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Are You Willing to Question Your Assumptions?


[Originally published in 2016 as Watch Your Assumptions: They Can Lead To False Conclusions!]

I am always on the lookout for experiences that can be turned into a “teachable moment.” Over the past two weeks, I have had two such experiences, so I thought I would write about them.

The first one was a result of my article entitled Reflections on the Ark Encounter, which is a positive review of the latest attraction produced by Answers in Genesis. The day after it was published, I got a Facebook message from someone who had shared my post with a friend of hers. In reply, this friend asked if I was a “real” scientist. She assured him that I was and shared my Facebook page with him. She was rather taken aback when her friend sent her the following reply:

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A mimeographed “PhD” from whatever fundamentalist “college” he sent his box tops to is not qualification to shine a real scientist’s shoes, let alone make claims about the natural world. Further, any parents who buy into this complete fiction, and indoctrinate their kids in this manner, are guilty of emotional and mental child abuse, and in my opinion should be prosecuted. I cant think of a better way to sabotage a child’s future in a modern, scientific and technological society.

This didn’t surprise me, of course. I am used to having my credentials questioned and being insulted because I don’t slavishly “toe the line” when it comes to today’s scientific consensus. That comes with the territory. Indeed, Dr. Dan Shechtman was asked to leave his research group because he dared to question the scientific consensus. Of course, the data eventually proved him to be correct and the scientific consensus to be wrong. However, that was until after being ridiculed as a “quasi-scientist” by one of the greatest chemists who has ever lived!

When I read that person’s reply, then, I just chuckled, because I knew how wrong he was. However, it got me thinking. This person is incorrect on so many levels, and the reason he is incorrect is because he has made some assumptions that are quite false. As a result, they have led him to false conclusions.

He seems to have assumed that there is no way a person could get a PhD in science from a secular university and believe in young-earth creationism. Thus, he assumed I must have gotten my PhD from a diploma mill that was probably a fundamentalist institution. Of course, that’s not correct. I received my PhD from the University of Rochester, which is a purely secular university that I found to be openly hostile towards Christianity.

In addition, he assumes that children who are taught to question the scientific consensus are being harmed. He says that those children are having their future sabotaged in today’s modern, scientific and technological society. Once again, however, that is far from the truth. I have written before about how students who have been taught young-earth creationism do very well in college science courses (see herehereherehereherehere, and here). Far from sabotaging a student’s future, then, a young-earth creationist education prepares the student very well for university-level science.

In the end, this person’s conclusions couldn’t be more wrong, and it’s because his assumptions are wrong. Since he seems to be unwilling to question those assumptions, he is destined to be wrong about these things for a long, long time.

The second experience of mine that relates to this also comes from a blog article I wrote. In that article, I give a positive review of Dr. Douglas Axe’s latest book, Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed. A person who lists his name only as “Hrafn” (an Old Norse name that means “Raven”) thinks that Dr. Axe’s book is irrelevant. Interestingly enough, however, he hasn’t read the book.

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Of course, the fact that he hasn’t read the book doesn’t seem to keep him from evaluating it. In fact, in at least two comments, he claims that the book is making an Argument from Ignorance. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Dr. Axe’s book is based on experimentally-derived parameters that allow him to evaluate when a protein can evolve and when it can’t. There is no ignorance — just a hard, fact-based appraisal of when it is reasonable to look for answers other than those supplied by Neo-Darwinism.

Obviously, the irony is amazing. A person who is completely ignorant of what the book says claims that the book is making an Argument from Ignorance! Why? Because that is a common statement made in reference to the Intelligent Design movement, and he just assumes that the comment can be made in reference to Dr. Axe’s book since Dr. Axe is a member of the intelligent design community. Once again, a faulty assumption leads him to an incorrect conclusion.

Now please understand what I am saying here. A false assumption about my credentials doesn’t make me right. Nor does an ignorant view of a scientist’s work make the scientist right. However, both of them are certainly wrong on very specific points (where my PhD comes from, the effects of a young-earth creationist education, and Dr. Axe making an Argument from Ignorance). Why? Because they are making faulty assumptions that they seem unwilling to question.

So at last we reach the teachable moment

We all make assumptions, and most likely some of those assumptions are wrong, which means they will lead us to false conclusions. Thus, we should be willing to question our assumptions. It’s a necessary part of striving for the truth!

Dr. Jay Wile

Written by Jay Wile

As a scientist, it is hard for me to fathom anyone who has scientific training and does not believe in God. Indeed, it was science that brought me not only to a belief in God, but also to faith in Christianity. I have an earned Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in nuclear chemistry and a B.S. in chemistry from the same institution.

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