Exploring the wonders of geology in response to young-Earth claims...

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

The "Evolution of creationism" hits the front page in geological circles

The most recent issue of GSA Today, published by the Geological Society of America, featured an article by University of Washington Professor of Geology David Montgomery, entitled "Evolution of Creationism". Therein, Dr. Montgomery summarized the generally symbiotic growth of faith and science over the past centuries--particularly in geology. He emphasizes that before the most recent era, one could not polarize the two in academic arenas. Surprising to most readers will be that the modern Young-Earth Creationist movement represents only a relatively recent development in evangelicalism, which does not characterize previous centuries of believers.

Dr. Montgomery's article covers a most pertinent topic and should contribute positively to the discussion today. On the one hand, it offers a brief but highly informative history of the church's response to scientific discovery in the Earth sciences. This history has been documented at length in works such as Saving Darwin by Karl Giberson and The Biblical Flood: A Case Study of the Church's Response to Extrabiblical Evidence by Davis Young. However, Montgomery brings it to a new arena in a more palatable form. Now, nearly every geology/geography professor in the United States will be exposed to six pages of a far more balanced and accurate portrayal of creationism in America than the occasional courtroom fiasco, reckless politician, or Gallup poll has to offer. My personal hope is that geologists in academia will have a fresh understanding of why YEC is so prominent in America, and how better to address it in and out of the classroom. Montgomery's own suggestion is simply to teach a history of creationism proper, which he speculates few modern YEC's actually know (and I concur). He concludes the article by posing this critical question:

"How many creationists today know that modern creationism arose from abandoning faith that the study of nature would reveal God’s grand design for the world?"

If you are interested in reading the full article, it is currently available (for free!) online at the GSA Today main page (November 2012 issue). I highly suggest you read it in its entirety. Also, feel free to leave any comments here for further discussion. For example, what did you think of his portrayal of reason, faith, and the church's historical stance toward scientific study of the Earth? If you should have any trouble accessing the page/files, please contact me.

Dr. Montgomery's personal interest in the biblical flood and how it relates to the history of geology was also summarized in a recent TED talk (follow this link). It goes without saying that I would endorse the following advice from that presentation:

"I can't help but to think that portraying a fundamental conflict between science and religion is particularly dangerous today now that we really need new, creative solutions to basic social and environmental problems, if we're going to maintain civilization..."

What do you think?


  1. Overall the article seems to present a good and fair history of young-Earth creationism. However, on page 8 Montgomery confuses progressive creationism with theistic evolution. In general, progressive creationists, such as Hugh Ross, reject parts of evolutionary theory such as common ancestry or human evolution, whereas theistic evolutionists accept most or all of evolution. Additionally, Montgomery presents intelligent design as a re-packaged version of young-Earth creationism. The early proponents of ID, such as Denton, Behe, and Johnson, were certainly not YECs, and were viewed by YECs as compromisers. YECs may have adopted ID books and concepts as a back-door strategy to get some form of creationism into classrooms, but YEC and ID have different roots.

  2. I wouldn't say that ID and YEC have different roots. Creationism's Trojan Horse pretty clearly established that they have common ancestry, and Barbara Forrest's expert testimony in Kitzmiller summarizes that case effectively.

  3. RBH - Creationism's Trojan Horse demonstrated that, in the specific case of the Dover School Board, ID and YEC had a common ancestry. However, it's a logical fallacy to jump from there to the conclusion that ALL the people who hold the ID perspective have a common ancestry with YEC.

    The plaintiffs clearly demonstrated that the book being used by the Dover School District (Of Pandas and People) had YEC origins - e.g., they showed how words that were clearly YEC in character were changed in later drafts of the book to more neutral "design"-oriented words. This is a clever legal strategy - introduce something that impugns the defendant, with the goal of getting a ruling that restricts the conduct of anyone who might appear to have views which are similar to the defendant's. However, clever legal tactics don't always follow the rules of logic.