I've been doing quite a lot of reading about the failures of young earth creationist attempts at doing geology. Many people have come before me, tearing this nonsense down bit-by-bit. It's an extraordinary amount of work, and leaves the so-called creation scientists scrambling for ever more bizarre ways to overcome the laws of science.
But maybe we don't do quite enough. We defend science, we present the reality, we knock down bits of their structure, but there may be an easier way to deal with the creationists and Intelligent Design proponents who are attempting to force their nonsense into science class, and hanging round the fringes of our professional meetings hoping some credibility will rub off on them. I quite like Donald Wise's proposals:
If such activities are to be opposed effectively, a first step is to learn the ideas, history, and underlying assumptions of their proponents. A second step is to devise an effective counter strategy. To date, the scientific community has been woefully inadequate in the Creationist battle on both counts. This paper is an attempt to focus our opposition, (1) by providing some readily accessible information on the Creationists, (2) by making a proposal for an offensive rather than defensive strategy, and (3) by giving some background facts to implement the strategy. In public forums, the Creationists should be challenged to defend their total model of earth history, difficulties and all, and to give their supporting "evidence" on an item-by-item basis. Again and again, we should force the point that extraordinary claims require extraordinary levels of proof. [bolding mine]
And this strategy is gorgeous for two reasons:
1. It shows up creation science for the incoherent farce that it is.
2. If by some miracle the creationists turn out to be right, it forces them to do the hard work of good science, and provide the kind of overwhelming proof it would take to revolutionize science.
So keep after them, when you get chances to confront them in public, or even just casually. Demand the mountains of rock-solid data. Demand the models that explain and predict more elegantly than our current ones. Demand they confront and resolve unanswered questions with their models. Demand the peer-reviewed papers that specifically back up their claims, and if they haven't got them, demand they write up and submit their work to reputable professional journals. Settle for nothing less than valid science of such quality that it can win majority support amongst the professionals. If they can't provide that, too bad for them. They'll have to come back when they can.
This doesn't mean we don't stop crushing their arguments. It's fun and valuable work, and like we saw in the Kitzmiller trial, not to mention the Nye-Ham debate, shooting this stuff down can be a fantastic opportunity to teach real science to the public. But we need to make sure we're putting the creationists on the defensive at the same time.
They want their version of science accepted? They'll have to do the hard work, and provide the kind of undeniable evidence it takes to change well-supported scientific paradigms. Until then, they have no place in our scientific spaces.
A version of this post originally appeared at En Tequila Es Verdad.