Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Just a Theory

Anyone who discusses the interactions of religious belief, public policy, and science will encounter the argument that because something in science is just a theory, it shouldn't be taken any more seriously than other ideas. This comes up a lot in creationism versus evolution conversations and its use betrays a certain degree of scientific illiteracy.

The word theory has two very different meanings. In everyday language, a theory is just an uncertain idea, perhaps thought up on the fly. In science, a theory is a comprehensive framework that unifies and explains a large number of actual observations, has withstood rigorous testing, and makes accurate predictions of future observations. A scientific theory, like the theory of evolution, isn't a wild guess. It is the best possible understanding of some aspect of nature we currently possess. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Nye vs Ham

Bill Nye the Science Guy just did a debate against Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis. This debate was on the validity of creationism and was conducted at Ham’s Creation Museum in Kentucky. From what I’ve read, many in the audience were followers of Ham’s version of fundamentalist Christianity.

Towards the end of the debate, they took questions from the audience. The format of that section was that a question would be directed to one of them who had two minutes to answer and then the other was given a minute to respond. One of the questions really served to sum up the differences in their world views. Ham was asked what would change his mind. He said in essence that nothing could. Nye responded that he just needs evidence and then listed a bunch of potential examples.

Here is a link to that section of the video of the debate:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6kgvhG3AkI&t=123m58s

That there is no evidence that could ever be compelling enough for Ham to change his mind demonstrates the intellectual bankruptcy of creationism and concisely shows why it isn't science and isn't compatible with science.

The danger in this debate and others like it is that many will erroneously interpret the very existence of the debate as proof that creationism has scientific merit or that there is ongoing scientific controversy between creationism and naturalism among scientists. We can at least hope that some viewers will reflect on the profoundness of the debaters' answers to the question above and realize that Ham’s answer was antithetical to a scientific mindset.