Creationism – a term of abuse?

Some of the commentators on UD have objected to my categorising Uncommon Descent under Creationism.  This is not a big issue for me and I have changed the category.  Here is the dialogue – copied from UD.


Gpuccio

So I would ask you explicitly: do you really believe that we here at UD are creationists? That ID and creationism are the same thing? And, just to make it personal, that I am a creationist?

Just to know…

me:
It is not an issue I find important. But if it helps. I define creationist as someone who believes that a divinity was responsible for life. Given that, the short answer is:

(a) I am pretty sure that most ID supporters are also creationists.

(b) I believe that creationism is an inevitable consequence of ID but some ID supporters may not realise that.

(c) I am pretty sure you think a divinity is responsible for life so I guess I have to say I think you are a creationist – although you do not explicitly say so.

(I don’t think of “creationist” as a perjorative term, although I do think creationists are wrong. I think YEC is just daft and not worth debating)

Gpuccio

well, maybe you could acknowledge that the word “creationist” is usually used in a different sense, especially by critics of ID.

That sense is that a creationists is one who practices some form of “creation science”.

As you certainly know, creation science is a kind of approach to science which assumes that specific religious convictions (such as the scriptures and their content) can and should be the starting point for specific scientific behaviour and research. IOW, issues of faith should guide the scientific process.

I can respect that position, but I don’t agree with it. In that sense, I am not and never will be a creationists. And in that sense, ID has nothing to do with creationism.

You give a very different definition. It is certainly true that I believe “that a divinity was responsible for life”. Indeed I believe that a divinity was and is responsible for all that exists. But that only means that I believe in God, and am a religious person. Why call me “creationist” for that?

Kenneth Miller is supposed to believe in God, but nobody calls him “creationist”. And that is right, becasue “creationist” does not mean that.

It is possible, but certainly open to debate, that belief in God could be a consequence of ID, but not the opposite. And anyway, creationism has nothing to do with that.

ID proper does not necessarily entail acts of specific creation for life. I am not even sure that I would ever use the word “creation” for the process by which the designer (which I do believe can be God) inputs information in living beings. “Creation” means generation of some reality from nothing. So, even if God has “created” the universe, it is possible that He has “designed” living beings. So, also in that sense, your definition of “creationism” is imprecise.

But the main point is that creationism ususally means another thing, and that one of the most common arguments against ID is to equate it with true creationism (that is, with creation science). That is simply not true, and not fair.

So, why not change the word “Creationism” in your blog with “Intelligent Design”?

me:

Gpuccio

It is now taking almost a minute for this thread to load so this is definitely my last comment on this thread for practical reasons.

If you have respect for creation science and I am not sure why you are so touchy about being labelled a creationist!

There is a key difference between your views and those of Ken Miller. Ken believes in God but he does not believe that God intervened to make life the way it is. A designer cannot implement its design without manipulating, directly or indirectly the thing it is designing. Also Ken believes in the current scientific approach to the development of life and would not substitute a teleological explanation where there are problems in the current science.

In addition there is the strong cultural link between creation science and ID. Many of the same people moved from one to another and had much the same overall motives and culture. You may be an exception – but the links are there.

Having said all that I don’t want to give offence and am happy to change the blog.

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2 Responses to “Creationism – a term of abuse?”


  1. 1 creationbydesign August 25, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    It’s admirable to see your respect for opponents and making changes to avoid giving offense. It’s that kind of thing that helps eliminate roadblocks to a fuller understanding of what the other person is saying – so congratulations and thanks.

    I wish you didn’t have to celebrate being on moderation. I realize it’s a two-way street, but perhaps it was the tone of a post or something that caused it … it can sometimes take a while to find the right way to say things (as some ardent evolutionists have been able to do on UD).

    I’ll close with this:

    I define creationist as someone who believes that a divinity was responsible for life.

    Ok, that’s one of many possible definitions.

    There is a key difference between your views and those of Ken Miller. Ken believes in God but he does not believe that God intervened to make life the way it is. A designer cannot implement its design without manipulating, directly or indirectly the thing it is designing. Also Ken believes in the current scientific approach to the development of life and would not substitute a teleological explanation where there are problems in the current science.

    Ken believes in God, plus he is a professed Catholic. So, God did “something” or even “does something”.

    The problem I’m pointing to is that a non-creationist view would necessitate the non-existence of God in that sense (or we’d have a god that did not or could not intervene).

    Evolutionary theory would require atheism in that view.

  2. 2 marktfrank August 25, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    I am an atheist and find most theist PoVs hard to understand. However, I suspect that Ken’s beliefs would be more on the lines that theology and science are different spheres and the developments of life falls into science. He would not look to his theism to explain how life came to be the way it is.


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