Friday, August 24, 2007
The Inconsistent Logic of Creationism or Why Creationism is Essentially Deistic
...At the heart of their anti-evolutionism, the creationists have hidden a stunning inconsistency in their own logic.
Consider this: Creationists would reject any notion that God is unable to act in the world today. Indeed Christianity, like Islam and traditional Judaism, regards the continued, personal activity of God to be an essential element of belief. Now, let's step back a bit and think about this.
As a matter of unshakable faith, they believe that God can act in the world at the present time. And that, presumably, He can work His will in any way He likes -- with power or with subtlety, by works of nature, or by the individual actions of His creatures. The very same people, bowing to the explanatory power of molecular biology and biochemistry, would also agree that life today can be understood as a wholly material phenomenon. None that I know of would reject the proposition that a single fertilized egg cell -- the classic specimen of developmental biology -- contains the full and complete set of instructions to transform itself into a complex multi-cellular organism. Neither would any respectable creationist challenge the assertion that every step of that developmental process is ultimately explicable in terms of the material processes of chemistry and physics. Miracles aren't required -- the complexities of molecular biology will do just fine.
This means that the biological world of today, which we can test and study, analyze and dissect, is one that works according to purely material rules. But this world is also one in which believers, as a matter of faith, accept sincerely the tenet that God can and does work His will. Obviously, they do not see any conflict in the idea that God can carry out the work He chooses to in a way that is consistent with the fully materialist view of biology that emerges from contemporary biology. Neither do I.
But there's the rub. Curiously, they somehow regard those very same mechanisms -- adequate to explain God's power in the present -- as inadequate to explain His agency in the past. For some reason, God acted in the past in ways that He does not act in the present, despite the fact that we assume in the present that he can do anything and everything. This inconsistent reasoning is at the heart of their desperation to show that evolution -- which depends on the material mechanisms of biochemistry and genetics -- could not have created the multitude of new species that have appeared throughout the geologic record of life.
Such reasoning shows a curious lack of faith in the creative power of God. Creationists act as though compelled to go into the past for evidence of God's work, yet ridicule the deistic notion of a designer-God who's been snoozing ever since His great work was finished. They want a God who is active, and active now. So does any believer. But why then are they so determined to fix in the past, in the supposed impossibility of material mechanisms to originate species, the only definitive signs of God's work? If they believe in an active and present God, a God who can work His will in the present in ways consistent with scientific materialism, then why couldn't that same God have worked His will in exactly those ways in the past?
The more sensible and self-consistent position, scientifically and theologically, would be quite different from theirs. The real, actual, working world that we see around us is one that is ruled by chemistry and physics. Life works according to its laws. If God is real, this is the world He has to work in. Therefore any effort to view God's work in light of modern science must find a way to understand how His will can be accommodated at all times, not just in some distant past.
--Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwin's God (New York: Harper Perennial, 2007), 216-18.