Thursday, January 21, 2010

David Schwimmer: Creationism as a Cultural Issue

David Schwimmer, a professor of geology and chemistry at Columbia State University argues that creationism is more a cultural phenomenon than a scientific one and should be treated accordingly. In contrast to the science, evolution is well-studied:
Evolution is the central unifying tool around which all modern biological and paleontological science is based, and it is also fundamental to parts of biochemistry, geology, anthropology, and even pharmacology (e.g. that’s why we test drug safety on expensive monkeys rather than cheap mice — they are our close relatives).

Each of these sciences has its own specific areas where evolution applies, and they are wide ranging. But central to all is the basic fact (yes, fact) that life and earth have changed over time — which is the definition of “evolution.” How those changes occur, and the complex details, comprise the theory of evolution.

Evolutionary theory has itself evolved — after all, this is the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s “Origin of Species” and we have learned a great deal since Darwin. But his basic concept of evolution by natural selection is still at the core of the life sciences.
It is hard to convince most creationists that the young earth, flood geology model which they so dearly cling to is a very recent formulation of the Primeval History and dates to the 1930s.


  1. But central to all is the basic fact (yes, fact) that life and earth have changed over time — which is the definition of “evolution.”

    IMHO the definition of evolution above is inadequate and tries to dismiss creationism in a way that is not helpful. A melting ice cream cone displays “change over time,” but that is not evolution, at least in the sense we care about here.

    Evolution in the biological sense describes how organisms change over time such that they become better adapted to their environment. This kind of evolution is properly called “Darwinian,” in that the mechanism of natural selection is central to directing the change. As you point out, evolution not only explains how things are, but allows us to do things with practical benefits to society. Circumstantial evidence that it is true.

    However one of the main objections of Creationists and IDers is that natural selection is inadequate to explain the complexity of life. Theirs is an argument from "common sense," from folk science. The amazing thing is that the more we learn about the genome, the more we see how completely adequate Darwin's insight really is.

    So I feel that there is no getting around the scientific facts that completely debunk creationism. Dr. Schwimmer may think that treating it as a cultural issue in schools will help---I doubt it. Schools just need to teach good science, and, more importantly, churches good theology.

    By the way, nice to see you back publishing.

  2. James4:59 AM

    The one comment on that article just highlights the profound misunderstandings and really willful ignorance which people have and which allows creationism to pervade among them. I quote;
    "Why are monkeys not turning into people today? If I take a watch apart and throw it in the air will it come back together like it was? God created everything and everyone. We did not evolve. There may have been dinosaurs and other creatures before us but that doesn't mean that we evolved from them."

    Where do you even start in attempting to correct such nonsense?

  3. I have to admit, when I first read the title of your post I thought "What is the 'Friends' star doing commenting on evolution/creationism?" It's ironic that David Schwimmer played Ross on NBC's "Friends". The "Ross" character was a paleontologist and one episode of Friends dealt with Ross trying to convince the other characters that evolution was true. But now that I've read the rest of your post I realize it's a different David Schwimmer! :)

  4. Strangely enough, David Schwimmer is also an actor who played a professor of paleontology on the hit show Friends.

  5. I agree. I prefer the old standby "descent with modification" as it applies to biological organisms. I originally reacted negatively to your use of the term "Darwinian" but the more I thought about it, that is no different from using the term "Newtonian" to describe a process of physics, and is different from the term "Darwinism," which is nothing short of a pejorative used by ID and YEC supporters. I share your desire for churches teaching good theology but as long as the loudspeakers that are AIG, ICR and the Discovery Institute keep blaring, that is going to be an uphill battle.

  6. James, this is where the science education in this country has completely failed most people. As the case in Mount Vernon demonstrates, there are not adequate safeguards in place to make sure that people that are hired as science teachers know what science actually is. We like to think that everything is democratic in this country and the sad truth is that science education cannot operate that way. Things aren't scientifically supported because a majority of people thinks they ought to be. They either are or they aren't.

  7. So is it or is it not the same guy? Or is this another "Brian May" sort of thing?

  8. David R. Schwimmer, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and geology at Columbus State University.
    David Lawrence Schwimmer, actor and director of television and film

    In a head to head match up in the 100 meter back stroke, who would be the better schwimmer?

  9. Heh. When my family bought I first fish I wanted to name him David Swimmer.

  10. Jim,

    You are so funny! Darwinians have spent millions and millions to write and try to confirm their theory of evolution.

    After literally billions have been spent, they only have E. Coli after 44,000 generations still producing E. Coli.

    I think if we took the same amount of money and spent it on Creationism research, there would also be an avalanche of research that a person could point to support the Creationist viewpoint.

    Since neither has been directly observed and we only have evidence for 5,000 years of actual observed history, it is pretty safe to say that we really don't know what happened. Every worldview uses assumptions and we don't know if these are justified or not scientifically as they remain unobseved.

    I just wish Darwinians would start being open minded and allow diversity. I think they have had more than enough time to demonstrate their theory and enough money has been put towards the theory that we can safely say it was a waste of money.

    Instead of fighting for indoctrination. You should really be pushing for academic freedom.

    Climategate is just the touch of the iceberg for these Darwinians who use the current system to indoctrinate our kids rather than promote freedom of research and thought. We need an open system.

    God Bless..

  11. After literally billions have been spent, they only have E. Coli after 44,000 generations still producing E. Coli.

    ZDENNY, if that's all the evidence you've heard of for the theory of evolution, you need to dig a little deeper.