William Lane Craig: young-earth creationism is an embarrassment

I’ve had difficulty finding any straightforward statements from William Lane Craig on evolution and creationism. Often, he hedges by throwing a few subtle encouragements to his anti-evolution fans while avoiding saying anything that would identify him. But in a recent podcast, he was very frank about young-earth creationism:

The entire video is worth watching for the stark contrast to how Craig usually speaks, about not just evolution but, well, anything. It’s the difference between Romney on the campaign trail and Romney speaking at a closed-doors fundraiser. Probably Craig only expected his really dedicated fans to listen to the podcast.

Note that saying different things to different audiences is something I’ve observed before with Craig. For example, I doubt he’d ever have tried to defend Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments in front of a mixed audience.

I’ve decided to go ahead and transcribe the highlights of the video:

(start) Co-host: Francis Collins is probably the most famous among people who are holding this view right now.

Craig: Perhaps. Michael Behe would also be a very, very well known theistic evolutionist… I think probably Behe would be even more well-known than Francis Collins in this area.

I’m pretty sure Collins would object to being lumped in to the same group as Behe. In The Language of GodCollins devotes a chapter to criticizing the Intelligent Design movement.

(1:21) Craig: Now when you think about that, Kevin, that is just hugely embarrassing.  That over half of our ministers really believe that the universe is really 10,000 years old. This is just scientifically, it’s nonsense, and yet this is the view that the majority of our pastors hold. It’s really quite shocking when you think about it.

Exactly right. This part of the podcast surprised me. I expected Craig to briefly admit being embarrassed, and then come out with a barrage of spin and damage control, but here he was refreshingly blunt. Then he goes on to say more about an article by Francis Collins:

(4:34) He seems to think that they were one of many–in fact it says here in the article that there were probably around 10,000 people that existed in order to give us the genetic imprint that we bear today. Quoting from him, he says, scientists have noted that the DNA of several neanderthals are 99% identical to the human genome, and moreover where there’s a region with sequence variation in the genome of neanderthals, many times geneticists will find the same variation in humans today. And this is convincing evidence that neanderthanls and humans have a relationship, and our founding population, he says, was thousands of individuals and not just one person, that there was interbreeding among neanderthals and homo sapiens. 

Now what I find odd about that argument, Kevin, is it seems to me that that would at most support that Adam and Eve were not special creations of God out of nothing, but that they had hominid ancestors, and therefore human beings bear the imprint of these hominid ancestors, say these neanderthals, or something like that. But how is that inconsistent with saying that eventually in the course of primate evolution, that a single pair did emerge called Adam and Eve, and that they are then the persons from whom present homo sapiens descended. If Adam and Eve themselves bore the imprint of prior lifeforms, it’s not clear to me why they couldn’t be the progenitors of the human race.

Ooh, ooh, I know this one! The problem is that if the founder population of all modern humans had been just two people, we wouldn’t have all the genetic diversity you see today. To get the genetic diversity we see today, you need a population of about 10,000 ancestral humans. In fact, if there had been just two humans the human race wouldn’t have had enough genetic diversity to survive–which is a fancy way of saying we’d have gone extinct due to inbreeding.

On top of that, evolution is a gradual process, so there never would have been a point in our evolutionary history that you could point to and say, okay, that guy was the first human. At no point would there have been anything to stop the children of a particular hominid pair from going and finding mates from other hominids. So for example, if we ignore the obviously mythological character of Genesis for a moment, the answer to the old chestnut, “where did Cain get a wife?” might be “he married a neanderthal.”

A couple other things to note here: listening to Craig, I got the impression that for once, he was admitting actual confusion rather than the feigned confusion he sometimes does when he’s in “say anything to squish the audience’s doubts” mode.

Also, if Craig were to accept that that humans share a common ancestry with other life, he’d be at odds with his own university’s doctrinal statement. Wonder if anyone will notice. I’d tend to think that Biola wouldn’t do anything to one of their star scholars over something so trivial, but then look at what happened to Mike Licona.

But just when you thought Craig might be getting ready to reconcile himself to whatever science discovers, he says:

(6:57) You need to not interpret the Bible in light of modern science, but to interpret it according to what it’s original author and original audience would’ve understood. That’s the first and foremost task is to interpret the Bible objectively and correctly. Then the second task will be trying to integrate what we learn from the Bible with the worldview of modern science…

In terms of evangelization, then, I would say that this is an in-house project, that goes on among Christians, and that we shouldn’t focus on these issues when evangelizing non-believers.

Uh-huh. Refuse your interpretation of the Bible one bit to accommodate science, but don’t let the targets of your evangelism know that’s what you’re doing.

(9:39) With regard to how human life and biological complexity came to be on this planet, I think we need to teach the children the controversy.

Now Craig has really slapped the “clueless” label on his forehead. There is no controversy among mainstream scientists.

 (10:22) You can hold maverick views or views that don’t fit into the paradigm, without being ignorant of the paradigm and unacquainted with the evidence for and against it. You don’t have to toe the line in order to be a good scientist.

Saying “we’re all reasonable people here” is always a great way to position yourself as the good guy in any conversation. Unfortunately, in this case it just isn’t true. Even Michael Behe, who has the dubious distinction of being the Intelligent Design movement’s least-embarrassing representative, has promoted some really ignorant howlers and his own university department has taken the extraordinary step of officially distancing themselves from his work.

Oh, and at the end, Craig very nearly lets slip that “Intelligent Design” is just a rebranding of creationism:

(12:08) The folks in the intelligent design movement, I think, have done a wonderful job in creating a big tent that includes young earthers, theistic evolutionists, and people of every stripe in between.

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