There is a public view of science that it is impartial and unbiased. That is an idealized misconception that creation science seeks to turn to its advantage by depicting scientists as being dogmatic, thus eroding public confidence in science. Then when their critics point out that creationists are also biased, the usual response is something like, "Yes we are, but at least we are honest about it."
Now, it is quite true that science is a flawed and fallible human endeavor which has made many mistakes. And it is also quite true that scientists are fallible humans and that they have their biases as do all humans. And it is also true that not all scientists are honest and that some have perpetrated hoaxes. And the same is also quite true about creation science. But that does not put scientists and creationists, nor science and "creation science", on an equal footing.
Although both camps share many of the same human foibles that plague us all and everything that we do, there are still certain fundamental differences between science and creation science and between scientists and creationists on the whole. Fundamental differences that make all the difference in how those two human endeavors approach their research and scholarship, their mistakes, and their hoaxes.
The purpose of this web page is to present and examine those differences.
Science / Scientists ... Creation Science / Creationists ... What they are trying to do: 1a. The scientist is either trying to make a new discovery or to test or find corroborating evidence for a previous discovery, hypothesis, or theory. 1b. A creationist is normally not trying to make a new discovery, nor to test or find corroborating evidence for a previous claim. As rustyb puts so succintly in his signature, "I already know the Truth." There's little use in trying to discover something new about the "Truth" that you already know a priori, nor is there any use in testing it (which would probably be sacrilegious anyway), nor to try to add to its Completeness. Rather, what a creationist is normally trying to do is to come up with convincing claims and arguments against anything that appears to contradict "the Truth" that they already know. How they measure success: 2a. The success of the scientist's efforts depends directly on the quality of his research and on the validity of the studies that he bases his research on. Therefore, a scientist is motivated to verify his sources and to maintain high standards of scholarship. 2b. It doesn't matter whether that creationist had done a proper job of researching the claim, or had even researched it at all (though it does help to make it more convincing if there's something in the bibliography, even if that source had never actually been looked at -- remember that NASA document?). It doesn't matter if the claim or argument is valid, just that it sounds convincing; after all, the creationist already "knows" that it must be true. Scholarship 3a. Since scientists depend so much on the validity and quality of the work of other scientists, the scientific community is motivated to police itself against shoddy or falacious research. 3b. When you research some other creationist's claim, you're not depending on that claim being true or valid; you're only depending on that claim sounding convincing. How they handle dishonesty: 4a. Thus, a scientist who is discovered to be performing substandard or dishonest work loses his credibility and his standing in the scientific community. 4b. And if a claim is discovered to be false or a creationist is discovered to practice questionable methods, none of that matters, just so long as they still sound convincing. A creationist is far more likely to face censure for theological lapses than for shoddy or questionable scholarship. ditto 5a. 5b. Of course, if a claim starts drawing too much negative publicity, then it is no longer convincing and must be dropped, as quietly as possible, until everybody has forgotten about it, whereupon it can be resurrected and received as a "new" claim. How they handle mistakes: 6a. Mistakes and hoaxes will still happen in science, but the near-constant scrutiny and testing will uncover them. 6b. Mistakes and hoaxes will also happen in creation science, but in this case there is no mechanism in place to uncover them; indeed, there is much resistence to uncovering creationist mistakes and hoaxes.
At this point, there are a few possible directions I could take, but they both depend on each other, so it is difficult to develop one before I have developed the others. Please bear with me.
First, let us consider what these "convincing" claims and arguments are used for. Creationists can have many different motivations and their claims can serve a variety of purposes; this is actually a far more complex situation than most on either side would think. From the experience and observations of myself and those reported by others, I would say that the primary purposes of these claims are (of course, there are others, but these are the main ones):
Now, I included that last one because it does exist and, I believe, that most creationists start out with that as their primary purpose. While the exceptional ones, like Dr. Kurt Wise, are able to keep it as a principal, if not primary, purpose, most creationists get lured away by the other purposes and their rhetorics. Even then, many have not completely lost sight of that purpose and would still claim to follow it.
- to combat the influence of scientific ideas that appear to contradict certain theological ideas.
- to protect and strengthen one's own faith and the faith of others from the pernicious influence of scientific depravity, secularism, philosophical materialism, and any assortment of people, groups, and ideas that they perceive to be attacking Christianity.
- to proselytize by showing doubters that the evidence really supports Genesis and not science (regardless of whether it actually does or not).
- to claim to have scientific reasons to oppose the teaching of evolution and thus circumvent legal barriers against doing so solely for religious reasons and purposes.
- to sway public opinion enough in their favor.
- to learn how the physical evidence actually does support the literal truth of Genesis.
However, their actions rarely follow their avowed purpose. There is one thing that has perplexed their opponents, including myself. Now, as YECs, they believe that the earth is no older that 10,000 years, yet they repeatedly avoid committing to that age. We've both seen it done here repeatedly.
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First uploaded on 2001 December 06.
Updated on 2011 August 02.