The Ecphorizer

"Scientific" Creationism: Old Time Religion?
Paul Healy

Issue #07 (March 1982)

Going through some old family papers recently I came across a small pamphlet: Number 43 (October 1898) of the "Old Theology Tracts for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge," titled The Bible Versus the Evolution Theory. The heading reads "A Live Topic Discussed by Travelling Ministers," the travelers being aboard a "Lightning Express." Alpha is a Presbyterian minister, while Betha (sic) is a member of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. The Presbyterian begins as a "firm believer in evolution." Betha replies that he inclines "to the opinion that the majority of the advocates of evolutionary theories [quoteright'/>are not aware of the violent and irreconcilable differences between these theories and the Bible. It appears to me that if it were generally known that if evolutionary theories are true, the Bible doctrines are false, and if the Bible is of God, his inspired word, evolutionary theories are absolutely false, many evolutionists would give the subject deeper study before accepting and advocating a theory which gives the lie to the words of the Lord and His Apostles and all the holy Prophets." In the end (naturally) Alpha is fully convinced of the error of his views. The arguments used to convince him are all drawn directly from the Christian Bible, mostly from the New Testament.

Today we see a resurgence of the anti-evolutionists (now, styling themselves "Scientific Creationists"), and we may ask if anything has changed in this age-old battle. Yes, something has changed. The modern creationists are attempting to clothe themselves in the mantle of science. Their most effective lobbying group is the "Institute for Creation Research" in San Diego (as the Washington Post said, "old issues never die, they just move to California"). Founded in 1972 by Duane Gish, a PhD in biochemistry, and Henry Morgan, a hydraulics engineer, the Institute (in Gish's words) "correlates evidence from scientists in all fields within the creation concept." The Institute's hidden agenda is the fitting of all scientific knowledge to one of the Hebrew myths of creation found in the first chapters of Genesis. In his long, reasonable, and carefully rehearsed discourse, however, Gish never once mentions the Bible.

In January, I attended the 148th annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held at the Washington Hilton. There the links between Scientific Creationism and old-tine religion were explored by Wayne A. Moyer, Executive Director of the National Association of Biology Teachers. Speaking on "Meeting the Challenge of Creationism," Dr. Moyer said: "How do we know what is true?... Despite all disclaimers, the touchstone for truth for creationists is the Bible. I say this confidently because creationists are, first of all, Christian fundamentalists. Fundamentalism arose at the beginning of this century in response to the liberal theology coming into vogue at that time..." He quoted Henry Morris's book The Twilight Evolution published in 1963:

"The tale could be told a thousand times of a Christian church, a school, or a mission society, or some other organization founded by men of strong Biblical faith, and with an uncompromising witness, slowly but steadily drifting off its foundation and gradually sinking into the sands of modernism and secularism. This tragedy, repeated times without number, almost always begins with a questioning of Biblical creationism."

According to Moyer, "Morris goes on to present his version of the domino theory: an accommodation of any kind leads to a loss of faith and a humanistic society. This unerring faith in Biblical inerrancy is the key to understanding the zeal of creationism proponents. They are absolutely sure they possess a true and accurate account of human origin." Quoting Morris again,

"There is not the slightest possibility that the facts of science can contradict the Bible, and therefore there is no reason to fear that true scientific comparison of any aspects of the two models of origin, Creation versus Evolution, can ever yield a verdict in favor of evolution."

Moyer then asked: "What is this model that Morris and others would like to see become part of the curricula in astronomy, chemistry, biology, geology, and the social sciences? Briefly, it is the belief that the earth, all life, and the universe were created suddenly, in fully functioning form, out of nothing about 10,000 years ago. Then there was a flood that destroyed virtually all life and created the geologic shape of the earth... Their creation model bears no resemblance whatever to the real world; it is an austere theory, never compared to reality because there is no need."

Moyer speculated on the reasons for the present resurgence of this view. "In the black and white world of fundamentalism, creationism represents God-centered Christian morality while evolution represents atheistic human-centered immorality. Diane Gish, in the Lynchberg debate last summer, characterized evolution as a 'mechanistic, atheistic theory that is the basic dogma of agnosticism, humanism, and atheism in general.' ...There is a strong populist element in fundamentalism, just as there was in 1925 when William Jennings Bryan, the great commoner, represented the state of Tennessee (in the famous Scopes trial). And it looks so simple: an idea whose time has come, long suppressed by established science. But most of all, it is a focus of deep concern people have about their children. Fear that the good life is about over, that society has become self-indulgent and immoral; that science is going too far, forcing wrenching decisions from people unprepared or unwilling to make then. Creationism is a grass-roots political movement. It is directly breaching the wall between church and state, and installing Bible-centered education in the schools. If ever given the force of law, I believe creationism will eventually come to dominate the curriculum of every subject to which a claim can be laid."

Can the challenge of creationism be met? Yes! In Livermore, California, where the beard of education had purchased creationist texts for use in the 6th grade, a Presbyterian minister and a concerned parent went before the beard and convinced them that these books were in fact religious and violated the board's on policy. In Lexington, Kentucky, a rabbi, an anthropologist, and a physics professor formed a "Committee of Correspondence" - now operating in 40 states to keep track of creationist efforts and combat them. These committees are most often associated with the states' Academies of Science. They are exposing the "new science" for what it is - just old time religion. 

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Paul Healy

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