Month: November 2013

Not all great scientists of the past were ‘believers’

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Newton was a God fearing man – he was a great scientist. many other ‘great scientists’, we are told by creationists, believed in a creator God and they can’t all be wrong, can they?

This thread of ‘logic’ – one or more great scientists believe in God therefore it strengthens the case for a creator and the Biblical account of Genesis – is, for me illogical. First it conflates two things, a faith position and the exploration of the natural world. Even if (and. lets face it Darwin was a creationist in his early days) the great scientists did pursue their science with a religious worldview, the explanations they derived from their investigations never provide an evidenced explanation of a phenomenon where ‘God’ is the cause. God is only really invoked to ‘explain’ things that the scientist cannot.

Not all the greats in the history of scientific discovery necessarily invoked the creator as an explanation for natural phenomenon.

Take the case of James Hutton

James Hutton

Hotton is fondly remembered for his ‘Theory of the Earth’ – he is the Grandfather of Geology and a man I admire. There’s no space here really for a biography of Hutton, but briefly:

James Hutton (1726–1797), a Scottish farmer and naturalist, is known as the founder of modern geology. He was a great observer of the world around him. More importantly, he made carefully reasoned geological arguments. Hutton came to believe that the Earth was perpetually being formed; for example, molten material is forced up into mountains, eroded, and then eroded sediments are washed away. He recognized that the history of the Earth could be determined by understanding how processes such as erosion and sedimentation work in the present day. His ideas and approach to studying the Earth established geology as a proper science.

He stated that the facts of the history of the earth were to be found in “natural history,” not in human records, and he ignored the biblical account of creation as a source of scientific information (a view he expressed explicitly later on).that shape the earth are the same events that happened in the past. From the eighteenth century on the idea of a young Earth was contested by many scientists – not just Hutton. Charles Lyell (the father of geology) popularized uniformitarianism. But here’s the thing. It is often stated that modern geology is ‘uniformitarian’ in nature and not ‘catastrophist’, that is, not attrtibuting the the form of the earth as being due to catastrophic events.

(There is also the ‘Neptunian’ theory but we’ll leave that for another day)

The truth is that geologists today understand that catastrophic events do indeed happen. Massive earthquakes and flood, even tsunamis  and huge volcanis erruptions. We just don’t hold with a worldwide catastrophic flood that explains how the fossils were laid down and how many species (given that ALL ancestors of ALL living things must have existed on earth if creation accounts are to be believed – that’s all known and yet to be found species of plants, animals, fungi, single-celled organisms, bacteria etc etc etc.

He is mainly known for the development of the concept of uniformitarianism – that the events we see now

It’s the same with the current obsession of Intelligent Design – the ‘information’ in DNA – every time I get challenged with that, I’m told that I cannot provide an explanation for DNA and how it arose. Correct Ican’t, neither can any other scientist Nobel prizewinning or not. It proves nothing. I could ask losts of science questions that Intelliogent Design Creationists cannot answer – we could carry on all night asking each other ‘impossible’ questions.  It’s all a smoke screen and a red herring. When I was 18 I couldn’t explain what the structure of the cell membrane was like. None of the textbooks I used could either – there were some ‘ideas’ flying around, but the actual structure was not part of the A level I took. Now we talk to 16 year olds about phospholipid bilayers. We talk at A level about how substances move in and out of the cell.

Cell membranes, their structure tec. have been a magtter of debate in science. ID creationists tell me that my view – that the science we teach in schools should be ‘consensus’ science is wrong – they want to let the children see lots of viewpoints and ‘decide’ on the basis of evidence. Cell membranes show me that this view is wrong. School science has to operate mainly on consensus science – frontier science is too troublesome and not understood by science teachers. In fact frontier science is only really understood by a handfull of people. That means that we cannot propoerly represent frontier science in classrooms.

If that frontier ‘science’ is not even acknowledged to be science by the vast majority of the scientific community then there is even less reason to bring it into the classroom and ‘let the pupils decide’ on the basis of the ‘evidence’.