Categories

The Common Thread in Modern Creationism

It’s hard for me to work with the terms “creationist,” “creationism,” and “evolutionist,” because if I’m completely honest I consider myself to be a creationist who accepts the theory of evolution. The two do not clash in my mind in any way. The term “evolutionist” seems to suggest that I accept evolution as some sort of philosophy of everything, which I do not. I accept gravity, but do not call myself a gravitationist. I accept creation, but to call myself a creationist would invite confusion with the likes of [tag]Kent Hovind[/tag], a fate diligently to be avoided.

When I teach comparative literature, which is much closer to my own field of study than biological evolution, I always remind students that in order to produce valid comparisons, one must consider both the similarities and the differences. If one ignores differences, one can make very dissimilar things appear almost identical. The reverse is also true.

Thus I do have some problem with those who call intelligent design merely “warmed over creationism,” if by creationism. There are differences as well as similarities, though most of the differences appears in the presentation, not in the substance, and one of the major differences is that ID tries to say so much less than either young or [tag]old earth creationism[/tag].

But there is a common thread between all of these varieties of creationism, including ID, and it was illustrated by Dembski’s comments on the flagellum at the University of Oklahoma, discussed here by Dr. Philipp Klebba, here at ERV, and also at The Panda’s Thumb.

The key point in which I am interested was made in the Panda’s Thumb article:

Klebba’s relentless questions forced Dembski to admit that

… [N]o amount of detail would ever convince him of evolution. No matter how much evidence you had, he wanted ‘evidence + 1’. I shit you not, Dembski retreated to the YES [sic/YEC] fossil defense– For every fossil you find, you create two more gaps. Dembski modified this to for every step in the evolutionary process science discovers, it creates two more half-steps to explain. He even pulled a classic-quack move, and made a plea to quantum mechanics.

And here is my major point. The common thread through the three varieties of creationism is that they are all looking for the break in the natural processes of variation and natural selection such that God must intervene in the natural processes in some way. Whether that intervention is at the biochemical level or whether it deals specifically with speciation events, there needs to be a gap showing where God is “necessary” to the universe.

In contrast, as a “creationist” who accepts the theory of evolution, I believe that the entire universe is designed. That universal design is the biggest problem there is for IDC, because IDC requires places that are less and more designed so they can detect the differences. IDC doesn’t try to demonstrate that the universe is designed, as many people, especially Christians, believe it does. Rather, it is attempting to prove a variation in God’s involvement.

Of course Dembski will not admit an evolutionary pathway no matter how many steps you discover. Why? Because that would mean totally abandoning everything he has worked for. If all the animals truly are equal, and none are more equal than others, then what is there for Dembski and his ilk to detect? The field is different, but the method is the same as the constant attack on new fossil discoveries by the young earth crowd. One new specimen, in their propaganda, simply means two new gaps that must be filled. And of course they have no similar requirement to fulfill.

When the United States set out to send a man to the moon, there were those who believed it couldn’t be done. Their task was very easy–just say “no!” The folks who went to the moon, and those who made that trip possible had a much harder task. They had to actually produce the appropriate hardware and make the trip.

Scientists are faced with a similar situation with IDC. They must fill in every gap, while the ID crowd stands by and announces that they can’t. Every time they fill one in, someone mentions how many more there are to fill in. But the only people who are actually doing anything are the working scientists who are filling those gaps, and of course making two more in the process. Because that is what scientists do. They make discoveries, but almost always a discovery simply opens up a whole new array of things we don’t know. That is the strength of science, and it is also what IDC tries to present as its weakness.

I understand the desire to find God’s fingerprint in nature, a desire shared by all these branches of creation. But that search involves finding holes in God’s creation, places where it didn’t quite work. No matter how much you change the field of study, the method is still going to look very similar, as [tag]Bill Dembski[/tag] showed at the University of Oklahoma.

8 comments to The Common Thread in Modern Creationism

  • […] The Common Thread in Modern Creationism –  by Henry Neufeld of “Threads from Henry’s Web”.  As usual, Henry’s comments are thoughtful and insightful. And here is my major point. The common thread through the three varieties of creationism [old-earth creationism, young-earth creationism and intelligent design creationism] is that they are all looking for the break in the natural processes of variation and natural selection such that God must intervene in the natural processes in some way. Whether that intervention is at the biochemical level or whether it deals specifically with speciation events, there needs to be a gap showing where God is “necessary” to the universe. […]

  • I think you should define what you think “creationist” means to you. The popular use of the term is to denote someone who believes God created the Earth as explained in Genesis. That is, by nature, antithetical to current evolutionary theory.

    So without clarification as to what way you’re using the term “creationist” I’m totally baffled.

  • Actually, in common usage the word “creationist” has quite a variety of meanings. “As explained in Genesis” is something that is not agreed by everyone. Old earth creationists, young earth creationists, all ruin and restoration creationists all believe they accept creation “as explained in Genesis.”

    Then there are “evolutionary creationists,” though that is not a term I would use. I would suggest that you define “as explained in Genesis.”

    I would prefer the simple meaning for creationist, as one who believes that God created the universe, without reference to how. Anything more specific requires one of the adjectives.

  • Ah, I see. Then how does “God created the universe” differ from intelligent design?

  • Larry B

    These are interesting posts Henry. I certainly don’t know where in particular I would stand on these isses. I think you have a good grasp on the differing theories here, and I was wondering if at some time you could elaborate a bit on whether evolutionary theory can (or is expected to be able to) explain how it is that human’s ability to design has allowed us to thrive in the evolutionary sense? I suspect this drives much of the passion for an ID viewpoint, because we are literally draped in the results of our own design activities.

    I don’t wish to confuse this by insisting that evolution be able to explain this away, but I am curious how evolution accounts for our own remarkable design capability.

  • I decided to write a full post on this one, which will appears tomorrow morning. I tried to keep it short and just define, but not defend, my position.

  • I think my first post of tomorrow should be helpful. I tried to write briefly–something I almost always fail at–and simply define my position without trying to defend it. Then I can go on to write more on various points.

    And write more and more, and many of my friends would say!

  • […] at particular points. This is the ID position, and is the one I was addressing in my post The Common Thread in Modern Creationism […]