Where is the next generation of creation scientists? I don’t mean the next generation of believers in creation science but the next generation of young-earth experts who will continue the legacy of Morris, Austin, Humphreys, Woodmorappe, Wood, Bergman, Oarde, Baumgardner, etc… I believe that this has to be a question that many of the first-generation creation scientists have to be asking themselves at this time.
How is a new creation scientist generated? Obviously educational indoctrination with YEC literature from the youngest age is critical to form a younger generation with the appropriate young-earth view. Of those the hope is that some might wish to become scientists and take on the task of creation science. However, what is more likely is that the fervor of youth for creation science is not for the science but the perceived apologetic value of the young-earth message. Many aspire not be researchers and understand God’s general revelation but rather they aspire to be Ken Ham. I have met many Ken Ham wannabes and someday one might become another Ken Ham but Ken Ham is a communicator not a scientist. He defends with rhetoric which he presumes is backed up by legitimate scientists doing real research to show that his claims about science are true. In a similar fashion many people may become politicians but politicians rarely do the grunt work of crunching numbers and actually generating the nuts and bolts of the bills they espouse. There have to be people there to collect the data that politicians use.
So, the more important question is: Where is the next generation of scientists who will continue the process of producing a coherent scientific model of the history of a young world? I realize that many will be reading thinking to yourselves, but young earth creationism never was a science and is solely based solely on rhetoric. But I am looking at this from the Christian layperson view of creation science. These are the people who have kids that ask: why aren’t there dinosaurs anymore and why are lemurs only found on Madagascar? They are looking for scientific answers couched within the context of an earth that is only 6000 years old. They expect that Christian scientists will have scientific answers to these questions.
These individuals don’t believe Ken Ham just because he is Ken Ham although I am sure there are many that mistake Ken Ham for a scientist and theologian. They believe Ken Ham partly because they believe that Ken Ham is standing on the shoulders of experts that have scrutinized the scientific and Biblical evidence. Ken Ham and other creation science spokesperson’s credibility is based on the perception that they have evidence to back up their claims. And YEC leaders like Ken Ham feed this belief. They are constantly making claims that a young earth is backed by a chorus of Christian PhD scientists who have dedicated their careers to providing evidence for such claims.
But what happens when all that really exists are flourishes of rhetoric including appeals to the products of a past generation of creation scientists for legitimacy? One of the mantras of young earth creationists organizations over the years has been that they need money to do their own research which would help to even the playing field with secular science. This research, though not necessarily persuasive, would provide further evidence to the secular scientific world that their theories for the earth’s origin are better or at least making a case for being an alternative contender in scientific world. They also believed they just needed time to convince their skeptical colleagues.
It is obvious that this was the great hope of modern young-earth creationist founder George McCready Price in the earth 20th century and then by Whitcomb and Morris in the 1960s who nearly 30 years ago now made attempts to have creation science incorporated into secular education curricula. I think the expectation 60 years ago was that by now there would be hundreds of Christian young-earth-believing scientists who would be so convinced of this young earth model that their views would snowball and become commonplace in mainstream literature by sheer force of the evidence.
Has creation science been a success?
Any person who has donated to this effort over the past 20 years has to wonder if they are getting what they were promised. Yes, there is a fancy creation museum, an ark replica, lots of publicity, tons of print and digital media and polls that suggest that large numbers of the public believe the earth is young. That sounds like a lot of success. But, the bottom line is that in terms of convincing scientists – both Christian and secular – and future scientists that young earth theories actually work and can be used as a legitimate alternative for understanding the origins and development of the earth’s geological formations, success would not be an accurate characterization of reality.
Real success would involve individuals who have the background to understand the data and evaluate the models because they have studied the processes involved and been involved in actual research (gone into the field, collected data, analyzed data, written about it and been reviewed by their peers to test the logic of their conclusions) becoming convinced that the young earth models are viable theories. Success would be seeing scientists use creationist’ models to make new predictions and make new discoveries about the world.
Any upstart movement or cause can sustain itself for a time by shaping perceptions and beliefs through rhetoric but to sustain itself over time those beliefs and perceptions must be under-girded with ideas that can be intelligently defended and stand the test of time. Henry Morris laid out a lot of hypotheses in his Genesis Flood manifesto in the 1950s. Many of these lacked any evidence or had been tested at the time. Rather, he hoped that his framework for flood geology would be tested and improved with the gaps of knowledge filled in by future generations of creation scientists.
I am sure that most creation scientists would argue that much has been learned since the publication of The Genesis Flood and of course those ideas have been much discussed and have changed somewhat over time but I would counter that the theories today are not much more sophisticated today than they were then. For those that never found the arguments in The Genesis Flood convincing there aren’t many more compelling reasons today to believe in flood geology than there was 60 years ago.
Returning to the question of where are the future generations of creation scientists? I am not suggesting that there isn’t some young blood in the movement. Answers in Genesis has had some younger hires in the last decade some of which have fairly fresh PhDs in scientific fields but at AIG most of their time is spent giving talks and writing newsletter articles rather than doing any scientific research. They filter news stories and form creationists responses to secular science stories but they are rarely generating new data or doing the work of creating a positive testable scientific paradigm.
One notable exception may be their newest employee, Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson who is tasked with coming up with some sort of genetic basis for the post-flood hyper-evolution hypothesis that the AiG is promoting. In a way they decided long before doing any research that ark “kinds” could evolve into thousands of new species in just a few thousand years and now they are trying to find some science to fit their theory.
Creation Ministries International (CMI) has a couple of PhD scientists on staff that received their degrees within the past 20 years and are active writers in creation science journal (more about these journals in my next post). The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) has had two legitimate younger PhD scientists (Jeanson and Lisle) both of which were actively engaged in some research and writing but lost Jeanson to AiG. Lisle was at AiG and a few years ago had come over from AIG possibly to be more involved in research since his ability to do so at AIG would have been quite limited. I’ve been critical of both Lisle and Jeanson in the past (The Salty Sea and the Age of the Earth) but that isn’t the point of my post here.
ICR had a graduate school offering degrees in biology and geology for at least 15 years. Part of the goal of this graduate school was to train the next generation of creation scientists. Where did they all go? I don’t know how many graduates they produced but I have found fewer than five creationist scientists on the payrolls of organizations today that list a graduate degree by ICR in their educational background. I have to believe that when Henry Morris formed ICR and his graduate school of creation science he envisioned hundreds of scientists today actively applying the creation model to the historical sciences not just mouthing support for it. That former obviously hasn’t happened despite the proliferation of creation science organizations with their significant financial resources and publishing capacity Creationists list hundreds of PhD scientists who are creation scientists but this is not the same as saying there are hundreds of creation scientists doing creation science. The majority of these PhD scientists are simply scientists who are Christians and believe in the cause of creation science and most are likely not even familiar with the evidence for creation science.
I’m not saying there aren’t any young creation scientists who are making an impact. I’m saying that for a movement that claims the evidence is overwhelming for a young earth and with 30 solid years of training and recruiting scientists to take up the mantle of creation science, the response has been rather underwhelming.
The lack of robust and growing intellectual support for the cause of creation science is one weakness of what appears to be a growing and successful movement as measured by dollars and followers.
This post is a revised and updated version of a post that I published in 2012. Very little has changed in the past three years. This was also a follow-up of a previous post: Creation Science Organizations: Past, Present and Future