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

That’s what I was going for. Specifically, I was looking for a definition that would draw a line between Michael Behe and @swamidass.


If it walks like a creationist, and quacks like a creationist, then it’s a creationist.

@Eddie seems to want a rigid dictionary definition of “creationist”. But that’s not how language works.


It should be clear to anyone who has followed the ID movement that insisting on the sort of definition of “Creationism” that @Eddie advocates is part of a broader strategy to insinuate creationism into school curriculum in the guise of “intelligent design” or “teaching the controversy.”


An astounding statement, if you have read my article above. In fact, I established my definition inductively. I examined the usage not only as reported in dictionaries, but in a wide range of non-dictionary texts. Did you read what I wrote?

Quite the opposite. You fail to understand the difference between “establishing the normal meaning of a term in the language” and “endorsing the contents of the term as true.” I think that “creationism,” as I have defined it, is a FALSE teaching about reality. So not only do I not think it should be taught in the schools, I don’t think it should even be believed by anyone.

Of course, I do believe that the world was created, but that is not the same as upholding “creationism,” which is a much narrower belief, as I demonstrated by an inductive philological study.

My personal history is one of strong opposition to creationism, as defined above, from the time I was maybe ten years old. I never went to any fundamentalist church (only to mushy mainstream churches which are fine with evolution), and I came to a position that was ID-friendly not through creationism, but from academic study of science, philosophy, and the history of ideas (including the history of science) in a secular university setting. When ID came along, my ideas about design, chance, teleology, Darwin, etc. were already well-formed; it was not ID authors who first persuaded me that there was design in nature; I already held that view. What ID gave me was more detailed documentation of that order and design, in terms of the molecular world, and the fine-tuning of nature.

I’m dead against bringing the Bible or any religious revelation into science class as the basis of any argument about how nature works. In science class, observation, experiment, mathematics, and general reasoning are what should be employed, not theology or textual exegesis. I’m certainly opposed to the old creationist program of “equal time” in science class for Creation Science and evolution. And so is Discovery.

As for ID, I’m of the view that ID is not sufficiently developed theoretically to warrant a place in the science curriculum as yet. What the future may bring, I cannot say. If more and more evidence emerges of design in nature, it may be that design in nature will become an acceptable position in mainstream science. If and when that happens, then of course ID should and will find its way into the curriculum. But for now, it should stay out.

But that doesn’t mean that everything taught under the name of “evolution” in the schools should get an uncritical pass. All of science, all of every subject in the schools, needs to be taught critically; students need to be encouraged to learn, not just the latest conclusions accepted by the majority, but how those conclusions were reached, and how all knowledge is tentative and revisable. That goes not just for evolution, but for all claims of absolute certainty, whether regarding climate change, or the latest dogmas about what foods are good for you what foods aren’t, or the claim that we can get “universes for free” out of “nothing.”

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Faizal Ali’s procedure for proving that “creationism” includes ID involves assembling quotations from very recent authors and sources, all of whom are biased partisans in current debates surrounding ID. Basically, his argument is: “Lots of partisan people in very recent years call ID creationism, and therefore that is legitimate usage.” But what “lots of partisan people” say is not a measure of the general usage of terms in a language. To establish that, one needs a wider inductive study. Faizal Ali has just cherry-picked a bunch of recent sources who employ the same misuse of “creationism” that he does; there is nothing scholarly, objective, or historical about his study. In contrast, my study of the word made use of a much wider range of sources (including many sources hostile to my own point of view regarding ID – a safety check Faizal Ali did not perform), and covered a much wider historical sweep.

Lots of people nowadays confuse the meanings of “infer” and “imply”; is it correct to use the terms interchangeably, merely because there are many linguistically incompetent people writing nowadays? I hope not. People should familiarize themselves with the standard use of terms before they apply them. The people who would call Behe a “creationist” do not understand the standard meaning of the word.

But as I’ve already indicated, this is not merely a question of philological incompetence. There is a political agenda. As I have already demonstrated (and Faizal Ali has not yet answered the objection), any definition that would make Michael Behe a “creationist” would also make Ken Miller one (both are Christian, both Catholic, both think God created everything, and both endorse bacterium to man progression), yet Eugenie Scott and the NCSE never called Ken Miller a “creationist.” The motivation for this preferential treatment is obviously political. “Creationism” is a term of reproach in NCSE vocabulary, and they weren’t going to attack one of their own members, Ken Miller, by using that term to describe his views. That Faizal Ali can’t recognize this blatant politicization of vocabulary is proof that he himself is politicized in exactly the same way as the NCSE. He cannot stand back and examine the meaning of words with historical, empirical objectivity.


That’s being too generous with Eddie. For instance, here is one of the examples @Eddie used, which he thinks demonstrates the use of the word “Creationism” that he endorses:

Eddie seems to think that, on the basis of this quote, Scott places Michael Behe on the same side of that divide as the “evolutionists.” Isn’t that just hilarious?

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At the start of this thread Faizal Ali offered a definition of creationism. Please elucidate why that definition would make Ken Miller a creationist.

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Here, Eddie. Read what Behe has to say himself:

Scott refers to me as an intelligent design “creationist,” even though I clearly write in my book Darwin’s Black Box (which Scott cites) that I am not a creationist and have no reason to doubt common descent.

Isn’t that odd? Eugenie Scott, the person you cited in your own post, uses the word “creationist” in exactly the manner that I suggest. according to Michael Behe himself.

How could that be, Eddie?


Please try to follow the discussion. This started way back, before you entered the fray. I pointed out back then, that the definition of “creationism” that was being employed by the NCSE in relation to Michael Behe would apply equally well to Ken Miller, and I pointed out that the NCSE carefully avoided labeling Miller as a creationist, while gleefully doing so with Behe. I was talking about that, but Faizal Ali never answered my point. So I raised it again above.

I am not claiming that Faizal Ali’s current philologically incompetent attempt at defining the word would apply to Ken Miller. I discount Faizal Ali’s presentation as philologically worthless, for reasons set forth above, so I wouldn’t bother to use it for any purpose.

I am not aware of what definition they were using. If it labels Ken Miller a creationist, it’s a crappy one. But I want you to first demonstrate that it would do so. Thanks.

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Hmm. So your definition of “philologically worthless” is “consistent with the word’s use in the scholarly literature”?

OK, sure, right.


I suggest that you read it:

Scott refers to me as an intelligent design “creationist,” even though I clearly write in my book Darwin’s Black Box (which Scott cites) that I am not a creationist and have no reason to doubt common descent. In fact, my own views fit quite comfortably with the 40% of scientists that Scott acknowledges think “evolution occurred, but was guided by God.”

Behe makes exactly the point that I am making. The point is that Scott is using the word “creationist” wrongly in applying it to Behe. And Behe’s complaint is justified in terms of the actual usage of the word over the past century – as my study showed. Scott is deliberately misusing the term for political purposes, which was another of my points.

Since philology is not your field, and it is my field, let me give you a bit of instruction. When one is deciding whether or not a current contested use of a term is in line with established usage, one can’t use the very authors who are employing the contested use as evidence of established usage. That would be arguing circularly.

Here is an example: “Obama was a Communist.” Now, suppose that I could find a hundred examples in right-wing political literature written in the past 15 years in which Obama was called a “Communist.” Would that prove that the writers understood the meaning of “Communism” and were applying it correctly to Obama? No, it would not. The proper way of handling that claim would be to look at the standard usage of the term “Communism” over a significant period of time, by a significant range of writers, and then decide whether the policies of actions of Obama could be classed as “Communist,” based on that philological study.

This is exactly what you have failed to do. You haven’t first established dispassionately the usage of “creationism” in American popular debate, and then gone to recent writers like Eugenie Scott and the NCSE people, and tested their usage to see if it’s in line with established usage. You have simply treated it as established usage because that’s the way they use it – which is begging the question.

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Whereas you assembled quotations also from biased partisans, but misrepresented or misunderstood them.

Afraid I come out ahead on that score, Eddie.


No, he just didn’t like the way she used it.

Anyway, you are ignoring the main point: You had cited Scott as an example of someone who uses the word “creationist” in the way you think it should be used. Now, all of a sudden, you say she’s using it incorrectly because her use hurt Michael Behe’s little fee-fee’s, poor thing.

You don’t seem to understand the sources you are citing, since they actually support the argument I am making.


In either scholarly literature or popular debate, the newfangled, polemically-driven usage that would make Behe a creationist is non-standard.

I already explained this, more than once. Miller and Behe both affirm that God created the world, and both affirm descent with modification from bacterium to man. So how can you call one a creationist and the other an evolutionist? Both would be “theistic evolutionists” in common parlance. And Denton would be either a theistic evolutionist or a deistic evolutionist. Neither Denton nor Behe are creationists, unless Ken Miller is also one. So choose your poison: concede that Miller is a creationist, or admit that Behe isn’t one. You can’t have it both ways.

Am I alone in finding this whole discussion useless and, worse, uninteresting? It began with a complaint about the term “intelligent design creationism”. Whether that term makes sense requires both a definition of “creationism” and an idea of who or what it’s being applied to. Neither of these questions has a single answer, there being multiple definitions and multiple applications.

Now it’s devolved into whether Michael Behe, specifically, deserves to be called that. This is a tempest in Russell’s teapot.


Umm, sorry. You’re just begging the question here by assuming the examples of usage in the manner that I endorse are “newfangled” and “polemically-driven”. You just have to dismiss them because they prove you wrong.

If you want “polemically driven”, only look at the ID Creationists’ efforts to relabel creationism as “Intelligent Design”. I don’t think even you believe the propaganda you’re spewing here.

LOL! Sorry, no. I reject your fake definition and, instead, use the one I have suggested which is appropriate to how the term is used in the specific context of the evolution-creationism debate. By that definition, Miller and Behe are on opposite sides of the debate. Your use of the term would put them on the same side. You really think that has even the slightest resemblance to reality?


Yes, that is actually my position, and perhaps I soft-pedalled it too much in my OP,

I do not claim my use of the term is the correct one. It is a correct one and, in the context of the evolution/creation debate, the one that best defines the two sides of that debate IMHO.

Well, I suppose I could be a bit like that, too. That is, if I were ever actually wrong about something. :smiley:

No, you don’t understand at all. Scott sometimes uses the term correctly, and other times doesn’t. When she uses it to apply to Ken Ham or Henry Morris, she uses it correctly. She misuses it when she applies it to Behe and to many other ID proponents, because those particular ID proponents do not match the standard meaning of “creationist.”

Exactly, which is why I provided a lengthy article outlining the common meaning of the term in popular debates about origins. I showed that as the term “creationism” has been generally used, Behe and Denton are not creationists. Faizal Ali is resisting this, not because he can find any fault with my philological and historical discussion, but because he wants to call Behe and Denton creationists regardless of standard usage. I’m simply recording that his usage is non-standard, and stating that I reject it for that reason.

But I agree with you that the discussion is no longer constructive. Faizal is unwilling to even consider masses of evidence for established usage, and he is determined to count the very recent and partisan usage that is itself under challenge as if it were established usage. He is not going to budge on this; his position will continue to be: “Lots of recent anti-ID writing speaks of “ID creationism”, so “ID creationism” must be a legitimate term.” My example of people who think Obama was Communist ought to be enough to get him to see that partisan current usage, even if frequent, is not a reliable guide to established usage, but I don’t think he will get the point – or concede it even if he does get it.

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LOL! Right, Eddie. Or maybe she uses it consistently, and your insistence that yours is the only right way is just wrong.

Works for me.