Sunday, June 05, 2005

Unscientific Theories

As a blogger who happens to be conservative (rather than a conservative blogger), I hold some views that are not in the conservative canon, and I have no compunctions about making these views known, though since my audience is largely conservative I can expect to offend more than a few people with them. So, of the twenty-five people who seem to actually care about The New Skeptic, twenty of you (give or take) may be in for a shock!

Creationism is an unscientific, wrong-headed view and requires more faith to be believed than any sane person can muster.

Creationism simply has no evidence to back up its claims about the creation of life on this planet. Evolution has loads of evidence taken from the fossil record and rather plausible inferential jumps; by contrast, the inferential leaps required for Creationism are equivalent to skipping a stone clear across the Pacific Ocean, in a typhoon, to boot. The Creationism that claims the Earth is only roughly 6000 years old must discredit radiocarbon dating and make preposterous claims about the reliability of such dating, and the constancy of physical laws. Such radical creationists will actually say that radioactive decay has occured historically at a much higher rate than at present, and that the whole process is so flawed that dates cannot be told accurately.

Fair enough. This view is entirely self-consistent. It also makes science as a rigorous discipline impossible. If we cannot depend on a pattern holding between causes and effects in physics, a law-governedness that we never know perfectly but which we can reduce to rather rough, but usually accurate, formulae, then science is meaningless. No patterns exist. This would work fine for the Creationist, since in the absence of objective laws any subjective interpretation could be substituted. But that does not prove Creationism to be the one correct interpretation at all. To do so would require the reintroduction of laws, something the creationist has taken pains to eliminate. So, I might as well believe that Tiamat created the world out of old condoms wrappers - if I can make a consistent theory out of that, why not?

Creation is a unique event. That is, it cannot be compared to any other physical event and brought under similar laws. Therefore, creation cannot be scientific, since any theory dealing with it would not draw on any similar events in history or in the possible future. Creationism is not scientific because it does not seek to explain physics but rather the very possibility of physics, by explaining the creation of matter from nothing. If we move now to the creation of the universe, Creationism taken as a putative scientific theory explains what happened before science could even exist. It explains origins. Science does not seek to do this. It is just as wrong for a materialist to claim that he has developed a scientific theory of the purely material origin of the universe, for such a claim goes beyond the bounds of science and reaches metaphysics. By conceding that science can explain origins, the creationist probably does not realize that he is also authorizing the atheist to create his own theory of origins. But, luckily for philosophy, they are both wrong; or, better, not wrong but making meaningless noises about something they don't really understand and about which they cannot say anything scientific.

A couple links should do to acknowledge my indebtedness to some people:

John Derbyshire occasionally mentions "intelligent design" and how misguided and unscientific it is, though I think he's said all he wants and wishes his readers would just drop it.

Kant in "The Antinomy of Pure Reason" says that metaphysical claims about the beginning of the universe or the universe as a whole go beyond all possible experience and are thus full of contradiction and error. Seems relevant to me.


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