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Editor’s Desk

Creationists Evolving Better Camouflage

Frank Zindler

There is no better way to observe evolution in action than to study creationists. The evolutionary changes they have undergone in their quest for power are an illuminating illustration of selection of behavioral mutations that increase fitness in the struggle for survival. Originally, of course, the creationists controlled all the schools of the western world and were the dominating ideology in science itself. With the discovery of natural selection by Darwin and Wallace, however, they began a losing battle with an ever-advancing science of biology. Rather quickly, the creationists were defeated and had to retreat to the safety of religious schools – and even many religious schools rejected ‘wild-type’ creationism in favor of variably scientific versions of evolutionary theory.

Although defeated in the halls of science, the creationists evolved a strategy to regain power. They succeeded in getting evolution science outlawed in various states and launched a faith-based campaign of terrorism against public-school teachers who dared to teach science where it was still legal. Ultimately, the courts struck down all the antievolution laws, and the creationists had to wait for a mutation that could once again help them compete with science.

Since creationism was clearly understood by the courts to be a form of religion, it had to evolve some protective coloration that would allow it to masquerade as science. Voilà! ‘Creation Science’ appeared, and ‘creation scientists’ promptly demanded equal time with evolutionary science in the public schools. After some success, ‘Creation Science’ also was evicted by the courts from the public schools when it was shown that the ‘Science’ part of ‘Creation Science’ was just religion in camouflage. A macromutation was needed if creation warriors were to evade the radar of the courts.

A stealth mutation was what saved the day, resulting in the appearance of what is innocently termed “Intelligent Design Theory” by creationists and “Intelligent Design Creationism” (IDC) by scientists. Except for the obvious fact that intelligent design implies the existence of an intelligent designer of the sort that needs to be capitalized, the religious essence of the new creationism is extremely well camouflaged. Keeping the courts ever in sight, IDC missionaries avoid any claims that are obviously religious, hewing to the minimalist position that the immense complexity of living things compels the inference of design. While they will admit that the designer of living systems may well be a god, they disingenuously suggest that he could also be some sort of extraterrestrial superintelligence. Of course, none of the IDC lobbyists believe that for even a millisecond, but they think it will give a secular veneer to their claims of the scientific nature of their ‘theory’. What’s a little lie, if it’s for Jesus?

The camouflage evolved by the IDC ideologues is devilishly deceptive – i.e., effective. In order to slip past judicial secularity check-points more convincingly, they have gone way beyond just trying to make their religion look like science. To increase the effectiveness of their disguise, they try to make science look like religion! They assail the ‘naturalistic bias’ of ‘establishment science’ and claim that naturalism is an established religion. By redefining both science and religion, the purveyors of IDC seek to gain acceptance in the courts, having failed to gain acceptance in the refereed journals that publish real science.

The pseudophilosophical attack on science itself has confused many public officials, and even some scientists have been uncertain how to deal with the challenge. Fortunately, IDC involves a fundamental fallacy of informal logic, and it is not necessary to get stuck in Tar Baby-like metaphysical arguments to show that IDC cannot possibly be an alternative science.

Real science must always explain the unknown in terms of the known. IDC, by contrast, “explains” the unknown in terms of the even more unknown. Old-time logicians called this fallacy ignotum per ignotius – “the unknown by means of the more unknown.” In appealing to supernatural intellects, IDC advocates appeal to something far less known (indeed, unknowable) than the biological and chemical phenomena they seek to explain. Explanations in science must deal with natural – not supernatural – processes, since natural processes are the only kind of which we can have knowledge. It is this very practical reason – not an Atheistic bias – which forces scientists to exclude the supernatural in the conduct of their research.

When Benjamin Franklin explained lightning in terms of electricity, he was explaining the unknown in terms of phenomena known from his own experiments. The IDC equivalents of his day, however, explained lightning as the wrath of Jehovah – something of which they could not possibly have had any knowledge. They committed the fallacy of ignotum per ignotius. Because Franklin had explained the unknown in terms of the known, he could expect that lightning might be drawn to metal points in the way that static electric discharges behaved in his laboratory. This enabled the invention of the lightning rod and the saving of untold lives and incalculable amounts of property since 1752. The IDC advocates of his day, however, could only call him a wicked infidel for thwarting the will of God and blame his “wicked iron points” for provoking the earthquake that devastated Boston, where lightning rods had become common. Like their modern equivalents, they could offer nothing of utility to humankind and served only to retard human progress.


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