Creationist Psychology Revealed
by Joyce Arthur
© copyright, February, 1995
published in OASIS, Volume 8, No. 17, Fall 1995
On January 26, B.C.’s community religious channel, Vision TV, aired a half hour program called On Main Street. The topic was evolution versus creation. The program was a good lesson in the workings of the creationist mind and a sad display of what happens when a bit of paranoia and some wishful thinking is mixed with an unhealthy dose of ignorance.
The host of the program was Dale Meyer, and his guest was creationist Dr. David Menton, Associate Professor of Anatomy at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, Missouri. It should be immediately said that a medical doctor teaching anatomy is well out of his field of expertise when it comes to discussing evolution. Since an understanding of evolutionary theory is not critical to Dr. Menton’s discipline, he is no more qualified to speak on evolution than the average intelligent layperson.
Host Meyer introduced the program with this statement:
“Did God play a role in the origin and development of man? The overwhelming majority of Americans say yes! But public schools, museums, and government-sponsored programs promote an evolutionary theory that excludes God completely.”
Meyer quoted the Gallup poll which found that only 9% of Americans believe that evolution occurred without God, but 40% believe God played a role in evolution, while 46% believe that God did it all, creating everything suddenly without evolution. “Is it a fluke,” asked the host, “that 86% of Americans are giving God some credit?” The question implied that the average American knows better than the average scientist about the origins and history of humanity.
In fact, creationists sincerely believe that the general population is indeed better-informed than scientists when it comes to the origin of man. In response to a question asking why Americans don’t believe in evolution, Dr. Menton claimed it’s because the average layman knows that complex things require an intelligent designer—nothing complex happens spontaneously by chance.
One of the overriding themes of the program was that scientists deliberately shut out God and ignore all evidence of creation. Apparently they do this, not because of the nature of science, or because there’s anything wrong with creationism, but because, as Dr. Menton asserted:
“They prefer to believe that origins occurred in a way that is suitable for science. They would prefer that it not be supernatural.” (italics added)
He complained that:
“Evolution holds sway because most of the scientific community considers creationism virtually unthinkable. It doesn’t matter what the nature of the evidence is. If one view is unthinkable, it’s not going to get explored.”
It is clear that Dr. Menton did not even understand why the supernatural is excluded from science. He thought science should be open to all hypotheses, and claimed that the most “obvious hypothesis” includes a supernatural creator. He illustrated the unfairness of the rules of science by adapting William Paley’s famous (but thoroughly refuted) watch designer argument. If we wanted to find out the origins of a watch by playing the “watch game,” Menton said, where the only rule was “there is no watchmaker,” we immediately discard the only real plausible hypothesis!
Throughout the show, Dr. Menton completely ignored the fact that most scientists (and a lot of evolutionists) believe in God. And of course, the real reason why science does not admit supernatural hypotheses is because they can’t be subjected to scientific observation, experimentation, and falsification. The business of science is to try and explain things through naturalistic processes, because that’s the only objective method we humans have of independently verifying how the world works. With a supernatural solution, not only is there no means to explain things, there’s no point in explaining anything at all. If science does go beyond the bounds of natural phenomena, it stops being science and becomes metaphysics or theology. Nevertheless, creationists feel victimized and offended by what they see as a deliberate, mistaken, and unjust snubbing of the supernatural by science.
There was the usual assortment of errors and distortions, both from Dr. Menton and the audience. Here are a couple of choice examples from Dr. Menton:
“The Darwinian idea hasn’t changed much in 130 years… there have been some small changes. We now talk of Neo-Darwinism, a new form of Darwinism. The only difference being that Darwin thought things sort of survived if they were genetically suited to survive. Neo-Darwinism says it’s not a simple matter of life and death, it’s a matter of differential offspring. Those who leave the most offspring survive while those who do not survive don’t leave as many offspring.”
Dr. Menton has got things perfectly backwards. How can it be that this self-appointed evolutionary expert has not even read Darwin’s The Origin of Species, in which the idea of differential reproduction serves as a building block to the theory of natural selection? And of course, it was Mendelian genetics which largely transformed Darwin’s theory into Neo-Darwinism.
“For evolution, I don’t believe that we have a theory…because we must have something observable, repeatable, and testable… Scientifically, we can’t understand how we got here.”
The tired, oft-refuted argument that evolution is not science because it can’t be observed has once again reared its stupid head. Atoms and gravity can’t be seen, but few people claim that physics is not scientific. Besides, evolution has been observed in modern times, including some cases of macro-evolution (speciation). Evolution has also been scientifically deduced from the study of both fossils and living organisms, and from related fields such as geology and plate tectonics.
An audience member asked:
“People tell us that we came from amoebas. But we still have amoebas. Why would we still have amoebas if we came from them?”
Instead of correcting the questioner’s very basic misconception by pointing out that parent species can live on unchanged, indefinitely, after giving rise to other species, Dr. Menton told her it was “a good question” and then veered off to talk about the alleged common ancestor of humans and fruit flies and how species just stay the same species and never become something else. Dr. Menton added, “We still have bacteria today,” thereby confirming to all present that evolution just doesn’t make any sense at all, darn it.
Creationists rarely talk about natural selection, because it spoils the random, strictly by chance, theory of evolution that they so love to hate. Dr. Menton was no exception. Even though he discussed Darwin and his theory, he didn’t bother letting his listeners in on what Darwinism was actually all about—natural selection. Simply put, natural selection dictates that individuals with traits and variations better suited to the environment are more likely to survive than others who are less well-suited. Because they compete more successfully for mates and limited resources, and live longer, the fitter individuals leave more offspring, and their favourable traits are passed on to a larger portion of the succeeding generation. The traits spread through the population, and eventually, perhaps, cause it to evolve into a new species. Natural selection is literally a blind designer because it uses only the tools at hand and is not directed towards any ultimate, pre-determined goal. The random aspect of evolution is the unpredictable occurrence of traits and variations (caused by mutations and gene recombination) and environmental changes, not evolutionary change itself.
Dr. Menton promoted his random view of evolution in a garbled version of punctuated equilibria:
“Evolutionists say that animals change randomly until they hit on a winning combination, then they persist indefinitely. Now we have punctuated equilibria, so there is no fossil record left, all we see are the winners.”
Punctuated equilibria is actually the theory that species may undergo long periods of stasis and short bursts of evolutionary change, fuelled by natural selection. The nature of the fossil record supports this theory in many instances, because it often shows species persisting unchanged for a very long time, only to be replaced by another species, which in turn may remain unchanged for a long time. The theory concurs with the earlier evolutionary views of great evolutionary biologists like Ernst Mayr, who showed that new species probably evolve in small, isolated areas, spread to other areas as they become more numerous and successful, and replace endemic species.
Dr. Menton also reserved a personal remark or two for Darwin:
“…as [Darwin] developed evolutionary views, he came to literally despise the word of God…”
That’s enough to send devilish shivers up and down the spine of every Bible-believing Christian. You see, according to creationists, evolution breeds evil. Apparently, it is a direct cause of atheism, as well as many other social ills. However, Dr. Menton seems a little befuddled by the fact that:
“Some of my dearest friends are evolutionists and I find them to be very kind, honourable people.”
How they got that way remains a complete mystery, however. As the good doctor explains:
“…the basis for determining right and wrong must depend on what our ultimate reality is. If God is our creator, that has a profoundly different effect than if we are just a spontaneous self-assembly process.”
Although he had previously claimed that people generally don’t believe in evolution anyway, he manages to completely contradict himself, twice, within the space of two sentences:
“If [a belief in evolution] were to become widespread, it would have a profound effect and has had a profound effect. We’ve got everybody believing that man is an animal.”
After these forays into the “scientific” aspects of creation/evolution, and evolution’s alleged social repercussions, the program finally reached the crux of the issue, the real reason why creationists are creationists. It has nothing to do with science, or the best theory of origins. The bottom line was nicely expressed by Dr. Menton when he said:
“The creator made us in his own image, so we can tell something about the creator just through human beings themselves. Our own creativity, our sense of love to children, a relationship of a father to his children, a purpose for living. Carl Sagan said man has to make his own purpose for living. But creation gives us purpose, it gives us a relationship to a loving father who has made us and given us this earth to live on, and to share our love and concern for others, and I’m not sure that concern for others would rise out of an evolutionary view.”
The need for a loving father figure and an ultimate purpose in life, then, is what drives the creationist engine. Emotional needs and wishful thinking take precedence over the facts of evolutionary science. Within the creationist mind, perfectly at home, is the paranoid, irrational idea that the theory of evolution poisons society and turns people into selfish animals. Resurrecting long-dead ideas from 19th century social Darwinism, Dr. Menton closed by protesting that the poor and the weak are not just steps on the evolutionary ladder of progress. Our real reason for being on this earth, he revealed, is to receive God’s love.