Creation science is the term given to the Christian school of thought that believes the Bible holds better scientific explanations for Earth’s creation better than modern biology, geology, chemistry and physics. Although creation scientists use the word science to describe the work they do, the reality is that their attempt is not scientific at all. The question is, how do we demarcate creation science from actually scientific thought. To demarcate creation science, it is necessary to turn to three main scientific philosophies: the logical positivists, Karl Popper and Peter Thagard. Out of these three, Peter Thagard provides the best criteria for demarcation because it does not focus on the Popperian idea of falsification, rejects the positivist obsession with observation and instead focuses on the internal development of the system of thought.
Thagard gives two main criteria for demarcation. A school of thought is pseudoscientific if it 1) does not progress in relation to other theories and 2) does not work to actively solve the problems within the theory. These are Thagard’s two key criteria. They are important because instead of insisting on external reasons for demarcation they rely on the history and logic of the practitioners themselves.
Looking at creation science we can see that Thagard’s philosophy works very well to explain why it is a pseudoscience. First, creation science does not progress as quickly or effectively as other theories. Science is always progressing to a better understanding of the world. As more observations come about, a true scientific theory will change and shift to meet the observations and new world view. However, pseudosciences will refuse to make any forward progress to better understanding. In fact, most pseudosciences such as homeopathic medicine or astrology view their reliance on ancient techniques as a virtue and make no attempt to change the pre-existing theories.
Creation science by definition looks to the past for answers. Since a creation scientist believes that the Bible is the ultimate description of how the world came about, there is no need for any further development of theories about the origins of the Earth or life. Instead, they rely purely on the writings of the past. By using an unchanging text and worldview, the creation scientists fall into Thagard’s first criteria for pseudoscience.
That creation science fails the second criteria may seem less obvious, since most creation scientists will try to fit modern scientific discoveries into their Biblical worldview. However, in actuality this process is what makes creation science meet the second criteria. Creation science refuses to actively solve the issues inherent in its model of the world.
For example, creation science must face the challenges raised by evolution and the dating of the Earth. When faced with the evidence for evolution, a creation scientist will usually state that so-called “micoevolution” is occurring but there is no proof for the overall evolution of species. This is problematic. What creation scientists are doing is discrediting outside evidence against their theory instead of adapting their theory to meet the evidence.
Another example is the dating of the Earth. Creation scientific accounts usually state that Earth is younger than the generally accepted figure. Scientists in a true science theory would look at that problem and try to fix the theory itself to match the observable inconsistencies. But, a creation scientists tries to discredit the observation to match creation theory. In this way creation science never changes. Worse still, any anomalies in creation science are brushed away as mysteries of God or things that just need faith. When a theory makes no attempt to work through anomalies and instead appeals to an abstract concept to explain why the anomalies are necessary, we must state that it is pseudoscientific, according to Thagard’s criteria.
However, a Popperian would state that the fact that creation science is impossible to falsify is actually why it is not science. For example, a creation scientist will take any contrary observations and throw them out as being mere challenges to faith or a mystery of God. This practice means that it is fundamentally impossible for anybody to disprove creation science, since any contrary claim is discredited by illogical means.
Unfortunately the Popperian model fails because a strict adherence to it falsifies too many theories that are science. In the Popperian model one contrary observation falsifies a theory, however it is possible for good scientific theories to expand to encompass the anomalous observation. If philosophers adhere to a strict Popperian thought process, Newton’s laws are pseudoscientific because of the anomalous orbit of Saturn discovered in the 18th century and the Standard Model of Particle Physics was wrong up until 2012 due to the anomalies about mass and the Higgs Boson. Science always expands its horizons to meet new observations, making Popper’s model not as good at demarcating science.
Thus we are left with Thagard’s criteria, which work the best. Using Thagard’s criteria, it is very clear that creation science is not a science. Thagard’s philosophy still has problems, since it implies an underlying epistemological relativism, but until a better criteria of demarcation comes around, Thagard is the best tool for discrediting pseudosciences like homeopathic medicine, astrology and creation science.