WHAT IS THE "SCIENTIFIC THEORY OF CREATION"?
by Lenny Flank
The creationists are insistent that their religious outlook, based upon a literal reading of the Biblical account in Genesis, is really "science", and is not merely a rehash of their fundamentalist religious beliefs. However, when pressed to tell us exactly what their scientific theory is, they usually either do not respond at all, or else they respond with a long list of inaccurate criticisms of evolutionary theory (which of course do nothing at all to demonstrate the scientific validity of the creationist outlook).
However, the creationists have published what they refer to as their "scientific model" of creation, and it is worth taking a look at (for a good laugh if for nothing else). Looking at what they present as their "scientific model", it is no wonder that the creationist prefer to depend on their tried-and-untrue criticisms of evolutionary theory, since their own "scientific model" is so patently silly.
So here is the "scientific model of creation" as set out by the Institute for Creation Research, along with my own notes and comments.
The ICR begins by pointing out:
"Creationism can be studied and taught in any of three basic forms, as follows:
(1) 'Scientific creationism' (no reliance on Biblical revelation, utilizing only scientific data to support and expound the creation model).
(2) 'Biblical creationism' (no reliance on scientific data, using only the Bible to expound and defend the creation model).
(3) 'Scientific Biblical creationism' )full reliance on Biblical revelation but also using scientific data to support and develop the creation model)." (All quotes are from ICR Impact No, 85, "The Tenets of Creationism", Henry Morris, July 1980)
The second and third of these three "forms", of course, rely explicitly on religious doctrines (as indicated by the Book of Genesis and the rest of the Christian Bible), and are, therefore, illegal to teach in public schools in the United States (under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment). The first "form", presumably, is the one that creation "scientists" are investigating and defending, and is also presumably the one that the creationists would like to have taught in science classrooms as an "alternative" to the scientific model of evolution.
That these three "forms" are, in fact, one and the same is explicitly acknowledged by the creationists themselves. The ICR points out, "These are not contradictory systems, of course, but supplementary, each appropriate for certain applications. For example, creationists should not advocate that Biblical creationism be taught in public schools, both because of judicial restrictions against religion in such schools and also (more importantly) because teachers who do not believe the Bible should not be asked to teach the Bible. It is both legal and desirable, however, that scientific creationism be taught in public schools as a valid alternative to evolutionism."
Leaving aside for now the fact that it is most definitelynot "legal and desirable" for "scientific creationism" to be taught in a public school (at least six Federal court cases have ruled that "scientific creationism" is not science but is merely religious doctrine dressed up as science), it is worth noting that, according to the creationists themselves, "scientific" creationism and "biblical" creationism are the same doctrines, but differ according to their audience. In churches and Sunday Schools, where teaching religious doctrine is perfectly acceptable, the ICR recommends teaching Biblical creationism. But in public schools, where openly religious instruction is illegal, the ICR advocates teaching these religious doctrines as "science".
However, since the openly and explicitly Biblical "form" of creationism is off-limits in the public school system, we will focus on the so-called "scientific creationism", which, as the ICR solemnly informs us, should be taught "utilizing only scientific data" and should demonstrate "no reliance on Biblical revelation". Fine. Let us then examine the ICR's "scientific model" on these terms.
Here, in order, are the ICR's "Tenets of Scientific Creationism", with appropriate notation and commentary. Judge for yourself how much "science" there is, and how much fundamentalist religious doctrine:
"(1) The physical universe of space, time, matter and energy has not always existed, but was supernaturally created by a transcendent personal Creator who alone has existed from eternity."
Well, the ICR starts off alright, since it is a basic conclusion of so-called "evolution science"--astronomy and cosmology--that the universe indeed has not existed forever, but began about 10 billion years ago in the Big Bang. But then the ICR immediately fouls out. I don't know about you, but the phrase "supernaturally created by a transcendent personal Creator" sounds an awful lot like "created by god" to me. In fact, it sounds an awful lot like the religious narrative given in the first few verses of Genesis.
Big Bang cosmologists are able to point to a number of scientific data in support of their conclusion, such as the red-shifts and Hubble expansion, and the cosmic background radiation. The creationists, on the other hand, are not able to point to a single bit of scientific data in support of their conclusion. In fact, the only way they "know" that the universe was created by a personal transcendent Creator is because that's what it says in the Bible.
For more evidence that it is plain old Biblical literalism that the creation "scientists" are preaching here, we turn to the other major work of creation "science", the book Scientific Creationism, published by the ICR in 1974 (Henry Morris, ed., Scientific Creationism, Creation Life Publishers, San Diego CA, 1974). This book, the ICR informs us, was written by "the scientific staff of the Institute for Creation Research" (p. i). It is, the editor declares, a work of science, and "makes no reference to the Bible or other religious literature as its authority, but only on the facts of science" (p. v):
"It is possible to discuss the evidences relating to evolution versus creation in a scientific context exclusively, without reference to religious literature or doctrine." (p. 3)
"The purpose of Scientific Creationism (Public School edition) is to treat all of the more pertinent aspects of the subject of origins and to do this on a scientific basis, with no references to the Bible or to religious doctrine." (p. iv)
Morris emphasizes again that the book treats creationism in "a strictly scientific context" (p. iii) and as a "scientifically sound alternative to evolution" (p. iii).
After all this high-sounding talk about the scientific data and the lack of reference to religious doctrines or beliefs, what do we find as the very first tenet of "scientific creationism"?: "The physical universe of space, time, matter and energy has not always existed, but was supernaturally created by a transcendent personal Creator."
Morris's book echoes: "The creation model involves a process of special creation which is: (1) supernatural, (2) externally directed, (3) purposive, and (4) completed." (p. 11)
It looks as though the game is over before it has even started. The "scientific" creationists, who ask us to judge them solely on the data of science, without any reference to any religious or Biblical doctrine, have blown it already, since the very core of their "scientific model" is based on a religious belief that a "transcendent Creator" made the universe "supernaturally". I have yet to meet the creationist who can explain to me how this tenet is "scientific" and not "religious" in nature. Nor have I met any creationist who has been able to demonstrate the existence of a personal transcendent Creator using scientific methods, without any reference to religious or Biblical doctrines.
The creationists did try, though--and their argument was quite clever, if laughable. Their argument? "There is nothing inherently religious about the terms 'creator' or 'creation', as used in the context of Act 590. Act 590 is concerned with a non-religious conception of 'creation' and 'creator', not the religious concepts dealt with in the Bible or religious writings. . . All that creation- science requires is that the entity which caused creation have power, intelligence and a sense of design." (Defendant's Trial Brief, McLean v Arkansas, 1981) In other words, the creationists argue, their first tenet of "scientific creationism" is not religious even though it mentions a personal supernatural Creator, because this Creator doesn't necessarily refer to God. As creationist witness Norman Geisler argued in court (apparently with a straight face), a supernatural Creator is not a religious concept. In other words, creation "scientists" have attempted to argue that, instead of "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth", "In the beginning, some personal transcendent supernatural Creator whose name we aren't allowed to mention created the heavens and the earth". Then, after pointing out that the latter argument doesn't mention "God", they have triumphantly concluded that it is therefore a "scientific" and not a "religious" argument. The absurdity of this argument is self-evident (the Arkansas Judge rather charitably commented that it was "contrary to common understanding").
(If I wanted to be nasty, I would also point out to the creationists that this conclusion is heretical as well, since it opens the possibility that the "Creator" who made the universe supernaturally was not God. One wonders how their fundamentalist Christian friends would feel if they realized that the creation "scientists" were peddling such theological heresy.)
Is there any indication that the creationist's undefined "Creator" is anything other than the Christian God described in the Bible? Not only is there no indication that this "Creator" is NOT the Christian God (who presumably is very definitely a Biblical reference and a religious doctrine), but the creationists themselves make it explicitly clear that they are referring to the Christian God and no other supernatural "Creator". For one thing, the creationists consistently and routinely refer to this "Creator" as "He":
"Once the creation was finished, these processes of creation were replaced by processes of conservation, which were designed by the Creator to sustain and maintain the basic systems He had created." (p. 12)
"Since it could not produce itself, it must be in existence due to the omnipotence of an external Creator, who is Himself its absolute standard." (p. 21)
"The Creator created the entire universe, and He created it a universe, not a multiverse." (p. 28)
Creationists believe in general uniformitarianism as an evidence of the Creator's providential maintenance of the laws He created in the beginning." (p. 91)
It goes without saying that there is simply no way in which the creation "scientists" can demonstrate through scientific data that there is only one "Creator" and not, say, a dozen of them. Nor can they demonstrate in any scientific manner that this single personal supernatural Creator is a "he" and not a "she" or an "it". Why then do the creationists consistently refer to this "Creator" as "He"? Because their religious doctrines, as set out in the Biblical references, have told them that there is only one god, and he is referred to as "He".
Still not convinced that it is indeed the Christian God the creationists are referring to? Then allow the creationists themselves to confirm it:
"As far as creationists are concerned, at least, the subject can easily be discussed objectively and non-emotionally, with no reference to the Bible or religion. The only aspect of supernaturalism that needs to be mentioned at all is that the creation model does presuppose a God, or Creator, who did create things in the beginning." (p. 4)
"The creation model conversely supposes that the universe was simply called into existence by the omnipotence, in accord with the omniscience, of the Creator. Not only the matter and energy of the cosmos, but also the laws controlling their behavior, were specially created ex nihilo, or perhaps better, ex Deo." (p. 17)
After all of the paragraphs telling us that creation is a science with no need for any religious references or beliefs, the creationists finally admit that they do need to bring in one teeny tiny little religious concept after all--the concept of God as creator. Their excuse for this? "The rationalist, of course, finds the concept of special creation insufferably naive, even 'incredible'. Such a judgement, however, is warranted only if one categorically denies the existence of an omnipotent God." (p. 17)
"The only reason for saying that special creation is incredible would be if one had certain knowledge that there was no God. Obviously, if no Creator exists, then special creation is incredible. But since a universal negative can only be proved if one has universal knowledge, such a statement requires omniscience. Thus, by denying God, Dr Watson is claiming the attributes of God himself. There are some scientists, at least, who find it easier to believe in the deity of an omnipotent Creator than in the deity of Professor Watson." (p. 8)
In the midst of this theological sermon on the existence of God, Morris seems to have forgotten that he himself was the one who promised to discuss creationism "in a scientific context exclusively, without reference to religious literature or doctrine." The deity of God or Dr Watson is not the point here, Mr Morris--the point is why you have introduced the religious concept of "deity" at all if your outlook is non-religious and totally scientific. In fact, a casual reading of Morris's book reveals a total of 19 times when a "personal", "omnipotent", or "supernatural" "Creator" is mentioned, and a total of 12 instances when "God" specifically is mentioned. Awful strange for a book that is supposed to be about science, and is presumably not based upon religious doctrines or references.
But then, Morris himself knows that his outlook is not "science", and explicitly acknowledges this in his book: "It is impossible to devise a scientific experiment to describe the creation process, or even to ascertain whether such a process can take place." (p. 5) Pray tell, Mr Morris, if it is, as you say, "impossible" to make any scientific experiments concerning the process of creation, then how exactly can you presume to know anything about this process, such as the "fact" that there was only one supernatural creator, or that it was male, or that it had a purpose? If the source of your "scientific" information concerning creation is not scientific experiment, then what is your source?
The final blow to the creationist claim that their outlook is "scientific" is, ironically, a self-inflicted wound. On page 33 of his book, Morris solemnly informs us that "Questions regarding purpose, however, are not scientific questions, at least not in the usually promoted sense of the term 'scientific'." Incredibly, then, just two paragraphs later on the very same page, Morris baldly admits, "The creation model does include, quite explicitly, the concept of purpose. The Creator was purposive, not capricious or indifferent, as He planned and then created the universe." (p. 33)
Thus, by Morris's own admission, creation "science" deals with concepts that are "not scientific questions". Morris does not explain why he is discussing such things in a book entitled Scientific Creationism.
The religious doctrines and references in creation "science" are thus crushingly obvious. Creationist strike one.
The scientific community is unanimous in concluding that life on earth began as a result of abiogenesis, developing from originally non-living chemical substances. And what is the ICR's "scientific" alternative to this theory? ICR says:
"(2) The phenomenon of biological life did not develop by natural processes from inanimate systems but was specially and supernaturally created by the Creator."
There's that "supernatural Creator" again, who may or may not be, according to the creationists, the Christian God. The religious doctrine at the core of creationism is openly clear--God did it. But remember, the ICR has asked us to judge their model, not on religious grounds--the ICR, remember, are "scientists" and base their model on the scientific data rather than Biblical revelation. I must confess, however, that I have seen not a shred of scientific data indicating the creation of life supernaturally by a "transcendent Creator", nor has ICR ever produced any. The extent of the ICR's "scientific explanation" for the beginning of life is "POOF!!" Strike two.
"(3) Each of the major kinds of plants and animals was created functionally complete from the beginning and did not evolve from some other kind of organism. Changes in basic kinds since their first creation are limited to 'horizontal' changes (variations) within the kinds, or 'downward" changes (e.g., harmful mutations, extinctions)."
Here is the creationist's "scientific explanation" for the appearence of the diverse life forms we see today on earth--God, uh, I mean, that personal transcendent Creator, musta dunnit. Yet again, the creationist's "scientific theory" is--POOF!!!! So far the creationists are batting 1,000.
As for the creationist idea of "major kinds", this is an entire essay in itself. Suffice it to say here that, not only have the creationists not been able to differentiate living organisms into such clearly-separate "kinds"--they have been unable to even come up with a workable "scientific definition" of what constitutes a "basic kind", or what objective criteria we can use to determine to which "kind" any particular organism belongs. Even the very word "kind" is lifted straight out of the Genesis narrative. Nevertheless I'll give the creationists the benefit of the doubt here, and allow them the opportunity to produce a scientific definition of a "kind". Call this one a foul ball.
"(4) The first human beings did not evolve from an animal ancestry, but were specially created in fully human form from the start. Furthermore, the 'spiritual' nature of man (self-image, moral consciousness, abstract reasoning, language, will, religious nature, etc., is itself a supernaturally created entity distinct from mere biological life."
Uh oh, there's that "personal transcendent Creator (who isn't really God)" again. Why didn't the creationists just come right out and say that God created humans and gave them souls? Oh, I forgot, that would be illegal, wouldn't it? And besides, there's not supposed to be any religious doctrine in creation "science".
So what is the creationist's "scientific explanation" for the appearence of humans on earth? POOF !!!! again.
Strike three. You're out.
"(5) The record of earth history, as preserved in the earth's crust, especially in the rocks and fossil deposits, is primarily a record of catastrophic intensities of natural processes, operating largely within uniform laws, rather than one of gradualism and relatively uniform process rates. There are many scientific evidences for a relatively recent creation of the earth and universe, in addition to strong scientific evidence that most of the earth's fossiliferous sedimentary rocks were formed in an even more recent global hydraulic cataclysm."
The "scientific evidences for a relatively recent creation of the earth" will be familiar to creationist-watchers---it includes such ludicrous "science" as c-decay and the decay of the magnetic field of the earth. The "more recent global hydraulic cataclysm" is the creationist code word for Noah's Flood. One wonders in vain what "scientific data" the creationists are able to offer to show that such a "cataclysm" happened "largely within uniform laws", as they claim. Among the problems which so-called "flood geology" faces are where the water came from for this global flood, where it went afterwards, and how all of the living things on earth today survived it. In all of these areas, the creationists invoke that "personal transcendent Creator" yet again, to explain with thinly-veiled religious assumptions what they cannot explain with scientific data.
So far, then, the "scientific model" of the creationists--the one that isn't supposed to contain any religious assumptions or biblical references--consists of four supernatural POOF!s and the Biblical Flood of Noah.
"(6) Processes today operate within fixed natural laws and relatively uniform process rates but, since these were themselves originally created and are daily maintained by the Creator, there is always the possiblity of miraculous intervention in these laws or processes by their Creator. Evidences for such intervention should be scrutinized critically, however, because there must be clear and adequate reason for any such action on the part of the Creator."
Here's that darn "personal and transcendent Creator" again. Only now the ICR is claiming to have scientific data which establishes that God, er, I mean this un-named Creator, intervenes with the operation of natural laws and thus produces (presumably divine) miracles. I am just dying to know what "scientific data" the ICR could produce in support of this "scientific conclusion"--however, I wonder in vain, since ICR has never produced a scrap of scientific data to establish the existence of divine miracles. Certainly no one at any scientific institute that I know of has ever seen and measured a divine miracle. Once again, the fundamentalist religious doctrines of the creationists shine through loud and clear.
"(7) The universe and life have somehow been impaired since the completion of creation, so that imperfections in structure, disease, aging, extinctions and other such phenomena are the result of 'negative' changes in properties and processes occuring in an originally-perfect created order."
Hmm. One might well wonder what "scientific data" the ICR could cite to establish that the original "creation" did not contain disease or aging, or what scientific data they could produce to show that this original world was "originally-perfect"--what exactly is an "originally-perfect" world anyway, and what are the scientific criteria which allow a scientist to measure this "perfection"? As is readily apparent, this "science" is simply more of the same biblical references and religious doctrines which the ICR said were not present in "scientific" creationism.
The ICR is rather thinly referring here to the Fall of Adam, in which human sin intruded into the "perfect" Biblical Garden of Eden and produced aging and death, which, the creationist religious doctrine holds, did not exist before this Fall. If the ICR has any measurable scientific data whatsoever to demonstrate that any of this happened--other than the fact that it is described in the Biblical narrative---they have so far failed to produce it. So, to the creationist "science" of four divine POOF!s and a divine Flood, we must now add the Fall of Adam.
"(8) Since the Universe and its primary components were created perfect for their purposes in the beginning by a competent and volitional Creator, and since the Creator does now remain active in this now decaying creation, there do exist ultimate purposes and meanings in the universe. Teleological considerations, therefore, are appropriate in scientific studies whenever they are consistent with the actual data of observation, and it is reasonable to assume that the creation presently awaits the consummation of the Creator's purpose."
This entire statement is religious doctrine, through and through, with not a bit of "scientific data" anywhere in it. As Morris himself admits in his book, it is simply impossible to make any scientific statements about the "purpose" of the universe or its presumed Creator. How exactly does one go about scientifically determining the "purpose of the Creator"? How can one scientifically determine "ultimate purposes and meanings in the universe"? What measurement can one perform to determine that this supposed "meaning in the universe" is correct and that one is not? What scientific experiment can demonstrate that the universe "presently awaits the consummation of the Creator's purpose"? Creationists have no scientific answers to any of these questions.
"(9) Although people are finite and scientific data concerning origins are always circumstantial and incomplete, the human mind (if open to the possibility of creation) is able to explore the manifestations of that Creator rationally and scientifically and to reach an intelligent decision regarding one's place in the Creator's plan."
More religious assertions. What scientific measurements does the ICR perform in order to measure the "Creator's plan"? What data can the ICR cite to allow us to determine "the manifestations of that Creator"?
Thus, using the ICR's own description of creation "science", we can demonstrate in a way that is crushingly obvious that there is no science in creation "science". The ICR's "science" consists of nothing more than one religious assertion and Biblical doctrine after another, not one of which can be supported by any scientific data whatsoever. Every single tenet of the ICR's "science" makes it crushingly clear that these conclusions are based, not on any scientific data, but on the fundamentalist Christian religious doctrines of the creationists. Only the names of "the Creator" have been changed to protect the guilty from having their silly "science" tossed out of court as open religious dogma.
This, then, is the "scientific model" which the creationists would have us replace evolutionary theory, and which they would have us teach to students in public school biology classes: "In the beginning, some Creator whose name we aren't allowed to mention POOF!ed everything into being."
Is it any wonder that in every court case in which the creationists have attempted to argue that their outlook is scientific in nature and is not based upon any religious faiths or doctrines, they have lost repeatedly, crushingly and embarrassingly?
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