Creationism evolves!

By Razib Khan | September 5, 2011 3:37 am

One of the most interesting things to me is the nature of Creationism as an idea which evolves in a rather protean fashion in reaction to the broader cultural selection pressures. For me the weirdest example of this was an interlocutor who kept bringing up Fisher’s fundamental theorem of natural selection. This sort of argument is well above the standard set of talking points which are easily rebutted with Talk Origins. But to some extent it isn’t what people say, but how they say them. One reason that Creationism seems to be a position of the dull is that it is a position of the dull, and the dull are not as eloquent as the smart.

So I invite you to watch a clip of Richard Land defending Creationism (Intelligent Design) below:

First, some of Land’s assertions are not really true. In relation to evolution Americans seem to be split down the middle. On the specific points many of the positions he outlines are total nonsense. But he’s very fluid and confident, as would befits a man with a Princeton and Oxford education. His utilization of terms like irreducible complexity is about as substantive as chanting abracadabra, but probably just as effective in convincing fellow travelers already sympathetic to his position as shamans were in the days of yore. If you came back at Land with the full armament of modern evolutionary biology, you’d be accused of wielding black magic!

MORE ABOUT: Creationism

Comments (15)

  1. It’s worth noting that nothing he said is hot of the presses new, though certainly on the scale of decades, it is the creationism of our time. I haven’t debated creationists on the Internet for several years, but I could make out different parts of his narrative that I’ve seen multiple times before [irreducible complexity courtesy of Michael Behe, microevolution not macroevolution (he didn’t quite use those terms, but that was the argument), and that evolution takes greater faith than creationism], but I do think that it is interesting (and not just for the sake of irony) to look at creationism through an evolutionary lens, because it’s done a remarkable job of surviving and fostering its own internal narrative in the face of forces that a naïve observer would assume would have toppled it long ago.

  2. Me3PO

    I’d never get away with saying what you wrote around these parts. I can’t help but feel a sense of relief when I am reminded there are other people who believe evolution makes sense and creation seems a bit off. A smile came to my face as I read this. Thanks.

  3. James

    I’m lucky to live in a county where evolution is widely accepted as obvious fact.

    Humans are dangerously susceptible to the god idea, because gods are intelligent beings that make decisions and generally act in a human-like way. This makes them easy for people to relate to.

    The problem is, in reality, nature works in a completely different way to us.

    It’s basically shear brute force trial and error. The unbelievable amount of repetition, possible variations and vast time scales involved, are totally beyond the scope of our intelligent brains.

    Which actually just highlights the fact that ‘intelligence’ simply isn’t up to the job of doing what nature does.

    We only give intelligence so much credit, because it is the system ‘we’ happen to use.

  4. Baramos

    Not sure why you feel the need to use the euphemism “dull”, when you really mean stupid. Stupid (or colloquially, dumb) is the opposite of smart, not “dull”, which is the same as boring. You are not going to make anybody happy by calling them dull, as they are smart enough to see you are actually calling them stupid.

    If you wish to be euphemistic say “unintelligent”. The “stupid” people you’re referring to are smart enough to see what you are saying whether the word is dull, stupid, or unintelligent.

  5. #4, people get irritated sometimes when i say stupid. and obviously some people get irritated when don’t say stupid. if you want i can be an intermediary so you can beat the crap out of those people who whine about my harsh language.

  6. Jim Thomerson

    My first encounter with creationism was the serialization of Criswell’s, ‘Did Man Just Happen?” in the Baptist Standard in 1956-7. My first publication was a letter to the editor in which I pointed out thirty two errors of fact in the publication. My letter was edited down to give the impression that I supported Criswell and published in the Standard. I’ve never put said letter in my bibliography. (I was a senior geology major at the time.) I see some of the same lame arguments used by Criswell, more than 50 years ago, showing up in current creationist discourse.

  7. Darkseid

    i liked it when you used to say “retard” and stuff. i miss those days! you can’t deny who you are, Razib. i predict you’ll eventually go back to embracing the harshness:)

  8. Andrew

    “Dull” is not an euphemism for “stupid.” “Dull” actually means “stupid,” while “boring” is a connotation that the word “dull” picked up over the years, just like the word “dumb” (meaning ‘unable to speak’) picked up the connotation of ‘stupid’ as well.

  9. Nice work, Sir! I did notice one error: I think you used ‘benefit’ when you probably meant ‘befit’.

    [thanks -razib]

  10. Raf Fak

    Shouldn’t this article be titles:

    Creationism evolves? WTF?

  11. Chris

    Mr. Land really shows his ignorance in his comment about microscopes not being invneted in Darwin’s time. Microscopes had been around for over 200 years before Darwin was born and in common use for scientific research for around 160 years before Darwin was born. Has Mr Land never heard of Anton van Leeuwenhoek, or even realized that the term microscope was invented in 1625 by Giovanni Faber as an analogy to the word telescope.

  12. Eric

    I have found in my discussions that many Creationists do indeed believe in Evolution to a certain extent. The problem is that they are not familiar with how certain terms are used by the scientific community and vice versa (that is, this problem also exists among Evolutionists in that they do not understand terms used by Creationists). For example, a Creationist using the word “species” is the same as an Evolutionist using the word “family” and would be saying the same thing but neither of them are generally aware of this disparity and thus think the other is ignorant. But, a Creationist who heard an Evolutionist describe how adaptations and changes occur to a particular animal he would agree with him. There are of course vast differences in belief which still remain at the core, but this really is one area that has not been adequately addressed in the Creation/Evolution discussion. A Creationist would agree that the family of felidae contain all sorts of cats and that these cats are of differing sizes, shapes, abilities, et. al. He has no problem agreeing with this. It is part of Evolution, but he does not know this. His perspective is “a cat can change and adapt but always be a cat and will never become a horse.” He identifies Evolution as ONLY meaning that the cat can change into a horse over time, he does not understand that adaptation within a family is also Evolution. Once these misunderstandings are cleared up it will aid in bringing both sides closer together.

  13. odin

    creationism = half a day per week in sunday school for several years
    evolution = few hours per week for one year in high school

    Kids walk into the classroom armed with tons of argument against scientific theories and with minds closed to the lesson long before they receive it.

    Take note also that “teach for america”, where a considerable number of public school teachers come from, take most of their recruits from fundamentalist churches.

  14. leviticus

    A similar evolution might be the notion of demonic possession. It’s no longer spitting pea soup, forest romps, and jumping up and down on the ceiling. These days, many Christian literalists believe that possession most often takes the form of severe depression. The symptoms are pretty much identical with clinical depression.

    Blatently obvious, and trite to say, but contra their ahistorical view of themselves, Christians are profoundly influenced by pop culture currents, besides possession, witness the devolution of music from Isaac Watts to Christian rock.

  15. Kevin K

    “witness the devolution of music from Isaac Watts to Christian rock.”

    That’s so true… brilliantly stated.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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