Letters to the Editor

Creation Evolution Journal
Title: 
Letters to the Editor
Volume: 
3
Number: 
4
Quarter: 
Fall
Page(s): 
42–45
Year: 
1982

As Stephen Brush noted in Creation/ Evolution VIII, creationists cite the philosophical and religious views of famous scientists such as Kepler, Newton, Bacon, and Kelvin to somehow justify their supernaturalistic approach Their implication seem, to be that the scientific credibility and fame of men such as these are linked to their supernaturalistic views, as varied as these views may have been. I am amazed that creationists would use such a weak and groundless justification for supernaturalism and, therefore, creationism. I would like to add my own comments.

Where is the supernaturalism in Kepler's three laws of planetary motion, in Newton's three laws of motion. in Bacon's inductive method of experimentation, or in Kelvin's thermodynamics? Independent of whether scientists have taken a naturalistic approach or a supernaturalistic approach (or any other approach for that matter, as I think creationists are being far too reductionist to restrict the number to two—what about theistic evolution, for example?), their contributions to science are weighed only by the contributions' correlations with nature, with the real world. Their contributions stand on their own scientific merit—not on revelation, religious belief, clerical or secular authority, or personal worldviews.

- page 43 -

If Kepler's theistic views on origins can be justified by his laws, then logically so could his Pythagorean mysticism and his pagan feelings about heliocentricity; if Newton's views on a supernaturalistic origin of the world can be justified by his mechanics, then logically so could his Arian views on Christianity; or if Kelvin's skepticism about the long age of the sun could be justified by his work in thermal physics, then logically so could his calculation that man-made machines could not fly. Scientific theories in all fields exist independent of religious contexts, and, if we mix science with religious views to seek what is objectively true, we are not being scientific. To quote from a recent letter to Science (April 16, 1982) from James C. Hickman, Botany Department, University of California, Berkeley:

... Scientists (when they are behaving scientifically—that is, not all the time) do not 'believe in' anything except their ability to gather reasonably objective information about the universe. Rather, they tentatively accept propositions they are unable to reject using available information. Despite our increasing uncertainty about events at progressively greater removes in time, the origins of life and the origins of the universe can be and are being explored scientifically.

Like all human beings, scientists embrace a myriad of nonscientific behaviors, including religion (from atheism to fundamentalism) and politics (from far-left to far-right), but none of these various behaviors have any direct bearing upon the validity of the science they may have accompanied. As I have written to Dr. Morris, if the theism of some scientists can be correlated to their contributions, then the atheism of other scientists can be correlated to their contributions, resulting in theism and atheism both being equally justified! Such absurdity is to me additional evidence that creationism cannot be scientifically justified; creationists are using an impotent argument to indulge in self-gratification of their religious views, which are identical with their creationist views.

Ronnie J. Hastings, Ph.D.
Co-liaison, Texas Committee of Correspondence on Evolution
Waxahachie, TX

Steven Brush provided documentation showing that Henry Morris was wrong to claim that Lord Kelvin was a creationist (Creation/Evolution VIII). Morris was also wrong in claiming that Sir Isaac Newton was a creationist. The following quote is from a letter Newton wrote to Thomas Burnet during the winter of 19801981 (the full text can be found on pp. 329-334 of The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, Vol. II, 1676-1687, edited by H. W. Turnbull, Cambridge University Press, 1960):

- page 44 -

As to Moses I do not think his description of ye creation either philosophical or feigned, but that he described realities in a language artificially adapted to ye sense of ye vulgar ... his business being not to correct the vulgar notions in matters philosophical but to adapt a description of ye creation as handsomely as he could to ye sense and capacity of ye vulgar. So when he tells us of two great lights and the stars made ye fourth day, I do not think their creation from beginning to end was done ye fourth day nor in any one day of ye creation... .

... But in ye third day for Moses to describe ye creation of seas when there was no such thing done neither in reality nor in appearance... .

Clearly, Newton was not a special creationist. The letter goes on to indicate that Newton believed in a day-age theory, with the first two "days" being of indeterminate length and that the diurnal motion of the earth was built up by the application of a constant force. There is no evidence of any similarity in the sequence or timing of events between Newton's day-ages and the days of the Genesis story.

Brent A. Becker
Charlottesville, VA

Although I have found Creation/ Evolution VII and VIII to be most enlightening, informative, and entertaining, I do have one criticism.

One of the more infuriating tactics used by writers of the creationist camp is a tendency to employ secondary, rather than original, sources (frequently out of context) to bolster their arguments. Although your writers are more accurate in their citations, they too are often found to be using textbooks and other secondary sources in their bibliographies. I fully appreciate the difficulties which are associated with trying to prepare articles when at a distance from a good reference library, but I feel that it is essential to provide complete and up-to-date sources if the arguments are to be compelling. Perhaps your editorial board could suggest that authors spend a bit more time in researching the literature.

Overall, however, I applaud your efforts to combat the resurgence of creationism and its underlying fundamentalism.

Donald G. Albertson
Griggsville, IL

Robert E. Kofahl, science coordinator for the Creation-Science Research Center, states in his letter to Creation/Evolution IX that I owe his chief, Kelly Segraves, "an apology and a retraction." The matter at hand deserves neither.

First, Robert M. Price, in an article that inspired Kofahl's request, was referring as he now has made clear, to my article, "A Survey of Creationist Field Research" (issue VI) in which I suggested that efforts of some creationists to confirm Genesis through scientific research had been a disaster.

- page 45 -

That article dealt with projects of the Institute for Creation Research, evidently the competitors of the CSRC in seeking acclaim for announcing the co-existence of dinosaurs and humans on the basis of tracks in the rocks along the Paluxy River in Texas. I did not know then that the CSRC had also entered the contest and hence had not referred at all to that organization or to Segraves.

But Kofahl's letter confuses the main issue. Local artisans long ago embellished dinosaur tracks found near Glen Rose, but that is less important than what the ICR and the CSRC have turned up since in the way of undoctored material. As of now, no "man footprints" have been validated. In fact, those reported have been questioned by no less than other creation-oriented people, such as those from Baylor University (Baptist) and Columbia Union College (Seventh-Day Adventist).

Creationists have been deterred from removing natural objects from much of the area, a lot of it now state park land, and thus frequently have had to rely on making plaster casts, "rubbings," or photographs of tracks. But these are not amenable to scientific study as I pointed out in 1975 (Liberty magazine, September/ October), and Segraves' photos are hardly substitutes for the real thing.

Professor John D. Morris, of the University of Oklahoma, who has worked on ICR projects, reported in his book, Those Incredible Dinosaurs ... and the People Who Knew Them, about a discovery of "the most perfect [man track] ever found" and then commented that within a year "it had completely eroded away" (page 49). This is regrettable. The Texas Memorial Museum of the University of Texas in nearby Austin could have legally found a way to preserve such invaluable evidence, and it is unfortunate that creationist explorers did not seek the aid of specialists.

Any paleontologist would be delighted to share in a discovery of such importance. The remarkable discovery of new hominids in East Africa made Donald Johanson of "Lucy" fame a television celebrity. The rewards are substantial.

Unless Segraves and Kofahl are willing to follow the accepted methods of science—as in description, publication, and deposition of materials for others to examine— the Paluxy claims will continue to rank as a hoax comparable to P. T. Barnum's "Cardiff Giant."

In "Fundamentals" by Peter Steinhart (Audobon, September, 1981), Kofahl stated, "1 just don't think our science is all that competent. Besides, in my personal view, it's bad theology to argue with scientists. . . . Since the fall of Adam, man's intellect, his emotions, and his will have been shaken up. Therefore to expect that we can use arguments to the intellect to persuade these evolutionists . . . is bad theology."

Henry P. Zuidema
Detroit, MI
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.