If creationists are going to be stupid, couldn’t they at least be creative about it? Once again, they misunderstand the potential and limits of experimentation. By way of ScienceBlogling Greg Laden comes this summary by Texan Citizens for Science of the new
creationistChristian perspective of origins* offensive against biology:
Here, briefly, is the distinction: ICR believes that there are two types of science: (1) physical science, including physics and chemistry, that Creationists term “experimental, empirical, or operation science” because one can perform experiments (i.e. operations) on its subject matter and make direct empirical observations in present-day time, and (2) historical science, such as historical geology (including stratigraphy and geochronology), paleontology, astronomy (cosmology and galactic, stellar, and planetary astronomy), and systematic biology (including population genetics, biogenesis, and evolutionary biology–all disciplines with a historical element), that Creationists term “forensic, origin, or historical science” because one can’t perform experiments on its singular and episodic subject matter, but instead only make historical inferences by using an indirect method of observing contemporary evidence to understand the past. The claim is that, for historical or “forensic” science–since one can’t do any real experiments with ancient causes, events, and processes–scientific conclusions about past events and processes are more suspect or less rigorous than conclusions about modern or contemporary causes, events, and processes studied by chemistry and physics. Thus, scientific knowledge about evolution and the origin of life is not as reliable as information about matter and energy, forces and heat. ICR claims it readily accepts and teaches “experimental science” in the same way that mainstream academic institutions do, but it feels justified in holding and teaching “a very different perspective when it comes to forensic science (origins, pre-history),” because of the inadequacies and indirect methods inherent in the study of historical events and processes.
There’s a good rebuttal over at TCS, but there’s one point that wasn’t made that is worth raising. There is often a bias towards experimental manipulation; these experiments are viewed as ‘better.’ But, in ecology, one school does not trust manipulative experiments because they are unrealistic and therefore unrepresentative. Instead one should compare the appropriate natural phenomena and use statistical tools to untangle correlations that can reveal causality.
While I think that is too extreme, it is worth remembering that the strength of experimentation is that experiments, by design, are reductionist. That is, they are intentionally oversimplified so as to examine one or a few components or forces in rigorous detail. These experiments tell you what could happen (or could have happened) ‘out there’, but they can not tell you, for example, the evolutionary trajectory of a species. For that, you need what these creationists call “forensic science.”
Of course, pointing this out to creationists is like talking to a brick wall (except the wall is smarter):
As is the case with all Creationist arguments, the proposition of a disjunctive duality of science sounds plausible, but in reality it is nonsense. It is a specious argument, intended to deceive the reader. Organized Creationism is one of those pseudointellectual pursuits that tries to convince its followers by using sophistry to fool them (and they are remarkably successful at it, due either to the sophistication of their sophistry or the foolishness of their followers).
The wall is more honest, too.
*That’s what creationists are calling it:
Finally, if you would feel comfortable writing a kind note of encouragement to Dr. Paredes thanking him for his attempt to be fair in our evaluation, and also expressing your support for the Christian perspective of origins (a better word than creation), it may help Dr. Paredes understand that there are substantial numbers of educated people in this nation who are not persuaded by the evolutionary theories of life.