With Professor H. Sapiens

From NMSR Reports, Vol. 4, No. 9, September 1998

Paul Gammill of Albuquerque writes:

In your latest letter [June 1998 NMSR Reports], you referred to me as a creationist. That is appropriate in the sense that we are all creationists. We're here. We all believe we were created...

1. You are a creationist who believes in the Blind Watchmaker Hypothesis, i.e., that were created... by means of "mutations" and "natural selection"... this theory appears to be totally speculative and unsubstantiated... It seems to be grounded in philosophical and metaphysical naturalism, not in science.

2. Religious creationists usually believe we were created by means of the God of the Bible, often believing in a 6-day-creation and a young earth (10,000 years?). This belief in a known creator and the other beliefs are not scientifically sound, not based on scientific inference.

3. I believe that intelligent design explains far more convincingly than the first two beliefs how we were created... the creation process having started some 3.5 billion years ago... This is the most powerful of scientific inferences...


Professor Sapiens replies:

Thank you for pointing out that we are all creationists, including the Professor himself. We must now concede that Dr. Boslough was correct when he wrote last month that "...the December [1998] issue of NMSR Reports will be written entirely by creationists."

But returning to the point, you define three types of creationist. The vast majority of scientists--including yours truly--are of Type I (even though the naturalistic methods employed by scientists do not suit your view of the way science should be done). Dr. Humphreys and Mr. Dapra are examples of Type II creationists, whose belief in God and the Bible you reject as unscientific and unsound. You and Mr. Lenard are believers in creationism of the Type III variety, which you consider to be the only truly scientific option.


This causes the Professor to ponder the following question: why do Type II creationists never hold public debates with Type III creationists about the age of the earth? Types II and III are passionately opposed to Type I beliefs, and are constantly writing letters to the editor, attending school board meetings, and challenging scientists to public debates. Now it seems that you have thrown down the gauntlet by accusing young-Earth creationists such as Dr. Baumgardner of lacking scientific merit for their beliefs.

Professor Sapiens truly hopes that Dr. Humphreys, Dr. Baumgardner, or Mr. Dapra will rise to your challenge and debate you in public about the age of the earth. Perhaps NMSR would be willing to host this event. Are you willing to do your part to defend Type III creationism from Type II believers?

From NMSR Reports, Vol. 4, No.11 , November 1998

Paul Gammill of Albuquerque writes:

Once again, you have distorted my views via selective editing. Again, please set the record straight by printing all of my Part 3, and my conclusion. I wrote that, ...

3. I believe that intelligent design (ID) explains far more convincingly than [1. the Blind Watchmaker Hypothesis (BWH) of mutation and natural selection, and 2. religious creationism] how we were created, i.e., that an unknown intelligent agent created us and all life, the creation process having started some 3.5 billion years ago. One near-proof is that the genetic code is an analogue of human code (language). And code and language are always the result of design. This is the most powerful of scientific inferences. We know little about the creator other than, for example, we can infer that he, it, or they, is (are) very intelligent, very creative, very powerful, and created life purposefully. Beyond this, the creation and existence of life seem to be a mystery.

I concluded that,

The appropriate scientific attitude is to recognize this mystery and continue to investigate the biology of organisms to the maximum extent, and to investigate the mystery where investigation appears to be promising. The unscientific attitude is to make dogmatic claims about origins, claims that science knows something about creation that it really doesn't know.

You wrote that,

"You and Mr. Lenard are believers in creationism of the Type III variety, which you consider to be the only scientific option."

Using the word, creation, in its various forms as categories I, II, III, IV, etc., seems only to lead to confusion. The differences in our views could be better expressed by specifying, say, three distinct views, and not per age of the earth, but by method and mechanism, as follows: (1) The Blind Watchmaker Hypothesis: naturalistic, undirected and gradual "evolution" by means of mutations and natural selection. (2) Religious Creationism: directed creation of the classes of organisms by fiat by a known designer/creator (for example, the God of the Bible). (3) Intelligent Design: directed creation of the classes of organisms by fiat by an unknown designer/creator.

You continue to confuse the issue by tarring all who disagree with the BWH with the same religious brush. I don't know Roger Lenard's beliefs; but you identified him as a religious creationist on page 6 of the June NMSR Reports. But a key (and much abused) word is creationism. When BW devotees such as you employ the word, creationism, many of the scientific audience are culturally conditioned to take this to be religious creationism; creation, in all its forms being a "loaded" word, and guaranteed to elicit contempt from BW devotees...

--Letter truncated (1116 words total)--


Professor Sapiens replies:

Thank you for giving Professor Sapiens an opportunity to set the record straight. The Professor would like to point out, however, that letters from armchair scientists are edited for space, not for meaning. To demonstrate that he does not employ selective editing, the Professor has this month instructed the NMSR Reports editor to use the smallest legible type size, and to arbitrarily truncate this month's letter once the allotted space has been reached. On reviewing past issues, you will note that the editor has given the Professor a maximum of about 6 column inches in which he must fit the main points of the letter to which he wishes to respond. Fortunately, the top six inches of this month's letter has several points which the Professor can address. In your earlier letter [September 1998 NMSR Reports], you stated that "...we are all creationists," "We all believe we were created...," and "You are a creationist...." Professor Sapiens edited out some other parts of your letter, such as, "...what brand of creationist are we?" and "How were we created?" The Professor graciously adopted your own terminology and referred to scientists, religious creationists, and intelligent designers as types I, II, and III creationists respectively (taking the liberty of changing your Arabic numerals to Roman ones). Now you are asking the Professor to abandon your nomenclature because it is confusing. The Professor agrees. He was in fact only using your words to be polite. He would humbly suggest, however, that we refer to scientists as "scientists," not "BW devotees" which might lead to confusion as well. Professor Sapiens would like to explore the difference between what you are now calling Religious Creationism and Intelligent Design. According to this month's definitions, the only difference between these two beliefs is that Religious Creationists know who is responsible, and Intelligent Designers do not. This leads to the startling conclusion that it is impossible for an Intelligent Design advocate to be a Christian. On the other hand, many scientists ("BW devotees" by this month's vernacular) are devout Christians who believe that God works by nature, not by fiat. It seems that of the three views, only Intelligent Design is (by its very definition) un-Christian. Thank you for bringing this to the attention of NMSR Reports readers.

If you have received a letter from an armchair scientist, and you too busy doing science or other interesting things to answer it, please send it to Professor Sapiens, Armchair Science Corner, care of NMSR Reports, P.O. Box 1017, Peralta, NM 87042-1017. Or send it by e-mail to nmsrdaveATswcp.com (Help me fight SPAM! Please replace the AT with an @ )!

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