Evolution-Creation Controversy

Robert Root-Bernstein and
Donald L. McEachron
in Applying Anthropology
Difference between “I have a
theory” and a scientific theory
 Test or observe
 Evidence, testability
 Correctable
 Tentative
 “The conclusions reached by science are
only contingent truths” (8)
 Productive of new knowledge & hypotheses
What ideas fit as scientific theory?
 Observable
 Yes--mechanism of natural
 Fossil
 Genetic
 But not as a replay
 Correctable
 Modified although overall
theory supported
 Productive
 Yes: Generates new
 Observable
 No—not then, not now
 Correctable
 No—Celebrates
unchanging ideas
 Productive
 “unobservable, untestable,
uncorrectable creator” (12)
bounded & unbounded (8-9)
God’s will (unbounded) can’t be
Unbounded: can explain
Bounded: must be limited in
order to be a scientific
How does “Teaching Theories”
portray relation of evolutionary
theory and creation belief?
 Different domains
 Theory and belief, totally different
 Creationism should be taught
 In religion class
“Teaching Theories” is ©1982
 Add genetic evidence and
 Glorified view of science,
computing power
but example is evolving
 Best adapted—in a
particular environment (9)  The idea of different
 Fittest—in a specific
domains, entirely
environment (10)
separating theory from
 Not just simple  complex
belief, may be too tidy
 Sometimes complex 
 Science makes us
“humbly aware” (13) but
their over-simplifications
 No directional arrow of
can seem arrogant
Benjamin Z. Freed
in Applying Anthropology
Today, fewer “Creationists”—but
might talk about “Intelligent Design”
 Central Claim: It’s too complex!
 Must be a design
 and a Designer
 Stickers: “Theory, not a fact”
 Evolution is not about the origin of life
 Singles out evolution—consider atomic theory or theory
of gravity
 Misunderstands scientific theory
 Intelligent Design: No testable hypotheses (Freed: 17)
 Science is not a monolith
 Evolution shows “so-called irreducibly complex
structures can evolve from non-irreducible
complexity” (17)
Difference between “let’s have a
debate” and a scientific debate
• Not necessarily two sides; differing positions
• Different evidence or interpretations
• Ideally results in convergence or modification
• Often prompts return to empirical evidence
• Good example is Homo floresiensis (LS:23)
• competing hypotheses measured by
It’s not a question of whether or
not students and teachers believe
in evolution. Scientists don’t
believe in it; they accept this
overarching scientific theory.
--Freed in Applying Anthropology
Lavenda & Schultz, Module 1
 Compare Desana creation story and science
 Both equally myths and stories = say
something about world, make life meaningful
 In the anthropological use of myth
 BUT – scientific stories must be compared to
evidence and scrutiny (LS:20)
 Must be rejected if they don’t fit (LS:21)
 The Interplanetary Aliens Hypothesis (LS:24)
 May not ever be definitively disproved, but without
evidence it “holds no scientific interest”
Lavenda & Schultz, Module 1
 We may be able to move, as philosopher
of science Philip Kitcher urges, “beyond
the simple opposition of proof and faith.
. . . Between these extremes lies the vast
field of cases in which we believe
something on the basis of good—even
excellent—but inconclusive evidence”
(1982, 34). (LS:26).

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