Same Evidence, Awful Interpretations

One of the favoured cries of Creationists is that ‘we both have the same evidence, you’re just interpreting it wrong’. This isn’t always true; Creationists generally have woefully incomplete evidence, gleanced from a quick glance at actual scientific literature before being warped through the lens of whatever website they get their ‘facts’ from. But for a moment, let’s assume that we do all have the same evidence.

Creationists will claim that all of the evidence points equally towards either naturalistic evolution or the actions of whatever god they happen to worship, and in general they’re right. Not because ‘God did it’ is ever a good explanation for something, but because ‘God did it’ is the kind of vague, lazy explanation that draws Creationists like flies to honey. You can use ‘God did it’ for anything, which is an immediate and huge red light. The LHC will hopefully determine why matter has mass, but we don’t need all of that fancy equipment – God did it, you see. One of our chromosomes looks exactly like a pair of fused chromosomes found in some of the other hominid (or ‘ape’) species. Why is this? Apparently, God did it.

Follow that link and you’ll come to an astonishingly stupid blog, with the audacious tag-line of ‘Bringing Rationality to Scientific Thought’. (I know, try not to laugh.) That particular post contains more Creationist fallacies than I know how to define, chief among them the mistake of thinking that ‘God did it’ is a good explanation for the fused chromosome issue.

Generally speaking, it’s not a good idea to invoke an unproven, supernatural, omnipotent entity when you’re doing science. It raises far more questions than it answers, and is only a neat way of wrapping up loose ends if you’re already the kind of person for whom wild assumptions come naturally.

Now, evolutionary theory perfectly explains why we might end up with a chromosome that looks exactly like two fused chromosomes from a species that is, even without assuming common ancestry, a lot like us. Why then suggest that God did it? What possible reason is there to supplant a rigorously tested, extremely well supported theory with something that, scientifically speaking, has nothing going for it? Seriously, I want to know.

4 Responses to Same Evidence, Awful Interpretations

  1. The arrogance of the tag line (bringing rationality to scientific thought) should be an instant huge red flag for anyone visiting that site. Who knew all scientists were so irrational? Thank goodness we have people like this to make us see the error of our ways!

    As for what possible reason do people try to supplant evolutionary theory with “God did it”…I think it basically comes down to the fact that they feel that evolutionary theory threatens their belief in God. Yes, evolutionary theory does contradict a LITERAL reading of the creation account in Genesis, but that’s really the only point of contention. You can be a Christian and still agree with evolutionary theory; many people do so quite happily and without compromising any of their intelligence. Of course, such a stance may not be advisable according to some, but nonetheless, it is a possibility.

  2. forknowledge says:

    I wish more Christians would get that into their heads, because right now there seems to be a widespread and very worrying trend towards even ‘moderate’ Christians becoming quite anti-science. It’s as if science, minding it’s own business, was suddenly pounced upon by religion, inexpertly beaten up, and then arrested and charged with assault.

  3. Eric Kemp says:

    For some reason, I can’t highlight your text to copy and paste, so I’m just going to paraphrase you so I hope I’m not quote mining.

    “God did it” stuff: There are 3 problems with this massive strawman.

    1. Why didn’t Newton, Galileo, Bacon, Kepler and Copernicus leave it at “God did it”? I mean, they were all theologians, many of whom wrote more about theology than they did about science and so the believed that God created the universe. Oh, that’s right, because they were curious to find out the “how”. Looks like their belief in Creationism didn’t stop them from inventing science. Also, they believed in a rational God which allowed them to know that nature was uniform and worth studying, the first time in history this assumption was made.

    2. You are comparing the empirically verifiable phenomena that scientists are testing every day with questions of the unobservable, untestable past. The question of where the universe came from is a metaphysical one, it cannot be empirically tested. You are comparing apples and oranges.

    3. Your answer to the question of where the universe came from is “Naturalism did it,” and when asked “how”, your answer is “We don’t know yet.” So, the answer can be rephrased “Naturalism did it somehow”. How is this any different than my answer? But it’s not neutral like that…let me show you.

    Here is the situation: Neither of us have an empirical explanation for the beginning of the universe, because the lack of a time machine makes observing and testing our the beginning of our universe difficult. The atheistic and Christian belief systems are built upon metaphysical beliefs. The Christian has a metaphysical belief that accounts for the uniformity of nature (which is what I’m talking about). You have no metaphysical explanation for how the universe became uniform. If you did, you wouldn’t have to resort to the “God did it” fallacy in the first place.

    Astonishingly stupid blog stuff: This, coming from the guy who’s tagline is “Destroying Creationism”. Yea, that screams that you have a desire for open, honest and cordial discussion.

    Fused chromosome stuff: I know you’re not suggesting that I was talking about this, because I wasn’t, but do you have an evolutionary or naturalistic explanation for the uniformity we see around us?

    Science getting attacked by religion: Another woeful strawman, and an ignorance of where science came from. As I alluded to earlier, science came about in a Christian Europe during the Scientific Revolution (wiki it). It was perfectly acceptable to believe that “God did it” as all those scientists I mentioned did, and still want to find out “how” everything works. These two weren’t strawmanned into being mutually exclusive ideas until 150 years ago when Darwin gave those so inclined an excuse (and I use that word VERY lightly) to remove God from their belief system. So, as you can see, the opposite is true; dogmatic naturalists attacked those who believed in both, forcing them to choose. You’re just pissed because Creationists are trying to take it back to the way it was 150 years ago.

  4. forknowledge says:

    1. Why didn’t Newton, Galileo, Bacon, Kepler and Copernicus leave it at “God did it”? I mean, they were all theologians, many of whom wrote more about theology than they did about science and so the believed that God created the universe. Oh, that’s right, because they were curious to find out the “how”. Looks like their belief in Creationism didn’t stop them from inventing science. Also, they believed in a rational God which allowed them to know that nature was uniform and worth studying, the first time in history this assumption was made.

    Newton couldn’t fully explain why the planets stayed in stable orbits, and suggested that God kept them that way. (I believe his phrasing was something about the ‘hand of a creator’ nudging them into place.) He was wrong, and in this case committed the exact same mistake that modern-day Creationists do: where there was a gap in his knowledge, he plugged it with God.

    Newton, Kepler et al were not attempting to explain the origins of the Universe, they were attempting to explain phenomena that they could directly observe. At one point ‘Creationism’ would have included a belief in catastrophism (the old fashioned, Noachian flood kind) and that the diversity of life was due to animals being created in ‘kinds’ by God. All of this has since been proven wrong by ‘naturalistic’ science, yet there is no doubt that many, many early scientists believed this. Newton’s theories were an early step away from discovering a God-made and God-controlled Universe.

    (Incidentally, Newton and many other scientists of his day were deeply interested in the occult. Clearly, this belief also didn’t interfere with their scientific work; does that mean that their occult beliefs were true?)

    2. You are comparing the empirically verifiable phenomena that scientists are testing every day with questions of the unobservable, untestable past. The question of where the universe came from is a metaphysical one, it cannot be empirically tested. You are comparing apples and oranges.

    Unless you can give me some way of verifying that your metaphysical ‘explanation’ for the origins of the Universe is correct, I’m not interested. (And while we’re on the subject of metaphysical explanations, it was once thought that the origins of life would forever remain a metaphysical question, due to the apparent nature of an infinite regress in attempting to explain where the ‘first birth’ came from. Just as we’re constantly gaining ground in explaining how life came about, recent study of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation appears to be able to give some insight into the Universe’s state pre-Big Bang. It’s not a lot, but it’s a start.)

    3. Your answer to the question of where the universe came from is “Naturalism did it,” and when asked “how”, your answer is “We don’t know yet.” So, the answer can be rephrased “Naturalism did it somehow”. How is this any different than my answer? But it’s not neutral like that…let me show you.

    Actually, my answer is ‘I don’t know’. I have no idea at all. It could have been God; I’m not ruling that out. I’m just saying that, at present, it makes no sense to assume that it definitely was God.

    Here is the situation: Neither of us have an empirical explanation for the beginning of the universe, because the lack of a time machine makes observing and testing our the beginning of our universe difficult. The atheistic and Christian belief systems are built upon metaphysical beliefs. The Christian has a metaphysical belief that accounts for the uniformity of nature (which is what I’m talking about). You have no metaphysical explanation for how the universe became uniform. If you did, you wouldn’t have to resort to the “God did it” fallacy in the first place.

    Why is that a metaphysical issue? If we can probe the earliest moments of the Big Bang, when the forces that govern our Universe appear to have ‘separated’ (and as the LHC will soon do), why can we not come to a scientific explanation?

    I would also point out again that you have proposed no mechanism by which I can determine whether your metaphysical explanation is correct. If you propose the Christian God and I propose an omnipotent ‘Prime Human’, who created the Universe in order that humanity might one day evolve via naturalistic means, how should we go about determining which answer is correct?

    Fused chromosome stuff: I know you’re not suggesting that I was talking about this, because I wasn’t, but do you have an evolutionary or naturalistic explanation for the uniformity we see around us?

    Nope. (Well, someone out there might, but I’m not a physicist; you could try asking one of them.) I’m curious as to why you think everyone must have an answer for everything. Once again, I’m confronted by the problem of verifying that my metaphysical explanation is the correct one. I would very much like to know how you’ve verified that your metaphysical explanation is the correct one.

    Science getting attacked by religion: your mischaracterisation of both Darwin’s original theory and the state of evolution today is yet another example of religious people ignorantly attacking what they don’t like or don’t understand. Religion is attacking science today. There was once a time when that wasn’t the case (and I would very much like it if things returned to such a peaceful state), but it seems that those too entrenched in their mythology can’t accept a world that’s leaving them behind.

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