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Philosophy Of Science Paper Assignment“Ruse: Creation-Science Is Not Science”Rob Ludlow
March 8, 2002
Of the topics discussed in class, one has been the most interesting and eye opening to me, that of demarcation; specifically the demarcation of creation-science. I will therefore attempt a critical evaluation of the writings of Michael Ruse, the author that best approaches the issue of demarcation and how it relates particularly to creation-science.
In his article “Creation-Science Is Not Science” (from Science, Technology, and Human Values 7 no. 40, 1982), Ruse establishes a set of criteria for demarcating creation-science as non science for the purpose of justifying its exclusion from the science classroom. I will first paraphrase Ruse’s views, then analyze those comments from my perception and position, and finally give my concluding statements.
In his article, Ruse gives the background for his writings. He refers to a court case in December 1981 in which the destiny of creation-science in a science classroom was to be determined. Next, he lays out the following five characteristics for demarcation which I will paraphrase below; Laws; Explanation & Prediction; Testability, Confirmation, & Falsifiability; Tentativeness; and finally, Integrity.
1) Laws: Ruse’s first condition for an area of study to be classified as science is that it must involve “unbroken, blind, natural regularities (laws).” It is pointed out that creation-science invokes miracles and not natural laws. Ruse sums this up well in the following quote from Duane T. Gish, “We cannot discover by scientific investigations anything about the creative processes used by God.”
2) Explanation & Prediction: Ruse insists that without laws, “neither explanation nor prediction is possible” and therefore creationists are unable to predict or explain theories in a scientific manner.
3) Testability, Confirmation, & Falsifiability: Here Ruse explains that creation-science is void of experimental or observational work and does not pursue new knowledge or try to predict new facts. Ruse argues that creationists are far removed from science because of the lack of trying to test, or even ability to test, theories and hold them up for possible falsifiability. Also, he points out that the way creationists confirm their theory relies almost completely on attempts to deny competing theories.
4) Tentativeness: Would a creation scientist be willing to change their theories (beliefs) if the evidence or observations proved contrary to their theories? Ruse says absolutely not, therefore making creation-science non-scientific. “Science must be open to change, however confident one may feel at present.”
5) Integrity: In order for scientists to be scientific they must have an attitude of integrity, which is to say that they do not falsify data or quote out of context. Ruse asserts that creationists often lack facets of this “professional integrity” in that it is common practice for creationists to quote out of context.
Prior to reading this, and subsequent articles on the subject, I was inclined to give at least a little concession to the plight of those who would like to see alternative views of the existence of life taught in a science classroom. After reading this particular article, while I may not be able to say that I unequivocally agree with all of Ruse’s statements, I do agree with the totality of his arguments and his conclusion that “creation-science should not be taught in the public schools because creation-science is not science.”
Also, while re-reading this article I caught upon something that I had missed during my first encounter; Ruse, more than any of the other philosopher of science I’ve read, does two important things:
(1) Realizes that no one criteria will work on its own to solve the “problem of demarcation” (Popper). That there is a necessity for an amalgamation of criteria.
(2) Gives concession to the areas of gray that I believe are overlooked much too often, especially when other individuals try so desperately to force an issue (or another individual) into black or white, here or there!
Below I will attempt to convey my arguments in support of Ruse’s claims for each of these criteria and give various reasons that will support his position that creation-science should not be taught in a science classroom.
1) Laws: It is important to realize that miracles by definition (Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary) are “extraordinary events” based on “spiritual laws” and are therefore not based on natural laws which is a requirement of science. Creation-science does not rely on the observations of the world around us and empirical evidence to explain the act of creation, or the acts of a supreme being. These types of observations and evidence are crucial in the development of any form of scientific study. Our friends at www.m-w.com (Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary) also state that a scientific method is one in where there is a “systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.” The issue here is that there is no formulation and testing of hypotheses. The hypotheses are simply given by revelation (whether it be through prophets and / or the Bible) and are accepted as is, without even a thought of a “collection of data through observation and experiment.”
2) Explanation & Prediction: If one was to ask the layperson their definition of science, their description would undoubtedly contain elements of explanation & prediction! A 7th grader’s answer would probably be something along these lines, “Science is when you explain why something happened and then make predictions based on your observations.” Now, I ask you, in all seriousness, to hold up your understanding of creation-science to this description. Can natural law explanations based on the world around us be used in creation-science to make explanations and predictions? Are the subsequent predictions (if there even are any) also based on empirical data?
3) Testability, Confirmation, & Falsifiability: Is there testability and confirmation in creation-science? Going by the statements and assumptions above, I can see how it would be difficult, if not impossible, to test and confirm statements that are based on “spiritual laws”. Let us closely examine the original act of creation. First, is it possible to test? Are there any instruments or ways that a scientist could take creation and critically run experiments to validate their claims? The problem becomes this: a creationist’s view is that the creation event was brought on by the will of a supreme being, and not due to a series of natural events constrained by empirical laws. Confirmation; Attempts to help establish a new theory, or the need for a new theory by disproving other theories is common place in science, and many other facets of life where critical thinking comes into play. Unfortunately it seems that creation-science relies too heavily on this technique by constantly attempting to disprove other theories in order to bolster up its own validity. I do not attempt to justify this course of action, but submit a possible reason for it. Due to the fact that so many of the theories of creation-science are based on faith, creation scientists are probably compelled to use this tactic of tearing down other theories as opposed to testing their own simply because their theories cannot be tested.
Finally, the subject of falsifiability (thank you Mr. Popper). In my opinion the inability to give way to falsifiability is one of the most damning (not the fire and brimstone type, the holding back type) criteria put to creation-science. Falsifiability is one of the defining characteristics of science. Falsifiability makes possible the refutation of an idea or theory thus giving way to growth and development. If there were no falsifiability Columbus wouldn’t have sailed the ocean blue for fear of falling of the edge of the Earth. Also, we might still be under the belief that the Earth is indeed at the center of the universe. I admit that not every scientist is as eager or quick to reject his or her theories as Popper would suggest, but as a whole, scientists do follow the merits of falsifiability. Unfortunately this is not the case with creation-science. There isn’t a single observation that would ever prove the creation theory false. In my opinion, this complete lack of falsifiability erodes any glimmer of hope of accepting creation-science as science.
4) Tentativeness: To be tentative is to be “not fully worked out or developed” per our friends of www.m-w.com (Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary). Does the creation-scientist believe their theory to be “not fully worked out or developed” and “open to change”? Of course not. Ruse states that members of The Creation Research Society must agree to take the Bible literally… well, throughout the Bible we read of things being “unchanging; yesterday, today and forever.” This concept applied to any “scientific” theory would be problematic. To interject some thoughts given to me by Lakatose: Non-science is stagnant and does not predict novel pacts but merely explains what is already known after the fact. This definition seems to fit creation-science like a glove.
5) Integrity: For this criteria I will have to rely solely upon the statements provided by Ruse. I do not necessarily agree that it is true that creation scientists “use any fallacy in the logic books to achieve their ends” any differently than other scientists, but I can see how it is plausible that they may rely on this tactic more often than generally accepted areas of science.
One footnote: It is important to include the arguments that creation-science tends to lean more towards religion than science in many ways. For this reason it may be possible to keep the topic of creation-science out of public schools entirely by simply “proving” that creation-science is religion. I think the defining characteristic is the amount of faith that is invoked. A relatively high degree of faith is needed for creation-science compared to the degree that is used in generally accepted scientific areas of study such as chemistry, physics, etc. Although these disciplines require faith to a certain extent, the amount of faith required pails in comparison to that which is necessary to believe in a supreme being that spontaneously created “everything from nothing”. For this reason, and others that do not fit into this discussion, I believe it easy to establish the demarcation of creation-science as religion.
Finally, after all the pieces of this argument have settled and I take a step back, I ask myself, “Where do I stand in this great debate after all is said and done?” It has been said, “You can please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, you cannot please all of the people all of the time.” I have a proposition that I believe will come close to the latter part of that statement.
1) Creation-science should not be taught in a science classroom for it is not science.
2) Is it important to educate students about creation and give them multiple theories and philosophies? I believe so, but in the proper setting, say a philosophy class. This is a touchy area and must be handled delicately. I recognize two important factors that play into my reasoning: a) Most people believe in a supreme being, and that this supreme being had some part in the creation process. b) That this nation was established upon many religious principles and that people requesting citizenship are required to take an oath… a pledge, one of allegiance that includes something about “one nation under God”. I feel that it is important to give young people many different theories and possibilities. Just as I wouldn’t want to see only theories of creation taught at school, I also wouldn’t want to see only theories of evolution taught at school. I believe that I would have greatly benefited from a class that allowed open discussion and debate regarding three main possible explanations for the existence of life on Earth. It would have been very educational (and oodles of fun) to sit in a class of my peers discussing and debating if we came from 1) Creation 2) Evolution or 3) Aliens!