Monday, September 27, 2004

I'm on a science kick. Last week it was the election, next week it'll be russian history, but this week it's science. So humor me.

I've been reading some scientific things lately, and thinking about where I've come from, where I've been, and where I might be heading. In high school, I was pretty much convinced that evolutionary theory was a huge mistake, a lie propagated by the atheistic community to undermine the theistic worldview. In college, I backed away from this view, discovering something called intelligent design theory, or more specifically theistic evolution. And here's why: the overwhelming majority of scientists who find themselves researching and publishing in today's world are evolutionists (not Darwinists, mind you) in some form or another. That is to say, the don't give a crap about creationism, unless they have the opportunity to belittle it in front of those who adhere to it.

As any objective viewer might comment, it seems a landslide victory in favor of the theory of evolution. But there's something about the use of a word like landslide that should make the observer go, "hmmmm...." A landslide depicts an overwhelming rush of something, in our case scientific evidence supporting evolution, that overpowers something else -- again, in our case, creationism. Any sort of landslide is overpowering, but when it's used in reference to social creatures, say humans, for instance, it almost inexorably leads to an air of pride and arrogance.

Sometimes even, in the aftermath of a landslide victory, those who have "slid" over the minority begin to ignore it, because the majority has covered or defeated it so completely. We can see this in all kinds of intellectual thought, but maybe, to take a page from current affairs, we see it most visibly in the political arena. Public officials often see their way as the best way, because a majority of citizens voted for them into office (never mind that since a majority of citizens fail to vote, it's actually a majority of the minority that elected them in the first place). Elections don't even have to have had landslidic results for this particular view to take shape, as we can see from the presidential election of 2000. The point is, just because you win, or are currently winning, doesn't mean you are right.

Which brings us back to evolution, and why I will always have a soft spot for creationism. If we say that for every 1000 scientists (of any stripe), 999 of them use old earth evolutionary theory as the lens with which they interpret their results, that would leave us with 1 scientist out of 1000 that are interpreting data with young earth creationist theory. (And by young I mean no more than 10,000 years old. Everything after that is, in this particular case, just old).

Though to be honest, the ratio is of young earthers to old earthers is probably much greater than that (meaning there are far more than 999 evolutionists for every creationist). For all practical purposes, this means that evolutionists will always overpower creationists in terms of field work, research, funding, and publishing (both popular and technical). The masses (myself included) will accept their truth as universal, and any other ideas as crackpot, or, if they're trying to be polite, obscure. Students will always be indoctrinated with popular notions, as it doesn't much make sense to indoctrinate them with anything else. And the cycle will repeat, over and over, until we find a petrified dinosaur with a petrified human in his petrified stomach. Which by all current scientific accounts, will never happen.

But what if, suddenly, for some strange reason, all new scientific discoveries in biology, geology paleontology, astronomy, and everything else that ends in om- or og- y were interpreted throughout the lenses of young earth theory? What if Genesis 1 and 2 were discovered to have some secret code that predicted the War of 1812, the invention of the submarine, and the breakup of the Beatles, thus making it a divinely inspired scientific document? What if every discovery was made based on the assumption of apparent age and a universal flood and a six-day creation?

Or perhaps less fasciously, would creationism suddenly make a whole lot more sense if just 1 percent of scientists were young earthers? What would our textbooks look like if just 10 percent of scientists believed the earth was less than 10,000 years old? How would our scientific journals read if there was even 50-50 split between old earth scientists and young earth ones? Would the increased competition make for better science? Or at the very least, for more treacherous debate on Nova and the Discovery Channel?

The point is that young earth science isn't bad science because it's wrong (although it might very well be). For all intents and purposes, it's bad science because most scientists tell us it's wrong. Pure and simple. In the grand scheme of things, creationists could either turn out to be Galileos, or some other young European man we've never heard of because his ideas were so fabulously wrong that no one remembers him! All evidence points to the contrary, but to be fair, look where that evidence is coming from.

This isn't to mean that I completely and wholeheartedly approve of creationism, and wish it were taught in public schools alongside evolution. Personally, I think creationism takes extreme liberties not just with science, but with biblical interpretation as well. But because evolution is so entwined with naturalism and materialism, I'm naturally inclined to be skeptical of it as well. Of course, there is a middle ground with intelligent design and theistic evolution, but who's to say they're not clinging to a particular side a little too tightly for reasons of emotion or intellect?

In the end, I know nothing. Mostly, because I'm not a scientist. But partly, because even if I were, I'd still be duped into one side of the debate from the get-go. It's hard to study science if you don't buy into the Big Bang, macroevolution, microevolution, apparent age, intelligent design, or young earth creationism. In fact, even though I'm no expert, I'd say it's pretty near impossible. Which is why I'm not a scientist, and why I lean toward the side that nearly everybody's on, the landslide side, the side that devoured the competition whole, but still have certain sympathies for the side that everyone makes fun, derides and rejects, the side got devoured and is having a hard time making its scientific case from the belly of its captor. Someday though, it might burst forth like the little baby aliens Sigorney Weaver used to spend so much time trying to kill. That would be nice. In all likelihood though, it'll just be excreted quietly on a Tuesday afternoon a few years from now, which is to say, it'll be pooped out and we won't hear from it again.

But here's pulling for the poop.


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