Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Accommodationism Exposed

If you follow the Creationism wars you might occasionally hear the word "accommodationist" being used as a pejorative. Depending on the context you might think that the person so named is actually suggesting that science or scientists should change what they are doing to accommodate religion. Indeed both the BCSE and the NCSE have been criticised before for not campaigning against religion more generally and for working with religious people. The word is often used in the context of rationalism or atheism versus Creationism and you can read more here. This seems to be a debate about tactics and in some respects is even just about manners. In fact today it is only the Creationists that want science to change to accommodate their views.

But what a strange history of usage the word "accommodationism" has. In fact it was previously used with precisely the opposite meaning to describe how Christians changed their interpretation of the Bible to accommodate the latest findings of science. At first, even the fact that organisms could actually go extinct was held to be blasphemous as it implied God made something less than perfect. Later the old age of the earth, then the theory of Natural Selection and it's implications such as common descent were all accommodated by the majority of the religious in the UK. Even in the USA opposition to modern biology only really planted roots in the early twentieth century and only became a popular mass movement as Scientific Creationism was created in the second half of the century.

In the nineteenth century one of the better known accommodations was known as Gap or Restitution Creationism. This held that there was a large gap between verses 1 and 2 of chapter 1 of Genesis. In this framework the days in Genesis could still be held to be 24hr long actual days. This allowed the acceptance of the findings of geology and physics about an ancient earth.

Another accommodation was Day-Age Creationism in which each day in Genesis is actually interpreted as a long period of time, even many millions of years. This was more popular than Gap Creationism in the late nineteenth century and early in the twentieth century. This view could, also accept the old Earth and could admit findings that at different times in Earth's history living things where not always just as they are today. The difference between the order of creation in Genesis to the fossil record was simply ignored.

Progressive Creationism is the view held by the majority of today's old earth Creationists and accepts even more of modern science than any of the other views listed so far. Progressive Creationists think that God created organisms in accordance with the fossil record and modern biology. They simply reject that it was a natural process.

Next up is Evolutionary Creationism which actually isn't creationism in that its adherents fully accept all findings of modern science. They simply hold that god created by using evolution. this overlaps with the final form of accommodationism,Theistic Evolution, which generally holds that God is less actively involved in the world.

So there you have it, because there is no call from any evolutionary creationists or Theistic Evolutionists, for scientists to change anything they do, BCSE is happy to welcome such members and work with such allies to protect the UK education system from the influence of Creationists.

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