Falsification, scientific theory and creationism

Charles Darwin. 1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in....
Charles Darwin. 1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in. or smaller. From a photograph by Elliott & Fry. 

I have seen many creationist books that  used the principle of falsification as a way to claim that the evolution theory is not true because it cannot be falsified.

Yet I believe that the evolution theory is a sound scientific theory, and can indeed be falsified. When creationist talk about the principle of falsification they should remember several things.

  1. Hypothesis are tested in bundles: Theories do not stand on there own. Most of the time, several theories make up the whole framework of statements, theories, etc. In the case of the evolution theory we see many theories which combined are the Darwinist theory of evolution by means of natural selection.

A framework of theories like the evolution theory should fulfill three major criteria.

  1. The individual theories are able to be falsified
  2. The science in general should be productive and give new insight to old problems, and at the same time give rise to new questions and solutions.
  3. The framework should be unified.

Those three principles have to be found in evolution theory to call it a solid scientific theory. The first principle can be easily shown for every single theory and because I do not know every single theory, I cannot say that this is true. The second principle can be seen in the many questions that have risen in the field of evolution.  And also the origin of evolutionary psychology  and evolutionary economy show that the evolution theory is productive. The final principle can be found in the fact that the evolution theory shows again and again the same type of reasoning. The evolution theory is therefore unified.

A sound scientific theory loses its credibility when the cornerstones under the theory are shown to be falsified. Then the building will collapse, or new key theories will be developed to account for the changes. That’s science! A continuous building up and down of theories.

Creationists need to give the evolution theory credit where credit is due. Yet at the same time it is my opinion that based on a biblical world view I cannot say that the evolution theory is true. A more deepened christian view on science is desperately needed, which needs to show that creationism is not just folklore, or pseudoscience,  but has on its own also explanatory value.

When creationists show that the biblical view has explanatory value and could indeed explain the vast complexity and different things that are around use, and fulfill the above marked principles of a solid scientific theory then creationism could be called scientific.

As of now, I think that creationism is not real science, but can only be placed into the category of pseudoscience. Still it is known that pseudoscience can become a ‘real science’.

For one moment think of how many sciences you know that first were pseudoscience, and are now proliferating scientific disciplines?

There’s hope for us all.








7 thoughts on “Falsification, scientific theory and creationism

  1. Imagine if after “On the Origin” had been published biology said “we’ll that’s settled then” and promptly did no further research into evolution. All of the benefits you mentioned, most of the biological advances of the last century and half would not have happened. Generating and testing new ideas based on an existing framework is crucial to the advancement of science, you don’t just create a theory and declare your work done.

    Yet that is the approach I see many creationist organisations. The closest they get to original ideas is squeezing new discoveries post-hoc into the Genesis account. The latest Institute for Creation Research newsletter, for example, contains 13 articles yet only one of these is about research they are actively doing. The rest are trying to fit mainstream science stories into Genesis.

    As long as real, productive science remains unimportant to creationists so creationism will remain unimportant to science.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Adam.

    You say that generating and testing new ideas is crucial to the advance of science. Yet, I also think that not all creationists are just poning theories. When for example looking at baraminology, the current baraminology model is not the one that was developed half a century ago. Which is indeed a key characteristic of science.

    In your comment you refered to the fact that most of the creationist organisations are publishing “adaptions” of mainstraim science. I do not see why that is a problem.

    For example consider the use of genomics in creation science. Why shouldn’t people use that information that mainstream science has provided? There’s no shame in that!

    I think the question secular science should ask is whether creationists want that creationism is important to science. Most creationists are just trying to confirm their Biblical world-view and there is one thing that rules all, that’s faith.

    1. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there is no original creation research just that it isn’t done very often. The lone ICR article I mentioned still exists, it’s the fact that it is the only one in that issue which is relevant. For a further example, note that Answers in Genesis publishes ~16 research articles in their journal but several “press release”-type articles each day. My dissertation supervisor alone publishes about half that number each year.

      It is that “press release” publications I refer to when I mentioned the post-hoc co-opting of existing research earlier. I do agree that using data gathered by others in research is not a bad thing, but churning out comment pieces which introduce no new ideas, analyses or research doesn’t really add anything to science.

      Of course, there is a place for press releases and commentary in the world (after all, that’s all my blog is really). However, when the vast majority of an organisation’s (which purports to do research) output is such commentary I think their priorities are mixed up. And I think you hit the nail on the head as to why: most people just want to confirm their faith and most creationist organisations just want to give them “plausible deniability” of research regarding evolution via these press releases so they can continue to do.

      Until creation research organisations start undertaking significant amounts of original science the whole affair will remain little more than pseudoscience.

  3. Adam

    I agree with you. Those organizations have millions to spend, but produce either articles for education purposes or commentary on developments that happen within mainstream science. There’s room for that, but for undergraduates like me, it’s frustrating to see that they just try to spin a story in a way that it fits in a creationist world-view.

    Often they mis-interpret things a lot. That happens when you have more science writers working for you than actual scientists. Another point is that those organizations don’t need to do actual research. The general public won’t notice the difference.

    But one way or another, those organizations have to take into account the need of their customers. Otherwise they do not get money and hardly have the resources to write a decent research article. I guess it is a interplay of social factors that caused those organisations to behave in this way.

    It’s true that creation science as a whole is pseudoscience, but this greatly depends on what you would call science. When science is defined as taking a scientific approach with testable hypotheses towards a particular subject, than creationism, as little as it is, has to be called science.

    But for that indeed original science is needed.

  4. I agree on almost every point. They aren’t doing enough original research, what they are doing is mostly rubbish and they’re maintaining this state of affairs to appeal to their customers. AiG wrote a rebuttal to one of my articles once. It was horrible, missing out crucial data and facts to cherry pick supporting evidence. But that was enough, and I had dozens of comments chastising me for being an evil evolutionist.

    The thing is they don’t seem to want to change the status quo. These are multi-million dollar organisations and if they diverted even a fraction of their funding to science I’d be willing to bet they could improve things immeasurably without sacrificing much of their regular output. Evolutionary anthropology is something of a fringe subject so my university department gets very little funding. In fact, I’d wager AiG could buy us out with the ~2 million profit they made in 2008. And despite this, as I mentioned, a single researcher here matches half of AiGs entire research output.

    Whilst they do have to appeal to the public they could still be doing so much more. They aren’t. This is bad. But if they did more could it be science? Hard to say. For example, there are two kinds of chiropractics. Those who believe in unscientific “innate energy” and try to unblock energy channels in the spine; and those who use science and evidence and treat the affair as a form of physiotherapy. Does the latter legitimise the former? Can the decent work of Todd Wood save Nathaniel Jeanson’s failings? These are all issues I’d be interested in hearing you discuss.

  5. Adam, these are indeed intriging questions to be considered. But I haven’t made my mind up yet about that. On one hand I see that good science is always applauded (except by some people of course) and on the other hand I see that the unscientific writings of many haunt the people that actually do science. For example consider this , when I quoted a respons from Todd Wood to an article that was published several months ago, on my blog two days ago.


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