The creationist handicap

Writing for the National Post, Prof. P. D. Brown says:

Like the evangelicals and other Christians he chastises for thinking that God might actually create something, I appreciate that Jonathan Dudley believes he is defending some variation of faith in God (The Christian duty to accept evolution, June 19). However, lurching into a naturalistic version of evolution occasionally baptized with the word “theistic” is arguably a worse mistake than the alleged immoderation of creationism.

Brown insists that it is evolution, not creationism, that has trouble explaining things.

[E]volutionary theory does not explain a lot of things – it does not explain the sudden appearance of life forms in the fossil record or the stasis that follows, it has no explanation for the coding and translation systems in life as they actually exist, it has no explanation or verifiable clues about the origin of life, it does not explain the origin of multiple layers of programming in the organism, it has no explanation for coordinating those multiple layers or how they relate to evolving function and development, it does not even explain — much less demonstrate — how a fruit fly could change to a house fly or vice versa (that would at least demonstrate that common ancestry between the two is possible), it does not explain how or why a common primate ancestor would diverge into chimps and humans, in fact it explains precious little at all. It is a one-trick pony doing a thousand versions of the claim: “Similarity implies common ancestry.”

But the real punch line here is in the credits at the bottom.

P.D. Brown is a professor of chemistry, biology and environmental studies at Trinity Western University in British Columbia

How could a college biology professor have such a distorted and misleading understanding of what evolution is? We can’t blame science. There are any number of resources available to even a casual student of biology that would trivially correct such basic errors as Prof. Brown’s, and science is not at all shy about sharing them with any interested parties. Nor can we blame the educational system. If Prof. Brown wanted a decent scientific education, he could have gotten it from any number of reputable institutions of higher learning.

The blame, clearly, lies in creationism. Prof. Brown is the product of a creationist educational system (formal or otherwise), and is trained only in denial and obfuscation of science, not in understanding and advancing it. Despite having advanced academic training, and even being a professor himself, his ability to deal fairly with science is crippled by the creationist handicap.

What is the creationist handicap? Quite simply, it’s the inadequacy of their Creator. The Biblical creation myth is the product of primitive people who were largely ignorant and superstitious. They imagined their Creator God as a being capable of doing only such things as they could imagine themselves doing (given divine powers). Thus, we read that God created man out of the dust of the earth, because they could imagine themselves mixing dirt with water to create a clay that could be shaped into a roughly human body. God spoke and things were created, because they could imagine themselves speaking magic words and having things spontaneously poof their way into obedient existence. That much, they could envision.

More complex systems, on the other hand, lay beyond their comprehension, and consequently their God also lacks the ability to design and create the kinds of complex systems scientists deal with today. So-called “naturalistic” scientists couldn’t possibly find sophisticated biological systems within Creation, because the Creator lacked the scientific know-how to put them there to be found. If the Genesis God created a system, creationists tell us, then it ought to be full of holes that His design for nature simply couldn’t cover. God could do it by magic, but He could not come up with a design intelligent enough to make magic unnecessary.

In this way, creationism betrays the man-made nature of the God of Genesis. God can come up with designs on the level of what primitive men could imagine, but He has to resort to magic to cover all the key points. He is limited both by the limited knowledge and imaginations of His inventors, and by the dogmatic traditionalism that prevents creationists from admitting that the ancient authors of the Bible could have been wrong (thus preventing any corrections to the original Creation myth).

Look at the kind of ingenious bio-engineering that Prof. Brown assures us was not within the mental reach of the Genesis Creator:

  • He cannot come up with a design for terrestrial life that would allow it to expand rapidly to fill a wide range of ecological niches, even under extremely favorable conditions.
  • He cannot design life in a way that would allow it to achieve equilibrium and stability automatically once these niches were filled.
  • He cannot design a set of chemical laws and/or environmental conditions that would allow organic molecules to begin self-replication, even under favorable conditions.
  • He cannot design biological mechanisms sufficient to develop simple biological systems into more complex ones, even given millions of years to evolve in.
  • He is incapable of designing a genetic system capable of unlimited evolution in response to environmental pressures, even when it promotes survival under changing and possibly hostile conditions.

In short, the Genesis Creator is a limited being whose biological designs are far less sophisticated and capable than what can be designed by mortal men with a reasonably well-developed scientific background. If God had been wise enough to understand the advantages of an evolutionary design, and if He had been powerful and smart enough to successfully implement these advanced designs for nature, then even creationists like Prof. Brown would be able to find them in Creation, assuming they knew where and how to look. In fact, if there were even a chance that He might be wise enough and powerful enough to build such an advanced design, creationists wouldn’t be able to know in advance that He didn’t.

The creationist, however, is devoted to denial of the evidence that his God could possibly have created a system as ingenious and sophisticated as this. Prof. Brown is so dedicated to denial, in fact, that it prevents him from grasping even elementary concepts about the kind of system a more intelligent Designer might have been capable of creating. The theory of evolution describes the emergence of new species through descent, with variation, from a common ancestor, yet somehow Prof. Brown can’t see what this has to do with a common primate ancestor giving rise to descendant species such as humans and chimps. In his own mind, he dumbs down the theory into a straw man that says only “similarity implies common ancestry.” He even seems to think that if two species share a common ancestor, we should be able to see one change into the other!

Think about that. Prof. Brown defines evolution as “similarity implies common ancestry,” and somehow in his mind this means that two sibling species should be able to change into each other, but that chimps and humans should not be able to descend from a common ancestor. And he’s teaching college-level biology. At a Christian college. (Remember that when it’s time to pick a school to attend.)

It’s a most powerful and pervasive form of denial, and it’s rooted in the sure and certain knowledge that the Genesis Creator is completely incapable of creating a biological system anywhere near as sophisticated as the kinds of systems evolutionists are studying today. And notice, it’s not atheists who are denying that God has the power to create systems as ingenious as evolution. It’s the creationists themselves, God’s biggest fans. They’re not intentionally putting God down, but they know, in their heart of hearts, that the Genesis God could never pull off a Creation as cool as the one Darwin thought up. So they’re handicapped. Their science is a science of denial and obfuscation, trying to put down the other guy so that their inadequate God isn’t left in the dust.

Like I said, a man-made God. He may not be much, but they’re stuck with Him, so they’re going to defend Him. No matter what it takes.

5 Responses to “The creationist handicap”

  1. 5keptical Says:

    A very nice hoist.
    Thank you for taking creationist positions and following through the implications to their bizarre conclusions.

  2. Lewin Says:

    Trinity Western is a Christian University. Probably not like Liberty University, maybe more like Baylor.

  3. Alex_P Says:

    If you’re even considering a Christian college (and I don’t mean the loose kind like St. Thomas), you need to evaluate whether or not you should even be going to college.

  4. Casey McCubbins Says:

    I think there is a lot of factual evidence to Creationism and thats why there are a lot of Christian Scientists. I find many many contradictions to the Theory of Evolution however. I have not actually found one fact that can be verified yet is never questioned as such. It fails in comparison to Creationism.

    • Deacon Duncan Says:

      So you do not believe God is capable of designing a system as sophisticated and ingenious as the one Darwin came up with, eh? Or do you suppose He was capable and simply somehow failed?

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