Paul Braterman, emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Glasgow, recently claimed online that creationism “meets all the criteria” for a “conspiracy theory.” He says creationism offers “a complete parallel universe with its own organisations and rules of evidence, and [creationism] claims that the scientific establishment promoting evolution is an arrogant and morally corrupt elite.”1,2 Is this fair?
First, we should note that calling someone a “conspiracy theorist” is a quick and easy way to avoid having to deal with the intellectual arguments for his position. It is tantamount to calling him crazy. And we all know that attempting to reason with crazy people is pointless, right?
Braterman says creationists demonize evolutionists, and he cites, presumably as evidence of this, former Georgia Congressman Paul Broun’s much-publicized 2012 claim that evolution is a lie “straight from the pit of hell”.3 But if one watches the YouTube video of Congressman Broun embedded in Braterman’s essay, he doesn’t personally attack evolutionists.1, 2 He simply stated his belief (which we share) that evolution is a false doctrine, and like all false doctrines, it ultimately originates from Satan, the father of lies.4 That is not a personal attack on evolutionists, and it does not mean that all evolutionists are intentionally lying. But it does mean that the theory evolutionists hold ultimately originated with an evil being who intends both us and them harm. Broun’s statement reflects on the deceit and not on the persons being deceived.
In passing, some online news outlets unfairly claimed that Broun rejected embryology, as well as evolution.5, 6 Congressman Broun is a medical doctor. Broun was not objecting to embryology as a science per se, but he was alluding to Ernst Haeckel’s fraudulent argument (still repeated even in modern textbooks!7) that embryos recapitulate the supposed evolutionary history of their species while in the womb. The outrageous extent of the fraud behind this 19th century argument for evolution was dramatically demonstrated in 1997 by embryologist Michael Richards. He published actual photos of the embryos Haeckel used and compared those photographs with Haeckel’s embryo drawings. I encourage you to view these photographs for yourself.8
It may be going too far to say that Braterman is demonizing creationists, but he certainly assumes evil in our motives. He claims creationism is a “deep-seated power struggle” between religious conservatives and liberals, suggesting that creationists don’t really believe what we profess and that we are unconcerned about evidential truth. He suggests that creationists are motivated by financial interests when he describes one particular creation exhibit, without any evidence, as “highly lucrative.”1, 2
His claim that creationists operate by different rules of evidence is unfounded. You don’t convert skeptics to your position by inventing your own unique rules of evidence! Yet former skeptics are being converted both to creationism and Christianity by the sheer strength of the logic and evidence for biblical creation. However, we freely admit our philosophical presuppositions: we believe without apology that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. Braterman also has his own worldview assumptions. He is a member of the National Center for Science Education,1, 2 which is extremely hostile to the creation movement, and this is not the first time that he has publicly denounced the creationist movement.9 Has Dr. Braterman considered the possibility that his own presuppositions might be coloring the way he looks at the evidence?
The entire essay is basically a giant ad hominem attack on creationists. It is instructive that this essay doesn’t attempt to answer creationists with any scientific evidence for evolution. Perhaps that’s because there isn’t any.
1. Braterman, P. Why creationism bears all the hallmarks of a conspiracy theory. The Conversation. Posted on theconversation.com February 4, 2021, accessed February 9, 2021.
2. Braterman, P. Why creationism bears all the hallmarks of a conspiracy theory. Snopes. Posted on snopes.com February 4, 2021, accessed February 10, 2021.
3. Henry, R. Georgia congressman finds himself in brouhaha over evolution, other theories in science. The Florida Times-Union Jacksonville. Posted October 17, 2012 at Jacksonville.com, accessed February 10, 2021.
5. Young, M. Paul Broun Calls Evolution and Embryology “Lies from the Pit of Hell”. Mic. Posted on mic.com February 6, 2013, accessed February 10, 2021.
6. Williams, M. Republican Congressman Paul Broun dismisses evolution and other theories. The Guardian. Posted October 6, 2012 at theguardian.com, accessed February 11, 2021.
7. Luskin, C. Haeckel’s Fraudulent Embryo Drawings Are Still Present in Biology Textbooks – Here’s a List. Evolution News and Science Today. Posted April 3, 2015 at evolutionnews.org, accessed February 10, 2021.
8. Niekerk, E. van. 2011. Countering revisionism – part 1: Ernst Haeckel, fraud is proven. Journal of Creation 25 (3): 89-95.
9. Hebert J. Professor Says He Can “Slam Dunk” Creationists. Creation Science Update. Posted September 21, 2017 at ICR.org, accessed February 11, 2021.