do creationists have well thought out arguments against evolution?

I'm troubled here, I've was raised Christian/ Catholic for half of my life. And when I started to think logically i couldn't find points that seemed well thought out nor seem legitimate in showing that creationists knew that evolution isn't true. i might be thinking this too hard, or I'm accidentally being closed minded. I really want to know what are the main Creationist positions. I want to know how they support them. I want to know this so i can know the other point of view--not to argue against them nor show who is right or wrong. If their beliefs help them become a better person in life-more power to them. What do you think?

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Comment by Nold Egenter on October 13, 2009 at 2:11am
Robert,

there is no reason to be troubled here, but maybe - and particularly as an anthropologist - you should get more sceptic in regard to religion. There is an important problem: religion is based merely on written history, which is a very late instrument to explain basic questions of humanity. And religion has developed this problem into its defense strategy: all what is not based on written history is declared irrelevant, "polytheism", "fetishism", "idolatry", or "primitive religion". This value system blocks our attempts to understand the prehistoric roots of religion. We are lacking an objective continuity. About 2-3000 years ago, how did the microcosmic polytheism of tribal villages evolve into macrocosmic monotheism? This is the basic question. We will come back on this topic later.

Regarding Creationism.

As far as I know the problem, Creationism and ID have been brought up initially by Georges Lemaître, the Belgian theologian, priest, astrophysicist and founder of the Big Bang theory. And of course it was supported also by the Vatican in Rome, respectively the Pontifical Academy of Science where Lemaître became a member in 1940 and president in 1960 until the end of his life in 1966.

However, the problem is not Lemaître's Big Bang theory - which seems to be accepted by many, Einstein among others. The real problem is the connection of the Big Bang with the historical concept of "Creation" as outlined in the Ancient Testament. Until his age of 17 Lemaître had been educated in a Jesuit school and then moved to the catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. So we can assume that establishing this connection was the real goal of his studies. However, there are various problems with this.

1. The "Big Bang" is estimated to have a time depth of 13.7 Billion years. The Ancient Testament as a text is considered to be written about 2000 - 2500 years ago. The two time values are absolutely incompatible in the historico-methodological sense. In those times the term cosmos was still understood mainly as a local order concept of a village, of a town (Kerschensteiner 1962), with some planetary implications (see Akhenaton's sun cult). The insights into the real spatial dimensions of the macrocosm was a very late discovery related to the first use of optical instruments at the beginning of the 17th century (Galilei, Kepler).

2. The assumption that there was knowledge about the factual dimensions of the universe in the times of Moses is pure fiction. The world was still conceived as a flat disc surrounded by oceans. (See below)

3. Very important is also the following: the Pentateuch conceived by Moses was not religion as we generally assume today. It was in fact a political constitution. A constitution of the "theocratic" type as this was widespread in those times in Mesopotamia as well as in Ancient Egypt. Many deities had strong territorial implications, represented the center of a town, like Ishtar in Uruk. Mose had prepared "the law" (thora) for the promised land, for his vision of a "state" of Israel structured according to the Egyptian state of those times - very likely influenced by Amenophys IV. or 'Akhenaton', the pharaoh who declared Aton, the sun, as a new state god, dominating conventional territorial deities of villages and counties of then-time Egypt. Note that in the case of Akhenaton this extension from an "aesthetic" type of local or regional constitution to a macro-cosmic state monotheism did not work yet at those times. After the death of Akhenaton it was meticulously abolished in favor of the return to the "aesthetic" type.

This interpretation of the Pentateuch as dominantly territorio-political constitution of the theocracy type has to do with important developments in Egyptology. Around the 30ies of the last century - under the influence of Sir James George Frazer - an ethnological methodology became important in egyptological cultural research. The historical reliability of myths became questionable, the pre- and early-dynastic village became important in research. The territorio-religious structure of the village was considered as basic as well as its buildup of regional county districts with early types of regional towns. Some sort of a "feudal system" (Kees) was discovered which was based on local and regional territorially defined cult systems. The 'microcosmic monotheism' of the village served as a model for the new state or imperial system: its central territorial demarcation was extended into macro-cosmic dimensions. The empirical aesthetic polarity dissolved, the new analytic schism with absolute idealism and empirical reality took place.

The term "aesthetic type" refers to the primary micro-cosmic territorial demarcation system produced with very ancient methods of fibro-constructive demarcations which autonomously expressed an aesthetic structure (categorical polarity). Related to settlement foundation this system created and promoted several important proto-civilisational complexes as agriculture, sedentary life, cognition and language, intra- and inter-settlement political organization schemes, aesthetic models for the spatial and material organization of the habitat, as well as an elementary type of social hierarchy: the settlement founder's local hegemony. These are some points which supported the cyclic reproduction of the demarcation used at settlement foundation, some sort of life-tree, which gradually evolved into some sort of sanctuary, due to the cultural importance it had gained.

Important is the Akhenaton-principle. Absolute spiritualization in the sense of religion developed relatively late in close relation with early state formations. The superseding process of relatively independent village clusters by state forming institutions produced much larger, semantically centralised territories, which vertically created extensive impacts on central demarcation and institutions. The monumentalized temples and palaces in the center now legitimate themselves in the sense of former aesthetics with planetary elements entering into a new concept of macro-cosmic spatial perception. The former aesthetic polarity is weakened, increasingly split into an "analytical" perception of idealized spirituality and empirical human reality.

To return to the beginning: The genesis in Moses Pentateuch stands in a prehistorical continuity with settlement founding "creations". Non inhabited as chaos, then deities as territorial markers, the land is "created" for human dwellers (Babylonian creation myth; Winckler 1906). With Akhenaton the polarity of the divine sign is extended into the planetary macrocosm. Moses took this model for his concept. Burning thorn bush, sanctuary and fibrous demarcation of tribal territory (of Jethro, his father in law?). "Tribals" understand this "constitution" on the basic level. Then, the forty one years of migration. The younger generations grow into the new world: they learn to build up the state system with monotheism, tent/ temple, city and state. In short, Moses had an ingenious concept for an evolution from 1st to 3rd world. Later, influenced by the lost territory and the history of the diaspora, a written and monumental history acts as foundation for various spatially much more extended world-religions or 'constitutions'.

Maybe we should proceed to assuming a new sequence of four independent "theories": 1) Lemaîtres macro-cosmic Big bang, 2) the many geological theories explaining the formation of our globe, 3) Darwin's biological theory, and 4) a new cultural one, a "theocracy" focused on the human habitat. Evidently, the one suggested by Moses was one of the latter type, since, what Moses had planned, had nothing to do with a macro cosmic world. Its goal was an important new habitat, a full fledged first world state in the land of Israel, for his still traditional tribal population being held prisoners in highly cultured Egypt.
Comment by Alice C. Linsley on October 8, 2009 at 1:41am
Intelligent design is as old as Plato.
Comment by Jeremy Johnson on October 7, 2009 at 12:49am
PS, here's another interesting article that may be a more direct answer to your question. It's an article from Enlightennext Magazine called, "The Real Evolution Debate," and describes 12 different arguments, each one perhaps having some perspective to think about and consider.

Comment by Jeremy Johnson on October 7, 2009 at 12:36am
Hey Ryan, and Robert.

I've been following the debate for a while too. It'd be best to do what a lot of folks have been suggesting here-- watch those documentaries, read arguments on both sides. Ryan, you mentioned the same question,

"Why is evolutionary theory such a threat to CERTAIN religious groups? It is definitely not a problem for all religious groups, so there is something specific and interesting going on here. And this whole debate is highly public and political, which makes it even more complicated. But I think that trying to figure out the root of the conflict in order to find ways to deal with it in different ways is a good idea."

I don't think we have a straight answer but, IMO a few things major things keep popping up. One of the major things that keep cropping us is many folks who are staunch advocates of intelligent design, often see their religious worldview as literally true. Karen Armstrong suggested that this type of religious literalism, or fundamentalism arose during the Protestant Reformation, where esoteric teachings were somewhat abandoned for more universal, "every-mans" religion emerged in Europe. More radical or puritanical religious cultures found their home in the North America during the colonial days. Is this why we have a more radical streak present in the US? I think it might at least contribute to it.

Another impression I got from reading and speaking with folks who support intelligent design, is this "demonizing" of scientists and evolutionary biologists as "sinful," in that they see Darwinism as abandoning God and faith, putting their faith in a secular, God-less world. I think this may have to do with a lot of miscommunication, and large gaps between the perspectives. Sometimes, unfortunately it seems there is misinformation, with folks willingly ignoring knowledge, or severely misunderstanding scientific knowledge. One major issue, I think, is that intelligent designers often do not understand the scientific knowledge they are attacking. Is this because of education issues in the United States? A general lack of scientific knowledge, making it easy to be convincing to a scientifically illiterate public? I think these problems contribute to it.

There are theological and spiritual arguments, that embrace evolution and science as two components of reality. Many people think science and spirit are compatible, but literalism and narrow thinking often creates a major communication gap.

If you're interested in more compatible arguments, Father George Coyne is an interesting guy. Also, this was an appropriate article for this discussion:

The Wall Street Journal asked Karen Armstrong and Richard Dawkins to answer the question, "Where does evolution leave God?" I think this might help understand the differing perspectives, when both sides of the argument are acknowledged to be less black and white.

At any rate, cheers and good reading!

-Jer
Comment by ryan anderson on October 4, 2009 at 4:27pm
"I've lost count of the times I've come across attacks on Dawkins, including in anthropological settings."

So? Isn't debate and critique what this is all about? Anyone who gets into the fray by calling his book "The God Delusion" is going to catch some flak. He certainly wasn't looking to calm anyone down about this issue, that's for sure. And I like a lot of what Dawkins writes--he's a smart guy even if he does give a little too much credit to the power of our selfish genes. While I do agree with Dawkins in many ways, I also think that his discussions about religion can be a bit oversimplified. It's one thing to defend the well-supported evidence for evolutionary theory, and it's another to start calling everyone who is religious delusional (and I'm not religious by any stretch of the imagination, just so you know).

"Whatever we think of Dawkins, as pointed out by Alice there is no evidence for, or substance to, the Creationists' claims."

That's not the whole point here, John. The original thread was started because Robert was asking about the position of these creationist groups. So this is not simply about reviewing the current evolutionary literature and once again showing how it blows certain Judeo-Christian worldviews out of the water. I understood the prompt to be about trying to understand where some of these people are coming from, possibly in order to understand the wider conflict. Not a bad idea.

This is a question that has been on my mind of late as well. Why is evolutionary theory such a threat to CERTAIN religious groups? It is definitely not a problem for all religious groups, so there is something specific and interesting going on here. And this whole debate is highly public and political, which makes it even more complicated. But I think that trying to figure out the root of the conflict in order to find ways to deal with it in different ways is a good idea.
Comment by John Postill on October 4, 2009 at 3:03pm
It's important not to get distracted by the media personalities and their antics, e.g. Dawkins, and to stay focussed on the arguments and on the evidence. I've lost count of the times I've come across attacks on Dawkins, including in anthropological settings. Whatever we think of Dawkins, as pointed out by Alice there is no evidence for, or substance to, the Creationists' claims.
Comment by Alice C. Linsley on October 4, 2009 at 1:32pm
"The creationist position" involves an interpretation of Genesis that the book of Genesis refutes. There is no conflict between anthropological findings and what Genesis reveals (as long as you approach the biblical text with an open mind and sound anthropological investigation, which is what we're doing at the Biblical Anthropology Group.)

I've spent 30 years studying this so I can answer some of your questions. Creationists hold to a young earth position based on Bishop Usher's counting up of the generations in Genesis. They insist on forcing the book of Genesis into their mental framework so they end up denying the evidence. I have shown that the geneological data can't be used to determine the age of the earth and the beginning of human life.

Here is where you can get the answers to your questions: http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com

When you arrive at the site, click on the INDEX and go down to the topic "creation and evolution". There are numerous short essays there which should be helpful.

Gracias por invitarme, Roberto.

Alice C. Linsley
Comment by ryan anderson on October 4, 2009 at 6:30am
I tend to gravitate to Stephen Jay Gould's position, namely that science and religion operate in two completely different fields of knowledge. For that reason, I do not see the need for major conflict between the two. Still, there is plenty of clashing going on. Folks like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens take a really hard-line approach to creationism--Dawkins often resorts to calling religious people delusional and stupid, which I do not think really helps matters. I like Gould's approach much better.

If you want to learn the talking points and positions, start with the NOVA documentary about the Dover, Pennsylvania court case in 2005, and then check out some of the creationist sites--it's all there. There is the Institute for Creation Research in TX, and the Creation Museum in KY, for starters. The NOVA documentary does a good job of illustrating how the current ID movement is linked to earlier "creation science" movements of the 1980s and earlier. Some of these groups see evolution as a fundamental threat to their belief systems, hence their political activism. Many of their arguments attempt to discredit evolutionary theory with seriously questionable evidence.

On the other end of the spectrum you have people like the theologian John Haught, who has a very different way of looking at science and religion than other creationists. Interesting stuff overall.

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