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Loaded terms

Using terms that evolutionists understand can help to undermine their own belief system


Published: 10 November 2013 (GMT+10)

A friendly supporter writes in to comment on a Gary Bates newsletter. Gary’s reply follows.


Dear Gary,
I was encouraged, as usual, by the latest Creation Update [August, 2013]. In it you mention “the interpretations of secular science … ” I wonder if we should use the term ‘secular belief system’ to both make the point that it is a belief system that we are dealing with and not ‘science’ per se, and to also convey that we understand that science is about facts understood through a belief system, and that the processes of science should be clearly understood as constrained by belief systems. I am wary that the phrase ‘secular science’ will reinforce to some people that our views are removed from the shared arena of science, and are confined to some self-referential area that is immune to normal scientific discussion. I realise, of course, that people who adopt a secular belief system are resistant to normal scientific discussion, particularly as it threatens their underlying world-view.

Hi David,

I understand your position and empathize with your points. The term you propose is correct and I agree with you. But the reason I use the term I do is that I think that using the expression ‘belief system’ might actually disengage the person who thinks there is all sorts of scientific evidence to support evolution—the opposite of what you are proposing in some way. Let me explain my reasoning.

… most people think or have been taught that evolution is ‘science’.

I kind of like to use a step by step process. This is because most people think or have been taught that evolution is ‘science’. So rather than be confronting to the point that they might switch off by calling it a ‘belief system’ straight off, my preference is to call evolution an interpretation of secular science. This makes the point that there can actually be different interpretations to start with. This hopefully opens the door to further discussion because most people think that science is just about facts that speak for themselves and don’t require interpretation. If they have a ‘huh?’ moment when they hear the term ‘interpretation of science’, then it is a lot easier to point out that the interpretations actually depend upon one’s belief system, or simply how one has been trained to interpret facts within a framework. And of course most people have only been given one framework—evolution and billions of years—to the exclusion of everything else. See ‘It’s not science’.

Another term I have modified in recent years is the way we use the word ‘evidence’. I often recall watching those CSI forensic investigation shows on TV. One of their favourite mantras was ‘the evidence never lies’. This reinforces the idea that somehow the evidence speaks for itself and that somehow it is not interpreted. I actually think this is a misuse of the term. Instead, I like to point out that we all have the same ‘facts’—the same fossils and rocks etc., just like the crime scene investigator might have some blood and hair samples at the scene of the crime. There is nothing about those facts, without a hypothesis or a theory on how they got there, that tells him who committed the crime. He will interpret those facts along with other sources of information (like testimonies). Once he has a theory in place he can then claim it as ‘evidence’ for his theory/belief/hypothesis. As creationists we do the same thing. A good article about this is called The ‘knockout punch’ syndrome.

… we have to play their game so they can understand the points we are actually trying to make.

A major point is to actually use terms that evolutionists are familiar with (which, sadly, means most people, because everyone has been exposed to this teaching). For example, there has been a recent move by some creationists to stop using the term ‘natural selection’ because they feel it is a really loaded statement. I.e. most think that natural selection is the mechanism for evolution. Some creationists feel it is dishonouring to God because ‘nature’ is not some conscious living entity that makes a choice about selection. Of course this is correct. The DNA of every created organism or ‘kind’ was ‘front loaded’ with enough information to enable it to survive and adapt in a post-Fall and post-Flood environment—filling all sorts of environmental niches around the world. But by denying the term natural selection it is kind of like battling on two fronts. Often evolutionists argue that creationists deny natural selection. We can point out that we don’t, but by the very mechanism they profess and have themselves labeled, it doesn’t work because overwhelmingly it causes downhill changes in genetic information, which is the opposite of what evolution requires.

The reality is, the holders of the ruling paradigm (evolution) define the terms and to some extent we have to play their game so they can understand the points we are actually trying to make. A good article on this discussion is called Defining terms. It’s much more powerful to show the fallibility of one’s belief system before replacing it with another. That’s what they actually try to do to us by getting Christians to believe in evolution. This follows the Scriptural admonition to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

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Readers’ comments
ian B., United Kingdom, 15 November 2013

Just a small thought, if people believe in God does it matter that they dont accept Genesis, they wont be saved or become unsaved by a "correct" or "incorrect" view, salvation only begins by calling out to God and salvation only continues by cleaving to Him , not from firstly accepting a 6 literal days creation story , or even arriving there later . The important thing is that they are there , with Him.You may well present counter arguments that make people think, and they may receive a conviction from God in that process and turn to Him , and for that , God bless you. I dont want to appear as devils advocate here, but it is often said to evolutionists who claim millions of years.."How do you know..were you there?" This gets uncomfortable if we as creationists are asked the same question, "How do YOU know... were you there?" There is no way of truly knowing other than faith, usually in the written word but this "faith" is exactly the same process evolutionists use. So if people believe in God but dont accept Genesis (I do believe in Genesis by the way) dont be too hard on them. They may be uninformed, they may not be taking all of God.s word seriously enough but most importantly of all and far more important than the downside of not accepting your position on this......They are saved.

Gary Bates responds

Ian, we wouldn't disagree with you so I am not sure why you are trying to make this point. It kind of implies that we think belief in creation is some sort or prerequisite for salvation, which is clearly not our position. Respectfully, you could have searched our site to find out this. For example, see Do I have to believe in a literal creation to be a Christian?. I hope this clarifies our position for you.

Michael I., United States, 12 November 2013

Fantastic response to the comment Mr. Bates. I truly enjoy reading the articles that CMI publishes. I never have been an evolutionist, theistic evolutionist or old earth creationist for that matter, but I’ve also never had any ground to stand on whenever these subjects came up until I found CMI. I appreciate the approach you take by, in a sense, softening a system of belief before attempting to change it. Most people shut down and shut out the opposition if the foundation of their belief is attacked from the start. I have experienced this recently with one individual. Thanks to all at CMI, God bless.

Don D., Canada, 11 November 2013

Hi Gary, This was a very enlightening discussion between you and David, but I would then propose you go one step further and eliminate the word "secular". By so doing, you are removing from view the very dichotomy (a false dichotomy, by the way) between science and religion. The focus should rightly be placed on the fact that evidence is always being interpreted and thus may well lend support to various viewpoints. One of the tragedies Christians face is that the "secular" position has been granted the high ground (in our culture) of "fact" versus "faith". The very Bible we believe reveals TRUTH says that "the heavens declare the glory of God" and "since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen". The "highest" ground is the realm of heaven, the author of the ground we walk on. He was there at the beginning and He has deigned to communicate the true history in His Word.

One way or another though, with or without the word "secular", keep up the good work.

Daniel J., United States, 10 November 2013

Maybe you can use the term secular "science." The terms science implies that you know evolution or whatever it is you're talking about is supposed to be science, while the quotes imply that you think it really isn't science. Perhaps that will intrigue people to read more to see why it is you think that?

Mike R., United States, 10 November 2013

The commenter, Gary, wrote in to comment on an article by David with a very plausible concern and David answered with one of the best, soundest answers. Both were outstanding and educational for all readers.


Gary Bates responds

Thanks for the kudos Mike, but just to clarify that you had the names the wrong way around. David was the commenter and Gary (me) responded. All the best.

Sid G., United States, 10 November 2013

As an honors biology teacher at a college prep Christian high school, I agree with Gary's sensitive strategy. Keeping secular listeners engaged by using their own language is the most effective way to guide them step by step to the roots of their own "science" beliefs. For example, even though some creationists do not like using the terms micro vs. macro evolution, I've found that they can be very effective "steps" leading dialogue with secular scientists to creation truths when the terms are defined and explained well. These terms are used throughout the secular biology textbooks and journals, so we can use them (as Paul used secular phrases in Acts 17) to expose secular misconceptions. In this case, the erroneous "belief" that evolutionary change merely involves little changes vs. big changes. Most people versed in secular biology know the terms microevolution and macroevolution but are unaware that the direction of change (upward or downward) is the real issue, not the amount of change. My experience using these secular biology terms is that they can be effective stepping stones to the root errors of the evolutionary hypothesis (Greek = underlying belief) that mutations over time could have generated sufficient new (upward change) bio-info to make the new bio-structures and bio-systems to end up with the amazing biodiversity that fills the biosphere. When the evidence that mutations over time inescapably destroy bio-info (downward change - devolution) is presented against the macro change "belief system", as Dr. Sanford has demonstrated in his book, GENETIC ENTROPY, I've seen the light finally go on in the minds and faces of many die hard physicians, biologists, etc.

Henk J., Australia, 10 November 2013

CMI needs to return to the Bible and depart from secular scientific belief. For example, a sacred idol is that time is not absolute because man cannot signal faster than the speed of light (c). Yet how do we know that the Author of the laws of physics cannot signal faster than "c"? Yet CMI's scientists go along with that secular assumption but has CMI proved this? I know of no human theory (conjecture) I can trust. Similarly how can a mathematics based on the non-existent (sic!) Square Root of Negative One be a meaningful science with which to prove anything?

Gary Bates responds

Henk, respectfully, it appears you are straw man building with such an accusation, and it shows that you have obviously not bothered to research the very organization that you would level such an unfortunate comment against, which was that we apparently believe in secular science. First, there are over 9,000 articles on this site that primarily deal with the debunking of evolution theory, which masquerades as secular science. And secondly, it might serve you well to define what science is even before you engage fellow creationists, let alone evolutionists. See, for example It's not science. And the 'author of the laws of physics'? Sorry, I'm not even sure what that is supposed to mean.

Moreover, I'm also surprised that you would accuse us of believing in secular science when in a previous response to an article on this site you advocated a novel way of inserting millions of years into Genesis. However, your view was just a variant of the old canard called 'gap theory'. What's ironic is that millions of years is not derived from Scripture. it is an outside secular idea determined by an incorrect interpretation of the world's geology. So you are the one who is actually deferring to secular science by trying to find gaps to put the MOYs in Scripture. Would you also mind reading What is your authority?

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