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Letter To A Young Creationist
Orac does a Rilke in his response to a 14-year-old creationist's comment, posted below:

A 14 year old Creationist (and proud of it!) said... I agree with Frank Peretti and his statements. I also agree with his beliefs on evolution and its "evidence" of mutations. Evolutionists practically contradict themselves by saying that mutations support their theory of evolution. (That's right, evolution is a theory, not a fact!) By definition the word mutation means an error in the genetic code. The word error as defined by the Webster Dictionary means a mistake or inaccuracy with a negative effect (notice the key word 'negative'). It is a scientific fact that negative effects have negative results. Therefore the human race, by the Theory of Evolution, is a negative effect to the universe. I find that a little depressing and inaccurate. Don't agree? Visit and complain some more.

An excerpt from Orac's response:

I'm wondering if you are aware of what the word "theory" means to scientists; in science the meaning of the word is different than it is in colloquial use. To most laypeople, the word "theory" in essence suggests an "educated" guess. Indeed, the famous science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said this about the "just a theory" claim about evolution: "Creationists make it sound like a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being out drunk all night." That they do so (often, but not always, unknowingly) is mainly because of the more rigorous meaning that scientists give to the word "theory" compared to its more common meaning.

You must understand that, to scientists, the word "theory" has a much more specific meaning. To scientists, the word "theory" means a supposition or statement of ideas intended to explain a natural phenomenon (such as the "theory of evolution"). But it is more than that. To scientists, the word "theory" implies that the supposition or statement of ideas at present best explains the available data, has utility as a conceptual principle, and makes predictions regarding the behavior of natural phenomenon. To be recognized as a "theory," such a statement of ideas must be supported by an enormous quantity of data, so much so that scientists at present cannot think of a better set of suppositions that explains the data and makes predictions of natural behavior. So it is with the Theory of Relativity, and so it is with the Theory of Evolution. No other set of ideas comes close to explaining the wealth of fossil, observational, experimental, and molecular biological evidence regarding how species adapt and evolve and how species come to be. Creationism, regardless of whether it's the "intelligent design" or Biblical "young earth" variety does not come close and even contradicts much of the known evidence. That is why scientists do not consider creationism to be a theory. Also, to be useful to scientists, theories must be falsifiable. That means there must be evidence that, if found, would prove the theory incorrect. Creationism fails as a theory in that respect as well, because there is no way any scientist could ever prove that there is no God. That is one reason why scientists consider creationism to be religion or philosophy and not science, and thus not properly part of the teaching of biology. The problem with creationism, as far as scientists go, is that the explanation for unanswered questions becomes, in essence, "God did it." That answer may be fine as a matter of faith, but it does not help science progress.

Posted by aalkon at August 30, 2006 11:51 AM

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There are encyclopedia kids and then there are dictionary kids. Take it from Cuato, li'l Webster: mutation is bad... unless it's good!

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at August 30, 2006 8:14 AM

Hey, wait... Do you spell "Cuato" with a 'C' or a 'K'? Yo, dictionarians!

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at August 30, 2006 8:44 AM

I read (but no longer post to) a couple of religious message boards. It's surprising how many of these arguments come down to word play. Why should that be?

Perhaps it's not so surprising. Some months ago, a TV presenter called Richard (of Richard & Judy - quite good viewing) asked Stephen Hawking if he thought there was an afterlife or if it was just wishful thinking. "Just wishful thinking," said Hawking. "Oh dear," said Richard, "I was hoping you were going to say there was." Priceless.

Posted by: Norman at August 30, 2006 10:48 AM

A mutation is certainly a change in the genetic material, but to call it an error is to impute purpose, which is itself an error of logic when it comes to biology.

Posted by: Bob G at August 30, 2006 11:36 PM

Bob G, you should comment here more often

Posted by: Crid at August 31, 2006 12:32 AM

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