On Contemporary Anti-evolutionism

Old-time readers will remember I spent a lot of time and energy writing about contemporary anti-evolutionism, whether young earth creationism or its bastard offspring, intelligent design. Since 2010, I’ve largely lost interest in tilting at these particular windmills, primarily because life is too short and I realized that the tilting was futile in that the creationists were impervious to any reasonable argument. So, other than posting a few old book reviews, the topic of anti-evolutionism will be largely non-existent here (unless there is some egregious handling of the history of biology that I need to deal with!). Sorry to disappoint.


Have they learned nothing?

File this under “This Will End Predictably”. Livingston Parish (Louisiana) is looking to teach creationism in public school science classes. Problem is that they keep explicitly mentioning creationism thus clearly falling foul of Supreme Court rulings.

Jan Benton (director of curriculum) stated that the Louisiana Science Education Act allows for the teaching of “critical thinking and creationism“.

David Tate (board member): “Why can’t we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?”

Clint Mitchell (board member): “Teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get it into the classroom.”

The Board then voted to appoint a committee to study the possibility of introducing creationism into the classroom. They obviously never heard of Edwards v. Aguillard which, ironically, was a decision against a Louisiana statute.


HT to Jim Lippard’s twitter stream.

Update (7/28): Barbara Forrest (Louisiana Coalition for Science) has posted her thoughts. Final paragraph reads:

The Discovery Institute is heavily invested in Louisiana — up to their eyeballs. Whether the Livingston Parish School Board or some other Louisiana school board implements the LSEA — in the way that we all know is intended — won’t matter. This Livingston Parish development — and any other initiative anywhere in Louisiana — will be the Discovery Institute’s baby (or, rather, its tarbaby). As we say way down south, “You cain’t disown this youngun. It’s the spittin’ image of its daddy!” The Livingston Parish CREATIONISM initiative — in whatever form it takes  — will be the Discovery Institute’s offspring. Discovery Institute owns this.

And we’re done …

NCSE has just reported that the last two of the 2010 anti-evolution bills has died in committee. These were the two holdouts in South Carolina from 2009. The antievolutionists batted 0 for 4 this year.

A YEC take on anthropogenic global warming

I was browsing Answers Research Journal today and noticed the following contribution by Rod J. Martin – “A Proposed Bible-Science Perspective on Global Warming.” The abstract – somewhat predictably – reads:

Media coverage of global warming has been increasing for over twenty years. Major proponents include the United Nations, politicians, environmentalists, and celebrities. Oddly, the church has had little to say on the issue and has made scant use of Scripture to evaluate the alleged problem. This paper will identify the major goals of global warming advocates, propose a biblical (young-earth creationist) framework for evaluating the issue, and highlight basic scientific data related to the alleged claims. It will be shown that the Bible provides sufficient counsel to enable Christians to evaluate the claims of global warming and arrive at a confident position that is in accord with real science. The contention that man’s activities are causing global warming, as described in the media and by its advocates, is a myth. There is no reason either biblically or scientifically to fear the exaggerated and misguided claims of catastrophe as a result of increasing levels of man-made carbon dioxide (CO2[sic]).

As an insight to the standards of ARJ, I’ll just note that that CO2 typo occurs throughout the article, as is O2, though in fairness, the PDF of the article has the correct subscripts.

Here’s the end of the paper:

Why there is no reason for alarm

  • O2 and CO2 in the atmosphere were created, they did not evolve.
  • Today’s atmosphere likely contains significantly less CO2 than before the Flood.
  • CO2 is necessary for life, and was created prior to plants and animals.
  • CO2 is not a pollutant.
  • Increasing levels of CO2 are beneficial for plants.
  • Decreasing levels of CO2 could be a serious problem.
  • Burning fossil fuels simply returns CO2 to the air, from which it originated, in the pre-Flood atmosphere. Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere does not reverse a billion year old evolutionary trend and upset the delicate balance of nature.
  • The present levels of oxygen in the air are adequate without any unusual efforts to plant trees or to further limit the forestry industry.
  • Plants were created as food for humans and animals. They are not necessary for storing carbon or for generating O2.
  • Glaciers have been retreating for thousands of years since the Flood. Most of the glacial melt occurred before man began burning fossil fuels.
  • Ice age glaciers melted due to cooling seas, not warming seas.
  • Climates have been constantly changing since the Flood. Consider all the major climate changes since the Flood and initiated by the Flood.
  • Plants, animals and mankind have been adapting to climate for thousands of years.
  • Recent global temperature histories are insufficient for developing reliable conclusions about trends or impending catastrophes.
  • Increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will continue to improve crop production around the world, benefiting mankind.
  • Neither melting glaciers, increasing CO2, changing climates, nor earth’s surface temperature history are proof of global warming.
  • God is in control of history and the earth’s climates, not man.

I haven’t encountered Martin (an “independent researcher” in Santa Clarita CA) before and the googles are doing nothing. Any reader know anything about him?

“Follies of the present day”: Scriptural Geology from 1817 to 1857

[Over eight years ago, I edited a series of facsimile editions of works written by scriptural geologists. The set was titled “Creationism and Scriptural Geology, 1814-1857” and was published by Thoemmes Press at a price that put it out of range for all except libraries. What follows below is the introduction from the series. I have added some hyperlinks and done some light editing.]

“Follies of the present day”: Scriptural Geology from 1817 to 1857

“There is a prejudice against the speculations of the geologist, which I am anxious to remove. It has been said that they nurture infidel propensities. It has been alleged that geology, by referring the origin of the globe to a higher antiquity than is assigned to it by the writings of Moses, undermines our faith in the inspiration of the Bible, and in all the animating prospects of the immortality which it unfolds. This is a false alarm. The writings of Moses do not fix the antiquity of the globe.” [1]

So spoke the Scottish theologian, Thomas Chalmers in 1804. During the winter of 1803-’04, Chalmers presented a series of lectures at St. Andrews during which he outlined a reconciliation of the apparent incompatibility between the Genesis account of creation and the findings of the developing science of geology. He argued that the language of scripture allowed for an indefinite gap between the first and second verses of chapter I. This in turn allowed for a time in which geological formation could occur before the traditional six-day creation which, in this view, represented a restoration of the whole Earth after aeons of activity and eventual devastation. Chalmers’ ideas – on geology, natural theology and revelation – would eventually be expanded into The Evidence and Authority of the Christian Revelation [2], and his “Gap theory”, as it became known, aimed to show that Genesis and geology could live side-by-side, once one was willing to interpret the scriptures to allow for the apparent age of the Earth. Thus Chalmers could argue that geology does not lead to “infidel propensities” for the very reason that the text of Genesis never explicitly set the time of creation, unlike specific chronologies from such individuals as Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh.

Continue reading

[Review] The Evolution-Creation Struggle

51J86J7T0DL._SL160_.jpg[The following appeared in Nature Reviews Genetics in 2005 under the title “The Secular Religion of Evolution(ism)”. As such it appeared before the tendency of New Atheists to throw out the epithet  “appeaser” or “accomodationist” (and their general vehement detestation of Ruse). While in a different venue (or indeed five years later), I may have written a different review of the book, here is what I wrote back then.]

As an undergraduate in Ireland in the mid-80’s I ran across a copy of Ashley Montagu’s book Science and Creationism. Frankly, I felt that I was reading some kind of parody – could there actually be people in a technologically literate country like the United States who denied both the fact of evolution and the hypothesis that natural selection was a mechanism for such change? Such opposition was not an issue in Ireland and I could not see why it should be in America. Subsequent experience has taught me that this is sadly the case, and indeed that anti-evolutionists often have understandable reasons for their opposition to Darwinian evolution.

The Montagu volume contained an article by the philosopher and historian Michael Ruse describing his experiences during the 1981 Arkansas “Scopes II” trial in which he provided Judge William Overton with a somewhat controversial definition of “science” and thus the basis of the decision to ban “creation science” from Arkansas public schools. This decision, along with the 1987 Supreme Court ruling in Edwards v Aguilard, marked a sea-change for the anti-evolution movement in America. As a result, creationism itself was forced to evolve and indeed, the resurgence of intelligent design (ID) is a clear indication that anti-evolutionism has not died in the United States. With ongoing creationist action at the state and local level in many states in America, the struggle between supporters of evolution and creation is not likely to disappear soon, and indeed ID appears to be making some inroads into Europe.

In this relatively short and readable book, The Evolution-Creation Struggle, Ruse sets out his vision of this ongoing struggle between evolution and creation. Following a broad historical narrative beginning with the Enlightenment and discussing the development of evolutionary biology as a fully-fledged professional science, Ruse is careful to distinguish between evolution and evolutionism. The former is a professionalized field within biology that deals with facts and observations, the latter, a secular religion of evolutionary philosophical naturalism that smuggles values into evolution. Ruse notes that evolutionism is practiced – if not preached – by many of the most skillful popularizers of evolutionary biology; Richard Dawkins, E.O. Wilson, William D. Hamilton, Jerry Coyne, and William Provine are all offered as exemplars. These supporters of evolutionism, Ruse claims, exhibit a worldview that is ultimately optimistic and supports progress. In fact, he sees such individuals as essentially post-millennial, that is believing that humans can work towards a better future. This is in opposition to pre-millennialists (including advocates of creationism and intelligent design) who, believing in Christian providentialism, hold that human action alone cannot and will not make the world a better place. Ruse thus shifts the “struggle” from (the traditionally accepted) one of evolution versus creation to one of differing visions of the future of humanity.

It would be tempting – and easy – to misread Ruse as saying that evolution is a religion, and I expect creationists will, if past history is any guide, misquote portions of this work. Ruse clearly states that evolution is a mature, professional science exhibiting “[p]rediction, consilience, consistency, and fertility”. Indeed, Ruse denies these very characteristics to intelligent design, stating “we find no empirical or conceptual reason whatsoever to think of intelligent design theory as genuine science … [T]here are no results. And there are no new predictions leading to new and unexpected discoveries”. On this point, I wholeheartedly agree with Ruse.

He also believes that Darwinism – or any other form of evolution – does not entail the secular theology of evolutionism, and that Christianity itself does not entail any form of anti-evolutionism. In short, one can be a Darwinian and a Christian – an observation backed up in the writings of theologian John F. Haught or biologist Kenneth R. Miller. Thus, Ruse sees it as a fatal flaw for supporters of evolution not to realize that there are deeply religious individuals who support evolution yet dismiss evolutionism, and he states that evolutionists need to “start thinking about working together … rather than apart” with such individuals .

Ruse’s point is clear; “Those of us who love science must do more than simply restate our positions or criticize the opposition. We must understand our own assumptions and, equally, find out why others have (often) legitimate concerns. This is not a plea for weak-kneed compromise but a more informed and self-aware approach to the issues. First understanding, and then some strategic moves”. The evolution-creation struggle has generated more heat than light in the quarter century since the Arkansas trial, and it shows no sign of letting up. Whether Ruse’s analysis is ultimately accurate or not, he is correct in claiming that, as educators and evolutionists, we need to be aware of the potential perils of evolutionism.

Michael Ruse, The Evolution-Creation Struggle, Harvard University Press, 2005