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Talk:Creationism (archive)

I've tried to adhere to the Wiki nature in this morning's edit of Creationism. I accept that the dominant view is anti-Creationist and content myself merely with labeling the critique as such. I have restored much of the original points (as well as memory serves) and pointed out that objections to Creationism are mainly against Sudden Creationism. The argument against ID seems (here, at least) to be only that it's a religious tenet rather than a scientific hypothesis.

My aim is to summarize and highlight the various arguments, rather than to put forth my own view as right. This is my best effort at achieving NPOV, and I'm sure that any unconscious bias which has slipped through will be boldly corrected by others. --Ed Poor


What's the ? It is not mainstream Christian theology; I'm sure that the Catholic and the majority of Presbyterian denominations, for example, do not accept Creationism. Acceptance of Creationism is highly related to biblical literalism; many conservative (as opposed to fundamentalist) Christians do not believe in biblical literalism. GregLindahl

Source of claim: Gallup poll (http://www.gallup.com/poll/releases/pr010214c.asp).

What makes you think it's not mainstream theology? Very few of the religious leaders I've talked to reject Creationism. And the only survey I've seen (reference quoted far below) says 85% of Americans believe it, either as Sudden Creationism or Intelligent Design.

Oops! I thought I put that reference here. Maybe it's on a different Talk page, unless it got accidentally deleted. Ed Poor
It's at Evolution Poll

I gave 2 examples of why I suspect it isn't a view held by a majority of Christians. You did read my entire paragraph, right? As for your %, I don't consider Intelligent Design to be Creationism: it is not falsifiable. You should realize that defining the terms is a very important part of any disagreement, and NPOV applies to that too. GregLindahl

I'm confused: how is falsifiability related to which school of thought is included in Creationism? ID is the branch of creationism that accepts the fossil record. Creationism is rejected by most scientists, because (they say) it is not falsifiable. Am I missing something? Ed Poor

I think you're confusing Christian theology with theology in general, and U.S. Christian theology with general Christian theology. Most other world theologies accept evolution, and most Christian theologies outside the U.S. do, as well. --Dmerrill


If you want the Creationism page to be an argument that Creationism in all its forms is wrong or unscientific, why not say so and be done with it? Otherwise, let's make an Evolution Debate page.

I think when presenting a theory, we should explain why its adherents believe it.

Also, I think there's an attempt to identify Sudden Creationism with Creationism. It's not the clear majority view, according to the only survey I ever heard of. Surely the omission of Intelligent Design is not a deliberate attempt to deceive.

Come on, gentlemen. Where's that NPOV you're always talking about?


The number of people who believe something has not historically had much correlation with whether that thing was true.

Even something so easily falsifiable as Aristotle's theory of motion was once believed by the vast majority of authorities. The trouble is, no one before Galileo ever bothered to check it.

(It turned out that sufficiently dense bodies fall with a speed that is proportional to how long they've been falling -- not how heavy they are. So a five-pound cannonball and a ten-pound cannonball hit the ground at the same time, while other objects such as a feather reach will have already reached their terminal velocities.)

Sorry to butt in, especially since I don't have anything to say on the topic of creationism per se, but the trouble with the above stated "fact" of Aristotle's theory of motion is that no one ever bothers to check it. I'm afraid I'm at work, not my home, so I don't have access to the materials, but I think you'll find that Aristotle himself wrote that in a "vacuum," all objects would fall at the same rate... but since Aristotle thought the idea of a "vacuum" was ludicrous, he didn't really include this in his work. For most every-day experience, when we're dealing with things with a density much less than lead, it is in fact true that lighter materials fall slower. Of course, we couldn't make planes, etc., if we didn't understand the "real" way things worked, but then Aristotle was never trying to make planes... he was trying to describe the observed world with regular laws.

Many people seem to like to believe that there have been a great number of truly stupid people in the past, who believed truly stupid things for truly stupid reasons. It's more the case, in my opinion, that people have always done the best they could with the information they had until raw chance enabled them to see a little more clearly than their predecessors. So, it's not a very wise idea to take a high-horse view with respect to how stupid everyone is.

Sorry, I meant no disrepect to Aristotle. No doubt the intellectuals in the Roman Catholic Church misunderstood him. It was really the medieval interpretation of Aristotle's views that I meant. I should have mentioned Galileo's foray into church politics -- how a committee not under the pope's direct control hassled Galileo for reporting some of his astronomical discoveries. I'm no longer sure what any of this has to do with creationism. We need a topic called the quest for truth[?] or something like that. --Ed Poor

Well, Ed, since you put it like that, feel free to read some Pierre Duhem on medieval physics. They were a tad smarter than you're giving them credit for, Catholic Church and all. Stanley Jaki is a nice introduction. --MichaelTinkler

"Neologisms like "scientific creationism" and "intelligent design theory" are regarded by the vast majority of practising scientists, theologians and philosophers of science as meaningless.
The names of the theories aren't what are regarded as meaningless, are they? Perhaps crucial elements of the theories are regarded as meaningless. (E.g., perhaps no good sense can be given to the notion of creation ex nihilo.) In any case, probably the more important thing to mention is that the theories, insofar as they do seem to be meaningful at all, seem to be unsupported and unverifiable. (I can maintain that the theories are unverifiable but, disagreeing with verificationism, believe them to be more-or-less meaningful--just false. Far from all scientists, theologians, and philosophers of science are verificationists.)

How about: "A very large ['vast' pours salt in the wound] majority of practising scientists, theologians and philosophers of science believe scientific creationism and intelligent design theory [identifying these as 'neologisms' in this context is to dismiss them]--terms many of them cannot use without shuddering--to be untenable, either because they are scientifically unsupportable and unverifiable, or because they are outright nonsense." --LMS


In reference to the following:

[We need a way to sum up the situation that does not make it seem as though Wikipedia officially endorses evolutionary science, as the above does. (Whoever gets the last word seems the victor, eh?) Yes, that sounds ridiculous, but that's an illustration of lack of bias.]

One can carry the "lack of bias" mantra too far. If Wikipedia didn't officially endorse evolutionary science, it would be derelict in its duty to educate. Its only obligation to non-bias is to accurately report that some people choose not to believe in evolution. It should also not call those people idiots, or otherwise make derogatory comments about them (the word "nonsense" is probably a bit strong, though I happen to believe that, and I like the rest of LMS's phrasing). But it most definitely should report accurately that evolution, as endorsed with near unanimity among educated biologists, accurate describes the biological world, and that creationism does not. The article on Numerology is a good example: it clearly shows why it doesn't make sense, accurately identifies it as nonscientific, and merely reports that some people believe it. --LDC

I'd like to make a distinction between
(a) reporting the findings of science, e.g., "science has found..." or "it's the univeral opinion of scientists that..." or "Biologists unanimously agree that..." or "according to science..."
and
(b) requiring students to voice agreement with something their religion teaches against. Nearly half of American adults disagree with evolution altogether. Almost as many disagree with the Theory of Evolution per se and want the creationist view taught -- if not labelled "science", at least as not denigrated as "wrong" or "contrary to fact". --Ed Poor

Ed: The creationist view isn't science -- its religion. Religion has no place in a science class -- religion belongs in the religion class (if the school has one.)

I beg to differ. Intelligent Design seems scientific to me. Questions about falsifiability certainly are relevant in a science class. I'd hate to see a student marked down or punished for saying, "You're teaching that God had nothing to do with the creation of human beings, and I just cannot accept that." This would constitute at worst, a religious comment on science, which is protected in America by the First Amendment (free speech, freedom of religion). --Ed Poor

Action by God is not a scientific explanation. It may be a perfectly valid religious explanation, but it is not a scientific explanation. Scientific explanations do not involve supernatural entities such as divine beings. Anything with God in it is not science. A student who wrote on a science exam claiming God created humans should get zero for the question -- its a science exam, not a piece of paper to write your own religious opinions on. -- SJK

  • I don't see why action by God should automatically be considered unscientific. Infection caused by an invisible substance was considered unscientific in the 1800s, although in retrospect we might say that the refusal then to even consider the matter then was itself unscientific.

  • I see nothing in the scientific method specifically excluding supernatural forces as being in the domain of science.

  • I have heard that there is a body of learning known as the scientific study of religion.

  • A student who wrote that God created humans, while acknowledging the accepted scientific theory should get extra credit, not a zero, provided they dealt with the issue of falsifiability.

--Ed Poor

And besides, suppose the majority of students believed that the Earth was a flat disk, and said that believing that the earth was semi-spherical was against there religion. Should we teach flat-earthism as equally valid as round-earthism? Or suppose they thought the theory of relativity was a lie (something which, by the way, a lot of Nazis did) or that it was against their religion -- does it follow that we should teach the view that the theory of relativity, and not denigrate it as false? Suppose they thought that mechanistic physics (as in Gallileo, Descartes, Newton, etc.) was the work of the devil, and that the universe was really teleological (as in Aristotle) -- should we teach this also?

If a majority believed such outlandish views, it would behoove a science teacher to be polite, saying rather "science has found..." than "You are wrong." or "Sit down and shut up." Then, turn the discussion into an examination of the scientific method, falsifiability, et al. A student has the right to reject science's standards of falsifiability. Do they lose that right upon entering a science classroom? --Ed Poor
Well, if they reject science's standards of falsifiability, what are they doing studying science? If you wish to study a field, you must accept the field's basic presuppotions, at least for the purposes of studying it. (What one believes in one's own time is one's own business.) -- SJK

There are valid reasons for studying a field without accepting its basic presuppositions. Curiousity is one, desire to challenge a premise is another. The decision to exclude supernatural causes may one day prove to have been arbitrary. Suppose, for example that life after death is proven, or the efficacy of prayer[?]. I believe discussions on the limits of science are germane to the study of science, which is modern man's primary means of extending the body of knowledge. --Ed Poor

The fact is that creationism is rejected by almost all persons in the relevant scientific fields. Evolution, on the contrary, is accepted by almost all persons in these fields as scientific facts. Schools should teach the scientific facts according to expert opinion. If some students disapprove of science on religious grounds -- that is there problem. -- SJK


I don't think that what I asked carries the lack of bias policy too far. I very strongly disagree with your stated view that Wikipedia would be derelict in its duty to educate by not officially endorsing evolutionary science. In fact, I really wonder why you say this. Insofar as education includes the teaching of values, as it does and should (I think), I don't think that Wikipedia should engage in education; it should engage, rather, in reporting. Compare these two claims of yours:
  1. But it most definitely should report accurately that evolution, as endorsed with near unanimity among educated biologists, accurate describes the biological world, and that creationism does not.
  2. The article on Numerology is a good example: it clearly shows why it doesn't make sense, accurately identifies it as nonscientific, and merely reports that some people believe it.
The Numerology example doesn't illustrate what you want it to illustrate. The Numerology article does not state that Numerology is false. It states that it is nonscientific, which (I am supposing) is uncontroversial. In precisely the same way, I think we should not claim that evolution accurately describes the biological world and creationism does not. There are many good reasons, that we can review if you wish, that it is far preferable to say, instead: most scientists embrace evolutionary theory and reject creationism. This gets the idea across.

I don't think encyclopedias should be in the business of doing anything other than stating facts that sane, thinking people--among whom I would include, yes, creationists--can agree upon. If not on the subject matter itself, then they can usually agree on how competing views are characterized; or at least they can agree to allow each side to be permitted to characterize its own view sympathetically and to criticize other views. When an article becomes contentious, I think we should "go meta."

Please don't forget to distinguish between the two main currents of Creationism: Intelligent Design, which accepts the authenticity of the fossil record and the mechanism of natural selection; and Sudden Creationism. --Ed Poor

Why should there be any resistance to this? I'm very curious to know. Do you want to have a (another) debate about this on neutral point of view? --Larry Sanger

P.S. I find your resistance to the word "nonsense" puzzling, and it indicates that, perhaps, you aren't entirely understanding the nonbias policy the way I understand it. I think it is all-important that the claim of nonsense is attributed to someone, rather than asserted to be the case by the author of the article itself. When it is attributed to someone, it immediately becomes uncontroversial and straightforwardly fact-stating (no matter how irritating to creationists). --LMS


Sorry, but strong disagreement with the above. Neutrality is about stating facts rather than opinions, and the existence of evolution is as close to a fact as we are ever going to get. Certainly it is going to be taken as such on virtually every biology page written, because the phylogeny of organisms is important, and it would be an unbelievable headache to have to qualify it in every case to avoid offending a minority of people who are wrong. I say giving fair treatment to anything so unanimously decreed as false by workers in the field is silly and makes a mockery of the concept of objectivity. Or should we also make allowances for the flat earth hypothesis on our geography and astronomy pages?

As for creationists still being thinking and sane people, well - yes, they probably are. But that doesn't mean that the hypothesis is any less ridiculous. Aristotle believed in physics that can be disproved with a bowl and some water. And what will we do with the views of historical revisionists? --JG


Perhaps--consider the possibility a moment--it is possible, in most articles that elaborate evolutionary theory and processes, simply to use a few words that imply that the claims in question are the views and the results of work by scientists. Then creationists will have nothing to do complain about.

You say "neutrality is about stating facts rather than opinions." Well, that's a quick-and-easy way to put it. It is more accurate to say that, where there is significant disagreement on a point, then neutrality demands that the disagreement be fairly characterized. Be careful to understand what this does and does not imply. It does imply that evolutionary science not be stated as fact and creation science as obviously false (rather, it implies that these views be described as being held by certain groups of people, and then the public can draw their own conclusions; you don't mind that they draw their own conclusions, do you?). It does not imply that, whenever you mention anything about evolutionary theory, you say something to the effect that creationists disagree. It does not imply that you outright assert, "Evolution is just a hypothesis." This too would be hugely controversial. You would be fully in your rights to say that most scientists fully believe evolution to be a very well-substantiated theory, as well-substantiated as many less controversial theories.

In general, and most importantly, this principle does not imply that our articles have to look like we think that evolutionary theory and creationism are equally weighted, and we (Wikipedia article authors) can't make up our minds. If you think that's what it implies, you don't understand the principle. Don't you think it's possible not to take an official stand, and yet still very strongly be in favor of one of the views? Of course it is. Why would you resist doing this, then, when you can (after all) say that most respected scientists reject creationism? It seems you want to cow creationists and people whose minds are not made up--as silly as they might seem to you and me--into believing what you believe. That's never the right way to go about it. Is there something wrong with letting people draw their own conclusions?

The Wikipedia articles on controversial subjects are not likely to change any minds. The kooks will go on believing kooky things, the rational people will go on being rational, and we can take enormous pride in reporting accurately on the situation.

As to historical revisionists, sometimes they're right, eh? And even when they're not, sometimes their views need to be reported--if only as a fascinating sociological phenomenon. --LMS


The problem is that evolution is not controversial, not among anyone except the misinformed and those with an agenda. I honestly think that continual treatment of evolution as if it is the consensus of an extreme majority of scientists, rather than fact, is misleading. Do you think that it is a good idea to prefix every page with such a statement? "Most scientists now believe that Calcium has an atomic weight of 40.078..." It's silly, but if not, then topics like evolution are going to appear strongly singled out as questionable.

Historical revisionists are probably more important even. Yes, they can be interesting, but statement of their opinions as anything even resembling potential fact isn't just wrong, it is potentially offensive. To take the extreme example, even if it invokes Godwin's law against myself, what do you suppose would be the response if we said the holocaust was something widely considered to have occured by most historians, rather than something that occured? I'd consider that an awful legitamization of some of the worst opinions available. Or would you throw out such claims and keep those of other revisionists, less offensive but certainly no more valid? I say the best ground for decision is on merit; meritless arguments should not need consideration, unless we want to pretend all of reality is an opinion. And those probably include young earth creationism.

--Josh Grosse


I'm with Josh here. Evolution is not controversial within the scientific community. As someone who has spent the best part of ten years researching creationism, I can attest that Creationists are not crazies or ignorant (far from it in many cases). However, in accordance with the views of 99% of theologians, scientists and philosophers, they are wrong. We should state so emphatically. To do otherwise is to be spineless. Evolution has traditionally been singled out among scientific areas and people are more likely to use accomodationist language so as to placate a vocal minority. This, I assure you, is contrary to the aims of any good project (particularly if it is haunted by the shades of the original Encyclopediestes). Evolution is a fact, natural selection is currently one of the few scientific mechanisms by which evolution can occur. Move on.

--Jmlynch


Hear! Hear! I personally admire philosophers a great deal, study philosophy, and enjoy throwing the monkey wrench of doubt into common beliefs as much as anyone. But when philosophers and others go beyond rational skepticism to justify what are simply and clearly mistakes, one should throw at them what one personally believes to be a brick, and assuage one's conscience with the assurance that they are free to believe otherwise. --LDC
I'll reply later, but I would like to see someone reply, dispassionately, to my arguments. I had some, if you didn't notice. You're all rational people; you should be able to appreciate my efforts. --LMS

I think we all agree with your arguments, and even with your value judgement that Wikipedia articles should be fact-stating and unbiased (two very independent goals). I think our disagreements here are with (1) the standard by which we decide that something is a fact, and (2) the extent of implied bias in fact-stating prose. There is no such thing as a fact without a standard by which it is judged to be a fact--even simple observational statements like "Fred claims that grass is green" imply that someone at some point judged this to be a fact because he observed Fred saying it (thus "direct observation" being the standard), and might be argued by someone. I happen to think "agreed upon with near unanimity by persons educated in the field" is a sufficient criterion for factualness. Sure, that will occasionally require us to change when some new discovery upsets an established fact, but so what? Any standard will require change--so why not choose one that's useful. Even your stricter standard of "totally uncontroversial" is no guarantee against future change.

Further, one can easily propagandize by stating only facts. A full page of "Creationists believe that...because..." with no reference to contradictory evidence or any other claim is clearly a propaganda piece, even though it happens to be fact-stating. The goal of eliminating bias requires more than merely being fact-stating. It also requires us to judge the rhetorical effect of an article, and to add rebutting facts where needed. I also believe that it is fundamentally impossible to eliminate all bias, and the all readers of any purportedly-factual article should understand that all authors have biases, and read in that context.

I hold the additional value judgments that Wikipedia should be lucid and useful. I believe that being overly afraid of bias sometimes compromises those goals, by cluttering articles with reportage on clearly useless beliefs held by a few minorities. This latter is certainly open to argument. Yes, an article specifically about Creationism (which is by its very nature a controversial belief) should probably stick to making claims about who said what, how many believe what, and how such beliefs compare to other scientific and theological beliefs. Reporting on a controversy as a controversy is a worthwhile thing for an encyclopedia to do. The articles should also point out arguments on both sides, but we should further report what are actual arguments and what are simply unsupported claims, because that is useful. Even the article on evolution should probably mention that there are a few people who choose to dispute it, and point to the article on Creationism, though it should otherwise be written simply and clearly by treating it as a the ordinary uncontroversial fact it is.

General articles on biology, on the other hand, should simply treat evolution as uncontroversial, because no serious biologist disagrees, and failure to do so compromises understanding of the subject. Articles about radiocarbon dating or tree rings should not be cluttered with an unnecessary reference to the fact that a few folks happen to believe that God placed all of the old rocks and trees here 6000 years ago, and is just trying to confuse us. --LDC


Can someone tell me where the matter involved in the Big Bang came from? If not, you will have to cut creationism in one stripe or color or another, some slack. All creationism is not biblical literalism. It is, however, in every case, an effort to arrive at a rational answer which science has so far not been able to provide ie, where everything came from. This is not Evolution/Talk, but Creationism/Talk. As something better than half the world populace embraces some kind of creationist explanation for the beginning of things, then we are not talking about appeasing a vocal minority here. We are talking about acknowledging what we don't know - the first step to finding out...

The simple belief that the world as it exists was created by a supernatural being is not what we are talking about here. The word "creationist" is never used to mean that; the word means denial of biological evolution, and that's what we're talking about. What you describe is merely Theism. --LDC


Let's get this straight once and for all (I have to do this with students every semester). Firstly, the Big Bang or any other theory of cosmogenesis has nothing to do with evolutionary thinking. Cosmologists could theorize about the universe and it would not dent the theory of evolution one bit. Secondly, and almost most importantly, creationists don't really care about cosmology - it's the proposition that humans evolved that creates problems for them (a proposition that is indepndant of cosmology). Lastly, theories of abiogenesis also have nothing to do with evolution. Evolutionary theory explains how the diversity of life on Earth came to it's present state, not how life got here and not how the universe got here.

Creationism is not an 'effort to arrive at a rational answer'. Rationality has nothing to do with it. As any theologian will tell you, the project of rationalizing the existence of a creator has fallen into disrepute for various reasons. Creationists can believe whatever they like about the history of life, but that does not mean they make scientific statements.

--Jmlynch


Jim I am talking about creationism, not about evolution (pro or con). Did you notice that? Humans arrive at answers through reason. Use of reason = 'effort to arrive at a rational answer.' Let's get this straight once and for all - creationism, as a holding, is not necesarily either pro- or anti-evolution. That is the area where we see the most frequent fireworks and high-profile clashes, but please quit cofusing the two. Again - this is creationism/Talk.

'effort to arrive at a rational answer' = "I can see what caused z; y caused it. I can see what caused y; x caused it. I have investigated until I am blue in the face, and cannot tease out of the universe what caused a. Maybe whatever caused it is not natural, but super-natural. Maybe that's why I can't get at it." This may not be scientific method, but it is how people rationalize. Ie, it is an effort to arrive at rational answer.

This is where creationism as a subject comes from. Then we later on down the road get into such things as oral tradition, legends, myths, scriptures, and other means of passing down the stories about the supernatural. Never proved nor disproved, neither provable nor disprovable by scientific means, they are, by definition, unscientific. Now there are some parts of this tradition which seem to run afoul of scientific evidence. The most notable of these in recent time involves timescale of this planet and origin of species. When the scientist points this out to the dyed-in-the-wool hardline fundamental biblical literalist, the irresistible force meets the immoveable object. At the same time, bits and pieces of biblical history are verfied by archaeology daily. So, "See! The Bible is the infallible word of God!" and the scientist cringes.

BUT it is not necessarily the case that unscientific = wrong, any more that it is the case that proof of bible history a = proof of the whole bible.

To say that creationists believe that someone created things in the beginning is not to say that they beleive, 1-for-1, that SCIENCE in its infinite wisdom, ultimate arbiter of all human knowledge, is wrong. It is to say - "we believe these extra-scientific facts to be true." And who is to gainsay them?

When writing about evolution, that other topic, explain what theories it encompasses.

When writing about creationism, explain what theories it encompasses.

When writing about cosmologies, mention creationism. It happens to be one such.

Why is it necessary to flay the creationist? Has someone here disproven that a supreme influence, possibly an intelligent one, created the universe? Has someone read the report of a researcher who has? I think not. It's unfalsifiable. So it's unscientific. That does not make it wrong, or even irrational. "The geologic record does not support a literal biblical version of planetary time scale and origin of species." So how does that invalidate creationism as an overall subject?


LMS - I am with you 100%

and...

Blatantly stealing from Webster:

Main Entry: cre·a·tion·ism Pronunciation: -sh&-"ni-z&m Function: noun Date: 1880

a doctrine or theory holding that matter, the various forms of life, and the world were created by God out of nothing and usually in the way described in Genesis -- compare EVOLUTION

Hey LDC - how do mean creationism is "never" used to mean that the world as it exists was created by a supernatual being?

OK, then, describe that as another sense of the word. The most common meaning of the word is as your definition above describes it: that various forms of life were created, as opposed to the belief that they evolved from a single earlier form. This is what a newspaper or magazine would generally mean when they describe someone as a "creationist writer" or something. If you choose to also use the word to mean mere theist, or to think of creationism as cosmology rather than biology, I suppose you're free to do so, but that's a second sense of the word, and perhaps separate articles should treat them as such. --LDC

If webster and I are wrong as to what the word means, then we'd better re-write the wikipedia article to reflect that creationism is only anti-evolutionism and nothing else.


The defense rests. You guys divvy up creationism into different articles however you want. maybe there should be an article biology/creationism (how's that for an oxymoron?) and another (which is the branch under which I created this one) cosmology/creationism arrows pointed to see each other, see theism, etc. I don't have the time right now. Damn - I just realized my cookies have somehow been cleared. This has been AyeSpy raving on above. Did not mean to hide my light under a bushel...

Then the article is misleading: the very first sentence says that creationism is the belief that a supreme being "created the physical universe and all life contained therein." Make up your mind: if you are a calling it a cosmology, then you can't include life, because life evolved long after the birth of the universe. If you want to include life, then call it a biology and take your lumps from the evolutionists. --LDC


Larry's Big Reply

Before I reply, let me just say that if we can agree that creationism as it stands, apart perhaps from the fact that the evolutionist insists on having the last word, is adequately unbiased, then our dispute is probably academic. So--on with the academic dispute!

I totally agree with your guys' attitude toward creationism. I think it's silly nonsense, too. Let's get that straight--we don't need to debate the merits of the theory (unless Bruce wants to do so). Moreover, I am probably the biggest commonsense realist and defender of rationality here. If you think my position is rooted in anything like relativism, that is excellent evidence that you don't understand my position and that you need to re-read what I've written more carefully. Jimbo, too, is a realist and defender of rationality, and he shares my view (in generalities, at least), as you can see on neutral point of view. Gee, how can that be? Read on.

Why on earth would I wanna do that, Larry? It's not like I advocate Creationism as such or anything. I only tried to point out that beating on the creationists is counter-productive. - AyeSpy (aka BrucieBaby)

1. Is evolution controversial? Yes--to the public at large, which will be reading Wikipedia. No--to scientists. For whom are we writing? The public at large--and scientists. (Perhaps that's what causes our problem here.) Lee says: "General articles on biology, on the other hand, should simply treat evolution as uncontroversial, because no serious biologist disagrees, and failure to do so compromises understanding of the subject." I think this is wrong on two counts. First, while evolution is uncontroversial among serious biologists, it is controversial among an alarmingly large portion of the general public; you do them and yourselves no favors by ignoring this controversy. Second, I see no reason to believe that recognizing that nonbiologists do not accept evolution as fact in any way "undermines understanding" of evolution. It doesn't even undermine your real goal, of course, which is to get people to accept evolution instead of getting caught up in idiotic creationist nonsense. In fact, the opposite is true: by failing to recognize the controversy, you essentially alienate the people you most want to teach. You would prefer indoctrination, it seems.

I think you may overestimate the controversy over evolution in the general public, but I agree with your point wholeheatedly - AyeSpy

2. Will we have to qualify every statement, or even every page, with a statement to the effect that it is the view of scientists? No, of course not. Why not? Because it's not controversial to anyone. Will we have to highlight discredited minority views as prominently as scientific fact? Of course not.

3. If we do describe scientific fact as what is accepted by all or nearly all scientists, then how are we misleading anyone? The question, again, is how? Have we encouraged anyone to believe anything other than what you want them to believe? Where's the downside you all fear?

4. Josh writes: "Historical revisionists are probably more important even. Yes, they can be interesting, but statement of their opinions as anything even resembling potential fact isn't just wrong, it is potentially offensive." Josh, I am not saying that historical revisionism should be presented as "anything even resembling potential fact." I am saying that the view should be described and appropriately attributed. How does that imply that the opinions will be presented as "anything even resembling potential fact"? Please bear in mind that we can reserve plenty of room for attributed explanations of why mainstream historians regard various kinds of historical revisionism as so much hokum. Our including such explanations is absolutely essential to having an unbiased encyclopedia, by the way.

5. Josh again: "To take the extreme example, even if it invokes Godwin's law against myself, what do you suppose would be the response if we said the holocaust was something widely considered to have occured by most historians, rather than something that occured? I'd consider that an awful legitamization of some of the worst opinions available." I would say that this is a very poor illustration (i.e., a "straw man") of my position. I imagine we should first clearly present what is generally believed about the Holocaust; then, perhaps quite far down in the article, we should have a paragraph or two that says something to the effect that the above is accepted (in generalities anyway) by all but a very small handful of trained historians, called Holocaust deniers and revisionists, blah blah blah, and explain the facts of that. This then attributes the claims about the Holocaust in a perfectly appropriate way and also mentions the fact that there is another (very minority) view. At the same time, we can state that most historians (most people) find such revisionism not only obviously false, but extremely morally repugnant. I hope I am making my position clearer now.

6. Is my position "spineless"? Jmlynch thinks so: "in accordance with the views of 99% of theologians, scientists and philosophers, they are wrong. We should state so emphatically. To do otherwise is to be spineless. ... This, I assure you, is contrary to the aims of any good project (particularly if it is haunted by the shades of the original Encyclopediestes)." Well, as a modern-day encyclopedist who has thought for many, many hours about this stuff (even before I started working on an encyclopedia), I can "assure you" that our doing what I ask is not in the slightest "spineless." Well, so much for mutual assurances; now to arguments. I think I can understand your reason for thinking so. Your assumption appears to be that, if we do not explicitly declare something to be true, then the reader can draw certain inferences about us--such as that we wish to placate creationists, or that we think creationism might be scientifically respectable, or that we might be creationists ourselves, etc., etc. Well, no. Reasonable people do not draw such inferences when presented with unbiased texts. You yourself, Jim, would not typically draw such inferences--you know better, of course. Suppose that a history text adopted a policy of failing to identify Nazi scum as the murdering bastards they were--but simply reported the facts about what they did. Would it be reasonable to assume that the text's author(s) might just be willing to admit the possibility that the Nazis were upstanding citizens doing a service to Europe?

Factually, I have read some very dry and "non-judgemental" accounts, practically devoid of adjectives. They still gave me the heebeejeebees and I never thought for a moment the author favored the Nazis. - AyeSpy

-- The facts about what they did, simply reported, permit most readers to judge for themselves that the Nazis were in fact "murdering bastard scum". Readers who make the judgement that the Nazis were in fact "upstanding citizens doing a service to Europe" would probably not be influenced by the editor's stating his/her personal opinion to the contrary. Arguably, we are insulting the reader by assuming he/she needs to be "pushed" to see things our way. -- 27 Septenber 2001.

7. Are being fact-stating and unbiased independent goals? No: in order to be unbiased, you must be fact-stating. In particular, you must be very clear about how you word the facts about what various majority and minority positions are. I contrast (in the present context--not when I'm talking metaphysics & philosophy of language, where 'fact' is a technical term) fact with opinion; opinions can be correct (and thus fact-stating), but one identifies something as a fact to emphasize that it is not under dispute, and one identifies something as an opinion in order to emphasize that it is under dispute. If, in our evolution article, we say that evolution is a "proven fact," while this is no doubt true (i.e., evolutionary theory has met ordinary standards of scientific evidence), the force of saying it is that evolution is simply not under dispute. Well, it is under dispute by your readers, guys. And (damnably) that's a fact. You aren't going to change their minds, or make the world otherwise any safer for rationality and science (which I love at least as much as you do), by explicitly averring that evolution is a fact and creationism is false. Actually, what you do is close off the avenues of discourse by doing so, setting up the less-rational folk in an antagonistic stance toward you, and make it harder to help them see the light. (Think of this as intellectual diplomacy.)

8. "Further, one can easily propagandize by stating only facts." Very true; that's why we shouldn't refer to my position as merely that articles should be fact-stating. They should be unbiased. I've explained what I mean by this in many different places many different times. "A full page of 'Creationists believe that...because...' with no reference to contradictory evidence or any other claim is clearly a propaganda piece, even though it happens to be fact-stating." I totally agree, and I will thank you for not setting up further caricatures of my view.

9. "I also believe that it is fundamentally impossible to eliminate all bias, and the all readers of any purportedly-factual article should understand that all authors have biases, and read in that context." But whenever we can identify bias, we can eliminate it--one way or another, and usually by going "meta." Give yourself some credit; people are creative; we can think of ways to eliminate bias when we spot it. (If you're still not convince, I suspect this is because you have a useless, impossibly-restrictive concept of bias. Personally, I prefer my concepts to be useful.)

10. "I believe that being overly afraid of bias sometimes compromises those goals, by cluttering articles with reportage on clearly useless beliefs held by a few minorities." Why think that articles will be cluttered with views held by minorities? If they are minority views, they will not be highlighted and ubiquitous in the same way that the majority views will be. That's as it should be. No one can reasonably complain.

My conclusion:

We should not impose our values on other thinking people. You are all liberal-minded people, I trust--not liberal politically, necessarily, but liberal in the sense that you want to free minds. I enjoin you to think carefully about the best way to achieve this. By failing to take stands on controversial issues, we aren't demonstrating weakness--in fact, we are demonstrating the strength of our faith in the minds of our fellow human beings. We should let them arrive at their own conclusions. We should trust them to use their own minds--just as you want to be trusted. More benighted souls than our enlightened selves will appreciate our stance and be more apt to listen when we hand down the truth.

I don't know if I can make my case any more completely...

No need to... - AyeSpy

Larry


Yes, well said. Perhaps my initial reaction comes from a different mindset about the "audience" of our work, since I generally think of encyclopedias as things used by schoolchildren, or adults looking for quick explanations of things outside their fields of expertise. Your view seems more appropriate to a collaboratively built growing record of facts, usable as a resource even for those with expertise. I certainly cannot argue with that vision, or your method for achieving it.

I would like to expand upon something you mentioned in passing that I think is important: you mentioned that an article might written largely as though uncontroversial, followed by a mention that the text above is believed by a majority, but controversial in that others believe something else (which is then linked to). I think this is a great method of doing it, and if using this technique meets with your approval I wholeheartedly endorse it as a way to write both lucidly and without bias. This seems appropriate for the article on the majority view, while the article on the minority view might be written more from the minority's own viewpoint (though careful to remain fact-stating).

Finally, I have encountered some places where I think minor amounts of open bias in an otherwise factual article is useful and not very controversial, so some simple method of doing those appropriately is needed. The specific example I have in mind is my pages on poker, which are full of opinions like "X makes a more interesting game than Y", or "game X is best played with betting structure Y", or "clay chips are easier to use than thin plastic ones", and so on. I originally wrote most of this text as a potential book which was full of my personal opinions. In the process of Wikifying it have removed opinions that were more significant and might be more controversial ("many casinos have rule X, which is stupid and counterproductive"), but those other little tidbits are the kind of thing I think someone learning the game of poker from a text such as this will want to know, and I think it's a waste of time to reword them all into "many poker players believe..." form. Of course if someone does object at some point (perhaps a manufacturer of plastic chips?), then rewording and pointing to other opinions might be necessary, but until then, I think they are clean and useful as they are. --LDC


Scientists believing in evolution as part of their work (basically all geologists and a good chunk of biologists) have made themselves easy targets for the religious loonies.

Evolution as taught and published in research papers, up to about 1980 was almost always a crock of unscientific shit, based more on bizarre ethical and religious ideas that hardly anyone belived, than on any observational basis, or any relationship with other well-founded scientific theories. That it took a bunch of loonies with no interest in science to put these failings on the agenda is very sad.

Since then evolutionary scientists have started to put their house in order. They still have a way to go, but some of the leading biologists and geologists are now researching evolution in a scientific way, and a genuine scientific theory of evolution is starting to emerge.

In teaching, especially at high school level, evolution is still stuck firmly in the 17th century. I really mean that. Although the name of Darwin is always mentioned, his ideas hardly ever are, and are never taken seriously, let alone some of the more modern ideas.

Maybe some of this should make it into the article (or maybe a different article about history of theory of evolution). Obviously it is not encyclopedia material as is, someone would have to do a complete rewrite from scratch.


I'm a big Steven Jay Gould fan. It's not so much because he's a brilliant geologist/biologist. Too be honest, I don't know whether he's brilliant, sort of good at it, or just plain incompetant. I like him more because he's the sort of person to write half a book about .400 hitters in baseball and essays on the Defenstration of Prague, and do a very fine job of it. I don't unswervingly trust everything he says, though, because I have no background and little comparable research to base it on. But the only mention I've ever heard him make of creationism is interesting, and I think it should be brought up here.

According to him, in The Panda's Thumb, I think it was, Creationism is an almost entirely American phenonmenon. He claims that most Europeans, even the most stringently religious, entirely embrace Evolution. John Paul II very nearly ( though not quite ) called evolution incontrovertible awhile ago. Since the only time I've ever been to Europe was a very bitter and unhappy one month stay in Oxford, with not much theological conversation, I was wondering whether or not this could be confirmed by someone who knows more about what they're talking about than myself. As for the rest of the world, I'd imagine that East Asia and India isn't very fertile creationist ground, and I've got no clue how Islam treats the issue.

Yes it is true that evolution is not controversial in Europe. I grew up in Ireland, one of the most conservatively Catholic countries in Europe (though much less so now) and in my religion class we were thought that people did in fact evolve from apes, and that at some point God decided they were far enough along and gave them a soul. --Eob

I'd imagine that if the world view is significantly different than the American view, that probably would affect Wikipedia's policy in some way. The way I look at the matter, is that Darwinism, Natural Selection, or whatever you want to call it ( Evolution, which I've been unfortunately using so far, is a gross misnomer ) is a scientific law. Plain and simple. What goes up, must come down. The sun rises in the east. E equals MC squared, and species diversify according to rules of competition, climatic changes, genetics, and other such things that are well known. Those very few biologists who are strict creationist set out in the field of biology with the express intent of disproving evolution, and still have no basis for the 7 days nonsense. As for the original amino acids and divinely inspired puddles of goo, I just personally don't care whether or not god or anyone else got involved. But that's just me. Seckstu[?]

Hear, hear. Creationism is a crackpot theory and should be presented as such as long as no shred of evidence can be presented. --Pinkunicorn

The latter is entirely the wrong approach. Yes, creationism is a crackpot theory. No, it should not be presented as such, precisely because there are many people, some of them quite intelligent people who would like to make up their own minds for themselves, thank you very much, who disagree that it's a crackpot theory. It is not our job to convince the world of the truth. It is our job to present the facts about what the theory says, about what evidence there is (or is not) for the theory, about who promulgates it and their arguments and who opposes it and their arguments--and do all this in an unbiased fashion--and let people make up their own minds for themselves. If we do this, we will gain the respect of everyone, including the vast majority of those who think that creationism is a crackpot theory. --LMS


I think this article should be clearly about (so-called) "scientific creationism". If I hear the word creationism, that is what pops into my mind. At present the article begins with a statement which many people who believe in evolution might agree with:
Creationism is a philosophical or religious position grounded in the idea that a supreme being or ultimate mover literally created the physical universe and all life contained therein. Within the Judeo-Christian tradition, this creation is taken to be ex nihilo (out of nothing), but some Biblical scholars have argued that this comes from a mistranslation of Genesis.
Also, I agree it is primarily an American phenomena, but it has spread to other parts of the world, e.g. Australia. I once had a substitute English teacher a few years ago (back when I was in high school) who was a "scientific" creationist. I also not so long ago saw ads posted up around Macquarie University (my uni) advertising lectures run by Answers-in-Genesis, an American creationist organization. But I'd still say it has a lot less support in Australia than in the US. -- Simon J Kissane


Moved this to /Talk 1 October 2001:

"[We need a way to sum up the situation that does not make it seem as though Wikipedia officially endorses evolutionary science, as the above does. (Whoever gets the last word seems the victor, eh?) Yes, that sounds ridiculous, but that's an illustration of lack of bias.]"


Moved from talk:Main_Page:

Don't know where this goes, since James Ussher doesn't have a page yet.... does anyone know if he's the guy that argue that God, when he created the Earth & all its animals and plants, etc., also created fossils of animals that no longer existed--created them *as* fossils, which had never been actual alive animals? Anyone know what that school of thought was called?

You're thinking of Philip Henry Gosse, who wrote a book called Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie The Geological Knot that expounded this idea. It crashed and burned in such a firestorm of criticism from both scientists and biblical literalists that I don't think it ever gained a groovy name a la uniformitarianism or catastrophism. Gosse called it "prochronism", but I don't think that got into the language. It's generally referred to as "Omphalos" after the book, or sometimes "in situ creation" -- Paul Drye


I'd like to pose a brief, very honest question concerning falsifiability as it relates to creationism and evolution. Based on the falsifiability article, I can easily agree that Creationism is about as falsifiable as the very existence of God, for about the same reasons. But how is evolution falsifiable? The experiment itself would have to last those same billions of years, wouldn't it? --Wesley, a Christian who has wondered about this for a while......

Lots of potential observations would falsify evolution: for example, finding reverse-dated fossils (i.e., finding a fossil of a species dated older than the species from which it apparently descended); finding colorful sexual-selection markings on a species without vision (like blind fish and moles); finding a species so bizarre and different from all others that it has no plausible ancestor (say, finding one that doesn't use DNA/RNA); finding a species with a new complex major body organ or apparatus that is totally absent from its closest ancestors. That's all I can think of off the top of my head, but there are probably others. --LDC

I think the issue is more delicate than that: Darwinism is ultimately a probabilistic theory. Things that increase fitness are more likely to happen, but they don't have to happen, nor are things that decrease fitness impossible to happen. There are virtually no rules in biology without exception, there are just some things that are vastly more likely than others, and for good reasons. Not all species are well-adapted: in fact, all species die out after a short while, so observing a particularly mis-adapted species could just mean that it is in the last phase of its life cycle.

Supporting or falsifying probabilistic theories is a difficult matter. If I show you a die, and claim it is loaded, how can you test this hypothesis without cutting the die in pieces? You have to roll it repeatedly, but what counts as a falsification? Statisticians come up with criteria of course, but they are not as hard and fast as one would like, and they are difficult to apply to biology, because Darwinism is not advanced enough predict the answer to a question like "How likely is it that a species living exclusively in water would have lungs as opposed to gills". If Darwinism could compute a probability, then the statistician could attempt to check it against the evidence. Darwinism is a qualitative, not even a quantitative, probabilistic theory at this point, and it is truly tough to falsify those. --AxelBoldt

The mistake you're making here is assuming that evolution is one theory. It is not. It is literally thousands of theories, each one falsifiable. Formally, the set of such theories is known as the "evolutionary mechanism theories," or EMTs. You cannot falsify the set of EMTs all at once, but you can falsify any one of them. And, in fact, this happens all the time. The consequence is that either the theory is dropped as unsound, adjusted to become more sound, or evaluated in its interaction with other theories, and then perhaps several theories are modified.

I agree with you that the EMT's can be falsified. But I diagree when you say "there's no theory of evolution, just a set of EMTs". There most definitely is an accepted theory that claims to explain how life evolves, in general. It's called the modern evolutionary synthesis, bringing together Darwinism and molecular biology. Any book by Mayr explains it very well. And it is a qualitative probabilistic theory. --AxelBoldt

So I if I had to summarize the above, it sounds like an individual, very specific "evolution mechanism theory" is falsifiable, but the set of all such theories is not. It sounds like even if they were all shown individually to be false, scientists would wait for someone to put forth a new EMT before looking outside of that framework for an explanation. Or to take AxelBoldt's explanation, the general modern evolutionary synthesis is not falsifiable until the exact probability of certain things can be determined in advance. If anyone did come up with such testable probability figures, it would surely be by means of a specific EMT, so if those figures were then shown to not match real world data, then only that one EMT is disproven, and we're right back where we started. So it still seems to be that evolution in the broader sense of the word is no more falsifiable then creationism. Have I missed something?
Thanks for your patience, --Wesley

The following was added to the main page, but is clearly commentary, so it belongs here. I think he's right that some mention should be made of the different schools of thought, including "intelligent design" (though it would be incorrect to call it a scientific hypothesis as he does, because it's clearly not falsifiable). ---LDC

I don't see how Intelligent Design is any less falsifiable than random genetic mutation. Tell me more, please.

Don't forget that there are two major kinds of Creationism: Sudden Creationism and Intelligent Design.

Sudden Creationism is the religious doctrine that God created everything in a very short period of time (one week) a relatively short time ago (six thousand years). What He created includes the artifacts known as fossils, which would in this view not comprise a 'record' of any sort.

Intelligent Design is the scientific hypotheses that evolution, i.e, the appearance of new species over time, really did happen. Its cause was not random genetic mutation but intervention by a divine force.

Sudden Creationism is not a scientific theory because it interprets the only evidence available (fossils) according to pre-conceived doctrine. Intelligent design is a viable hypothesis because it fits the facts rather than interpreting them away.

The difference between Intelligent Design and Darwinism is the change agent. While Darwinists regard God as not being involved in evolution (often because of His presumed non-existence), advocates of Intelligent Design regard God as being involved.

-- Ed Poor

Further, in the highly controversial aspect of the evolution of humanity itself, which is where the big hangup is in the minds of creationists, I added a blurb for creationism. I mean, what's the harm. See Homo sapiens, which itself needs some work. :) --Chuck Kincy[?]


This was indented, so it looks like it was intended to be discussion:

Many proponents of Darwin's theory claim that it's compatible with Christianity, but a substantial number of Creationists disagree, disbelieving that random forces could create new species at all, although ID adherents agree that once created, the species would be subject to natural selection.

If it wasn't discussion, it still didn't really fit into the article, and doesn't say anything that isn't already well covered here.


WRT the comment on US/not-US views on creationism, there's more to it than that. The comment probably applies in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and most of Western Europe (first-world nominally majority-Christian countries), but beyond I simply don't know (for example, the mostly Catholic areas of South America), suspect that the debate, if any, between evolution and religious creation views is framed in entirely different terms (Japan, for instance), or suspect that much of the general public simply isn't aware of evolutionary theory because of a lack of education (large parts of rural Africa, perhaps). --Robert Merkel

It would probably be difficult to find hard data supporting the idea that creationism is less strong outside of the US, but here's my evidence:

  • US is the most religious country, creationism is correlated with religion.
  • I lived for 25 years in Germany; the word "creationism" has no translation, because the notion doesn't exist there. People would be laughed at.
  • Catholic countries don't espouse creationism, since the pope has made his peace with evolutionary science a while ago.
I don't know about islamic countries though. --AxelBoldt


There's much more Creationism/Talk than Creationism. I'd like to find a way to extract the arguments for and against Creationism and put them in a Wikipedia article to stand for all time. The threads here are too hard to follow.

How about a structure like I. Define the term II. Explain why (some) people believe it. III. Give a critique of those reasons.

I'm well aware that Darwin's theory is dominant. I have no problem with it getting the lion's share of Wiki space, even on non-Darwinist articles! Just let the other views get heard and understood is all I ask. After that, critique all you want. If the ideas are any good, they'll stand the test. If not, the opposing ideas will be clear winners.

Just have a fair contest. Ed Poor

I deleted the comment that "People outside USA accept darwinism" - I want numbers and reference sources. Actually although I am obviously an evolutionist, I would dispute that "darwin's view" is dominant. It certainly is among the "educated" classes of the world, but how many people are "educated" to the point where they can discern the distincrtions of Darwinism? I'm not supportive on any claim regarding "who and how many believe what" until we have HARD DATA with well-defined methodologies for the collection of that data. - MMGB

I found some better data to put on the Evolution poll[?] page; it should be folded into the Creationism article eventually. Unfortunately, the best data is Gallup's phone poll of 1000 Americans (which isn't very good); the only European data was an internet poll, which is even worse. --LDC


If "commonly-accepted scientific model" means the model commonly accepted by scientists, than it sure isn't ID or any other stripe of Creationism. But if you meant to indicate that the non-Creationist model was commonly accepted by the general public, your own link proves you wrong.

Now, don't get me wrong. I respect you, and I love science. And I'm not going to insist that everyone slap labels of approval on all my pet ideas. But can't you let me describe Creationism is it is, without sticking in your critique before I even get up to speed? --Ed Poor


Revised this sentence, which glosses over ID's areas of agreement.

Although creationism is not part of the commonly-accepted scientific model of the history of life on Earth, many persons prefer the creationist to the evolutionary model.

Article said Papal acceptance of evolution had ended debate in Catholic countries for "those who hold to Papal infallibility". I deleted the reference to papal infalliability, because evolution is not ex cathedra, so papal infalliability does not apply to it. And besides, most Catholics who accept the Pope's views on evolution don't do so because they believe him to be infalliable on the issue -- rather they believe the scientists, especially since the Pope does not oppose what they say. So I replaced that bit with "for most people." -- SJK


How can I put in an HTML link to non-wiki information, such as http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/creation/sides ?

I put it at the bottom of Creationism. LMS has asked us to label such as "external links". There is a prettier way to format these, which I can never remember. I'm sure someone will enlighten us on this shortly. :-)

Also, Jonathan Wells writes:

We are frequently told that "evolution is a fact," as undeniable as gravity or the shape of the earth. Anyone who challenges it, at least in an academic setting, is likely to be regarded (in the words of Darwin popularizer Richard Dawkins) as ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked. (1) In the United States, religious people who question evolution are often likened to the caricature of creationists promoted by the 1960 movie "Inherit the Wind," Hollywood's version of the 1925 Scopes trial.
(1) Richard Dawkins, review of Donald Johanson & Maitland Edey's Blueprint in The New York Times, April 9, 1989, sec. VII, p. 34.

-- Ed Poor


Moved from main page:

In the United States, whehter most people prefer creationist or evolutionary models depends on how one interprets the evidence. . . . However, this cannot be taken to mean that the 40% who believe God guided evolution believe in Intelligent Design theory[?] -- they may merely believe that God guided evolution as a religious view, while accepting Darwinian evolution. (Or, even more likely, they may not have sufficently understood or thought through the issue to understand the distinction at stake here.)


Ed Poor: You removed 'fundamentalist' from the following, saying most Americans believe in creationism and aren't fundamentalists:
The United States fundamentalist Christian community has no real parallels (in terms of numbers, prominence, and political influence) elsewhere in the Western world, and because most vocal creationists are from the United States, it is generally assumed that creationist views are not as common elsewhere.
Firstly, I disagree that most Americans are creationists -- 49% of Americans believe in evolution vs. 47% believe in creation, according to the Gallup Poll. (That 40% believe God has some role in it only makes them creationists if they believe this is a scientific theory.) Secondly, the point is that American support for creationism is because of the influence of Christian Fundamentalism in the US, even if many Christians who support believe in creationism are not fundamentalists. -- SJK

No, you're mixed up on the poll numbers. Give me 10 minutes, and I'll lay it all out for you. This war is senseless. Can you be patient? --Ed Poor

I mixed up the poll numbers before, but the point was completely correct, and had nothing to do with the poll numbers -- the 40% who support theistic evolution cannot necessarily be counted as creationists -- in fact, many of them would not even identify as creationists. -- SJK

Okay, but we were discussing your characterization of evolution-rejecters as 'fundamentalists'? Can it really be that 47% of Americans are fundamentalists? And is this relevant to an article on creationism? --Ed Poor
No, I'm not saying that 47% of Americans are fundamentalists. I'm saying that if it was not for the influence of fundamentalism in American society, it is unlikely that so many Americans would be creationists. Certaintly the power of American fundamentalism is an important factor in the frequency of creationism in the US compared to its relative absence in Australia and Europe. Even though not all American creationists are fundamentalists, fundamentalism is a reason why many are creationists.
Secondly, what is a fundamentalist? A fundamentalist, in the Christian context, is defined as someone who believes in biblical literalism and rejects the theory of evolution. (That was the original definition given by the founders of the fundamentalist movement in the US.) Now, a significant proportion (though not all) of the 47% would be fundamentalists under this definition. -- SJK


Poll numbers, quoted verbatim from <http://www.gallup.com/poll/releases/pr010214c.asp>;

Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings

          
  • 40% Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process.
 
  • 9% Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. God had no part in this process.
 
  • 47% God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.

Ed: And, the poll, by my interpretation says 49% of Americans believe in evolution, 47% in creationism. I think very few of the 40% who believe in God-guided evolution believe this to be a scientific theory as opposed to religious belief. -- SJK
SJK: And my interpretation is that 9% of Americans believe in unguided evolution, 40% in God-guided evolution, and 47% reject evolution altogether. --Ed Poor
But you are saying that the 40% who believe in God-guided evolution believe in what you call Intelligent Design Theory, as opposed to having a mere religious belief completely compatible with Darwinian evolution. -- SJK

Gosh, no. I have no idea whether any of the 40% who believe in God-guided evolution are even aware of Intelligent Design (ID). Also, I'm not sure how compatible ID is with Darwinian evolution. Doesn't the latter specifically exclude any supernatural causes? If so, this would seem to differentiate from ID, to say the least. --Ed Poor

It's entirely "compatible" in the sense that it's entirely irrelevant to it, as are all non-falsifiable theories. --LDC


This discussion is going too fast. I wrote this three or four Edit Conflicts ago:

Perhaps you deem the term 'creationism' to exclude God-guided evolution (see Intelligent Design). If so, we need to decide which usage of 'creationism' the wikipedia will retain. For example, should the articles on Creationism and Intelligent Design be separate, with Creationism held not to include ID? Or will we stick with my proposal that Creationism includes both Sudden Creationism (what you call simply 'creationism') and ID?

I will support whatever best accords with the Wiki Nature. I am really not trying to garner support for my biases, and I am open to constructive criticism.

--Ed Poor


I think there are two theories of God-guided evolution, one of which is compatible with Darwinian evolution, the other is not. The one which is incompatible, the one you are putting forward, is that speciation occurs by direct divine action (which is what the Intelligent Design article says). This theory is certaintly a form of creationism (indeed, I would question whether it deserves the title 'evolution', but that is another issue.) The other one, which is compatible with Darwinian evolution, holds that God guided evolution, but puts this forward as a purely religious view, not as a scientific theory. This second theory of God-guided evolution is compatible with Darwinian evolution, and is not a form of creationism.

Now the Gallup Poll you provide does not distinguish these two theories, so the 40% who believe in God-guided evolution could be believing in either. However, I think it is more likely than not they believe in the second theory; most of these respondents probably identified as evolutionists, not creationists, and thought they were agreeing with science, just expressing a religious view on top. However, the Gallup poll itself really can't answer this question. -- SJK


I don't think either of your proposed definitions is adequate. As the term is generally used in the press and by most Americans, a "creationist" is someone who rejects evolution, and believes that God created man. This would exclude most ID proponents, but it would include far more people than the small minority which you describe as "sudden" creationists (your term--I've never heard that term anywhere else). I personally know quite a few people who accept, for example, that the Earth is 4 billion years old and that the fossil record is accurate, but maintain that mankind in its present form was created (or instilled with "souls", or whatever) by God. The spectrum of belief is complex and interwoven. It simply cannot be reduced to a few categories. --LDC

I also repaired two sentences that claimed scientists reject ID because it is a religious idea (which is false--they reject it because it is nonfalsifiable), and removed the word "proof" from the next sentence, since no scientist would ever use that word. --LDC


LDC: Just in case there is a misunderstanding here, 'Sudden Creationism' and 'Intelligent Design' are Ed's terms, not mine. (Sudden Creationism occurs only once on Google: http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/GCCCREA.TXT). I think that although there are a broad variety of God-guided evolution viewpoints, they can be divided into two classes -- those compatible with the modern Neo-Darwinian theory of evolution, and those incompatible with it. I think that those who believe in theories involving God incompatible with Neo-Darwinian evolution belong in the creationist camp, but I'm open to being convinced otherwise :) -- SJK

I'm willing to own up to making up 'sudden creationism' out of my own head, but 'intelligent design' is something I cannot take credit for. See http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/cosmo --Ed Poor

I'm not confused, SJK; I was replying to Ed, not you--it just looks that way because the damned edit conflicts make it impossible to have a thoughtful discussion here since we're posting every 5 minutes. And Ed's right--"Intelligent design" is a well-known mainstream term, and deserves coverage. --LDC

Perhaps the thing to do is write up the worthy viewpoints that disagree with the modern Neo-Darwinian theory of evolution. That done, we can decide whether to call them 'creationist' or what. I really don't care what terms we wind up using; I just want to see the ideas included somehow. --Ed Poor


I've been lobbying for that all along, Ed: go to it. There's a lot about the ID school that should be covered on that page. Who created the term? Who were its early proponents? What are the major books in the field? What are their specific claims? How has the field developed? What are its specific disagreements with other beliefs? I don't know these things--I've studied science. But you claim to be an adherent of the field, so do some basic research and write a good article on that. Then we can decide how to link it in with the rest of these. --LDC
Not sure of the relevance to this. Did the writer intend to link fundamentalism with the rejection of evolution? (If so, it's not clear and should be expanded on.) I vote for taking it out. --Ed Poor

The United States fundamentalist Christian community has no real parallels (in terms of numbers, prominence, and political influence) elsewhere in the Western world, and because most vocal creationists are from the United States, it is generally assumed that creationist views are not as common elsewhere.


The Newsweek article makes a claim that 700 scientists take creation science seriously, which is a reasonable statistic. It is then claimed that the remainder therefore believe in "the scientific theory"; which theory is not stated, and at any rate this cannot be assumed, so I removed that assumption.

I also removed:

but since it makes no claims of direct divine intervention, it is also consistent with Darwinism.

from the discussion of process theology, because it is confusing: it says that PT is consistent because it makes no claims of divine intervention, which implies that Darwinism denies divine intervention (which is false, though certainly many Darwinists themselves do). And at any rate, every non-scientific theory is compatible with any scientific theory--that's why they're not scientific, so this statement doesn't say anything. --LDC

I tried to rephrase the statement before I saw the explanation here for why you took it out. I will take it back out with the new rephrasing, but my point in making that statement was to compare PT with Deism--note that the article in the parapraph above states that Deism is compatible with Darwinism. So if we remove the comment that says that PT is compatible with Darwinism, then we should also remove the statement that says that Deism is compatible with Darwinism. And I thought the point here was that Creationism is not compatible with it, while Deism is. So I was putting PT in the Deism camp as far as Darwinism goes--in other words, PT accepts Darwinism.


However, this cannot be taken to mean that the 40% who believe God guided evolution believe in Intelligent Design Theory -- they may merely believe that God guided evolution as a religious view (Intelligent design), while accepting Darwinian evolution. (Or, even more likely, they may not have sufficently understood or thought through the issue to understand the distinction at stake here.)
Creationism refers to more than just the belief that God created the universe; it refers to the belief that He did so in such a way that evolution did not occur, as accepted by science.

This statement ignores the 4 out of 9 creationists who believe in God-guided evolution. --Ed Poor

The following looks like commentary, and I'd like to take it out (or rephrase it) --Ed Poor:

Rather than using the term "species", they use the term "created kinds" to describe the boundaries they believe evolution does not cross, but they offer no rigorous (or operational) definition of what a "created kind" is, just as the term "species" was not rigorously defined for many years.

From what I know, it's basically true, so it shouldn't be deleted. In order to be npov, though, it probably should be reworded. Can anyone actually come up with a rigorous definition? It is a "creation science" term, so it should be in scientific terms, i.e., testable in any given case. Some examples would be good, too. --Dmerrill


You guys have been so darn nice and accommodating that now I'm being to doubt some stuff that I fought keep in:

It is also possible to believe that God created the universe and still accept Darwin's theory of evolution; although very few religious believers hold to this view.

I'm no longer sure about the "very few" part. It could be anywhere from 10% to 50%, I guess. Anyone got any hard numbers on this? --Ed Poor


Since the statement about process theology being compatible with darwinism was removed, I also removed the following statement:

Deism, while in no way required by the theory of evolution, is not incompatible with it.

Personally, I think that the point that both process theology and deism accept Darwinism, while creationism doesn't, is a point worth making, but we have to be consistent here if we are going to describe which theologies accept Darwinism, so for now I took out the statement regarding Deism. -- Egern.

If a particular named school of thought (ID, PT) explicitly accepts Darwinism, that should certainly be mentioned (though perhaps more appropriately on a page devoted to that school of thought). But if it is merely compatible (or entirely orthogonal) to it, that's not something worth mentioning, since lots of things are. And particularly "deism" is a broad school of thought about much more than human origins, and there are likely deists with varying views, so one cannot describe "the" deist view. --LDC

Yes, but ID explicitly rejects Darwinism. The questions are: (1) What religious beliefs accept Darwinism? (2) What religious beliefs reject Darwinism yet accept some kind of evolution? (3) What do you call the belief that evolution didn't happen, so as not to confuse it with #2? I am somewhat taken aback to realize that I don't have a handle on any of this :-( Ed Poor

I agree with Ed on this. The whole point of this article has a lot to do with how specific religious theologies relate to Darwinism. So it seems completely appropriate and consistent with the point of this article to highlight various classifications of theologies (where those classifications directly impinge on how they view the process at work in the universe), and to show how they view Darwinism. -- Egern

On the other hand (after further thought), perhaps a comparison of the way various religions view creation belongs in a different article than the creationism one. But I feel that they do belong in an article somewhere. -- Egern


"Sudden Creationism is generally considered an expression of religious literalism. Sudden Creationists oppose evolution on the grounds that it conflicts with the account of creation . . ."

The above needs revision, because someone deleted the Sudden Creationsim page on the (apparently correct) grounds that I simply made up the term. How about, "One current in creationism" has roots in religious literalism (or 'Biblical fundamentalism'), opposing evolution on the grounds . . ." . Ed Poor

You could replace it with "Young Earth" creationism, which probably should have a page of its own. -LDC


Ed Poor suggests some questions the article should address:

  • Does creationism conflict with the Darwinian theory of evolution? (All variants? Only some? Be specific.)
  • What versions of creationism accept evolution, and with what reservations?
  • What are all the various ideas called? Creationism, young or old earth creation science, intelligent design, etc.?

Some answers: by definition, creationism conflicts with Darwinian evolution as accepted by science. If it is compatible with it, then it is not creationism, as the term is normally used.

It is possible for a creationist to accept some form of evolution, so long as they do not accept the full Darwinian theory. (Otherwise, if they fully accepted Darwinian evolution, they wouldn't be a creationist.) --SJK


SJK's formulation would seem to divide ideas on evolution into three broad categories:

  • Accept Darwinian evolution fully
  • Accept God-guided evolution
  • Reject evolution altogether

1. Do all agree? 2. If so, may I revise Creationism to reflect this "clarification"? --Ed Poor


The following needs revision to conform with SJK's definition of creationism (one I'm happy to accept):

"Many creationists believe in some form of evolution, but they deny certain key parts of the Darwinian theory. Others believe God had some role in the process, but do not put this forward as a scientific explanation, and fully accept Darwinian evolution . . ."

or

"Others believe God had some role in the process, but do not put this forward as a scientific explanation, and fully accept Darwinian evolution -- these people are not creationists, since their beliefs are in no way incompatible with Darwinian evolution. "

This second (overlapping) quote seems self-contradictory. -- Ed Poor

The "Others" should not be understood as "Other creationists", but rather as "Other people". Sorry if my text was less than clear. -- SJK

(For a continuation of this conversation, see /Talk.)



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