Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"Shoddy science!"

According to Daniel Morgan:

“Steve Hays and others would much more readily accept the shoddy science of the ICR and AiG than that by the global community.”

I see that Danny’s ADS is acting up again. He really needs to have that professionally treated.

i) As I’ve explained to him on more than one occasion, I’m a scientific antirealist. But since Danny is illiterate concerning the realist/antirealist debate in science, this passes right over his head.

ii) However, to address him on his own turf—is everyone associated with ICR or AiG guilty of shoddy science? I believe that Kurt Wise hobnobs with AiG.

As I recall, Dr. Wise received a B.A (with Honors) in geology from the University of Chicago, followed by an MA. in geology from Harvard, followed by a Ph.D. in Invertebrate Paleontology from Harvard, under the supervision of the late Stephen Jay Gould.

How does Danny’s resume stack up when compared with Wise?

As for the science of the “global community,”

a) A great man well-credential members of the scientific community have expressed their misgivings about naturalistic evolution:

b) When, moreover, you consider the persecution directed at anyone who fails to tow the party line, one can only wonder how many anti-evolutionary scientists simply keep their mouths shut for fear of professional reprisal.

Case in point:

c) I’m also reminded of something Michael Crichton said in the course of his recent speech at Caltech:


I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

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.

In addition, let me remind you that the track record of the consensus is nothing to be proud of. Let's review a few cases.

In past centuries, the greatest killer of women was fever following childbirth . One woman in six died of this fever. In 1795, Alexander Gordon of Aberdeen suggested that the fevers were infectious processes, and he was able to cure them. The consensus said no. In 1843, Oliver Wendell Holmes claimed puerperal fever was contagious, and presented compellng evidence. The consensus said no. In 1849, Semmelweiss demonstrated that sanitary techniques virtually eliminated puerperal fever in hospitals under his management. The consensus said he was a Jew, ignored him, and dismissed him from his post. There was in fact no agreement on puerperal fever until the start of the twentieth century. Thus the consensus took one hundred and twenty five years to arrive at the right conclusion despite the efforts of the prominent "skeptics" around the world, skeptics who were demeaned and ignored. And despite the constant ongoing deaths of women.

There is no shortage of other examples. In the 1920s in America, tens of thousands of people, mostly poor, were dying of a disease called pellagra. The consensus of scientists said it was infectious, and what was necessary was to find the "pellagra germ." The US government asked a brilliant young investigator, Dr. Joseph Goldberger, to find the cause. Goldberger concluded that diet was the crucial factor. The consensus remained wedded to the germ theory. Goldberger demonstrated that he could induce the disease through diet. He demonstrated that the disease was not infectious by injecting the blood of a pellagra patient into himself, and his assistant. They and other volunteers swabbed their noses with swabs from pellagra patients, and swallowed capsules containing scabs from pellagra rashes in what were called "Goldberger's filth parties." Nobody contracted pellagra. The consensus continued to disagree with him. There was, in addition, a social factor-southern States disliked the idea of poor diet as the cause, because it meant that social reform was required. They continued to deny it until the 1920s. Result-despite a twentieth century epidemic, the consensus took years to see the light.

Probably every schoolchild notices that South America and Africa seem to fit together rather snugly, and Alfred Wegener proposed, in 1912, that the continents had in fact drifted apart. The consensus sneered at continental drift for fifty years. The theory was most vigorously denied by the great names of geology-until 1961, when it began to seem as if the sea floors were spreading. The result: it took the consensus fifty years to acknowledge what any schoolchild sees.

And shall we go on? The examples can be multiplied endlessly. Jenner and smallpox, Pasteur and germ theory. Saccharine, margarine, repressed memory, fiber and colon cancer, hormone replacement therapy…the list of consensus errors goes on and on.

Finally, I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.


“Interestingly, Steve told me that he doesn't think the sun was created on day 4, which is in direct contradiction to a literal reading and to every creationist”

i) Let’s see. Maybe that’s because I don’t get my exegesis from ICR or AiG after all. Ya think?

ii) Literality has never been my guiding star. I follow the grammatico-historical method.

“But, this does help Steve out in the difficulty of believing that the ancient peoples really meant that the sun was created after plants, (think, -180C, or so) and the possibility of a diurnal cycle (morning and evening).”

i) Another fit of Morgan’s ADS. As I've already explained to him, more than once, even on the traditional reading, a functional equivalent for the sun is already in place on day one.

ii) If I wanted to help myself out of difficulties, I take the path of least resistance, a la theistic evolution or some other compromise.


  1. Good Crichton quote. It reminds me of my favorite Richard Lewontin quote (which I will quote in it's entirety, including the context surrounding the quote, which I will put in bold):

    With great perception, Sagan sees that there is an impediment to the popular credibility of scientific claims about the world, an impediment that is almost invisible to most scientists. Many of the most fundamental claims of science are against common sense and seem absurd on their face. Do physicists really expect me to accept without serious qualms that the pungent cheese that I had for lunch is really made up of tiny, tasteless, odorless, colorless packets of energy with nothing but empty space between them? Astronomers tell us without apparent embarrassment that they can see stellar events that occurred millions of years ago, whereas we all know that we see things as they happen. When, at the time of the moon landing, a woman in rural Texas was interviewed about the event, she very sensibly refused to believe that the television pictures she had seen had come all the way from the moon, on the grounds that with her antenna she couldn't even get Dallas. What seems absurd depends on one's prejudice. Carl Sagan accepts, as I do, the duality of light, which is at the same time wave and particle, but he thinks that the consubstantiality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost puts the mystery of the Holy Trinity "in deep trouble." Two's company, but three's a crowd.

    Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.

    Richard Lewontin, 1997. Billions and billions of demons, The New York Review, p. 31, 9 January 1997 (review of Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark).

    I would only point out that anyone who doesn't believe in God is the one who could believe in anything because he has to make everything somehow fit his materialistic worldview.

  2. I just noticed that Mark Discroll recently wrote a useful primer entitled "Answers to Common Questions about Creation."

  3. Er, oops, that should be Driscoll.

  4. Steve,

    YOu should please note that I was referring to the specific "shoddy science" done in the name of making an old universe young, and specifically that by Humphreys where he attempts to invoke a 6000-year old "white hole" to explain time dilation in YEC's favor.

    Note that I have read the original literature by Humphreys and by those who have written about white holes. I am not critiquing from a third party perspective, and in fact, have not read much by cosmologists on this particular model, if anything.

    I don't think all creationists are idiots. I never said so. Your context [lack thereof] is a bit misleading. I actually respect Wise, as I have mentioned long ago, because he says:
    "I am a young-age creationist because the Bible indicates the universe is young. Given what we currently think we understand about the world, the majority of the scientific evidence favors an old earth and universe, not a young one. I would therefore say that anyone who claims that the earth is young for scientific evidence alone is scientifically ignorant. Thus I would suggest that the challenge you are trying to meet is unmeetable."

    And yes, Steve, I know that anyone who dismisses all physicists as "gauche" is an antirealist towards science, and I hinted at this on Hallquist's forum

  5. Hey Steve, I was wondering whether you could point us to some scientific antirealist resources online...would like to know more.