The Impact of Creationism on the Social Sciences
Paul D. Ackerman
As the Biblical creation model of origins is increasingly advanced by my colleagues in the natural sciences, I think it timely to give some thought to the implications of these developments for the social sciences. Although these effects would apply to all branches of the social sciences, my thinking has been directed primarily at my own field of psychology. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but I do feel that the items mentioned touch on some very central and important potential influences. It also should be noted that I am persuaded that the following influences would be beneficial rather than detrimental.
First of all, Biblical creationism should stimulate a reexamination of the very concept of social science. Social science came into being at least partially as a result of the Darwinian revolution, which viewed man as being on a continuum with the rest of nature. In this view psychology, for example, was seen as no less a natural science than biology or physics. Man could be the object of study as legitimately as any other completely natural phenomenon. Unfortunately, what has been gained in terms of increased knowledge about man's behavior has been purchased at a price of man's sense of uniqueness. The gains are impressive and useful, but the loss is gigantic. Perhaps the best way of stating it is that social science has gained much in the way of knowledge about man but lost much in terms of understanding man.
I presume that we would all agree that the question of whether a social science should be undertaken at all is by now moot. Mankind has long since passed the point of no return on that question. Social science with its benefits, liabilities, potentialities and dangers is with us, and until the Lord returns, it will probably remain so. What I believe we can expectantly pray is that Biblical creationism would enable a clearer delineation of the domain and limits of social science. That it would, in short, allow man to regain his sense of dignity and uniqueness as "created in God's image" without losing the benefits of increased knowledge which can derive from an active and vibrant social science.
The second point is somewhat related to and follows from the first. The social sciences have in recent years become increasingly revolutionary in their outlook. Under the influence of relativism and evolutionism, many social scientists have come to see their mission as the reshaping and redirecting of mankind. Guided by this or that reductionist personality theory, they have set out to "recreate" man. The sensitivity/encounter group movement is one example of an effort to recreate man in the image of psychological theory. Social experiments in economics, education, mental health and politics have been conceived, promoted, and in some cases carried out. Many Christian observers have quite rightly seen something of the approaching anti-Christ in all this activity. It is just one of the signs which lead many of us to feel that Jesus will come again soon. But in the meantime, what role might scientific creationism play in this revolutionary aspect of social science? I believe that to the degree Biblical creationism comes to be accepted by the lay and scientific communities, it would greatly reduce this revolutionary tendency. I think almost all of our evolutionist friends would agree with the last point. Their fear would be that at best scientific creationism would simply serve the social, political, and economic status quo. At worst, it would lead to a new era of authoritarian church dominance over academic life. My answer to this is that, first of all, I am convinced the Biblical creation account is true (in current scientific jargon I would say that the data fit the scientific creationist model better than the evolutionist model), and therefore, I must promote it. Secondly, in the light of Biblical truth regarding human nature, I realize that these fears are well-grounded. But God forbid it! Let it not be! There is no reason why by God's grace scientific creationism cannot trigger a new enthusiasm for scientific and scholarly inquiry and discovery, on the one hand, and Christ-like living and love, on the other. Let us pray that it will be so.
But I see another sobering aspect of this matter. There is a tremendous zeal and commitment in the revolutionary thinking of many non-believing social scientists and social planners. They have a vision not always clearly defined in their own minds but a rough vision nonetheless of a new world order. To the extent that they see scientific creationism "catching on," they will also quite rightly see it as a threat to their objectives. If scientific creationism in accordance with secular rules and norms of free academic inquiry and persuasion is seen to be gaining the upper hand, then many evolutionists might be tempted to abandon those rules and norms in opposing it. In short, we may force their hand. If it is God's will and purpose for us, then let it be.
A third point has to do with the view of man as active agent versus passive reactor. In a very basic sense the problem of all science is the problem of accounting for motion. Why do things move at all, and why do they move in this or that particular manner? The ancient Greeks addressed the problem in terms of a distinction between active self-action and passive reaction. Do things only move because they are struck by some external force, or do they move according to some cause entirely within themselves? In psychology there is continual debate between the active and passive views. For many years the passive position was predominant, but recent years have seen a dramatic resurgence in active, self-actional views of man.
The problem is that from an evolutionary viewpoint there is no really sound epistemological foundation for the self-actional viewpoint. The only really satisfactory foundation for viewing man as a free, self-actional agent is "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." God is the first cause. God is by definition a self-actional, free agent. On that ground and only on that ground can I view man as a free, self-actional agent. Free will only has meaning in a creationist context. Scientific creationism could therefore provide an important contribution in the sense of a viable philosophical foundation for an important and desirable trend in psychology.
But in a larger sense, the creationist viewpoint transcends the argument about active versus passive man, between free will and determinism. God created an orderly cause-effect universe. It is regular and lawful in its operation. Being pan of that creation, man's behavior is also orderly and lawful. Without this faith no science of man would be possible. But man is more. Man is also created in God's image. He is a free moral agent. We declare this as an article of faith and not as a scientific question. We accept these truths just as we accept the Biblical paradox of man's choice and God's predestination. Both are true and both are necessary. I cannot prove man as either active or passive in a scientific sense. However, both of these do follow paradoxically from my creationist presuppositions. They also fit with scientific and everyday experience. Finally, they are in accord with my understanding of Scriptural revelation.
Thus, I believe that creationism provides the only viable epistemological base for scientific psychology. Psychology as science must proceed to study behavior as an orderly, cause-effect phenomenon. Its greatest advances in terms of explanation, prediction and control have come from that stance in which man is viewed as passive. Biblical creationism provides for and prescribes the bounds for such a view. The boundaries are exactly at that line where social science begins to encroach upon and destroy man's deepest and most immediate concept of himself as a choosing agent in the universe. Biblical creationism also sets boundaries on the active or self-actional view of man. The boundaries are set at the point where psychology's faith in autonomous man leads into mysticism and occult speculations.
The final point concerns the impact of scientific creationism on the common sense view of man. We might call this "common sense psychology." Under the influence of reductionist, evolutionary views, common sense psychology has generally been held in low esteem by the experts for the profundity of everyday explanations of behavior. My own biased view is that the most correct and most valuable description of man's personality, apart from Scripture, is that provided by common sense psychology. It is more useful and accurate in predicting and controlling behavior in general contexts than any of the scientific theories of personality. That is not to say that scientific theories of personality do not provide insights into narrow and limited domains of human behavior. I believe they do. Nevertheless, taken at face value and applied across general situations, all personality theories are ridiculously inadequate. That is why psychologists, regardless of their theoretical persuasion, by and large conduct their own lives in terms of a common sense psychology perspective.
One implication of Biblical creationism in general is that common sense is far more reliable than evolutionary scientists would have us believe. As an evolutionist recently remarked in criticizing creationism, "common sense is possibly the least reliable guide to understanding science." In a sense, selling people on this idea has been the secret of the success of evolutionary theory. Darwin began by rejecting the literal appearance and common-sense view of the fossil record. Though the fossil record shows distinct kinds, nevertheless it was interpreted counter to common sense as evidence for an unbroken continuum of increasingly complex life forms.1 And so it is today. The average person has been taught that he should distrust his senses and not believe what he sees unless it is consistent with current scientific theory. A good pan of the battle for scientific creationism consists in getting people to trust their own senses and accept the common sense appearance of the data.
In summary, I believe we might expect scientific creationism to influence the social sciences in the following four ways: First, it would cause a redefinition of the domain and limits of social science. Second, it would lessen the current tendency toward social engineering and cultural management. Third, it would provide for a balanced conception of man both as free moral agent and subject to environmental and biological influences. Lastly, it would lead to a higher regard for common sense and the "naive view" of both man and nature. 'With regard to this point consider the following quote from an article "Evolution's Erratic Pace" by Stephen Jay Gould (Natural History, 1977, 86 (5), 12-16): Darwin (in interpreting the geologic record) " had to reject literal appearance and common sense for an underlying 'reality.' (Contrary to popular myths, Darwin and Lyell were not the heroes of true science, defending objectivity against theological fantasies Catastrophists were as committed to science as any gradualist; in fact, they adopted the more 'objective' view that one should believe what one sees and not interpolate missing bits of a gradual record into a literal tale of rapid change) p 12-13
* Reprinted from The Proceedings of the Sixth National Creation Science Conference, Bible-Science Assoc., 2911 E. 42nd Street, Minneapolis, Minn. 55406