Science and Creationism

Tue Apr 2 09:15:41 CST 2002

>>>>From: John R. Grehan [mailto:jrg13 at PSU.EDU]
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

By this statement, I must conclude there is nothing left to discover!  With
all the people "engaged in scientific observation" before, during, and since
Darwin's time, any theory that's not already been produced must not be
scientific.  John, just because no-one else thought of it yet, that doesn't
mean some new angle of thinking won't come up with some new theories or that
those new theories can't be scientific.

Probably most religions started with observations and attempts at
explanation of what was observed.  However, most religions seem to rely very
heavily on faith (belief in the absence of data) rather than generation of
hypotheses and attempts to then prove them false.  In religion, a new way of
looking at the world is called "divine revelation" and a new religion is
started.  In science, a new way of looking at the world is called "paradigm
shift" and a new body of theory (and a new set of experiments) is started.

Accepting co-incidence as confirmation while accepting dis-incidence as "God
working in mysterious ways" prevents religion from being scientific.
Unfortunately, when evolutionary biologists get lazy, they tend toward this
attitude themselves--if the experiment worked out, it's evidence of
evolution, if it didn't, we just don't understand the system as well as we
thought.  The result has been the generation of a lot of evolutionary
"just-so" stories that have come back to haunt us.

Most of the sciences are readily subject to generation and falsification.
However, cosmology and evolution, because of their scope, are more difficult
in that regard.  Physicists get big bucks to make machinery that allows them
to test aspects of their theories on the origin and nature of the universe
(although much of their theory is still based on such things as mathematical
elegance).  There have been successful tests of microevolution (genetic and
phenotypic changes over observable time spans), but we haven't come up with
the machinery necessary to test or observe phylogeny.  This is why we come
dangerously close to religion (relying on coincidence and just-so stories),
at times, in our own work.  And this is what leaves us so vulnerable to
concerted attack from the religious.

Robin K Panza
Section of Birds, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
4400 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh  PA  15213  USA
phone:  412-622-3255
fax:  412-622-8837
panzar at

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