Will Creation Scientists take us Back to
Laurence D Smart B.Sc.Agr., Dip.Ed., Grad.Dip.Ed
PO box 175, Kippax, ACT Australia 2615
[Free to print and distribute. Copy must be in full.]
When creationism or Creation Science is mentioned in the context of an acceptable alternative interpretation of the origin of life to evolution, the statement, "Creationists will take us back to the Dark Ages", is often heard. This expression quite frequently 'explodes' from the mouths of evolutionary scientists, skeptics and humanists as they endeavour to defend evolution as the underpinning foundation of all science. With the Kansas State Board of Education (USA) dropping its hard-line stance on promoting evolution in the school science curriculum, such statements about creationism will appear more frequently in the media as evolutionary journalists scramble to defend their god, Scientism. (1)
The equation of Creationism and the Dark Ages is designed to scare the public by conjuring up thoughts of bleeding with leeches to control diseases, and beliefs in spontaneous generation, a flat Earth, and an Earth-centred solar system. All these are known today to be fallacies having been disproved by modern science, so the intent of the statement is to infer that Creationism is not scientific, and the adoption of such a paradigm would stifle scientific development.
When pressured for details, the persecution of Galileo Galilei or the need for Christopher Columbus to prove that the earth was round, are usually given. However, a close study of history will show that such statements and ideas are based on myths that have been used for centuries to scare people away from Bible-based Christianity - in the name of science and reason. Although fallacious, they have been used very successfully, so it is time that they were exposed for the myths that they really are.
The Dark Ages (approx. 400-1000 AD) was a difficult time for Europe. The barbarians had destroyed the Roman Empire and lawlessness reigned in the countryside. There was no scientific progress during this time, as the scholars and their books had been burnt, so society was in a backward state. Adding to the general misery were the many plagues, plus the Moslem Arab conquest of Europe in AD 622.
The Arab scholars within the Islamic Empire who followed the teachings of the Greek physician Galen (AD 130-200) and the Greek philosopher Aristotle (BC 384-322), became the masters of science. The classical works of the Greeks (that had been destroyed) had been preserved in Arabic so they were translated into Latin and were made available to the European scholars. As a result of this infusion, the errors of these two Greeks would hinder scientific progress for the next thousand years.
During this time Roman Catholicism provided the only source of education. They began universities in England and Europe, so over a long period of time educated men rose up, however, they were trained in the wisdom of the Greeks. By the twelfth century, scribes had reproduced many of the Greek books, and by AD 1200 the more advanced works of Aristotle (such as "On the Soul", "Physics" and "Metaphysics") became available to Western scholars. Through these, the ideas of the Greeks (Aristotle in particular), became widely entrenched among Western thinkers.
Aristotle's natural philosophies seemed so attractive, "like wonderful revelations of truth from a bygone age. The impact of Aristotle's works on the twelfth century mind has been compared to the impact of Darwin's work in the nineteenth century. Both were outwardly attractive, appealing to reason, but both were also at complete variance with scriptural revelation." (2)
Thomas Aquinas (AD 1225-1274) introduced humanism to Christian theology, by reconciling Aristotle's naturalism with the Bible. To conduct this harmonization, biblical theology was trimmed to accommodate the Greek philosophy. In his book "Summa Theologica" (1265-1274) he pronounced that it was necessary to subject Christian wisdom to the discipline of the philosopher - by which he meant Aristotle.
Aquinas' views were not accepted during his own time, but three centuries later following the Renaissance, at the Council of Trent (AD 1545-1563), his theological system (called Thomism) was accepted as Roman Catholic doctrine. This Council of Trent was formed as part of the counter-Reformation movement to try to stop the spread of Bible-believing Protestantism, as it was found that the Inquisition was unable to achieve that end.
The Protestant movement arose following the translation of the Bible into the languages of the people by Wyclif and others, and was speeded up by the invention of Gutenberg's moveable printing press. With Luther's inspiration and a Bible to read for themselves, people were able to identify false knowledge. Consequently the teachings of Roman Catholicism was shown to be false, containing a mixture of theology, tradition, Greek humanism, and papal authority.
The orthodox view of the cosmos in those days was based on the science of Aristotle, which had been incorporated into the theological doctrine of Aquinas. However, the views of Ptolemy of Alexandria (Claudius Ptolemaeus, AD 85-165) had also helped to shape the Medieval portrait of the heavens. Ptolemy was a follower of Aristotle who believed in a geocentric cosmos, where the earth was the stationary centre of the universe. The moon, sun, planets, and stars were seen to revolve around the earth in a series of inter-nesting spheres. Each hollow sphere was visualized to be made of transparent crystal onto which the heavenly bodies were fixed. As the spheres revolved, the bodies were moved in their respective circuits.
Ptolemy's works were among those that were received from the Arabs, and so his science became part of the science adopted by the Medieval scholars. Those cleric scholars within Roman Catholicism found various Scriptures to support his stance, so the geocentric view became entrenched as dogma and held to be as sacred as the Scriptures. The Ptolemy spheres were further embedded in the minds of the intelligentsia through the poem "Divine Comedy" by Dante (circa. 1300 AD) which blended it with theology.
The belief that the earth was flat was widespread among the populace in Medieval times (The Middle Ages, 1100-1400), but it goes back well before Christianity so it is not a concept that is founded in the Bible. In fact, the Bible does not support the notion of a flat earth, rather, it describes Earth as a sphere or a round globe (Is. 40:22).
The flat-earth philosophy has had a chequered existence in the civilised world. Thales, the Milesian Greek philosopher (624-546 BC), introduced the concept that the earth was a flat disk floating on the universal element, water. (3) Pythagoras (582-507 BC) a Greek philosopher and mathematician, postulated a spherical earth. (3) The Greek philosopher Socrates (469-399 BC) is recorded as familiarizing himself with the Milesian flat-earth system and the Italian spherical Earth. (4) The apologist Lucieus Lactantius (245-325 AD) and the 6th Century AD Greek philosopher and geographer Cosmas Indicopleustes both tried to reintroduce the concept of a flat Earth but failed. (5) By the 1400's, educated Europeans had accepted the idea that the world was round. (6) In 1492, the year of Christopher Columbus' first voyage to the New World, a German merchant and navigator named Martin Behaim produced a globe that recorded the world, as it was then known. (6)
It has been construed that Christianity propagated the notion of a flat earth during the Middle Ages, as Roman Catholicism was responsible for much of the education during this time. However, a study by the historian Professor Jeffrey Burton Russell has shown that nearly all the Christian scholars who discussed the earth's shape up to 1500 AD assented to its roundness. He found that only five obscure writers denied that the earth was a globe. (5)
In fact, the idea that Columbus had to disprove that the earth was flat is a myth started by Washington Irving in his 1828 book "The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus" - a book that was a self-confessed mixture of fact and fiction. The Spanish experts scoffed at Columbus' plans, not because they thought the world was flat or sea monsters would devour the ships, but because they believed he had grossly underestimated the length of the journey. It was because of Columbus' belief in a spherical earth that he determined that he could sail to India in the opposite direction to the conventional routes.
The myth that creationists were Bible-quoting, superstitious ignoramuses, convinced that the earth was flat basically came from two popular books of the 19th Century - "History of the Conflict between Religion and Science" (1874) by John William Draper, and "History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom" (1896) by Andrew Dickson White. These books gave a biased account of history as the authors promulgated the ideas of other liberal historians, instead of checking the ancient texts for themselves.
Professor Russell's investigation also revealed an interesting phenomenon. On the origin of these attacks against Creationists, he found that the story about flat-earth Christianity flourished most between 1870 and 1920, and had to do with the ideological setting created by struggles over evolution. He said that the flat-earth myth was an ideal way to dismiss the ideas of a religious past in the name of modern science.
So, to accuse creationists of supporting a flat-earth policy based on a literal interpretation of the Bible is therefore grossly inaccurate and ill founded.
THE GALILEO AFFAIR
The Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos (310-250 BC) was the first to state that the earth orbits the sun. However, the Ptolemaic system was the one that found favour the world over during the first millennium AD.
Nicholaus Copernicus (AD 1473-1543), without the aid of a telescope, concluded from his observations that it made more sense to have the sun as the centre of the solar system. He kept his ideas of a heliocentric solar system to himself until he published them at the age of seventy in "De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium" ("On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies") in 1543. That was the same year that he died.
Galileo Galilei (AD 1564-1642), read the works of Copernicus, and confirmed them with the aid of a telescope. He also discovered contrary to the Greek notion of a 'perfect' universe, that the sun had spots and that it also rotated. He released his astronomical findings in 1610 in "Sidereus Nuncius" ("The Starry Messenger"). In 1618 he also witnessed the demolition of Ptolemy's theoretical system when three comets passed effortlessly through the 'crystal spheres', showing them to be imaginary.
Possibly because of the Inquisition, Galileo was advised to keep quiet about his findings, so he waited 23 years before fully publishing them in "Two Chief Systems of the World" in 1632. Following this release, he was sent to trial in 1633, but after writing and signing a recantation, he was confined to house arrest until he died.
Was it the Bible that was responsible for the persecution of Galileo? No! Documentation easily shows that Galileo's accusers were concerned with defending the philosophy, the theology, and the social and religious hierarchy of the day. These were the astronomer-philosophers, who earned their livelihood by teaching Aristotle and Ptolemy, and so were biased against change. Also, it was not until Pope John XXIII in 1958 that the Bible was accorded a position of central importance in Catholicism. Prior to that, tradition and the hierarchy were given centre stage.
The Copernican system was never set up to oppose the Bible, in fact, Copernicus initially dedicated his published work to the Pope. Likewise, Galileo was convinced that the heliocentric system agreed more with the Bible than the geocentric system of Ptolemy did. So, in expressing his convictions, he was not discrediting the Bible, he was supporting it.
It is also important to note that Galileo actually defended the Bible. "He had first-hand knowledge of it, he esteemed it and respected it, and it was from that book that he derived the strength to resist his opponents and to go on the counter-attack." When accused of going against Holy Scripture he replied, "The decrees of Scripture are absolutely and unchangeably true: they can never err. Yet their interpreters can err ..." (7)
Many historians point out that the first to oppose Galileo were the scientists of his time who were proponents of the geocentric solar system. (8) "But there existed a powerful body of men whose hostility to Galileo never abated: the Aristotelians at the universities ... Innovation is a twofold threat to academic mediocrities: it endangers their oracular authority, and it evokes the deeper fear that their whole laboriously constructed edifice might collapse. The academic backwoodsmen have been the curse of genius ... it was this threat - not Bishop Dantiscus or Pope Paul III - which had cowed Canon Koppernigk [ie Copernicus] into silence." (9)
"The first serious attack on religious grounds came also not from clerical quarters, but from a layman - none other than delle Colombe, a leader of the [ardent Aristotelian] league ... The earthly nature of the moon, the existence of sunspots meant the abandonment of the Aristotelian doctrines on the perfect and unchangeable nature of the celestial spheres." (9)
It is not well publicised that the Roman Catholic clergy were initially open to the heliocentric model:-
It was not until secular defenders of the earth-centred model persuaded the clergy that Galileo was really contradicting the Bible that he was persecuted.
The public mind today has been conditioned to blame Bible-believing Christianity for this incident, where science and truth were silenced 'in the name of God'. In reality, it was the theologians and scholars who were guilty, and, if they hadn't listened to the scientist Ptolemy, they wouldn't have been led astray in the first place.
So, as with theistic evolutionists today, the adversity arose because a scientific principle was accepted as true, and then the Bible was interpreted accordingly to support it. Actually, if the Medieval scholars had understood the principle of Frames of Reference, the change from a geocentric to heliocentric system would have been logical and the whole antagonistic incident would have been a non-event.
THE SPONTANEOUS GENERATION SAGA
The Medieval belief in spontaneous generation (abiogenesis) had its roots in Aristotelian science. Aristotle believed that insects, worms, eels, and amphibians, developed in mud spontaneously. By the late Middle Ages, it was believed that geese and lambs could be generated from fruit-bearing trees. Even as late as 1662, the Jesuit priest, Kircher studied to come up with a recipe for producing every kind of animal artificially, publishing his thesis in "Mundus Subterraneus".
The Italian scientist, Francesco Redi (AD 1626-1698), demonstrated that living creatures only ever come from other living creatures - this became known as the Law of Biogenesis. He demonstrated this by placing close-meshed netting over meat that prevented flies from depositing their eggs. Redi was a Bible-believing Christian who would justify his stance on various scientific issues as a philologist, quoting from the Bible using literal interpretation.
Following his experimental success, the proponents of abiogenesis refused to concede, shifting their defence to microscopic life forms, especially those that they studied in infusions. Indeed, in 1750 the scientist John Needham proposed that in infusions and in every part of nature "there is a 'productive' or 'vegetative force' which is capable of creating animate beings." (11) The proponents of spontaneous generation (now called 'vitalists') opposed Redi until his death.
In this context of a strong revival in spontaneous generation, the Italian scientist and creationist, Lazzaro Spallanzani (AD 1729-1799) conducted infusion experiments in Geneva. He boiled an infusion for as short a time as 3 minutes, sealed the glass containers, and showed that no infuser microbes grew. His experimentation led him to reject spontaneous generation, and to spearhead the anti-vitalist movement, culminating in him being given the title of 'the father of modern biology', posthumously.
Spallanzani was opposed by vitalist scientists who accused him of destroying the vital force and contaminating the air in the bottle with his boiling technique and that "by putting nature under torture he had forced it to lie." (12) It was the scientist and creationist, Louis Pasteur (AD 1822-1895) - also influenced by Geneva - who finally destroyed spontaneous generation in 1861.
Pasteur believed in only one initial creation of life, and also in the 'germ theory' which proposed that the air contained microbes that infested organic material, causing it to rot. His famous experiment consisted of placing fermentable liquid in a flask which had its top stretched and turned upside down, boiling the liquid, letting it stand, and watching for any fermentation. The neck trapped the microbe carrying dust, preventing it from entering the broth. An examination of the neck showed the presence of the trapped organisms.
It is sobering to note that while Catholicism was trying to illuminate the world with the fires of the Inquisition, amongst the 'heretic' Protestants of Geneva where the Bible was elevated, there was clearly better cultural and scientific understanding. So, it was not Christianity as such which was obscuring progress, but rather "a particular distorted way of understanding Christianity." (13)
SCIENTISTS HAVE STIFLED PROGRESS
It is a little known fact that, like the spontaneous generation saga, it has been the scientists and educators of the day (rather than Bible-believing creationists) who have retarded many of the scientific breakthroughs in the past. These facts are not widely known because it is a blight on the scientific community and on science in general, so it is hushed up. Scientism will always present the 'rosy' side of science and viciously attack opponents of its conventional wisdom.
Some example of opposition of scientists to progress are:-
The opposition of scientists to new theories is very common, and is seen to be a healthy activity under the scientific method. It is strange therefore, that Creation Scientists are so maligned and ridiculed when they oppose the 'science' of the day.
CREATIONISTS HAVE PROMOTED SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS
Creationists (more accurately Fixist Creationists) believe in the literal creation described in Genesis, precluding any form of evolution. Creationism (or Fixist Creationism) is portrayed today to be a deep-rooted theological doctrine, however, the writing of the naturalist Cattaneo shows that it actually emerged in the 18th century, and so, was not a belief developed in antiquity.(14) It began with the release of Bibles in the 'languages of the people' where everyone was able to read the biblical account of creation for themselves. In its outline form, Creationism was born with Redi, while other scientists after him contributed to its systematic development and promotion.
The counter-reformation within Roman Catholicism postulated a creation per causas, a creation in which God made use of secondary causes (eg evolution). This was different to the stricter biblical creationist's belief in creation una tantum, 'all in one go'. The opinion of the majority up to the Reformation was that propagated by the Roman Catholic Jesuits, who were deeply involved in the Inquisition, and who opposed Creationism.
The supporters of Creationism during the Reformation were the best biologists of the time, European Protestants, and the Jansenists within Roman Catholicism. There were also many scholars in the Protestant countries, plus those enlightened people who had thrown off the whole weird and wonderful bag of tricks introduced by the magical concepts of the Renaissance. The heroes of Biogenesis and Heliocentricity (viz. Pasteur, Spallanzani, Redi, Galileo, Copernicus, and Kepler) can all be shown historically to have been Bible-believing creationists. Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, on the other hand, all supported evolution in one form or another.
Many historians have rightly concluded that the birth of modern science revolved around scientists who were Christians, and was mainly due to the creationist convictions of these founders. Dr Loren Eiseley (1907-1977), a professor of anthropology, a science history writer and evolutionist stated in the New Scientist journal that, "[I]t is the Christian world which finally gave birth in a clear articulated fashion to the experimental method of science itself ...It began its discoveries and made use of its method in the faith, not the knowledge, that it was dealing with a rational universe controlled by a Creator who did not act upon whim nor inference with the forces He had set in operation. The experimental method succeeded beyond man's wildest dreams but the faith that brought it into being owes something to the Christian conception of the nature of God. It is surely one of the curious paradoxes of history that science, which professionally has little to do with faith, owes its origins to an act of faith that the universe can be rationally interpreted, and that science today is sustained by that assumption." (15)
Conversely other scientists have admitted to the negative effects that evolution has had on the progress of science. A newspaper article reported as follows: "Giving the Darwin lecture to one of the biggest audiences of the week, Durant put forward an audacious theory - that Darwin's evolutionary explanation of the origins of man has been transformed into a modern myth, to the detriment of science and social progress ... Durant concludes that the secular myths of evolution have had "a damaging effect on scientific research", leading to "distortion, to needless controversy, and to the gross misuse of science"." (16)
Biblical faith and a belief in creation ex nihilo does not degrade rationality, it elevates it. History shows that scientific creationism has done much to advance our knowledge in the Scientific Age. "Thus, it is fair to say that if we associate the historical Creationism of the 18th & 19th centuries with obscurantism we not only commit an error, we actually turn history upside down." (17)
In regards to the reasons for attacking Creationists, the words of Professor Jeffrey Burton Russell for the American Scientific Affiliation Conference (1997) are elucidating in siting the source of such ill founded animosity: "The reason for promoting both the specific lie about the sphericity of the earth and the general lie that religion and science are in natural and eternal conflict in Western society, is to defend Darwinism. The answer is really only slightly more complicated than that bald statement. The flat-earth lie was ammunition against the creationists. The argument was simple and powerful, if not elegant: "Look how stupid these Christians are. They are always getting in the way of science and progress. These people who deny evolution today are exactly the same sort of people as those idiots who for at least a thousand years denied that the earth was round. How stupid can you get?" And so it goes, from Antoine-Jean Letronne to Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins. Goebbels was right, if you're going to tell a lie, tell a big lie, and keep repeating it. The problem is that historians and scientists ought to know better." (18)
SOME NOTEWORTHY POINTS
(1) N. Boyce, "Don't Mention Darwin - Creationists have a new strategy in their assault on evolution", New Scientist, Vol. 163, No. 2200, 1999 p:4
(2) I.T. Taylor, "In the Minds of Men: Darwin and the New World Order" (3rd ed.), TFE Pub: Toronto (Canada), 1984 p:17-18
(3) Microsoft Corp, "Microsoft Encarta '95" (CD-ROM, Microsoft Corp: Redmont (USA), 1995
(4) Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 99" (standard ed.), Encyclopaedia Britannica (Aust) Ltd: North Sydney (NSW), 1999
(5) J.B. Russell, "Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus & Modern Historians", Praeger: New York, 1991
(6) World Book Inc., "1999 World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia" (International Standard English Edition, ver 3.0), World Book Inc: San Diego (USA), 1999
(7) P. Rossi, "Galilei", Compagnia Edizioni Internazionali: Milano (Italy), 1966 p:47 (quoted in F. De Angelis p:26)
(8) J. Sarfati, "Refuting Evolution", Answers in Genesis: Acacia Ridge (Qld), 1999 p:98
(9) A. Koestler, "The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe", Hutchinson: London, 1959 p:427 (quoted in J. Sarfati p:98-99)
(10) A. Koestler, p:447-448 (quoted in J. Sarfati p:99)
(11) J. Rostand, "Lazzaro Spallanzani e le Origini Della Biologia Sperimentale", Einaudi: Torino (Italy), 1963 p:16 (quoted in F. De Angelis p:38)
(12) Needham's objections noted by J. Rostand, (quoted in F. De Angelis p:39)
(13) F. De Angelis, "The Origin of Life by Evolution: An obstacle to the development of science", F. De Angelis: Cortona (Italy), 1995 p:25 (english translation by L. Pennington) p:42
(14) Cattaneo, an Italian naturalist of the 19th century. Quoted in P. Omodeo, "Creazionismo ed Evoluzionismo", Bari: Laterza (Italy), 1984. (referred to by F. De Angelis p:32)
(15) Loren Eiseley, "Darwin's Centenary: Evolution and the Men who Discovered it", Doubleday: New York, 1961 p:62
(16) Dr John Durant (University College, Swansea, Wales) quoted in New Scientist, 11/9/80, p:765
(17) F. De Angelis, p:37
(18) J.B. Russell, "The Myth of the Flat Earth" (Summary), American Scientific Affiliation Conference, August 4, 1997 at Westmont College (available on the Internet at: http://id-www.ucsb.edu/fscf/library/RUSSELL/FlatEarth.html)
(19) J.P. Holding, "Is the Raqiya ('Firmament') a solid dome? ...", CEN Technical Journal, Vol. 13, No. 2, 1999 p:44-51
(20) L.D. Smart, "#29 - 100 Famous Bible-Believing Scientists", PO Box 175, Kippax ACT 2615, 1999