What is "special creation"?

From: Howard J. Van Till (hvantill@novagate.com)
Date: Sat Dec 15 2001 - 10:21:59 EST

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    A week ago I posted the following questions:

    What does the term "special creation" mean?

    From what source or tradition does it derive? Is its source biblical?
    theological? philosophical? scientific?

    When, and in what context did it come into use?

    Robert Rogland answered:

    I believe the term "special" in "special creation" is simply derived from
    the word "species." "Special creation" is the view that God created each
    and every extinct and extant species. It does not allow, or did not
    originally allow, for microevolution, much less macroevolution.

    It seems that this is the correct answer. For a fascinating development of
    this from the perspective of a historian of science, see the two essays
    listed below.

    One of the more interesting of Aulie's points is that the "doctrine of
    special creation" -- prominent as a serious and respected biological concept
    during the late 18th and early 19th centuries -- derives NOT from the Bible,
    but rather from Plato and Aristotle (the fixity of species that are earthly
    manifestations of eternal "ideas"; the eternality of matter; the
    hierarchical ordering of creaturely forms, etc.).

    What Darwin denounced was not the theological doctrine of creation per se
    (the world owes its being to a Creator-God), but the inadequacies of the
    biological doctrine of special creation built on the ancient Greek

    1. Aulie, Richard P. (1983) "Evolution and Creation: Historical Aspects of
    the Controversy," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 127(6):
    pp. 418-462.

    From the Conclusion:

    It is difficult to imagine that churches today would knowingly adopt a
    biological idea of a bygone age and make it a substitute for the ancient and
    time-honored Judeo-Christian doctrine of creation that played so crucial a
    role in the rise of modern science. If the doctrine of special creation had
    discernible roots in church history or if it was an unambiguous derivative
    of biblical exegesis, churches might have reason to gird their loins and do
    battle. But that is not so. Churches have no need to clothe themselves in
    this tattered and long-since discarded garment of biology.

    It is no accident of history that the theory of evolution arose in the West.
    Evolutionary theory presupposes a worldview, a Weltanschauung, that is
    derived from Judeo-Christian thought. The argument therefore can scarcely be
    sustained that evolution stands opposed to theism. On the other hand, it is
    the doctrine of special creation that stands contrary to those fruitful
    themes that arose as early as the time of the Maccabees and the Patristic
    age. Special creation presupposes a worldview that has roots in Greek
    antiquity. In conceptual origin and methodology, special creation is a
    denial of those themes concerning nature and religion that were reaffirmed
    and passed on to us by the Renaissance and Reformation.

    2. Aulie, Richard P. (April, May, 1972) "The Doctrine of Special Creation"
    American Biology Teacher, pp. 11-23.


    This study examines the anti-evolutionary views that are promulgated in the
    high school biology text recently published by the Creation Research
    Society. Three main features of the doctrine of special creation -- the
    design argument, catastrophism, and the ideal type -- are examined in a
    historical context. It is argued that this creationist model, here
    distinguished from the Judeo-Christian doctrine of creation, is essentially
    non-Biblical in character.

    The creationist model in the textbook is very similar to the interpretation
    of similarity and variability that prevailed in the late 18th and 19th
    centuries. Moreover, with its emphasis on fixity, creationism represents in
    large measure an extension of Greek philosophy. It was part of the biology
    that, until the publication of Darwin¹s origin of species, was strongly
    influenced by the thought of Plato and Aristotle. By contrast, the theory of
    evolution could only arise where, in the West, the antecedent ideas of
    progress, origin, linear time, and future fulfillment were part of the
    Judeo-Christian tradition.

    The Judeo-Christian doctrine of creation and the theory of evolution may be
    complementary, but they can never be alternative views of organic nature.

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