iSoul In the beginning is reality.

Creation posts

Creation and paradigm

Creation is a fact. Creation is the oldest fact but creation as a paradigm is relatively new. Let me explain.

The word “paradigm” was used by Thomas Kuhn for “universally recognized scientific achievements that, for a time, provide model problems and solutions for a community of practitioners.” I would characterize a paradigm as a theme or framework that relates a family of theories and a research agenda.

The ancient paradigm was Perfection. This included theories of circular movement since circles were considered perfect. It also included theories of stasis since change was considered imperfect.

The Perfection paradigm led to a world of static biological species that could not be improved on. This is where the Creation paradigm first arose: God created the perfect universe and it hasn’t really changed. So the Perfection paradigm at first incorporated a Creation paradigm.

Stasis was challenged by Copernicus since the earth moved in his theory. Perfection was further challenged by Kepler and especially Newton since ellipses and other non-circular movements were included.

The new paradigm that arose was the Mechanical paradigm. Theories under this paradigm had movements that fit mathematical curves and concepts such as force which had a mechanical analogue. Linear was in and circular was out.

But as the imperfection and changeability of species became known, a new paradigm arose called the Evolution paradigm, which was a paradigm of change and transformation over long periods of time. The extreme form of this paradigm makes change the operative principle–exactly the opposite of stasis.

Some have tried to fit the Creation paradigm under the Evolution paradigm but increasingly the Creation paradigm is seen as a paradigm in its own right. The key distinguishing features of the Creation paradigm are the existence of an original state of the universe, the presence of intelligent design in nature, and discontinuities that reflect the kinds of creation.

The Creation paradigm now incorporates change within limits. The existence of a fall or movement away from perfection is also recognized. The best aspects of the other paradigms can be incorporated into the Creation paradigm.

What is creation science?

In their book “What is Creation Science?” Henry Morris and Gary Parker contrast the evolution and creation world views/models and state: “The second world view–creation–maintains that the universe is not self-contained, but that it must have been created by processes which are not continuing as natural processes in the present.”

They go on to say: “Scientific creationism” can be discussed quite independently of “religious creationism”…

So as I understand it, religion (specifically the Bible) may motivate scientific creationism but is not part of the discipline.  All arguments within creation science should be ones that could in principle convince any reasonable person.  In short they should be based on evidence and follow logical methods of argument.

The problem with this is, how can we say anything about “processes which are not continuing as natural processes in the present” without getting into religion?  Can we infer something about these creation processes from observing the present world?  We may be able to infer that design exists in creation (as Dembski argues) but that does not get us very far.

Perhaps the only way to approach this is via counterfactuals.  Recall that counterfactuals are subjunctive conditionals so they concern what would have or might have occurred.  We need to think about the kind of design problems solved by the designs we observe, taking into consideration that the designs may be obscured by natural processes over time.  As we know more about these design scenarios, we may be able to predict designs before we observe them.

A short critique of “The Short Proof of Evolution”

Ian Johnston wrote an article called The Short Proof of Evolution. It has the merit of arguing for a general paradigm of evolution rather than a particular theory of evolution. It is accessible to a wide audience. And it is short. However, it falls far short of a proof. Here’s a short article why.

Johnston’s first point is “all living creatures must have a living parent.” Presumably, he means the parent must have been alive at some time since one’s parents may be deceased. This is an empirical conclusion that is presented as a universal proposition. Now as an empirical conclusion subject to empirical constraints, there is no problem with it. But Johnston wants to make a metaphysical point: there is no other possible origin of an organism other than from another organism. He provides no defense of this metaphysics.

Compare a similar statement: “all living human beings must have a pair of living parents.” If this is elevated from an empirical observation to a universal proposition (as Johnston does with his first point), then it would invalidate the evolution of humans from asexual organisms, contrary to evolutionary theory. One might as well conclude that humans have always existed.

His second point is “some living creatures are very different from some others.” This is certainly true. However, the real question is whether it is a difference of degree or of kind.

His final point is “simple animals and plants existed on earth long before more complex ones.” He tries to make this point by stating that fossil complexity and depth are directly related, with no exceptions. This begs the question of his uniformitarian assumptions. He admits that the existence of “a genuine fossil remnant” that went against this principle of interpretation would invalidate it.

In fact there is evidence to challenge this interpretation: the Cambrian explosion. This refers to the great quantity and diversity of life found in the Cambrian layer of the geologic column. Creationists have long pointed out the problem for evolution theory, namely that all the major groups (phyla) of life which appear in the Cambrian layer with no evolutionary ancestors. The main response from evolutionists has been to suggest possibilities that could explain why their theory lacks evidence.

For our purposes it is sufficient to note that Johnston’s third point has not been established, except in the sense that it is a point firmly believed by the evolutionary establishment.

In conclusion, Johnston’s first point does not address the ultimate origin of life and his third point is a matter of dispute. So the three points cannot be put together into a final argument. He has no proof.

The short proof of creation

Ian Johnston has an interesting but flawed article on The Short Proof of Evolution, which prompted me to write A Short Critique of “The Short Proof of Evolution”. It also got me thinking about short arguments for creation. When combined together, the following arguments constitute a kind of proof of creation.

Matter and Life

Matter may be divided into living matter and non-living matter. Living matter generates other living matter through reproduction. There is no evidence that non-living matter ever produces living matter. Consider the question: What is the origin of living matter? If the reply is living matter, that evades the question of the origin of living matter. If the reply is non-living matter, that ignores the evidence that non-living matter does not produce living matter. Therefore, the origin of living matter is non-material.

Limits to Life

Consider exploring an old mine and finding a fossil and a piece of slag. There are good arguments that the fossil reflects the form of an organism that was once alive. But there are no good arguments that the piece of slag reflects the form of an organism that was once alive. We can recognize the difference between what could have be alive and what could not.

What does this show? It simply shows that there are limits to what could possibly have been a living form. It is not true that anything could have been a living form. There must be limits to what happened.

Now that it is established that limits exist to what could possibly have been a living form, the question is, “what are those limits?” Are there many limits or only a few? Are the limits simple or complex? What is the origin of these limits?

Kinds of Life

Consider carbon and copper: both are chemical elements but one is a metal and the other is not. That is, their differences are such that they are considered different kinds of elements. Similarly, the differences between human and non-human life are such that they must be different kinds of life.

Human and non-human life are different not only in degree but it kind. While there are many similarities between human and non-human beings (as if they had a common creator), they are poles apart in many ways, too.

  1. K. Chesterton noted, “That man and brute are like is, in a sense, a truism; but that being so like they should then be so insanely unlike, that is the shock and enigma. That an ape has hands is far less interesting to the philosopher than the fact that having hands he does next to nothing with them; does not play knuckle-bones or the violin; does not carve marble or carve mutton.”

One can easily multiply the list of differences: humans alone make up names for things, laugh at jokes, tell lies, prove theorems, sign contracts, argue about creation, etc. etc. Note that these differences are not the kind that can be seen in fossils.

The point is simply that there is a qualitative barrier between human and non-human life. Human life is not merely a different species but a different kind of life. So there are at least two kinds of life, the humankind and the non-humankind (there may be other kinds of life, too).

Is there evidence that the qualitative barrier between the two kinds of life is breached over time? No, because it has not been directly observed and indirect evidence such as fossils cannot show the kinds of differences listed. The evidence indicates that species of one kind of life remain within that same kind of life. The origin of different kinds of life must be something different than other species.

Conclusion

If we combine these short arguments, we get this: Living matter must have a non-material origin, there are limits to the forms of life, there are at least two kinds of living matter, and the kinds of living matter must originate from something different than matter or other species. A non-material origin is called a creation and this creation must have limits and include two (or more) kinds of life.

Creationist argumentation

Petteri Nieminen et al. have written two similar papers analyzing creationist writings: Argumentation and fallacies in creationist writings against evolutionary theory (Evolution: Education and Outreach, 2014, 7:11) and Experiential Thinking in Creationism–A Textual Analysis (PLOS ONE, March 3, 2015). These are welcome additions to the literature that try to shed some light and reduce the heat of debate. They also show some reasons for the impasse today.

First, they are studies of creationists but do not try to engage their arguments despite the fact that some fully credentialed and experienced scientists in peer-reviewed journals are arguing for creationism. Second, the authors select a non-random sample of texts and then make generalized conclusions — a blatant case of sample bias. Third, the authors ignore the fact that many texts in the creation-evolution debate are written for a general audience and then criticize the texts for not being sufficiently scientific (they also criticize a few pro-evolution texts).

That said, the articles are helpful in illuminating some poor or weak arguments on all sides. The ad hominem arguments are much too common (and I’d say rarely persuade anyone not already persuaded). Other arguments may have a place in a public debate but are inappropriate for a narrow scientific context. The use of quotations is an example of this.

But the authors seem unaware that at those points where “normal science” (Thomas Kuhn’s phrase) is challenged, then “anything goes” (Paul Feyerabend’s phrase), that is, any method of argumentation that works is part of the scientist’s arsenal — Darwin’s “bulldog” Thomas Huxley being a notable example.

This is my greatest disappointment with defenders of evolution — they act as if all the opposing arguments have been duly considered in the past, when that is simply false as a matter of historical record. The 19th century had its peculiarities, which prevented many arguments about creation and intelligent design from being considered. Those arguments are finally being made and the debate is on, like it or not.

Scientism and creationism

Scientism asserts the superiority of natural science over all other sciences, disciplines, or teachings. Mikael Stenmark proposed the expression scientific expansionism as a synonym for scientism. That’s a good suggestion because scientism is essentially a boundary-breaker. Scientism says that science is superior wherever it goes and it goes anywhere it wants. (That’s analogous to the word statism — the assertion that the state is sovereign wherever it goes and it goes wherever it wants — which is off-topic except for the ways scientism and statism work hand-in-hand.)

My assertion is that evolution and deep time depend on scientism. Deep time undermines the disciplines of history and archaeology by jumping behind them to assert knowledge of a prior temporality. Geologists and biologists should allow archaeologists and historians to take the lead on deep time. Some of this did happen in the 19th century (see Man Among the Mammoths) but the archaeologists and historians lost control of deep time to the geologists and biologists.

It’s ironic that the theologian-philosopher William Paley’s book Natural Theology is considered the foil for Darwin’s Origin of Species. Natural theology and natural science are two different disciplines. Many scientists today assert that science cannot talk about God but apparently science can talk against God. The main point I would make is that scientism allows scientists to dictate to theologians and philosophers (and artists) what nature is. A theology or philosophy of nature is disallowed by scientism. (That is one reason why today there is philosophy of science but no longer philosophy of nature.)

The mainstream scientific associations are scientistic, though they try to do so without alienating the public. They oppose limits to the domain of science — even the oft-stated limit of separation from religion or values does not limit what naturalistic explanations are allowed to replace.

Because of the above the main opponent of creationism is scientism. Fortunately, many people with various views are critical of scientism. So creationists should built on anti-scientism to make a place in public discussions for creationism.

 

A model of the Creator

It sounds outrageous to attempt a model of the Creator but consider this:  there have been models in the past and evolutionists continue to argue against them.  Even atheists have a model of the Creator they reject.

Creationists are at a disadvantage without a better model of the Creator.  It does no good to say that models of the Creator are impossible because that’s equivalent to saying the Creator could do anything at any time and so is a wild card that has no place in science.

The model of the Creator that prevailed in the 19th century included the following:

  1. The Creator created a creation that included all possible forms of life.  This reflected the fullness and glory of God.
  2. The Creator sustains all forms of life so it is impossible for any form to become extinct.  This reflects the power and reliability of God.
  3. The Creator created a hierarchy of life forms with human beings at the top.  This reflects a hierarchical view of everything with God at the top.
  4. The Creator created and sustains every species so that what is observed today is the same as what always existed.  This reflects a static view of the universe.

This model of the Creator was superseded in the 19th century by the discovery of forms of life in the past that no longer exist and similarities between species that was understood as evidence of a common process at work. What is the new model of the Creator?

A demi-creator for science

Creationists reject what might be called the Deep Time Postulate (DTP): that long stretches of time existed before the earliest humans ever lived. The DTP enables uniformitarianism in geology, evolution of all species in biology, and evolution of the solar system in astronomy. DTP enables science to insert a kind of history before history, that is, before written records or human artifacts.

Without the DTP, less than ten thousand years have transpired in the universe, that is, the time since humans and other living kinds appeared on the earth as determined from human artifacts and records. Instead of the DTP, creationists accept what might be called the Demi-Creator Postulate (DCP): that a demi-creator exists (or existed) who formed the earth and celestial bodies as well as the kinds of organisms that originally populated the earth. The DCP enables large-scale catastrophism in geology and creation in biology and astronomy.

Why “demi-creator” instead of Creator? The answer is that science does not use scriptures and so a scientific creator lacks the full range of characteristics that a theological Creator would have. For the purpose of science all that is necessary is a being like Plato’s demiurge*, who is like us but with much greater power and intelligence. I am calling this being a “demi-creator” since it is a partial creator. Whether it is the same being as the Creator of the theologians is for them to decide. For science a creator-type being is like us, not creating from nothing but forming a product from something else.

From the existence of a demi-creator one may infer that the creation is intelligible by us and that it exhibits features that are recognizable by us as intelligently designed. From knowledge of some parts of the creation, we may be able to infer the character of other parts, since they would exhibit similar characteristics, as a design engineer implements an overall design in every part.

One consequence of the DCP is that the creation is finite because a demi-creator is only capable of what we could do given greater intelligence and power. Creationists take this as supporting the creation of a finite number of different kinds of organisms. Different kinds of organisms likely exhibit similar design features, in what those who accept the DTP would call convergent evolution.

* The demi in demiurge is not from demi, meaning half or partial, but from demos, common people; nevertheless, it suggests something less than divine.

Demi-Creator Postulate

Young-earth creationism (YEC) accepts what might be called the Biblical Creator Postulate (BCP). This postulate is an attempt to bring the Creator as described in the Bible into science. Not only does this bring theological debates into science but it also makes scientists attempt to determine what the Creator should be expected to do that could be observed, which makes scientists into theologians. This is science as practiced in the Middles Ages, when the Roman Catholic Church’s status in Europe ensured theological conformity. The Reformation and the Scientific Revolution have prevented such a situation since the 16th century.

In contrast, a demi-creator (DC) is a hypothetical being definable for the needs of science and observable only indirectly. Whether or not a demi-creator is a window on the Creator of the theologians is a metaphysical question, and so not a concern of science.

I would initially describe a demi-creator as a master designer and builder, who meets their given design criteria, whether these criteria are unknown to us or are specified in a separate postulate.  This demi-creator is like us in their intelligence and reasoning ability, only greater and with the ability to produce an extremely complex design that works. This enables us to make inferences about what to expect they have done given what has been observed.

The DCP enables science to consider the possibility of a creator without going outside of science. It posits more than the intelligent design (ID) proponents have been willing to admit but less than what is assumed by the YECs with their BCP.

Addendum (12/2018): The DCP could perhaps better be called the Designer and Builder Postulate (DBP). Intelligent design implicates a designer, and there must also be a builder to implement the design. This designer and builder is not necessarily a creator in the sense of creatio ex nihilo. What is necessary is that the design should be intelligible to us and that the making should be possible.

A science of biological kinds

There is an analogy between chemical kinds — elements — and biological kinds.  Both show that things have differences in kind, not just degree.  The development of the periodic table was not controversial but biological kinds are strongly opposed by mainstream science.  What happened?

John S. Wilkins wrote his dissertation and book on “Species: A History of the Idea”.  While he is an evolutionist, he is as knowledgeable as anyone on the history here.  His blog post “What makes special creationism special?” outlines the history – see http://scienceblogs.com/evolvingthoughts/2007/12/25/what-makes-special-creationism/

Basically, the focus turned to natural history and origins instead of natural science.  For chemical science the question “Which came first, hydrogen or oxygen?” is irrelevant.  Same for “What is the origin of water?”  The history of chemical elements or compounds is separate from the science of chemistry.  It should be the same for biology.  The natural history of organisms should be separate from the science of biological kinds.

The science of biological kinds does not depend on Genesis either, though it provides motivation.  Once biological kinds are established, the age of the earth is easier to determine.

A reverse engineering argument

Elliott Sober is a professor of philosophy who has written in support of evolutionary biology.  I’m going through his book “Evidence and Evolution.”

Sober argues for the superiority of the likelihood approach. The  “law if likelihood” states that evidence E favors hypothesis H1 over H2 if and only if the probability of E given H1 is greater than the probability of E given H2; i.e., P(E | H1) > P(E | H2).  Note that this is a comparative approach; it only works when comparing two specific hypotheses.

The surprising thing about this law is that the probability of any hypothesis is irrelevant — it’s the probability of the evidence that counts.  Almost all probability arguments ignore this but Sober thinks Paley’s watch argument is a likelihood argument.  Sober comes close to accepting Paley’s argument but stops short for this reason:  it lacks independent knowledge about what a creator intended.

In other words, it begs the question to say that the creator made the eye to see because we find that the eye sees.  We would need independent knowledge of what the creator intended for the eye before considering whether or not that’s what the eye does.

Christians typically say that God’s intentions are inscrutable or known only generally.  Aristotle tried to discern purpose (final cause) by philosophical means but didn’t get very far, and teleology got a bad name.  Is there another approach?

I see two approaches. One is to find passages of scripture that show specific intentions God has for the creation.  For example, Genesis 1:26 says mankind is to rule over the fish, birds, and livestock on the earth.  What do we observe?  Mankind rules over the fish, birds, and livestock.

However, Genesis assumes the existence of God.  Can we argue without this assumption?  Another approach is to reverse engineer features of the world such as organs like eyes.  What is the design problem that led to the eye being designed as it appears?  For every feature of the world, we could come up with some design scenario.  We would include the possibility that something went wrong and that the design we observe is less than optimal or even perverse.

This would be quite a project, not unlike the evolutionary project of coming up with just so stories about how features could possibly have arisen through evolution.  We would match every evolutionary story with a creation design story.  The likelihood argument then is which hypothesis confers greater probability on what we observe?  The answer is design for several reasons:  (1) even evolutionists agree that life appears designed, (2) complex features such as watches are designed so it would be expected that other complex features we observe are also designed, and (3) there exists a particular design problem for each feature observed.

The theological issue

I agree with those theological critics who say that the age of the earth or universe is not by itself a major issue for theology.  It’s only when the age of the earth or universe are wedded to other ideas that major issues arise.  Two minor issues can make a major issue.

Before the rise of modern science, a constancy paradigm reigned that held there was a large, unchanging supralunary world and a small, sublunary world that varied within limits.  The age of the universe or earth made little difference for the constancy paradigm.  Hence Christians could accept the view that the universe had no beginning, as long as God was understood as responsible for its existence.

Modern science changed all this, first in astronomy and gradually in all the sciences. When the evolution paradigm arose, Christians were told it was a lawful process guided by God’s providence.  Theistic evolutionists still have this idea even though evolutionists have made it clear that evolution is completely unguided.  Now if evolution has less than 10 thousand years to work, it cannot do much and so age becomes a major issue for them.  Hence they defend hyper-temporality (deep time) strongly.

At this point the age of the earth is an enabling issue for evolutionary common ancestry.  Now common ancestry should be a theological issue because it says that the difference between all organisms is a matter of degree, not kind.  So theistic evolutionists have to posit undetectable spiritual kinds or become progressive creationists and posit unrecorded miracles.  Either way they have retreated from the Bible.

The main theological issue is the reality of multiple kinds of organisms, which are discontinuous with each other, with a particular discontinuity between humans and non-humans.  Without this, the Bible makes no sense.  Because of this, I’m a multiple kind creationist (MKC).

Progress

Emil Brunner in Christianity and Civilization (1948) wrote: “the popular belief that the idea of evolution and progress was first worked out within natural science, and thence affected the conception of history, is false. The reverse is true: the idea has been transplanted from an evolutionary conception of history into natural science. Lamarck and Darwin are not the pioneers but the heirs of this modern idea. The real pioneers are men like Rousseau, Lessing, Herder, Hegel. The idea of progress and evolution is a child of the optimistic philosophy of the Enlightenment.”

Darwin cannot be toppled without toppling Rousseau/the Romantics, Hegel/Marx/”the Left”, Adam_Smith/Herbert_Spencer/”the Right”, etc.  The idea that progress is natural, inevitable, unlimited, etc. is thoroughly embedded in contemporary thought. No one wants to be on “the wrong side of history.”  So shooting at Darwin does not get to the foundations of the problem.

The idea of progress is seductive and has enough association with Christianity to make Christians fall for it.  After all, there is progressive revelation, Christianity has led to moral progress, knowledge has increased, etc. But true progress requires spiritual and moral development or intervention by God.  Progress is not naturalistic.

One thing creationists can do to make a difference is supporting alternatives to naturalistic progress.  As an example, the sustainability movement is aware how the myth of progress impedes the ability of Western civilization to continue much longer.  While political interests try to co-opt movements such as this, there is the potential for creationists to provide a biblical and scientific foundation for sustainability.  To do this would require an enlarged vision about the problem and the solution.

Nature, creation, and science

 “Nature” commonly means creation apart from any consideration of God or transcendent reality. So one could say nature is creation as if there were no creator. “Naturalism” is the doctrine or belief that the world and all that is in it are completely natural, that is, there is no creator external to nature. So naturalism is the doctrine or belief that creation exists independently of God, hence that God is either non-existent or irrelevant.

“Natural science” is the study of nature, which based on the above means the study of creation without a creator. Natural science is inherently naturalistic because the word “nature” sidesteps the reality of God. So methodological naturalism is an essential feature of natural science as commonly understood. The methods of natural science are limited to developing explanations without reference to the reality and activity of God. Teleology and ultimate purpose are excluded.

Natural science is a system of acquiring knowledge based on empiricism, experimentation, and methodological naturalism, as well as the body of knowledge so acquired. Criteria for a good scientific theory include: parsimony (simplicity), consistency (with evidence and with itself), verifiability (or falsifiability), and fruitfulness (leads to new discoveries).

“Social sciences” are the study of aspects of humanity, such as psychology (behavior), sociology (society), and political science (government). The term “natural science” is often limited to the study of non-human aspects of “nature” (such as physics, chemistry, and biology). But that is misleading because nowadays the social sciences approach humanity as a part of nature.

“Creation” is the world and all that is in it, understood as being distinct from God, created by God, and dependent upon God. Creation is thus the product of God’s activity of creation. “Creationism” is the doctrine or belief that the world and all that is in it were created by God ex nihilio.

“Creation science” is the scientific study of creation. Its methods are similar to those of natural science but it is always open to explanations that include the reality and activity of God. Creation science is a discipline, not a theory. It includes the study of various aspects of creation such as the physical, chemical, biological, psychological sociological, and political. Such studies may have the same names as corresponding natural sciences and so may be confused with each other.

While creation science acknowledges the reality and activity of God, it does not study God per se. That is the subject of theology. But the activity of God in and through the creation is studied by creation science because such activity is open to human experience. Since the activity of God is not subject to human manipulation, some methods of natural science may not apply to creation science.

Creation science begins with creation as a product of God’s activity. The initial state of the created world may be studied by creation science as much as any other state is. Whether or not the world was created is a matter for philosophy and theology, not science.

Empirical evidence and arguments for and against evolution, intelligent design, the gap theory, the day-age theory, old earth creation, and young earth creation can take place within creation science. Theological arguments relevant to these theories are part of theology, not creation science.

While creation science and natural science have much in common, there are several key differences: creation science is methodologically creationist, that is, it assumes the doctrine that the world and all that is in it were created by God ex nihilio. Creation science theories may include teleology or purpose. In fact, teleology may be a criterion for a good theory. Finally, creation science is subject to limits derived from theological sources: (1) moral constraints on experimentation and (2) boundary conditions on theories.

If the theological constraints and boundary conditions are based on the Bible, it may be called biblical creation science. Since this is by far the most common form of creation science, the term “creation science” is often understood as a short form of “biblical creation science”.

Natural theology is a form of theistic apologetics in which nature is shown to be a creation of God. This is the study of creation limited to what is available to the “natural man”, that is, those who are unaware of God or transcendental reality. Natural theology is not science but often there are arguments for or against it in science literature.

Creation history

A prima facie case can be made that mainline science conflicts with the Scriptures, that is, the Bible. For one thing, mainline science excludes final causes and follows naturalism so some conflict is inevitable. Naturalism excludes all miracles. The chronology of nature adopted by most science institutions is contrary to some historical parts of Scripture, at least if those parts are read as history. All these things come together in the question of the origin of creation.

Christians have dealt with these issues in various ways, and the main point to note is that there are reasonable ways of dealing with the question of origins that are consistent with Christianity. However, Christians disagree with one another on what is the best approach. Some consider science and Scripture to be operating in mutually exclusive realms that have no interaction (an idea that is found among some non-Christians as well). Often Christians accept as much science as they can and modify a few points to avoid head-on conflict. This is complemented by interpreting Scripture in a way that is compatible with mainline science. Theistic evolution and progressive creation are leading examples of this approach.

Intelligent design is a newcomer to the field of origins. ID proponents bring final causes into natural history and take exception to the assumption of naturalism. They accept mainline science in so far as it doesn’t presuppose naturalism. Finally, there are the creationists, who go beyond denying naturalism and declare boldly that the history presented in Scripture is correct and should be incorporated into science. This last group will be the focus here.

Creationism and naturalism

Some creationists emphasize the difference in religious/metaphysical assumptions of creationism vs. evolutionism as if this explains almost all their differences.  But if that were true, creationists should focus on defending their religious/metaphysical assumptions instead of criticizing evolution. Since they do spend much time criticizing evolution, they are at least implicitly saying they have enough in common with evolutionists to have a dialogue.  Evolutionists seem to want only monologue. What do creationists have in common with evolutionism and conventional science in general?  In addition to a belief that some truth about the world can be found empirically, they have in common a form of naturalism, which leads to a search for natural laws and explanations.  However, in the 19th century, science accepted extreme naturalism, which in practice is indistinguishable from metaphysical naturalism.  It insists that science must be naturalistic “all the way down”.  It says that if God exists, His direct actions are empirically undetectable.

Creationists are accused of the other extreme, supernaturalism, in which divine or semi-divine agents intervene in the world at any time for any purpose or no purpose.  This was the mythological world that ancient Greeks starting with Thales objected to.  But creationists hold to neither extreme.  They accept a moderate naturalism in which a reasonable and loving God creates and upholds the natural order, and sometimes intervenes in the natural world. Creationist method recognizes both the actions of God and the consistency of the natural order.  It is naturalistic in that the default assumption is that natural laws and explanations are expected unless there is historical or revelational justification for supernatural events.  In particular, the six-day creation, the great flood, and the dispersion at Babel are sufficiently attested.  Other events are possible but the burden of proof is on those suggesting them; otherwise, naturalistic laws and explanations prevail.

Christians who promote theistic/deistic evolution accept extreme naturalism and a God who is undetectable.  To them the acts of God are completely indirect and can be known only through esoteric knowledge that interprets conventional science through gnostic readings of the Bible.  This is properly called gnostic because it severs God from the natural, physical world, contrary to the Incarnation and revelation of God in history. Those who promote progressive creation must hope that previously unknown miracles supply what naturalistic science cannot.  Their case is weak scripturally and scientifically. Creationists need a moderate naturalism for methodological purposes as well as showing the inadequacies of their opponents.

Creation and separation

The word “creation” in theological and philosophical circles means (1) “creation from nothing”, that is, the transcendent and self-existing God producing other entities without starting from something pre-existing.  However, that is not the only meaning of “creation” in the Bible or common usage.  The other meaning is (2) making something from something, particularly, making something more differentiated from something less differentiated.  Think of a sculptor creating a statue from a marble block.

This ambiguity over the word “creation” leads to a lot of criticism of creationists for not being satisfied with the first definition.  We don’t need to coin a new word but we do need to emphasize that we are talking creation in both senses of the word as described in Genesis 1.

One could define evolutionists (particularly the “evolutionary creationists”) as those who accept the first definition but reject the second definition since they think God never directly changes the created world.  So our task is to convince people that God does directly separate creation — and will do so again in the last judgment.

This entails that the original creation from nothing was somewhat undifferentiated and that full creation is a two-step process of creation from nothing followed by direct creation/separation by God.

Explaining everything again

The key to explaining everything in a domain is to project the data onto an explanatory space that is intuitively clear.  So evolutionists project all life onto an axis defined by the extremes of law and chance.  If they are presented with evidence of design, they just analyze it onto law and chance and say that’s all there is to it.  Yes, this is science but poorly done.

What is a creationist axis of explanation?  If we look at Genesis 1, we find two forms of creation:  creation out of nothing (ex nihilo) and creation out of something (ex aliquot) as in the refinement of the earth and the forming of man out of dust.  In this context they are both supernatural.  After the creation week, living creatures reproduce by natural means as they were designed to do.  This is a natural analogue to God’s original creation out of nothing.  Creatures undergo development in their lifetime, which is a natural analogue to God’s creation by refinement.  After the Fall, changes in the environment took place and reproduction generated more variability, which led to new species as well as deformed creatures.

So the explanatory axis for all of this comes from the extremes of repetition and variation held together by design.  The repetition of reproduction maintains life on earth.  Variations of life that fill out the earth and the possibilities of harmonious variety were designed in from the beginning to unfold over time (the original meaning of the word ‘evolution’).  Functions that have only survival value are post-Fall — their possibility was allowed from the beginning but were only triggered after the Fall.

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