Creationism moving backwards

Oct 30, 2011 Comments Off by

Nicolaus Steno, the only saint to also be a scientist, introduced to geography in the seventeenth century the principle of superposition, which says geological strata that look alike are equally old and those on top are younger than those underneath them. Taxonomy, the systematic classification of living things, began in the eighteenth century with Linnaeus, who concluded that humans were primates based on physiology. Needless to say, both of these scientists were creationists because of when in history they lived. Modern creationists refuse to embrace the basic principles they lay down because of where they lead. This means the scientific credentials of creationists have retreated over time.


Once creationism was prohibited from a presence in US science classes, it rebranded itself as ID (intelligent design). This process has since repeated twice, first giving “teach the controversy”, then “critically assess evolution” as names for the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Creationism once claimed it had scientific reasons to conclude a god created life rather than evolution having produced it. The transition to ID retreated from “a god” to “a designer”, although the difference is moot since they’ve refused to embrace the alien designer possibility Raelians suggest – and what else is there? Since ID suffered the same legal fate as creationism or, in its most scientifically confident form, “creation science”, even the claim design is scientifically demonstrated has been abandoned in principle, in favour of just attacking evolution or the case for it. These are examples of creationism retreating in terms of its desire for scientific validity. There is another more complicated example I will elucidate below.


If you generate a genome of length N at random the time taken to get something good is exponential in N, which is impractical unless N is unrealistically small. This is why, if Darwinism were chance as creationists often pretend it is, it would be unviable. Instead Darwinian processes that produce a good genome of length N need a time “polynomial” in N, meaning the creationists are out by one exponentiation. Bad as that is, a common ID argument is out by two. IDists have claimed that the maximum reciprocal of the probability of an event that ever occurs is given by multiplying the age of the universe in Planck times by its number of particles, or perhaps 1,000 times bigger for good measure. But if per unit time a particle has k possible futures and so the universe’s M particles as a whole have kM possible futures, after T unit times the number of outcomes possible is kMT; and, if we define a configuration of the world by the set of histories that could give it, the number of them is 2kMT, a double exponential. This is the sort of maximum reciprocal of a probability we should entertain. Notice the equivalent figure in the IDists’ argument is MT, so the IDists are twice as wrong as the creationists.


It has been said certain ideas such as string theory may be “not even wrong” because they lack the testability of refuted “wrong” ideas. Perhaps on this view creationism is “not even not even wrong” while ID is “not even not even not even wrong”; perhaps the next two rebrandings go up to four and then five “not even” statements. Bearing in mind “wrong” is worse than “unproven”, which is in turn worse than “right”, this may place modern versions of creationism as many as seven places worse off than being right, three of those seven misplacements having occurred as demotions in the past 20 years in their efforts to get into schools. This should give you some idea of how misplaced are the priorities of these people: they do not merely prefer indoctrinating children to being right; they show no concern whatsoever for being right. Sadly, approximately half of Americans go so far as to be Young Earth Creationists; the fraction of the people in the Land of the Free who are some form of creationist, thereby being so far from rationality it’s tragic, is a shall we say uncomfortable majority.

Biology, Neurology, and Medicine, Sciences

About the author

For most of my time as an undergraduate there was an atheist society in my university, which was founded late in my first year there. I was a committee member from then until my degree ended, by which time the society was atheist, secularist and humanist (you needn't be all three!). This gives me many experiences to relate. I have long critiqued pro-religious arguments, including in hundreds of posts - many of them thorough rebuttals to articles - on under my name. My degree was in physics, and I know a lot of the science - physics and otherwise - relevant to the debate on religion.
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