Essay:What "Goddidit" means
This essay was originally posted on aSK in an attempt to answer claims that the word "Goddidit" was an insulting straw-man argument. This version has the same content, with the political-correctness removed and a little snark inserted; hopefully some of it can be incorporated into our "Goddidit" article.
Goddidit is a term of criticism used against creationist nutjobs by members of the reality-based community, referring to an argument that invokes unfalsifiable properties of a supernatural being in order to plug gaps in a falsifiable theory.
Your non-creationist usually holds it as part of his world-view that reason and observation are superior to all other methods of ascertaining truth, and that the scientific method is the best possible use of reason and observation. As evidence that this principle is a sound one, there are the many correct predictions made on the basis of that world-view, in astronomy, chemistry, physics, etc., the correctness of which is not disputed even by creationists.
Some creationists would have it that creationists also believe the above. In answer to this, let us quote the Statement of Faith of Creation Ministries International, article D6, and let it speak for itself (emphasis mine):
“”By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.
With the scientific method come some philosophical ground rules, established by long practice and codified by Karl Popper and others, which state that although no scientific theory can be proven absolutely true by any possible set of observations, any scientific theory could, given the correct set of observations, be proven absolutely false. See Russell's teapot for an example of an unfalsifiable theory or hypothesis.
From the development of astronomy on up, science (or "natural philosophy," as it was known in those days) was concerned solely with natural events and natural causes. There was some admixture of mysticism and speculative philosophy within the scientific disciplines, as in the conflation of alchemy with chemistry, but those scientists who stripped the mystic elements out are often remembered as the father of their discipline (e.g., Geber in chemistry).
The reason for the exclusion of the supernatural from the purview of science is that there are no observations possible that would falsify a theory involving the supernatural, but not also falsify a theory not involving the supernatural. Examples:
- Any possible set of observations would have returned the same data whether a witch's curse caused a person to catch the plague, or if Yersinia pestis alone was responsible.
- Any possible set of observations would have returned the same data whether a person was possessed by a demon or merely epileptic.
These practices within science were eventually codified into methodological naturalism.
Note that methodological naturalism is not the same thing as uniformitarianism, or the belief that all natural laws are uniform throughout the universe and have always operated as they operate today. In theory, one could hold to methodological naturalism and still posit a catastrophism in which the world was shaped in sudden violent bursts yet still in conformance with natural law.
But scientists do not recognize there at present to be any empirical data indicating that natural law operated any other way in the past, which would falsify uniformitarianism and uphold catastrophism. (Some creationists posit that this empirical data exists. Similarly, some people posit that they were knocked up by little green men last week.) Therefore, they hold to uniformitarianism as a falsifiable, but unfalsified, theory, and the one with the most evidence backing it.
The creationist position
Young-earth creationism holds to the following three major points:
- Catastrophism in principio. The world, including all life forms, came into existence in six catastrophic days less than 10,000 years ago.
- Diluvian catastrophism. Some millennia following the world's birth, a global flood entirely reshaped the world, again in a catastrophic manner.
- The divine hand. Not only did the above events occur, but they could not have occurred unless they were executed by YHVH.
Furthermore, it is an acknowledged fact that the be-all-end-all of the creationist movement is to secure the acceptance of the third point above: that if it were not for the third point, creationists would not be advocating the former two, that the observed truth as gained in the empirical manner plays a second fiddle to the revealed truth that they already have settled, that the motive of creationists is not so much to discover observed truth as to confirm the revealed variety (and, when the evidence falsifies their revealed truth instead of confirming it, to try to change the facts rather than modifying their preconceived notions).
Science and non-science in the creationist position
The first two points are, arguably, within the purview of science; if uniformitarianism is done away with, and such rules as the conservation of mass and the Second Law of Thermodynamics recognized as not binding in all circumstances, it is not inconceivable that there should be a set of natural laws under which the world and the species could have come into existence in six days. Furthermore, if any particular theory of this sort is not correct, it could certainly be falsified.
But the third point is most definitely not science. This is due to the problem stated above, with scientific observations not being able to distinguish between a natural and supernatural cause. The observations would be the same whether the world came into existence by itself in those six days in the manner prescribed, or whether YHVH created it in that manner; the observations would be the same whether YHVH talked to Abraham and Moses, or whether they suffered hallucinations and delusions.
Note that nothing is said here about whether the divine hand is necessary or not if the world came into existence in six days, or whether YHVH actually talked to Abraham and Moses. These are matters of philosophy, or of religious revelation, entirely outside the purview of science. The Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges this with regard to several such miracles:
“”The celestial phenomena mentioned in the Scripture, like the star of the magi, the solar eclipse during the Paschal full moon, the stars falling from heaven as forerunners of the Last Judgment, are all of the miraculous kind and beyond the laws of nature.
Frequently, when creationists posit the catastrophic theories above, they do so according to a principle of "uniformitarianism with exceptions": that the uniform laws were only departed from during very limited times, such as the Creation Week and the Deluge. However, this strategy turns out not to be as simple as it appears, and when others begin to probe them as to the logical consequences of the various exceptions proposed, the complexity of the models explodes out of proportion.
Example: When the RATE group posited that radiocarbon and radiometric dating were useless because the rate of radioactive decay had accelerated during the Deluge, it was immediately countered that radiation at such an accelerated rate would have released enough heat to vaporize the Earth (the "heat problem"). Russell Humphreys countered with a
theory conjecture derived from his own large intestine Einstein's theory of relativity, in which the universe expanded at the same time the decay sped up, causing a cooling commensurate to the heat generated by the radiation; opponents countered that this would not have kept temperatures stable enough to prevent the vaporizing.
When the complexity of any scientific model explodes out of proportion, its proponent will be hard-pressed to fill in the rapidly expanding gaps or holes in it. Although there is not quite so much room for such complexity within uniformitarian science, the usual response among scientists is to plug away at it over a long period of time. This is how the theory of evolution was crystallized in the first decades of its existence.
Much by contrast, for the reasons explained above, it is necessary for creationists instead to promote their models immediately as entirely true, though they be entirely false, and they be racing against the clock to produce new arguments as fast as their old ones are debunked. Hence, they are often found glossing over as-yet-unfilled gaps in their ideas, gaps that cannot be filled by uniformitarian science, by stating that God was responsible, and though they do not know how he did it, they are assured that he did, perhaps because "with God all things are possible."
The RATE group did this in response to the heat problem; when Russell Humphreys came up with his solution, the group stated that while this was only a "possible mechanism" that "may" explain the heat removal, they were "confident" that God removed the heat.
This category of response is convincing to those who already presuppose that God is at work in the world, but is not in the least convincing to anyone else. Hence, such a response is characterized as Goddidit, and criticized for essentially filling a gap in a falsifiable theory with unfalsifiable speculative philosophy or theology.
For these reasons, anyone without an axe to grind, and many who do have one to grind, will say: