Published December 16, 2015
The Faith Angle Forum is a semi-annual conference which brings together a select group of 20 nationally respected journalists with 3-5 distinguished scholars on areas of religion, politics & public life.
“The Bible and Biology: How Did We Get Here?”
South Beach Miami, Florida
Dr. Ted Davis, Professor of the History of Science, Messiah College
List of participants found here
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Ladies and gentlemen, once a year we have a session on Christianity and science and the relationship therein, and we’re delighted to have as our final speaker Dr. Ted Davis. He’s a professor of the History of Science at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. We’re going to hear from Dr. Davis this morning on “The Bible and Biology: How Did We Get Here?” Then we’ll have plenty of time for Q&A.
TED DAVIS: Thank you, Michael.
So to start, here is what I want to try to accomplish. I want to answer three questions for you. (Slide 2) Why has evolution
been so controversial among American Christians? There are a variety of reasons for that. That’s a historical question as well as a contemporary question. I think the reasons have not changed significantly since the time of the Scopes trial, as you’ll see. Second, there are two very prominent forms of anti-evolutionism today. One of them is sometimes called scientific creationism or young earth creationism or just creationism without an adjective in front. The other is intelligent design, which its critics often call intelligent design creationism. I’m a dissenter on that tag. If you want to explore that with me more fully in the Q&A, I’ll give you my reasons. But also, what do these two positions claim about God, the Bible, and evolution? Then the third question, at the end, does the acceptance of evolution entail the denial of orthodox Christianity? Now, here I am using orthodox Christianity with a small “o.” I don’t mean specifically the Orthodox churches, that is, the churches of the east, the non-Roman forms of Christianity from the ancient world. I don’t mean that. I’ll define it for you clearly when we get to that point, what do I mean by orthodox Christianity, small “o”?
Let’s start with perhaps the most famous trial of the 20th century. (Slide 3) I still think that might be true in spite of other trials we’ve had subsequently, certainly one of the most famous trials of the 20th century. The trial of John Scopes for teaching evolution in a public school in Tennessee in the summer of 1925.
I can say so much about this and not get past this slide and we would be done, but then I wouldn’t have answered any of the questions I put on the screen. Suffice it to say that this was a show trial. It was technically a criminal trial for a misdemeanor, for breaking an act that Tennessee had just enacted a few weeks earlier. It was an act that made it illegal for any public school teacher– also meant, in context, public university teacher, in Tennessee–to teach evolution or any theory which denies the biblical theory of creation, or words to that effect, making explicit reference to the Bible in the act.
As soon as that bill passed, the ACLU took out newspaper advertisements across the State of Tennessee inviting challenges and offering to pay the expenses of any public school teacher who would deliberately break the law in order to put the law itself on trial. So the whole point was to put the law on trial, not to put an individual on trial, to get a criminal conviction and then take the law itself to higher courts for appeal to try to overturn the law. That’s a short version of what took place.
John Scopes was a science teacher who normally didn’t teach biology, substituting for the principal when he was ill; he reviewed for the finals at the end of the year, perhaps used the “E” word in class, they found students who could testify to that effect, used the approved textbook in Tennessee, which is all about evolution. He had agreed to stand trial at the request of his boss, the head of the school board in that district, who wanted to put the town of Dayton, Tennessee, on the map.
So John Scopes, a rookie teacher, agreed to do that. He was charged with breaking the law. Right after he was told that he had broken the law, and thank you very much, he walked out of the conversation where that happened and went back to playing tennis with some of the boys at the school.
That summer the trial happened, and two people who weren’t there in the beginning showed up on their own initiative. First, for the prosecution, to help uphold the law in Tennessee, William Jennings Bryan, who we see on our right, was a three-time unsuccessful candidate for president of the United States, the youngest candidate, in fact, in American history. He was 36 years old when he first ran for president in 1896. He was a very liberal Democrat. If you’ve read the article that was in your packet, you can see the kinds of things he supported. I will skip that.
Then on the left, Clarence Darrow, arguably the greatest trial lawyer of the 20th century, shows up in court because Bryan is already there. Bryan has gone there, volunteered his services to the prosecution because he was asked to do so by someone called William Bell Riley, who was the first President of the World Christian Fundamentals Association, which was founded right after World War I. Bryan had been crusading for anti-evolution laws across the country starting in 1922. Tennessee had taken the bait on that, had passed a law that was then broken and enforced. So that’s what led to all this.
But when Darrow learned that Bryan was going to be there, he jumped at this. Darrow was an agnostic by his own religious admissions, that’s what he tells people in correspondence, that he was an agnostic. He was seen publicly as an atheist, and that’s because he was an anti-religious person. He loved to debate Christians in public settings about, for example, the reliability of the Bible, such things as, “Was Jonah really swallowed by a whale?” as Darrow puts it. In fact, when Bryan and Darrow go at this in the Scopes trial in a famous scene when Bryan himself is cross-examined by Darrow on the Bible, Bryan points out it’s actually a big fish (in the Bible), and they get into arguments about things like this.
That’s all famous. You can read about that in Ed Larson’s Pulitzer Prize winning book on the Scopes trial called Summer for the Gods. And if I can digress for a second, I’m going to pass this book, Trial and Error around while I’m talking. If you want information, reliable information, about the legal history of creationism, this is the best source. This is another book by Ed Larson. This is the Third Edition updated to include the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial. It’s on the American controversy over creation and evolution. That’s a wonderful source. Larson is an attorney and a professor of law at Pepperdine. He is also a Pulitzer Prize winning historian trained in my field, History of Science.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: We also had him here.
TED DAVIS: You had him here. Great. So that’s a great resource. I’ll just put it on your radar screens.
So Darrow has this reputation of being the village atheist, and he is showing up here in order to get opportunities to have a public platform from which, through the press, to debate William Jennings Bryan about issues about the Bible and Christianity. He offers his support to John Scopes, goes directly to the defendant. The defendant says, “Yes, I would like you to be my lead attorney,” even though the ACLU already has a team onsite, and they don’t want Darrow in this, but Darrow comes in and Scopes accepts him. Darrow pays his own expenses and he takes this opportunity to market his ideas in this way.
Now, why did Bryan get involved in a crusade? Why did he really effectively start a political crusade to try to outlaw the teaching of evolution in publicly funded schools? Private schools could do whatever they want. Well, he had never been a proponent of evolution. Going back into his history, he always saw evolution as what he called the “law of hate,” the law by which the strong crowd out and kill off the weak. He’s referring to the popularly worded definition of Darwinian evolution, which was “survival of the fittest,” language that Charles Darwin himself did not use in the first edition of the Origin of Species but used in some later editions after Herbert Spencer, the famous social philosopher, had described Darwin’s theory as “survival of the fittest.”
Bryan’s opposition to monopolistic capitalism, which was rampant at the turn of the century, was one of the reasons he opposed evolution. It’s kind of ironic; isn’t it? That forms of social Darwinism in the late 19th century, including rampant American capitalism, was itself justified in the eyes of the proponents by Darwin’s theory of evolution, and yet, of course, Darwin’s theory of evolution, in turn, had come out of what would have been called at the time liberal economics in the 19th century, that is, free market economics, the economics specifically of Malthus and of Adam Smith. Those are the intellectual currents underlying evolution by natural selection. I won’t say more about that; you can go after that in the Q&A if you would like.
But for now, it has come full circle. These ideas expressed in Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection are seen in Germany before World War I as justification for the German military dominance of Europe.
Now, these ideas reach America through a leading American biologist at the time, Vernon Kellogg, who is a professor at Stanford, and he is a pacifist, and during World War I, before the United States gets involved, Kellogg goes over to Belgium to help in the relief efforts for the civilian population there. (Slide 4) He is actually assisting his former student Herbert Hoover, who is setting this up in Europe. This is before the United States becomes a combatant nation.
Recall World War I begins in the summer of 1914, and the United States doesn’t get involved until the spring of 1917, during which time, in fact, William Jennings Bryan is Secretary of State, and then he pulls out of Woodrow Wilson’s government because he believes Wilson is duplicitously leading America into war, and at that point, Bryan is probably a pacifist himself. Indeed, he and Darrow both wrote pacifist tracts during World War I for the same collection of writings, and politically, Darrow and Bryan were very much on the same page for much of their lives. In fact, Darrow ran for Congress in 1896 in Chicago on the same ticket that Bryan is heading at the federal level, and they both get defeated.
In any case, back to Kellogg. Kellogg writes about his experiences in Belgium, specifically his conversations he has with German officers at the headquarters of the German command in that part of Belgium. It turns out he is billeted in a building where he has frequent conversations with German officers.
Kellogg, like many other American scientists of that generation, got his doctoral work done in Germany, so he’s fluent in German. He has conversations with these officers, and then he comes back to America and writes about it in this book published by the Atlantic Monthly Press with a preface by Theodore Roosevelt. In this book, he relates that German officers (some of whom were university professors before the war) have given him the impression that what he calls the gospel of an Allmacht, an omnipotence of natural selection, it’s really important to the German intelligentsia, and in their minds, it gives them justification for dominating the rest of Europe militarily as a necessary consequence of natural law. That’s the view he expresses, a view that horrifies Kellogg, but this is what he is hearing and this is what he tells the American people he is hearing about Germany.
Bryan reads this book and he is shocked, too. This is one of the reasons why after World War I he decides it’s time now to ban the teaching of evolution in American schools. This is also the first time that most Americans are going through public high school, and so they’re seeing evolution for the first time and bringing it back to their families.
So in 1922, William Jennings Bryan travels the country trying to persuade state legislatures to ban the teaching of evolution in publicly funded schools. Fundamentalists, who are only just appearing on the landscape by that name at this time are really excited by this, and the leading fundamentalist cartoonist of the day, Ernest James Pace, who had been a former political cartoonist in Chicago before his conversion to fundamentalist Christianity, cartoons Bryan and his ideas in very favorable ways often.
(Slide 5) This particular cartoon shows us a lot. Notice the reference to the Battle of Verdun, and the iconography shows Bryan as the hero of Verdun with the banner, the French battle cry from that battle. Verdun, of course, had been one of the great battles of World War I. It was a fortified French town, many, many forts around it, multiple armies, I mean multiple German army groups, and multiple French army groups, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of men, I don’t recall the right number, were fighting for a long time at Verdun, as they often were in World War I conflicts. His fundamentalist followers are behind him. Of course, outside the ramparts are the enemies of the Bible, and the enemies of the Bible, by implication of this iconography are who? Well, the Germans, of course.
There was a profound anti-German feeling in the United States after World War I. Germany was not only linked with Darwinian evolution in a social Darwinian way, as I’ve already indicated, but Germany was also the source of modern biblical scholarship, and that’s another reason why Germany is seen as the land of infidelity on the part of American fundamentalists after World War I.
Now, how fundamentalists themselves see their own situation is illustrated by this cartoon (Slide 6) from a leading fundamentalist periodical, of the time. This comes from something called The King’s Business, which was published out of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, which is now Biola University. It used to be in downtown L.A. It’s now in suburban La Mirada. The dean of the faculty at Biola in the ’20s was a leading fundamentalist biblical scholar and theologian named Reuben Torrey. He had been the third and final editor of a series of pamphlets published shortly before the war called “The Fundamentals,” which were defending traditional Christianity against very liberal Christians who had already identified themselves as modernists; that is, “modernist” and “fundamentalist” were self-chosen labels from the period in the same way in which pro-choice and pro-life are self-chosen labels of a controversy going on right now. Opponents might have had other terms for people, but they were the terms that the proponents themselves chose.
This cartoon shows the battleships of modernity bombarding the Bible, and these battleships are labeled “Culture,” “Liberal Theology,” “Modern Thought,” “Science,” “Hypothesis” (you’ll see why “Hypothesis” shortly) and “Atheism.” They’re bombarding a Bible which, of course, like the Rock of Gibraltar, is not going down, but it’s an intense controversy. This is a contest, in other words, of culture wars, no less than today. There was a great culture war going on in the 1920s, and American Protestants were caught up in it. Bryan and other self-labeled fundamentalists saw evolution as just one of several aspects of modernity that’s attacking the Bible.
Now, the word “fundamentalist” itself comes in this context. Verbally there is some suggestion that it may have been in use prior to its first use in print. Historians have not found an earlier reference to the word than from a Baptist magazine in July of 1920. So the word “fundamentalist” originates in an American context, in a Protestant context, at this time. (Slide 7)
Despite its later use in many ways, even the late Stephen Jay Gould used to describe some of his scientific colleagues as scientific fundamentalists for their attitude toward religion. Of course, it’s been used in reporting on Islamic context for a while as well.
But it originates in this context, and the Baptist editor of a magazine called The Watchman-Examiner has just returned from a convention where he’s been talking with friends who are concerned about liberal tendencies in the denomination and they have agreed that they need to start identifying themselves as a group in certain ways, they’re looking for a name, and he himself, he says, speaking of himself, “We suggest that those who still cling to the great fundamentals,” (he means traditional Christian doctrine), “and who mean to do battle royal for the fundamentals shall be called fundamentalists.” This is how the word is used in that sense. The leading historian of fundamentalism, George Marsden, has emphasized this aspect of the definition I think properly, the militant anti-modernism, as the essence of the attitude of fundamentalists, and you can see that in the viewpoints they took toward evolution.
So this movement has been in existence really. It’s been growing since the late 19th century, but it self-identifies as fundamentalists under that label in the decade of the 1920s, and that, of course, is the decade in which the Scopes trial takes place.
Now, what about evolution? What are the problems that Christians had with evolution then and that many still have now? Well, one of them is the view that evolution is simply a hypothesis, meaning an unwarranted guess, a wild guess, that it is not supported by the facts. Scientists use the word “hypothesis” in a different sense, as a possible truth for which evidence will be gathered over time in an effort to show that beyond a reasonable doubt we should believe it, whereas Bryan and fundamentalists use it in the sense of something you just thought of all of a sudden last night. It’s shown in this cartoon by Pace (Slide 8) as a hypothesis in that sense, the Darwinian hypothesis of evolution. It’s falling out of the clouds as speculation, it’s full of hot air, and it’s heading toward the facts, a collision with the facts. The gondola of the balloon is labeled “Science Falsely So-called,” I’m going to come back to that. So the fundamentalists see this as unsupported speculation about to collide with facts.
Now, this gondola, labeled “Science Falsely So-called,” this term has a long history. If you’re interested in that, you can ask me about it later. I’ve written an article about that that I don’t want to go into here, but evolution is an example, in their view, of science falsely so-called. The phrase “science falsely so-called” comes from the King James Version of the Bible, Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Chapter 6, Verse 20. In context, it says, he advises Timothy to avoid “vain babblings” and “science falsely so-called.” The Greek word used there is the word “gnosis,” meaning knowledge. “Knowledge” really is, in the ancient world, the closest word equivalent to our modern term “philosophy” maybe or “knowledge,” not more narrowly equivalent to natural science, but “science” is a fair translation because the word “science” historically has had very broad meaning. It’s only in the last couple of centuries it’s usually taken a narrower meaning to mean natural science. So there you have it, “science falsely so-called,” that’s what James’ translators thought in the early 17th century was the best English word to use.
Now, the idea that this is false science is crucial for understanding fundamentalist responses.
Here is a British cartoon. (Slide 9) You know, the Brits don’t get off scot-free here. This particular cartoon comes from a London journalist in the 1930s named Newman Watts who wrote a little book called Why Be an Ape? that includes interesting cartoons drawn by a person named W. D. Ford, but in this particular cartoon the word “hypothesis” is a synonym used by scientists for the word “guess,” which is just what William Jennings Bryan said. That’s his understanding of a hypothesis, it’s a guess, and evolution is not truth, he says it’s merely a hypothesis, it’s “millions of guesses strung together,” so hence this slide, millions of guesses strung together. These are all guesses about the past that no one can demonstrate, and we end up with humans being evolved from apes at the top. That comes from Bryan’s last statement at Dayton which he was going to read as his final argument in court, but final arguments were done away with by the judge, so he read it to journalists outside as his final speech. He died just a few days later.
(Slide 10) On the education side, from this cartoon of Pace, you can see how evolution was seen as headed toward infidelity and being driven there by educational authorities, like professors. I forgot my Mortar Board on the way here. Sorry. It’s being blown toward the rocks by the God-denying theory of evolution as the Bible is being thrown overboard at the instruction of the professor.
Many Christians then and now see evolution as a God-denying theory that contradicts the Bible and therefore not religiously neutral and inappropriate for public education. You know, the view that public education should avoid sectarian religion goes back to the founding of public education in the United States, and for a while that worked well, but this is the first time I can think of that a really controversial subject in a religious way is coming into public schools, is in the early 20th century. It does, for many Americans, seem to violate that understanding of what public education is supposed to be about. They still see this as Bryan sees this and others see it at that time, as a violation of the constitutional mandate for religious neutrality on the part of the government.
(Slide 11) This image shows the intensity of the feeling on the part of fundamentalists about evolution, which is evolution here is shown as the Pied Piper taking American children toward death. Notice that the cave is shaped like a skull with “Disbelief in the God of the Bible,” and they’re following the rats around the path of education, being blown there by the hypothesis of evolution, and this guy is “Science Falsely So-Called,” in case we didn’t see that. So that is how they see this, American school children are being led to their spiritual death by the teaching of a hypothesis that it’s not true, it’s a false idea, and it’s not religiously neutral.
In fact, this young woman at university (Slide 12) has to exchange her faith, which is more precious than gold, for a diploma, which is “Science Falsely So-Called,” and as one of my students noticed, and I had not noticed until one day I was showing it in class and she pointed it out to me: that’s a pistol which is aimed at her head in exactly the same way in which, of course, back in era of Bonnie and Clyde and others, you have highway robbery going on. So this college professor is extorting her faith from her in exchange for her diploma, and she’s picking up false science in the process.
Now, these kinds of concerns are no evident no less today than they were then. (Slide 13) This is a book that is very influential on current American fundamentalist thinking about science. It’s called The Lie, subtitle Evolution, written by Ken Ham. I’ll say more about Ken Ham in just a minute. Ken Ham wrote this book in the 1980s and his attitude is displayed very well in the book. His ministry, Answers in Genesis, is probably the leading creationist website today. But unlike Bryan, who had no problem with the earth’s great age, the earth’s age being millions of years old or today we would say billions of years old, Bryan had no problem with that view, Ken Ham thinks that view itself is part of the problem–the view that the earth is really old. Ham rejects not only evolution but also the age of the earth. This makes him far more reactionary toward science than Bryan even had been.
(Slide 14) Here is a cartoon from Ken Ham’s organization that shows where they’re coming from and emphasizes indeed the young earth piece. There are earlier forms of this cartoon that have different wording on the foundation of the humanism castle that do not make reference to millions of years, that make reference simply to evolution, but current versions of this cartoon, which has undergone an evolution you might say, do show indeed changes in the emphasis of young earth organizations.
Culture wars are still part of the context today. Indeed, this is very similar ‑‑ isn’t it? ‑‑ in its spirit to what you saw of the dueling, the battleships against the Rock of Gibraltar from the ’20s. An addition from them (Answers In Genesis) would be also emphasis on the consequences of believing that the earth is old; that’s what this cartoon is about, the fatal spiritual consequences of accepting an old universe and an old earth, because if you do that, in the opinion of Answers in Genesis, you’re taking man’s authority over the authority of the Bible. Whereas Christianity, the castle of Christianity, is based on the assumption that “6 Days Equals God Is Authority.” Earlier versions of this cartoon don’t have that specific point, but this current version does. It’s current even though it’s from 2002, it still looks like this, “6 Days Equals God Is Authority.”
The humanism people, who are associated with evolution, are actually bombarding the right place, the roots of Christianity, by attacking the age of the earth issue, whereas the Christians are clueless. This guy is firing at these balloons, these social consequences of humanism, and this guy is firing in the wrong direction. This guy is about to fire at another Christian. This guy is firing at his own foundation. So this is how they see things as an embattled group in today’s culture war.
Indeed, Ham and other fundamentalists see evolution as actually Satanic in origin. Earlier versions of this cartoon have Satan as the origin of this view on the left, and God is the origin of this view on the right, and they think it’s inseparable from these various social consequences.
Now, what about the two current forms of these ideas that are the most common to encounter in the news? (Slide 15) Scientific creationism, which is the young earth creationist stuff of Ken Ham. The term “scientific creationism” is older than Webster’s Online Dictionary will tell you. It goes back at least to the early 1970s. On the right, “Evolution Wars.” Is the author of that article in the room?
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: No.
TED DAVIS: No? This occurred during the run-up I think to the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial a few years ago.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Jeff Hardin referred to this.
TED DAVIS: Okay. Afterward, if you want, you can ask me about my experiences at the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial. A lot of the reporters were asking me stuff afterwards because the stuff that was happening in the courtroom was basically history and philosophy of science, and other than the actual people in the witness stand, I was the other person in the room who knew what was going on with all of that, and so it was very interesting. I won’t come back to that in this session.
Ken Ham is an Australian by birth, former science teacher, who has been in the United States for a long time. He is in charge of Answers In Genesis, this organization (Slide 16), which has the famous Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky. Here is Ken with one of his friends from the museum. This photograph, from their own site, makes a point that I want to make, namely that in Ham’s view, dinosaurs and human beings coexisted for a long time after the creation until sometime after the Flood. That’s not true in mainstream science, although there are a few creatures from that period who are still around with us, like crocodiles and coelacanths in the ocean. Nearly all of the animals and plants from those periods when the dinosaurs flourished have been long gone from the earth.
Now, the website Answers in Genesis (Slide 17) is perhaps the best place to go to see what creationists themselves think of the topic. It even has a search engine on its own site where you can go and plug it in. I chose this particular version of their home page from not too many years ago to use because it emphasizes the same idea Bryan was emphasizing, that evolution isn’t even a theory, it’s just a wild guess.
Now, a central tenet of creationism is that the place you want to go to get information about the formation of the earth and living things is here (Slide 18), you want to go to the Bible. The reason is straightforward, namely, the Bible was directly spoken by God to human authors who record it, or human scribes essentially who record it, and therefore this is eyewitness testimony of the creation and you can’t get higher than that. Whatever speculations science may have must be subordinated to the direct testimony of the only person who witnessed it, the divine person, and since God has told us directly what took place, how can you have a higher authority?
(Slide 19) That’s evident in this cartoon from the person who is probably the leading contemporary creationist cartoonist, Dan Lietha. You see how God has painted this scene in 6 days, and that is the best evidence for the amount of time used for the creation, is the testimony of one who made it, and the best evidence for a young earth, these are where you find it according to creation scientists. No, it’s not any of these (Dr. Davis points to sources of knowledge other than the Bible in the cartoon). That’s the best. So creationists’ arguments that arise out of science, out of their interpretation of science, aren’t even as good as the Bible itself; the Bible is the evidence you want, it’s the ultimate authority.
(Slide 20) Now, the book you’re looking at here, illustrating this next point, is the bible of young earth creationism, speaking of the Bible. This was published in 1961 by two people I will tell you about shortly, John Whitcomb, Jr., and Henry Morris. A second central point would be that they would show in their book is that scientific evidence, when properly interpreted, is consistent with the literal interpretation of the Bible, but it’s mainly the historical sciences that are the ones which are contested territory, if you will.
The historical sciences refer to the sciences that tell us about the past, the past of the earth and the universe, like cosmology or evolutionary biology or paleontology or geology. Areas like anatomy, physiology, atomic theory or nuclear fission, these kinds of things are not contested territory for the creationists, no issues there with that. That’s all current science, you can verify that fully, and it doesn’t impinge on the biblical story of creation, it’s all fine, but it’s these historical areas where people heavily contest scientific claims.
According to creationists, humans and dinosaurs were created on the same day, as I’ve indicated, the sixth day of creation, and they coexisted with us until sometime after the Flood. How old? (Slide 22) How old is the earth on creationists’ views? Not more than somewhere from 6 to 12,000 years. I won’t tell you how they get that number. If you want to ask me afterward, I can give you ideas about that, but it does contrast greatly with mainstream scientific ideas. Many of you probably have a sense of how old science thinks things are. Pretty current numbers for the earth itself would be this number, 4.5 billion years, that’s what “BY” means, and the universe nearly 14 billion years old.
Order of magnitude matters. I mean, if you won the lottery and it was $10,000, it wouldn’t change your life; if you win the lottery at $4.5 billion, it does. You get the idea. The order of magnitude is what matters here.
(Slide 23) I’ll skip my comments on the big bang and move to one other point (Slide 24). Creationists do see alternative interpretations of the Bible as really heretical and even harmful to Christianity. The word “compromise” is used as a pejorative in this conversation, and that’s not going to surprise anyone who reports about modern political events, but the word “compromise” is used as a dangerous term, and likewise the word “accommodation.”
I will have to say something about this (Slide 25). A final piece, the Flood described in Genesis on the creationists’ view produced at least a lot of the fossils on the earth. Of course, the Flood happened during human history, and this view that the Flood produced these fossils rather than the ages of the earth and all the processes producing fossils, that view is called Flood geology, and it does contradict natural history since the early 19th century.
Okay, now, from the mid-19th century through the mid-20th century, for roughly a hundred years, most conservative Protestant writers in this country held to old earth versions of creationism, not young earth versions (Slide 26). I won’t detail those two versions on the slide. I want to illustrate the point by saying that the most widely used Bible among conservative Protestants in England and America in this period, including Pentecostals, was the Scofield Reference Bible published in the early 20th century by Oxford University Press. It has extensive footnotes in it that specifically endorse old earth versions of interpreting Genesis. In fact, William Bell Riley (Slide 27), the man that sent Bryan to Dayton, Tennessee, who’s in contact with fundamentalists across the entire country and in a better position, in my view, to say this than anyone else, is on the top of the fundamentalist pyramid. In a debate he has with an atheist in Arkansas in the 1920s, he says he cannot identify a single intelligent fundamentalist who claims that the earth is made 6,000 years ago, and the Bible never taught any such thing, says Riley. This has completely changed since the 1920s.
During that period I showed you, belief in a young earth and Flood geology was prominent only among certain fringe groups in Protestantism, such as the Seventh-day Adventists, who follow their prophet, 19th century prophet, Ellen White, and her teachings on these issues, about which I’ll spell out for you in a moment. (Slide 28) I’m just going to add the point that Dr. Benjamin Carson is probably the most well-known Adventist today. I am not trying to say that the views of Ellen White are necessarily his. You would have to ask him personally about those views. I don’t know Dr. Carson, I don’t know whether he would agree with White on everything I’m going to tell you next, but this is what his tradition has held and in many cases people still would hold these views within the Adventist tradition. Notice how you spell it, by the way. Editors often get this wrong. This is spelled correctly, the capitalization and hyphenation, et cetera, and the correct pronunciation is “Ad’-ven-tist,” emphasis on the first syllable, not “Ad-ven’-tist,” as many other Christians will often say.
(Slide 29) White claimed to have these trancelike “visions” in which God had revealed truth to her, and in one of them, about the creation week, she says she was “carried back to the creation and was shown that the first week, in which God performed the work of creation in six days and rested on the seventh day, was just like every other week.” You see the connection with Seventh-day Adventist teaching with religious teaching, which I’ll tell you about in a minute. (Slide 30) She also taught that Noah’s Flood had in fact sculpted the surface of the earth and produced fossils and that Flood geology, as it’s later called, is a standard part of Adventist teaching.
(Slide 31) Another standard part of Adventist teaching is that other Christians who worship God on Sunday are Sabbath breakers, and therefore heretics. So we should worship God on the Jewish Sabbath, the seventh day, that’s when God actually rested. Not on Sunday, the day on which Christ was raised from the grave, to remind us that creation week was literal and that God actually rested on the seventh day.
I’m going to skip George Price (Slide 32), that piece. It’s an important piece of history, but I’m running out of time. The ideas of George Price, a Canadian disciple of White, are picked up on by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb Jr. (Slide 33), two fundamentalist Americans, in the early ’60s, and they write about these ideas without much reference to Price, but the ideas all come from Price, in the book The Genesis Flood, published in 1961.
Now, intelligent design, I don’t have a lot to say about that, but Phillip Johnson (Slide 34) is basically the author of the intelligent design movement, which comes much later in the 20th century. It really emerges strong in public display in the 1990s. It has its roots in the 1980s. Phillip Johnson is still living. He is no longer in very good health, but he is a retired professor of law from the University of California Berkeley, and in the 1960s, as a young law graduate, having attended Harvard and Chicago undergraduate and graduate school, becomes clerk for Chief Justice Earl Warren, you all know what that means in its significance.
He has a conversion to Christianity as a mature law professor after he has gone through a divorce, and he is suddenly motivated to start writing against the kinds of atheism he finds in Richard Dawkins in works like The Blind Watchmaker, which he encounters while he is on sabbatical in England. (Slide 35) To make a long story short, his intellectual disciples today have various locations, but the primary location would be an arm of the Discovery Institute in Seattle, which has its own website with search engine as well where you can learn all about that from their own perspective if you want to.
(Slide 36) Surprisingly, the Bible is not part of this conversation for them in a direct way, not at all. They want to leave out the word “God,” they want to leave out “theology,” they want to leave the Bible out of the picture as well, and that is because they want to change the way science is taught in high school. For constitutional reasons, they leave it out. So you’re all familiar with First Amendment (Slide 37). I can come back to that and creationism and the law if you want me to later, but this is an idea that’s organized and directed by a law professor. Johnson has even himself said that the first thing you have to do is get the Bible out of the conversation (Slide 38). So this is a very different tone in that regard than creationism of a classical variety.
I’ll skip these slides (Slides 39 to 41) and what it’s about, but the biblical issues and the theological issues that creationists dispute, that can all come later if you want, but that’s not part of ID. ID is simply the secular notion that you need to challenge the secular establishment on thinking that naturalistic evolution has done everything. It’s really in opposition to evolution in a naturalistic form or what they will often call “Darwinism,” using that term. That term has a long history, too, that I will leave out.
It’s hard to separate from culture wars (Slide 42), but I need to move on.
(Slide 43) Finally the third main question: Does evolution deny orthodox Christianity? I need to define “orthodox” in this context, and I will in just a second, with another image.
William Jennings Bryan thought the answer was very clearly yes, evolution does deny orthodox Christianity. This cartoon, another Pace cartoon from Bryan’s day, shows “Rationalism” pounding the wedge of “Theistic Evolution,” which is the idea that God used evolution to create organisms. This term and idea goes back almost to Darwin’s day, but in the 1920s, it’s in common parlance, and it’s splitting faith in the Bible. Bryan described theistic evolution in this language: theistic evolution was “an anesthetic that deadens the pain while the patient’s religion is being gradually removed.”
Remember Bryan was regarded in the 1920s as the leading political orator in the United States. He was a very gifted orator. Darrow didn’t want to have to face off with him in final arguments. The great defense attorney thought he might actually lose in the opinion world to this great political orator. Bryan also said theistic evolution was “a way-station on the highway that leads from Christian faith to No-God-Land,” and this is what he meant.
(Slide 44) This is a cartoon which you will see on the internet dated 1922. That’s wrong, it’s from 1924. The letter Bryan writes designing this cartoon, it’s written in January of 1924 to the editor of a Sunday school magazine, called the Sunday School Times. Bryan says it will depict evolution as what we (meaning he and the editor) know it to be, the cause of modernism in religion. He says it will depict a student going down a staircase on which there is no stopping place ‑‑ i.e., a slippery slope ‑‑ and the student is stepping from “Bible Not Infallible” to “Man Not Made in God’s Image”; halfway down a minister with a Bible in his hands stepping from “No Deity,” meaning no deity of Jesus, to “No Atonement,” and at the bottom a scientist stepping from “Agnosticism” to “Atheism.” This is Pace’s version of that letter that Bryan wrote.
I’ll skip that (Slide 45), showing notes for a lecture on “The Religion of Science” from around 1925 by Princeton biologist Edwin Grant Conklin, a religious modernist, which illustrate how radically non-Christian his type of modernism was) and I’ll skip that (Slide 46), a cartoon showing how a purely naturalistic approach to the Bible blinds scholars into missing the evidence for Christ’s miracles. Today, what’s changed? (Slide 47) One thing that’s changed is the presence of a fairly sizable group of scientists (and science journalists even in some cases) writing aggressively anti-religious books, like Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion. You may be familiar with Dawkins’ work.
(Slide 48) A second example is within liberal Christianity. Many theologians today would hold a view similar to John Shelby Spong, the former Bishop of Newark, Episcopal Bishop of Newark, who thinks you need to give up theism in Christianity, Why Christianity Must Change or Die.
But a third alternative (Slide 49), the one that I want to end with, is the view represented by some leading Christian theologians and scientists whose views were not present in the earlier conversation in the 1920s. Views like theirs were not there, namely, that traditional Christian belief, the kinds of beliefs Bryan was afraid people were giving up because of evolution, can be maintained consistently side-by-side with a full acceptance of evolution. Francis Collins, the geneticist, is prominent for this. You probably all know who he is.
(Slide 50) You may not know who John Polkinghorne is. He was a leading particle physicist from England who has a very wide American readership. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, he was involved in the mathematics of CORP theory in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, until he became an Anglican priest, and the last 30 years he has written many books about science and faith, including a commentary on the Nicene Creed, which is a classical Christian statement of faith, from Princeton University Press called The Faith of a Physicist.
Or someone like Robert John Russell (Slide 51), who in my opinion is the leading Christian theologian dealing with science. He is also a trained physicist. He writes at the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences in Berkeley. He is an orthodox, small “o,” Christian, but also a full evolutionist.
Or someone like Owen Gingerich (Slide 52), retired professor of Astronomy and History of Science at Harvard, whose recent books, are a series of things he has given as lectures in Harvard Chapel and other places. His two most recent are God’s Universe and God’s Planet. God’s Planet is just off the press this past year. These are all defenses of orthodox Christianity to some extent. They mainly talk about the science itself, but they can talk about orthodox Christianity side-by-side with that.
(Slide 53) But for many Americans, the ideas of people like this are just not acceptable any more than those of Dawkins would be acceptable, but I do think historically they represent a significant new feature on the landscape, world-class scientists and theologians who accept evolution but also affirm the incarnation, the classical Christian view of the deity of Jesus, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus. There wasn’t anybody out there like them in the 1920s. I’ve been looking for those people in my historical work for the last 15 years. They probably existed, but they are very hard to find today. There weren’t big public voices in the ’20s.
(Slide 54) Will these voices have a permanent effect on the conversation? That’s a good question, you know. Will this lead somewhere else? I’m afraid I have to say the same thing Professor Raboteau said yesterday: I’m a historian, not a prophet, and I really don’t know how this is going to play out, but I do think it’s not the same as the 1920s, and that could perhaps prove to be significant.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Thank you, Dr. Davis. Will Saletan is first, and then Daniel.
WILL SALETAN, Slate: Ted, first of all, thank you. I wanted to go back to a cartoon that you showed earlier, and I missed a little bit of it, but the battleships cartoon, the battleships are lined up against the ‑‑
TED DAVIS: I’ll find that right now (Slide 6).
WILL SALETAN: Okay. There were five of the battleships. I don’t know if you remember off the top of your head. One of them was “Science.”
TED DAVIS: That’s right.
WILL SALETAN: What were the other four?
TED DAVIS: “Liberal Theology,” “Modern Thought,” “Culture,” and “Hypothesis.”
WILL SALETAN: Okay, so “Science,” “Modern Thought,” and “Hypothesis” are three of the five battleships.
TED DAVIS: That’s right.
WILL SALETAN: It didn’t say “Science Falsely So-called”? It just said “Science”?
TED DAVIS: Correct.
WILL SALETAN: So the question I have is, at that time, was there a different view, a more explicitly hostile view, specifically of science and hypothesis and modern thought? Well, I guess leave aside modern thought, but today I think most people who call themselves scientific creationists, they would embrace the term “science,” they would embrace the concept of hypothesis; wouldn’t they?
TED DAVIS: Yes, they would. But not the historical sciences.
WILL SALETAN: So my question is, have fundamentalists or has the evolving set of people who call themselves fundamentalists or who call themselves creationists, use whatever term you feel fits the record best, change their understanding of what science is from that era? Were they explicitly anti-scientific at that time?
There was another cartoon you showed where the two castles were shooting at each other, they were both castles, not battleships (Slide 14).
TED DAVIS: Yep, that’s right.
WILL SALETAN: One of them says millions of years equals man’s authority. So was there a notion of science as a human activity rather than an activity that reveals an underlying truth that is God’s?
TED DAVIS: That’s a really nice question. I’m not really sure how I can answer it. I am not confident fully in what I will say. I think the best way to address that is to say that modern notions of science and the process of science become increasingly given to the hypothetico-deductive method, which is the idea of proposing a hypothesis, looking for ways to test it, and then hoping to draw some confirmation for that hypothesis from the results of an experimental test. That notion has a long history, but it really emerges as the main way science is done in the 17th century. But the rhetoric of people like Francis Bacon, for example, suggest that observations themselves are the chief source of information in science, and we can generalize from them to general truths, inductive truths, which hold for all events. That’s a so-called Baconian view of science. It’s closely related to Scottish commonsense philosophy from Thomas Reid in the 18th century. Those ideas of Thomas Reid and commonsense philosophy, which are rooted in that kind of Baconianism, are extremely influential on American science in the 19th century, mainstream science as well as religious interpretations of it, the notion that it’s what the observations actually show that you generalize from.
Now, since you cannot observe the past, in the view of the creation scientists, you cannot do genuine science on the past, you have to accept the authority of the eyewitness God for how the past has actually taken place in the development of nature.
Now, I don’t want to go further with that here, but that’s partly I think what’s going on. What notion of science is legitimate in the opinion of creation scientists? It would be a kind of Baconian notion of science without generalizing beyond what you always see holds and going more hypothetical. The conversation about those ideas is intense in the 19th century actually. One of Darwin’s critics is a great philosopher of science, John Herschel. John Herschel says that Darwin’s theory of evolution is “the law of higgledy-piggledy,” because it does go beyond what we see happening right now and extrapolates into the past and involves randomness or variations, the causes of which we don’t know. So he is very skeptical of Darwin’s historical speculations. Darwin himself knows that his view of evolution is speculative in that sense, of going beyond just Baconian science.
But the sciences of natural history are hypothetico-deductive in nature, and the hypothetico-deductive method predates the 19th century, as I’ve indicated. It’s just widely used in historical sciences because you can’t do laboratory experiments to see how the earth got here. You have to take what we see now and make forensic reasoning. Like similar to a prosecuting attorney trying to convict someone of a crime that no living person says they witnessed, and you try to put together a plausible scenario that explains all the facts you have that no one actually says they saw. So that kind of reasoning from the law process is very similar to what goes on in the historical sciences.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Okay. Daniel Lippman, over here.
DANIEL LIPPMAN, Politico: Do you think that with advocating for creationism and rejecting evolution, does that lead to a broader rejection of science that is agreed by lots of people, like climate change and fear of GMO foods and vaccines? Does that leak into the broader culture and have negative effects that you don’t want to see?
TED DAVIS: Partly yes. I don’t see in the United States at least among fundamentalists a wide rejection of the GMO foods. I don’t see a wide rejection among fundamentalists of vaccines even. Some will. I think the rejection of vaccines is motivated by various reasons, none of them to me clearly religious. But the climate change one is very, very interesting in some ways and frustrating in others for me. There are objections being raised to climate change by creationists. They, in my opinion, have invented a theological objection to an issue that doesn’t really have a theological piece in the same sense in which the evolution issue does have a theological or biblical piece. I believe it’s politically motivated because of the fact that it’s being pushed by the secular left. In culture wars, I think that the religious right, if you will, is responding to the secular left by questioning science, that most people involved in the climate change field think is pretty good science.
DANIEL LIPPMAN: If you reject evolution does that make you more suspicious of science in general in America?
TED DAVIS: Yes, it can. It can if you’re suspicious of scientific authorities. Suspicious of a consensus, that the consensus may be driven by world view and ideology more than by actual facts that can be checked. So the attitude of suspicion toward authorities, which isn’t confined to fundamentalists, but certainly is prominent in fundamentalist communities, can be driving them. Yes, I think it can, it can be driving that.
DANIEL LIPPMAN: Suspicion of what scientists are saying is different than suspicion of a scientific method.
TED DAVIS: Correct.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Okay. Emma Green? And I’ve got others.
EMMA GREEN, TheAtlantic.com: So it seems as though the controversy that you’re describing, while certainly historically fascinating and still active among a certain portion of Americans and a certain portion of people who live abroad, is probably not one of the most salient current controversies in religion and science. I mean, it seems like the portion of Americans who are truly young earth creationists and totally dismiss any possibility of a role of science, sort of like you were saying in one of those last slides, is very, very narrow.
So what I’m interested in is the interstitial space. You know, there’s a broad range, we actually had a session at the Faith Angle Forum a few times ago. Where Jeff Hardin was sort of plotting the spectrum of all of the different views of scientists, and religious scientists and people who accepted some form of religion ‑‑ It was a great session. So I’m interested in people who are doing work in that interstitial space where most people live, where people have both religious views that influences their views about the origins of the world, who have some sort of combination view and bring in some of the wisdom of creationism perhaps and maybe have some interest or curiosity about what science is doing, especially from a scholarly perspective. I mean, who is doing that work?
TED DAVIS: Well, I am at BioLogos. That’s not the talk I brought today. I could have done that, but I understand you’ve had that done. I do columns for BioLogos every other week. Sometimes they’re mine, in which case they’re usually part of a lengthy series. Like the current series is on antebellum religion and science, and some of the Baconian stuff that I got asked about is part of that. I also have guest columns. I did have a recent guest column by a German sociologist, Tom Kaden, who is now at York University in Ontario. He calls attention to the imprecision of a lot of the polling that’s been done of the beliefs of Americans about this issue of creationism among Christians even, and to what extent can we trust the data?
Jonathan Hill, a sociologist of religion at Calvin College, is regarded by his peers, from what I hear as the best person currently working on that question, of what religious beliefs of Americans actually are on these views.
There is reason to question how many Americans believe the young earth creationist views I gave you on every point or on most points. The numbers might be as small as 15 percent. The traditional data is very close to 50 percent. That’s a huge gap.
So this is a controversy that’s above my pay grade. I’m not a sociologist. I listen to what they say. I can just convey the information that if you want up-to-date information on it, go to Jonathan Hill, and he has written about this on some public websites, including Christianity Today and BioLogos.
EMMA GREEN: What data are you referring to that says 50 percent of Americans are young earth creationists? I mean, what polling firm is saying that?
TED DAVIS: Well, these questions aren’t phrased very clearly, and that’s the problem, but there are several polls going back many years to I think the ’70s and ’80s or ’90s. Again, this isn’t something I am prepared to talk about this morning. I don’t want you to trust what I’m telling you without checking for yourself.
TED DAVIS: But the polls have been done by various organizations, including Pew and Gallup, going back a long time about this as to what the views are. But the phrasing of those questions is crucial, and this has always been a problem in understanding public opinion.
For example, back in the 1920s, there was a survey of the religious views of Protestant ministers in many denominations asking them questions including about Genesis and creation, and it’s hard to understand what was in the minds of those ministers as they were answering certain specifically worded questions about things like this.
For example, almost 90 percent of Lutheran ministers at that time affirmed something that would be consistent with young earth creationism but could very well have been interpreted in other ways as well, and I really doubt that 89 percent of Lutheran ministers, or 88 percent of Lutheran ministers, at that time would have been young earth creationists, I really doubt that. Judging from public writings, that wouldn’t be true.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Tom, you’re next.
TOM GJELTEN, NPR: Real quick, two questions. The first one is really quick. You said that young earth creationists contest the historical sciences but not the natural sciences. How do they feel about speed of light and distance and things like that?
TED DAVIS: That’s a complicated question. Maybe we should talk about that outside this session.
TOM GJELTEN: Okay.
TED DAVIS: But suffice it to say that there is not one single way in which young earth creationists respond to that.
TOM GJELTEN: Okay.
TED DAVIS: But the reason they’re going after that issue is not because, as you say, natural science ‑‑ it’s the subset of natural sciences, that is, the historical sciences, and that one is related to inferences about the age of the universe, the speed of light and its relationship to big bang cosmology. Big bang cosmology is something categorically rejected by young earth creationists for a number of reasons, including the fact that in big bang cosmology the universe is nearly 14 billion years old, at least the one observable universe, the only one we know we really have, is almost that old, and that, of course, is not acceptable to them.
TOM GJELTEN: The other question is you used the phrase “religiously neutral,” which I think has been important throughout these years of culture wars. Where is that debate right now would you say? What is the debate around? What is or is not religiously neutral?
TED DAVIS: That’s a better question for a law professor than for a historian. I’m going to punt that, but I’m going to recommend you look at Ed Larson’s book Trial and Error. He is an attorney, a law professor, and an historian, and he does know a lot about this.
The only comment I’ll make, and which I have some confidence, is that the climate for interpreting the First Amendment, specifically the Establishment Clause, is especially I think changed after World War II. Supreme Court decisions coming out in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, the famous case involving school prayer, for example, in the ’60s. But questions about bussing in New Jersey in the 1940s, lead courts to say that certain kinds of things need to be there in order to have any federal dollars being directed toward that kind of thing, like the Lemon test is originated at that point, somewhere in there, so the way in which the First Amendment is approached is different, as far as I can tell as an historian, after World War II than it was prior to that time.
The Tennessee law that gets challenged by the ACLU actually makes direct reference to the biblical story of creation, and you cannot teach contrary to that. Of course, today that would never pass First Amendment muster, but at that time, the fact that people floated that and tried, and many state legislatures considered similar laws, more than half the state legislatures considered bills of this kind at that time in response to Bryan’s urging. So the fact that you could do that and have them even float up to being tested laws, enforced laws, and it’s not just in Tennessee where that happens, where the law actually ends up getting passed in some form or another. So it’s that that indicates a big difference in how jurisprudence has gone on this question.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Okay. Elizabeth Dias.
ELIZABETH DIAS, TIME: Thank you so much. I wanted to go back also to one of the slides titled, “Why Has Evolution Been Controversial?” the one with the cartoon with the man pointing what you said looked like a gun (Slide 12). So with the exception of Ellen White, I was really struck by this, it is the only woman in this entire conversation, at least, I mean ‑‑
TED DAVIS: Yeah. I’ve been asked that before.
ELIZABETH DIAS: Right, right. So as we’re talking about or as the debate was unfolding, “Why Has Evolution Been Controversial?” theologically at the time, evolution was really challenging man’s place in relation to God, in relation to the rest of the universe. I’m curious, you know, I say “man” specifically there. I am just really curious to know, what was the relationship historically between this historical time of women breaking through in lots of other areas and then really the evolution debate challenging some of these historical views about women at this time in this part of Christianity? I would just really be curious to hear about how those two topics related.
TED DAVIS: That’s a great question that I’m unable to answer. If there is good historical scholarship on that, I don’t know what it is. That historical scholarship might well exist, but it doesn’t come up in the conferences I go to and the scholarship that I actually see. It is a really good question, perhaps to indicate the nature of the gendering of this whole question. The term “scientist” was coined in the 1830s by a British scholar, William Whewell, at Cambridge. It doesn’t get in wide use until later, much later, in the century. For much of the 20th century, the term “scientist” and the gendered term “man of science” are used interchangeably in American science and in American culture, including in this period.
For example, the biographical dictionary of members of the AAAS is first printed in the early 20th century. The title is “American Men of Science.” There are fewer I think than about 5 percent of the people in the book are women. It keeps that name in each subsequent edition until the 1970s. In the 1970s, it changes its name to “American Men and Woman of Science.” So that term “man of science” was synonymous with the word “scientist” in much American writing, popular writing particularly, well down through World War II. So that could be a factor here. From looking at a whole bunch of these cartoons in this period, it’s very common to see women depicted in Pace’s cartoons, the large bulk of which have nothing to do with science. This man produced one cartoon a week for 30 years for various fundamentalist periodicals. That’s a lot of material, and most of it has nothing at all to do with science. But when it does come in on science, it’s shown in the kinds of things you’ve seen. Women are not usually depicted in those cartoons. But, of course, this is a college student, that’s who this is, she’s a co-ed from an American college in the 1920s ‑‑
ELIZABETH DIAS: Which is why it’s fascinating, you know, she is getting shot for studying in this conversation.
TED DAVIS: Yeah, at a time before ‑‑ people old enough to know, as I am, remember that it was when I was in high school that women were first admitted to Yale as undergraduates. Many of the Ivy League schools were closed to women well through World War II, and many other, elite colleges, (of course, there still are many women’s colleges today) but there were a whole lot of men-only colleges until around the 1960s and ’70s, but most Christian colleges were co-educational from the beginning right down through the 20th century. In fact, I may be going beyond what I really can say with confidence, but I can’t think of any Christian college that was not co-educational from the start of any of the ones that are out there.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: That’s right. That’s right.
TED DAVIS: Is that right?
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: I think. Okay. Adelle Banks.
ADELLE BANKS, Religion News Service: I have two questions to bounce off the things that people have said. So I guess I’ll go in backwards order. So about what Elizabeth just asked, are there any female authors that come immediately to mind on this topic of women, evolution, creationism, intelligent design currently?
TED DAVIS: One of the leading popular writers of intelligent design who is an excellent writer and has a substantial academic background but not a doctoral level background, is Nancy Pearcey. She is one of the leading cultural warriors on this issue today. She’s a proponent of intelligent design. She is a disciple, how’s that?
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: She’s at Houston Baptist University.
TED DAVIS: She has an appointment there. She’s also associated as a guest person, frequent guest, with the Biola Program on Science and Religion. Biola University has a Masters in Science and Religion, and Nancy Pearcey is part of that.
ADELLE BANKS: Thanks. The other question was about some more context about Ken Ham, because you were talking about this earlier, the Creation Museum and the new Ark Encounter that’s coming. How popular is The Creation Museum and the new Ark Encounter or not and how does it fit into the overall findings about where Evangelicals are on these issues of science ‑‑
TED DAVIS: Oh, very popular.
ADELLE BANKS: How does it fit into the grand scheme of things? Is it like 5 percent of Evangelicals go flocking there or is it way more? I’m just trying to get a sense of how much Evangelicals really care about that.
TED DAVIS: Even recently, I don’t remember exactly when, they recently announced that they had had I think their 1 millionth visitor or something like that? Check that please on their website before you say that somewhere, but they ‑‑ it was started ‑‑
ADELLE BANKS: What does that mean?
TED DAVIS: Well, they were started in I think 2007, thereabouts. The museum cost upwards of 25 million to make, but if they give you two endpoints, they were open at a certain point, around 2007, and then in the last year or two they announced their 1 millionth visitor, you can do the math and figure out how many people are going there.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: By the way, let’s see, Kirsten, you’re going to be up next. One of the reasons we’re doing these sessions, and we did Jeff Hardin a year ago, is it’s the common perception that there are two views, Ken Ham’s and Bill Nye’s. The purpose of these is to say there is a lot of serious people on all parts of the spectrum, not just those two, and that’s one of the benefits of having, Ted, your survey, and also Jeff Hardin’s survey a year ago. Kirsten Powers.
KIRSTEN POWERS, Fox News, The Daily Beast, and USA Today: Well, that was a good segue about saying that there are a lot of serious people all over this issue because I may be remembering it wrong, but when I read Francis Collins’ book, he said something along the lines of it really isn’t legitimate to disagree on this, that he really feels that people who deny evolution, they’re wrong, and that it’s problematic.
I think that in terms of what is the number, as Emma was talking about, I personally come in contact with Christians all the time who don’t believe in evolution, and so to me, it’s hard for me to believe it’s as low as 15 percent. Especially when you consider I just quickly Googled now, this may have changed since May, but that only 1 of the GOP presidential candidates was going to say they believe in evolution. So there are obviously a lot of people who don’t believe in it. So I guess my question is, is it legitimate? My parents are archeologists, so I have a very hard time when people say this in the arguments that they’re making, and then I get this kind of, “Let’s agree to disagree.” Is there something you can just agree to disagree on, and if not, what harm is being done by people who continue to insist in these young earth theories? Or is there a harm, is it just something we can all say, “Okay, you can believe that and I’ll believe this and it doesn’t really matter”?
TED DAVIS: I would distinguish between opposition to evolution, biological evolution, and adherence to young earth creationism. I did not talk about old earth creationism in my talk at all. That’s something Jeff may have mentioned when he was here last year.
For about 100 years, as I indicated in one of my slides, Protestant writers are almost completely committed to an old earth view of creation. They believe in a separate creation of humans and other organisms, but they think that the earth is very old, they think that fossils predate human existence, let alone the Flood, so they do not have the young earth piece, they do not have the Flood geology piece, and they do however have the separate creation of humans and many perhaps other organisms. Opinions about that will vary. That is the mainstream conservative Protestant view, down from roughly 1860 to 1960 and points we could argue about, but in that period of time, that’s what you see. You don’t find young earth creationism on the part of mainstream Protestant writers in that period.
Now, that’s not the same thing then young earth creationism. So young earth creationism is not the view that dominates Protestant, conservative Protestant, thought in that period. However, opposition to evolution does. Opposition to evolution is there all over the place in that period, and still is. There are many Protestants today who are not young earth creationists, who completely disagree with Ken Ham’s approach to those issues. They don’t think dinosaurs co-existed with human beings, they think the Big Bang might be true, they think the earth is billions of years old, but they do not think that humans evolved from other primates. So that’s an intermediate position I didn’t present directly here. Most proponents of intelligent design are in that category, not everyone.
An exception, for example, would be Michael Behe, at Lehigh University, one of the leading ID theorists. He is a full theistic evolutionist in a classical sense. He thinks common ancestry between humans and other organisms has been demonstrated well enough to the point where it should be accepted. Even though he is prominent in the ID community and he has a very wide readership among conservative Protestants, even though he’s a Catholic himself, his views on ID are not the majority position. Most ID proponents are old earth creationists if they can be made to talk about the biblical issues. In many cases, I know their views from private conversation, I’m not going to start spelling out who they are, but most ID proponents are old earth creationists, they’re not theistic evolutionists, they don’t think evolution is true in that sense.
Phillip Johnson is definitely in that category. He’s made public statements that are very clear that that’s the case, and so is Bill Dembski, another leading ID proponent. They are old earth creationists. In fact, Dembski has written an old earth creationist book that he tells you is not an ID book because it does talk about the Bible.
Some ID proponents are young earth creationists. The one that I will publicly say is publicly known as a young earth creationist is Paul Nelson, who has a Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Biology from the University of Chicago. He is a young earth creationist, because he comes from a Missouri Synod Lutheran faith, and his grandfather, Byron Nelson–not the golfer–was a prominent Flood geologist in the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s, somewhere in there. Flood geology is a big piece of young earth creationism.
So the ID camp is a big camp, it’s a big tent, they use that political term themselves, that they’re united by their opposition to Darwinism, and Darwinism means two quite distinct things for them. You have to listen for context. On the one hand, Darwinism means biological theory of evolution by natural selection operating on random variations, the classical neo-Darwinian view in biology.
Darwinism also, though, has a cultural piece. Darwinism means for them the secular mindset that dominates academia in the United States and has led to, in their view, many social and moral ills. So there is a political component to intelligent design that is inseparable from the scientific piece, and the best evidence of that is a document called the Wedge Document that was prepared for donors to the Discovery Institute back I think in the 1990s, somewhere in that timeframe. You can find this on the internet. It was hacked off their website, and they’ve never denied that it’s theirs, and more recently they’ve admitted it was theirs. It was a white paper that was given to potential donors, and it’s about all these cultural issues. Phillip Johnson himself has written about these cultural issues in many places.
So it’s two different pieces there, that there is a very clear cultural piece part of their mission, at least as the Discovery Institute sees it, and the scientific piece of trying to increase doubts about evolution among their readers.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Before we go into the break, though, part of Kirsten’s question, though, is that if so many people in the consensus say that it’s true, why are these people who are really, really educated and really smart leaning against it and saying, “Well, we’re going to have to agree to disagree”? I mean, you just described people with Ph.D.’s in biology from the University of Chicago, and all these other people you mentioned, some of them have really impeccable credentials, and you get them in this room together here, which, by the way, I recommend that they do for many years, they’re sincere, they’re brilliant, and they look at the evidence totally differently.
KIRSTEN POWERS: I have Ivy League friends who have said I’m a young earth creationist. Then when I try to debate it, it’s just, “No, you can believe what you believe and I’ll believe what I believe,” and I’m asking is that legitimate?
TED DAVIS: I don’t think the view holds up at all, the young earth creationist view. My own background before becoming an historian was in the physical sciences. I never went to the doctoral level. I’ve had some graduate training in physics. I wanted to be an astrophysicist. At the basic level, I understand those sciences well enough to have an opinion about them that I can defend, and I’m not going to do that here, this isn’t about the science, but the opposition to evolution is driven by world view and by commitments about truth and what ultimate truth is and how you attain it and also by what are perceived to be deleterious consequences of an extremely secular world view, not paying any attention to God or religion, whether or not it is anti-religious in the way it’s expressed.
What that has meant for American society and culture, secularization is a prominent part of that piece. So I think motivations do not come from the science itself. In perhaps really rare exceptions, where a person is first persuaded that evolution isn’t true and then takes a religious view, it is almost always that the person has a religious view and they bring that to their science. But the same could be said, I think, on the way science is interpreted in many popular writings by persons with anti-religious views who bring that to the science doesn’t change what they say about the science, but it changes a lot about the way they present it to the public.
A prominent example of this is Neil deGrasse Tyson in New York at the Hayden Planetarium. He’s a preacher of naturalism and anti-religious person who in his Cosmos series, for example, his version of Cosmos, was a remake of the Cosmos series that I grew up with done by Carl Sagan a long, long time ago. The connection is that the current Cosmos series was scripted by Carl Sagan’s third wife, Ann Druyan, and Tyson himself is a personal disciple of Sagan. He talks about how as a young man he made the pilgrimage, from his point of view, to Ithaca to meet with Carl Sagan. He sees himself as Carl Sagan number two. Sagan was probably the best known scientist in the world at the time he was doing his Cosmos, he was regularly on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He was regularly in the news for saying this and that. He was controversial within science himself because of his personality and because of some of his strongly pushed ideas about extraterrestrial life, but what made him the most famous to people was his popularization of science, which has absolutely dreadful historical content. He didn’t know a thing about the history of science and religion, but his views on the history of science and religion are taken as normative by many scientists even today in their popular writings. The gap between scientific knowledge and knowledge of science at the popular level is huge. The gap between knowledge of popularizers of science and the scholars of the history of science and religion is just as big. But the popularizers are driving American popular opinion, and they literally don’t know a thing about it in many cases, about the history of the science and religion.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Well, we need to take a short break.
NAPP NAZWORTH, Christian Post: … range from young earth creationist to Richard Dawkins’ acolytes and everything in between that you’ve been talking about. Is there a way to teach evolution, such that you’re respectful of all those different views and no parent’s going to get upset.
TED DAVIS: The answer might be no. If you ask me a slightly different question–is this a controversy that we’re going to solve in our lifetimes? –in my opinion is very clearly no to that question. It’s not because the spectrum of views exists in and of itself.
In my view, it’s because of the way in which the courts have gotten involved in this and have shaped the conversation on the issue, such that parents, whether or not they’re religious, although most of them would be religious in this category (parents who object to their children being taught at all about evolution in school) and that was the issue in Bryan’s day. The issue that evolution was taught at all, that camp is simply never going to be happy with public education as it is now.
From their view, they’re spending their own tax dollars on education, and they’re getting their children indoctrinated into views that from their point of view are false and anti-religious. So this is a state-sponsored monopoly of opinion. That’s how they see it.
This is similar to what Bryan would have thought. Bryan believed that “The hand that writes the paycheck rules the school.” So if the parents themselves do not want evolution taught in schools, the parents in a school district or in a state should be able to express their will on this politically and stop the teaching of evolution in public schools.
He was of course a populist Democrat. He came from the ground up in his support level and he thought he was making an appropriately democratic point, democratic small D, even though you as a Democrat big D, that this is the way one ought to do it. Let the parents speak and the let the parents put a stop to it.
I don’t think we’re going to solve it in my lifetime or perhaps yours, because I don’t see jurisprudence on the First Amendment changing significantly. I think that’s what it would take, so that something like vouchers or some kind of alternative way in which parents could take their own money, first paid to the state, then given back to them, to use for educating their own children.
In my view, there’s many reasons to argue for something like that, and in the context of this issue I’ve held that view since the 1980’s, that something like that is the only way we could resolve this at the level of public education.
Now that wasn’t quite your question. But if you want to repeat your question as given, I might try that too. But I think that’s where you were headed.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Yeah. It was more about the agree-to-disagree thing that Kirsten was talking about. I mean even if we’re not going to come to a consensus, can we come to a consensus about how we talk about these and how we disagree.
TED DAVIS: As a public school teacher.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Yes.
TED DAVIS: Most school districts in practice are just afraid to touch this issue, and it’s because of the way that court lawsuits have been raised in various different school districts about various different things involving religion, whether or not they have anything to do with science. Even things like the singing of Christmas carols and such.
But evolution is not in fact taught in all American schools, even though it’s supposed to be taught in most states in the curriculum. In Pennsylvania, for example, it’s mandated that students are taught about evolution in high school biology.
But I know from many stories from many teachers, parents and students that that does not happen in every school district in Pennsylvania. It’s supposed to happen, but it does not happen. It does happen in many places, but not in every place.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Okay. Matt Lewis, you’re up next.
MATT LEWIS, The Daily Caller: I think you touched on this, but I’ve never really fully understood this part of it, so I wanted to drill down. So before the Scopes trial you had B.B. Warfield, who was a theologian who died in 1921, who was open to the idea of evolution. You have G.K. Chesterton, a Roman Catholic convert, who’s open to the idea of evolution.
This suggests that evolution wasn’t always viewed as an existential threat by Bible believing, miracles believing Christians. What was it about the mid-1920’s that led to this revisionist theory that this was something that had to be stamped out completely?
TED DAVIS: That’s a really good question, and I left it entirely out. One thing that happened is Warfield died, as you pointed out. Several of the leading Christian evangelical voices from the late 19th century, who were more than open to thinking about evolution, died between 1920 and 1922, and Warfield was one of them.
A.H. Strong, the Baptist theologian was another one. George Frederick Wright from Oberlin was another. There’s a fourth person I’ve often thought about in that connection, whose name isn’t coming to me right now. But there were prominent proponents of evolution.
Here’s how I think it went. I have not written about this in too much of a way, and I would really need to rely more on church historians to check this opinion, but my sense is that here’s what took place. In the late 19th century, forms of liberal Christianity that were not equivalent to the kind of modernism that Bryan is opposing were out there, and these were people who still believed in the Big 3, if you want to put it this way, from the point of way of divine sovereignty: Creation, resurrection and eschatology in times coming, with God making a new heaven and earth.
These would have been traditional Christians, orthodox Christians, and they also would either have admitted the possibility of biological evolution or they would actually have embraced it as an accurate picture of the history of nature.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, you find some more radical forms of Protestant liberalism, and in the 1920’s especially you have a kind of naturalism in theology in which divine transcendence is completely rejected. This is especially true at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
In the 20’s, Chicago was the most influential divinity school in the country in Protestant circles, not because it was the largest, although it was large. It was because it produced more doctoral students than anyone else, and they went around the country teaching at other seminaries.
The ideas they were disseminating from Chicago were widely disseminated to the American public through tract literature. There was an arm of the University of Chicago, it was called the American Institute of Sacred Literature. This was founded in the late 19th century by a young biblical scholar at Morgan Park Seminary in Chicago, which no longer exists. He was named William Raney Harper. That’s a name that some of you will recognize. He then goes to Yale. When he was at Morgan Park, he had developed a Hebrew correspondence school for Protestant ministers called the American Institute of Sacred Literature. He takes this with him to Yale. Then he’s approached to become the first president of the University of Chicago, and he goes back to Chicago. So when he goes there, this AISL is central to the mission of the University of Chicago, and it’s placed in the divinity school. So this is the online education of the 1920’s. Pastors would be in the hinterlands, where they’re not close to any theological seminary. So they correspond for a course from the University of Chicago. They’re even teaching a course on science and religion at Chicago, which is one of the rare things you find at that time. However, practically every seminary, had courses on the psychology of religion. They had that specific discipline because psychology was seen as threatening, the most threatening discipline at the turn of the century because of its reductionistic tendencies about human behavior and even the idea of religion itself. There’s nothing new there on the part of modern neuroscience suggesting that there’s no soul, there’s no mind even, that everything’s mechanistically determined.
A Chicago physiologist who was an immigrant from Germany, an atheistic Jew named Jacques Loeb, teaches John B. Watson, who starts behavioristic psychology. He is holding forth in a book of his in 1912 approximately called The Mechanistic Basis of Life. This view is emanating from Chicago, not from the div school but from the university, and at the div school they have radical theologians who are developing what later becomes religious naturalism today, and a school of thought called “process theism.” Now at this time in the 20’s, the dean of the Divinity School is Shailer Matthews. He’s a theologian who is also more than a bit of a historian. He even writes a book on the French Revolution. Matthews says in his autobiography, he has a chapter on science and religion and he says that it was only after laboratory methods had come into higher education, and I won’t go into detail on what that really meant, but laboratory methods came into higher education, which means late 19th century.
It’s only after laboratory methods enter higher education that “orthodox theology was felt to be incompatible with intellectual integrity.” That’s how he said it. Orthodox theology is incompatible with intellectual integrity. So this is view that Matthews has. This dean of the div school at Chicago, this leading influential divinity school, the one that the fundamentalists absolutely hate; that’s the right word to use in this case. They hate Chicago and what it stands for, and they see Matthews as the arch enemy within Christianity.
So the Chicago seminary is disseminating this very, very modern almost non-theistic view to American Christians. There’s a story about Matthews himself that’s quite interesting in the autobiography of one of his close friends, Robert Millikan, who was the most prominent American physicist in the 1920’s. He becomes the first important president of Cal Tech, and Millikan’s autobiography tells about how Matthews once was asked does he believe in God, and Matthews says, “Sir that requires an education rather than an answer.” The fact that Matthews would answer a simple question directed at a Christian theologian with reference to a treatise instead of giving a single word answer tells you a lot about where Matthews was coming from.
That’s a long answer, but there’s a lot going on in this time that polarizes the conversation among American Protestants. Catholics kind of cut that conversation off, because I forget which Pope it is issues decrees against modernism. He uses that term in the late 19th or early 20th century, cutting off conversations of this kind in the Catholic context. But there’s no Protestant pope, and so you have these conversations taking place in Protestant culture at that point. So that the proponents of theistic evolution from the 19th century are dead at this point, and in fact The Fundamentals themselves earlier than World War I actually make favorable reference to evolutionary ideas more than once in various articles, while also other articles make unfavorable references.
It’s clear that opinion hasn’t solidified yet, but after World War I opinion is solidified. Evolution becomes one of the central talking points of fundamentalism. The other one is modern biblical scholarship. So they want to eradicate those from Christian institutions at least, and they do their best to eradicate the evolution part from public high schools as well
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Okay. Erica, you’re up next.
ERICA GRIEDER, Texas Monthly: Thank you so much. I’ve been enjoying this talk partly because being based in Texas, I have heard about this for years continuously. It’s a recurring issue that I hear about from people from other states, that the state is trying not to teach evolution but creationism. I guess this relates to the previous question. From what I’m hearing you describe, it sounds like that question legally has been somewhat settled, right? So if intelligent design has supplanted creationism as what Christians would advocate for in the curriculum, it seems like that’s been established or that’s been accepted perhaps out of necessity.
But since it’s been accepted, it’s supplanted a more overt creationist effort. I guess maybe to put it in a question, you know about Kitzmiller, and maybe that decision seemed to hinge on the fact that in that case, intelligent design was being used as a euphemism for creationism. I mean assuming that’s the case, I would think that a decision or a case about intelligent design that doesn’t have the paper trail of creationism might be differently decided. So that case would come up. But as you say on one of these slides here, there’s intelligent design proponents who aren’t even theistic.
TED DAVIS: That is true.
ERICA GRIEDER: What would be a maximalist version of intelligent design that would be non-theistic?
TED DAVIS: Well, let me comment on both of those things, actually three things. First of all, the proponents of traditional creationism, and this gets complicated but it’s important, because when there was one Supreme Court and another case made it to federal district court in the 80’s, talking about creationism. They didn’t put any adjectives in front of it, but they spelled out what it meant. It was equivalent to young earth creationism.
Intelligent design runs a mile from young earth creationism, in terms of its public face. Even though some young earth creationists cooperate with it, most people in the intelligent design movement reject young earth creationism. They don’t think it’s a legitimate view. They especially like the Big Bang Theory and the kinds of design arguments one can make from the fine tuning of the universe, something where theistic evolutionists have common cause with them. But those kinds of arguments are entirely rejected by young earth creationists, because they reject the Big Bang itself.
So Ken Ham thinks intelligent design is bad news, and specifically because it’s not putting the Bible front and center. So you know, he decries intelligent design and many other creationist leaders do the same. At the rank and file level, I don’t think that distinction’s being made very much. But many rank and file supporters are just glad to see someone challenging the secular establishment on these kinds of issues. That’s one point.
Second point about the participation of others, non-theists who are at least agnostics even atheists in this issue. Here is a poster (Slide 55) from a debate that took place in Texas at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, and this happened in 2008 as you can see. There are four people named here. The debate was about intelligent design and the existence of God. Two of these speakers were on the pro-ID side; two of them were on the anti-ID side.
Now let me tell you who each of them is, and then you can draw your own interpretation of this. The first name, Dennis Alexander, was on the anti-ID side. He’s a very prominent British evangelical. He’s a retired professor of Biology from Cambridge, and he was at that time the leader, the chief executive officer of an organization called Christians in Science, which is an evangelical group in Britain. He was an anti-ID speaker.
The second speaker, David Berlinski is an agnostic Jew, an American who lives in Paris, and he is a skeptic, a professional skeptic. Many of the ideas he writes about are even skeptical of the Big Bang, even though most ID proponents like it. Berlinski was on the pro-ID side.
The third speaker, Lawrence Krauss, is a prominent New Atheist voice. He is a professor now at Arizona State University who thinks he can show that quantum cosmology shows that you can get creation from nothing without God. He’s crazy and, a leading atheist philosopher of science David Albert just completely demolished Krauss’ argument in the New York Times Review of Books a few years ago. Krauss, obviously he’s not theistic at all, but Albert thinks Krauss is out to lunch and I agree with that. He was on the anti-ID side.
Finally Bradley Monton, who is also an atheist, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado. I think he resigned. He is an atheist, and he has advocated that the conversation about intelligent design is important and should continue. In other words, it shouldn’t be forced out of academic institutions. He thinks that it’s not fair to do that, that these are important things that should be talked about, even though he himself doesn’t believe in God.
So that’s the nature of that event, and it’s interesting to see how it was an intelligently designed event one might say about intelligent design. So okay. For the most part, Jewish scholars don’t get into this. I think many of them that I talk to see this as a kind of Trojan horse for Christianity and a cultural move to put Christianity back in the center.
But some orthodox Jews are young earth creationists. I remember when I was teaching in high school in Philadelphia in the 70’s, I’d ride the city buses back and forth and I’d see these Orthodox Jewish boys coming into the bus, and they were sitting down reading things about creation. I kind of peered over their shoulder, and they were young earth creationist materials. So they were taking these ideas from the Christian creationists and marketing them among Orthodox Jews in Philly. Other Orthodox Jews have no time for young earth creationism. I mean I don’t want to present the idea that Orthodox Jews all think that. I just know that some of them have thought that.
Final piece was about the trial in Dover and the term “intelligent design” and the term “creationism.” In my view, the key testimony at the trial, the one that was most influential in the Judge’s decision, was given by Barbara Forrest (Slide 56). She is a philosopher from Louisiana who self-identifies as a member of the Secular Humanist religion. There is actually such an organized group. Another person in that group by the way is Eugenie Scott. She’s an anthropologist who at the time was the chief executive officer of the National Center of Science Education. That’s the group that helped the plaintiffs in the Dover trial make their case in court, the National Center for Science Education. Barbara Forrest presented this evidence at trial (Slide 57). She got this evidence in the discovery phase for the trial when she asked the publishers of the textbook that was being referenced in Dover (I can explain that in a minute) to discover the history of the textbook itself.
(Slide 58) The book that was specifically mentioned in the Kitzmiller v Dover trial was called Of Pandas and People. It was not called that all the time in its history as a textbook. It had quite different names earlier. This is why the trial was sometimes called the Panda trial. I attended several days of the trial, because I was asked to write a magazine article that some of you might possibly have read, because it was in Religion and the News, which comes out of Trinity College Connecticut. The editor of that journal asked me to write an article about the trial, and he told me that the journal goes to thousands of religion reporters.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Mark Silk.
TED DAVIS: Mark Silk exactly, is the editor of that. Thank you. But this Of Pandas and People is about intelligent design in the version used in Dover. Here’s the history of the book, what you need to know about it is here. So let me pull that up again (Slide 57). What Forrest found in her discovery research was that the book had begun in 1983 under the title Creation Biology, and it was a young earth creationist book for Christian schools and home schoolers to use. The term creationism was found in that book about 80 times. The term intelligent design either not at all or low single digits. It then changed its name to Biology and Creation, then Biology and Origins, and then finally in 1987 Of Pandas and People, Version 1 is how this chart has it. That was a creationist book. However, when it was Of Pandas and People and Biology and Origins, the latter versions of the book get rewritten substantially to include contributions from proponents of intelligent design, including Stephen Meyer, who is now the person running the Intelligent Design section of the Discovery Institute, and Michael Behe. They were people who helped rewrite that book.
Now in 1987, the Supreme Court decision about creationism came down, and at the second part of that year, the same book was reissued Version 2. In Version 2, the term “intelligent design” has replaced the term creationism in many of the instances of its use. There’s even a place where the two terms are garbled together in the print version. So it’s obvious that somebody did a search and replace for a lot of the instances of that term. You know, this is pretty serious evidence that creationism and intelligent design are other forms of the same thing.
Now that’s a view I don’t hold myself for other reasons. But this evidence was not refuted in court, and the judge found this pretty persuasive, among other things. He ends up saying in his decision, I’ll quote in here–this is Judge John Jones (Slide 59), who was a President Bush II appointee to the federal bench in Harrisburg and is a Lutheran. Judge Jones said this. “The evidence at trial demonstrates that intelligent design is nothing less than the progeny of creationism.” That’s the language he used. What the plaintiffs were trying to do at trial, their legal strategy was evident to me that they were trying to do a version of the Arkansas creationism trial all over again.
In that federal district court case, they had brought in Langdon Gilkey, one of the leading theologians of the 20th century, to testify that creationism of the young earth variety is not science, it’s religion. Then they brought in Michael Ruse, a prominent philosopher of science who’s at Florida State today, to testify to the same effect, that creationism is not science, because it’s not testable. That’s what he said. Creationism is not science; it’s religion. His philosophy colleagues went after Michael Ruse after the trial and said to him no, no, that’s bad. You gave them a bad viewpoint, that in fact creationism tries to be science and it’s just been falsified. It’s bad science. That wasn’t Ruse’s tactic at trial–Ruse had argued that other view. Then they had Langdon Gilkey’s view as well.
I think the prosecution tried to get the judge to do the same things in this trial here in Harrisburg. Show that ID is not science because it’s not discussed in scientific literature and that it’s religion trying to reveal the intelligent designer behind it. So the judge ends up concluding “It is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.” That’s what he concludes. Now where does that leave us? Well, the managing partner of the Harrisburg law firm Pepper Hamilton that took the case, told me after the trial. I said what does this mean in terms of its impact? He said well right now, it means this ruling is in effect in two telephone area codes. That’s how he put it to me, because it’s a federal district court decision. There could be other federal district court decisions in other districts that draw different conclusions about intelligent design, and if that were to happen, it would have to be resolved at the highest level, above a federal court, at the Supreme Court.
I’ve heard rumors about other cases that might come about. I’m not aware of any other cases that have gone this far in public schools about this issue. Perhaps I’m not thinking of something I should know about. Whether there’s still room to discuss ID in public schools is a difference of opinion. Almost everybody would say no. I think there could potentially be some wiggle room, but I don’t want to go on record about that. So I’ll leave that out.
ERICA GRIEDER: May I ask a quick follow-up? So conversely, do you know how somebody like Ken Ham or Ken Ham himself reacted to the Kitzmiller v Dover trial?
TED DAVIS: No, I don’t know specifically what Ken Ham thought of Kitzmiller. But you could find out. You could got to the Answers In Genesis website and Google the terms, and I suspect you’d find some information.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Okay, Lauren Green.
LAUREN GREEN, Fox News: Thank you so much, Ted. Wonderful presentation and it was very, very enlightening. There are three names though that I have not heard you mentioned, because there are three people that I’ve either interviewed or read their stuff.
I have met John Polkinghorne, so that was clarified and also Frances Collins. But I’ve also read Dr. Leon Kass, who’s not a scientist per se but he wrote a book called Beginning of Wisdom meaning Genesis, and he takes a flyover view of Genesis, looking at the wisdom of it rather than was it six days or eight days, did Adam and Eve exist? He goes from the standpoint of what’s God trying to tell us in these books of creation, as opposed to did this happen or did this not happen.
The other is Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. You probably know of him. He takes more of the order of creation in the Book of Genesis is actually correct, and it flows along with what evolution tells us. So his idea is that since there are four literal translations of the word “day” in Hebrew, one of them would be a very, very long time, and that could be what we’re talking about. Epics, no actual literal days.
Then the other is Dr. Gerald Schroeder. He is a physicist. He was a rabbi and he wrote a book called Genesis and the Big Bang. He focuses on the idea of time dilation as opposed to “is it six days” depending on what your reference point is — drawing in the theory of relativity and E equals MC squared, time and all of that.
How would you classify these men’s ideas and are they popular or not? Are they just in the form of intelligent design, creationism or evolution? What would you say?
TED DAVIS: Yeah. Well, the most popular of these as far as I can tell is Hugh Ross, but he does have a significant influence on American evangelical opinion. I’ll talk about each of them briefly. Leon Kass is a Jewish medical ethicist at the University of Chicago. I think he was involved with President Bush’s —
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Yes. He was the chair of the Bioethics Commission.
TED DAVIS: There you go, okay. That’s who Kass is. I respect him a lot. I think he’s a very clear thinker. He’s written some awfully nice things about science and religion. He doesn’t really specialize in this, but he offers some pretty well-informed opinions. I don’t know where Kass is on this scheme. This scheme I presented is a Protestant American scheme, and I’m not going to put a Jewish scholar on that scheme.
Hugh Ross is a Canadian who’s now an American citizen. He’s a trained astrophysicist, I think from the University of Toronto. But for a little while he was a postdoc at Cal Tech. When he was in college, he became a Christian through first being persuaded that the Bible is accurate. He was a vague theist of sorts who challenged himself to read through the bible and see what was really there. He persuaded himself that the Bible was reliable, fully reliable about these matters. So he started to become more and more interested in science/Bible conversation. He started a ministry in Southern California called Reasons to Believe, which is a very prominent apologetics website. His own viewpoint fits in a classical old earth creationist picture.
He’s not usually seen as a proponent of intelligent design, even though he would share the view with ID proponents that cosmological arguments, arguments coming out of modern cosmology, Big Bang cosmology, can be made very powerful for theism. He would agree with that. But he wants to put the biblical issues front and center as well, which is what ID does not want to do. So he’s outside of the ID fold in that regard, so he has some of the same readers but also a different set. He is quite effective at reaching young earth proponents and persuading them that there are alternatives to their view that are equally biblical.
You’ve already pointed out he recognizes that the Hebrew word “yom” used translated is the English word “day” in Genesis, had multiple meanings in the Bible itself. He likes to say that there were only a few thousand words in the Hebrew lexicon at that time, and if a Hebrew writer were wanting to mean an era or long period of time, that writer would have picked the word “yom”, the same word that we find in Genesis.
So Ross tries to push that view that we need to see the Genesis days as long periods of time. That’s a view that has a long history. If you’re interested in the history of that view in the United States, I’m writing about that right now with my BioLogos series on antebellum American science. It’s a view that ultimately derives from Europe, but the chief American proponent of that view, of the day-age view of creation, was the most important scientific educator in the 19th century. There’s really nobody else in his class. It was Benjamin Silliman. He was the first Professor of Natural History at Yale, and that was his view in commentaries on Genesis and geology that he authors beginning in 1829. So he’s taking exactly that approach, going right on through. Ross takes the same kind of approach. Now Ross is seen as the wolf in sheep’s clothing, perhaps the number one example of this, by young earth creationists.
So let me come back to that one and show you a slide I skipped (Slide 24), where Hugh Ross is actually referenced. It’s in this slide, the one that shows this book. If you look at the subtitle of this book Refuting Creation Compromise, that’s where I was talking about the attitude of compromise. Here’s the subtitle. “A biblical and scientific refutation of ‘progressive creationism.'” That’s in the subtitle with quotes, and then billions of years is added in parentheses to explain what “progressive creationism” means billions of years is a term that Carl Sagan used to use all the time–“as popularized by astronomer Hugh Ross.”
This is a direct attack on Hugh Ross, who is seen as dangerously taking people out of the young earth creationist fold and bringing them into old earth creationist fold. This was from several years ago. The author of this book, by the way, Jonathan Sarfati, is a trained scientist in chemistry from New Zealand. He was at one point the national chess champion in New Zealand. He was famous for doing simultaneous blind chess games and things like this. He’s a very, very smart man, but he’s a convert from secular Judaism to fundamentalist Christianity, and he used to work for Ken Ham. Ken Ham originates from down under. So in any case Jonathan Sarfati’s book attacks that.
So Hugh Ross is seen as not a legitimate alternative, in fact a dangerous alternative, by young earth creationists. But he’s friendly with intelligent design. He just doesn’t identify with the ID movement because of the emphasis on the Bible that he has in his writing.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: He’s also friendly to BioLogos too.
TED DAVIS: Yes, he is. BioLogos is in conversations with Reasons to Believe, and they’re working on a joint book project, which will take different views, that BioLogos’ view is not Hugh Ross’ view. But present these to American Christians in a popular form, as alternatives to young earth creationism.
Now Gerald Schroeder is an Israeli. He’s a physicist trained in Astrophysics. For a while he was a postdoc at MIT, and he also teaches at a Yeshiva in Jerusalem. He’s written a couple of books that are very ID friendly, and one of those books though is explicit in its approach to the days of Genesis.
As you say, he brings relativity theory into this. It’s actually general relatively that he brings in, not E equals MC squared. Not special relatively but general relativity, and that particular book tries to say that from the point of view of someone on earth, it might have looked like six days. But we can understand cosmological time differently and we can reconcile that view with the age of the universe being 14 billion years.
Now if you want to see the details, you’ll have to go to Schroeder’s books. But he’s a very prominent speaker in American settings. He does a lot of speaking tours of American colleges and other public venues. So he has a big American following, including among Christians, not just among conservative Jews. He would be ranked as an old earth creationist, similar to Hugh Ross, not a scientific creationist.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: And we’re going to go to you Robert. Quickly, let me just say to be fair to intelligent design, when you say somebody is ID friendly, I think what you mean to suggest and what they would say is that they like the fact that ID wants to demolish the idea that the only way we can see the world is through naturalistic mechanisms, and they like that ID is philosophically attacking a materialist world view. So they want to say well I like that too, and therefore it opens up the conversation. So to be fair to ID, that’s why some people come around and say “well, I like that part of them.” Am I right about that?
TED DAVIS: Oh yeah, absolutely, and I’m sympathetic myself with that general line of thought, that indeed too much is being assumed on the part of the scientific community when they simply present naturalism as the whole story, if you want to put it that way, naturalism as the whole story.
The question comes as to how you adjudicate a different point of view. Where do you differ from say many leading scientists? A lot of American scientists — I was talk — the kind of American scientists I was talking about in the end of my talk would say that the science is perfectly good, that there’s nothing wrong in the science with saying that humans and primates have common ancestors, that the earth is billions of years old and the universe three times that and that it began in a Big Bang.
But the problem is in saying that is that’s all you can say, that because science can say that nothing else is allowed. Let me just show people a quotation, one quotation from Richard Dawkins to get right at this point.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Do you have a slide for everything?
TED DAVIS: Yeah, yeah.
TED DAVIS: Right here (Slide 60). This is something that Richard Dawkins said in a Christmas lecture at the Royal Institution in London. The Royal Institution was founded early 19th century as a popularizing vehicle for science. Michael Faraday at one point, the famous scientist was there. Dawkins comes in and says this. He says “What is the meaning of life? If science has nothing to say, it’s certain that no other discipline can say anything at all.”
Now if you say17 words dismissing the significance of anything else anybody’s ever thought about this or art, literature, music, etcetera. My own personal reply to something like this, I’ll borrow from a Nobel Laureate, a scientist far more eminent than Richard Dawkins, but also an atheist like Dawkins, and this is Sir Peter Medawar (slide 61).
Peter Medawar wrote a book on the limits of science, where he says this: “The existence of a limit to science is made clear by its inability to answer child-like questions having to do with first and last things. Questions such as how did everything begin? Why are we all here, what are we all here for? What is the point of living? It is not the science therefore, but to metaphysics, imaginative literature or religion, that we must turn for answers to questions having to do with the first and last things.” I mean —
TED DAVIS: This fundamental difference of opinion about what science can tell us and can’t tell us is fundamental to understanding the controversy about evolution. When Dawkins and company or Neil deGrasse Tyson or Carl Sagan, when these preachers of naturalism say that this is all we can say, and we know these religious questions are juvenile and we know the answers that are given us are just wrong and science has progressed past that.
Well, that’s begging a lot of stuff, and Peter Medawar is pointing to that. It’s begging a lot of questions. So the intelligent design folks are partly motivated by that type of message about science. But they want to say the science itself supports the inferences to a designer, an “intelligent designer.” That’s how designers are referred to as, or an “unembodied mind” is another way of referring to this designer. I just use the word “God,” but that’s how they see it.
I think myself the science is suggestive of answers of a traditional theological kind, but I don’t think this is a slam dunk. I don’t think there are slam dunk answers to jump shot questions. It’s those kinds of questions that people are talking about in this.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Those are very good words, and they sound like your closing comments. I want you to repeat them after we hear our final question. Robert Draper.
ROBERT DRAPER, New York Times Magazine: This is not a jump shot question. Sorry to close this down on such a lightweight note, but Ted, is there a theological camp that views evolution with scientific skepticism, but not theological hostility? In other words, that may reject evolution purely on scientific grounds, but does not see it as incompatible with Christianity or as anti-biblical?
TED DAVIS: In other words, that has a different take on it, a more secular critique. You could look to someone like —
ROBERT DRAPER: Yeah. It doesn’t feel — it doesn’t feel like it’s threatening to the belief system.
TED DAVIS: Well, maybe an example of this might be David Berlinski, the agnostic Jew, American émigré to Paris that I mentioned in connection with that debate. I haven’t read very much of his work, but the little bit of I have read suggests that he might be someone in that camp.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: This was an atheist who went around debating Christopher Hitchens about how wrong he was in not taking theology and religion seriously. Berlinski.
TED DAVIS: Berlinski, yeah. I didn’t know that about Berlinski.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Oh yeah, and has written a book. He’s very much tied into ID, because he likes the point I made earlier. He likes the fact that ID is raising these questions that you can’t just see the world the way Dawkins sees it. So go ahead. I’m sorry, Ted.
TED DAVIS: No, that’s helpful. I mean he’s a name I might think of in that category. To go backwards —
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: It’s better to say agonistic than atheist. I take that back.
TED DAVIS: Right. Well, depends on how a person views themselves, and I think he views himself as an agonistic, where Monton views himself as an atheist. He would make that distinction himself, that other person I mentioned.
Now to go back nearly 100 years, a person who as far as I know was not a religious believer, the great playwright George Bernard Shaw, was a deep skeptic of Darwinian evolution. Now that’s not the same thing as being a skeptic of evolution. What I mean by that is he didn’t think that a mindless, undirected process could have produced all the kinds of diversity of things that we have, and he was famous for holding that view in the early 20th century.
He was picking up off the views of a loosely Catholic philosopher in France named Henri Bergson, who had written a work called Creative Evolution in the early 20th century. Bergson was very influential on Anglo-American views of evolution in that period. He held a kind of designed evolution view. Now see at the turn of the century, neo-Darwinianism, that is the idea that evolution has proceeded by random, by blind selection of random mutations, so that it couldn’t be goal-directed. That was Darwin’s own view in the 19th century. That was not the dominant view of how evolution works for a couple of generations. In the late 19th and early 20th century, non-Darwinian views of evolution were actually dominant in the scientific community. They’re often called more Lamarckian in character. That’s kind of an unspecific description. But the bottom line is a large number of American biologists, whether or not they were personally religious, held the view that it couldn’t have been just what John Herschel had called “the law of higgledy-piggledy.” You can’t just get all of this diversity of things without an intelligence in there somewhere.
That was the case, for example, for all three people who were on the AAAS committee that was formed in the 1920’s, to respond to Brian and company. There were three very liberal Christians, although I’m not certain at all that one of them still was a Christian, who were writing about this, who were heading AAAS responses.
One of them was Charles Davenport. He was the person who ran the now infamous Cold Spring Harbor Genetics Lab, Eugenics Lab. That was Davenport. He was a very liberal Presbyterian. The second person in this group was Henry Fairfield Osborne. He’s the one that had Stephen Jay Gould’s job many, many years earlier that is he was at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He was the curator there, a leading paleontologist. He was a liberal Presbyterian and a professor at Princeton as well. Then the third person was Edwin Grant Conklin (Slide 45). Edwin Grant Conklin was so well-known in America in the 1920’s and 30’s to the ordinary person, that he was actually on the cover of Time magazine in the late 1930’s. He was hired by Woodrow Wilson, who was president of Princeton at the time before World War I, to be a professor at Princeton. He was hired away from Penn, who had originally hired him away from Northwestern. Conklin wrote a lot about science and public policy. He wrote a lot about human identity and science and a lot about science and religion.
Conklin’s views were radical on the religious side. He had been a Methodist lay preacher of a traditional orthodox theology in the late 19th century, but by the 1920’s, here’s what he was saying. He gave a lecture on what he called the Religion of Science to audiences in Philadelphia around the time of the Scopes trial, and “The Religion of Science was very different.” He says — this is his own words — “very different from the religion of tradition and revelation. There’s no personal god,” he spells out here a trinity — “no miracles, no supernatural revelation, no personal immortality, no ghosts which is demons, no blood atonement, no propitiation of an angry god, no objective efficacy of prayer.” I don’t know what was in his mind for number nine. We don’t have the lecture, we have the notes. So this is what Conklin spoke about on that occasion. He was on that AAAS committee, responding to William Jennings Bryan. He represented in Bryan’s mind the kind of modernism that had to be opposed, and you need to remove evolution out of the schools. If this is what evolution means, we need to stop it. This is the kind of polarization that existed then.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Can you give us a little happy slide at the end here?
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Join me in thanking Dr. Ted Davis for a wonderful presentation.
Adelle Banks, Religion News Service
Carl Cannon, RealClearPolitics.com
Michelle Cottle, National Journal
Elizabeth Dias, TIME
Robert Draper, New York Times Magazine
Tom Gjelten, NPR
Emma Green, TheAtlantic.com
Lauren Green, Fox News
Erica Grieder, Texas Monthly
Julia Ioffe, New York Times Magazine
Matt Lewis, Daily Caller
Daniel Lippman, Politico
Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times
Napp Nazworth, Christian Post
Kirsten Powers, Fox News/The Daily Beast/USA Today
Maya Rhodan, TIME
David Rennie, Economist
Will Saletan, Slate
Eugene Scott, CNN
Karen Tumulty, Washington Post