How Often Does Science Have to Refute Creationists' Arguments?
Thomas J. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biochemistry
University of Louisville
Thomas J. Wheeler's letter was published in the Louisville Courier-Journal
Recent letters on the creationism-evolution controversy included creationist arguments which have been refuted many times by professional scientists. An October 11 writer claimed that evolution was not science because, "We cannot observe our origin, nor can we wholly experiment and test any hypotheses." This is false; direct observation is not required for a principle to be scientific. In evolution and other historical sciences (such as much of geology and astronomy) scientific evidence is used to reconstruct past events. Hypotheses are tested, through experiment where possible, but also by other methods (such as the discovery of transitional fossils with predicted characteristics). That evolution has occurred is abundantly confirmed by numerous lines of evidence. The writer claimed that evolutionists cannot look objectively at the evidence because they "have a belief system about how the universe began" and then look for evidence to support it. In fact, the case for evolution was so strong that it quickly won over 19th century biologists, whose belief systems were creationist ones, and it continues to be persuasive to numerous present day scientists who believe in a created universe. He also stated that "There is no real scientific evidence that unequivocally refutes the Bible's 6,000- to 10,000-year age frame." This is ludicrous; radiodating and astronomy show beyond doubt that the universe is billions of years old, and numerous types of evidence from geology also refute the young-Earth time scale.
An October 15 writer repeated the myth that Scopes trial lawyer Clarence Darrow said, "To teach only one view of origins is bigotry." There is no evidence that Darrow said this, and it is not what he believed. Since evolution is supported by scientific evidence and creationism is not, it certainly is not bigotry to teach only the former in science classes.
An October 24 writer wrote that evolution "is still a theory because it has not been proven," showing two misunderstandings. First, evolution is something which has happened; there is also a theory to explain how it happened. Second, in science we don't prove things as in mathematics; instead, we support them with evidence. Both evolution and evolution theory have strong support.
The October 11 writer recommended two books, Darwin's Black Box, by Behe, and Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, by Denton. Behe advances the old "argument from ignorance": because he cannot imagine how complex molecular structures arose, they must have been supernaturally designed. But who is to say that we will not discover scientific answers to these questions in future years? Denton's book is simply misinformed, written by a non-expert who did not understand evolution and the scientific evidence in its support.
The writer also recommended the presentations and web site of Answers in Genesis. However, like other creationist organizations, this group promotes claims which scientists have shown to be invalid. In turn, I recommend the Talk.Origins Archive where one can find a scientific refutation of nearly any creationist argument.