Saturday, May 26, 2007
Creation Research vs. Creation Apologetics
Over the last 100 years, Creationism has been on the defense from Darwinism (laid out by Darwin, obviously) and Uniformitarianism (laid out by Lyell). This has affected both the attitudes and mindset of those who were engaged with it. Rather than being a pioneering field, Creationism went into apologetics mode, where rather than search out new ideas using the Bible as a basis for understanding, Creationists simply aimed to defend the Bible from attack. I don't want to criticize that per se. I think it is useful and has its time and place. I do this myself on occasion (though rarely on this blog). However, I do want to criticize the general shift of emphasis from placing investigation as the first priority to placing apologetics as the first priority and investigation as a far second.
Thankfully, this trend has been reversing over the pas 10 years or so. But you may be wondering what the problem is with Creation Apologetics. Well, the issue is that doing apologetics tends to miss the point. This may seem counterintuitive, but lets look at a few classes of people who may be considered "open" to receiving the Creation message.
One kind is the "questioner". Someone who has lots of questions and few answers. The problem with apologetics here is that apologetics does not usually seek to engage the other person in their questioning, but instead to provide immediate answers. Whether or not the answers are correct, they completely miss the frame of mind of the one who is a questioner. They want to think through things, and know both what they can and they can't know. Apologists rarely even talk about problems with their theory, and thus leave the "questioner" thinking that they have talking to a used car salesman.
There's a great video dealing with questioners here. This type of person will not deal well with who puts forward a "canned" list of answers.
Another kind is the scientist. People often get the mistaken impression that scientists, and even biologists, are even vaguely represented by people in places like The Panda's Thumb or Talk.Origins. This is simply not the case. In fact, if you look at a lot of the big names there, very few of them are notable biologists. For instance, Nick Matzke's graduate work was in geography, not biology. This isn't to say that none of them (including Nick) know anything about science, but it is a mistake to think that these people are representative of scientists. Most scientists don't have the faintest care what are in the contents of Talk.Origins' index of Creation Claims, or what the Panda's Thumb blog says, or what is on Pharyngula. Most scientists are too busy teaching, researching, experimenting, and writing grant proposals to care about such things. So, while things like the responses to the index of Creationist Claims (also see this list) are useful (I myself have contributed to this from time to time), the fact is that if you are wanting to talk about Creation to a practicing scientist, they are not likely to care.
Jean Lightner permitted me to share this email, and I think it is relevant to this discussion (I've bolded the really interesting parts):
... my scientist/teacher friend who is now voraciously reading the creationist materials I give him, made a telling comment years ago when I first brought the subject of creationup. He said he had only seen one small tract on creation and that he was rather unimpressed. He thought that the arguments they used were a bit silly, but after looking through the on-line curriculum he taught and how it presented evolution, he admitted that maybe it was because of how evolution is presented (as an evolutionist he found the curriculum a bit embarrassing).
The bottom line is this: if you spend your time refuting talk origins material, many scientists will be unimpressed and it is NOT because they are opposed to hearing about creation. Instead, it is a reflection of you using a 'scientifically challenged' source. The best way to present creation to a scientist is to find out their field of study and offer them material by creationary scientists in that field. Dealing with axioms is important too, but then emphasize what will be most familiar to them. Have the courtesy of letting the Holy Spirit do the work. God spent 80 years preparing Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt; we can give him a few years to work on the heart of an evolutionist.
More scientists are open to examining the creationary viewpoint than many of us realize.
The point being is that Talk.Origins vs. Creationists is not a scientific discussion, but rather a discussion of dogmatists and apologists on both sides. That's why such discussions never seem to move anywhere except in circles. Instead of being continually engaging in argument, the Creation Research proposition instead frees up the Creationist to push science forward, and lets the Holy Spirit be the one to do the convincing. Wouldn't it be great if scientists all over the world were reading CRSQ or JoC or some other creationary publication because it consistently had the most fascinating biological discoveries? Don't you think that that would be the best way to keep the gospel message on people's minds to let the Holy Spirit work?
Anyway, I think as we move from apologetics to research, we will find that we no longer need to be apologists.
Keep up the good work, and thank you for prodding us all.
At the same time, I think you're right that creationists should focus on research. Up until now the apologetics arguments have helped the Church return to its biblical moorings in regard to origins. But now that creationists have the Church's ear, they need to gain the scientific establishment's ear as well. That means serious research and a lot more hard work.
And even then it won't be easy, as the recent Guillermo Gonzalez tenure case points out.
In over 150 years of examination, no one has found contrary evidence.
If you think you have, I would suggest publishing it in the appropriate scientific journal for peer review.
You may change the face of science as we know it.
The other side of the coin. Disproving evolution still does not prove a six day creation account. When I was a Biblical studies major, we spent a lot of time in apologetics coming up with a story line to join the facts with the Biblical account. frankly, the account should need no spin and should fit the facts as is. Since all Truth is Gods Truth, we should consider the evidence and determine if we have been duped by a false god in Christianity, if you still believe in a god.
Good luck on your journeys.
That is a very naive statement. First of all, science doesn't "prove" or "disprove" anything. You should try reading a good philosophy of science book. I recommend "For and Against Method". What science can show is evidence for or against something. And, if by evolution you mean evolution by natural selection, the evidence that natural selection can account for macroevolutionary novelty is thin to non-existent, and the evidence against it is strong.
"If you think you have, I would suggest publishing it in the appropriate scientific journal for peer review."
The requirement for being in "the appropriate scientific journal for peer review" is like having the fox guard the henhouse. As we've seen with the Sternberg affair, they aren't going to let materialism go lightly. However, there have been some that have made it through because they didn't specifically mention ID or Creationism. A few to note:
"Enzymic editing mechanisms and the origin of biological information transfer." GR Lambert. Journal of Theoretical Biology 107(3):387-403.
"Three subsets of sequence complexity and their relevance to biopolymeric information." Abel and Trevors. Theoretical Biology and Medical Modeling 2:29. Also see their "Self-organization vs. self-ordering events in life-origin models" in Physics of Life Reviews (note that though the title is about the origin of life, it is not only speaking of the origin of life, but all instances of organization).
Or you can read Haldane's "The Cost of Natural Selection" in Journal of Genetics 55:511-524.
Another good one is Erwin and Davidson's "Gene regulatory networks and the evolution of animal body plans." Science 311(5762):796-800.
Another good researcher is Barbara Wright. You should check out her "Stress-directed adaptive mutations and evolution" in Molecular Biology
Caporale also has some great insights. See here "Mutation is Modulated: Implications for Evolution" 22(4):388-95.
Now, if your definition of "evolution" is something other than natural selection, then, depending on your definition, it is quite possible that I would agree with you fully that "evolution" has occurred, and is occurring.
"The other side of the coin. Disproving evolution still does not prove a six day creation account. "
I have never, ever, ever made that argument. Not only that, I've never even heard someone try. I'm sure there is someone out there who has done it, but certainly no one of any standing.
"Frankly, the account should need no spin and should fit the facts as is."
What do you mean by "no spin". If a random person asked me how many children I've had, I would say 4. My wife would say 3. There was a point where I would have said 4 and my wife would have said 2. And I've had all of my children through my wife. We would both be telling the truth. Believing them both to be true is not "spin", it is "trust". Whether or not you can figure out the specific way in which they are both true is irrelevant to whether or not they are true. You will learn more if you understand the relationship between the data points, but the data points themselves will not lend you to know if they are true or not. The fact is that life is complicated. Even on a daily basis I experience circumstances which would be difficult to explain to someone tersely. Trying to pretend that life shouldn't be complicated as a basis for determining the truth or falsity of a historical document is naive.
However, what's more interesting than apologetics, is the research that is going on in the Creation community. Ian's presentation of the near-uniform twisting of polystrate plants in the recent Creation Geology conference is most interesting, which I hope to blog about soon. Austin's work on the Nautiloid mass kill is also interesting. So is Chadwick's work on paleocurrent analysis of flood sediments.