evolution of creationism

I sincerely urge everyone to read David Montgomery’s article The evolution of creationism—it’s just about five pages long and absolutely concise and clear.

For centuries, natural philosophers, their scientific successors, and theologians alike sought to explain the physical and natural world. The now common cultural narrative of perpetual conflict between science and religion simplifies the arguments and struggles of the past and overlooks cross-pollination between those who embraced faith and reason as the keys to understanding earth history. When geologists unequivocally dismissed the idea of a global flood and recognized Earth’s antiquity, many conservative theologians acknowledged that there was more to the past than literally spelled out in Genesis, the opening chapter of the Bible. But some Christians—those we now call creationists—rejected this perspective and chose to see geology as a threat to their faith. In so doing, they abandoned faith in reason and cast off a long-standing theological tradition that rocks don’t lie.

Here are some excerpts:

Buckland went on to admire the way in which originally horizontal strata were inclined such that mineral deposits and coal were accessible to miners, as well as how convenient it was that fertile soils were found in flat valley bottoms. Like many of his contemporaries, he thought geological evidence confirmed the Genesis stories and showed how well the world was designed for human use. (Montgomery 2012: 6)

How could strata have gotten flipped upside down after Noah’s Flood laid them down if the Bible did not mention subsequent catastrophes? Despite such qualms, fundamentalist proponents of flood geology were inclined to assess Price’s credibility by the conclusions he reached rather than the strength of his arguments or evidence. (Montgomery 2012: 7)

In their view, the plain meaning of God’s words trumped anything science could throw at it. “The instructed Christian knows that the evidences for full divine inspiration of Scripture are far weightier than the evidences for any fact of science” (Whitcomb and Morris, 1961, p. 118). (Montgomery 2012: 7)

Whitcomb and Morris simply dismissed fossil evidence for a long history of life “on the basis of overwhelming Biblical evidence” (1961, p. 457) and asserted that it was impossible to learn the age of the world through studying the operation of natural laws now in operation. The idea laughed out of Victorian England took root in Cold War America. (Montgomery 2012: 7)

While struggles over the geological implications of biblical interpretations date back to the earliest days of the Church, the story of how naturalists wrestled over reconciling the biblical flood with a growing body of contradictory geological evidence shows that the twentieth-century revival of flood geology recycled ideas previously abandoned in the face of compelling evidence. (Montgomery 2012: 8)

And yet, the geological case for a global flood that creationists offer as an alternative to evolution was discredited before Darwin set foot aboard The Beagle.
    Geologists assess theories by how well they fit data, and creationists evaluate facts by how well they fit their theories. This simple distinction frames an unbridgeable intellectual rift. (Montgomery 2012: 8)

How many creationists today know that modern creationism arose from abandoning faith that the study of nature would reveal God’s grand design for the world? (Montgomery 2012: 9)

MONTGOMERY, DAVID R. 2012. The evolution of creationism. GSA Today 22(11): 4-9.
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