Creationist Meme Week, Part 2: Relevance, Anyone?

Relevance Anyone

This meme is no doubt in response to a video featuring Bill Nye (the Science Guy!), in which he says that Creationism is not appropriate for young children. His argument is that teaching children to doubt scientific reality hinders their development as critical thinkers and productive citizens. Ultimately, that’s damaging to our nation. I’ll let you hear it from his own mouth.

Contrary to what Mr Nye says, the United States is not unique in its widespread denial of evolution, although it is certainly one of the most populous nations in which such beliefs are common.

The memer sarcastically implies that since prominant historical scientists like Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, Louis Pasteur, etc, did not believe in evolution, a belief in evolution must not be necessary to become a successful scientist.

That’s actually true; you don’t have to accept evolution in order to become a successful scientist, unless you’re planning on working in one of the life sciences and the year is post-1859.

And even if you work in some natural science that isn’t related to evolution, you’ll still need to understand how to evaluate scientific evidence. When you apply your analytical skills to the mountains of evidence in support of evolution, what do you think you’ll see? Exactly what 95% of scientists in general and almost 100% of life scientists have concluded: that evolution is a real and ongoing process.

But what about these scientific heavyweights who didn’t believe in evolution and still managed to be brilliant? Well, Newton, Bacon, and Kepler all died long before Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published. Whatever their feelings regarding the role of God in shaping life, it did not seem to interfere with their greatest works. In fact, Francis Bacon favored an entirely naturalistic approach to science. In his mind, you should leave the Bible out of it if you want to get anywhere. The fact that this Creationist memer chose to include a thinker who would probably be opposed to Creationism is nothing short of hilarious. It’s like Fox News accidentally using a photo of a lesbian couple in their “traditional marriage” article. Beautiful, beautiful irony.

Von Braun and Faraday were both alive when Darwin’s book was published, so they probably heard about evolution, but since they were not life scientists, it doesn’t really matter what they thought about it. Relying on the opinions of big name scientists to support your beliefs (even if those scientists were not involved in a relevant field) is called an argument from authority fallacy. The reality of evolution is not decided by who does or doesn’t believe in it; it’s decided by the evidence. I’ll have more to say about evidence later this week.

So that leaves Louis Pasteur. He was alive when On the Origin of Species was published, and he worked in the life sciences. And…Pasteur accepted evolution. He might not have believed that natural selection was its cause, but he definitely believed that organisms changed, and he believed that Earth had been around for at least a few hundred million years.

Now like I said before: it doesn’t matter whether Pasteur accepted evolution or not; all that matters is the evidence. But this fact remains: of the six scientists that this Creationist memer selected to prove his point, five of them were in no position to evaluate the evidence in favor of evolution. The one scientist who was in such a position accepted evolution.

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