The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has a well-researched article by Eugenie Scott: The Creation/Evolution Continuum, which discusses the title’s subject and advocates teaching that there’s far more to all this than a simple toggle-switch choice of either evolution or creationism.
That article has a diagram (copied above) that “presents a continuum of religious views with creationism at one end and evolution at the other.” We have a small editorial quibble with that description — evolution obviously isn’t a religious view, but everyone who matters already knows that. The diagram shows “each stage from the most dogmatic creationist position to the most dogmatic evolution position.”
Scott describes each stage along the way, starting with the flat-earthers, “the most strict of biblical literalists.” The interesting thing is that as one moves along the spectrum, religious dogmatism becomes increasingly relaxed.
Most geo-centrists accept the spherical shape of the earth, despite scripture verses to the contrary. Most young-earth creationists (those who aren’t also in one of the first two stages) accept the solar system despite geo-centric scripture passages; yet they “reject the conclusions of modern physics, astronomy, chemistry, and geology concerning the age of Earth, and they deny biological descent with modification.” The old-earth creationists also accept much of geology, but cling to the scriptural account of special biological creation.
Scott’s article discusses some other versions of creationism, such as gap creationism and day-age creationism. Intelligent design is described as a variant of several of the continuum’s mid-range stages, its presence depending on whether the believer feels that some phenomenon or other requires external intervention as a cause.
At the next stage is theistic evolution, a position that has some relatively trivial variants (but such aren’t trivial to their adherents). All theistic evolutionists accept science, while insisting that “God creates through the laws of nature.” At the next stage are the agnostic evolutionists, who “suspended judgment about the existence of God.”
The extreme end of the continuum is where we find the materialist evolutionists. Here, the term “materialism” is used in its philosophical sense — not methodological naturalism, which restricts science to studying natural phenomena. Those at this stage claim “not only that material (matter and energy) causes are sufficient to explain natural phenomena but also that the supernatural does not exist.”
Scott’s essay is probably as good an introduction to the subject as one can find, and we recommend that you click over to the NCSE site to read it all. We agree with Scott that although government schools should be teach science and not religion, it should also be permissible — in what class we don’t know — to describe the existence of this continuum.
As good as Scott’s article is, we shall attempt to add an additional layer of texture to the article’s diagram. We’re talking about the peculiar phenomenon of reality-denial. This is inherent in the diagram, but it’s probably too controversial a topic for classroom use.
Observe that at each stage of the continuum, starting with flat-earthism, increasing amounts of scientific evidence are permitted to contradict the literal words of scripture. Flat-earthers at beginning stage accept virtually no real-world evidence at all. The mid-range of the continuum accepts increasing amounts of objectively verifiable reality, but also accepts various un-evidenced phenomena as being equally real.
Near the end of the continuum, all objectively evidenced reality is accepted. Although nothing else is accepted as real, the possibility of further domains of reality is acknowledged, but all concern about such matters is set aside while evidence is lacking.
The last stage, materialist evolutionism, is extreme in its own way, because — without logical proof — it denies even the possibility of any aspect of reality which is not yet evidenced. This isn’t reality-denial (which permeates the early stages of the continuum), but it’s fallacious nevertheless.
The materialist position starts logically enough, with a recognition that those who assert the reality of something have the burden of proof, or at least the burden of coming forward with credible evidence; but it’s a fallacy to rely on the lack of evidence as proof of the negative.
So that’s our minor contribution — the addition of reality-denial as a feature of the chart. It’s probably self-evident, but still it’s worth mentioning.
We know what you’re wondering — where does the Curmudgeon fit into the Scott diagram? We’re off the chart. Your Curmudgeon not only accepts all of modern science, we also respect the Olympian gods. The old ways are best.
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