Voices for Evolution

Introduction: Science versus Creationism

There is a belief system called "creationism" that calls itself "scientific creationism" in an attempt to make itself gain legitimacy. It is important to understand why this use of a respectable and admired adjective is, in this case, nothing but a disgraceful imposture.

Science is a process of thought, a way of looking at the Universe. It consists of the gathering of observations which can be confirmed by others using other instruments at other times in other ways. From these confirmed observations, consequences and conclusions can be reasoned out by logical methods generally agreed upon. These consequences and conclusions are tentative and can be argued over by different people in the field and modified or changed altogether if additional, or more subtle, observations are made. There is no belief held in advance of such observations and conclusions except that observations can be made, that consequences and conclusions can be reasoned out, and that the Universe can, at lease to a degree, be made comprehensible in this fashion. (If these assumptions are not true, then there is no way of using the mind at all.)

Creationism, on the other hand, begins with a strong and unshakable faith to the effect that all the words of the Bible are literally true and cannot be wrong. The function of observation and logic is then confined to the confirmation of the literal meaning of the words of the Bible. Any observation, or any course of logic, which seems to argue against those words must then be false and must be dismissed. Any conclusions of science that seem to argue against those words must also be false and must be dismissed. To find some excuse to do this without seeming entirely arbitrary, creationists do not hesitate to distort scientific findings, to misquote scientists, and to play upon the emotions and prejudices of their unsophisticated followers. Whatever creationism is, then, it is not scientific.

Science works through the organization of many observations that may in themselves seem to have no interconnection. Such organization is called a "theory" that demonstrates interconnection, gives meaning to the observations and, very often, predicts as­yet­unmade observations. Such a theory is rendered the more valid as more and more scientists make observations that fit the theory. However valid such a theory may seem, it is always subject to modification and further generalization, of course. Such modified and generalized theories are always stronger and seem still more valid because of what has been introduced. The theory of evolution is extremely strong, and what modifications have been introduced since Darwin's time have but made it ever stronger until now it is the very backbone of biology, which would make no sense without it. (And mind you, biology consisted of a miscellaneous set of observations that made no real sense before the theory of evolution was introduced.)

Creationists, on the other hand, have no theories, since they accept as true only the literal words of the Bible, which represent miscellaneous statements that do not support, and often contradict, each other. Their method of dismissing a scientific theory such as that of evolution is, in the main, to define a theory, arbitrarily and ignorantly, as "a guess." There is no trace of anything scientific in creationism, therefore.

Science depends upon the decisions of the intellectual marketplace. All its observations, all its conclusions, all its theories, are openly published and are studied and argued over. There are controversies and disputes that are sometimes unresolved for long periods of time. There are even (since scientists are human) observations made, sometimes, that are false or conclusions that are unjustified. These are sooner or later discovered by other scientists, since it is hard, or even impossible, to maintain for long an imposture in the face of the scientific system of open investigation.

Creationism, on the other hand, cannot endure the intellectual marketplace, since it will not allow its basis to be questioned. The literal words of the Bible are asserted as true to begin with; how, then, can there be any questions, any arguments, any controversy? This is, of course, unscientific gibberish. In order to fight this inevitable dismissal, creationism calls on the power of the state to force it to be taught as science. This would make it possible for politicians, under pressure of their own ignorance, or the lack of sophistication of their constituents, to take it upon themselves to define what is science. If politicians can do this, they can define whatever they choose, however they choose, and our every liberty is in jeopardy. By demanding political action, creationism turns itself into a political force, and is less than ever a scientific one. - And it makes of itself a great danger.

Isaac Asimov

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