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"Blasphemy" Comes Before "Science" in the Dictionary

Image of creation of Earth by God

Creationists believe that the Earth and the universe in which it sits are only about 6000 years old.

By Peter Bowditch

Could there be a greater abuse of both science and Christianity than creationism?

Some years ago Australian geologist Prof Ian Plimer wrote a book about creationism called Telling Lies for God. On a Sunday night when I had nothing better to do I went to a meeting where someone from the Answers in Genesis Ministry (now Creation Ministries International) did just that.

The speaker started out by saying that he wasn’t there to rubbish “evolutionists” and atheists because everyone was entitled to an opinion. He then went on to accuse the theory of evolution of being responsible for abortion, homosexuality, divorce, war and most of the other ills of the world. We were told that we would be shown scientific evidence that would completely refute evolution and the false science on which it was based, and that this evidence would lead to the conclusion that the Earth and the universe in which it sits are only about 6000 years old.

The quality of this “scientific evidence” was embarrassing, and the only charitable position to take was that the speaker was abysmally ignorant of even the most basic science. The alternatives were that he was either extremely stupid (which did not appear to be the case) or that he was prepared to deliberately deceive people who were somewhat illiterate in science. Just about everything except the Paluxy footprints was produced as evidence, but one particular piece of sophistry is a good example of how obfuscation can be used to the advantage of someone who doesn’t know or care about the truth.

One of the ways that creationists attack evolution is to try to prove that the tools used to show that the Earth is very old are faulty. The example used in this case was a test on sediments laid down in or near Spirit Lake by the 1980 eruption of Mount St Helen’s. These were dated using

potassium–argon dating, and the result indicated that they were millions of years old. Therefore, radioactive dating is faulty as the real age of these deposits is known.

It was pointed out that this was an inappropriate use of that technique as the half-lives of the elements in the decay chain are so long that it is only useful for dating rocks that are at least tens of millions of years old. The speaker talked around the point for some time, and finally demanded proof that the rates of radioactive decay have not changed over time. It has been truly said that creationism is not just an attack on biology but on all science and all knowledge.

Another example of the dishonest approach of creationists could be found on the table of merchandise at the back of the room. There was the usual array of books containing “facts” that have been refuted many times (and even some “facts” that the creationists say should not be exploited any more).

Prominent among all this was a stack of videos entitled From a Frog to a Prince. It has been an open secret for many years that this video contains a deliberate deception, but it is still on sale. Briefly, biologist Richard Dawkins was deceived into being interviewed for the tape (he has a policy of never giving interviews to creationists). He was asked a question that revealed the true purpose of the interview, so he stopped speaking for a while to recover his temper. When the tape was finally released for sale, it had been edited to make it appear as if Dawkins could not answer the question (despite it being the topic of a chapter in a book he had just written) and that he had gone on to give a completely irrelevant answer.

Could there be a greater abuse of both science and Christianity than creationism? Saying that chapters 1 to 11 of Genesis make up a science text book is not only an affront to scientists, atheists, non-

Christians and non-believers, but is deeply insulting to the intellect of the many theologians and believers who see the Bible as an inspired work of literature that explains the relationship between God and Man.

I am an atheist, but if I ever felt the need for a god I would want him, her or it to be the sort of being who could use a tool like evolution to carry on the process of creation. There is much to wonder at and be in awe of in the universe, but creationists deny this wonder and they belittle and ridicule the achievements of both man and their God.

I cannot put this better than Charles Darwin did in the final sentence of On The Origin of Species: “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved”.

Peter Bowditch is Immediate Past President of Australian Skeptics Inc. (www.skeptics.com.au).