Monday, July 06, 2009

Are Creationists Rational?

I don't think that creationism is a rational choice, especially Young Earth Creationism. John Wilkins isn't so sure [Are Creationists Rational?].

I highly recommend his article. It addresses the reasons why creationists think the way they do. I disagree with John's conclusion that you can't change the minds of most committed creationists and I disagree somewhat with John's definition of science. John seems to imply that science is what scientists do whereas I see science as a way of knowing that permeates all aspects of knowledge discovery. I would even argue that John is using the scientific way of knowing in his philosophy papers.

If you disagree, John, can you identify the other way of knowing that you are using?

I think that science as a way of knowing&mdashbased on evidence and rationality—should not only be taught in science classes. It should also be part of the core concepts in history, geography, English, civics, and social studies.


  1. The "science is what scientists do" definition is vapid, because scientists brush their teeth and play guitar, but we don't count those activities as doing science. Instead, science is a set of traditions of knowledge gathering, which is what makes them scientists. But as I have often argued, there is no essential set of methods, nor is there any demarcation criterion, that covers all and only science.

    That said, it is pretty clear that science has a lot of things in common, in a cluster of methods and techniques that are common to most science, and nothing that is science lacks all or even many of these methods.

    As to science being a way of knowing - of course. That's why I do philosophy of science; it's where the action is that makes philosophy more than spinning one's wheels. I'm not sure how you gathered that from my article.

  2. Spend a few minutes perusing the Answers in Genesis website, then ask yourself the question again.

  3. The only way to eliminate creationism is to mandate proper science education starting at a very early age and in the same time prevent religious indoctrination and I think the article supports this. Because according to the "influence vector strength" model of epistemic development the stronger influence will eventually dominate and the family will always be a stronger influence than school, even if just because it starts exercising that influence much earlier.

    I don't see either of these happening. First you need to convince the politicians to change the educational system. I can't see that happening and even if the will was there the teachers to implement it aren't. The second part (preventing the early age religious indoctrination), is just as, if not more important, and currently is a totally unacceptable idea.

    So while it is very useful to analyze and debate on whether and how we could solve the problem with scientific illiteracy among the general population (and not only, whoever thinks that the majority of people working in science ever thinks about their epistemic choices is childishly naive), ultimately there is nothing we can do with the limited tools we have.

  4. Define "committed creationist" -- the term sounds ripe for abuse of the Scottish kind.

    I have certainly encountered people (and I'm sure you can think of a few candidates from the t.o years) who are very unlikely to ever change their views, certainly not from rational argument alone (since they give every sign of being impervious to it). OTOH, I think we both know of people who have abandoned Creationism (and possibly religion altogether). Often, a radical change of views (in any direction) seems to require a personal crisis that disrupts the personal security and social connections that make the particular intellectual commitments attractive.

  5. It may well be an interesting article, but not $34.00 interesting ... That is the price to purchase access to the single article from the publisher. The UW-Madison library cancelled its subscription to Synthese at the end of 2005, and electronic versions are unavailable for the most recent year. It's one of things that bothers me about the trend towards electronic-only publishing (see here for example).

  6. $34 for the article? That's a shame (and quite unexpected). Sorry to whinge but I was looking forward to reading it. I'll just have to reverse engineer it by reading this comment thread :)

  7. Aarrrggghhhhh, now I'll have to go to uni today and show my advisor my latest results (wooo, negative results are so much fun!) just so I can download that.

  8. For those who don't want to pay $34, if you go here:

    ... and look in the comments, you'll be able to find out where to download an early version.

  9. It's a nice article, especially the point about museums towards the end.

    And that'll teach me for making hypotheses in the adaptionist paradigm :p