Saturday, April 07, 2007

On Creationism

Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins both push an argument pointing out that creationists are making a scientific claim, and that the issue is not one of religion vs. science, but of which scientific claim is more accurate. Claims about how human beings originally came to be on Earth are scientific claims about the natural world.

Creationists accept the following theory, from Genesis 2:7-8, about how the first human, Adam, from whom we all descend, was created: "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 8: And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. "

This is a scientific claim in that it is, at least in theory, empirically testable. Here's a thought experiment: let's set up video cameras to record the event. The creationist claims that if we could go back in time, set up video cameras and record at the precise place and time of the occurrence described in Genesis, we would see a man being formed from actual dust -- real matter in the natural world -- and springing to life after having wind blown up his nose. It is debatable whether the video would pick up God insofar as creationists, I think, would claim that he is supernatural and so would not be visible in the material world. But that's no matter because creationists accept (I think) that the dust, Adam, and the wind in his nose would be events involving actual matter in the natural world, and so should in theory be recordable on a video.

The "video" of evolution would involve much more footage, occurring over a much longer period of time, but you can imagine the prediction an evolutionist would make about what we'd see on the videos, the footage of which would go back at least as far as the lives of clearly non-human primate ancestors and forward through their step-by-step mutated offspring.

Thus, the creationist and the evolutionist both have predictions about what we'd see on the video tapes. They both make scientific claims that are testable, at least in theory. Based on other empirical evidence of which I am aware, including the fossil record, and the DNA links between our species and "lesser" primates and other related species, such as mammals generally.

Based on this evidence, my money is on a series of videos that trace man back through a mutation process that arose from a clearly separate species. I am still awaiting a presentation of evidence from creationists that is more impressive than the overwhelming evidence for evolution. I'd consider it if it were presented to me.

I have a similar belief about the virgin birth. We could, in theory, test Jesus's DNA and compare it to Mary's and determine if there was any other contributing human DNA. More crudely, we could do the video thought experiment with Mary too. I bet video would reveal sex, or perhaps rape. This would be the most shocking video ever, incidentally.

I think I'll end this post on that note before I go too much farther down this road just before Easter. . .

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