Saturday, May 31, 2008

What is meant by the term "Creationist;" and to whom does it apply?

Here's a fairly interesting discussion on the meaning and accuracy of the term "creationist" that I ran across while doing a search of the term after having read and pondered Lawrence Auster's (simplistic) definition in this VFR article in which he explains to Mencius Moldbug why it is that he is definately not a creationist.

For the record Auster defines the word creationist thusly:

A creationist is someone who bases his view of evolution on the Bible.

Compare Auster's complaint about being inaccurately labeled a creationist with Aschlafly's initial post on the topic of discontinuing the term's use at "Conservapedia":

The word "creationist" is often used to express bigotry, which itself is a reason to discourage use of it. But the term is also misleading because:

it implies that either one is or is not a creationist, when in fact many lack a clearcut opinion

it implies that anyone who believes in creation is a creationist, when in fact the term doesn't mean that

it implies that it is a belief system rather than a logical and scientific conclusion

I suggest that Conservapedia stop using the term except where absolutely necessary.

As to the points made by Schlafly,

(1)if conservapedia is going to follow this advice and discontinue the use of terms because certain individuals use them disparagingly toward others, then I'm afraid that the acceptable vocabulary at conservapedia will become so limited as to make any kind of meaningful discussion on virtually any topic of importance quite literally impossible.

(2)If a person lacks a clearcut opinion about creationism, biblical or otherwise, then isn't that person ipso facto not a creationist? Until he forms a clearcut opinion on the subject, he remains, insofar as the term creationist describes one's view of an explanation for the existence of the physical universe, outside the parameters of anyone's definition of the term, does he not? In other words, contrary to Schlafly's belief that the term is misleading on that basis, a person most definately is or is not a creationist, irregardless of what the term actually and really denotes, and irrespective of whether some people use it to express bigotry. The options here seem to me to be exhausted; either one is a creationist (whatever the term means) or one is not a creationist. The grey area of not having formed a clearcut opinion on the subject puts one squarely in the not-a-creationist camp.

But since there is some confusion as to what the term signifies and to whom it should apply, what about Auster's definition, is it accurate? Is a creationist, as he says, someone who bases his view of evolution [exclusively] on the Bible? My understanding of the term has always been that it primarily refers to theists who believe the biblical account that the physical universe had a beginning (which we refer to as creation) and a beginner (which we refer to as God or Creator). So the term creationist, to my understanding, describes a person who believes in a Creator and a creation event which resembles that spoken of in the book of Genesis. Auster's definition seems to carry the implication that a creationist is someone that has read the biblical account of the creation event, and determined not to consider any alternative views that would seem to conflict with the literal interpretation of the Genesis account. But that's not what the term means is it?