Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Creationists Against ID

There is a downright amazing article in Christianity Today about creationist opposition to ID.

(Note: In this post, anytime I use the word “creationism” or “creationists” I am referring to classic young earth creationism: i.e., the affirmation that the earth is ~10,000 years old, and the creation account in Genesis spanned 144 normal hours.)

I’ll give more details in a bit, but the gist of the story is that creationists, represented by AiG’s Ken Ham, are worried about ID using its scientific fa├žade to draw believers away from a hyper-literal (young earth) interpretation of Genesis. They view ID as a serious attack on the faith of believers.

Interestingly, evolutionists are constantly saying that ID is creationism—so how do they explain the fact that creationist superstars such as Ham attack ID? I don’t know—some of them are so paranoid that they probably view Ham’s broadside as a clever ploy, just more scheming from the theocracy-seeking conspiracy.

Ham argues first that ID is the son of creationism:
"I don't think the ID movement would be where it is even now if it was not for the general creation movement," says Ken Ham, president of AiG. "They're riding on the coattails of the creation movement."
Alas, it’s a wayward son, one that is too wise in the ways of the world:
"So you've got this group that's not about the Bible," says Ham. "You've got the secular press saying this is just a way to get the Bible back in the schools, because many of the Christians who think ID is great think it is a way to get the Bible back into schools. [At the same time] the ID movement's trying to divorce themselves from that saying it's not [about the Bible]. The secular press is saying yes it is. And many of the Christians who are behind them are really doing it because they are Christians.”
And according to Terry Mortenson, an AiG lecturer and researcher:
”Most if not all of the ID books are published by evangelical Christian publishers, which are marketing to an evangelical audience. And our concern is that [although] in those books there are good design arguments, there are statements sprinkled in them implying or stating openly that Genesis isn't important… We're concerned about the influence it's having on the church…causing Christians to not be concerned about what Genesis says "
When I parse these quotes (it’s not always easy) this is what I read: Ham and Mortenson are (a) agreeing with the secular ID critics that ID is a Trojan Horse for creationism but (b) so much of the bible (actually, Genesis hyper-literalism) has been discarded to make ID palatable, and so many concessions have been made to package ID as scientific, that ID itself is now a challenge to Christianity.

Ken Ham has this intriguing comment:
This can weaken Christians' faith, says Ham. "Those of us who believe in a literal Genesis have a history, a history concerning the Fall, a history concerning the Flood. So when we look at this world, we're looking at a fallen world. It's not God's fault there are tsunamis. … Death is not God's fault." However, by only discussing an unnamed designer, Ham says, flaws in creation must be attributed to that designer.
It's an interesting point, and one that I've never pondered, that ID presents a serious theological challenge to the doctrine of Original Sin.

I have to mention one final quote from Ham:
"What good is it if people believe in intelligence?" says Ham. "That's no different than atheism in that if it's not the God of the Bible, it's not Jesus Christ, its not salvation."
I will say this: other than agreeing that the bible is the inerrant word of God and that Christ is our Lord and Savior, I’m not sure whether I have ever been aligned with Ken Ham on anything. For example, his advice to elementary school students to challenge their teachers with “excuse me, were you there?” when they (teachers) advocate the Big-Bang is asinine. (Not to mention that it teaches Christian children to behave in an impertinent manner.) However, on that last quote, I break precedent and offer a hearty amen.

Let me summarize what I see as the three major players in this debate:
  • The IDers argue that the scientific evidence points to design, but says nothing about the identity of the designer. Therefore ID is not creationism and deserves serious treatment as a scientific theory.

  • The humanists argue that ID is just creationism covered by a veneer of scientific language in an attempt to make it acceptable.

  • The creationists argue that ID has forgotten its first love, a hyper-literal interpretation of Genesis, and has become, because of its meteoric rise, too full of itself. As such, it is doing more harm than good.
Of course, there is a fourth point of view, admittedly not too popular, which goes like this:

Ken Ham is correct on one point. ID has its roots, if not in creationism, then at least in theism. However, he is wrong about almost everything else. In particular, naturalism (science) is not a threat to biblical Christianity. The very thought is absurd—that science could somehow be a challenge to scriptural truth. Science is how we study God’s creation: it cannot possibly divert anyone away from God—it can only lead them to God or leave them without excuse. Science, like history and archeology, should be embraced by Christians—not feared or treated as minions of the antichrist.

IDers are correct: science is a good (and holy) pursuit.

Creationists are correct: design that does not proclaim God as the designer is pointless.

The answer: Christians who are scientists should do science the same way as their atheistic colleagues. They should then turn to the churches, and to the youth groups, and to seminars, and to debates, and to the high-school and college clubs, and to unbelievers—and discuss how the amazing discoveries of science point to a creator God whose name is Jesus Christ.

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