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Entry 194, on 2005-07-12 at 16:17:02 (Rating 3, Comments)
I recently listened to a podcasted debate between Massimo Pigliucci (an evolutionary biologist) and Robert Allan (a creationist) which debated the merits of creationism as a scientific theory. I've never had a lot of time for creationists, but I expected this person, as a leading exponent of the theory, to have an at least half credible argument in its favour. Well, unfortunately, he didn't.
By creationism, in this case, I mean a belief in the literal truth of the Biblical creation story, including the 6 day creation 6000 years ago, the Adam and Eve origin of the human race, and the global flood. Other creation theories are more sensible, and basically say their is a creator, but don't try to make many predictions beyond that. Sometimes this is known as Intelligent Design.
The most literal version of creationism is easy to disprove, but ID is a lot harder because it really says nothing. If you say nothing and make no statements which can be proven either true or false, its very hard to disprove your belief.
The debate in question was between evolution and creation as alternative theories for the development of life on Earth. Other subjects which were inevitably discussed included: the origin of life, paleontology, geology, dating techniques, etc.
After two hours of intense discussion the creationist hadn't said a single thing which stood up to critical examination. I actually felt sorry for this person, he was so pathetic. He was totally destroyed by the evolutionist. This shouldn't be surprising really, since there isn't any realistic doubt that his theory is completely incorrect. You can't disguise nonsensical pseudo-science forever!
There are many areas of science which show that creationism is wrong, but let's just concentrate on one here. The age of the Universe. According to Genesis (remember I'm talking about a literal interpretation here), the Earth, the stars, Sun, Moon, and all life were created one after the other over a period of six days. if you follow the chronology of the Bible, this happened about 6000 years ago.
Wrong! We can show this is wrong through any number of different, independent observations. Dating techniques show the Earth is about 1 million times older than this. Some people debate the accuracy of these techniques, but several independent methods all give the same results. And even if you do want to believe there are inaccuracies they certainly aren't in the order of a factor of 100 million percent. A more realistic estimate is less than 5%.
What about the age of the Universe? We know how far away different objects are in the Universe. We know how quickly light travels. If it takes more than 6000 years for the light to reach us how could the star have been created only 6000 years ago. The answer is it couldn't. We all know that distant measurements aren't totally accurate but again the errors would need to be in the order of millions of percent for creationism to be true. That's just not possible.
When presented with these facts some creationists resort to a great conspiracy theory which says all scientists know their theories are wrong, but are just covering it up for some unspecified purpose. That sort of thing really is the last gasp of a totally defeated person. They should have the honesty just to admit that they are wrong.
The other angle taken by creationists, is that it is a valid scientific theory, which should be taught as an alternative to evolution. But it isn't science at all, it as a religious belief system. OK, teach it in religious education programs if you must, but not in science. Unless, of course, you also want to allow teaching evolution in church!
Massimo's web site is: http://rationallyspeaking.org/
Link at: http://rationallyspeaking.org/
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