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Peter Kirk

Wow, Bush actually said something sensible! Or at least his speechwriter did, and for once he managed to read it out properly. But there's more to being an evangelical than crediting the Bible with some authority, and more than being an evangelical to attaining eternal salvation.

John Hobbins

LOL, Peter. You sure are good at spouting the stereotype created by news outlets around the world, including your beloved BBC.

For the rest, maybe YOU need to hire a new speechwriter. What on earth does this mean:

there's . . . more than being an evangelical to attaining eternal salvation.

Peter Kirk

OK, the stereotype, I know, but someone had to say it.

As for my last sentence, surely if you can understand the contorted syntax and unnatural word order of ESV you can understand how I have deliberately changed the word order of "more to attaining eternal salvation than being an evangelical" in order to put the stress on attaining salvation. If you want the DE version of this, I mean "if a person wishes to be saved and live for ever they need to do more than be an evangelical". Or for the really dumbed down version, even if Bush is an evangelical that doesn't mean that he will certainly be with us in heaven (or wherever).

John Hobbins

Very good, Peter. You had me going.

I can tell you are worried at the prospect of spending an eternity with George Bush and tony Blair.

Jonathan Bartlett

As for "junk science" - it is true that it is a far minority opinion, but it does have some notable people behind it (of course, that doesn't necessarily keep it from being junk).

This includes: John Sanford, a biology professor at Cornell, who developed the methodology to make transgenic crops viable, Damadian, who invented the MRI, Forrest Mims, who was named by Discover as one of the 50 best minds in science, John Baumgardner, whose geological models he developed are both used by him to model the Genesis flood and by NASA and Los Alamos National Laboratory to model earth's mantle processes, among many others.

Most people I know with a scientific background are only familiar with Creation Science through either (a) what evolutionists have said, or (b) popular literature about Creationism. Most are completely unfamiliar with the technical journals and conferences which deal with figuring out the details, or even know of their existence.

As Ronald Numbers (an evolutionist) points out in his book, the number of credentialled Creationists has been rising dramatically, from pretty much just Price and Marsh in the 1920's to several hundred or several thousand now.

John Hobbins


Thanks for your comments. BTW, Ronald Numbers is a class act though I regret that his journey has led him to be an agnostic.

Ken Miller of Brown University does the best job I know of sorting through the issues. Are you familiar with his work? He also debates YECers in a university setting.

I certainly have not received the impression that creation science has become a viable scientific alternative to the theory of evolution. I do not know anyone who goes for it unless the interpretation of the Bible they adhere to more or less requires them to construct an alternative to the theory of evolution.

It really is the case that if you study biology, biochemistry, astronomy, geology, paleoanthropology, etc., creation science's "answers" to the reigning working hypotheses do not seem like science at all, but the sort of thing lawyers come up with on the premise that their client (creation-ism) is innocent until proven guilty.

This is not how science works.

As a working hypothesis, the notion that evolutionary processes played a decisive role in the development of life looks more likely, not less, in the light of what we have learned since the 1920s. Last time I checked, furthermore, the technical journals and conferences of which you speak exist as a sort of parallel universe to the peer-reviewed literature that credentialed people in the sciences publish in order to be credentialed in the first place.

Put another way, have John Sanford, Forrest Mims, and John Baumgardner published their research in Scientific American or similar venues? If not, why not? Until they do, why should an undergraduate or graduate student in the sciences take their theories seriously?


"the theory of evolution as a plausible working hypothesis"

Interesting way to put it. Where is does not make sense is that a theory is called a theory because it has passed the test of hypothetical plausibility based on evidence and is, as most biologists agree, a fact. Theories describe reality and do not simply make inferences about reality that are waiting for evidence to substantiate plausibility. The theory/hypothesis distinction is one of the problems in the debate and most on the creationist or intelligent design side of the fence gloss that fundamental distinction. I know this is tiresome semantics, but important nonetheless.

If it is a plausible working hypothesis, it softens the tension. Since it is a theory, it increases the tension, to use Stark and Bainbridge's definition of sectarian impulses in religious behavior (which is really a definition from Benton Johnson that they tested). The outright resistance to the normative view that evolution is a theory and thus beyond hypothetical plausibility is a measurable variable in the tension of many of evangelicalism's sectarian characteristics. I think, sociologically, that's the issue. It is hard to accept the theoretical facticity of evolution and maintain a tension with the world by not being "of" it.

Be that as it may I think that W. Bush's evangelicalism has been overly caricatures since day 1. He has never claimed to be a biblical literalist and has always spoken in far more inclusivist terms than I think many would like to believe.



You are sharp as always. But I will submit your thoughts to a critique just the same. You know well enough to expect it.

It is possible to carefully distinguish between a mere hypothesis and a theory, but this is not done as regularly as you imply by your language. On the other hand, it is usual in the extreme to distinguish carefully between theory and fact. Instead, you conflate the two.

But I concur with you that evolution is a well-supported theory, that converging lines of evidence support the notion that the universe is billions of years old, originated in a big bang, and so on. I deny, as do many scientists of the highest repute, that the evidence contradicts the notion of an intelligent designer of it all. On the contrary, the evidence, as Davies shows, is easily taken to support that notion.

It is important that evangelicalism maintain its sectarian impulses. I agree with that, because I think it's connatural to genuine faith in the God of Israel and Jesus Christ to be "against" culture in specific, even strident ways, rather than accommodate it across the board.

The theory of evolution might seem to be a logical target of this impulse. After all, for every Ken Miller, there seem to be two or three Dawkins who make unjustified inferences in the direction of atheism based on evolutionary biology.

But I find the collateral damage in the practice of putting evolutionary biology beyond the pale too high to be acceptable. I would think it wiser to make a clear distinction between evolution as a theory and evolution as means of salvation (when I was an undergrad, a famous lecturer at
the UW-Madison taught it as both).

The same applies to environmentalism, which thrives on junk science, and climatology for climatologists, a humbler enterprise, in which questions abound and answers are tentative as best. As in all science, rightly so called.

You are certainly right about 41. He is a moderate evangelical, not a fundamentalist. Perhaps you'd be surprised to know that moderate evangelicals form a very large demographic. We just don't hoot and holler as loudly as the others.

Jonathan Bartlett

John -

You are absolutely correct that Numbers is a class act. He is probably the only person in the whole debate that both sides wholeheartedly refer to without reservation.

I am familiar with Ken Miller's work, and I find it unconvincing. The only book I've found that I thought was remotely convincing of Darwinism was actually not even a creation/evolution book. It was Andreas Wagner's Robustness and Evolvability in Living Systems (my discussion of it is here if you are interested).

Jonathan Bartlett

John -

You say:

"I certainly have not received the impression that creation science has become a viable scientific alternative to the theory of evolution."

It certainly is not a popular alternative among scientists. But consensus is the antithesis of science.

"It really is the case that if you study biology, biochemistry, astronomy, geology, paleoanthropology... etc., creation science's "answers" to the reigning working hypotheses do not seem like science at all."

I have not studied all of these fields, but in my personal study of biochemistry (which, admittedly, does not address the age-of-the-earth issue) I must say that I personally think that the Creation explanations are much more convincing, and the evolutionary ones sound like hocus pocus. This is actually a fairly common divide between scientists vs. engineers - between (in my view) the people who like to make mental constructions and the people who have to put those mental constructions into practice and make them work.

Jonathan Bartlett

John -

You say:

"have John Sanford, Forrest Mims, and John Baumgardner published their research in Scientific American or similar venues? If not, why not?"

It's interesting to note, for instance, the intellectual lynching that Richard Sternberg received for allowing to be published a paper on Intelligent Design within his journal. Don't you think this sort of behavior might prevent journal editors from seriously considering alternatives?

Drew Tatusko

I don't want to get into an ID v. evolution thing here...

but two clarifications since I think we are basically in agreement other than semantics:

1) "On the contrary, the evidence, as Davies shows, is easily taken to support that notion." I think the evidence can support a philosophical assertion that there might be a designer, but it does not scientifically support that there indeed is a designer.

2) The semantics with evolution are the sticky wicket. It is a fact that evolution happens, has happened, and will continue to happen on both micro and macro levels. There are different theories within evolution that confirm different evolutionary hypotheses. There are also hypotheses within evolutionary theories that have not been proven.

Somewhat related, I posted more thoughts on evangelicalism this morning regard the resignation of Cizik. I bring that up only because I reference Stark & Bainbridge as you did here and it addresses what I think is another field of agreement regarding the diversity in evangelicalism. I link to a fantastic post by David Congdon on that issue as well.



Thanks. I think we've cleared this up.

Thank you also for the refs to other very interesting posts.

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