June 5, 2015 Comments (0) Views: 925 Biology, Education, Miscellaneous, Sciences

Op-Ed: Creationism as Conspiracy Theory

As this is a website for the layperson, I’m going to start from the very beginning; what is creationism? I’m going to be incredibly careful when I use that word, as it can mean many different things. Creationism as a general term just refers to a belief that the universe was created–usually by a deity. But I am not referring to creationism as an entire concept here; when I use the word “creationism” in this piece, I am referring very specifically to young-earth Christian creationism. This particular type of creationism is an ultra-literal interpretation of the book of Genesis. Creationists believe the universe and everything in it was created in a literal six-twenty-four-hour-day period somewhere around six thousand years ago by the Abrahamic God. Again, this explanation is simply for the layperson, as that is whom this website is for. I won’t make it my duty to explain creationism in depth here, as that would be beating a dead horse. Here are some sites for your consideration:

If you are a young earth creationist, know this: that you are mistaken. But again, refuting creationism is not something I’m going to be doing here, now. In the future, I may, if I feel it’s needed. So why spend even a moment of my time on this idea, being so certain that it is wrong? Because although the scientific community is completely unanimous on this topic, much of the world is not, particularly not in the US, where that 2% amongst scientists grows to 31% amongst the general public. It is a threat to those that want to receive a world-class public education in this country. These people vote, and make decisions in this country, people who believe the universe is two million times younger than all of the evidence points to. They demand equal footing and time for creationism and evolution in the class room, and they are still winning legal battles. There are schools in this country that teach intelligent design and creationism in biology classrooms (some are even required to). I went to such a school, a public school. Do you see my concern? I’m not asking for complete control over everyone’s education, but what I am asking is that we stop lying to children, and teaching them something that is blatantly false. It is false. That is among the information that we know about the universe. Find your nearest Ph.D biologist, and they will confirm this with you. Or just ask any scientist, because virtually every field refutes it.

Now let’s return to that fact of scientific consensus. You will find, thanks to a Pew survey, that only 2% of scientists polled believe that humans have existed in their present form since the existence of time. That figure is among all scientists, not just biologists. Among the 97% that accept evolution, 87% believe that is was by natural processes, as opposed to guided by a supreme being or deity. You will hear creationists refer to this line of thinking as “atheistic evolution.” This distinction could be made, as this type of evolution is by definition free of divine intervention, however it does not mean that this position and religiosity are mutually exclusive. For example, you could be an individual who believes in “deistic” evolution, where nature was set up and God or whomever stepped back and let it play out. But religious belief is irrelevant to the fact of evolution.

Creationists obviously do not accept evolutionary theory, though they will usually accept adaptation short of speciation (my guess is, because it is impossible to pass this off as “unobserved”). The easy way out of this, is to say “Well, they’re wrong.” After all, scientists have been wrong before. Now, the scientific community is very interested in those that disagree with them, but as it does not operate on mere opinion alone, they ask for reasons for dissent, especially on such a well accepted and studied phenomenon. Now they will respond with a plethora of reasons, but these reasons are either so trivially explained in scientific literature that they don’t even merit a response, or they boil down to personal belief in the Bible. Basing your refutation in religious text is not enough for the scientific community. So then, scientists say, “Unless you have something new to bring to the table, we’re not going to listen to you anymore.”

This follows with outcry from the creationist community that scientists are suppressing the evidence presented by creationists in favor of their worldview. Is this true? Are creation scientists really submitting scientific articles to prestigious journals only to have them shot down by biased scientists? Well, unless the article has something new to bring to the table, that hasn’t already been addressed or debunked, then these scientists would be right to do so. As such goes the process of peer review. Secondly, no. This doesn’t happen (at least not often enough to be of any notice). Creationists aren’t submitting their articles to journals. Instead, they are creating their own journals, as Answers in Genesis did with the launch of the “Answers Research Journal.” It’s easier to plow through peer review if you are your own peer… Let’s compare, though. Do these articles meet up to the standards and rigor of the publishing scientific community? Below is a passage from a research article from ARJ, titled “Microbes and the Days of Creation“:

Upon further reflection on the origin of microbes, I realized that not all microbes could be classified as “seed-bearing” life, like plants, cyanobacteria, or photosynthetic bacteria. This led me to the conclusion that the Creator probably created animal-like (nonphotosynthetic) microbes on Days Five and Six. In this model, God created individual microbes in discrete packages on several days (i.e., the plant-like microbes on Day Three, the animal-like microbes with the animals, etc., on Days Five and Six). Each bacteria, fungi, and protozoan “kind” was made individually on Days Three, Five, and Six, just like plants, animals, and humans.

Comparatively, this is a passage from a Nature article titled “The evolution of the gut microbiota in the giant and red pandas“:

We characterized the gut microbiotas of 6 red and 5 giant pandas by sequencing the 16S V1–V3 hyper variable region of their feces collected from the zoo. We also sequenced the gut microbiotas of 6 Asian black bears, which are phylogenetically closer to the giant panda than to the red panda. The sequences were processed and analyzed by using the mothur software package9. We retained a total of 63, 944 high quality reads after denoising, with an average of 3,761 sequences per sample ranging from 1,214 to 7,450. These sequences were assigned to 235 operational taxonomic units (OTUs). Sequence number for each sample was normalized to 1,200 by randomly subsampling to minimize the biases generated by sequencing depth. The average ± SD Good’s coverage was 99.3 ± 0.6% (Table S1).

I encourage you to read the articles yourself if you wish, but I have not been yet convinced that what ARJ publishes is actual research. (It’s also worth noting that simply being published doesn’t mean that everyone in the scientific community is going to agree with you, quite the contrary. But what ARJ is doing is about as far removed from actual science as you can be, and regardless of whether or not someone agrees with you, you still have to be doing science to get published.) This seems fundamental. You have to believe the scientific community is simply ignoring, or covering up the evidence of creationists, and virtually the entire scientific community at that. But how could the numbers be so high? No conspiracy could have such cooperation, especially from hundreds of thousands of individuals who have committed their lives to the less-than-glamorous pursuit of knowledge and objectivity. If scientists were in it for the money, there would be very few scientists (you would at least lose everyone who isn’t a public advocate for science, like Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Richard Dawkins, whose careers may be considered more glamorous than your average scientist).

Still, that’s not what tells me that the scientific community isn’t covering up evidence of creationism. What tells me this, is that scientists keep studying evolution. Paleontologists keep digging up fossils, biologists keep testing evolutionary changes in microbes (it’s easier to see speciation on this scale), and so on. If we were concerned with evolution not being questioned, then we would stop studying it. When we study something in science, we risk it being wrong. The evidence of evolution is staggering and it keeps adding up. If you’ve ever been to a natural history museum and marveled at a fossil on display, know that they have hundreds of specimens for that, and each other fossil you see. There’s just so damn many of them. So many, in fact, that you can buy a 250 million year old trilobite fossil for ten US dollars.

So we shouldn’t be teaching our kids creationism as well as evolution, because creationism is simply wrong, by every standard we know. We won’t advocate for this alternative being presented for the same reason we won’t offer astrology in an astronomy class, or suggest that the earth “might be” flat to children, because who knows really? No, we do know and we won’t tolerate liars in the education system or the scientific community. Not for a second.

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