Theological Problems with Creationism Pt. 3 – Unintelligent Design and God of the Gaps

In this post we will look at some “design flaws” in nature. This is really interesting and there are many instances. I will only touch on some of these. At the end I will briefly look at the God of the Gaps argument.

 

Unintelligent Design

Michael Ruse, philosopher of biology, states the problem plainly: “There is far too much wrong with the world – too many instances of malfunction – to think that a designer has been directly involved with making organisms.” Conor Cunningham makes the observation that to equate God with the mechanism of natural selection comes to an immediate problem: “Now, an immediate problem with this was the confusing paths developed by evolution, for they appeared random, and even contradictory. Many of these paths came to a dead end – hence extinction. If a God were involved in this sometime-successful chaos, one might think it to be a rather odd God.” That is the picture seen from a view when one steps back and takes in evolutionary history in general. In the big picture there are many dead ends. When it comes to specific species, there are more specific examples of unintelligent design., which will be discussed below.

There are several instances where the apparent design of organisms does not seem to be very intelligent, even downright dumb or wasteful. One of these examples is the detour taken by the laryngeal nerve in mammals, expressed in its most extended form in the giraffe. This nerve stretches from the brain, loops around the ductus arteriosus (near the heart), and then makes its way back up towards the larynx. In a human being, the detour is several centimetres, but in a fully grown giraffe the detour can be up to over 4.5 metres. Why? What a waste of nerve fibres. There is no functional reason for the detour made by this nerve and as Richard Dawkins writes: “Any intelligent designer would have hived off the laryngeal nerve on its way down, replacing a journey of many meters by one of a few centimetres.”

ajecvwk

Such “design flaws” are evidence for evolution. Robert Pennock explains that “[t]he reason that odd arrangements and makeshift adaptations are evidence for evolution is that these constitute a kind of pattern that is an expected effect of evolutionary processes, which must work at any given moment within the constraints imposed by previous evolutionary development.” Evolution can only work with what it has and thus has no way of working around the detour and making a direct route for the laryngeal nerve. An evolutionary explanation states that in fish the nerves and blood vessels serve gills that are neatly in sequence. With the gradual steps toward mammals, these nerves and blood vessels became stretched as, for example, the neck became longer. There was no way for natural selection to fix the nerve looping over the ductus arteriosus.

laryngealtransition

Another example, which is closer to home, is that of the male human’s vas deferens. The vas deferens is a tube that conveys sperm from the testes to the penis. The starting point and end destination are rather close together, but the vas deferens takes its own detour, looping around the ureter and then descending down to the penis. Ruse explains the detour with an everyday example when he says that “the sperm duct is rather like a garden hose that takes an unneeded loop around a distant tree, on its way from tap to nearby flower bed.” Why would an intelligent designer make such a useless loop? Once again the evolutionary explanation makes sense of the detour: The testes were originally in the abdomen, but descended lower, probably due to temperature issues. The vas deferens got hooked over the ureter and the process of evolution simply kept on lengthening the vas deferens.

vas-deferens-images

David H Bailey adds more examples to the list of human design flaws. Due to our upright stance, humans are prone to back ailments and while most mammals are able to generate their own vitamin C, we have lost the ability. Our sense of smell is poor, because about 30% of the genes related to our sense of smell are made void by accumulated mutations. Even though our eyesight is very good, humans have a blind spot which is caused by the optic nerves that originate at the front of the retina and then travel to the back of the retina. The eyes of molluscs are better “designed” with nerve connections at the back of the retina which results in eliminating the blind spot. Former Dominican priest and evolutionary biologist Francisco J Ayala poses a thought-provoking, yet tongue-in-cheek question: “Did the Designer have a greater love for squids than for humans and, thus, exhibit greater care in designing their eyes than ours?”

738px-evolution_eye_2-svg

In vertebrate eyes, the nerve fibers route before the retina, blocking some light and creating a blind spot where the fibers pass through the retina and out of the eye. In octopus eyes, the nerve fibers route behind the retina, and do not block light or disrupt the retina. In the example, 4 denotes the vertebrate blind spot, which is notably absent in the octopus eye. In both images, 1 denotes the retina and 2 the nerve fibers, including the optic disc (3). (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Evolution_eye_2.svg

As conclusion, Bailey writes that “[e]ach of these examples makes perfect sense from evolutionary history, but they are inexplicable as the product of meticulous design by a transcendent Being.” Palaeontologist Simon Conway Morris states that the God of Intelligent Design would not be “encumbered with a customary cliché of bearing a large white beard, but … the very model of scientific efficiency and so don a very large white coat. ID [Intelligent Design] is surely the deist’s option, and one that turns its back not only on the richness and beauty of creation, but also, and as importantly, on its limitless possibilities. It is a theology for control freaks.” At first glance, Intelligent Design seems to bring theology and evolution closer together, but this is a misapprehension.

 

God of the Gaps

god-of-the-gaps

Many creationist and Intelligent Design arguments lead to what is known as the “God of the gaps.” This argument, in short, places the activity and influence of God in the gaps left by science. Basically a “we don’t know, therefore God” stance. For Haught, this type of argument is not only bad theology, but also bad science, as it is to “shrivel what infinitely transcends nature into something small enough for mathematical equations to capture.” Mark Isaak explains that arguments from incredulity (e.g. irreducible complexity) create a God of the gaps. God is used as a convenient excuse and not the ground of all that is. Bailey mentions that it has been called theological suicide, because the gaps get smaller and smaller as scientific knowledge expands. It is indeed a dangerous path for theology to take, because God is pushed more and more to the side and eventually there will be no more room for God in the picture of the universe.

 

Sources:

Ayala, F J. 2009. Charles Darwin: Friend or foe? Word & World 29/1, 19-29.

Bailey, D H. 2010. Creationism and intelligent design: Scientific and theological difficulties. Dialogue: A journal of Mormon thought 43(3): 62-81.

Cunningham, C. 2010. Darwin’s pious idea: Why the ultra-Darwinists and creationists both get it wrong. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans.

Dawkins, R. 2009. The greatest show on earth: The evidence for evolution. London: Bantam Press.

Haught, J F. 2008. God after Darwin: A theology of evolution. Second edition. Boulder:   Westview Press.

Isaak, M. 2007. The counter-creationism handbook. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Morris, S C. 2006. The Boyle lecture 2005: Darwin’s compass: How evolution discovers the song of creation. Science & Christian Belief 18(1): 5-22.

Theological Problems with Creationism Pt. 2 – Mature Earth & Intelligent Design

faith-and-reason1

This post will look at the theological problems behind Mature-Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design.

Mature-Earth Creationism

Mature-earth creationism is also called the appearance of age argument or ideal-time creationism. Phillip Gosse, Henry Morris, and John Whitcomb, Jr. have been proponents of this argument. In his 1875 writing, Omphalos, Philip Gosse introduced the idea that God created the universe to look old. The universe is not billions, millions, or even hundreds of thousands of years old; it just looks that way.

The biggest theological problem with mature-earth creationism is the implied trickery or dishonesty on the part of God. Why would God create a universe and give it the appearance of age? What’s the point? Would a loving, righteous God place dinosaur fossils in certain strata of the earth’s crust in order to dupe the creatures He/She seeks to have authentic, meaningful relationships with? Keith Miller, a Catholic biologist, writes that: “In order to defend God against the challenge [Creationists] see from evolution, they have to make him into a schemester, a trickster, even a charlatan. Their version of God is one who intentionally plants misleading clues beneath our feet and in the heavens themselves. … To embrace that God, we must reject science and worship deception itself.” Such a deceiving God is not worthy of worship.

 

Intelligent Design

In this section the focus is shifted to Intelligent Design. With regard to Intelligent Design, Christopher Southgate asks the question of whether it is the best option to pose. “It is a type of explanation that must always be vulnerable to Occam’s Razor; it introduces an extra entity, a designer, into the system – an entity that is untestable and uncharacterizable, over and above the range of entities included in an evolutionary explanation.” Catholic theologian John Haught states that one of the biggest problems with Paley’s argument from design is “the intellectual integrity of Paley’s core argument. How could one speak of observing “design” in nature? One observes nature, but one infers design in nature.” There is a significant difference between observation and inference. Bram van de Beek states that inferring intelligent design from nature simply means that we can recognize that our human intelligence as a complex phenomenon has similarities with other complex phenomena, but that inferring the existence of an Intelligent Designer is taking it too far.

 

David H Bailey raises an important issue: “[b]ut like Creationists, ID scholars have not yet produced a solid body of quantitative, falsifiable scientific hypotheses of their own; instead, they have focused their efforts on identifying weakness in the established evolutionary theory.” Haught goes further to say that “Intelligent design injudiciously passes over the disorderly, undirected aspects of evolution that are also part of the life processes. It ignores the darker hues in the Darwinian story that gives a tragic cast to evolution and thereby strain the credibility of any theology.” It could be said that Intelligent Design takes an easy way out and ignores the dark side of nature.

 

John Haught makes much of what he calls “the drama of life.” Bailey quotes Haught as saying:

If God were a magician or a dictator, then we might expect the universe to be finished all at once and remain eternally unchanged. If God insisted on being in total control of things, we might not expect the weird organisms of the Cambrian explosion, the later dinosaurs and reptiles, or the many other wild creatures that seem so exotic to us. We would want our divine magician to build the world along the lines of a narrowly human sense of clean perfection.

But what a pallid and impoverished world that would be. It would lack the drama, diversity, adventure, and intense beauty that evolution has in fact produced. …

Fortunately, the God of our religion is not a magician but a creator. And we think this God is much more interested in promoting freedom and the adventure of evolution than in preserving the status quo.

 

A world made by Intelligent Design would be perfect, but it would lack the drama of life. Conor Cunningham states that the God of Intelligent Design is not a god to worship. It is not a god worthy of worship. George L. Murphy, physicist and theologian, argues that “God does not compel belief of skeptics by leaving puzzles which science can’t solve.” Once again that seems to imply that God is playing games with people. God is fooling people and tricking them into believing. Cunningham goes on to say that the God of Intelligent Design “would merely be a domesticated god, a ‘natural’ god. This ‘god’ might have bigger biceps, a Jedi Knight of sorts. He might be merely Homeric, but he certainly won’t be Abrahamic. To worship him would be like worshipping a whale or a mountain – one worships it because it is big.”

 

God as Intelligent Designer

Niels H Gregersen, from the University of Copenhagen, points out that “the meaning of the term ‘divine designer’ is under-determined. …its content obviously changes as one goes from one level of abstraction to another, and from one application to another. Usually, the divine designer is tacitly assumed to be the Creator of all-that-is (and not only a forming principle), but historically as well as logically the idea of a creator is not entailed in the notion of design.”

 

Haught argues that “Paley’s image of God as the divine artificer of the world reduced God to the world’s level. Where was any sense of transcendence, mystery, or glory?” Van de Beek agrees that an Intelligent Designer would not be a transcendental power, but rather an immanent phenomenon. “[S]uch a perfectly designed universe would have no room for life, freedom, and new being. An initially fixed and finished universe would have no future. It would also be insentient and mindless.” Such a universe would be static instead of lively and dynamic. This argument is once again emphasised when Haught says that the perfectly designed world of Intelligent Design would be “dead on delivery. Since it would already be perfect, it would also be finished; and if finished, it would have no future.” The Christian faith is a faith which values the past, lives in the here and now, but also reaches forward into the future. In a perfect world, there would be nothing to strive towards, which in the Christian tradition is the consummation of everything in Christ. There would be no place for the “drama of life.” Haught explains how one might see God as the originator of novelty and the path of life. Indeed, the idea of common descent as such need not imply any diminishment whatsoever in the power of God to create. “Think of the Creator as bringing into being a world that can in turn give rise spontaneously to new life and lush diversity, and eventually to human beings. In that case, evolution is the unfolding of the world’s original God-endowed resourcefulness.”  He goes on to state that “[t]he divine maker of such a self-creative world is arguably much more impressive – hence worthier of human reverence and gratitude – than is a “designer” who moulds and micromanages everything directly.” The God of evolution is a God of freedom and self-sacrifice. This God is a God of hope and promise, allowing the world to unfold, without coercing or manipulating it. Haught states that this “God of freedom and promise invites, and does not compel, the creation to experiment with many possible ways of being, allowing it to make “mistakes” in the process. This is the God of evolution – one who honours and respects the indeterminacy and narrative openness of creation, and in this way ennobles it.” The God of evolution is a humble, self-donating liberality that avoids any unmediated manipulation of things. A world that is perfectly design and created would be a static world, without novelty. Haught continues his argument as follows:

If you are the kind of theist or atheist who demands here and now a world with no design flaws, you are asking for an anaemic idea of deity and a divine creation devoid of a deeper, dramatic coherence. If a fixed and frozen universe is what you want, then you may insist of perfect design as envisaged by ID and most contemporary evolutionary atheism. But if you prefer a truly surprising and richly creative universe, then you may be religiously open to evolution. Isn’t it conceivable that Darwin’s three-part recipe for evolution wells up from a hidden dramatic depth of nature wherein there resides an inaccessible wisdom that those obsessed with perfect design simply cannot fathom?

Christian belief, at any rate, does not depend for its credibility on the existence of a world without design flaws. … Furthermore, if you explore the bible carefully, you will not find an elegant engineer there either. God’s intimate relation to the world is before all else one of liberation and promise rather than the imposition of design.

 

It is important to keep in mind that the Bible is a book which tells of liberation and promise in a world where all is not perfect. The Christian faith ought not to act as if we are not living in a world which is flawed, which is in constant change, and which has brokenness. The Bible is clear about the fact that all is not well and that God seeks to restore all things in time.

 

The next blog post will take a look at what I call “Unintelligent Design.”

 

Sources:

Bailey, D H. 2010. Creationism and intelligent design: Scientific and theological difficulties. Dialogue: A journal of Mormon thought 43(3): 62-81.

Cunningham, C. 2010. Darwin’s pious idea: Why the ultra-Darwinists and creationists both get it wrong. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans.

Haught, J F. 2008. God after Darwin: A theology of evolution. Second edition. Boulder:   Westview Press.

______2010. Making sense of evolution: Darwin, God, and the drama of life. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Miller, K B. (ed.) 2003a. Perspectives on an evolving creation. Grand Rapids: William B        Eerdmans.

______2003b. Worshipping the Creator of the history of life, in Miller, K B. (ed). Perspectives on an evolving creation. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans: 205-207.

Morris, S C. 2006. The Boyle lecture 2005: Darwin’s compass: How evolution discovers the song of creation. Science & Christian Belief 18(1): 5-22.

Murphy, G L. 2003. Christology, evolution and the Cross. In: Miller, K B. (ed). Perspectives on an evolving creation. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans: 370-389.

Southgate, C 2008. The groaning of creation: God, evolution, and the problem of evil. London: Westminster John Knox Press.

Van de Beek, B. 2005. Toeval of schepping? Scheppingstheologie in de context van het modern denken. Kampen: Uitgeverij Kok.

Theological Problems with Creationism Pt. 1 – General

For the next couple of posts we’ll look at the theological problems raised by the creationist and Intelligent Design views. This one will be a general look at creationism. This is were the theological muscles get flexed after the science and socio-historic criticism has been dealt out. Firstly, we look at criticism of creationism. This includes scientific ignorance, the ludicrous claims made by creationists, the unethical ploys adopted, and the disregard of proper exegesis.

creationist

Robert Cornwall states that taking the Genesis creation accounts literally makes it look like Christianity “has been left behind intellectually.” Conor Cunningham echoes this sentiment when he says that “the advent and rise of creationism and its understanding of the Bible represent a lapse into intellectual barbarism, a complete desertion of the Christian tradition.” St Augustine’s words are just as applicable today as when he wrote them between AD 397 and 400 in Book 11 of his Confessions: “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.” This scorn of the unbelievers is called irrisio infidelium. Augustine explained the serious ramifications of irrisio infidelium:

The shame is not so much that an ignorant person is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full off falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books.

 

Part of the ignorance found within creationism is the ridiculous claims made to support the creationist stance. Mark Isaak states that “the invalid ‘proofs’ necessary to support antievolution, a global flood, and a young earth have pushed people away from Christianity.” Bram van de Beek agrees that attempting to make science fit with the literal interpretation of the Bible results in pseudoscience. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines pseudoscience as “a system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific.” Pseudoscience is a cause of mockery and may prevent others from taking any Christian claims or communications seriously. Robert T. Pennock provides an example of absurdity invoked to defend the creationist account against evolution: “To defend the scientific plausibility of Noah’s Ark, ICR creation-scientist John Woodmorappe provides a book-length feasibility study and finds himself arguing that Noah solved the problem of animal waste management by training the animals to urinate and defecate upon command as someone held a bucket behind them.” Perhaps the most ridiculous claim was the one made by Accelerated Christian Education, which states that the Loch Ness Monster is proof against evolution (see the Top 5 Lies Taught by Accelerated Christian Education). After some unwanted publicity about the inclusion of Nessie in a science curriculum, Accelerated Christian Education has decided to leave Nessie and a “sea monster” caught by a Japanese fishing trailer out of the new editions. I actually did that science PACE and mostly forgot about it until I read Jonny Scaramanga‘s blog about the lies taught by ACE.

 

loch-ness-monster

In addition to ridiculous claims, sometimes unethical means are utilized to argue for creationism. There are those in the creationist camp that choose to demonize the perceived enemy by arguments such as the following by Henry Morris: “Satan invented the evolutionary concept and is using it as his vehicle to deceive the nations and to turn men away from God.” Robert Cornwall adds an interesting observation: “…the voices that yell the loudest are the most extreme. It is either the militant fundamentalist or the militant secularist… These two extremes agree on one thing: that literalism is the only legitimate religious voice, which means that one must choose between God and evolution.”

 

Besides simply being bad science and at times using unethical arguments, creationism also fails to take the interpretation of Scripture seriously. Christopher Southgate states that “creationism both fails to take science seriously, and uses a very dubious method of interpreting Scripture.” Creationism tends to take a literal stance to Scripture and see the Bible as absolutely inerrant. As Van de Beek states, creationism fails to take into regard the osmosis between context and theology. The stance of inerrancy ignores textual criticism, source criticism, syncretism, and the values of the authors. Basically, the approach used by Biblical literalism does not do the text justice. Isaak lists several examples of factual errors and contradictions in the Bible that shows how the literal, inerrant reading of the Bible does not treat the Bible properly:

  • Lev 11: 6 states rabbits chew the cud.
  • Lev 11: 20-23 speaks of four-legged insects, including grasshoppers as four-legged insects.
  • I Chron 16: 30 and Ps 93: 1 both state that the earth is immobile.
  • In Gen 1, God creates Adam after all the other animals, but in Gen 2, Adam is created before the animals.
  • Matt 1: 16 and Luke 3: 23 differ over the genealogy of Jesus. According to Matthew, the grandfather of Jesus was Jacob, but according to Luke he was Heli.
  • Mark 14: 72 differs from Matt 26: 74-75, Luke 22: 60-61, and John 18: 27 about the number of times the cock crowed. According to Mark the cock crowed twice and according to the others it crowed three times.
  • II Sam 24: 1 and I Chron 21: 1 differ over who incited David to count the people. II Sam states that it was God and I Chron states that it was Satan.
  • I Sam 17: 23, 50 and II Sam 21: 19 differ regarding who killed Goliath. In I Sam it was David and in II Sam it seems to have been Elhanan.
  • I Sam 31: 4 and II Sam 1: 8-10 differ regarding who killed Saul. According to I Sam, Saulorder his armourbearer to killhim, but the armourbearer refused and Saul fell upon his own sword. In II Sam, Saul asked an Amalekite to kill him and the man agreed.
  • The details of the death and resurrection of Jesus is different in each of the four gospels. Matt 27: 37, Mark 15: 26, Luke 23: 38, and John 19: 19 have different inscriptions on the cross. Matthew cites the inscription as THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS, Mark cites it as THE KING OF THE JEWS, Luke cites it as THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS, and John cites it as JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. These are not major differences, but all four cannot be literally factual.
  • Matt 27: 5-8 and Acts 1: 18-19 differ over Judas’s death. According to Matthew he gave back the blood money and hanged himself. According to Acts, he fell in the field he bought with the money and burst.
  • Gen 9: 3 and Lev 11: 4 differ regarding what may be eaten. Genesis states that one may eat everything that lives, whereas Leviticus states that the following may not be eaten: any animals that chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves and any animals that have cloven hooves but do not chew the cud.
  • Rom 3: 20-28 and James 2: 24 differ regarding faith and deeds. Romans focuses on faith, whereas James emphasizes that faith without deeds is dead.
  • Ex 20: 5, Num 14: 18, and Deut 5: 9 state that sons inherit sins from their fathers, whereas Ezek 18: 4, 19-20 and John 9: 3 state that sons do not inherit sins from their fathers.

 

Only with proper exegesis can one make sense of these contradictions. The process of exegesis includes several forms of criticism, these are:

  • Textual criticism, which seeks the earliest or original wording of a text.
  • Historical criticism, which seeks to understand the historical, geographical, and cultural setting of the text. Questions regarding the author and the intended readers and their social norms and structures are investigated.
  • Grammatical criticism looks at the morphology and syntax of the text. Grammatical rules are investigated.
  • Literary criticism looks at the broader literary context. Questions regarding the relation to other texts, composition, structure, and rhetorical style are addressed.
  • Form criticism looks at the passage of text itself. Form, genre, and the life situation are examined.
  • Tradition criticism investigates the earlier stages of development a text has undergone before its present form.
  • Redaction criticism focuses on the final form of the passage and seeks to find out the intention of the author and/or final editor.

From these forms of criticisms it is clear that biblical interpretations is by no means an easy undertaking. The literal reading of the text ignores the rich background behind it and leads to an impoverished view.

 

Also see:

Creation Harms Christianity – Sacerdotus

The Simple Truth about Biblical Literalism and the Fundamentalists who Promote it – Sean McElwee

 

Sources:

Cornwall, R. 2007. Charles Darwin goes to church: A literature guide to the evolution versus intelligent design debate. Congregations, 35-38.

Cunningham, C. 2010. Darwin’s pious idea: Why the ultra-Darwinists and creationists both get it wrong. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans.

Hayes, J H & Holladay, C R. 1982. Biblical exegesis: A beginner’s handbook. London: SCM        Press.

Isaak, M. 2007. The counter-creationism handbook. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Pennock, R T. 2002. Tower of Babel: The evidence against the new creationism. Cambridge:         MIT Press.

Scaramanga, J 2012a. How the Loch Ness Monster disproves evolution. [Online]. Available:             http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/2012/05/23/how-the-loch-ness-monster-disproves-evolution/ [Accessed 29 July 2016]

______2012b. Top 5 lies taught by Accelerated Christian Education. [Online]. Available:             http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/2012/05/07/top-5-lies-told-by-accelerated-christian-education/ [Accessed 29 July 2016]

______2013. No more Nessie for Accelerated Christian Education. [Online]. Available:             http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/2013/07/23/no-more-nessie-for-accelerated-christian-education/ [Accessed 29 July 2016]

Southgate, C 2008. The groaning of creation: God, evolution, and the problem of evil. London:   Westminster John Knox Press.

Van de Beek, B. 2005. Toeval of schepping? Scheppingstheologie in de context van het modern   denken. Kampen: Uitgeverij Kok.

On the Petition “Stop Promoting Satanism in South Africa”

A certain petition has been making waves in the local metal community. It was posted by the vaguely named Christians SA, which turned out to be a certain C Nielsen, frontman of Because of Betrayal. View the petition here. Shots were fired and memes were made.

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Falling under the general term of Christian myself, I think the petition is misguided and counterproductive.

People are freaking out about bands turning young people into satanists. A normal human being should be perfectly able to encounter different opinions without being swayed by all of them. Imagine you’re walking in a mall and see a poster about Colgate toothpaste. Immediately you think that Colgate is the best toothpaste ever. A few minutes later you see a poster for Aquafresh. Immediately you are convinced that Aquafresh is the best toothpaste ever. You decide to grab a quick snack and hear someone talking about veganism. Immediately you decide that veganism is the be all and end all of food and diet. Does that sound ridiculous? It;s because it is. Frankly, if you think that a band can change your child’s entire point of view then you should’ve raised them better.

The petition states the following: “This “right” which they label as “Freedom of Speech” and “Constitutional Law” and the uprising in Record Labels/Event Companies completely undermines the majority and ethical values our “fair” nation stands for and abolishes the Christian values our forefathers and leaders took generations to build to create Freedom in SA.” Chapter 2 point 15 (1)  of the Bill of Rights states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.” Point 16 states that:

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes— (a) freedom of the press and other media; (b) freedom to receive or impart information or ideas; (c) freedom of artistic creativity; and (d) academic freedom and freedom of scientific research. (2) The right in subsection (1) does not extend to—(a) propaganda for war; (b) incitement of imminent violence; or (c) advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.

The last point would be the only one that a petition like this could possibly stand on when it comes to bands playing here. Point 17 (1) states that “Everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions.” Now that’s fine and good, but then one should also respect the rights mentioned in points 15 and 16. Fundamentalists are not known for being consistent, though (e.g. using OT text to state that homosexuals deserve death, but ignoring OT texts about eating pork).

South Africa is not a Christian country. It is a secular state. If Christians want to have freedom to practice their religion then they have to grant others their freedom as well. This petition and the desire to oppose freedom of religion and expression are harmful to not only those who would be censured, but also to the Christians of the country. It sparks unnecessary antagonism from those upon who this petition is imposed, as well as those Christians who are not of the militant and/or fundamentalist type. I don’t think a Christian state is a good idea in any case. That’s how abominations like the Crusades and witch hunts happen.

Some of the signatures are worried about these bands polluting our high moral code. I’m not sure what country they are living in, but it certainly isn’t South Africa in 2016. While it is true that 80% of SA citizens claim they are Christian, I suspect that many if not most are what are called nominal Christians. Nominal Christians are those who would, when asked about it, answer that they are Christian in their beliefs. They might even go to church, but that is where it stops. If our country were 80% full of Christians who were serious about the faith they believed in, we wouldn’t be struggling with corruption or such an appalling crime rate. It’s easier to point the finger to a perceived outside danger. The real issue facing Christianity in SA is not a band or two playing metal, but the Christians themselves who do not practice what they preach. Rather look to yourselves and change who you are first.

Arguments Against Evolution Pt. 4

Radiometric dating is faulty

Old earth creationists are more accepting of radiometric dating and its findings, but young earth creationists reject the technique. Robert T. Pennock states that “young-earthers still try to argue that the radioisotope data cannot be trusted, suggesting that rates of decay were not constant but had accelerated at times, thus skewing the data so the earth appears to be much older.”

Cotner and Moore write the following:

Andrew Snelling of the antievolution organization Answers in Genesis claims that radiometric dating is inaccurate because it contradicts the Bible and because “we now have impeccable evidence that radioactive decay rates were greatly sped up at some point during the past, for example, during the global catastrophic Genesis Flood.” This alleged evidence has never been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Just as there is no evidence for a global flood, so too is there no evidence that rates of radiometric decay have changed significantly over time, nor is there any evidence that the laws of physics change during floods.

Radiometric dating works with the rate at which radioactive elements and isotopes decay. Isotopes are atoms of the same element that contain a different number of neutrons in the nucleus. The element is defined by the number of protons present in the nucleus. Carbon has six protons and six neutrons, Carbon-12 has six protons and 12 neutrons. The half-life is the amount of time it takes for half of the atoms to decay. Radiometric dating is useful in dating the igneous rocks that are found between layers of sedimentary rock, because only volcanic rock can be dated with this method.

Stanley Rice provides two ways in which isotopes are useful in evolutionary science:

  • Many isotopes are radioactive—that is, the extra neutrons destabilize the nucleus, which ejects particles and changes into another kind of atom at a constant rate. This makes radioactive isotopes useful for determining the ages of some rocks. 14C is radioactive and is the basis of radiocarbon dating.
  • Nonradioactive isotopes can be useful as indicators of environmental conditions or biological activity in ancient deposits, fossils, or remnants of organisms. 13C is an example of a nonradioactive isotope.

Cotner & Moore explain that “[r]adioactive decay is exponential, meaning that the rate of decay does not involve fixed amounts of atoms, but instead involves fixed proportions of atoms. After one half-life, half of the original radioactive atoms are present. This rate remains constant regardless of how many atoms have already decayed.” The technique was proposed by Ernest Rutherford in 1905.

Uranium-lead dating is a type of radiometric dating that is used on zircon crystals and works on the ratio of uranium-238 atoms that have decayed into lead-206, or uranium-235 to lead-207 atoms. Clair Patterson developed the uranium-lead method in 1948.

Potassium-argon dating is another kind of radioactive dating. Potassium-40 decays into argon-40. Potassium-containing minerals are tested to find the amount of argon-40 and then to calculate the time that has passed since the mineral cooled to about 300 degrees. Potassium-argon dating can be used on materials such as mica, feldspar, and other minerals. The decay of rubidium-87 into strontium-87 can also be used for dating.

The radiocarbon method is the method for organic materials and was developed by Willard Libby in 1947. Cosmic radiation causes a small percentage of the nitrogen in the atmosphere to be transformed into carbon-14 atoms. Some of these carbon-14 atoms are absorbed by plants during photosynthesis. When the plant dies, photosynthesis stops and the ratio between radioactive and stable carbon atoms begins to decrease. This ratio can then be measured to determine the time that has passed since the death of the plant.

Another type of radiometric dating is called fission-track dating and is based on the tracks made in volcanic rock by the decay of uranium-238, which decays into lead.

Dating fossils by sedimentary layers is circular reasoning

John Philips was the first to use strata to date sediments. William Smith, in 1796, realized that there are fossils that are specific to each stratum and constructed geological maps according to the fossil species found in each stratum. His findings helped to establish the science of biostratigraphy. Georges Cuvier, a famous anatomist, made the following remark in 1801: “the older the beds in which [fossils] are found, the more they differ from those of animals that we know today. [This is] the most remarkable and astonishing result that I have obtained from my research.” Darwin himself wrote that “a discerning eye might have seen that some form or other of the doctrine of transmutation was inevitable, from the time when the truth enunciated by William Smith that successive strata are characterised by different kinds of fossil remains, became a firmly established law of nature.”

Over time, geologists have developed a standard column illustrating the different layers and when they were laid down (like a map of strata). Fossils are then dated relative to the layers in which they were found. Hurd explains that “[b]iostratigraphic dating rests on the fact that certain extinct ancestor of the modern horse, cow, or elephant always appear in specific locations in the standard geographical column.” Anachronistic fossils have never been found.

Stratigraphy and biostratigraphy are not the only methods used to date fossils. The radiometric dating techniques discussed in the previous section are used in tandem with stratigraphy and biostratigraphy.

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Arguments Against Evolution Pt. 3

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Human population growth

Robert T. Pennock quotes Henry and John Morris: “It is easy to show mathematically that, starting with just one man and one woman, it would take only about 1,100 years of exponential growth to produce the present world population of about six billion people, if the population were increasing by 2 percent each year. This cannot have been going on for very long in the past or the world would long ago have been overrun with people.”  He then points out a fundamental flaw in that argument: they “are willing to assume for human population growth what they deny for radioisotopes and other physical processes, namely, that the relevant rates are constant.” One only needs a cursory knowledge of history to know that the growth rate of human populations is not constant. Elements like pandemics, epidemics, natural disasters and wars each play a role in lowering the growth of populations. Think of the Black Plague that wiped out a large percentage of the population, or WWII’s merciless genocide that killed millions of Jews.  Using the Morris’ growth rate, Monroe worked out that there would have been only “eighty-six persons in the entire world in 1300 B.C., the time of the exodus, or 354 persons to witness the judgment at Babel,” which is not correct.

The Flood of Noah Produced all the Fossils and Rock StrataImage

During the time of Darwin, many geologists and other scientists held the belief known as catastrophism. Catastrophism stated that the history of our planet is characterized by a number of catastrophes. The Flood of Noah would then be the most recent worldwide catastrophe. Georges Cuvier noticed that layers of rock contained fossils of animals which no longer exist and concluded that there were worldwide floods that wiped out all organisms and then the Creator started with a new creation, each time one that was more suitable for human life. In 1788 the Scottish geologist James Hutton found that rock formations are best explained by everyday natural occurrences such as wind and rain (thus: erosion) instead of catastrophism. He also stated that the age of the Earth is vast and his views began the movement that was later called uniformitarianism, which stood diametrically opposite catastrophism. Charles Lyell, a friend of Darwin, also opposed catastrophism and stated that geological features are a result of “the slow agency of existing causes,” and that “the present is the key to the past.”

Creationists argue that the entire fossil record was laid down during the Flood of Noah. The mineral deposits (gold, silver, semi-precious stones) were also formed during this time. There are numerous problems with these ideas regarding the Flood: The simpler organisms are in the bottom strata and more complex organisms are found only in higher strata. Noah did not take fish and other aquatic animals into the Ark, which means that these organism somehow survived the mixture of fresh and salt water which would have been inevitable with such a worldwide flood. Most fish die in a mixture like that. Then there are the problems with the rock layers themselves: some are tilted in odd angles and many sedimentary deposits are layered with volcanic ash between them.  After the Flood, the rotting organism that drowned would have generated massive amounts of carbon dioxide and would probably have made the water unfit to drink and unfit for aquatic animals to live in. One pair of each species would not possess enough genetic variety to establish new populations and it does not explain why some kinds of organisms are only found in certain places or continents (eg. the marsupials and monotremes of Australia). The fossils of organisms that no longer exist spark questions as well. It has been claimed that these species either didn’t get onto the Ark or had fallen off and thus drowned in the Flood, which is quite absurd.

To explain where all the water for the Flood could have come from, proponents of creation science had to invent what is known as the “vapour canopy.” In a science text for high school students, Accelerated Christian Education teaches the following regarding the vapour canopy:

To understand the volcanic activity during the Flood, we must also understand the hydrologic cycle before the Flood. This water cycle seems to be the result of the waters being separated during Creation into the ‘waters above the firmament’ and the ‘waters under the firmament’ (Genesis 1:7).

The waters above the firmament formed a canopy of vapor that created a ‘greenhouse effect.’ This canopy, being vapor, was fully transparent, allowing the sun’s rays to shine through, but it contained vast quantities of water that trapped the sun’s heat reflected from Earth’s surface. This ‘greenhouse’ permitted warm temperatures, tropical vegetation, and abundant animal life in all parts of our Earth.

The waters under the firmament included seas, which were called ‘the great deep’ or ‘the great depths of water,’ and rivers. The rivers came from fountains or springs rather than from rainfall (Genesis 2:5, 6).

Seemingly, the source of the springs was subterranean reservoirs. All of the reservoirs could have been connected to each other, as well as to the surface seas, through a system of subterranean conduits. The heat energy for pressurizing the underground water came from deep within our Earth.

In order to explain why the more primitive species are found in lower layers, George McCready Price, John Whitcomb, Jr., and Henry Morris argued that the invertebrates (eg. snails, insects) would have been more helpless and thus buried first, while the more agile vertebrates (eg. antelope, birds) would have been able to outrun the waters and reach higher elevations.

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Cotner and Moore point out some difficulties of this model:

For example, some mammals—perhaps crippled, sick, trapped, or recently deceased—would presumably have been unable to flee to higher ground, and would therefore have been trapped in the lower sediments. However, there are no mammals— not one —in the lower geologic strata. Similarly, there are no nonavian dinosaurs— not one —above the Cretaceous. Fossilized invertebrates occur in virtually all strata, and “dumb” animals such as marine clams and snails (that supposedly drowned in the early stages of the rising flood) are often found above “smarter, faster” reptiles and amphibians (and dinosaurs).

Another problem is that some animals that are found only in higher strata are not very agile and would not have been able to outrun flood waters. Examples of such animals are tortoises, sloths, koalas, and chameleons. New-born animals would have struggled as well and many nests of birds and reptiles would have been left to be covered by the water.

The Principle of Superposition, affirmed by Nicholaus Steno during the mid-1600’s, explains that strata are stacked in the order that they were laid down. In 1938 Harold Clark, a young-earth creationist, examined cores that were drilled by workers at oil fields in Texas and Oklahoma. He found that the strata lie in a much more definite sequence than thought and that Flood Geology “does not harmonize with the conditions in the field.”

Yet another problem for Flood Geology is that when water recedes, it leaves behind sediment consisting of mud and not, for example, shale (remember the Burgess shale spoken of in the previous post).

xXx

That’s it for now. In the next installment we’ll look at radiometric dating, which is going to get quite technical.

After that it’s time for the missing links and transitional forms to make their appearance.

Sources:

Accelerated Christian Education 1998. Science 1086. sl: sn.

Cotner, S & Moore, R 2011. Arguing for evolution: An encyclopedia for understanding science. Greenwood: Santa Barbara.

Daintith, J & Martin, E (eds.) 2010. Oxford dictionary of science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pennock, R T 2002. Tower of Babel: The evidence against the new creationism. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Rice, S A 2007. Encyclopedia of evolution. New York: Facts on File.

Arguments Against Evolution Pt. 2

This is the second installment about the arguments lodged against evolution. From here on we take a look at the more scientific arguments.

The second law of thermodynamics disproves evolution

One of the most common arguments used against evolution is that evolution claims that everything is improving, but the second law of thermodynamics states that everything is degenerating. This argument is one of those propagated by the Accelerated Christian Education system.  David T. Williams makes the same case: “the process of evolution seems to be contrary to another basic principle of the universe, that of entropy. Whereas the natural trend in all things is of deterioration, evolution is a process of improvement. In itself, evolution would then go against the normal run of things.” There are two problems with this argument. Robert T. Pennock explains the double fault of this argument as follows: “The first is a misunderstanding of evolution: evolution is not always toward increasing complexity. Species can and do become less complex in certain environments. … The second misunderstanding is more significant. When presenting their argument from the second law, many creationists conveniently leave out the part of the definition that limits it to closed systems.” Stanley A. Rice agrees with Pennock that “evolution does not require an increase in complexity.”

It is true that on the whole, all the energy in the universe is being degraded, but as Richard Dawkins puts it, “while the universe as a whole is hurtling downhill towards its inevitable heat death, there is scope for small quantities of energy to drive little local systems in the opposite direction.” Rice mentions an important point, namely that to achieve a decrease in entropy, one needs the input of information. This information is contained in DNA. Natural selection thins the herd of disadvantageous mutations and thus allows an increase of information. Gene duplication and horizontal gene transfer increases information rapidly. Thus, through the course of evolution by natural selection, the amount of information is increased, which leads to a decrease of entropy within the closed system.

A valid and humorous point is made by Richard Dawkins regarding this argument: “When creationists say, as they frequently do, that the theory of evolution contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics, they are telling us no more than that they don’t understand the Second Law.”

Cambrian explosion

Charles Darwin recognized the sudden appearance of a wide variety of fossils at the start of the Cambrian and mentioned that it was problematic for his theory:  “To the question why we do not find rich fossiliferous deposits belonging to these assumed earliest periods prior to the Cambrian system, I can give no satisfactory answer.”

During the Cambrian era, a vast variety of complex multicellular organisms appeared, especially during the early to mid-Cambrian period, a time of about 20 million years, 540 to 520 million years ago. The Cambrian organisms are some of the strangest in the fossil record. This “explosion” was discovered from the appearance of new and more varied fossils in the fossil record, which were discovered in the Burgess Shale, first excavated in 1909. The Cambrian fossils include mostly aquatic forms, such as trilobites, echinoderms, brachiopods, mollusks, crustaceans, primitive graptolites, and worms.

Pennock writes that:

The Cambrian may reckon as a sudden explosion from the point of view of geologic time, but we are still talking about millions of years and this could have been quite sufficient for evolution. Much of the talk about a sudden ‘explosion” during the Cambrian period might be exaggerated, for example, given that recently several independent lines of new evidence suggest that animal phyla began to diverge well before the Cambrian period, during the mid-Proterozoic period about a billion years ago. Moreover, Pre-Cambrian organisms were relatively small and lacked hard parts, so their fossil record is even more scarce than usual.

The fossilization of soft-bodied organisms is exceedingly rare and consists of small imprints made by radially symmetrical (meaning they are circular, similar all the way around and have a top and bottom, like a sea urchin) soft-bodied (lacking bones and shells) organisms. The soft-bodied Ediacaran organisms also left trace fossils, which are fossils of eg. burrows. The Ediacaran era was the one before the Cambrian era and spanned from about 600 to about 540 millionyears ago. From these trace fossils it can be seen that some of the Ediacaran organisms exhibited bilateral symmetry (meaning they had a front and a back, a head and a tail).

A variety of factors were probably responsible for what is described as the “Cambrian explosion.”  Cotner and Moore mention the “evolution of eyes, an end-Ediacaran mass extinction, and disruptions of food chains.” Certain global environmental changes that took place before the Cambrian era made the diversification of species possible. Oxygen gas, probably produced by photosynthetic algae, accumulated in the atmosphere and oceans, which enabled the oxygen-driven metabolism of complex animals. The worldwide glacial cover melted and released nutrients, which could then be used by organisms.

The biggest clue comes from the appearance of animals with hard parts. The fossils found in the Burgess Shale are all well protected with natural defenses, whereas the Ediacaran organisms seemed undefended (remember that they were soft-bodied). It is possible that the first predators sparked the need for natural defenses and thus started, as Rice describes it: “an arms race of coevolution between ever more efficient predators and ever more cleverly defended prey.”

Richard Dawkins points out a fundamental flaw in the logic behind the creationist argument: Turbellarians, a type of flatworm, are very numerous, there are about 4,000 species. Yet there exist no fossil evidence for these creatures, apart from “a handful of ambiguous trace fossils” (because they are soft-bodied). Dawkins wraps up the logical flaw as follows: “If the gap before the Cambrian Explosion is used as evidence that most animals suddenly sprang into existence in the Cambrian, then exactly the same ‘logic’ should be used to prove that the flatworms sprang into existence yesterday. … You cannot have it both ways.”

The Paluxy Mantracks

This is an interesting one. In the Paluxy riverbed in Texas, tracks were found that creationists claimed were made by a dinosaur and a human being. The tracks in question are believed by creationists to be evidence for  humans and dinosaurs living together. In a science text for grade 8, Accelerated Christian Education states that “[s]ome of these print fossils show the distinct impression of a reed sandal. The man who made some of these prints appeared to have been running from a dinosaur that stepped in his track. Whether the man escaped we’ll never know. However, these tracks do prove that humans and dinosaurs lived together on Earth before the Flood and that their tracks were preserved for us by fossilization.”  I’m just wondering what kind of sandals the man was wearing that would allow his feet to make toe-prints. Perhaps he borrowed his smaller brother’s sandals that day, which would be a bad idea if you could get hunted down by dinosaurs.

During 1982 and 1983 scientists who visited the site, as well as other alleged mantracks sites, came to very different conclusions. The tracks were not shaped like human prints and were made by much larger beings than humans. The creationist reply on the size of the prints was Genesis 6:4 “There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” What was seen as toe-prints were found to be erosional pits or invertebrate burrow casts of Thalassinoides. Pennock explains that the tracks were found to be dinosaur prints by “the changing patterns of coloration of the prints, which were a result of a secondary infilling of the original track depression by an iron-containing sediment. … When the coloration patterns were observed in addition to the indentations they clearly revealed the shape of dinosaur digits on the “mantracks.”

Interplanetary dust infall

The creationist argument regarding interplanetary dust infall is that if the world and universe was indeed billions of years old, then the moon would be covered with a layer of dust over  55m thick. Accelerated Christian Education states that

since Creation, the moon has been continually bombarded with meteorites ranging in size from dust particles to particles that are miles (km) in diameter. This bombardment, along with the constant force of solar wind, has pounded and crushed the surface rock of the moon, creating a layer of dust. Three to five inches (8 to 13 cm) of dust on the moon’s surface is just what one would expect to find on a moon that is about six thousand years old.

The rate of infall used in the calculation is derived from the experiments done by Hans Petterson atop the Muana Loa volcano in Hawaii, but, as Pennock explains: “ there were several weaknesses with his preliminary estimate, problems that Petterson himself mentioned in his report, and subsequently improved measurements showed his initial estimate to be too high by at least one or two orders of magnitude.” Thus, his faulty measurements cannot be used as an argument for anything. According to the young-earth timescale, the initial rate of infall would have to be much larger than the current rate when the observed craters of the moon are taken into account. The earth would also have more craters that didn’t have enough time to erode. The creationist view does not explain the erosion found on the moon which indicates a “prolonged slow bombardment.” Radiometric tests upon rocks brought back from the moon reveal ages no less than 3.1 billion years and up to 4.5 billion years. Howard van Till states the following regarding the continuing publication of the planetary dust infall argument:

The claim that a thick layer of dust should be expected on the surface of the moon, and the claim that no more than a few inches of dust were found on the surface of the moon, are contradicted by an abundance of published evidence. The continuing publication of those claims by young-earth advocates constitutes an intolerable violation of the standards of professional integrity that should characterize the work of natural scientists.

Sources:

Accelerated Christian Education 1998. Science 1086. sl: sn.

______ 1998. Science 1096. sl: sn.

Cotner, S & Moore, R 2011. Arguing for evolution: An encyclopedia for understanding science. Greenwood: Santa Barbara.

Daintith, J & Martin, E (eds.) 2010. Oxford dictionary of science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Darwin, C 1909. Origin of species. New York: P F Collier and Son.

Dawkins, R 2009. The greatest show on earth: The evidence for evolution. London: Bantam Press.

Pennock, R T 2002. Tower of Babel: The evidence against the new creationism. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Rice, S A 2007. Encyclopedia of evolution. New York: Facts on File.

Ruse, M 2006. Darwinism and its discontents. New York: Cambridge University Press

Williams, D T 2010. Evolution through kenosis. The Expository Times 121:390. 390-394.

Arguments Against Evolution Pt. 1

There are many arguments lodged against evolution. Some of them carry more weight than others. We’ve all heard at least some of these arguments and puns like “evilution” being thrown around. This is part one on the arguments against evolution. It will cover some of the unscientific arguments.

 

Evolution is just a theory

One of the arguments employed by scientific creationism is to point out that evolution is not a fact, but only a theory. It should be noted that the term “theory” as used in science does not stand opposite to “fact.” Robert Pennock goes on to explain that “[t]o call something a scientific fact is simply to say that it has been so well confirmed evidentially that it is hard to imagine how it could be overturned, though we always have to keep an open mind that the new evidence could do so, if only in principle.” Sehoya H. Cotner and Randy Moore state that a scientific theory “is a related set of hypotheses that together form a broad, testable explanation about some fundamental aspect of nature. That is, a theory is a well-supported broad idea…” An important distinction regarding theory and its relation to fact is that scientific theories do not become facts after they’ve been proven as true, but theories explain facts.  Even though the theory of evolution leaves many details yet to be figured out, the key mechanisms of evolution are known as facts.

Richard Dawkins provides two very different definitions of what a theory is:

  •  A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed.

and

  • “A hypothesis proposed as an explanation; hence, a mere hypothesis, speculation, conjecture; an idea or set of ideas about something; an individual view of notion.” He states that scientists use the first definition when it comes to the theory of evolution, whereas creationists opt for the second definition.

Keith B Miller provides four characteristics of a good theory: “(1) explanatory power; (2) predictive power (testable expectations); (3) fruitfulness (ability to generate new questions and new directions of research); and (4) aesthetics (e.g., beauty, simplicity, symmetry).”  The theory of evolution is a good theory because it explains many branches of science, it generates testable hypothesis and generates new questions for research.

 

Evolution is a belief/religion

Pennock argues that “[o]n the watered-down notion of faith implied in the criticism there would be no belief that is not based on faith – knowing one’s birthday, that fluoride protects against cavities, and so on would all be matters of faith – so the concept would lose its important, distinctive meaning. These simple beliefs and other scientific conclusions are not based on faith but are inferred from the evidence of observation. To abuse the notion of faith so that it extends to such quotidian beliefs is to gut it of its theological significance.” Simply put: one short-changes both science and belief.

 

Charles Darwin renounced the theory of evolution on his deathbed

This argument is void. Even if Darwin did renounce his theory on his deathbed, it would not change the validity of his theory. Biologists, geologists, and other scientists do not accept the truth of evolution on the basis of Darwin’s authority but on the basis of evidence.

 

Charles Darwin was an atheist

One cannot classify Darwin as an atheist. Hewas never an atheist, but instead leaned more towards agnosticism. In a personal letter Darwin wrote the following: “In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think that generally (and more and more as I grow older), but not always, that an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind.” He moved away from a theistic view of a God that intervenes in the creation to a deistic view where God is further away and does not intervene. In another letter, Darwin wrote: “I had no intention to write atheistically. But I own that I cannot see, as plainly as others do, & as I should wish to do, evidence of design and benevolence on all sides of us.” As with Darwin renouncing his theory on his deathbed, even if Darwin was an atheist, it would not make any difference to the scientific validity of his theory.

 

Naturalism is a religion

Many writers state that naturalism is a religion. Pennock states that “naturalism is not necessarily tied to specific ontological claims; its base commitment is to a method of inquiry… it is a methodology that is rationally justified and that is accessible to all.” Naturalism is concerned with study of the natural world, not the supernatural world. Since ancient times the term has been associated with secularism such as Epicureanism and materialism, but the term has also been associated with certain religious views, eg. pantheism and natural theology.

Pennock describes the situation with insight and wit: “It is misleading for creationists to characterize science in general and to define evolution in particular as “godless.” Science is godless in the same way that plumbing is godless. Evolutionary is no more or less based on a “dogmatic philosophy” of naturalism than are medicine and farming.”

 

Evolution Has Never Been Proven

David T. Williams argues that “despite the evidence for evolution, this falls short of proof, and there remain weighty objections to the idea, and not just that evolution, on at least the macro scale, has not been demonstrated; it falls short of the verification that scientific rigour demands. It is at best a hypothesis…”

Dawkins states that “the best scientists can do is fail to disprove things while pointing to how hard they tried.” The vast majority of the evolutionary history happened before it could be observed by sentient beings and the processes of evolution are mostly too slow to be observed within an individual’s lifetime.

Pennock points out that proof depends on what the definition of “proof” is that one is working with. One example is that evolution lacks “proof” from Scripture and another example is the thought that only that which leaves one without anything less than complete certainty is not proof. A third example is the language used. Scientists and philosophers of science often speak of “evidence” instead of “proof’ and say a hypothesis has been “confirmed” instead of “proven.”

 

Sources:

Brooke, J H 1985 The Relations Between Darwin’s Science and his Religion in Durant, J (ed.) 1985. Darwinism and divinity: Essays on evolution and religious belief. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. 40-75.

Cotner, S & Moore, R 2011. Arguing for evolution: An encyclopedia for understanding science. Greenwood: Santa Barbara.

Daintith, J & Martin, E (eds.) 2010. Oxford dictionary of science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Darwin, F (ed.) 1898. The life and letters of Charles Darwin. Vol I. New York:  D Appleton and Company.

Miller, KB, An evolving creation: Oxymoron or fruitful insight? in Miller, K B (ed.) 2003. Perspectives on an evolving creation. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans. 3-14.

Pennock, R T 2002. Tower of Babel: The evidence against the new creationism. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Williams, D T 2010. Evolution through kenosis. The Expository Times 121:390. 390-394.

Darwin a Friend of Theology? Part 3 – Intelligent Design

 


 

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Intelligent Design is quite difficult to place. Intelligent Design is sometimes grouped together with creationism, but Intelligent Design propagators deny that creationism and Intelligent Design are the same thing. U.S District Judge John E. Jones is quoted by Bailey as saying that ID is “a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory… ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.” While there is truth in this statement, it should be noted that the Intelligent Designer is not always identified with the Christian God. Yet, Intelligent Design recognizes that there must be some sort of Designer of the cosmos.

The notion of intelligent design is an ancient one that has existed in various forms since the ancient Greeks. The term “Intelligent Design” (as opposed to evolution which is seen as blind) is credited to F. C. S. Schiller who used it in 1897. The modern movement started in the early 1990’s and some prominent Intelligent Design proponents are Michael Behe, William Dembski, Philip Johnson and Jonathan Wells. Phillip Johnson is sometimes seen as the “father of Intelligent Design.”  William Dembski explains Intelligent Design as such: “According to the theory of intelligent design, the specified complexity exhibited in living forms convincingly demonstrates that blind natural forces could not by themselves have produced these forms but that their emergence also required the contribution of a designing intelligence.”

Haarsma and Gray describe Intelligent Design as “the theory that biological evolution is limited to making small changes so that biological complexity could have been produced only if God (or someone) superseded evolution during biological history.” Intelligent Design is usually vague about the specifics of creation, eg. whether it was gradual or immediate, whether it took days or ages. Because of the vagueness and flexibility, Intelligent Design can adapt to most counter-arguments. Intelligent Design relies heavily on the argument from design, also called the teleological argument and the physico-theological argument. The argument from design relies on the apparent design and purpose of the universe to infer that a designer must exist. As mentioned before, this Designer need not be the Christian God.

Probably the most famous argument of Intelligent Design is that of the watch found lying on the ground by William Paley. In the words of Paley, “…the inference, we think, is inevitable; that the watch must have had a maker; that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.” Paley was a naturalist and Anglican cleric who wrote before Darwin and also influenced Darwin before his voyage on the Beagle. The question of design in nature was an important one in theological circles during the nineteenth century in Europe, England, and America.

The Anthropic Principle seems to support Intelligent Design and can be invoked as a major argument for an Intelligent Designer. The cosmologist Brandon Carter coined the term in 1973 and the principle states that “human observers can deduce certain characteristics about the universe simply from the fact that they exist and are capable of studying it. In its strongest form, the anthropic principle insists that no universe could exist that did not have characteristics that would allow the evolution of intelligence at some point in its history.” The Strong Anthropic Principle, which is not widely held, states that the observer needs to exist in order for physics to remain constant. Those who accept the Strong Anthropic Principle do so on grounds of quantum theory. Lacey and Proudfoot state the widely accepted understanding of the Anthropic Principle: “the universe is so organized as to permit life as we know it to exist, because were the universe not organized in precisely this fashion, human beings would not exist and so could not observe the universe.”

Numerous physical constants of the universe make life possible. These constants are: the strong nuclear force, which binds protons and neutrons, the amount of energy lost during atomic fusion, atomic forces, the force of gravity, and the laws of chemistry, especially with regard to hydrogen bonding and the characteristics of water. According to the anthropic principle, there is only one universe able to support life. If there are other universes, their constants would not enable the development of life.

David H. Bailey describes the Intelligent Design strategy as a “wedge” strategy in which the “controversy of evolution” is taught first and then Intelligent Design is promoted as an alternative. The strategy ends off with “edging out evolution in favor of biblical theism.” Edward B. Davis also speaks in less than amiable terms of Intelligent design and states that the number of adherents were won “partly because its adherents typically refuse to discuss divisive issues such as the age of the earth, concentrating instead on the inadequacy of evolution to explain the origin of life, the origin of the ‘irreducible complexity’ exhibited by living things, and (to a lesser extent) the geologically sudden appearance of new animal forms at certain points in Earth history, such as the Cambrian explosion.”

 

I myself would group Intelligent Design under the broader term of Creationism, because it still invokes a deity or some kind of Intelligent Designer. In the next few posts I am going to take a look at some of the arguments lodged against evolution from the creationist and Intelligent Design camps. Later on, there will be a post dealing with the theological problems with Intelligent Design.

 

Sources:
Bailey, D H 2010. Creationism and intelligent design: Scientific and theological difficulties. Dialogue: A journal of Mormon Thought 43/3, 62-81.
Davis, E B 2003. The word and the works: Concordism and American Evangelicals, in Miller, K B (ed.) 2003. Perspectives on an evolving creation. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans. 34-58.
Haarsma, L & Gray, T M 2003. Complexity, self-organization, and design, in Miller, K B (ed.) Perspectives on an evolving creation. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans. 288-309.
Lacey, A R & Proudfoot, M 2010. The Routledge dictionary of philosophy. Routledge: Abingdon.
Paley, W 1829. Natural theology: or, Evidences of the existence and attributes of the deity, collected from the appearance of nature. Boston: Lincoln & Edmands.
Pennock, R T 2002. Tower of Babel: The evidence against the new creationism. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Rice, S A 2007. Encyclopedia of evolution. New York: Facts on File.

Creationism (Darwin a Friend of Theology? – Part 2)

In my first post of the series I defined evolution and some key terms. In this instalment I’ll define creationism and its different faces.

Perhaps one of the best and most humorous statements made about the nature of creationism is the following by Robert Pennock: “[c]reationism is evolving. Several new species of creationism have appeared recently and are competing to stake out a niche in the intellectual landscape.” He adds a 6-point definition which is applicable to creationism in the general sense: “…the key elements of the creationist view are that there is a (1) Personal Creator who (2) is supernatural, and who (3) initiated and (4) continues to control the process of creation (5) in furtherance of some end or purposes. …but here let me note a sixth element that is implicit in this definition, namely, (6) a rejection of theistic evolution.” The basic tenets of creationism are based on Genesis 1 (the first creation narrative), and Genesis 6-9 (the flood narrative).

With reference to Pennock’s point number 6: creationism of all guises presents people with a false dilemma. The false dilemma is that one must either choose the Christian, Biblical view of creationism or the atheistic view of evolution. Evolution and the Christian faith are posed as mutually exclusive. Creationism presents the conflict model in the religion-science debate.

Young-Earth Creationism

Within the creationist camp there are divisions. One of the biggest divisions is between the young-earth creationists and the old-earth creationists. The young-earth creationists believe that the earth is 6,000 or perhaps as much as 10,000 years old. Johannes Ussher, Irish Archbishop of Armagh, was the first person to make the calculation that the Earth is 6000 years old. He mainly used the genealogies in the Bible. A few years after Ussher’s calculation, John Lightfoot refined the calculations and stated that the first day of creation was the 18th of October 4004 B.C. Adam was created on the 23rd of October 4004 B.C., at 9 a.m. Historian E. T. Brewster wryly commented on Lightfoot’s estimate: “Closer than this, as a cautious scholar, the vice Chancellor of Cambridge University did not venture to commit himself.”

Old-Earth Creationism

The old-earth creationists recognize that the young age of the earth simply cannot match up to geological findings. Most old-earth creationists hold that the days spoken of in Genesis 1 are not 24-hour days, but “God-sized” days. 2 Peter 3: 8 is often cited as a proof text regarding “God-sized” days. Another alternative is the “gap theory” which states that there was a gap of undeterminable length between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 in which geological history and the lifetimes of the dinosaurs fit. Another term is that of “ruin and restoration,” because it can also hold that God had destroyed the initial creation, perhaps as a judgment on the rebellion of Lucifer, and that the new creation, which starts at Genesis 1:2, was completed within 6 literal days. The view also exists that there have been numerous creations and destructions and not just one destruction and re-creation. Another view is that the days were literal twenty-four hour days, but that they were not necessarily consecutive and there may have been millions of years between these days. During these long periods in between, God would be proclaiming the next phase of creation.

Mature Earth Creationism

Another view is that of the mature-earth creationists. This view is similar to the old-earth creationists and is often included in old-earth creationism. In 1875 Philip Gosse proposed that the earth was created as recent as the Bible says, but that God had created the universe with an appearance of age:  “Embedded in deep layers of rock we find what appear to be fossils of long-extinct creatures, but that is because God placed them there when he laid down those beds six-thousand years ago. We see light from stars millions of light-years away because God neatly created it already in transit.” Another term used is “ideal-time creationism.”

Scientific Creationism

Scientific creationism is also called creation science. The following definition is given in Act 590 of the 1981 ‘Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act’:

‘Creation-science’ means the scientific evidences for creation and inferences from those scientific evidences. Creation-science includes the scientific evidences and related inferences that indicate:

(1)    Sudden creation of the universe, energy, and life from nothing;

(2)    The insufficiency of mutation and natural selection in bringing about development of all living kinds from a single organism;

(3)    Changes only within fixed limits or originally created kinds of plants and animals;

(4)    Separate ancestry for man and apes;

(5)    Explanation of the earth’s geology by catastrophism, including the occurrence of a worldwide flood; and

(6)    A relatively recent inception of the earth and living kinds.

Some creationists hold that science can prove and has already proven that the biblical account of creation is true. Evolution is argued to be a belief and not scientific. Others state that science cannot prove creation as the truth, but that “the Biblical teachings match the observed scientific data just as well or even better than evolutionary theories”. A third position is that neither creation nor evolution is scientific, but that creationism is more scientific than evolution.

Creation science builds extra structures on the foundation of Biblical texts, which Stanley Rice describes as follows: “In order to concoct what they call “creation science,” creationists have had to highly develop their skills of creative twisting of both Bible and science. It is not surprising that they have violated their own publicly stated beliefs regarding both.” An example of this “creative twisting” is the “vapour canopy” theory. This theory explains that a vapour canopy encircled the Earth before the Flood. Genesis 1: 7 is employed as a proof text that there was water “above the earth.” A result of this canopy was that the whole planet enjoyed a tropical climate.

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Rice notes that such add-ons are not built upon texts which deal with other areas of science:

Thus when Job referred to “storehouses of the wind,” creationists do not build a creationist version of meteorology upon the belief there are actually big rooms where God keeps the wind locked up, nor that God opens up literal windows for rain as is written in Genesis 6. When the second book of Samuel says that a plague was caused by the Angel of Death, with whom King David actually had a face-to-face conversation, creationists do not reject the germ theory of disease and champion a creationist version of medical science. Finally, First Kings 1:40 describes King Solomon’s inaugural parade by saying that “the earth was split by their noise.” Creationists do not claim that this literally happened. Generally, creationists insist that even though humans can employ figures of speech, God cannot.

Although there are differences in scientific creationism, the consensus may be summed up following Barker: “Scientific creationists agree that there are variations within a gene pool, and that natural selection can take place within a particular ‘kind’, but not that it can occur between the kinds.” Some creationists do not hold that God created each species on earth as it is now, but that God created certain kinds of animals. The term baraminology is derived from the Hebrew words for “created kinds.” This echoes Genesis 1: 24-25 where it is told that God created animals according to their “kind.” These “kinds” are rather unclear and can refer to species, genus, family, or perhaps some other level of taxonomic classification.

Brief History of Creationism

Before modern science, using the Bible as a handbook for science was standard practice in the Western world. Even as far back as the late 1700’s, scholars began interpreting the Genesis narratives in a non-literal sense. Examples are two Scottish Presbyterians, Thomas Chalmers and Hugh Miller. Chalmers believed there was a gap of eons between the first two chapters of Genesis. Miller, in the early 19th century, interpreted the days of Genesis to be long periods of time and not literal, 24-hour days.  With William Paley’s Natural Theology, the only other theory was that all species were produced by chance. These writers were not biblical literalists, but their views square with those expressed by creationists.

Creationism fell rather silent after Gregor Mendel’s findings in the field of genetics were rediscovered in 1900. Between 1910 and 1915 a series of books called The Fundamentals were published. These books claimed biblical inerrancy and it is from them that the term fundamentalist was derived. Two of the contributors, theologians George Frederick Wright and James Orr, accepted certain tenets of evolution, giving the series of books a non-monolithic stance. After WWI, anti-evolutionary ideas began to stir again and in 1925, it was made a criminal offence to teach evolution in Tennessee. After WWI, the ensuing cultural crisis provided ample breeding ground for fundamentalism, and many Americans began to see sinister links between the external threats of German militarism and Russian Bolshevism and the internal growth of religious and political liberalism. In this context, Darwinism came to be seen as the most identifiable corrupting influence on American society. Prominent fundamentalists linked the name of Darwin with a whole catalogue of social ills, from international conflict to the collapse of family life.

The first creationist writers that can be regarded as similar to what creationism is today, were George McCready Price, a Seventh-Day Adventist, and Harry Rimmer, a Presbyterian preacher. During the 1920’s they preached creationism and Flood Geology. In 1961 Genesis Flood was published by bible scholar John C. Whitcomb and hydraulic engineer Henry M. Morris. Creationism is not a continuance of age-old Christian orthodoxy, but rather a product of the 20th century. Michael Ruse states that “[c]reationism is an idiosyncratic form of American Protestantism dating from the first half of the nineteenth century”.

Bailey reports that in 2004 a poll showed that 45% of Americans believed that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so” and another poll in 2005 found that 42% of Americans agree with the statement that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time”. The biggest concentration of creationism can be found within the United States, but as the Fundamentalist movement spreads, creationism spreads with it.

 Conclusion

As a conclusion, the definition given by Stanley Rice seems appropriate: Creationism is “(1) a product of the 20th century rather than a holdout of pre-Darwinian Christianity; (2) based upon highly imaginative Bible interpretation; (3) supported by bad science; and (4) often politically motivated.”

Sources:

Accelerated Christian Education 1998. Science 1086. s l: s n.

Bailey, D H 2010. Creationism and intelligent design: Scientific and theological difficulties. Dialogue: A journal of Mormon Thought 43/3, 62-81.

Barker, E 1985 Let There Be Light: Scientific Creationism in the Twentieth Century in Durant, J (ed.) Darwinism and divinity: Essays on evolution and religious belief, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 181-204.

Cotner, S & Moore, R 2011. Arguing for evolution: An encyclopedia for understanding science. Greenwood: Santa Barbara.

Du Toit, C W (ed.) 2000. Evolution and creativity: A new dialogue between faith and knowledge. Pretoria: UNISA

Pennock, R T 2002. Tower of Babel: The evidence against the new creationism. Cambridge: MIT Press

Rice, S A 2007. Encyclopedia of evolution. New York: Facts on File.

Ruse, M 2011. Making room for faith in an age of science: A response to David Wisdo. Zygon 46/3. 655-672.