Sunday, November 18, 2007
Returning once again to Neal C. Gillespie's book, Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation, that problem was not a scientific one or even religion masquerading as science as in modern Intelligent Design Creationism:
[T]he "ordinary argument" for special creation with its emphasis on benevolent and rational design in nature, which Darwin constantly attacked in the Origin, was not, ... in a strict modern sense, a rival scientific theory. It rather represented a persuasion, an atmosphere that permeated natural history so universally that naturalists were often unaware of the extent of its influence.
[S]pecial creation took two forms in the scientific community. One is easily identified by its proximity to the biblical tradition in language and imagery. The other was within the Newtonian convention of natural law in which the Creator was thought to employ certain laws of nature to work his will. This was not supernatural creation in the miraculous sense, but one nevertheless in which God was thought to be directly participating, guiding and supervising, each natural event.
Such positions obviously linger today, represented by such Biblical creationists as Answers in Genesis' Ken Ham and his museum to nowhere, joined by the more circumspect but no less miracle-addicted ID advocates.
Charles Lyell, on the other hand, along with other nomothetic [law based] creationists, favored an unknown mode of divine action that "stayed within the confines of the laws of nature and, while involving a continuing divine initiative, did not require disruptions of that order." This was a creation no less mysterious than the more Biblical variety but less capricious.
The modern "theistic evolutionists" (a rather misleading term probably coined in talk.origins more for its ease of use in rhetorical battle than any consideration of accuracy) exemplified by Ken Miller come close to this latter view.
But what made the assumption of some form of creation so pervasive in the scientific community was not faith so much as practicality:
[S]pecial creation, whether miraculous or nomothetic, was commonly recognized by [paleontologists and geologists] to have strong empirical evidence in the fossil series which seemed to support the idea that species appeared full-blown suddenly, endured unchanged, and became extinct without leaving descendents. Equally important, however, the fossil record gave no clue as to how species were created. ...
The assumption that a belief in special creation, in whatever form, was needed to explain the fossil record was, then, the linchpin that held together the opposition to transmutation.
Labels: Gillespie: Darwin and Creation
I suspect it still came into use by pro-evolution people through t.o. but that would be hard to establish. My objection to it is that it tends to confuse people as to what the holders of the position think about science. The people who are described do not in any way think evolutionary theory is anything other than science separate and apart from their theology.