Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Re: how do you reconcile creationism and common ancestry? (was hi)

AN (cc. CED)

----- Original Message -----
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Sunday, January 15, 2006 4:14 AM
Subject: hi

AN>Hello Sir, how are you?

Thanks for your message, which, since it may be of general interest, I am copying to my blog CreationEvolutionDesign, minus your personal identifying information and with other minor changes.

AN>Sir, how do you reconcile creationism and common ancestry ...

I covered this in my web page "Why I (a Creationist) Accept Common Ancestry". There I pointed out that God could create through common ancestry, e.g. Phillip E. Johnson's concession that "God ... might have chosen to work through a natural evolutionary process":

"I am a philosophical theist and a Christian. I believe that a God exists who could create out of nothing if He wanted to do so, but who might have chosen to work through a natural evolutionary process instead. I am not a defender of creation-science, and in fact I am not concerned in this book with addressing any conflicts between the Biblical accounts and the scientific evidence." (Johnson P.E., "Darwin on Trial," [1991], InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, Second Edition, 1993, p.14. My emphasis)

and that therefore creationism and common ancestry are not mutually exclusive, since creationists can "believe that ... simple forms of life evolved gradually to become ... humans":

"Clearing up confusion requires a careful and consistent use of terms. In this book `creation- science' refers to young-earth, six-day special creation. `Creationism' means belief in creation in a more general sense. Persons who believe that the earth is billions of years old and that simple forms of life evolved gradually to become more complex forms including humans, are `creationists' if they believe that a supernatural Creator not only initiated the process but in some meaningful sense controls it in furtherance of a purpose. As we shall see evolution' (in contemporary scientific usage) excludes not just creation- science but creationism in the broad sense.' (Johnson P.E., "Darwin on Trial," [1991], InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL., Second Edition, 1993, p.4. My emphasis)
"If an omnipotent Creator exists He might have created things instantaneously in a single week or through gradual evolution over billions of years. He might have employed means wholly inaccessible to science, or mechanisms that are at least in part understandable through scientific investigation. The essential point of creation has nothing to do with the timing or the mechanism the Creator chose to employ, but with the element of design or purpose. In the broadest sense, a `creationist' is simply a person who believes that the world (and especially mankind) was designed, and exists for a purpose." (Johnson P.E., "Darwin on Trial," [1991], InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, Second Edition, 1993, p.115. My emphasis)
"In a broader sense, however, a creationist is simply a person who believes in the existence of a Creator who brought about the existence of the world and its living inhabitants in furtherance of a purpose. Whether the process of creation took a single week or billions of years is relatively unimportant from a philosophical or theological standpoint. Creation by gradual processes over geological ages may create problems for biblical interpretation, but it creates none for the basic principle of theistic religion. And creation in this broad sense, according to a 1991 Gallup poll, is the creed of 87 percent of Americans. (Johnson P.E., "What is Darwinism?" in "Objections Sustained: Subversive Essays on Evolution, Law & Culture," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 1998, p.23. My emphasis)

AN> ... especially in regard with the human fossil record?

You do not define what you mean by "creationism" but since you indicate it needs to be reconciled to "common ancestry", I take it you mean it in the sense of separate creations, i.e. God created basic kinds ex nihilo or de novo (from out of nothing or from out of existing materials which were non-living).

But what I mean by "creationism" is mediate creation, i.e. God created ex nihilo the raw materials of the Universe (= Gen 1:1) and thereafter He created by modification (either naturally or supernaturally) of what He had previously made. This is in fact a Christian position with a long and distinguished pedigree, based on a distinction that goes at least as far back as Augustine (c. 354-430 AD), and accepted by Aquinas and Calvin, between primary and secondary creation:

"What distinction is signalized by the terms Creatio prima seu immediata, and Creatio secunda seu mediata, and by who was 'it introduced? The phrase Creatio prima seu immediata signifies the originating act of the divine will whereby he brings, or has brought into being, out of nothing, the principles and elementary essences of all things. The phrase Creatio secunda seu mediata signifies the subsequent act of God in originating different forms of things, and especially different species of living beings out of the already created essences of things. The Christian Church holds both." (Hodge A.A., "Outlines of Theology," [1879], Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, Second edition, , 1983, reprint, pp.238-239)
"At the same time, however, it is clear that the idea of primary creation contained in the formula creatio ex nihilo does not exhaust the biblical teaching on the subject. Man was not created ex nihilo, but out of the dust of the ground (Gn. ii. 7) and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air were formed out of the ground (Gn. ii. 19). This has been called secondary creation, a creative activity making use of already created materials, and stands alongside primary creation as part of the biblical testimony." (McKay K.L., "Creation," in Douglas J.D., et al., eds., "The New Bible Dictionary," [1962], Inter-Varsity Fellowship: London, 1967, reprint, p.268)
"It should be noted that Scripture does not always use the Hebrew word bara' and the Greek term ktizein in that absolute sense. It also employs these terms to denote a secondary creation, in which God made use of material that was already in existence but could not of itself have produced the result indicated, Gen. 1:21,27; 5:1; Isa. 6:7,12; 54:16; Amos 4:13; I Cor. 11:9; Rev. 10:6. It even uses them to designate that which comes into existence under the providential guidance of God, Ps. 104:30; Isa. 45:7,8; 65:18; I Tim. 4:4. two other terms are used synonymously with the term `to create,' namely, `to make' (Heb., 'asah; Greek, poiein) and `to form' (Heb. yatsar; Greek, plasso). The former is clearly used in all the three senses indicated in the preceding: of primary creation in Gen. 2:4; Prov. 16:4; Acts 17:24; more frequently of secondary creation, Gen. 1:7,16,26; 2:22; Ps. 89:47; and of the work of providence in Ps. 74:17. The latter is used similarly of primary creation, Ps. 90:2 (perhaps the only instance of this use); of secondary creation, Gen. 2:7,19; Ps. 104:26; Amos 4:13; Zech. 12:1; and of the work of providence, Deut. 32:18; Isa. 43:1,7,21; 45:7. All three words are found together in Isa. 45:7. Creation in the strict sense of the word may be defined as that free act of God whereby He, according to His sovereign will and for His own glory, in the beginning brought forth the whole visible and invisible universe, without the use of preexistent material and thus gave it an existence, distinct from His own and yet always dependent on Him. In view of the Scriptural data indicated in the preceding, it is quite evident, however, that this definition applies only to what is generally known as primary or immediate creation, that is, the creation described in Gen. 1:1. But the Bible clearly uses the word `create' also in cases in which God did make use of preexisting materials, as in the creation of sun, moon, and stars, of the animals and of man. ... cases, also designated in Scripture as creative work, in which God works through secondary causes, Ps. 104:30; Isa. 45:7,8; Jer. 31:22; Amos 4:13, and produces results which only He could produce." (Berkhof L., "Systematic Theology," [1949], Banner of Truth: London, 1966, reprint, pp128-129) .

My "mediate creation" position is taken from the 19th century evangelical Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge's term "mediate, progressive creation":

"But while it has ever been the doctrine of the Church that God created the universe out of nothing by the word of his power, which creation was instantaneous and immediate, i. e., without the intervention of any second causes; yet it has generally been admitted that this is to be understood only of the original call of matter into existence. Theologians have, therefore, distinguished between a first and second, or immediate and mediate creation. The one was instantaneous, the other gradual; the one precludes the idea of any preexisting substance, and of cooperation, the other admits and implies both. There is evident ground for this distinction in the Mosaic account of the creation. ... It thus appears that forming out of preexisting material comes within the Scriptural idea of creating. ... There is, therefore, according to the Scriptures, not only an immediate, instantaneous creation ex nihilo by the simple word of God, but a mediate, progressive creation; the power of God working in union with second causes." (Hodge C., "Systematic Theology," [1892], James Clark & Co: London, Vol. I, 1960, reprint, pp.556-557)

It follows therefore that if, after the immediate, primary, ex nihilo creation of the raw materials of the Universe in Genesis 1, God thereafter created mediately, secondary, and not ex nihilo, then He created by modifcation. Now that could still mean de novo (in the sense of new) but it would then always be ex materia (out of existing materials).

Now creation out of existing materials could (but does not necessarily) mean out of existing living materials, e.g. Eve made out of Adam's rib (Gen 2:21-22). In that case, there would be real continuity (i.e. a common ancestry) between all living things.

As Darwin (citing Plato) correctly pointed out, there are really only two alternatives, either: 1) "species were ... created separately"; or 2) "species ... descended from other species":

"Lastly, you refer repeatedly to my view as a modification of Lamarck's doctrine of development and progression. If this is your deliberate opinion there is nothing to be said, but it does not seem so to me. Plato, Buffon, my grandfather before Lamarck, and others, propounded the obvious views that if species were not created separately they must have descended from other species, and I can see nothing else in common between the 'Origin' and Lamarck." (Darwin C.R., letter to Charles Lyell, 12 March, 1863, in Darwin F., ed., "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," [1898], Basic Books: New York NY, Vol. II., 1959, reprint, pp.198-199. Emphasis in original)

Now when 1) "species were ... created separately" (separate creations) is compared in tandem with 2) "species ... descended from other species" (common ancestry), the latter wins easily. It makes no difference if 1) is modified to "basic kinds were created separately and then all species descended from them". For years on Internet lists I challenged separate creationists to compare their 1) separate creations position with my 2) common ancestry position, but there were no takers. I could never get a separate creationist to even state comprehesively what are the basic kinds! As far as I know, no separate creationist has ever stated comprehensively what are the basic kinds so their position can be tested against the scientific evidence. I therefore conclude that no separate creationist believes his own position is really true.

AN>Most evolutionists are pretty candid in their assessment that the human record is incomplete or indeed lacking.

I am not an evolutionist. My position is mediate creation (or progressive mediate creation).

And again, the only way to resolve this is to compare the two alternative positions: 1) separate creations and 2) common ancestry in tandem. The usual tactic of separate creationists is to keep their position out of the ring, attack common ancestry, and when common ancestry has problems (as all positions do), then declare that their separate creations position is the winner, even though it has never been in the ring.

When separate creationists claim that "the human [fossil] record is incomplete or indeed lacking", they forget: 1) it is necessarily so, given that it is just a tiny sample of all the hominoids that have ever lived; and 2) it is the same fossil record that separate creationists need to reconcile their position with (if theirs is a scientific position based on the empirical evidence).

And the broad pattern of the human fossil record is in accord with common ancestry and not in accord with separate creations. Here is a quote from a response I made on my Yahoo list CED to a request for evidence of common ancestry from a separate creationist:

From:"Stephen E. Jones" [...]
Date:Fri Apr 15, 2005 9:05 am
Subject: Re: ... tells me that you can provide substantiation for the belief that man and ape share a common ancestor [...]

AN>I am looking for evidence (fossils?) that could lead one to confidently conclude that man and apes share a common ancestry.

The prior question you need to ask yourself is, what "evidence ... that man and apes share a common ancestry" would you accept? If the answer is "none", or you set the evidential bar impossibly high, then you will never "conclude that man and apes share a common ancestry".

Briefly the fossil evidence "that man and apes share a common ancestry" is conclusive (to anyone who is open to the evidence), e.g. there is a pattern of increasing dissimilarity between "man and apes".

<~7 mya Apes only
~7-2 mya Apes and early-middle hominids, e.g. Australopithecines, H. habilis (bipedality, increasing brain size)
~2-0.1 mya Apes, early hominids decreasing/extinct, middle hominids and later hominids, e.g. H. erectus, H. neanderthalensis, archaic H. sapiens, anatomically modern H. sapiens
~0.1-0 mya Apes, early middle and later hominids extinction, behaviourally modern H. sapiens (Cro-magnon man, modern H. Sapiens)

If this "fossil" pattern of increasing dissimilarity over time between "man and apes" does not "lead one to confidently conclude that man and apes share a common ancestry" then nothing will, i.e. one's position is one of invincible ignorance ... , "a cast of mind which seems peculiarly closed to evidence. ... no amount of evidence seems to be clinching. ... the facts are simply ignored or brushed aside as somehow deceptive, and the principles are reaffirmed in unshakable conviction." [...]

"There does remain, nonetheless, a cast of mind which seems peculiarly closed to evidence. When confronted with such a mind, one feels helpless, for no amount of evidence seems to be clinching. Frequently the facts are simply ignored or brushed aside as somehow deceptive, and the principles are reaffirmed in unshakable conviction. One seems confronted with what has been called `invincible ignorance.'" (Fearnside W.W. & Holther W.B.,
"Fallacy the Counterfeit of Argument," Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1959, 25th printing, p.113)

You can read the rest of the posts in that thread on that list (which I terminated to start a blog of the same name) to see that indeed for this separate creationist, "no amount of evidence" for common ancestry was sufficient, and "the facts [were] simply ignored or brushed aside as somehow deceptive" and I was "confronted with what has been called `invincible ignorance'"!


Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol.)

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