May 21, 2005


CREATIONISM AND DESIGN (Robert T. Pennock, Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics)

In its basic generic sense, creationism refers to any view that rejects evolution in favor of the action of some personal, supernatural creator. Creationism is not limited to Bible-based views because other religions have their own creation accounts that may be in conflict with evolution. For instance, some fundamentalist Hindu sects, such as the Hare Krishnas, reject evolution in favor of their own specific theistic account. Many Native American tribal groups do this as well, as do various Pagan religions.

On the other hand, not all religions are creationist. Many religions and theological
traditions accept the scientific understanding of evolution and therefore are not
forms of creationism. The Catholic Church and most mainline Protestant denominations, for instance, do not consider evolution to be in conflict with Christian faith, holding that God could have ordained the evolutionary mechanism as the process for creating the biological world.

Most forms of creationism arise in fundamentalist or evangelical religious sects,
which tend to hew to a literal or at least a strongly traditional or conservative interpretation of the religion’s creation story. The most common form of creationism today rejects not just evolution but much of geology, cosmology, and other sciences, and it affirms a Bible-based view that takes the world and all its life to have been created in a six-day period 6000 to 10,000 years ago. The Institute for Creation Research (ICR), founded by creationist pioneer Henry Morris but now led by his son John Morris, remains the leading and probably the largest organization promoting this view. Answers in Genesis (AiG), led by Ken Ham, now rivals it in size and influence, and there are many other smaller ministries that take the same line.

Another major category of creationists, however, holds that a literal or traditional
reading of Genesis does not require this belief in a young earth. They accept that the earth is billions of years old. This view is commonly referred to as “old-earth
creationism” in contrast to the “young-earth creationism” of ICR and AiG. Hugh
Ross’s Reasons to Believe is one major creationist organization promoting this
kind of view. Old-earthers and young-earthers disagree with each other’s views as much as they disagree with evolution.

One may find similar factional divisions among creationists regarding other
common Genesis-based commitments. Most hold that a catastrophic, universal
flood engulfed the earth, killing all life except those that were saved on Noah’s
ark, whereas others believe the flood was only local or “tranquil.” Most now accept microevolution within “kinds” of animals, but hold that such changes are strictly limited and can never form newspecies, though previous generations of creationists would have found microevolution unacceptable.

The ID Movement was singled out by the AAAS board resolution as the new
player in the creation/evolution controversy. It coalesced in the late 1980s and
early 1990s under the leadership of Philip Johnson, then a law professor at University of California, Berkeley, and now is unofficially led by members of the
Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. The key feature of ID creationism is its attempt to unite various creationist factions against their common enemy under a banner of “mere creation” or “design” by temporarily setting aside internal differences. As Johnson told Christianity Today, “People of differing theological views should learn who’s close to them, form alliances, and put aside divisive issues ‘til later.” Aiming to quell the battle between young- and oldearthers to redirect their energies in tandem against evolutionists, he continued, “I say after we’ve settled the issue of a Creator, we’ll have a wonderful time arguing about the age of the Earth” (90). The ID Movement calls its strategy for defeating evolution “the Wedge.” Its target is not just evolution, but also the materialist philosophy it believes props up science and is the de facto “established religion” of the West. The organization hopes to affect a renewal in our culture of Judeo-Christian theism, in which man is again understood as created in God’s image.

Because of these and other significant differences among forms of creationism,
precise terminology is essential, so one should include the specific modifier—
young-earth creationism, Hare Krishna creationism, ID creationism, and so on—as appropriate. However, all forms of creationism share certain characteristics—not just the defining characteristics of rejecting evolution in favor of special creation, but also their standard reliance on arguments from ignorance, for example—so one may reasonably use the generic term when the claim is generally applicable.

The generic form is indeed the most appropriate--and includes some 87% of Americans--just as Darwinist is appropriate for all those who believe in natural evolution despite their inability to agree on much of anything beyond the "natural" part.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 21, 2005 6:37 AM

Funny, this morning I was reading Pennock's introduction to his symposium on ID. He mentioned that H. Morris had denied his request to reprint his attack on the generic creationists that he had published elsewhere.

America is heading into a new Dark Age (most of it, 87% according to Orrin, has already arrived), but if anything is to prevent it, it will be the fact that Christians cannot stand each other.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at May 22, 2005 4:17 PM

Nothing new about it. The numbers are unchanged.

Posted by: oj at May 22, 2005 4:41 PM

I usually go by the dictionary definition of creationism - the belief in the literal interpretation of the account of the creation of the universe and of all living things related in the Bible - but if the definition from the above post is what you prefer, then it is clear that for the purposes of this discussion, all pretense of ID being anything other than stealth creationism falls away, and since ID then hinges specifically on a personal, supernatural creator (as opposed to the wishy-washy language favored by IDers for appearance's sake), it clearly has no place in a science class, but can of course be discussed ad nauseam at any religious gathering of your choice.

"Nothing new about it. The numbers are unchanged."

Actually in the last five years, 4% went from believing in evolution with God's involvement to accepting evolution without God. No doubt you will shoot back that this is within the margin of error (ironic, since you like sweeping up undecideds to bolster your numbers...), but the chances of this 4% number disappearing due to the margin of error is only 8%.

And the fastest growing religious preference in the US is still 'none'.

Posted by: creeper at May 22, 2005 5:07 PM

Yes, I.D. is one form of creationism.

Posted by: oj at May 22, 2005 5:19 PM

Not by the dictionary definition, but if you want to define it that way for the purposes of this discussion, then fine.

That does provide a perfect reason to keep ID out of the science classes.

Posted by: creeper at May 22, 2005 5:26 PM


Posted by: oj at May 22, 2005 5:43 PM

Because science deals with the natural, not the supernatural. You can happily discuss the supernatural elsewhere, though.

Posted by: creeper at May 22, 2005 5:51 PM

Darwinism isn't science though and the creation is of nature.

Posted by: oj at May 22, 2005 6:03 PM

"Darwinism isn't science though"

I take it that by "Darwinism" you mean your own little strawman to which you feel free to attach your own meanings and definitions.

The theory of evolution is of course science:

science, n.

1. The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.
2. Such activities restricted to a class of natural phenomena.
3. Such activities applied to an object of inquiry or study.
2. Methodological activity, discipline, or study: I've got packing a suitcase down to a science.
3. An activity that appears to require study and method: the science of purchasing.
4. Knowledge, especially that gained through experience.

You're free to argue that those who accept the theory of evolution are also acting on faith etc., but that doesn't change the fact that evolutionary biology is a science.

"the creation is of nature."

How is that supposed to be relevant? Did you want to have the part about the hypothetical supernatural creator included or not?

Science excludes the supernatural as such, even if it stands in some hypothetical relation to something that is not supernatural.

Posted by: creeper at May 23, 2005 12:09 AM

Yes, Darwinism is just theory with no observation, experimentation, etc. A faith.

Posted by: oj at May 23, 2005 7:04 AM

Beat up your strawman 'Darwinism' at your leisure.

The theory of evolution is of course science as per the definition I posted above.

Posted by: creeper at May 23, 2005 8:25 AM

minus observation and experimentation.

Posted by: oj at May 23, 2005 8:31 AM

No, including observation and experimentation.

Posted by: creeper at May 23, 2005 8:33 AM

Once you include them it fails and is simple faith, not science.

Posted by: oj at May 23, 2005 9:46 AM

Weren't you just saying that it is excluding them that makes it faith, not science?

Both observation and experimentation are part of the study of evolution, and the theory of evolution is science by commonly understood definitions.

Posted by: creeper at May 23, 2005 12:53 PM

Yes, you have to exclude them or the theory fails.

Posted by: oj at May 23, 2005 2:23 PM

Why do you have to exclude them?

Posted by: creeper at May 23, 2005 7:11 PM

If you include them Darwinism fails.

Posted by: oj at May 23, 2005 7:17 PM

Why do you think the theory of evolution fails if you include observation and experimentation?

Posted by: creeper at May 23, 2005 7:28 PM

Never been observed nor produced by experimentation. Indeed, experimentation by definition can't prove it

Posted by: oj at May 23, 2005 8:31 PM

Why can experimentation not prove it by definition?

Posted by: creeper at May 23, 2005 8:33 PM

It would prove intelligent design.

Posted by: oj at May 23, 2005 9:33 PM

More deliberate obfuscation to obscure the point.

An experiment by definition is designed by an intelligent entity, in this case human beings. This simple fact doesn't prove intelligent design, and it certainly has absolutely zilch to do with Intelligent Design, if that's what you're getting at.

This is all you have for wanting to exclude experimentation? Wow.

Posted by: creeper at May 24, 2005 3:04 AM

What ought to trouble Orrin about ID is that all of its proponents are notorious public liars.

When they speak as representatives of ID, they say they have no particular conception of who this Creator dude is.

Speaking among themselves, though, they are all Christians.

They believe every part of the Bible except what Jesus told Peter at Gethsemane.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at May 24, 2005 7:08 PM

Of course they're Christians, but I. D. doesn't require God. Design is obvious but it could be anybody and is often us.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2005 7:42 PM

"Design is obvious but it could be anybody and is often us."

The Design you find obvious in nature is not the same as an intelligent design created by, say, Rembrandt or a Ford engineer.

Posted by: creeper at May 25, 2005 2:20 PM


Posted by: oj at May 25, 2005 2:29 PM

A rather well-known Dutch painter, now deceased. Perhaps you've heard of him.

If not, what the heck - let it be one of the guys who composed the Friends jingle. Same difference.

Posted by: creeper at May 25, 2005 5:21 PM

Yes, rembrandt was Created and was a Designer. Nothing Natural involved.

Posted by: oj at May 25, 2005 5:56 PM

What, another virgin birth?

Posted by: creeper at May 25, 2005 6:11 PM