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The Evidence Against the New Creationism

“The Science Pages: The Evidence Against the New Creationism,” Books & Culture, September/October 1999, Vol. 5, No. 5, Pp. 30-32.

Books and Culture is a periodical published by the Christianity Today Inc. group that keeps watch on what is taking place in American secular and religious culture by commentating on what is being published in books. The September/October issue’s “Science Pages” focuses on the debate regarding evolution and the new creationism. The editors say, “One of the purposes of ‘The Science Pages’ is to correct the notion that to talk about ‘science’ is to talk about Darwinian evolution, pro or con. At the same time, one can hardly give sustained attention to science without addressing, on occasion, the various Darwinian claims that provide the interpretive framework for work in so many fields today (including much of the work being done by scientists who are also Christians)” (p. 30).

This issue’s “Science Pages” allows two opponents in this debate the opportunity to critique each other’s recent work and respond in their defense. The book Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism (MIT Press, 1999) by Robert Pennock is a polemic against the Intelligent Design movement. Phillip Johnson was given the opportunity to respond to Pennock’s book in Books and Culture, with a rejoinder from Pennock.

Phillip Johnson is a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, and has written a number of books presenting and defending the Intelligent Design movement. Johnson says this about Pennock’s book, “Here is where the debate stands, as I see it. The IDM [Intelligent Design Movement] aims to transform the evolution/creation debate by focusing on the main issue and pushing the details to the background. The main issue is the scientific naturalist claim that the origin and development of life can be explained employing only unintelligent natural causes like chance, chemical laws, and natural selection. This claim is as important for philosophy and theology as it is for science. The neo-Darwinian theory was discovered by a science that was committed a priori to methodological naturalism, the principle that research should always be guided by a commitment to discover strictly natural causes for all phenomena. Most educated people today have been taught to regard the theory as unassailably confirmed by objective scientific testing. Many think that it follows that the success of the theory provides a powerful justification for basing research in all fields, including even biblical studies, on methodological naturalism. Darwinism (i.e., naturalistic evolution) is thus not just a scientific theory but a creation story so culturally dominant that it is even protected by judge-made law from criticism in the public schools” (p. 30).

Pennock fires back, “Readers should thus beware when Johnson says IDCs [Intelligent Design Creationists] want to resolve issues by ‘unbiased scientific testing,’ for theirs is not science as ordinarily understood, but rather something that would be taught in a special ‘department of theological science.’ The revolutionary ‘theory of knowledge’ that this yet-to-be-developed theistic science will follow rests on what Johnson describes in Reason in the Balance as ‘the essential, bedrock position of Christian theism about creation,’ namely, the opening lines of the Gospel of John (1:1–3). According to Johnson, when the Bible says that in the beginning was ‘the Word,’ it speaks of ‘information,’ and ‘plainly says that creation was by a force that was (and is) intelligent and personal.’ However, knowledgeable readers will recognize that IDCs’ references to complexity and information theory are no more than designer window dressing on a basic God-of-the-gaps argument” (p. 32).

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Category: In Depth, Winter 2000

About the Author: Raul L. Mock is one of the founders and directors of the Pneuma Foundation and editor of The Pneuma Review. Raul has been part of an Evangelical publishing ministry since 1996, working with Information Services and Supply Chain Management for more than two decades. He and his wife, Erin, have a daughter and twin boys and live in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. LinkedIn

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