Monday, May 11, 2009

Just what is a Creationist anyway?

There is an ongoing multi-sided debate where one of the fellows over at the Discovery Institute claims that he is not a creationist or ID supporter. The opposing view taken by several science supporters says that (1) he is both; (2) he redefines what Creationist is in order to escape being one, (3) he only tries to confuse the issue.

Any of this sound familiar? well if you want to read the debate over whether or not Francis Beckwithe is a Creationist/ID supporter here are a few links:
Francis Beckwith Letter to the Editor (Panda's Thumb)
Forrest Respondes to Beckwith (Pandas Thumb)
Francis Beckwith’s letter to the editor (Timothy Sandefur)

OK, in my opinion, particularly based on the list of writings that Dr. Forrest showed, that Francis Beckwith is a Creationist and an ID Proponent and a pretty typical member of the Discovery Institute who uses lawyering word games to confuse issues rather than clarify them. But what do you expect of an organization with members like Phillip E. Johnson and Casey Luskin? Obfuscation must be in the job description over there.

But the main point of my post here isn't an indictment of Beckwith, that's just the fun part. What I really wanted to clarify was my own standing when I use the terms "Creationist" and "ID Proponent".

I generally subscribe to Webster's when defining terms, so here is their definition:

Creationism: "a doctrine or theory holding that matter, the various forms of life, and the world were created by God out of nothing and usually in the way described in Genesis."
I would further define a Creationist as one who subscribes to the doctrine of Creationism. OK, so far so good. But what I have learned is there there are many flavors of Creationism. You can see a hint of it in the Webster's definition where is says "usually in the way described in Genesis". The normal usage of the term "Creationist" is a reference to a Young-Earth-Creationist (YEC) who ascribe to the literal interpretation of Genesis. There are also Old-Earth-Creationist, non-Christian Creationists, and even Neo-Creationists. So listening to, or reading about, Francis Beckwith using one narrow definition in order to try and escape the label is pretty typical behavior. I mean all of Intelligent Design is an effort to escape the Creationism label, since they feel they won't be taken seriously as scientists. Of course they lost, no one takes them seriously once they climb into the pulpit and start preaching, even if they aren't mentioning God officially.

That said, I think when you use the term Creationist, it might help to define the terms a little more clearly, something I will aspire to do in future posts. But I would like to set the record straight here:
When I use the term Creationist, I am not looking at everyone who believes in God, I am talking about people who are attempting to use their religious beliefs as scientific theories and impose those beliefs on other people, particularly in the school science classroom. In other words people like Beckwith, Dembski, Johnson, Behe, Minnick, McElroy, Marshall . . . and the others who refuse to realize that their religious beliefs are not, nor should they be, a basis for science, nor should they be taught as such.
I do not care what flavor of Creationist you choose to call yourself, I don't even care if you refuse to consider yourself a Creationist at all. If you are using your religious beliefs to influence what is being taught as science at any level within the education community, you are a Creationist. Be you Don McLeroy, Francis Beckwith, or Michael Behe, you are a Creationist. And you are the people I oppose -- whatever your personal label.

Now we can get into all the legal word games about Ken Miller being a Creationist, since he believes in God. Hell, you can argue that I am a form of Creationist as well. But neither Ken Miller nor I am trying to push a religious belief into the classroom as science! Therein lies the difference. I am not trying to dictate anyone's belief system, I am just trying to keep it out of science class!

Maybe we need another word to describe folks like Beckwith, but that would simply confuse the issue even more. I am sure no matter what phrase we come up with, lawyering yahoos will come up with some loophole to explain why they aren't it. I used the term 'anti-evolutionist' before and got a response claiming that creationists are not against evolution (yea, right!), but only accept micro-evolution. See why I don't think we need to develop more terminology? I prefer use actions rather than labels; however convenient labels are. When you publish in support of ID, when you make public statements supporting ID, and when you publish letters to the editor playing lawyers word games with definitions, you are labeling yourself a Creationist.

So Francis, in my humble opinion, you are a Creationist in the worst possible use of the term. You are a supporter of Intelligent Design (Neo-Creationism), indicted by your own published work, you are a fellow over at the intellectually-dishonest Discovery Institute, and you play lawyering word games designed to deceive rather than illuminate. There, is that clear enough for you? You can disagree, but your own actions have made it pretty clear.

1 comment:

  1. Beckwith is a creationist, but he is no longer a hired goon of the Discovery Institute.