Herman Mays Accuses Joshua Swamidass

That seems mean to @swamidass, Herman. He’s not really an evolutionary biologist, right? (Still, is that accusation even true?) But he has engaged in his own field of scientific research too and published numerous legitimate papers in legitimate journals, which is not just about “carving out space” for theology. Same with a lot of other Christian scientists who are working in mainstream science. I think it’s unfair to characterize all Christian scientists in this way.


@Herman_Mays, that is a pretty strong accusation of me, and is also in conflict of the evidence. Do you care to explain yourself?


It depends on the definition of “creationist”. If it refers to a person who thinks that God created the universe, then it fits you, but it’s also a useless synonym of “theist”. What I find objectionable is “seemingly”, which implies that you’re deceiving us. And, of course, the implication that you have no interest in science.


OK Josh, I’ll bite for now, before having to get something actually done in the lab.

What basic questions in natural history are you interested in answering outside of those questions that impinge on your religious beliefs in a creator?

Also you have clearly said that your book, “makes space for a de novo creator” and that the idea that you are a methodological naturalist is “crazy”. Given those statements I don’t think it’s unfair to characterize your goal, or a goal, being to carve out a space for your religious beliefs.

I would say I’m talking about a creationist in the sense of someone whose beliefs make space for a de novo creator.

I’m not saying creationists in general have no interest in science. People have genuine interests in science for a myriad of different reasons. Some just like the problem solving aspect of it. Some are very applied and like coming up with scientific solutions for immediate problems (biomedical research would fall under this category). Some people however focus their interest in what Linnaeus called “the things themselves” and are interested in nature for it’s own sake and not as either a means to a practical end or something that serves some metaphysical or theological purpose. My point was I see little evidence that creationists (as in those with narrow, sectarian theological beliefs in de novo creation in particular) as a group are all that interested in basic questions in natural history. I’m sure there are exceptions and maybe Joshua (is it Josh or Joshua, which do you prefer) is one of those. Jeanson however certainly is not.

Totally useless definition, since all theists would fit. And then you go on to accuse those creationists as being uninterested in science, when that would refer to what we more usually mean by the term.

Why “maybe”? At any rate, by your definition, Theodosius Dobzhansky would have been a creationist, as would Francisco Ayala, Ken Miller, and a small but substantial minority of evolutionary biologists whose religious opinions I know about.


I don’t think all theists would fit that description. As it leaves out those who view the creator as the sustainter of a universe within which nature arises without their de novo intervention per se. It also leaves out pantheists like a Spinoza or some might argue Einstein who would argue that the totality of nature itself is a “god” but not a personal god. For clarity I’m talking about those who would hold to individual acts of special creation (for people in particular) as creationists but sure Miller and Dobzhansky and Ayala I would also consider creationists too but not in the sense I’m talking about here as they may not necessarily insist on de novo individual acts of creation (for humans in particular) and they don’t feel the need to create a safe space for these sorts of beliefs within the science.

I’m happy to be more clear about the sorts of creationists I’m referring to as I obviously wasn’t clear about that already. I would say you don’t see people like Jeanson asking questions about the distribution of birds, for example, devoid of any appeal to their theology. That’s the point I’m making.

Show me a theist who doesn’t think God created the universe. In what sense is Joshua a creationist, exactly?


Would you say that all Christian scientists who hold to the miraculous bodily resurrection of Jesus (but not necessarily the de novo creation of Adam and Eve) would fit under this label of creationist? Why or why not?

1 Like

He believes in a de novo creation of a literal Adam and Eve. He can of course correct me if I’m wrong on that. I don’t think Dobzhanksy shared that belief necessarily that I’m aware of.

I would say there is typically a lot of baggage that comes with that belief. I would say if you believe in a Judeo-Christian God of the Bible creating a man and woman from nothing then you are a creationist. For the record I do not necessarily use the moniker “creationist” as a pejorative. There is nothing necessarily wrong in my mind with being a creationist or a theist.

Actually, I don’t think that’s true. He’s offering it as a possibility to those who want to save Genesis without contradicting science. Still, if that’s your definition of “creationist”, then all the criticisms that follow are off-base.


It’s not at all clear to me that he does. More like he doesn’t rule out the possibility. Admittedly, I have not read all of the GAE (though it’s sitting on my shelf), so if he has taken a harder stance on the issue there, I might have missed it.


You didn’t really answer my question. Belief in a miraculous resurrection seems to be not that different from believe in a de novo creation of A&E. Would all Christian scientists who believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ be considered a “creationist” under your view?

You may not intend to, but it certainly comes across that way. To accuse a large class of professional scientists to only be in science for questionable motives and nothing else (“seemingly friendly to the science”) is certainly pejorative.


Joshua do you believe that a Judeo-Christian God of the Hebrew Bible created by divine fiat, de novo, a man and a woman referred to as Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis?

Think of this in terms of say engineering. Why professionally an engineer be interested in physics?That would be because they can use a knowledge of physics as a means to a practical end. Practical applications as goals is really at the heart of engineering.

Now take a physicist who’s research is basic and not applied. There they are interested in the questions for their own sake irrespective of any application. That’s basic science.

Both applied and basic science are important but each attracts people with different goals and interests. In my experience dealing with creationists they view science much more like a physician or an engineer may (which is why maybe so many come from those backgrounds) and see questions about nature as serving other ends and for creationists those questions often are wrapped up in theological ends in ways that don’t exist for many other scientists

Can you answer my question regarding whether all Christian scientists who believe in the miraculous resurrection of Jesus are also classed in the same way as those who believe in the miraculous de novo creation of Adam and Eve?

Not necessarily, no. I wouldn’t necessarily think of someone who just believes in a miraculous resurrection of Jesus in quite the same terms especially if they thought those beliefs had nothing to do with the science.

If I recall correctly he thinks a literal de novo Adam and Eve is a theological necessity in ways that other stories like say the Tower of Babel are not. But I asked him this point blank so you can wait to hear him answer for himself.