Creationism and Science

Posted on August 16, 2009 by


Editor’s Note:

As the world moves forward, our society still faces the twin curses of ignorance and superstition. Science serves as a tool for expanding our knowledge of the natural world and it is the best tool we have. Only a scientific outlook based upon the the urge to learn and reason can take us out of the misery we find ourselves in. It is a tragedy that education of masses has been deliberately neglected by our ruling elite. Science is a special target of the oppressors as it can free minds from obscurantism, superstition and ignorance whNaikich in itself can endanger the very rule of these oppressors.

We suffer from a double tragedy when our educated youth falls victim to ignorant idiots such as Zakir Naik who do not know anything about science and scientific method but are readily available to malign, distort and destroy science. The basic underlying values of science such as Empiricism, Skepticism and Rational Inquiry are absent from the skewed worldview of Zakir Naik and his blind followers who shamelessly indulge in ridiculous retrospective evidentialism.

I present here a brief by renowned paleontologist late Stephen Jay Gould that puts light on scientific methodology and explains why Creation Science (a pseudo-science invented by fundamentalist Christians in USA) is a threat to science. The arguments, though mainly deal with US education system, are quite valid in Pakistan where creationism is still a holy truth for the majority.


‘Creation Science’ is an Oxymoron

By Stephen Jay Gould

Skeptical Inquirer
Vol. XI, no. 2 / Winter 1986-87
p 152-153

Science, above all, is a methodology for acquiring testable knowledge about the natural world – “the art of the soluble,” in Sir Peter Medawar’s apt phrase.  It is not, and cannot be, a compendium of certain knowledge. If the vernacular word FACT has any currency in science, it can only be defined as “confirmed to so high a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.”   By this definition, evolution – the observation that all organisms are connected by unbroken ties of genealogy – is as much a fact as anything discovered by science – as well confirmed as Copernicus’s claim that the Earth moves around the sun. Evolutionary biologists argue intensely about mechanisms of evolutionary change – and such meaty debates are the soul of exciting science, the chief sign of its good health – but we all accept the fundamental fact of genealogical connection.

As a methodology of research, science adopts as its cardinal postulate – proved fruitful by its enormous success since the time of Galileo, Newton, and Descartes – the commitment to explain empirical phenomena by reference to invariant laws of nature and to avoid appeals to the miraculous, defined as suspension of those laws, for particular events. The notion of “abrupt appearance” – the origin of complex somethings from previous nothings – resides in this domain of miracle and is not part of science.  Punctuated equilibrium, catastrophic theories of mass extinction, hopeful monsters, and a variety of hypotheses about rapid rates of change in continuous sequences – not about unintelligible abrupt appearances – are part of scientific debate and bear no relationship to the nonscientific notion of abrupt appearance, despite pernicious and wishful attempts by many creationists to distort such claims and misquote and half-quote to their alien purposes.  Punctuated equilibrium, in particular, is a claim that evolutionary trends have a geometry that resembles a climb up a staircase, rather than a slide up an inclined plane.  It is, in other words, an alternative theory about the nature of intermediate stages in evolutionary trends, not, as creationists have claimed, a denial of those stages.

As a term, CREATION SCIENCE is an oxymoron – a self-contradictory and meaningless phrase – a whitewash for a specific, particular, and minority religious view in America, biblical literalism. As a religious idea, it differs sharply from the tenets of most other faiths – from the enormously lengthy cycles of repetition in Hindu thought, from the usual interpretation of origins in my own Jewish faith, and the allegorical readings of the Bible accepted by Catholics since the time of St. Augustine.  Biblical literalism, like all notions in the diverse array of faiths professed by Americans, belongs in the homes and churches – not in legislatively mandated curricula of science courses in public schools.

It is particularly tragic that public understanding of science should be so threatened just when science has become so central and crucial in all our lives.  This battle is for science itself, not only for the right of teachers to teach a fact of nature unimpeded by state commands. How can Americans hope to understand the nature of science if a partisan and minority religious doctrine, completely outside the norms and procedures of science, be taught as science, against the conscience and convictions of trained teachers, in the nation’s schools.