The Real Face of Radical Creationism

Smart people keep saying it, but it’s just not true. And for people like me who want more and better evolution education, the news gets even worse.

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again. Even the best-informed science pundits think radical creationism is somehow uniquely American.

If we needed any more evidence that radical creationism is not at all “unique to the United States,” as Bill Nye asserts, we see news this morning from the besieged nation of South Korea. United Press International reports on the confirmation hearing of Park Seong-jin. Like many of his compatriots, Mister Park believes that this planet was created by divine fiat at some point about 6,000 years ago. Park is an engineering professor and nominee for the ministry of small businesses.


Park’s creationism is a complicated post-modern affair.

Park is not alone in his beliefs. As SAGLRROILYBYGTH are well aware, Turkey’s government has passed some radical anti-evolution laws in the recent past. Even here in the US of A, our leading radical creationist is an Australian import.

So don’t listen next time someone tries to tell you there is something uniquely American about radical creationism. It’s just not true.

And the news for secular people like me gets worse.

You’ll also hear people tell you that radical creationism is a vestige of ancient hypocrisies, destined to wither in the face of modernity and the march of science.

Turkish education minister cuts evolution

Durmus’s is a little more straightforward.

Alas, also not true. Radical creationism is profoundly modern, only really emerging into its own in the 1960s. And, though we might gnash our teeth and pull our hair about it, radical creationism is actually a very reasonable response to the changes in church and society that went on in the 1960s.

Let me be clear here: I don’t think radical creationism is true, or based on good evidence, or anything like that. But I am convinced that radical creationists often (not always) have decent reasons for their beliefs, at least as reasonable as most non-creationists’ belief in the truth of evolutionary theory.

Ken Ham

Only Ken Ham’s includes ziplines…

As I argue in my upcoming books (you’ll be able to get Fundamentalist U sometime soon. Why Is Jesus on a Dinosaur is still simmering), conservative evangelicals faced a tough choice in the late 1950s, and even if you don’t agree with it—I certainly don’t—the choice of radical young-earth creationism makes perfect sense.

That’s why it is not confined to hillbilly hollers and Kentucky amusement parks. Radical creationism is a global phenomenon, unintimidated by its lack of mainstream scientific credibility. It is not an ancient truth clinging on in pockets of know-nothingism, but a reasonable (if false and unnecessary) way to make sense of life in our modern world.

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  1. “…radical creationists often (not always) have decent reasons for their beliefs, at least as reasonable as most non-creationists’ belief in the truth of evolutionary theory.” Disagree with your choice of words – I would probably leave out “decent” before reasons and would certainly leave out “reasonable.” There is nothing reasonable about radical creationism.

    • Douglas,
      Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify here. My hunch is that you and I agree more than disagree on this point. I’m not saying that radical creationism is reasonable by my standards. But I do think that there are a lot of radical creationists out there who have thought about the issue and decided (using their reason, not just their gut) that the arguments they’re hearing in favor of radical creationism make sense to them. The other half of the argument is that plenty of people say they believe in the explanatory power of mainstream evolutionary theory even if they don’t know it. That is, they unreasonably believe in evolution. (I think we’ll both agree that lots of radical creationists unreasonably believe in creationism.) All I’m pointing out is that the processes by which many people believe in mainstream evolutionary theory or radical creationism are fairly similar. Not always, but often. That doesn’t mean that evolutionary theory and radical creationism are intellectually equal.

      • Agreed. And yes, I think that we are on the same page 🙂

      • Dan

         /  September 17, 2017

        What cognitive or epistemological theory justifies your strong distinction between “gut” and “reason?” Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that evolution and creation are both supported by and expressive of different rationalities, one of which you privilege by calling it “logical,” and the other you cast as dangerous by calling it “radical?” Does that seem like a fair and logical way to establish a meaningful distinction between the two, by your standards?

        Isn’t much of the relevant science today suggesting that there is no such distinction between gut/instinct and rational decision? It has become a standard view that western societies think “reason” is a mental faculty associated with men/masculine traits, when it is actually a learned discourse, a culturally and linguistically mediated way to perhaps examine but more often rationalize precognitive reactions? In this picture, it is the power of established narratives that determine which rationality prevails and is regarded as superior, not some intrinsic truth it is presumed to contain.

        Most of the creationist traditions and communities I have encountered understand they have British/European origins and an international purchase. Why do you see this as an important fact for dismissive secularists to understand? Because it is a threat? Your tone here suggests you see “radical creationism” as a threat, but your post yesterday was completely opposite as you argued for greater mainstream inclusion of creationists so their inferior intellectual qualities can be exposed.

        Many creationists make it abundantly clear that preserving an anti-materialist counter-discourse to scientific modernity and methodological naturalism is their main agenda. They have been pursuing it on philosophical, legal-political, and popular fronts that are congruent with other religious/right culture war initiatives even where they don’t all agree. The creationists are not interested in empirical fieldwork like the old flood geology now; they are interested in carving out mainstream spaces of theoretical integrity for theism which support in turn a manifold of anti-secular institutional and political spaces where gender essentialism and criminalized deviations from their “moral norms” can be asserted as legitimate religious freedoms. This is what broadly unites people like George Marsden, who testified against Intelligent Design arguments advanced by the Discovery Institute who principal backers where meanwhile supporting his and other Evangelical higher education inititatives. I am never able to tell whether this full picture is apparent at all to researchers like you looking in from the outside.

        If you want to talk about a “Radical Creationism” it is this: it is one aspect of the religious antimodernist quest for a master-narrative that demythologizes essentialist categories about gender and sexuality (race is also a historically related category) which many/most? mainstream evangelicals and social conservatives regard as foundational to their personal and collective order.

        Some of the major funders and influencers of creationist counter-discourse like the DI have cultivated international networks in places like Turkey and Korea. They recognize the post-colonial world order is one in which western liberal and scientific rationality is increasingly open to questions and alternatives. There are potentially favorable conditions for radical creationist antimodernism where especially Christian and Muslim populations are receptive to the idea that essentialist categories for gender and sexuality are “traditional” and “orthodox.”

      • Dan

         /  September 17, 2017

        Sorry, I meant that as a reply to Adam, not Douglas, but I think you are both foundering on unexamined or undefined assumptions about reason/rational/reasonable.

        I lost control of my attempt at a definition of “radical creationism” — it is an *anti-demythologizing* movement, which is the essential feature of all modern fundamentalist reactions. Creationists seek a master-narrative that *re-mythologizes* or otherwise protects the essentialist categories about gender and sexuality that they are increasingly defining as central to the moral-political integrity of their world and the civilization itself. These are very crude, ethically compromised reactions to real problems that were first articulated at least a century ago in European philosophy, especially philosophy of science and political theory. Anglo-American philosophy and science seems to have generally ignored or downplayed these problems, sometimes rejecting their contemporary (postmodernist) expression as anti-rational.

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