On Creationism, ID, DI, etc

Dubious regarding clear and unambiguous, but in any case not in line with historical usage of the term, which makes it a private, idiosyncratic definition of your own, and there’s no reason anyone should accept it. And as you can see, John Harshman doesn’t accept it. So it’s not just ID proponents or creationists who find your writing unclear. Trained scientists who are atheists can also have problems with it.

You could solve this communications problem by simply sticking with the definition of creationism established by 80+ years of popular usage; but then, if you were to opt for clear communication in publicly recognizable language, your case for Denton being a creationist would fall to the ground, so it’s understandable why you would prefer an obfuscatory definition of “creationism.”

This is the equivalent of saying that the term “marriage” can only apply to a union between two people of the opposite gender. Of course, many people of your particular ideological stripe also resort to such lexicographical maneuvers in regards to that issue, so I guess I should not be surprised that you will do it here.

Yes, to your first clause, but regarding the second clause, tinkering with the normal usage of the term in order to make ID still a form of “creationism” looks suspiciously like cooking the definitions to arrive at a desired conclusion.

The fact remains, no matter how you and Ruse slice it, that when the average lay American hears the term “creationism”, the two main ideas that pop into his head are:

1-- Creationism rejects the descent of man from lower animals, and more generally rejects the transformation of species (beyond very tiny degrees of change);
2-- Creationism invokes the story in Genesis as the alternative, and true, account of the origin of species and of man.

So if the average lay American hears Eugenie Scott calling Behe a “creationist”, the average lay American will suppose that Behe rejects the descent of man from lower animals and that Behe uses the Bible as his reason for doing so. But both of those suppositions would be false, and Eugenie Scott knew full well that they were false, but wanted to engender them in her listeners and readers anyway. That’s intellectual, scientific, and social dishonesty.

The same applies to Denton, and to all other ID proponents who accept common descent and make no use of the Bible in arguing for design. Anyone who calls such people creationists knows full well how 95% of his readers or hearers will understand that term, and therefore is deliberately attempting to mislead them by implying that those ID thinkers hold views that they do not hold.

If you or anyone else wants to say that 80-90% of ID proponents are creationists, I won’t object. I’ve conceded that a hundred times here. But if you call Behe and Denton creationists in a public setting, you can have no motive other than to materially mislead the majority of your readers or hearers into thinking that Behe and Denton believe things that they do not believe.

From what I know of Denton’s work, I would classify Denton as a deist and not a creationist. He does not attempt to replace natural mechanisms with supernatural ones which is one of the criteria I look at. However, he does skirt close to the line. I am wondering why he would publish a book about evolution being a theory in crisis when evolution is a natural process.

I would also say that Denton is about the only exception I know of in the crowd of prominent ID proponents. In fact, people such as Behe have argued that Denton’s views, if true, actually falsify intelligent design.

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The irony here is that it is the ID’ers who so persistently try to downplay or ignore Behe’s acceptance of common descent. And you know why? Because they don’t want to offend the people you define as “creationists.”

It is exactly the sort of misconception you warn against that I wish to avoid. If Behe and Denton are not described as creationists, but as people who accept evolution, then the uninformed person is likely to come away with the misapprehension that they are scientists who understand and accept the mainstream theory of evolution, and do not believe that some god is needed to account the observed diversity of life.

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No, it’s not. I could choose to use the word “electron” differently from the way most people use it, and if you chided me for not going along with standard usage, because it impairs communication, and I responded as you have done, saying, “This is the equivalent of…”, posing as a champion of same-sex marriage rights and obliquely implying that you perhaps were against them, would you find that a reasonable response?

Your attempt to divert everyone’s attention from the fact that your definition of creationism is nonstandard, by shifting the subject from origins to questions of social morality, will not succeed.

By the way, on the subject of the DI’s evolving intellectual commitments, it looks like they’re upping their offenses-against-reason game by publishing a book by Weikart:

I do find that it is always a mistake to think that you have seen the worst of these people. It is, no doubt, still a mistake even now.

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Let’s not overlook our deeper disagreement here: You do not believe that Behe and Denton even meet my own definition of creationism. Correct?

And that, as I see it, is the crux of the matter: ID Creationists resist the label “creationist” because they know it will discredit their attempts to have their pseudoscience treated as science. If it were not misleading in this regard to call Behe or Denton “theistic evolutionists”, it would make little difference to me.

It is interesting that you will not deny that “80-90% of ID proponents are creationists”. Do you think that many ID proponents will admit that themselves?

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Thank you. That’s now two science-trained, specifically biologically trained, atheists here who agree with me against Faizal. Hope you’re listening, Faizal.

The average lay person’s conception of evolution does not involve complex accounts of evolutionary mechanisms (drift, gene duplication, HGT, etc.). The average lay person’s conception of evolution is that human beings and other animals descended by modification from lower animals. They may also have some vague, hazy notions of mutations and natural selection, but that’s about as far as their understanding of evolutionary mechanisms goes. So if you say that Behe and Denton accept “evolution”, they will take it that you mean that Behe and Denton accept that man and the higher animals and plants have descended from lower and simpler life forms. And since Behe and Denton do believe and teach that, it is not at all misleading.

Only science geeks are going to say, “Yes, they accept common descent, but do they accept current majority opinion about the mechanisms? How dare they differ from the scientific consensus regarding mechanisms!!!” The average layman isn’t interested enough to care.

In the big picture, Behe and Denton accept “evolution” in the everyday sense of the word, and they make no appeal whatsoever to the stories in Genesis to explain where living things came from, and so to call them creationists would be much more misleading than to say that they accept evolution. The danger of misunderstanding that you say is motivating you is, for the vast majority of lay people, only a hypothetical danger, whereas the danger of misunderstanding that I have pointed out is, for the vast majority of lay people, a very real one.

Behe doesn’t.

He invokes the supernatural in place of evolution.

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Premise 0.1 Creation is the theory that various forms of life began abruptly, with their distinctive features already intact: Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers and wings, mammals with fur and mammary glands.

Premise 0.2 Intelligent design was originally defined as “various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact: Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, et cetera.”

Conclusion 0.1: ID is a form of creationism.

Premise 0.3: Eddie is aware of the above premises.

Premise 0.4: Eddie denies that ID is a form of creationism.

Conclusion 0.2: …?

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Why would I waste my time trying to figure that out? Your own definition of creationism is nonstandard, confusing to the vast majority of the public, and leads (as our endless debates here show) to hair-splitting argumentation over terminology. Your definition of creationism is of no social use, and is potentially of great social misuse, as the deliberate deception of Eugenie Scott re Behe etc.
demonstrates. So why should I care where Behe and Denton stand in relation to your definition?

On the other hand, it’s simply a fact that Behe and Denton don’t match the standard understanding of creationism.

Why would you find it interesting that I call most ID proponents creationists? That has been my position all along here; you must have heard me say it before.

As for what ID proponents will admit, why don’t you ask them individually? I expect that those who actually are creationists by the standard definitions of creationism would admit it, while those who are not creationists by the standard definition would deny it. I don’t think Paul Nelson would deny that, in addition to being an ID proponent, he is also a YEC. I don’t that Steve Meyer would deny that, in addition to being an ID proponent, he is also an OEC. I don’t think that Dembski would deny being an OEC either. I suspect most of the contributors to the Theistic Evolution book would call themselves creationists. In any event, whatever they would call themselves, I would call “creationist” anyone who (a) denies evolution happened (to any significant amount) and (b) says that species (or perhaps genera or families) were directly created by God, because the Bible says so. And I would not mean it as a term of reproach (as Eugenie Scott clearly did), but simply as descriptive of an origins position.

Behe, on the other hand, expressly denies being a creationist (A Mousetrap for Darwin, p. 62) and calls out Eugenie Scott for foul play on that point. He references the common understanding of the creationist as one who denies common descent, and since he does not deny it, he does not regard himself as a creationist. He uses the English language in a normal, non-tricky, commonsensical way, and I wholly approve of that.

You and I both know that our arguing about Behe, regarding either terminology or biological mechanisms, is pointless. We’ve gone over the same quotations, the same ideas, etc. endless times and we never come any closer to agreement. I’ll just state, without argument, that “the everyday sense” of the word “evolution” is that higher forms descended from lower ones, and Behe accepts that, which means he accepts evolution in the everyday sense of the word.

Your quotation shows that you are still laboring under your old confusion in which “intelligent design” and “evolution” are opposites, but in the everyday sense of the world “evolution”, they aren’t opposites. However “Darwinian evolution” (or any other formulation in which evolution is conceived of as unguided and unplanned) is in opposition to intelligent design. Behe almost always puts “Darwinian” in front of “evolution”, and even where he doesn’t, the context establishes that it’s unguided evolution that he has in mind. Evolution in the simpler sense of descent with modification, he has no problem with, and it is not opposed in his mind to the idea of design. And that’s exactly the official position taken by Discovery, that descent with modification, even up to universal common ancestry, is not necessarily incompatible with design.

There were US soldiers who were tortured less on the Bataan death march than the definitions of the words you just used.

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Tortured? Long ago, Joshua expressed to me his opinion that “descent with modification” is one acceptable description of evolution. It’s also the phrase used by Darwin, in The Origin of Species. It’s also what most laymen understand by “evolution.” (If you don’t know that, you spend too much time in the lab with specialists, and don’t get out enough among the unwashed masses.)

Behe accepts “evolution” understood as “descent with modification.” Of course he has disagreement with many evolutionary theorists over the causes of modification. (Hence his constant railing against “Darwinian evolution.”) But as he accepts the modification as a fact, as he believes that man descended from one-celled creatures, he is not a “creationist” in any recognizable meaning of that phrase; all creationists (where that term is used without a qualifying adjective) reject the descent of man from one-celled ancestors. If you think Behe is correctly described as a creationist, it is you, not I, who is torturing definitions.

He does according to Eddie’s understanding of the everyday sense. If you want to disagree, you need to attack his understanding of that everyday sense, not his claim about Behe. There is a lot of talking-past going on here.

I would say that he invokes the supernatural as a mechanism of evolution. He would appear to be proposing divinely ordained macromutations.

I would like to see that premise documented. Who originally defined intelligent design? Where? Does the current DI accept that definition? Does Behe?

I believe he’s actually said this.

I don’t believe he ever has admitted it.

Don’t believe he ever admitted it either, though he did have to subscribe to a YEC statement when he was teaching.

Shouldn’t it be a term of reproach, just as “flat-earther” should be?

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Michael Denton is currently listed as a Senior Fellow at the DI’s CSC. I think we can therefore assume that the answer is “no”.

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My comments that you are quoting there were about some laughable exaggerations by an ignoramus (pseud Timaeus) on the ASA listserv. I wasn’t referring to DI propaganda. As for Denton’s actions in the past decade and a half, I have no clue. I recall that they rebooted “theory in crisis” and that sure does suggest that Denton is comfortable with his “work” being used by dishonest creationists. [shrug]

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Given that arguments from design date back to pre-Christian authors, e.g., Cicero and Plato, it would be very interesting to hear Puck explain how these authors, who had never heard of Christianity or read a line of Genesis, learned about “creationism,” which, in the American social context we are discussing, i.e., origins debates, was always a Christian, Bible-based position.

Not, I am sure, to anyone who does not share your peculiarly narrow Bataan-style definitions of certain terms.

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