Real Science vs. Creation Science

A little cream on your corn flakes? Consider them pre-frosted!

During my academic career way back in the 1980s, I seriously considered becoming a science writer. I do have a moderate ability to take a complex subject and explain it to people lacking a technical background. I figured that I could hone this skill and turn it into a career. To pursue this, I enrolled in a science writing class.

(If you’re wondering why I abandoned this dream, it was because the class taught me just what mainstream magazine editors were after, and it wasn’t pretty. I couldn’t bring myself to dumb down the articles as far as the editors thought was necessary. I also couldn’t stand the tricks that they required to hold the reader’s attention. You couldn’t just introduce a subject and start to explain it. You had to come up with anecdotes to give the reader someone to relate to: “Mary Johnson wasn’t feeling, well…” and then explain everything in the context of how it affected Mary Johnson. Go ahead and check the feature articles in the science section of your local paper or in the popular science magazines. They’re all written that way or use similar stunts to hold your interest.)

For my first article, I checked around to see what sort of research the university professors were doing. I came across one (to protect the innocent, let’s just call her “Dr. L”) who was doing research in agricultural methods to reduce pesticide use. That fit with my flaming liberal ideals, so I made her my first victim.

Polyculture vs. Monoculture

The specific problem she was working on was whether polyculture had lower pesticide use than monoculture. A “monoculture” is the planting of only one crop in a field, whereas a “polyculture” is the planting of multiple crops in the same field.

The traditional American model of agriculture is to have giant fields of just one crop. We’ve even immortalized this approach (“amber waves of grain”) in one of our most famous songs. The problem with modern American agriculture is that it is heavily dependent upon pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizer, and whatever other chemicals Dow and Monsanto can dream up. Aside from the high costs, these chemicals leave residues on our food, deplete the soil, and contaminate streams, rivers, and groundwater.

Dr. L was trying to come up with ways of reducing the need for quite so many chemicals. Polyculture was the approach that she was investigating. (By the way, the Bible specifically prohibits polyculture (Leviticus 19:19), so this is one more example of how atheist liberal academics are trying to undermine God!)

The working hypothesis here attempts to explain what happens when a crop pest comes flying along and decides to rest his weary wings. For the sake of illustration, let’s assume that it’s some type of ravenous corn beetle. If he lands in a field planted with just one crop (corn), then no matter which plant he lands on, it will be a luscious banquet. After he eats his fill, he takes a short hop and lands on another corn plant. Oh, happy day! More food! You can see that the beetle has no incentive to leave this area. It isn’t long before he finds a female beetle, and they do the nasty right on your future corn flakes.

Compare that to a polyculture, let’s say a field planted with corn, soy, and oats (although I don’t actually remember which crops were under study). If the beetle lands on a plant, the odds are good that it isn’t even one he’s interested in. Even if it is a corn plant, the beetle will eventually take a short hop to another plant. The odds are that he’ll land on a non-corn plant, and he’ll be more likely to take a longer hop next time, probably taking him out of the field entirely. That was the hypothesis, anyway.

I was interviewing Dr. L to find out about her work. She told me that she was about to leave for Mexico, where they were going to be planting some fields as monocultures and some fields as polycultures. After the crops were harvested later that year, they could compare the results to see if there was a difference in pesticide use or crop yields between the two methods.

Now here comes the important part. I said, “What do you expect to find?”

She said, “I don’t know.”

Stop and think about that for a moment. She said, “I don’t know”!

Real Science

That is real science at work:

  1. Dr. L was trying to solve a problem. She had an actual goal in mind (reducing pesticide use). In other words, she had an agenda!
  2. She had come up with a possible way of solving this problem. She had a hypothesis (polycultures were better than monocultures). It would sure make the rest of her studies easier if this solution of hers actually worked. (If it didn’t work, she’d have to go back to the drawing board and try to come up with another approach. That’s a lot of additional work.) In other words, she had a stake in the outcome. She was rooting for one particular outcome!
  3. Despite all this, she didn’t know what the result would be. She was going to let the data decide the outcome!

Therefore, her agenda and self-interest do not interfere with the results.

Now compare that with how a creation “scientist” operates:

  1. The creationist is trying to prove the Bible. In other words, he has an agenda.
  2. He comes up with some convoluted explanation that’s necessary to reconcile known facts (reality) with the apparently-contradictory story in the Bible. He wants the Bible to be true, so he has a stake in the outcome.
  3. He “knows” in advance what the outcome must be, so he has to find a way to make his serpentine explanation work. In other words, he lets the outcome decide the data!

Therefore, his agenda and self-interest do interfere with the results!

There are many real, legitimate scientists working on Biblical issues, whether it’s the Dead Sea Scrolls or Biblical archaeology. Unfortunately, I have yet to find the real, legitimate scientific method being applied to creation “research”.

(BTW, I never did find out the results of Dr. L’s research. If anybody is interested, you’ll have to do a literature search. That’s another characteristic of legitimate scientists: They publish in respected, peer-reviewed journals.)

The difference between real science and creation science.

6 Responses to “Real Science vs. Creation Science”

  1. Vaguely Frightened Says:

    I wonder, do fundies simply fear “not knowing”? Could that be what really separates them from us? Hmmm… I don’t know.

  2. Ron Britton Says:

    I think what’s going on is that they need the simplicity and safety of the tiny universe that Biblical literalism provides. Anything that threatens that fantasy risks popping their little bubble and forcing them into the giant, scary world of reality.

  3. Sergeant Zim Says:

    From what I’ve seen, the difference is a very basic approach to how we see the world. The Creationist says “I don’t know” – whatever it is, and it frightens them – driving them into the arms of whoever will tell them a comfy story about how it doesn’t matter, they are still so *special*…

    The Scientist, OTOH, says “I don’t know” and it excites them, makes them want to find out.

  4. Ron Britton Says:

    That’s a good observation. I think it’s the enormity of the unknown that frightens them. If you ask a creationist how chlorophyl actually does the conversion from light to food, he’d probably say “I don’t know” and not have a reaction, because that’s a small unknown (to him). Ask him how old the Universe is or how humans came to exist, and he’ll run to Skydaddy, because those are big questions with big, scary unknowns attached (or the answers that he is told by scientists are too scary to contemplate).

    I wonder how much of that is just innate, luck-of-the-draw, genetics that creates the two personality types: the scared of the unknown and the excited by the unknown. And how strong is the correlation between people who naturally are scared of the unknown and religion? I don’t know. That’s an exciting question!

  5. doug livesey Says:

    Aah!
    I need to know the result of the mono/polyculture research!

  6. Jim R Says:

    I actually consider myself a Bible believer but do appreciate some humor about it all.
    We make fun of the evolutionist too you know.
    If you can’t laugh at it all then you’ve got a problem.