2015 Fundraiser

Help us beat last year's record of $7100!

Awesome! We are half way to our goal!
Goal: $7,200 Donations so far: $5720.20
Free speech isn't free. Fighting pseudoscience isn't free.
We are 100% user-supported! Help and donate today!

Bronze-level articleCreationist escape hatch

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search


Icon creationism.svg
Key claims
Random articles

Truth fish transparent.png

A creationist escape hatch is an unarguable, unfalsifiable statement or reply in an argument that attempts to end all further discussion. When creationists use one of these statements against you, they usually think they have won the debate and you will roll over begging for mercy. Some of these points are indeed very tricky philosophical conundrums but they aren't entirely beyond questioning. In fact, the circular nature and "unquestionable" outcomes of some of these points are what should be questioned. For the most part, these escape hatches either don't really prove much either way but are worth knowing about.

On the other hand it would do the rational person well to note that if a creationist uses one of these arguments, they have effectively admitted that they have failed in their attempts to falsify the much-spat-upon naturalist world-view; the presuppositionalist door swings both ways.

It's like the creationist going Ralph Wiggum on your ass, except they mean the gibberish.


[edit] Goddidit

Who can argue with an omnipotent, omniscient supernatural being? Goddidit is the ultimate escape hatch, as it absolves the creationist of having to provide any evidence whatsoever. How much of this sort of argument is begging the question is controversial; on the one hand you most certainly have to assume a god exists to prove it exists through Goddidit, while on the other hand, omnipotence is part of the definition from the outset.

Variants include:

  • Biblesaysso - a suitable alternative, most often used with the phase "the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it."
  • Aliensdidit - the same concept applied to Extraterrestrials.
  • TheFalldidit - a newly emerging theme that conveniently makes the Earth 6000 years old (or any age you like, if you fiddle the numbers enough).
  • Flooddidit - as above, with the global flood explaining everything from fossils ordering to mountains forming.

[edit] God is outside of time or is not subject to natural laws

This is possibly one of the more important and common escape hatches - putting God "outside of time" or "outside the natural laws" is a great way of putting the entire hypothesis outside of the reach of science. This is often the position of those who believe in Non-Overlapping Magisteria; however it is not a completely airtight argument (it certainly doesn't prove anything). We're not even sure what being "outside of time" even means, really, but it usually centers around the fact that because god is "outside" time he/she/it is not observable, testable nor falsifiable. This is a very interesting admission because it has some remarkable consequences that work very much against the creationist (or any religious believer, in fact). Put simply, if God is outside the universe and cannot be detected in any way, its existence is moot; it doesn't matter either way, God could be anyone or anything or completely non-existent entirely. Consider the following dichotomy:

  • God is able to perform actions that violate natural law as we know it. In this case, God can be detected by the nature of these actions.
  • God is not able to perform such actions. In this case, God's existence is not relevant to any question answerable by science.

The creationist cannot have their cake and eat it too, by having God totally immune from naturalistic scrutiny while still being able to control and affect the universe. The creationist response to this would almost certainly be to repeat the original point.

And this isn't even mentioning the odd position that one can make God totally "unknowable" on one hand and then make grand descriptions of His benevolence or power on the other. If we're talking about a realm entirely beyond the ken of human beings, there's no reason to assume that anything we say or suppose about it will in any way be accurate.

[edit] Earth was different before the Fall or the Flood

See the main articles on this topic: Falldidit and Flooddidit

Diseases infecting people? Too much water during the Flood? Not enough oxygen at the water level of the Flood? Just say it was different back then! Variations include c-decay and time dilation fields. This is really a case of special pleading, arbitrarily changing the rules. There are some very specific rebuttals to these sorts of arguments. In general, to propose that features were different in the past, one needs to propose a mechanism for that change.

The creationist response to that is goddidit and we return to the top of the list...

[edit] Were you there?

See the main article on this topic: How do you know? Were you there?

How do you know? Were you there? is an escape hatch response favoured by Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis and is often taught to children as the correct response to any evolutionary argument.[1][2] The implication here is that only first-hand eyewitness testimony is actually worth anything. This in itself is an odd assertion given that eyewitness testimony is considered notoriously unreliable in legal trials next to things like DNA evidence or fingerprints due to the ability of people to lie and the fact that our memory is not as faithful to real life as we tend to think it is. But what is especially self-defeating about this escape hatch is the fact that anyone asking this can have the question turned back around to them — as they certainly weren't at the beginning of the universe, whether that was 12 billion years or 6,000 years ago to demonstrate creation one way or another. Naturally, this is often met with any of the other escape hatch arguments presented on this page and circularity ensues. One of the canned responses that Ken Ham has encouraged, for instance, is along the lines of "I know someone who was — and His book tells how he did it."

[edit] Evidence, not proof

When creationists have weak to no evidence for their assertions, they usually say that it's "evidence, not proof" of creationism. Unfortunately for them, it's often not evidence at all, at least for their claims.

[edit] The existence of X has never been disproved

In this case "X" may be whatever supernatural entity is being proposed. It is usually considered to be argument from ignorance, naively summed up by the phrase "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". Of course, it will be always impossible to disprove a supernatural explanation; such explanations invariably hide in our lack of knowledge about the world. Originally, the gods made the plants grow until we noticed that plants came from seeds, then they pulled chariots across the sky in the form of the moon and the sun until we noticed that they moved of their own accord, now they just work hard-to-define miracles and one-off flukes of statistical likelihood. Supernatural entities exist only where believers in them put them; "outside" the realms of reality, and when those are disproved, the boundaries will be pushed back further.

You will never disprove what, almost by definition alone, will lie outside what can and can't be disproved. But then again, that's the point of this particular escape hatch.

In a less supernatural sense, this argument is similar to Russell's teapot - disproving things can be very tricky when the burden of proof doesn't actually lie with you. We cannot conclusively disprove a global flood or the claim that it made the Grand Canyon; all we can do is state that there is no evidence for it, that there is ample evidence that the canyon was made differently, and conclude that in all likelihood, there is no evidence because it didn't actually happen.

In conclusion: Don't even bite in the first place! It's a trap, tailor-made for people who like to disprove nonsense. A very attractive one. But: There is no need to disprove something that hasn't been shown to exist (through reliable observation) in the first place! The burden to do that still lies with them.

[edit] Science has no explanation for X

Also known as the God of the gaps argument, "X" here may be anything for which science currently has no explanation, something for which there are several competing explanations with no consensus in the scientific community, or even robust fields of study that consistently provide reliable results, such as radiometric dating, which are then misrepresented by opponents to be riddled with error. The argument then proceeds in this form:

  1. There is no agreed-upon scientific explanation at this time.
  2. Therefore, science will never have an explanation.
  3. Therefore, God did it.

These three steps are almost equally problematic. The first step presumes that science has already explained everything that it is capable of explaining, which is patently false. This is an interesting point as it matches up with the other common rhetorical phrase of "science doesn't know everything", to which Dara Ó Briain replied "science knows it doesn't know everything; otherwise it'd stop". It's also sometimes a lie based on misrepresenting the current state of knowledge in a particular field when in fact science does provide a satisfactory explanation. Lies of this nature, like those advanced by the creationist RATE Project, may be predicated on misapplying legitimate scientific protocols in light of known limitations, grossly misrepresenting the nature and significance of margins of error, or simply shoddy scholarship and materials handling.

Both the second and third points are blatant non sequiturs. Assuming that science will never have an explanation for a phenomenon is, at best, naive.

Of course it is entirely possible that there are things which science will not have worked out before the human species becomes extinct or before the end of the universe. But even in such cases that would not justify a conclusion "Therefore God did it."

Typical examples of "X" in this case are the origin of life and the origin of the universe. They also include the constancy of physical constants, such as the speed of light and the decay rates of radioactive nuclei, over long or short periods of time. Issues of origins and the constancy and source of physical constants over time are key points in understanding the world around us and are currently cutting edge biology and physics. Science, being at once descriptive, predictive, and adaptive to changing data and theories, can only get closer to an answer.

Since creationists and apologists are not too big on science, they sometimes lose track of established scientific knowledge. Their use of this kind of argument gets downright comical when they cite an alleged mystery that has, in fact, already been explained, revealing the full extent of their ignorance. For examples, see Insane Clown Posse's infamous "Miracles" video, or Bill O'Reilly's recent foray into oceanography. [3]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Ken Ham brainwashes children
  2. Incidentally, Richard Lenski was there when some E. Coli mutated to use citrate as a food source.
  3. YouTube: Bill O'Reilly vs. Dave Silverman
Personal tools