Sunday, May 25, 2014

#1055: John K. Reed

John K. Reed apparently enjoys a PhD in geology. He is nevertheless a young earth creationist and on the board of the Creation Research Society, the geology editor for the Creation Research Society Quarterly, and the author of numerous books and (non-scientific) articles, for instance for Answers in Genesis’s house journal, Answers Research Journal – what characterizes the journal is that it “start[s] with the Bible as being true. And many other journals do not. They are going to start with human reasoning as the basis for truth,” which is, well, rather imprecise.

For Volume 3 of said journal, for instance, Reed contributed “Untangling Uniformitarianism, Level 1: A Quest for Clarity,” a presuppositionalist rant that has pretty little to do with science. For Volume 4 he followed it up with “Untangling Uniformitarianism, Level II: Actualism in Crisis,” another presuppositionalist rant, which says things like “[o]ne of the effects of uniformitarian geology was to destroy confidence in the biblical record of origins and early earth history, and the concept of uniformitarianism still stands as a bulwark against today’s Flood geology. Therefore, it is incumbent upon creationists to address uniformitarianism.” It is, in other words, not evidence that is supposed to guide scientists in their endeavors, but Reed’s favored theological musings. Indeed, Reed is adamant that religious beliefs trump observations: “We cannot know that actualism was valid in the past because nonactualistic explanations of the rocks record are logically possible. This indicates how it must be evaluated – by logical truth tests, not observations.” By “logic” Reed means “Goddidit”: “Christianity presents a metaphysical justification for causality by virtue of its coherence with the nature of God and with His acts of creation and providence […] But there is one important distinction in the Christian position – absolute causal continuity exists in the person of God, not in the physical creation.” I.e., Goddidit since it is possible to make a Pyrrhonic skeptical argument about science and because of the classical Problem of Induction (since you cannot prove that the laws of nature weren’t completely different in the past, you cannot prove that current observations tell you anything about the past). Never mind skeptical arguments about God, of course – or that his brand of skepticism would undermine any possible evidence for God – but that means questioning what you are not allowed to question. Respect the authoritah.

Reed has also written several books, including The Coming Wrath, promoted with “Want to nudge a skeptical friend with the truth of biblical history?” I don’t think presuppositionalism is a good way of nudging skeptics. He has also written Plate Tectonics: A Different View, which does indeed try to present a different view but falters a little on the coherence side. There is a critique of Reed’s positions by Jonathan Baker here.

Diagnosis: Standard pseudoscientist. At least he is candid about his presuppositions, though vague about the fact that those presuppositions lack any kind of independent evidence (as opposed to what he calls “presuppositions” among scientists in general).


  1. "...though it is written by old-earth creationist Jonathan Baker, so its understanding of science should not be taken at face value."

    I wouldn't really term myself an 'old-earth creationist'. Regardless, I'm an active researcher in geology that subjects my work to peer review (unlike Reed). If you think my understanding of science might be lacking, cite a reason for it. Don't caution through 'guilt by association', please. ;)

    1. I admit that I didn't really research you when writing the entry, since the point was Reed. Concluding that you were an old-earth creationist was evidently based on unresearched information (I don't even remember where I picked it up). Now, when someone is a creationist of any stripe it reveals a certain attitude toward and understanding of science that justifies at least being very wary of what that person says about any other branch of science as well, but I see that this worry is not applicable in your case.

      In other words, your expertise in your field is not in doubt, and I have been given no reason to doubt your understanding of science. Thank you for the clarification, and I have accordingly updated the entry.

    2. Thank you, I appreciate it! Interesting blog, by the way. Could keep me busy for a while...