On the Use of the Term "Creationism" in Popular Debate in the Past Century or So

That’s a book intended for a general audience. I asked for research.

Some helpful reading for you:

You also might not realize that Denton’s ideas had been empirically tested a few decades before he wrote his book. Can you guess the results?


On the contrary, this response demonstrates that even the people you refer to as “Intelligent Design Proponents” recognize that the term is synonymous with “Creationist”, to the point that they used the terms completely interchangeably when rewriting their textbook.

It’s still a great joke they pulled on themselves.


And as we have shown, ID was invented specifically to oppose evolution, which is why opposition to evolution is a typical characteristic of ID literature. ID theory has not only taken a side regarding “evolution vs creation”, it was invented specifically to promote one side, the anti-evolution side. ID is not neutral on the topic of evolution, and routinely opposes it, just like creationism.

How unsurprising.


I don’t dispute that, but the reality is that most ID proponents are, as you said, creationists. I’d go further and say that most of these same people do not understand the distinction between ID & creationism, or if they do, have little use for it. In practical terms, ID theory continues to exist in our culture only because of creationist support. Without it, it would quietly fade away.

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No, it can’t. Because there is no such thing as “ID Theory”, as even the founder of the movement admitted:

I also don’t think that there is really a theory of intelligent design at the present time to propose as a comparable alternative to the Darwinian theory, which is, whatever errors it might contain, a fully worked out scheme. There is no intelligent design theory that’s comparable. Working out a positive theory is the job of the scientific people that we have affiliated with the movement. Some of them are quite convinced that it’s doable, but that’s for them to prove…No product is ready for competition in the educational world. - Phillip E. Johnson (Berkley Science Review, Spring 2006)


But as I have already pointed out, I am not talking about the use of the word “creationism” by itself. As I have pointed out, you are trying to appeal to the use of the word “creaitonism” by itself as justification for why it should not be used in combination with other words you don’t like. However that’s just your personal opinion. Meanwhile, thousands of other people are doing the thing you don’t like, and have been doing so for a century or more.

Total nonsense. As I demonstrated, the use of “creation by evolution” dates to at least 1973, and the use of “evolutionary creationism” dates to at least 1910, both of them predating even the term “Intelligent Design”. People have been using these terms for 100 years without any confusion.

No I don’t. I’ve demonstrated that in this case there is a weight of an entire century of use of the very language to which you object, and which you claim is so confusing. These terms have become well established, and are very widespread. Clearly you were totally ignorant of this.

This is disproved easily by the fact that people have been using the word “creationism” paired with the qualifying adjective “evolutionary” for over a century, without engendering confusion.

I think that there is (1) the question of what is the logical definition of “creationism”, but there is also (2) the question of what most onlookers think the word means, and (3) the question of whether creationists call themselves “creationist[s]”. My distinct impression is that in the 1980s, with the rise of “scientific creationism” most of its advocates were happy to call themselves creationist. By about 25 years later, with creationism in rather bad odor among many Americans, even YECs were often acting offended when called creationist, and insisting on being called “Design Theorists”. How dare we call them an insulting word like “creationist”? And there is also the issue that their arguments would impress federal judges a lot less if they came from “creationists”. So in addition to pure logic, politics comes in.


That’s practically an Orwellian oxymoron given the contempt typically shown to science by “scientific creationists”. The same applies to “Creation Science”.6

Wrong, because you have not grasped the normal usage of the term “creationist.” I spelled it out in detail in my mini-essay above, but apparently you haven’t read it – or haven’t the philological training to recognize a competent linguistic discussion. Not everybody who believes in “deliberate creation” is a “creationist” – or else all Jews, Muslims and Christians are by definition “creationists.” And as I already explained, that would not reflect how the term “creationist” has been used in popular debates about origins over the past 100 years. The fact that you are willing set yourself up as above the general usage of the country you live in, and impose an arbitrary definition of “creationism” on the discussion, says a lot about you.

But it contains a summary of much research. And research doesn’t cease to be valid research just because someone else summarizes it and marshals it into an argument.

I find it interesting that you quote Larry Moran from Sandwalk. Larry, by his own admission, has never had an article published on evolutionary theory in a peer-reviewed journal; he’s just a biochemist who mouths off about evolution on his private time (and on his university’s dime). He does nothing more than what Denton does – read up on evolutionary theory and present his own interpretation of its results. Not a shred of research. Research in biochemistry yes – though I suspect even most of that was years ago. But research in evolutionary theory? Not a published example. Your double standard is highly visible.

No, they don’t. You are almost completely ignorant of the ID literature; you have read close to zero of it. Your impressions are almost entirely formed from secondhand and thirdhand encounters. Try reading for a change. It’s how one becomes informed. (At least, in fields other than psychiatry, which I can’t speak for.)

As for “their textbook”, that’s absurd. The book you are alluding to was aimed at popular audiences and very young high-schoolers, is decades old, and has played no significant part in ID thinking for over 20 years. If you want to know what ID thinking is about, you need to read the works the ID people themselves regard as their major achievements: The Design of Life, Darwin’s Black Box, The Edge of Evolution, Darwin’s Doubt, Signature in the Cell, No Free Lunch, Denton’s fine-tuning trilogy published by Discovery, and so on. It’s evident to me from your discussion that you have only the most glancing acquaintance with the contents of any of these books. That a professor affiliated with the prestigious University of Toronto should so willingly base his case on hearsay and hostile secondhand and thirdhand accounts, says a great deal about how far the standards at that formerly great school have plummeted.

Wrong. Some key ID leaders, heavily promoted by Discovery through books and podcasts, are evolutionists.

No, not “just like creationism.” Creationism opposes not only certain claims about evolutionary mechanism, but even the process of descent with modification. ID has no position on descent with modification, its adherents holding diverse views on that subject; its quarrel is against the over-reliance of chance as a mechanism for producing specified complexity. ID replaces “creation vs. evolution” with “design vs. chance”, and thus reframes the debate. The debate is much better off with this reframing.

By the way, you seem to be contradicting yourself. After lecturing me on the reasonableness of speaking of “evolutionary creationism” (which in your view is not opposed to evolution), you here indicate that creationism “routinely opposes” evolution – thus conceding the main point of my article above. When you hear the term “creationism,” you hear the same thing that I and everyone else hears: opposition to evolution.

I agree with all of this.

Sometimes this has happened, but quite a few YEC and OEC people still quite freely describe themselves as “creationists” without shame or apology, and would not hesitate to call themselves both design theorists and creationists. And it must also be insisted that some of the leading design theorists were never in the creationist camp (Behe), or had long left it behind before they started writing design-friendly books (Denton).

ID theory is in fact a “big tent” theory representing the intellectual alliance of creationists and non-creationists to defend such positions as they have in common. That makes it different from OEC, YEC, or TE/EC, which are all “small tent” theories, each insisting on things that ID does not insist on. (Inerrancy of the Bible and denial of descent with modification for YEC and OEC, post-Enlightenment concessions regarding the truth and literary character of the Bible plus rejection of or indifference to vast swaths of Christian theological tradition plus certainty of descent with modification and of the mainstream causal account of evolution for TE/EC.) The ID community is the most scientifically and theologically diverse of all the “origins” communities. That’s probably why so many of its opponents have a hard time “reading” it. It’s easier to grasp a position whose adherents march in perfect step with each other, all agreeing on a common scientific or theological creed, than it is to grasp a position which is built on respect for diversity on all non-essential issues. One can very quickly learn what YEC is about, or what Dawkins is about, but it takes longer to sort out what ID is about.

For those within the ID community, the scientific, philosophical, and religious diversity is refreshing and exciting, a feature rather than a bug. For those in the other camps, the judgment is likely to be the reverse. That’s the nature of the beast.

Having failed to redefine ‘creationist’ so that it doesn’t include ID, Eddie is now trying to redefine ‘evolution’ and ‘evolutionist’ so that they do include ID.

Unfortunately for Eddie, evolution in biology doesn’t just mean “descent with modification”.

Even more unfortunately for Eddie, his own definition of “Creationism” (denying the reality of bacterium-to-man evolution) is compatible with the IDers’ own definition of ID (some features of living things are best explained as the products of design). So IDers are creationists by Eddie’s own definition.


You misunderstand me, as usual. I did not dismiss Denton’s book on he basis that he has not done much research himself. I simply am pointing out that I asked for research done by ID proponents, and that you had failed to provide that. Are you able to do so?

Two words: “cdesign proponentsists”. That is from the “ID literature”, in the sense that it was written by ID proponents. Inadvertently, of course, but it is clear evidence that they are being disingenuous when they insist the ID is not creationism. The misprint, much like a Freudian slip is claimed to do, reveals what they really think when the believe no one is listening. They used the words synonymously when revising their textbook.

I will again make myself clear: I do not spend much time reading the words of ID Creationists themselves because they have overwhelmingly been demonstrated to be untrustworthy and false in what they write. For the same reason, I have never read a single book or article by a Holocaust denier but still feel justifed in my position that the Holocaust happened as described in standard history texts. Do you feel differently? Do you think we should not call people “Holocaust deniers” if they insist that they are just providing an viable alternative view of history? Do we need their permission to call them “Holocaust deniers”? I don’t. So I am just being consistent when I call ID proponents “creationists” even though it hurts their feelings and helps thwart their dishonest anti-science agenda.

I’m afraid that, once again, I have educate you about the ID Creationist movement since you insist on making false statements about it. The most recent edition of “Of Panda’s and People” was released in 2008, not “decades” ago. Of course, after the Dover debacle they had to change the title. But it is still a new edition of the TEXTBOOK (which is another thing you have ridiculously denied: That it was written as a textbook).

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My apologies for missing part of your original question. What you asked me was this:

“Could you cite some of the research from other ID Creationists who dispute or disagree with Meyer’s suggestion?”

In the context, where I had just explained that Meyer’s “interventionist” view was different from that of some other ID proponents, I thought you were asking me for an example of an ID proponent who disagreed with Meyer about the need for supernatural intervention. So I gave you Denton. I missed the word “research,” however. But now that I see it, I see that it’s not relevant to our topic here. Our topic here is “the use of the term ‘creationism’ in popular debate in the past century” – not whether ID people do research and what that research is. If you want to talk about whether ID people do research, start your own topic with a suitable title, and people who are interested can discuss it with you.

No, because, as I have tried to point out to your willfully deaf ears, “they” is an impertinent generalization. Not all ID proponents agree on everything, and the view expressed in just one of hundreds of ID books (and a book, I might add, not even published by Discovery), does not commit all ID proponents to agree with it. If you want to talk about the views of individual ID proponents, then go ahead and do so (but not here, since that is not the subject of my column); but please stop generalizing when you don’t have nearly enough familiarity with the distinct features of each individual ID proponent’s view. You want to talk and argue without first reading and learning, and that’s not the proper order of doing things.

A massively changed edition, with much old contents deleted, much new contents added, and entirely new authors (Bill Dembski and Jonathan Wells replacing Percival Davis and Dean Kenyon). The fact that you didn’t even notice these changes shows that you are just grabbing information quickly off the internet, as opposed to reading and studying what you are talking about before offering arguments.

Which is very evident, from your many misconceptions and errors regarding IDers and the contents of their books.

There are plenty of ID non-creationists you can read, if you are really interested in finding out more about ID. I already mentioned Denton’s Nature’s Destiny, and he has several other books, and there are also all of Behe’s books. Denton and Behe are ID evolutionists, not ID creationists.

You already have their permission, since they explicitly state that their intention is to deny the occurrence of the Holocaust. They are proud of being Holocaust deniers, and would not object at all to the label. ID, however, denies that it is creationism, so there is no parallel.

There are extensive discussions on the Discovery website, to which I have directed you and others here before, explaining in detail the differences between ID and creationism. You refuse to read those discussions. Further, there are ID proponents who are explicitly evolutionists, not creationists, as even John Harshman here, no friend of ID, has said (in the other discussion he called Behe essentially a theistic evolutionist). The definition of “creationism” set forth at length above – not my personal definition, but the definition of common American usage, established over the course of 100 years – shows such people not to be creationists. (Did you even bother to read my column above before commenting on this page?) All in all, it’s sheer verbal aggression on your part, and dialogue in bad faith, for you to call ID “creationism” against the express declaration of its proponents. There is no reason any ID proponent should treat you or your objections with any respect, when you show such disrespect to them as to slap a label on them which they have not only refused, but given lengthy and articulate reasons for refusing.

I can assure you that “hurt feelings” is not a concern of ID proponents. They are concerned about theoretical accuracy, and your description of their position is theoretically inaccurate, because you do not understand the meaning of the word “creationism” and because you do not understand what ID people are saying. Worse, your description’s theoretical inaccuracy is political in its effects; unable to refute the contents of ID, you resort to slapping a label on the theory which has odious social and political associations. This is a standard technique of demagogues everywhere, to use words loaded with connotations to work the emotions of the readers or listeners. I don’t know whether you are using this demagogical technique consciously (as the NCSE has done) or unconsciously, but either way, you should stop. It is sub-academic, sub-scholarly behavior.

A lot of them call themselves Holocaust revisionists, and other people refer to Holocaust skepticism.


The term “Holocaust denier” is studiously avoided by most of them, and frequently explicitly objected to. Eddie doesn’t know what he’s talking about.


You’re being captious again. The point is that the people called “Holocaust deniers,” whatever they choose to call themselves, do in fact deny that the Holocaust occurred (or deny that the scale of it was anywhere near what it actually was, which is tantamount to a complete denial). It is therefore correct to call them Holocaust deniers, regardless of what term they use to describe themselves.

That is not the case with ID. Many ID proponents are not creationists, and therefore to label the entire body of ID writers and thinkers “creationist” is actually incorrect. At the very least, anyone who uses the term “ID creationism” is intellectually and morally obliged to provide some sort of qualification to indicate that the term does not apply to all ID proponents. But that qualification is never offered, except in very rare cases where it is extracted from a few individuals when the generalization is challenged. Without the challenge, the unqualified expression would continue to be used, unimpeded by concerns about truth or accuracy.

I am not being captious. This was your statement.

Not only did you fail to provide any evidence for this, it’s demonstrably untrue. David Irving, famous for his Holocaust denial, is on record saying " I’m not a Holocaust denier".

But I am not labeling “the entire body of ID writers and thinkers “creationist””. I’m using the term “ID creationism”, remember? This is the issue you keep trying to avoid.


Yes, they are Creationists. Not all are literal Genesis YEC Creationists but they’re all “God did it” Creationists.

The ID movement is built on dishonesty and subterfuge, removing all references to God from their arguments for political reasons. But their position is still Creationism. All you’re doing is rote repeating the DI’s whiny protests because honest people call out their strategy for what it is.

It’s like the DI painted the word “DOG” on the side of a pig and tried to enter the porker in the Westminster Kennel Show. Everyone points out painting dog on a pig doesn’t make the pig be a dog but here comes Eddie hollering “BUT THE DI SAYS IT IS NOT A PIG, YOU MUST RESPECT THEIR WISHES!!”.