This part one of a two-part series.
As someone who follows the creation-evolution debate quite closely I take advantage of lots of free newsletter links that organizations make available, from Science magazine to local creationist organizations like Chuck Missler’s Koinonia House over in Coeur D’Alene, to that Mount Olympus of Intelligent Design, Seattle’s Discovery Institute.
Thanks to the DI’s Nota Bene emails I learned recently that several of their members would be giving a presentation on “Science & Faith: Friends or Foes?” at a Seattle church on the last weekend in May, and that (unlike a lot of their activities) this was a free event and I would be available to attend. Well, I couldn’t pass that up, giving me an opportunity to compare their milieu with that of their Young Earth Creationist rivals, the bigger brasher Answers in Genesis set (whose Mike Riddle blew into town a couple of years ago to hold court on dinosaurs, the flood, and radiocarbon dating diamonds at a local mega church).
The lead speaker at the DI event was C. John Collins, Old Testament theology professor at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, who evidently taught one of the pastors at the Greenlake Presbyterian Church, thus establishing a personal inspirational conduit for how the ID concepts percolated through to this show.
Unlike the big modern Spokane mega church (with its fine tiling and its own food court), the Greenlake Presbyterian is an older wood frame church nestled in the quiet hilly neighborhood clustered around the very scenic Greenlake pond in north Seattle. Also unlike the Answers in Genesis show (which drew a packed house of many hundreds) the small church had plenty of empty seating through the two days of the lectures.
Demographically they looked comparable to the AIG audience: mainly middle aged but some younger, couples and families rather than singletons and by and large white. None of that came as much of a surprise (a typical meeting of atheists in this region would look pretty similar). But there were some unexpected details. Though it was still explicitly defending a Christian view of the “faith” about which the science was to be related, unlike the AIG show (and other creationist presentations I have attended over the years) this one was not integrated as part of the worship service (with invocations, bowed heads and so forth).
Of more significance is that I had plenty of opportunity to chat up some of the attendees before the talks, where I discovered that quite a few had some distinct doubts about the whole ID concept, and many were very adamant that they didn’t like Young Earth Creationism. This reflected a very different level of skepticism compared to the monolithic glee club adherence to YEC claims by the AIG attendees here in Spokane.
As it happens, there was at least one Young Earth Creationist attending there with his wife, but he reflected the generally vague notion of what he did believe in that he didn’t perceive the Discovery Institute position as a doctrinally dangerous accommodation with standard geochronology (as AIG and the Institute for Creation Research decidedly do), and during the Q&As he made no effort to bring that issue up.
Perhaps more interesting was the apparent absence of any members of the Seattle skeptical community. Maybe they didn’t know about the show (don’t they get Nota Bene?) but if any of that gang were aware of it and failed to attend, well that struck me as most interesting. If I could haul in all the way from Spokane, what exactly was keeping Seattle area skeptics from keeping track of the opposition? Harrumph!
Check back to read about how the debate shaped up.
Jim Downard is a Spokane native (with a sojourn in Southern California back in the early 1960s) who was raised in a secular family, so says had no personal faith to lose. He’s always been a history and science buff (getting a bachelor’s in the former area at what was then Eastern Washington University in the early 1970s).