Where are you on the creation scale?

Has anyone else taken Beliefnet’s “creation” test yet? Let us know how you score.

But I have a question for our friends at Beliefnet about one of their questions. It looks like this:

Q8. If it were true that humans evolved from other animals by random chance and were not intentionally created by God, then . . .

1. My religious faith would be shaken.
2. It would not affect my religious beliefs.
3. It would reinforce my belief that only matter exists

This gets us right back to one of the big questions raised in our still evolving thread here about the New York Times’ mega-series about the competing priesthoods in the Darwinism debate. The Beliefnet question assumes that someone can prove randomness in a lab. They can create evidence that helps them make the case, but they are going to have to interpret the data — a process that involves worldview and belief.

So this question short-circuits the science/logic/philosophy sequence. This is, of course, the heart of the story that jouralists are struggling to cover.

Did the ghost of Dr. Carl Sagan write that question?

You want to know my results on the 0 to 70 scale? You can probably guess. I am not a “Young Earth Believer,” of course, but I could not help but notice that, on the “results” page that popped up, the Beliefnet editors had described that option with the following information:

0 – 27 — Young Earth Believer: When it comes to the origins of the universe and of life, the Bible is your guide. Read William Dembski’s case for teaching intelligent design in classrooms here.

Now wait a minute. I know Dr. William Dembski — an Orthodox guy with a stack of earned degrees including a doctorate in math from that famous fundamentalist institution called the University of Chicago — and this is not a “Young Earth Believer” kind of a guy, although he is now linked to a Southern Baptist seminary.

Did someone on the Beliefnet staff do the coding on that page wrong? Was it a mistake for Dembski to be linked with that stance?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://janvbear.blogspot.com Jan Bear

    I couldn’t answer any of the questions, because “I don’t know” wasn’t one of the options. I’m an agnostic on evolution, that is, I don’t think it’s knowable, because there was, by definition, no human consciousness before human consciousness to interpret pre-human data in a human way.

    It’s the human mind that collects a mass of atoms and space reflecting light in a certain way into an “object” that we agree to call a “tree.”

    So all we have left are the human documents — the origin myths, including the Bible. But the minds that made the observations don’t categorize in the same way we do, with the language difference being only the beginning, so we have to be careful about applying our categories to them. The Genesis account neither confirms nor denies evolution.

    Evolution is an interesting myth, and it would be far more fruitful to ask what the myth tells about its believers than to try to compare it to scientific “facts” that can’t be tested or replicated.

  • S.K. Davis

    Hmm. Beliefnet’s quiz pegs me as a “Young Earth Believer,” although that’s certainly NOT correct. I’d describe myself as a Design Evolutionist. Perhaps that’s just too nuanced for those who wish to believe in the infallibility of Darwinism.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    That quiz lost me on the very first question. Evolution is both a persuasive theory and a fact. At that point I stopped taking it, but I see from Q8 that the phrasing of the questions and answers doesn’t improve.

    I’m guessing that the quiz is (like 99.99% of Internet quizzes) poorly designed. In this case, they’re taking non-linear results and forcing them into a linear model. And writing really awful questions based around the stereotypes of arguments that commonly get made rather than around the real opinions of informed people.

  • Jon

    It is quite clear that theirs is the same slant all pseudo-intellectuals have regarding anyone who dares balk at the sacred cow called evolution. That is much the same as it is with the political leftists who try to cast those who don’t agree with them as intellectual midgets. Personally I think that if one must resort to such juvenile tactics as name calling it is a clear indication that their position is tenuous at best. There is more and more good science out there now showing the flawed assumptions and methodology of the evolutionists. At the very least we should aim for intellectual honesty in this debate and point out errors in the THEORY and remind people there is a huge chasm between a theory and a law.

  • Michael

    It’s an online quiz, folks.

  • tmatt

    Avram, of course, means that microevolution is a proven fact and that macroevolution is a theory being tested, through the method of science/logic/philosophy.

    I am sure he meant to say that.

    The fact that you never see these terms in news stories is part of the problem. The language is truncated.

  • http://www.physicsgeekjesusfreak.blogspot.com Matthew M.

    My first thought on the first question was “well, what exactly do you mean by ‘evolution’?”, and it went downhill with the other questions, particularly #5 and #8. It’s an incredibly poorly designed quiz. (Must have evolved ;) ).

  • Todd

    I agree with Avram that this quiz is “poorly designed”. In fact, he is being generous with his assessment.

    Regarding Q1 (for example), it misses the central point in the ID vs. neo-Darwinist debate. As I understand the ID proponents, their issue is not with micro-evolution, i.e., minor changes in a species via natural selection. That is a fact, and can be easily demonstrated in any high school laboratory. Or, in your backyard garden. The issue is with macro-evolution, which has not to the best of my knowledge been demonstrated in any controlled laboratory environment. Macro-evolution without outside intervention (the neo-Darwinist position) requires the same leap of faith that a belief in God requires. Q1 does not distinguish between these two different types of evolution, which makes it very difficult to answer in any meaningful way.

    Personally, I am continually frustrated with the MSM for equating ID with Creationism. ID does not dispute the current science (unlike Creationism); however, it does have a beef with some of the interpretations of the science, especially those that are clearly philosophical in nature.

    Unlike Dr. Demski, I am not an alumn of U. Chicago; however, I am also a research mathematician. As I occasionally tell my students in my math/physics/engineering classes, the fact that things in the physical world work as well as they do, *and* can be modelled by relatively simple equations which have an unbelievable amount of structure and mathematical beauty, should be taken into account when considering important issues such as these. In my opinion, this is the spirit which underlies ID.

  • Mark

    Somewhat of a tangent, Fr. John Garvey recently did a great article in Commonweal Magazine on this subject:

    http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php?id_article=1328

  • Jack O’Neill

    Somehow I only got a 15 score-maybe it’s because I am sure that God continuously creates and sustains everything in existence, and he didn’t and doesn’t get tired doing it. I am sure this is some kind of heresy, but I can’t put a name to it.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Terry, what I mean by my theory-and-fact statement is this: A theory, in scientific terminology, is not a hypothesis, but a logical model or framework for describing a phenomenon. So describing evolution as a theory does not undermine its factual status anymore than it does for atomic theory, or quantum theory, or the theory of universal gravitation, or the special theory of relativity.

    Todd, you’re not quite right about IDers accepting micro-evolution. Michael Behe bases his ID arguments around microscopic cell structures. You’re also demonstrating one of the differences between IDers and traditional creationists: IDers don’t deny common descent (which is well established in the fossil record), they just argue that it requires some new mechanism, that small changes can’t add up to large ones.

  • tmatt

    Todd:

    You are right about the ID leaders accepting micro-evolution.

    Avram is right that the IDers want to argue the science/logic/philosophy sequence on the lab work that Darwinian folks say must point to macro-evolution (since that is the only possible answer in their system).

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Terry, what about my point about Behe? Behe clearly doesn’t accept micro-evolution, since he’s arguing that some microscopic structures couldn’t have evolved naturally. And he’s certainly an IDer.

  • tmatt

    You are using the term “micro-evolution” in a way that I have not seen it used before; as opposed to using the word to describe gradual changes over time in species and in larger brances of the tree of species.

    Behe accepts the Darwinian mechanism of change over time. He accepts common descent. He rejects “impersonal” and “random.”

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Terry, “change over time” may be too vague a phrase to be useful here. The literal Genesis narrative describes change over time, just a lot less time and a different kind of change.

    “Micro-evolution” is generally used to describe small changes, generally below the species level. “Macro-evolution” generally means changes at the species or higher level. This leads to a few problems: One, the definition of species is actually a bit more complicated than most people realize. Two, there have been observed cases of speciation observed both inside and outside the laboratory, generally among plants and insects, but these are usually too subtle to satisfy most people arguing against macro-evolution. A common trait of old-style creationists is to claim that there’s no evidence for one “kind” of animal evolving into another, and then if you tried to get them to formally define “kind” (species? genus? order?) they’d get all flustered and try to change the subject.

    Anyway, now that I think more about it, you may be right about Behe. His arguments are based around microscopic biological mechanisms, but the mechanisms may be important enough to their organisms to qualify as major (though not physically large) features at the species or higher level. So I guess he does accept micro-evolution.

  • J-D

    Like others, this identified me as a “Young Earth Believer”, even though I answered the question about the age of the earth as “billions of years old”. This invalidates the whole thing. It’s a joke.

  • Brad

    I’ll ignore the flaws in the survey (and I work as a researcher!) and be the first to put my score of the now 17 responses :) …I got a 35, which puts me toward the low end of “Believer by Design.” It compares this score to Francis Collins, Steven Pinker, Michael Behe and Albert Mohler.

    I agree that the questions, premises, answers, etc. are flawed, but I just went with the best answer I could find and answered them anyway…it is just an internet quiz, after all!

    Brad

  • http://pewview.mu.nu Warren

    I had a problem with question 3 — I know many creationists/ID adherents who believe that the earth is less than a million years old, but older than 10,000 years. There’s no middle ground there.

    And SBTS (where Dembski is now) isn’t a bastion of YEC — as evidenced by Al Mohler and others on the faculty there.

  • Jill

    Call me a Bible-thumping fundamentalist, but I scored a 4, on a scale of 0 to 70. The last question (written by Carl Sagan’s ghost) needed an alternative answer, as did #3 as Warren suggested.

  • http://thinkinganglicans.org.uk Simon Sarmiento

    What puzzled me was that they called Albert Mohler a distinguished scientist.

  • http://molly.douthett.net Molly

    Where are you finding such cool pictures of the cosmos? I think that’s the cosmos… very nice at any rate!

  • NateB

    I scored a 41 ( it seems, in the future, I must consider adopting a more smug, arrogant tone towards you unenlightened cave-people).

    To me, a universe where life and conscious, sentient beings are implicit in the design (the anthropic principle can be interpreted in such a way) makes more sense than one where God must design everything by hand. To put it another way, an autonomous, self regulating design is preferrable to one that requires constant and tedious maintenance to keep things moving (though, I don’t see that the designer couldn’t move in things, if He saw fit). Many believers find this sort of theism demeaning to man -who cares. I think, for the reasons above, that it’s clearly more to the credit of God than creationist theism.

    That’s not to say that Darwinism, as it’s currently understood, is necessarily the natural mechanism through which man arose. Fred Reed recently wrote a very interesting article, The Metaphysics of Evolution, which summarizes some of the problems with current evolutionary theory, some of which seem nearly insurmountable:

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/reed/reed59.html

    As a side note, I do wish more people had posted their score instead of kvetching about the test.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Nate, that’s a terrible article Fred Reed wrote. He starts off criticizing evolution for abiogenesis, something which isn’t even technically part of evolutionary theory. (Perhaps the textbooks and popular articles he read when he was fifteen didn’t make that distinction, but if he’s going to claim credit for having researched the subject, he ought to read something current.) He seems totally unaware of work done on discovery of the mechanisms of mutation in DNA. Pretty much every paragraph contains some form of bad argumentation — ususally he’ll ask a question, and then give some fake answer to it that he got by asking some random person and present that as the evolutionist’s answer.

  • http://blog.jmsteadman.com Joe Steadman

    Wow!!! praise God I got a “1″!!!!!

  • http://axegrinder.blogspot.com Jason Kranzusch

    Did you all deal with the 8/8/05 Time Magazine Essay by Charles Krauthammer on ID teaching in schools?


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