Marsden & Gould on Creationist Science

What is science?

Andrew Hartman offers a review of some of the keenest analyses of fundamentalist/creationist science at US Intellectual History.

Hartman looks at a few essays from the mid-1980s about the nature of science in the intellectual world of conservative evangelical Protestants.  Hartman reviews an essay by leading religious historian George Marsden  in which Marsden sums up the fundamentalist difference.  The key to understanding creationist science, Marsden argued, is to understand the Baconian/Common Sense roots of fundamentalists’ self understanding.

Marsden’s analysis certainly fit the intellectual world of the 1920s.  In that era, leading fundamentalists articulated a different vision of science, one that did not match the world of leading mainstream scientists.

Since the 1960s, however, the scientific visions of creationism have transformed themselves.  Though 1920s creationists might insist with some justification that the jury was still out on natural selection, later generations of creationists have had to come to terms with the fact that mainstream science had embraced evolution.  More recent arguments that evolution is “just a theory” often do not match the intellectual sophistication that 1920s fundamentalists demonstrated about the nature of science.  Instead, later generations of creationist intellectuals have moved away from the Baconian/Common Sense vision.  Most often, creationists have derided evolutionary science as mistaken, fallible, closedminded, and even duplicitous.  But they have not as often criticized the framework of mainstream science as having slipped away from a proper Baconian framework, at least not nearly as often as did 1920s fundamentalists.

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