Does CMI misunderstand how science works?
Published: 24 April 2010 (GMT+10)
Paleontological excavation of Megatherium footprints in South America. Charles Darwin found fossilized remains of the creature during his famous journey on the Beagle—but would he have changed his mind about fossilization processes if he had found these footprints? Image from The Voyage that Shook the World
Roger W from the United States wrote in to claim that CMI misunderstands the way science works based on our article on fish-to-tetrapod evolution. His email is printed in full, followed by a response by CMI’s Information Officer, Lita Cosner.
You wrote about the latest news on fish tetrapod evolution using these quotes to further your point that science can be wrong.
* “They force a radical reassessment of the timing, ecology and environmental setting of the fish-tetrapod transition, as well as the completeness of the body fossil record.”
* “[It] will cause a significant reappraisal of our understanding of tetrapod origins.”
* “[They] could lead to significant shifts in our knowledge of the timing and ecological setting of early tetrapod evolution.”
* “We thought we’d pinned down the origin of limbed tetrapods. We have to rethink the whole thing.”
* “That’s surprising, but this is what the fossil evidence tells us.”
* “These results force us to reconsider our whole picture of the transition from fish to land animals.”
But that is the way science works. As they make discoveries wrong ideas are discarded and the theory improved. If too much ends up being discarded, the entire theory would be tossed out.If any information contradicts information in the bible would you change your mind? Nope! What is in the bible is the final word and that is being inflexible and not good science.
Dear Roger W,
Thanks for your email. Indeed, science works, in theory, by discarding old theories in favor of new ones which better explain the universe. CMI has even cited this process defending changes that creationist science has undergone (see for example Arguments we think creationists should NOT use).
But what happens in practice is that a scientific theory has lots of auxiliary hypotheses attached to it, so if something appears to contradict the theory, the auxiliary hypothesis can be changed, leaving the major theory virtually unchanged. For instance, when unfossilized soft tissue/protein in dinosaur bones was discovered, the thought process could go like this:
Unfossilized tissue was found in a dinosaur bone, therefore;
This dinosaur bone is not millions of years old OR unfossilized tissue can survive intact for millions of years.
The idea that dinosaurs lived fairly recently would be a serious challenge to the evolutionary paradigm, so it is comparatively easier for an evolutionist to say that under some extraordinary circumstances, by some hitherto unknown mechanism, unfossilized tissue can be preserved. In a few years, we can expect that this idea, which contradicts not only common sense but the currently known physics and chemistry of how long the relevant proteins would last, will become common knowledge in scientific circles, and evolutionist scientists will attack creationists for saying that this is evidence of dinosaurs living recently, because of course we all know that tissue can survive for millions of years.
So the theory of evolution is unfalsifiable in the minds of evolutionists, because all these auxiliary hypotheses can take the brunt of the force of any new discovery that challenges it, leaving evolution itself intact. In fact, one could say that they are being as dogmatic as those who take the Bible’s teaching as the final word. One of the speakers at CMI has put it this way; most evolutionists are totally willing to change their ideas of how evolution may have occurred in the light of new evidence, but not whether. Even Darwin’s mechanism could potentially be abandoned—but only if a new one was there to replace it. For them, the ‘big picture’ that is not negotiable is a world that made itself, by its own processes and properties, without any divine assistance. So both creationists and evolutionists have inflexible ‘big pictures’ (paradigms, based on axioms or presuppositions), but are prepared to modify the details. Of course, people are in principle free to abandon their axioms.
Creation Ministries International