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Creationism as Science?

In order to determine whether or not Creationism can be labeled a science, one must first delineate precisely what one considers to be the qualifications of being a science. Even throughout this semester, we have seen several such definitions. I will take three of the most prominent as the criteria Creationism must accommodate: those of Popper, Salmon, and Kuhn. Then, in order to determine whether Creationism fits these criteria, one must establish the definite lines of what one considers Creationism. For the purposes of this paper, I will take Creationism to refer to old-earth Creation Science – the details of which will be delineated further in the paper. Popper’s definition of science rests on the principle of falsification. He states that all scientific claims must have an element of risk to them, that what demarcates science from non-science is the ability to potentially refute the hypothesis through observation (Godfrey-Smith, 58)1. Popper further claims that while falsification is a necessary possibility, verification is impossible: we must regard scientific theories from a state of perpetual doubt. If we become complacent with a theory – by assuming it has been verified – we will miss potential opportunities to test using new equipment and new ideas, and recalibrate our theory based on the results. In his theory of falsification, Popper provides an illustration of the scientific process.

Godfrey-Smith, Peter. Theory and Reality: an introduction to the philosophy of science. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003.

If Popper’s writings illustrate the process of science, Salmon’s writings speak to it’s purpose – whether science is a form of explanation. Salmon defines scientific explanation as answers to why-questions: questions seeking explanation, but not justification, consolation, or evidence (Salmon, 9)2. He does maintain, however, that there is a possibility that some scientific explanations may not be adequately requested by why-questions, but perhaps by how-truly-questions, and the like (Salmon, 10). The explanation of natural phenomena is a point of dispute: many philosophers and scientists believe that any anthropomorphic explanations are inherently unable to be investigated empirically, and therefore are not scientific. Some are not willing to make such an excluding claim, however, and have developed a well-respected theory of the characterizations of scientific explanation which provide for the potential explanation of natural phenomena as well (Salmon, 13-14). Both sides of the dispute however, agree with the fundamental point that the purpose of science is explanatory. Kuhn’s definition of the scientific paradigm is perhaps the final standard by which any potential science or scientific method must be measured. Here, Kuhn gives us a definition of the structure of science. Kuhn’s paradigm requires a given science to have a theory, concepts, instruments, and methods. The science must contain puzzles that are theoretically solvable (Kuhn 36, 37)3, though there need be no guarantee that given scientists (are smart enough to) succeed in solving these Salmon, Wesley C. General Topics in the Philosophy of Science: Scientific Explanation. 3 Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 3rd ed. 1996.

problems. If the number of unsolved puzzles reaches a critical mass, and there is an alternative paradigm, which better answers them, and to which one can move, a given scientific community may undergo a paradigm shift (Kuhn 62). This implies transitioning to a new scientific paradigm. Kuhn also makes several bold claims regarding the incommensurability of paradigms and semantic holism, but neither points are integral to the argument in this paper (we are dealing with definition within a specific paradigm, not across paradigms). In order for Creationism to be considered a science, it must fit the above criteria: it must be falsifiable, explanatory, and must be in accordance with a Kuhnian paradigm. First, Creationism does posit certain specificities that use modern (commonly accepted) scientific technology to test, and which are arguably falsifiable. Examples include using carbon-dating to attempt to show that various creatures existed simultaneously, the order of layers of fossils found, the study of water flow patterns in an attempt to explain how the earth was at one point entirely submerged. These are three examples of hypotheses which, through accepted methods of scientific testing could theoretically be falsified. Second, Creationism is exceptionally good at providing explanatory answers: within its closed paradigm it has the guidance of firm theories, an overarching belief structure, and a temporary response (derived from its primary posit of a creator) for any unanswered questions. Such a thorough and consistent method of explanation is particularly beneficial in Creationism’s conforming to a Kuhnian scientific paradigm, because it enables confident disregard of alternative theories.

Indeed, Creationism seems to satisfy the third and final criteria that is Kuhn’s definition of a paradigm in at least two significant ways: Creationism does define a theory, concepts, instruments, and methods, and it also contains theoretically solvable puzzles. It presents broad claims such as the cosmological argument – that given that everything in the universe is dependent and has a cause, there must be an independent, non-causal creator – as well as specifics such as those stated in the previous paragraph. Several of such specifics are puzzles which could theoretically be solved using currently accepted instruments and methods. Here, I refer to examples such as carbon dating and tidal flow. While the theory that Creationists are attempting to test is not commonly accepted by the majority of current scientific researchers, the instrumentation is standard. Given the argument delineated above, I believe that Creationism’s claim to be a science is fair; however, I do not believe that its being a science necessarily implies it should be regarded as inherently worthwhile. According to the readings from the quoted authors, a given theory’s status as a science is the only determining factor in its acceptance as valuable. I would like to propose a second consideration: lets call it quality “t.” Determining whether something has quality t is a method of judging the weight a theory should be given with people across paradigms or types of science. While paradigmatic divisions are arguably acceptable in research, they are an implausible means of deciding what should be taught in our public schools, for example. I suggest that once a series of well-recognized paradigms have been shown to have significant consistent links – links that could be phrased as a various axis

labels for a given system comprised of the previously distinct paradigms. This new system is more stable than a typical individual paradigm: paradigms only exist if there are a significant number of people who believe they’re worth pursuing (a science needs its graduate students!), but paradigms will only last if there are sufficient people who believe there is potential for it to be satisfactory. As all three philosophers I’ve referenced in this paper made clear, science strives to explain and solve puzzles. Successful paradigms, therefore, provide solutions to these puzzles that people (scientists, graduate students, benefactors, funders, etc.) consider satisfactory. The system I propose has compiled several such paradigms, and deciphered a manner of defining them such that they are not only not mutually exclusive, but that they seem to provide an inherent foundation for one another: the inter-definition (which we worked toward, not from) gives us a reason to have faith in all planes of the system, if we have faith in one. Such a system (and its components) shall be assigned quality t. I do not claim that this quality implies actual Truth, but it seems to provide a means of distinguishing theories which are likely to be improved upon, rather than disregarded in the future. Consider in brief the example of the various branches of physics: historically, they were seen as separate definitions, then, when looked at using four vectors (among other things), they were seen to have a common axis – and independent scale if you will that existed outside of and across the paradigms. This common axis reconciled them with each other, and seems to have provided us with a set of what were once paradigms, that all contain not only relatively accurate predictive and explanatory power but also an inter-definition which appears to

render the system more stable and credible in its entirety. Note that we don’t expect Einstein’s theories to ever be ruled entirely false, or irrelevant, but merely improved upon just as Newton’s were. String theory, on the other hand, is more up for grabs. This quality t is not inherent to physics: I see nothing in its definition that implies it is a fundamental characteristic of the branches of physics. I don’t know enough about other sciences to quote an exact analogy, but I would guess that these analogies exist. I certainly as of now have not found anything about the nature of other sciences which would rule them out. I do not suggest that a lack of quality t is reason to abandon a science; however, I propose that it is a characteristic which could define what we consider when writing our standard high school textbooks. Once one enters the realm of higher education and research, one can choose to enter into these less developed fields (indeed, people should – this is how we make new discoveries, and find the link that provides quality t). However, quality t enables us to prioritize our sciences (a paradigm-independent scale if you will). While many people find Creationism to be satisfactory on its own, I do not believe that it will ever attain the quality t: this is because it is based fundamentally on a piece of literature. I don’t believe that any physical science of which the broad directing force is something other than observations made about the world (note that even quantum mechanics came from and was directed by observations, though we cannot yet observe some of the posited implicated phenomena) may be found to have an invariant external link with other sciences. Consider post-apocalypse, what would be required to assure that people would never again discover the fundamental laws of physics or evolution – it’s difficult even to say how that could be done.

Creationism, on the other hand, could be eliminated simply by birthing a generation with no bible. That by definition it will never possess quality t explains why Creationism has little value; it should not be taught in school now, or ever.