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Paul Taylor – A Review

October 14th, 2008 Posted in Creationism

The summary paragraph for this talk, hosted by the London Skeptics in the Pub group, included the following final line:

“The illustrated talk will argue that even those who don’t accept their conclusions should recognise that there is a solid logic to a young earth creationist position.”

Therefore, you can understand that I was interested to turn up and see what a highly intelligent proponent of Creationism could say about his beliefs that would make them sound like they were based on ‘solid logic’. Deep down, I knew there was no plausible way that this could happen, but I was nonetheless (naively) optimistic that Paul Taylor might deliver the goods. After all, faced with a room of around 200 highly intelligent skeptics, he surely wasn’t just going to reproduce the same old young earth creationist arguments that we’ve seen refuted time and time again, was he?

Yes, sadly he was. *sigh*

The truth was that, despite a few charitable comments to the contrary from overly polite questioners, Mr Taylor really wasn’t very bright. Well, let me clarify that – I’m sure he’s very intelligent in the grand scheme of things, but when you start comparing yourself to the cutting edge of academics, he was just totally out of his depth. During his talk he said something that, in my opinion, summed up the view of (probably) 98% of the people in that room: He admitted clearly that he was a generalist, not an expert in any one area of science. And boy did it show! He came up with a series of the most outdated and flawed clangers like the ‘Assumptions of Radiometric dating’ argument that actually gave rise to audible laughter and booing in the audience. Arguments that any expert in the subject would know to be false, but which anyone who had been teaching science at A-level standard for 17 years would almost certainly believe were plausible.

That wasn’t the only standard creationist argument we heard – there were a number of the old arguments that he insisted on dragging out again that were like watching a car crash in slow motion. As he uttered the first few words, everyone looked round, shaking their heads, saying “Surely he can’t… no!… he can’t be using that argument.. wow, he’s actually going to do it… no, don’t say it… please don’t say it!” And every time he disappointed.

Mr Taylor’s main argument was, essentially, that creationists and scientists are looking at actually the same exidence, but with different sets of (untestable) presuppositions that guide them towards very different conclusions. Unfortunately, that argument doesn’t hold water. Science, when done properly, has no presuppositions – it’s a process of building and testing hypotheses using rational argument and, to the greatest extent possible, the principle of parsimony known as Occam’s Razor which dictates that we should make as few assumptions as possible. Scientists hate untestable assumptions, and they remove them from all their theories with absolute prejudice. In fact, that’s how we can be so much more secure in the scientific theories of the Universe than in any other – because Scientists go out of their way to prove everything they possibly can via an audit trail of rigorously evaluated evidence. Now, that’s not saying that everything in Science is known from first principles – clearly some theories require asumptions – but those same assumptions are tested to the greatest possible degree and removed wherever possible.

In science, there are no absolute truths – nothing that we must believe is true no matter what the evidence shows. That’s why creationism is different – young Earthers absolutely must believe that the Bible is literally true, and anything that disagrees with that must be wrong.

The most worrying thing is that Mr Taylor clearly trusts the people at Answers in Genesis – people who actually do have PhDs, and really should know better. He trusts what they say because, understandably, he relates to them as human beings and as colleagues. Also, what they’re telling him aligns perfectly with what he wants to believe. What he doesn’t realise, sadly, is that these creationist ‘experts’ are misleading him very gravely – either deliberately or through ignorance (though once you become a trained PhD scientist, it becomes extremely difficult to plead the latter). Unfortunately, Taylor was putting forward arguments that are manifestly naive and betray a very deep misunderstanding of the essence and substance of modern science, and someone somewhere is supporting him in each one of his erroneous beliefs.

Three more points that I found worthy of note:

  1. Taylor said that the creationists don’t want to ban Evolution from schools and are happy to keep teaching it as science. This goes totally against what the wedge strategy says. OK, so that’s the Discovery Institute, not Answers in Genesis, but I thought they all believed the same things? I suspect several claims that Taylor made would be denied by the AiG hierarchy.
  2. I was slightly disappointed with some of the Skeptics. Some of them were extremely polite, intelligent, articulate, calm and considered. Others were downright rude and disruptive. I guess you get that in any group of people, but unfortunately it just gives the creationists way more ammunition and leaves them with the impression that rational thinkers are just animals baying for blood, jeering at the spectacle like Romans at the Colisseum.
  3. All of the answers that Taylor gave in the question session at the end filtered down to a couple of objections, but firstly, and most importantly, he believed that Evolution somehow required some magical creation of information from nowhere, and that this was impossible and against the laws of physics. I was interested that this seemed to be the keystone supporting his entire belief system. Sadly, it’s trivially wrong. I’ll write something about that soon.
Right, that’s about enough on that one. It gave me some fascinating points to think about, so I’ll probably have more to add at a later date, but for now I’m tired πŸ™‚
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  1. 2 Responses to “Paul Taylor – A Review”

  2. By Sceptical on Nov 1, 2008

    Colin, you mentioned you would post some stuff on Creationist claims about Evolution’s “magical creation of information from nowhere”. Are you planning to do so, as it’s a common ‘argument’ I hear from Young Earth Creationists and it would be good to have something solid to respond with, as I’ve no science background.


  3. By Colin on Nov 1, 2008


    Yeah, I’m going to do this as part of my presentations. The progress is a bit slow now, unfortunately, as I have a new job which is taking up most of my time. The ‘information from nowhere’ argument is really common, but I was surprised to see it as the focus not just for Paul Taylor’s talk, but apparently for his entire belief system.
    New ‘information’ is generated all the time in nature. If you think about it, each time a gene is duplicated and one of the duplicates is mutated, then that’s new information.
    Anyway, sorry I’m being so slow. I’ll get on to it soon πŸ˜‰

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