Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Creation as Science - Part I, Preclass

Perhaps this will be a mistake I can only look back on some day and fret. Perhaps not. Before we begin a little back story to smooth out the worry lines of my dear readership.

I have been invited to a bible study, 12 weeks long, one of which was already passed. The first class was an intro to the author, Hugo Ross and his role as an author, astronomer and allegedly valid source of information. I have decided to attend in part to see just what kind of stuff is being handed around, but also because it will be an interesting experience and provide some conversational fodder for me and the inlaws.

Note that Natalie's parents will be in attendance as well.

The book that outlines the framework for the series is listed in the post title with the byline "A testable model approach to end the creation/evolution wars"

Already my skeptic senses are tingling. Mixing and mashing science and religion together is a bit like flavoring mashed potatoes with light sweet crude. I know the hydrocarbons are similar to those in butter but the taste...well it leaves much to be desired.

The dorsal jacket proclaims that the author's intent is to show that any claim for creation/formation must be verifiable/falsifiable to be considered. Already the alarm bells are growing deafening as the jacket further asserts striking harmony between bleeding edge scientific research and biblical accounts of creation. Hmmm. The conclusion is that creation (the same 'creation' part of creationism) is a testable scientific theory that can advance human knowledge as well spark a resurgence in the scientific enterprise.

Funny, I wonder what has kept science thriving and humming along for the past few hundred years.

At any rate I am sure to encounter some face palm phrases and diabolical doublethink but I am going to try and keep an open mind about the ideas put forward. After all I would love to see the reconciliation of believers and atheists, if I wasn't curious I would not be reading the book nor attending the classes. Let's begin with the introduction.

Introduction - Sifting fact from fiction
We start off admirably neutral with some examples of hysteria from the War of the World's broadcast and how people flew off the handle because they thought it was real. I get it. We establish that although the event was fictional people had very strong reactions because they thought it was real.

Segment - The Two Hundred Year's War - begins by saying that the 'war' of science and faith has raged for 200 years now and that opposing sides hold contradictory beliefs. I would argue that intelligent humanists have existed since the days of the greeks and probably existed long before that (as long as religion I will wager) However I mention this because it's not a war just because ideas are clashing. Science marches forth like a juggernaut and people try to slow it down and trip it up whenever it raises a foot to their faith.

Next segment 'about the book' makes something of a faux pas in the scientific world. Quoting Aristotle is always dangerous but in this case especially so. The quoted segment is "everything must be affirmed or denied, and that a thing cannot be and not be." Well, tell that to Schroedinger's cat. This is a worrisome quote because right of the bat we see indifference or ignorance of quantum mechanics.

The next few paragraphs state an intention of promoting dialog and discussion rather than screeds from opposing sides. I am happy to hear that at least. The author then touches on how we can seperate factual information from farcical nonsense. Basically you gather data, analyze it using various tests and from the observations we should be able to predict future outcomes based on what we infer. It's the scientific method in a nutshell but the author goes on to plug the Reason To Believe or RTB creation model.

I am at present unfamiliar with the RTB creation model but again I cannot ignore the skepticism tingle crawling down my spine. Presupposition is the enemy of good science and since the model conforms not to an independently verifiable source but to a preexisting bit of scripture I can only express concern. However, mind open, lights on and fingers at the ready.

The segment ends with a summary of the rest of the book which I'll not relist here. I decided to forego jumping into the chapters and instead want to look a bit deeper at the author himself.

So I did some google work.

Bio at RTB
Other books

Now those three links represent a huge quantum of information so I will condense a few key points to remark on.

Mr. Ross is an old-earth creationist. This label speaks volumes but in the interest of not pigeon- holing anyone. He seems to believe (and brace yourself for cognitive dissonance, crank yer mental inertial dampeners up) that beliefs should hold up to evidence in a falsifiable and verifiable. That's good. However one can only wonder how sincere this wish is given the conclusions he draws.

Just flipping through the booklist we begin to see a lot of apologetics and a lot of science-confirms-the-words-of-biblical-scripture type of stuff. This is worrisome though at this point I have no delved into the meat of the book in question.

I would like to point out some positives however. The man seems to have a decent understanding of some scientific principles and a flexible yet firm disregard when it comes to marrying them to scripture. There are few deal breakers that I will consider for premature withdrawl or outright antagonism but the following points cannot be dismissed by any reasonable person.

1) The universe is about 14 billion years old
2) The earth is about 4.5 billion years old.
3) Life arose on this planet or was carried here from the immediate solar vicinity.
4) Since it began life has evolved through natural selection and mutation.
5) The dominant theories governing physics, biology and chemistry cannot be suspended, reversed or altered to suit any biblical assertion whatsoever.

6) This is a restatement of point 5, miracles can never supplant naturalistic observations for the explanation of key events throughout history regardless of source, date or popularity.

The next post will cover Chapters 1-3 and the first meeting I attend will relate to those chapters.

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