Evolved creationists?

Michael E. Smith (mesmith@home.net)
Thu, 2 Jul 1998 17:09:20 -0500

Two weeks ago Jonathan Colvin posted a message concerning a creationist magazine in which he expressed cautious sympathy for some apparently new breed of creationist, saying for example:

"...There is a subset of the creationist movement that has distanced themselves from fundamentalist lunacy..."

I thought I smelled somthing interesting, so I checked into it. Meanwhile, the response on this list (predictably enough, from past experience) was a flurry of dismissals (with varying amounts of venom), such as Thom Quinn's:

"Instead of using data to propose and test a variety of hypotheses, creationist try to pigeon-hole all new data into an idea that Genesis is the blueprint of creation. That is almost like science in reverse"

and John Clark's:

"..They're free to believe whatever they like and I'm free to believe creationists are silly and that you're giving them far more respect than they deserve..."

followed by a gradual series of digressions further and further away from Jonathan's intriguing notion (a schism among creationists???)

However, I've found that Jonathan has some good points. To my surprise, I've discovered that creationists aren't all exactly as they have been portrayed by some.

There does indeed appear to be a breed of creationists which can be distinguished by these traits:

(1) They do not dispute, but rather fully accept, the standard scientific chronologies of the evolution of the universe, the Earth, and life on Earth. This is a far cry from the six days of Genesis. (In fact, they see the "Cambrian Explosion", the rapid appearance of most forms of life known today in a geologically short span of time, as evidence that something other than random mutation was at work.)

(Apparently, this has caused some negative reaction to them among the Fundamentalists.)

(2) Their arguments focus on details of evolutionary theory which are still scientifically murky, and their arguments aren't all that bad. We're not talking about drooling idots here. There is still much that is not understood about how the excruciatingly slow process of random mutations could have produced some of the very complex structures in the cell when said structures would not seem to have made up an evolutionary advantage until they were fully formed (millions of years after the initial mutations leading up to the structures took place.) Their arguments also include fairly intelligent use of information theory to dispute the notion that such information-rich molecules as DNA could have been produced by random mutations during the existence of the Earth.

and, my favorite (because it is, to me, the most thought-provoking)

(3) They have done a pretty good job of identifying a core a priori belief of evolutionary theorists: scientific materialism (in brief, the belief that the kinds of matter and energy dealt with in physics are all that exist.) To them, scientific materialism is to neodarwinism as we think Genesis is to creationism: an a priori belief that cannot be challenged. They say things like: "For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter", and point out that to some scientists, the very definition of science is "the search for material explanations of all phenomena".

This is a deep and significant observation, I think, especially when they point out examples of scientific evidence being casually ignored by some because it conflicts with scientific materialism. Could it be that on some matters it is they who are being more rational?

Well, I have to warn you, they usually get around to pointing out that they happen to be Christians, even though this is somewhat irrelevant to their arguments (all they basically are arguing is that there is scientific evidence for some factor other than random mutation in the evolution of life; this doesn't prove that Christianity is true). And sometimes their own biases show. But Isaac Newton was religious, too; this doesn't make his insights about physics any less valuable.

I encourage anyone with an interest in philosophy, or just a devout neodarwinian who simply wants to "know his enemy", to read a good example of a thoughtful essay by a creationist of this "new breed", on the Web at: