Thursday, May 24, 2007

Not a good example

Not only is there a museum showing humans hunting dinosaurs and displaying how creationism is such an obvious and simple explanation for the world around us, religious schools have also joined the pack by showing a dangerous and deliberately ignorant application of "science". It's embarassing, really.

Brian Benson, an eighth-grade student who won first place in the Life Science/Biology category for his project "Creation Wins!!!," says he disproved part of the theory of evolution. Using a rolled-up paper towel suspended between two glasses of water with Epsom Salts, the paper towel formed stalactites.

He states that the theory that they take millions of years to develop is incorrect. "Scientists say it takes millions of years to form stalactites," Benson said. "However, in only a couple of hours, I have formed stalactites just by using paper towel and Epsom Salts."

Not only is Brian Benson wrong, he is sadly, laughably, shockingly wrong. Wrong facts, wrong interpretation, wrong conclusion. Wrong on all counts. It demonstrates not only an ignorance of biology and science, but a complete lack of ability to interpret facts and results. No, being able to make "stalactites" with a paper towel and epsom salts is NOT a correlation to the creation of stalactites in the natural world. Different material, wrong facts about stalactite growth, and absolutely wrong in thinking that this in any way even touches a part of evolutionary science by "proving" anything.

Sorry, kiddo, not even close. Every aspect of his "science" project is a sad, ignorant joke. What did he learn in science class? That he will will be rewarded for contorting, misrepresenting, and misapplying actual science as long as he supports a religious ideology.

And he won a PRIZE for it.

It could have been an interesting science project on how solids dissolve in water, how accretion works, or how water is transported via the paper towel via capillary action. Instead, he claims an easy victory over us poor evolutionists, and is fully supported by his school and the judges of the science fair.

I really do blame the school, btw. The kid's in eight grade. Some level of ignorance about scientific matters is to be expected. But the judges in the science fair? They obviously put their desire to support a specific religious agenda ahead of practicing actual science. Or even recognizing actual science when it walks up and smacks them on the ass. There were some great experiments described in the science fair; apparently they didn't deserve as much attention because they were so mundane.

(Btw, the references below to 'creationism' refer to the current press to teach the christian creation myth in schools as an alterate to actual science. 'creationists' don't seem to be suggesting that we teach the babylonian or incan myths, or any other version, so I'm sticking with the xian mythos.)

If you want to believe in the myths of creation as taught by christianity, go ahead. It's a pleasant story. But it's not science. The arguments for god-guided creation cannot be expressed as any sort of scientific pursuit. You believe it because you have faith. One of the things I hear all the time is that creation science/intelligent design are reasonable, and should be considered. "Reasonable" does not equal plausible. It does not even equal possible. If anyone has actually come up with valid evidence for the creation story, I'm sure the world would love to see it.

Creationists are attempting to play out the argument between evolution and the creationism/ID in the public forum -- public debates, creating museums, by "talking about it" extensively-- because it can't stand up to actual scientific inquiry. Convincing people to accept a simple story because it "sounds good" is not science. "You're wrong because I don't understand it" is not a valid argument.

People argue that we should "explore other theories" in an attempt to make creationism more palatable -- I'm all for exploring other theories, but creationism or even ID is NOT a scientific theory. It's not worthy of being considered. People proposing that it be taught as an alternate theory simply don't understand that a scientific theory is not just a nifty idea that might be possible. All the possible permutations of evolutionary theory are not bulletproof -- and I fully support teaching that there are still things that need to be investigated. There are things we don't understand, and the data is constantly evaluated and the details of the theory adjusted as we learn more. This does not make the theory "false" -- recognize that a scientific theory is not "proved true or false", the data either supports it or it doesn't.

If the data doesn't support it, the theory is re-evaluated to express the existing known facts and the new hypothesis is tested, over and over again. That's how science works. Unlike creationism, which comes up with the same result, no matter what the facts are.

Bah. Sorry for the rant.


Anonymous said...

Yes I agree with you that growing stalactites in water with paper towels doesn't disprove evolution and it doesn't prove anything really. And yes the kid was wrong for claiming to disprove evolution. But the point we should walk away with is that scientists can't use stalactites as supporting evidence of a million year old planet. For example take the Lincoln Memorial which started being constructed in 1914, has stalactites growing in the basement/foundation. So, what that does prove is that it can't be used as credible supporting evidence used to back up the age of the earth.
I also agree with you that scientifically his experiment was a joke, but if we want to start pointing fingers on not being scientific, how about evolution being taught as "fact" in public schools. All "evolution" is right now is a theory and shouldn't be taught as scientific law. If you expect centers of learning to be "scientific" why don't they teach all the "Theories" out there. There is just as much proof, or lack of, to support creationism as there is darwinism or evolution. And on top of that all the evidence being found points toward intelligent design rather than evolution. But evolution as not even turned up one valid transitional fossil. So, "scientifically", the theory of creationism, or intillegent design has more supporting evidence than the Evolution Theory.
And if we really want to be "scientific" in our thinking we should treat these "theories" as just that, theories, and nothing else until some strong supporting evidence shows up.

Phouka said...

Sorry. No.

Obviously you're a bit unclear on the concept of a "scientific theory". Facts support a scientific theory, or they do not support a scientific theory, but the theory itself is not "fact", nor it is disproven or proven. Try a bit of research into what a Theory actually is.

Creationism and ID, it's better-dressed sibling, are emphatically NOT science. They are not testable, they are not falsifiable, they are not subject to change when the evidence/facts are evaluated. They expect support based on faith, and dismiss contradictory evidence instead of incorporating them into the "theory" and continuing to test. You don't get to START with the resolution of your idea nd then look for ideas to support it. You have to evaluate all the available information out there and formulate your theory from there.

Second, no one is using stalactites to "prove" the age of the earth. Other evidence clearly points to an age of the earth greater than 4 billion years -- stalactites can only be used to generally assess the age of a cave or structure only. Strawman.

Third, "all the evidence points towards intelligent design" is wishful thinking. Support it. What evidence exists? How has it be verified? What testable hypothesis can be forumulated? How do you support this assertion? How have you determined that this theory can be falsified, and how have you supported testing to eliminate those possibilities? What is the next step to test it?

That is what science does. I don't see ID doing that.

Fourth, you are sadly mistaken about 'transitional fossils' of intermediate forms of animals (horses, for example, have a clear transition from small animals without hooves, much like other small mammals; whales have dozens of transitional forms, as do many other animals.) Trying to redefine the "gap" is a disingenuous argument that has been tried many times.

Fifth, "darwinism" and "evolution" are not the same thing. Darwin's theory is one of many possible explanations for why evoluation occurs, but it is not the same thing.

Evolution is change in organisms over time. It is a fact that this occurs. It is observable, and well supported by existing evidence. Evolution does not address the origin of life on the planet -- the theory is not that of 'origin', it is that of change. Not the same thing at all, and there are dozens of other theories out there that attempt to address that particular question -- some realistic, some fantasical.

If we really want to be "scientific", then it's important to compare valid theories. When ID and creationism actually provide a valid scientific theory, I'd be more than happy to see it taught as an alternative. Good luck.