Welcome to the Emory Valley Center for Evolutionary Studies

Emory Valley lies on the eastern edge of the city, and the Clinch River runs through it. It's a beautiful spot to sit and study the world - so let's do that. Here's the Emory Valley Center for Evolutionary Studies...

Science: A few words about the difference between real science and pseudo-science. First, a quote that sums it up:
Alas, to wear the mantle of Galileo it is not enough that you be persecuted by an unkind establishment, you must also be right.
That's from Dr Robert L Park, Dept of Physics, U Md (see his brilliant What's New"), and it pretty much says it all. You must be right, and you must be able to prove that you're right. It's true that many of the things we believe started as things we didn't, but the difference is that those things were proved right, not just asserted. Observations, data, double-blind tests, predictions, lab work, field work ... Science.

The first list on this page discusses seven general rules for telling a pseudo-science (like, say, astrology or homeopathy) from a real science (like, say, astronomy or medicine). It may not apply entirely to creationism, but it does offer a good primer on the topic. Following is a list of ten points to compare creationism to real science.

  1. Warning Signs of Voodoo Science
  2. "Science": 10 points for real vs creationist

Here's a list of things to watch for, again from Robert Park:

Guarding the Gate: The Seven Warning Signs of Voodoo Science

[Rule 1. There is no claim so preposterous that a PhD Scientist cannot be found to vouch for it.]

#1. A Discovery is Pitched Directly to the Media
The integrity of science rests on the willingness of scientists to expose new ideas and findings to the scrutiny of other scientists. An attempt to bypass the scientific commnunity by taking a new finding directly to the public suggests that the work is unlikely to stand up to close examination by other scientists.
#2. A Powerful "Establishment" is Said to Be Suppressing the Discovery
The establishment will presumably stop at nothing to suppress discoveries that might shift the balance of wealth and influence society. Mainstream science is often pictured as part of a larger establishment conspiracy that includes industry and government.
#3.An Effect is Always at the Very Limit of Detection
All scientific measurements must contend with some level of background noise or statistical fluctuation. If the signal-to-noise ratio cannot be improved, even in principle, the effect is probably not real and the work is not science.
#4. Evidence for a Discovery is Anecdotal
If modern science has learned anything in the past one hundred years, it is to distrust anecdotal evidence. The most important discovery of modern medicine is not vaccines or antibiotics, is the randomized double-bind test, by means of which we know what works and what doesn't.
#5. A Belief is Said to be Credible Because It has Endured for Centuries
There is a persistent myth that hundreds or even thousands of years ago, long before it was known that blood circulates or that germs cause disease, our ancestors possessed miraculous remedies that have eluded modern science.
#6. An Important Discovery is Made in Isolation
The image of a lone genius working in secrecy in an attic laboratory who wakes a revolutionary breakthrough is a staple of Hollywood horror films, but it's hard to find examples in real life. Scientific breakthoughs are nowadays almost always the product of researchers deeply involved in a community of scientists.
#7. New Laws of Nature Must be Proposed to Explain an Observation
A new law of nature, invoked to explain some extraordinary observation, must be reconciled with the laws that govern everything else. If existing laws of nature must be changed, or new laws must be proposed, the observation is almost certainly wrong.
And specifically about creationism, we can look at 10 points for real vs creationist science.
Comparing real science to "scientific" creationism.
Let's compare real science to "scientific" creationism. Bear the previous list in mind - especially when you get to the last point!
  1. Real scientists, as did Darwin, usually spend some time pointing out the possible weaknesses they see in their theories. This is done not only to highlight areas which need further study but in order to strike a balanced presentation that will not mislead the reader. Truth is the overriding goal.

    Creationists usually minimize or ignore the weaknesses in their theories unless the cat is out of the bag. Inserting their views into the public educational system is usually their goal.

  2. Real scientists publish scientific literature, which can be very unorthodox, in refereed journals. This serves as a clearing house for ideas as well as a common testing ground.

    Creationists, who apparently have nothing worth saying to the scientific community, invariably write for the layman. They have found it necessary to publish their ideas in special "creationist journals" because none of the hundreds of legitimate scientific journals find their work acceptable. Creationist journals mostly serve as a rallying point for the faithful, rarely as a means for criticizing their fellow believers.

  3. Real scientists are quick to criticize their colleagues if they suspect an error. (Remember the cold fusion flap?) Catching errors improves their status in the scientific community even as it improves the level of science.

    Creationists have a fortress mentality, and they are quick to circle their wagons. To admit error is considered bad form among creationists, and most of them must literally be smoked out before admitting any errors whatsoever. With no effective mechanism for weeding out error, errors are passed down like the family jewels. Today, one can buy many creationist books containing errors that should have been eliminated 20-30 years ago!

  4. Real scientists are quick to test promising new ideas (however unorthodox) and those which don't pan out quickly disappear from the literature. Fame and fortune await any scientist who successfully advances a novel idea.

    Creationists are largely concerned with protecting their dogma, not advancing new ideas that might question that dogma. Rejection is the likely lot of any creationist who questions the central dogma. Creationist arguments having serious errors, including arguments based solely on obsolete data, circulate indefinitely in the creationist literature.

  5. Real scientists are often involved in meaningful laboratory and field work. They are looking for new data which might clarify, overturn, or confirm their views.

    Creationists spend most of their time combing through books and technical journals for quotes with which to snipe at evolution, geology, astronomy, and other areas of science which challenge their central dogma. When they're not doing that, they can usually be found out on the stump drumming up support among the uneducated public.

  6. Real scientists base their theories on the available evidence. They are not immune to the effects of prejudice, but they all understand that the facts dictate the conclusion. Conclusions are subservient to the data; data are not subservient to conclusions.

    Creationists take their science straight from the Bible. Many creationist leaders have publicly stated, often in print, that any evidence at variance with their literal interpretation of the Bible should be rejected out of hand. Their a priori conclusions dictate what data are acceptable. That's not science!

  7. No self-respecting scientist would ever think of signing an oath of allegiance to Darwinism as a condition for employment. Evidence is "king" in good science, and there is no room for competing loyalties.

    Many creationist societies actually require a "loyalty oath," which is tantamount to an admission that their minds are closed! Such minds are slammed shut and rusted tight!

  8. All good scientists admit that they might be wrong, that absolute certainty is not part of science. Scientists long ago recognized that our knowledge of the physical world is largely a product of inductive reasoning. In principle, inductive reasoning can yield a high degree of confidence, but it can never confer 100% certainty. The uncertainty of inductive reasoning follows from the fact that any set of observations can be explained, in principle, by an infinite number of hypotheses! One can never rule them all out no matter how much data one has. Thus, the proper scientific attitude includes a touch of humility no matter how great one's success.

    Except for trivial details, creationists cannot conceive of the possibility that they are in error as that would take down their concept of biblical inerrancy. Since "scientific" creationism is really a branch of Bible apologetics, there is no room for compromise. "Scientific" creationism is there to defend the faith, not to probe the unknown.

  9. Real scientists are often found in the great universities, where real science is done and advanced. None of those institutions take creationism seriously.

    Creationists are usually associated with creationist societies. Those few "universities" where creationism is featured have either failed to get full accreditation or have done so only through the pulling of political strings. What discoveries have they made? Name their Nobel laureates!

  10. Scientists build upon previous knowledge accumulated over the years, and only rarely participate in great, revolutionary breakthroughs.

    Creationists fancy that they are in the process of overthrowing modern biology, geology, astronomy, anthropology, linguistics, paleontology, archaeology, oceanography, cosmology, physics, and numerous other branches of science. Some creationists (the flat-earth societies) would add the "grease-ball" theory of round-earth geography to that list. Anything that doesn't conform to their interpretation of the Bible is suspect and in need of revision.

from A Close Look at Dr. Hovind's List of Young-Earth Arguments and Other Claims by Dave E. Matson (Copyright 1994-2002)

So make up your own mind. Argument from authority and dogma, or experience and fact?


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