Menu Close

Creationists not anti-science?4 min read

Listen to this article

Ronald Numbers is an historian of science and medicine at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is the author of The Creationists (1993), an out of print history of the creationist movement, and also the co-editor of God and Nature, a collection of essays on the historical relationship between science and religion.  He definitely has a pro-religion bias, and in a recent PBS interview, he talked about the conflict between religion and science, and how that has played out in history.

Numbers also defends Creationism as not anti-science, and of course, set off a firestorm of response from the evolutionist faithful, who make some valid criticisms, and as always, present the usual straw-men, the pejorative descriptions of creationism, all the while reaffirming the “fact” of their interpretations and inferences.  The PBS interview is worth reading, and here’s some nice quotes:

On the Recent Emergence of the Faith/Science Antagonism

Throughout most of modern history science and religion have not been in a state of conflict. That has emerged, at least the perception of a conflict, has emerged roughly within the last 130 years or so. Certainly, this didn’t occur during the so-called scientific revolution of the 17th Century, when by and large science and religion were fused in a common enterprise called natural philosophy.

On Galileo

Contrary to common myth, Galileo suffered very little abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church. He was never tortured, he never faced death. In fact, he was never imprisoned. His penalty was house arrest at a pleasant villa on the outskirts of Florence, Italy.  Galileo’s problems with the church stemmed far less from his astronomical and physical views than from his lack of diplomacy, and from his impertinence in trying to instruct the church on how to interpret Scriptures, as some Protestants had attempted to do in the previous century. Furthermore, in writing his controversial book, Galileo had the impertinence to attribute the Pope’s views to a simple-minded character named Simplicius….

Looking back on the Galileo affair, it’s tempting to see it representing a fundamental break in the relations between science and religion, but I don’t think it represented anything of the sort. In fact, at the time, it aroused relatively little interest. It was only in later decades and centuries that it came to be seen as a representation of what supposedly happens to scientific pioneers when they dare to try to correct the church’s teachings.

On why so many Americans accept creationism

In the United States, roughly one-half of Americans continue to believe in the special creation of the first human beings no more than 10,000 years ago. There are many reasons why they do this. But for most of them, they don’t see their embracing of special creation as a rejection of science. They handle this by arguing that evolution is so speculative, so hypothetical that it doesn’t deserve the good name of science, and they are told by fundamentalists – especially by “creation scientists” – that there is an alternative model of the history of life on Earth that is as scientific as the one that evolutionists have created.

On whether or not creationists are anti-science

To me, the struggle in the late 20th Century between creationists and evolutionists does not represent another battle between science and religion because rarely do creationists display hostility towards science. If you read their literature, you’ll rarely come across an anti-scientific notion. They love science. They love what science can do. They hate the fact that science has been hijacked by agnostics and atheists to offer such speculative theories as organic evolution. So, they don’t see themselves as being antagonistic to science any more than many of the advocates of evolution – those who see evolution as God’s method of creation – view themselves as hostile to Christianity.