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Chapter 4
Case Study: Creationism
The creationism versus evolution debate that echoes throughout many of the United States is
perhaps an ideal case study to explore what the varying conceptions of explanation might
mean in practice. In the material that follows, Zack Kopplin, a pro-science anti-creationist
activist in his early 20s, provides a rather personal look at what this debate means to him and
to his peers. When reading Kopplin’s account we urge the reader to remember that this issue
has two sides and that both believe that proper “explanation” is on their side.
What is it about this issue that powers the creationists to afford their account the
“explanatory power” of a Science 1 explanation and to make use of Science 1 versus Science
2 arguments to attempt to defeat the explanatory power of evolutionary theory?
Is this issue any different from other cases we could have used to similar effect?
When journalists and economists are asked “What were the origins of the 2008–13 home
mortgage financial crisis?” an eerily parallel dichotomy emerges. The supposed Science 1 set
of “facts” – loose credit standards, an overwhelmingly shared belief in the inexorable rise of
housing prices, and a securitization system that blocked liquidity and flexibility when
problems arose – are challenged by a Science 2 set of evidence – greed of American bankers,
corruption on the part of regulators, politics of the sub-prime market, and the religious dogma
that “home ownership is a critical part of an American identity.” There are many who claim
that the key to preventing a repeat of the trauma lies in dealing with the “evidence” and that
the “facts” be damned.
Or, to take a more recent case, what “explains” how to view the Edward Snowden
mess? Is he a traitor who “stole” information he had no right to access, much less distribute?
A fraud who violated his contract and the oath he swore to uphold? A Russian spy? Or a man
of unbridled principle who exposed a grave offense being committed against all of humanity?
A man who could ignore the rule of law because he was answering to a “higher truth”? An
uneducated man ignorant of his proper place in the world and more ignorant of the context of
the intelligence system he was exposing?
A heretic? A hero?
Our text will at time touch on all three of these cases, but to begin let’s hear from
Zack Kopplin
I’m here to tell you all about our fight for science in Louisiana and in the US.
My state, Louisiana, has a creationism law, the misnamed and misguided Louisiana
Science Education Act, and it’s a pretty clever piece of legislation. It never once actually
mentions creationism or intelligent design or any non-science to dodge court rulings from the
US Supreme Court and other courts, like the
Edwards vs. Aguillard
trial or
Dover vs.