Monday, August 06, 2007

What Is Creationism?

Denyse O'Leary recently posted some comments on the Creation Museum funded by Answers in Genesis [ Creationism and popular culture: A friend visits Kentucky's Creation Museum]. It's a typical comment from an Intelligent Design Creationist. She does not speak out against the false science in the museum; instead, she tries to draw a distinction between her own personal beliefs and those of the Young Earth Creationists. According to Denyse O'Leary, Intelligent Design Creationism is not Creationism. (Why is it that the moderate Intelligent Design Creationists can be so hard on scientists while turning a blind eye to the blatant stupidity of the Young Earth Creationists?)

Mike Dunford agrees with Denyse O'leary in The Big Difference Between Creationism and Intelligent Design. He says,
It's extremely uncommon for me to find myself in agreement with Denyse on anything (and it's not a comfortable feeling), but in this case I do think she's got a good point. Creationism is certainly explicitly based on the Bible, and Intelligent Design certainly is not.
There are several different ways of defining "creationism." I prefer the definition that refers to "creationists" as people who believe that the universe was created by God. In some cases God just set up the original universe with all its laws of physics and chemistry, while in other versions of creationism he/she did some meddling after the initial creation event.

Young Earth Creationists are those who take the Bible literally. Old Earth Creationists are creationists who accept some parts of science and reject a literal interpretation of Genesis. Intelligent Design Creationists are creationists who believe that there is scientific evidence to support the creation event(s). Some Intelligent Design Creationists are also Young Earth Creationists while others are Old Earth Creationist and still others are closer to Theistic Evolutionists.

The supporters of Theistic Evolution are also creationists because they believe in a creator who created some part of the existing universe while, at the same time, accepting most of evolution. Deism is the softest version of creationism and the one most compatible with science.

I think the Wikipedia article on Creationism has it right when it says,
Creationism is the belief that humanity, life, the Earth, and the universe were created in their entirety by a deity or deities (typically God), whose existence is presupposed.[1] In relation to the creation-evolution controversy the term creationism (or strict creationism) is commonly used to refer to rejection of evolution. The wide spectrum of such beliefs includes young Earth creationism holding a very literal interpretation of Genesis, while old Earth creationism accepts geological findings but rejects evolution. The term theistic evolution has been coined to refer to beliefs in creation which are compatible with scientific findings on evolution and the age of the Earth.

36 comments :

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Great survey Larry, I like it, it covers most of the combinations, blends and categories that I have heard of, although I wonder where those (physicists) who think we might be an almighty computer simulation fit in?

    Your ‘creationist’ category is agreeably broad and presumably covers just about everyone but pretty bog-standard atheists. Now that’s interesting because the likes of AiG are sometimes prone to a similar but complimentary use of categories: they may only allow those who hold their own views to be called creationist. It vaguely reminds me of the tendency to disqualify from the white ethnic category anyone who has one black parent or even just a black grandparent. What’s the psychology here? Is this connected with a self-conscious sense of embattlement? Is this connected with the need to identify with an elite cause or a subgroup? Is this another case of the “us verses all them other b*st*rds who are ruining world” syndrome? Whatever, politics and human nature is bound to be at the bottom of it somewhere.

    Anyway thanks Larry, its all a clarification and we now know where we all stand in the great scheme of things!

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  3. Ken Miller and my mother are creationists in this broad sense. However, there is a category of creationist that should be distingushed from others. These are the science denying creationists. This encompasses ID creationism, but leaves out Ken Miller and my mother.

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  4. Larry, you want to define "creationism" as nothing more than a synonym for "theism", and that is simply *not* the way anyone would normally understand the term, pace Wikipedia. Humpty Dumpty may believe that "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.", but others follow standard definitions, and a brief perusal of a dictionary would show the link between the bible and creationism.

    However, there is a good reason to believe that ID supporters are in fact closet creationists -- the crude search and replace job they did on "Of Pandas and People", the fact that many of them work at seminaries and belong to conservative churches, the fact that they hold conferences at the so-called "Biola university" which is really the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, etc, but if simply believing in a creator was enough, everyone would be a creationist except us atheists.

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  5. You forgot one leading creationist: Benedict XVI.
    He is creationist by profession and actually it would be strange if he weren't. He pretends to accept evolution. However, he can do this only because he re-defines rationality in the same breath as you can see in this speech he recently delivered.
    .

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  6. Using words like "definition" for one's preference is a bit political. So you want to put down theists by calling them creationists. But those are different words for good reason.

    The main characteristic of creationists is that they claim scientific arguments against geology and or biology. Sometimes this has been called (by creationists) scientific creationism, abbreviated SciCre (not by creationists). Lately the term ID has been used for SciCre.

    Young and old earth Christian creationists have different way of believing the Bible is correct, and different parts of it they prefer. None of them take all of in a manner that others would call literal. But they and IDists all offer up SciCre in generous measure.

    Pete Dunkelberg

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  7. I think the problem is that by denying some well-established scientific fact, some people pretend to argue that some kind of "miracle" has occurred, and thus interject some greatly mysterious or supernatural agent (rather than accepting the proper scientific explanation by known, natural mechanisms)

    Regardless of whether they call themselves ID, old earth, etc. most will be god-oriented poeple wishing to make a "scientific" argument of divine intervention. Since the logic they have for doing so implies the denial of science, they will continue to give us problems. There is no such thing as saying: ID'ers OK, creationists bad. No: all of them will give problems. Didin't the wedge document state it very clearly? The objective of ID is to challenge materialism and naturalism

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  8. Jonathan Badger says,

    Larry, you want to define "creationism" as nothing more than a synonym for "theism", and that is simply *not* the way anyone would normally understand the term ....

    That's exactly the way many people understand the term. I've tried to point out that there are several different definitions of "creationism" and I tried to indicate the one I prefer.

    You are free to choose a different definition but when you do, it's a good idea to let others know what you mean. There are many religious scientists who call themselves creationists even though they fully accept evolution and the age of the Earth. Those people do not want to surrender the word "creationist" to religious fundamentalists who only believe in the literal truth of Genesis.

    I agree with them.

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  9. The Clergy Letter Project
    http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject/clergy_project.htm
    is evidence that people recognize creationism is not mere theism.

    Most people, aside perhaps from those who are quite vague about the whole thing, are aware that creationists are people who advance particular "science is wrong" arguments.


    Whether you agree with the letter itself
    http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject/religion_science_collaboration.htm
    it should be clear that what Wikipedia says:
    Creationism is the belief that humanity, life, the Earth, and the universe were created in their entirety by a deity or deities (typically God), whose existence is presupposed.

    is too vague due to differing meanings of the word "created".

    Pete Dunkelberg

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  10. I am not "choosing" a definition of creationism, Larry -- you are. Or perhaps it would be truer to say that you are trying to *invent* a new definition. Please show a dictionary definition of "creationism" that doesn't mention the bible if you disagree with me. Both Old Earth Creationists and Young Earth Creationists believe that the events of Genesis literally happened -- the only difference between the two is the Old Earth types think their god defines "days" differently than people do, and so 7 "days" could be millions of human years.

    I understand what you are trying to do -- most sane people (even mainstream theists) agree that creationists are nut cases, and so redefining "creationist" to mean "theist" is a cute rhetorical trick, much like how some right-wingers want to redefine "socialist" to mean anyone who wants a government providing social services. But such word games are pretty childish on any side.

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  11. In order to better describe creationism, we can try do find an operational definition. The post is pretty close to my own, in that it doesn't matter whether it is an initial or time-extended creation.

    However, I would distinguish between creationism and religious creationism as described in the post. (And I would then have to add that any de novo creation by an agent "designer" would suffice, the whole enchilada isn't necessary.)

    That would answer O'Leary and some of the comments here, who wants to conflate these two distinguishable concepts. Evolution is creationism too in my view, describing a (non-agent) natural mechanism doing the "creation" or unplanned "design" of the patterns of nested hierarchies we see.

    O'Leary wants to claim that ID is non-religious. But any theory that involves agent designers while not characterizing them have that purpose. (I.e. forensic research characterizes designs and designers of crime in order to identify crimes and perpetrators, et cetera.) Indeed the history and current supporters of ID reveal the sham; and is in fact a better indicator.

    From the above it is obvious that I don't see faith + evolution as a problem. It is the creationist teleology of theistic evolution that makes it anti-scientific (consistently refusing to chose the best explanation) and a burden for education.

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  12. Jonathan Badger says,

    I understand what you are trying to do -- most sane people (even mainstream theists) agree that creationists are nut cases, and so redefining "creationist" to mean "theist" is a cute rhetorical trick, much like how some right-wingers want to redefine "socialist" to mean anyone who wants a government providing social services. But such word games are pretty childish on any side.

    Frankly, I don't care which definition of creationist you use but you need to stop pretending that there's only one.

    We all know that the Young Earth Creationists are nut cases and so are the Intelligent design Creationists. On the other hand, there are many other creationists who are not nut cases even though they refer to themselves as creationists. It's not me who uses that term, it's them. I respect the fact that they don't want to surrender the word "creationism" to the nut cases.

    Here's what Theodosius Dobzhansky says in his famous article "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" (1973).

    I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God's, or Nature's method of creation. Creation is not an event that happened in 4004 BC; it is a process that began some 10 billion years ago and is still under way.

    Eugenie Scott discusses the Evolution/Creation Continuum quite often in her talks. She recognizes many forms of creationism, including some that do not rely on the Bible, or Christianity. I'm not sure if she includes Theistic Evolutionists in her definition of creationist but she does include Intelligent Design Creationism and Evolutionary Creationism.

    Jonathan, I can see that you're upset about these broad definitions that seem to lump all theists into the creationist camp. If you don't want people like Francis Collins to talk about their belief in a Creator then what term would you prefer? Have you contacted him to express your disapproval of his definition?

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  13. I wonder where those (physicists) who think we might be an almighty computer simulation fit in?

    Well, my definition would have an answer for you, but I don't think it will be generally accepted.

    Btw, isn't most of those alternate realities (universal simulations, brains in vats, Boltzmann Brains, or Last Thursdays and its relative solipsism) more a way of problematizing current physics than theology?

    Not being well versed in philosophy I don't feel they do that very well, since most begs the question, at least for me. (I don't think I have solved any problems in philosophy though. :-P)

    We now know about brain fysiology or the general requirements of physics, whether it is to be used as basis for implant/solipsism feeds, basis for a massive simulation, basis for a massive quantum fluctuation, or as basis for a restart with different initial conditions.

    Besides begging, all of those are also damn improbable based on the same modern knowledge. (With the exception for BB brains, where the jury is still out how to do a multiverse probability.) In fact, throw in a big stinking heap of special pleading and it feels to me as déjà vu of theology all over again. :-)

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  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  15. Hmm. To be more consistent with the post and usual definitions, all I would need to do is to call the former "design" (by process) and the latter "creationism" (by non-mechanistic agents).

    I think I still answer Timothy Reeves question then (as well as others), but with more acceptable distinctions. Sweet!

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  16. Frankly, I don't care which definition of creationist you use but you need to stop pretending that there's only one

    There *is* only definition that is in common usage -- and I think you know that. Even if one had never read articles about the contents of the recently opened "Creation Museum" you could make a pretty good guess based on the name alone of what it would hold -- biblically based dioramas, as it in fact does.

    Theodosius Dobzhansky:I am a creationist and an evolutionist. [...]

    That's just rhetoric along the lines of "We are all Democrats and all Republicans" that some US politicians like to say when they mean that the core values of the US are (or ought to be) democracy and small "r" republican values. They are not really saying that everyone is a member of both parties.


    Eugenie Scott discusses the Evolution/Creation Continuum quite often in her talks. She recognizes many forms of creationism, including some that do not rely on the Bible, or Christianity. I'm not sure if she includes Theistic Evolutionists in her definition of creationist but she does include Intelligent Design Creationism and Evolutionary Creationism.

    Er, did you actually read what she wrote about "Evolutionary Creationism"? She says: "Despite its name, evolutionary creationism is actually a type of evolution". It's pretty clear that Scott defines "creationism" as god actively poofing things into existence ala the Bible. Neither EC nor TE are creationism according to Scott.

    Jonathan, I can see that you're upset about these broad definitions that seem to lump all theists into the creationist camp. If you don't want people like Francis Collins to talk about their belief in a Creator then what term would you prefer?

    I'm not trying to defend Francis Collins, who I personally find rather creepy. It's just that I believe in arguing honestly and not trying to take cheap shots to try to make people I disagree with look worse than they are. Francis Collins is a practicing christian. You can call him that. He admits it. It's one thing to question how one of the major players in the human genome project can be a practicing christian, and another thing to call him a creationist -- even if *you* just personally mean that he believes in a creator, you know very well that anyone hearing that will think he is similar to Ken Ham, and he's not.

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  17. That's just rhetoric along the lines of "We are all Democrats and all Republicans" that some US politicians like to say when they mean that the core values of the US are (or ought to be) democracy and small "r" republican values. They are not really saying that everyone is a member of both parties.

    No, Dobzhansky really did think everything was created by the biblical God and that the Bible was right. But he thought that other creationists who were like him but who interpreted Scripture too literally were being blasphemous and were doing what amounted to accusing the Creator of "systematic deceitfulness".

    Well hey, where does Dobzhansky get off acting as though he's so sure of all of that like he knows what he's talking about? Did the Creator jump out of the sky and say howdy-do or something?

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  18. Jonathan Badger said: "Please show a dictionary definition of "creationism" that doesn't mention the bible if you disagree with me."

    Here is a question for you: Is Harun Yahya a creationist or not? Does he mention Bible?

    I think creationism is a general term. It is not about a certain religion. It is a concept of (mono)theistic religions. You can not limit creationism with Bible or any other religious texts.

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  19. Torbjörn, _Wikipedia_ is not a primary source for anything. Please note the last definition you gave, "Belief in the literal interpretation of the account of the creation of the universe and of all living things related in the Bible." is the only one taken from an actual dictionary -- the American Hertiage Dictionary.

    Da Vinci, I agree that it is easy to see the connection between traditional creationism and Harun Yahya's writings, which are based on the Koran. Perhaps in the future dictionary definitions of "creationism" will generalize to literal belief in any religious creation myth, but it hasn't happened yet.

    As for Dobzhansky, being dead, we can't ask him exactly what he meant, or whether he would say it in today's climate -- he died before the modern resurgence of the religious right in the US, and lived in a time when it looked like the US was only going to become more and more secular. Larry suggested that there are actual non-nutty scientists who proudly call themselves "creationists" today. Can he (or anyone else) actually give a modern example?

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  20. Oh! Who was that behind the smoke, whiffling through the tulgey words?
    Could I be lost in Humpty Dumpty's blog?
    http://www.strangeling.com/aliceinwonderlandhumptydumpty.jpg

    Everything keeps changing - now I see --
    Humpty went mad at a tea party because he tried to smoke the tea -
    through a hookah

    Then he fell off the mushroom of babel,
    and he's never been able to put language together again.

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  21. As a theist (or at least I am using theism as a kind of working concept and I reject young earthism and anti-evolutionism) I am happy to accept Larry’s label of “Creationist” in the context of this blog because, I hope, the label will be understood here.

    Now, labels are not entirely arbitrary mental constructions because we attach them to objective features we find in the real world. However, I think there is also a subjective component in the use of the labels in as much as the features we single out for labeling and categorization betray our interests and thinking. For one to be labeled is not merely to be categorized but to also accept all the associations that go with it – like wearing clothing a label makes all sorts of (often misleading) social statements about belonging, intent, identity, interests and biases. To label my self as a ‘Creationist’ and move in some (and I stress ‘some’) atheist circles would be like being scented with aniseed and thrown to a pack of hounds!

    Religious purists desire to distinguish themselves from an evil world, and so for them ‘creationist’ may be an utterly unacceptable label for apostate heretics like myself – they are anxious to distinguish themselves as a separate group, set apart from the rest of us, unsullied by the taint of evil.

    This is all very human and perhaps we recognize it in ourselves. Now here is the rub: Do I detect just a tiny hint of this is in Larry? Does the fact that Larry defines “Creationist” as a category almost complimentary to atheism signal the sense of frustration, separation, perhaps even isolation, some atheists feel as they are buffeted in a sea of superstition, a heroic rationalist remnant hanging on in the face of the odds?

    And here’s the other side of the compliment: Having allowed Larry to so narrow down the non-creationist category with the all potential for alienation that that entails, it is then all too tempting to try and syndicate with a motley coalition of theists, agnostics and the non-aligned, in order to gang up against these ‘bah-humbug’ atheists and teach them a lesson! Good thing Larry rejected the red letter A!

    Such is human nature.

    Polarization passion breeds,
    Passion polarization feeds,
    Polarisation is passions cause,
    For crusade and holy wars.

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  22. Jonathan Badger:

    Torbjörn, _Wikipedia_ is not a primary source for anything.

    Of course not, it is an encyclopedia.

    More importantly, you were referring to common usage, not a dictionary.

    Elsewhere you ask for a dictionary definition instead. Okay, you got both in the same Wiki project; Wiktionary has:

    1. The Catholic doctrine that each individual human soul is created by God, as opposed to traducianism
    2. Any creationary belief, especially a belief that the origin of things is due to an event or process of creation brought about by the deliberate act of any divine agency, such as a Creator god.
    3. The creationary beliefs of Judaism, Christianity or Islam.
    4. The theological controversy concerning the origin of the human species, and other living beings, and especially questioning in what sense if any the creationary acts of God are considered a matter of historical fact
    5. The subject of a debate concerning origins and the findings of science, focused on the degree to which the theory of evolution is compatible with religious belief in the Creator.

    Not coincidentally, it concurs with the encyclopedia. What did you expect?

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  23. Timothy Reeves:

    Does the fact that Larry defines “Creationist” as a category almost complimentary to atheism signal the sense of frustration, separation, perhaps even isolation, some atheists feel as they are buffeted in a sea of superstition, a heroic rationalist remnant hanging on in the face of the odds?

    Where I come from a sample of one isn't a signal.

    I wouldn't take the religious playground that is US to imply anything about the status of the world. Nor are atheists remnants, since secularity and atheism has grown ever since the socio-political back of the christian church got broken.

    Not that I am overly impressed with the precision and accuracy of religious statistics, but FWIW Adherents.com lists "Nonreligious" as the 3d largest group in the world. But in any case we can conclude that "isolation" and "remnants" isn't correct. (Actually, IIRC this is reportedly among the fastest growing groups too. You can check at the provided link if you are interested.)

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  24. Thanks very much for the link Torbjorn - interesting.

    True! My post is probably more reflective of the situation in North America!

    In any case antagonists often perceive their opponents to be more formidable than they are! (possibly it's a call to arms and the need to strengthen one's forces!)

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  25. You're being silly, Torbjörn. Obviously, any criticisms of Wikipedia can be made to lesser known offshoots based on the same principle such as Wiktionary. Even more so actually, because the more obscure the site, the more likely that weird edits will persist.

    I mean of course real entries from genuine published (and expert edited) dictionaries such as the following four. Note that the Merriam-Webster definition seems to be on the way to generalization to encompass positions like those of Harun Yahya, but isn't there yet and still specifies "usually in the way described in Genesis". *None* support the overly broad definition you and Larry prefer. It's really that simple. I'm not doing this out of defense of theism, but just to say it is rather dishonest to use "creationism" to mean simple "theism".

    Compact Oxford English Dictionary:
    creationism
    the belief that the universe and living creatures were created by God in accordance with the account given in the Old Testament.

    Merriam Webster:
    cre·a·tion·ism
    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 -- compare EVOLUTION

    American Heritage Dictionary:
    cre·a·tion·ism
    Belief in the literal interpretation of the account of the creation of the universe and of all living things related in the Bible.

    The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy:
    Creationism
    A literal belief in the biblical account of Creation as it appears in the Book of Genesis. Creationists believe that the creation of the world and all its creatures took place in six calendar days; they therefore deny the theory of evolution.

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  26. It's really that simple. I'm not doing this out of defense of theism, but just to say it is rather dishonest to use "creationism" to mean simple "theism".

    You make it sound like it's a bad thing to believe that the universe was created by a god. Why do you want all the bad creationists to commandeer the term for themselves? I don't see what the big deal is. People should not be ashamed of their beliefs that somebody wanted a universe and then badda-boom badda-bing there you go you got yourself a universe.

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  27. So far I haven't seen anything to dissuade me from the obvious:
    creationism and theism are different words with different meanings.

    Although words may have more than one meaning, what creationism is about in relation to science is rejection of science, especially geology and or biology. Can anyone who has commented say you didn't know this?

    In particular, saying creationism when one simply means theism is only going to confuse others, and perhaps even lead to a useless argument since people know those are different words for good reason.

    The issue of whether theism ought to lead to rejection of science is contentious in the USA, as indicated by creationist publications vs the 10,000 clergy signing the Clergy Letter for example. Using intensely non-synonymous words as if they were synonyms will either obscure the real issue or waste people's time on useless arguments, as in this thread.

    Pete Dunkelberg

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  28. You make it sound like it's a bad thing to believe that the universe was created by a god.

    Well, I personally don't believe that god(s) created the universe, nor do I expect many people reading this blog do.

    That doesn't mean that anyone attacking theism gets a free pass from me to make bad arguments equating all theism to creationism, though.

    It's like the issue of Guantanamo. I object to the existence of a detention camp for people who have not been charged with crimes but I also object to critics calling it a "Gulag" because a Gulag is by definition a forced labor camp, and the camp in Guantanamo isn't such a thing at all.

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  29. I don't know if I should wade into this, but: back in my Christian t.o days, I occasionally made an effort to distinguish "creationism" (the mere belief that God had created the universe, implying no commitment to timescale or mechanism) and "Creationism" (the YECs, progressive OECs, etc). It was a quasi-political act, to reclaim a term from the extremists. The essential distinction, as I see it is: Do you claim that God left identifiable fingerprints on his work? If so, then you are impinging on science at some point.

    ID clearly falls in the latter category.

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  30. Pete says,

    In particular, saying creationism when one simply means theism is only going to confuse others, and perhaps even lead to a useless argument since people know those are different words for good reason.

    I understand your objection. I'd like to know where you draw the line. Some people who believe in a Creator God are creationists while others who believe in the very same God are not.

    Do the classic Old Earth types deserve to be called creationists in your world or should we stop using the term Old Earth Creationists?. How about the Intelligent Design advocates? Can we call them creationists or do you agree with Denyse O'Leary that they aren't creationists?

    Ken Miller and Francis Collins openly admit that they believe in a God who created the universe. Why doesn't that count as creationism in your book?

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  31. It is specific science denial that makes the difference that is important to Ken Miller, and to Behe. They have debated several times as we know. The Designer creationists are notorious for their insistence that evolution just couldn't work. The signees of the Clergy Letter are evidently distancing themselves from that. The letter states in part:

    "We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge."

    By the way I am responsible for the comment in this thread that refers to Humpty Dumpty, which I neglected to sign. Of course one should not try to appear to be two. Maybe I'll try again to have a 'blogger identity'. Something went wrong with that one time, but that was before Sandwalk even existed.

    Pete Dunkelberg

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  32. Jonathan Badger:

    Obviously, any criticisms of Wikipedia can be made to lesser known offshoots based on the same principle such as Wiktionary.

    Of course, do you think I'm silly? :-P But you hadn't specified what was a Scottish dictionary for you. As my point was that there are several common definitions out there, it was too good an opportunity to make the context crystal clear to pass up.

    You do realize that language is contingent and language experts recognize common usage, don't you? Dictionaries are great for clarification or agreement, and in this case we have the former but not the later, it seems.

    I'm not doing this out of defense of theism, but just to say it is rather dishonest to use "creationism" to mean simple "theism".

    Hmpf. Even assuming there is a connection between making definitions and dishonesty, wouldn't the rejection of common usage definitions make you dishonest?

    Eamon Knight:

    I have made the same distinction. With the formulation I gave above we would expand to have "design", "creationism" and "Creationism".

    Pete Dunkelberg:

    I agree with your description. But as i understand it Francis Collins (on morality) and Ken Miller (teleology and quantum woo) rejects results (kinship, no teleology) and principles (pseudoscience) of science. But apologists for religion makes special pleadings and often doesn't get called out on it.

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  33. Miller ... that's a common internet misunderstanding. You have to keep reading the next page then the next ...
    He says that God *could* modify a quantum result without our detecting it (true) and then says that this does not necessarily occur - right again - and his POV does not require it at all.

    Pete Dunkelberg

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  34. I fully agree that dictionaries are meant to be descriptive rather than prescriptive -- that is, they reflect *how* the people commonly use words rather than being laws on how to use words. And over time, common definitions do change, as anyone who has looked at a 19th century dictionary can attest. However, if simple "belief in a creator" was a commonly used meaning of creationism, don't you think that at least *one* of the major dictionaries edited by professional lexographers would have documented this? Instead, all seem to agree that creationism has to do with literal belief in the bible.

    Perhaps Larry wants to *start* a trend of using the word "creationist" to mean "theist", (similar to Dawkins' idea of using "bright" to mean "atheist"). But then he should admit that's what he wants to do, not pretend that multiple meanings of creationism already exist in common usage.

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  35. Sorry for the delay.

    Jonathan Badger:

    don't you think that at least *one* of the major dictionaries edited by professional lexographers would have documented this?

    The new thread addresses this with an example. I suggest we continue there.

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