Beware of Gift Horses!
Drs. Ronald Gravendeel
Licentiate Biology. (Ecology and Systematics of Animals)
Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology, K.U.Leuven, Belgium
The following comments are not part of the official K.U.Leuven Internet pages. They are the personal opinions of an employee of that university. The opinions and links below are not necessarily in accordance with the official opinions of the K.U.Leuven or any of its subdivisions.
Drs. Gravendeel has responded to an article found
on the Answers in Genesis web site.
The article can be accessed here.
'Creation magazine at your local library or alma mater!
'Looking for a unique opportunity to get out the Gospel? Over the past few years, hundreds of AiG supporters around the US have been contacting their local public libraries and their alma maters, offering free AiG books and free subscriptions to AiG's Creation magazine and/or TJ [Technical Journal].'
However, they conveniently fail to mention how many out of these 'hundreds' did indeed get a positive reply.
'It's an easy "sell", especially because of the current emphasis on fairness, equal access and academic freedom in schools. Creation vs evolution is a hot topic on campuses right now - students have an insatiable curiosity about opposing arguments.'
This seems to show that creationism is fashion-senstitive. Serious scientific work is fashion independent. I'll admit that project funding can be dependent on public opinion (just ask people that were working on transgene crops), but something as basic as scientific literature will always cover as many topics as possible, not just those that generate popular interest.
'The following letter shows how one supporter approached his alma mater. After an initial phone contact, he sent a letter with a sample copy of Creation magazine and the TJ enclosed. He wrote:
'Dear [name of the library director],
'I have enclosed an issue of Creation magazine and the TJ, a technical journal, for your perusal. ...' [sic]
And very conveniently, no mention about scientific relevance, something one usually expects when discussing a scientific journal. A search on Web of Science comes up empty when looking for either Creation or the Technical Journal. One would expect a library to concentrate on the 8500+ magazines that do get listed in the lists for Science, Social Sciences and Arts and Humanities. Off course, the fact that no ISSN numbers are provided on the AiG site when looking for the magazine doesn't make the search easier.
'As I said on the phone, I would like to see students get a balanced view of origins and the scientific controversy surrounding it. ...' [sic]
No discussion there. Science under 'science'. Controversy and conjecture under respectively 'history'/'current topics' and 'religion'.
'Academic freedom requires both credible views to be exposed.'
This calls for a word-by-word analysis:
'Academic freedom requires...' - Academic freedom requires all scientific facts to be accessible.
'both ...views' - This implies there are only two views. If all religion-inspired efforts to explain today's world must be listed, there are a lot more than just two views. Even creationists themselves can't agree, so if all views should be balanced (see earlier) that would mean that Old-Earth Creationists, ID Creationists and Young-Earth creationists should get equal exposure, and that's only the beginning. What about Mount Olympus, Walhalla, Aboriginal Dreamworld or Native American myths?
'credible views' - Science doesn't deal with credible, but with the factual and the falsifiable.
As for the exposing of a view, that's relevant for history, religion and humanities but not for science.
'Evolution is a worldview, a set of presuppositions which are used to interpret the evidence that we have and can see.'
A nice piece of sophistry from the AiG website. As every thinking person knows, 'evolution' is a term we use for a certain process where things change over time (like the evolution of study results, or of the capacity of computers). In this case we have to assume the author probably used 'evolution' to mean 'the theory of evolution from a common ancestor through (gradual) modification'.
As for explaining the evidence we see, the theory of evolution from a common ancestor through (gradual) modification gives the best explanation. However, important new findings result in adapting or modifying the theory to fit those findings, not the other way around as creationists are fond claiming (i.e. scientific finds are only kept if they conform to or can be explained within the theory of evolution.)
And 'Evolution is a worldview' is of course as rediculous as claiming that gravity is a worldview, or the weather, or pi, or .... I guess anybody can find numerous other possibilities.
'... [sic] Biblical Creationism is also a worldview with which to interpret the evidence.'
No discussion here. It is indeed a worldview used to interpret the evidence. The evidence isn't used to try to explain how creation could have happened
'The creation model suggests that all of the information for life was provided by an Intelligent Designer.
'Change due to natural selection, adaptation and mutation is just as much a part of the creation model.'
Nowadays, that is. The author forgets to mention how long it took for creationists to admit that it was impossible to deny the overwhelming evidence gathered through science.
'These changes, however, result in a loss of DNA information over time. This we observe to be consistent with the known natural laws of science and the Biblical model.'
Hmm.... I'm intrigued in reading the peer-reviewed articles about the real loss of what creationists call 'information' in biological systems. Adaptation of one function into another is not a loss of information. Neither is the forming of a vestigal organ in favour of a newly developed alternative.
And it would also be interesting to know what the 'natural laws of science' are. I always thought that science is a way to find explanations of natural phenomena that can be described (and preferably predicted) with 'rules' or 'laws'. I didn't know that science itself had laws. BTW.... nice circular argument. Lets recap this to be clear:
Biblical Creationism is also a worldview with which to interpret the evidence. The creation model suggests that all of the information for life was provided by an Intelligent Designer. Change due to natural selection, adaptation and mutation is just as much a part of the creation model. These changes, however, result in a loss of DNA information over time. This we observe to be consistent with the known natural laws of science and the Biblical model. [my emphasis]
So, the Biblical Model is observed to be consistent with the Biblical Model....Stop the presses! Call Science and Nature now!
I haven't commented on the following few paragraphs since this would be difficult, if not impossible, to do without resorting to unsubstantiated claims or insults. They are however given to provide the complete article.
'I am prepared to donate a subscription to both the
Creation magazine and TJ if it can be given exposure to the student
population. I would like the TJ placed in the Science Center and the Creation magazine can
go in either library. I plan to renew it each year that I am able.
'Principal Technical Staff Member, AT&T'
'We need to influence our alma maters one college at a time,' says the author of this letter.
'Perhaps the Lord would like you, too, to consider sending a subscription to a local library or your alma materat a discounted subscription rate. It could change someone's life! (Note: you may want to check from time to time that the magazine is still on the shelf.)'
'Suggested form letter (Interested subscribers may copy and revise freely.)'
That's quite some liberty to get from a group of people who insist that this ('copy and revise freely') was a policy that never got applied to the texts that now form the Bible.
Dear [name of the library director],
I have enclosed a sample issue of Creation magazine and the TJ, a technical science journal, two professional science publications that have been in continuous publication for over two decades. The organization that produces these magazines is based in Australia and has a large staff of respected scientists, who offer an alternative viewpoint on modern debates about origins science.
For the claim of 'professional science publications' see my notes earlier on this page. As for the 'large staff of respected scientists' I have little doubt that these are outstanding humans who are liked and respected in their social, religious and professional communities. However, when talking about [being] respected in a scientific context, it normally means something different, namely professional acclaim. It is difficult to confirm this when all information offered by AiG are lists of publications in their own magazines. If they could give an overview of (a recent sample of) publications in other journals, preferably peer-reviewed, it would be easier for outsiders to confirm their being respected in a scientific context.
'This is a growing national debate, with students and other citizens lining up on both sides of the issue.'
Once again, AiG makes it look as if we're dealing with a social or ethical issue like gun-control, immigration or capital punishment. However, the comparison with other sciences remains. There has never been a national debate about the atom model, gravity, the value of pi. In the instances that scientific experiments produce different results or raise contentious theoretical issues, they are discussed in relevant scientific journals or congresses. As if a national vote could decide whether to use Empedocles' 4 elements (water, fire, air, land) or the periodic table of Mendeleev.
'I believe that patrons of the library would appreciate a high-quality resource that allows them to examine alternative viewpoints.'
I'm afraid there's little hope for the creationist movement if these opinion magazines are 'a high-quality resource'.
Once again a part citated for completeness, but without comments.
'Would it be possible for me to donate a subscription to [name of library], with these magazines displayed in the same place as other science magazines? I will renew the subscriptions each year, as long as I am able.
'Please write, or call me at [your phone number], if you have any questions or if you would be willing to accept my offer.
Know your legal rights! Here's what one family was able to do in Pennsylvania.
'We bought materials for our public high school in the fall of 2000. After being "reviewed" by the librarians, all but one was rejected (the token). This took until the end of the school year, 2001.'
I don't know if this is common practice in the USA. Here (Western Europe), parents and schoolboards usually discuss the books before buying them.
'Early this school year (Sept. 2001) we contacted Christian Law Assoc. and asked them if there was anything we could do. They told us the school did have the right of refusal but it had to be consistent with their policyso we asked for a copy of their policy. They use the American Library Assoc. & the PA Library Assoc. policies, which state that there should be a variety of ideas, especially for controversial issues, and that kids should be taught how to think, not what to think etc.
'Therefore, we wrote a rebuttal around Thanksgiving. Happy to say, all the books we ordered were accepted!'
I can only hope that the law doesn't prescribe where the materials have to be classified, so they can be put in the appropriate sections. Either next to the UFO and Von Däniken books or amongst religion or social sciences
'Now we'll have to work on the elementary & middle school materials [sic]
S.M., Pennsylvania, USA'