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Creationist Cults

Moore, James R. Review of Ernan McMullin (Editor), Evolution and Creation. (University of Notre Dame Studies in the Philosophy of Religion, 4) xv + 307 pp., figs, index. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, l985. $24.95. In ISIS 78: 2 : 292, pp. 270-271, l987.

[Jim Moore is a well-known scholar of the relation of science and religion. He is the author of The Post-Darwinian Controversies (Cambridge University Press, 1979) and numerous articles on Darwinism, evolution, Christianity, and the relations of science and religion. He is at the Open University, London, UK.]

Also, there's no "controversy." Scientists speaking within their own venue don't debate the fact that evolution happens. What they debate is how evolution happens. Religious occultism such as Creationist crap doesn't factor into controversy since science doesn't concern itself with the untestable. Creationist cults like to pretend that there's some big "controversy among scientists and creationists" wherein creationist cult followers argue that the observed facts of evolution doesn't happen some how. In fact that's another creationist lie; no scientist in the venue would pretend to presume that evolution doesn't happen. - flr

The "creation science" controversy in North America has generated rather more heat than light, notwithstanding the numerous enlightened publications to which it has given rise. These torrid tomes, aimed to the opposition, whoever it may be, have in fact been packaged and published in such a way as to ensure that they warm the hearts of the converted. There are of course exceptions. One of these is the present collection of essays by a dozen Roman Catholic (or Roman Catholic- influenced) academics from the United States and England. Philosophers, theologians, Old Testament scholars, a lawyer, and a geneticist are here assembled under the organizing aegis of the history and philosophy of science to bear witness against the false dichotomy "evolution or creation." One does not have to be a Catholic, a Christian, or even a religious person to appreciate the relevance of their intervention in the continuing debate.

Although the authors take the creation science controversy as their point of reference, they steadfastly refuse to indulge a sense of superiority and to congratulate themselves, as others have done, on being scientifically correct. (Perhaps one must belong to the church of Urban VIII to have learned this degree of humility.) On the contrary, they get on with their arguments in a businesslike fashion, without bombast or phyrotechnics. A few authors, indeed, set such refreshingly low store on solidarity that they join the creation scientists, as it were, in taking evolutionary scientists to task.

For example, Francisco Ayala, the only author to have participated in the 1981 creation science trial at Little Rock, Arkansas, opens the first section of the volume, "Evolution," with a frank account of recent developments in evolutionary biology, pointing out what was forbidden at Little Rock, a "blatant fallacy" in the arguments of "punctualists" such as Stephen Jay Gould, another expert witness at the trial. John Leslie, a philosopher, follows with a critique of scientific empiricism that clears the ground for a reformulated cosmic-design argument from the evolution of life to God as "creative ethical requirement." In the third and last section of the book, "Evolution and Creation," another philosopher, William H. Austin, gives a very shrewd, if subdued, critique of E.O. Wilson's explanations for religion and morality.

The intermediate section, "Creation," contains an analysis of the theology of important Old Testament texts, a helpful recasting of the much misunderstood doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, and a fairly traditional account of "particular" providences. (The author of the last article is apparently the only contributor who, like the creation scientists, believes in the masculinity of God.) These chapters, as well as other expressly theological commentaries on human nature, original sin, and eschatology, may be of less interest to the readers of ISIS than the two lengthy contributions by historians and philosophers of science.

Philip Sloan makes Darwin's work the centerpiece of his essay, "The Problem of Natural Purpose." He argues that evolutionary objections to teleology and theodicy are inconclusive when creation is understood, not as "ordering," but as an "existence-giving" act that sustains a "fallen" world. The opening thus given to Augustinian or neo-Scholastic theology is explored rather less tentatively by the editor, Ernan McMullin, in his encyclopedic introduction to the book, which traces "the long and complex interaction" of the ideas of evolution and creation from the Greeks, through Augustine (who "knew better") and Aquinas, to the physico-theologians and Darwin. He appends a useful summary of the bearings of evolution on philosophy and physics, and he concludes with an account of the "tragedy" of creation science politics, which has rendered the term "creationist...unusable by ordinary Christians, Jews, or Muslims in describing their own beliefs."

As a collective effort Evolution and Creation is well rounded and full; as a conference-based volume it is remarkably coherent. Much more of course could be said on the subject, and indeed has been. One looks in vain for references to the important works of Catholic scholars such as Raymond Nogar and C. Centore or for some guidance to further reading beyond the extensive bibliographic notes. The latter omission will not assist creation scientists, who however cannot be expected to crack the book. Evolution and Creation deserves rather to find a wide audience among believers in selfish genes, blind watchmakers, and other secular gods, who have yet to discover that Christian theology may be pursued with the intelligence and dignity that they demand from students of science.

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"You can lie about ICR all you want." -- Jason Daniel Henderson

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Creationist propaganda is already self-debunking." -- Fredric L. Rice


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