My father is an old-earth creationist. I am an aspiring stem cell biologist. He doesn't believe in evolution by natural selection (or global warming for that matter), and you can imagine the frustration I have.
He argues that he respects my knowledge of biology, but there are "PhDs out there that study old-earth creationism" and use science to "prove the literal truth of the bible".
I've debated with him about the supposed "incomplete" fossil record, genesis 1 vs. 2, bacterial resistance, irreducible complexity, the works. I've also used Occam's razor about positing a diety and the fact that creationism only tries to "scientifically" attack evolution but doesn't seem to use scientific methods to arrive at another alternative theory. This may actually have advanced science... the amount of questioning out there has lead to some reevaluation of certain concepts like sexual selection that may not occur as Darwin proposed.
Finally, I've argued that the National Academy of Sciences is composed almost completely of supporters of the fact of evolution.
What do you think about having alternative theories around (regardless where they come from)? Should these "scientists" be able to explore creationist theories? Arguing about scientific consensus doesn't work, anyone would realize this remembering Galileo (like Greta, I'm still angry about that). I'd like to be open-minded. What do you think?
I'd encourage it.
This brings up the question of definitions and word usage when discussing alternative "theories", and I don't mean for this to sound pompous. Making sure everyone's on the same page in definitions can save a whole lot of grief.
The word "theory" is often used when someone means an opinion, a train of thought, proposition, or a hypothesis. This is very different than the scientific use of the word "theory".
By your post, I can see that you mean evolutionary theory to be the scientific referencing of facts and the other theory references to mean something like just an opinion. The differences in the two definitions being vastly different meanings can have a huge impact on the discussions with your father.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Creationism has not made it to Theory status and lost its hypothesis status when it failed to prove anything. It should now be considered just an old proposition. Pursuing creationist theories seems rather absurd given how nothing proposed so far justifies such a pursuit or any reason given to believe it's a theory. That's not to say someone cannot take such a route, and taking any personal interest in a quest for your own peace of mind is entirely self justified.
However, repeated testing and being honest with the results is the key to proving or disproving its worthiness for advancement and acceptance in any scientific sense. And from what I know of Creationism, as a repackaged religious proposal, it cannot now (nor has it ever been able to) predict anything about reality.
You are frustrated with your dad’s old earth creationist views. My father is also an old earth creationist – devout Catholic.
Do I lose a lick of sleep over his views? Absolutely not. And you shouldn’t either. There is no changing the mind of these people… and yes it is somewhat depressing that these people are in our immediate family. Nevertheless, once you come to accept the fact… the reality…… that these people will never change their beliefs….. The less frustrated you will be.
Evolution is not a matter of belief. It is a matter of understanding. He obvious does not understand Evolution because he has not studied it. If he had done so he would understand it. If he understood it then he would know that it is true. It is a fact in the same sense it is a fact that the Earth orbits the Sun. It is not disproven because it is misunderstood or not believed. It is not “only a theory”. Other theories are fine as they will only advance and strengthen it. See also Dawkins ideas on “it’s only a Theory” in his book “the Greatest Show on Earth”. Then leave it on the coffee table.
I think Nelson's answer is a good one. Of course, academic freedom requires that any scientist be able to investigate any theory or hypothesis he wants, but if he publishes bad ideas without sufficient evidence, then he is not much of a scientist. That being said, I think there are some ideas that are so obviously wrong that only incredible new evidence would justify examining them, such as, for example, the flat Earth theory. Young Earth creationism falls in that category as well. To my mind, any hypothesis that rejects evolution belongs there as well.
I know he is your father, but I no longer debate such people. In fact, I no longer have contact with them except when it is unavoidable. Too many bad experiences.
As long as the peers are independent and not intellectually predisposed to align with the so-called discoverer of the "proof."
Creationists are certainly free to come up with scientific theories to support their beliefs. So why haven't they? If they want scientists to take them seriously they must present claims that can be tested, experiments that can be replicated, and theories that are capable of falsification. Not only have creationists not proposed anything that could remotely be called theories, but not even any hypotheses. Speculations and conjectures are about as close as creationists ever come to anything science can examine. They can't advance beyond that because they have been totally unable to produce anything resembling EVIDENCE.
I am often amused by the demand of creationists to be allowed to present their "creation science" alongside the established science in the classroom. Of what, exactly, would their lessons consist?
Lesson 1: Tell students that "evolution can't be true because I don't understand it."
Lesson 2: ???
My proposal: Allow creationists to have one hour a week giving their evidence in a public school science class. And allow ME to have one hour a week in Sunday school to present MY evidence.
conclusion: This is a proposal NO church, synagogue, mosque, or TV religion show would agree to, because they know full well that they would, in the long run, lose in the markteplace of open inquiry.
note: years ago, when I was teaching an 8th grade physical science class, I had a student tell me about a local creationist who could prove, scientifically, that God exists. I told her to invite her neighbor to come to my class and say whatever she wished, so long as it was understood that she must submit to questioning, not by me, but by the students afterwards. She never showed.