Science and Creationism

John R. Grehan jrg13 at PSU.EDU
Mon Apr 1 17:32:53 CST 2002

>This is in fact one of the primary munitions used by creationists.
>Belief/doctrine.  If evolutionist "belief/doctrine" can be taught why not
>creationist "belief/doctrine" goes the argument.  All the creationist has
>to do is find just a few instances of unproven "facts/dogma"  or statements
>of "we don't know for sure" to claim the same legitimacy.  Or even one of
>the most common things we scientists say - we don't know the answer to
>"that".   The debate is not just in the arena of logic.  It is also in the
>arena of philosophy - and emotion (on both sides).  Not taking sides - just
>some thoughts from someone who works both sides of the fence :-)
>Ron Gatrelle

In this regard I also thought it was interesting that the Academies entered
into the philosophical demarcation debate over science and non-science by
asserting "No body of beliefs that has its origin in doctrinal material
rather than scientific observation, interpretation, and experimentation
should be admissible as science in any science course."

It seems to me that if one looks to the origin of evolutionary thought it
did not come from any "scientific observation" since there were plenty of
people engaged in scientific observation (e.g in Darwin's time) who did not
produce evolutionary theory, and the same applies to interpretation and

  I find the the Academies' demarcation criterion to also be somewhat
problematic in that there appears to be a lot of science based on what may
be considered "doctrine" (e.g. the doctrine of centers of origin). Of
course the statement raises the question of what is scientific
"observation, interpretation, and experimentation" as opposed to any other
kind. It is my understanding that witchcraft, for example, can engage in
observation, interpretation, and experimentation, and perhaps even add in
statistical quantification.

Another problematic statement was about creationist claims subordinating
observed data to statements based on "authority, revelation, or religious
belief". It seems to me that there is a lot of subordination to "authority"
in science, and it may even be possible that revelation or religious belief
also affects the observational process of some evolutionists. In physics I
recall that Einstein said something to the effect that God does not produce
paradoxes - and perhaps that view subordinated his 'observations'
(theoretical or actual) in some way that led to his advancing knowledge.

The Academies claim "scientific interpretations of facts and the
explanations that account for them therefore must be testable by
observation and experimentation" may also be problematic in that it would
eliminate historical sciences such as biogeography where interpretations
are not testable by observation and experimentation since the observations
themselves are given meaning by the interpretation and there is no
"experimentation" in the usual meaning of the term.

These are just my current reactions. I profess not to have formal training
in philosophy, so I may well misunderstand these issues that are otherwise
so obvious to the Academies.

John Grehan
Frost Entomological Museum
Pennsylvania State University
Department of Entomology
501 ASI Building
University Park, PA 16802. USA.

Phone: (814) 863-2865
Fax: (814) 865-3048

Frost Museum

More information about the Taxacom mailing list