The difference between creationism and scienceJanuary 15, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
Commenting on the “hobbit” fossils found in Indonesia not too long ago, Anthony Horvath gives us a good illustration of the difference between science and creationism.
Source Article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main…scihobbit103.xml
And here is the problem: there is no way to be sure that none of the so called ancestors to homo sapiens are not also just defective, deformed, diseased homo sapiens.
Creationists like to accuse evolutionary science of two things. On the one hand, they claim that “Darwinists” ignore the evidence and preach a dogmatic tradition that uniformly presents evolution as an unchallenged fact. On the other hand, they gleefully cite instances where “Darwinists” directly address the evidence (as they routinely do, despite what creationist slanders say), and claim that whenever evolutionists revise their understanding to better fit the evidence, this just shows that we should never trust their conclusions (!) because they might change their minds tomorrow. The above is a typical example of the latter, so let’s have a look at it in more detail.
First, let’s consider two approaches to reaching conclusions about the world around us. Method A has a built-in error correction mechanism that continuously measures existing conclusions against the objective standard of real-world truth (evidence), and modifies the conclusions as necessary to be more consistent with the evidence. Method B starts with a desired conclusion and then looks for interpretations of the evidence which are consistent, or at least reconcilable, with the predetermined result. Method A, obviously, is much more likely to revise its conclusions than Method B, since the error-correction mechanism is going to kick in every time the conclusions are inconsistent with the evidence, whereas Method B will only revise its interpretation of the evidence, leaving the conclusion essentially untouched.
Of these two methods, which is more likely to produce reliable results? Method A, clearly, since the error-correction mechanism is going to produce successively more accurate conclusions, while Method B’s approach is simply going to produce successively more sophisticated rationalizations. When Method A makes modifications to its conclusions, we’re not talking about arbitrary, random, and fickle flip-flops. The changes are directed changes—they’re moving us in the direction of a more accurate and reliable understanding of the real world. Method B lacks these changes in its conclusions, not because it is necessarily true, but because it never gets any closer to the truth.
Creationism, of course, is Method B. It can never get any closer to the truth, because in order to get get closer to the truth, you must first admit that you didn’t quite have the truth to start with. Creationists can’t admit that, because if the Bible didn’t quite have the truth to start with, and if God doesn’t show up in the real world to correct it, then there’s no way for the creationist to implement any kind of Method A error correction. Creationism has to be dogmatic, and has to employ Method B because Method A keeps leading to evolution (which is why there are theistic evolutionists and not atheistic creationists).
The question that evolutionists have to answer but can’t or won’t is whether or not there is anything that could require them to consider their ’scientific’ theory falsified. I am not a Creationist because I reject evolution. I reject evolution because it sucks as a theory and is endlessly contrived so as to never be falsifiable in practice or in principle.
It’s worth pointing out that employing Method A does not make your conclusions unfalsifiable. Quite the contrary: the error correction mechanism can and routinely does falsify erroneous conclusions. The article Mr. Horvath cites above is a typical example of this process in action: science is considering the question of whether or not the “hobbit” specimens are a distinct species or merely a deformed branch of modern humans. The hypothesis is that they are a separate species, and scientists are currently considering ways in which this hypothesis could be falsified, and looking for collateral evidence which would either support or falsify it.
I have to say that it’s really quite shameful the way creationists keep repeating the lie that evolution is unfalsifiable. There are many lines of evidence that would clearly falsify the theory that modern species arose via descent with modification from common ancestors. For example, supposing that the fossil record were created by a global Deluge such as was described in the story of Noah’s Ark. If that were the case, we ought to find fossils of all modern and extinct species fairly evenly distributed in the fossil record, thus showing that modern species did not descent from common ancestors, but were actually “sibling” species alongside their supposed “ancestors.” Hydrologic sorting might move some of the species to higher levels, if it made them better swimmers, but the dead ones wouldn’t be better swimmers, and we ought to find human cemetaries, at least, buried under the Cambrian strata. A good, solid, indisputable pre-Cambrian cemetary of modern human remains would pretty much put a fatal hole in the hull of good ship Darwin.
Now, for the enterprising evolutionists who stumble upon this blog, spare me the anti-Creationist vitriol. All that does is show me that you can’t make the case for evolution on its own merits. Instead, show me how you could ever know in principle and in practice that a so-called human ancestor might not just be a homo sapien with a genetic deformity. If you can’t rule this out in any of the cases what right do you have in accepting any of them as actual steps in human evolution?
No “vitriol” here: the problems I’ve listed above are relevant and substantial problems with the creationist approach, and Mr. Horvath’s closing paragraph only exemplifies the problem. “I know what conclusion I want to reach, and you can’t prove me wrong beyond all possible doubt, so what right do you have to draw conclusions that differ from my desired conclusion?” That’s just not the right approach to discovering the truth (though again, before you can discover the truth, you must first admit that you don’t already know it.)
The answer to Mr. Horvath’s question is really quite simple: the ancestors came first. There’s not much point in trying to argue that early hominids were deformed members of the human species when there was no human species at the time for them to be deformed members of. If there were any evidence of modern humans existing before or concurrent with the “ancestral” species, then Mr. Horvath would have a valid objection. No such evidence exists, however, and the evidence which does exist shows a clear transition from the oldest/most-ancestral/most-“deformed” through a succession of more-human/less-“deformed” individuals, right up until the earliest appearance of what we call modern man. The most reliable way to learn the truth is to remember the principle that truth is consistent with itself, and the conclusion that is most consistent with the observable truth is that early hominids evolved into later hominids which evolved into man. That’s why we share certain genetic defects with other primates, for instance.
Mr. Horvath’s polemic is a good example of the way creationists seek not to add to our knowledge, but to subtract from it, by sowing doubt and denial and attempting to discredit the careful field work and research being done by real scientists. It’s pure Method B, an attempt to find new (albeit more contrived) ways of interpreting the evidence in order to preserve a dogmatic and predetermined conclusion. If this were a reliable approach, they wouldn’t find it necessary to keep lying about evolution’s falsifiability. As Mr. Horvath himself says,
If your theory can’t stand alone on its own merit without poo-pooing a rival, it is safe to say the theory probably doesn’t have much going for it.