IS CREATIONISM SUPPORT DROPPING? A Response to USA Today and a Warning to Creationists

© 2017, by John Tors. All Rights Reserved. 

A RESPONSE TO USA TODAY

The American national newspaper USA Today treated us to an interesting opinion essay on Friday last.[1]  It was called “Creationism drops for hopeful reason,” and was authored by Yale Divinity School’s communications director Tom Krattenmaker.  Krattenmaker was cheering the results of a recently released Gallup poll that showed “a notable decline in the percentage of Americans – including Christians – who hold to the ‘Young Earth’ view that humankind was created in the past 10,000 years and evolution played no part.”[2]  He seemed giddy over the fact “the portion of the American public taking this position now stands a at a new low of 38%,” but what most excited him was the growth in the number of “Christians who are reconciling faith and evolution.”[3]  Ironically, considering that this piece was written by a communications director, it shows remarkably muddled thinking.  It might seem ironic, too, that a functionary of Yale Divinity School exhibits a greatly flawed understanding of Christianity.  But perhaps this latter is not so ironic in light of the fact that Yale Divinity School is thoroughly liberal, a modern-day poor man’s Tübingen University.[4]

First, regarding the cause of his joy, it seems that Krattenmaker did not do his homework; he should have looked at the long-term data instead of just the last two polls.[5]  In fact, Krattenmaker could just as easily have written this column in 2010, when that year’s Gallup poll showed a “notable decline” in the percentage of Americans who believe in YEC, down to a “new low” of 40% – but by May of 2012, less than a year and a half later, the percentage had risen to 46%, higher than when Gallup first started polling Americans on this issue, in January 1982.[6]  Krattenmaker’s apparent belief that this latest poll proves that Americans are turning against YEC and will continue to do so in the long term is, therefore, premature at best.

Second, Krattenmaker’s delight at the “jump in Christians who are reconciling faith and evolution”[7] is based on a false premise.  He believes that “One-time creationists …. are moving to the ‘both/and’ position” and believes that “These tea leaves tell us that more are opting for a third way: Accepting the overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution while seeing a divine role in the process.”[8]  Again, though, he has failed to look at the long-term data.  In fact, more Americans (40%) believed in this so-called “third way” in August 1999, eighteen years ago, than believe it now.  In fact, the percentage of Americans holding that view has held remarkably constant around 38% from the first survey in January 1982 until now, suggesting the lower numbers in the 2012 and 2014 surveys were statistical artefacts.[9]

Third, Gallup reported on the beliefs of Americans, and did not divide the results according to Christians and non-Christians. This means it is not possible to determine anything about what has happened to the beliefs of Christians during this time, and so Krattenmaker’s claim that Christians have moved to the “third way” cannot be justified by the data we have.

Interestingly, if Krattenmaker were more of a thinker, he would see something more noteworthy in the results of this Gallup poll.  The entire state-run educational system, which everyone is required to attend during their formative, impressionable years, is firmly committed to indoctrinating students into the “strict evolution view” (i.e. atheistic evolution view).  This is backed up by the coercive power of the state, which bans the teaching of creationism in public schools (a necessary expedient for the state, since on a level playing field evolution can easily be shown to be impossible).  State-funded, grant-seeking scientists monolithically and stridently promote atheistic evolution.  In addition, the popular media is solidly evolutionist and promotes that view in its movies and documentaries.  Yet, for all that, the percentage of Americans believing atheistic evolution has so far failed to top the 1-in-5 level.  Krattenmaker would do well to think about why that is.

Furthermore, Krattenmaker shows no more ability to understand science than he has shown to understand polling data.  He writes, “Creationists will believe what they want to believe.  But they should know the consequences.  Continued fighting to promote creationism is hurting religion’s credibility in an age when science and technology are perceived as reliable sources of truth and positive contributors to society.”[10]

Now, science and technology are “reliable sources of truth and positive contributors to society” – but the theory of evolution is not science.  Science properly can deal only with ongoing, repeatable natural phenomena, which can be studied in the laboratory and in the field via reproducible observation and experimentation, in such areas as chemistry, electricity, and mechanics.  Every contribution to society made by science and technology has come about through this sort of genuine science.

When it comes to singular, nonrepeatable historical events, it is another story.  Science simpliciter cannot directly address the age of the Earth.  Long ages are yielded only if unsubstantiable assumptions (designed to yield long ages) are imposed, and then indirect inferences are drawn based on these assumptions, while countervailing evidence showing a young Earth is studiously ignored.[11]

As far as the theory of evolution goes, it posits the origin and development of life by random natural processes, and the tenability of this idea can be assessed by science.  And science has shown that the quintessential steps needed for the theory – the spontaneous self-assembly of simple molecules into complex, structured macromolecules; the spontaneous self-assembly of these macromolecules into a protocell; this protocell passing from nonliving to living; the spontaneous generation of vast quantities of qualitatively new genetic data – are not possible, and never were.[12]  The theory of evolution, then, is nothing more than the origins myth of atheism that has been passed off as science, and rides in on the coattails of genuine science, as it is genuine science that is a “reliable source of truth and positive contributor to society.”

Krattenmaker’s lack of ability to understand science and polling data is perhaps not surprising, in light of the fact that he is a “communications director at Yale Divinity School.”[13]  What is surprising, though, is his apparent inability to

understand how genuine Christians think.

Krattenmaker, as we have seen, writes, “Creationists will believe what they want to believe.”[14]  Nonsense.  Creationists believe, on the basis of compelling evidence, that the Bible is the word of God and therefore believe what it teaches, and there is no honest question but that it teaches YEC.[15]  Only a fool believes something simply because he “wants to” to believe it.  (Of course, people who continue to believe the theory of evolution after it has been shown to them to be scientifically impossible are in that class.)

Krattenmaker then engages in an appeal to consequence, writing, as we have seen, “Creationists will believe what they want to believe.  But they should know the consequences.  Continued fighting to promote creationism is hurting religion’s credibility” and asserting that “Anecdotal and polling evidence implicate religion’s anti-science reputation in the drift away from church involvement – especially among younger adults, nearly 40% of whom have left organized religion behind.”[16]  He strongly implies that creationists should therefore adopt the “third way” of reconciling creationism and evolution in order to arrest this decline.

Christians, however, are not interested in the reputation of “religion” but in preaching the Gospel and defending the truth of the Bible: the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (Acts 20:26-27).  We are not a business corporation peddling a product like hamburgers or cars, so that we can alter that product to fit consumers’ tastes and increase our market share.  Our duty is “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3b).  That includes YEC, and we cannot alter it to attract people – though in fact I do not think altering it as Krattenmaker urges does attract people.  Evangelical churches are growing, while liberal churches are dying in droves.[17]

Finally, Krattenmaker’s suggestion that the approach he suggests could be used to solve “other stalemated arguments and false binaries”[18] is absurd.  He asks, for example, “Can’t we support the legal availability of abortion and strategies that would reduce its incidence?”[19]  In a word, no.  If abortion is the killing of a human baby (and it is), then it should never be legally available.   But if it not the killing of a human baby, then why should anyone strive to “reduce its incidence”?  Krattenmaker doesn’t tell us.

Krattenmaker’s article, then, is a mess from start to finish.  He has nothing to tell us.

 

A WARNING TO CREATIONISTS

Nevertheless, the Gallup poll results are significant for Christians.  The growth of belief in atheistic evolution is not surprising, given, as we’ve noted, the asymmetrical propaganda in favour of evolution.[20]  (As of 2008, the combined revenue of the major creationist organizations stood at a little more than $33 million dollars[21] – less than James Harden will now get for playing a season of NBA basketball.)[22]  The fact that this belief has not yet infected even one-fifth of the American population is encouraging.

What is concerning, though, is the fact that many Christians have come to embrace some amalgamation of the Genesis accounts of six-day Young-Earth creationism and a global flood with atheistic evolution, resulting in such hybrids as Old-Earth Creationism, the Ruin/Reconstruction Theory (aka the Gap Theory), the Day-Age Theory, Progressive Creationism, and Theistic Evolution.  All of these hold to a 4.6-billion year-old Earth, and most, if not all, to a local flood in Noah’s time, not a worldwide one.  Strangely, most of the Christians embracing these views have no discernible credentials in science or any real understanding of it, yet they hold to their view with a supercilious arrogance, looking with disdain at those who still adhere to YEC.

Why is this the case, despite the best efforts of very competent creationist ministries teaching the truth about YEC and answering all challenges to it?  It seems to me that these ministries are making a fundamental mistake, and that is assuming that having a wrong view of origins is the problem and teaching YEC is the solution.  In fact, a wrong view of origins is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.  The real issue is Biblical authority, which is inextricably linked with Biblical inerrancy.

As long as a Christian believes that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, he will be disposed to hold on to the Biblical account of origins, which is clear, and when that is challenged by claims of putative science, he will seek out the answers from ICR and CMI and accept them.  But if a Christian comes to believe the Bible has errors in it, he has no reason to believe the Genesis account of creation simply because it’s in the Bible (it could be one of those “errors”), and can decide to leave the answer to the scientists.  And those who are scientifically illiterate (which is most of the population) will naturally lean towards the side that has more and better qualified scientists – which is the evolutionist/old-Earth side.

As we have mentioned elsewhere, the one statistically valid professional study done on why young people are leaving the church showed that 50% of the departed Christians who began to doubt the Bible did so because of issues related to historical and textual criticism, and only 18% because of issues related to Darwinism.  Of those who said that the Bible contains errors, 17% thought that the Bible is wrong because of the claims of evolution, and 42% thought it is wrong because of the claims of historical and textual criticism.[23]

The real problem, then, is not the denial of the Bible’s account of origins; that is a result of the real problem, which is that belief in inerrancy is being eroded.  And it is being eroded so effectively because this erosion is not being spearheaded by those outside the church, but by professing believers, and particularly our scholars.[24]  Yet the creation ministries seem blithely unaware of this, and at least one, Creation Ministries International, who certainly holds to inerrancy, is inadvertently doing a great deal to undermine it.[25]

A word to the wise, then; unless there is a concerted, well thought out defence of inerrancy across the board, supported by creationist ministries, things will get worse.  Krattenmaker’s scenario may yet come to pass.

 

ADDENDUM

Six days after Krattenmaker’s article was published, USA Today published a letter from a reader, Gregory A. Clark, entitled “No middle ground between God, science.”[26]  Clark was not happy with Krattenmaker’s claims.

According to Clark, “‘Divine evolution’ isn’t only wrong, it’s also intellectually dishonest and almost always hypocritical.”[27]  Why?  Because, he says, “The scientific concept of evolution isn’t simply a collection of observations … It is also a theory – which is to say, an explanation.  And, unlike ‘divine evolution,’ the scientific explanation is that evolution is an unplanned, unguided, natural process. Natural and supernatural explanations are inherently incompatible”.[28]

Clark’s views are hardly worth noting; he shows little understanding of science (a theory is not an “explanation,” but a suggestion as to how and/or why a natural phenomenon happens) and he seems to accept the theory of evolution with no grasp of the fact that its fundamental steps are scientifically impossible.

However, in his ignorance he has inadvertently drawn attention to an important point.  According to Clark, “the scientific explanation is that evolution is an unplanned, unguided, natural process.”[29]  That, however, is beyond the realm of science; even if evidence were found that earlier lifeforms evolved into later ones, science could not possibly determine whether God brought this process about or not.

But it is a significant thought, though, because it hits the nail on the head: the theory of evolution is couched this way because it was invented to oust the concept of God from western society, and so has to insist that evolution is an unplanned, unguided, natural process.  As Edward J. Larson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and at the time professor at the University of Georgia, put it,

During the Enlightenment, during, say, the 1700’s, notions of evolution began creeping back in, that is, creation by natural law.  If a people are intent in pushing out God, or rejecting divine causation, really the only alternative is where species, well, they could be eternal, as Aristotle said, or they had to come from other species.  Where else could they come from?[30]

The attempt, then, by evangelicals who try to amalgamate the Bible’s account of creation with atheistic evolution, thinking this will make Christianity more palatable to those committed to evolutionary theory, is doomed to failure.  Evolutionists are not looking for a way to fit God in with their theory; they are “intent in pushing out God.”  These amalgamation attempts, then, are in reality seen as an admission of surrender, an admission that the evidence for evolution is so strong the Bible must be bent to fit it, and so it will not make Christianity more palatable to evolutionists but will confirm them in their belief that there is no need for God.  No wonder the only real movement shown in the Gallup poll is a noteworthy rise in the fraction of the population that believes in atheistic evolution.


 

[1] Krattenmaker, Tom. “Creationism drops for hopeful reason.” USA Today, July 14, 2017, p.7A

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] From the 18th century onwards, Tübingen University in what is now Germany was the epicentre of liberal theology and “higher criticism” of the Bible.

[5] Available at http://www.gallup.com/poll/210956/belief-creationist-view-humans-new-low.aspx.  Accessed July 17, 2017.

[6] ibid.

[7] Krattenmaker, op.cit.

[8] ibid.

[9] According to Gallup’s write-up to this poll, “In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.”  (GALLUP NEWS SERVICE – GALLUP POLL SOCIAL SERIES:VALUES AND BELIEFS — FINAL TOPLINE — Timberline: 937008 JT: 014 Princeton Job #: 17-05-006 Jeff Jones, Lydia Saad May 3-7, 2017.)

[10] ibid.

[11] See, inter alia, Batten, Don. “Age of the earth: 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe” (Published 4 June 2009), at http://creation.com/age-of-the-earth. (Accessed July 19, 2017); Walker, Tas. “Geology and the young earth: Answering those ‘Bible-believing’ bibliosceptics.” Creation 21:4 (September 1999), pp.16–20 (available at http://creation.com/geology-and-the-young-earth); “Helium evidence for a young world continues to confound critics“ (29 November 2008), at http://creation.com/helium-evidence-for-a-young-world-continues-to-confound-critics; Humphreys, D. Russell. “Argon diffusion data support RATE’s 6,000-year helium age of the earth.” Journal of Creation 25:2 (August 2011), pp.74–77 (available at http://creation.com/argon-diffusion-age); Wieland, Carl. “Radiometric dating breakthroughs.” Creation 26:2 (March 2004), pp.42–44 (available at http://creation.com/radiometric-dating-breakthroughs)

[12] As shown by, inter alia, the Second Law of Thermodynamics (which states that all natural processes tend towards disorder, so that complex ordered structures cannot form spontaneously), and the Law of Biogenesis (which states that life only comes from life; nonliving matter cannot come to life).  See Tors, John. “A Primer on Entropy (The Second Law of Thermodynamics)” at http://www.truthinmydays.com/a-primer-on-entropy-the-second-law-of-thermodynamics/ for details on the former.

[13] Krattenmaker, op.cit.

[14] ibid.

[15] And as the scientists of, inter alia, the Institute for Creation Research and Creation Ministries International show, the scientific evidence, shorn of the standard old-age assumptions, aligns with YEC.

[16] Krattenmaker, op.cit.

[17] For statistics and references, see Tors, John. “Time Out: Fifty Years Later, Answering Time Magazine’s Question, ‘Is God Dead?’” at http://www.truthinmydays.com/time-out-fifty-years-later-answering-time-magazines-question-is-god-dead/

[18] ibid.

[19] ibid.

[20] Ironically, evolutionists claim that “The typical young-earth creationism outfit has no influence except among an embarrassingly large segment of the population that is utterly ignorant of science.” (“Funding the Creationism Industry,“ The Sensuous Curmudgoen, at https://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/funding-the-creationism-industry/, posted June 1, 2010.  Accessed July 17, 2017).  The writer is correct that “an embarrassingly large segment of the population …. is utterly ignorant of science,” but that is the only reason the scientifically impossible theory of evolution, rather than creationism, is believed by so many.

[21] “Funding,” ibid.

[22] “Rockets sign Harden to $228 million deal,” The Canadian Press, July 8, 2017, at http://www.tsn.ca/rockets-sign-harden-to-228-million-deal-nba-s-richest-1.800003.  Accessed July 17, 2017.

[23] Ham, Ken & Britt Beemer with Todd Hillard. already gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009, pp.26, 107, 108.

[24] See, inter alia, Tors, John. “The Three-Headed Monster and the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible: Exposing the Major Weapons Levied Against the Trustworthiness of the Bible” (4 parts) at http://www.truthinmydays.com/the-three-headed-monster-and-the-evangelical-betrayal-of-the-bible-exposing-the-major-weapons-levied-against-the-trustworthiness-of-the-bible-part-1/; Tors, John. “Textual Criticism and the End of Biblical Inerrancy: Follow-up Comments on the Tors/Costa New Testament Text Debate (Part 1)” at http://www.truthinmydays.com/textual-criticism-and-the-end-of-biblical-inerrancy-follow-up-comments-on-the-torscosta-new-testament-text-debate-part-1/

[25] Tors, John. “Creation Ministries International and the Three-Headed Monster: Why the Monster Wins” (4 parts) at http://www.truthinmydays.com/creation-ministries-international-and-the-three-headed-monster-why-the-monster-wins-part-1/

[26] Clark, Gregory A. “No middle ground between God, science,” Letters, USA Today, July 20, 2017, p.6A

[27] ibid.

[28] ibid.

[29] ibid.

[30] Larson, Professor Edward J. “The Theory of Evolution:  A History of Controversy.”  The Great Courses. Lecture 1: “Before Darwin.”

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