Creationism’s Reluctance to Enter ID’s Big Tent
|October 11, 2005||Posted by William Dembski under Intelligent Design|
Critics of ID are quick to label it creationism. It is therefore ironic that creationists are increasingly reluctant to identify themselves as design theorists. Creationists, both of the young-earth and the old-earth variety, tend to think ID doesn’t go far enough and hesitate to embrace ID’s widening circle of allies, a circle that now includes Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, New Agers, and non-dogmatic agnostics. Indeed, creationists are increasingly distancing themselves from ID’s big tent.
By creationism, I don’t mean merely the belief that God created the world. All theists believe that. Rather, creationism denotes the view that the Bible, and Genesis in particular, guarantees the truth of certain scientific models. Thus, for instance, the young-earth creationist model of flood geology (and, in particular, the use of this model to explain the fossil record) finds its ultimate support in the Genesis account of Noah’s flood. Rather than simply following the evidence wherever it goes and letting the science speak for itself (which is the stated aim of ID), creationism is self-consciously involved in a Bible-science controversy. Because creationists have, in their view, an inside track on scientific truth through the Bible, they already know more (or think they do) than any ID theorist can ever know. For them, ID is too thin a soup on which to nourish a robust creationism. Hence their increasing refusal to place themselves under ID’s big tent.
As evidence, I cite the following three items:
(1) The Institute for Creation Research‘s (ICR’s) 2005-2006 Resource Catalog includes no books published by ID proponents after 2000 — and the bulk of our books have been published since then. In particular, none of my work appears in their catalog. More telling still is where ICR is placing its bets, namely, on showing that the earth is thousands rather than billions of years old. Thus, the very first item, prominently displayed, in that Resource Catalog is a book and video titled Thousands . . . Not Billions. If the earth is indeed thousands rather than billions of years old and this young age can be settled definitiely, then not only will young-earth creationism be vindicated but evolution will be disproven immediately as a straightforward corollary (there simply wouldn’t be any time for evolution to have taken place). Thus, rather than cast their lot with ID, which admits an old earth (if only for the sake of argument, though most ID proponents I know do indeed hold to an old earth) and requires a case-by-case analysis of biological systems to determine their design characteristics and the obstacles these present to evolvability, ICR appears to want a quick and decisive solution. Good luck to them in pulling it off.
(2) Reasons to Believe (RTB) is the ministry of old-earth creationist Hugh Ross. Their online store (go here) serves the same role for RTB as ICR’s Resource Catalog. It too is very sparse in ID offerings. As with ICR, RTB has no books by ID proponents on the biological aspects of ID subsequent to 2000 (with regard to the cosmological aspects of ID, there is one exception, namely, The Privileged Planet by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, which is not surprising given that Gonzalez is a long-time associate of RTB). Again, none of my work is in that catalog, with one exception: Mere Creation. This book is the procedings of a conference from 1996 at which Hugh Ross spoke, so he has an essay in the book. Nonetheless, the RTB Store lists Mere Creation as a clearance item, indicating that RTB will soon no longer carry it.
(3) RTB’s official press release in August 2005 claimed that ID is not science (even the young-earth creationists don’t go this far). Note that Fazale Rana is the number-two man at RTB and Hugh Ross’s collaborator on a number of projects:
Sent: Friday, August 05,his 2005 3:30 PM
Subject: PR: Creation Scientist says Intelligent Design Has No Place in
Public School Science Curriculum
“As currently formulated, Intelligent Design is not science,” says Dr.
Fazale Rana, internationally respected biochemist and one of the world’s
leading experts in origin of life research.
To: National Desk
Contact: Kathleen Campbell, Campbell Public Relations, 877-540-6022,
NEWS ADVISORY, Aug. 5 /Christian Wire Service
/ — Internationally respected
biochemist and one of the world’s leading experts in origin of life
research, Fazale “Fuz” Rana, PhD, is available for comment on the validity
of teaching “Intelligent Design” in public schools. Dr. Rana states:
“As currently formulated, Intelligent Design is not science. It is not
falsifiable and makes no predictions about future scientific discoveries.
“As a biochemist I am opposed to introducing any idea into the educational
process that is scientifically ludicrous. Proponents of Intelligent Design
lose credibility, for instance, when they say that the Earth is thousands of
years old when the scientific evidence and the fossil record clearly prove
our Earth is at least 4.5 billion years.
“At Reasons To Believe
, our team of scientists
has developed a theory for creation that embraces the latest scientific
advances. It is fully testable, falsifiable, and successfully predicts the
current discoveries in origin of life research.
“With the creation model approach every perspective is encouraged to
participate in the scientific process to see which theory best fits the
emerging data. With this cutting edge program no philosophical or religious
perspective is denied access. It holds the possibility of bringing to
resolution the creation /evolution controversy once and for all.”
Fazale Rana, Ph.D. is the vice president for science apologetics at Reasons
To Believe. Dr. Rana earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Biology
and Biochemistry at West Virginia State College and his Ph.D. in Chemistry
at Ohio University. He was twice winner of the Clippinger Research Award at
Ohio University. Dr. Rana worked for seven years as a senior scientist in
product development for Procter & Gamble before joining Reasons To Believe.
He has published more than fifteen articles in peer-reviewed scientific
journals and delivered more than twenty presentations at international
scientific conferences. Dr. Rana is the co-author of the chapter on Anti
Microbial Peptides for Biological and Synthetic Membranes in addition to
contributing numerous feature articles to Facts for Faith magazine. Origins
of Life:Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off is Dr. Rana’s first book.
His newest title, Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of
Man is due to release in September ’05.
For more information visit the Reasons To Believe website at www.reasons.org
To schedule an interview contact Kathleen Campbell; Campbell Public
Relations, LLC; 877-540-6022; firstname.lastname@example.org
This press release is remarkable in a number of respects. On the one hand, Rana calls ID to task for not taking a stand on the age of the earth when the fact is that every ID theorist develops ID arguments consistent with standard geological and cosmological dating (i.e., billions, not thousands). Thus, if there are young-earth creationists in our midst, they put their young-earth creationism aside when focusing on ID. This is not to say that they stop believing creationism or lay it aside when considering other scientific questions, like the age of the Earth. The point is that for ID, neither thousands nor billions of years make the problem of design in nature go away. The age question is irrelevant to ID.
On the other hand, Rana dismisses our efforts to develop ID as a scientific program and advertises RTB’s own approach to biological origins as the science of the future. In response to this press release, I wrote Drs. Rana and Ross the following:
I’ve been meaning to ask you about the press release. I’m curious about Fuz’s appeal to Popper’s falsifiability criterion as a defining condition for science. String theory, for instance, isn’t falsifiable at present; maybe it isn’t science, but lots of people in physics departments do it. And yet it seems that RTB is not about to issue a press release against discussing string theory in science classrooms.
But isn’t the real issue not falsifiability but confirmation/disconfirmation. A scientific theory should be disconfirmable by evidence. Whereas falsifiability is supposed to be dramatic and fatal to a theory, disconfirmation merely renders it less plausible. ID is certainly disconfirmable: if someone takes an allegedly irreducibly complex system and finds a good neo-Darwinist story to explain it, then ID is disconfirmed. If you don’t agree, please let me know why.
[[Note that in writing this letter, I drew from a private email by a colleague on Rana’s press release — I would name this colleague, but because his academic position is at this time not secure, I need to preserve confidentiality.]]
Neither Fazale Rana nor Hugh Ross ever responded to this email.
As for their theory of creation, known as the RTB model, which Rana’s press release promises will bring “to resolution the creation/evolution controversy once and for all,” I encourage readers to look at it closely. This theory, known as “the RTB Biblical Creation Model,” appears in a book by Rana and Ross titled Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off. Their model, which states that God created life as recounted in the Bible, is supposed to establish its scientific bona fides through eight predictions on pages 43 and 44 of that book. Here are these eight predictions (note that boldface and italics are as they appear in the text):
The RTB Model’s Predictions
The RTB biblical creation model for the origin of life sets forth the following central ideas and predictions:
1. Life appeared early in Earth’s history, while the planet was still in its primodial state. The backdrop for the origin of life in Genesis 1:2 was an early Earth enveloped entirely in water and as yet untransformed by tectonic and volcanic activity. This tenet anticipates the discovery of life’s remains in the part of the geological column that corresponds to earth Earth.
2. Life originated in and persisted through the hostile conditions of early Earth. Genesis 1:2 describes early Earth as tohu wabohu, an empty wasteland. This model maintains that God nurtured the seeds of Earth’s first life, perhaps re-creating these seeds each time they were destroyed. This model predicts that science will discover life’s first emergence under the hellish conditions of early Earth.
3. Life Orignated abruptly. If God created the first life on Earth through direct intervention, one can reasonably assume that life appeared suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere. This model predicts that the planetary and geological record will demonstrate life’s emergence in a narrow, if not instantaneous, time window.
4. Earth’s first life displays complexity. If a Creator brought life into existence, first life should display significant complexity. Therefore, the RTB Model predicts that fossil and geochemical remains will indicate that Earth’s earliest life forms display complexity.
5. Life is complex in its mininal form. Life in its simplest form should also display considerable complexity. An inherent minimal complexity reasonably indicates that life has been intelligently crafted.
6. Life’s chemistry displays hallmark characteristics of design. Systems and structures produced by intelligent agents typically possess characteristics that distinguish them from those produced by natural processes. These properties serve as indicators of design. They will be apparent in biochemical systems of the cell if the biblical Creator is responsible for life. . . .
7. First life was qualitatively different from life that came into existence on creation days three, five, and six. The third creation day describes the creation of plants. . . . The fifth creation day discusses the creation of marine invertebrates and fish, marine mammals, and birds. The sixth creation day includes the creation of specialized land mammals. These multicellular advanced plants and animals are qualitatively different from the first life forms created on primordial Earth.
8. A purpose can be postulated for life’s early appearance on Earth. The RTB Model bears the burden of explaining why God would create life so early in Earth’s history and why (as well as when) He would create the specific types of life that appeared on primordial Earth. While God would be free to create life for nonutilitarian purposes, discernible reasons should exist for God’s bringing life into existence under the violent conditions of early Earth — conditions under which life could not persist and would presumably need to be re-created.
After reading and re-reading these predictions, I’m frankly scratching my head. These predictions, according to Rana and Ross, are supposed to render their model science whereas ID is not science? Take point 8: How is it a scientific prediction that “a purpose can be postulated for life’s early appearance on Earth”? This is so vague that it can’t count as a prediction. As for points 4 to 6, in drawing attention to the complexity of life and design detection, these points touch on central ID concerns (but note, neither Behe nor I receive any mention in the book’s index). But why should the complexity of life and design detection in living forms follow from Genesis? Presumably God could have made a world in which life forms were materially simple.
Bottom line: Creationists want more than ID is willing to deliver and are now distancing themselves from it.