Why I ...believe debating science with creationists will not work

March 29, 2002

Creation "science" advocates that there is scientific evidence to support a 6,000-year-old Earth and a global flood some 4,000 years ago. It is claimed that the science of creationists is supported by a literal interpretation of the Bible.

Some creationists argue that modern life was preserved on Noah's ark and that most life perished in the catastrophic flood and is preserved only in the fossil record. Others argue that Noah's ark carried both modern and extinct species and the latter became extinct after Noah's flood. Some have even claimed to have found Noah's ark and have attempted to show that science supports their discovery.

Creationism is promoted by fundamentalist Protestants with links to US-based creationist groups. In the United States, creationists have been successful in having evolution and geological time watered down or omitted from school and university textbooks and have had great success in persuading school boards to allow the teaching of creationism as an alternative view to evolution.

In last week's THES, Andrew Forbes, organiser of a creationist push on UK universities, stated: "If we're honest scientists, we have to look at all the possibilities." Such a statement is in contrast to the numerous demonstrations by scientists in the US, United Kingdom and Australia that creationist science uses misquotes, misleading information, unattributed data and just plain lies.

Time and again, it has been shown that creationist science has been created out of nothing and yet we have the same arguments recycled to different audiences.

Creationist leaders are skilled orators. Any scientist who debates with creationists should forget the overwhelming science in support of evolution and focus on the corporate structure, publications, misquotes and lies. These are common to all creationist groups. It is a revelation to trace creationist statements to their source reference.

Too many good scientists have been snared by creationist debaters'

sophistry, their redefinition of science and glib arguments to explain complex natural phenomena. If there must be debates in the UK with John Mackay, the international director of the Creation Research Organisation, those involved should read the past 20 years of his creationist writings.

Creationism is not about science, competing scientific theories or healthy debate. It is the political push of Protestant fundamentalism and the target is the young. It is a form of child abuse to market the narrow views of a fundamentalist group as science to children in a pluralist secular society. Schoolchildren, especially those who are searching or insecure, do not have the knowledge and skills to counteract creationism.

Creationists are using our schools and universities to win the hearts and minds of our children. They use a variety of tactics. For example, where school boards control the syllabus, creationists have been taking control of the boards. Where the syllabus is state-controlled, pressure is applied to bureaucrats and politicians. In Australia, teaching creationism is illegal, but numerous creationist teachers introduce it by stealth. Another technique is to show that there are scientists who support creationism and to use this support to show that creationism is an alternative view to evolution.

The next step is to argue that creationism is a valid alternative view supported by eminent scientists and that, in a democracy, there should be an airing of both creationist and evolutionary views in schools.

We do not teach witchdoctory on medical courses and there is no place for the teaching of the theocratic science of 350 years ago on school science courses.

You have been warned.

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