Defender's Guide to Science and Creationism

Mark Vuletic

Assertion

Electrons are as "materially inconceivable" as a Creator.

Background

Three creationists appeal to uncited statements by Wernher von Braun in a summary of purported "scientific evidence for creation" (note: the creationists' article is missing an open quote for the first sentence, so I can't tell when von Braun's quote is supposed to start):

the electron is materially inconceivable and yet it is so perfectly known through its effects," yet a "strange rationale makes some physicists accept the inconceivable electrons as real while refusing to accept the reality of a Designer." "The inconceivability of some ultimate issue (which will always lie outside scientific resolution) should not be allowed to rule out any theory that explains the interrelationship of observed data and is useful for prediction" (Gish, Bliss and Bird 1981)

Analysis

The "material inconceivability" of a creator is not the problem. Although electrons may be "materially inconceivable" in some interpretations of quantum mechanics, exact predictions can be drawn from each of their properties; von Braun points this out explicitly when he notes that the electron is "known through its effects." A creator, in contrast, can behave as arbitrarily as one wants, especially when one's theology allows the creator to act for mysterious reasons; when the idea of a creator is treated this way it becomes unfalsifiable and therefore unscientific. Had electrons been supposed by their proponents to be able to behave in any manner whatsoever, no physicist would believe in them.

On the other hand, whenever creationists have committed themselves to definite predictions (for instance, that the universe is 6,000 years old, or that there are no transitional forms), science has shown their predictions to be false. If that had happened for electrons, scientists would have rejected the existence of electrons just as they have rejected creationism; unlike today's creationists, they would not be going around trying to stack school boards with their supporters, attacking mainstream physicists as ignorant and biased buffoons, or claiming that rejection of the existence of electrons led to the Holocaust.

In short, it is not the case that creationism "explains the interrelationship of observed data and is useful for prediction." That, not the "material inconceivability" of the creator, is the reason why scientists reject creationism.

References

Gish DT and Bliss RB. 1981. Summary of scientific evidence for creation. Impact 95-96, May/June.

Last updated: 19 Jan 2016

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