Here’s a picture to warm your heart:
It comes from the closing presentation of the conference, entitled “The Creation Model: It’s Past, Present and Necessary Future,” by Andrew Snelling. Here’s another one:
Guess I should stop worrying. Actually, the best moment in Snelling’s talk came later. Ever wondered where to locate the real problem with modern creationism?
What if there was absolutely no evidence that the universe was young? No scientific evidence the universe was young. Would you still believe that it was young? Why? Because God’s word teaches it. That’s the only reason you need to have to believe the universe is young. God’s word says it, therefore I believe it. That’s not to say the evidences are not important. Of course they are. Because we’re commanded to have a reason for the hope, and to give reasoned answers for what we believe and why we believe it. But we must always remember our Biblical foundations.
So often we fight over the scientific evidence, but are we winning by leaving out our Biblical foundations? Too much of our creation apologetics has therefore been based on the evidence alone. We need to keep arguing from the level of world views. Because ultimately the problem that people have is spiritual, the deliberate rejection of God’s word. (Emphasis Added)
If their current arguments are the result of an overconcern for eivdence, I can’t imagine what they would come up with after throwing that concern overboard!
As I said, this was the conference closing. It came after three and a half days of wall-to-wall creation science. For most of the days there were four parallel sessions going on, from which the poor conference goer could only choose one. Such an embarrassment of riches!
The talks themselves had an interesting format. They were held in ninety minute sessions, with hour long talks and thirty minutes for Q and A. Here I must give them their due. The Q and A’s were frequently lively and contentious, and there was no attempt to shut anyone down. Questioners were allowed to stay at the microphone as long as they liked, asking follow ups, and even aggressively criticizing the speakers at times. With one exception (stay tuned!) no one got angry at me for asking questions.
Here is a typical example. On the first day I attended a talk entitled “A Nuanced Lakatos Philosophy of Theology and Science,” by Doug Kennard, a Biblical studies professor from Bryan College. This was a hard-core philosophy talk, so naturally I lost interest about ten minutes in. The thrust of his talk, however, was clear. Kennard was arguing that some of the hostility directed at creationists by scientists was the result of naive philosophical beliefs on the part of creationists. They would be more likely to get a hearing, Kennard argued, if they hewed to a more sophisticated view of things.
During the Q and A I said the following:
I’d like to address one narrow point you brought up, and it came up again moments ago in your answer to a previous question, this issue of how creationists can present themselves in ways more likely to be received by the scientific community. I think, to be a little blunt about it, I don’t think the issue is philosophy. I don’t think it’s that scientists are operating within a Kuhnian paradigm or something like that. I think it’s simply that from the scientific perspective creationists are just making bad arguments. That’s how they see it. When they look, and I should stop saying they because I include myself in this, when I look at a lot of the books out there and browse through them you can go pages at a time without seeing anything that resembles the way scientists talk about evolution. And I would also add that a lot of these arguments, have been addressed by scientists. It’s not that they’ve been ignored and have not been able to get a hearing. Especially more recently with people like William Dembski and Michael Behe, you have book-length arguments about it. So I think that philosophy is not really the answer. I think it’s that there are a lot of bad arguments. And worse than that, when I hear, when I attend conferences like this and I hear creationists say, “Oh, they’re so disrespectful and they’re so rude,” well, I haven’t seen much respect coming the other way. When I attend these conferences I hear caricatures of science, I see misquotations of scientists’ work, and very simplistic versions of evolution. I would suggest instead of finding comfort in philosophy, sharpen your arguments and be a little more respectful the other way. Then they might be more inclined to reciprocate.
Kennard’s talk was not well attended, so only about fifteen people were there for that little piece of oratory. Here’s the first part of Kennard’s reply:
Well, I agree and think those are issues that need to be worked on. Having gone to the Mendel computer model [talk], I wonder if that’s not a good example of what I’m urging here in the Lakatos approach. That is, to set up a computer model that might help the broader scientific community to increased nuanced, precise modelling and excel at that, so that whether they know you’re a creationist or not they recognize this is nice work. That’s one side of this approach that I think might say that, it’s not just that we haven’t answered, or that we don’t have good scientific presentations. I think that a lot of the literature out here is purely at a popular level, and probably some of it is not good science.
Well steal my thunder why don’t you! Here I was hoping to have a good martyr story to tell, and he had to go and be gracious about it. Kennard went on a while longer regarding the virtues of philosophy, and criticizing the ID folks (!!). When he had finished his answer, the moderator approached the microphone and said to me
Thank you for coming. We need the challenge and we need the sharpening, the honing.
The moderator, a retired air force pilot, caught up with me after the talk. He thanked me again, and told me that the point of the ICC’s was to provide a forum for serious work in creation science, unlike a lot of the popular level stuff that gives creationism a bad name. He told me about all of the garbage papers they received for inclusion in the conference, and how difficult it was to single out the few good papers from the piles of nonsense.
It was a useful reminder of something I have written about (PDF format) before. There’s a distinction to be made between leaders and followers in creationism. The people writing the books and leading the revivals are precisely the ignorant charlatans scientists portray them to be. But the people sitting in the audience absorbing this stuff are frequently a different story. As I have said before, it is a lot easier to caricature people you have never met.
End of sermon. And, just so you don’t think I am going soft, let me add that I have precisely zero confidence in the ability of the friendly moderator to distinguish between scientific sense and nonsense. Browsing through the conference proceedings, I find a lot of very technical papers in geology and physics. I know a resectable amount of science, but I recognize that I am not really in a position to judge many of them. Somehow I am not optimistic that my colleagues in the geology and physics departments would find anything of value in these submissions.
There’s plenty more to be said about the conference, but I’m trying to keep these posts to a reasonable length so I’ll call it a day for now. In the interests of closing on a positive note, here’s a photo of the black and white cookie I ate during my trip to New York:
Makes me happy just looking at it.