Specialization and the knowledge barrier (ICC 2018 part 7)
|People waiting to ask questions at ICC.|
The Q&A at ICC was a bit of a revelation to me. It's true that some folks expressed their usual opinions, which were mercifully succinct this time, but there were several people we heard from who seemed genuinely confused. Sometimes they just asked for clarification, and other times, they expressed opinions that seemed to be completely out of sync with the talk that was presented. I noted one of these questions in my comments on Neal Doran's dinosaur talk, but there were others. There was another talk all about how X causes Y, and one person got up and complained rather strenuously that the author had discounted the role of X in causing Y. Yes, I left that intentionally anonymous to protect everyone involved, because it was that bizarre. It's too bad too, because that was one of the more outstanding presentations of the conference.
All this strangeness got me thinking about the specialization of creationism today. Personally, I really liked the ICC this time. I thought we'd finally hit a good level of technicality in the presentations. The talks I attended no longer felt like complete amateurs were presenting.
But that same technicality that I love presents a significant barrier to newcomers, and that barrier's only going to get worse. We've come a long way from the comparatively simple arguments of The New Geology or The Genesis Flood. Today's creationism builds on a hundred years or more of creationist ideas. This was very evident (to me) in the baraminology talks, where I thought the audience was the most confused. People didn't understand the graphs and terminology, and I heard more than one person in the hall saying, "I just don't understand any of that baraminology stuff."
Some of this is just inevitable from specialization, as people go deeper into their own field of research, and I don't expect a biologist to be familiar with terminology and concepts outside of biology. I feel a similar confusion in most of the physics talks and in some of the geology talks. I remember being in one of John Whitmore's talks when he showed pictures of ooids that he found in the Coconino sandstone. Everyone seemed excited. I had no idea what an ooid was.
On the other hand, I wonder if we are doing enough to help bring people into the world of creationist research. Has creationism become so specialized already that the ideas and terminology have become a barrier to people trying to get in?
Because Core Academy is a ministry to students, I perhaps feel this barrier more acutely than others. I've also spent a lot of time talking to evolutionary creationists (or theistic evolutionists as the rest of us know them), and they don't really understand creationism very well at all. It's all very strange to me, since creationism as a whole has many opportunities to learn about the creation model. Apparently these efforts are not actually communicating the message we want.
I could try to diagnose and critique the problem, but that's boring. I think we need something that presents the entirety of the creation model in a clear and succinct but comprehensive manner. Something that can tie together the different parts and illustrate how it all works. Something consilient.
Honestly, we probably need more than one something. Multimedia is the way to reach today's young people. Video, websites, social media, experiences, and even books. All of these things need to tie together basic creationist thought to give context to the research presented at ICC, for the consumer of creationist thought as well as potential contributors.
And I'm not just thinking out loud here. I'm working on some ideas personally and with other people. Hopefully we'll have some announcements shortly.
Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.