March 4, 2006

"All of us in the modern creationism movement today would say we stand on his shoulders."

Henry M. Morris, dead at 87:
Dr. Morris was a hydraulic engineer and taught at several universities before developing his critique of evolution and a history of Earth that spans 4.5 billion years in the 1961 work "The Genesis Flood." The book, written with the theologian John C. Whitcomb, was the first to take a scholarly approach to proving the Old Testament creation story, and it argued that Noah's flood, rather than eons of erosion, sculptured the earth.

Considered the handbook of creationism, "The Genesis Flood" is in its 44th printing, having sold 250,000 copies in English.

"It was a groundbreaking work in that he basically, in this culture, in this day and age, showed that there were scientific answers to be able to defend the Christian faith and uphold the Bible's account," said Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, a group based in Kentucky. Mr. Ham said that picking up a copy of the book in Brisbane, Australia, while a graduate student in 1974 was a transformational moment in his own life.

"The grass-roots movement you see across America right now, with the school board battles, with the students questioning evolution in colleges, all of that is really in a big part due to the work of Dr. Henry Morris," Mr. Ham said. "All of us in the modern creationism movement today would say we stand on his shoulders."

Sounds like one hell of a book... and one hell of a flood.


Gerry said...

Noah warned Bush that the flood would come, and Bush did nothing.

AllenS said...

That was great, Gerry.

Harry J. Monroe, Jr. said...

I strongly disagree with the statement made by Mr. Hamm. The movement that Mr. Morris attempted to lead, which insisted on a universe less than 10,000 years old, only lived in isolated corners of the fundamentalist subculture and died long before he did. The primary challenger to neo-Darvinism now is Intelligent Design, and, while the validity of that movement can be hotly debated, it owes nothing to the thought of Mr. Morris.

Laura Reynolds said...

Monroe: correct

Creationism is really lousy science at best and misses the point entirely. If I needed proof to believe it wouldn't be faith and a universe 15 billion years old is a pretty awesome thing.

Dave said... here's the irony. This dude invokes Newton's claim that "if I have achieved great things, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants"--those giants being scientists like Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo.

And here is this idiot--this creationist--co-opting the language of one of the progenitors of modern, empirical science, Newton, for praise of the work of a man whose mission in life seems to have been to repudiate all that empiricism and scientific observation can tell us about the world.

Not only are these creationists idiots, they are abjectly so.

Ann Althouse said...

Dave: Great observation!

Dave said...

Ann, thanks.

How much you want to bet, though, that such irony was not intentional?

hoosthere said...


Exactly how is the notion of creation in opposition to science?

Frank from Delavan said...

Consider this about the ark. It's one of the main problems I have with the story, (besides building anything that large out of wood.)

40 days and 40 nights with two of everything sh*tt*ng all over.

Heraclese's job of cleaning out the Augean stables pales by comparison.

Somehow I wonder how a hydraulics engineer missed this point.

Anonymous said...

If ya'll actually read the book, you would know how the problem is solved.

Having lived in the fundamentalist subculture (aren't all cultures subcultures?), I haven't seen creationism die. And I don't know how it could be replaced by ID since everyone (except apparently all those who hold ID) think they're the same thing.

A creationist idiot.

Wade Garrett said...

I don't know anything about Mr. Morris, only that people who cite him as an inspiration are actively trying to make this nation more ignorant.

Simon said...

There was an NPR special last year which discussed the formation of the Scablands in Washington State. The geologist J. Harlen Bretz spent decades trying to pursuade the geological establishment that they were completely wrong about the formation of the scablands: the establishment were convinced that the scablands had to be the product of slow erosion over millions of years; Brest said that they were wrong, and maintained his belief - that the Scablands were created in a catastrophic flood as recently as the end of the last ice age - in the face of ridicule from the scientific establishment that spanned decades. Every name in the book, every name that Morris is called now, Brest was called.

Today, Brest's theory - the creation of the Scablands by the Missoula Floods - is orthodoxy.

So I disagree with our Hostess; I don't think Dave's point is great, I think it's faintly asinine. What I take issue with in Dave's point is that he doesn't criticize Morris' results - he criticizes (it seems to me) the entire enterprise of trying to back up Biblical ideas with emperical research. Newton did not become the hero of science he is revered as today by following orthodoxy - he did it by destroying the prevailing orthodoxy, and you can say much the same thing of every major scientific breakthrough from Gallileo to Einstein to Schrödinger to Brest. Those who are exceptional are those who do not accept the prevailing wisdom of the scientific academy; they are those who remember that a theory is a hypothesis that happens to fit the facts, not a fact itself. The mere fact that a scientific disquisition challenges commonly-held beliefs is reason enough to approach it critically, but it is illegitimate as a sole criterion for asessing its merits, as Dave seems to suggest. It seems to me that those who criticize Christians for relying on faith should applaud efforts to supplement faith with empericism. Instead, Dave seems to be criticizing them not for having faith, but for what they believe, regardless of whether those beliefs could be supported emperically; this is like the old conundrum: if a man speaks in a forest, when there is no woman present to hear him, is he still wrong?

Dave, if I've misinterpreted your point, I apologize in advance.

Ed onWestSlope said...

Simon, I agree.

When I was in College, Continental Drift was fiction.
I truly believe that the best scientists are very interested in researching the very things which could disprove the orthodoxy. It seems to me that very few of the vocal scientists are actually anxious to (or even capable of) actually doing science

Laura Reynolds said...

"It seems to me that those who criticize Christians for relying on faith should applaud efforts to supplement faith with empericism."

I've never let my faith hang on the abilty to prove certain Biblical stories as literally true. My faith is in God's grace and salvation through my belief in the risen Christ. To some that requires I must also believe that God created the world in seven days, Noah got a male and female of every animal species on the Ark (plants hmmm), that that one dude lived 700 years, etc.

The good news is I don't have to look at the splinter in their eyes.

Geology is far from exact but *one* exception does not a rule make.

amba said...

Anyone who is really interested in the real relationship between Intelligent Design and creationism, as opposed to simply assuming one is a disguised version of the other, needs to read this answer and tribute to Henry Morris by ID leading light William Dembski, written a year ago. Sample:

Even though intelligent design has emerged as the most visible banner under which evolution is now being challenged, the challenge would not exist without the efforts of Henry Morris and young earth creationists.

I myself would not be a design theorist today without them. To be sure, I am not a young earth creationist nor do I support their efforts to harmonize science with a particular interpretation of Genesis. Nonetheless, it was their literature that first got me thinking about how improbable it is to generate biological complexity and how this problem might be approached scientifically. . . .

For these reasons, I regard Henry Morris as a great man. . . . Unlike many Darwinists and theistic evolutionists, young earth creationists have been extraordinarily gracious to me, and I've always tried to return the favor. I therefore regret never meeting Henry Morris in person. I hope still to do so in this life.

Despite my disagreements with Morris and young earth creationism, I regard those disagreements as far less serious than my disagreements with the Darwinian materialists. If you will, young earth creationism is at worst off by a few orders of magnitude in misestimating the age of the earth. On the other hand, Darwinism, in ascribing powers of intelligence to blind material forces, is off by infinite orders of magnitude.

Still, it will not do to paper over our differences. Intelligent design and creationism diverge at some key points.

He then goes on to respond to Morris's criticisms in a review of his book THE DESIGN REVOLUTION. An excerpt (keep in mind that this is addressed to a Christian audience):

Are Christians who advocate intelligent design being less than faithful to Christianity? Are we embarrassed to be associated with Biblical literalism? These questions are beside the point. Christians of many stripes are ID advocates, including biblical literalists who hold to a young earth. Non-Christians, too, are ID advocates. Biblical literalism is simply not an issue for intelligent design because the problem of explaining biological complexity holds independently of the age of the earth or one's interpretation of Genesis. Moreover, no one in the ID movement claims that ID is the Gospel. If you want the Gospel, read the Bible and especially the New Testament.

ID is part of God's general revelation. Consequently, it can be understood apart from the Bible. That's why, for instance, the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies invited me to lecture on intelligent design and warmly embraced my message (this happened in October 2003). Just about anyone who is not wedded to a pure materialism agrees that some sort of design or purpose underlies nature. Intelligent design not only gives a voice to these people, but also gives them the tools to dismantle materialism.

Dismantling materialism is a good thing. Not only does intelligent design rid us of this ideology, which suffocates the human spirit, but, in my personal experience, I've found that it opens the path for people to come to Christ. Indeed, once materialism is no longer an option, Christianity again becomes an option. True, there are then also other options . . .

I think this paper is must reading for anyone who wants to understand the relationship between Christianity, ID, and creationism. (Sorry if you're not among those and I've bored you.) Dembski is very frankly a devout Christian, but while his advocacy of ID comports with his religious worldview, he really believes and cares that ID has independent scientific plausibility, and he is distinctly NOT a young-earth creationist.

Art said...

Ed on West Slope: When were you in college? I'm 55 and they talked about continental drift when I was in elementary school. And that was in Texas.

Smilin' Jack said...

I have a lot more respect for young-earth biblical literalists than for you squishy ID namby-pambies who think you can twist the Bible to say whatever you want it to say insted of what it does say. It's not the Constitution, you know.

Anyway, this is the way it is: God created the world 5000 years ago, but created it to look as if it were billions of years older, just to fool all the smartasses with their fancy three-digit IQs.

me said...

"Anyway, this is the way it is: God created the world 5000 years ago, but created it to look as if it were billions of years older, just to fool all the smartasses with their fancy three-digit IQs."

I'm actually ok with that hypothesis --- if God did that, and presumadly perfectly made all the evidence that supports scientific theories, then we can all exist happily -- scientists can believe the evidence before their eyes and religious types can believe God created everything to fool them. No protests or debates necessary -- the evidence is there, scientists log it, study it, and form theories about it, and religious types laugh behind their hands. I wish it were that easy!