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WHO ARE THE CREATION "SCIENTISTS"?
by Lenny Flank (c) 1995
There are a large variety of people who claim the mantle "creation scientists". Almost all of them come from the fundamentalist Protestant wing of Christianity, although a few belong to such denominations as the Roman Catholic Church. One thing they all share in common is a belief in an inerrant Bible, one that is literally correct in all its original writings on all subjects, including its description of the Creation, Adam and Eve, and Noah's Flood.
As in any political and religious movement, there are several schools of creationist thought, separated by doctrinal differences in their interpretations of the Bible. (According to one source, there were in 1984 no less than 22 national creationist organizations in the United States, and at least 54 state and local organizations.)
The "day-age" faction of creationism argues that the "days" referred to in Genesis are really symbolic of enormous stretches of time, and not 24-hour days. Perhaps the best-known of the "day- age" groups today are the Jehovah's Witnesses. Another school of thought is that of the "gap" theorists, who argue that there is an unmentioned lapse of time between the first and second verses of Genesis, and that the six-day creation event did not happen until after a long period of time had already passed. Many of the televangelists are "gap" theorists. Finally, there are the "strict" creationists, who assert that creation happened as described in Genesis, and that the universe and all life was created within six days, several thousand years ago. The first two schools, the "day- age" and the "gap", accept the geological evidence of a very ancient earth (but not the evidence of evolution), and are usually referred to collectively as the "old earth creationists". The strict creationists, however, assert that the entire universe is just 6,000 to 10,000 years old, and they are referred to as "young-earth creationists".
There is also another trend of thought, the "theistic evolutionists", who argue that evolution is simply the method which God used to create life, and that there is no conflict between science and the Bible. Nearly all mainstream religious denominations (as well as most scientists) are supporters of theistic evolution. Although they could be considered "creationist", since they do assert that the universe was made by God, theistic evolutionists are viewed by the fundamentalists as "the enemy" who is doing the work of Satan. It would be more proper to view the fundamentalist creationists as "anti-evolutionists", since the one thing that unites them all is the belief that evolutionary theory is contrary to the tenets of Christianity. Since, on this matter, the theistic evolutionists are on the "wrong" side, they are not accepted as "creationists" by the fundamentalists.
Until recently, it was the young-earth creationists who dominated the creation "science" movement and who headed all of the major creationist organizations, and it was the viewpoints of the young-earthers which most often found their way into the various anti-evolution or "balanced treatment" policies which they seek. The Arkansas Balanced Treatment Act, for instance, defines "creation science" in terms of young-earth creationism:
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|A few years later, creationist biologists Carl Krekeler and William Bloom, who taught creationist biology at the Lutheran Church's Valparaiso University in Indiana, left after concluding that a literal interpretation of Genesis was not supported by any of the available scientific evidence. Krekeler concluded, "The documentation, not only of changes within a lineage such as horses, but of transitions between the classes of vertebrates-- particularly the details of the transition between reptiles and mammals--forced me to abandon thinking of evolution as occurring only within 'kinds'. " (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 302) Krekeler also criticized the creationist movement for the "dozens of places where half-truths are spoken, where quotations supporting the authors' views are taken from the context of books representing contrary views, and where there is misrepresentation." (cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 303) The two became theistic evolutionists, and later wrote a biology textbook which accepted evolutionary theory.||
Undoubtedly, there are scientists with legitimate degrees from legitimate universities who do believe in creationism and the literal truth of Genesis, just as there are scientists with legitimate degrees from legitimate universities who believe in ESP, flying saucers, ghosts, Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. Even the Flat Earth Society has its contingent of scientific members. The mere fact that a number of scientists happen to profess one belief or another is no indication that this belief is valid. Validity in science is decided by the evidence and data, not by a popularity contest or a vote. Despite 25 years of effort, none of the ICR's scientists has yet come forward with any conclusive (or even credible) evidence which refutes the evolutionary model of biological development.
Not all of the young-earth creationists are scientists. One of the creationist witnesses at the Arkansas trial was Dr. Norman Geisler, a fundamentalist theologian at the Dallas Theological Seminary. During his pre-trial deposition, Geisler was asked if he believed in a real Devil. Yes, he replied, he did, and cited some Biblical verses as confirmation. The conversation then went:
At trial, Geisler testified under oath (apparently with a straight face) that flying saucers were "Satanic manifestations for the purposes of deception". (Trial transcript, US District Court, McLean v Arkansas, 1981, cited in Gilkey, 1985, p. 77, LaFollette, 1983, p. 114 and Nelkin, 1982, p. 142)
Geisler also testified that the Arkansas creationism bill did not introduce religion into the schools for the simple reason that God is not a religious concept. "It is possible," Geisler intoned, "to believe that God exists without necessarily believing in God." In support of this idea, Geisler argued that the Devil acknowledged the existence of God but did not worship Him, and therefore treated God as a non-religious concept. (Trial transcript, McLean v Arkansas, 1981, cited in Berra, 1990, p. 134) Judge Overton rather politely concluded that Geisler's notion "is contrary to common understanding". (Overton Opinion, McLean v Arkansas, 1981)
Recently, ICR's dominance of the young-earth creationist movement has been challenged by two others. The first (and probably the looniest) is "Dr" Kent Hovind, a Florida preacher who is perhaps best-known for his "challenge" offering $250,000 to anyone who can prove to him that evolution happens. "Dr" Hovind (the "doctoral degree" comes from an unaccredited diploma mill) seems to be an unabashed militia-type kook. He has faced several years of legal problems for his refusal to pay taxes, and has spouted all sorts of looney "government conspiracy" theories, including such gems as "the government is watching us through our TV sets" and "the US government carried out the Oklahoma City bombing so they could blame the militias", and "AIDS and the West Nile virus are the products of American biological warfare labs". Hovind also thinks that flying saucers come from the Devil. Most other creationist organizations view Hovind as an embarrassment.
The biggest challenger to ICR, though, is Answers in Genesis, founded by former ICR staffer Ken Ham. Unlike the creation "scientists", AIG is openly adamant about the religious basis of its opposition to evolution, and makes no attempt to hide the fact that it is a "Christian apologetics organization". In general, AIG's theology and "science" are much the same as ICR's. AIG's significance, however, comes from the fact that it is much more active in supporting international efforts to expand creationism than is ICR (AIG funds anti-evolution movements in Russia, Sount America and elsewhere). AIG has also distinguished itself by publishing a long list of "arguments creationists should not use", concluding that "Persisting in using discrdited arguments simply rebounds -- it is the truth that sets us free." (AIG website). Many of the arguments that AIG concldues are "discredited" are some of the old staples still being used by other young-earthers, such as "darwin recanted on his deathbed", "moon dust proves the earth is young", "Archaeopteryx is a hoax", "the Paluxy tracks prove men lived with dinosaurs", "c-decay proves a young earth", and "anything from Carl Baugh". In response, AIG has drawn criticism from other young-earthers (including Hovind) for "fragmenting" the Christian movement. Historically, fundies have never been very good at tolerating any criticism or dissent, particularly from within their own ranks.
The young-earth creationists, while dominating most of the creation "science" movement, are opposed by the "old-earth" groups. The old-earthers accept that the earth is billions of years old and that the young-earth "flood geology" is alrgely wrong, but agree with the young-earthers that evolution is wrong, false and anti-Christian. The largest and best-known of the old-earth creationist groups is Reasons to Believe, founded by astronomer Hugh Ross. The very name of the group makes its aim apparent. Ross's credibility as a scientist is perhaps best illustrated by his book "Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men", in which he argues that flying saucers and UFO's are demons which are sent by the Devil in order to lure Christians into abandoning Christ for the occult.
Another active old-earth creationist organization is the Foundation for Thought and Ethics. The FTE produced a proposed creationist biology textbook, Of Pandas and People, which has not been approved by any state education boards but occasionally turns up in local school districts. Although FTE claims it is a scientific group, on the tax exemption forms it files with the IRS, it states that the organization's purpose is "proclaiming, publishing and preaching . . . the Christian gospel and understanding of the Bible" (cited in Eve and Harrold, 1991, p. 131)
With the crushing defeat of the creation "science" movement, anti-evolutionists struck out in a new tactic, one that attempts to unfiy all of the various sects and dogmas into a single "big tent" which can set aside their internal doctrinal differences and focus on their common enemy. This new movement is called "intelligent design theory". It's primary proponent is a branch of the Discovery Institute called the Center for Science and Culture (the original name, the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, was changed because it sounded "too religious". At about the same time, the Center's logo, showing Michaelangelo's God reaching out to touch a strand of DNA, was dropped and replaced by some photos from the Hubble Space Telescope -- apparently the old logo was too explicit about the Institute's religious aims).
The "intelligent design" movement, like the earlier creation "scientists", claims to be a solely scientific group which argues that the "scientific evdience" supports the view that "an unknown intelligent designer" manipulated the development of life. Unlike the creation "science" movement, though, which published book after book detailing their conclusions, the intelligent design movement is very careful to avoid any and all discussion about such topics as the age of the earth, or whether humans are descended from primates. This is a deliberate strategy on their part to avoid the internal doctrinal schisms which have always destroyed creationist organizations. IDers are also very careful to make no statement or implication about who or what this "intelligent designer" is, or what exactly it is supposed to have done. In particular, they deny strenouously that their "intelligent designer" is really just God, instead asserting that it could just as easily be space aliens who "intelligently designed" life:
In their candid moments, though, the prominent IDers are open about their real aims:
Some idea of the Dicovery Institute's real aims can be revealed by looking at its funding sources. Nearly all of the Discovery Institute's money comes in the form of grants from wealthy "conservative" fundamentalist Christians. They got around $350,000 from the Maclellan Foundation, a fundie lobbying group in Tennessee. Their single biggest source of money, though, is Howard Ahmanson, a California savings-and-loan bigwig. Ahmanson's gift of $1.5 million was the original seed money to organize the Center for Science and Culture, the arm of the Discovery Institute which focuses on promoting "intelligent design theory".
Ahmanson is a Christian Reconstructionist -- a fringe group of fundies who argue that the US Constitution should be abandoned and the US should be "reconstructed" under "Biblical law". They are the Christian equivilent of the Muslim fundamentalists who want to form "Islamic states" under "Islamic law". Ahmanson is long associated with JR Rushdooney, one of the original founders of the Reconstructionist movement --- and one of the original financial backers of Henry Morris and the ICR (Rushdooney paid most of the publishing costs for Morris's first book, "The Genesis Flood". Similarly, the Discovery Institute's Phillip Johnson dedicated his book "Defeating Darwinism" to "Howard and Roberta" -- Ahmanson and his wife.)
Ahmanson has given several million dollars over the past few years to anti-evolution groups (including Discovery Institute), as well as anti-gay groups, "Christian" political candidates, and funding efforts to split the Episcopalian Church over its willingness to ordain gay ministers. He was also a major funder of the recent "recall" effort in California which led to the election of Terminator Arnie.
Some of Ahmanson's donations are channeled through the Fieldstead Foundation, which is a subspecies of the Ahmanson foundation "Fieldstead" is Ahmanson's middle name). The Fieldstead Foundation funds many of the travelling and speaking expenses of the DI's shining stars.
The shining star of the Discovery Institute and the "intelligent design" movement is Michael Behe, a biochemist professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Although many young-earthers like to quote Behe as a "supporter", he himself makes it clear that he accepts all of evolution and geology, that he concludes humans are evolved from apelike primates, and simply thinks that God -- uh, I mean "An Unknown Intelligent Designer", manipulated this process at certain points (he is rather vague about which points) to produce humans.
"Scott refers to me as an intelligent design "creationist," even though I clearly write in my book Darwin's Black Box (which Scott cites) that I am not a creationist and have no reason to doubt common descent. In fact, my own views fit quite comfortably with the 40% of scientists that Scott acknowledges think "evolution occurred, but was guided by God." ("Intelligent Design Is Not Creationism Response to 'Not (Just) in Kansas Anymore' by Eugenie C. Scott", Science (May 2000), Michael J. Behe, Science Online,July 7, 2000)
"Evolution is a controversial topic, so it is necessary to address a few basic questions at the beginning of the book. Many people think that questioning Darwinian evolution must be equivalent to espousing creationism. As commonly understood, creationism involves belief in an earth formed only about ten thousand years ago, an interpretation of the Bible that is still very popular. For the record, I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. Further, I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it." (Behe, "Darwin's Black Box, p. 5)
"I believe the evidence strongly supports common descent." (Behe, Darwin's Black Box, p.176)
"I dispute the mechanism of natural selection, not common descent." (Behe, Reply to My Critics, Biology and Philosophy 16, p697, 2001)
"Behe said ID is "several levels of biology removed from the hominid versus chimp distinction." The point of contention between evolution and intelligent design is whether design or chance guided human development?not how humans developed.
"Darwin's claim to fame was not so much that he thought that organisms might have evolved from common ancestors," Behe said. "Other people had put forward other theories but had always invoked guiding intelligence. His main point was that it might happen by chance." (Todd Hertz, "A Nuclear Bomb" For Evolution?: Critics of Darwinism say skull's discovery isn't all it's cracked up to be, Christianity Today, August 12th 2002)
"Perhaps the single most stunning thing about Darwin's Black Box, Michael Behe's "Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," is the amount of territory that its author concedes to Darwinism. As tempted as they might be to pick up this book in their own defense, "scientific creationists" should think twice about enlisting an ally who has concluded that the Earth is several billion years old, that evolutionary biology has had "much success in accounting for the patterns of life we see around us (1)," that evolution accounts for the appearance of new organisms including antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and who is convinced that all organisms share a "common ancestor." In plain language, this means that Michael Behe and I share an evolutionary view of the natural history of the Earth and the meaning of the fossil record; namely, that present-day organisms have been produced by a process of descent with modification from their ancient ancestors. Behe is clear, firm, and consistent on this point. For example, when Michael and I engaged in debate at the 1995 meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation, I argued that the 100% match of DNA sequences in the pseudogene region of beta-globin was proof that humans and gorillas shared a recent common ancestor. To my surprise, Behe said that he shared that view, and had no problem with the notion of common ancestry. Creationists who believe that Behe is on their side should proceed with caution - he states very clearly that evolution can produce new species, and that human beings are one of those species." (Kenneth R Miller, Darwin's Black Box, Reviewed by Kenneth R. Miller (as published in Creation / Evolution Volume 16: pp, 36-40 )