Can all those scientists be wrong?
When creationists suggest to the average person that evolution is not scientifically viable, a common response is: “How can all those scientists be wrong?”
This is understandable. Most popular books, magazines, TV programs, movies and even ordinary conversation seem constantly to confirm that the big bang, the natural origin of life from primeval ooze, and the evolution of all living things from some original organism, are simply accepted by the scientists. It is believed that the only people to question these things are religious fanatics or the scientifically illiterate. So, can “all those scientists” be wrong? History certainly says they can.
Note that, without confirming data from experiment, or attempts at falsifying a scientific theory by antagonists’ observations and alternative theories, a scientist’s ideas can be strongly coloured by philosophical bias.1 This is especially so with interpretations of ‘evidence’ rather than direct observation of phenomena in the present, and applies particularly to theories about historical events such as the concept of evolution. Indeed, as we will see, not only one, but a whole body of scientists can see the world through a paradigm that is wrong at its root. That is because a scientist is like any other person in that one can hold a belief very strongly even in the face of strongly opposing evidence.2
Perhaps the best known scientists who went ‘against the trend’ are Galileo and Copernicus. The ‘majority of scientists’, who were their contemporaries, believed the earth was the centre of the universe, and all the heavenly bodies revolved around it. As with modern scientists and evolution, their belief was based on a philosophical idea, not observation. And they were wrong.
Galileo’s famous ‘fight’ with the church was not with the Bible, but with church leaders who followed what the scientists of their day held as scientific truth, and thus with the scientific community as a whole.3 Scientists held this belief even though continuously improving observations and calculations showed that there must be a flaw in the universally-accepted idea of ‘epicycles’ (heavenly bodies moving in circles within circles). It took a long time, and much published observational evidence from the newly-developed telescopes before the scientific community began to accept that they had believed in a faulty system—the earth was not the absolute rotational centre of the heavenly bodies.
Further observation through improved telescopes dismantled another universally-held belief of the time: that the heavenly bodies were perfect spheres, and moved in perfect circles. Irregularities were observed on the moon, indicating it was not a perfect sphere. Alarm! The earth’s orbit around the sun was an ellipse. More horror! “All those scientists” had been wrong. The very basis of their view of the universe was false.
Today scientists tell us that our universe burst into existence from nothing for no reason with a big bang. Is it not possible that all those scientists could also have a false view of our universe and its origin?
‘Phlogiston’ was used in the late 17th and early 18th centuries to explain how substances burned or rusted. It was believed (by ‘most scientists’) to be a substance contained in combustible materials, which came out when the object burned. It took the persistent work of several leading scientists of the day, including Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier, to demonstrate that burning was a chemical reaction, usually with oxygen. Substances that burned usually got heavier because of the added oxygen, rather than lighter from losing phlogiston. The majority were wrong.4 Later, Lavoisier was executed during the fanatically anti-Christian ‘reign of terror’ in France. One story goes that the sentencing judge said, “The Republic needs neither scientists nor chemists.”
Today most scientists believe that the basic chemicals of life (such as proteins) put themselves together in defiance of experimentally established chemical probabilities. Is it possible these scientists may also be wrong?
Alchemy5 is the idea that base metals (such as lead) could be turned into gold. This concept persisted for hundreds of years, and, although experiments directed at this goal led to the discovery of many interesting chemical substances, proper experiment proved it impossible (by chemical methods). Much money and time (and whole careers) were wasted on this wrong scientific idea, which blinded so many to other, more useful, possibilities.
Is it possible that scientists searching natural phenomena for the origin and variety of life are also wasting their time and energy on a futile exercise?
That wrong ideas can persist pervasively for hundreds of years is evident in the theory of ‘humours’.6 The basic concept goes all the way back to Aristotle (384–322 BC), but was clarified and popularized by the famous physician, Hippocrates (who originated the code of practice incorporating the ‘Hippocratic oath’ traditionally sworn by beginning doctors).
The concept was that the body has four basic fluids—bile (Greek chole), phlegm, black bile (Greek melanchole), and blood (Latin sanguis). These were supposed to correspond to four traditional temperaments: choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic, and sanguine. Under the theory, these four must be kept in balance for good health.
Mostly the recommended treatment for imbalance involved good diet and exercise, but sometimes laxatives and enemas were administered to help purge the unwanted ‘humour’ from the body. Similarly, if one had a fever, it was put down to an excess of blood, so the ‘cure’ was ‘bleeding’ of the patient (commonly by leeches), called bloodletting. Obviously, this ‘cure’ was often worse than the disease. Nevertheless, doctors persisted with it through the Middle Ages because no one was prepared to question Galen, the first-century physician, writer and philosopher who publicized the idea in his popular and authoritative writings. In spite of Galen’s example and teaching of observation and experiment, and mounting evidence that there was something wrong, it was common medical practice up to the late 19th century.
Again, they were wrong! Their whole view of the cause of disease was wrong, and all because they believed another scientist’s theories without question. This is like many scientists today who believe in evolution for no better reason than that other trusted scientists believe it.
Where do vermin come from? Do cockroaches, rats, and maggots just ‘appear’ out of rotting vegetable matter and animal waste, or even from rocks? For a long time it was believed that they did, even by famous thinkers such as Aristotle (4th century BC). The idea was called ‘spontaneous generation’ and regarded as a fact into the mid-19th century.7 It took a creationist scientist, Louis Pasteur (1822–1895), to prove that life comes only from life, a process called ‘biogenesis’. Those who believed in spontaneous generation were wrong.
Today, in spite of Pasteur’s proof, and our continuing observations, many scientists still believe in abiogenesis (that all life has come from non-living chemicals). How that could happen is called (by evolutionists) a ‘mystery’, because it defies chemistry, but they still believe it. Why?
Science is not decided by majority vote!
Actually, a major reason most scientists believe in evolution is that most scientists believe in evolution! This is a type of ‘confirmation bias’: the alleged scientific consensus was reached by counting heads, which themselves reached their conclusion by counting heads. If most of them were asked for actual evidence, they would likely give very weak answers outside their field of expertise.
For example, one of the world’s leading experts on fossil birds—and a staunch critic of the dino-to-bird dogma, is Dr Alan Feduccia, Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina. He remains an evolutionist, however, yet when challenged, his prime ‘proof’ was corn changing into corn!8
As the famous author Michael Crichton (1942–2008), who had a previous career in medicine and science, said:
“Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
“There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”9
Nevertheless, like the believers in epicycles, and phlogiston, and humours, and spontaneous generation, many scientists today believe in evolution. Can so many be wrong? History says ‘yes’. Mounting evidence in genetics, molecular biology, information theory, cosmology and other areas all say ‘yes’. These scientists believe in the dominant paradigm, naturalism, in spite of the evidence against it. They don’t wish to confront the idea of a Creator, but, as in the past, honest appraisal of the evidence of operational science will prove them wrong; the Creator will be vindicated (Romans 1:18–22).
References and notes
- Sarfati, J., Refuting Evolution, ch. 1, 4th ed., Creation Book Publishers, 2008; creation.com/refutingch1. Return to text.
- Walker, T., Challenging dogmas: Correcting wrong ideas, Creation 34(2):6, 2012; creation.com/challenging-dogmas. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., Galileo Quadricentennial: Myth vs fact, Creation 31(3):49–51, 2009; creation.com/galileo-quadricentennial. Return to text.
- phlogiston, Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2012; Britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/456974/phlogiston. Return to text.
- Alchemy, answers.com/topic/alchemy. Return to text.
- From Greek χυμός (chumos) meaning juice or sap; Humours, Science Museum; sciencemuseum.org.uk. Return to text.
- What is spontaneous generation? allaboutscience.org. Spontaneous Generation; allaboutthejourney.org/spontaneous-generation.htm. Return to text.
- Discover Dialogue: Ornithologist and evolutionary biologist Alan Feduccia plucking apart the dino-birds, Discover 24(2), February 2003; see also creation.com/4wings. Return to text.
- Crichton, M., Aliens cause global warming, 17 January 2003 speech at the California Institute of Technology; s8int.com/crichton.html. Return to text.