Christians Must Confront Scientific Illiteracy
Charles J. Reid, Jr.
Professor of Law, University of St. Thomas
Christians Must Confront Scientific Illiteracy
Posted: 05/21/2013 12:42 pm
Where science is concerned, responsible Christians are caught in the vice grip of two extremes. On the one hand, there is the defiant and willful ignorance of persons like Congressman Paul Broun (R-Ga.), who famously declared during last fall's election cycle that "evolution and the big bang theory are lies straight from the pit of hell." And on the other hand, there is the cool atheism of someone like Richard Dawkins, contentedly dismissing the whole of religious experience as the magical thinking of the great superstitious mass of humankind.
Christians must provide effective witness against both extremes. But before Christianity can engage atheism it must first address the scientific illiteracy in its own house. For the greatest danger Christianity confronts at the present moment is not incipient persecution, but increasing marginalization and irrelevance. If Christians cannot engage reasonably and responsibly with science, there will be no place for them in the public life of advanced societies.
- BL: Charles, we meet again! I followed your advice and joined this list to
be able to continue our conversation about (different forms of?) evolution.
I've scanned the archives a little to see what the main topics are. First I
would like to have your views on certain matters defined a little better.
You have indeed posted some similar stuff at other lists. Let's get started!
Charles P: Welcome, Bjorn. I was thinking about you and how I would have
liked to continue our conversations. However, it seems that on
an-open-mind there were not any participants who seemed to know anything
about science. I was going to make some suggestions for Stanley to discuss
with you, but that would just make him the middleman. Here on Origins Talk
you will find many who are very knowledgeable of the sciences and also with
very different interpretations of the evidence.
BL: I must confess I too have trouble understanding what you are talking
about, Charles, so please see my comments after your points 1-6 below.
Charles (previously): 1 Evo-Devo research is taking science in the
direction of intelligent design.
BL: I don't see this as a fact (nor does D R Lindberg, evidently). Do you
by chance mean that everything except simple visible point
mutations ("micro-evolution") is too complicated to fathom by the human
mind or be the result of random processes, so it must be "intelligent"?
Could you please explain.
Charles P (Now): The old Theory of Evolution is an intelligently designed
narrative ---- like other creation myths. Science writers will make
statements without any reference to verifiable evidence. Until 1938, the
Coelacanth was the transitional form between fish and tetrapods. The
Coelacanth fit the description of gradual evolution and the known fossils
were very old ---- about 80 million years ago. Scientific theories are
supposed to be falsifiable. The old Theory of Evolution is not scientific
and it is not falsifiable.
Charles P: To be scientific, scientists should have written some kind of
document ---- like a Constitution or book with chapters and page numbers
---- where each hypothesis is clearly identified and where each statement
can clearly be falsified with verifiable evidence. The science writers
would have agreed that after 1938 the hypothesis of transitional forms has
been proven false. It would have been clear that there is no transitional
form between fish and tetrapods. End of story. The truth triumphs in the
end. The remainder of the old Theory of Evolution would still be
recognized as scientific. But they chose to prolong the myth based upon
Charles P: There is no shame attached to hypotheses that have been
falsified. The scientific community before Copernicus knew that the Earth
was the center of the universe. To falsify the hypothesis, it would have
to be shown that the Earth is not the center of the universe. It was a
scientific theory that could be falsified. Copernicus did not falsify the
Theory of Geocentricity. He only showed that if one assumed that the sun
is the center of the universe, that the mathematics were a lot simpler and
the orbits of the *wanderers* ---- the planets ---- became circles. No
longer would massive celestial bodies be thought to move in front of the
background stars, then stop, then move back in the opposite direction. The
planets could be visualized as moving in circles around the sun ---- but
just for the purpose of more simple mathematics. It was still obvious to
academia that the sun rises and that the sun sets. It was still obvious
that the Earth was the center of everything ---- it fit the model of
Charles P: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Geocentricity The
scientific community should have updated the hypothesis at that time to
consider heliocentricity. But their academia were so committed to their
dogmas that it took a Galileo to falsify the Theory of Geocentricity.
Charles P: The old Theory of Evolution ---- for lack of a better name ----
has been falsified time and time again. But academia is afraid of
something. It is like the elephant in the living room. Academia is
embarrassed that after all of these decades there is nothing to support (1)
many of their definitions which were intelligently designed to support
wishful speculations and (2) much of what the creationists have been saying
contradicts those wishful speculations. Academia has invested much time
and resources into a creation myth without a creator. Molecular science
and Evo-Devo research (1) supports micro-evolution with verifiable evidence
from scientific literature and (2) does not make any statements about the
Charles P: I do not speak for intelligent design theorists. I only speak
for myself. In many past messages I have shared plenty of verifiable
evidence that design in self-evident in nature. Richard Dawkins said that
design in nature is an illusion and Francis Crick said that design in
nature evolved. I can show that both of these respectable gentlemen have
become so attached to their dogmas that they cannot see where molecular
science and Evo-Devo research is taking biology in a new direction ----
biology is an information science. The old Theory of Evolution never
anticipated that possibility and it is time that more and more science
writers understand this new direction.
Charles (Previously): 2 Evo-Devo research is taking science away from the
old ideas of macro-evolution based upon the fossil record.
BL: Exactly how? IMO, Evo-Devo concepts make it easier to understand e.g.
how new groups of organisms (or new anatomic details) may arise in
relatively short time. One such example is the "Cambrian explosion", which
in fact was neither an explosion (happening instantly), nor
even exclusively Cambrian (it had started even before that).
Evolution Misconceptions Diagnostic:
Understanding Evolution teacher advisors Jean DeSaix, Jennifer Katcher,
Lisa Urry, and Calvin Young, with Pearson Education editors Chalon Bridges
and Josh Frost. Adapted with permission from Pearson Education and also
available through Mastering Biology. Copyright 2011 by The University of
California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the
University of California.
Charles P: Micro-evolution is still very much alive and is fully supported
by creationists, intelligent design theorists, molecular scientists, HHMI,
etc. There is still no verifiable evidence that micro-evolution + time =
macro-evolution. That old idea from the old Theory of Evolution must now
pass into the history books ---- along with Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and
Charles Darwin. Jim in Missouri can tell you more about that than I can.
Charles (Previously): 3 The old Theory of Evolution does not support
biology as an information science.
BL: As I've tried to explain to you at another list, you shouldn't isolate
the medium and the message in time and space in this way. Most likely, we
may conclude that the now existing very complicated messages being encoded
in a very complicated *language* of DNA was preceded by much
simpler messages being encoded in much simpler *languages* of DNA back
several billion years to a time when *very* simple messages were encoded in
*very* simple languages of DNA, or maybe even in some other *languages*.
The medium and the message were never separated but
instead allowed to evolve in co-operation.
Charles P: Science fiction is very popular. I like science fiction, too.
The SETI Project is a great idea, too. Maybe the extraterrestrials can
show us our mistakes. Wishful speculations are an important part of our
culture. As soon as you can find some verifiable evidence to support your
ideas, count me in. I am not stuck with any dogmas.
BL: We don't ever have the silly problem raised by creationists that a
piece of DNA with say 500 bases encoding a protein must arise by random
processes from nothing, or even worse: One whole cell with thousands of
anatomic details and genetic functions must have arisen from scratch in a
Charles P: As I say, you present us with the verifiable evidence and I
will be the first to switch over to your side of the descriptions for the
origin and diversity of life.
Charles (Previously): 4 The truth is simple and can be verified by
*insiders* and *outsiders* to the old Theory of Evolution. The above link
provides several short films from Evo-Devo research.
BL: And those videos show that small changes in DNA (point mutations, or
insertions or deletions of larger pieces), often in regulating parts of the
genome, can produce substantial changes in the phenotypes. No
divine intelligence needed! I have recommended those videos to Stanley as
Charles P: Micro-evolution is amazing. Maybe someday there will be
evidence for micro-evidence + time = macro-evolution. That is the day that
Stanley and I join your team working on the descriptions for the origin and
diversity of life.
Charles P (Previously): 5 The conventional approach has been to circle the
wagons around mid-19th and mid-20th century ideas (Darwinism and
neo-Darwinism). This approach has not been successful. One reason
Darwinism has failed to convince skeptics may be that it ignores over 60
years of molecular science.
BL: "Darwinism", if you mean what Darwin thought and wrote about, wasn't
likely to contain much of molecular science, since he didn't know about DNA
and heredity in modern form. Do you blame Newton for not incorporating
relativity in his laws for the movement of celestial bodies?
Charles P: Please, Bjorn, let us not deviate from the pathway to the
central issues. I just lump everything into one pile that I call the old
Theory of Evolution. I am very pleased that Charles Darwin wrote what he
wrote. Without his insight, we would never have had so much interest in
biology. What could be more boring than classifying living things and old
dead fossils ---- to the average reader. It was the possibility of a
creation myth without a creator that has captured the imagination of so
Charles P: The believers in the old Theory of Evolution like to tell the
average reader that evolution is just as much a fact as gravity. Gravity
is the same for non-believers as for believers. Gravity is science.
Science is constantly progressing. Old mythologies based upon ancient
scriptures have been replaced. Newton believed in God when he could
describe gravity with the laws of physics but did not know what caused
gravity. Newton did not know that space is deformed by the presence of
mass. Newton*s ideas were replaced by Einstein... WHAT? This is taking
wishful speculations too far.
Charles P: Long narratives are based upon logic, not empirical methods.
The truth is simple and can be verified by the average reader. Classical
mechanics are just as valid today as they were at the time of Newton.
Classical mechanics can be verified (1) for objects that are traveling at
much less than the speed of light and can be verified (2) for objects that
are much larger than atomic particles. In other words, relativity and
quantum mechanics did not replace Newton*s classical mechanics. If
anything, there may be some problems with physics outside of classical
mechanics, not the reverse. Victor can tell you more about that than I can.
Charles P (Previously): 6 Anyone on Origins Talk who can find verifiable
evidence of *macro-evolution*, please share that information with us. (1)
Which Evo-Devo research video is it? and (2) The time on the video where
you believe that you saw or heard something different from empirical and
verifiable evidence for *micro-evolution*.
BL: What you are saying in effect is this: According to *ME* (and other
creationists/evolution sceptics) there are two kinds of evolution, micro
and macro. You "evolutionists" keep talking about just evolution and
biology, so I ask you where you have evidence for my preconceived brain
child which I call *macro-evolution*. There you have it, Charles. I didn't
say anything particularily nasty about creationists (well, once maybe?!)
and religion, so I hope my thoughts can't be labeled just as the *Old
Theory of Evolution*?! Please respond!
Charles P: http://www.uua.org/beliefs/principles/index.shtml As a
Unitarian Universalist trying to live according to seven principles, I want
you to help me to discover my mistakes. I try to learn from my mistakes.
Charles P: I do not qualify as a creationist. I certainly do not qualify
as an evolution skeptic. As far as I know, there is only one kind of
evolution ---- with natural selection acting as a purifying force, not a
creative force. As far as I know, all living things have changed very
little over time since ancient times. I am not a critic of evolutionists;
I am a critic of the believers in the old Theory of Evolution who (1) have
a creation myth without a creator and (2) are anti-creationist in
everything they write. Proving creationism wrong does not prove the old
Theory of Evolution to be right. That is illogical.
Charles P: There is a lot to discuss about the descriptions for the origin
and diversity of life. Maybe next time we can explore in more depth why it
is not possible for chimpanzee populations and human populations to have a
common ancestor. You were about to write about human chromosome 2 as if it
were factual, but I left the other group. There is a lot to say about the
23 pairs of chromosomes compared to the 24 pairs of chromosomes and the
wishful speculations from the old Theory of Evolution about chromosome 2
that is not supported by molecular science nor Evo-Devo research.
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