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The American Scientific Affiliation:

Positions on Controversial Issues?

Creation-Views and Actions on
Evolution, Design, and Age

        The most important view of ASA is explained in a 1971 editorial: "The ASA does not take an official position on controversial questions.  Creation is not a controversial question.  I have no hesitancy in affirming, "we believe in creation," for every ASA member.  The Biblical doctrine of creation is one of the richest doctrines revealed to us by God.  It reveals to us that the God who loves us is also the God who created us and all things; at once it establishes the relationship between the God of religious faith and the God of physical reality. ...  We believe in creation.  It is unthinkable for a Christian to do otherwise.   {quoted from We Believe in Creation by Richard Bube, editor of ASA's journal, 1969-1983}    Are we creationists?  (yes, maybe, and no)

        As an organization, the ASA does not take a position when there is honest disagreement between Christians on an issue.  We are committed to providing an open forum where controversies can be discussed without fear of unjust condemnation.  Legitimate differences of opinion among Christians who have studied both the Bible and science are freely expressed within the Affiliation in a context of Christian love and concern for truth."  { from ASA Beliefs }

        In August 2005 the new executive director of ASA, Randy Isaac, reaffirmed this policy and explained that ASA is committed to careful studies of scripture & nature, in a pursuit of quality in theology & science: "The ASA policy of neutrality... does not mean wishy-washy relativism. ...  We have a strong platform with two planks:  We have a strong statement of faith... and a commitment to integrity in science. ...  The role of ASA is to encourage and enable dialogue, in an atmosphere of trust and respect, about the honest differences regarding these two key planks." 
        He is explaining why neutrality is not passivity, and even though ASA does not advocate a conclusion, we do enthusiastically endorse a process of respectful discussion, so we can better understand the similarities and differences in our views of theology and science, so we can learn from each other, and about each other.

        Since 1949, consistent with the neutrality policy and educational philosophy of the American Scientific Affiliation ("we are committed to providing an open forum where controversies can be discussed") the ASA journal has provided an open forum by publishing papers with a variety of views about origins.   { The ASA's journal is Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, and you can explore its history and contents. }
        Since 1994 we have provided a similar forum in the ASA Website — mainly due to the work of Jack Haas (editor of the ASA journal, 1990-1999, and an editor for the website from 1994 until now) and Terry Gray (webmaster who keeps everything working, and is also an editor for content & structure) — as explained in its history and current status (in 2006);  since 1999, Whole-Person Education for Science and Faith (with Craig Rusbult as editor) is a "website within the website" with 7 areas, including Creation Questions.  As our disclaimer explains, in our multi-perspective websites "you'll find links to resource-pages expressing a wide range of views, which don't necessarily represent views of the American Scientific Affiliation."  Our websites are educational resources, but are not declarations of policy.

        Compared with Christian faith-and-science organizations who specialize in promoting a particular view of origins by boldly proclaiming that they have The Answer, the actions of ASA have been limited by our neutrality policy.  But, as explained above, we do have a strong commitment to intellectual integrity in both science and theology.  These commitments have motivated and guided the actions of ASA from its early days until the present:

        • Despite pressure to endorse young-earth flood geology, the strong scientific support for an old earth was clearly explained in ASA's early meetings and publications, including Modern Science and Christian Faith (ASA's first book, in 1948), A Symposium on "The Age of the Earth" (1948), Deluge Geology by Laurence Kulp (1950), and more.
        • Instead of simply opposing " evolution" as a whole, which was common in the Christian community at the time, in 1951 many scientific claims of modern evolutionary theory, but not all, were accepted by Russell Mixter in an early ASA monograph, Creation and Evolution.  In its first two decades, 1941-1961, views of ASA members evolved, as they carefully evaluated the scientific evidence and prayerfully examined potential ways to harmonize evolutionary science and Bible-based theology.    { You can find journal articles about evolution by Mixter and others, from 1949 onward, by browsing our online journal archives. }

        • In 1986, responding to the first edition of Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences (1984), ASA published Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy: A View from the American Scientific Affiliation, written by David Price, John Wiester, and Walter Hearn.  This 48-page booklet did not take a position on evolution.  It did encourage a logical process of open-minded scientific evaluation, willing to ask critical questions about evolution and to consider intermediate positions, not — as advocated by both extreme positions — just the extreme positions of young-earth creation and atheistic evolution.  The beginning of Teaching Science... (the first 8 pages: Coping with Controversy, The Teacher's Dilemma, and Classroom Guidelines) explains why a climate of controversy exists, and how a teacher can "teach with openness while upholding standards of scientific integrity."
        • In 1991 the Executive Council of ASA — motivated by a desire "to promote excellence and integrity in science education as well as in science" and "[to avoid] inappropriate entanglement of the scientific concept of evolution with political, philosophical, or religious perspectives" — adopted the resolution, A Voice for Evolution as Science: "... To make classroom instruction more stimulating while guarding it against the intrusion of extra-scientific beliefs, the teaching of any scientific subject, including evolutionary biology, should include:  (1) forceful presentation of well-established scientific data and conclusions;  (2) clear distinction between evidence and inference; and  (3) candid discussion of unsolved problems and open questions."  {the full resolution}

        • In 2000 the ASA Creation Commission released a Statement on Creation (written by Bill Dembski, Keith Miller, Paul Nelson, Bob Newman, and Dave Wilcox) summarizing general creation principles and four specific positions: three views of creation (young-earth, old-earth, evolutionary) plus intelligent design.  /  Independent from this project, one of the authors describes ASA's approach to controversial questions about creation, and explains why theistic evolution (evolutionary creation) is a creationist view, in The American Scientific Affiliation and the Evangelical Response to Evolution (also in PDF) by Keith Miller.

        • From 2000 to 2005, the ASA Lay Education Project worked to develop a book that would explain our scientific knowledge about age of the earth & universe, with scientific integrity but at a level so the science could be understood by intelligent nonscientists.  Two main objectives were "to show that scientific evidence supports an old Earth and Universe, and diminish the misuse of science to support a young Earth;  to show that scripture does not require a young-earth interpretation. (from ASA's 2004 Annual Report)"   This book project was abandoned in 2005, for reasons that were not related to these two objectives.

        • In June 2007, Randy Isaac (Executive Director of ASA) wrote an essay-review about the technical report of RATE, a project in which young-earth scientists try to show that radiometric dating supports a young earth, not (as in mainstream science) an old earth.  Before this review was published the author sent it to members of the ASA Council, and they did not object to him expressing his personal views in the final paragraph: "The ASA does not take a position on issues when there is honest disagreement among Christians provided there is adherence to our statement of faith and to integrity in science.  Accordingly, the ASA neither endorses nor opposes young-earth creationism which recognizes the possibility of a recent creation with appearance of age or which acknowledges the unresolved discrepancy between scientific data and a young-earth position.  However, claims that scientific data affirm a young earth do not meet the criterion of integrity in science.  Any portrayal of the RATE project as confirming scientific support for a young earth contradicts the RATE project’s own admission of unresolved problems.  The ASA can and does oppose such deception." {from Assessing the RATE Project}
        Some principles of Integrity in Science are outlined by Isaac in an 8-part series that concludes with "Age of the Earth" where he explains why, in his review of RATE, he "is concerned primarily with the integrity of the reporting of the work [by RATE] rather than the claims themselves. ... Though it is clearly stated [in the technical report of RATE] that the young-earth scenario is not consistent with known scientific processes, the result [of their research] is being presented at RATE conferences, dubbed ‘Thousands not Billions’, as if RATE has confirmed the biblical message of a young earth.  It is this duplicity [in a "false reporting of conclusions"] which the ASA opposed in the article."  {a response from RATE plus replies by Randy Isaac & Kirk Bertshe, and more, are in RATE and Radiometric Dating}

        • If you look at papers about Age and Evolution/Design in the journal of ASA, you'll see two stories.  During the past few decades our journal has published almost exclusively old-earth papers, although it sometimes includes young-earth responses in letters.  By contrast, the number of papers has been roughly equal for differing views of evolution and intelligent design.  This difference in our treatment of questions about AGE and EVOLUTION/DESIGN is consistent with the consensus views of our members, as described below in NO and MAYBE.

        Are we creationists?  The ASA's 1991 resolution for teaching "Evolution as Science" recommends a "candid discussion of unsolved problems and open questions."  Does this willingness to ask questions mean we are creationists?  The answer is "yes, no, and maybe" because it depends on how creationism is defined.
        YES.  All members of ASA are Christians, so (as explained above) we all believe that God designed, created, and sustains natural process, and (sometimes or always) guides it: "Creation is not a controversial question.  I have no hesitancy in affirming, ‘we believe in creation,’ for every ASA member.  (Richard Bube, in editorial for ASA's journal, 1971)"
        NO.  If a creationist must believe the earth is young, then most ASA members are not "creationists" because most of us think there is a wide variety of scientific evidence strongly indicating that the earth and universe are billions of years old.   Scientists with young-earth views are welcome in ASA, but most Christian scientists (both inside and outside ASA) think the earth is old.
        MAYBE.  How did God create?  There is disagreement when we ask, "did God design the universe so it would be totally self-assembling by natural process?"  Some members of ASA are evolutionary creationists who think totally-natural evolution (where natural does not mean "it happened without God") was God's method of creation, but some think occasional miraculous-appearing divine action was necessary (*) and it was used by God during the formative history of nature.  (* Maybe a universe designed for optimal operation would be only partially self-assembling.)   Jack Haas, a website editor for ASA, says "The ASA has no official position on evolution;  its members hold a diversity of views with varying degrees of intensity."  But we can agree that "evolution" and "design" should be carefully defined.  This paragraph begins with "MAYBE" because some people (but not most ASA members, and not the editor for this page) claim that an authentically "creationist" view must propose some miracles during creation, so a totally natural evolutionary creation wouldn't really be creation.

        a summary:
        ASA won't tell you what to conclude, but we will provide educational resources so you can make an informed evaluation and reach your own conclusions.

A DISCLAIMER:  Except when quoting official policy statements, the views expressed in this page don't necessarily represent views of the American Scientific Affiliation.  As always, we encourage you to use your own critical thinking to evaluate everything you read.

You can find educational resources by
exploring the area of Origins Questions:
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  Informal Education  

This page for The Creation-Views of ASA, written by Craig Rusbult, is

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