Are Creation Scientists Real Scientists and Do They Do Real Research?
Make up your own mind, according to the evidence.

John Stear

Dr Terry Mortenson, a young Earth creationist (YEC) with Answers in Genesis, has written an article lauding the International Conference on Creationism (ICC) which was recently held near Pittsburgh, PA, USA. (See "Creation scientists aren't real scientists and don't do real research.")

In his opening paragraph Dr Mortenson says:

"Such statements [that creation scientists aren't real scientists and don't do real research] are often heard from evolutionists when confronted with creationist objections against their theory.  It is a classic ad hominem argument—in other words, attack the person in lieu of refuting his argument.  But besides that, it is simply false.  And the International Conference on Creationism (ICC) is one piece of evidence of that fact."

Dr Mortenson's statement is, of course, nonsense.  Scientists attack YECs by refuting their arguments, particularly those who hold bona fide degrees in science.  In an attempt to have their odd ball theories accepted as science they distort what they studied in university or college until it conforms with the myth of Genesis.  (For example, Drs Snelling and Walker (see links below) are two YECs who, despite their qualifications in geology, believe the Earth is only a few thousand years old -

Will the Real Dr Snelling Please Stand Up?

Flood Geology: a house built on sand

Is Dr Andrew Snelling Bringing His Profession into Disrepute?)

Dr Tasman Walker's Flood Geology Model

A Response to a Dubious Diluvium: A Tas Walker Creationist Fantasy

Dr Mortenson continues:

"Its [the ICC's] purpose is to stimulate the development and refinement of a scientifically detailed model of the origin and history of the world consistent with the truths of Genesis 1–11." [my emphasis]

Scientifically detailed AND consistent with the truths of Genesis 1–11?  One phrase contradicts the other.  The ICC model is notable for one very important weakness. It is constrained by having to be consistent with scripture, making it apparent that the findings of the conference cannot be scientific.

Dr Mortenson contends that the technical papers were peer reviewed:

"Some of the most well attended technical papers (which were all peer-reviewed) were from the scientists in the RATE group.  RATE stands for Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth.  This international group of seven scientists (with PhD's [sic] in physics, geology, atmospheric physics and geophysics) is in the fifth year of an 8-year research project involving theoretical, laboratory and field studies." 

Who carried out the peer-review? Are the RATE YECs interacting with their peers in the scientific world, free of the constraints placed upon them by their YEC employers?  Are they out and about in the mainstream of science exchanging knowledge with their colleagues?  Scientific knowledge doubles about every eight years and unless scientists are actively undertaking research and having their research dissected by their mainstream colleagues before publication, and publishing that research in mainstream peer-reviewed journals, then they have no way of keeping up with this explosion of knowledge. And it is not an information explosion, it is a knowledge explosion. Unless these YECs are at the leading edge, then they are neither real scientists nor do they undertake real scientific research. They may be people with higher degrees who have fallen by the wayside and not kept up with science or they might get their kicks from impressing the already converted faithful.  But whatever the reason, their "peers" are also YECs and are NOT real or active scientists.

And what about the RATE group Dr Mortenson refers to?  The RATE group was formed by what Dr Kevin Henke in his essay Rats in RATE's "Research" refers to as -

" ...a small group of YECs with Ph.D.s [who] have formed the RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) [reference omitted] committee to comb the scientific literature and design laboratory 'experiments' that will somehow verify what they have already concluded, namely that Genesis is 'The Truth' and geochronology is 'wrong'".

    Dr Henke rightly takes the group to task for having -

"a doctrinal monitor to look over their shoulders to make sure that their 'science' does not conflict with the official party line." 

He has some harsh words to say to those who prostitute their knowledge in blind obedience to scripture:

"Any scientist that is willing to sign away his/her integrity and freedom to explore nature for the sake of a political and/or religious cause does not deserve to be called a scientist.   These oath-takers are promising not to accept any results or perform any research that challenges the credibility of the official political and/or religious dogma." 

This approach by the RATE group again emphasises that YECs can never fully operate within mainstream science as long as their scientific applications and "research" is subservient to "the truths of Genesis 1–11".

Joe Meert, Assistant Professor of Geology at the University of Florida, has exposed the RATE group as incompetent.  (See More Faulty Creation Science from The Institute for Creation Research)

In particular the RATE group's IMPACT series articles and several "technical articles" are, to quote Professor Meert:

" ...[an] attempt to discredit radiometric dating based on 'anomalous' results.  The problem is that the anomalies were all generated via experimental flaws on the part of the investigators or [by] simply misinterpreting technical articles from peer-reviewed scientific literature."

AiG is fond of "quoting" unidentified scientists (they usually refer to them as atheists) who, according to AiG, are so impressed by creation "science" that they abandon evolutionary science and embrace YECism.

Dr Mortenson continues the tradition and claims that an "evolutionist" was present at the conference who was -

" impressed with the scientific excellence of the papers that he admitted to one of the presenters that he was going to have to do some hard thinking about what he heard." 

The inference here is that the particular "evolutionist" was rethinking his position regarding YECism.

The "evolutionist", in this instance Frank Lovell, had this to say regarding Dr Mortenson's claim:

"AiG's 'spin' in reporting my 'admission' is a tad over exuberant (imagine that!); it is true that the level of scientific 'excellence' I observed in some of the presentations exceeds any I had observed at prior ICCs, but there are still MILES (light-years) to go before the scientific excellence of 'scientific' creationism approaches the scientific excellence underwriting the case for old earth evolution!" 

Dr Mortenson makes the absurd claim that because YECs (those with bona fide qualifications) studied under prominent scientists, then any claim that they are not practicing science is merely -

 " ...attacking the scientific and teaching competencies of their fellow evolutionists".

A prominent Australian geologist has this to say about Dr Mortenson's claim:

"As for creationists obtaining their higher degrees supervised by evolutionists, so what. I encourage my students to disagree with me, to criticise my published work and to be of independent mind. What Mortensen is saying is that under a creationist education system, there would be a party line to which all must adhere. March on the anti-intellectual fraudulent theocracy!"

I have no wish to denigrate Dr Mortenson's scholastic achievements, all properly obtained.  However, in light of his insistence that YECs are real scientists (despite being hobbled by the necessity to abide by the "truths of Genesis") a brief word about Dr Mortenson's scientific qualifications is in order. According to his curriculum vitae Dr Mortenson has obtained a B.A. in math, University of Minnesota, USA, an M.Div. in systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Illinois, USA and a Ph.D in history of geology, Coventry University, England.

His qualifications in math and the history of geology are genuine, but, according to my sources, he's unknown in the world of geology and his history of geology would seem not to be relevant in the context of mainstream geology - or for that matter, history - for a number of reasons. Neither of his qualifications necessarily equates to scientific knowledge and having a Ph.D in history of science should certainly not be construed as being cogent of modern scientific practice or theories. Within his chosen field he seems not to have published in any of the acknowledged historical journals (e.g. Isis, British Journal for the History of Science or Earth Sciences History), although nine papers have appeared in AiG's  Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal.  Scientists with a knowledge of current historical scholarship and methodology who have perused these papers find them to be strongly coloured by Dr Mortenson's beliefs. In addition. he is not a member of the History of Science Society (the acknowledged peer society in the USA) and doesn't seem to be attempting to carry out any historical research as judged by mainstream historians.

Furthermore, just because someone has the meal ticket to start a career in science (i.e. a Ph.D) it doesn't necessarily mean that they are a scientist.  Holding a Ph.D doesn't mean that a person has any eminence, it means they've jumped the first hurdle in a scientific career which, after a long period of time, may lead to some eminence if they stayed at the leading edge. This requires rigour, self- and peer-criticism and a re-evaluation of ideas upon the validation of new data. Requirements that YECs, because of the prerequisites of scripture, can never fulfil.

While searching the internet for some indication of Dr Mortenson's place in science I came across the Washington Post's Evolution: The Debate web page.  Dr Mortenson was, literally, in the hot seat and was mostly unable to answer the questioners without referring to scripture or directing the questioner to AiG's web site.  One question he answered with some accuracy was:

"Question: Can you explain for me why multi-billion dollar oil corporations, when engaging in oil exploration, insist upon hiring 'old-earth' scientists who believe in evolution, and search for oil using their theories about the history of the world that directly contradict the Bible, rather than 'young-earth' creationists, who could find oil using theories drawn from Genesis? It sounds like, if you're right, there's a real money-making opportunity!

"Dr Mortenson: I question if your statement of the hiring practices of oil companies applies to reality. The fact is there are PhD young-earth creationist geologists who have worked for oil companies. The evolutionary time-scale imposed on rocks is not essential to the discovery of oil.

The fact is that YECs can and do find oil in many of the same ways as those who accept evolution - by looking for specific types of formations, fossils and other geological features. These features are reliable indicators of where oil is likely to be. It doesn't really matter in a practical sense how those features came to be where and what they are or how they came to be associated with petroleum deposits. That is, if you know what to look for in terms of the features that indicate a likely petroleum deposit, then you can be successful in the petroleum industry.

By analogy, this is also why it is possible for so many physicians to be creationists - they have to deal with the what and how, but not the why, of human biology. The evolutionary explanation can be avoided in most cases in the short-range context of healing broken and diseased bodies.

So, Dr Mortenson is correct in this instance -  at least with regard to the ability of YECs to identify strata likely to contain petroleum.  Now, if these same YECs were responsible for using their "geology" to predict how and where deposits should be found based on Genesis and not on geological features, then they would be in serious trouble.  Further, how can a YEC find oil if he/she doesn't believe in index fossils or even stratigraphy? To expand upon that  analogy, how can a YEC physician treat mental illness if he/she believes that it's due to demon possession rather than a chemical imbalance in the brain?

On the other hand, Dr Mortenson's replies to most other questions were almost totally bereft of any scientific explanation, as the following indicates:

"Question: Couldn't evolution be God's way of creating this world we live in? In a sense creating it by allowing it to unfold by itself? It seems that both people and other organisms have free will. I cannot believe that the hand of God is directly making bad things happen; they must be a by product of a complex process that unfolds as things play out. Whether these things were set in motion by someone (God) or not, it is apparent that evolution is a plausible explanation for much of what we see, and God's hand is not a plausible explanation. Comments?

"Dr Mortenson: No it could not, because it is impossible to fairly interpret the Biblical text to harmonize it with evolution theory.  The order of creation in Genesis 1 and the order of evolutionary history contradict each other at many major points.  Also the Bible's teaching about death contradicts the evolution view. And there are other problems I don't have time to cover. [my emphasis]

There you have it. It's abundantly clear that YECs do not practice science or carry out legitimate research, and let there be no mistake, they know it.  That they denigrate real science in the process means little to them, regardless of the harm they do, especially to children whose gullible parents allow them to be educated within the narrow and unscientific confines of creationism.  In the world of YECism the end justifies the means.

Though they claim to be practising real science in order to maintain their support base, they have absolutely no credibility among legitimate scientists. It matters not that some of them have degrees in science; they remain YECs and their insistence that scientific evidence supports a literal Genesis is absolute nonsense.