Re: Creationists Running for School Board

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Mon Sep 22 2003 - 18:20:05 EDT

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    I appreciate Ted's thoughtful comments on this issue. As he has noted, ID
    advocates are themselves partly responsible for some of their opponents
    labeling their position as a "creationist." It appears in many of the local
    school board debates over the teaching of intelligent design in science
    classes, they are quite happy to have busloads of believers from
    conservative/fundamentalist churches show up in support, knowing that these
    people are likely young earth creationists who also are likely to be
    oblivious to the subtleties of the arguments of people of Dembski and Behe,
    but willingly swayed by the kind of rhetorical shenanigans advocates like
    Johnson are so good at. Wes McCoy, senior biology teacher at Cobb Co. H. S.
    in Georgia, could tell us all about that.

    But the ID group also share a number of things in common with YECs. Both
    groups claim to accept microevolution while (with rare IDer exceptions)
    rejecting descent with modification; both lable DWM (macro) as a philosophy
    not a science; both accuse scientists of dishonesty, and Christians who
    accept evolution as dupes or wusses; both claim to offer a scientific
    alternative to mainstream science without invoking a creator or designer
    identifiable with a religious tradition; both have adopted a strategy of
    making inroads through local school systems for the most part (knowing they
    will do better there than with state legislatures or school boards); both
    publish lists of persons with Ph.D.s who hold their views in order to
    provide public respectibility; both are allies in the culture wars, seeking
    to return our culture to religiously grounded moral values they believe have
    been abandoned; both have allied themselves locally and nationally with
    politically conservatives for this purpose. I suspect others could add to
    this list things that escape my mind at the moment.

    Given these evident facts, it is no wonder that some in the scientific
    community seek to label ID advocates as "creationists."

    I have decided to consciously label myself an "evolutionary creationist." I
    believe in creation; like Howard Van Till, I dislike the terms "theistic
    evolutionist" and "evolutionary theist"; and I am quite happy to explain to
    those who are dumbfounded by my term or think it is oxymoronic why it is not
    unbiblical but rather a valid position for a Christian (or Jew or Muslim) to

    Bob Schneider

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Ted Davis" <>
    To: <>; <>
    Sent: Monday, September 22, 2003 3:43 PM
    Subject: Re: Creationists Running for School Board

    > Dick Fischer asked, What do you guys think about tagging the movement:
    > "intelligent design creationism"? Fair or unfair?
    > My answer: both. See below, an op-ed published last year in Karl
    > Giberson's Research News & Opportunities in Science and Religion.
    > What's In a Name?
    > A number of years ago at one of the many academic conferences on religion
    > and science I have attended--I no longer remember exactly where or when--a
    > leading Roman Catholic philosopher rose from his seat to make a comment
    > about creationism. He used to identify himself as a creationist, he said
    > somewhat wistfully, but he couldn't do that anymore without being
    > misunderstood, because the scientific creationists have co-opted the word.
    > I find myself in the same boat. I, too, have to explain why I am hesitant
    > to call myself a "creationist," despite the fact that I happily affirm the
    > actual origination and continued existence of the whole universe only by
    > will of a free and powerful God--a core "creationist" belief in any
    > definition of the word.
    > Owing to the remarkable growth of fundamentalist-style creationism in the
    > past two generations, however, many Americans define the word "creation"
    > itself simply as the opposite of evolution. This makes it very difficult
    > have the kinds of carefully nuanced conversations we need to have, if we
    > to make any progress in sorting out the significant, diverse issues that
    > relate to the ongoing American controversy over origins.
    > It doesn't help when critics of the "intelligent design" movement--and I
    > am considered one of them, albeit a friendly one--deliberately (or so it
    > appears to me) use language in a loose and careless fashion to dismiss
    > substantive ideas as so much "creationist" drivel. For example, William
    > Dembski's argument that scientists already accept the notion of "design"
    > in certain areas and therefore have implicit criteria for recognizing it,
    > clearly belongs on the table for discussion as a legitimate point. Many
    > scientists appear unwilling in principle to grant the possibility of
    > genuine evidence for "design" in the natural world, and this does seem to
    > nothing more than simple prejudice on their part. No doubt, some employ
    > term "intelligent design creationism" for similar reasons.
    > And make no mistake about it: "intelligent design" theory is far more
    > sophisticated than garden-variety scientific creationism. It is unfair to
    > label it in a manner which suggests that it is a close relative. However,
    > there is much confusion about this very point at the popular level. This
    > past year in central Pennsylvania (where I live), a local school board
    > controlled by scientific creationists opposed the use of a certain
    > children's book in elementary school, because it mentioned the big bang
    > theory. Ironically, the leader of this effort was quoted in the newspaper
    > making favorable references to "irreducible complexity" and other ideas
    > originating in the "intelligent design" group. She and her colleagues
    > apparently unaware of the fact that various anthropic arguments, closely
    > dependent upon the validity of that theory, are routinely employed by most
    > ID advocates. Typical opponents of evolution in other states are probably
    > no better informed than those in Pennsylvania.
    > At the same time, ID advocates do not usually jump to distinguish their
    > efforts to raise questions about evolution from those of creationist
    > organizations that seek to ban the teaching of evolution in public
    > despite the fact that creationist organizations generally do see important
    > differences. The primary reason for this, I am convinced, is political.
    > is one thing to stress this difference in a scholarly venue such as this
    > magazine; it is a very different thing to make the same point through the
    > conservative religious press. ID advocates understand that much of their
    > support comes from people who look to the Bible for details about the
    > history of the earth, and they aren't about to antagonize them. Because
    > the most widely known ID advocate is himself a politically astute person
    > am thinking here of Phillip Johnson) whose professional training revolves
    > around the art of rhetoric, don't expect this to change anytime soon.

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