Creative, Certainly, But A Bit Of a Jump

According to this study, while people may outwardly be all for creativity they are, nevertheless, biased against it in favour of pragmatism. This is possibly because of a desire to decrease risk and uncertainty. The study seems to be well done and referenced* – they even have one to back up the claim that “Creative ideas are both novel and useful” for goodness sake – so I’ll believe it, at least until I see some evidence to the contrary.

I am mentioning it here because it is the premise of the latest DpSU from the ICR’s Brian Thomas, called Study Says People Subconsciously Resist Creative Ideas. Mr Thomas asks:

Could this explain why some also reject the idea of a Creator?

Because, of course, the idea of there being a creator is inherently creative.

In fact I do agree with that – indeed, it’s the best admission I’ve seen from the ICR that the creation story is made up, rather than ‘divinely inspired’ as is usually claimed. I took a screenshot (well, had one made) of this article for future reference in-case this gem disappears like the Youth Ministry one did a while back. But I digress.

Apparently, people tend to be governed by a deep-seated desire to maintain a sense of certainty. New ideas can trigger discomfort, since they introduce unfamiliar possibilities. The study authors cited research demonstrating that people have “a strong motivation to diminish and avoid” feelings of uncertainty. As a result, many will reject ideas that threaten feelings of certainty, regardless of whether or not those ideas have merit.

This is deeply ironic, coming from the organisation whose motto is “Biblical. Accurate. Certain.” Remember kids – it’s the YECs who are certain. ‘Evolutionists’ are only certain that creationism isn’t true, and even then we’re not talking about the same degree of intense certainty and fervour that the fundies have.

The idea of a Creator is often unwelcome to those who have assumed that God either does not exist or is not responsible for the origin of the world. Many scientists have been expelled from their jobs or research positions due to their willingness to entertain new and creative origins ideas that venture outside the dictates of evolutionary dogma.4 In light of Goncalo and his colleagues’ research, it could be that those who expelled such scientists feared risk to themselves and/or social rejection if they entertained possibilities outside those sanctioned by their hidebound associates.

Cite 4 in this article is to a book called Slaughter of the Dissidents, about which I couldn’t find much (though I’m sure I’ve heard of it before) but the idea of which is basically same as the movie Expelled, which I touched on last week on a different topic. A moment’s search led to this page on the Expelled Exposed website, which I want to share some excerpts from.

With statements like, “The questioning of Darwinism was a bridge too far for many,” Ben Stein wants viewers of Expelled to believe that scientists subscribe to an unquestioned Darwinian orthodoxy, and that those who dare to question “Darwinism” will quickly be silenced.

No one denies it is difficult to get a new scientific idea accepted, but that isn’t the same as claiming that the doors of science are slammed shut to those who challenge the status quo. … Because scientists have to fight hard to get their ideas accepted, good ideas win out – when they are proven to be sound. Intelligent design advocates [and other creationists], in contrast, have no research and no evidence, and have repeatedly shown themselves unwilling to formulate testable hypotheses; yet they complain about an imagined exclusion, even after having flunked the basics.

The article goes on to list a number of “people who have challenged the scientific status quo and, far from being “expelled” from science, were lauded as visionaries – once they had successfully proven their ideas.” These include examples that challenged the ‘established evolutionary paradigm,’ as it were, and are quite interesting. Go over there and read them.

So the scientific consensus can be and is challenged regularly. There is no unchallengeable orthodoxy…The preceding stories are just a few well-known examples of biologists who challenged the scientific consensus, including principles of Mendelian genetics and of Darwinian evolution. These scientists prevailed because they did good science: they backed their challenges with successful predictions and empirical evidence. And, they were right. Scientists are constantly questioning, refining, and expanding theories, including evolution – and natural selection theory. As Michael Shermer writes, “Anyone who thinks that scientists do not question Darwinism has never been to an evolutionary conference.”

The difference between what scientists do and what [creationists] do is that when scientists question aspects of evolution they do it with science, while [creationists] do it with dishonest movies, tired slogans, and slick marketing.

I think that about answers it. The tortured legal proceedings with people declaring that they have been unfairly discharged etcetera are, frankly, both boring and irrelevant. As an interesting aside the ICR demands that people who want to go through its degree program and work for them must sign something to the effect that they will always support creationism. This article is truly a rich vein of irony…

Thus, perhaps the idea of a Creator is rejected not because it is a bad idea, but merely because it stirs feelings of uncertainty in the minds of those who have subscribed to evolution (whether or not the evidence supports it).

Certainly, the opposite is true.

This seems to me to be an example of a wider meme among creationists of all stripes – evolution is flawed and our preferred type of creationism is going to win out in a great paradigm shift, possibly after we get rid of all the atheists who are ideologically opposed to it.

This is silly. When we found that the Milky way was not the only thing in the universe, and that many of the various nebulas that we saw in our telescopes were actually galaxies in their own right, we did not return to geocentrism. When Newtonian gravity was found not to work quite right, we did not return to the medieval idea that cannonballs fell first in the circumference of a circle, and then straight down. Indeed, Newtonian gravity, while proven to be wrong, is still taught in schools.

Equally, should evolution ever be modified in a similar way, we will even then probably teach it in schools – what we do teach is likely to be far less advanced than the place where what is known now and what will then be known break from each other anyway. Certainly we will not return to Creationism.

While at first reading intelligent design has the potential to do what Young Earth Creationism cannot (it would still need to scientifically prove itself, mind), the movement is certainly in no shape to do so and its reliance on some supernatural entity which can be credited for anything and everything but about which nothing can be determined does not help. See here for more on those lines.

*I do have one reservation when it comes to the study. If I heard about a “running shoe with nanotechnology that adjusted fabric thickness to cool the foot and reduce blisters”  and it was described with words like ‘novel’ and ‘inventive’ I would consider the shoe to be untested and, frankly, unlikely to come to market (I mean, nanotechnology?). However, if words like ‘practical’ and ‘functional’ were used I would assume that a higher level of research had been done and it actually might work out. Naturally, I would rate the second shoe more positively – wouldn’t you? I would say that this does not help the wider conclusions drawn by the authors in this study, and certainly not Mr Thomas’, as it suggests that the reason for the effect that they saw is more rational and conscious than subconscious.


One thought on “Creative, Certainly, But A Bit Of a Jump

  1. Apropos of your use of the “p” word, I wonder if Mr. Thomas has ever read “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” — Kuhn is probably a bit subtle for someone who thinks there’s a giant conspiracy to keep the truth down, rather than recognizing his struggle as the rearguard action by the holdout partisans of a discredited paradigm. But perhaps there’s hope.

    …Or, no. On reflection, there would probably just be quote-mining. Never mind…


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