Creationists already know the answer
In 1997 I wrote an op-ed about evolution and creationism that was published in the Charleston Gazette. Here it is with slight editing:
At Duval High School in Lincoln County, I teach chemistry and physics. Next year we may not be offering genetics at Duval unless creationism as a science is given equal status with evolution.
A parent objected to the board of education about the teaching of evolution without also teaching biblical creationism. My guess is that in Lincoln County, an overwhelming majority agrees with him. Members of the board of education are very aware of this. A crowd of angry parents was on hand that night to pressure the board not to approve the evolution-tainted syllabus for genetics. The board complied. This board of education, contrary to their pledge to oppose consolidations, was busy consolidating some grade schools, and they didn’t need any more trouble that night in front of those already stirred-up citizens.
The creationists claim that evolution is just a theory. There is confusion as to what theory means. To scientists a theory comes about after a hypothesis has been tested over and over by many different scientists and it appears the evidence points in a certain direction. A theory is the result of lots of data collection and evaluation; it is not just someone’s casual opinion.
It would be more accurate to say something is “just a hypothesis.” A scientific hypothesis is an idea that can be tested by experiment. Science deals with ideas that can be tested in the physical world. If it can’t be tested by experiment, it is not science.
Is creationism scientific? Can it be tested in the physical world? Can we use our senses or instruments to bring information to our senses to test the hypothesis? This is the issue. If the answer is yes, then creationism can be taught as a science. If the answer is no, then it could be included in a course that studies religion.
I don’t think creationism can be tested. To test it you would have to interview God and have the interview repeated many times by many different people. Maybe that is prayer. But I can’t check your prayer to see if God really spoke to you.
Evolution gets tested every summer. Farmers, using insecticides, breed resistant strains of bugs that by the end of the summer are laying eggs in the insecticide bags. And overuse of antibiotics has bred varieties of bacteria that are immune to the medicine.
Certain mutations, caused by radiation among other things, survive, and their offspring are resistant and multiply. Creationists object to random mutations. They prefer God as directly causing the mutations. Why would God cause the mutations that kill innocent people? If God is causing those mutations, God is not on our side.
When someone claims to have proven a hypothesis by experiment, other scientists jump all over it like a chicken on a June bug. Not too many years ago, two scientists in Utah claimed to have produced nuclear fusion at room temperature. Fusion is what causes the sun and all the stars to be so hot—if you believe scientists.
Other scientists were skeptical of this “cold fusion.” Science’s greatest virtue is skepticism. Skepticism is insurance against fraud. The skeptics tried to repeat the results. No one could get cold fusion to work. The hypothesis that fusion could happen on a lab table in test tubes was tested and found wanting. Cold fusion never became a scientific theory because it could not be proven over and over by independent experiment. Science works only when evidence meets honesty.
The creationists, who I have heard speak, and others whose beliefs I have read seem to think that scientists are a bunch of dishonest people who make things up to fit the model they have for the universe. One creationist even doubted that uranium decays into other elements. Proof that there are liquid regions beneath the surface of the earth was rejected because you can’t go there and observe them—which is strange, since creationists base their beliefs on things unseen.
Officials at the Institute for Creation Research are sure that the space program and the search for extraterrestrial life are government plots to “indirectly promote the rejection of Genesis as the true account of origins.” They count Orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Christians and Muslims as their only fellow travelers among the denominations and religions of the world. They come within a cat’s hair of calling the Pope a communist. Somehow globalism creeps into their disgust for evolution, and they often mention the Trilateral Commission.
Creationists aren’t looking for answers. They already know the answer, and the facts must fit that answer. Science doesn’t know the answer. Science examines the evidence and follows where it leads. If the evidence shows that God causes the mutations, then the scientist says so. Contrary to creationist paranoia, scientists are not a bunch of heathen atheists out to prove that God doesn’t exist. If you believe that God exists, as many scientists do, you believe it on faith, and that’s religion, not science.
Some people believe that evangelist Ernest Angley can heal by bumping the afflicted on the head and shouting, “Heal!” Ernest even claimed to heal AIDS with the head bumping. The hypothesis that he can heal is a scientific hypothesis. It can be tested. Simply take him a person with an arm that has been cut off and ask him to put the arm back on.
Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart claimed he healed his Plymouth many years ago on the way to a tent meeting. He rubbed anointing oil on the hood ornament and prayed that the stalled car be healed, and it started right up, he said. That hypothesis could be tested by having many people who believe in prayer repeat Swaggart’s miracle by rubbing anointing oil on broken-down cars and praying that they be “healed.”
In 1600 Catholic priest Gordano Bruno was burned at the stake by the creationists of his day for saying the earth wasn’t the center of the universe. Galileo was more fortunate. Because of his popularity with the people, he was merely threatened with torture and put under house arrest for the last eight years of his life.
Galileo had the gall to trust what he observed more than what the creationist leaders said he had to believe. Through his telescope he saw craters and mountains on the moon and four satellites going around Jupiter. From his observations he concluded that the earth went around the sun. Church leaders told him he couldn’t have seen those things because the earth is the center of God’s creation. The earth was the only place that could have moons. I am happy to report that the Pope cleared Galileo fewer than ten years ago.
Creationism is an all-out attack on the scientific method. The motto of science is “question authority.” The motto of creationists is “we are the authority.”
The proven theory of evolution isn’t the only theory that would have to be trashed under a new world order of creationism. The theory of relativity would have to be burned with Darwin’s books. Relativity depends on the postulate that the speed of light is the maximum speed throughout the universe. Many stars are millions of light years away. If the universe is only six thousand years old as the creationists claim, those stars can’t be more than six thousand light years away. According to creationists the Ice Age could not have occurred ten thousand years ago as scientists have calculated because there was no earth then.
If religion is brought into the schools, which religion will it be? Which creation story will be taught? To be fair do we teach them all or just a Christian version? I have read that there are Hindus who believe that the world was created in a cosmic butter churn, and another religion believes that God created the world out of ant dung, and another claims that the world sits on top of a giant turtle. And what about voodoo? Do reading chicken entrails get equal time? And of course there are those pesky snake handlers.
Who would be the creationist commissar for education—Jerry Falwell? The Pope? I lean toward the Pope. He declared last year that evolution is no longer just a hypothesis.
If creationism is made part of the curriculum as creation science, let’s be honest and call it divine revelation. Science test questions could be answered with “that’s the way God made it.” We wouldn’t have to do all those experiments in search of the answers to why and how. But maybe God is revealed in the results of those experiments, maybe not. How would you test that hypothesis?
The founding fathers saw this one coming. They could imagine the power struggles that would go on between the multitude of denominations and religions. Does God need all this coercion? Does God have to be defended against science and evolution? Many compromises will have to be made to accommodate every religion in our diverse country. Maybe the best compromise is to keep the separation of church and state.