Sunday, 28 December 2014

2014: a retrospective look at the Top Ten moments in science denialism

As Evangelical physicist Karl Giberson points out in his article "2014: Revenge of the Creationists", science denialism unfortunately is still alive and kicking in the United States. Personally, I find it hard to rank the ten examples of science denialism that Giberson cites in any order as they are all cringe-worthy examples of credulity and dogma trumping reason, evidence, and logic. For what it's worth, I rank Giberson's ninth choice at number one. Given that he ranks Ken Ham and the execrable Discovery Institute at 1 and 2, respectively, for me to rank his ninth choice at number one, it has to be something truly appalling.

Giberson gives his ninth spot to Al Mohler, fundamentalist head of the Southern Baptist Theological seminary for his attack on the epistemological basis of science:
In their determination to topple science from atop its pedestal of reliable knowledge, anti-science enthusiasts have long claimed that scientific results are based on unprovable presuppositions rather than observations, as is the case with religion. Fundamentalist theologian Al Mohler puts it like this: “Every mode of thinking requires belief in basic presuppositions. Science, in this respect, is no different than theology.” Science, says Mohler, is built on a circular argument: it starts with “purely naturalistic presuppositions” so we should not be surprised that its theories “affirm naturalistic assumptions.” This claim, like Mohler’s other attacks on science, vaporizes when we consider the history of science. For centuries scientists included God as a part of their explanatory package. Newton was quite explicit about God’s involvement in both the formation and the operation of the solar system and even Darwin alluded to a creator. But, over time, naturalistic explanations slowly edged out theological ones until scientists stopped using theological explanations. This, of course, is why the enterprise is called natural science. For suggesting that there is something unnatural about natural science, Al Mohler gets the #9 spot.
Mohler's blunder is that shared by all the science denialists, which makes it the fundamental error, and therefore my choice for the number one moment in science denialism for 2014. It is the original sin of pseudoscience, and only when it is exposed, purged, and eliminated will we have a chance of seeing the theological and scientific error of special creationism fading into well-deserved oblivion.