Thursday, December 01, 2005

Young Earth Creationism - Kaput


I’d like to welcome all the visitors who are here because of my essay “The Evolution of Creationism” which has aired on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio National segment, Perspectives, and subsequently worldwide on Radio Australia and the Internet. Thanks are due to Sue Clark at the ABC for help in its production.

Below is a transcript and audio of the piece. This is, of course, also available at the ABC website, but this content tends to disappear after a fortnight and the audio is “streaming only”, whereas I can offer you an MP3 (Click HERE for the MP3 of the essay [4.3Mb] or HERE for the streaming version from the ABC website via RealPlayer).

Your feedback is welcome. Please do so by clicking on the “comments” link below. If you feel you want to communicate directly then email me, but generally, unless this is to offer me money, then I’d rather you comment publicly.

Just a couple of quick things:

Perspectives is a challenging show to write for, because complex issues have to be cut down to the pith to fit into the 5 minute format. Much that is relevant to a full understanding of an issue is of necessity left out. I will be developing some of these themes on this site over the next few weeks and my invitation to you is to bookmark this site and come back periodically for new posts, or email me and I'll happily inform you when updates on this subject are published. There’s always something interesting here!

Second, my piece was written and broadcast with the full knowledge of my employer, although on the understanding that it represents my own view and not that of the School. I quote briefly from my School’s policy on “The Teaching of Origins” because of my belief is that there is significant congruence between the School’s stated view on Young Earth Creationism and my own (except for tone, in which I take sole responsibility for being blunt). If however you object to my view, my radio piece or what I write here, please direct criticism to me on the basis of my piece and feedback to the School on the basis of its stated policy, and not the other way around. Conflating the two will be seen as deliberately vexatious.

Transcript of the Radio Essay [annotation not appearing in the radio piece in square brackets]:

The Evolution of Creationism

“The debate about humanity’s Origins is resurgent. Our Federal Education minister has given qualified endorsement [since withdrawn] to the teaching of Intelligent Design. In the United States, (where else?), Intelligent Design is back in the Courts, and the Vatican has come out strongly to attack Intelligent Design as being both bad science and bad theology. What’s going on?

Some say Intelligent Design merely peddles old arguments with a new vocabulary, or that they abuse a sense of “fair play” by insisting on “teaching the controversy”. So is “Intelligent Design”, Intelligently Designed?

I work in an environment that is a crucible for such questions, at a large Christian, non-denominational school west of Sydney. We do not teach literal 6-day, 6-thousand year ago Creationism, although our acceptance of an “intelligent designer” in the Universe is axiomatic. Our school policy says, in part
“The balance of physical evidence does not appear to support a young earth. We do not believe that scripture helps us to decide how old the earth is”. Unquote.

At first glance, Intelligent Design, without the stigmas and inconsistencies of Young Earth Creationism, seems like a good fit for what we and many other Christian Schools teach. So what’s the problem?

Intelligent Design advocates claim they have proof that certain mechanisms could never evolve into the form we see today if only undirected, natural processes were at work, even if given millions of years. Common examples quoted include the bacterial flagellum, the immune system, or the vertebrate eye. In pure “ID”, Natural Selection and billion-year timescales are readily accepted, although the identity of the putative “Intelligent Designer” is left for the listener to speculate. There are a lot of people who start winking and nudging at you with their Bibles when that point comes up.

Young Earth Creationism holds that not only was the Judeo-Christian God Yahweh responsible for the Universe, but that it all happened in six days, 6000 years ago. It also asserts there were vegetarian Tyrannosaurs and funnelweb spiders in the Garden of Eden, and that once, two Koalas swam to Australia from Turkey, without eating along the way, to establish Australia’s breeding population.

Such Young Earth Creationists have done a lot of harm to the Christian cause when they torture both the Bible and Science to evangelise. Smart, spiritually questing people who might respond to the message of the Gospel tend to get the giggles when they’re told that most of modern biology, geology and astronomy is a monstrous humanist conspiracy that leads to homosexuality, communism, terrorism and dancing.

And it’s not a new problem. St Augustine had the gist 1600 years ago when he said “Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth … But it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.”

Young Earthers are the big losers in the emergence of Intelligent Design because sensible debate has moved beyond their specious arguments forever. Intelligent Design has eaten their demographic whole. But although Intelligent Design is comparatively benign, to see its danger, consider history, replete with pitfalls when we misuse Science as a pillar for Faith.

The geocentricity of the universe was once held as proof of our special place in creation. Then came Galileo. The notion of biological "vitalism" has yielded to Biochemistry. Calvinists who found solace in Newton's description of a clockwork, deterministic universe, blanched at the revelations of Quantum theory.

These theories were regarded as self-evident, even Scriptural in their day. The temptation, then as now, is to invoke the “God of the Gaps” as a proof for faith. But when Scientific knowledge advances, those counselled into such a foundation, founder.

Perhaps the last word belongs to old Charlie Darwin himself, who confided to a supporter: "I cannot be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance."

Commentary:

Intelligent Design will swallow Young Earth Creationism


In the rise of the Intelligent Design movement, an important development that has been overlooked is the degree to which it has eaten its “parent”, Young Earth Creationism, and confirmed its place as an embarrassing anachronism. This is ironic, considering Intelligent Design advocates like the Discovery Institute hold as their chief goal to drive a “wedge” between creationists and those whom they see as pushing a secular worldview. Instead, what has happened is they have split Christians with Creationist sympathies into two camps: those happy to accept the findings of Science as neutral, and even enriching to their faith, and those who mistrust much of what non-Christian academics say as driven by an anti-Christian agenda. The fact that the majority of Christians are coming down increasingly on the side of the former rather than the latter must cause Young Earth advocates night sweats. Their support, their finance, their relevance and their credibility are all being seriously assailed from within, as their demographic migrates to the comparatively less paranoid and less specious options ID presents them. Young Earthers have for some time proclaimed themselves as the guardians of the authority of the Scriptures, and as the only group able to harmonise what we see in the world around us with what is “plainly written” in the Bible through their “research” (remember that Answers in Genesis went by the name “The Creation Science Foundation” until only a decade ago for precisely this purpose). However, much of the debate about the interface between Science and Christian Faith is now conducted in terms of “Intelligent Design”, and Young Earthers are left presenting their overhead projection slides of Native American Indian rock-art depicting dinosaurs (rebuttal), the plausibility of vegetarian sharks or lions before the Fall or the amount of Salt in the Ocean (rebuttal) to increasingly informed, and therefore embarrassed, audiences.

If the attention Intelligent Design has received in the media and on Education Boards across the United States is any indication, Young Earth Creationism has been dealt a fatal blow. It may not seem that way at the moment, but look closer. How has the debate surrounding Creationism evolved? What we see constantly are headlines like “Intelligent Design – Science or Religion?” and mealy-mouthed appeals to fairness from ID'ers like “Intelligent Design – Teach the Controversy”. Most science-based commentators then crank up the "Intelligent Design is Creationism” line, which is a valid argument to have when so much of what ID proposes is untestable metaphysics. But look what has happened! We now have an environment where the debate proper over origins (as opposed to the political and ideological manoeuvring involved in that debate) now focuses on things like “irreducible complexity” and “specified complexity”. None of the current debate dwells at all on “flood geology”, or "C-Decay", or the packing order of animals aboard Noah’s Ark. Intelligent Design, for all its faults, accepts the weight of evidence from cosmology, geology and biology supporting the great age of the Universe and the reality of macroscopic evolution as a mechanism (although “directed”) to explain the common ancestry among living forms.

Some people, both Young Earthers and ID advocates alike, fearfully believe Science is seeking to destroy faith. Rather, Science exposes incorrect thinking, and for me it has been a doorway to a deeper sense of the numinous in His creation. I believe God is the Creator, and the study of His Creation is Science. They are linked, whether scientists and theologians like it or not. But much of what we term Creationism is specious nonsense, and its latest incarnation, Intelligent Design is still a deeply unsatisfying answer to the issue of reconciling the what we know with our senses and what we believe by Faith from God's Word. Young Earthers answer this dilemma with simplistic Bibliolatry; Intelligent Design advocates with hand waving pseudoscience in the direction of a the “God of the Gaps”. As arrogant as Dawkins is, he sums it up beautifully:
“Gaps, by default, are filled by God. You don’t know how the nerve impulse works? Good! You don’t understand how memories are laid down in the brain? Excellent! Is photosynthesis a bafflingly complex process? Wonderful! Please don’t go to work on the problem, just give up, and appeal to God. Dear scientist, don’t work on your mysteries. Bring us your mysteries for we can use them. Don’t squander precious ignorance by researching it away.”
This contrasts nicely with what passes for Science in the Young Earth Creation camp. This is John Hinton writing at the website of Creationist Kent Hovind (who, by the way is also an AiG un-Person) incisively deducing the sedimentary structure of the Grand Canyon:
“Standing at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and concluding that the multiple bands that line the canyon walls are products of millions of years of sedimentation is just plain stupid… Years later, after coming to Christ and asking the Holy Spirit to guide me in all that I do, I understood why they insisted on following such a nonsensical theory. I then understood that they were not just morons, but they were morons with an agenda that guided all of their science falsely so called.”
Young Earth Creationists are equally hostile to fellow Christians.

The stock trade of groups like Answers In Genesis is to preach itinerantly to Churches around Australia, the US and the UK, with a surprisingly invariant refrain of “dinosaurs on the ark”, “no fossil evidence for evolution”, “radiometric dating is a sham” and copious obfuscation about the information content of genetic material via what can only be described as “argument by technobabble”. Having attended a number of such presentations, the operating principle I can only descibe as “get a fool to ask more questions in an hour than a wise man can answer in a lifetime”. At the end of such a presentation, rarely are Christians properly edified in their spirits in the same way as effective preaching of the Word has the capacity to do, but rather their heads are filled with muddy conglomerates of solar comet distribution [rebuttal], the half life of polonium [rebuttal], the effect of the second law of thermodynamics on the information content of their genes [rebuttal], the fact that "some lions eat grass and not meat", the fact that no, Noah's Ark can't be found yet because the people claiming as much have been declared as Creationist un-Persons (although AiG are free to spruik their own theories), and the fact that if your children attend a School that does not teach Young Earth Creationism then it's because they have been compromised by secular pressures and, if they turn out to be Satanists then, well, you know why. How long would it take for a diligent, gifted teacher to unpack all those issues and give his listeners a full understanding of all the misinformation they have just heard? Weeks, months, years! And so, the Creationist's job is done. He walks, smiling, out of the Church, past his own merchandise table full of discredited books and pamphlets, for his next speaking engagement with a mire of confusion and destruction behind him. Maybe the minister will buy him lunch?

Meanwhile, the real work of making the message of the Gospel relevant in the world of the quantum, the gene and the byte we now inhabit has marched on, and is being done by both Scientists of Faith, and Christians with a respect for the faculty of reason alike. Young Earthers have been slow to realise they are now by themselves, spurned by the major Christian denominations, rejected in Christian seminaries and colleges, scorned in most Christian Schools (including mine), and are left to now preach largely (but not exclusively, to judge from their ministry calendar) to Charismatics and Seventh Day Adventists (and here's some analysis of the problems that poses).

One assumes AiG's ability to preach in any given congregation is more a function of the dispensation or harried inattentiveness of a particular minister rather than due to the endorsement of the denomination, and in some cases, occurs despite the reasonable expectation that they should not be permitted to speak because of the condemnation their denominational leaders have made about Young Earth Creationism.

As an example from my own denomination (Assemblies of God), take Pastor Phil Baker, Australian President of the Australian Christian Churches, which is an umbrella group folding in all Assemblies of God Churches, half a dozen other denominations and groups, and a number of independent Churches. In a discussion on Intelligent Design versus Young Earth Creationism, he has said
“Intelligent Design (advocates) are all Old Earthers as are most of the leading evangelical scholars. ‘Young Earthers’ are a dying breed whose main ecosystem is Queensland. They may go extinct in the next few decades. Certainly I agree with you re the harm they can cause to seeking people. Intelligent Design, Hugh Ross etc have had the exact opposite effect. I hosted a meeting of top physicists with Hugh a few years ago and they were impressed with his manner, his honesty and his science.”
If this is his view, why isn't more pressure applied to exclude organisations like AiG from speaking in any ACC member churches? The ACC, like the AOG is not an authoritarian umbrella, but surely some common sense can be made to prevail?

As an interesting contrast, Hugh Ross, held up by Baker as a mediating figure of some honesty and intelligence, comes in for a particular serve from Answers in Genesis ("The dubious apologetics of Hugh Ross" by Danny Faulkner and "Hugh Ross lays down the gauntlet!" by Jonathan Sarfati) where they accuse Ross of “outrageous biblical assertions”, “poor scholarship”, an “inability to correctly handle factual information”, “total disregard for the truth”, “no accountability”, “questions about his scientific competence”, “riddled with errors”, and finally posing the question “Dishonesty or incompetence? It is difficult to say.”

The above quotes were taken from a single paragraph of AiG's writings describing Ross, while simultaneously they make the claim (and it beggars belief, really, I couldn’t make this up if I tried), “We make these public comments with a heavy heart, and with the overriding emphasis that our intention is not personal attack.”
Yeah, right. Poor Hugh, you, like me have become a Creationist un-Person. In the Young Earth Creationist worldview, it is not only un-Good and impossible to believe that differing views can be welcomed into the brotherhood of faith, but fundamentally, if we oppose fundamentalist Creationism, we are apostate, dangerous puppets of a diabolical plot, and quite possibly unsaved to boot.

Writing in the AiG organ “Creation”, John Rendle-Short (whose scientific training is as a Paediatrician) writes
“Evolution provides the scientific orthodoxy for the philosophies of Marxism, fascism, racism, apartheid and unbridled capitalism.”

But why stop there? I can add I have a seen, in Creation magazine alone, a belief in Evolution attributed as the cause of Nazism, homosexuality, abortion, feminism, eugenics, environmentalism, teen pregnancy, AIDS, terrorism, and delinquency.

It’s a mighty powerful theory that can be blamed for Communism and Capitalism simultaneously, with Hitler, Mao and Stalin thrown in for good measure.

Answers in Genesis bring in “misguided” Churches for criticism as well for this state of affairs, declaring “We don’t usually stop to think of how the church itself has aided and abetted this tragedy as it has so often compromised on the authority of God’s Word”. Maybe by this they had the Salvation Army in mind, whom they have also reserved "heretic" status for. Ken Ham writes ("Compromise Kills!" 2001)
"The same compromise that has all but destroyed the church in England is now sweeping through churches, colleges and seminaries in America. Now, many of these institutions might claim they believe God created–but what does that mean? Do they really believe God’s Word as written? Or are they on the way to becoming like Stannard, preaching heretical statements as those above?"
For research into AiG’s writings on the Salvation of non Young Earth Creationists
I am grateful for Brian Baxter for the following.
Russell Grigg of AiG penned 'Do I have to believe in a literal creation to be a Christian?' for Creation magazine in June 2001. ‘It is true,’ Grigg tells us, 'that one can go through the steps of becoming a Christian without accepting or even knowing the Genesis account of Creation and the Fall.' However, this 'minimal belief system' leads to 'a shallow faith that has little root in the Word of God'. So, must one accept the literal Creation to be a Christian? 'The short answer is "No"', says Grigg. 'The long answer is "No, but …''

John Whitcomb of Genesis Flood fame is almost as subtle in an interview with Ken Ham. No, Whitcomb doesn't believe that a true, born-again Christian could lose his salvation by failing to believe the whole Word of God, including the literal Genesis Creation story. But when such a Christian appears before the judgment seat of Christ, he or she could 'suffer great loss - not our soul, but our reward'.
Brian’s other writing on AiG can be found at these links.

Of particular interest is Brian’s reflection on the arguments Young Earth Creationists no longer use. It’s one thing for Creationists to reject previously favoured “proofs” of creation like moon dust, man tracks, or missing days, but what of the harm they have done to the people who credulously accepted these theories as encouragements to believe hold to the truth of the Gospel? I’ve never seen an apology. If their reliance is totally on a "straight" reading of scripture, which by their definition does not change regardless of the culture or prevailing natural wisdom, how do they explain these embarrassing backflips?

Such invective as I have described above is far from uncommon among AiG acolytes. I myself have experienced it personally, but that’s an engaging story for another time.

Young Earthers may not oppose Intelligent Design, but Intelligent Design advocates can’t disown Young Earthers quick enough.

Young Earthers have good cause to be worried. On the one hand they make proclamations like this concerning ID
“AiG CEO Ken Ham says “If those people (Intelligent Design advocates) get themselves on school boards, fine. We don't oppose them. Simply because, for me, and for us in the biblical creation movement, we say, well let them fight the evolutionists, the atheists, and keep fighting issues of naturalism and so on, that's fine."
But then, for their “stockholders” they take a different tack:
“(Intelligent Design,) merely rejecting evolution … in favor of a generic notion of intelligent design, …does not go far enough." (Mark Looy, AiG 2000)

And also: because ID advocates repeatedly distance themselves from previously used Biblical arguments for Creationism they charge that as a result “any of its leaders who might later identify themselves with Genesis belief would lay themselves open to charges of having been publicly deceptive.” (Carl Wieland, AiG 2002)

Answers in Genesis has a stake in co-opting the support of those who support ID, and their associated media coverage, but the sad truth is that Intelligent Design has disowned Young Earth Creationism and takes every opportunity to distance itself from it. Thus, the above quoted Ken Ham news article goes on to say “Intelligent design advocates probably won't thank Australian-born Mr Ham for articulating what many of them try to avoid saying. That is: for some, the intelligent design movement is essentially a stalking horse for religion”. AiG themselves admits “(ID leading light) Dr Michael Denton, was part of a broadcast forum in Australia which recently told a largely Christian audience that belief in literal Genesis was foolish and unscientific.”

Conclusion

The purpose of my radio piece was to illustrate the "evolution" of the Creationist debate and show that Intelligent Design, for all it's own serious flaws, will eventually at least have the beneficial effect of making Young Earth Creationism wither and disappear. It may take the better part of a generation to happen, and I acknowledge that there are many who will not share my optimism. Of course, I know many Young Earthers personally, and delight in both their company and the sincerity of their faith. But I fear for the foundation of their faith greatly, if they have bolstered their faith by reading "Creation" magazine, as the half century of pseudoscientific literature that has accumulated around “Flood Geology”, “Dinosaur/human cohabitation” and “Starlight and Time” is still being goaded in the direction of credulous Christians as as additional reasons to believe- and that Emperor has long since been without clothes. To such people, all I can do is remind you with humility that "goodness without wisdom always accomplishes evil."

Young Earthers like Answers in Genesis have indeed done a great deal of harm to the Christian Cause with their manner of genuflection, which consists of a planting of the hands firmly over each ear, closing their eyes and loudly going “La! La! La! La! La!” until inconvenient facts disappear or can be mocked into submission. Their retreat into the history books to be catalogued alongside flat-earthers is assured, but we (and by we I largely mean Christians) must be vigilant against their nonsense in our Churches and Schools until the last one falls into shamed silence.

I and those who follow the commentary that will follow this and my further writings on this topic should prepare themselves for vacuous vitriol of the first order. Prepare for comments that sedulously avoid the topic but instead focus on ad-hominem attacks, accusations of divisiveness, out-of-context quotation, exhumation of tired old arguments and events, outright dishonesty, and self serving auto-hagiography.

27 comments:

gary said...

Over my years of experience as a university professor engaged in teaching and research, I have come to the realization that the Evolutionists are right about one thing. Creation Science is religiously based, and teaching young-earth, six-day creationism in the public school system is bringing religious ideas into the classroom. Even the concept of Intelligent Design, which claims that the design in nature is scientific proof of a designer, is Creation Science in disguise.

On the other hand, Evolutionists are dead wrong when they claim that the natural world can only be understood from an evolutionary perspective. Creationists can stand firm on the reality of scripture, and rid science of religious presuppositions by attacking the scientific merit of evolution, rather than promoting creationism.

nilmot said...

Hey Nathan, I liked your comments on Phil Baker's blog a few weeks ago.

I have no Theological objections to evolution. I do not believe in a young earth but neither have I been impressed with some of the old-earth creationism stuff so I am interested in your thoughts.

I understand that there is some good evidence for evolution, but the thing that gets me is this, if every species that exists and ever existed all had a common ancestry, then in order to get from single cell organisms to everything else there must have been literally millions and millions of transitional species. Sure ape to human evolution seems feasible, but what was there before that? where exactly are all the missing links?

Anonymous said...

I found your post via the "Tangled Bank" I found it reasoned and well stated.

The question all Christians have to ask, is "Is God a deceiver?" If we find the answer to that is "No" then we must assume that what we observe must be what was meant. Thus, if we observe that the earth is 4 billion years old, then we must accept that as what God meant us to observe. Anyone claiming that this is a false observation, is calling God a deceiver. Should we listen to those individuals?

Anonymous said...

Nilmot: if you're truly interested in learning more, there are many places to go on the internet for clear descriptions and explanations of things such as "missing links." Start with the blog the Panda's Thumb.
Nathan: As a Christian who, fortunately, grew up in a church where the beauties of the universe were celebrated and not feared, I thought your exposition of the issues was excellent. Keep your integrity! This fight is one we Christians must fight, though I have great regard for my skeptical scientist friends.

Pierce R. Butler said...

In pure “ID”, Natural Selection and billion-year timescales are readily accepted...

Not necessarily: the Discovery Institute, a public-relations outfit which is the primary advocate of ID in the US and the world, officially maintains a "big-tent" policy of welcoming all supporters, and does so in part by explicitly stating they take no position on the age of this planet. Good PR, maybe, but hopeless science...

Also: may I suggest to nilmot that you start your research at talkorigins.org, a site organized around the goal of providing information systematically. Pandasthumb is a group blog focussed on discussing daily developments in the evo-creo controversy, and is likely to be very frustrating if your goal is seeking basic scientific information.

nilmot said...

Thanks anonymous and Pierce R. Butler, I will look those up, I am genuinely interested.

Anonymous said...

hi nathan..phil baker here.....Good blog only one problem..I am not an aog pastor..[not that there is anything wrong with that]!

Ab Truth said...

Nathan - personally i think your logic is fatally flawed. From that first flaw you may have everything worked out very well and logically but you have built your house upon sand. i have asked you these questions before (emailed you them personally) but you have refused to answer them. Please don't run from a fair fight (or unfair as i am on YOUR blog)

if we wait for science to get better to explain the things that are inexplicable... is it just a matter of time before every process of the universe is reduced to a mathmatical formula? at what point could we say that science has gone as far as it could go?

it seems to me that science has come along way and come up with the fundamental building blocks (string theory, multiple universes etc) but have never answewered any 'how did it get there?' question


As Thomas Huxley concluded a lecture on Darwin, he was immediately accosted by a little, old lady who challenged him to refute her conviction that the world, which was flat, rested on the back of a turtle. Before Huxley had a chance to respond, the lady concluded:

"I know what you are going to ask, Mr. Huxley, and the answer is ‘turtles all the way down.’"

this is a bit like scientific evolutionary explanations for the existence of life.

Either

A. science has a limit to which it can explain things before it must invoke a higher power of some sort (designer?)

or

B. scientific knowledge of the natural universe goes on adinfinitum with no possibility of stopping and no need to invoke anything other than that the future will reveal more.

Intelligent Design believes in A and I would put to you that anyone who believes in a Creator of any colour would believe A whether or not you believe that they have that level of knowledge as yet.

Now if science can go on ad-infinitum (B) there is no need for God, no revelation of Gods handwork in the universe 'so that none are with excuse' ......just turtles all the way down..............

Ab Truth said...

further Nathan..

how is it that a Christian (i do believe that you call yourself one((that wasn't sarcastic, i really don't know you too well))) would advocate books by Carl Sagan who is infamous for saying in his series 'Cosmos' that "nature is all there is all there was and all there ever will be"?

This statement is an explicit denial of the possibility of any kind of creator and cannot be logically sustained. It (the book) may have great knowledge and be an asset but in the wrong hands (the naive reader) could be destructive esp when reccommended by a Christian. Rather like me lending you my car without telling you about the dodgy brakes..........

Ab Truth said...

or is it that the evidence for intelligent life in the book "Contact" was a mathmatical formula that was so complex that it could not have been constructed by anything other than an 'intelligent designer'? much like me and my double helix that was knit together by God himself?

Sorry Nathan but if you ignore me, i get sarcastic...

thought police said...

Nathan - upon reading your last paragraph i must ad that i almost gagged...

you said "Prepare for comments that sedulously avoid the topic but instead focus on ad-hominem attacks,...."

but just a few weeks ago you said

"I won't dignify Ted with an answer, despite the fact he will trimphantly declare that my refusal to lay in the gutter with him validates his position. Get a life, Ted."

and

" I've rarely seen such a spastic flibbertigibbet dance as Ted is now attempting."

you seem pretty ready for odd rabbit punch yourself!!

Ab Truth said...

Pierce R. Butler said...

In pure “ID”, Natural Selection and billion-year timescales are readily accepted...

Not necessarily: the Discovery Institute, a public-relations outfit which is the primary advocate of ID in the US and the world, officially maintains a "big-tent" policy of welcoming all supporters, and does so in part by explicitly stating they take no position on the age of this planet. Good PR, maybe, but hopeless science...

read it again Pierce... "welcoming all supporters.." means that billion year timescales are accepted as well as those who don't!!

nilmot said...

Hey Absolute Truth, a couple of questions.

1. Do you believe the creation account in Genesis to be literal?

2. Do you believe that it is possible that God could have used the Big-Bang and evolution as the mechanisms by which the universe and life on Earth was created?

Anonymous said...

I am suprised that anonymous uses the following argument:

... "Is God a deceiver?" If we find the answer to that is "No" then we must assume that what we observe must be what was meant...

You have implied that God has deceived us through his Word. If we believe that God is not a deceiver then his Word is paramount. His Word would hold over 'human' observations. Remember, God is the only observer of His Creation. We can only attempt to make sense of the past based upon observations from the present.

Nathan Zamprogno said...

This is the author speaking.

I was wondering why the traffic to the blog here has gone through the roof. Turns out among the many who have linked to this article is none other than Answers in Genesis themselves!

I can hardly hide my excitement. Subscribers or supporters to AiG publications are absolutely my prime focus, and they've given me a huge free kick by circulating my Blog URL to their entire subscriber list!

To those of you stopping by on the basis of AiG's link- I bid you a hearty welcome. All I can say is come by again soon. I will unpack the various counterclaims made (relating to both fact and to attitude), and include some background information on occasions when AiG and I have locked horns in the past (of which they have written about: you'll be saddened at their duplicity when I tell my side). I'll also try to address some of the comments people have made to this post already (I'm getting to you, Absolute Truth!). Things are busy here just before Christmas. But I'll get to it.

Anonymous said...

As a Biologist for 25 years and as someone who follows the Creation/ Evolution debate I can make a few comments:
1 Don't confuse Science with Evolution or Scientists with Evolutionists. These terms mean different things. Creationists who have extensive Science qualifications are Scientists - so show them respect and argue logically not like a spoilt, ignorant two year old!
2 I haven't heard anyone yet address the central issue of ID - irreducable complexity. All biological systems are irreducably complex, they cannot develop by gradualism. Evolutionary scientists need to try to address this issue rather than just name calling. Its lazy and its tiresome to an educated public.
3 Nathan you seem a bit out of your depth here, you need to do more homework or get some help if you are going to broadcast all over Australia. A lot of what you say is wrong or misrepresents or oversimplifies the situation.

Nathan Zamprogno said...

Oh, just one thing to kick things off. Did you note that AiG's haughty reply is completely anonymous? It's easy to denigrate a man and his commitment to Christ when you don't have to put your name to it, isn't it guys?

Anonymous said...

Nathan, your essay is a breath of fresh air. If Creationists have linked to you here then expect a flood of comments showing the same degree of shallow understanding of both the Bible and the Scientific Method as their 'rebuttal' of your essay. One might say 'hell hath no fury as a Young Earth Creationist scorned!' Answers in Genesis particularly have been caught fair and square far too many times as arrogant and medievally minded, totally lacking in grace towards fellow Christians to whom they ought to show more respect. To disagree with a simplistic 10000 year chronology does not make us ignorant, ineffectual or 'compromised' Christians, and the very suggestion is deeply offensive. I too have seen far too many people turned off Jesus by the tortured 'science' from these people.

Michael Galieh said...

Howdy Nathan. Yes, I am from the Answers in Genesis link. I am in
their Sydney support group. I only attend occasionally and help out with meetings and such. I am Michael Galieh by name - pizza deliverer by game. I did a BSc. degree in physics, but did it at the pass level, and found it quite heavy going in the mathematics. I guess you could say I passed - but not by much. It does take the satisfaction out of a degree when you barely get by, so I don't think I will be working in the field anytime soon unless my IQ. gets bumped up 20 points or so! But I do have some basic understanding of the issues of science versus creationism and intelligent design.

I suppose one way of looking at this whole "Creationist / Intelligent Design" debate is to consider it as a grand test or even an experiment in how one interprets the Bible. The public resolution of this will come at the end of history as we know it.

Does God actually mean what he says (in the Bible) in a "fairly easy to understand" way? Or does He expect us to allow facts to alter our perception of what God has said? I just find it a bit odd that God would write the Bible in such a way that it does not have authority in a certain subject area. Like the physical sciences. As Christians I would think that we ought to accept the Bible as truth. But if any "accepted fact" can alter it's meaning... well? Makes one wonder about how useful the Bible really is, doesn't it.

Well, of course, facts should alter our understanding of anything at all. A fact is a fact. Facts are truth! But say for instance that a so-called fact, isn't a fact at all. Should that "false fact" be allowed to alter our understanding of something as important as the interpretation of the Bible?

Let me say first about the Bible, that it is important to have figured out the nuances of the languages in the manuscripts, the figures of speech of the times, etc. All this helps to determine what the writers of the original manuscripts meant to say. However I have not just contradicted myself because I am referring to neccessary research that must be done to iron out things like language and grammar and context. Once that is done, we can be fairly sure what is meant by a passage.

The early parts of genesis for example used to be regarded as a literal 6000 year history until evolution became respectable. However most serious scholars (regardless of their opinions for or against Genesis as literal history) are convinced that the author of Genesis actually did mean his readers to interpret it as being creation in six actual days, about 6000 years ago.

What if the Bible, taken at face value, appears to say something about the physical world that is very different to what is "known" to be true? Do we automatically go with the latest "true" scientific paradigm? What value would the Bible be left with? To be honest - not much.

If the Bible fails in one area, it could potentially fail in any area. To try to isolate the Bible from being tested like this shows a lack of confidence in it. It can easily handle the objections raised against it. As I already said, you first have to do the homework of language anaylsis, grammar, context etc. But after that, the Bible should be just as open to attack as any other book or theory.

This is my approach: If the Bible contradicts something "known to be true", I personally am going to be highly doubtful of the "known truth" that is being contradicted by the Bible. That may appear "head in the sand" to just about everybody. Maybe so, but it is based on prior experience. The Bible has always come out on top in various arguments presented against it's validity - if given long enough for things to be properly checked out. In the long run it is a safe bet (from experience) to just assume the Bible is (to a limited extent) a scientific commentary as well as a historical and spiritual commentary.

If the Bible was written by God, I am going to assume that whenever the Bible speaks of the physical world, it is absolutely correct. That approach seems consistent with the Biblical God that says something to us, and requires a little bit of courage and faith on our part to accept what He says regardless of what it does to our reputations.

Do not forget that throughout history many great men of science were ridiculed and ostracized for their "crazy ideas" which were later found to be true, sometimes after their death. The opponents of the Bible always think they have bucketloads of evidence against it but in time, it stands up to investigation and the evidence against it collapses. To quote Darth Vader: "Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you have constructed; the ability to destroy a planet is insignificant against the power of the Force". I think you could make the appropriate substitutions for relevancy. This is the big league. How much confidence do you have in God's Word? Let it loose and stop coddling it!

And I think God allows us to look foolish on purpose, to harden us up and lessen our dependance on popularity and other insignificant sweets. Being laughed at is never easy, but is good for us when it causes us to realize that the world is not our eternal home, but heaven is. We should not feel too much at home here. It isn't our job to force the world into our viewpoint, as terrorists try to do. It is not for us to be able to expect admiration and respect from the world. Christ said that we should expect the world to hate us as it hated Him.

Many Christians who oppose young earth creationism do so because of fear of losing any respectability in the world. Many say "How can the Gospel be accepted by anyone if it becomes the object of ridicule and scorn?" Good question. No one can be saved unless God draws that person to Himself anyway. When God brings some light to their spiritually dead state, they can easily see reality. But it is up to the person to decide which way they will go. Bertrand Russell seemed to have an experience of God drawing him but he rejected it, chuckling on national TV. Very sad for him.

In fact it is interesting that evolution is believed in so very strongly by so many, given it's fatal flaws. That is a result of the condition of spiritual death, though many Christians also seem to cave in to a "go with the flow" approach to Biblical interpretation which masquerades as intellectually enlightened but is really just cowardice. Sorry to label you as a coward, but you called us quite a few names, So I can call you some back - ha ha. No malice intended.

I suppose it is about whether we should take a principled stand on issues like these. I suppose you have taken that stand yourself - against creationism. But I think you are taking the easy way, and the wrong way. When we get to heaven, I will find it easier to admit that I was wrong, than you will find it to admit that you were wrong. Your approach may be more nuanced than ours, but I don't believe it is as honourable. You ought to take a stand, and to hell with reputation or other peoples opinions. You may one day be very glad you did!

On science itself: I believe that science is a good method of estimating (physical) truths. As scientific experience and sophistication grow, scientific theories "should" ever more closely approximate "actual truth". This is mostly the case. But sometimes the science gets it wrong, and instead of converging to the actual truth, it begins to diverge from it. This is normal though. Usually this type of error will be caught after a while and a scientific paradigm change will occur. Many creationists think that this is what we are seeing now with ID and Creationism. It just isn't too popular amongst the mainstream.

There is another problem for ID and Creationism however. The framers of "respectable science" refuse to incorporate any possibility that anything "supernatural" had a hand in starting living systems going. That is where science becomes rather high handed and begins to diverge from reality.

To ignore the evidence of ID's "irreducible complexity", which demands a designer / engineer / creator - may support the "legal" definition of science, but is just the same type of "dishonesty" as my stance is exhibiting.

Modern science is committed to a naturalistic origin of all things. And creationism / ID is committed to a supernatural origin of all things.

Creationism however (the AIG flavour at least) does expect a natural explanation for any phenomena, unless there is no possible explanation as such, at which point it would invoke God as the cause.

For instance, the Noahic flood of Genesis would be expected to have natural causes. There is nothing about it that would be considered "supernatural" that we can see at the moment, except maybe the timing, but God is easily able to start off natural events to be timed just right, since He knows the future.

As a Christian, I don't have a problem regarding God as "Natural" anyway, in the same way that a car company is considered "natural". When you see a car, we assume that a car company manufactured it, as cars are too complex to have formed by themselves. The difference is that we can know about car companies and can understand them. However we have not seen God and can certainly not understand Him! We have heard of Him, but many do not wish to listen! Absense of evidence is not always evidence of absence! It is a bit unreasonable to reject something because it cannot be cornered into a naturalistic scientific explanation. Well actually, it would be unreasonable to invoke God for lots trivial issues, but don't forget we are talking about the origin of life and the universe here. Creationism really only invokes God for the creation, after which God rested - meaning, let the natural universe play out. And with the exception of certain miracles. But they are extremely limited in time and place. Evolution needs plenty of "miracles" for it to work. That's not the current view of course but I am talking about how evolution could overcome it's very serious problem with improbabilities. I think God's 6 day creation is a little more efficient than billions of years of miracles.

But God expects us to use a little common sense and extrapolation. If a car cannot form by itself, but must have been created by a "car company", then living systems, which are far more complicated, must also have been designed and manufactured by a "living systems company" (or other entity involved in such things, because of the improbability of it happenning by itself (due to random events - Evolution). Nudge nudge - wink - ahem - God did it!).

Just because we do not see the designer is no excuse for scientists to rule one out. But since when has that ever stopped scientists from ruling God out? Not too often!

Many scientists (like anybody really) do not really bother to look into these issues. And no wonder! Because they already "know" that Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates are boneheads. (Actually, I really am a bonehead (partly) - so are you!) But seriously, there are quite a lot of scientists who never questioned evolution as an explanation because - why would they? It seems logical and scientific, and is respected. And some of it (natural selection) is true! We know engineering has worked wonders based on physics and chemistry, and we know biological science is wonderful. And evolution is the basis of all biology is it not? In short, no. Biology needs evolution like a baby needs a stork!

But these certain scientists (who are now creationists or ID advocates) when challenged, began to check out whether there really were convincing technical solutions to the origin of very complicated living systems. These scientists lost their belief in evolution (I'm not talking about Natural Selection here, but the suppossed ability of evolution to be able to generate new information and structures) because of the extreme improbability of the processes of evolution being able to generate the living systems we know about.

A simple way to look at is is this: To build something complicated, we need to overcome the improbability of its generation by holding fixed the motions and configurations of it's components. The angles and speeds of the componets are rigidly controlled during assembly of a complex part. Almost always, during assembly, the rest of the structure is held fixed in orientation and not allowed to move at all. That is how "vast improbabilities" of assembly are overcome.

However, evolution cannot do this at all. Theoretically - it could, but the improbabilities are so large, that it cannot ever happen. Random processes cannot stop the other components from moving about and preventing assembly. You cannot generate a jumbo jet from a hangar filled with it's parts by using a tornado and waiting long enough. Well, maybe you could theoretically, but the time to wait is far far far longer than is possible to wait for, and you will also damage the parts, etc. See what I mean?

To enable the assembly to work, it also must be planned in advance (more information), everything must be sized to fit and have the correct initial orientation. Evolution cannot do this either! Theoretically, it could, but the improbabilities climb so exponentially fast as the number of components grows, that the possibility of chance generation of a correct shape of a working assembly rapidly approaches the utterly impossible. Because as the number of components in a given assembly increases, the ratio of the number of possible functioning (useful) states to the number of possible non-functioning (useless) states decreases ever more rapidly.

And gee - athiestic evolution doesn't even have a plan!!!!! But theistic evolution does, but why would God do it that way. To have God running evolution does extreme violence to the rest of the Bible, and it would be a set of quadrillions of miracles as I said before. You can go down that track if you wish, but you are tearing up what the Bible teaches in the process. And all to look respectable. It isn't worth it!

You can kind of see this effect in computers. A "simple" home computer of 25 years ago could have an operating system to exploit it's potential written in a few man-years of work. Nowadays with our more complex computers it takes much longer to write an OS to exploit the far greater potential of faster and more complex machines.

You could just bung in an old OS of a 25 year old computer, ported to a modern processor - but it does not exploit the potential of the bigger faster computer. I suppose you could attempt to run Windows XP on a 2MHz Z80 (he he he) if you allowed for a large hard drive. (Or maybe run Windows XP off of a series of autoloading cassettes! And use paged memory in the 48 kilobytes of RAM!!) Ha ha ha. That would be hilarious. It might take a year to boot up. You could do it, but the 48 kilobyte 2MHz Z80 running Windows XP would never be truly useful would it?

And think of it in terms of bugs. The longer and more complicated a program is, the more it is prone to errors of various kinds. Hard drive errors. Logic and algorithm design errors. Typing errors! The more complicated the system. The more difficult it is to find a useful solution.

Unfortunately the raw technical arguments of these matters are covered up and for all intents and purposes made moot by - popular opinion. Good old peer group pressure eh? Hmm. I think we are all a sucker for that, myself included.

Anyway, the only way to resolve this debate finally, is to wait until history finishes and see who was right! Although by that time, the consequences of our opinions on these matters while we are still on earth will have been set forever. I'll go with the 6000 year old earth and animals reproducing according to their kinds, etc.

How about we make a booking to see each other in Heaven in the year 190011 A.D. Or maybe you can suggest another year that is free? Try to schedule your appointments around this please. Our memories will be good, so I should recall this then from my post now. If I am right, you buy me a coffee and cake. If you are right, I will buy you whatever meal you want, and meet your SETI friends too! How about that Nathan?

We'll really settle this over a cup of coffee, in the sweet by and by.

Phil said...

Nathan
1. Genesis 1 clearly states God made all the plants according to their kind on the third day, creatures of the sea and the winged birds according to their kind on day 5 and the land animals according to their kinds and mankind on the 6th day, and it was all very good. The time code to identify the time scale ‘day’ was determined on the first day, day and night, evening and morning.

2. The God, Moses relationship was one of clarity and reverence. The text’s written by Moses are to be upheld.

Numbers 12:7-8 NIV

7“….my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my house.
8With him I speak face to face,
clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the LORD.
Why then were you not afraid
to speak against my servant Moses?”

3. Fundamental truth

John 1 NIV

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Summary: To rebuke Genesis is to rebuke God, deny God’s relationships with his selected peoples, and deny the authenticity of Jesus Christ.

I will pray for you Brother.

Michael Galieh said...

Hello, me again - sorry the last comment of mine was awful long. But I noticed you recommended the book "Does God believe in atheists?" I haven't read it but the reviews looked interesting. How good do you think it is?

Ab Truth said...

Nathan,

Abtruth here

did you read the post i put up before with my questions?

please put a bit of effort in will you, and answer them, because as far as i can see they tear your house of straw down...

Nilmot

no i do not believe Genesis was written literally ...

i believe a big bang was started by the big banger and i believe in microevolution but not macroevolution - no matter how we breed dogs they will never become cats...

while i'm at it... nathan your 'traffic that has gone through the roof' consists mainly of myself, thought police, nilmot and phil baker who have come to you for a peek because you unelegantly promoted yourself on phil bakers blog not through your arch evil enemy of AIG - i came to GET SOME DAMN ANSWERS FROM YOU - for goodness sake put up or just shut up on the whole question of evolution will you . if you cant answer my simple questions from someone with no real science training then no one should give a rats about anything you say on the rest of the entire subject... ohh there see you gone and gotten me all hot under the collar now you naughty little obfuscator....

Ab Truth said...

Nathan,

Abtruth here

did you read the post i put up before with my questions?

please put a bit of effort in will you, and answer them, because as far as i can see they tear your house of straw down...

Nilmot

no i do not believe Genesis was written literally ...

i believe a big bang was started by the big banger and i believe in microevolution but not macroevolution - no matter how we breed dogs they will never become cats...

while i'm at it... nathan your 'traffic that has gone through the roof' consists mainly of myself, thought police, nilmot and phil baker who have come to you for a peek because you unelegantly promoted yourself on phil bakers blog not through your arch evil enemy of AIG - i came to GET SOME DAMN ANSWERS FROM YOU - for goodness sake put up or just shut up on the whole question of evolution will you . if you cant answer my simple questions from someone with no real science training then no one should give a rats about anything you say on the rest of the entire subject... ohh there see you gone and gotten me all hot under the collar now you naughty little obfuscator....

Dr. Gary Chiang said...

The comments under gary were taken from the preface of my new book, A Christian's Guide to Defeating Evolution: the biological approach. Unfortunately, the last sentence in the first paragraph has been misquoted in this blog. It should read:
"Even the concept of intelligent design, which claims that the design in nature is scientific proof of a designer, has been accused by Evolutionists as being Creation Science in disguise."
I am not saying that ID is Creation Science in disguise. They are quite different concepts. However, to the staunch, atheistic evolutionist, they are one in the same.
One way to get around this impass is to demonstrate to the atheistic evolutionist that the theory of evolution is as much a religion as creationism. And the best way to do this is not to prove that an intelligent designer exists, but to show that it takes as much, if not more faith to believe that evolution created everything from nothing.
The preface of my book can be read at http://www.freewebs.com/gchiang/

Ab Truth said...

wow Nathan have you quit your own blog? you arent on holidays i know cause you are posting elsewhere... if I was up for an ad homemim attack id say you were chicken or does it take you that long to think up another sophism.

Anonymous said...

I have a father who was science teacher and a committed evolutionist. My own training is in information technology. I'm in my early 40s and for my whole life I have been both a Christian and an evolutionist of sorts. I believe this is not an uncommon situation. Most of us probably don't even think about evolution and the Bible as being an issue that needs to be thought through.

Its only last year, having read a number of non-creationist science books, that I decided to have a look at the creationist perspective. I found that I have warmed to their point of view, for one major reason:

I find my Christian walk enhanced by a straight-forward reading of the Bible.

It doesn't have to be a literal interpretation, but by all means, lets keep it all simple. I simply don't believe that God, the inspirer of all Scripture, would have made all this stuff hard to understand. After all, He cares for all of us.

Evolution and Creationism are opposed to one another. Both utilise science as a weapon. But at the end of the day I am convinced that it is a philosophical battle, because Science reserves the right to change its mind.

This means that auxiliary hypotheses (e.g. the Big Bang) can be safely jettisoned when required, without requiring one to abandon the philosophical position of Evolution. Likewise, auxiliary hypotheses about Creation may come and go (e.g. Humphrey's new cosmology model) without necessarily impacting Creationism in the slightest.

These are normal workings of science, so I would recommend that at least a basic understanding of the philosophy of science would be very useful for protagonists on both sides of the populist debate (the main protagonists, those publishing in technical journals, presumably already understand this ... its really only the "general public" on both sides of the debate that fail to come to grips with the philosophical perspective.

Anonymous said...

Writing from Iceland:

Hello Nathan. I am a former YEC fanatic. However after serious study, I found out that YEC-ism is as silly and sad as geo-centricity. Almost nothing they say about geology is true.

I have also found out that the evidence for evolution is impressive.

I am still a strong believer. That God order the earth to sprout forth plants, the sea to be filled with fish etc, and that he created man from the dust of the earth, does not exclude evolution anyways, even though there was a litteral Adam. I am pentecostal minister (part time). Aside from the fact that I do not take Genesis litterally (it was obviously not meant to be taken litterally anyways), I am otherwise conservative, theologically speaking. I am trying get in touch with Pentecostal and other like-minded christians that are open to evolution an such.

As far as I can see, I could not find any contact info on your blog. Could you send me an e-mail?

sindri79@gmail.com