The Controversy: Religion or Science?
Why does it matter that mainstream science contradicts religious views of the origins of life? In most cases, it doesn't -- one person may base his understanding of the origins of life on the teachings of the Bible, while another may base his understanding of the origins of life on the teachings of science. Each is simply a framework for understanding what we see in the world. But the movement in the United States to teach creationism in public-school science classes (where students learn about the scientific framework) makes the contradiction relevant, because theories developed through the scientific method defy arguments set forth in what has become known as "creation science."
This raises the question: What makes a theory "scientific"?
According to Jose Wudka, Professor of Physics at the University of California, Riverside, the scientific method works like this:
- Observe some aspect of the universe.
- Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.
- Use the hypothesis to make predictions.
- Test those predictions by experimentation or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between [hypothesis] and experiment and/or observation.
When consistency is obtained, the hypothesis becomes a theory and provides a coherent set of propositions which explain a class of phenomena. A theory is then a framework within which observations are explained and predictions are made.
The scientific framework hinges on observability and "falsifiability" -- in science, falsifiability is the possibility of observing something that would prove the theory false. For instance, the statement "Plants can only survive if they have access to sunlight" is falsifiable because someone could observe a plant surviving in total darkness, which would prove the statement false. The statement "God created plants to require sunlight" is not falsifiable because there is no possibility of someone making an observation that would prove the statement false.
Scientific evidence -- that is, evidence obtained using the scientific framework -- in favor of the theory of evolution and an "old earth" includes:
The code used to translate nucleotide sequences into amino acid sequences is essentially the same in all organisms. Moreover, proteins in all organisms are invariably composed of the same set of 20 amino acids.
According to the scientific community, there is no scientific evidence in favor of creationism; there is a Biblical record and there are holes in the theory of evolution. However, scientists note that citing holes in the theory of evolution is setting forth negative as opposed to positive evidence: The holes in evolution are proof only of holes, not of any particular competing theory. There is nothing to test for in "creation science" -- it is impossible to prove or disprove the presence of God or miraculous occurrences using the scientific method. Most scientists believe this makes creationism a metaphysical or philosophical theory, not a scientific one.
To learn more about creationism, evolution, intelligent design and related topics, check out the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links
- National Academy of Sciences: The Origin of the Universe, Earth, and Life
- ReligiousTolerance.org: Beliefs of World Religions About Evolution & Creation
- Talk.Origins: What is Creationism?
- Young Earth Creation Club
- The Flat-out Truth -- an interview with Charles K. Johnson, president of the International Flat Earth Research Society
- "The Origin of the Universe, Earth, and Life." National Academy of Sciences. http://books.nap.edu/html/creationism/index.html
- Isaak, Mark. "What is Creationism?" Talk.Origins. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/wic.html
- The Flat Earth Society http://www.alaska.net/~clund/e_djublonskopf/Flatearthsociety.htm
- "What is the 'scientific method'?" Relativity, Space-Time and Cosmology at University of California, Riverside. http://phyun5.ucr.edu/~wudka/Physics7/Notes_www/node6.html#SECTION02121000000000000000
- Young Earth Creation Club http://www.creationists.org/
- "Young Earth Creationism." AbsoluteAstronomy.com. http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/encyclopedia/y/yo/young_earth_creationism.htm
- "Gap Creationism." AbsoluteAstronomy.com. http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/encyclopedia/g/ga/gap_creationism.htm
- "Day-Age Creationism." AbsoluteAstronomy.com. http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/encyclopedia/d/da/day-age_creationism1.htm
- "Modern Geocentrism." AbsoluteAstronomy.com. http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/encyclopedia/m/mo/modern_geocentrism.htm
- "Progressive Creationism." AbsoluteAstronomy.com. http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/encyclopedia/p/pr/progressive_creationism.htm
- "Evolutionary Creationism." AbsoluteAstronomy.com. http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/encyclopedia/e/ev/evolutionary_creationism.htm
- "Islamic Creationism." AbsoluteAstronomy.com. http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/encyclopedia/i/is/islamic_creationism.htm
- "Beliefs of World Religions About Evolution & Creation." ReligiousTolerance.org. http://www.religioustolerance.org/ev_denom2.htm