Miracles don't disprove science - expert

2012-03-28 11:20

Cape Town - Miracles are of an alternative realm and cannot be used to disprove science, a palaeontologist said.

"When you're talking about miracles, that's well and fine. You're totally out of the scientific rational viewpoint. But don't use your miracles to try and disprove science," Dr Jurie van den Heever, a palaeontologist at Stellenbosch University told News24.

Van den Heever is an author and science educator who has spent time instructing South African teachers on how to teach evolution in life science lessons.

It has emerged that some teachers do not teach the required curriculum, but Van den Heever said the government's policy to teach evolution was correct.

"Our government has now come and said 'We acknowledge the fact that evolution is the foundation of biology and much of other science and consequently, if we want to teach true knowledge, we must teach evolution at school'."

Alternative ideas

In the US, fundamentalist groups have questioned the teaching of evolution, saying that it is only a theory. Alternative ideas such as intelligent design and other creationist viewpoints have been proposed for science lessons.

The idea has gained popularity in SA and the education department's Caps (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement) document for life science specifies "different cultural and religious expalanations for the origin and development of life on Earth" (sic).

Some have slammed the position of science teachers who do not teach evolution correctly in lessons, saying that it stunted the development of students.

"People are resilient and they're capable of change and sometimes people who come from a very fundamentalist background can still at some point see the light and... be saved. But I think it's really terrible when a teacher has that position over a child," psychohistorian Auke Slotegraaf told News24.

Van den Heever went further, and said that if one was opposed to evolution, it meant that one was racist.

"All humans belong to the same species and it can be proven genetically; anatomically. And if you belong to the same species, the biological species concept tells you if you can interbreed and produce viable offspring you belong to the same species and you cannot discriminate people the way that they did in the apartheid regime.

"If you are using those kinds of arguments to say that evolution is wrong, you are automatically in that whole morass of racism and apartheid," he added.


He urged people not to interpret the Bible literally, saying that miracles went beyond the scientific method.

"This is the creationist view: In the sense of these fundamental people who think that the Bible can be interpreted literally. Even theologians tell you it can't."

Science had the ability to demonstrate evidence for theories that made it reliable and testable, Van den Heever said.

He cited the example of the ear bones that evolved from the reptilian jaw and commonly found in Karoo fossils.

"We have in South Africa the best scientific evidence for macro evolution in the world. We've got this array of mammal-like reptile fossils in the Karoo and these fossils are abundant and they've been studied for hundreds of years.

"They show how one major group of animals - the reptiles - slowly changed into another major group of animals - the mammals, Mammalia. These fossils show gradual changes over time - changing from a reptile-like animal to a mammal-like animal."

In the mammalian middle ear, the incus, stapes, malleus, and tympanic membrane have been shown to correspond to the quadrate, prearticular, articular, and angular structures in the reptile jaw.

Van den Heever said that evolution was a reality and that people who disputed it were deluded.

"If you want to live in la-la land and think of miracles, that's fine - no problem - but you cannot disprove science by miracles."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

  • zane.zeiler - 2012-03-28 11:34

    "fundamentalist groups have questioned the teaching of evolution, saying that it is only a theory" Yes it is a theory, but a factual based theory, unlike the intelligent design hypothesis... Because there are so many evidence backing it, the theory of evolution has literally become a fact of life, no pun intended.

      Mathys - 2012-03-28 13:29

      A theory can only be disproved or improved. It is not a fact. If it becomes a fact a simple change makes it a theory again. A theory is a substantiated claim, a possible explanation. Like einstein's theory of gravity: general relativity. Unlike newtonian laws of gravity.

      zane.zeiler - 2012-03-28 14:10

      One can only try to disprove or improve the numerous theories surrounding evolution, but the FACT remains... All living things evolve.

      Mathys - 2012-03-28 18:54

      All I know is natural selection is observed in animals living today. Anything more than that I'm unqualified to state.

      Paul - 2012-03-29 07:35

      @Meme Blah blah blah ... same old Meme , insulting peoples intellegence here again, "rock solid" you say ...ok so give us this "rock solid" evidence the the All knowing Meme has, and don't come with the fossil record because both you and I know (as Darwin admitted) that the fossil record does not support evolution. As for DNA, from the scienitific papers that I've read there's no defimative proof that DNA supports evolution either. So Meme before you start insulting people here, bring us this "ROCK SOLID EVIDENCE" !!!

      Mathys - 2012-03-29 08:56

      @meme I get what you're saying. A theory is a possible explanation for why something is happening. It assumes that a phenomena does occur, that it is true. I was just saying what I have observed myself.

      Paul - 2012-03-30 00:07

      @Meme That's rich coming from someone who feels the need to use a pic of Einstein as his profile pic ... tell me does having that pic make you feel more intelligent, does it massage that HUGE ego of your's, so if your wife is sooo hot why don't you have any pics of her on your profile? You say I'm off topic ... did you not say "when those theories are rock solid" and "Evolution as a process is absolute undeniable fact" , were those the words you used Meme ??? I asked you for your ROCK SOLID FACTS Meme ... but what do you come back with ...more insults ...NO ROCK SOLID FACTS Meme ...none, zip, zero ...come on Meme with your superior intelligence and good looks I'm sure you can do beter than mere insults ... you've got it all going on Meme, Darwin would be so proud of you .... I'm sure he's laying in his grave saying ...I KNEW IT I KNEW IT one day we would have a MEME ... damn my idears on natural selection must have being right ...just look at Meme, a perfect all knowing human and what a stunner too ..WOW !!! Meme if you ever get to write that book "proving god doesn't exits" I hope you can bring more to the table than your insults and ego! Frankly I think you're wasting your time on that book ... you have NO PROOF for your THEORIES !!!

      Paul - 2012-03-30 11:57

      @Meme ... So now you a english teacher too, well whoopy for you MR EINSTEIN ... and don't try BS me you misspelt "would" lol such a chop!!! Once AGAIN Meme ... insults ... really scientific of you ... you see Meme, you have NO "rock solid facts" that we could debate here ... insults ridicule and sarcasm , that's all you have in that HUGE brain of yours MR EINSTEIN !!! Re: My profile pic ... it's of my family, I don't need a "symbol or avatar" I'm not pretentious, I'm me, I've never claimed to be a genius, I can debate a topic without resorting to child like behaviour you do!! Meme you seriously need to grow up ... for a man your age, who aspires to be like Einstein , I find your comments childish and lacking in substance!! I won't be holding my breath awaiting your "rock solid facts" , but I do suspect that more insults will follow !!

      Paul - 2012-03-30 12:16

      @Meme.... once again it and weep !!! When interviewed by the Saturday Evening Post in 1929 "You accept the historical existence of Jesus?" Einstein said "Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life." I just love throwing that quote in you face ...MR EINSTEIN !!!

  • Andres - 2012-03-28 11:48

    A little science takes you away from God, a lot of science brings you back. Science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God, thus science is not the enemy of religion, insecure believers are. Science is necessary for the growth of human knowledge.

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-03-28 12:18

      Most intelligent thing i have seen a religious person write :-)

      zaatheist - 2012-03-28 14:05

      Science does not need to prove or disprove Santa and the tooth fairy either. Neither exist, like all of your gods.

      Mathys - 2012-03-28 19:00

      Zaath, you really need to research the difference between unobserved and non-existent. That way you don't come across as a ingnoramus.

  • Fredster - 2012-03-28 11:52

    Darwin said that there is a superior race through natural selection...what are you smoking saying that creationists are your homework first van den Heever, and your idiotic comments at the end are not called for either

      IAmTheDarkPrince - 2012-03-28 12:07

      The point you just made makes as much sense as your belief does.

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-03-28 12:19

      This moron again... His comments only make sense to himself...

      Fredster - 2012-03-28 12:36

      Wesley... I suggest that you comment on the topic. Bless you man

      mbossenger - 2012-03-28 12:37

      By superior, Darwin meant better evolved to fill a particular evolutionary niche. Nothing to do with racism.

      zaatheist - 2012-03-28 14:07

      I wish these proof dodgers would give a citation for their assertions. I supposed they are so used to myth and bovine excrement that they don't feel the need for evidence to believe anything: even the stuff they make up.

      Mathys - 2012-03-28 19:03

      Can you give a peer-reveiwed citation for "god doesn't exist". As far as I know, that is unknowable, then again, I could be mistaken.

  • Mathys - 2012-03-28 12:02

    You can refuse to let the school teach your child evolution theory because it's 'just a theory', he/she could still learn it for themselves if they have to. But to then say the school has to teach them something with even less proof is idiotic hypocrisy.

      mbossenger - 2012-03-28 12:39

      If we toss out evolution because it's just a theory, we have to toss out all science, as it is all theories.

      Mathys - 2012-03-28 13:06

      It's the parents job to raise the child. If the parent doesn't want the child to learn a theory, the teacher should not be allowed to force it. But, in the same breath, one parent does not have the right to say a theory has to be thrown out of class.

      zaatheist - 2012-03-28 14:09

      Another liar for Jesus deliberately misinterpreting the term "scientific theory". These creationists, and the vocal ones in particular, understand evolution but deliberately carry on with your own version. You can't blame them really as keeping the ignorant tithing sheep in the flock is their meal ticket. Appearing monumentally stupid to educated folks is a small price to pay to collect all those donations from the ignorant tithers.

      Mathys - 2012-03-28 19:09

      Interesting hypothesis zaath, but no cigar. I recently (two weeks ago) became a strong agnostic. I finally saw that creationism is crap. Please don't call me 'that'.

      Mathys - 2012-03-28 19:11

      Re-read my comments with this new information.

  • Mathys - 2012-03-28 12:06

    And thank you duncan alfreds for not really having anything original to report. Having to lower yourself to causing a crap-storm to have a job is, rather pathetic.

  • Daniel - 2012-03-28 12:16

    God is everything. We our selves are God we are part of him along with every conscious living thing in this Universe. God is within every human being we have the power to build or destroy to do good or evil. Religion makes God a being and not a creator in the sense of everything that is conscious. Religion is controlled by viewpoints to a creator and to define one God above the rest enraging humans against each other according to their believes where logic and reasoning is sometimes taken away with absurd religious believes whether its religious groups or even occults. ( Quote from: Colbert Woods)

      zaatheist - 2012-03-28 14:10

      Quote time - The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history. - Robert A. Heinlein Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion. Steven Weinberg - Nobel Laureate

      Mathys - 2012-03-28 19:17

      Thank you. These two quotes balanced each other out. Evangelical nonsense and intellectually Militant atheism.

  • christiaanl - 2012-03-28 12:48

    The biggest problem with science is that it helps the same people who insult it to procreate and live longer.

  • Carl - 2012-03-28 13:32

    does the term "disprove science" itself make any sense? There is so much confusion, misinformation, hidden agendas, lies, false assumptions, ignorance, errors of logic etc around this whole topic of "creationism vs evolution" and no-one seems to be listening to the very clear statements being made from within the theist camp....

      zaatheist - 2012-03-28 14:12

      Say what? What clear statements and by whom? I am really, really interested to know.

      Carl - 2012-03-28 17:15

      Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, Gary Habermas, Philip Johnson, William Lane Craig, Francis Collins, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, NT Wright, Dinesh D' Souza, JP Moreland, the list goes on. Seriously, if anyone is adding any value to this topic and clarifing the issues, it must be people like the above.

      Mathys - 2012-03-28 19:19

      Clear statement: easy to understand.

      Mark - 2012-03-28 23:08

      @ Zaatheist I think with "clear statements" he means statements like the following by William Craig: Proof of creation: i. An actual infinite cannot exist ii. A beginningless series of events is an actual infinite iii. Therefore, the universe cannot have existed infinitely in the past, as that would be a beginningless series of events. Which of course is really funny when you think of it: i. An actual infinite cannot exist ii. An endless series of events is an actual infinite iii. The Bible says God gives everlasting life. You will be able to experience an endless series of events. But an endless series of events cannot exist. Proving that the Bible is wrong (btw, in case any creationists reads this - dont get overly excited or try and correct me on the logic of the second conclusion. The maths Craig used to conclude i is flawed - for instance you can use it to prove that 5 = 9 or whatever other number you can think of. And the logic behind ii is circular too. Not that these are the only flaws with the argument)

  • veritas.odium.paret - 2012-03-28 13:36

    I heard someone once say "something cannot come from nothing" which was why he believed God had to have created everything. I then used his reasoning to ask about the origins of God and, to date, I'm still not quite satisfied with "God is supreme" or "highest" or something else along those lines (we were both drunk). Does anyone who subcribes to the Creationism version of events care to address it for me?

      Carl - 2012-03-28 13:49

      I think the argument goes something like this: Nothing comes into existence without a cause The universe came into existence (big bang) Therefore, the universe has a cause (according to big bang cosmology, time itself began at the singularity - big bang event and the universe = all matter that exists; therefore the cause must be a) outside time and b) supernatural...also very powerful of course. You can also argue that because the big bang happended at all the cause of the big bang must also be personal - the act of an agent.)

      Carl - 2012-03-28 13:52

      Interestingly, Hebrews 11:3 states: By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

      zaatheist - 2012-03-28 14:13

      @Carl So what caused your god?

      IAmTheDarkPrince - 2012-03-28 14:48

      I do not subscribe to religion at all, because for me it became evident after doing enough research on the effects of dogma on the world that, besides having single-handedly turned hypocrisy into an art-form, it doesn't meet the requirements to be considered consistent. One doesn't preach love, and then send your Crusaders into a city with the objective of slaughtering every living thing (The actual phrase used being "Kill them all, God will know his own."). Having said that, when one takes an in-depth look at the world and how it works (That which can be proven scientifically), it becomes enigmatically difficult to assert that there isn't something much more magnanimous at work. In quantum physics, the very fabric of reality itself is described scientifically as having been collapsed from a wave of infinite probabilities by the observer (Check the Double Slit experiment at ). It becomes more perplexing when you take into account the nature of Quantum Entanglement, which demonstrates (Yes, not theorizes, demonstrates) that if you take one photon of light and split it into two equal photons of opposite polarity, they behave like one object whilst still remaining two different objects, meaning if you interact with the one, the other reacts instantaneously along with it, regardless of the distance, even if millions of km's, between them. annman said: A little science takes you away from God, a lot of science brings you back.

      Fredster - 2012-03-28 14:51

      Uni = 1 Verse = Spoken sentence Universe = 1 spoken sentence

      renesongs - 2012-03-28 15:10

      Carl one could also argue that since the big bang is a singularity and that nothing including time and space existed before the big bang there is no time or space in which a creator could have existed before the event.

      IAmTheDarkPrince - 2012-03-28 15:55

      Carl, don't you mean "By faith we apprehend that the worlds were framed by the word of God"? The bible has been revised many times, making the the word of God somewhat less infallible, don't you think? What is obvious is that faith (Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.) has little to do with connecting to the divine and a lot more to do with avoiding accountability. In nature there is evidence (accountability) everywhere you look. Everything possesses or leaves behind signatures of what caused it's current state to come into being, and it is simply irrational to think a creator made everything, EVERYTHING by this principle, except for one specific aspect. The word of god teaches to trust without verifying, to accept without doubting, to obey without questioning. It teaches you to "Baaa... Or else". That which is the basis of all creation would logically ask nothing more of it's handiwork, having the all there is. It's also unreasonable to subscribe to the opinion that all there is, has been created by the only being that ever was, and referring to this entity in context of separation. That which was the only thing in existence, would be the logical equivalent of the concept of "existence". The material used to create anything would originate from itself as that's the only resource available. It would not only "create everything", it would be what it makes. Interesting, as science states that EVERYTHING is made out of the same ingredient.

      Unfound - 2012-03-28 16:04

      @IAmTheDarkPrince So what you are saying is that there is some Quantum Fairy(or god, leprechaun or pixie, take your pick)that is causing the effect. Hmmm, I would rather say we don't know what is causing it and wait for further expermenation to provide EVIDENCE of the real cause, than use some GODDIDIT excuse for the unknown

      Unfound - 2012-03-28 16:15

      @Fredster69: Correction Universe is derived from the Latin word Universum. Additional info below from Wikipedia: The Latin word derives from the poetic contraction Unvorsum — first used by Lucretius in Book IV (line 262) of his De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) — which connects un, uni (the combining form of unus', or "one") with vorsum, versum (a noun made from the perfect passive participle of vertere, meaning "something rotated, rolled, changed").[10]

      veritas.odium.paret - 2012-03-28 16:43

      Well, I have thought about all the relevent things you said and did some extra googling of my own and I have decided that the answer only goes as far back as "God created it" for creationists while current science has hit a standstill at the "big bang theory" but, is still pushing for more explanations. I also realised that it's best not to think about it much.

      IAmTheDarkPrince - 2012-03-28 16:53

      @Unfound No, I'm saying the universe, in all it's complexity and mystery is beautiful, enigmatic, and magnanimous. The God described in religion is nothing more than a figment of the imagination, and should be excluded from any debate on whether our existence is a result of conscious decision or random luck. My personal conviction (Based on my own pro-active research on the subject instead of leaving it to the chance that someone else will eventually come along and notify me, amounting to wishful thinking instead of decisive action) is (to me) as paradoxical as science has found the world to be.This is to be interpreted as an observation, and not an argument against the accuracy of scientific observations. Example:Everything is made out of particles. You, and I, or a wall for instance is considered solid.It's a paradox, yet both are true, based on evidence. I am convinced (Until disproven by someone or by research) of no beginning, nor end, as infinity does not consist of either properties. Also, my opinion on our existence, in a context in which we assume our existence is the result of intentional doing by a conscious entity, is that we are the means by which the universe experiences itself, because the same entity possessing the assumed consciousness (We'll call it the universe) would be everything, any anything,and the only thing lacking in it's existence would be experiencing itself. It is as rational as it is paradoxical. Scrutinize if necessary, it stays rational.

      Unfound - 2012-03-28 17:13

      @IAmTheDarkPrince - My apologies, I seem to have misunderstood what you were saying, I agree with you. WRT to experimenation in Quantum Theory, my personal take on it is outlined in these 2 quotes: Niels Bohr, 1927: "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory does not understand it." Richard Feynman, 1967: "Nobody understands quantum theory."

      Carl - 2012-03-28 17:18

      Zaatheist, The Theist contention is that God is uncreated. He has no beginning and therefore outside the argument, which states that "whatever begins to exist...."

      Carl - 2012-03-28 17:24

      @renesongs, God is more fundamental than time and space - they need Him, He doesn't need them

      werner.smidt - 2012-03-28 22:51

      @Fredster Kent Hovind isn't a good source of knowledge. Perhaps if you look at the etymology here: you might be better informed.

  • ludlowdj - 2012-03-28 13:51

    When scientists start making all encompassing statements to play racial cards its time to shut the show. Duncan you are a scientist stick to science and leave racial relations and interactions to those who have nothing better to do. Your profession indicates that you are well aware of the intricate meaning of words like Race and Species as well as the inherent differences that make up both definitions not to even start on the quagmire of human emotions this subject generates Scientific theory on the other hand must be taught at school level irrespective of the parents views or feelings on the matter. Government is tasked to provide the best education available to children which by its very nature would imply a decent knowledge of religious belief and scientific theory, and no parent has any right to decide his or her off springs belief or value system in respect to education. At the same time these scientific theories must be stated to be theory and not as usually happens, being put forward as fact as there is nothing more soul crushing than for a child or adult to learn that what they were taught as fact is wrong, if nothing else it destroys belief in science and scientists. The child will make his or her own decisions in the matter and will adjust and change their views as they experience life and new ideas going into adulthood.

      zaatheist - 2012-03-28 14:17

      udowdj is really sating "Will scientists please STFU as you are exposing our bronze age superstitous beliefs as baseless". "there is nothing more soul crushing than for a child or adult to learn that what they were taught as fact is wrong". BWAHAHAHAHA! That is just so rich coming from a guy who is happy that kiddies be brainwashed with a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, zombies flying through the air and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories. My irony meter just went off scale.

      mbossenger - 2012-03-28 19:31

      "At the same time these scientific theories must be stated to be theory and not as usually happens" - not sure where you went to school, but we were certainly explained that what we were being taught was a theory.

      Mathys - 2012-03-28 19:35

      He's saying scientist shouldn't call people racists. And parents should raise their kids the best of their ability and not kill them when they make their own decisions. You're new to speed reading right?

  • renesongs - 2012-03-28 14:54

    I object to the notion that a science should not be taught because it contradicts a few peoples religious beliefs. I a say a few because the vast majority of religions accept evolution. To those who say evolution is only a theory consider this; gravity, the spherical earth in a heliocentric orbit, human anatomy, genealogy, pharmacology, in fact all scientific discovery is stated as theories ( theory = that which is generally accepted but may be improved upon given new evidence). As for teaching the alternative such as creationism it is just opening the doors to quackery to be taught in schools such as alchemy, witchcraft, faith healing, fortune telling, blood letting, rain dances, homeopathy, eugenics, et al

  • jody.beggs - 2012-03-28 15:01

    Religion is a supernatural cult and should be left at home and in churches. Through the ages we have evolved from thousands of God's to three , the holy trinity and in the future will evolve into none. Religion is a direct enemy of science as it needs to be right no matter how embarrassing the outcome. Finally more voices are razing alarm to the fact you can't use the old or new testament as "fact", even from religious view points with regard to volution. Science and better technology are the only way forward , away from religion. Damn the man.

      renesongs - 2012-03-28 15:19

      I propose a non overlapping realm sort of truce. If you promise not to preach or prey in our schools I promise not to think or learn in your temples.

      Paul - 2012-03-29 07:38

      @jody-beggs Damn the jody-beggs !!!!

  • John - 2012-03-28 18:43

    And alternatively science can not disprove miracles! Take for instance what would be considered ''miracles' two hundred years ago, such as electricity or radio.

  • Lauden Kirk - 2012-03-28 21:28

    Make some thing out of nothing to make something then I believe that science is god. But I guess there is no science with out a miracle of god. If there is no matter there is no science. So science explained is only 2nd to the pure forum of god

  • Lauden Kirk - 2012-03-28 21:29

    Google: dmt or spiritual molecule

  • ludlowdj - 2012-03-29 12:45

    @ ZAATHIEST Actually no but thanks so much for showing everyone what an uneducated git you are. Try reading what I have said again, if necessary ask and we can draw pictures for you, I can see from other comments you have made that you really don't have a clue anyway.

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