Theistic Evolution Pt. 1 – Introduction

evolution

Theistic Evolution

In this final chapter of my series, theistic evolution and the theology behind it will be explored. When evolution is accepted as the best and most influential model and the creation narratives in Genesis are found to be mythical, where does one go from there? How does this influence your theology?

The first section (this post) will be an introduction to theistic evolution. The next section examines the relationship between science and theology, looking at early acceptance of evolution, different approaches to the issue, and the rejection of evolution. The third post will look at anti-religious evolutionists, and the synthesis of science and theology. The fourth section looks at meaning in the forms of teleology, human uniqueness, and finding meaning. The fifth section inspects the role of God, asking whether evolution is really godless, examining untraditional views of God, and investigating panentheism. The sixth section looks at the problem of suffering, especially the “only way” argument, the place of divine intervention, and God as the suffering God. The seventh section considers ethics as an evolved aspect and as specifically Christian ethics.  The eighth section looks at salvation within an evolutionary framework and the eight section contemplates eschatology.

 

Introduction

Philosopher Robert Pennock defines theistic evolution as “theists who accept the scientific evidence for Darwinian evolution,” and who, “even though they believe in God,” are frequently “under attack by creationists.” Within the paradigm of evolution, one has to think differently about certain aspects of theology. Celia Deane-Drummond, plant physiologist and theologian, states that “the full range of possibilities inherent in working through the implications of the biological sciences on theology in its broadest sense needs to be taken into account.” The science and implications of evolution simply cannot be ignored by theology. The theory of evolution can open up new possibilities in a number of aspects of theology and these ought to be pursued for the enrichment of the Christian understanding of the world. Jesuit theologian Jack Mahoney asserts the observation of John Durant, which states that the theological issues on the forefront when it comes to evolution are focused on three main concerns: “the interpretation of scripture, the relationship between God and nature in terms of creation and providence, and the status of human beings.” Although these concerns are by no means light, one can be positive about theology in light of the new paradigm that evolution gives us. Christopher Southgate is optimistic about the influence of Darwinism on theology: “In respect of key elements of Christian theology, especially the doctrine of creation, the area of theological anthropology, and the ever-present problem of theodicy, Darwinism provides one of the most important rational elements informing a contemporary hermeneutic.” Michael Ruse echoes the approach of Southgate when he says that “although, like all good science, Darwinism challenges religion, Christianity specifically, it can and should provide a positive and creative stimulus for religious people to think about their faith and move forward in a richer and deeper way.” We cannot ignore evolutionary science, but we should not be afraid of it.

Keith Ward states that “[a]s a theologian I renounce all rights to make any authoritative statements about matters of natural science. … I take it that it is an established fact of science that human beings have descended by a process of mutation and adaptation, from other and simpler forms of organic life over millions of years.” Other theologians are not as accepting of science. Larry Witham, in his 2002 book, Where Darwin Meets the Bible, writes the following about what it entails to accept the theory of evolution:

Evolutionists will only accept a material or natural basis of life and its development. The following propositions must be then accepted: first, there is or has been no supernatural intervention in nature; second, there can be no interruption in the regularity of natural law, that is, no miracles; third, there is no ultimate teleology, that is, design; fourth, there are no preordained “types” in biological life; and, fifth, one must either reject the idea of a God or see no role for him in the origin and development of life. Theistic evolutionists usually do not understand these restrictions; they frequently hold that God is only a first cause who got the universe started. Of course, the pure evolutionist rejects even that.

Robert Pollack states two aspects of the natural process of evolution that can be enriching: “First, we find that all life is related. Second, we find that our lives – every human life – is lived best in relationship with others, and that whether or not two persons think they are related, they are. These two aspects of Natural Design, though they do not relieve us of the burden of mortality, do point us in an unexpectedly liberating way, to a life of meaning.”  It’s about relationships between humans and also between our species and all the other species with which we share our home planet. This notion is not alien to the Bible, nor the creation narratives. Simon Conway Morris writes that “we need to re-examine how science reveals unexpected depths to Creation while religion informs us what on earth (literally) we are going to do about it.”

 

Sources:

Dean-Drummond, C 2005. Theology and the biological sciences. In: Ford, D F & Muers, R (eds). 2005. The modern theologians: An introduction to Christian theology since 1918.  Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 357-369.

Durant, J (ed). 1985. Darwinism and divinity: Essays on evolution and religious belief. Oxford:   Basil Blackwell.

Mahoney, J. 2011. Christianity in evolution: An exploration. Washington: Georgetown     University 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.

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

Pollack, R. 2007. “Intelligent Design,” natural design, and the problem of meaning in the natural world. Crosscurrents, 125-135.

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

Southgate, C. 2011. Re-reading Genesis, John, and Job: A Christian response to Darwinism, Zygon 46(2): 370-395

Zimmerman, P A. 2009. Darwin at 200 and the challenge of intelligent design. CTQ 73: 61-75.

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Theological Problems with Creationism Pt. 4 – The Question of Suffering

This post will look at how creationism and Intelligent Design falls short when it comes to the question of suffering. In my mind, the question of suffering is one of the most fundamental questions in theology.

What makes the creationism and Intelligent Design most problematic in a theological sense is the question of suffering. Within the Christian tradition, there is no place for a kind of demiurge or designer other than God. Thus, the only Creator or Intelligent Designer could be the Christian God. In order for God to create by means of evolution, it follows that God would use “the suffering of very many creatures.” The question then follows: If God can intervene to introduce certain elements of complexity, why could God not intervene in the suffering of a myriad of creatures? The philosopher David Hume was brutally direct in stating the problem: “Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then evil?” Michael Ruse makes a similar point:

Many vile afflictions are caused by minor changes at the molecular level. The effects multiply, bringing on lifelong pain and suffering. If the designer is around to make the very complex, why doesn’t he take a little time to repair the simple but broken? Either he cannot, in which case wonders how powerful he really is and if he truly has designed the very complex; or he does not, in which case one wonders about his intentions toward the world of life, including humans. Either way, the designer seems not to be something that can be identified with the Christian God, which is the underlying aim of the Intelligent Design theorists.

Biologist Robert Pollack points out that Intelligent Design reduces the suffering in this world to “but a preamble for a world to come, in which a totally new Intelligent Design will provide all the solace, peace, and love of which nature seems so severely depleted.” This reduction does not provide satisfactory answers to the question of suffering. Pollack goes on to say that this view keeps us from acting to do good in the world:

This is why as an article of faith, ‘intelligent design’ is truly powerful, and deeply troubling. As science, it is meaningless: nothing in nature supports it; nothing in nature demands it; nothing we can do will either prove or disprove it. But as a belief, it distracts us from all acts that we – as individuals but more important as families, faiths, nations, and even as a species – can perform in this world, to diminish the catastrophic consequences of natural disasters and human cruelties.

A famous example of the problem of suffering and Intelligent Design is the ichneumonidae wasps that lay their eggs in a living caterpillar. In South Africa there are four genii of the family Ichneumonidae. Osprynchotus species parasite the nests of other wasp species that build nests with mud. Enicospilus species parasite the larvae of noctuid moths. Gabunia species parasite the larvae of long-horn beetles (family Cerambycidae). Theronia species parasitize the larvae and pupae of Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies), Coleoptera (beetles), Diptera (flies), Hymenoptera (sawflies, wasps, and bees), and Neuroptera (lacewings and antlions). Charles Darwin referred to this specific instance of endoparasitism in a letter to his friend Asa Gray: “There seems to be too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars…”

I have been (un)fortunate enough to witness the eruption of parasitic wasp larvae (Apanteles acraea from the family Braconidae) with my own eyes. The wasp larvae eat the caterpillar from the inside until they are ready for pupation, at which moment they eat their way out of the still living caterpillar and begin spinning their cocoons on the surface. I have recently began the hobby of caterpillar rearing, where one rears caterpillars, documenting their life history, and then send the results off to a lepidopterist for research. It is an interesting and mostly rewarding hobby with the added value that it benefits science. A cucullia inaequalis caterpillar that I was busy rearing had been parasited without my knowledge and great was the shock when I checked up on it only to find a large number of writhing wasp larvae that were starting to spin their cocoons on the outside of the caterpillar. Their poor host was alive and not paralysed throughout the entire ordeal. You can view the video here and see a photo album here. After they had spun their cocoons, the caterpillar somehow got itself free from under them and started walking around with gaping holes in its soft body. It died a few hours later.

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The Pteromalus puparum wasps from the family Pteromalidae parasite final instar caterpillars and then live and pupate within the larva and pupal form of the butterfly or moth. The adult wasp then emerges from the pupa via a small exit hole. Parasitism is almost never immediately fatal to the host, because the parasite requires the host to be alive for as long as it is needed. Most parasite species are highly specialised.

The biologist David Hull states that “The God of the Galapagos is careless, wasteful, indifferent, almost diabolical. He is certainly not the sort of God to whom anyone would be inclined to pray.” This is the kind of God that can be deduced from evolution, which, as Hull describes, is “rife with happenstance, contingency, incredible waste, death, pain and horror…” David H Bailey adds to this, pointing out the difficulties of creationism and Intelligent Design when it comes to “the many troublesome features of nature, such as pain, disease, violence, and the millions of species that have become extinct.”

The Catholic biologist Francisco Ayala states that “As floods and drought were a necessary consequence of the fabric of the physical world, predators and parasites, dysfunctions and diseases were a consequence of the evolution of life. They were not a result of deficient or malevolent design.” Ayala also states that “I do not attribute all this misery, cruelty, and destruction to the specific design of the Creator. … I rather see it as a consequence of the clumsy ways of the evolutionary process.” He claims that it will be good for people who have faith to accept natural selection as being responsible for “the design of organisms, as well as for the dysfunctions, oddities, cruelties, and sadism that pervade the world of life.”

 

Conclusion

From the previous sections it can be seen that, theologically speaking, creationism and Intelligent Design has certain pitfalls. The two main pitfalls are dishonesty on the part of God and the problem of suffering, which weighs the heavier of the two. The dubious use of the Bible is also a point of concern and the bad science coupled with bad theology is a pock mark on the face of Christianity.

 

Also See:

10 Astonishing Examples of Bizarre Parasitic Life Cycles

10 Disturbingly Weird Parasites

Parasitism in Forest Ecology

 

And now something light-hearted…

200

 

Sources:

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

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.

Griffiths, C, Picker, M & Weaving, A. 2004. Field guide to insects of South Africa. Cape Town: Struik Nature.

Pollack, R. 2007. “Intelligent Design,” natural design, and the problem of meaning in the natural world. Crosscurrents, 125-135.

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

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

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.

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.