Friday, 15 February 2013

Creationists at the Discovery Institute

To be clear, I am considering anyone who denies universal common descent, and believes instead that each "kind" of animal was created separately is a creationist.

There are plenty of people who are creationists and proud of it. The people at "Answers in Genesis" and "Institute for Creation Research" are fine examples. What is of more interest to me are the intelligent design advocates who are also creationists. There is nothing inconsistent about being both an IDist and a creationist, however this does give us some insight into why they might want to promote ID, and why they reject modern evolutionary theory.

Dembski claims that many intelligent design advocates are ex-Darwinists, rather than fundamentalists wanting to promote creationism. However, I have yet to see anything resembling decent argument against common descent, other than reference to a holy book, so I take his words with a liberal pinch of salt:

In my own case, I was raised in a home where my father had a D.Sc. in biology (from the University of Erlangen in Germany), taught evolutionary biology at the college level, and never questioned Darwinian orthodoxy during my years growing up. My story is not atypical. Biologists Michael Behe, Jonathan Wells, and Dean Kenyon all started out adhering to Darwinism and felt no religious pull to renounce it. In Behe’s case, as a Roman Catholic, there was simply no religious reason to question Darwin. In so many of our cases, what led us out of Darwinism was its inadequacies as a scientific theory as well as the prospect of making design scientifically tractable.

We will look at Jonathan Wells in a moment...
You might like to look at a list of fellows of the DI CSC (the ID wing of the Discovery Institute).

Michael Denton and Michael Behe

Michael Denton and Michael Behe both accept universal common descent; they are not creationists. Denton is actually a very interesting case, because originally he rejected common descent. To his credit, when the flaws in his argument were pointed out, he changed his position.


Bruce Chapman

Chapman is the man who founded the Discovery Institute. This comes from a blog post:

At the core of the exhibit is a tiny rodent whom the adorable, if naive, teens are supposed to venerate as their direct ancestor. It cost a lot of money to bamboozle the folks this way. And you taxpayers paid for it.

Stephen Meyer

Meyer is the Program Director at the DI CSC. His CV says he was a "university professor" at Palm Beach Atlantic University from 2002 to 2005. Palm Beach Atlantic University requires all members of staff to believe "that man was directly created by God", so Meyer must be (or have been) a creationist to get that position.

Jonathan Wells

From here:

The problem with universal common descent is not that it conflicts with ID, but that it conflicts with the evidence. In fact, it blatantly distorts the evidence to serve naturalistic philosophy.

Okay, Wells rejects common descent. Now remember that Dembski claims that Wells "started out adhering to Darwinism and felt no religious pull to renounce it"? Wells tells it rather differently:

Father's [Sun Myung Moon's] words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle.
- Jonathan Wells, Darwinism: Why I Went for a Second Ph.D.
In fairness to Dembski, Wells tells it both ways!


Dembski

From here:

For the record: I personally don’t believe in common descent though I think there are lines of evidence that suggest considerable evolutionary change. At the same time, there are lines of evidence that suggest considerable discontinuity among organisms. Check out chapter 5 of my forthcoming book with Jonathan Wells titled THE DESIGN OF LIFE (publication date keeps being delayed, but I think it’ll be out in November).

Phillip E. Johnson

From here:

Nowadays I rarely see any attempt to prove that the Darwinian mechanism actually has the power to create major new biological innovations. Instead, the museums and magazines prefer just to tell the story of common descent, assuming that random variation with natural selection (differential reproduction) must have been adequate to perform whatever designing had to be done. At the same time, mainstream science, although guided by Darwinian assumptions, keeps providing more and more evidence of the enormous information content of living structures. Even the core assumption that genetic similarities are necessarily inherited from common ancestors is contradicted almost daily by invocations of something called “lateral gene transfer” to explain genetic similarities between organisms which are not believed to share a recent common ancestor.

Casey Luskin

This whole web page, titled Design vs Descent: A Contest of Predictions, is arguing for design, and against common descent:

Jonathan Witt

Again a whole page arguing against common descent.

Paul Nelson

Dembski says of Nelson: "Nelson’s young earth creationism has been a matter of public record since the mid eighties." Also from here:

I became a fellow at Discovery in 1996, and published a chapter defending YEC with John Mark Reynolds (in the Zondervan volume Three Views on Creation and Evolution) in 1999. In fact, the submission of my chapter MS was delayed, much to the consternation of the Zondervan editors, because Discovery colleagues were urging me to drop out of the book. I've never made any effort to hide my YEC convictions, which are mainly theological in origin.
It is worth noting that most of the DI IDists are old-Earth creationists; he appears to be the only young Earth creationist.

Percival Davis and Dean H. Kenyon

David and Kenyon were the main authors of the text book, Of Pandas and People. Early drafts of this used the term "creationism" instead of "intelligent design" (etc.), and included this statement:

The basic metabolic pathways of nearly all organisms are the same. Is this because of descent from a common ancestor, or because only these pathways (and their variations) can sustain life? Evolutionists think the former is correct; creationists because of all the evidence discussed in this book, conclude the latter is correct

After the creationists lost the Edwards vs Aguillard court case, all references to crationis were removed in the book. Nevertheless this seems adequate evidence that Davis and Kenyon are themselves creationists.

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