More Lies for Kids from AIG

Answers in Genesis just loves lying to children.  Here’s a fascinating article that purports to answer, for children, the question “What is science?” As someone who’s spent the last 12 years or so studying the history and philosophy of science, I can tell you this is no simple question.  In answer to a child’s query, I wouldn’t give them some complicated history of logical positivism or the demarcation problem or the difference between the syntactic and semantic accounts of scientific theories. But I would at least try to give them a description that accurately represents the current views of philosophers and historians and scientists, and that reflects both the potential and the limits of science while stressing the complexity of the overall process and the dangers of judging scientific findings one doesn’t understand.  Can I expect anything like that from AIG? No, of course not. Instead, we get this:

The kind of science that we normally think of as science (called “operational science”) is a wonderful tool that helps researchers discover new vaccines, find new kinds of fish in previously-uncharted waters, build more fuel-efficient cars, chart a course to other planets, and devise new treatments for old diseases.

Science makes you nifty toys and cures you when you have poopy-butt! That’s what the collected knowledge of hundreds of years of human endeavor to understand nature has earned us. New cars and space ships and diarrhea medicine.

“Operational science” is not a term in philosophy of science that I’m familiar with. The invention of new cars and medicines is what’s usually called “applied science” in philosophy of science. But it is sad but true that the shallow “gives us new technology to buy at the mall” view of science is all too common. People see the applications of science without any understanding of the theoretical principles that make that application possible.

With this kind of science, people can uncover fossils or study the composition of rocks.

Science finds things and tells you what they’re made of! Because that’s interesting and shit! But saying anything more than a shallow, simplistic “Here’s that fossil” or “Here’s that rock” is verboten blasphemy, because…

However, operational science has limitations. It can’t, for example, tell us where fish came from, when the rock formed in the first place, or how the bones of the creature came to be fossilized.

So it’s basically useless. A science that just points out the existence of things or describes what they are made of is just glorified stamp collecting. And, by the way, you can’t do important medical sciences like epidemiology without talking about how things (in this case, diseases) originate. So your definition of “operational science” is internally inconsistent. You can’t do medical science with this childish “point at rock and break it open” approach to science.

Operational science deals with the world of today. It involves testing and repeating experiments.

Are these two sentences both supposed to be about the same topic? They’re presented as if they are, and yet they clearly are not. If I had a hypothesis that King Tut had some particular genetic abnormality, and obtained some of his tissues and sequenced his genome, that would certainly be testing, and the experiment would be repeatable. But it’s not about today; it’s about thousands of years ago. And if I were a meteorologist who predicted something about the particular weather patterns happening right now, that would certainly be about today, but it would not be repeatable, since no future day is going to be exactly like today. And if I were an astronomer, I could make a prediction that such-and-such planet will appear in the sky today, but it wouldn’t be an experiment, since I have no way of manipulating or controlling any planet’s path. In fact, there’s quite a bit of legitimate science that doesn’t fit this definition of “operational science”.

“Operational science” doesn’t sound like science at all. Rather, it sounds like a way to enjoy the fruits of science while disparaging the ones who produce them. Kinda like how wealthy Republicans treat the workforce.

Origins science deals with the past.

Again, “origins science” is not a common term in history and philosophy of science. Care to elaborate?

Origins or historical science is used to reconstruct events that have happened in the past, using principles such as causality (for every effect, there must be a cause) and analogy (if this is the way it happens today, then perhaps it happened like this in the past).

Well, “historical science” is a real term, but you defined it poorly. “Causality” is part of all science. Seriously, what aspect of any human endeavor anywhere doesn’t involve causality? ‘What causes what’ is basic to almost any intellectual pursuit. And, again, analogy can play a role in any form of science. If causes and metaphors are all it takes to be origins science, then pretty much everything is origins science, and the term is meaningless.

The important factors in historical science are principles such as vera causae (causes for which you have independent evidence to know that they exist) and consilience of inductions (when multiple independent lines of evidence lead to the same conclusion). The important word in each is “independent”. Scientific facts aren’t discovered in a vacuum. They must be evaluated in terms of what you already know (and don’t know), and that’s crucial for understanding historical sciences like forensic science, geology, archeology, and, yes, evolutionary biology.

But I’m sitting here giving a philosophical evaluation of a dichotomy created solely to keep the god-humpers from having to acknowledge that human knowledge has advanced beyond their silly little book of fairy tales. Observe:

Of course, the best method of reconstruction is to rely on the account of an accurate eyewitness.

Really? So a few thousand years ago, Europe and the middle east were crawling with Centaurs, Minotaurs, Griffins, Satyrs, Trolls, Genies, Frost Giants, Leprechauns, Hydras, Sirens, Nymphs, Faeries, and about seventy bajillion gods and goddesses? Because that’s what the eye witnesses of the time tell us.

Naturalists have no such eyewitness to rely on.

“Naturalists” here means “people who rely on rationale, evidence based explanations”.

However, the Bible provides a written record of an eyewitness to (who was also intimately involved in) history—the Creator God.

So you don’t have any such witness either. And that’s not how parenthetical statements work, by the way.

This eyewitness cannot lie, so His account is completely trustworthy.

The fuck he can’t lie. If he’s even real, then basically his entire creation is one big fat lie. He puts the most distant galaxies 13.7 billion light years away, meaning the universe must be at least 13.7 billion years old or else we couldn’t see them, but then tells us it’s only 6,000 years old? Either the Bible is lying or the universe is lying. But since Jeebus is apparently the perpetrator of both, it’s his fault either way.

We can use this written record as our foundation for understanding the world around us.

We could do the same with the Gilgamesh or the Koran. And it wouldn’t be any more or less stupid.

This will help us to understand why the world is the way it is today and to make sense of where we came from and why we’re here.

There’s some fundamentalist logic for you. Specifically preventing people from pursuing questions like “How did the world get the way it is” is the path to finding the answer.

As you go through the museum, be sure to look for statements which fall under operational science—e.g., “this fossil was found in Montana”—and statements which fall under origins science—e.g., “this fossil is 65 million years old.”

Translation: Focus on easy, childish shit and reject things that require more effort, thought and training.

The philosophy of science that creationists peddle to children is reflective of the kinds of attitudes we see in adults who gullibly buy into this shit. Science, for them, is just a way to point at something, take it apart, and find a way to market it. Any broader understanding of reality is spoon fed to you by someone who claims to have absolute truth that can’t be questioned. And yet, so few people actually bother to notice the obvious fact that science couldn’t possibly have accomplished all it has over the last 400 years if finding things and taking them apart were all it could do. Pretty much all of modern technology relies on theoretical findings about atoms, electricity, germs, genes and physical interactions that can’t be directly observed but still succumb to the scientific method when understood properly. There is no eye witness account of the curvature of space-time, and yet our GPS satellites which rely explicitly on this theory work quite well. There have been tons of murders which nobody witnessed, but the killer was caught anyways due to the power of forensic science.

The creationist numbskulls are asserting two rather contradictory theses: 1.) What isn’t obviously right in front of your face can’t be real truth (thus evolution isn’t true because no one saw all 4 billions years of it), and 2.) You have to take on faith that the ruler of the entire universe inspired this particular book and any science that contradicts it must be wrong. The obvious problem here is that none of us saw God witnessing any of these events. We have to rely on non-witness humans to tell us God saw these events. The importance of eye-witnesses shoots them in the foot–we don’t have eye witness accounts in the Bible. Rather, we have people claiming someone else (god) told them he was an eye witness. And these people don’t provide any evidence whatsoever that they actually communicated with this so-called “god” fellow.

So we have to choose between humans who meticulously gathered gobs and gobs of evidence of evolution, and humans who say a magical being told them the truth. The latter’s argument only sounds convincing when you leave out the part where it’s humans saying that God said such-and-such, without bothering to provide any proof that any actual god said any such thing.  Leave that part in, and obviously the mounds of fossils and DNA and biogeography and comparative morphology and embryology and geology and astrophysics and cladistics and vestigial organs and plate tectonics sounds a lot more convincing than “I’m a human, and I say god wrote this book. So believe it, damn it!”

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