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How Atheist Michael Zimmerman Attempts to Trivialize the Creation/evolution Controversy

March 12, 2010

It appears that our old atheist friend, Dr Michael Zimmerman of the pro-evolution Clergy Letter Project, is peddling his wares over at the Huffington Post. On March 3, 2010, he wrote his first piece for the HuffPo, Redefining the Creation/Evolution Controversy. His article is a big advertisement for the Clergy Letter Project, but it begins by denying there is a controversy of any sort:

“There simply isn’t any scientific controversy about the importance of evolutionary theory — even while, as with every scientific theory, we continue to learn more deatils every day.”

So he’s saying there isn’t any controversy. Everybody believes it’s true, even if they quibble about the details. Except there ARE people who don’t believe a word of it. And before anyone goes accusing me of thatching together a straw man, I did catch his caveat: There isn’t any SCIENTIFIC controversy. Except again there is. Intelligent designists and Young Earth Creationists have both argued against the validity of microbes-to-man evolution [while affirming observable natural selection within kinds of plants and animals] from a scientific angle. While it’s true that Biblical Creationists [and some members of the ID community] also make theological arguments against evolution and for their alternative origins theory, they predominantly make their case on the basis of scientific evidence.

Z, wake up and smell the coffee! The controversy is real! Simply denying evolution’s weaknesses won’t make them cease to exist. Furthermore, denying that the theory of evolution has any scientific competition based on the current consensus of scientists doesn’t automatically void the validity of those competing theories. To void those theories you have to engage the evidence, you have to know what your opponent is actually professes — and most evolutionists simply give no indcation that they have a clue what the opposition actually believes. This leads me to believe that they base their views not on a critical review of scientific evidence for and agaibnst evolution and evolution so much as on the one-sided evollutionary indoctrination they received through public education.

Now, I need to point out here that Dr. Zimmerman makes a huge mistake in his article. He poses three statements, one of which is: “The constant refrain that the evolution/creation controversy is a battle between religion and science,” and asks what they have in common. He then answers:

“The simple answer is that there is overwhlming evidence demonstrating that each is false while proponents of each hope that the frequency and volume of repetition substitutes for truth.

“The mere existence of the Clergy Letter Project, an international organization I founded that is comprised of thousands of clergy members and scientists, demonstrates that religious leaders and scientists are not inherently at odds. After all, more than 12,400 Christian clergy members from all across the Unites States have signed the Christian Clergy Letter, a powerful, two-paragraph statement promoting a shared understanding and acceptance of evolution and Christianity.”

Wow. This guy believes his own press, doesn’t he? There are a couple straw men in this whole argument.

1. By and large, Biblical Creationists don’t believe that the evolution/creation controversy [he keeps using that word, even though he claims there isn’t one!] is a battle between religion and science. That’s right. DON’T. We see it as a battle between two worldviews through which we conduct science. If we count evolution as a religion, we see it as a battle between two religions who support their truth claims with a weight of philosophical arguments and scientific evidences. Alternately, we see the creation/evolution controversy as abatlle between two competing theories of origin science, and we make a distiction between origins science that studies non-repeatable singularities [past events] and operational science that uses the scientific method. Dr Zimmerman is purposely ignoring the whole notion of creation science as valid. He conflates evolution with science. He thatches together the old religion versus science strawman and gives it a makeover, but its still the same old strawman underneath.

2. By and large, Biblical Creationists do not believe that religious leaders and scientists must be inherently at odds. Zimmerman is partly correct that the Clergy Letter demonstrates that Bible-doubting religious leaders and Bible-doubting scientists are not inherently at odds, by why should we expect them to be. It’s equally true that there are a great many Bible-affirming scientists out there that woud certainly not be at odds with Bible-affirming religious leaders. Yet we should expect Bible-affirming religious leaders and Bible-doubting scientists to be inherently at odds [as I am at odds with the atheist Zimmerman] and vice versa [as when Creation scientists such as those at AiG,CMI or ICR are confronted with the Bible-doubting signers of the Clergy Letter Project].

3. The entire premise of his argument, that the Clergy Letter somehow negates the very real evolution/creation controversy based on the theological compromise of clergymen from mainline liberal churches and from Christian cults, is a dog and pony show. Dr Zimmerman seeks to marginalize traditional, orthodox Christianity by flashing the signatures of compromisers as a valid voice for Christendom. They are not. And they will answer for their compromise of Biblical authority when they stand before Christ the Creator.

At the end of Zimmerman’s piece, he comes to his conclusion:

“It no longer makes any sense to talk about the issue being a battle between religion and science since so many religious leaders and scientists are comfortable working together. What’s really going on is a fight between those who have a very narrow view of religion and religious leaders who think a good deal more broadly.

 Those who are attacking evolution are attempting to define all religion in their own image and to marginalize all alternative religious voices in their single-minded attempt to promote their minority perspective.

The evolution/creation controversy is really a struggle between alternative religious worldviews and has precious little to do with science. But, because of the way it has been cast for all these years, science education has suffered significantly.”

In these three concluding paragraphs he thatches together his biggest, most poorly-thought-out straw man. Riffing on the aforementioned science versus religion straw man, he suggests we shred it into hay and thatch a new, improved straw man. You see, kids, the creation/evolution debate has nothing to do with science. It’s an in-house religious squabble amongst Christian fundamentalists and Christian evolutionists, says innocent atheist bystandander Zimmerman. Uh huh. Then why does the atheist have a stake in this so-called family squabble? Honestly, I hope everyone sees right through this ploy.

This isn’t a battle between a majority of Christians who profess evolution and a fundamentalist minority who wants to plunge USAmerica into a theocracy. It’s a battle between evolutionists [atheists, agnostics, compromising Christians] and creationists who represent traditional Christianity.

Two of Zimmerman’s statements bear repeating. Here’s the first:

Those who are attacking evolution are attempting to define all religion in their own image and to marginalize all alternative religious voices in their single-minded attempt to promote their minority perspective.

This is a hypocritical thing for Zimmerman to say. allow me to demonstrate by turning his sentence around…

“Those who are attacking creationism are attempting to define all science in their own image and to marginalize all alternative scientific voices in their single-minded attempt to promote their minority perspective.

Atheism being a decidedly minority perspective outside of the Natiaonal Academy of Sciences. One could argue that the most educated simply no longer have need of a supernatural hypothesis, except one could countercharge that the most educated in this case were simply the most indoctrinated. I think that Denyse O’Leary has part of the answer:

“Here is one reason things have got to this pass: What do non-religious people suggest that their talented children should do? Go into business or science. What do religious people suggest that their talented children should do? Go into the clergy, ministry, or missionary work. The result? Over time, the upper echelons of science have been dominated by atheists and agnostics. They increasingly dominate public policy too, while Christians praise Jesus irrelevantly in comfy tabernacles where no one but Jesus hears us.”

 The point is: Michael Zimmerman is doing the very thing he claims we ought not be doing, trying to marginalize or trivialize the competition by defining the controversy in terms exclusively favorable to his position.

But he’s right about one thing:

The evolution/creation controversy is really a struggle between alternative religious worldviews and has precious little to do with science.

Or to put it my way:

The [very real] creation/evolution controversy is really a struggle between alternative [theistic and non-theistic] religious worldviews and has precious little to do with [everyday operational] science.

-Rev Tony Breeden

8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2010 4:56 pm

    “Except there ARE people who don’t believe a word of it.”

    And none of those people are competent biologists.

    “the creation/evolution debate”

    There is no debate. Every educated person knows evolution is a basic scientific fact. Every educated person knows magical creation is a childish religious myth.

  2. Human Ape permalink
    March 12, 2010 4:59 pm

    I don’t care if you censor me or not. I just want you to think about this question:

    What possible good is it going to do your religion if you are constantly at war with scientists?

  3. March 12, 2010 7:47 pm

    Relax. I haven’t censored you. Not yet. But you should be aware that all comments are moderated here, O Patient One.

    Oh and to your comment: We religious folk aren’t at war with science. We’re at war with the pseudoscience known as evolution. I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but Christendom gave the world science as we know it. The Scientific Method is attributed to a Bible-affirming scientist, Sir Francis Bacon. In fact, pretty much all the scientific disciplines were established well before Darwin or by scientists who actually rejected his theory [This was back when scientists were allowed to doubt the decrees of Big Science]. More to the point, pretty much nothing in science, even within the biological sciences, depends on microbes to man evolution.

  4. March 13, 2010 2:19 pm

    Actually, Human Ape there are many competent biologists who believe in Creation. I realize you’re simply parroting the standard screed, but here’s a link that refutes your claim, listing not only competent biologists but competent creationist scientists from all scientific fields who just happen to practice everyday operational science without need of belief in evolution:

    Microbes to man evolution [being an entirely separate thing from natural selection or speciation] is completely erroneous to normal, everyday experimental science.

    As for your assertion that there is no debate, there is at least a debate over whether there is a debate, which is a undebatably a debate altogether separate.

    On a more serious note, you’ll note that if you follow that link, there are lots of educated people who don’t think evolution is a scientific fact. They also don’t view creation as a childish creation myth, even if you do. Now, I wish you to note something that is both painfully obvious and significant all at the same time: These are opposing viewpoints. One side believes in creation, the other in evolution.

    The American Heritage Dictionary [1] defines a debate as:

    1.A discussion involving opposing points; an argument.

    So it looks like the debate is still on.

    Unless of course, you’re refering to the fact that evolutionists refuse to discuss the issue, prefering to plug their fingers in their ears rather than hearing conflicting evidence. If that’s what you mean, then you’re right. There cannot be a debate so long as evolutionists remain such dogmatic cowards on the issue. But that says nothing to the point of whether there would be a debate if some evolutionists weren’t such close-minded arrogant cowards. Are you aware that PZ Myers refuses to debate Creationists? Ever wonder why? Could it be that they usually get their butts handed to them because they’re so used to preaching to the choir that they come in ill-prepared for the encounter, while Creationist debaters do their homework? I mean, if their evidence is sooooo much better, why not just have it all out in the open and put us in our place? Could it be that the evidence just better supports Creation?

    Respectfully, may I suggest it’s time you put your thinking cap back on and started looking into the issue yourself rather than just parroting what they tell you to think, sir.

    -Rev Tony Breeden

    BTW, no creationist believes in “magical” creation. The correct term [if you’re not just thatching together a mocking straw man] is supernatural creation or special creation. I myself also use the term Biblical Creation.

    Cited: [1] debate. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved March 13, 2010, from website:

  5. everettattebury permalink
    April 9, 2010 9:16 pm

    Isn’t the main reason that religion and science are incompatible the fact that religion is composed of bare assertions which must be accepted on authority, and science requires evidence and testing before claims are accepted?

  6. April 11, 2010 10:08 pm

    Um, no. That’s a commonly thatched straw man. The religion versus science chestnut is a variant of the faith versus reason canard.

    You see, religion and science aren’t incompatible. Science was stillborn in every culture except Christendom. Maybe you should read Why Creation Is Foundational To Science – Not Evolution to clear up a few borrowed biases you may be lugging around.

    You may also want to read How We Got Here, which explains how the evidence better fits Creation than evolution and why – contrary to your accusation – Creation scientists prcatice normal, every day science via the Scientific Method… without need of evolution.

    BTW, The sad irony is that it is now evolution that is composed of bare assertions which must be indoctrinated into children and accepted on authority, while claiming to be based on evidence and testing.

    -Rev Tony Breeden


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