Monday, September 20, 2010

On Describing IDiots as Creationists

This is from Satirizing Scientism a blog whose goal is "Mocking Scientism, Evolutionism, and the Arrogance of the Academy." A posting from last month has advice for evolutionists [Presenting: An op-ed piece from Dr. Strangelove].
5. Do not hesitate to mischaracterize ID's motives. Although ID proponents, unlike creationists, are really quite good about sticking to scientific arguments, it is to your advantage to not distinguish between the two. In fact, we recommend that you always append the term "creationism" to ID so that it reads intelligent design creationism.

Since we have succeeded in getting the courts to discredit creationism (thank you, ACLU!), this has the effect of (a) immediately attributing religious motives to ID, (b) implying that that ID has no more scientific basis than creationism, and (c) immediately diverts the discussion away from scientific evidence to fears of Taliban-like imposition of religious dogma. Because scientists are objective and open-minded, dogma should be ours to impose and hopefully that will increasingly be the case.
I'm one of those people who use the term "Intelligent Design Creationism."1 I think it's quite appropriate to distinguish between various forms of creationism. There's Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, and Scientific Creationism, so why not Intelligent Design Creationism? What all three have in common is belief in a creator. Theistic Evolution is another example of creationism.

It's extremely difficult to draw nice neat boundaries around these various kinds of creationism—especially Intelligent Design Creationism and Theistic Evolution Creationism. However, it's quite easy to distinguish between all forms of creationism and real science.

There is another point of view on this issue. Some people, including many theists and some atheists, think that the word "Creationist" should be reserved for Young Earth Creationists who believe in the literal truth of the Bible. By this definition, the other theists who believe in a supernatural designer would not be creationists even though their "designer" is also a creator, and, in fact, the same God that the Young Earth Creationists believe in.

From this perspective, the advocates of Intelligent Design can avoid being called creationists and they can continue to pretend that their beliefs are scientific and have nothing to do with God.

The Theistic Evolutionists also like this tactic. It allows them to avoid the creationist label as well. Accommodationists tend to avoid referring to Theistic Evolution as an example of creationism but they often dump Intelligent Design into the creationist tent. The logic behind this is to steer clear of alienating theistic evolutionists by pointing out that they are creationists. Apparently, theistic evolutionists are insulted when confronted with the truth.


1. Those who believe in Intelligent Design are characterized as IDiots—this is just a short-hand way of referring to them since "Intelligent Design Creationists" is too hard to type.

20 comments :

  1. Apparently, theistic evolutionists are insulted when confronted with the truth.

    I've heard (from theistic evolutionists no less) that many TEs wouldn't understand the subtleties of discourse and upon seeing themselves ridiculed or even questioned they are liable to turn further away from science and go against evolution completely.

    Which, if anything, strengthens the argument that TEs are closer to creationists than to scientists.

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  2. Interesting to ponder what exactly distinguishes TE from ID. Is it merely quantitative (how often and/or how significant the intervention by God), or are there qualitative distinctions that can be made (e.g., with TE, perhaps God is restricted to operating through temporally sequential single mutations only, as opposed to ID where God can make abrupt, numerous, and simultaneous changes.)

    I suppose it would help if the IDers would actually publish a theory with some sort of process or mechanistic detail, but that is not expected anytime soon.

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  3. If one is using "creationist" to mean "anyone who believes in creation, then that could include theistic evolutionists and deists.

    Many if not all of the latter would probably be unhappy to wear the label "creationist" because in our time at least, it has connotations of "someone who affirms creation and understands it to involve rejection of scientific methods and conclusions in some area."

    In Thomistic theology (in the Catholic tradition), the universe is viewed as dependent on God for existence even if it didn't have a beginning in time. If someone has that stance, and accepts whatever mainstream science concludes about the origin of the universe, its development, the origin and evolution of life, do you think such a person should be labelled a "creationist"?

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  4. James,

    "someone who affirms creation and understands it to involve rejection of scientific methods and conclusions in some area."

    Isn't that an accurate description of TE and ID?

    Or is the catch that some people don't understand that it involves rejecting scientific methods?

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  5. The Catholic church makes it very clear that evolution cannot account for human consciousness and that their god somehow intervened. It is very unclear how this occurred and if we should find his handiwork in the human genome.

    Here is the previous pope's comment:
    "As a result, the theories of evolution which, because of the philosophies which inspire them, regard the spirit either as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a simple epiphenomenon of that matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. They are therefore unable to serve as the basis for the dignity of the human person.

    The sciences of observation describe and measure, with ever greater precision, the many manifestations of life, and write them down along the time-line. The moment of passage into the spiritual realm is not something that can be observed in this way—although we can nevertheless discern, through experimental research, a series of very valuable signs of what is specifically human life. But the experience of metaphysical knowledge, of self-consciousness and self-awareness, of moral conscience, of liberty, or of aesthetic and religious experience—these must be analyzed through philosophical reflection, while theology seeks to clarify the ultimate meaning of the Creator’s designs."

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  6. Although ID proponents, unlike creationists, are really quite good about sticking to scientific arguments, it is to your advantage to not distinguish between the two.

    Yes, scientific arguments like the "law of conservation of information" and magical minds. There's no religion at all in the belief that minds (including human minds) can do what matter cannot, of course--it's just everyday supernaturalism.

    They're so full of it that they can't even see the religious BS that they shovel out as a matter of course.

    Glen Davidson

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  7. The objection to ID as "creationism" reminds me of other purely doctrinal issues that arise in theology. For example, there's this long dispute about whether or not Mormons should be included as Christians.

    I think anytime people develop large structures of knowledge on unverifiable claims, they end up with this kind of doctrinal border policing.

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  8. To my mind, the essential defining question is: Do you assert that God left identifiable fingerprints on the Universe? I think one could claim that God superintends the Universe, while stipulating he does so in ways that are undetectable, even in principle. That is not a "creationist" position (it may be incoherent on other grounds, but that's a different objection ;-)).

    Note: I haven't read enough of the popular TEists to know which side of the line they fall on (though IIUC Collins seems to come down on the creationist side in some respects).

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  9. The current post in that blog (especially the "bad news" bit) explains nicely what creationism is really all about. Creationists can't take God out of the equation because they can't find "hope and purpose" anywhere else. Dealing with a cold, indifferent reality seems too much for them.

    About whether IDiots are creationists, we haven't forgotten "cdesign proponentsists" yet, have we?

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  10. All this comes up in the context of the American legal system where "creationism" has already been declared a religious concept that cannot be taught in public schools as if it is science.

    TE proponents admit that the theistic part of their beliefs are religious (hence "theistic" evolution) and do not propose to teach it in public schools. The other creationists all have tried, through various subterfuges (especially the IDers) to get their religious beliefs taught as science at public expense.

    Thus, TEers are religiously creationists without being creationists in the legal sense, given that they are not trying to teach it in the public schools.

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  11. I'm surprised that the NSCE is quick to flaunt the statistics showing 50% of Americans believe in evolution but neglect that 70% of that group believe in God-guided evolution. I guess the only real difference between that lot and the more liberal of the ID-Creationists is that they don't have trouble with the word evolution, and because of that don't cause a problem for science education.

    It's still the promotion of scientific illiteracy, but one that doesn't explicitly cause problems.

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  12. Divalent at #2: Interesting to ponder what exactly distinguishes TE from ID.

    I think that's relatively easy to do if one bears in mind that many (most?) people don't have (or feel the need to have) rigorously consistent beliefs. Catholic doctrine is probably TE because they recognise the fact of evolution, but they still want to believe in their god and that god's role in the formation of the natural world (not Genesis literalism). TE can be honest even if it's never consistent and always contradictory.

    ID on the other hand is fundamentally and systemically dishonest. It is a cloak to hide a bastardised version of biblical creationism in order to slip it into US schools. It is the Creationism That Dare Not Speak Its Name. ID only exists to not be called creationism!

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  13. Eamon Knight: I think one could claim that God superintends the Universe, while stipulating he does so in ways that are undetectable, even in principle.

    Occam's Razor makes quick work of that.

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  14. 'Theistic evolution' isn't a particularly specific term, and is used different ways by different people -- some people use it to describe something close to ID, some people just to describe concurrently accepting evolutionary theory and a belief in God.

    >>"The Catholic church makes it very clear that evolution cannot account for human consciousness"

    Nitpick: not quite. The Catholic Church doesn't generally follow a Cartesian mind-body-dualism view of the soul, but a Thomistic one; the role of the physical (and evolution-produced) brain in human consciousness therefore isn't an issue.

    There are certainly individual Catholics who hold a stance closer to ID -- but they're the minority, and the Catholic Church's official stance is quite different.

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  15. John Pieret said...

    All this comes up in the context of the American legal system where "creationism" has already been declared a religious concept that cannot be taught in public schools as if it is science.

    If the Supreme Court decided next week that teaching creationism did not violate the law, would TEs start teaching the T part of TE as part of evolution?

    in other words, are TEs not teaching the T aspect of TE because it is against the law, or are they not teaching it because it isn't science?

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  16. > What all three have in common is belief in a creator. Theistic Evolution is another example of creationism.

    Quite so, I agree, the ID camp should step up and wear the creationist feather in their cap.

    Kind of like the Quakers first being called that as a jibe initially. Kind of like the Christians first being called that ...

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  17. >>in other words, are TEs not teaching the T aspect of TE because it is against the law, or are they not teaching it because it isn't science?

    It depends; mostly the latter, but theistic evolution is a loose term.

    Do you mean 'people who believe God intervened directly in evolution' (on one end) or 'people who both accept evolution and believe in God' (on the other end of the spectrum)?

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  18. "1. Those who believe in Intelligent Design are characterized as IDiots—this is just a short-hand way of referring to them since "Intelligent Design Creationists" is too hard to type."

    A quibble on this, but a relevant one because of the various accomodationist discussions you've had:

    Saying that you characterize them as "IDiots" because "Intelligent Design Creationists" is too hard to type would be more believable if a) your shortening didn't spell out a clear derogative about their position and b) "IDCs" wasn't even easier to type. It seems clear that at least part of the appeal of that name is because of the derogatory statement it makes about them. That's the sort of rudeness that gives those who say "Watch your language" credibility; there's really no reason for mocking anyone who might hold a TE position before you even read what they're saying.

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  20. verbosestoic says,

    It seems clear that at least part of the appeal of that name is because of the derogatory statement it makes about them.

    No kidding? Gee, I never thought of that.

    That's the sort of rudeness that gives those who say "Watch your language" credibility; there's really no reason for mocking anyone who might hold a TE position before you even read what they're saying.

    IDiots are not Theistic Evolutionists. I mock the IDiots because they are, ... well, idiots!

    I mock the Theistic Evolutionists for other reasons. I think I'll start referring to them as T-Evol Creationists.



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