Over the past ten years or so I’ve been hearing this word “creationism.” It seems that it’s the opposite of “evolutionism.”

No problem – until I read about people trying to “prove” creationism. And articles like this one trying to refute it.

I’m not sure what the big hubbub is about. 20 years ago I heard a guy make a simple statement about it all. He proved creationism in 30 seconds.

And it was a mathematical argument.

Before I give you that 30 second super-statement, let’s chat a little about what a real mathematical proof looks like.

### Math starts with definitions.

We say, “Okay, here’s the deal. Let’s define a *nebino* as a number that’s greater than all prime numbers,” or something of that nature. (And yes, you get to make up your own words if you want.)

No math – none – ever starts out with confusing terms. If it does, someone jumps in and says, “You’ve got stuff that isn’t defined clearly.”

Everything shuts down until that gets resolved.

### Math assumes… well… assumptions.

Once you have your definitions clear, you get to set up what you assume. This actually might come before the defining part. And often it isn’t said out loud at all.

Which is one reason that scientists sometimes think that they can do math. They’re always assuming the world (i.e. reality). Mathematicians don’t cotton to such vast and willy-nilly assumptions.

### Then you get your hands dirty.

You’ve got definitions and you know what you’re assuming. You’re foundation is down. Now you build.

In other words, you create some math.

But things don’t always work out like you planned. So…

### If it doesn’t work, you change the definitions or assumptions.

Yep – sometimes we really want something to work, so we just go back and tweak some of the starter points. Which means we change a definition or add (or delete) an assumption.

(Which means if you’re using someone’s math, you have to make sure you’re working with the same definitions and set of assumptions.)

### And that’s the best argument for Creationism.

The statement I heard from this Creationist was, in essence, this:

We don’t have to use any evidence of science to prove God created the world in 7 days, 6,000 years ago. God planted the fossils and created all sorts of nifty things like DNA that would contradict the Bible. It was all meant to test our faith.

### Voila! Creationism proven.

Brilliant! Change the assumptions, and you’re there.

### Beliefs are just that: beliefs.

Which means there’s just no proving them. Kinda like my thoughts on the real line. I don’t believe in it – to the chagrin of my Twitter friend Colin.

So if you want to prove something, change the rules. Or ignore them. Mathematicians do it all the time.

**If you’re really really interested in my beliefs, I’ve shared them here.*

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Bon, you seem to have a classic logical fallacy. You’ve described that creationism “argument” as being a mathematical one. This is what your reasoning seems to be:

In math if the outcomes aren’t what you expect or need, then you go back and tweak your assumptions.

This creationist wanted creationism, so he tweaked his assumptions.

Therefore this is a mathematical argument.

You’ve effectively said:

All X have Y

Z has Y

Therefore Z is X.

Example:

All fish swim

Dolphins swim

Therefore dolphins are fish.

That argument for creationism is not mathematical, even though it might share some aspects of what happens in math.

I’m writing this up more fully elsewhere, but in essence, I believe that the whole numbers exist. I believe further that once you have the whole numbers it is unreasonable not to have the rationals. The whole numbers and rationals can be arranged on a line, and we can do arithmetic on them – we can define addition, multiplication, and their inverses.

I can then show that no rational ever squares to be 2, which implies that the number line as given above has gaps. I believe we should allow those places on the number line not yet taken by rationals to have an existence in their own right.

Hence we get the irrationals. To me it simply doesn’t make sense to talk about them not existing.

Okay. This isn’t a mathematical argument. Rather it is a mathematical

styleof argumentation.Better?

Um. No, not really. It has something in common, but you’re giving the impression that in some sense it’s mathematical, and it’s not at all.

In fact, it’s not even an argument. It’s just a baseless assertion. It’s not a falsifiable hypothesis, so it’s certainly not science.

In fact, it’s pretty much just dogma.

Indeed, it is not mathematical. I did misrepresent that. But it is certainly important to point out that what we do in mathematics is not dissimilar to what happens in real life. Or in other areas.

And it is not baseless assertion, assuming your base is something like the Bible. And math isn’t science either.

Some might claim that math is dogma as well.

Thanks for the continued discussion, Colin.

Bon,

Sorry, I agree with ColinTheMathmo on this one. The creationist presents no ground in which to plant his claim that God hid red herrings for us to discover to test our faith. He simple states that God did this as if the claim were fact.

It is not.

Facts by definition are checkable or testable. Nothing in the creationist’s statement is testable nor checkable, so it can not be fact. Science and math check and test facts, so the statement can never be treated by either.

At best the statement is opinion, a statement that cannot be tested, checked, verified nor refuted. And the creationist is free to own it. No one can argue against it, since an opinion offers nothing to argue against.

It is like saying: “That cat is fat” ……. next to this one … but next to this other, it is slim! This is opinion until you do measurements and tests. Even then you can only compare weights; fat is still an opinionated description. If you redefine it as exceeding a threshold weight, fat no longer is aesthetic, but rather a weight above some (arbitrary) threshold. Why muddy the lipid by using the same word to define two distinct things?

As for the real number line, since one can show that irrationals exist through Pythagorean Theorem, one can show that numbers can range continuously along a dimension, so forming a line (continuum) of numbers. Calling these numbers real is arbitrary though. Only convention encourages this name. (You might argue that irrationals aren’t numbers. I think convention disagrees though.)

I kept my argument secular. I do not think my religious opinion is relevant to this discussion.

Perhaps the use of opinions is to fertilize thought like red herrings. They encourage discourse. Just look at the discourse the opinions in this post fed.

PS: Geology tests and claims that the Earth is billions of years old rather than 6000. And geology and astronomy test and claim that the Earth formed in more than 7 days; in fact, it is still forming (tectonic earthquakes, anyone?). These claims are testable, and so fact. They are refuted by results of tests, but are still fact, just false ones.

Can I be more long-winded?

That’s my whole point, Shawn. Mathematics builds huge amounts on the same clay feet that my creationist friend built his theory on.

You write, “Facts by definition are checkable or testable.” We have axioms in mathematics that are not checkable or testable. And yet we still use them to construct our beautiful world of mathematics.

The creationist argument that God hid red herrings is not a fact nor a provable claim (obviously). What it is, though, is an axiom at the beginning of it all.

The stated axiom of, “God planted false evidence,” when assumed true, makes all the facts of science vanish.

I’m not saying it

< true, merely stating that logically it's possible for us to stop what we're thinking, and go back and rework the axioms. This is one of the beauties of mathematics, and why this discussion got started.isIt's all made up, all of it. In reality, we don't know squat. We can prove things, we can assume things, we can hypothesize and test, and the bottom line is none of it's real because it's all based on assumptions.

Or maybe it is all real. Who really knows?

And the answer to that last question, some call God and some call Truth.

Thanks for the long-windedness, Shawn. And forgive my own. 😀