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Scientific creationism

Scientific creationism refers to attempts by religious believers to present Creationism as a scientific hypothesis and to prove it by scientific means. To date, the movement is predominantly based in the United States.

While many Christians and virtually all biologists accept the theory of evolution as the most likely explanation of speciation, many nonscientists do not. However, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits public schools from teaching religious beliefs as facts.

Scientific Creationism is believed to have been introduced in order to gain support for the teaching of creationism in the United States school curricula as an alternative to the theory of evolution in public schools or, failing that, to downplay or eliminate the teaching of the theory of evolution.

In 1987, the Supreme Court of the United States confirmed the ruling that scientific creationism is a religious doctrine. The relevant cases are Epperson v. Arkansas[?] and Edwards v Aguillard.

Despite the ruling, Boards of Education and local communities continue to stuggle with controversy when scientific creationism is raised as an argument in opposition to the teaching of evolution. Recent examples include:

  • Ohio Board of Education standards for science education, December 2002

Elements of Scientific Creationism Scientific creationism is not a single, concrete doctrine. Each proponent may raise different arguments in support of his/her beliefs or against the theory of evolution. Most scientific creation arguments, however, have a core of similar elements.

Scientific creationism is usually rooted in Biblical literalism, which requires the Universe to be young. Advances in geology and astronomy in the last 100 years have made this argument difficult to support.

Other approaches to scientific creationism generally involve finding problems in the fossil record such as "missing links" (or transitional forms between species) which would seem to disprove evolution by their rarity. This approach is not given credit in scientific communities for several reasons.

  • The theory of evolution does not require that there be significant numbers (or any) transitional forms (see Punctuated equilibrium).
  • The physical record is inherently incomplete. Relative rarity could be causal (species not living in an environment where fossilization occurs easily), statistical variability (random chance that few examples died in circumstances where fossilization occurred) or illusory (fossils are out there but we haven't found them yet).
  • The "missing links" argument is logically meaningless because it is inherently untestable. There will always be unfound transitional forms - they will just be about smaller transitions.

Other arguments proposed by creationists include:

  1. That there are structures in species, such as the woodpecker's hyoid and the eyes of Strepsiptera, that could not have developed gradually. (Luther D. Sunderland. "Miraculous Design in Woodpeckers", Creation Research Society Quarterly, March 1976.)
  2. That rock strata have in some places apparently been laid down out of order.
  3. That the existence of strata and fossils suggest that they were laid down catastrophically.
  4. That the speed of light has changed over time, thus changing the speed of radioactive decay.
  5. That radioactive dates may be thought unreliable if they assume that certain isotopes were not present in the rock when formed.
  6. That while a few thousands of years elapsed on earth, millions of years may have elapsed in the wider universe. The passage of time, according to special relativity, varies with gravitational potential as well as motion.

Scientists generally dismiss these arguments as unscientific or based upon misunderstandings or misinterpretations of science. Biologists counter the first argument, for example, by pointing out that many other structures that were once thought unexplainable have since been explained, and that the lack of explanations for some others simply reflects the fact that they haven't been studied as much. There is some recent (and still controversial) evidence that the speed of light might in fact have changed in the very early universe. However, the upper bound on how much the speed of light may have changed is insufficient to have created the affects necessary for the creation science argument.

Epistemology Many scientists consider the term "scientific creationism" to be an oxymoron, since they see its very nature as incompatible with the generally understood scientific method. Modern science is based on the concept of methodological naturalism which aims to explain the universe in terms of observable and testable natural systems. Unfortunately for those hoping to resolve this debate, the Judeo-Christian concept of God is, by its very definition, not observable and its influence is not testable since the number of points of possible influence are infinite with the particulars unknown.

See also: Creationism, intelligent design, theory of evolution

External links

A numerical analogy may make this clearer: I show you the numbers 1 and 3. You point out that 2 is missing. I find the number 2. You now say that 1.5 is missing. Repeat ad infinitum.

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