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The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 51): Charles Darwin–What His Theory is…and Oh, He Wasn’t an Atheist

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 51): Charles Darwin–What His Theory is…and Oh, He Wasn’t an Atheist

If you follow the current creation/evolution debate, chances are that you might not really understand what the theory of evolution actually states. And if you are a Christian (particularly one who has been influenced by YECists like Ken Ham), you probably have assumed that Charles Darwin was an atheist who came up with his theory of evolution in order to try to convince people that God doesn’t exist. Well…welcome to my post. You’re going to learn a few things.

Darwin’s Theory
When it comes to Darwin’s actual theory, his genius lay in his understanding that the entirety of the biological/natural world is intricately connected on a wide-ranging, biological and natural scale. Essentially, it was the realization that life is not static: every living organism is constantly reacting to, and influencing at the same time, the environment in which it finds itself. And, given the fact that 19th century geologists (most whom where clergymen!) were unearthing ancient fossils of dinosaurs and speculating that the earth itself was possibly millions of years old, Darwin’s theory of evolution drove him to speculate that perhaps, if given enough time, all the varieties of life we observe in the world today ultimately “descended” from a common ancestor, way back in the past, millions of years ago.

Simply put, Darwin (and biologists ever since) observed small-scale adaptations within species (i.e. finch beaks), and observed a number of biological similarities between a cross-section of species. Therefore, the speculation was that if the earth was indeed millions of years old (and geologists were already making that case long before Darwin), then it is possible that perhaps all these different species evolved from a common ancestor. Ever since then, especially with the advancement in genetic studies today, Darwin’s theory of evolution has been verified time and time again.

Limitations…Let’s Be Clear on the Limitations
But it must be emphasized again that Darwin’s theory is limited to the biological world of nature, and it is only concerned with the development and evolution of biological life. In no way does it make any philosophical or theological arguments regarding God or the dignity of man; and in no way does it make any argument regarding the origin of life itself. Simply put, when Darwin wrote Origin of Species, he was putting forth a theory on the origin of species from a pre-existent form of life; he was not putting forth a theory on the origin of life itself.

This is important to note for a number of reasons. First, the current YEC movement (as well as the followers of William Paley), are objecting to a claim that Darwin’s theory never makes, namely that nature is a random accident, and that God does not exist. They are mistakenly attaching a philosophical claim onto the biological theory, and then attacking the biological theory on the false basis that it is an atheistic, philosophical worldview.

Second, the current New Atheist movement (championed by the likes of Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris) are, in fact, high-jacking Darwin’s biological theory and attempting to claim that it is the scientific basis for their atheistic/philosophical claims. Both YEC and the New Atheists are a threat to clear thinking and honest inquiry, for both are either willfully ignorant or purposely misleading.

Third, since Darwin’s theory is limited to biological life in the natural world, and since it simply cannot even address questions regarding God, morality, or the dignity of man, the theory itself it subject to different philosophical interpretations that the theory itself cannot verify or reject. If you are an atheist, you will look at evolution and conclude that “nature can do it all by itself,” and therefore God doesn’t exist. Of course, your conclusion that God doesn’t exist in no way can be extrapolated from the theory of evolution—it is a philosophical leap in the dark that is not buoyed by the evolutionary evidence.

Furthermore, if you come to that conclusion, it is quite obvious that (a) the “god” you are rejecting is the god of deism, and (b) you aren’t aware of the difference between the deistic god and the biblical God. Therefore, when Richard Dawkins claims that evolution makes it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist, someone should remind him that some of Darwin’s earliest supporters—Charles Kingsley and Frederick Temple—were Christian clergymen.

Darwin’s first sketch of his “tree of life” from his notebook (circa 1837)

If you are a Christian, you should realize that being convinced of the theory of evolution does not entail a disbelief in God. In fact, if you are a Christian, you are free to conclude that evolution is the way by which God, not only has created, but is continuing to create, the natural world. This is what Joseph Le Conte (1823-1901) (as well as millions of Christians today) believe. Ronald Numbers tells us that Le Conte “…perhaps the most influential theistic evolutionist in America, described science itself as ‘a rational system of natural theology’ in that it pointed beyond itself to a divine Mind that served as the ‘energy’ that was immanent throughout creation” (Galileo Goes to Jail166).

We must see the theory of evolution in a clear light: it is a biological theory that has produced some of the biggest scientific breakthroughs and discoveries in human history, but it still is (as all scientific theories are) a working, provisional theory that is always open for revision and questioning.

In addition, and unfortunately, the theory of evolution has been abused, misrepresented, and manipulated to support some of the greatest atrocities in human history. But the moment one begins to present Darwin’s theory as the basis for any philosophy or ideology, is the moment one takes a step in either one of two misdirections: (1) Nazism or Communism, which, like nature itself, is “red in tooth and claw,” or (2) cultish, heretical, anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, and ultimately anti-Christian movements like Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis.

Darwin’s Own Loss of Faith (Oh Hell, that Hurts!)
One more misconception about Darwin himself must be cleared up here: Charles Darwin was not an atheist. He didn’t come up with his theory of evolution as a way to justify his rejection of God. At the same time, though, neither was Darwin a Christian, and he never had a “death-bed conversion” back to the Christian faith. He, like so many Englishmen of his day, grew up in a nominally Christian household. And although he eventually lost his Christian faith, he never described himself as an atheist. He was, by all accounts, an agnostic later in life. But again, it was not his theory of evolution that was the cause for his loss of the Christian faith.

The reason for Darwin’s problem with Christianity was two-fold: first, there was the Christian teaching of hell—namely that there was a place where the souls of unbelievers would be tortured for all eternity; second, there was the existential problem of pain and suffering in the world.

Regarding the teaching of hell, we must realize that much of what we believe today regarding hell is not so much from the Bible itself, or even from the teaching of the early Church, but rather is a product of a certain strand of Catholic thought from the High Catholic Age. Dante’s Inferno is more influential to our modern concept of hell than the Bible actually is. Therefore, although Christians for the past 2,000 years have speculated as to the nature of hell and to the justified and proper punishment for those in rebellion against God, the dogmatic teaching of eternal hellfire and souls tormented forever in eternal pain is a teaching that has never been universally held by the Church, and is one that is not spelled out in the Bible itself. And so, it is unfortunate that one of the reasons why Darwin left the Christian faith was a teaching that wasn’t particularly Christian.

Regarding the problem of pain and suffering, this is one we cannot dismiss out of hand. Darwin certainly could not. Within the span of three years, Darwin experienced the death of his father (1848) and the death of his eldest daughter (1851). Indeed, when one comes face to face with suffering, pain and death, it is undoubtedly going to be a challenge to any kind of belief in a loving God. “How could God allow this to happen?” “Why did God not intervene?” Questions like these are ultimately unanswerable. This is not the place to get into an extended discussion on the problem of pain and suffering, but given the topic at hand, we must admit that the problem of pain and suffering is, in fact, a very real challenge to anyone’s faith.

Despite losing his Christian faith, nonetheless, Darwin never rejected belief in the existence of God. He himself viewed his own theory of evolution as simply uncovering the natural laws imposed on creation by a creator God. As Ronald Numbers states, “Although an agnostic late in life, Darwin denied he had ever been an atheist and frequently referred to evolutionary outcomes as the result of laws impressed on the world by a creator” (GGJ 227). Simply put, using modern categories, Darwin would have probably labeled himself as a theistic evolutionist—although not a Christian.

In addition, we must also note that not only was Darwin not an atheist, he also harbored no ill will toward Christianity, Christians, or the Church. Ronald Numbers again: “[Darwin] himself fell away, but he gave generously toward church repairs and sent his boys to be tutored by clergymen. Local priests always had his support; the Reverend John Innes became a lifelong friend. In 1850 they started a benefit society for the parish laborers, with Darwin as guardian. Innes later made him treasurer of the local charities and, with a testimonial from him in 1857, Darwin became a county magistrate, swearing on the Bible to keep the Queen’s peace” (GGJ 150).

Darwin’s Grave: Westminster Abbey

All this goes to show that Darwin, despite falling away from his Christian faith, never was an atheist, never was hostile toward Christianity, and never viewed his own theory as something that “proved” or supported atheism. Not only did he not see his theory as an atheistic threat to Christianity, neither did the Church of England. After all, as Numbers tells us, “The English lay no one lightly in Westminster Abbey, their national shrine, much less the mortal remains of those who affront the monarchy, the established church, or Christianity” (150).

The implications that Darwin’s theory of evolution had, philosophically, theologically, and socially, certainly had to be worked out—and for the past 150 years we’ve witnessed the mess—but the theory itself was not philosophy, it was not theology, it was scientific. It no more is anti-biblical or anti-Christian as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is either anti-biblical or anti-Christian. It is high time that extremist ideologues on both sides of the non-existent “creation/evolution debate” are rejected as the charlatans they are.

Inside the Nye/Ham Debate (Part 2): The Smoke and Mirrors of YEC Debate Tactics

Inside the Nye/Ham Debate (Part 2): The Smoke and Mirrors of YEC Debate Tactics

If you have ever spent any time in one of the many “creation/evolution” debate forums on Facebook, you can attest to the fact that many of the debates get pretty toxic pretty quickly. Indeed, it is easy to get frustrated and to allow yourself to get sucked into the pettiness. It is hard to stick to making your case and not allowing the toxicity get to you, and it is hard not to get frustrated at the lack of coherence in many of the young earth creationist claims. And it certainly is hard not to get offended when, after you make a basic logical point, not only does the response you get not address your point at all, but you find in the response, some rather nasty and condescending innuendos about your character and rejection of God’s word, and thinly veiled boasts about their own unshakeable faith.

Such responses do not come from a well thought out worldview, though. They come from rather blind imitation of those who are advocating YEC. They are predictable knee-jerk responses that have essentially been programmed into YECist adherents by organizations like ICR and AiG. The trick is to clearly identify all the triggers and stock answers that are in the tool box of YEC organizations. Once you do that, you can see them coming a mile away, and it becomes something akin to pointing out the tricks of a rather bad magician. The fact is, men like Ken Ham never really discuss actual science or biblical interpretation. Oh, he may use scientific terms and biblical passages, but the context in which he uses them is not science or biblical studies. It is a complex and often confusing web of half-truths, distortions, and innuendo. It is smoke and mirrors—but once you see where the mirrors really are, it becomes easier to see through the smoke.

It’s on full display on the AiG website, Ken Ham’s blog, the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate, as well as Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge’s book, Inside the Nye/Ham Debate, the book I am currently analyzing this month as a way of commemorating the debate of three years ago. These posts are not analyzing the scientific arguments of Ken Ham in the book, for like I said, there really are none. Instead, these posts will attempt to point out where the mirrors are so you can see through the smoke. So let’s get to Ham and Hodge’s (HH) analysis of the 5-minute opening statements of both Bill Nye and Ken Ham from the debate.

As a reminder, the agreed upon topic for the debate was this: “Is creation a viable scientific model for origins?” Or in other words, “Is young earth creationism a viable scientific method for understanding origins?” For that matter, if we to be blatantly honest about what the debate was about, we’d just state it this way: “Is Genesis 1-11 providing accurate scientific and historical information?” Let’s see how Ken Ham addresses this question.

Ken Ham’s Irrelevant Opening Statement
Part One of Inside the Nye/Ham Debate is devoted to HH’s analysis of the 5-minute opening statements by both Ken Ham and Bill Nye. The chapter covers 18 pages, five of which are devoted to Ken Ham, thirteen of which are devoted to Bill Nye. The reason for that discrepancy will soon become apparent: the aim of the chapter, and indeed the entire book, is not so much to analyze the arguments put forth by both men, as it is to convince the reader that Bill Nye is a bad, mean-spirited man, and that Ken Ham is a champion of God’s word.

In any case, HH points out that the very first thing Ken Ham said in his opening is that there are “biblical creationists” who are able to do “observational science” and build technology, without having to have an evolutionary worldview. That is absolutely true, but given the topic of the debate, that is also absolutely irrelevant. The topic wasn’t “Do you need to have an evolutionary worldview to build technology?” but rather, “Is young earth creationism a viable scientific model for origins?”

So why did Ken Ham open with this completely irrelevant fact? Simple: to mislead and to get people to not focus on what the topic of the debate actually was. To be clear, not only was the point he made irrelevant, what Ham was implying was also illogical. He was implying that (A) since there are scientists who are “biblical creationists” who build technology, that (B) somehow that proves evolutionary theory isn’t true. But that proves no such thing. The two points have nothing to do with each other. It’s like saying, “There are ‘biblical creationists’ who build technology who don’t believe Harvey Oswald acted alone…therefore Harvey Oswald must have had an accomplice.”

And while we’re at it, let’s just point out the misleading name Ken Ham gives for his position: biblical creationism. It is slipped under the radar, and no one even considers how misleading that label is. Even Ham’s opponents often use that label, and when they do, he’s already won the debate he is really focused on: getting people to believe that to question his claims about Genesis 1-11 is to question the Bible itself. Let’s be clear, his position is that of young earth creationism, and not biblical creationism. The Nye/Ham debate was tackling the question, “Is young earth creationism actually scientific?” Another debate could easily tackle the question, “Is young earth creation actually biblical?” But to allow the claim that the YEC view is the view of the Bible to stand is a huge mistake, for it allows Ham to put forth as his premise that the Bible is on his side. It isn’t.

Let’s Define “Science”
In any case, HH then pointed out that Ken Ham rightly took the time to define the terms in the debate, namely, what the definition of “science” was. (By contrast, HH pointed out that Bill Nye didn’t do this. Why not? The answer will soon become obvious).

So how did Ken Ham define “science”? He looked it up on the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary and came up with this: “the state of knowing; knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding.” He ignored the specific definition in regards to the scientific method, and instead decided to use the most general one. The reason was obvious: by completely ignoring the actual definition in regards to the study of the natural world, Ham was able to then put forth his own definitions of his own fictitious categories of observational science (science that is “based on the scientific method” and builds technology) and historical science (“non-repeatable, non-observable science [knowledge] dealing with the past, which then enters the real of beliefs [really, religion]).

Only then, did Ham then define the scientific method. Notice what he did. Without batting an eye, Ham:

  • Defined “science” in the most general way possible (i.e. knowledge)
  • Presented fictitious categories of science (i.e. observational and historical)
  • Defined “observational science” as the kind that uses the scientific method
  • Defined “historical science” as essentially “knowledge based on religious belief”

And voila! Ham deftly ruled out the use of the scientific method in any discussion about origins, and instead put in its place “religious belief.” That statement alone is proof that Ken Ham lost the debate: he essentially admitted that young earth creationism could not be supported by the scientific method. But because of the “smoke” of over-generalized definitions and the “mirrors” of fictitious categories of science, Ham can continue to state that YEC is “science”…historical science, the kind that is outside the realm of the scientific method, the kind that is a matter of religious belief…and religious belief needs to be based on…authority. And whose authority is it going to be? God’s infallible Word or man’s fallible word?

The Book’s “Analysis” of Ham’s Opening Statement
“This was a good opening, considering that the speaker was on the defensive. Mr. Ham started by destroying the idea that creationists cannot be ‘real’ scientists…” (32).

Thus begins HH’s “analysis” of Ken Ham’s comments. Ironically, given the obvious tactic Ken Ham used to mislead people in regards to proper definitions, HH actually states, “Evolution and science are both terms with multiple definitions that can muddy the waters if not clarified up front. …At least when Mr. Ham gave his presentation, people knew what he meant by words like evolution, science, and creation” (32).

But Ken Ham didn’t define “evolution” or “creation.” He defined “science” as “knowledge,” said that the scientific method is only applicable to technology, and claimed that “science/knowledge” of the past has to be based on religious belief. And yet, HH wants their readers (who are probably already fans of Ken Ham) to know, that this was a “good opening.”

“Ken Ham destroyed the idea that creationists can’t be real scientists!” (But no one said they couldn’t be good at technology)

“Ken Ham is the one who took time to define the terms!” (But he didn’t…at all)

And, if I may draw an analogy to a famous children’s story, “Just look at the beautiful clothing the emperor is wearing!” And the people applauded…until… (But he’s not wearing any clothes!)

“There’s a Difference Between Observational and Historical Science!” (“Four legs good, two legs bad!”)
The rest of the book’s “analysis” of Ken Ham’s opening statement really is an example of the pigs in Animal Farm teaching the other animals the farm’s motto: “Four legs good, two legs bad!” For it hammers home this supposed difference between “observational science” and “historical science,” and accuses Bill Nye of being dishonest and refusing to admit there is a difference. To paraphrase a number of paragraphs: “Mr. Nye refuses to admit this, because if he did, he’d have to admit his view on origins is a religious belief, and he’d lose the debate! Mr. Ham is honest enough to admit his beliefs…and his beliefs are based on God’s Word!”

Objective analysis, this is not.

But it’s not just Bill Nye who is the enemy—the modern education system is the enemy as well.  And at this point, HH simply slips in the accusation that evolution is the foundation of secular humanism, and that schools are brainwashing students, and are “arbitrarily defining science as naturalism and outlawing the supernatural” (33). And with their fictitious distinction between “observational” and “historical” science, HH then states, “Sadly…so many people are being duped into believing that evolution…is also science in the same way [as observational science]” (33).

Amazingly, HH then claims that evolutionary theory is the religion of naturalism or atheism, and that “secularists” have used “the bait and switch” to “rename the religious aspect of evolution” as “science” in order to teach “that autonomous man is the one who determines truth” (34). Never mind the fact that we are now light years away from the actual debate topic, let’s point out one of the more maddening tactics AiG loves to use: accusing opponents of doing the very things they do. Let’s be clear, the only one redefining terms and pulling the bait and switch is Ken Ham. In a debate that was to focus on whether or not YEC is scientifically viable, within the first five minutes, he redefined what science is, introduced fictitious categories of science, accused evolution of being the same as religion, launched into an attack on naturalism, materialism, atheism, and accused anyone who is convinced of evolution of trying to set up autonomous man as the determiner of truth.

Did I mention none of that had to do with the topic of the debate?

But this is what YECists like Ken Ham routinely do. This is their playbook: not just smoke and mirrors, but the mirrors they use are those crazy, distorting mirrors that one finds in fun house attractions.

Wrapping Up the Book’s “Analysis” of Ham’s Opening Statement
At the end of their analysis on Ken Ham’s opening comments, HH throw out a number of statements that could warrant their own blog posts on their own:

“Mr. Ham’s opening was perfectly consistent since observable science comes out of a Christian worldview that is built on a literal creation” (35).

What does that mean? We can observe and measure the distant of light from stars, and they are billions of light years away—this contradicts Ham’s claims that the universe is only 6,000 years old. And what is “a literal creation?” Creation is the natural world, how can it not be literal? Does he really believe the Christian worldview is dependent on whether or not the universe is only 6,000 years old?

“We can trust that those same [natural] laws won’t change and thus can be relied on since the Bible alludes to this in several places” (35).

But Ken Ham rejects natural laws in order to argue for a young earth. The speed of light in a vacuum is constant, therefore we can be confident, based on the unchanging natural laws that make it possible to do science in the first place, that there are stars that are billions of light years away from the earth. YEC rejects that and claims that light can speed up or slow down in a vacuum. And where does the Bible speak of the laws of science?

And finally, “All the historical sciences (or historical knowledge) are wrong, save one. They are all fictional stories but one…. All other forms of historical science are based on man’s fallible, imperfect guesses about the past by people who were not there. Therefore, they are arbitrary, next to God’s absolute standard” (35).

That’s right, without saying anything related to the actual debate topic, HH has deftly discarded the basic definition of science, substituted two fictitious categories of “science,” redefined one of those categories as nothing more than “knowledge based on religious belief,” and thus concludes that any “historical science” that isn’t based on the authority of God’s Word (i.e. the assumption that Genesis 1-11 is scientific) is a fiction.

The debate topic was, “Is young earth creationism a valid scientific model for studying origins?” and the answer that Ken Ham gave (which is re-affirmed in the book) is, “Evolution is a fiction; Bill Nye is dishonest; our education system promotes atheism.”

Smoke and funny mirrors….it can get comical and frightening at the same time.

Ken Ham Denies the Power of the Resurrection!

Ken Ham Denies the Power of the Resurrection!

Yes, I know, that is quite a provocative and scandalous headline for a post, isn’t it? It’s one thing to take issue with Ken Ham’s claims about science or his interpretation of Genesis 1-11, but should we really question his belief in the resurrection of Christ? Isn’t that to essentially do the very thing so many people are upset with Ken Ham for doing—questioning one’s Christian faith simply because he/she has a different interpretation of Genesis 1-11? I mean, argue science and biblical interpretation all you want, but let’s hold off on accusing anyone of denying the resurrection.

Well, far be it from me to suggest that Ken Ham denies the resurrection of Christ…no matter how provocative the headline might be. Let me be crystal clear: I have no doubt whatsoever that Ken Ham believes Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead. But I came across one of his many tweets earlier today, and it just got me thinking about how Ken Ham, you, I, and probably many people in general tend to view, or more properly fail to view, the resurrection. And yes, in a roundabout way, I think this affects how we view science and evolution (not to mention virtually everything else).

Ham’s Twitter Argument
But perhaps I should first share what Ken Ham’s actual tweet was. It was quite simple, really—just a typical Ken Ham/AiG argument for YEC in less than 140 characters:

God describes death as an “enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26). God didn’t use death to create—death is the judgment for sin.

Ham’s tweet encapsulates a basic argument by AiG that (A) evolution requires millions of years of death to account for the varieties of life we see today in the natural world, but that (B) Genesis 1 tells us that God call His creation “good,” Genesis 3 tells us that death came to Adam and Eve because they sinned, and I Cor. 15:26 call death an “enemy.” Therefore, if evolution is true, then Genesis 1 is a lie, because death would have been part of creation, and God would be calling death “good;” Genesis 3 is a lie, because death would have been occurring for millions of years before Adam and Eve; and I Cor. 15:26 is a lie, because how could death be an “enemy” if it was part of creation from the beginning?

Now, in this post, I am not going to go into a detailed exegetical argument regarding those passages in order to refute Ken Ham’s claims. Instead, I want to expand on what I wrote as a response tweet. When I first read Ham’s tweet, something about it just struck me as odd: “God didn’t use death to create.” Rather quickly, I hit “reply” and tweeted this:

God didn’t use death to create? Mmm…The cross, tomb, then resurrection/new creation! Looks like He CAN use death to re-create!

22 year old Joel at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem (circa 1992)

Rethinking Death’s Role in the Resurrection and New Creation
No, I wasn’t trying to be cheeky with my response (okay, perhaps just a bit!)—I was actually being serious. When I read Ham’s tweet, I couldn’t help but realize that, although what we see in the resurrection of Christ is certainly the defeat of death. But there’s something else: we see the use of death as the means by which new life—Christ’s life—is realized. Simply put, the resurrection of Christ hails the breaking in of the New Creation, and God used death to bring it about.

In the death and resurrection of Christ, we see the power of God on full display: He brings new life out of death and suffering; the New Creation is birthed through the pain of death. And I have to tell you, I’m not sure too many people really get the significance of that. I mean, we should, because it’s all over the place throughout the New Testament:

  • Romans 5:3-5 talks about boasting in our sufferings because ultimately the end result is the realization of the Christian hope…the resurrection of the dead and becoming fully like Christ.
  • I Peter 4:13 talks about rejoicing in our sufferings because we’re sharing Christ’s sufferings, and that we therefore will rejoice even more when his glory is revealed.
  • Romans 8:18-25 equates present sufferings with creation in birth pangs, and what’s the hope when a woman suffering birth pangs? That’s right, a new birth. In Paul’s analogy, that hope is being set free from this present age’s bondage to decay and death.

The entire New Testament bears witness to this very thing: it is through suffering and death than the New Creation is born…and then death will be no more.

This View is Testified to by the Early Church Fathers
And in case we forget, this view of suffering and death is pretty much what Church Fathers like Irenaeus had. I’ve written on Irenaeus before, but essentially, while he affirmed the goodness of creation, he also saw Adam as representative of immature humanity, and therefore as each one of us. Irenaeus saw Adam’s sin as an inevitability, because God didn’t create Adam as perfect—Adam was immature and naïve and, yes, therefore bound to sin. But it was God’s will that Adam (and each one of us) grow into full maturity in Christ through suffering, and yes, even death.

Irenaeus makes it clear that all this—the sin, the suffering, and death itself—was all part of God’s salvation plan before the creation of the world. Christ didn’t come into the world because God’s “original plan” got screwed up by Adam. Christ came into the world because this whole thing has been God’s plan all along. As Irenaeus says, the very nature of Christ is that of a Savior, and therefore a savior needs something to save.

Or to put it another way, when we look at Genesis 1:26-27, God created human beings (i.e. Adam) “in His image”—we are to be His representatives in the created order, and we are to act as (a) kings over the created order, (b) priests of the created order, and (c) custodians of the created order. The thing, though, is that because we are not born “perfect,” that means we are not fully “like” God yet. As the Orthodox Church puts it, we are created in God’s image, but we are not yet “according to His likeness.” To become like God is to become like Christ, and to become like Christ entails suffering as Christ did, because the way Christ the Savior saves us is through suffering and death.

Or to put it yet another way: the suffering and death of Christ explains to us the reason for suffering and death—and the reason for suffering and death is to bring about the resurrection life of Christ so we can be fully mature in Christ, and therefore be according to God’s likeness. And once that happens, death will be no more because there will be no more purpose for it…kind of like what Paul says about the Torah (re-read Romans 6-8, and note what it says about the purpose of Torah, and its relationship to death).

Now, Back to Ham…
So therefore, when I looked at Ken Ham’s tweet, I realized that he is ultimately wrong: God does use death to create. This is testified to both in the New Testament and in early Church Fathers like Irenaeus. Suffering and death are inevitable parts to this creation; they are part of God’s plan of salvation revealed in Christ to grow us up into His likeness; they are this creation’s birth pangs that will ultimately result in a new birth and a New Creation in which suffering and death no longer have any role to play.

Now, I imagine Ken Ham might say, “Well, sure, through Christ, God used suffering and death to bring about the New Creation, but they only came into existence after Adam sinned. Before he sinned, there was no death or suffering, because he was created perfect.” Well, to that, all I can say is that not only does science and evolution refute that claim, but so do the early Church Fathers, and so does the Bible itself.

Think about it. If Adam and Eve were perfect, super-intelligent, and all-wise (and let’s not forget in possession of a perfect genome!), then how could they have been tricked by a talking serpent? The whole story in Genesis 3 drives home the point that they were naïve and child-like, and therefore not fully mature, and certainly not perfect. And the reason that is so is because the description of them is the description of us as human beings. As Irenaeus said, Adam sinning was an inevitability, just like our sinning is an inevitability.

But now I’m starting to wander a bit. You can read my full treatment of Irenaeus starting here. Allow me now to wrap up my thoughts…

Conclusion
Perhaps one of the most astounding things to learn about the early Church is how the historical reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ caused the early Christians to re-evaluate everything, and see everything in a different light. The Jewish Scriptures? They reinterpreted them in light of Christ’s resurrection reality. Greek Philosophy? Christian philosophers essentially Christianized Greek philosophy and showed how the resurrection of Christ provided vast new insights into reality itself. And what about science? Long before the Scientific Revolution, all throughout the “Middle Ages,” Christian monks were making advances in scientific discoveries that laid the groundwork for the eventual Scientific Revolution, that was, incidentally, brought about primarily by Christians working in the fields of science.

The resurrection of Christ isn’t just some odd, historical claim that cannot be conclusively verified, but that you have to say you believe actually happened if you want to go to heaven. Too often, though, that’s precisely how we treat it—as just another claim you have to “take on faith” in order to avoid hell. But when we do that, when we reduce it to just a “fact” we have to say we believe happened, what we are essentially doing is denying the true power of the resurrection.

Yes, I believe the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact. Yes, I believe it really happened. But because I believe it really happened, I can’t allow it to be treated as just another “fact,” for that fact changed everything. It changed how we view suffering and death, and ultimately it changed how understand the created order itself.

If Jesus’ disciples were able to shine the light of the resurrection on the Jewish Scriptures and reinterpret them in that light, and if early Christian philosophers were able to shine the light of the resurrection on Greek Philosophy and reshape it in that light, we should be able to do the same thing with modern scientific discoveries like evolution.

Christian scientists even though they are bound by the same descriptive laws and scientific methods that all scientists are bound by in their observations of the natural world, they do not believe that the natural world is all that exists. Christians believe there is a God beyond nature who has made Himself known within history, in the person of Jesus Christ. And so, although Christian scientists would be wrong to inject “God” into their descriptive work of science, they (as all Christians) are able to contemplate their scientific findings in the light of the resurrection of Christ.

Sure, such contemplation admittedly isn’t “scientific,” but that’s okay—there’s more to life than just science. And although I am not a scientist, what I’ve learned about the theory of evolution over the past few years has been fascinating, not simply because of what it has discovered and what it can explain convincingly. It fascinates me because I’ve come to realize that what we can observe in biology, geology, astronomy, and genetics bears witness to what the resurrection is all about: the natural processes we observe in the natural world mirror the reality of salvation, resurrection, and the New Creation.

In Christ, God uses suffering and death to bring about new life and the New Creation. That’s at the very heart of the Gospel, and we see this very thing, by means of analogy, in the natural world.

Ken and me…

So yes, Mr. Ham, God does use death to create: that’s the testimony of the resurrection of Christ. I’m not saying you don’t believe in the resurrection, but it seems to me you view it as not much more than a fact. That’s okay, I think too many of us tend to also view it as not much more than a fact. I think we’d all be better off to open our eyes to the transformative power of the resurrection. It’s not just a door to the hereafter; it is the key to understanding reality itself.

Like I said earlier, everything is transformed in its light, even our understanding of suffering and death.

What do Fruit Flies Have to do with Eternity? (Still more celebratory excerpts regarding evolution and the Christian Faith)

What do Fruit Flies Have to do with Eternity? (Still more celebratory excerpts regarding evolution and the Christian Faith)

Fruit Flies, Transformation, and Eternity
Since I’m on the topic of fruit flies, let me make another point. Due to the short life span of fruit flies, scientists can observe generations upon generations of them in a short period of time. Typically, a fruit fly’s entire life is about 30 days. Let’s put that into perspective: from a fruit fly’s perspective, a human being who lives for 85 years would have lived 1,034 lifetimes. For human beings to get an idea of what’s that like, trying imagining a being living 87,890 years. And then try to imagine that being’s lifetime of 87,890 years being only one generation in a long history of that species’ existence. Time becomes so vast that, from the perspective of the limited blip of a lifetime of a human being, you might as well just say it is eternal.

Trying to understand “eternity” really is impossible from our perspective. Even to say “God has always existed,” or “God exists for all time” is to, in fact, confine God to the limitations of time. You simply cannot express the concept of eternity in human language, for human language is ultimately a product of this limited realm we call “time.” When we consider the difference of perspective of a fruit fly in comparison to a human being, though, I think we can at least get a better understanding of it. One day in the life of a fruit fly is the equivalent of almost three years in the life of a human being. Recently in my life, I went through a period of three years that saw some major life-changing experiences in my family: pregnancy, cancer, chemotherapy, major surgery, recovery, birth, raising a toddler, and a long, drawn-out and bizarre divorce that lasted for 19 months.

From my perspective, as I was going through that time, those three years seemed like a hellish eternity. I thought those trials and conflicts would never end. Still, even though they have had a life-changing impact on me, those three years will have amounted to a relatively short period of time in the course of my entire life. The thing I realized in the midst of those trials was that the kinds of changes those conflicts had on me were entirely dependent upon the way in which I chose to react to those conflicts. Or to put it in “evolutionary terminology,” my Spiritual life has “evolved” (I think for the better) because I chose to respond to the inevitable conflicts in life in certain ways, whereas if I would have chosen to respond in different ways, my Spiritual life would have regressed, or ultimately might have taken a darker turn.

Genetic studies have shown us that there is already in living organisms something capable of adaptation, evolution, and transformation, that, when a certain “switch” is flipped, makes it capable of adapting to its environment for its relatively brief life. By the same token, God has “built into” human beings the ability to choose how to react to the inevitable conflicts of life; and our ability to choose, to “flip certain switches” woven mysteriously within the very fabric of our being, will determine if we in our “natural state” (what C.S. Lewis calls Bios) will transform (and “evolve,” if you will) into the higher form of Spiritual life (what C.S. Lewis calls Zoe), into not just more highly developed creatures, but into transformed beings who mature fully in Christ, and who thus will be revealed as “sons of God,” just as Romans 8:19 states, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”

We in our natural, time-limited states, tend to only see the immediate pain and conflict in our lives, and we can’t really get “the big picture” of God’s eternal perspective. But the evolutionary changes we see in fruit flies, within their brief, entirely natural lives can help us put our own conflicts into perspective. We are made for eternity, and although we cannot yet fully comprehend such a thing, we can see that the trials and tribulations we inevitably experience in this life shape, mold, and transform us in ways that have eternal consequences.

As long as we respond to those trials and tribulations with faith, hope and love, we can be assured that such “fiery ordeals,” however presently painful, will turn out to be fires that purify us into eternal righteousness. Yet we should also remember that if we respond to those “fiery ordeals” with hatred, contempt and bitterness, those very same fires that could purify us will end up enveloping us in our own personal hell. Strange at it may sound, evolution helps us see the trials in our lives from an eternal perspective.

Remember that time, when Ken Ham went ballistic over the Smithsonian Institute?

Remember that time, when Ken Ham went ballistic over the Smithsonian Institute?

I have not posted anything this past week because I am hammering out the final touches on the print edition of my book The Heresy of Ham. Now, in case you haven’t heard, as of July 7, Ken Ham has opened his Ark Encounter. I plan to write a number of posts on it in the upcoming week or so. That being said, I want to share something I wrote last summer about a particular post by Ken Ham in which he rails against the Smithsonian Institute. I believe it hits on all the predictable points of the Hamean Heresy…enjoy.

***

On May 21, 2015, Ken Ham wrote a long blog post entitled, “Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit Propaganda Campaign for Atheism,” on a current traveling exhibit by the Smithsonian. To the point, Ham goes off on the Smithsonian with the ferocity of a wild dog. He doesn’t hold back. What is this exhibit really about? Please, tell us, Mr. Ham:

“This is nothing but a propaganda campaign attempting to indoctrinate people to believe they are nothing but animals evolved from ape-like ancestors! To the Smithsonian, that’s what it means to be human! And what they are doing in reality is trying to impose their religion of naturalism (atheism) on the culture. …Of course, the entire exhibit is religious—it is promoting the religion of atheism using evolutionary beliefs.”

“In this worldview, there really is only one answer to this question—humans are nothing more than highly evolved animals. It is nothing but an anti-God campaign.”

There it is, Ham thinks the exhibit is really just about trying to indoctrinate people into thinking they are just apes, and that evolution is nothing more than the religion of atheism. Between his attempt to portray Genesis 1-11 as “science,” and the scientific theory of evolution as “religion” it is quite clear that Ham does not know the difference between science and religion.

But here is another thing to think about, and another point on which Ken Ham is entirely wrong and misguided. He objects to the evolutionary claim that human beings share a common descent with other forms of life in the world—or more specifically, that modern human beings and modern apes both came from some primitive ancestor. Whether or not you are convinced of that evolutionary claim is beside the point that I want to make.

Ham considers a biological/genetic relationship with apes as a detestable idea that somehow devalues the dignity of human beings as being made in the image of God. My question is, “Why?” How is sharing genetic ancestry with apes any more or less devaluing than the idea that the depiction of the first man being made from dirt? Is it our biological makeup, or the manner in which we were made, the basis for our dignity and value as image-bearers of God? Does Genesis 1-2 make the claim that the reason why we are in God’s image is because He made us from dirt?

The claim evolution makes regarding the origin of human beings should not be seen as an attack on God, the dignity of man, or the authority of the Bible. The fact is, biologically we really do share commonality and possibly genetic descent with other life forms…but the Bible tells us that we are more than just biological creatures—THAT’S THE POINT. We shouldn’t deny our biological and genetic relationship with the rest of God’s creation. We should acknowledge it, embrace it, and yes, even celebrate it, because God has revealed in his Word that human beings, while being part of His creation, still have a special purpose in His creation. We are to be His image-bearers to the rest of His creation; we are to care for His creation as royal servant-priests. And it is a task that only human beings can do, precisely because we have that biological relationship with the rest of creation, and yet still are God’s image-bearers.

But Ham can’t seem to grasp the fundamental identity of human beings that God reveals in His Word, that of biological image-bearers. Ham seems to think it can’t be both. Ham has already decided that if there is an evolutionary biological relationship between human beings and the rest of the animal world, then there can’t be anything special about human beings:

“Yes, you are just an animal and just happen to be the lone survivor of this process of naturalistic evolution. You are nothing but an animal—there is no purpose and meaning in life except what you make of it while you live. Once you die, you won’t know you ever existed.”

First, let’s just all agree that Ham has injected a whole mess of philosophical assumptions into that quote that do not necessarily have anything to do with evolution. Second, Ham’s comments also betray a fundamental hatred of materiality and the natural world. Ham thinks any genetic relationship to the natural world is beneath the dignity of man, and beneath the dignity of God. And so, I must ask, “Why does Ham seem to devalue and hate God’s creation?” He seems intent on denying that human beings really have anything to do with it.

Another interesting quote from Ham in this post is this: “…it’s creation—not evolution—that is confirmed by the evidence and that gives human beings worth and dignity as beings created in God’s image.” Well, it’s clear that Ham does not know what he’s talking about. He is setting up a completely false dichotomy: creation or evolution. He fails to see that evolution is the means by which creation brings about new life and variety. What would we tell Ken Ham if he said, “It’s the painting—not the actual paint or the brush—that is confirmed by the evidence”? I hope we would tell him, “You can’t have the painting without paint and brushes.” The same applies here: creation is the “grand painting of nature,” and evolution is the paint and brushes, the mixing of colors and the artistry of the brushstrokes.

At the end of the post, Ham once again launches into an attack on both the Templeton Foundation and BioLogos, because they are “compromising Christian organizations” that lead people away from biblical authority. Unlike them, Ham boasts that he is going to stand firm on God’s Word and continue to proclaim the gospel of Christ….by building a life-sized Noah’s Ark. He boasts that “the life-size Ark project will show millions of people that God’s Word can be trusted and will graciously point them toward the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

I have to ask, though, “How?” How does building a life-sized ark show that the Bible can be trusted? How does building a life-sized ark point people to the gospel? For that matter, how is Ham building it? With modern technology, engines, cranes, etc.? If he really wants to show that the Bible can be trusted, perhaps he should build it in the same manner as we read in Genesis 6: with his wife, three daughters, and three son-in-laws! If he built his replica that way, then I would sign up with AiG in a heartbeat!

Ken Ham ends by reminding his followers that “the devil is surely active. It makes me more enthused than ever to ‘contend for the faith’ and proclaim the gospel.” So again, if you believe the universe is millions of years old, chances are you’re working for the devil, or at least have been deceived by him.

And one more thing, how exactly is Ken Ham proclaiming the gospel? His entire organization is called Answers in Genesis…not “in Christ,” but “in Genesis.” Whatever gospel Ham is proclaiming, it is not the gospel of Christ, that is for sure.

In any case, check back over the next week…I’ll have something special to share–so stay tuned!

AiG’s “Top 10 Myths About Creation” (And then 10 Facts About AiG) (Myths 5-1) (Part 2)

AiG’s “Top 10 Myths About Creation” (And then 10 Facts About AiG) (Myths 5-1) (Part 2)

Yesterday I began to share a recent post by Answers in Genesis, entitled, “Top 10 Myths About Creation.” Yesterday was myths 10-6. Today we have myths 5-1. Enjoy…

Myth #5: Creationists are Anti-Science: Of course that’s not true, the writer states. But that’s evolutionists for you: they just vilify creationists and try to make it sound like they’re still living in the Dark Ages! No, the writer insists, creationists love science because they love God, and science gives us a glimpse into God’s magnificent handiwork. But what creationists do attack is any framework that denies God’s authority and place as Creator.

And I say…actually, young earth creationists really are anti-science. They deny the findings and conclusions of biology, geology, astronomy, genetics…need I go on? They reject those findings by claiming there’s a spiritual war going on…so that when the study of the human genome conclusively proves there is no way the entire human race could have descended from a single couple a mere 6,000 years ago—young earth creationists reject it as an attempt to rebel against God and tell people they’re just animals, and thus encourage immorality. Does that sound like a well-reasoned scientific challenge to the findings in genetics? Or does that sound, well, rather unscientific and paranoid?

Myth #4: There’s No Evidence for Creation: the writer reminds us that there is evidence for creation everywhere…you’re living in it! The problem is that evolutionists claim that this is all a product of blind natural forces, and nothing else—no supernatural involvement (or God) at all. Besides, no evidence is objective—it’s all a matter of how you interpret the evidence. Therefore, evolutionists look at the Grand Canyon and say, “The layers of rock prove millions of years!” but creationists say, “No, they prove a global flood, 4,000 years ago!” The evidence, the writer argues, “must be fitted into the overall picture we have of how things work.”

And I say…see my comments from Myth #6. But let me add this—the writer’s comments give the impression that evolution denies the existence of God. No—evolution simply is a description of the natural processes that have developed the varieties of life here on earth. For people who already believe there is no God, they try to argue that evolution disproves God, but they’re simply wrong. Evolutionary theory no more disproves God than instructions to putting together a bike disproves Schwinn.

The writer’s last comments regarding interpretation of evidence is very telling as well. Instead of studying the evidence and allowing it to shape one’s overall understanding of the natural world, young earth creationists argue that Genesis 1-11 already tells us everything about the “overall picture,” therefore they feel justified to make the evidence fit their pre-conceived conclusions. And that goes back to Myth #5—right there, that shows young earth creationists are anti-science.

Myth #3: Creationists Deny the Laws of Nature: quite to the contrary, creationists see the laws of nature as evidence of God’s sustaining hand in the universe. The laws of nature do not change because God doesn’t change. But, the laws of nature alone are not sufficient to produce life. In addition, creationists don’t think the evolutionary idea of common descent is a natural law.

And I say…this is a fun one. To the point, yes they do. The writer can claim young earth creationists don’t believe the laws of nature change, but articles from AiG scream otherwise. How can light in the universe be from millions of light years from here, if the universe is only 6,000 years old? Answer: the speed of light really isn’t constant in a vacuum! We have no evidence for this, but it must be the case because…see Myth #4—we have to fit the evidence into our preconceived conclusion of the universe, based on our assumption that Genesis 1-11 is God’s history/science book of the universe!

Myth #2: Creationists Ignore the Evidence for Evolution: evolutionists claim creationists either cherry-pick some evidence to dispute, or ignore other evidence. The writer disagrees. The evidence isn’t the problem: it’s the conclusions evolutionists come to that is the problem. The writer says, “Creationists pick out the hard facts and expose the parts that are opinion or based on assumptions. This is not ignoring what we don’t like; it’s separating the wheat from the chaff.”

And I say…despite what the writer claims, young earth creationists really do cherry-pick and ignore the evidence. Just look at how they argue that the human genome “proves” young earth creationism because it proves all human beings are of one race, contrary to what many in the 19th and early 20th century claimed. Well great…only one problem: that same study of the human genome also shows that the human race did not descend from a single couple, 6,000 years ago.

So what’s going on here? Young earth creationists are cherry-picking the evidence from the human genome, and are ignoring the evidence that contradicts their claims. And, for that matter, they dishonestly try to argue that it was evolutionary theory itself that was racist. But here’s the thing, in the 19th century, the people why tried to claim evolution “proved” there were different races were the same people who tried to lift passages from the Bible out of context to “prove” there were different races. The point is simple: just because someone might distort evolution or the Bible, you don’t blame evolution or the Bible—you call them on their distortions.

Myth #1: Creationists Want Creationism Taught in Public Schools and Evolution Out: not true, says the writer. All Answers in Genesis wants is for teachers to have the freedom to present the creation view if they so choose. As far as evolution goes, Answers in Genesis thinks Christians should understand the basic tenants of evolution, so that they will be more effective in their witness.

And I say…this may be true. And actually, it would be something I’d like to see. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. After all, for about five years in my Senior Worldview class at a Christian high school, I had a “Darwin Unit,” in which I laid out all the views and had the students investigate and discuss them. And you know what happened? It became pretty clear that young earth creationism wasn’t convincing. I think YEC thrives precisely because it isn’t put side by side evolutionary theory. It thrives because in far too many Christian schools, the basic tenants of evolution aren’t presented—what is presented is the distortions from groups like AiG.

Conclusion
After researching and writing about young earth creationism for the past two years, I have to say that after awhile it gets pretty tedious—it’s the same talking points over and over again, just said in slightly different ways. It is important, though, for Christians to be aware of not only what exactly groups like AiG claim, but also how they, to put it kindly, fudge the facts and issues. Nobody in the scientific or biblical academic fields may take him seriously, but the fact is, within day to day Evangelicalism, he wields considerable influence. If you find yourself having questions about AiG and young earth creationism, or trying to talk to someone who has unquestionably accepted Ken Ham’s claims, I hope that posts like this help you clarify the issues so that you can be better prepared to discuss them yourself.

AiG’s “Top 10 Myths About Creation” (And then 10 Facts About AiG) (Part 1: Myths 10-6)

AiG’s “Top 10 Myths About Creation” (And then 10 Facts About AiG) (Part 1: Myths 10-6)

HamArkEncounterA few days ago, I came across a tweet by Answers in Genesis that was for an article that could be found on their website. The article was entitled, “Top 10 Myths About Creation.” I clicked on the link and read the article, and was rather perplexed. As with most articles with AiG, a first reading tends to give that feeling of perplexity—you know what you read, but despite their arguments, something just does not seem right. Whenever you come across anything that gives you that feeling, be it from AiG, any political campaign, or the Mormons, that’s when you should take some time, re-read it, and carefully articulate just what doesn’t seem right. If nothing else, it’s a good learning experience…and can be highly entertaining.

And so, what follows are my reactions to AiG’s “Top Ten” list….

Myth #10: Creationists Don’t Believe Species Change: the writer acknowledges that before Darwin, there were some Christians who believed in the fixity of species, but now that obviously is not the case, thanks to Darwin. Clearly creationists believe natural selection happens and species do, in fact, change. But, what creationists also believe is that species change only within the original kind God created 6,000 years ago. That, the writer emphasizes, is the difference.

And I say…although it is good to know that creationists do not hold to the idea of the fixity of species, one shouldn’t overlook the second part of what is being said here: they believe the variety of species we have today came from original “kinds” God created a mere 6,000 years ago. But even that is misleading, for they believe all modern species came from the original “kinds” that came out of Noah’s Ark a mere 4,000 years ago. I’ve written on the impossibility of that much variety happening within such a short period of time, as has Joel Duff on his blog, Naturalis Historia. Essentially, they are admitting that to deny natural selection would be silly, but then they put forth their own claim, which is outright impossible and silly in and of itself—unless, of course you believe that natural selection happens so fast that beagles could give birth to wolves, that would then give birth to huskies, that would give birth to…you get the idea. That’s the kind of natural selection that would have to happen to get from an original 1,000 kinds to the over 500,000 species of land animal in the span of 4,000 years.

Myth #9: Intelligent Design Is Creationism: contrary to what evolutionists claim, the writer insists that the Intelligent Design Movement is not a “Trojan horse” attempt to smuggle creationism into public school science classrooms. Creationists start with the assumption that the Bible is God’s infallible Word, and therefore the earth was created by God about 6,000 years ago. The IDM, on the other hand, isn’t even necessarily Christian. It doesn’t start with the Bible, and it tries to argue that the design in nature points to an “intelligent designer,” but that “intelligent designer” could be anything, not necessarily the God of the Bible.

And I say…is yes, this is basically true. ID is not the exact same thing as creationism…but it’s pretty clear they share a common ancestor! The charge that ID is a Trojan horse is actually true. It was proven in the 2004 court case in Dover, Pennsylvania. Certain board members had tried to push ID science curriculum into public schools, and tried to argue that it was real science, and not creationism. Well, it turned out that the ID textbook, Of Pandas and People, had a little surprise in its past. It was originally a textbook for Creation Science, but had been updated after a key court case back in 1987 that said Creationism couldn’t be taught in public schools.

In the original draft, “Creation” was defined as this: “Creation means various forms of life began abruptly through the agency of an intelligent Creator with their distinctive features already intact–fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.” In the draft that was updated immediately after the 1987 court case, things were changed, but only a bit: “Intelligent Design means various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features already intact–fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.”

Quite literally, all they did was substitute “Intelligent Design” for “Creation”–that’s it. Not only that, but there were other revisions that were made in haste. In one instance, the word “creationists” was substituted with “design proponents,” but somehow the word “creationists” wasn’t deleted, and what is actually seen in the draft is “cdesign proponentsists”–the veritable “missing link” that proved Intelligent Design was nothing more than Creationism repackaged.

Nova had a special on the court case, entitled: “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial.” You can click on the link and watch in on youtube. This specific scene starts around the 1 hour, 25 minute mark.

Myth #8: The Bible is not a Science Textbook: I’ll just quote the first part: “The Bible isn’t a science textbook in the sense that it describes exactly how the laws of the universe function, but it does make a number of statements that touch upon scientific principles. And what it does touch on is factually accurate.” The writer goes on to say that the Bible gives the true history of the universe, therefore true science must begin with the Bible (namely, assuming that Genesis 1-11 is “the true history of the universe”…and therefore can be deemed scientifically reliable).

And I say…what an incredible example of double-speak! “The Bible isn’t a science textbook, but it does talk about science, and where it does, it’s accurate.” Ken Ham has said elsewhere that of course the Bible isn’t a science textbook, because science textbooks always have to be updated, based on new information scientists discover; but the Bible was written by God, so it doesn’t need to change, because it’s already true and accurate…about science! Of course, if they were consistent with this claim, they’d have to insist on a geocentric universe, and disavow the notion of sperm and eggs. What this really boils down to is this: “We believe Genesis 1-11 is history and science, because we believe Genesis 1-11 is history and science.”

Myth #7: Creationists Have a Narrow/Literal View of the Bible: the writer says this is only partially true. He insists that creationists believe the Bible was written by God, and is therefore clear and accurate. At the same time, there are a variety of writing styles in the Bible, and that has to be taken into consideration. He ends with this: “Thus, creationists approach the Bible in a straightforward fashion. We don’t take idioms or poetic descriptions literally; we see them for what they are. We also do not ignore the intent of the text to align with popular ideas or philosophies.

And I say…this comes down to issue of proper interpretation. They admit that the Bible contains a variety of genres, but then they completely misinterpret Genesis 1-11 as history, when it clearly is not. In the case of Genesis 1-11, they do, in fact, take idioms and poetic descriptions literally. But even so far back as the early Church Father Origen (3rd century), he called people who read chapters like Genesis 2-3 literally “fools.” Simply put, creationists’ interpretation of Genesis 1-11 is bad biblical interpretation, and it flies in the face of the history of Church teaching.

Myth #6: Creation Has Been Disproven: After claiming that some evolutionists simply refuse to even debate creationists, and just declare that creation is an old idea that has been replaced by evolution, the writer says that evolution was disproven long before Darwin, when God spoke things into existence 6,000 years ago. What evolution really is doing is giving evolutionists an excuse to reject and ignore the clear signs of a Creator.

And I say…it was at this point in the article that a lightbulb went off in my head: “Creationists”—“Creation has been disproven”? Wait a minute! I think we need to make a clear distinction here: the folks at Answers in Genesis are not “creationists”—they are young earth creationists. That’s a huge difference. I am a “creationist,” in that I believe God created everything—I just don’t think everything popped into existence 6,000 years ago. What is happening here is that AiG isn’t really being honest—they’re trying to skew things a bit, and make you forget that the problem so many people have with AiG isn’t that they believe creation exists (everyone…even atheists…acknowledge there is a material world we call creation!). The problem is that they claim, contrary to all scientific evidence, that the universe is only 6,000 years old, and that all the variety of life came about from 1,000 “kinds” that came off of Noah’s Ark. And so, we should say more clearly, “Young earth creationism has been disproven.”

As for the writer’s last claim, that the real motivation of evolutionists is simply to have a reason to reject God, really? C.S. Lewis, Francis Collins, the Pope…they all acknowledge evolution—are they do that so they can “reject God”? For that matter, why should we call someone an “evolutionist”? I think evolution is convincing, but I’m no more an “evolutionist” as I am a “photosynthesizer” or a “gravatationist.”

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the top 5….

Answers in Genesis, Nathaniel Jeanson, and Jason Lisle…Get All “Scientificy” in a Not-So-Peer-Reviewed Work of Supreme Obfuscation (Part 1)

Answers in Genesis, Nathaniel Jeanson, and Jason Lisle…Get All “Scientificy” in a Not-So-Peer-Reviewed Work of Supreme Obfuscation (Part 1)

nathaniel-jeanson
Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson

If you follow my blog regularly, you probably will have noticed that I haven’t been writing as many posts on Answers in Genesis and young earth creationism as I did last fall. The reason for that is because last fall my big “project” was writing my book, The Heresy of Ham. I’ve been able to finish that up, and am now looking for publishers. Consequently, I’m not reading up as much on AiG as I was last fall, and hence, I’m not writing as much on AiG either.

Jason Lisle
Dr. Jason Lisle

That being said, I still peruse Ken Ham’s Twitterfeed and blog, just to see if there is anything interesting to comment on. Well, about a week ago, Ken Ham blogged about a “peer-reviewed” academic paper that Jason Lisle and Nathanial Jeanson wrote, entitled, On the Origin of Eukaryotic Species’ Genotypic and Phenotypic Diversity. The paper attempts to argue that yes, it is scientifically possible for the original “1,000 kinds” that came out of Noah’s ark 4365 years ago to branch out into the current millions of species we have today.

This naturally piqued my interest, because I had written about this issue before. I have pointed out that the kind of variation AiG is claiming to have happened is just flat out impossible: the equivalent of two original beagles procreating so much, so fast, with so much genetic variation, that it would require the emergence of a brand new species…of wolf, Siberian huskie, poodle, coyote, etc. etc….every seven years up to the present day.

(Joel Duff, the “Natural Historian” has written about this extensively as well. In this post, “Testing YEC Hyper-Evolution from Common Ancestors,” he addresses this very thing. He has written numerous other posts in the same vein.)

In a word…AiG’s claims are impossible.

And so, when I saw that Jeanson and Lisle had written an academic paper that apparently proves it is possible, I had to read it. Granted, I’m not a scientist, and so I fully expected some of the jargon to be hard to grasp, but overall I thought if they were to make a case, it should be understandable.

Boy, was I wrong.

Some Preliminary Observations
Before I get into the paper itself, though, a few preliminary things need to be pointed out that should be the cause of some suspicion and concern to begin with.

First, there is Ken Ham’s claim that this was a “peer-reviewed” paper. For those of you who might not be in the realm of academia to know what that means, it is basically this: if you write a “peer-reviewed” paper, that means you have submitted your paper to the analysis and critique of your peers in your given field of expertise. The fact that you’re willing to put your ideas out there for professional critique lends your paper credibility. Therefore, when Ham promotes this paper as being “peer-reviewed,” it gives the impression that it has a certain amount of credibility.

The only problem is that when Ken Ham says, “peer-reviewed,” it means something a bit different. In the case of this paper, it was not reviewed by “peers” in the field of biology or genetics. It was reviewed by Jeanson and Lisle’s “peers” at Answers in Genesis and The Institute for Creation Research. How do we know this? Because at the end of the paper, they thank the specific people who reviewed it and suggested improvements. Simply put, it really isn’t “peer-reviewed” when the only people who critique it are people with whom you already agree.

Secondly, given the fact that this paper was going to focus on genetics and genetic mutation, you would assume that Jeanson and/or Lisle’s area of expertise was genetics. As it turns out, Jeanson’s field is that of cell biology, but Lisle is an astrophysicist. I really don’t know if that qualifies Lisle in this area.

Now For Some Specifics on the Lack of Clarity (Lessons in Obsfucation!)
Now I’m not going to be able to comment on everything in the paper…it was a tad too long. And when I say a “tad,” I mean it was, once I copied and pasted it on a word document, 51 single-spaced pages long—26,000 words. And not only was it insanely long, it was (I just have to assume this) intentionally unintelligible. Granted, given the fact it was a scientific paper on genetics, I didn’t expect to understand everything in it, but I was an English major, and I taught English for eight years—one of the fundamental things to know is that the key to good writing is the ability to state things in a clear manner. In other words, to be understandable.

Now, it is true that academic journals in all fields are filled with articles by scholars that, to be kind, are not exactly the clearest or most well-written examples of good writing out there. But this paper was something of which I had never seen. I will provide just one example. Consider the following paragraph from the paper:

In Drosophila, nuclear SNV analyses were performed only on D. melanogaster and D. simulans. Therefore, we used their mtDNA NCBI accession numbers (same as those in the previously published Drosophila mtDNA analyses [Jeanson 2015a]) to obtain their whole mtDNA genome sequences from NCBI Nucleotide (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/nuccore), and these sequences were aligned with CLUSTALX 2.1 (http://www.clustal.org/clustal2/). The resultant alignment file was imported into BioEdit (http://www.mbio.ncsu.edu/bioedit/bioedit.html), and all non-standard nucleotide sequences (e.g., N, M, R, Y, B, W, S, V, H, D) were replaced with gaps. Then all gaps were stripped from the alignment. BioEdit was then used to create a sequence difference count matrix, which identified 634 mtDNA differences between the two species. This number was compared to the mtDNA SNV mutation rate predictions published previously (Jeanson 2015a).

Note…
I didn’t do the exact figuring, but I would have to say that a good 75% of the paper read exactly like this. Read this one paragraph over and over again, for about 100 times, and you’ll get a feel for what reading the paper was like.

Granted, I’m not an expert in the field of science—if you are, please leave a comment and say, “Yes Joel, that’s standard scientific writing, and you’re just ignorant of it.” I will gladly profess my ignorance, but when I read a 51-page paper in which there are loads of scientific terms that are just “thrown out there” with absolutely no attempt to explain what they mean, and then the writing goes on for the vast majority of the paper as I have shown above, I get the distinct impression that the paper isn’t so much an attempt to clearly explain the young earth creationist position and argument, as it is an attempt to obfuscate so much as to say, “Just trust us…even though you might not understand what we’re writing, all this “scientificy” should tell you that we’re really smart…so just trust us, we’re right!”

By contrast, read any of the scientific posts written by Joel Duff on his blog, you will see a vast difference. Even with some of his more difficult posts, you will be able to understand a lot more, because he’s actually writing with the purpose of communicating clearly. I can’t say the same thing for Jeanson and Lisle.

In addition, another thing I noticed (as can be seen in the above example), is the vast majority of citations Jeanson and Lisle make are to their own work. Again, the purpose of an academic paper is to make your case, but to also show that you’ve read up on the research of others enough so that people can take you seriously. But if the most cited guy in your academic paper is yourself, then you’ve just shown one thing: you haven’t interacted with the research—you’re just coming up with things on your own.

And then there were the charts…lots and lots of charts—I think I counted upwards of 35. I honestly cannot tell you what they mean (again, I fully admit to my scientific ignorance). All I was able to ascertain was that Jeanson and Lisle had supposed predicted the number of “SNV differences” in various things, and found out that there were actually many more than they had originally predicted. What are “SNV differences”? Well, I had to google it! A “Nuclear SNV” stands for “single nucleotide variant,” and that have something to do with mitochondrial DNA.

Why Such Obfuscation?
I think I figured out what their point was by the end of the paper, but I’ll get to that in a bit.  For now, I just want to make clear that as former English teacher, this paper made my head spin. No one could write in such an obfuscating manner accidentally. I had to conclude that the purpose of the paper was to “sound scientificy” enough to dumb-found and bedazzle typical AiG readers, so that their reaction would be, “Wow! That sounds really detailed! It must be true!”

In any case, that was just the tip of the iceberg. The real shockers come next…in tomorrow’s post.

The Unintended Reformation (Part 3): Church Tradition, the Reformation, Philosophical Naturalism, and the Quirky Thing About Science

The Unintended Reformation (Part 3): Church Tradition, the Reformation, Philosophical Naturalism, and the Quirky Thing About Science

Unintended ReformationIn my last post, I discussed how Brad Gregory, in his book The Unintended Reformation, began to make the argument that our current secular society, complete with its assumption that “science and reason” deal with the real world and “religion and faith” deal with private feelings, is actually an outgrowth of the Reformation’s battle cry, “Sola Scriptura.”

What had happened was that when the Reformers cried, “Sola Scriptura,” they ended up throwing out over 1,000 years of Church Tradition and insight regarding, not just how to read Scripture, but how to understand the world. Therefore, what the Reformers ended up doing was relying on their own autonomous reason in order to understand Scripture. Not surprisingly, the Reformers came to different conclusions about what the Scriptures said.

Eventually (and granted, this is quite over-generalized), by the time of the Enlightenment, the prevailing view came to be that the problem wasn’t autonomous reason, but rather religious faith. After all, Catholics and Protestants (and Protestants and Protestants) were going to war with each other over disagreements about religion—so let’s just admit religion in public is the problem. Regulate it to private belief and subjective opinion, but let science and reason rule the public sphere…at least, that’s what Enlightenment thinkers said.

Yes, those Enlightenment Thinkers, and Their Rejection of the Reformation Mess
So, as Gregory points out, by the time Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire, Spinoza, and Hume came to their conclusions regarding religion, how miracles don’t happen, and how the Bible isn’t historically reliable, they were rejecting a mess that the Reformers in the previous century had made.

Here’s what I mean. In medieval Europe, far from being “the dark ages,” the Catholic Church was the driver of innovation, education, philosophy, and science (which was called at the time, “natural philosophy”). Monasteries revolutionized technology in order to run their farms and orchards better; the Church began the university system throughout Europe, and it was in those universities that students got a truly liberal arts education: literature, philosophy, the sciences, and of course Scripture.

This is not to imply that it was some sort of “golden age,” for there never is any such thing. But it is to say the Catholic Church, building on the centuries of Church Tradition and the examples of the early Church Fathers, held to a sacramental view of the world. They saw everything in the world as being able to be redeemed and used for the glory of God. That’s why early Christian thinkers like Origen, Augustine, and Justin Martyr interacted with Greek philosophy; that’s why Thomas Aquinas essentially “Christianized” the philosophy of Aristotle. They embraced learning and discovery, and sought to take whatever they discovered and use it to further understand God and His creation.

This mentality extended to the realm of the natural sciences. Modern science would have never come about, had it not been for the sacramental worldview medieval Christianity impressed upon the numerous monks, priests, nuns, and scholars of the time. They believed God was a creative, good, loving, and rational being, and therefore it was possible to study nature—nature, like God, was expected to make sense and be orderly. Therefore, the use of reason and empirical observation was encouraged within the medieval Catholic Church, but it was always used within the larger framework of their sacramental worldview. Or simply put, the assumption wasn’t that reason and faith were antithetical; it was they were inseparable.

The Reformers blew that worldview apart by. They rejected Church Tradition and the sacramental worldview it developed, and instead of using reason in conjunction with the faith and worldview developed in the history of the Church, they attempted to use their autonomous reason to define what that faith was, without any reference to the history of the Church, dependent solely on each and every Reformer’s personal opinion and bias. And that led to a whole lot of fighting over religious points of doctrine.

Philosophical Naturalism in Today’s World
Therefore, given the hostility and strife that the Reformation brought about, Enlightenment thinkers concluded it was best to regulate “faith” to the private sphere, and let science and reason determine truth in the public sphere. After all, science was discovering some pretty amazing stuff—let’s go with that!

The problem, though, is that for as amazing as the natural sciences are, for as much as they can figure out about the natural world, they are simply unable to provide a sufficient and well thought out worldview. Philosophical naturalism is the belief that the natural world is all there is to reality, and that therefore there is no spiritual world or God. That belief, though, is not in itself rooted in empirical observation or any of the natural sciences. Simply put, philosophical naturalism isn’t rooted in science—it is rooted in a metaphysical assumption, namely that if it can’t be empirically observed using the scientific method, then it isn’t real. It begins with the assumption, a belief that cannot be scientifically demonstrated, that the natural world is all that exists.

And once that assumption takes root, then “faith” is also assumed to be not really real, and is thus regulated to the emotions and feeling—purely subjective, with no objective reality or value. Sadly, even many Evangelical Christians have accepted this regulation of faith to pure emotion—just listen to virtually every modern Christian pop song or modern Christian worship “experience”—all geared toward evoking emotion and feeling with vapid and hollow lyrics that would make the boys of One Direction proud…but I digress.

The Quirky Thing About Science, Though
At the end of his discussion in the first chapter, Gregory comments on a few interesting points regarding science in general, and evolutionary theory in particular. In regards to evolutionary theory and the creation accounts in the Bible, Gregory says the following:

“…evolutionary biology certainly undermines any literalist reading of the creation accounts in Genesis. Patristic writers from the third through sixth century already knew not to interpret them so naively” (66). And later, “Without question, the findings of science falsify some religious truth claims, such as those of young-earth creationists. Anyone who cares about truth should reject such views as false” (70).

Gregory’s insights (as well as many others in his book) helped me see just what the problem with the young earth creationist movement is: their insistence to read the creation accounts “literally” flies in the face of the way the early Church Fathers read and interpreted them. That should not be surprising though, for the young earth creationist movement is one of the unintended consequences of the Reformation: it reads and interprets the Bible solely on what they think it should be, without any consideration of how the historical Church has taught about it. Despite their claims to be upholding “Sola Scriptura,” young earth creationists are really upholding, “Sola-Henry Morris” and “Sola-Ken Ham.”

On the other end of the spectrum, another thing Gregory points out is that a major problem with scientists who are philosophical naturalists is their inability to grasp what science cannot discover, and their foolish assumption that science can, indeed, explain everything. This mentality is what leads men like Dawkins to actually claim that since they can explain genetic mutations that allow for evolution to take place, that that somehow “proves” there is no God. Like I said before, such a jump from point A (i.e. genetic mutations) to point B (i.e. there is no God) is mystifying at best.

Such an assumption, Gregory states, also makes it impossible for people “to see how a traditional Christian, Jewish, or Muslim conception of God is compatible with all the findings of evolutionary biology” (67). Simply put, since all three religions conceive of God as being transcendent over creation, and not a part of it, it is completely logical to view evolution as simply the mechanism and process by which God creates and sustains His creation. It is only (a) the literalistic reading of Genesis 1-2, and (b) the assumption that God is part of the natural order that is in conflict with the findings of evolutionary theory—and both are not supported or held in the historical Christian faith and Church Tradition.

Finally, Gregory points out that, ironically, the more we discover about the natural world through science, the more mysterious and incomprehensible the natural world becomes. He points out, for example, that despite the validity of both quantum theory and the general theory of relativity, scientists have no idea how to combine the two. Gregory quotes theoretical physicist Brian Greene: “as they are currently formulated, general relativity and quantum mechanics cannot both be right,’ even though they are the ‘two foundational pillars upon which modern physics rests.” (68).

Translation? We know quantum theory is true; we know general relativity is true—but they can’t both be right…nature is more complex and mysterious than ever! Gregory then adds, “The more we learn about reality at every scale from the subatomic to the cosmological, the more unexpectedly complex and strangely bizarre does it become, with no end to this trajectory in sight” (69).

As a Christian, that excites me, not in some simplistic way that says, “Ha! God exists in the places science can’t figure out!” No—it says to me that science and scientific discovery, not only has the ability to discover amazing things about the universe, but at the very same time, it bears witness to the transcendence and mystery of God Himself.

Or to put it in Orthodox theology language: science is helping us understand God’s energies at a much more profound and deeper level, while at the same time bearing witness to the fact that God’s essence is beyond what our finite and rational minds can grasp. It is precisely this Christian teaching of the difference between God’s energies and God’s essence that makes it possible for Christians to embrace science, in full knowledge of its limitations, and to give glory to God for it.

Young earth creationists, having rejected Church Tradition, can’t do this, and therefore see modern science and evolutionary theory as of the devil, lies spoken by the serpent.

And, at the same time, many modern scientists who hold to philosophical naturalism are, as Gregory points out, woefully ignorant of Christian theology as well, and are thus “unaware of how disputable…their own philosophical assumptions [are]” (70).

Conclusion Thus Far
Yes, that’s quite a lot to chew on. Savor the flavor and think about it. Then come back next time for my analysis of Gregory’s second chapter, “Revitalizing Doctrines,” which takes a close look at the Reformation itself.

Adventures in Young Earth Creationist Logic…Ken Ham and “impossibility” of evolution (but let’s not consider his own claims!)

Adventures in Young Earth Creationist Logic…Ken Ham and “impossibility” of evolution (but let’s not consider his own claims!)

Today, Ken Ham posted a short article on his blog, entitled “It’s Confirmed: A Snake is a Snake!” The gist of the article is simple: scientists have studied the fossilized remains of a supposedly 10 million year old snake. After 10 million years, a snake is still a snake, therefore evolution isn’t true…because a snake is still a snake, even after supposedly 10 million years.

Ham then basically says, “You see? Rock layers don’t show millions of years. All that stuff is the remains of Noah’s flood–all those fossils are the dead things that got buried in the flood!”

That’s it–end of article.

Hold Up There, Speedy Gonzalez!
Ark EncounterWait a second, let’s consider something, namely Ham’s own claims. He claims that from an original 1,000 “kinds” of animals that came off of Noah’s ark a mere 4,000 years ago, those original 1,000 “kinds” changed and (let’s just say it) essentially evolved into the over 500,000 different kinds of species of land animals we have today. And so…

…for the sake of argument, let’s assume what Ken Ham says in this article is true, and that evolution is suspect because organisms haven’t changed all that much over millions of years.

If that’s the case–if organisms haven’t changed much over 10 million years–then how can Ham claim that 1,000 original “kinds” from Noah’s ark were able to transform and change into the current 500,000 species of land animals over the course of a mere 4,000 years? To put Ham’s claim into perspective, here’s what would need to happen for that kind of  “hyper-evolution on anabolic steroids” to take place:

Dog Kinds
Taken from The Natural Historian’s Post “Ken Ham’s Biblical Evolution? I Have a Book that says Otherwise.”

The original “dog kind” would have to breed so much, so fast, that within the first seven years after coming off the ark, that original “dog kind” would have to produce so many generations, that there would be enough genetic mutations to cause the emergence of beagles. And then those beagles would have to breed so much, so fast, that those beagles would have to produce so many generations that there would be enough genetic mutations to cause the emergence of, let’s say, foxes. And then those foxes would have to breed so much, so fast…well, you get the idea…coyotes, dingos, poodles, Siberian Huskies–any and all varieties of what Ham considers part of “dog kind.”

That kind of “hyper-evolution on anabolic steroids” would have to have constantly happened for 4,000 years straight, up to the present day, in order for those supposedly “original 1,000 kind” to have produced the current 500,000 species of land animals we have today.

So Basically, Here’s You’re Problem, Mr. Ham
Ken Ham’s conundrum should be obvious: if he is correct in claiming (and that is a big “if”) that (a) since a snake is still a snake after supposedly 10 million years, then (b) evolution isn’t true because organisms don’t change…

…then how can he turn around and claim that organisms do indeed change–quite drastically, even–over the span of a mere 4,000 years, despite absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support his claims of “hyper-evolution on anabolic steroids”?

He can’t have it both ways: he can’t claim “evolution isn’t true because organisms don’t change, even after 10 million years,” and then turn around and say, “But 1,000 kinds came out of Noah’s ark and totally transformed and changed drastically over the past 4,000 years!”

KindsThink about that if you go and visit Ham’s “Ark Encounter” and see all the fanciful “kinds” of animals that he has put in his exhibit: animals that have never existed, but that Ham assumed might have been like, if indeed there were an “original 1,000 kinds” of land animals from which the current 500,000 species of land animals descended over the past 4,000 years.

It’s totally alright to question evolutionary theory. If you’re not convinced, that’s fine. But let’s be honest, Ken Ham’s claims of “animal kinds” and drastic change over 4,000 years aren’t just not convincing, they are outright impossible…complete fiction…not true…yes, the equivalent to believing mythical beasts actually exist.

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