laws – if not, some explaining is due.
    On the other hand, if someting in the supernatural world does not need to follow natural laws, what is the point of a design?