Answers in Genesis and "Real" Scientists

John Stear
(with a little help from his friends)

AiG in its Weekly Newsletter has raised the issue of whether scientists holding bona fide science qualifications can be creationists.  The answer is, sadly, yes!  There are a number of young Earth creationists (YECs) who, despite holding genuine science qualifications, insist that the Bible is a science book.  Two spring immediately to mind, geologists Andrew Snelling and Tasman Walker.  For an insight into Snelling's double life as creationist and geologist see Will the Real Dr Snelling Please Stand Up?  and for Walker's unscientific views see Dr Tasman Walker's Flood Geology Model.  Their slavish adherence to scripture versus their training in science makes for fascinating reading.

In attempting to support their case that creationist scientists are real scientists AiG states -

We need to also understand that many of the most famous scientists who ever lived were creationists. For instance, think about names like Michael Faraday, James Clark Maxwell, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler . and the list goes on. These were some of the most famous scientists who ever lived, and they believed Genesis.

All these people were what we'd call physicists and none had anything to do with biology. Maxwell and Faraday studied electro-magnetism. Newton and Kepler devised the rules which govern the motion of bodies in space and died before Darwin was born and Maxwell and Faraday died shortly after Darwin published The Origin of Species. I'm not saying they weren't creationists, but they were in no position to argue either way about the evolution/creation debate.  In fact, many would chuckle over AiG's claim that Newton was a creationist.  For instance, Frank E. Manuel in The Religion of Isaac Newton, (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1974) wrote on page 63 -

There would come a time, he [Newton] told John Conduitt, when Trinitarian doctrines hallowed by the Church would be considered as outlandish as Catholic transubstantiation.

Thomas Burnet wrote a book The Sacred Theory of the Earth, published in Latin in 1681 and in English in 1684. He consulted Newton about a number of issues and a letter to him from Newton in January 1681 is reproduced in The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, volume II 1676-1687, edited by H. W. Turnbull and published for the Royal Society at the Cambridge University Press in 1960. Part of the letter (from pages 333, 334, with spelling and punctuation modernised) reads -

Now for the number and length of the six days: by what is said above you may make the first day as long as you please, and the second day too if there was no diurnal motion till there was a terraqueous globe, that is till towards the end of that day's work. And then if you will suppose the earth put in motion by an even force applied to it, and that the first revolution was done in one of our years, in the time of another year there would be three revolutions, of a third five, of a fourth seven, etc., and of the 183rd year 365 revolutions, that is as many as there are days in our year and all this time Adam's life would be increased to but about 90 of our years, which is no such great business.  But yet I must profess I know no sufficient cause of the earth's diurnal motion.

The phrase "an even force" is what would be called "a constant torque" these days. The first sentence here is the relevant one for "twenty-four hour, seven day" creationist claims about Newton. But the last sentence is interesting in indicating that Newton wanted to find natural causes, rather than calling on God to do everything by some magical process.

AiG also referred to a visit by Ken Ham to the Goddard Space Center -

Ken Ham once had the opportunity to speak to a number of scientists at the Goddard Space Center near Baltimore. He was pleased to see a number of scientists, real scientists-who were involved in building the space shuttle and repairing the Hubble Telescope-who told him they believed that Genesis is accurate. They did not accept evolution. There are probably thousands of scientists like this throughout the world-practicing scientists who believe in creation. See our creation scientist section to see just a few of them, as well as a list of prestigious creationist scientists of the past.

Perhaps if AiG named some of these so called scientists who build space shuttles and repair telescopes we might discover that they were not scientists but engineers.  By and large, engineers are poorly qualified to argue against biological evolution. 

AiG's claim that there are thousands of creation scientists throughout the world is disingenuous to say the least.  YECs can never come up with more than a relative handful of "real" modern scientists who embrace YECism.  The National Centre for Science Education's (NCSE) Project Steve on the other hand, which was devised as a light hearted response to the YEC claim, can, as of 8 November 2004, boast of 513 bona fide scientists named Steve (see list of "Steves" or derivations thereof who have signed the statement) . The "Steve-o-meter", showing the current number and the latest Steve to join the list, can be found on the FAQs page.

Also the inference that can be taken from the fact that to date a large number of Steves have signed the statement, is discussed on Project Steve's FAQs page

According to data from the U.S. Census, approximately 1.6% of males and approximately 0.4% of females -- so approximately 1% of U.S. residents -- have first names that would qualify them to sign the statement. So it is reasonable to infer that at least 22,000 scientists would agree with the statement. ("At least" because the statement was quietly circulated to a limited number of people.) As of November 8, 2004, there were 513 signatories, corresponding to 51,300 scientists.

AiG's final comment once again highlights their perhaps deliberate misunderstanding of how science works:

What should scientists believe about where we came from? God created all things.

Bona fide scientists don't "believe" as YEC scientists are required to do (see AiG's Statement of Faith).  Their conclusions are based on the systematic gathering of information through various forms of direct and indirect observations and the testing of this information by methods including, but not limited to, experimentation.

For the umpteenth time, the Bible is not a science text book!