Viewpoints on Evolution, Creation, and Origins

Wesley R. Elsberry

People have different opinions.  The issue of origins and evolution is no different in having a wide range of opinions expressed.  I want to introduce you to how I classify this diversity of opinion in a fairly simple classification scheme.  Here comes a Venn diagram to help illustrate things:

E stands for those who accept evolutionary change in the sense of common descent of life on earth.
C stands for those who believe in a creator.
A stands for those who reject evolutionary change or evolutionary mechanisms.
S stands for "scripturalists", who base their beliefs upon their interpretation of some text they hold sacred.

This gives me six categories to explain.  Some of them may appear inconsistent at first glance, but I hope to convince you that there really people who occupy each of the categories.

The simple, broad categories are those of E and A, short for Evolution and Anti-Evolution.  Those in the Evolution category find the scientific theories of evolutionary change to be compelling explanations for the diversity of modern life on earth.  Those in the Anti-Evolution category do not find those explanations compelling, or even feel them to be false on their face.

The C category is a bit complex, as indicated by the interactions with the other categories.  It stands for Creation, where those in the category believe that a creator is responsible for the design of the universe and ultimately the source of all life.  A Creation member can also be a member of any of the other named categories.  If the creation member is also an Evolution member, it may mean that that person believes that their creator used the mechanisms identified by science as evolutionary mechanisms to produce the modern diversity of life.  A Creation member who is also an Anti-Evolution member corresponds to what is termed a "Theistic Anti-Evolutionist" or TAE, whose Anti-Evolutionary stance stems from a belief that their creator did not use evolutionary mechanisms to produce the modern diversity of life.  The Creation category is also inclusive of the Scripturalist category, whose members hold that Evolution must be false on the basis that their interpretation of some sacred text is both true and contradictory of some principle or principles in evolutionary biology.  Some members of the Creation category are content with belief in a creator without coming to any decision concerning whether to accept or reject evolutionary explanations.

I mentioned that there are examples of people in each category or sub-category.

Non-creationist Anti-Evolutionist:
David Berlinski
Michael Denton
Sir Fred Hoyle
Non-Scripturalist Creationist Anti-Evolutionist:
Phillip E. Johnson
Michael Behe
Henry M. Morris
All CRS members
ISKCON members (Hindu scripture based Anti-Evolution)
Hugh Ross
Creationist Evolutionist:
Teilhard de Chardin
Francisco Ayala
Theodosius Dobzhansky
Wesley R. Elsberry
Non-Creationist Evolutionist:
Stephen J. Gould
Richard Lewontin

I've left out a category, that of Uniquely Creationist.  Because the members of this category do not involve themselves in the controversy over evolution, it is difficult for me to deliver names here, but pretty much any religious person for whom the issue of evolutionary change poses no threat and demands no action is a member of this group.

By the examples above, I hope that I have demonstrated the utility of this classification.  The motivations of the different groups are significantly different, and indicate areas where differences of opinion can be expected.  This is not to say that differences within each category are necessarily minor.  Within the Scripturalist group, it is likely that each sub-group allied to a particular sacred text will express differences with other Scripturalists who use a different text.  Also, a Scripturalist utilizing a different interpretation of the same sacred text will likely run afoul of criticism, as in the case of the running feud between the ICR and Hugh Ross.

The category of Non-Scripturalist Anti-Evolutionists is something of an odd duck.  The Scripturalist push to get SciCre added to school biology curriculums foundered in the USA on the horns of the Lemon Test of the establishment clause.  Since the courts have quite clearly opined that religious-based principles can't be added to science curricula, a different approach has arisen.  People of religious background get together to claim that there are "problems" with evolutionary biology, and that these "problems" should receive exposure in those classes.  They often also assert that something they call "intelligent design theory" should be recognized as being scientific, and thus taught in classes as well.  They are mostly careful to avoid any linkage between their public stance on evolution and their religious beliefs.  It is clear to observers that there is such a relationship, but the Non-Scripturalist Anti-Evolutionists do not clarify what it is.  Thus, someone who is classified as a Non-Scripturalist Anti-Evolutionist may actually be a Scripturalist who doesn't want anyone else to use that knowledge to undermine their efforts in the political and legal venue.

Having said something about what the categories are, I'd like to make some assertions about the size of the categories, that is, how many members might be in these categories.

The main thing is that the Non-Creationist Anti-Evolutionist category and the Scripturalist categories are small.  The Non-Creationist Anti-Evolutionist category is just a few people shy of being completely non-existent.  If there were a requirement that someone had to understand the concepts that they criticize, it is likely that the Non-Creationist Anti-Evolutionist category would be the null set.  Scripturalists are present in greater numbers, but still represent a relatively small group.  What the Scripturalists lack in numbers, they make up for by leverage.  Scripturalists typically seek to recruit aid from Non-Scripturalist Creationist Anti-Evolutionists or to turn Uniquely Creationist members into either Scripturalists or Non-Scripturalist Creationist Anti-Evolutionists.  The Scripturalists utilize arguments that are not directly based on their narrow doctrinal viewpoints in order to sway a larger audience.

The Evolution category is large.  Around 60% of respondents to an online ABC News poll indicated that evolution should be taught in secondary school biology courses.  The Theistic Anti-Evolutionist category is sizeable, since about 12% responded in the same poll that creation, but not evolution, should be taught.  It is likely that the combination of Uniquely Creationist and Creationist Evolutionist categories is the largest group of all.

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