Wednesday, July 9, 2014

God's QC 11.8: Nye-Ham Debate: Burgess

Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Feb 4 2014 at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. In this video I'll address the comments made by Stuart Burgess, one of the scientists that Ken Ham trotted out when trying to demonstrate that creationists can also be scientists.

The fundamental error in Ham's use of Burgess—and his other show dogs Faulkner and Damadian—is his emphasis on the irrelevant question whether a person can be both a creationist and a scientist. Of course a person can be both; Isaac Newton himself was a superstitious crackpot. But that is not what matters here. What matters is whether a person is actually engaging in science while undertaking a given activity. When the renowned scientist Francis Collins chooses superstition because he sees a frozen waterfall, he is not engaging in science. When the renowned charlatan Ken Ham formulates and tests a hypothesis that a museum dedicated to stupidity will cause superstitious nincompoops to empty their pockets into his hands, he is engaging in science.

Stuart Burgess is a professor of engineering design who has published many scientific papers relating to mechanical engineering: hinges and joints for robotic machinery, dental materials, bicycle design. Is Dr. Burgess a scientist? Obviously. Did he engage in science when he researched these areas and published these papers? Absolutely. But consider this statement, which Ken Ham presented during the debate:
From my research work, I have found that the scientific evidence fully supports creationism as the best explanation to origins.
Did Dr. Burgess engage in science when he gathered this evidence and when he concluded that said evidence supports creationism? Given only this bold but rather vague assertion, it's impossible to say. To learn more, I contacted him directly by email to ask about his research relating to creationism. We ended up having a mostly empty conversation lasting two weeks, which boiled down to two primary points:
  1. Evolutionary theory is false, therefore there must be a designer.
  2. The "brilliance of design in the natural world" indicates that said designer is exactly like the one described in the bible.
Honest. After a total of 17 emails between us, these two points are literally all he was able to provide.

During the course of the conversation, he suggested that I read his book, "Hallmarks of Design". The first chapter, which was all I could stomach, is dedicated to showing that evolutionary theory is false. He refers to the supposed irreducible complexity of the human knee joint. Being a true follower of Yahweh, Dr. Burgess tells a big fat lie, saying, "According to evolution, all the characteristics of the knee have evolved one at a time." Anyone able to read can spend half an hour reading and find that evolutionary theory says nothing like this. And clearly, even if evolutionary theory were utterly false, it wouldn't necessarily imply that there is a designer.

Concerning the second point, his claim that the natural world indicates that the designer is indeed the "god" of the bible, Dr. Burgess is more correct than he realizes. He looks at the world and sees "brilliance", which, according to him, suggests the "god" of the bible. But obviously, at least to anyone who has actually read the bible, the "god" described there is hideous. One might observe the existence of viruses and cancers, and conclude, as Dr. Burgess has, although in a sense that would scandalize him, that the world does indeed indicate the "god" of the bible.

Near the end of our conversation, Dr. Burgess, perhaps unwittingly, rephrased the bold assertion he made for Ken Ham, saying instead, "[M]y work fully supports my belief in creation." Note the lack of mention of science, and the shift from "fully supports creationism" to "fully supports my belief". When I asked him whether this version was what he intended to say in the Ken Ham video, he brought the conversation to an abrupt end by throwing bible verses at me.

Is Dr. Stuart Burgess a scientist? Yes. Has he actually found any scientific evidence that supports creationism? No. Did he engage in science to reach his conclusions about creationism? No. His conclusions are not based on science, or for that matter, on critical thinking, or even honesty.

That's 11.8. Thanks for watching.

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