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Creation science - myth or reality?by Peter Thompson
Creationism, meaning a literal belief in the biblical 6-day creation myth, has always been strong in the United States and well over half the population state this as their belief. Of recent years a concerted attempt has been made to get the teaching of this into schools under the cloak of creation science. Creationism itself cannot be taught because it is regarded as religious and no religious teaching is allowed in state schools in the U.S. (in order to protect freedom of religion). However calling it science means that a concerted attempt is being made to get it included in science teaching.
Here in this country it is rearing its head, for example in the Emmanuel College (a city technology college) in Gateshead and the evangelical millionaire behind that is promising £2million to support a similar college in Solihull.
Creation science attempts to put a pseudo-scientific gloss on the story of the creation. Creation Science Resources (on the net) states God separated the waters from the earth on day 2 and placed waters above and on the Earth ... The increased atmospheric pressure [would have] created much larger creatures and increased longevity. In laboratory conditions bacteria life spans are increased ten times by this increased pressure. Of course, there is no evidence at all to support this idea, so basically creationists have to fall back on accepting the literal truth of the biblical story and concentrating their sniping on the theory of evolution. They cannot deny the existence of fossils but claim they were created all in one go and placed in their present positions by the hand of god!
Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. Explanations are based on observations and experiments that can be substantiated by others. Those that cannot be based on empirical evidence are not a part of science. Progress in science consists of the development of better explanations of the causes of natural phenomena. They are never complete and final and may be rejected in the light of further observations or experiments. Yet some, which can never be confirmed by direct experimentation, have been so thoroughly tested by observations that fit in with the model, that they can be held with great confidence. The theory of evolution is one such and work since the time of Darwin and others has converted their early ideas into a strong and well-supported story that is continually being reinforced with an abundance of new discoveries.
Our understanding of the universe itself is one of continual evolution reinforced by measurements of the great age of the universe. The Earth is in a state of continual change by a process that the early geologists called uniformitarianism that is, there is no reason to think that the geological processes, like sedimentation and erosion, that occurred in the past were any different to those that are occurring today and that the cycles are continually being repeated over aeons of time. This is different from the catastrophists who think that cataclysmic events are the major cause of change creation itself and the flood being two of these. Catastrophes do happen but they are comparatively rare and their effects are minimal when compared to those arising from the cyclic changes over vast time periods.
Life began as a result of changing Earth conditions with simpler organisms in the older rocks (which can be dated by independent means such as radioactivity) and more complicated organisms in the newer. Thus there are no human fossils in the very old rocks that contain only the fossils of single-celled organisms. The descent of most organisms can be traced back to remote common ancestors. The retention of the same limb bones, though modified, in all quadrupeds like mammals, birds, reptiles and dinosaurs can be explained through descent with modification and natural selection.
Creationists are fond of claiming that organs like the mammalian eye could not possibly arise other than through intelligent design (i.e. god's), ignoring the evidence that there is a whole sequence of development from light sensitive spots in worms upwards. Finally the story of human development from a common ancestor of the great apes and us, that has emerged in recent years, is a prime example of the transition forms whose existence creationists try to deny.
The story of evolution shows that we are part of the fascinating, beautiful web of nature and that we are different but not something special. Of course that is anathema to the creationists who claim that we are made in god's own image. They want a belief in this to give them the authority of god's word to allow them to dominate others and eventually the whole world as shown by the clique at present in power in the United States!
This article first appeared in LSS Newsletter issue 4 (2003).
A Brief History of CreationismCreation Science in the US
Articles on creationism in New Scientist earlier in the year (2001) have led to an extensive correspondence in that journal. The quotes in the following account are from an article by Deborah MacKenzie to be found on their web pages. According to a recent survey commissioned by People for the American Way: ... 47% of Americans and a quarter of college graduates believe humans did not evolve, but were created by god a few thousand years ago. Nearly a third believe creationism should be taught in science lessons. What is alarming is that: Most teachers avoid trouble by not teaching evolution.
Most people in the UK know of the famous 1925 trial in Tennessee, in which lawyer Clarence Darrow (played by Spencer Tracy in the film of the story) defended schoolmaster John Scopes for teaching Darwin's theory. He was found guilty and fined $100, but before an appeal could be lodged the verdict was overturned on a technicality. As a result the question never reached a higher court. Instead: The trial fostered popular suspicion of evolution, and it steadily disappeared from school textbooks.
In 1961 a book The Genesis Flood by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb appeared. It asserted the entire universe was created in six literal days less than 10,000 years ago. ... Empirical evidence was cited for everything. ... In the 1970s Arkansas and Louisiana passed laws requiring science classes to give equal time to Morris's creation science and evolution. ... The supreme court overturned the Louisiana statute in 1987, ruling that creation science was really religious belief, so could not be taught as science.
A 1991 book Darwin on Trial by Phillip Johnson, a lawyer, directed its attack to casting doubt on the arguments of scientists, claiming that they are extrapolations from inadequate evidence. This is a relatively easy case to make in the case of human evolution, since the deductions are indeed based on a mere boxful of fossils [though many more are now known]. But of course this is against a background of much firmer evidence of common fossils in the rock strata. This was discussed on the Radio 4 programme Start the Week recently (2001) when the author of a book about trilobites was interviewed (sorry I don't have the name and title).
Last August the Kansas State Board of Education ... rejected the school curriculum standards written by its scientific advisers. The list it adopted in its place was ... by Tom Willis of the Creation Science Association of Mid-America.
Creation Science comes to UK Schools
BBC News (28 April 2003) reports that the Vardy Foundation, which runs Emmanuel College in Gateshead has plans for six more schools in the North East. The schools would teach creationism alongside Darwinian evolution. Under the city academies programme the schools will get some of their initial funding from Sir Peter Vardy but the bulk of the money and all running costs come from the state. A new school, will open in Middlesbrough in September.
The above notes appeared in LSS Newsletters 1 (2001) and 4 (2003).
Links to Relevant Sites
CREATIONISM IN UK SCHOOLS
FUTURISTS. People of widely different views try to predict the future.