Creationism and Scientism: One Mindset, Two Belief Systems

Creationism and Scientism appear to disagree on almost everything but, as B Alan Wallace examines, they share much more in common than either group would like to admit.

While advocates of creationism and scientism appear to disagree on almost everything, upon closer examination, they share much more in common than either group would like to admit.

The fundamental article of faith of creationists is that they alone hold the key to understanding reality, and that is the divine revelation found in the Bible.  No other texts that are deemed by members of other religions to be sacred or to express divine knowledge are given any credence. Any evidence that is incompatible with a literal reading of the Bible is either ignored or interpreted in such a way that it conforms to their belief system.

The Christian Bible consists of the Old and New Testaments, but it was Christian theologians, not God, who decided which books would be included and which excluded from the Old Testament. Likewise, during the centuries when the New Testament was compiled, it was Christian theologians who decided which gospels and letters of the apostles to include and which to exclude. While creationists believe that every word of the Bible expresses the infallible word of God, it was fallible humans, and not God, who decided which texts were infallible, divine revelations.

The fundamental article of faith of advocates of scientism is that scientists alone hold the key to understanding reality, and that key is the range of scientific methods accepted by the orthodox scientific community.  No other methods of inquiry employed by non-scientists or by scientists who refuse to confine their research to conform to the beliefs of scientific materialism are given any credence. Any evidence that is incompatible with scientific materialism is either ignored or interpreted in such a way that it conforms to this belief system.

While the pioneers of the Scientific Revolution acknowledged the authority of two books–the Bible as the one book of divine revelation, and the book of Nature–advocates of scientism utterly reject the former and rely solely on the latter. But, like the theologians who decided what to include and what to exclude from their Book of Divine Revelation, materialogians also take it upon themselves to decide what to include and what to exclude from the Book of Nature.

This Book is comprised of only four “gospels,” namely, space, time, matter, and energy, as defined by humans, not by Nature. These are the aspects of the natural world that can be measured using the tools of modern science, and only they are deemed to be “real.” Thus, according to this belief system, all of reality is comprised solely of these four elements and their emergent properties and functions. When astronomers, for instance, find that 47 percent of the forces in the universe are unaccounted for, they simply make up new categories of matter and energy–namely, “dark” matter and energy–about which they know nothing, to account for the origin of those inexplicable forces. As an unquestioned article of faith, the whole of Book of Nature must be understood within the framework of their Four Gospels. No non-physical elements can be considered by the faithful.  After all, according to this dogma, if scientists can’t measure something with their current instruments of technology–which are able to detect only objective, physical, quantifiable phenomena–then that “something” must be deemed either nonexistent or else equivalent to something they can measure.

One such “something” is consciousness. Thus far, scientists have been unable to define it or measure it, nor do they know what causes it or how states of consciousness causally interact with the brain. This is equally true of subjective experience at large, including all mental processes. From a first-person perspective, all states of consciousness and mental processes–such as thoughts, emotions, and desires–are subjective, non-physical, and qualitative. Although their neural correlates are measurable using the tools of neuro-technology, the subjective experiences correlated to those neural functions are not. Moreover, the actual nature of these mind-brain correlations remains unknown. But this fact does not phase the true believers in scientism. First-person experience and insights into the nature of the mind and its relation to the body are deemed Inadmissible. Such evidence is subjective and not physical, so it is dismissed as being unreliable and illusory.

Faced with the choice of either denying the existence of subjective states of consciousness altogether, or else insisting that they are physical, despite all the contrary evidence, materialists generally choose the latter option. All known functions and emergent properties of physical entities throughout the known universe are themselves physical and can therefore be measured with the instruments of technology. Subjective mental states are undetectable by all instruments of technology, for they bear no physical characteristics. But materialists turn a blind eye to this inconvenient truth and blithely promote the glib sound bite, “the mind is what the brain does.” In their minds or–if we accept their creed–in their brains, the problem is solved by simply denying that there is a problem.

As for the origins of consciousness, advocates of this dogma assert that a primitive measuring device such as a thermostat has a primitive degree of consciousness, and that more complex information-processing systems, up to and including human beings, have correspondingly more complex states of consciousness. To accept this “great chain of conscious being,” all you have to accept is that thermostats have primitive, first-person experience of heat and cold. Or advocates of panpsychism go even further in claiming that elementary particles have the most primitive degree of consciousness, which becomes increasingly complex according to the complexity of configurations of matter and energy.

There is, of course, no empirical evidence that thermostats–whose workings are thoroughly understood without any magical inclusion of consciousness–let alone elementary particles, have any subjective experience, or consciousness, whatsoever. The assertion that they are conscious in any way is an expression of blind faith, with no supporting evidence. But as in the case of creationists, proponents of scientism need no empirical evidence or sound reasoning in support of their beliefs, for they are already certain that they have the sole means to understanding reality.

Advocates of creationism and scientism have their own respective creation myths, which form the narrative for the universe at large and for human existence, and they cling to their myths despite any evidence to the contrary. The myth of creationism is based entirely on their Book of Divine Revelation, as it has been compiled and edited according to human, subjective influences of theologians, who assume that the universe was created by the one God whose words are uniquely revealed in their Bible. The myth of scientism is based entirely on their Book of Nature, as it has been compiled and edited according to human, subjective influences of materialogians, who assume that the only influences that shaped the creation and evolution of the universe were ones that scientists can measure. Both ideologies are based on circular reasoning and the careful selection of evidence that supports their myths, while turning a blind eye to any evidence that is incompatible with them. While their respective narratives are utterly compelling to true believers in creationism and scientism, those who have not been indoctrinated in their creeds should view both with equal degrees of skepticism.

To accept creationism, you have to ignore the truths of objective science, and to accept scientism, you have to ignore the truths of subjective experience. Religion and science may find common ground when their advocates throw off the shackles of dogmatism and return to the world of experience.

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