1.21.2006

What Happens When Creationism Embraces Darwin? Peace!? Possibly...
An Old Idea Gets New Attention with Theistic Evolution



Know Your Creationists: Glenn Morton

from Daily Kos

Glenn Morton is a petroleum geophysicist who holds a Bachelor of Science in physics and currently makes his living as Director of Technology in charge of petrophysics, reservoir characterization, reservoir simulation and geophysical visualization, at a large independent oil company. Unlike the creationists reviewed in this series to date Glenn is unique: He fully accepts evolutionary biology, geochronology, and astronomy, along with the findings of pretty much all of science. So why does he classify himself as a Creationist and why would I do so here?

Glenn is an evangelical Christian who embraces a view called
Theistic Evolution (TE). This is the faith-based position that the universe, the solar system, the earth, and the history of life up to and including the evolution of anatomically modern humans from earlier primates, were created by God using processes created by same which humans can understand and explain to some degree through careful scientific investigation. In this view there is no contradiction possible even in principle between believing in a Creator and any valid facts gleaned from studying that Creation.

Technically this could be considered a form of Creationism as it assumes a Creator Deity which produced the universe and everything in it. But if so, Theistic Evolution is the only form of creationism which is 100% fully consistent with modern science. So I represent Glenn as such with his permission and as an admirable example, in the hope that anyone reading this doesn't get the idea that Know Your Creationists is a thinly veiled series seeking to bash religious folks out of sheer malice, by tarring them all with the embarrassment projected by a few, fanatical anti-science extremists.

Glenn accepts evolutionary biology, conventional geology, and related sub-disciplines of natural science. As a lifelong working geophysicist employed in the oil business one might assume he would have had little choice. However, it wasn't always the case that Glenn held his current view. For years after graduating college he was an active contributor to the
Institute of Creation Research (ICR) and other Young Earth Creationist (YEC) organizations. The story of how he came to reject YEC is inspiring for many of us embroiled in the Evo Vs IDC issue. It is well worth the read.



Briefly summarized, Glenn managed to get a good science education, was exposed to the evidence for an ancient earth as an entry level employee interpreting seismological data for Atlantic Richfield, and started to question the validity of the information he'd been taught by YECists not to mention the quality of their respective scientific judgments. Possessing a high degree of scientific integrity, curiosity, and intellectual honesty (All too uncommon among his creationist peers), and even in the face of a burgeoning threat to his faith which he holds dear, Glenn courageously followed the evidence where it led. And it was leading him away from YEC. He eventually came to the disappointing conclusion that not only was YEC utterly inconsistent with the evidence, but that his Young Earth Creationist peers had in many cases either knowingly or through their own ignorance misled him. In one award-winning article on the premier anti-creationism archive, Talk Origins, Glenn explains how he managed to remain under the spell of YEC for some time even when exposed to contradictory evidence and coined a term now often heard when describing this condition:
Morton's Demon.

It's critically important for readers who wish to understand and effectively counter Intelligent Design Creationist organizations that you be able to distinguish between legitimate scientists like Glenn Morton and appreciate what they have to offer, as opposed to campaigns of misinformation rife in conventional anti-science creationist organizations, regardless if you share his faith.

Appealing to the integrity, intellectual honesty, or ethics of advertising firms is pointless. So don't waste time appealing to the ethics or integrity of the
Discovery Institute and other anti-science organizations like them. They don't have any. They're a lobbying, public relations, and advertising consultant, nothing more, nothing less, and they operate under the rules of those industries which are unconstrained by the conventions of science. Appealing to their 'ethics and integrity' in hope of persuading them to be 'fair and scientific' concerning science will meet with as much success as asking a Madison Avenue marketing firm hired by PepsiCo to objectively present the case for Coca-Cola to the public in the interests of scientific accuracy and fairness.

You can however appeal to the same group of prospective 'customers' the PR/advertising shills of the anti-science movement target for misinformation. The fire power Glenn brings to that issue flows from his status as an insider in both the Christian community and Young Earth Creationism, as well as being a qualified expert in many of the relevant fields of science. This lends him a direct line into the hearts and minds of folks in the grassroots evangelical communities simply unavailable to those of us outside of it. Not only does Glenn accept modern science, he perceives and presents the discoveries of science as profound evidence for the brilliance of the Deity he accepts on the power of his faith, thus engendering not mere tolerance for science among Christians, but promoting excitement about it and open interest in learning more.




So, although I'm a skeptic who believes the underlying deities of all religions are unlikely to exist, their followers definitely do exist; and they vote to! In that light I feel Glenn is a fine role model for Christians interested in pursuing science and an excellent ambassador for his faith in the secular world. He's patient, always willing to answer e-mails personally, and discuss all kinds of issues with everyone from kids in grade school to retired pastors. He conveys an infectious enthusiasm for geology and evolutionary biology which goes a long way in combating the negative stereotypes put out by anti-science organizations. In my opinion, he and others like him are an under utilized resource that pastors and ministers should take full advantage of in protecting the interests of their congregation. I would be ecstatic to see a lot more 'creationists' like Glenn Morton. I feel, like many others who spend time opposing misguided religious assaults on science, that we're lucky to have folks like Glenn on our side. You get a guy like this in front of a church revival group who can quote Scripture, lead a prayer, demolish creationist deceptions, and offer theology compatible with science, all without even batting an eye, and any Creationist PR shill sharing the platform will become suddenly subdued and exceedingly nervous that their predatory scam will get blown apart.

As a result of all the above Glenn is universally recognized as one of the most potent forces in the battle against anti-science agendists who seek to undermine tax supported public schools and has rightfully earned the status of a celebrity of sorts within that conflict. He is a prolific writer
publishing articles on topics as diverse as Peak Oil Theory, critiques of IDC, or how to reconcile core Christian theology with the findings of science. Glenn has an impeccable reputation as a serious science professional with scores of peer reviewed articles to his name and is considered by all who know him as a straight forward, genuinely warm, individual.

Last but certainly not least, note that throughout this review I've been referring to Glenn not by his last name as was my convention for previous reviews, but by his first name. I do so partly out of respect, but mostly for the same reason I'd call anyone by their first name: I'm privileged to call Glenn Morton my friend.




And Now I Rant: Except for perhaps the name, Theistic Evolution isn't exactly a new theory. As a boy 20 to 25 years ago, I occasionally came across, always very late at night and always by accident, a religious program that step-by-step reinterpreted Genesis in a way that embraced both evolution and god. The theory proposed was essentially that god created man through evolution, not in spite of it (ID) and not in opposition to it (Creationism); nothing was "too complex" (as IDers would scream) for evolution to handle, for evolution was god's direct creation, so to speak. It worked as he designed it. I found the idea fascinating! For the first time, Christians weren't telling me that Satan planted dinosaur bones and that carbon-dating was a lie because both contradicted the Bible. That's when I realized I was dealing with ignorant kooks. Instead, these Christians accepted the facts and instead of trying to change them (into "gaps" and "theories" that supported ID), they took another look at Creationism, and cleverly finessed it into something all of us could live with. The program explained, for example, that On the First Day was not a "day" - the original word did not translate exactly as "day"; each day was instead, they proposed, millenia, during which time each phase of Earth's history unfolded - the cooling of the planet, the first sparks of life, the slow crawl of organisms from slime to sandals. Adam was created from dust, just like the Bible claims - but, they said, more specifically from the microbes and first organisms present in the dust and soil of primordial Earth - Adam's "creation" wasn't Presto! it was the birth of the first modern human from less-evolved parents. Adam was a step in human evolution, not literally the first humanoid to step on god's freshly baked Earth. I LOVED that! I always had great respect for this approach, a reversal of the Creationism denial, and over the last few years, I've wondered what ever happened to it as I've witnessed Christians abandon not only reality and science but integrity, honesty, and their very scruples in an attempt to pass off the farce of ID as a "scientific theory" that had "nothing" to do with Christianity. Those were lies. Evidence at the Dover trial showed the defendants had simply used Find/Replace at the last minute to change the words Creationism to Intelligent Design and God to Designer in a specific book about to be printed - that was the "science" of the theory - an editing trick - and that book became the bible of ID. And it was a lie from the start, an intentional, planned, and quite hostile deception to get their god into our schools. They would say organisms were "too complex" to have evolved, claiming that was fact and not the obvious opinion it is [If algebra is "too complex" for Jenny, that doesn't make algebra "too complex." Jenny is either not trying hard enough or stupid.] And the defendants would later admit in the trial that if ID was a "scientific theory," so was Astrology - which they said should now be considered science, as well. Astrology! And they said all these lies with a straight face, over and over, denying with outrage what would later be proven true - that it was a ruse, a plot, and still is. There doesn't seem to be any level too low for Christians to sink to make this a Christian Nation, and are now the most corrupt, bankrupt, and hostile religion on the planet. Anyway, that old program has crossed my mind many times in recent years - references on this blog to Adam being descended from apes come directly from their clever little theory, now called Theistic Evolution. I always wondered what ever became of the Last Christians I Ever Respected. (Well, I respect nuns a little - but that's it!) It's nice to see they are still around, and can now put the lie of ID in the grave where it belongs. This was the original Intelligent Design and was in fact intelligent and intelligently designed, with a soberness, creativity, respect, and integrity that all other Christian theories have lacked. I still feel they are ultimate wrong - after all, god is a myth, just cave paintings evolved into theology - but these Christians have my respect, as do most religions - except Christian Conservatives, who have made hate and aggression a daily script. Just like Christ would. "You mean all this time we could have been friends?" Yes, Jane. From the Culture War to the fictional War on Christmas, it's always sprung from conservative Christianity's arrogance, greed, and hostility. But not these guys. They have my respect. So kudos!

4 Comments:

Blogger Steve said...

Ducky.

January 21, 2006 7:10 PM  
Blogger franky said...

Theistic Evolution is unfortunately intellectually dishonest to borrow the idea from I AM over at the evangelical atheist. I mean think about it, if there was no garden of eden, there was no first and original sin, then what the hell did Jebus die for, the original sin of the microbes that first came to being? Come on now.

January 22, 2006 10:18 PM  
Blogger DC Peaches said...

interesting, I'm sure there are many more like Glenn. My views are similar. The only thing is that I wasn't raised that Christian.

January 22, 2006 11:15 PM  
Blogger Darren said...

I'm not sure what intellectual dishonesty to which you refer, but Theistic Evolution predates the Internet, not to mention Evangelical Atheist.

And assuming Genesis is all metaphor, the Garden of Eden, original sin, etc. can represent any number of things. I imagine a high school creative writing class can produce a few good possible interpretations given an hour.

I'd hope atheists would reserve their ire for targets more deserving. When I see Christians on one side who support Darwin and Christians on the other side who say dinosaurs were in Noah's Ark, I'm aiming my guns at that silly little boat.

January 23, 2006 3:52 PM  

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