On Creationism, ID, DI, etc

I think it’s fascinating how these weird people get obsessed with these obscure scientific conferences and start claiming that this is where you can see that all of evolution is known to be a sham. There’s that 1967 Wistar Institute thing that they rail on about sometimes, and there’s that 2016 Royal Society one, and this Altenberg thing. I can’t quite figure out why the ID Creationists like to focus on these events so much; maybe it provides some cover for the fact that they have no actual research findings to focus on instead.

I do recall that at the 2016 Royal Society meeting, someone mistook @Pandora for Suzan Mazur – weird, since the two look nothing alike, but I suppose that the -iots were looking around the room for one another, and “mistaken ID” is pretty much their standard mode of proceeding.


First, the Theistic Evolution book was not published by the DI.

Second, the DI includes a good number of people who are not “hardcore fundamentalists”, including Behe, Denton, Sternberg, Michael Flannery, John West, Bruce Chapman, Jay Richards, and others. Of these, none had an essay in the Theistic Evolution book, except West, and his essay did not advocate anything close to fundamentalism.

Regarding the article by Churchill and Murray, I share John Harshman’s disinclination to read it all. What I did read is mostly rehash of standard TE arguments. In particular, the “random events are compatible with divine providence” arguments have been around for decades, the ASA literature and BioLogos columns being filled with them. I didn’t find that Churchill and Murray added anything new of substance to those arguments, and I don’t find what they do offer persuasive.

They also seem prefer long abstract discussions of possible positions to discussion of examples. Instead of beating around the bush for pages trying to show that something might have a bit of ID and a bit of TE in it, why don’t they talk about authors who actually illustrate that combination? Denton and Behe both affirm universal common descent and design, but the article never looks at their proposals and teases out the design and the TE elements. A missed expository opportunity. I’m guessing these guys are professors somewhere, rather than professional writers, because they write inefficiently.

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Well, you can ask @Eddie, who is quite a fan of at least one of these events:

“News flash: Denton is far from the only person who says that the current “consensus of biologists” around evolution “is not able to account for all features found in biology.” Many people from the Altenberg group…”

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Just a note, Allen. I don’t have to Google the book, because I’ve read it. And while I agree with you that her framing of the Altenberg conference often shows ignorance of the subject matter and is filled with hype, it’s important to point out that the bulk of the book, probably 80% or more, is long direct quotations from the scientists she is interviewing. She typically asks a slanted, leading question, and then the scientist (well, mostly scientists, but one philosopher was at the conference as well) goes on to mostly ignore the question (occasionally objecting slightly to its framing), and just talk for several pages about what he wants to talk about. So you can learn the rough positions of these scientists, in their own words, from reading the book.

Of course, these were popular interviews, not scientific papers, and the scientists knew that they were contributing words to a book aimed primarily at laymen, so one shouldn’t expect rigorous argument or equations or diagrams etc. But taken for what they were, several of the interviews were interesting and informative.

I have nothing to say about how Meyer may have used Mazur; I just wanted to clarify that the book consists overwhelmingly of the words of interviewees rather than the words of Mazur, and that the book has some value (for the layman) because of that.

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True - it’s published by Crossway.

But so what? It’s edited by members of the DI, it’s partly written by members of the DI, it’s endorsed by other members of the DI, it’s plugged by the DI’s website, and most relevantly, it’s available for purchase from the DI’s online store.

That this book happens to be published by Crossway and not the Discovery Institute Press doesn’t mean it’s not a DI development.

Is that an admission that Meyer, Gauger, Ewert, Moreland and the other DI members (sans West) who contributed are “hardcore fundamentalists”? Or just another deception by omission?


No, because neither I nor even Puck suggested that all of the essays in the book were written by fundamentalists. Puck’s complaint only requires that a significant number of fundamentalist-leaning essays appeared in the book. It’s compatible with there being some non-fundamentalist essays and non-fundamentalist authors in the book. And of course, as the term fundamentalist is normally used in popular American discourse, neither Meyer nor Gauger (and I’m not saying that list of two is exhaustive) is a fundamentalist.

Which establishes only that some other members of the DI found the book to have some value. It doesn’t establish that those other members of the DI are fundamentalist, and still less that the DI as an institution has become fundamentalist or is careening in that direction. For example, Behe endorsed Denton’s second book, Nature’s Destiny (1998), and he was a DI member at the time. Does that mean that the DI endorsed Denton’s second book? There’s no reason to assume that, especially since most of the prominent DI Fellows (other than Behe) had major criticisms of Denton’s thesis in that book very soon after it was published.

Which proves only that the DI thinks that the book has some value, not that the DI endorses every view expressed in the individual essays.

Which proves only that the DI thinks highly enough of the book to make it available, not that the DI endorses everything in it.

To put this in perspective, the DI also plugs the newest books of Michael Denton on its website, and has them for sale in its store. Heck, the DI is even the publisher of those newer Denton books. But in those books Denton accepts universal common descent as fact and implicitly treats evolution through non-miraculous interventions as fact. (As he had earlier, in ND.) Does this promotion of Denton’s books prove that the DI’s official position is that there is universal common descent and that evolution occurred through wholly naturalistic steps without periodic interventions? I don’t think you would conclude that, or that Puck would conclude that. So why would selling or plugging the Theistic Evolution book imply that DI’s official position is that macroevolution did not happen and that Genesis, read literally, has a true account of origins?

The DI is going to plug and sell books whose subject-matters fall within the general range of its interests. The TE book bashes Darwinian mechanisms and endorses intelligent design, and those two features place the book squarely in the general range of the DI’s interests. It does not follow that the DI endorses the comments on the Bible made in the TE book, and therefore it does not follow that the DI is currently promoting “fundamentalism”.

Indeed, if it were true that Discovery were headed that way, the DI would not have hesitated to publish the TE book by itself. Why would it not do so? Why would it let the book go to Crossway instead?

So even if that book is “fundamentalist” – which is not true of all its essays, and perhaps not even of a majority of its essays – there is no safe inference, based on the mere presence of DI authors in the book, or on the promotion of the book by DI, that Discovery itself is becoming more fundamentalist. Discovery continues to endorse all books defending ID, whether their commitment is fundamentalist, evolutionist, or anything in between.

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Ah, I see, it’s neither an admission that Meyer et al are “hardcore fundamentalists”, nor deception by omission, but merely an inability to understand the implications of your own post:

  1. The DI includes people who are not “hardcore fundamentalists”.
  2. Only one of these people (West) contributed to Theistic Evolution.
  3. Therefore any DI members who contributed to Theistic Evolution (except West) are “hardcore fundamentalists”.
  4. Meyer et al are DI members.
  5. Meyer et al contributed to Theistic Evolution.
  6. Therefore Meyer et al are hardcore fundamentalists.

That’s a logical conclusion of the paragraph I quoted. The rest of what Puck and you wrote doesn’t affect that conclusion.

Did you not realise that “Of these…” also applies to “…and others.”?

(The rest of your post is attempting to refute some other imaginary argument)


I would note that of the only two (out of five) editors of this book that aren’t DI or CSC Fellows, one is Wayne Grudem, who is listed as a co-founder of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I don’t know if that makes him technically a “fundamentalist”, but it would certainly be considered by most to be a reasonable approximation.


I should have known better than to attempt any reply to you. You’re being quarrelsome rather than responsive to my clarification. You pick at a tiny point of phrasing (ambiguity regarding “of others”) in order to try to score a verbal victory, when a more charitable reading of my response (in light of my explicit additional statement, omitted in your quotation, that neither Meyer nor Gauger are fundamentalists, and that that list of two was not meant to be an exhaustive list) would have been: (a) that there were in 2017 many non-fundamentalists at Discovery, and (b) that of the Discovery writers in the 2017 TE book, some (West, Gauger, and Meyer at a minimum) were not fundamentalists in the common meaning of that term. Those two points, taken together, would block any inference that Discovery had taken any recent turn toward fundamentalism at the time of publication of the TE book. But that was what Puck was implying – that the publication of the TE book (not by Discovery) was proof of some shift toward fundamentalism within Discovery.

In the rest of my post, which you ignored, I pointed out that both before and after the TE book, Discovery has not only praised, and sold, but even published, works by Denton, who holds to universal common descent – anathema to all fundamentalists. If there had been a shift within Discovery attitudes at the time of the Crossway TE book, toward fundamentalism, Discovery would have discontinued its Denton series soon after 2017. But it didn’t, and it’s now 2022, and if rumor is correct, another Denton book will be coming out soon. There has been no shift. Discovery is still the same big tent organization today that it was in 2017 and before 2017, embracing YECs, OECs, and ID-evolutionists.

The TE book was produced by a subset of ID proponents, some Discovery fellows and some not, acting in their own private capacity. Nothing can be inferred from the appearance of the TE book in 2017 about any sea-change in thought at Discovery at that time, and in fact there was not any significant change in the distribution of views among ID fellows (some being YEC, some OEC, and some ID-evolutionist) at that time. The alleged change of heart at Discovery that Puck thinks he can divine is without any evidential base.

What happened is that a group of ID proponents from Discovery joined with a group of like-minded ID proponents (apparently all OEC or YEC) to produce a book for a publisher other than Discovery. Obviously such a book will have a larger “fundamentalist” component than a book which explicitly strove to include authors representative of all ID positions. And obviously such a book, containing a truncated representation of the range of possible ID positions, was more appropriately published by someone other than Discovery. There’s nothing difficult to understand about any of this, and Puck is entertaining a fantasy that has no basis, without warrant.

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Eddie’s comments: Where irony meters go to die.

Yeah, those fundamentalist just have a huge hate-on for Michael Denton. Oh, wait, what is this?



I’m not sure you and your opponents can agree on a definition of “fundamentalist”. I think “Christian creationist and biblical literalist” may have been intended. Both Meyer and Gauger have not been clear on this, but I infer that they are both some kind of old-earth creationist, and in my experience this invariably results from a need to affirm the truth of Genesis.

And of course creationists are good at cherry-picking, as when they take Behe’s and Denton’s critiques of “Darwinism” and reject or ignore their opinions on common descent. We even have a fine example of just that here on PS.


Since that’s obvious and I didn’t imply otherwise, I’m not sure why you’re bringing it up.

That may be, though they’re a slippery lot who are not to be trusted on many matters, including their own strange philosophical/cultural commitments. But I didn’t say anything to suggest that each and every one of those associated with the DI was a fundamentalist. I spoke to the DI’s overall shift toward the promotion of fundamentalism, of which the TE book is quite compelling evidence.

Now, there is a strict sense in which a combination of the DI leadership and a great number of its fellows is not the DI itself. But we don’t ordinarily use that strict sense when referring to community and advocacy organizations. Take the Klan, or the Mafia, for example. Surely no statement that so-and-so was murdered by the Klan is ordinarily understood to mean that ALL members of the Klan participated in the killing. Likewise for the Mafia, and likewise for the DI and its close embrace of the Ku Klux Klergy.

The TE volume certainly establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that the DI has allied itself with fundamentalism and not just against some, but against all, forms of Christian belief which in any way acknowledge science and reality. It’s a “big tent,” but the plain import of the book is that unless you’re frothing at the mouth and issuing glossolalic rants (a splendid example of glossolalia being the the astonishing chapter in TE on hominid evolution by Casey Luskin), you don’t belong in the tent.

I have a complaint? I don’t think I do. I thought it was sort of refreshingly honest for the DI to tear the mask off and get down to the hollerin’-in-tongues hoopla of which its adherents are so fond. If I have any complaint – I certainly have voiced none here – it is that the DI tries to hide this so often by attempting to impersonate real science.

No, the overarching mission of the book is clear: disparagement of ALL forms of the Christian religion which do not declare themselves sharply at odds with biological science. Fretting over whether these attempts to advance fundamentalism at the expense of more traditional Christian denominations take the form of “fundamentalist-leaning essays” would be classic missing-the-forest-for-the-trees, or, as may be more apt, missing Cthulhu for the tentacles.


It isn’t obvious, since I’ve had to correct others on this point in the past (many think that the TE book was produced by Discovery because so many Discovery people have essays in it), and I brought it up because your choice of words suggested either (a) that you didn’t know the book wasn’t by Discovery or (b) that you were making an illogical link between a book by Crossway and alleged internal changes at Discovery.

There you go again. The TE book proves nothing about any alleged shift in sympathy of Discovery toward fundamentalism, for reasons I’ve already given at length, in my posts above.

No, it establishes that some DI fellows have religious leanings toward “fundamentalism,” and choose to express those leanings by collaborating with “fundamentalist” non-DI people. But the “fundamentalism” (and John Harshman makes a good point, that “fundamentalism” here has not been clearly defined) of the DI people whose essays appear in the book was public knowledge long before the book came out, so the book marks no shift in that regard.

As for any “alliance” between the DI and fundamentalists, I’ve conceded from the beginning that the DI sometimes works in concert with people of fundamentalist views, where the two groups have a common interest. But that wasn’t your claim, that the DI often works with fundamentalists. Your claim was that the 2017 TE book marked a major shift in this respect, when in fact, there was no shift at all. The degree of support for literal Biblicism at Discovery hasn’t changed one iota since 2017, as far as I can see, but you are welcome to provide evidence for this claim if you can. For example, since 2017, have a lot of non-fundamentalist DI Fellows left the organization, and a lot of fundamentalist DI Fellows been added? Let’s see some hard numbers.

Even if that were the plain import of the TE book, the TE book has no institutional status as a definer of ID. Discovery Institute does have such status, and it didn’t publish the TE book. If you want the official definition of what ID affirms, you go to Discovery, not the TE book.

The book was not published by the DI.

Statements like this strongly suggest that you did not carefully read the central section of the book, on methodological and philosophical issues, and focused only on certain essays in the first and third parts. They also suggest that you confuse “biological science” with “certain dominant opinions among biologists”, which we know can produce serious error, as happened when Galileo confused “physical science” with the contemporary dominant opinion that “all action can be communicated only by direct contact, never at a distance”. The philosophical discussions of method in the book, or at least some of them, are certainly more sophisticated than anything I’ve seen anyone post here, and they have nothing to do with fundamentalism, literalist reading of Genesis, etc.

To make my position clear, I have not championed the TE book overall, and in fact have indicated in the past that it does not represent a true cross-section of ID views. See The Crossway Theistic Evolution Book: A Response to Joshua Swamidass | The Hump of the Camel. So I am not defending the book as such. I’m making the much more limited point that its appearance indicates no shift in the DI’s definition of ID and no shift in the relative influence of various ID viewpoints within Discovery. On the contrary, that there has not been such a shift is indicated by the fact that the DI has published (not merely praised) several books by Denton since 2017, which is inconceivable if the DI shifted toward fundamentalism starting in 2017. Given that what the DI has published contradicts your thesis, and that the only evidence you provide for your thesis is a book that the DI did not publish, I think your thesis can be safely classed as “undemonstrated”.

Good point. Nearly all Christian creationists and biblical literallsts are fundamentalists (practically by definition) but the converse is not necessarily true.

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Good point. I think it would have been better if Puck had defined “fundamentalism” or if I had asked him what he meant by the term. So I’ll say a few words of clarification now.

I think that terms like OEC and YEC are more narrow and precise than “fundamentalism”, and also that “fundamentalism” is often used pejoratively rather than descriptively. So I would say, trying to speak descriptively and non-pejoratively, that the essays in the Crossway book are mostly written by YECs and OECs, rather than that they were written by “fundamentalists.”

Many people, in using the word “fundamentalist”, have in mind mechanical literalism regarding Genesis, and in fact really mean YEC. Others use “fundamentalist” in a broader way that could include OEC. Puck can offer definitions of all three of these terms, if he likes, and then tell us which essays in the Crossway book are examples of these positions.

My own concern has been to show that ID, as a general position, is compatible with “evolution” (in the sense of descent with modification including universal common ancestry), with OEC, and with YEC, and that at Discovery one can find ID proponents representing all of those positions. My objection to the Crossway book was that it could be taken to imply that ID-evolutionism was not an option (since no ID-evolutionists had an essay in that book). Hence my reply to Joshua in the column on Hump of the Camel, The Crossway Theistic Evolution Book: A Response to Joshua Swamidass | The Hump of the Camel.

In any case, however one may choose to define “fundamentalism,” I would maintain my view that the 2017 TE book by Crossway marks no change in the overall position of Discovery or in the “power balance” among the ID Fellows (OEC, YEC, and ID-evolutionist) at Discovery. The most common position among the ID Fellows was, before 2017 and in 2017, the OEC position, and that has remained the case since then, as far as I can tell. And the affirmation that ID is compatible with “microbe to man” evolution is still as much part of DI’s definition of ID since 2017 as it was before, as the continuation of the Denton series indicates.

This type of discussion speaks to the criticism I have made of ID/DI for some time, and that is the “big tent” is motivated by the practical weight of financing and organizational requirements, but leads to a shambles of incoherence. When there is a singular unifying concept - design - that much at least requires definition. But design in terms of tuning concepts whereby the world comes about by natural laws endowed by a creator is a very difference concept from design in terms of direct creation of daffodils, solar systems, and zebras. One is design of process and the other of instantiating objects. One allows for divine transcendence and the other requires immanence. I do not allow that these two senses of design are compatible, and if skirted over lead to incoherent muddling. Witness that YEC often draws support from fine tuning while oblivious to the incompatibility with the young earth timeline.


Indeed, before around the 1990’s, OEC was the prevailing idea in fundamentalism. The usual alternatives were presented as the gap theory, day age theory, and young earth, and the first two alternatives were popular and not in the least held as compromise.


Yes, that’s right, and it fits in with the original meaning of “fundamentalism,” which was an insistence on the retaining the fundamentals of Christian doctrine, against the theological liberalism that was coming to dominate the seminaries and churches. At the time, a 6,000-year-old earth was not insisted upon by most orthodox Protestants as a fundamental Christian doctrine, and so evidence that the earth was much older was not construed by most Protestant Christians as a threat to faith. In fact, in the original “Fundamentals” series of essays, at least one of the writers allowed not just an old earth but even organic evolution (though he did not conceive of evolution as an unguided process).

Over time, however, the popular use of the term “fundamentalism” has become influenced by the meteoric rise of YEC (especially since 1960) and the relative eclipse of OEC, and now, when many people hear about Christian “fundamentalists,” they think of people who accept the chronology of Bishop Ussher and believe in creation in six 24-hour days.

Yes, I agree with this characterization. And my point all along is that within the ID movement one can find both positions, the fine-tuning/laws approach being adopted by Denton, and the interventionist approach being adopted by Meyer and others (with Behe not formally declaring himself, and characterized as belonging to one camp or the other, depending on who is asked).

It’s at least logically possible that a designer could set up a universe that would run by itself and generate stars and planets on its own, but would later require on the spot intervention (say, to produce life, or man), so the two may not be incompatible conceptions, but they certainly are not identical, and you’re right to make the point that they shouldn’t be blurred together uncritically.

Note that for the purposes of the present discussion, I’m not making any claim regarding the ultimate coherence of the big tent approach, but only to note that it is in fact the approach that Discovery has adopted, and that Discovery adopted it well before 2017 when the Crossway TE book came out, and has maintained it all the way from 2017 through the present. I’m disagreeing with Puck not over whether ID is true or coherent, but only over a factual claim he made that Discovery started to become more “fundamentalist” in 2017. I don’t believe there was any change in Discovery’s official views or big tent strategy at that point, and nothing about the Crossway book gives me any cause to change my mind. The OEC and YEC views of the many of the contributors to the Crossway book were already well-known to the public by that point, and the DI contributors involved had been ID Fellows for quite some time, with their OEC and YEC views well-known to everyone at Discovery. No change of heart at Discovery caused the production of the TE book, and the TE book did not result in any change of heart at Discovery.

Another point, related to this – and people can correct me if I’m wrong: I don’t think Discovery has ever published an ID book that specifically endorses YEC-ID. Some ID Fellows are YECs, but I am unaware of any Discovery book that actively promotes YEC. On the other hand, Discovery has produced many books in which well-known OECs (e.g., Casey Luskin) are featured contributors, and it has produced books by Denton, who is an evolutionist. If 2017 marked the turn of Discovery toward “fundamentalism”, one would expect that the most prominent form of fundamentalism today, i.e., YEC, would be represented in its publishing program since 2017. But I don’t know of any Discovery books actively promoting YEC.

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Of course not. A major goal of the ID movement is to sneak creationism past the legal barriers that exist in the US that prevent from being taught in schools and endorsed by other state entities. Endorsing YEC would undermine that effort.

It is more revealing that, AFAIK, the DI has never come out with an explicit statement affirming the correct age of the universe. No prizes for guessing why that is. Follow the money.


Your answer does not hold water, as you should be able to see if you pay attention to your own use of terms. Not only YEC but also OEC is a form of “creationism.” So by your logic, Discovery would avoid publishing books that appear to endorse OEC. But that’s not the case. Have a look at Casey Luskin’s essays on human origins in the Science and Human Origins book. Is he not there casting doubt on the origin of human beings from apelike ancestors, and implying, or at least regarding as a serious possibility, the special creation of man? And would that not run afoul of legal bans on teaching creationism?