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Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.



Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Someday a Place for Us" - the History of Creationism

Happy Darwin Day! In the interests of inclusiveness, let's give a history of the "controversy," shall we?

The effectiveness of a doctrine does not come from its meaning but from its certitude. No doctrine however profound and sublime will be effective unless it is presented as the embodiment of the one and only truth…
If a doctrine is not unintelligible, it has to be vague; and if neither unintelligible nor vague, it has to be unverifiable. One has to get to heaven or the distant future to determine the truth of an effective doctrine. When some part of a doctrine is relatively simple, there is a tendency among the faithful to complicate and obscure it. Simple words are made pregnant with meaning and made to look like symbols in a secret message. There is thus an illiterate air about the most literate true believer. He seems to use words as if he were ignorant of their true meaning. Hence, too, his taste for quibbling, hair-splitting and scholastic tortuousness.
-Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, pp. 80-81, 1951

The Long History of the Demise of Evolution
1825: We are going to overthrow physical philosophy and the old earth concept. (Granville Penn)
1840: We are going to overthrow physical philosophy and the old earth concept. (John Murray)

22 November 1859: Origin of Species goes on sale and is a best-seller

1860: Charles Darwin’s book will be forgotten in a few years. (Richard Owen)

1866: Gregor Mendel’s seminal paper on heredity, “Experiments on Plant Hybridization,” is published in Proceedings of the Natural History Society of Brünn. Unfortunately, Darwin never sees this paper and despairs of finding the actual mechanism of heredity and natural selection. Mendel’s work languishes largely unknown, cited only three times in the next 35 years.

1871: We will overthrow astronomy, evolution, and the old earth concept. (Patrick M’Farlane)
1878: We will overthrow evolution once it “whimsically” concludes that man was actually descended from a dog. (Thomas Cooper)

1882: Charles Darwin dies.
1884: Gregor Mendel dies.

1894: Evolution’s influence is “ebbing.” (J. William Dawson)
1895: We will overthrow “flippancy” about the Flood. (F. R. Wegg-Prosser)

1900: Mendel’s work is rediscovered and the ensuing new field of genetics finally yields genotypic insights into natural selection

1903: “[T]he beginning of the end [of evolution] is at hand.” (Prof. Zockler)
1904: We will overthrow evolution. (Eberhard Dennert and Luther Tracy Townsend)
1912: We will overthrow “flippancy” about the Flood. (George Frederick Wright)
1924: We will overthrow evolution, the old earth concept, and this “flippancy” about the Flood. (George McCready Price)
1929 We will overthrow evolution. (Harold W. Clark)

1935: We will overthrow evolution and all the evidence for it. (Harry Rimmer)
1940: Evolution and all “false science” is in decline. We will overthrow evolution, the old earth concept, and this “flippancy” about the Flood. (L. Allen Higley)

1936–1947: Formulation of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis of Darwin’s and Mendel’s approaches

1961: “I concede micro-evolution, of course.” (Evan Shute)
1963: We will overthrow the Modern Synthesis, the old earth concept, and this “flippancy” about the Flood. (Henry Morris)

1968: Epperson v. Arkansas – the prohibition against teaching of evolution in Arkansas schools violates the Fourteenth Amendment

1971: Niles Eldridge and Stephen Jay Gould present their paper on evolution via Punctuated Equilibrium (P.E.) at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America. Creationists attempt to seize on P.E. as “proof against evolution”

1975: “There are many and varied theories of evolution today, but scientists who reject divine creation are beset with serious problems and these are being increasingly recognized.” (Clifford Wilson)
1976: We will overthrow the Modern Synthesis, the old earth concept, and this “flippancy” about the Flood. (Duane T. Gish)

1977: Stephen Jay Gould summarizes P.E. in Natural History magazine

1980: We will overthrow the Modern Synthesis. (Scott M. Huse)

1982: McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education – “equal time” for “creation science” is an attempt by a small group to “foist its religious beliefs on others” in violation of the the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

See also Creationism on Trial

1984: We will overthrow the Modern Synthesis, the old earth concept, and this “flippancy” about the Flood. (Henry M. Morris)
1987: “Every major pillar of Evolution has crumbled in the decade of the ‘80’s. (D. James Kennedy)

1987: Unfortunately for Mr. Kennedy, Edward v. Aguillard put the last nail in the coffin of “creation science” in schools – Louisiana’s “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction” violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

1988: More and more scientists are flocking to “abandon” evolution! (Luther D. Sunderland)
1989: More and more scientists are flocking to “abandon” the Modern Synthesis, geology (the old earth concept), and this “flippancy” about the Flood! (Henry M. Morris, not to be outdone)

1990: More and more scientists are flocking to “abandon” evolution! (Mark Looy)
1991: We will overthrow the Big Bang Theory, the Modern Synthesis, the old earth concept, and this “flippancy” about the Flood. (Duane T. Gish)
1993: Intelligent Design will replace natural selection. But “[t]his not an argument against Darwinian evolution.” (Percival Davis and Dean H. Kenyon)
1993: “Evolution theory itself has now collapsed under scientific scrutiny!” (T. V. Varughese)
1994: We will overthrow the Modern Synthesis and the old earth concept. (John D. Morris)
1994: We will overthrow the Big Bang Theory, the Modern Synthesis, the old earth concept, and this “flippancy” about the Flood. (Don Boys)
1995: We will overthrow the Big Bang Theory, the Modern Synthesis, the old earth concept, and this “flippancy” about the Flood. (Henry M. Morris)
1995: We will overthrow “Darwinism.” (Philip E. Johnson (not the architect))
1996: We will scientifically prove God’s ability to transcend science (Hugh Ross)
1996: Behe’s works will overthrow “Darwinism.” (Philip E. Johnson)

December 20, 1996: Carl Sagan dies.

1997: “In the not-so-distant future, when someone of the stature of a Stephen Jay Gould or the late Carl Sagan holds a press conference to announce he has finally reached the conclusion that evolution is scientifically bankrupt, other scientists will quickly follow suit. It’ll resemble rats deserting a sinking ship.” (David Buckna)

1997: We will overthrow the Big Bang Theory, the Modern Synthesis, geology (the old earth concept), and this “flippancy” about the Flood. (poor Henry Morris again)

1998: “Darwin gave us a creation story, one in which God was absent and undirected natural processes did all the work. That creation story has held sway for more than a hundred years. It is now on the way out. When it goes, so will all the edifices that have been built on its foundation.” (William A. Dembski)

1998: Evolution, once “impregnable,” is “sinking.”. (Philip Johnson, apparently unaware that he’s setting a bad precedent by affirming, as no other creationist did (as you can see from the above), the enduring strength of evolutionary theory)

1999: “’Yes,’ their teachers will be obliged to inform them, ‘a lot of people back in those unfortunate days had gotten it into their silly heads that the whole world and everything in it had somehow evolved by accident, you see. It was all rather strange.’” (The silly head of Patrick Henry Reardon)

1999: The Discovery Institute’s Wedge Document is leaked and reveals the DI’s five-year strategy, which includes various publicity campaigns but no scientific research.

2000: More and more scientists are flocking to “abandon” evolution! (Ray Bohlin)
2001: Shifting the emphasis from the evidence in the fossil record to the evidence in DNA and genetics shows that more and more scientists are flocking to “abandon” evolution! (the tragic Henry Morris, trying to keep up)
2001: The Discovery Institute initiates its “Scientific Dissent from Darwin” petition to gather signatures of legitimate scientists who oppose evolution
2001: “Intellectual honesty will soon force many scientists to abandon Darwin’s theory of the evolution of species in exchange for intelligent design or outright Biblical creation.” (Gregory J. Brewer)

2002: “Creation scientists may be in the minority so far [emphasis mine], but their number is growing, and most of them (like this writer) were evolutionists at one time, having changed to creationism at least in part because of what they decided was the weight of scientific evidence.” (Henry Morris, conceding a previous acceptance of evolutionary theory which he had heretofore not claimed)
2002: More and more scientists are flocking to “abandon” evolution! (Ralph O. Muncaster)
2002: “Here’s a prediction. Universal CD [common descent] will be gasping for breath in two or three years, if not sooner.” (Paul Nelson, setting a bad precedent in departing from vagueness and unverifiability)

2002: Stephen Jay Gould dies

2003: “In fact, the common presupposition that evolution is right may soon be behind us.” (Ralph O. Muncaster)
2003: I think there is some probability that the entire paradigm may come crashing down at some time in the future [emphasis mine].” (Henry F. Schaefer)
2003: “The only thing holding the tattered theory of evolution together is the powerful desire of millions of people to hold on to the notion of evolution regardless of its scientific weakness, because the alternative is unthinkable to its practitioners.” (Grant R. Jeffrey)

February 16, 2003 - “Project Steve” is launched as a tongue-in-cheek parody of the creationist petition, and gathers more than 700 scientists named “Steve” in support of teaching evolution in science classes

(Newly appointed Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu is among these “Steves”)

2004: “In the next five years, molecular Darwinism – the idea that Darwinian processes can produce complex molecular structures at the subcellular level – will be dead [emphasis mine].” (William A. Dembski, stupidly making a specific prediction and in the process, contradicting his previous claim that he is not anti-evolution)

2004: Michael Zimmerman initiates the Clergy Letter Project rejecting creationism and intelligent design. As of September 26, 2008, the Clergy Letter Project had collected 11,685 signatures of U.S. Christian clergy.

2004: Tiktaalik roseae discovered

2005: “Darwin’s going down the tube. ... No question about it.” (Richard Thompson)

October 2005: Archaeologist R. Joe Brandon initiates the Scientific Support for Darwinism and nets 7733 signatures in four days

December 21, 2005: In Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board, Judge John E. Jones III rules: “The overwhelming evidence is that Intelligent Design is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism and not a scientific theory. It is an extension of the Fundamentalists’ view that one must either accept the literal interpretation of Genesis or else believe in the godless system of evolution.”

The court case is hereafter known as “Kitzmass!”

“Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.”

2006: Phyllis Schlafly lambasts Judge Jones for refusing to “hit one for our team.” Jones also receives death threats.
2006: Dembski predicts: “Evolution will be dead in ten years.” His foolhardiness garners a shimmy.
As of July 2007, the Discovery Institute’s list of “Scientific Dissent from Darwin” gathers eight “Steves” and as of August 2008, garners 761 names, many of whom are not active scientists, with some who have never worked as scientists. Also, visiting scholars at prestigious institutions are listed as affiliated with that institution rather than their true affiliation.

2008: Ben Stein makes and promotes the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.
Stein redefines intelligent design as “the fact that God made everything” and “Darwinism” as everything from evolution to the Big Bang to galaxy formation to plate tectonics to chaos theory to abiogenesis to a conspiracy by “Darwinists” to stifle dissent. In essence, Stein went even farther than Henry Morris ever did and claimed: We’re going to overthrow evolution, geology, astronomy, paleontology, chemistry, physics, ecology, climate science, the university application process, the scholarly peer-review process, public relations, and who knows, even economics itself. Good luck with that.

The Discovery Institute tries to contain the damage done to intelligent design by Ben Stein.

2009: Creationism, as it was in 1988, is in disarray: Ben Stein won’t join Michael Moore as an Oscar nominee, the ID advocates quarrel on their own blog about their FAQ page (I call it their FAUX or FAUQ page), and try to redefine so-called “intelligent agency” as non-supernatural. Yeah, right. Here’s what I had to say about an Intelligent Designer who is not supernatural. Then I had a change of heart and admitted that animal agency could be supernatural. However, I don't think the Judeo-Christian intelligent design advocates would be too thrilled to have animals as gods.

(By the way, does that appeal to anyone who believes in God? That the Intelligent Designer is not supernatural? Just asking.)

Such
is the bizarre, twisted evolution of creationism: from a story of a 6-day creation of a Creator God to an Intelligent Agent who sometimes “acts stupidly” and is not supernatural. Gee, you may as well accept unguided natural selection. At least it doesn't act stupidly.

Stupid design? What’s next? Senior Moment design? Unconscious design by an unconscious agency? Brahman born from the cosmic egg and dreaming our reality? Well, at least that would be more palatable than religious fundamentalism; after all, the Hindus hold many creation myths simultaneously and take none literally.

So why do I pay so much attention to creationists? Well, why does anybody watch any soap opera? ;-) It's fun.

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16 Comments:

Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitur said...

Very nice recap of the anti-science circus. You wouldn't think that a broken record could get any brokener.

Well, Bush and his megalomaniac anti-science thugs are in the trenches now and it's time to roll up our our sleeves instead of playing with gelatin.

Did you hear about this ridiculous claim that some "scientist" conjured up - the oxidation of a combustible material releasing heat, light, and various reaction products such as carbon dioxide and water?

February 12, 2009 2:21 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Outstanding work, and I want you to know I had a 4 paragraph post here that got wiped out...! :(

Highlights included comparing Dembski to Elvis - (old Elvis - new Elvis - Sweater SDEmbski & Non-sweater dembski). I also quoted Dawkins and Gould and the bible to give extra backup to all your comments.

Now it is all lost in cyberspace.

I also wished you a Good Darwin Day Evening, and reminded you of the ancient custom that I just invented of sending all those that post on your blog on this, the most sacred of days, a single malt bottle of scotch.

Cheers - J-Dog

February 12, 2009 2:39 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Yeah, even on my own blog my comments occasionally get wiped out. :-(

I just saw that JAD made a forbidden comment on my "Jerry Falwell Deconverted on Deathbed" thread - almost a year ago! I didn't even notice! Poor JAD. Not a good day for him, either.

February 12, 2009 5:33 PM  
Blogger Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Kristine, loved this post. A veritable litany of failure on the part of the creationists.

As a sidebar, you wrote:

(By the way, does that appeal to anyone who believes in God? That the Intelligent Designer is not supernatural? Just asking.)

It strongly appeals to me. Something could be natural without being accessible to observation. Epistemological humility is a good first place for all of us to begin, believers and non-believers alike.

February 13, 2009 9:12 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

But what do you mean by God not being accessible to observation? (Observation includes, in my opinion, observing the effects of a cause, and not necessarily the cause directly.)

I asked this because it seems to me that people want a traditional God - to be a being, not just a force; to heal, answer prayers, bestow eternal life, etc., all the things that I don't have an emotional need for, and I think the more intelligent design advocates argue their position the more their position takes them away from what their goal was in the first place - to reintegrate God (and a particular definition of God) into our culture.

If God is not supernatural, then what does being God mean, by whose authority is he "God," and how can Dembski et al appeal to our fears by involking hell, etc., when it change entirely the relationship of human beings to such an entity? Blake said, after all, that "there is no natural religion." I don't know if he was right, but it seems to me that the ID folks are afraid to even ask this question.

February 13, 2009 10:30 AM  
Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitur said...

I prefer to refer to the mythical character God, in reference only - as in "a god".

February 13, 2009 11:24 AM  
Blogger Bob O'Hara said...

I read somewhere that Darwin was given a copy of Mendel's work, but didn't read it. Even if he had, I'm not sure it would have helped: would Darwin have seen how it could be applied to continuous traits?

Incidentally, I would disagree with your dates for the modern synthesis: it started in about 1918 with Fisher's work, and was mostly done in the 1920s. It was pretty much done by 1936.

That's your history lesson for today. I enjoyed the main part of the show, but wish to point out that I have never been flippant about the flood.

February 15, 2009 2:25 PM  
Anonymous Janine said...

Two Centuries Of Cassandras! Well, except the mythical Cassandra was right.

February 16, 2009 12:26 AM  
OpenID sunnyskeptic said...

I don't think I can put up with creationists that well. I remember the first time someone asked me what I thought of the bible, and I had no idea that anyone took it seriously at the time. Oh, the innocence.

February 16, 2009 6:43 PM  
Blogger Crandaddy said...

I prefer not to fool with the word supernatural because it's an ambiguous term that can mean whatever the user wants it to mean.

Think about it. What is supernatural except that which is not natural or beyond natural? Is natural really so clearly defined? Too rigid a definition would seem to force the arguer to self-refutation in certain contexts--given that those spooky "supernatural" explanations are taboo.

Give me solid terms, not word games. That way there's no crafty deception, and everyone's on the same page.

February 18, 2009 11:42 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

I read somewhere that Darwin was given a copy of Mendel's work, but didn't read it.

I heard that; I think it's Apocryphal. However, I think it would have made an enormous difference. Darwin experimented so much; surely he would have attempted to replicate Mendel's work.

Give me solid terms, not word games. That way there's no crafty deception, and everyone's on the same page.

Ah! *Smile* We have forgotten another great intellect whose 200th birthday was recently celebrated: Edgar Allen Poe. Now there is someone who mixed the "natural" and the "supernatural."

One of the reasons our culture is going through this, I think, is that western religion is not like eastern thinking. I made that crack about Anubis and Bear at the AtBC site, but behind it was a serious question: if other cultures do not "believe" in their myths as we believe in ours, but understand that their desires, dreams, ambitions, fears, and stories are entangled with their creation myths, then that says something more about western religion, I think, than about science.

A commenter at Uncommon Descent recently stated that science should approach reality as humans want to experience it; in other words, that science does not take into account people's needs and desires. But does western religion, particularly Christianity, taken into account people's needs and desires?

Thinkers like E.A. Poe and Antonin Artaud rebelled against orthodox western religion precisely because it was a rigorously inhuman, moralistic system, bombarding people with propaganda about how they "should" feel and act and be, until the people regurgitated these thoughts as if they were their own thoughts. That is how "identity" is constructed in the western world; we love to place individuality on a pedestal, but in reality "individuality" becomes a phony choice between contrived options: do you like tennis, do you like peanut butter, do you prefer red or blue, etc. Religion is, in the western world, what people are complaining about when they complain about science - it was formulated coldly, to ensure compliance, to keep a wandering people intact, not to develop their individuality. (Develop individuality and what you have are liberal Jews, like some of my friends, who are anti-Zionist. Chaos! Disorder!)

In the eastern world, and in Native American culture, particularly cultures in which animals are celebrated as spiritual beings, the people know that a large part of themselves is the Other.

So you see, my objection to creationism goes beyond its supposed "supernaturalism." I object to the entire Judeo-Christian-Islamic relationship to the universe. Creationism is not creative. "God and Satan" are envisioned as "out there somewhere," rather than as archetypes/desires/fears within us. This coldness, this alienation that people refer to when they speak of science, they are really talking about western religion. It's absurd to expect science to be warm and cuddly - you may as well expect accounting to be more musical. That's not their job. They are methodologies.

If

February 20, 2009 10:10 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Whoops, I was going to say...

If true "creationism," that is, a philosophical/spiritual vision without conflict with fact is possible, it is something that we have not seen yet.

I tried to point out in my post how creationism is adapting to attempt to survive, but people don't like it when I say that, as ancient religions died out, modern day religions, like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam will someday, I strongly believe, die out too. Buddhism and Hinduism will, I think, survive. They are both already far older than western religions of the Book - and far less naive, less moralistic and rigid.

February 20, 2009 10:16 PM  
Blogger Crandaddy said...

Well, I certainly can't make the claim that the world has been short of rigid, oppressive, and even wicked religious practice! But should all religion (of the Western or Abrahamic variety, anyway) be defined as such by its very essence? It seems to me the sentiments you express very nicely capture what I take to be the key misconception that characterizes the anti-religious viewpoint, generally.

If an understanding of the true Holy Faith did not resonate in the utmost depths of the soul, causing all else to melt away for its infinitesimal triviality, then how could it possibly lay claim to the title? How could anything less be worthy of veneration at all? To know God is to know Goodness in its purest form, because in him, existence and attribute have no difference. If their is a flaw, either moral or aesthetic, with religious practice, then the fault lies with fallible human practitioners. God is nothing if not Absolute Perfection, and if his Perfection is not conceivable, however finitely, in the human mind, then neither is he, that he even could be considered for worship at all.

Thinkers like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis cleaved to their Christian faith. Indeed, they relied on it as the principle inspiration for their most cherished work--precisely because they saw myth as a vehicle of divine revelation to mankind, in the guise of his most deep-seated longings, the historical myth-made-fact of the Incarnation.

And long before either of them came along, St. Augustine beautifully captured the proper marriage of faith and desire when he wrote, "You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you" (Confessions Book 1, ch. 1).

If God exists, if he made us in his image and gifted us with reason that we might know him, how else should we go about doing so except by studying the form that shapes us? True religion must reflect the true human condition; anything else is a cheap caricature.

February 22, 2009 1:47 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

But I don't care for J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I've always gravitated toward the mad poets - Poe, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Desnos, Artaud. (Once you've read Antonin Artaud at his weirdest, when he was claiming that it was the Holy Spirit that would prop up the Antichrist, because he was a Gnostic thinker who considered God to be evil and thought that the H.S. would align itself with the Antichrist to preserve a world God wanted to destroy, you can't read orthodox Christian thinkers again, anyway.)

A surrealist doesn't want law and order. A surrealist sees in chance a sort of saving grace, keeping life from being predictable and boring.

I'm a bohemian, not a church lady. I don't care about true religion. It does not interest me. I care about being gloriously flawed and alive while we're alive.

And getting back to the history of creationism, I just watched footage of Philip Johnson of the Discovery Institute lamenting the various setbacks for intelligent design and speculating that this ID "revolution" would have to take place after his death. After his death, ID will replace evolutionary theory! Once again, a creationist makes this sad half-realization, that he will never see a goal that will never happen.

Forget it. I'm not going to play that game. I'm not going to ally myself with people who keeping singing the sad song of "someday" without learning anything. Their supposed future revolution is like a secular version of heaven to them.

I just read a paper on archives - archives, mind you - that got into evolutionary theory, positivism, refutations of neo-Platonism, the latest discoveries by anthropologists, biologists, physicists, etc. This in a study of what archivists do.

Sorry, but I think "someday" just got farther away. I live for today.

February 23, 2009 11:03 PM  
Anonymous T. Bruce Mcneely said...

"Senior Moment design?"

I can't stop visualizing God in the Garden of Eden:

"Damn kids! Get off my lawn!"

February 24, 2009 9:41 AM  
Blogger breakerslion said...

There is an old joke that goes,

Q. How long can an English spinster make tea with one tea bag?

A. For as long as she has rusty water.

How long can these IDiots repeat the same BS about the death of evolution theory? For as long as there are indoctrinated fools that are being told what they want to hear.

"Darwin is dead; nothing to see here. Go back to sleep."

February 27, 2009 2:51 PM  

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