Earlier this week, MSNBC’s science editor, Alan Boyle, posted an article on the MSNBC website showing how plant and animal life on Mt. St. Helens has responded vigorously and positively to the volcanic eruption 30 years ago. For example, most of the area’s amphibian species survived the blast and are thriving. As Boyle puts it, the wake of the eruption serves as a prime example of how life adapts to changing conditions.
Using the anniversary of the Mt. St. Helens volcanic eruption as a platform for imparting some basic concepts of evolution is a good thing, for which Boyle should be applauded. But why did he also have to provide publicity to creationists by repeating one of their more absurd ideas, that the Earth is only as old as the bible says that it is?
Here is an excerpt from Boyle’s article:
“… Speaking of unexpected consequences, Mount St. Helens has become something of a poster child for “creation geologists” – the folks who argue that Earth was created in accordance with the chronology they say the Bible lays out.
If the floods sparked by the 1980 eruption could cut new canyons through the surrounding countryside, couldn’t a global flood have done the same for the Grand Canyon a few thousand years ago? If the lava dome that has built up inside St. Helens’ crater can produce anomalous radioisotope results, doesn’t that imply that radioactive dating techniques could be way off? Questions like this are raised at places such as the Mount Saint Helens Creation Information Center, not far from the mountain itself.”
In the next paragraph, Boyle gives links which go to footnotes in other articles that, if you know the arguments, refute some creation ideas about Mt. St. Helens, e.g., St. Helens does not serve as an example for what happened to the Grand Canyon because the material that formed the Grand Canyon is much harder than the material from which the post-eruption St. Helens canyons were formed. But you have to go to the footnote and know the argument, plus these refutations are embedded in the weasel-like obtuseness you might find in a corporate apology for laying off workers while the CEO gets a bonus:
“My colleague at msnbc.com, Alex Johnson, wrote about the St. Helens creationism connection five years ago. The TalkOrigins Archive addressed questions about the canyons, the claims about lava dating and Mount St. Helens’ “coal” formation even longer ago. Nevertheless, today’s 30th anniversary has sparked a revival of the creationist claims.”
It seems to me that this decorated man of science is going out of his way to be friendly to the creationist view. In the first place, creationism has no business in a legitimate discussion of the lessons of evolution to be learned from a natural occurrence. Creationism has nothing to do with science, and belongs in a discussion of philosophy (even one about the philosophy of science, which is different from science itself).
Now if a man or woman of science were to include a discussion of creationist views in an article on the anniversary of the Mt. St. Helens eruption, I would expect to see an outright condemnation of creationism that explicitly refutes point by point all the major beliefs that these moronic and oxymoronic “creationist geologists” are spewing.
Instead what we get is a dynamic science reporter suddenly writing in a mealy-mouthed tone of devious objectivity, that is, an objectivity that intends to conceal a greater truth, (such as the fact that one side is clearly wrong or lying). Boyle’s expression “the folks who argue that Earth was created in…” make the creationists seem like those good and caring neighbors from next door who just happen to be voting for a different candidate than we are. But in fact, creationists are dangerously trying to undermine our education system by substituting their religious beliefs for real science, and in the process making people more susceptible to some destructive associated beliefs, such as the denial of global warming.
It’s another shameful example of mainstream media pandering to the religious right instead of speaking an obvious truth.