Tuesday, January 20, 2015

#1265: Kurt Wise

Kurt Patrick Wise is a young earth creationist paleontologist, one of the founders of modern baraminology (in particular through his work with Walter ReMine), and a signatory to the CMIlist of scientists alive today who accept the biblical account of creation. He is also one of the few such people with any relevant science background; indeed, Wise once studied with Stephen Jay Gould. He started out as an Associate Professor of Science at Bryan College in 1989 and succeeded William Dembski as the head the Center for Theology and Science at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2006. Currently, Wise is director of Truett-McConnell College’s Creation Research Center, and as such a rather big fish in the creation movement – partially because he also has credentials, even though you’d rarely guess that from his contributions. Wise did, for instance, serve as consultant to the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum prior to its 2007 opening.

But at least he admits that he was not led to creationism through studying the science: “Creation isn’t a theory. The fact that God created the universe is not a theory, it’s true,” and “[t]o accept the entire evolutionary model would mean one would have to reject Scripture. And because I came to know Christ through Scripture I couldn’t reject it.” Not quite adjusting one’s belief to the evidence, in other words, but rather a commitment to rejecting any evidence that doesn’t fit one’s predetermined dogma – and Wise at least admits as much. Indeed, he admits that “I’m not trying to convince people of the truth of [young earth creationism]. It’s not a decision of the mind but of the heart,” and that even if all the evidence flatly contradicted Scripture (which it does) he would still take his stand on Scripture and deny the evidence. Accordingly, Wise is sometimes recognized as a rare (yes, he is an exception) example of an “intellectually honest creationist”, though the following disingenous tu quoque defense at least puts that characterization into question: “science has never been closed to people who had ideas they wouldn’t change. Every scientist has a set of presuppositions and assumptions that he never questions,” which is not obviously correct at least if we think about assumptions along the lines of a 7-day creation.

His “research” is accordingly much focused on articles that feebly tries to accommodate the evience into a Biblical timeframe (such as this). One sordid attempt to fit the hominid fossils into a Biblical timeframe, that “Lucy was buried first: Babel helps explain the sequence of ape and human fossils,” is discussed here, and an even more sadly desperate attempt to make the pieces fit, “Mystifying Mosaics,” is discussed here. Then there is the utterly bizarre “Toward a Practical Theology of Peer Review” (with Roger W. Sanders, Joseph Francis, and Todd Wood, and his book Faith, Form, and Time, which is reviewed here.

Diagnosis: As honest as a creationist can be, I suppose, and there is certainly something admirable about Kurt Wise. Yet there is also something infinitely sad about an intelligent, sometimes intellectually honest, knowledgeable person wasting his life on ridiculous pseudoscience, and in the process contributing not a little to the denialist effort to ruin the world.


  1. Here's a link to the Dawkins article cited above which doesn't require registration.


    Here is Dawkins' summing up:

    Depending upon how many Kurt Wises are out there, it could mean that we are completely wasting our time arguing the case and presenting the evidence for evolution. We have it on the authority of a man who may well be creationism’s most highly qualified and most intelligent scientist that no evidence, no matter how overwhelming, no matter how all-embracing, no matter how devastatingly convincing, can ever make any difference.

  2. Yeah, the best word to describe this affair is "sad". Richard Dawkins describes in "The God Delusion" the travel of Wise from Stephen Jay Gould classes to the nonsensical creationism, and that's SAD in capital fonts.