June 23, 2018 | ° F

Creationism has no merit

Letter to the Editor

I was shocked at the mental gymnastics in Monday’s column in The Daily Targum titled, “Creationism has merit.” I expected a scathing critique of creationism — the debates between scientific fact and religious imagination and how reality will triumph over faith and illusion. I thought the merit of creationism was simply that it presents us with a sober reminder that regardless of our preconceived notions of the way the world works, empirical evidence coupled with observable and testable data will always paint a more accurate picture of reality. Instead, what I read was this: “God’s existence, after all, is the best explanation for any supernatural phenomenon that might exist.”

This amounts to saying that magic is the best explanation for magical phenomena, without ever justifying the magical phenomena’s existence. Quickly realizing this, the author writes, “Supernatural phenomena are actually fairly commonplace. I’ve witnessed them numerous times and been a party to them numerous times.” Fortunately, for us skeptics (who can be theists, atheists or agnostics), anecdotal evidence is not evidence at all. Anecdotal evidence is by definition unscientific evidence. Science deals with the empirical.

The differences between the two deserve some elaboration. Empirical evidence seeks to limit the error of human subjectivity by analyzing observable, objective phenomena. Science asks questions like “what are the nature and laws of a phenomenon?” This is in complete distinction from subjective, anecdotal evidence, which, by its very nature, is unobservable and untestable. An outside observer cannot verify on the basis of my sole experience alone whether what I see, do, or hear has any true value whatsoever.

This is the fundamental problem of anecdotal evidence. If we assume that my experience is always valid, then we must assume that all people’s experiences are valid, even if they are contradictory. Evidently a logical contradiction arises. Anecdotal evidence becomes no evidence at all, since there is no way to verify the veracity of one’s statement without turning to exterior experiences of other people, which then negates the validity of the anecdote based on personal experience alone. However, we aren’t supposed to use this sort of logic, says the author. Rather we are supposed to simply “take [his] word for it.”

He states erroneously, “Evolution is a theory that has a lot of merit, but creationism also has merit because the facts fit just as well with it.” Once again, the scientific use of the word “theory” is confused with colloquial usage. In everyday parlance, theory is synonymous with speculation or hypothesis. In contrast, scientific usage of the word “theory” denotes extensive evidence from observable phenomena synthesized with a model that can provide accurate predictions and descriptions of the world around us. Science disposes of a hypothesis when the observed evidence does not match the hypothesis. A theory is already confirmed and can only be replaced if it either fails to accurately make predictions or if a better, more accurate theory is formulated.

“Many people say the theory of evolution is the best explanation for life on earth,” he wrote. The amount of times creationists repeat this mantra is incredible. Evolution does not explain the origin of life on Earth, but rather life’s diversity. The nuance of this argument is entirely missed by creationists. The origin for life on Earth is subject to a grand debate within the scientific community and there are plenty of worthy ideas as to its origins, none of which postulate a divine creator.

This letter is not written to present the evidence for evolution. This has already been done innumerable times elsewhere. As a suitable alternative to evolution, creationism has no merit. Creationism does have some merit though. Like flat-earthism or geocentrism, the history of creationism is the story of mankind’s ascent from darkness. It represents our ever-growing understanding of nature and the universe. Does the world not look more beautiful knowing that what we see is not the product of unknowable forces, but rather of nature? And is it not all the more awe-inspiring that from the simplest of origins descend all the diversity of Earth’s species finally culminating in that conscious being who can reflect and shape the world around it? Let the darkness of the past give way to the light of the future. Creationism is intellectually sterile. Let it die along with all the other false ideas.

Michael Perino is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in French and political science.

By Michael Perino

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