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
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
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.
© 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by American Atheists.