Does Life Imply Creation? Don McLeroy Says Yes

Should mainstream scientists debate with creationists?  This morning we have another chance to discuss the nature of life, science, and evolution with a prominent creationist intellectual. Will anyone take it?

Don McLeroy

Science, c’est moi…

Some mainstream scientists affect a pose of exhaustion. Speaking with creationists, they say, is not worth the effort. Some folks criticize popularizers such as Bill Nye “The Science Guy” for deigning to debate young-earth impresario Ken Ham. Doing so, critics say, only feeds creationist pretensions to the label “science.” Doing so, critics insist, only gives creationists a win; it falsely implies that evolution is “controversial,” a controversy worth sharing in America’s classrooms.

Dr. Don McLeroy, erstwhile head of the Texas State Board of Education, has shared an essay he’s penned about the deficiencies of materialism.

I hope readers will take time to read and consider Dr. McLeroy’s intellectual claims. Dr. McLeroy, after all, is not your run-of-the-mill creationist. While other creationists fume and fuss over new evolution-heavy textbooks, Dr. McLeroy encourages kids to read em. Why? Because, Dr. McLeroy thinks, the truth will out. If students read about evolutionary science, they will quickly see that the evolutionary emperor has no clothes.

In his essay, Dr. McLeroy insists that only “biblical explanations” pass the test of science. As he puts it,

materialist explanations concerning the origin of the universe, the origin of plant life, the origin of creature life and the origin of human consciousness, fail the test of science.

Dr. McLeroy claims allies such as Richard Lewontin, who insisted in 1997 that only our “prior commitment” to materialism makes it seem convincing.

If we can only lay aside for a moment our faulty assumptions in favor of materialism, McLeroy argues, we can see how empty they really are. For example, the astounding suggestion that something—everything—could come out of nothingness only makes sense if we assume that God is involved as the Uncreated Creator.

As McLeroy concludes,

we do see a cosmos that had a beginning and thus had a cause; we do see plants and animals that reproduce after their kind and can be organized into distinct classifications; we do see creatures with a life and not just a living form; and we do see man in a separate class from all the other unique creatures. All these simple observations support the ideas of Genesis; they pass the test of science. Therefore, why not give the biblical explanations a better look? As [Neil DeGrasse] Tyson explained: let us ‘build on those ideas that pass the test, reject the ones that fail, follow the evidence wherever it leads and question everything.’

Are you convinced? More important, if you’re not convinced, why not?

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6 Comments

  1. Having read his piece, I don’t know whether to yawn or pull out my hair. The arguments for ‘breath of life’ are the arguments for vitalism redux. Must we destroy them yet again in yet another way? They rely on an equivocation between logical identities and pragmatic truths. If there is breath of life, please produce it, by demonstrating its causal efficacy. If it is merely explanatory – a rose by any other name, i.e. the name has no effect on its sematic object.
    If it is some teleological inevitability, how does one claim to know it other than by assertion? Assert away, but who cares, then, if you run around claiming that ‘alls for the best in the best of all possible worlds’?
    This links directly to the straw man of consciousness which he takes down. Again, this is an old and rickety argument. The problem for the substance dualist (let’s face it, that’s what he is talking about) is not that the mind might act on matter, but that matter matters to mind. Our phenomenology is experienced necessarily, it isn’t just waiting, nascent, in the mind to be discovered. That is the other edge of the knowledge argument, and it suggests a mistake in our method of categorization, rather than the existence of a mental substance – in fact, most folks (even Chalmers) think it precludes a separate mental substance in principle.
    And the ‘something from nothing’ argument is a deduction from analogy (causality among contingent objects = causality among non-contingent objects, whatever those are and however we might claim to know about them). It is good for showmen like William Craig because it flies by an audience well, but there is a reason why other philosophers are underwhelmed by the argument.
    If this guy wants to believe, fine. But if he wants to present natural theology as a philosophical done deal and an adequate replacement for methodological naturalism in the sciences (and I would point out that even if one simply accepted all his assertions, there is nothing in his article which would support the latter) he has to do much, much better than this.

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  2. I always wonder about the origin of the matter which exploded into The Big Bang. I don’t think my question can be answered. It’s fun to imagine, though. Perhaps sub-atomic material from a parallel universe came together & exploded? If there is a creator, was the bang purposeful, or accidental? These are questions many people seek to answer. I believe science has the best tools for answers.

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  3. The origins of the universe might be the worst possible ground for people to argue against materialism and scientific reductionism and for a transcendental basis for their ethics. It sounds like McLeroy should really be pushing for philosophy to be taught in public schools, like it is in Europe, maybe with an emphasis on the history and philosophy of each major discipline, including science.

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  4. I am convinced that we are just a science fair project of a brilliant 10th grader in some alternate universe in which a billion years is just a day or two. Hypothesis proven – given a big enough universe, life will develop. Secondary question – how quickly will the purported intelligent life forms extinguish themselves and perhaps all other life forms. Think I can start a tax-exempt church based on this conjecture?

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  5. Re the first question (whether evolution experts should debate ID experts… ), that’s the problem with these debates. Don McLeroy is a dentist and a minor politician but without any expertise even in political science or law. Ken Ham seems to have a bach<ielor in environmental biology which is a step in the right direction, but as far as I can tell, he's neither obtained advanced degrees or actually worked in any discipline relevant to the question. He's a culture warrior.

    Neither man is an expert, by a long shot. In fact, I'd say teir only real claim to influence is as an *anti*-expert, as someone representing those folks who think common sense and intuition provide all the evidence you need in this question. So they can raise questions like how something came out of nothing, without ever getting into the science that might explain that question, or what philosophers of science mean by nothing. The most plausible answer to that question IMO? That there never was nothing, properly speaking, but space without matter. And while I'm not a scientist so can't go into details, my understanding is that's a far less challenging question to answer (how did matter arise from a vacuum) than how did something come from nothing.

    A debate between actual experts would actually be interesting. Bill Nye is a popularizer, but he's a popularizer who knows his stuff, he's a science expert. So is Richard Dawkins, for that matter, at least in science – even though I disagree with him on the philosophy – strongly. The problem is the other side isn't bringing that to the table, so a debate's really not the best way to approach this.

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  1. 24 December 2015 Religion and Atheism News | Evangelically Atheist

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