On the current usage of the term "creationist" as applied to ID


No, it doesn’t. It means what it says, and no more. Behe and Miller disagree over whether design would be needed in evolution. Behe thinks yes, Miller thinks no. About evolution itself, the reality of it, they have no dispute.

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OK, so no answer to my other question. I tried.

I’m with Rum and John. Done.

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Thank the Lord!

Thank you Lord Faizal!

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I read what you wrote. I have already pointed out these facts.

  1. Your analysis was confined strictly to “usage of “creationist” and “creationism” (when these terms are used without an adjective in front of them)”. This immediately skews the results.

  2. You did not mention that “creation by evolution” has been used since at least 1873.

  3. You did not mention that “evolutionary creationism” has been used since at least 1910.

  4. You did not mention that “intelligent design creationism” is a widely used term, and has been used since at least 1996.

Why did you not mention these facts?


I was establishing the basic meaning of the unadorned term. That was important in the rhetorical context of the modern debates, because people like Eugenie Scott deliberately appeal to the readers’ and hearers’ familiarity with that unadorned term. Eugenie etc. know that as soon as the word “creationist” is heard in the popular American context, the listener will tend to hear: (1) rejection of evolution; (2) Bible as an authority on origins that trumps science. Eugenie knew perfectly well that when she used the term “ID creationist”, the readers and listeners would pick up “creationists of the ID variety”, and thus “people who reject evolution and rest their views on the Bible and also make design arguments.” That was her intention in using the term. If you can’t see that, you don’t know very much about rhetoric, and you don’t know very much about the motivations of the players in the American debate.

Your points 2 and 3 are irrelevant. I was not denying any of those things, but they aren’t relevant to the context. The foes of ID never call IDers “evolutionary creationists”; they call them “ID creationists” – and the context in which ID is being attacked makes clear that “ID creationists” reject “evolution.”

Behe and Denton could with reason be called “evolutionary creationists”, if by that you mean what used to be called “theistic evolutionists”. But Scott never refers to either of them by either name. They are lumped under “ID creationists” – in an effort to generate as much scorn for their views as for the views of IDers who don’t accept evolution. The goal was to get her readers to think: “Ken Ham, Michael Behe – same thing.”

Yes, widely used, as a polemical misuse; of course I’m aware of that – it’s exactly this widely misused term that I’m protesting. And the fact that it dates back only to about 1996 – near the beginnings of ID’s public prominence – only reinforces my point. From the beginning, ID’s foes were trying to paint ID as just another version of creationism. And the negative connotations of “creationism” come from exactly the historical understanding of the term that I ably documented. From Scott’s point of view, “creationism” is the view held by people who are too blinded by religion and too incompetent in science to be worth listening to, and “ID creationism” will naturally be a mere variation on those defects.

Faizal Ali was appealing to the same prejudices, the same connotations of the word “creationism” – connotations which survive intact in the phrase “ID creationism”. You have been complicit in Faizal’s polemically motivated usage, by not challenging it in the cases of Behe and Denton. But that is not at all surprising. Your track record of agreeing with atheists and materialists on most issues, both here and on BioLogos, is very close to 100%.

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That’s what I’ve pointed out. The issue is, doing this excludes a large body of evidence contradicting your claim that “creationist” and “creationism” are incompatible with “evolution” and “evolutionary”, and excludes a large body of evidence that Intelligent Design has been understood as a kind of creationism for many years. So you were cherry picking, as I said.

They are relevant precisely because you claimed that “creationist” and “creationism” are considered incompatible with “evolution” and “evolutionary”, when this is clearly untrue. They are also relevant because they demonstrate your claim that “evolutionary creationism” is a recent neologism, is also untrue. In fact these terms predate the term “Intelligent Design” by many decades.

Well yes, and there’s obviously nothing wrong with that.

Here are your two problems.

  1. You don’t provide any evidence that it is a polemical misuse.
  2. There is a great deal of evidence contradicting your claim that this term is confusing people.

They identified ID as another version of creationism, because ID people presented it as just another version of creationism.

Thank you for the compliment.


I never said that the words could not be combined with other words to give a different meaning. What I said was that the words “creationism” and “creationist”, when used by themselves, are generally understood, in American popular discourse on origins, to indicate an anti-evolutionary position. And that is correct, as I demonstrated by an inductive study of a wide range of sources, including many sources written by people who are hostile to some of my own positions on origins.

Further, we are not talking about the compound phrase “evolutionary creationism” here; we are talking about the compound phrase “ID creationism”. And while “evolutionary creationism” does not convey the impression of anti-evolutionism is, “ID creationism” has been deliberately and calculatingly used to convey the impression of anti-evolutionism.

As I have many times explained, the phrase “ID creationism” picks up on the general understanding of “creationism” outlined in my discussion, and is used to create the impression that ID as such is antievolutionary, and that all ID proponents are creationists. That is exactly the sense it was intended to convey by Scott and the NCSE, and we can see that it’s exactly how Faizal Ali uses the phrase. He is so stuck on that meaning that he is willing to insist that Behe and Denton are creationists, when they are actually evolutionists. He is unwilling to even look at what Behe and Denton actually say about evolution; the label “ID creationist” is enough, in his mind, to guarantee that Behe and Denton can’t be evolutionists. That shows just how successful Scott’s rhetorical campaign was, that she has been able to transmit a false description of the views of many ID proponents to the public, by the clever use of a culturally loaded word, i.e., “creationism.” It was a masterpiece of demagogical strategy.

Yes there is something wrong with it, when Faizal Ali and the NCSE group Behe among the “ID creationists,” because Behe is not a creationist. Not only does he say explicitly that he is not a creationist, but his views don’t fit the common popular usage of “creationist.” Scott wants the public to believe, and Faizal Ali wants the public to believe, that Behe, like Ken Ham, rejects common descent. That’s why they insist on calling Behe a “creationist”; it’s a deliberate misrepresentation of what Behe says, and is dishonest. Even John Harshman, no lover of Behe, grants that Behe accepts evolutionary change.

I’ve provided massive evidence, but just to repeat two examples:


These two examples prove that ID is not, as such, “creationist” and that there are evolutionists within the ID camp. Since Scott and the NCSE consciously tried to conceal this fact from the public, their intentions were clearly polemical – to make ID seem stupid and backwards in the public eye by presenting all its adherents as “creationists.”

False. Behe and Denton have never presented their views as another version of creationism. Obviously you have not read their books, listened to their interviews, etc. In fact, in the piece linked by Faizal Ali today, Behe explicitly denied being creationist:

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Are you saying that Miller denies the existence of non-Darwinian evolutionary mechanisms, or are you just reflexively making your favorite polemic misrepresentation?

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I recently saw a report of Behe backpedalling on common descent. Something on the lines of the truth of common descent isn’t his focus, but his colleagues in the Intelligent Design movement have good arguments against it.


Does Behe believe in “bacteria to man” evolution, or “bacteria to man” divine tinkering?

I didn’t say you did.

Which fits ID, which is typically anti-evolutionary as you have yourself acknowledged.

I am talking about both, because I am addressing your claims about both.

But ID is typically anti-evolutionary, as you have acknowledged.

You are not addressing what I wrote. I wrote “ID people presented it as just another version of creationism”. That statement is not falsified by whatever Behe and Denton have or have not done. For someone who supposedly studied logic at university, you don’t seem very good at it.

So I will say it again; ID people have presented ID as just another version of creationism. In fact they took a book on creationism, and replaced every instance of “creationism” with “Intelligent Design”, and every instance of “creationist” with “Intelligent Design proponent”. This proves they believed the two positions were equivalent.

If you don’t want to be called a creationist, we could call you an ID creationist, or perhaps a “cdesignproponentist”.

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Why can’t you be intellectually honest enough to simply say:

"You are right, Eddie. Not all ID proponents are creationists, and Eugenie Scott and the NCSE were morally wrong to represent all ID proponents as such. All claims that IDers are creationist should be accompanied by a qualifier, e.g., ‘Most IDers are creationists.’ "


“If ID were inherently creationist, then Discovery, being an ID organization, would never have published four books by Michael Denton, and highlighted his work in numerous podcasts and interviews. It must be the case, then, that within ID as a theory there is room for acceptance of evolution.”


“ID argumentation does not require acceptance of the truth of Genesis or any other revealed book.”

That fact that you can’t bring yourself to make these admissions, when you know that these admissions are all that I’m asking for, says a lot about your own personal motivations.

Can you be intellectually honest enough to say that ID people took a book on creationism, and replaced every instance of “creationism” with “Intelligent Design”, and every instance of “creationist” with “Intelligent Design proponent”?

I am perfectly happy to say that this is theoretically possible.

You’ll need to show me very clearly what you mean by this, because you’ve been very vague and elusive on this point in the past.

I can’t say that because it’s a logical fallacy; specifically a non sequitur (you really aren’t good with logic). Meanwhile, can you point to an official definition of ID which says something like “The belief that life was the product of an intelligent designer, either through evolution or through an as yet undiscovered mechanism”?

I have already addressed this previously; it’s irrelevant to the point being made. I am perfectly happy to say this, but it doesn’t address the point under discussion. It’s your attempt to change the subject.

Surely you’re not judging my motivations are you? Surely you’re not doing that thing that you complain about when you think other people are doing it to you?

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I know I said I was bowing out of this discussion, but I’m going back on my word because I think your statement below helps specify the nature of our disagreement:

What should have been clear is that we are disagreeing over the definition of the word “evolution” as much as over the word “creationism.” I would disagree when you say that Miller and Behe both accept evolution. Rather, their point of agreement is over the narrower issue of common descent. And, if you look thru the argument you have been making, it has been premised on the assumption that acceptance of common descent is sufficient to define a person as one who accepts evolution. That is part of your argument that I have been disputing, though perhaps not as explicitly as I should have been, and therefore your entire line of argument is based on a question that has been begged.

So, to be clear: I believe that acceptance of common ancestry is necessary, but not sufficient, grounds to define a viewpoint as “evolution.”

OTOH, you accept that Behe is arguing for “Design”, and this is a necessary aspect of the ideology of creationism. I hope you will agree that one cannot be considered a creationist if one does not believe that aspects of the universe are the result of design by an intelligent being.

However, design is not and never has been part of the definition of “evolution.” If you disagree, I suggest you repeat your attempt at a philological assessment and search out instances in which the term “evolution” has been used in a scientific context to refer to ideas that entail “design.”

My position is that, by virtue of his insistence on “design” as part of his idea, Behe is firmly established as part of the creationist ideology, and not at all as part of the scientific discussion that goes on about the theory of evolution. And this is reflected in the response his ideas have received. Behe has been widely and enthusiastically embraced by the creationist community, despite his acceptance of common descent. On the other hand, to the point his ideas have been acknowledged at all by the scientific community, they have been all but universally dismissed, when they are not openly mocked and ridiculed. This includes members of his own faculty. Whereas if any of the hardcore YEC members of the Discovery Institute have taken Behe to task over his embrace of common descent, it would be news to me.

So my definition of the term “evolution” and “creationism” is an attempt to reflect this reality. Your redefinition on the terms, OTOH, is a thinly veiled attempt to insinuate that Behe is part of the serious, scholarly, scientific discussion regarding evolution. You attempt to suggest that the disagreement between Miller and Behe over “design” is no different than, say, the disagreement between two evolutionary biologists over whether speciation is predominantly sympatric or allopatric.

IOW, my definition is an honest attempt to have words better reflect the reality they are trying to represent, and yours is a dishonest attempt to misuse language to make a polemic argument.


Nice. This is why we have people such as Behe, who accept common descent (which the Disco Institute hates), but who also claims some kind of “design” and who makes arguments opposing the modern evolutionary synthesis (which the Disco Institute loves), being claimed as IDers. IDers such as the Disco Institute claim him for their side because of his usefulness in opposing evolution.

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I don’t know if they think it thru that well. They also embrace outright YEC goofballs like John Sanford. I think they are just smitten by anyone with an actual science degree.


I wasn’t intending it as a formal logical argument, so your criticism is irrelevant. There is such a thing as “common sense”, and your mechanical mode of reasoning (black/white, on/off) fails to pick it up. On the view that Discovery is anti-evolution, it would not make sense for Discovery to so strongly highlight the work of Denton, even if doing so would not contradict any rule of logic.

Dead wrong. It is very relevant. One of the two key elements in my definition of creationism is acceptance of Genesis (and the Bible generally) and basing arguments about nature on Genesis. Since ID proponents don’t do that, they are lacking one of the two key elements of creationism. And since some ID proponents are evolutionists, ID cannot be said to uniformly exhibit the other key element, which is anti-evolutionism.

I’ve been razor-sharp and direct. And I even highlighted a quotation where Behe directly addresses Eugenie Scott’s misuse of the label “creationist” regarding himself. The fact that you don’t read or understand clear and explicit statements that are right in front of your eyes is not my problem.

An official definition is not necessary, as long as ID proponents indicate clearly that common descent is a possible position for an ID proponent – as they have done many times. I have many times provided Discovery statements (if not here, then on BioLogos, when you were present) indicating that ID does not preclude acceptance of common descent. You pretend that such statements don’t exist, so either you haven’t read them, or you are willfully blocking them out. But here is one for you:

“Does this mean that proponents of intelligent
design are committed to species being suddenly or
specially created from scratch, with all evolutionary
change taking place subsequent to such special
creations and limited strictly to small-scale, within-species
change? No. Intelligent design is compatible
with the creationist idea of species being suddenly
created from scratch. But it is also compatible with
the Darwinian idea of new species arising from old
through successive generations of offspring gradually
diverging from a parental type, or what Darwin
called “descent with modification.” What separates
intelligent design from materialistic accounts of
evolution is not whether organisms evolved, but
what was responsible for their evolution—purely
material mechanisms or the activity of intelligence.”

Dembski and Wells, The Design of Life, General Notes CD, p. 24

And here is another:

“I first need to make clear that living things can be the product both of intelligent design and of common descent. If the designer chose to guide the process of gradual change from species to species, that would be both common descent and intelligent design. In other words, intelligent design theory does not require that common descent is false.”

Ann Gauger, Evolution News and Views, Nov. 1, 2018, at:

And here is still another:

"As those of us at Discovery Institute have emphasized for a long time, intelligent design is not incompatible with the idea that living things share a common ancestor. In other words, one can believe that nature displays evidence of intentional design, and still believe in common descent.

"Indeed, I would argue that one of the forebears of the modern intelligent design movement is none other than Alfred Russel Wallace, who is credited with Darwin as co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Wallace believed that nature displayed powerful evidence of design by an overruling intelligence. Today, Discovery Institute has a number of affiliated scholars who similarly affirm the idea of common descent, including biologist Michael Behe and geneticist Michael Denton. Denton makes his views clear in his book Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis, which Discovery Institute Press published earlier this year.

“Of course, we have other affiliated scholars who are strongly critical of universal common descent, the claim that all living things are descended from one original primordial organism. I think that our diversity on this issue is a good thing.”

John West (top man at Discovery), Evolution News and Views, May 14, 2016

I could multiply these almost at will, but these examples, from top people at Discovery and in the ID community, are more than sufficient to establish the point that one can accept evolutionary change and still be an ID proponent.

I have no doubt that you will try to do some sophisticated word-twisting to make out that these statements don’t mean what they would appear to mean to any normal user of the English language, but people who aren’t partisans will, after reading them, grant that Discovery and ID theory allow for acceptance of common descent from a single ancestor, that ID theory is not in principle anti-evolution, even though many individual ID theorists do reject evolution. And in any case, if I wished I could drown you in more statements, and then you would have to explain all those away, too. But it’s not worth my time to do more than this. I’m not writing these examples for you, anyway, since I know from years of experience that you are too partisan ever to to withdraw a point; I’m writing them for others here who have open minds, and are willing to let ID proponents speak for themselves, rather than through the filter of partisans like you.


Why can’t you be intellectually honest enough to simply say:

“Yes guys, I was wrong. The term Creationist has a much broader meaning than just a strict literal Genesis believer. ID as presented by the Discovery Institute is indeed a form of creation since the premise is the Christian God used supernatural powers to directly intervene and create the biological entities we see today”

But admitting you were wrong would be a brand new experience for you.