In the 1960s the last statute banning the teaching of evolution in U.S. public schools was struck down. Fundamentalist Protestants who preferred their children to learn about their origins in public schools from the first 11 chapters of the Book of Genesis, and who did not want their children exposed to the theory of evolution, had to try a new tactic. Banning the teaching of evolution was no longer possible, so the next best options were to water down the instruction of evolution, or to have it taught along with the Genesis account.
Given the separation of church and state in the U.S., there was no way that bible readings would be permitted in biology classes. So a group of fundamentalist Christians cobbled together a position they called scientific creationism, which they put forth as a scientific theory of origins of life to rival the neo-Darwinian account accepted by scientists.
They promoted acceptance of their textbooks, not through publications in scientific journals and conferences, but by appealing directly to the public; arguing that a legitimate scientific viewpoint was being suppressed by the “powers” in the scientific community. They appealed to the best civil libertarian sentiments of the citizenry, advocating that their position be taught along with the “orthodox” theory, with student and citizens left free to make up their own minds. Civil liberties groups and associations were approached by fundamentalist organizations and aksed to join this battle for “free speech.” Almost without exception, they declined.
American movements almost inevitably make their way to Canada, and the BCCLA anticipated being approached by Canadian offshoots of these “scientific creationist” organizations. So, in 1983, the Board developed a brief on the subject, which was approved in 1984. (As it turned out, we were not in fact approached.) However, at about the same time, the Abbotsford School Board adopted a policy mandating the teaching of “scientific creationism” along with evolution in Biology 11 and 12, and in the human origins component of Social Studies 7.
This policy was not brought to our attention until a decade later, when Scott Goodman of the Organization of Advocates in Support of Integrity in Science Education (OASIS) began a campaign to have this policy scrapped. The BCCLA sent copies of the brief, along with the following letters, to Art Charbonneau, then Minister of Education, and to the Abbotsford School Board. The Association made presentations to the School Board on June 5th and June 12th, 1995.
The Minister called for a revision of Abbotsford’s policy, which was to read, in part:
In view of the fact that concerns may be expressed by some students and parents respecting the teaching of the topic “Adaptation and Evolution” in the Biology 11/12 Curriculum Guide; and, that the evolutionary perspective of modern biology may conflict with personal beliefs, teachers, when teaching this topic in the classroom, should explain to students that science is only one way of learning about life, and that other explanations have been put forth besides that of biological science. As Divine Creation and other viewpoints are not derived from the discipline of biological science and are not part of the curriculum, teachers will refrain from providing instruction in Divine Creation or any single belief system or viewpoint, or adding any not set out in the Biology 11/12 Curriculum Guide. In all cases, teachers are encouraged to be aware of, and to respect, the personal beliefs of their students without providing instruction in any one belief system.
In an attempt to appease the Minister of Education, the Abbotsford School Board proposed another policy, with this text replacing that of the Ministry’s version:
Other viewpoints not derived from biological science are not part of the Biology 11/12 curriculum issued from the Ministry of Education…. In order to promote critical thinking skills, students shall be encouraged to discuss the scientific pros and cons or the alternative theories without being criticised for their opinions…. [D]iscussion would include the evidence/information both for and against the theories of the origins of our universe and life on our planet.
“Alternative theories” is a phrase generally used to designate the very materials the Ministry wished to exclude. Accordingly, the BCCLA was not satisfied with this attempt at compromise, and continued to press for a policy mandating the teaching of biology in the biology classes and religion in the religious studies classes.
The following two letters were sent in 1995:
Letter to Art Charbonneau, Minister of Education
31 May 1995
Re: Abbotsford School District’s Policy on Creationism
We wish to congratulate you and offer the Association’s support for your stand on the teaching of creation science in the Abbotsford School District. It is refreshing to see a politician taking so clear and unequivocal a stand on such a controversial issue. We believe that your setting a deadline for Abbotsford’s cessation of teaching creation science in biology classes is a proper approach to this matter.
We agree with you that the Abbotsford School District’s policy of teaching creation science goes against the spirit of the School Act, in that it provides a vehicle for including one particular religious viewpoint in the curriculum under the guise of a scientific theory. We also agree with your stand that the teaching of the Genesis account of creation does have its place: in religious studies classes, along with the teachings of other religions.
The Association is particularly concerned about the negative impact the policy is having on preventing Abbotsford students receiving an adequate science education. It is our understanding that many teachers in the district, in order to avoid controversy simply do not teach either creationism or legitimate scientific theory of evolution. Given the demands of modern working life, Abbotsford students will be disadvantaged without any understanding of evolutionary theories as they compete for post-secondary positions and jobs.
Enclosed please find our Association’s brief on this topic. Although it is now 12 years old, we believe our arguments remain valid since no new evidence has been presented in the interval which would cause us to change or modify our position.
Again, our thanks for your strong and rational statements on this issue.
John Westwood, Executive Director Letter to John Sutherland, Chair, Board of School Trustees
School District No. 34, Abbotsford, B.C.
31 May 1995
Dear Mr. Sutherland:
RE: Abbotsford School District’s Policy on Creationism
We are writing to urge you to comply with the request of the Minister of Education, the Hon. Art Charbonneau, that Abbotsford cease teaching “creation science” in biology classes. We are in complete agreement with the Minister’s position that the Genesis account of creation should be taught in religious studies classes, together with the creation accounts of other world religions.
We think it undeniable that the material used to teach “creation science” are part and parcel of a fundamentalist Christian perspective and to that extent your policy violates section 95 of the School Act and possibly the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It is our understanding that the materials used in your district come from the Institute for Creation Research of San Diego, California, which is in turn a division of Christian Heritage College, a fundamentalist Christian school. Other publications of the ICR, including Acts and Facts, make it clear that the dissemination of “creation science” in schools is simply the beginning of an attempt to inculcate fundamentalist Christian values and beliefs into secular schools. The present School Act properly attempts to ensure neutrality with respect to religious views in our public schools; your practice of teaching “creation science” flies directly in the face of this considered policy.
The Association is particularly concerned about the negative impact the policy is having on preventing Abbotsford students receiving an adequate science education. It is our understanding that many teachers in the district, in order to avoid controversy simply do not teach either creationism or legitimate scientific theory of evolution. Given the demands of modern working life, Abbotsford students will be disadvantaged without any understanding of evolutionary theories as they compete for post-secondary positions and jobs. We believe that the policy ultimately does a disservice to your students.
Enclosed for your consideration is our Association’s brief on this subject. Although it is more than ten years old, we believe it to be still current; we have kept up with the literature on “creation science” and have notice no improvement in quality over the past decade.
We look forward to addressing your Board on June 5 to discuss this matter.
Member, Board of Directors
In late 1995, after a second ultimatum from the Minister of Education, the Abbotsford School Board revised its policy to abide by the Minister’s directives.
The text of the original 1984 brief follows:
In the past few years, there have been attempts to introduce the teaching of “creation science” in the public schools of British Columbia. For example, in the spring of 1981 a petition bearing 7,500 signatures was presented to the then Minister of Education, Brian Smith, advocating equal time for the teaching of creation science along with the theory of evolution in the province’s schools. At that time, Smith responded with a vague assertion that there was room for both theories in the science classroom. The current Minister, Jack Heinrich, has yet to make a public pronouncement on the issue; however, a provincial biology exam was recently amended to allow students to state their preference for creation science, as long as they could still explain the principles of evolution.1
At present, the policy of the Ministry of Education with respect to the creationism/evolution dispute leaves things pretty much at the discretion of the individual science teacher. Teachers are not required to mention creationism in conjunction with evolution, but should be prepared to discuss creationism if students raise questions about it. As well, there is the provision for exemption from class “if a student or parent is offended religiously by evolutionary theory.”2
Proponents of scientific creationism in the U.S. and Canada have shown themselves to be extremely resourceful in promoting their cause. It is possible that they will approach the BCCLA for support for their position: arguing that as things stand, a legitimate branch of scientific inquiry is being denied its right to be heard in public school science classes. The argument they have been presenting so far is that scientific creationism is every bit as legitimate a scientific theory as evolution, and a commitment to academic freedom requires support for measures to ensure that “scientific creationism” gets its fair hearing. In what follows, we shall argue that this argument is totally without merit, and that the BCCLA should not lend its support to this cause.
The question whether there is something wrong in excluding a given theory from a science class first of all hinges on determining whether the theory in question is a scientific one. We will argue in Section II below that the theory of creationism is not, and could not be, a scientific theory. Note that we are not arguing there that the theory is false, rather our position is that creationism is not a rival scientific theory to the theory of evolution.
Creationists often muddy the waters by confusing arguments against teaching creationism in biology classes with arguments against teaching doctrines of Divine Creation in the schools. There is indeed a place for teaching religious ideas of where we came from and why. But that place is in courses on Religious Studies, when students examine the various accounts of creation offered by the myriad religious systems of the world not just the one accepted by Fundamentalist Protestant Christians. This point will be expanded upon in Section III. But before we can begins these tasks, we need to sort out some of the terminological confusions that have obfuscated the creationism/evolution debate so far.
Proponents of creationism, including American president Ronald Reagan, have found fault with the theory of evolution by pointing out that it is “just a theory”.3 By this they wish to imply that evolution is in some sense defective, and we would be doing a disservice to students by giving them only evolution and suppressing rival explanations of their origin which must be just as good as a mere theory. But this strategy rests upon two equivocations: first, on two different senses of the word “theory” and second, on two different senses of “theory of evolution.”
As to the first equivocation, there are two different senses of “theory” important for our purposes:
A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation of a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts on which it depends; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed. (Oxford English Dictionary)
In a loose or general sense: A hypothesis proposed as an explanation: hence a mere hypothesis, speculation or conjecture: an idea or set of ideas about something: an individual view or notion. (Ibid.)
Now, in Section II we shall argue that (in sense 1 given below) evolution is a theory in sense A but not in sense B, while creationism is a theory in sense B but not in sense A. But first we must give the two different senses of “theory of evolution” that have been confused in this debate.
The origination of species of animals and plants, as conceived by those who attribute to it a process of development from earlier forms and not to a process of “special creation”. (Ibid.)
An account of the mechanism(s) whereby species evolved from earlier form(s) e.g., Spencer’s theory, Alfred Russel Wallace’s theory, Darwin’s theory, Lamarck’s theory, Lysenko’s theory, neo-Darwinism, Punctuated Equilibria, etc.
The Theory of Evolution, in sense 1 above (hereinafter referred to as “Theory of Evolution1”) which is almost universally agreed upon by biologists goes further than what is given above, maintaining that there is an extremely high probability that all presently existing species on Earth evolved from a single life form. The briefest sketch of their reasons for this claim will be given in Section II. But the important point to note is that biologists are virtually unanimous in maintaining that the Theory of Evolution1 is a theory in sense A above. Not only it is a model which makes sense of all the data biologists have discovered so far; all the data we have confirms that theory and none of it falsifies the theory.4
But what delights the scientists and creationists alike is that over the last 150 years, various theories in the second sense have been propounded to explain how this evolution has taken place, and all the evidence is not yet in to determine which theory is totally correct. Scientists are delighted by this fact, because it is the result of progress in science: biologists, paleontologists, geologists and others are continually making new discoveries which shed new light on the mechanisms of evolution our knowledge of the mechanisms of evolution is growing at an enormous pact. Creationists are also delighted, because they can quote these scientists out of context, and beguile a scientifically uninformed public, and, they hope, naive school children into thinking that the current debate over the mechanisms of evolution are a sign of confused scientists who haven’t got a clue what they are talking about.5
It is true that some theories of evolution2 have been convincingly shown to be false, e.g. Lamarck’s and Lysenko’s, which proposed that individuals pass on to their offspring characteristics which they acquired from their environment (e.g. that an individual giraffe, in continually stretching its neck to reach leaves that are for some reason growing higher up in trees, will pass on to its offspring a longer neck than the previous generation). These hypotheses have been thoroughly discredited; thus they have been shown to be mere hypotheses in the sense of theoriesB given above. Darwin’s theory has problems, but for a different reason: that it was incomplete. The cornerstone of his theory is natural selection, the notion that changes in the environment may make it impossible for given individuals to survive and pass on their genes to their offspring, and thus the species becomes extinct; while other individuals of similar species can survive in the new environment, and thus pass on their genes to future generations. Modern biologists agree that this is a central mechanism in evolution. A second component of this theory is more contentious. This is the notion of reproductive isolation, the idea that two different populations of animals with minor genetic differences become isolated from each other geographically, and thus do not mate with each other, until over a long period of time small changes in each group add up to the point where they can no longer mate with each other. This is the main criterion for calling them different species. Some evolutionists maintain that Darwin did not place enough emphasis on this part of the theory. But the big problem with Darwin’s formulation of the theory of evolution is that he wrote before Gregor Mendel’s work led to the foundation of genetics. Thus he didn’t have an explanation of how individual characteristics were inherited by later generations. With the understanding of DNA given us by Crick and Watson in the 1950s, and understanding of genetic mutations, geneticists have provided an account of how an offspring may differ in some feature from its parent, and thus be favoured or disadvantaged by natural selection. But, of course, research into genetics is not finished, and so we do not yet have a fully comprehensive Theory2 to explain the mechanisms of evolution.
Creationists can continue to pull the wool over the public’s eyes about the importance of these disputes, but they have not yet, and arguably cannot, help to resolve them. To date, no proponent of scientific creationism has published a paper in a recognized scientific journal that has pointed out or resolved any of the disputes. It might be argued that this is because they are denied access to the journals by the scientific establishments; however, this hypothesis is somewhat weakened by the fact that there is no evidence that they have ever submitted a paper to such a journal.6
The important point to note about the present lack of an airtight Theory of Evolution2 is that this lack is not, despite what the creationists tell us, a serious problem for acceptance of The Theory of Evolution1. For, as we shall argue in Section II, the Theory of Evolution1 rests upon independent evidence from that provided by a Theory of Evolution2.
What would be a serious reason for rejecting the Theory of Evolution1 would be the presence of a rival theory that had a higher probability of being correct. Creationists are fond of quoting figures that seem to show the remote chances of evolution resulting in the kind of distribution of plants, animals and people that we have presently on earth. For example, the creationist Duane Gish quotes an information theorist, H.J. Morowitz, as claiming that the probability of matter arranging itself as a bacterium without a Deity to organize the operation is one chance in one followed by 100 billion zeroes.7 This sounds impressive until we note that Gish provides us with no information about the assumptions made by Morowitz about the initial conditions holding a few billion years ago when this event took place. In the absence of this information any other number would do just as well for Gish’s case, provided it were sufficiently large to bamboozle the unwashed. It is the hallmark of the pseudoscientist not only to withhold crucial information about how a calculation was made, but also to provide a spurious air of precision by quoting an exact number. Is the calculation based on such precise information that it couldn’t be followed by 50 billion zeroes? 150 million zeroes? In any event, we can grant Gish the point, that the odds are fairly low, as long as we remember that they are not nearly as low as the figure Gish quotes. But it is hard to know what we should conclude from this, except perhaps that we ought to consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be here. For, unless we beg the question by assuming that there is a Creator who had plans for us being here, the putative fact that the Theory of Evolution gives us bad odds is no reason by itself to reject the theory.
Consider the following parallel: There are 635,013,559,600 different combinations and permutations of 13 card hands dealt from a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. That means that the odds of you getting the last hand you got in bridge, whatever it was, was one in 635,013,559,600. Does this lead you to conclude that the Creator stacked the deck on you? Not at all. Unless you had reason to believe that somebody intended that you receive that hand, you had no more reason to expect the hand that you got than any of the other possible ones. Thus, you don’t require an explanation for why you got that particular hand. Similarly with respect to the Universe: unless you have reason in advance for thinking that the universe had to turn out just the way that it did, rather than one of the admittedly large (although unknown) number of alternative possibilities, the fact that the Theory of evolution would have given you good reasons 5 billion years ago to bet against this particular arrangement is irrelevant to its worth as a scientific theory. The only reason for rejecting the Theory of Evolution1 on the basis of this point about probabilities would be the existence of a rival theory that explained the known facts at least as well as evolution but which gave a higher probability of things turning out just as they did.
This brings us to the “creation-science model”. Does it explain the data as well as the Theory of Evolution? Does it give us a reason to assume a greater probability to the present state of affairs than the Theory of Evolution? Answering these questions is made rather difficult by the unwillingness of scientific creationists to state precisely what their theory amount to. They are usually too busy poking putative holes in the Theory of Evolution to state their own theory clearly. However, in order to get their bill passed in March of 1981 in Arkansas, they were forced to give some kind of account of what teachers in public schools were to be compelled to teach. Arkansas Statute 590, Section 4 defines Creation Science as follows:
…Sudden creation of the universe, energy, and life from nothing… changes only within fixed limit of originally created kinds of plants and animals; separate ancestry for man and apes; explanation of the earth’s geology by catastrophism, including the occurrence of a worldwide flood; and a relatively recent inception of the earth and living kinds.
There are annoying vaguenesses here: e.g. by “sudden creation,” are we talking about six days or 600,000,000 years? The latter date for the beginning of the universe would be counted as sudden by modern scientists who estimate the universe to be at least 15 billion years old. The same problems holds for the “relatively recent inception of the earth.” Bishop Ussher, in his chronological and genealogical analysis of the Bible i.e., his counting of the “begots” determined that the earth was created on October 26, 4004 B.C. t 9:00 in the morning, indicating that the earth is 24 years short of its six thousandth birthday. Modern scientists estimate the age of the earth at roughly four and one half billion years. In comparison to modern scientific findings, a beginning of the earth one billion years ago would be comparatively recent. However, improving on the scientific methods employed by the good Bishop in 1654, modern scientific creationists have estimated the earth to be about ten thousand years old. One laments the loss of certainty and accuracy in dating that has occurred among scientific creationists over the last 300 years. But the important point is that the vagueness of the phrase “comparatively recent” makes it impossible to know whether scientific evidence confirms or disputes this theory.
If the above definition of scientific creationism reminds you of the Book of Genesis in the Bible, this shouldn’t be surprising. The references to Noah’s Flood, and more importantly, the doctrine of separate creation of man and ape are obvious. (One wonders bout the creation of woman according to scientific creationists the best guess we can make on this subject is that according to one of the two creation stories in Genesis, women were created separately from men: the latter out of dirt, the former out of a rib.) There can be little doubt that the wording of Arkansas Statute 590 is nothing but a scientific makeover of the Book of Genesis. In fact, this was admitted by one of the creationists’ leading witnesses in the Arkansas Challenge to Statute 590, Norman Geisler of the Dallas Theological Seminary. He said, “I think in all honesty that the people who devised this [law] got their model from the Book of Genesis.”8 Thus, it was no wonder that the Federal Court in Arkansas in December 1982 ruled that Arkansas Statute 590 was unconstitutional, in that it goes against the prevailing interpretation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; forbidding the teaching of a particular religion in state supported schools.
Furthermore, one of the leading “research institutions” of scientific creationism, the Creation Science Research Centre of San Diego, California, requires its members to sign a pledge when they join, which reads in part:
The Bible is the written, word of God, and because we believe it to be inspired thruout [sic] all of its assertions are historically and scientifically true in all of the original autographs. To the student of nature, this means that the account of origins in Genesis is a factual presentation of historical truth. 9
Other creationist organizations require similar pledges.
However, in response to the charge that creation scientists are simply masquerading their religious beliefs under the guise of science, the creationists have two sorts of reply; the first of which is obviously unsuccessful, the second less obviously so. Both will receive more attention in the next section.
The first response is to admit that their “science” is based upon their religious beliefs, but to follow the old adage, the best defence is a good offence. They simply charge that evolutionists equally base their scientific conclusions on a non-scientific, quasi-religious, metaphysical system which they refer to as secular humanism. In fact, it is the latter doctrine which they are really out to get, for they believe that it is not only responsible for the false doctrine of evolution, but also all of the evils in society, from communism to abortion to streaking.10 Their argument is that secular humanism is the attempt to remove God from all aspects of human reasoning: just as scientists removed God as a necessary underpinning to their research into natural phenomena so do secular humanist moralists remove God from ethical and political deliberations. They are, of course, especially worried about the latter; but because they believe that secular humanism is a monolithic doctrine (probably controlled by Satan), they figure that attacking this monolith in this one area will have effects in the other areas as well. Thus attacking evolution, one of the underpinnings of science, is likely to weaken secular humanism to the point where it can no longer defend a liberal position on abortion, or any other ethical or social position.
The scientists’ response to this is that scientific methodology and precepts are independent of one’s religious, moral and political positions, in the sense that it is possible for two scientists to agree on scientific methodology, principles and facts and yet disagree completely on ethical, political, and religious questions or vice versa. There are scientists who hold that the theory of evolution is true, yet hold deep religious commitments and these commitments range throughout the spectrum of religious beliefs. Equally well, theologians of almost every conceivable sort have accepted that theory of evolution.11 The one point they all agree on is that science and religion do not conflict because they don’t meet on the same battle ground each has its own separate sphere. They are not about the same kind of things; the stories of creation in Genesis are not trying to answer the same questions as molecular biology, paleontology, or geology. Thus, as long as a scientist does not hold that Genesis is meant to be a work of paleontology or geology that is, so long as he doesn’t do science by simple appeal to authority, as no good scientist would he will not be basing his science on a religious system, as the scientific creationists charge. Individual scientists may very well hold personal beliefs that a God created the universe and everything in it for a purpose. A scientist may even hold that the Bible taken as a whole or some other religious work, reveals that purpose to us. But he will take these beliefs to be independent of the question he is interested in, qua scientist, of how the universe operates. On the other hand, he may hold that the question of the purpose of the universe is not only not a scientific question, but also an absurd one. In either case, those beliefs are independent of the scientific enterprise. Thus, the scientific creationists’s charge that modern biology presupposes a religious system is simply false.
But the same cannot be said for the scientific creationists. In fact, the religious system they presuppose, fundamentalist Christianity, which holds that Genesis is literally true, makes it impossible for Creationists to follow the scientific method, which does not recognize simple appeal to authority be it Genesis or anything else as a method for discovery of a scientific truth. Scientists must be in a position to discover empirical evidence, which is independent of religious or any other authority, for their theories. But, since members of the Creation Science Research Centre must honour the pledge, quoted above, to believe that the Bible is literally true, it is impossible for members in good standing of the organization to discover a scientific truth inconsistent with Genesis. For, as soon as they did, they would cease to be members in good standing. Thus, holding to that pledge makes it impossible for them to falsify their theory. But, as we shall see in the next section, a necessary condition for a theory being scientific is that it be capable of falsification. So, by signing that pledge, scientific creationists make it impossible for themselves to do science properly.
By paying attention to the above claim that science is independent of religion we can see why so many theologians have been willing to speak out against scientific creationism. Their argument is that the Fundamentalist Christians are seeking to promote their own particular religion, at the expense of rivals, from liberal Christian sects to Buddhism, by sneaking it into science classes. The argument given above lends support to that conclusion. Since the vast majority of religions are seen by their proponents to be consistent with the Theory of Evolution1, mentioning other beliefs about our origins in the science classroom is simply special pleading for religious beliefs that are inconsistent with the Theory of Evolution. And, of course, the prime beneficiaries of this scheme are the Fundamentalist Christian sects.
In order to argue that they are not stuffing a particular religion down children’s throats, creationists may retreat to a second line of defense. They may admit that the Bible doesn’t qualify as a textbook for a genetics course, and they may admit that the prime motivation for doing science for them is the hope of showing that the Bible, though unscientific, is literally true. But, they may argue, as genuine scientists to, that since their particular motivations are independent of the scientific facts they discover, their scientific evidence which just happens to be inconsistent with Genesis should be examined in its own right. This is a perfectly legitimate strategy for them to follow: but if they did, it would be their downfall. For, as we shall see in the next section, they simply don’t have any scientific evidence that falsifies the Theory of Evolution1 or any particular Theory of Evolution2. Furthermore, the creationists’ theory does not qualify as a scientific one.
The main function of a scientific hypothesis is to explain how the physical world operates. We won’t go too far wrong, for present purposes, if we describe the physical world as what we observe by means of our five senses, plus extensions of them such as eye glasses, telescopes, microscopes, infra-red cameras, sound amplifiers, etc. Every scientist admits that there are a great many intellectual problems that are not about the observable universe, and hence not answerable by the scientific method. We don’t learn by observation (alone) that we ought not to drown a baby just to watch it squirm, for example. Thus, the answers to the question why we ought not to do this is not to be given by the scientific method but by the methodology of moral reasoning, or ethics. So, the domain of science is limited, and therefore to reject a problem or a methodology as unscientific is not by itself a reason to say that it is nonsensical, unanswerable, or unimportant, but it is sufficient reason to say that the study of this problem or methodology should not be confused with doing science.
When a scientist wishes to explain how some aspect of the physical world operates, he comes up with a TheoryB a hypothesis to explain the phenomena(on) in question. The TheoryBmust then be tested under experimental conditions appropriate to the phenomenon involved. The experimental test takes the following form: If TheoryB is true, and certain experimental conditions hold, then certain phenomena will be observed. So, if the experiment is run, and the predicted phenomena are observed, then we are entitled to have more confidence that the TheoryB is true than we had before we conducted the experiment. But, on the other hand, if we run the experiment according to plan and we do not get the predicted phenomena, then we can conclude that the TheoryB is false.(12)
Let us look at an illustration of this process: you are a lay person and notice that a small amount of water in your birdbath on a cold night is replaced the next morning by ice. You formulate the hypothesis that the water turns into ice when it gets cold. If you wished to test this hypothesis scientifically, you would first of all make it as precise as possible, by specifying a measurable temperature for “cold” i.e., say, 0oC, and then specify the conditions under which your test of the hypothesis is to be conducted as clearly as possible, trying to state without vagueness or ambiguity what observations you expect to find if the hypothesis is true and what counts as a confirmation of it if it passes your test and a falsification of it should the predicted consequences fail to be observed. At this stage you still have a theoryB, but at least it is scientific. If you fail to get ice from the water at 0oC and all the other experimental conditions are met, then you will know that your TheoryB is false. Unfortunately, however, if TheoryB passes your experimental test, this does not, by itself, prove that TheoryB is true. The reason for this depends upon a simple point of logic. The argument that was behind the inference we wish to draw from our experiment is as follows:
1. If TheoryB is true, (and conditions C obtain) then we will have the observation O.
2. We do observe O.
3. TheoryB is true.
But this is an invalid argument, as the following parallel argument demonstrates:
1. If I am 15 feet tall, then I am at least 3 feet tall.
2. I am at least 3 feet tall.
3. I am 15 feet tall.
These two arguments commit the fallacy known as affirming the consequent. In the case of the first argument, even if we do get the predicted observation O, this may not be because TheoryB is true. TheoryB could be false, in which case some rival to B may explain why we got those observations. Thus, we must follow the second part of the scientific method, which involves examining and testing all the alternative theories to B to ensure that none of them provides a better explanation of the phenomena than B. But since there will be an infinite number of rival hypotheses, we are never in a position to affirm TheoryB with 100% certainty. However, the more times we engage in an experiment to confirm TheoryB where it passes the test, the higher is the probability that it is true. For example, our hypothesis about the freezing point of water has been confirmed by so many independent experiments (and never falsified), that the probability of a further experiment falsifying it is as low as it can be without actually reaching zero. Thus, we take it to be a scientific fact that pure water freezes at 0oC at sea level.
This gives us the sense in which evolutionists claim that the Theory of Evolution1 (though not any current Theory of Evolution2) is a scientific fact:
3) A hypothesis (TheoryB) which has been confirmed by so many experiments that the probability of its being false is negligible, and which has a higher probability of being true than any rival hypothesis.
This is probably the place to clear up another muddle that scientific creationists exploit in the creation/evolution dispute. Although evolutionists are in agreement that the Theory of Evolution1 is a scientific fact, as defined in 3) above, they wish to point out that the Theory of Evolution1 is not just another fact in the same sense as the fact about the freezing point of water. The fact about water, as important as it is, is still just a fact about one of the many properties of a particular substance one of the many substances that make up the universe. Disturbing as it might be, science could make the necessary adjustments with relatively little difficulty if for some reason we were to conclude that this wasn’t a fact after all. But compare this with the absolute ruin of modern biology that would ensue if we were forced to give up the Theory of Evolution1. Note the key words which occur in the definition of TheoryA given above:
A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation of a group of facts or phenomena.
This is just what the Theory of Evolution1 is: it is the principle which organizes all of the particular facts of biology into a unified science. Before Darwin, biology was a collected of isolated facts which seemed to bear no obvious relationship to each other; it was a cataloguing of facts about beak lengths, reproduction rates, colour schemes, migration routes, etc., a catalogue or naming of thousands upon thousands of different species. It was not a unified science any more than is the list of facts contained in a modern telephone book. Without the Theory of Evolution1 to organize and systematise this incredible compendium of data, modern biology would be more difficult to master than a sports announcer’s collection of baseball trivia, and probably of not much more scientific consequence. This is why the scientific community considers the aims of “scientific creationism” to be so destrutive to science education. It is also why some scientists have said that the Theory of Evolution1 is not just a mere fact in the same sense as one about the average lengths of parakeets’ beaks. Of course scientific creationists twist scientists’ words, and imply that well-known biologists have denied that the Theory of Evolution1 is a fact, leaving the impression that those scientists have stated that evolution is mere guesswork.
However, pointing out the consequences for biology of falsification of the Theory of Evolution1 is not an acceptable substitute for proof that the theory is true. In fact, we can point to far more lines of evidence that support the Theory of Evolution1 than we have space for here; so just two examples will have to suffice.
One might think that the method involved in providing evidence for a scientific theoryA would be different than that for support a simple scientific fact. But such is not the case. The method of verification is the same in both cases, though in practice it is far more difficult to prove a theory than a fact. Both have to be forumulated clearly enough to entail certain consequences that can be observed in nature. Both have to be capable of falsification by observational evidence. The Theory of Evidence1 satisfies both of these conditions. Two of the many entailments of the Theory of Evolution1 which (so far) have been verified by all the observational evidence are:
1) If Theory of Evolution1 is true, and all presently living things are descended from a common ancestor, then all living things, both now living and extinct, should have some common chemical constituents which they inherited from their common ancestor.
2) If Theory of Evolution1 is true, then we should find in the fossil record evidence of intermediate links between presently-existing species to explain how one species evolved into another.
As for entailment 1) of the theory, the cracking of the genetic code provides ample evidence: all living things, from bacteria to orchids to human beings, share the same four bases which make up their DNA. scientific creationists have no answer to this evidence: their best answer to this problem is to avoid the whole issue. This basic prediction of Theory of Evolution1 can also be seen to be falsifiable which is, as you recall, a necessary condition for a theory being scientific; as it would have been falsified if we discovered that viruses, the living things most unlike any other living thing in nature, did not share any common properties with other living things.
As for 2), the prediction of missing links, scientific creationists have outdone themselves in this area. Museums of Natural History are full of evidence of extinct species that bridge gaps between presently-existing species. For example, there is the Archaeopteryx, the missing link between reptiles and birds. In order to deny this evidence, scientific creationists are forced to classify this creature either as a reptile with feathers on its wings and a beak; or a bird with teeth in its beak, the tail of a reptile, and claws on its wings. If they find either of these alternatives as absurd as everyone else does, they can always resort to claiming that it is a fake trumped up by those horrid secular humanist scientists. After all, if the public will believe that the scientific method endorses streaking, they will believe anything! Of course, since the ancestry of the human species is really what is important for scientific creationists, they deny the existence of any missing link between chimpanzees and ourselves. Thus they are left with the task of explaining away Homo Erectus, Peking Man and Neanderthal Man. How do they do it. Homo Erectus, they say simply, is another “secular humanist” fraud. Our other two closer ancestors are just shorter, squatter homo sapiens. After all, this line stretches the truth less dramatically than the “bird with teeth gambit” mentioned earlier.
So, the Theory of Evolution2 has (so far) withstood all attempts to falsify it. How well does it stand up to the second part of the scientific method: the examining of rival hypotheses that may explain the particular facts of biology, paleontology, geology, etc. more elegantly than the Theory of Evolution? The simple fact of the matter is that there is no rival scientific theory that has the explanatory power of the Theory of Evolution1. The “creationist model” just does not count as a scientific alternative, let alone a plausible one.
First, as previously mentioned, the clearest formulation of the scientific creationist model Arkansas Statute 590, is far too vague to entail scientifically falsifiable consequences. But even if the model were made precise enough to yield scientifically testable consequences, there is another problem besides the fact that it would be falsified by the data that we presently have. This problem concerns the hypothesis of the Creator involved in the creationist model. Since the Creator is presented all powerful, He could have created the universe any way that He pleased. Thus, no evidence about the way the universe turned out could possibly falsify the hypothesis; and thus it is not, by definition, a scientific one. This, by the way, explains why genuine scientists hold that their religious conviction, or lack thereof, are logically independent of their scientific methodology.
It also explains why the scientific creationists do not argue directly for their theory, but instead argue against the Theory of Evolution1. As I have pointed out, it is an essential part of the scientific method to attempt to falsify a theory, and scientific creationists would be genuine members of the scientific community if they did this. But, as I pointed out earlier, scientific creationists have yet to make one genuine contribution to the debate on evolution. Instead, they have confined themselves to misunderstanding and misquoting the findings of real scientists.
But the “scientific” creationists’ strategy rests upon an elementary logical blunder. Arguing against evolution works as a substitute for arguing for creationism only if the positions are contradictories: that is, their strategy would be sound only if the falsity of the Theory of Evolution1 entailed the truth of creationism. But this is not the case the Theory of Evolution1 and creationism are contraries; that is, they cannot both be true together, but they can both be false together. There are any number of rival hypotheses to these two that might be correct if it should turn out that the Theory of Evolution1 is false.
Of course, the “scientific” creationists are on even shakier ground when they quote scientific objections to various proposed Theories of Evolution2; i.e. various theories about the mechanisms of evolution. For, when a scientist finds a flaw in one Theory of Evolution2 it is almost inevitably the case that this evidence supports a rival Theory of Evolution2. Thus, the creationists’ case is support by this sort of evidence only if it were to show that no consistent Theory of Evolution2 is possible. If we could not identify the mechanism of evolution, this would be a serious problem with the Theory of Evolution1. However, needless to say, no evidence exists to show that we cannot discover a viable Theory of Evolution2.
So, to summarize the argument so far: the stories of divine creation as presented in Genesis are religious explanations, not scientific ones. “Scientific” creationism is nothing but a pseudo-science.
Given the argument of the previous section, there is no room for stories of Divine creation or scientific creationism as part of the public school science curriculum.
To include the former in science classes makes no more sense that it would to teach music or law in science classes. However, just as these disciplines have their place in the public school curriculum, so does a course in religious studies, and talk of Divine Creation is appropriate in such a course, along with discussion of religious systems other than Christianity. Such a course is already approved by the B.C. Ministry of Education, and is offered by many school districts in the province. Scientific creationism, on the other hand, is simply pseudo-science, and has no place in the science curriculum.
This is not to say, however, that it ought not to be mentioned in science classrooms. The Ministry of Education policy, which encourages teachers to discuss scientific creationism if students raise questions about it, is basically sound. Since it has been made a media issue in the past several years, individual science teachers may wish to raise the issue, given that high school science classes attempt to inform citizens, not just science majors. Also, since science courses aim to give the student an understanding of the scientific method, teachers may wish to contrast the scientific method with religious and ethical thinking. They may even wish to contrast science with pseudo-science for the same purpose. This is sound pedagogy; even if it is politically unwise in the present climate of controversy over Creationism. However, it is important to note that this is not what the proponents of scientific Creationism have in mind by giving creation science equal time in the B.C. School science curriculum. We shall return to this point in Section IV.
The whole issue of the teaching of Evolution in the public schools has been blown out of proportion in much of the recent debates. We must remember that virtually nothing is said about evolution in the science curriculum from primary grades to Grade 10. It is only in Grades 11 and 12 that Biology is taught as a separate subject, and neither Biology 11 nor Biology 12 is a required course for entrance into a B.C. university. In fact, the curriculum for Biology 11 makes very little mention of the Theory of Evolution: although Biology 12 covers evolution more extensively. It is certainly possible for a student to complete grade 12 in B.C. without hearing the Theory of Evolution mentioned, if he or she chooses a science course other than Biology. Certainly it is a rare biology teacher that goes into detail about recent discussions in the scientific literature of various alternative Theories of Evolution2 theories about the mechanisms of evolution such as neo-Darwinism or Punctuated Equilibria. The question of how far these theories can be profitably discussed in high school biology classes turns on facts about the background knowledge and level of sophistication of students between the ages of 15 and 18; and thus are most profitably settled by professional educators. While professional scientists have the job of settling which is the best scientific theory, and all of the rest of us need to be concerned about what our children need to know by the time they finish school, the question of what students are capable of learning at that age is a distinct one. It does not come within the province of the BCCLA to settle; nor is it one that provincial legislators, cabinet committees, or local school boards are especially equipped to handle. Thus it is unfortunate that the creationists are busy agitating cabinet ministers and individual school board members about what is taught in Biology classes. They have confused political, pedagogical, scientific and religious questions.
The BCCLA divides its recommendations into two groups; those concerning
A) Political interference with the science and religious studies curricula (Recommendations 1 and 2) and
B) Religious freedoms of pupils and teachers (Recommendation 3):
A. Political interference with science and religious studies curricula
Given the arguments presented above, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association believes that the following claims have been established:
i) The Creation Science model is not a rival scientific theory to the Theory of Evolution.
ii) Creation science does not meet the standards appropriate to science.
iii) Creation scientists are Fundamentalist Protestants, and given the lack of scientific evidence for their theory, the most plausible explanation for their views is that it derives from a literal reading of the Bible; hence it is a religious view appropriate for a religious studies class, not a science class.
iv) The Theory of Evolution is not, as Creation Scientists maintain, similarly based on a religious world view.
Thus, given i) and ii), there is no substance to Creation Scientist’s arguments that the political process must be invoked to rectify the “injustice” perpetrated on a legitimate scientific doctrine by the “scientific establishment”. Given iii) there is no justification for teaching Creation Science in a science class, although there is justification for teaching about theories of Divine Creation in Religious Studies classes. Given iv), there is no justification for the claim that a kind of religion, Secular Humanism and its supposed allied principle, the Theory of Evolution, is already being taught, and fairness requires that we either drop the teaching of Evolution or include creation science along with the Theory of Evolution. In fact, given the argument in Section I that the upshot of teaching Creation Science in science classrooms is to give special advantage to Fundamental Protestantism over other religious systems that do not oppose Evolution, there is reason to think that teaching Creation Science in the science classrooms goes against notion of religious pluralism.
As well, we must be careful about involving the political process in deciding questions about scientific fact or scientific methodology.13 As pointed out in Section III, questions of curriculum do not turn just on questions of truth or falsity of the subject matter. We also need information about educational psychology, i.e. in order to determine whether a given curriculum is appropriate for students at a given age level or level of background knowledge. Thus, we should be sceptical of any movement that uses the political process to get its particular message into the public schools, without dealing directly with the Curriculum Development Branch of the Ministry of Education, teachers’ professional organizations, etc.
Of course, we as citizens must have input into decisions about the kinds of information imparted to our children; and the above is not meant to suggest that we leave all questions of curriculum up to the “experts”. But, in the absence of information that the experts are neglecting something vital to our children’s development, there is no reason for the BCCLA to act. Further there can be no justification for legislation requiring how those topics must be dealt with.
B. Religious freedoms of pupils and teachers
It is important to keep in mind the distinction made in the previous paragraph between the ways Evolution is handled in the earlier grades and in Biology 11 and 12 in addressing this question.
In the earlier grades, where evolution is given cursory treatment, and is not part of a systematic course of study, a student who had (or whose parents had) religious objections to discussions of evolution could be exempted from such discussions without suffering scholastically. Given the arguments in Section I, there is no reason to think that anyone’s religious sensibilities should be offended by discussions of evolution. However, unfortunately, what should offend people, and what does are sometimes two different matters. But, as we mentioned in the Introduction, the Ministry already has a policy to exempt students in such circumstances. Thus there is no problem for the BCCLA to deal with here.
This problem has been made all the worse by the Ministry’s recent policy of compulsory province-wide final examinations. If the Theory of Evolution is to be covered on the examination, then this would be unfair to those students who are exempted from discussions on the topic. On the other hand, if it is excluded, this 1) destroys the credibility of the exam, which claims to cover the important core concepts of the course; and 2) would encourage teachers, in their own interests, as well as those of the students, not to cover the subject in the course. The Ministry recognized this dilemma in the June 1984 examination, and attempted to circumvent it by asking the students to state the theory and then, if they so chose, to criticize it. But this strategy is disastrous for two reasons: First, since the examination is a short one two hours for the regular exam, written by all students, and a further hour taken only by those who are writing for the provincial scholarship and consists of many other questions covering other material, it is impossible for students to do justice to such a complex question. Second, for the reasons just given, the students for whom this option was intended, those who have religious objections to evolution, are the ones who suffer most. If they attempt both parts of the question in the same amount of time taken by those who answer only the first part, then their answers will be more vague, and will go into points in less detail than the latter’s answers. But if they take more time than the other students on this question than the other students, then they have less time for the other questions, and thus will be at a disadvantage there.
However, there is no reason for such a student to be put into this awkward position, since these subjects are not required for B.C. Secondary School graduation. One sensible option for such a student is to take Physics or Chemistry instead of Biology.
This sounds like an infringement of the liberties of those students who wish to maintain their Fundamentalist Protestant religious beliefs, yet pursue programs or careers for which Biology 11 and/or 12 is a prerequisite. However, it does not seem to us that this is so. We must remember that if a science is taught properly, students are not required to believe in the theories in the way that one is required to believe in the tenets of one’s religion. An examination in a science course is given to determine a student’s understanding of the material covered, not as a pledge to believe in it. It is not like the pledge members must sign to join the Creation Research Centre. So in this sense, the Education Ministry’s accession to the demands of creationists by amending the compulsory provincial exams to allow students to oppose evolution, seems quite unnecessary. However, if a student’s scruples are such that she/he cannot take an examination under such conditions, it is hard to see what would satisfy him, short of all scientists promising to believe on faith exactly what the student believes.
Similarly, if a teacher cannot in good faith teach a curriculum including the Theory of Evolution, despite the fact that she/he is not supposed to be preaching it but merely trying to get students to understand the concepts involved, there should be no difficulty in getting assigned to other courses that she/he would not view as a compromise of integrity.
Thus we have no recommendation to propose on this score reasonableness on the part of all parties concerned is the answer here, rather than specific proposals. A lesson can be drawn from cases in the past where orthodox Jewish or Muslim students have objected to dissecting a pig in Biology classes and a rabbit was substituted a reasonable compromise which didn’t involve bringing the matter to the attention of the Legislature.
C. Defending teachers attacked by Creationist organizations
At present, the Creationist movement does not appear to be as militant in British Columbia as it is in some parts of the United States. Also, the actions of Ministers of Education are sometimes unpredictable; as was shown by a recent Minister of Education’s recommendation that a sex education teacher in Terrace be fired for distributing controversial material to students. It is entirely possible that an individual teacher may apply to the BCCLA for help over his or her stand vis-a-vis creation science.
It is argued in Section III that contrasting science with pseudo-science is often legitimate pedagogy. Showing how a given pseudo-science fails the test of the scientific method can be a valuable way of illustrating why certain strictures are required in legitimate science. Also, as mentioned in the Introduction, the B.C. Ministry of Education strongly recommends that teachers be prepared to discuss scientific creationism if students express concerns about it. Thus it is entirely possible that a teacher could get into a great deal of hot water with politically active creationists by merely trying to fulfill the guidelines set by the Ministry. Of course such a case would be fraught with emotion, and it would be difficult to prise away the emotional rhetoric and charges of denegrating religion, etc. And certainly it is no more justifiable for a science teacher to use his position in the classroom to denegrate religion that it would be for him or her to preach it. Nevertheless, it is certainly possible for a conscientious teacher to be accused of denegrating religion unjustly when she/he is on solid pedagogical grounds, and furthermore is doing something enjoined by the Ministry. Obviously the facts of the individual case would have to be considered before the BCCLA committed itself.
That the B.C. Civil Liberties Association refuse to offer support to any organization or individual who argues that a commitment to religious freedom or tolerance requires that creation science be taught in public school classrooms.
That the B.C. Civil Liberties Association go on record as opposing any legislation, or Ministry of Education or school board policy, which requires or encourages the teaching of creation science as a scientific theory in the public school science classes of British Columbia.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association supports the Ministry of Education policies in force as of November, 1981, that teachers are not required to mention creationism when they discuss the Theory of Evolution, but should be prepared to discuss creationism if students raise questions about it.
We are indebted to Bob Lane and Gary Bauslaugh of Malaspina College, and Wayne Goodey of cause for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper.
1. Crawford Kilian, “Bible, Darwin both ’right’”, The Province, September 11, 1984, p. 17.
2. CAUSE and Effect (Newsletter of the Citizens Against Undermining Science Education (CAUSE) Box 4, S.U.B., University of British Columbia) Vol. I No. 2 (Spring 1982), p. 2. Quoted from Gwen Smith, “Classroom Challenge: Genesis vs. Darwin”. Globe and Mail, 21 November 1981.
3. For Reagan’s comment, cf. Niles Eldredge, The Monkey Business (New York, Washington Square Press, 1982), p. 28.
4. We cannot directly substantiate the claim that this version of the theory is almost universally agreed upon by biologists by citing the results of an opinion poll, since science is not done by taking polls. Nor can we substantiate this claim by citing the memberships in any scientific organization, since no legitimate scientific body requires its members to sign a pledge or oath to believe in any scientific doctrine prior to examination of the data. (The scientific creationists, on the other hand, as reported later in this paper, do require the signing of such a pledge.) However, an examination of the scientific journals dealing with evolution should convince the reader that there is not, as the creation scientists maintain, any serious controversy over the Theory of Evolution. The odd paper criticising the Theory is published from time to time—though none of these has been authorized by anyone identified as a member of the creation science movement. One popular work by respectable scientists which calls into question the Theory of Evolution is Fred Hoyle and Wickramasighe, N.C., Disease From Space (London, Dent, 1979), esp. pp. 147-59. But the numbers of such works criticizing the Theory are so law as to qualify for inclusion in an intellectual endangered species list!
For layperson’s accounts of the Theory of Evolution1, cf. the works cited in notes 3 and 12. For a more advanced account, cf. D.J. Futuyma’s textbook, Evolutionary Biology (Sunderland, Mass., Sinauer, 1979), which is one of the most widely used at present.
5. The Theory of Evolution2 which at present has the most likelihood of replacing or resulting in serious revision of the theory of the mechanisms of evolution to which the majority of evolutionists today adhere, the neo-Darwinian synthesis, is that of punctuated equilibria. For a layman’s account of some of the issues involved in this dispute, cf. S.J. Gould, The Panda’s Thumb (New York, Norton, 1980). For a more technical account, cf. Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall, The Myths of Human Evolution (New York, Columbia University Press, 1982). However, these authors continually emphasize the point we make in this brief that a disagreement over the mechanisms of evolution does not entail a denial that evolution took place. Two of these authors have become so angered by scientific creationists’ refusals to pay attention to this point, and the creationists’ constant misquoting of their positions to make it look as if they had presented arguments against the Theory of Evolution, that they have written vigorous attacks on creation science, arguing that it is clearly pseudo-science. Stephen Jay Gould’s articles have appeared in his column in Natural History, and Niles Eldredge’s position on creation science is argued in his book cited in note 3.
6. Cf. The Monkey Business, p. 82.
7. Duane Gish, “The Genesis War,” Science Digest (October 1981), p. 83.
8. James Gorman, “Judgement Day for Creationism,” Discover (February 1982), p. 16.
9. Eldredge, op. cit. p. 82.
10. Gorman, op. cit., p. 17.
11. The Catholic Church has officially held since Pope Pius XII’s 1950 encyclical on the subject that evolution is not inconsistent with the Catholic faith. He maintained that “… the teaching of the Church leaves the doctrine of evolution an open question.” It should be noted that, although this encyclical maintains that there is no inconsistency between Church doctrine and the position that human beings’ physical characteristics evolved from earlier life forms, the Catholic Church still has no official position on the origins of the human mind or soul from earlier life forms. However, these difficulties are not of a sort that give rise to problems for Catholic students in B.C. science classes. Many local Catholic theologians are on record as opposing the position of the scientific creationists, including Father James Robert of Vancouver City College. Among Protestant theologians, there are, of course, certain Fundamentalists who are involved in the political agitations for creation science in the classroom. But it is important to note that this position is not universally held even among the Fundamentalist Protestants; and it is rare to find creation science argued for by liberal Protestants it is more common, in fact, to find them opposing this doctrine. For more on this, cf. Dorothy Nelkin, Science Textbook Controversies and the Politics of Equal Time (Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1977). Locally, one of the most vociferous opponents of creation science among liberal Protestant theologians is George Hermanson, Anglican Chaplain at UBC.
12. The account of the scientific method given here is grossly oversimpliifed. Readers who wish a more cogent account are referred to Carl Hempel, Philosophy of Natural Science (Englewood Cliff, N.J., Prentice-Hall, 1966) and Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations (New York, Harper Torchbooks, 1968) chaps. 8-11, 16, and Appendix I, and The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Harper Torchbooks, 1965). Karl Popper is often quoted by the Creationists as claiming that the Theory of Evolution is not a scientific theory because it is unfalsifiable. While Popper made claims several years ago that could be interpreted (loosely) in this way, he has recently made his views clear: cf. his letter in New Scientist (Vol. 87, 1980), p. 611, and his article, “Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind,” Dialectics (Vol. 32, 1978), p. 344. In these places he makes it clear that he too has been misquoted and misunderstood by the scientific creationists, and does not (presently) hold that the theory of natural selection is unfalsifiable. Other books that may be useful are T.A. Goudge, The Ascent of Life (Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1961): Chris McGowan, In the Beginning…: A Scientist Shows Why the Creationists Are Wrong (Toronto, Macmillan of Canada, 1983); Douglas J. Futuyma, Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution (New York, Pantheon Books, 1983); Philip Kitcher, Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism (Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1982) and Michael Ruse, The Darwinian Revolution: Science Red in Tooth and Claw (Chicago, Ill., University of Chicago Press, 1979). A quarterly journal that presents analyses of Creationist arguments and news of political battles on the issue is Creation/Evolution, 953 Eighth Avenue, Suite 209, San Diego, Ca. 92101. The Creationists’ two most prominent works are D.T. Gish, Evolution? The Fossils Say No! (San Diego, Ca., Creation-Life Publishers, 1979) and Henry Morris, Scientific Creationism (Creation-Life Publishers, 1974). The latter work comes in two editions, the “general edition,” meant as a textbook for religious schools, and full of references to the Bible, and the “Public School edition,” which has most of those references removed to satisfy the American requirements of separation of Church and State. The latter is the one adopted by many State Boards of Education in the U.S.
13. For an amusing account of an attempt to pass a bill in the State of Indiana making Pi equal to 9.2376… , see Petr Beckmann, A History of Pi, pp. 169-173. Besides its comic value, this story raises the absurdity of attempting to legislate scientific or mathematical truths.