David Snoke: Creationist Physicist?

TODAY we encountered a genuine curiosity. We learned of it in the Ironton Tribune, a daily newspaper in Ironton, Ohio, population almost 12,000, which is across the Ohio River from the bordering states of West Virginia and Kentucky. The article is titled: Scientist to speak on Biblical interpretations at SSU.

The scientist they’re talking about is David Snoke, described at the end of the article as follows:

In 2006, Snoke was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He is also a licensed preacher in the Presbyterian Church in America, and preaches frequently.

That is an uncommon pairing of occupations, so we had to inquire further. David Snoke is described by Wikipedia as “a Physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh.” That checks out. See: David W. Snoke, Department of Physics and Astronomy. He’s real.

For the flip side of this transitional specimen, we searched for and found his church in Pittsburgh, the City Reformed Presbyterian Church. Their website lists him as an Elder, recommends these Articles by Dr. Dave Snoke, and also links to Snoke’s own website which has links to more articles.

In Why Were Dangerous Animals Created? (pdf file) he writes, with bold added by us:

Recently, the creationist movement has gotten a shot in the arm from the scientific analysis of the Intelligent Design movement, represented by authors such as Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Phillip Johnson. The Intelligent Design movement is faced with a dilemma, however. Do we point to all life as examples of good design, or do we exclude some types of life as bad? If we say that all life is well designed, then we must include sharks and parasites and other things that do not fit the preconceptions that many people have of good things God would make. If we say that God did not design such things, then we undermine the Intelligent Design argument, saying that such complicated things could arise without the intervention of God.

Skipping over 12 pages, here’s the final paragraph:

The young-earth creationist and the atheist Darwinist have in common their belief that God would never create killer things. The atheist removes God from the picture to account for the natural evils of this world, while the young-earth creationist removes the record of killer animals from the picture to preserve the goodness of God. Both of these views need to interact with a fully biblical picture of God, as he is revealed in Scripture and in nature — powerful, uncontrollable, and able to pour out extreme violence, yet also just, merciful, and able to bless beyond all our expectations.

Snoke is clearly a bit of a creationist, but of the old-earth variety. He’s the author of A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (Amazon listing). Being an old-earth creationist explains how Snoke was able to collaborate with Michael Behe in writing a controversial article. See: Behe and Snoke.

Now that we know this isn’t a spoof, let’s look at some excerpts from today’s article in the Ironton Tribune which originally attracted our attention. The bold font was added by us:

Dr. David Snoke, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh, will be visiting the Shawnee State University campus at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 13 in the Flohr Lecture at Clark Memorial Library.

Shawnee State University appears to be the “SSU” in the article’s title. Let’s read on:

He is author of “A Biblical Case for an Old Earth,” where he talks about his interpretation of the Bible and Intelligent Design. He says that the Intelligent Design movement has many facets, including political aims, an apologetic argument for the existence of God, a forum for skepticism about classic Darwinism, and a communication network for scientists doing actual science.

That’s a fair description of ID: politics, apologetics, skepticism about Darwin’s theory, and communications. No mention of doing any creationist science. We continue:

“In this talk I will discuss mostly the scientific issues involved, and why they are serious issues,” Snoke said. “I will also address some of the classic objections to ID in the science arena: Is it a science stopper? Does God-talk transgress the proper demarcation of science? Is ID an unfalsifiable hypothesis? Is it a dangerous attack on the roots of science?”

This guy is interesting. If you’re going to be in the area on 13 November, drop in and listen to what he’s got to say. If we can find a transcript, we’ll probably report on it.

We recently wrote what others have always known, that a religious person can be a scientist. We’re happy with our formulation of this notion, so we’ll repeat it here:

It’s true that a religious person can do scientific work. But that can be misleading. It’s worth pointing out that the scientific accomplishments of those men weren’t derived from scripture. It may be a trivial analogy, but it’s equally true that an athlete can be a good scientist. What does that tell us? Nothing, because athletics and science are different activities with different purposes. They require different skills and different aptitudes. One person can perform well in both fields, which demonstrates that the two activities don’t necessarily conflict with each other. But an obese clod can also be a good scientist. Again, so what? The presence or absence of athletics is irrelevant to science. Compatibility doesn’t imply collaboration; co-existence doesn’t imply inter-dependence; and exclusivity doesn’t imply opposition.

But now we need to add a proviso, and it’s this: When a religion requires reality-denial, its doctrines will be scientifically barren.

In the light of that, although Snoke is a creationist, we suspect that such beliefs don’t spill over into his physics.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “David Snoke: Creationist Physicist?

  1. Gabriel Hanna

    No, he is not the only creationist physicist; I’ve known a couple, and even a creationist biologist.

    Physics is not a mental immunization. A. K. Dewdney is a physicist who wrote a book about bad science (“Yes, We Have No Neutrons”), and then became a 9/11 Truther.

    I know physicists who are afraid of GMO food and nuclear power, too.

  2. Curmudgeon: “That’s a fair description of ID: politics, apologetics, skepticism about Darwin’s theory, and communications. No mention of doing any creationist science.”

    Actually it’s “pseudoskepticism,” which I have heard described as “I have no dog in the fight,” to which is replied “so that explains why you take pot shots at the black dog and ignore the white dog.”

    When I first read about the Behe & Snoke paper years ago I figured that Snoke was a real scientist who just “held his nose” to work with Behe because the paper really didn’t challenge evolution, and even supported it according to some reviewers.

    His admissions amaze me two ways. First is the blatant apologetics that the DI tried so hard to “distance itself” from, at least before Dover. Second is not only a criticism of YEC, but accusing it of the same “closed mindedness” as “Darwinism.” The DI is either fuming, or cocky confident that few of us will exploit this latest example of the hopeless disarray in the big tent.

  3. This keeps getting better. At Snoke’s website he lists a link to the common-descent-denying OEC group “Reasons to Believe” and has an article titled “In Favor of God-of-the-Gaps Arguments.” AIUI the DI is still trying to deny that it’s arguments are “God-of-the-Gaps”, not defend the tactic.

    Keep talking David!

  4. Mark Adam Proctor

    Sniping.

    First and most important is the fact that many (and probably most) of the believing scientists throughout history do their science because of the Scriptures. The assumption science takes that the universe is rational/causal stems naturally from the belief in an intelligent Creator. No such parallel is offered in a universe without one.

    As for the confused thoughts about what the ID movement is, he was describing the MOVEMENT. That is the people and cultures involved… not the science and arguments. I hope you can tell the difference between Darwinism and the Darwinist movement. If not, it makes sense why you can’t understand a guy like Snoke.

  5. Mark Adam Proctor says:

    The assumption science takes that the universe is rational/causal stems naturally from the belief in an intelligent Creator. No such parallel is offered in a universe without one.

    Not quite. We’ve dealt with this a time or two before. See: Creationist Wisdom — Example 56.

  6. Mark Adam Proctor

    The question “Why science?” leads back to the moral problem: Why have morality at all when life, nature, and history are “not moral”? . . . t is still a metaphysical faith upon which our faith in science rests—even we seekers after knowledge today, we godless anti-metaphysicians still take our fire, too, from the flame lit by a faith that is thousands of years old, that Christian faith which was also the faith of Plato, that God is the truth, that truth is divine. —But what if this should become more and more incredible, if nothing should prove to be divine any more unless it were error, blindness, the lie—if God himself should prove to be our most enduring lie?
    – Nietzsche

    What do you think about his reasoning