• Redefining Words Doesn’t Change the Concept

    A friend just posted a link to Missouri’s creationism bill for 2013.  The bill is not in committee and I doubt   I could easily refute each sentence of the bill, but that would take way too much time.  Here’s the bill, if you have specific questions, then I’ll be happy to answer them.

    However, I would like to take this opportunity to address a common creationist (and other denialists) tactic.  Redefining words.  In general, they not only redefine the words, but switch between the common definition and their definition without telling you.  This leads to incorrect assumptions and conclusions.  Let me give you a good example from a creationist.

    A Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences. There are many things throughout the history of science which we now think to be incorrect which nonetheless would fit that — which would fit that definition. Yes, astrology is in fact one, and so is the ether theory of the propagation of light, and many other — many other theories as well.

    This is Michael Behe speaking in court during the Kitzmiller trial.  Astrology has never been and never will be a scientific theory.  A theory, by definition, requires a large body of supporting evidence.  Changing the definition of theory to include astrology or alchemy or other pseudosciences will not suddenly transform them into real science.

    Let’s look at a few specific examples from the Missouri bill.

     170.018. 1. This section shall be known as, and may be cited as, the “Missouri Standard Science Act”.

    2. As used in this section, the following terms mean:

    (9) “Scientific theory”, an inferred explanation of incompletely understood phenomena about the physical universe based on limited knowledge, whose components are data, logic, and faith-based philosophy. The inferred explanation may be proven, mostly proven, partially proven, unproven or false and may be based on data which is supportive, inconsistent, conflicting, incomplete, or inaccurate. (my emphasis)

    It’s not a terrible definition.  I don’t think it’s right, but it’s not terrible.  Until you get to the high-lighted part.  That and everything after it is utter rubbish.  It’s not even wrong.  It’s not even close.

    There is no concept of ‘faith’ in science.  It doesn’t exist in the practice or application of science and the scientific method.  The purpose of science is to get rid of belief and replace it with data, facts, and well supported conclusions.

    However, I often see this language from creationists.  They claim that belief in evolution (Darwinism, whatever that is) is based on faith because there is no evidence.  They are fundamentally wrong.

    But the author of this bill really fracks up here.  IF, as he claims, a theory has a ‘faith-based’ component to it, then the bill is still illegal because it goes against the First Amendment of these United States.  Teaching Intelligent Design, because it’s a theory, according to everyone who talks about, would therefore also be illegal.

    So, this bill just redefines science and would then require all of science to be not taught.

    This is a very interesting bill.  First, because it seems to be unique in that it’s not the standard language for such bills (as we saw earlier, most of them are exactly alike).  Second because it attempts to define away evidence for things like the Big Bang and Evolution.

     3. All science taught in Missouri public elementary and secondary schools, including material concerning physics, chemistry, biology, health, physiology, genetics, astronomy, cosmology, geology, paleontology, anthropology, ecology, climatology, or other science topics shall be standard science. All standard science course materials and instruction shall meet the following criteria:

    (1) If empirical data is taught, only such data which has been verified or is currently capable of being verified by observation or experimentation shall be taught. Data with the appearance of empirical data which has never been verified and is currently incapable of being verified shall be identified as nonverifiable when taught orally or in writing;

    In other words, if a scientist didn’t see it happen with their own eyes, then it’s ‘nonverifiable’.  That’s pretty interesting, because another common complain from creationists is that macroevolution isn’t verifiable.  Common descent isn’t verifiable.  Formation of different families and orders isn’t verifiable.  The Big Bang isn’t verifiable.

    The biggest problem with this language is by that same definition, intelligent design isn’t verifiable.  An intelligent designer isn’t verifiable.  etc.

    Again, they are shooting themselves in the foot with this bill.  They don’t get it, because that’s not what this bill is about.  This is, as all creationist bills are, a blatant attempt to defend Christianity from science in the high school (and university in this case) classroom.

    Another interesting point is that in definition (2) Biological Evolution, the author specifically says that

    Theory philosophically demands only naturalistic causes and denies the operation of any intelligence, supernatural event, God or theistic figure in the initial or subsequent development of life

    What makes this interesting is that the only other alternative offered (fallacy of the false dichotomy) is (3) “Biological intelligent design” (which is a new way to describe it and kind of oxymoronic).  So, since evolution specifically rejects god and the supernatural, then that must mean that intelligent design accepts god and the supernatural. That’s not stated, but it’s certainly implied by the language and definitions in the bill.

    Which makes the act illegal (again).

    I could go on, but this bill is fundamentally mistaken about what science is, how it works, and how it must be taught.

    Category: CreationismEvolutionGovernmentReligionSociety


    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat