Creationists: Postmodernists of Convenience

Although proponents of both young-earth creationism and intelligent design typically show signs of great (and unwarranted) confidence in their viewpoints, when it suits them, some of them will happily say that they are dealing with the same evidence as mainstream science, and it is only their presuppositions (which they assume are correct) and their interpretation (which they assume is equally valid) that differs.

They sound a lot like the viewpoint expressed in this cartoon, which appeared today on the blog Philip K. Dick and Religion:

There are indeed instances where evidence can legitimately be interpreted in more than one way. But there are also instances where all the evidence points consistently in one direction, and when attempts are made to suggest that all interpretations are equally valid, it is not really about interpretation at all, but an attempt to spin the evidence in an attempt at damage control, to try to bolster one’s views in spite of evidence to the contrary.

Creationism is standing on the neck of science, and suggesting that science is out to trip it up.

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  • Cliff Martin

    Only when you narrowly define postmodernism as “creating your own reality” would many Creationists qualify! But I no more ready to dub the typical Creationist as postmodern than he/she would be to own the moniker. A true postmodern is one who willingly calls to question those paradigms and metanarratives which have been handed to him. Most Creationists I know are unwilling, or unable to do that.

  • James F. McGrath

    Indeed, and I was trying to get at that through the “of convenience” part of the title. Someone who is only a postmodernist when it suits them is not a postmodernist, one might say…

  • Michael Wilson

    I shared the cartoon not because of creationism, but due to the many boreing discustions with kids hooked on post-modernism in my classes. has this shit not run its course? can we not get back to modernism?

  • James F. McGrath

    I think that we can get back to a “chastened modernism.” If we take the valid criticisms that have been offered in the “postmodern” era, we can take the stance of “critical realism,” acknowledging the need to avoid overstating the level of certainty we can attain through our investigations, while also avoiding the attempt to treat our inability to achieve absolute certainty as though it justified treating all things as radically uncertain, with no one viewpoint more likely than another.

  • Just Sayin’

    Does that make the Jesus mythicists postmodernists?

  • James F. McGrath

    When it suits them. :-)

  • David

    Hello James,
    This post sounds like you were trying to get your mind around what I was saying on your Ken Ham post regarding evidence and interpretation. Your mistake on this post is thinking creationists have a postmodern “all interpretations are equally valid” approach. The Bible proclaims a true story, but only one true story. There is one true rock record, but only one. The problem is that fallible and biased humans must interpret these stories, and we come up with different interpretations that are definitely not all equally valid. Chalk layers are just one example. Someone ignorant in physical oceanography and biased against a worldwide Flood is going to come up with a different interpretation than me as to why layers of chalk-forming animals turned into more layers of chalk-forming animals. There is reasonable evidence for evolution and creation, for an old and a young earth. But just because something is reasonable doesn’t mean its true. What would be helpful on all sides of this argument is if we had a little more patience and humility regarding our explanations of unobservable past events, along with a little more faith in His word.

    • rmwilliamsjr

      The Bible proclaims a true story, but only one true story. There is one true rock record, but only one. The problem is that fallible and biased humans must interpret these stories, and we come up with different interpretations that are definitely not all equally valid.  

      this is a fascinating statement.
      given the extraordinarily divisive character of Biblical interpretation, the enormous number of variant denominations, all claiming to have the right interpretation of the Scriptures. for a very simple example how many different ways of counting the 10 commandments are there?

      now compare that to science. for all practical purposes there is one biology over the whole world. every tongue. nation, kindred learn substantially the same thing in their various universities. i’ve had chinese, iranians, etc as profs and TA’s. try convincing your elders to swap pulpits with the church next door, let alone with chinese and persian churches. yet the universities do this all the time, at all levels. for a parallel example, how many ways of counting the 4 elementary forces are there?

      these churches may proclaim one interpretation is true, and science might proclaim lots of variants but the truth is that there really is a single rather monolithic science and an highly variant, deeply competitive church. 

      if i was counting i’d say there was many stories in the Bible and only one story in the rocks. 

      • David

        And I would say there are many man-based interpretations of both the stories in the Bible, and the stories in the rocks, and that we are a long ways from finding the best interpretations of either. Semper reformanda gentlemen…

  • James F. McGrath

    Well said, Richard!