Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
Recently there was a televised debate between Bill Nye (the science guy) arguing for evolution and Ken Ham, arguing for young earth creationism. It was a long debate, clocking in at 2hrs, 45 min. (It actually starts about 17 minutes into the video.) In Ken Ham’s opening statement, he immediately makes the point, correctly, that creationists can be scientists. Of course they can. He then points out, correctly, that science has been hijacked by secularists to force the belief of naturalism on students and he divides science into the categories of historical and observational in order to show that the evolutionists are inventing natural history. He also, unfortunately, goes off the rails by presuming the bible to be a reliable scientific textbook. It is that flaw, of course, that crushes Ham’s argument and Nye was smart enough to jump on that.
It’s a shame really, that Ham relied on the bible, because he had some very salient points to make that were completely overshadowed by this. One such point he made was that we can’t really know the past since we can only observe clues from the present and derive a theory from those clues. He also makes the point that both he and Nye agree on the data, but not on the interpretation of that data. These are both really good starting points for a very interesting discussion. In addition, he posed a couple of good questions:
How do you account for the laws of logic and the laws of nature from a naturalistic worldview that excludes the existence of God? (31:48)
This is probably the most serious flaw of evolutionary theory. It’s not possible to disentangle information and consciousness from biological systems. Point for Ham. Another question he poses:
Can you name one piece of technology that could only have been developed starting with a belief in molecules-to-man evolution?
He’s addressing the claim that science has developed technology and technology is all around us, and the same science has produced the theory of evolution, so therefore we should take it more seriously. Ham is making the point that technology is a separate issue from evolution. He’s right about that.
Ham goes on to frame the arguments as a battle over different world views and re-emphasizes interpretation as a key to understanding the differences in their respective positions. It’s a perfectly legitimate line of reasoning.
Ham’s arguments were clear and well thought out and he approached objections head on, never shying away from the more controversial aspects of his presentation. Now I don’t buy young earth creationism for an instant and I don’t regard the bible as a literal historical document, but I am willing to let others have their say and I do admire a well thought out, coherent argument. Ham approached his viewpoint from a very matter of fact perspective and he made it very clear where he and Nye parted ways. I didn’t agree with him, but I definitely respected his approach.
Here’s the thing: by disagreeing completely with the standard evolutionary model, Ham is looking at the evidence in a different light and exposing the gaps. It doesn’t make his model right, but he does provide an effective criticism of evolutionary science in the process. For instance, Ham makes the case that the evolutionary assumption that one species evolves into another has never been observed and may be pure fiction. He’s absolutely correct in pointing this out. Although I don’t agree with the alternate model he came up with as an explanation, he has to be given his due in pointing out this flaw. We’ve observed adaptations within a species, but not wholesale changes. The evidence that we have might lead to a different conclusion if it’s interpreted differently.
Ham zeroed in on the weak link in the evolutionary model: there’s a belief aspect to it. By dividing science into historical and observational aspects, he was able to show where evidence leaves off and theory begins. And if you take that theory for truth, you’re operating from belief, not science.
Bill Nye in turn, went after the weak link in the young earth model: namely, the assertion that the earth is only a few thousand years old. Doing this allowed Nye to play to his strength and take advantage of easy-to-understand obvious evidence to make his case. It was a wise choice because it would have been much harder to prove that evolution is true. Had he been going up against intelligent design theorists who were not trying to shoehorn science into an ancient religious text he would have had a much harder time of it.
The whole evolution vs. creationism debate misses the mark entirely. Evolution is a theory. It is the best available theory that we have at the moment and as such it is nothing more than a creation story we have put together to explain the evidence we have thus far encountered. We might have completely misunderstood the evidence we have seen so far, or more likely, we have somewhat misinterpreted it. Evolutionary theory is already nearly unrecognizable from its early forms. It will change some more and perhaps someday will morph something else until it is nothing like what it is today. That is the nature of science. Theories change as more evidence accumulates. The elephant in the room for evolution is consciousness. We don’t understand it and areas like epigenetics are demonstrating that consciousness plays a role in evolution. It is a certainty that our theories of evolution will change a great deal as we understand this area better.
Young earth creationism doesn’t conform to the existing evidence but that doesn’t mean that the challenges to evolution don’t deserve serious consideration because they expose many of the questions that evolutionists cannot answer. Whatever you think of young earth creationism, Ham is playing a perfectly legitimate scientific role in critiquing accepted mainstream theory. The problem is that this discussion has morphed into an ideological battle that the young earth creationist have created. By battling evolution with a competing theory based on religion the debate has been polarized. The creationists have hardened the position of their opponents and helped turn evolution into its own creation story.
The amazing thing about real science is that you can make up your own mind based on the evidence which is not hard to find. Your opinion, of course, will only be as valuable as the extent of your knowledge, but anyone can look at any data and educate themselves on how to understand it. It is helpful to have experts of course, but thinking scientifically is not the domain of a chosen few. Science is a process, not a set of theories and it’s ok, and even necessary for people to disagree about what the evidence means, up to a point. I personally think that exposing students to competing theories that both have merit and laying out the evidence for each of them is more valuable for understanding how science really works than just picking a mainstream theory and showing evidence for that. Science is inherently messy and showing the disagreement more closely reflects how it really works.