It's certainly not news that absolutely crazy things are regularly uttered in defense of creationism. For example, Christine O'Donnell's claim that evolution is a myth, with her supposed evidence being her question, "Why aren't monkeys still evolving into humans?" has, thanks to Bill Maher, received widespread attention.
The fact is, though, that while such bizarre opinions by extremists like O'Donnell shed a great deal of light on their intellectual prowess, those statements have little to teach us about creationism itself. To really learn about creationism, we have to turn to the creationists themselves rather than their supporters.
When we do just that, two things are immediately apparent. First, many of the statements written by leading creationists are so absolutely clear that there's no danger in anyone misinterpreting their intent. Second, the positions staked out by these creationist luminaries are so incredibly extreme that readers can't help but understand the radical agenda that's being promoted while recognizing that such an agenda, if broadly adopted, would do great damage to both religion and science.
There's a rich and varied history of this sort of creationist inanity. For instance, the Reverend T.T. Martin, the founder of The Anti-Evolution League, wrote the following in his 1923 book Hell and the High School:
The German soldiers who killed Belgian and French children with poisoned candy were angels compared with the teachers and textbook writers who corrupted the souls of children with false teaching and thereby sentenced them to eternal death.
And in 1977 the Creation Science Research Center laid a host of problems directly at the feet of evolution when, in their publication, The Creation Report, they asserted that the teaching of evolution has led to "the moral decay of spiritual values which contributes to the destruction of mental health and ... the prevalence of divorce, abortion, and rampant venereal disease."
Similarly, in 1998, the Discovery Institute, one of the best funded creationist advocacy groups in the world, helped everyone understand their intent in a document they called "The Wedge." Promoting the virtues of intelligent design, they noted that "Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."
But I don't want to focus on those statements today. Rather, I want to highlight more recent creationist statements that, while being no less dangerous, are less political. In particular, I want to focus your attention on two assertions demonstrating how creationists view the role of scientific experimentation and data acquisition in shaping creationism.
The Centre for Intelligent Design features a video introduction from Dr Alastair Noble, who has argued that ID should not be excluded from the study of origins. He says, among other things, that he is part of a network of people who are "dissatisfied with the pervading Darwinian explanation of origins and are attracted to the much more credible position of intelligent design" and criticise the "strident strain of science" that says the only acceptable explanations are those depending on "physical and materialistic processes".
Like the Discovery Institute before them, the Centre for Intelligent Design rails against science's insistence that it focus on materialistic rather than supernatural processes. Both want a wholesale redefinition of science.
But let's go a step deeper than the Centre's introductory video and see what they have to say about future work and what they conclude about scientific investigation. In the portion of their web page entitled "Intelligent Design is Science," they make the following, most extraordinary claim:
In one sense, research work that supports ID is not the central issue. ID is essentially an interpretation of the data that already exists. There is not much point in gathering more information if you already have enough on which to base your hypothesis.
Since every scientist understands that science proceeds by disproof rather than proof, that any future study might provide compelling data that will demand a reinterpretation of existing scientific ideas, you won't find them saying, "There is not much point in gathering more information" about anything other than concepts that have been conclusively disproven.
Let me turn to my second example because philosophically, it takes the Centre's statements to its logical conclusion, even though temporally it was made before the Centre was incorporated. Last year Phi Kappa Phi Forum focused its spring issue on the question of origins. I was honored to have been invited to write an essay for the issue on the importance of evolution. The piece immediately following mine was written by two staff members from Answers in Genesis, the group that has brought us the $27 million creation-museum-cum-theme-park outside Cincinnati.
Georgia Purdom and Jason Lisle make an astounding admission in a sidebar to their article. The title to the sidebar was "Rationally Resolving the Debate," and I believe that their first two paragraphs absolutely do resolve any lingering debate about the nature of creationism while demonstrating its distance from science. I take issue with the title, however, because there is nothing rational about their position. Here's what they had to say, so decide for yourself:
Evolutionists and creationists have a different ultimate standard by which they evaluate and interpret physical evidence such as stars, fossils, and DNA.
The biblical creationist takes the Bible as the ultimate standard -- an approach which the Bible itself endorses (Proverbs 1:7, Hebrews 6:13). The evolutionist embraces a competing philosophy instead such as naturalism (the belief that natural causes and laws can explain all phenomena) or empiricism (the belief that experience, especially the senses, is the source of all knowledge).
The Bible is the ultimate standard for evaluating scientific claims? Such an assertion from what is probably the world's largest creationist organization doesn't even need a scientific rebuttal. All by itself, it has accomplished what no scientist could possibly do as convincingly: it has removed all forms of creationism from the scientific enterprise.
Creationists themselves regularly make statements of this sort that deserve wider attention. Please share your favorite creationist embarrassment in the comments section below. To be fair, please provide the full quotation along with a citation. Let's let creationists speak for themselves, and let's let their own words destroy their pseudoscientific position.
Follow Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mzclergyletter