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 schlepping? Scheppingstheologie in de context van het modern   denken. Kampen: Uitgeverij Kok.

Arguments Against Evolution pt. 7

After working like mad to finish my thesis I can finally get back to my theology and evolution blogs. In this installment we take a look at a very important branch of the evolutionary tree – ours! Allow me to introduce you to some of our hominid and hominin forefathers (and mothers). Hominid used to refer to the family Hominidae, as distinct from the family Pongidae (chimpanzees), but the term now refers to Hominidae as it stands now, including chimpanzees and bonobos in the family. Hominin is the term employed for the lineage that has already diverged from that of the chimpanzees and which leads up to modern humans.

Anti-evolutionists often ask to be shown the fossils. Richard Dawkins recounts a rather infuriating interview (pgs 198-201) which would let any sensible person want to bang their head on their desk.

  • Sahelanthropus tchadensis is the earliest known bipedal ape. Discovered in 2002 in Chad, this creature lived about 7 to 6 million years ago, which is 1 to 2 million years before the lineages of humans and chimpanzees split according to DNA studies.                                   
  • Orrorin tugenensis was discovered in 2000 in Kenya, walked upright, and lived about 6 million years ago.   
  • Ardipithecus ramidus (basic root ape) seems to be the point where the human lineage began. It was discovered in 1994 in Ethiopia and clocks in at about 4.4 million years ago.                        
  • Australopithecines (literally “southern ape”) were hominins that lived in Africa. They were bipedal, but their brains were not consistently larger than other apes. Their leg and pelvic bones attest to upright walking, but a bony ridge on the forearm, which might be vestigial, points to walking on the knuckles.They probably used tools, but much in the same way chimpanzees do today. The earliest species were A. anamensis, A. afarensis, and A. bahrelghazali from about 4 to 3 million years ago. A. garhi and A. africanus lived in the southern regions of Africa at about 3 to 2 million years ago. The Australopithecines are described as “gracile” and were small of stature, only measuring about 1m tall.Their jaws were relatively small as were their faces.
  • Australopithecus afarensis was discovered in 1974. The fossils date from 3.9 to 3.9 million years ago and had humanlike teeth (Isaak, 2007: 106). The first specimen discovered is also the most famous. The nearly complete skeleton of Lucy was helpful in shedding light on the movements of the species. A. afarensis was bipedal. Fossilized footprints of A. afarensis or a closely related species that evidence bipedalism were found in Tanzania in volcanic dust which was dated to about 3 million years ago. The “Dikika Baby” was found in 2006 in Ethiopia and from the shoulder blades it could be deduced that the species could still swing from trees. “Little Foot” was discovered in 2006 in South Africa at Sterkfontein. There are bones from about 150 individuals. 
  •  Australopithecus africanus was discovered in 1924 in a Pleistocene limestone quarry in the Transvaal region near Taung, South Africa. The most famous specimen is the first, called the Taung child. A. africanus have humanlike teeth. This species shows that the skull’s characteristics became more modern before the brain size increased as well as that human evolution began in Africa. The specimens date from about 3 to 2 million years ago and have a brain capacity of 420-500 cc.                                   
  • Kenyanthropus platyops was discovered in Kenya and is thought by some to be the ancestor of humans, rather than Australopithecus. Kenyanthropus lived about 3.5 million years ago. 
  • Paranthropus is a genus consisting of three known species called the “robust australopithecines.”
  • Paranthropus aethiopicus was probably the ancestor of both P. robustus and P. bosei. The Paranthropus lineage seems to have met a dead end. The “robust australopithecines” were most likely the descendants of the “gracile australopithecines,” after the line split into at least two branches. The other branch would lead to the Homo species. 

In the next installment we’ll look at our Homo predecessors.

Sources:

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

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

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

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.

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.