Science, history and religion – pt. 1

evolution-king-lying-down

Many evolutionists fret that doubt of evolution will be the end of science, but most science works perfectly well without it, including biological. Indeed, believers in biblical creation, including biological science, founded most of the branches of modern science. In reality, science flourished in the Middle Ages in a Christianized Europe, and increased further after biblical authority was rediscovered in the Reformation. This should not be surprising, since science requires certain presuppositions, and they are all provided by the Bible, but not by materialism or by mystical religions.

Dawkins writes:

“Imagine you are a teacher of more recent history, and your lessons on 20th-century Europe are boycotted, heckled or otherwise disrupted by well-organised, well-financed and politically muscular groups of Holocaust-deniers. They are vocal, superficially plausible and adept at seeming learned. They are supported by the president of at least one currently powerful state. Imagine that, as a teacher of European history, you are continually faced with belligerent demands to ‘teach the controversy’, and to give ‘equal time’ to the ‘alternative theory’ that the Holocaust never happened but was invented by a bunch of Zionist fabricators.”[i]

Here is a classic guilt-by-association ploy. In reality, the Holocaust deniers[ii] are doing just what Dawkins (or at least those he endorses) does with Jesus: ignores the eyewitness reports. And of course, there are living witnesses to the Holocaust, census records showing a vast drop in the European Jewish population, hardly any surviving European Jewish families who have not lost members in that tragic time and death camp records helpfully kept by the perpetrators, who were convicted in the Nuremberg trials. Evolution has no proof of anything like this.

After this rhetorical flourish, Dawkins laments the problem, as he sees it:

“The plight of many science teachers today is not less dire. When they attempt to expound the central and guiding principle of biology; when they honestly place the living world in its historical context—which means evolution; when they explore and explain the very nature of life itself, they are harried and stymied, hassled and bullied, even threatened with loss of their jobs. At the very least their time is wasted at every turn.” (p. 4)

Yet the ones who are threatened with loss of jobs are usually those who dare to dissent from goo-to-you evolution.[iii] [iv] Dawkins provides no evidence for this assertion that science teachers today are threatened with loss of jobs for teaching evolution. This seems like a classic case of projection on Dawkins’ part.

The alleged centrality of evolution is echoed by the US National Academy of Science’s book Science, Evolution and Creationism[v] (2008), and even extended, by implication, to other branches of science:

“Scientific and technological advances have had profound effects on human life. In the 19th century, most families could expect to lose one or more children to disease. Today, in the United States and other developed countries, the death of a child from disease is uncommon. Every day we rely on technologies made possible through the application of scientific knowledge and processes. The computers and cell phones which we use, the cars and airplanes in which we travel, the medicines that we take, and many of the foods that we eat were developed in part through insights obtained from scientific research. Science has boosted living standards, has enabled humans to travel into Earth’s orbit and to the Moon, and has given us new ways of thinking about ourselves and the universe.

“Evolutionary biology has been and continues to be a cornerstone of modern science.”

But it is not hard to notice that most of the scientific advances listed haven’t the slightest thing to do with evolution. Computers, cell phones, airplanes, and the moon landings certainly don’t! Indeed, they largely depended on the foundations laid by creationist scientists: The creationist Robert Boyle (1627–1691) fathered modern chemistry and demolished the faulty Aristotelian four-elements theory. He also funded lectures to defend Christianity and sponsored missionaries and Bible translation work. Cell phones depend on electromagnetic radiation theory, which was pioneered by creationist James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879). Computing machines were invented by Charles Babbage (1791–1871), who was not a biblical creationist but was a creationist in the broad sense. He “believed that the study of the works of nature with scientific precision, was a necessary and indispensable preparation to the understanding and interpreting their testimony of the wisdom and goodness of their Divine Author.”[vi] The creationist brothers Orville (1871–1948) and Wilbur Wright (1867–1912) invented the airplane after studying God’s design of birds. The theory of planetary orbits was invented by Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), famous for claiming that his discoveries were “thinking God’s thoughts after him”. Kepler also calculated a creation date of 3992 BC, close to Ussher’s. The theory of gravity and the laws of motion, essential for the moon landings, were discovered by the creationist Isaac Newton (1642/3–1727), who also discovered the spectrum of light, invented the reflecting telescope, discovered the exponential law of cooling, and co-invented calculus. The moon landing program was headed by Wernher von Braun (1912–1977), who believed in a designer and opposed evolution. And a biblical creationist, James Irwin (1930–1991), walked on the moon. America led the world in the number of Nobel prizes awarded, including in biology, before evolution was part of the school curriculum. And the Apollo moon landings were achieved by scientists and engineers educated under the same curriculum. Furthermore, these great scientists had precedents in the Middle Ages, often wrongly called the ‘Dark Ages’. Science historian Dr James Hannam writes:

“Popular opinion, journalistic cliché and misinformed historians notwithstanding, recent research has shown that the Middle Ages were a period of enormous advances in science, technology and culture. The compass, paper, printing, stirrups and gunpowder all appeared in Western Europe between AD 500 and AD 1500.”[vii]

These ‘dark ages’ also saw the development of water and wind power, agricultural advances that enabled huge population growth, spectacles, magnificent architecture, the blast furnace, and much more. It was also the time when universities were founded—including Dawkins’ own Oxford—and these were modelled on theological colleges.

Some have claimed that most of these scientists would have been evolutionists had they known about Darwin. This is hypothetical and question-begging; it doesn’t explain the creationists who were contemporaneous with Darwin or lived after him, and ignores the fact that evolutionary ideas had long predated Darwin.[viii]

[i] Dawkins, R., The God Delusion, p. 97, Transworld Publishers, London, 2006

[ii] What really is often denied is the overtly evolutionary basis of the Nazi Holocaust and eugenics programs. See Weikart, R., From Darwin to Hitler, Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany, Palgrave MacMillan, NY, 2004; Hitler’s Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress, Palgrave Macmillan, NY, 2009. See also Sarfati, J., Refutation of New Scientist’s “Evolution: 24 myths and misconceptions”: The Darwin–Hitler connection, which also refutes the ‘Hitler was a Christian’ mendacity seen on some gutter atheopathic sites; creation.com/hitler-darwin, 19 November 2008

[iii] See documentation in Bergman, J., Slaughter of the Dissidents: Shocking Truth about Killing the Careers of Darwin Doubters, Leafcutter Press, 2008; If you can’t beat them, ban them, review by Lloyd To, Journal of Creation 23(2):37–40, 2009.

[iv] An entertaining documentary with a very serious message is Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Premise Media:, 2008, which features an interview with Dawkins among others. It also documents the evolutionary basis of the Holocaust, including some of the Nazi propaganda films that proclaimed, “We have sinned against natural selection” for allowing the ‘unfit’ to live and reproduce.

[v] For refutation, see Sarfati., J., Science, Creation and Evolutionism: Response to the latest anti-creationist agitprop from the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Science, Evolution and Creationism, creation.com/nas, 8 February 2008.

[vi] Buxton, H.W., Memoir of the Life and Labours of the Late Charles Babbage Esq., unpublished, p. 1986. Cited in: Dubbey, J.M., The Mathematical Work of Charles Babbage, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1978, p. 227.

[vii] See Hannam, J., God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science, p. 5, Icon Books, 2009.

[viii] See Sarfati, J., Newton was a creationist only because there was no alternative? (response to critic) creation.com/newt-alt, 29 July 2002. The critic I was replying to later wrote thanking CMI for the response, and to say that he no longer agreed with the sentiments of his original letter. He was happy for his original letter and response to remain as a teaching point for others who might need correcting.

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