– Rant # 174 –


My colleagues are idiots because they seem to think it unnecessary to tell us to what positions their various labels are attached. We’ve already seen this, back in Rant # 167, in the case of denialism. Instead of offering us a definition of the term they tell us that denialists typically this, or denialists typically that. Well, bears typically eat berries. But so do birds. Here’s a big fury beast that’s not eating berries. I guess it can’t be a bear.

This is why definitions are important. They do something more than characterize the thing we’re talking about. They tell us what we’re talking about.

Let’s talk about Creationism.

Creationism is not the view that God had a hand in bringing the world into being. You can define it that way if you like, but then pretty much every theist in the Abrahamic tradition would be a Creationist. And yet most theists in that tradition, at least here in the West, are perfectly at ease with the Big Bang and the fourteen billion year hypothesis.

Moreover, that God had a hand in bringing the world into being is not the conclusion of the Intelligent Design Argument, since one could hold that He simply dipped His hands into the already-existing urstuff of the world. Or one could hold that in bringing the world into being as He did God was dumber than a bag of nails. Or one could hold that the world was set into motion by an intelligent designer but that intelligent designer wasn’t God. You may recall that Douglas Adams espoused just such a view. Or, as a variation on Adams, one could hold that our planet was seeded by some superior alien species.

Note that it’s no objection to this latter position that it merely pushes the question back onto these intelligent aliens, since the Big Bang has the same problem. All explanations reach their terminus in some brute fact. If it can be a brute fact that God was intelligent, likewise can it be a brute fact that these aliens were.

Moreover the Big Bang neither explains nor attempts to explain the radial asymmetry of the world, other than by citing that asymmetry as just a brute fact about the Big Bang. So it’s open to the Intelligent Design advocate to embrace the Big Bang and claim that intelligence went into this singularity’s already-asymmetrical interior. If you want to say it had no already-asymmetrical interior because, being a singularity, it had no interior, then you can’t explain the radial asymmetry of the world, and so your Big Bang doesn’t explain anything very interesting at all, save that the world was once more compact than it is now.

Thus the only Creationist entitled to that name is the so-called young earth Creationist. The young earth Creationist doesn’t deny the mechanism of evolution through mutation and natural selection, since that view is pretty much analytic. It says only that the replicability of an organism is a function of its being around long enough to replicate. How can one deny that?!

Rather young earth Creationism is the denial of the historicity of the evolution of species through mutation and natural selection. That is, it asserts that species came into being in much the way we now find them. And that’s all it asserts. It says this because it doesn’t think the world has been around long enough for evolution to have done the work attributed to it. But it says nothing about whether species are evolving now, nor whether they’ll evolve in the future.

Last but not least, one can be a so-called young earth Creationist and not be a theist at all. If this be doubted, doubt no longer. I am one such. In fact I’m of the view that the earth is a newborn, exactly and only five minutes old. I do not believe it was designed, intelligently or otherwise. That it came into being five minutes ago exactly as it was five minutes ago is the brute fact at which my explanation reaches terminus. If you think your terminus is any better you are comically mistaken.

So let’s get our nomenclature straight. Theism and intelligent design and Creationism are only contingently associated, and at that only in the minds of believers and my colleagues, whose understanding of these various claims is sometimes as kindergarten as is kindergarten Christianity’s understanding of the soteriology of the Cross.

A claim is answerable for what it claims, and to what follows logically from it. None of these three claims – theism, intelligent design, and Creationism – entails either of the other two. If these claims are to be combined, that they’re being combined has to be made explicit. So before you go on the attack, make explicit what combination you’re attacking. Otherwise you run the risk of just strawmanning. And strawmanning is just a dead giveaway that you’re cutting corners.

You can cut corners on aircraft maintenance, but not in doing philosophy.

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