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Creationists Lurking Around Every Corner

I’m not really in the mood to discuss evolution right now but I feel it is my job to keep my devoted readers informed about such things.

One of arguments I’ve made in my ministry is really an observation:  in the hard core atheistic naturalistic community, if you don’t come to the same conclusions as they do on the science you are one of those dastardly, anti-intellectual, irrational creationists.  (For full effect, say that aloud, scratch yourself, and then at ‘creationists’ spit on the ground.  That will give you the attitude).

If you don’t seem dastardly, are very intellectual, and obviously rational, the atheist is quick to prove that no good theory need fair actual facts.  In this scenario, you simply label the person a ‘closet creationist.’  This is essentially the attack on the Intelligent Design community.

Today I present you another example that illustrates the phenomena in large letters.

Evolutionist Simon Conway Morris wrote an article in the Guardian over the weekend commemorating Darwin’s birthday.  Mr. Morris is a Christian.  The article calls attention to ‘unfinished business’ of Darwinism (and reductionism) and spends a fair time talking about the problem of Mind which I personally find fundamentally insurmountable on naturalistic terms, and was famously raised by C.S. Lewis, and carried further by scholars such as Angus Menuge (book:  Agents Under Fire, Materialism and the Rationality of Science).

Mr. Morris is a Christian, but he is also an evolutionist.  Like another famous Christian and evolutionist, Francis Collins, Mr. Morris is fiercely set against Intelligent Design.   And why?  There is nothing inherent to Intelligent Design to overthrow evolution (Many if not most IDers embrace evolution, just not unguided evolution).   And everyone, with the exception of a few hard boiled atheists like Dawkins, concede that evolution doesn’t preclude the existence of God.  So what’s your problem with Intelligent Design?

My gut says that the problem is that the Intelligent Designers have been labeled- and dismissed- as closet creationists and as there is no insult worse than to be called a creationist, one must run far away from anything that smacks of the term if one wants to be considered credible, both inside and outside of the scientific community.

So, Mr. Morris is a Christian, but an evolutionist, who argues against Intelligent Design.   Surely then he will be immune from the accusation that he is a creationist?  Ha!  Not so!  Consider this article reacting to Morris’s article in the Guardian, titled… you guessed it: “Simon Conway Morris becomes a creationist.”

In Mr. Coyne’s long reaction, the only portion of the post that comes close to discussing ‘creationism’ comes near the end where he says:

3. This brings us to my conclusion that Conway Morris advocates a form of intelligent design. He seems to believe that things might have evolved as Darwin proposes–except for one thing. That, of course, is the human mind. Here a Creator must have intervened!

Here you see the full extent of the defense of the notion that Morris has ‘become a creationist.’  The defense is, to put it plainly, the invocation of code words.  In the atheistic community ‘intelligent design’ is code for ‘creationist’ and they treat them as interchangeable.   So what has Morris gained by distinguishing himself from those pesky IDers?  Not a d*mn thing.

In this little paragraph you also see the working principle that one cannot arrive at any other view from the evidence than the one that the reductionists have arrived at and escape the label ‘creationist.’

A commentator to the thread connects the dots for us, pointing out that of course if one believes God is involved in any sense then of course by some definitions Morris (and Collins) is a creationist.  But this is duplicitous, back stabbing nonsense.  It is an abuse of the English language (ironic given Coyne’s last paragraph).  It is, in fact, black propaganda, for everyone when they hear ‘creationist’ thinks of those pathetic anti-intellectual young earth creationists who stupidly believe in a recent creation and a time when humans and dinosaurs roamed together (*scoff* *cough* *spit* *scratch* *scoff*).

So let us be clear about the state of affairs.  Indeed, let me address Mr. Collins and Mr. Morris directly:  in the atheistic mind you are nothing more than a creationist.  You can cite your unwavering allegiance to evolution and an ancient universe, you can reject in no uncertain terms Intelligent Design, you can, in a word, accept every other aspect of the Darwinian program, but you will always, always, always, be mere ‘creationist’ to them.  They believe it and they say it.  So what do you gain by continuing to heap contempt on the Intelligent Design community or even on young earth creationists?  Precious little.

Oh, and by the way, you do realize that the evolutionary theory rests on the presumption of philosophical naturalism?  I’m just saying, the evolutionary theory you pay homage to is built from the bottom up on the assumption that there is no God, and since you believe there is a God, haven’t you ever wondered what you might come up with if you were willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads?  What’s the harm?   We already know you’re a creationist… you can’t please them, so why try?

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    • Matthew Ackerman on February 19, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Since you seem to be concerned about the possible death of Christianity, I think you should consider vocal opposition to the Intelligent Design movement specifically, and creationism more generally.

    If we convince people that naturalistic evolution of man is fundamentally incompatible with a theology, we may make some Christian opponents to science in the short term, but in the long term we make atheists, because, as Jerry Coyne points out, evolution is true.

    Ken Ham and Angus Menuge would more properly be called anti-evangelists.

    If scientific evidence was static such arguments might be acceptable, since we could at least hope to forever obfuscate the scientific evidence with clever sophism. However, since scientific understanding is continually increasing, at some point, all efforts at counter-factual apologetics will fail.

    It is important to use apologetics grounded in the truth, since any falsehoods used to support Christianity will ultimately damage peoples faith.

    Just a friendly warning: The truth will come out, and it will not respect your desires, your wishes, or your faith. If you are to serve God, then you must make it your business to know the truth, weather or not it supports your theology. If you choose to interpret the evidence in a way which conforms with your theology, then simply know that such work will support lies and deceptions, and will not be done in the service of God.

    The God who created the world, created THIS world, which is a world that is 4.5 billions years old, and where materialist process are responsible for the design of the human genome.

    • Anthony on February 19, 2009 at 9:50 am
      Author

    Matthew, thanks for the comment.

    I don’t think you grasped the point of the entry, which is that even if you allow that evolution is true, if you believe in God, you will forever be no more than a ‘creationist’ in the eyes of these people. You think that by fighting off creationism and intelligent design you will score points with people. You will not. If that is your proposed strategy it is flawed as there is no pleasing these people.

    Now, I agree with you about the truth coming out. However, if evolution is true, it is because we are confined to the naturalistic methodology in interpreting data. So its truth is connected to the worldview which you then suggest we should make our main line of attack. It doesn’t occur to you that if our entrenched naturalism is off the table then the so-called evidence for the fact of evolution will be undermined?

    I also reject your insinuation that to adopt a position favorable to ID or creationism is simply ‘conforming with your theology.’ It so happens that I am a young earth creationist and that this is in fact not derived from my theology, but from the evidence. So I could throw it back on you: the truth will come out, and if you choose to interpret the evidence which conforms to your theology (your theology apparently thinks it is a good idea to limit oneself to naturalistic, atheistic methodologies!), your work will not be done in the service of God.

    I would be interested in hearing how you have come to the view that there is a God at all if you contend there is and he used materialistic processes to produce us. Is this based on evidence or is this blind faith? What kind of evidence? And how does this evidence escape the naturalistic methodology which you appear to insist we use but not so far as to preclude your conclusion that there is a God?

    • Matthew Ackerman on February 19, 2009 at 10:48 am

    I think your position that the philosophical beliefs of a scientist fundamentally distort the logical interpretation of the evidence is unreasonable and untrue. Evolution is true for atheists, Buddhist, Hindus and Christians because it is founded on assumptions of such unquestionable certitude that one cannot have a coherent system of thought if they are rejected.

    Additionally, it was not my intent to insinuate “that to adopt a position favorable [sic] to ID or creationism is simply ‘conforming with your theology'” but rather to simply state it.

    Young earth creationism is logically incoherent, and to advocate it is simply counter-factual and anti-evangelical. I suppose I should at least put forth a cursory effort to convince you.

    We can directly SEE that the universe is billions of years old in exactly the same fashion as we can see that the earth is round. That is, light reaches us from distant stars and we know how long it must have been travelling because we know exactly how fast light moves, and it is simply impossible to fit all the billions and billions of observed stars into a volume less than millions of light years across. Even if our much of the physics were fundamentally wrong, it is simply a fact that the electro-magnetic force influences the fine structure of atoms, and it simply must be the case that changes to the elector-magnetic force would change the emission/absorption spectra of atoms. Since we do not see these changes in distant stars (that is distant stars are still made of hydrogen atoms which behaves like hydrogen atoms here) we know they are at the very least millions of years old. If you then go on to posit a theology which allows God to trick us to SEE an old universe when really he made a young universe, then you have moved beyond the bounds of any reasonable logic system, and can think whatever you like.

    There are thousands of other lines of evidence, which, in the words of the pope, “were neither sought nor manufactured” and independently indicate an immensely old universe. At some point, it simply becomes clear to anyone willing to listen to nature that nature is immensity old, even if you reject any particular date.

    But, what I consider particularly disturbing is that you immediately ask how I reconcile my concept of God and the bible with an immensely old universe governed by laws. The point is, IT DOESN’T MATER! We can discover the truth without making any philosophical assumptions whatsoever. Whether or not I believe God can kill people, it doesn’t effect my assessment that O.J. Simpson, and not God, killed Jessica Simpson. Evolution is true, and whether I can reconcile it with theology test the truth of a theology, not the truth of evolution.

    • Matthew Ackerman on February 19, 2009 at 10:51 am

    As an addendum, that you fail to reconcile evolution with your theology, simply means that your theology is empirically wrong.

    • Anthony on February 19, 2009 at 1:16 pm
      Author

    To the extent that evolution is actually empirically true, it is adopted just fine. But whether or not it is empirically true is precisely the issue. You think it is. I don’t think it is. I think that your view is logically inconsistent. For you to say, “We can discover the truth without making any philosophical assumptions whatsoever” really discredits your assertions. At the very least, you presuppose the validity of logic and reason in the first place- which is precisely one of the reasons I reject your assertions about evolution. And of course the equivocation has already begun- you know full well that a YECcer accepts all of the actual empirically verifiable aspects of ‘evolution,’ that is, microevolution.

    Help me understand who I’m talking with here. Are you a Christian?

    Anyway, as I said in the blog entry I’m not really in the mood to really discuss the matter. I only wanted to illustrate how the term ‘creationist’ is thrown around like a dirty word to anyone who dissents in the slightest with the reductionist program of the Dennetts and Dawkins out there. If you are a Christian, and accept evolution, you are still trash in their eyes. So there is no point in trying to please them. You seem to be on the same path. As I am not interested in being mocked, maligned, misunderstood, misconstrued, berated, etc today, I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

    You may contribute to my discussion forum and per chance I may engage the issue further, but as I have already said (and I believe you already read) my real interest is the latent philosophical naturalism inherent in science today. All the signs are that you are entrenched in that, even if you are a Christian, so that, and not the evidence for or against macroevolution, etc, is where my time is better spent.

    • Matthew Ackerman on February 19, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Well, if you read my whole comment, you realize that I don’t mean ANY philosophical assumptions, read the first paragraph. You will forgive my hyperbole in the closing sentences. No assumptions are made in science which any reasonable person would question.

    As you have expressed an interest in not talking about the issue I will not press it, however, I wish you would analyse your assertions more carefully, since I do think you have chosen to ignore a mountain of rock solid empirical evidence to arrive at your conclusion, and your protestations to the contrary are simply transparent self-denial, but we can certainly engage in meaningful dialogue while ignoring this particular error of yours.

    I am a Christian, however, I consider that information irrelevant to most questions of fact. A Christian does not receive different measurements from a ruler than an atheist, he does not feel a different temperature of air, or receive different light in his eyes. As such, I can say that if an explanation seems to be very well supported by empirical observation for a Christian, it should be very well supported by empirical observation for an atheist. True, in the case where a miracle has occured, the atheist appeal to best explanation will not find the proper explanation, however, such an appeal must, by definition, lack much support.

    In other words, if I am the only survivor of a plane crash, and lived through a fire of 10,000 degrees for several minutes, an irrational atheist may, after some exceedingly strange convoluted logic, arrive at the conclusion that my survival was entirely naturalistic. However, any honest atheist would simply say that they didn’t have the foggiest idea how I survived the plane crash, and that it should have been imposible. I would need a Christian (or theistic) philosophy to posit a miracle, but I don’t arrive at the wrong conclusion if I am an honest atheist, I simply fail to arrive at the right conclusion.

    Unless we believe that God is a trickster, then an honest atheist should simply be unable to explain a miracle. They should not be able to put forward a well supported hypothesis which seems to necessarily follow from the fundamental laws of logic. In short, this whole ‘same evidence different conclusion’ nonsenses is simply wrong. You may argue for it, but this sophistry is a disservice to rational thought.

    Furthermore, Dr. Coyne was essentially right in calling Dr. Morris a creationist, as Dr. Morris expressed the belief that the mind is unevolveable, and must have been divinely created.

    Why on earth Dr. Morris does this is beyond me. To me such an argument is entirely without merit, since I don’t see what difference it makes whether we are the product of natural laws transforming matter in predictable ways, or the product of divine creation, or even the product of Ford or Chrysler. Regardless of what procedures where used to build us, the facts of the mater are that we were built and we have to go about living.

    If an evil God had made me for the specific purpose of killing everyone, I would certainly not conclude that it was my obligation to do so. I derive no morally meaningful information from the procedure or purpose of my creation. Rather, the only way to find meaningful answers to questions about what should I do NOW depend on questions of the moral laws, and my ability to recognize morality and act on them.

    Finally, I am familiar with C. S. Lewis critic of the naturalistic explanation of intelligence and I consider it one of the poorest arguments he made, for reasons I have just foreshadowed. In the same way that the purpose of my creation, whether or not it existed and whatever it was, has no bearing on my assessment of what a meaningful or good purpose is in the present moment, so to the knowledge of the origin of my intellect is irrelevant to my assessment of its current utility and my general epistemology.

    For instance, in one of the following two equations, I used the laws of mathmatics to derive an answer, in the other one, I simply rolled a dice (honest, you will have to believe me) until I arrived at a useful answer. Can you tell them appart?

    1+2=3
    1+4=5.

    In fact, I must assume that I am rational before I begin asking whether or not it is rational to believe in God, so logically arguing that God explains our rationality only proves one of the assumptions already made. C.S.Lewis argument would have had merit if he had shown that one CANNOT be rational if there was no god, which he did not.

    • Anthony on February 19, 2009 at 8:30 pm
      Author

    The reason I asked you if you were a Christian is to better understand the terms of engagement. If we are in fact brothers then our obligations to each other are of a different order, though of course some would remain if you were a nonbeliever. In particular, statements like, “simply transparent self-denial,” “this particular error of yours” “sophistry” are out of order. Let’s be clear: You don’t know jack about me and my positions or the rationale behind them. To suppose that you have managed to surmise them after a few, necessarily brief, paragraphs, is a level of arrogance and presumption that is forbidden between Christians, but which I would be prepared to overlook out of an atheist as the ‘cost of doing business.’

    This is the sort of abuse I was referring to when I said I was not in the mood. If you cannot speak- even to a brother- without lacing your remarks with veiled insult and condescension I’m just not interested in playing along. If I say that I my position is actually based on the evidence as I perceive it, and we are brothers, and you don’t know jack about the width and breadth of my positions, then the appropriate response- if you care about genuine conversation anyway- is to ask what I mean and invite me to provide examples. It is not to dismiss me with the wave of a hand: “simply transparent self-denial.”

    And if I did proceed to take up the invitation (doubtful) then you’d charitably realize that no one can be expected to present every argument nor cover every objection in a post or even a series of posts, on a blog for cripe’s sake. I am not interested in fending off a litany of presumptuous ‘gotchas’ as you seem poised to spring,

    Feel free to reply to that.

    I would like to abide by my own principles (allegedly we share them) and ask you more about your Christian faith. Clearly you have no respect for most reasons often given for believing. I take that morality might be an exception- but I wouldn’t want to presume. Pretend for a moment that I am a hard core atheist. What is your defense for your Christian faith to me, a hard core atheistic secular humanist?

    For clarity’s sake, can you tell me what you mean by ‘Christian’? This means you believe in God? That he is triune? That Jesus was God? That Jesus rose from the dead? Yes or no’s will be fine for now.

    Pax

    • Matthew Ackerman on February 20, 2009 at 8:43 am

    I don’t have time currently for the in-depth response I would like to post, but I would like to briefly communicate to you my belief in your fundamental sincerity and good will, and congratulate you on your ability to create an atmosphere in which conversation is at least possible.

    I would like to talk about my own theology, but I don’t consider it an object of much general interest, since I doubt that it is particularly rational or well thought out. I suppose if you take an average over time, I would have to be called an agnostic, though there are times when I sincerely believe in the trinity, the incarnation and the resurrection. The writings of C. S. Lewis, and many other Christian writers are beautiful, and I often find the unexpected consilience between these strangers and myself that compelling indicates true statments.

    I am not without hope that I will be able to solidify my christian faith, but it is a highly problematic endevor.

    • Anthony on February 23, 2009 at 10:46 am
      Author

    Hi Matthew,

    I am glad that I have managed to convince you of my sincerity and good will. These are probably the hardest to convey over the Internet and in your latest response you have done much to persuade me of your own sincerity as well.

    Your own theological views may not be of general interest, but they are of specific interest to me. 🙂 Naturally, this blog entry itself might not be the place, and via the Internet at all is not likely to be ideal (but may have to suffice).

    Are you still in Springfield, MO?

    If you’d like to send me a summary of your current theological outlook to sntjohnny@sntjohnny.com I’d be happy to read them dispassionately. As for the ‘problems’ standing in the way of a solidified Christian faith, insofar as I might be of service addressing them, consider me humbly at your service. Share them if you like, and invite me to react to that which you want me to react to, and instruct me to ignore what you’d prefer I didn’t.

    Yours,
    Anthony

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