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The Sciences

The Fort Sumter of Creationist Astronomy?

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitJune 13, 2005 7:54 AM


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Note added June 13, 2005: I will be busy over the next few days, and may not be able to update the blog during that time. Given the furor this latest entry has generated, I'm inclined to keep it up a while anyway!

I have been saying for years that creationists would soon be turning their attention to sciences other than biology. Evolution may tick off creationists (because it has the unfortunate aspect of undermining their pre-conceived beliefs on how the Universe should behave, rather than how it does behave), but to them, other fields of science can be even worse. Well, a shot across the bow has been fired. Sure, they've made dumb claims about astronomy before, which are easily debunked (I also debunked these claims in my book). But I consider this one more serious because it comes from a group which is more organized, and which has already started a concerted attack on science. Specifically, it comes from the critters at The Discovery Institute, an unfortunately influential group of anti-scientists, even though the very basis of their existence is wrong. They have made it clear that biology is merely the first call of creationism, and it won't be the last. On their blog (which rarely comes within a glancing blow of reality), they have this to say: From, to which I refuse to hotlink

Although much of the public controversy over intelligent design has focused on the application of design to biology, it's important to remember that design theory itself reaches well beyond biology, and that some of the strongest evidence for design comes from such fields as physics, astronomy, and cosmology.

Evolution rankles them because it contradicts the Bible which says God made man in his own image and describes specifically how God did it. But cosmology, the study of the Universe as a whole, is even worse for them, since it clearly contradicts the very first passages of that Bible. If you take the Bible literally, then you have to reject everything we understand about science, and vice-versa. Most Christians in the US do not take the Bible literally, but those who do are a very squeaky wheel indeed. A lot of legislators (like say, in Kansas) think that wheel should be oiled. To push the analogy further, I think the air should be let out of it. Many people like to say that science and religion are compatible. I find that to be a monumentally naive statement. Perhaps science and some religions can be reconciled, but if your religion says that Jupiter is really made of pixie dust, or that the Earth is flat, or that 1+1 =3, then your religion is wrong. It's really just that simple. The Universe knows what it's doing, and the reality of it is what science seeks. If your religion cannot be reconciled with that reality, then your religion is wrong (and I would certainly say the same thing about any science which incorrectly describes reality). Perhaps not all religions contradict reality, but certainly creationism does, as does Intelligent Design. The effect of this on young-Earth creationism is obvious. I will be very clear here: If people read a book and use it to interpret reality, and it contradicts the way the Universe works, then either that book or their interpretation of it is wrong. Again, it is really just that simple. There is no room for debate with young-earth creationists like those at the Discovery Institute (who, despite their bluster, have made it very clear that's who they really are). Their ideas are absolute, and there is no shade of grey. If you are a Christian, and not a fundamentalist literal-Bible Christian, then you should be aware that these creationists are not on your side. To them, you are just as wrong as Muslims, Jews, and atheists. They may paint scientists as evil atheists who want to steer your children from The One True Way, but remember that this is their "True Way", and probably not yours. They have no problems distorting the truth, egregiously and often if it so suits them. Young Earth creationists have let slip the dogmas of war. In the ensuing battles they will use a host of weapons, including misrepresenting facts, mining of quotes, belaboring outdated theories, and dancing around to avoid answering direct questions. Mark my words: their history is clear. They may have fired the first shot, but we have plenty of ammo on our side as well. And we also have many, many scientists willing to accept this call to arms. I'm one of them. Over the course of time, you'll be seeing more rebuttals -- no, debunking -- of creationist claims here. I've had enough, and this threat is real. They want to turn our classrooms in a theocratically-controlled anti-science breeding ground, and I'm not going to sit by and watch it happen.

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