Posted by: davidlarkin | July 26, 2008

Who’s a Leftist Creationist?

One of my college classmates referred to me as a “leftist creationist” today in an email on our college class discussion listserv. It struck me as funny to see me characterized as a “leftist” and a “creationist.” My friend is mostly a libertarian, apparently accepts evolution as an explanation, and is clearly far to the right on the political spectrum, such that many, if not a majority of Republicans would be leftists from the island of individuality in his mind. John McCain is the Republican presidential candidate after all.

I am a registered Democrat, a bit to the left of center. I was a registered Republican until I switched to Independent in 1994, and registered as a Democrat for the 2000 election. I favored the invasion of Iraq based on what I was told at the time, e.g., I was worried that Saddam would lob a nuclear weapon into the Saudi oil fields. I do not oppose the Death Penalty and I do oppose abortion. I embrace a capitalist economy, though one reasonably regulated by government because markets are composed of human actors not angels. I accept our democratic republic form of government. I favor a government of the people, not an ideologically determined minimalist government. Although private ownership of property is a fundamental right, there are necessary or agreed upon exceptions. For example, I consider roads and health care to be similar public goods. My cranky right wing classmate believes that health care should remain a private good, rationed by the market. He may draw the line at roads, or maybe even believe that all roads and infrastructure should be privately owned. However, anyone who favors government ownership or regulation of public goods, as we democratically determine to be public goods, is not a leftist as that word has been traditionally used in our political discourse. I will defend the poor and those disadvantaged by birth or luck, as a matter of faith and social conscience. I therefore favor government programs to help them. Using government to help the disadvantaged may make me a leftist to many conservatives, but it is a special area of concern to me, too important to leave to uncertain voluntary action.

So, it seems misleading to label a person with my views a “leftist.” But those who hurl it as an epithet are a small but vocal self-reinforcing insular crowd.

And as a “creationist”, it is true that I believe that God created the universe, but not in a literal Biblical sense, i.e., in seven 24 hour days 5,000 years ago as the fundamentalists who are generally termed “Creationist” believe. Hence it is not really fair to apply that term to me because for many it would put me in that category.

It is not so hard to believe that God created the universe. Science now accepts as fact that the universe had a beginning 13.5 or so billion years ago, and is currently expanding, that is, all matter in the universe is moving away from itself in all directions, space itself is expanding, now attributed to “dark energy,” and this expansion is accelerating by means of that “dark energy” which appears to act as a force of expansion, yet there is no consensus that the energy is a another type of “force” to add to the four we have, i.e., gravity, electromagnetic, strong and weak nuclear forces. The universe could not have created itself, because it would have had to exist and not exist at the same time. At least the principle of non-contradiction has to apply at the beginning. Why do you suppose that physicists and cosmologists are writing books speculating about God, or speculating that there is some multiverse? The multiverse is the materialism faith substitute for God, a theoretical massive collection (ten to the 500th power) of possible universes devised using higher mathematics from unverifiable assumptions, a multiverse that had no beginning and pre-existed our universe, from which our universe began as a bubble from scientifically unverifiable and unobservable multiverse. What if anything separates this from myth or religious belief deserves separate treatment?

It is true that God could use evolution as a means to continue his creation. Many evangelical Christians believe this, especially those who are scientists and science professors. Evolution theory comes in several varieties.

It is non-controversial that within a species, evolution occurs through the mechanism of random mutation and natural selection. Intelligent design proponents, for example, accept this as fact. The controversial issues are first, whether there is any evidence of speciation, new species arising, through this mechanism, and second, whether evolution theory provides any credible explanation for the origin of life. I have a subsequent post on the “origin of life” issue here.

I do not find the evidence offered for speciation through evolutionary processes in the fossil record and in our modern biological laboratory history to be credible, but mostly speculation that requires considerable suspension of reality. For example, how did one-celled creatures with no nuclei (Prokaryotic) evolve into one-celled creatures with nuclei (Eukaryotic), from which humans eventually evolved, as they say? As evolutionist microbiologist Franklin M. Harold wrote in “The Way of the Cell” (a very interesting and accessible book about the cell):

The origin of the eukaryotic cell is arguably the most significant episode in the development of life on this planet, and surely the most baffling one. It is also not a single event, but a protracted process, whose roots reach deep into the early history of cellular life.

Harold, p. 174. As natural history, as speculated by scientists thus far, tells the story, the transformation was not by means of gradualism, i.e., random mutation of DNA, but by means of physical merging of separate creatures.

In his book, Harold then traces the evolution of the eukaryotic cell based on current theoretical speculations, primarily centered around Lynn Margulies who first proposed that mitochondria and chloroblasts came from bacteria that fused with a protkaryotic host. This cell geneology of fusion required separate fusions to come up with the eukaryotic cell bodies, including the nucleus, mitochondria, chloroblasts and other features. Harold writes:

In a phrase coined by F.J.R. Taylor many years ago, the eukaryotic cell appears to be the product of serial endosymbiosis.”

Symbiosis is where “one partner takes up residence in the cytoplasm of the other,” like a merger or fusion. There is no explanation for how this endosymbiosis or fusion of different prokaryotic cells or bacteria actually fused or merged. As Harold writes further,

Endosymbiosis, serial or otherwise, necessarily emerges as the god in the machine. . . .There is a fine air of whimsy about those imaginative tales, with overtones of Rudyard Kipling (“And this, O Best Beloved, is why . . . ). They [current evolutionary theorists] step insouciantly around patches of quicksand, such as what brought about early cellular fusions that are not permitted to contemporary prokaryotes [primitive unicellular organisms lacking true nucleus, cytoskeleton, and organelles], why some genes were discarded and others preserved, and how a consortium of prokaryotes acquired the architectural and functioning complexity of even the simplest eukaryotic cell [unicellular organism with nucleus, cytoskeleton and organelles].

Harold points out that multi-trillions of e-coli bacteria have been studied by microbiologists in the labs over the years without one documented case of symbiosis or fusion of those cells.

As I pointed out in a previous post, the fossil record does not support gradualistic neo-Darwinian evolution theory. So, I am not a believer in materialistic evolutionary theories which purport to explain the evolution of species, whether Darwinian, neo-Darwinian or post-Darwinian emergence theories.

Finally, in addition to speciation, evolution as applied to the origin of life, is mostly silent.

So, to label me a “creationist” is misleading. I find nothing to object to with regard to evolution within a species. I do find the neo-Darwinian explanations for development of species, particularly at the micro-level, to be unacceptable. The evidence for me requires some intervention by God to cause the leaps and miraculous natural history that we observe. While I am not creationist in the sense that one minute there is an ape, and then a human appears behind a tree, as may be the case with the fundamentalist Creationist, I do believe that there is a miraculous (if you call intervention by God in the natural world a “miracle”) intervention in nature, whether by communicating information to the genome, providing the direction of force in the small spaces of the molecule or atom, or by the force of God’s mind in action, etc, to enable the leaps in natural history that are referred to as evolution by materialists and those who accept a mechanistic natural history, even if it is believed that this natural mechanistic natural history was set in motion by God.

Alternatively, you may place your faith in science and believe that science will one day explain everything with a materialistic scientific theory. Even a believer in God may do that, especially Deists.

Franklin Harold, though a firm believer in Darwinian evolution, is cautious in his faith that evolutionary science will provide an explanation for what happened millions of years ago.

There is nothing whatever wrong with disciplined speculation — how else would we know what to look for in the ever growing heap of facts and factoids? But it does warrant the “amiable cynicism” of the Italian maxim quoted by Roger Stanier in one of the first modern essays on cell evolution: se non e vero, e ben trovato. (It may not be true, but it’s well contrived.) and one cannot help suspecting that we are approaching a limit to what can be known, set not by technology but by the nature of this inquiry into the inconceivably remote past.

So, any label purporting to characterize my politics and views on science will have to include a well-crafted definitional paragraph or essay. I have no problem applying simplistic overbroad labels to others, however.
What was it that Emerson said about consistency?

Related Posts
Stephen Jay Gould’s Dissent
Vladimir Nabokov – “Furious” Darwin Doubter
Origins of Life



  1. A thoughtful response.

    For some reason I started thinking of Einstein’s
    statement, God does not play dice with the universe.
    And then I thought of Mallarme’s line,
    A throw of the dice will never abolish chance.

    I’m not sure what the poet meant…

  2. […] Posts Stephen Jay Gould’s Dissent Vladimir Nabokov – “Furious” Darwin Doubter Who’s a Leftist Creationist Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)The non-believers review of “The Case for […]

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