Feedback archive → Feedback 2004, 2006

Presuppositions required for science, ‘Christian’ v atheist atrocities, defending the faith

Correcting a severe misconception about the creation model
A good communicator and a good witness

The main response is to a critic who took exception to Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s detailed response to an anticreationist called Dr Lawrence Lerner, Who’s really pushing bad science? His response defends the important difference between operational and origins science. There is also a brief exchange about why atrocities in the name of Christ are no parallel to those in the name of evolution — the former are inconsistent with Christ’s teachings while the latter are not inconsistent with evolution. But the main teaching point in the response is the commonly overlooked metascientific issues — the propositions required for science to work in the first place. The point is that these propositions are deducible from the axioms of the Bible, while atheists must merely accept them as given because they can’t deduce them from their axiom ‘God does not exist.’ The strong Christian roots of the birth of modern science is a very well kept secret in much of the media and education system.

A second response is a type of meta-feedback — a feedback on the feedback responses, in particular, to some of the angrier critics as well as to churchians who yoke with a theory that is a major crutch for the atheistic faith.

To whom it may concern,

Dr Jonathan Sarfati has outlined a very carefully worded and closely reasoned argument as to the differences between “operational science”, as he calls it, and “origin science” (in the article Who’s really pushing bad science?).

These terms are not my inventions. And I clearly demonstrated why there is a fundamental distinction.

It seems to me, however, that his efforts would be better spent on an overall examination of his ideas than on a scathing—but very narrowly focused—indictment of Lawrence Lerner,

I write a lot on a wide range of topics, so it is not really fair to attack any particular article as “narrowly focused”. Indeed, it is only natural that any given article is “narrowly focused”, since it is supposed to deal with the topic at hand.

who does make himself vulnerable to such treatment in several instances.

Well, yes, and if he wants to lead with his chin, you can’t blame us for reacting accordingly ;)

Specifically, my proposal is this: if a six-day creation is the true paradigm for understanding the origin of species, “operational” science by its very nature will be unable to deny the truth of that fact.

Of course. So why do so many people claim that science contradicts biblical creation? And that was the whole point of why I said that creation and evolution are matters of origins science.

If Dr Sarfati wishes to contribute to this debate in a meaningful way—to be the Galileo or Mendel of creationism, so to speak—his efforts would be better spent on investigation than on Internet soapbox sermons.

Rather, your efforts might be better spent in reading what I actually say rather than reading them superficially then resorting to “poisoning the well”. And you should also have taken note of what we often say about investigations needing a framework of interpretation. It matters not whether I or an evolutionist makes the investigation—this becomes public property, and it is perfectly legitimate to show why it makes best sense under a biblical framework.

Dr Sarfati knows, and indeed quotes in the article mentioned above, that the central premise of scientific inquiry is provisional truth: as he quotes Lerner, For the scientist, truth is never final. It is always tentative, always based on a finite amount of available information, and always amendable in the light of new information, of which there is no predeterminable limit.

And that demonstrates the folly of compromising churchians marrying their theology with today’s science, because they will be widowed tomorrow.

Thus, every scientific theory, even one as allegedly “dogmatized” as the theory of natural selection, is only provisionally true. An old professor of mine, a primatologist who does most of his research in central Africa—and whose whole body of work might never have happened without the existence of evolutionary theory—had an extraordinary saying that’s stuck in my mind. It went something like this: “Every time I go into the field, I am looking for that one piece of evidence that will DISPROVE the theory of natural selection.”

I’m not sure what he could mean by that. Natural selection is a description of an observable process, so is part of true operational science. In fact, it was proposed by creationists such as Edward Blyth 25 years before Darwin, and is an important part of the Creation-Fall-Flood dispersion model, as I explain in Variation and natural selection versus evolution. This doesn’t mean it is the only explanation of any observation.

And this is central to how respectable science actually does work in all cases: the investigator is always trying to prove the null hypothesis—i.e. the opposite of the hypothesis he has proposed. This kind of rigorous testing, repeated many times by many scientists, rather than the mere collection of facts which seem to support a conclusion, is the nature of scientific inquiry.

All this is fine for operational science, precisely because it involves repeatable observations. (However it is a bit of a naïve, high school textbook view about how real science operates—see If you are truly scientists …). This is precisely why it doesn’t apply to origins science. Furthermore, such rigorous testing means dealing with probabilities (statistical analysis). Such analysis can only be done with unbiased repeated measurements so that the degree of natural variation can be properly accounted for. This is not possible with historical/origins science.

Given the nature of what Dr Sarfati refers to as “operational science,” it seems inevitable that, if he is correct, the theory of natural selection will be disproven and a six-day creation will be advanced as the new paradigm.

No it won’t—as I said, natural selection is part of the six-day creation paradigm, which was so fruitful in the origin of modern operational science, as explained in the article in question—Creationist contributions to science.

After all, as he tirelessly points out, specific aspects of natural selection are always coming up for debate. The idea of punctuated equilibrium has come in and out of favor as new evidence comes in, for example, and this would not be possible if the scientific community were as dogmatic and fixated as Dr Sarfati seems to believe.

Not at all, as I explained very carefully in the article in question—The belief system behind evolution. Sure, they can dispute the fine details of evolution, but not the underlying paradigm of naturalism.

He treads on even more questionable ground by blaming such things as “social Darwinism” on the theory of natural selection.

Backdrop: two first cousins: Charles Darwin (left) and Francis Galton; Foreground: Adolf Hitler
Backdrop: two first cousins: Charles Darwin (left) and Francis Galton (right). Foreground: Adolf Hitler, the best known proponent of their ideas.
Don’t shoot the messenger (cf. Sophocles, Antigone, ‘no-one delights in the bearer of bad news’). The leading founders of Darwinism were also social Darwinists, as were many of its earliest leading advocates as well as many even today. They include:
Unfortunately, that’s about as logical as blaming the Ku Klux Klan on Christianity

The latter is definitely illogical—remember the KKK bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, 15 September 1963, which killed four black girls. This shows once more the virulently anti-Christian attitudes held by fanatical racists.

as in both cases, the problem arises in a self-serving misinterpretation of the ideas involved. As he points out, Noah’s alleged curse on the descendants of Ham is a very questionable basis for racism—but nonetheless, that justification has been used by racists for centuries.

How can one even talk about a “misuse” of the Bible when these racists were invoking something not mentioned in the Bible at all? We should also remember that atrocities committed by professing Christians were completely contrary to the teachings of Christ, while the atrocities of 20th century Nazis and Communists were totally consistent with evolutionary teaching.

“Social Darwinism” as applied by such madmen as Heinrich Himmler is no different; Homo sapiens sapiens is a SINGLE SPECIES, and there is no room in any scientifically based evolutionary concept that I’ve ever encountered that would allow for any leeway there.

Oh, come on. Darwin’s book, The Descent of Man (1871) proposed the inferiority of “black” people and that the strong (whites) would eventually overrule the weak (blacks). The Nazi propaganda films often illustrated strong animals overpowering the weak from both within and between species. Then they applied this to humans—after all, according to evolution, humans are just another animal. And evolutionary theory is mainly concerned with intraspecific competition—just think of the alleged proofs for evolution in the varieties within a single species, e.g., dog breeds and peppered moths. So, the fact that we are a single species does not mean that ‘struggle for survival’ is not relevant in evolutionary thinking regarding humankind.

In fact, if there is any distinction at all (which I would not claim is scientifically true by any means), one would expect to find the greatest level of development among the peoples of Africa, because within that continent, the cradle of humanity, there is more genetic diversity than in the rest of the world combined.

There is an interesting overview of this in the latest [18(3) at time of writing] Journal of Creation / TJ: J. Warren Nelson, Genetic variability and human history, Journal of Creation 18(3):18–23, 2004. Nelson points out that Africans’ greater genetic variability is consistent with a larger population migrating to Africa after Babel. He also points out evidence of a more severe genetic bottleneck for humans than many other land animals, because the former suffered both the Flood and Babel while the latter suffered only the Flood.

The other problem here is that most of the scientists who side with the idea of a six-day creation seem to focus all their efforts on discrediting aspects of evolutionary theory which have already been discredited;

Someone has to, because the secular educators are still pushing these discredited aspects. In any case, many of us focus far more in informing people of the role of biases in understanding origins, the intractable problems with chemical evolution as an explanation for life’s origin, the encyclopedic quantities of information that characterize all living organisms and defy naturalist theories of origin, and the exquisite design in life and the universe that are beyond the reach of random mutations and natural selection.

Dr Sarfati’s scathing indictment of the ideas of Ernst Haeckel comes several decades too late!

It’s strange then, how they are still in many textbooks. Even Ernst Mayr, probably the leading evolutionist of the last century, still advocated Haeckel’s idea in What Evolution Is, p. 28, Basic Books, NY, 2001.

Let one scientist—even one—cogently present experimental evidence of a six-day creation, and if it holds up to repeated and exhaustive repetition and peer review, and that will be the new paradigm, just as Copernicus shattered the Ptolemaic solar system model.

Once again, this reveals a misunderstanding of the nature of science and the operational/origins distinction. Copernicus vs. Ptolemy was clearly an example of operational science.

Instead, creation scientists like Dr Sarfati enjoy complaining about being shut out of the system.

No, I just point out the facts of the materialist stranglehold on the scientific establishment, and their double standards of complaining that we don’t publish overtly creationist papers in journals they control.

The whole world benefits from the advancement of science.

Of course, and that’s why we promote operational science so much, and indeed why creationists founded operational science, the science that has brought huge benefits to the whole world.

In the long run, nobody benefits from what has been published here,

All the same, it’s very likely that many people will benefit. After all, we are trying to restore the traditions of the creationist fathers of modern science by reminding readers of the foundations for science itself, without which it cannot function:

  1. The universe is real (because it was created—Genesis 1), not an illusion as New Agers believe.
  2. The universe is orderly, because God is a God of order not of confusion—1 Corinthians 14:33. But if there is no creator, or if Zeus and his gang were in charge, why should there be any order at all? If some Eastern religions were right that the universe is a great thought, then it could change its mind any moment.
  3. Man can and should investigate the world, because God gave us dominion over His creation (Genesis 1:28); creation is not divine.
  4. Man can initiate thoughts and actions; they are not fully determined by deterministic laws of brain chemistry. This is a deduction from the biblical teaching that man has both a material and immaterial aspect (e.g. Genesis 35:18, 1 Kings 17:21–22, Matthew 10:28). This immaterial aspect of man means that he is more than matter, so his thoughts are likewise not bound by the makeup of his brain. But if materialism were true, then ‘thought’ is just an epiphenomenon of the brain, and the results of the laws of chemistry. Thus, given their own presuppositions, materialists have not freely arrived at their conclusion that materialism is true, because their conclusion was predetermined by brain chemistry. But then, why should their brain chemistry be trusted over mine, since both obey the same infallible laws of chemistry? So in reality, if materialists were right, then they can’t even help what they believe (including their belief in materialism!). Yet often call themselves ‘freethinkers’, overlooking the glaring irony! Genuine initiation of thought is an insuperable problem for materialism, as shown by the article ‘The Origin of Consciousness’ Part 1 and Part 2 (off-site).
  5. Man can think rationally and logically, and that logic itself is objective. This is a deduction from the fact that he was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27), and from the fact that Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, is the logos. This ability to think logically has been impaired but not eliminated by the Fall of man into sinful rebellion against his creator. (The Fall means that sometimes the reasoning is flawed, and sometimes the reasoning is valid but from the wrong premises. So it is folly to elevate man’s reasoning above that God has revealed in Scripture. See Loving God with all your mind: logic and creation.) But if evolution were true, then there would be selection only for survival advantage, not rationality.
  6. Results should be reported honestly, because God has forbidden false witness (Exodus 20:16). But if evolution were true, then why not lie?

    See also Bomb-building vs. the biblical foundation to understand what our claim really is—not that atheists can’t act morally, but that they have no basis for claiming that an act is objectively moral.

It is no accident that science has flowered since the Reformation. And it is no accident that the country with the strongest remnants of Bible-based Christian faith, the USA, leads the world by a mile in the output of useful science. And note that when evolution was largely banned in schools during the alleged scientific nadir between the Scopes Trial and Sputnik, American schools produced more Nobel prizes than the rest of the world combined. In fact, America produced twice as many as all other countries—this was especially pronounced in the biological field (physiology and medicine), supposedly one that can’t do without evolution.

because your readers who have no background in science will be convinced that you HAVE already made the great achievement of disproving the theory of natural selection, when in fact you have done no such thing.

Of course, our careful readers will know that we had no intention of disproving an important part of our model!

Dr Sarfati, I welcome you in helping to do what every investigator in the life sciences has been trying to do for more than a century now: to prove the null hypothesis to the theory of natural selection. If you make it there first, my hat’s off to you.

William G.

Alas, I can’t take my hat off to you, since you’re laboring under a severe misconception about the biblical creation model. I suggest you do a lot more reading of the material on our website to get a much clearer picture of what we are about.

Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D.
CMI (Brisbane, Australia)

Dr Sarfati—“a good communicator and a good witness”

I have been reading through past online articles tonight. I especially enjoy Dr Sarfati’s rebuttals to various angry commentors. Dr Sarfati is so clear and precise in his counters, and so GENTLE. It would be, I suppose, easier to disregard such comments or to attack the anti-creationists in like fashion. But Dr Sarfati displays profound amounts of grace and patience in his replies.

Those who make such angry comments really don’t have anything to say. It is clear that they rant from an emotional response, not from genuine intellectual offense. I am the most upset, however, by those who claim to be Christians while telling Creationists they must abandon their “fringe” viewpoints and align themselves with other theists for no reason other than unity. (The ages-old question “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you follow” comes to mind right now.)

If the Bible isn’t true, there is no Christianity, no Christians, no Christ, no reality, nothing to believe in or to hope for.

Thanks to [your site] for providing guidance and direction to a world with so many questions, and thanks to Dr Sarfati for being such a good communicator and a good witness.

Published: 9 December 2006