There is going to be a science fair in Kentucky! It’s always great to see kids interested in science, and to see adults interested in their children’s intellectual development. Before we take a closer look at this science fair, I’d like to remind us of an important lesson in the history of science.
Back in the 14th century, there was considerable controversy over whether the Earth was spinning, or whether the Earth was actually stationary while the Sun and planets circled the Earth. A man named Nicole Oresme decided to assess this problem by critically examining all the arguments.
First, Oresme lists 3 of the strongest arguments of his day for a stationary Earth..
- Our senses experience the Sun and the planets rising and setting as if the Earth were the center of the universe. It is therefore most reasonable to believe our perceptions and conclude that the Earth is, in fact, spinning.
- If the Earth were actually spinning eastward, we should experience a constant wind from the east. We do not. Hence, the Earth is not spinning.
- When a man on a fast-moving ship shoots an arrow straight into the air, it will fall behind the ship close to point where it had been released. In the same way, if the Earth were spinning, an arrow shot straight into the air should fall at a point west of the point it was released. This does not happen, and therefore the earth is not spinning. (This argument was borrowed from Ptolemy.)
Next, Oresme employs some impressive critical thinking skills to respond to each of these 3 arguments.
- The sensation that the Sun and the planets are rising and setting is a problem of relative motion. Imagine that you are in the middle of the ocean on a ship, and there is another ship a mile away. When it appears that the other ship is moving east, it may well be that it is actually your own ship that is moving west, and that the other ship is actually stationary.
- The air in the hold of a ship moves with the ship at the same speed of the ship. Therefore, the air on the Earth may be simply moving along with the Earth as it rotates.
- When you raise your hand up and down while on a moving ship, it appears to you that your hand is moving in a straight line. However, it is clear that your hand is actually moving in a wave as the ship moves. The arrow that is shot into the air and seems to fall in a straight line could have actually traveled in a parabola as the Earth spins.
Finally Oresme comes to a conclusion.
“I believe, that they (the heavens), and not the earth, are so moved, for “God created the orb of the earth, which will not be moved” (Psalms. 92:1), notwithstanding arguments to the contrary.”
Now back to the science fair. This fair is sponsored by The Creation Museum. Here is one stipulation for choosing a project.
- All projects should be clearly aligned with a biblical principle from a passage or verse.
The following is from their “statement of faith” that all science fair participants must agree to.
- 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.
The bible, it seems, cannot be invalidated by science. However, through the application of “faith” we can begin a scientific inquiry with the assumption that what the bible has to say on the matter is true, and then shoehorn the evidence into that biblical conclusion as a validation. It seems that the validation of the bible is fine, while the invalidation of the bible is taboo. This ad hoc asymmetry has been introduced to insulate the bible from scrutiny, while at the same time allowing for science to be co-opted for the bible’s validation.
If children can be taught at a young age that such illogical asymmetries are proper, they are much less likely to adopt the rigors of critical thought and scientific thinking at a later age.
This perversion of reason is not the fault of Christian youth who grow up in homes and churches controlled by adults attempting to instill their belief systems in these children during the age of youthful credulity. Here is the lesson learned by one adult Christian who contemplated Oresme’s conclusion.
“This scripture decides the question for [Oresme], based on the inerrancy of the Bible. He then states that he has philosophically shown that it is reasonable to believe that the earth rotates, but that this seems more against common sense than much of the Christian faith. Therefore, this argument can be used to counter those that would attack the Christian faith through philosophical reasoning; this example shows the unreliability of reason.”
You’re guess is as good as mine about what convoluted mental processes could create such an absurd and inverted rationalization.
Do we not have reason to fear the worst for the intellectual well-being of young fundamentalists? The good news is that this very blatant irrationality frequently flaunted by adult Christian parents and church leaders is what has been driving the surge in the number of teen and college-aged skeptics who have discovered the beauty of actual science.
- Oresme, Nicole. “Book II Chapter 25.” Livre du ciel et du monde. Quoted in History of Science Study Guide, by Dr. Robert Hatch. Accessed October 18, 2005
- Taschow, Ulrich. “Biography of Nicole Oresme.” Nicole Oresme and the Spring of Modern Age. Accessed October 18, 2005
Brian Benson, was an eighth-grade student who entered his project in the Life Science/Biology category. He entitled the project “Creation Wins!!!” He claimed to have disproved part of the theory of evolution by using a rolled-up paper towel suspended between two glasses of water containing Epsom Salts, The paper towel formed stalactites. He states that the theory that they take millions of years to develop is incorrect.
“Scientists say it takes millions of years to form stalactites,” Benson said. “However, in only a couple of hours, I have formed stalactites just by using paper towel and Epsom Salts.”
Now, to their credit, what the creationist adults in charge of the science fair did was to point out to the boy several of the obvious problems with the project such as…
- the theory of evolution says nothing about stalactites. They don’t breed.
- geologists do not say stalactites take millions of years to form, the rates of deposition vary (0.001 – 1 mm/yr) and some large speleothems are known to be hundreds of thousands of years old.
- stalactites are formed from calcium carbonate (limestone), epsom salts are magnesium sulfate. Epsom salts are extremely soluble in water, Limestone isn’t.
- this project has nothing to do with biology or life sciences.
Just kidding. They gave him 1st prize. Jehovah wins again.
Here is a list of suggested science fair projects produced by one christian organization.
1. A virus can mutate (alter) the DNA code of the host cell and reproduce a new species. Does this prove evolution by mutation is true or does it show adaptation (variety) within a species?
2. How many shades of skin color are there? Use a paint scanner to test 100 people.
3. Make a computer model of the Flood currents.
4. Statistical occurrence of giants, and midgets and dwarfs and giantism. Use Princess Flo, Goliath, and brothers.
5. What can we learn from the Amish blood disease and sixth finger? Compare this to the half Jewish Samaritans. (Bob Helfinstine may have info on this).
6. Build and run studies on a strata forming wave tank. This would confirm or disprove strata are all laid down at the same time. See http://www.icr.org/newsletters/impact/impactoct00.html and video tape Evidences: The Record & the Flood from Geoscience Research .
7. Does Tanning leather affect C14 content and date?
8. How much voltage or current can a human take before he is killed? (This is a to be a literature search, NOT an experiment.) What sorts of shocks have been known to kill people and how much have people tolerated and lived? What is it about electicity that kills? Would the same thing be true of plants.
9. How much electricity does an eel put out?
10. What was life like before the Flood?
11. Make an experiment to show how Boyle’s law applies to nebula.
12. Trilobites prove Noah’s flood because they are curled up or not?
13. Do Lilydale closed clam fossils support a world wide flood? Collect 100 shells and compare.
14. Can salt water and fresh water fish live in the same water or not?
15. How long can flies survive freezing in a frig?
16. How can you tell if animals are color blind?
17. Does geography affect health?
18. Is intelligence influenced by physical attributes. i.e. are blondes “dumb” or does skin color influence intelligence?
19. Can a dog run a maze faster than a gerbil?
20. Why do we have allergies?
21. Does a bad mood spread?
22. Could a person function without thumbs? or What would it be like to not have thumbs?
23. Why do we have an Adams apple?
24. Why do we feel cold when it is 30 degrees in the Fall but in the February 30 degrees seems warm?
25. Does weather affect attitudes?
26. Is energy ever destroyed or created?
27. What happens to garbage in a land fill?
28. What makes an animal wild?
29. Why do some foods give you a stomach ache?
30. Why does the ocean appear blue but when it is in a bucket it is clear?
31. Why is the sky blue by day and black at night?
32. Why do we hiccup?
33. Why is hair thicker on the head than the rest of the body?
34. What are freckles and why do we have them?
35. Why does the Bible say there is one glory of the sun, one glory of the moon, and one glory of the stars?
36. Why is snow 6 sided?
37. Why does liquid water turn to a solid at 32 degrees F.?
38. Why can’t we see air?
39. Why does hair turn gray when we age?
40. Does sea currents affect climate?
41. Is everything, including non-living things, made of cells?
43. Does commercial feed, corn and grits, or range feed, increase egg production in chickens? What about other animals and feeds?
44. Why do trees have leaves?
45. How high can a model rocket fly?
46. Where are teeth stored?
47. What is the best way to care for teeth?
48. Is there a way for humans to get to Jupiter? Mars? etc.
49. How does friction work?
50. Why does blood look blue in our veins (it is actually dark red but looks blue when we see it through our skin and the walls of the veins) but turns bright red when we are cut? If we are cut in a vacuum or in an oxygen-free environment, would the blood stay dark?
51. Why do we have finger nails?
52. What was the weather like before the Flood?
53. Were all the animals friendly to man before the Flood? Idea: raise several baby animals like snake and mouse together to see if they remain friends as they are older.
54. Why do they live longer before the Flood?
55. Why do only mammals have hair?
56. Why do plants and insects die in the Fall?
57. Why is chlorophyll green?
58. Why did God create the moon to control the tides?
59. What is color?
60. What is heat?
61. What is light? Do Young’s light experiments of 1800 which proves light is a wave. (see Space Medium, Barnes, 1986. p.126)
62. Why do plants give us oxygen?
63. What is electricity?
64. Why do we sleep at night? Do we have to sleep to rejuvenate the rods and cones in the eye?
65. What affects skin color? Is one color better than another? What was God’s purpose in this?
66. What color is our brain?
67. What is the fastest speed something can go?
68. Why is a dog’s nose wet?
69. Why do cats always land on there feet when they fall? Do other animals do this?
70. How do mice react after 24 hours of confinement? What about other animals?
71. How does soap clean?
72. What is God made of?
73. How does water turn into clouds?
74. What happens to eyes so you need glasses? Did God design them poorly?
75. What is plastic made out of?
76. Why do some people get allergic reactions?
77. How do we get headaches?
78. What is rubber made out of?
79. What are bones made out of?
80. Why did God make pests like bugs and mosquitoes?
81. Why are there joints and cracks in the earth’s crust?
82. Why do our joints crack?
83. Why do people believe in Evolution?
84. What events caused them to become evolutionists?
85. How does a computer chip work?
86. How is a tooth cavity formed?
87. How does Novocain work?
88. How does glue stick?
89. Is posture related to digestion? Greeks lay down to eat, we sit up.
90. Why do we experience a feeling of fear? What makes this in our body?
91. Why do we need to eat?
92. Why do some animals lay eggs and others bear babies alive? Why did God do it this way?
93. Why do people sometimes eat and drink a lot when they are depressed?
94. Why does ocean air seem “fresher” than city or “land” air?
95. Are humans mammals? We thought they were made in God’s image and not related to animals.
96. Does morning, night, or the Sun control how tired we are?
97. Why did God make birds to fly?
98. Were dinosaurs alive at the same time as humans?
99. Does a mare in foal become more ornery than one not?
100.What does an Adam’s apple do on our throat?
101.If there were aliens, why would they visit humans?
102.Why do we have pimples? Did God goof?
103.Where was the Garden of Eden? Is it around today?
104.Why do cats hate dogs and dogs hate cats?
105.What are aliens and are there really any in our world? see Lamentations 5:2, Eph 2:12, Heb 11:34.
106.Can plants affect your growth?
107.How does pencil lead (graphite) stay on paper?
108.Why does our skin wrinkle?
109. Why does earth (dirt) crumble in your hand but is hard when you walk on it?
110. Why does lead melt at a low temperature?
111. Why are clouds white?
112. What is the difference between cold and warm blooded? Why did God do it this way?
113. How can we have hot and cold water in the ocean at the same time?
114. What shape is outer space?
115. If people stayed in caves with no clues to day and night, how long would their daily sleeping and waking times be? Would they set a 24 hour day? If not, what keeps us on schedule?