Posted by: cjobrien | 6 April 2008

Intelligent Design and Creationism Put Faith At Risk

Through Blog of The Airtightnoodle I came across this excellent post on the threat of creationism and intelligent design, not to science, but to faith. The author clearly understands the threat that the creationist/intelligent design fairytale poses to a child’s faith in the long run:

Those who are teaching their children using creationist curriculum are in particular danger of setting their children up for this fall. To see why, I’d like to offer a challenge. Take your child’s creationist materials and look at whatever footnotes and references are provided. Now take an evening and look up the names of the authors cited. Odds are excellent that virtually all of the authors are creationist scientists. Now, take the names of any mainstream scientists who are quoted or whose work is referenced and attempt to track down their work. Specifically, see if you can find the particular quotes used in your child’s materials. Google books can be a great way of doing this. Now, read through whatever you can find with an eye towards evaluating the accuracy of the quotes provided (ie are words changed, relevant sections replaced by “. . .”). Also try and honestly evaluate if the author of your child’s materials has accurately conveyed the substance of what the author is saying.

 If you drink, you may want to keep some strong drink nearby to sustain yourself during this process, because I promise you, you will not be happy with what you find. Unfortunately, the only way creationist materials are able to create the appearance of validity is by only referring to the work of “creation scientists” (who don’t do research, BTW. Their work is limited to analyzing the work of others to look for potential holes which might be able to be seen as supporting a creationist perspective. This is not science.). When creationist materials do refer to the work of mainstream scientists, conducting actual research, they almost uniformly misquote and misrepresent them. If you do not believe me, then take a weekend or two and do the research yourself. The internet is a wonderful tool.

The author goes on to point out that an “…idea which is true should not depend on deception”. Yet “deception” is the only substantial argument against evolution that creationists and ID proponents can muster. Kids will ultimately see through the deception once they encounter the evidence of science as explained by real scientists and not creationist pseudoscience or intelligent design propaganda movies. If you, as a Christian creationist, really think you are protecting your child’s faith, then you are sadly delusional. As an instructor and teacher I encounter more and more students every year who have walked away from their faith precisely because their parents, pastors, whoever insisted that in terms of proper theology it was their way or the highway. Most students find the highway much more enlightening and fulfilling.

I should know: Darwin did not force me to leave the church; fundamentalist Christianity forced me away. There came a time when I was no longer being allowed to follow my faith on my own accord – the church was insisting that I accept faith on its terms, including requiring that I accept intelligent design. It was demanding that I ignore intellectual pursuits when they conflicted with traditional teaching. If people really want to know why I left then I have to lay most of the blame at the feet of the church herself.  




  1. Thanks for linking to me. 🙂

    I’m sorry to hear you had such a bad experience with your church. I was always told, too, that I must read Genesis’ creation account literally (though my church readily accepted symbolic/figurative interpretation of other parts of scripture, like with eschatology), that evolution was false, etc.

    I am still a person of faith, though…but I know all too well the turmoil my mind went through as I struggled with evolution after being taught for so long that I could not accept it.

    The homeschool mom who wrote that article is right-on…the dangers to faith of teaching “creationism only!” or “intelligent design only!” need to be made apparent.

  2. My pleasure…
    Funny, but the church (Catholic) was not always that way, and many would argue that even today it has made its peace with science. Nonetheless, there are enough media mouthpieces (as well as in individual churches) who take it upon themselves to define what the church should and should not be to the rest of us. The church hierarchy seems willing to let such people run off at the mouth, probably for fear of losing members – yet they don’t seem to see those of us who leave because of what we’re being told. Science was not the only reason my family left, but it was a major part for me…

  3. Just curious…

    Ever try a church that ISN’T Catholic?

    My husband was raised Catholic, and he had several problems with it (sounds similar to yourself) that led to him leaving and having nothing to do with religion for quite some time.

  4. Regarding what kids learn in AP Biology, they come home and say to their parents, “Any answer is correct, as long as it mentions evolution”. Someone still needs to explain why this is better than ID.

    Of course, I have spent months doing mathematical derivations, programming them up, checking and rechecking and trying to understand why 100,000 lines of code isn’t matching a physical experiment. Why do I persist? The answer: Faith. Faith that the countless formulas would give me the correct answer if they are used properly. Faith that the derivations can be done correctly. Faith here. Faith there. Eventually things work out, but it sometimes takes 2 or 3 years of work. Science without faith is impossible. In fact, it was probably the Christian paradigm of faith that led to the scientific revolution in the first place.

  5. Looney, you’re playing with rhetoric to make arbitrary belief seem appropriate. Faith is necessary, and in-built in our brains to some degree from the start, but it useless as a method of finding truth. (Pick a religion, any religion, and just add faith to get belief. No discernment for truth involved.) Our provisional assumptions that work in keeping the fabric of society and our lives together is different from believing in things like reincarnation, quantum theory, or astrology.

    “Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated. Science, for me, gives a partial explanation of life. In so far as it goes, it is based on fact, experience, and experiment. . . . I agree that faith is essential to success in life, but I do not accept your definition of faith, i.e., belief in life after death. In my view, all that is necessary for faith is the belief that by doing our best we shall come nearer to success and that success in our aims (the improvement of the lot of mankind, present and future) is worth attaining.”
    –Rosalind Franklin in a letter to Ellis Franklin, ca. summer 1940

  6. I have to disagree with your headline that the world has become increasingly hostile to both logic and reason. If anything, the world has become increasing hostile towards faith.
    I do think that creationism only teaching is wrong because I belive each person should be able to make their own decision. I think the people enforcing this may have had good intentions but apparently haven’t realized that’s not how things work. You seem to be a bit bitter about God. Has anyone ever told you that it isn’t about religion? Religion is some set of rules you follow, but being a Christian means having a relationship with Jesus. It’s just about the relationship, and if people have been putting other burdens on you or making you feel pressed into changng your mind then they are not showing the love of Jesus. I just encourage you to step outside the box a little and try to go to a church that’s different and isn’t all about doctrine. The church I go to is all about being real, and it’s different ever week (no scheduled mass or anything, the pastor just follows God’s heart and we aren’t in the people glorifying business). It’s obvious that this must be something you think of often. And I’ll pray for you.

  7. Something I should have mentioned: God and science go together. There’s eventually a line you get to where it takes blind faith to believe, but nothing contradicts there being a God. He left some evidence from when we were made. I’m not sure exactly what method He used to create us, but I don’t think it really matters, either. If it mattered that much, then more than two chapters (roughly) if the Bible would’ve been dedicated to it, but that’s not the case.

  8. I’m very skeptical of those who speak of evolution as absolute fact and ID as religious wishful thinking. I have recently seen where hundreds of practicing scientists and science instructors skeptical of Darwinian evolution.

    The statement that ID scientists do not do research is wrong. As a group, they are testing the hypotheses/theory in their own fields of expertise and labs and they present their finding annually at conference(s). Astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle was an atheist when he proposed ID and he also demonstrated mathematically that Darwinian evolution was an impossibility. That was long before the Discovery Institute and the so-called replacement for creationism.

    Brad’s statement about faith and religion have nothing to do with finding the truth is quite amazing. Why were almost all scientific discoverers Pascal, Newton, Boyle, Mendels, Einstein all people of faith? Some were even ordained ministers and priests. It is not likely that they separated their religion from their science. Even Einstein’s theory of relativity–the cosmological constant–is not without its religious component. Why do philosophers and historians of science point to the often religious inspiration of their famous hypotheses?

  9. Notcomingdown: Thanks for your post and your prayers. However, I and my family are perfectly happy in whatever level of spirituality we share (without the crutch of organized religion or church). I know it is sometimes difficult for believers to think that non-believers (or “limited” believers”) can enjoy life, but that is mythology. I don’t actually happen to believe anymore that Jesus Christ was god (or that he personally cares one wit about what I do or don’t do in my day-to-day life). At best (assuming biblical passages are remotely historically correct, which I doubt) he was an extremely unselfish individual whose actions we would do well to follow, but I have no desire for a “relationship” with him anymore than I desire one with Darwin. I’m perfectly comfortable with the unknown. I agree that there are churches out there that do not rely on scriptural propaganda to control their flock, and I’m glad you’re comfortable in what you personally have found. But that’s the real bottom line, isn’t it?: personal choice. There are many (Daniel, above for one) who don’t seem to think that we should have personal choices unless they’re pre-approved by whatever religion happens to be prominent at the time. But even atheists should be allowed personal freedom to choose as they wish (without fear of discrimination) – anything else is theocracy.

    It is really hard for me to buy into your argument that the world is hostile toward faith, especially when something like 80% of Americans express a faith of some kind (not to mention the rising tide of Islamic “faith”). Certainly faith in general has come under criticism lately, and as well it should. Why should faith or religion be exempt from criticism, particularly in the public square (if you practice it at home or in the confines of your church, that’s something different)? If those who believe expect the rest of us to follow their doctrines, they should expect their belief systems to sustain critique. Most of them, of course, cannot sustain public criticism without exposing the frequent “smoke and mirrors” of belief, so they cry foul and try to pass legislation “protecting” religion. That’s about as un-American as it gets.

    Thanks again for your post.

  10. Daniel – of course you’re skeptical – your religion demands that you close your eyes to anything that might possibly contradict your belief system. That’s why you quote “hundreds” of scientists who are skeptical of Darwinian evolution (straight from the pages of the Discovery Institute’s list of scientist’s “skeptical of evolution”). I’ve looked through the same list: lots of engineers, medical doctors, chemists and physicists but almost no one who actually has any training or can muster a research history in geology, paleontology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, or a host of other disciplines that actually concern evolution. If you accept that an engineer can offer a valid critique on the nature of cladogenesis and the fossil record, then you must also accept that my anthropology degree by definition makes me an authority on neural surgery.

    Sorry, but no research or testable hypotheses have been offered by intelligent design advocates. NONE. Certainly many do research in their own fields, but none of those fields have anything to do with research into evolutionary theory. You should read my previous post on natural resource management and evolutionary theory – intelligent design has nothing to offer on such issues. I know you creationists like to keep trotting out people like Fred Hoyle, but as great an astrophysicist as Fred may have been, he was no evolutionary biologist – in fact he lacked the basic knowledge of evolutionary any first year zoology graduate student commands. His “calculations” skipped the principle components of evolution entirely. It is also not clear that his arguments applied only to the origins of life and that he otherwise accepted evolutionary change as an explanation for the diversity of life. Yes, historically many scientists were religious and may have even looked to religion for their inspiration. And like today’s intelligent design advocates, when their research could apparently take them no further, they invoked god: “well, I can’t explain it, so the rest must be the result of god’s work”. It always took someone of a little less faith in the bible and more faith in the method of science to keep the progress of scientific discovery going. It’s also not clear that many weren’t Christian in name only (most lived during times when announcing a lack of faith got you killed – from your blog, I get the impression you would prefer devolving society to such times).

  11. I said that “Faith is … useless as a method of finding truth.” That is not saying faith and religion have “nothing to do with” finding truth. Those scientists you refer to, Daniel, obviously found wonder and awe in the universe, and mixed this with their religious beliefs about reality. Einstein, of course, is different. His “God” was the one he believed deserved reverence and respect: the universe itself. He thought of the anthropomorphic conceptions of a personal god as naive. So his drive for science was that he “wanted to know God’s thoughts. The rest … details.”

    This, perhaps, used to give scientists reason to search for truth and knowledge in the first place. But belief is not what got them to their conclusions. Like I said, with faith there is no discernment, no rationalization, no explanation; just arbitrary belief. The very principle of faith is antithetical to science. (If you were well-grounded in your reasoning, why would you need to take a leap of faith?)

    Why are some famous hypotheses religiously inspired? Because religion, by its very nature of dealing with the big issues (well, I wouldn’t really say “dealing” with them) can be genuinely inspiring. But as long as we’re playing to the point-at-the-smart-guys game, take a look at some modern atheist scientists like Feynman and Sagan. A large of prominent scientists are atheists, and don’t need the work of the ancients for inspiration.

  12. In a recent debate between Laurence Krauss and Richard Dawkins, Krauss argued that an important part of the strategy of improving science education is to refute the religious claim that belief in evolution leads to atheism. Dawkins came back by pointing out that if your goal is to kill religion, then you’re best off agreeing (in a sinister movie villain voice) “Yes, belief in evolution DOES lead to atheism, and LOOK here at all the evidence for evolution.”

  13. CJ O’brien: I realize that we live in the world’s ruling empire where elitish professionals hold the arrogant view that their professionalism renders them of superior credentials and intelligence above all the peons of society. Arrogance and dogmatism has always been a part of empire. Yours is certainly no different than others dogmas religious, cultural, or political.

    I’m looking a the list of skeptical scientists right now. I count 150 of the 240 are scientists in some discipline of biology including bioengineering, biomechanics, biophysics, biochemistry, biochemical engineering, molecular biology, microbiology, cellular biology, plant biology, wildlife biology, biomedical engineering, neurobiology, radiation biology, theoretical biology, environmental biology, embryology, and genetics.

    Here’s a few more interesting ones: Evolutionary algorithms, plant ecology & evolution, developmental biology, and molecular evolution.

    Then there are those in your own field of anthropology as well as earth science, physical geography, geology, marine geology, physical geology, structural geology, geochemistry, geophysics, Pleistocene palynology, and paleontology, which adds up to about 175. does present a ID hypothesis, which I would agree it seems rather weak or maybe just very limited in scope.

    It’s begging the question to say the position of a learned scientist and astrophysicist on evolution is invalid because only true believers in evolution are qualified to make a scientific-based judgment on it.

    It seems objectivity or intellectual honesty is not one of your strengths.

  14. Brad: Your distinction seems contradictory. Either truth is a means to truth or it isn’t. Maybe the problem is one of definition. You see faith as a blind, irrational, unreasoned act or view. Faith is actually rooted in reason or intelligence, causal, and relational. Having a relationship with a person/God can not be blind, irrational, devoid of reason, or without cause and effect.

    You are wrong about Einstein. His God was Jewish not scientific. The history of his problem with the cosmological constant is proof.

    The prominent naturalist Darwin was exactly a die-hard atheist. Even if he was, his theory was birth in a highly religious environment in which evolutionary theory already existed.

  15. Sorry Daniel, it’s you who is not being intellectually honest. “Scientists” can work in specialized areas of all of those fields and never have to concern themselves with the prinicples of evolution. Can you show me that any of these scientists actively contribute to research on evolution (or some alternate idea to evolution)? Your anthropologist on the list is completely unknown, and apparently has contributed little in the way of direct research on this issue. Your environmental ecologist is a director of public works. Almost all claim to base their concern over Darwin on their religious beliefs, NOT their scientific research. You, the Discovery Institute and other Christian activists want the rest of the world to believe that there are scientists out there who regularly research and publish specifically on evolutionary theory or a related discipline and who have found evolutionary theory scientifically unsound because of this research. That is not the case with the list. Opponents of evolutionary biology despise it solely because of religious belief and cannot provide an adequate alternative that accounts for the huge volumes of data that neither you nor most of the scientists on your list are actually familiar with.

    However, if you think the list is valid and these “scientists” qualify to make objective statements about evolutionary science, then fine. I guess then, that you also have no problem with the more than 11,000 Christian clergy who have signed a letter stating in part that “..the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth”? (

    You point out a small minority of scientists who share your opinion on evolutionary theory – but apparently there is a huge number of Christian clergy who disagree with you.

  16. Daniel, you need to read more about Einstein. His vision of god was much different than the one you suggest and he was chastised by the Christian community for it. Start by reading Dawkins’ review of this issue in The God Delusion.

  17. cjobrian, I think you need to fix the link in your post. That link gave me a 404 error. What you did is gave out a link that said “id-and-creationism-can-put-faith-at-risk/” twice while the link should say, “…/id-and-creationism-can-put-faith-at-risk/” once

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