Using terms that evolutionists understand can help to undermine their own belief system
A friendly supporter writes in to comment on a Gary Bates newsletter. Gary’s reply follows.
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.
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.
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.
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).