Why I worry about the Ken Ham vs Bill Nye debate

bill-nye-vs-ken-ham

Let me make my admission up front. I am a theist who accepts evolution. I think evolution is an incredibly well-supported scientific theory and that anyone who looks at the evidence rationally ought to conclude it is true. But I am also a Christian who believes that God has revealed himself to mankind through the Bible and not just some woolly deist-type theist. You might, therefore, be wondering who I will be rooting for in this debate. Well, despite me arguably being on the wrong side of the Atlantic to have a say in this, allow me to explain…

What if the famous Christian philosopher and theologian Augustine were asked to comment on this forthcoming debate? I think he would repeat himself speaking around 1600 years ago:

“It is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.”

St. Augustine ‘The Literal Meaning of Genesis’ Vol.1, Ch.19

By contrast, Ken Ham is reported as having said:

“Having the opportunity to hold a cordial but spirited debate with such a well-known personality who is admired by so many young people will help bring the creation-evolution issue to the attention of many more people, including youngsters…”

And on his blog a few days ago:

“You see, the atheists are actually insecure in their beliefs. Not only that, but atheists in many ways have managed to censor information concerning creation from the public—they have been involved in getting legislation to protect the teaching of evolution in public schools and thus stop students from even hearing about creation.”

From Ken Ham’s blog.

Let us not be so sceptical as to see this has anything to do with the dwindling numbers of people visiting the ‘Creation Museum’ in Kentucky (and they have)! Let us not think that this is about seeing the ‘Answers in Genesis’ website get more exposure (and they have been)! Let us also not think this has anything to do with convincing adults who have a popular-level grasp of the scientific theory of evolution that the matter is not settled. And most certainly let us not think this has anything, in the slightest, to do with convincing the scientific community of the error of their ways by producing some scientific evidence which would cause nothing less than a ‘Copernican revolution’ in the study of biology.

This is about one thing, in my opinion, and I believe Ham admits it himself in the above quotes: It is about giving young people the impression that this really is a matter of serious debate at the beginning of the 21st century. What appears to have upset Ken Ham (about Bill Nye that is) is that Nye had a You Tube video which attracted over 6 million views which was called “Creationism is not appropriate for children”. Ham made a video reply called “Bill Nye the humanist guy” where Ham takes the, hilariously hypocritical, view that Nye has an agenda on the question of the existence of God! Ham then makes a number of ad hominem attacks on Nye and employs a favourite strategy of his in using the slippery slope fallacy as a way of scaremongering to the theistic community. According to Ham, learning about evolution will turn children into anti-religious, amoral, uncritical member of society. Ham himself admits that Nye’s primary educational background is in mechanical engineering so why would Ham want to debate him if this was about the question of whether evolution is true or not? Surely he would be attempting to debate some of the world’s leading evolutionary biologists instead? If the theory of evolution is in as much doubt as some creationists would have us believe then why are they not making an impact where it matters most? Where is their evidence in the peer-reviewed literature? In two hundred years time it’s not going to be the winner of this debate who is immortalized – it will be the scientist (or any person for that matter whether formally a scientist or not) who makes the next huge paradigm shift in science. As the eminent British scientist (and Christian) Denis Alexander says:

“One of the deepest mysteries of life, far more mysterious than the origins of the Ediacaran fauna, is why people spend their time going round churches telling people that they don’t believe in evolutionary theory. If people want to challenge a theory then that is an excellent and honourable path to follow in the best of scientific traditions. But there are well-established ways of carrying out a scientific critique and these involve the tough course of becoming a member of the scientific research community, and then finding and publishing results in peer reviewed journals that may challenge a particular theory. That is how theory testing is done and it is the only way that will win the respect of the scientific community. Public votes, popular articles, political pressures, campaigns or even sermons by famous preachers will have no effect on scientific opinion because that is not how science is done. So really serious objections to evolution, if there are any, have to be presented the tough but proper way, by publication of solid results in reputable scientific journals.”

Denis Alexander, ‘Creation or Evolution: Do we have to choose?’ p.131

As a Christian, in the teaching profession myself, I think what Ham is up to is nothing less than intellectual dishonesty and I am ashamed that it finds an existence on the fringes of the religion I belong to. Scientist and Christian Karl Giberson explains why 2013 was a “terrible year” for evolution in the US with rising numbers of anti-evolutionists within evangelical circles of the Christian church. One of the main obstacles he believes is responsible for this is the draconian way in which teaching about evolution is seriously restricted among many Christian young people and that the ones who do discover the truth often then leave the church making it impossible for the church to gain from their knowledge. It appears that 2014 is going to begin in a bad way for Christianity as it has to distance itself from the right-wing fundamentalism of Ken Ham.

I can only be grateful that working in state education in Great Britain things are very different. The only place young people will encounter young-earth creationism in British state schools is in Religious Education classes and even then it will be taught as a religious phenomenon and not a scientific theory. This does not solve the problem completely of course as some can attend faith schools where the teaching about evolution is less than satisfactory to put it nicely. [1] Thankfully, as things stand, however there is not a serious movement toward religious anti-evolutionary fundamentalism taking place in the UK [2] but this is not to say creationism does not exist in the UK at all (it just happens to be less politically and culturally important than in the US).

This debate is already being described as “”The Science Guy” versus “The Religion Guy”” [3] on one blog and on another the debate is being billed as “Bill Nye vs. creationist Ken Ham, defending science from theology”. [4] Is this really science vs religion / theology? I know it looks like it at first glance but maybe it’s just good science vs bad science. When I visit the ‘Answers in Genesis’ website I find a whole list of wacky beliefs I don’t find either in the Bible itself or throughout Christian church history. Did the council of Nicaea make a statement about believing that dinosaurs coexisted with homo sapiens? Was St. Aquinas worried enough to denounce the existence of water on other planets? Maybe the Council of Constance secretly ruled on the dramatic and virtually miraculous movement of plate tectonics? Since when was belief in such pseudo-scientific matters an integral part of the Christian religion? Well, according to historian of science Ronald Numbers, you can trace it back to the late 19th century [5] and almost exclusively to western cultures (especially North America) but that is the topic of another blog.

So who am I rooting for? Well, in one sense, Nye of course. But primarily I am rooting that truth will win the day and by that I mean the truth that evolution is an extremely good scientific theory and that young people should know this. What I worry about is that some will get the wrong impression that intellectual adults are really debating its veracity as far as the current evidence stands.

—————————

[1] See: ‘Jewish faith school caught censoring questions on science exam papers’ here.

Or: ‘Top school’s creationists preach value of biblical story over evolution’ here.

[2] See the report conducted by Theos in 2013 here.

[3] Fran Berkman here.

[4] James Kirk Wall here.

[5] Ronald Numbers ‘The Creationists: The evolution of scientific creationism’

PS. If you are wondering how a Christian could also be an evolutionist then I would invite you to watch this superb documentary by the Christian philosopher Conor Cunnigham:

And this excellent brief introduction by ‘Test of Faith’:

image-question1-large

Or the Biologos website:

http://biologos.org/

Responses to arguments against the science of evolution

What is the evidence for evolution?

How to view Scripture then?

What then of sin and Adam and Eve?

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About aRemonstrant'sRamblings

I graduated in philosophy of religion many years ago and have since acquired my PGCE and now teach religion, ethics and philosophy.
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15 Responses to Why I worry about the Ken Ham vs Bill Nye debate

  1. kangaroodort says:

    This is an interesting post. It is interesting to run into a theistic (and Christian) evolutionist. Personally, I feel exactly the opposite of you concerning the evidence for evolution. I find it entirely lacking and see insurmountable problems with evolutionary theory. However, some of those issue could be addressed if God were causing evolution to happen. But I would only come to that conclusion if I found strong evidence for it in the first place, which I do not. How much have you investigated counter claims to evolutionary theory? What do you make of the arguments from scientists from the I.D. crowd? (guys like Dembski, Behe and others)? I assume you are also aware that many creationists reject a young earth/universe model, while still rejecting evolution. I am open to a young earth model, but find an old earth/universe model more compelling. Anyway, your post peeked my curiosity as this is a subject I have often explored. You have probably checked these out already, but just in case:

    http://www.intelligentdesign.org/

    http://www.arn.org/

    You can find a bunch more resources from the first link by clicking on their “resources” page.

    God Bless,
    Ben

    Oh, BTW, I notice you were checking out my posts on Patton. I realized I had not included links at the bottom of parts 2 and 3 for the subsequent post, so I am not sure if you realized there is a Part 3-Part 5 as well. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    • michaelstheology says:

      Hi there Ben – thanks for commenting.

      I’m glad that, if nothing else, it’s peeked your interest! That’s good. I think my first concern about YEC was theological and not about biology since that was my field of study in my undergraduate days. What concerned me was that YEC appeared to be a more recent interpretation of the Biblical texts and that ‘scientific creationism’ was especially a late modernist apologetic response to scientific concerns about the Bible. I became profoundly concerned that the Bible was being used in ways I was not convinced were fair to it. It always appeared forced to me to read Genesis as if it were the genre of science. Then, of course, when you learn more about the world and culture Genesis was written into it appears absurd to think the author was concerned about modern scientific questions but rather about the surrounding polytheism of his day. And then, of course, you begin finding out that there are things going on in the Hebrew we miss in the English and that Genesis 1 has a literary parallelism in it (common in Hebrew poetry) etc.

      So I think it’s worth noting that for many theistic evolutionists our concerns often begin from a profound concern to read Scripture aright.

      Then there is the challenge from science itself. I think we should learn lessons from the trial of Galileo. Scripture was being misread. A poetic passage was being read (again at a time when the scientific enterprise was becoming a big issue – so notice how the questions of the day are governing what the Bible must be answering) as if it were the answer to a scientific question. It turns out the Catholic church was wrong about both the reading of the Scripture and the science. Protestant friends of Galileo were more open to reinterpretation and I admire their stance.

      Sorry this is getting long so I’ll stop soon.

      Two extremely good places to begin reading about theistic evolution and how it can have a very high view of Scripture would be Francis Collins’ ‘The Language of God’ and Denis Alexander’s ‘Creation or Evolution – Do we have to choose?’ Both of them are experts in the field of biology and both accept the authority of Scripture. Both have good chapters on the key evidence for evolution. Alexander’s book is better in discussing different possible interpretations of Genesis and Adam and Eve in a way which take evolution seriously.

      I don’t know Dembski but I think you will find that Behe does actually believe in evolution – it’s just he thinks there are gaps in evolution (eg. the infamous bacterial flagellum) which suggest God tinkered with the process. So even lots of the ID camp are also evolutionists – it’s just they use possible gaps in the theory to insert God. That is why I don’t like the ID movement either I’m afraid. They are using a God-of-the-gaps approach as well as falling into the problem of arguing from analogy all the time (complex cells are like complex machines / machines need makers therefore cells need makers etc.). The design argument based on analogy have been destroyed both by David Hume and evolution so I think they’re untenable and Christians should avoid using them. On ID I think Kenneth Miller is worth listening to:

      Sorry if I missed anything but I’ve chundered on long enough! (Oh and well done with Patton – that was a nasty one to deal with.)

      Thanks again.

  2. kangaroodort says:

    Thanks for the response. I resonate with some of your concerns about YEC, which is why I do not hold to it. However, I don’t think that Genesis is just poetic either, though I don’t think it is trying to address many of the questions that we have today, it is still accurate in what it does say. I think the old-earth/universe creationists address your concerns on that front:

    http://godandscience.org/youngearth/old_earth_creationism.html

    I agree that it seems some ID guys still hold to some evolutionary possibilities, but seem to be questioning evolution and continuing to find many problems with it. Behe holds to common descent and is careful in his arguments with irreducible complexity, allowing that some systems “could” have evolved while others (those that are irreducibly complex) could not. That doesn’t mean he believes certain systems have evolved, just that because he does not see them as irreducibly complex, it can’t be entirely dismissed that they might have evolved in some way. I think that is the case of many ID proponents. What I like about ID theory is that it wants to be honest with the evidence wherever it leads, while evolutionists seem to be willing to do anything to make difficulties (and there are some major difficulties) “fit” the evolutionary paradigm. In other words, it seems that they must make evolution stand regardless of the major problems. Reminds me of Calvinism 🙂

    You recommend Kenneth Miller and I looked at the biologos site and see that they heavily endorse him. But it seems to me that he has been well answered on his objections to the ID movement, especially with regards to irreducibly complex systems:

    http://www.discovery.org/a/14081

    http://www.designinference.com/documents/2003.02.Miller_Response.htm

    http://www.trueorigin.org/behe08.asp

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/ken-miller-may-face-more-embarrassing-facts-behes-dbb-vindicated/

    Likewise, the article on the Cambrian explosion with respect to possible pre-cambrian “precursors” has been addressed very adequately by Stephen Meyer’s in his new book, “Darwin’s Doubt” (pp. 77-97)

    The other articles I found filled with the same assumptions and inferences based on “evidence” that in no way necessitates such conclusions that I find to be the major problem with evolutionary theory.

    As far as science by analogy, I find it far more scientific and closer to the scientific method than the scientific approach of evolutionists (which seems far more philosophical than scientific), but that would lead us into a pretty big discussion. Anyway, you have further motivated me to investigate the subject even more, and that can only be a good thing.

    God Bless,
    Ben

    • michaelstheology says:

      Hi there Ben.

      Thanks for responding again. I’m a bit of a lost cause on the whole ID programme I’m afraid. Until I start seeing work of theirs in the peer-reviewed literature and not just on the internet or books it is an indication that their arguments are not being taken seriously within the profession. I know that will sound like an excuse or some kind of academic elitism but really it’s not. There are so many people out there claiming to have refuted so many different things it’s impossible to keep up.

      What has upset me about ID is that they tried the same trick the YECs did and instead of spending their time and efforts convincing the professionals in the field they tried going immediately to young people in high schools. Now, of course, that does not discredit their ideas per se but it brings their mode of operating into serious question.

      As I suggested – I am also concerned about their theology. They appear to be suggesting that God has to regularly intervene in evolution to tinker with it as he was unable to make natural process good enough to do the job in the first place.

      Having said all that I have not read Meyer at all so I cannot judge what he, as an individual, has to say. I just wish people like him would get published in the journals rather than writing books that’s all. That will be the way ID will get academic kudos.

      I’m glad our exchange has furthered your interest in the topic. I also find it interesting and have plenty to learn. I could well be wrong but at this time cannot consider ID as having made its case well enough.

      Thanks again,

  3. kangaroodort says:

    Fair enough, but if you are going to reference a site that leans heavily on Miller and cites his articles as proof that ID has been sufficiently answered, it seems to me to be a good idea to read responses to his criticisms by those he criticizes. Not that you are saying you aren’t interested in that, but just in case.

    As far as peer reviewed articles and such:
    http://www.discovery.org/a/2640

    God Bless,
    Ben

  4. anselmhart says:

    Hi brother, often on this blog you bemoan calvinists for not properly understanding arminianism – the calvinists seem to get their understanding of arminianism from reading what other calvinists have to say about it, rather than reading from arminians themsleves. I’m afraid regarding the creation/evolution issue you seem to be falling into this trap yourself. From some errors above in your representation of what creationists believe, it’s apparent that you have based at least some of your views of them on what other non-creationists have told you about them, rather than reading them for yourself.

    In the creation/evolution debate, I find a noticeable point that the creationists understand the evolutionists much better than the evolutionists understand the creationists. When I read what established creationist organisations (e.g. AiG, creation.com) say about evolution, and then read what Dawkins has to say about it, I find that both match up. However, when I read what Dawkins says about creationism I find many errors with respect to what creationists actually say. I see the same situation in the calvinism/arminianism debate.

    I link below to various articles that should hopefully help you to understand the creationist position better:

    Here is an article about Augustine: http://creation.com/augustine-young-earth-creationist

    Creation and peer review: http://creation.com/creationism-science-and-peer-review

    Re teaching in schools, it’s not the creationists who are doing the suppressing. Creationists consistently call for both worldviews to be taught at school. I’ve never heard anyone at a major creationist organisation call for evolution not to be taught. The suppression is from the secularists who want creationism banned from schools – see this satire: http://anselmhart.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/campaign-to-lift-the-government-ban-on-evolutionism-from-school-religious-education-classes/

    You said [my comments in square brackets]: “When I visit the ‘Answers in Genesis’ website I find a whole list of wacky beliefs I don’t find either in the Bible itself or throughout Christian church history. Did the council of Nicaea make a statement about believing that dinosaurs coexisted with homo sapiens? [No, because the word dinosaur was not invented until many centuries later, and, more importantly, there wasn’t a debate going on in the church then regarding how to interpret Genesis. These councils met to address disputes that were happening at the time.] Was St. Aquinas worried enough to denounce the existence of water on other planets? [Please check again, where does any major creationist organisation denounce the existence of water on other planets? Have you been reading creationists or what others tell you creationists say?] Maybe the Council of Constance secretly ruled on the dramatic and virtually miraculous movement of plate tectonics? [there wasn’t any dispute among Christians then as to the global scope of the flood, so there was no need for them to counter non-existing theories that attempted to disprove the global nature of the flood – see: http://creation.com/church-fathers-flood ] Since when was belief in such pseudo-scientific matters an integral part of the Christian religion? [Nobody is claiming that it was. A belief in the authority and accuracy of scripture has been a firm belief throughout the ages though.] Well, according to historian of science Ronald Numbers, you can trace it back to the late 19th century [5] and almost exclusively to western cultures (especially North America) but that is the topic of another blog. [If you read the book “Refuting Compromise” by Jonathan Sarfati you’ll see that this assertion is wrong. More importantly, it’s clear that the authors of other books in the Bible believed the early chapters of Genesis to be historical: http://creation.com/genesis-bible-authors-believed-it-to-be-history ]

    Ultimately, for this debate, the question is where does one’s ultimate authority lie? If one’s ultimate authority is the Bible, the possibility of billions of years and of death before the fall simply won’t arise. It’s only if one’s ultimate authority comes from outside the Bible that one will first take on these beliefs, and then if that person wants to also believe the Bible he will attempt to fit these beliefs into the Bible. It’s only people who are looking for an excuse not to believe what the Bible plainly teaches that will come up with interpretations of the Bible that put death and suffering before the fall, and take away the important doctrines of God’s original very good creation and the fall.

    I hope you can come to understand the creationist position better so that you are able to make a more informed evaluation of the options.

    • michaelstheology says:

      Hi anselmhart,

      You claim I’m misrepresenting YECism but I notice you don’t give any examples? That’s curious. I can only reply to accusations of misrepresentation if you document what they are. If I have misrepresented YECism anywhere in this post then I am happy to correct it if evidence is shown but I don’t think I said much about the specific doctrines of YECism in this post. I am only claiming YECism rejects the theory of evolution and I think that’s a pretty sound representation of YECism myself. On that matter it’s probably also good form not to attempt to make it sound like someone hasn’t read up on the subject (as you end your message) especially when you have not actually demonstrated that they have misrepresented you.

      As it happens, I am well aware of the articles from creation.com you guide me to. I do not have time right now to make a reply to either Sarfati or Zuiddam but I think both can be answered and have been numerous times already. In the post by Zuiddam, for example, he makes no direct references to Augustine which is most curious if one is trying to make a serious proposal of someone’s views. But thank you for bringing it to my attention. I would like to devote an entire blog to answering Zuiddam and think I could easily show how he is mistaken. I will put that on my ‘to-do’ list.

      As for the blog on peer review I can only hear excuses. Peer review is not only considered important in science but in all academic disciplines. That list of problems regarding peer review (Peer review does not guarantee quality or correctness / Peer review does not prevent fraud / Peer review is rarely ever objective / Peer review can lead to bias / Peer review can lead to censorship) are uncontroversially true. Most academics think the process can be improved in all these areas. However that is not the contention of the YEC. The YEC must contend that there is a systematic, deliberate, fraudulent, dishonest conspiracy theory at work in scientific peer review on biological matters. The accusation is nothing less than that the vast majority of professional biologists are liars. Now that’s a pretty substantial conspiracy theory. In fact, I think that’s a conspiracy theory which makes some other conspiracy theories look almost reasonable by comparison. So, given the enormity of this claim, where is the evidence? It’s not enough to point out that peer review is a fallible process being performed by humans who make errors. What the YEC must demonstrate is that there is substantial evidence being covered up by the establishment. So where is this evidence?

      Of course – when I said that bit about dinosaurs / other planets and the tectonic plates I am being deliberately anachronistic. That’s the point! None of those were issues for any of the time frames I gave. All of these scientific questions are recent scientific issues and they were not of concern to the church prior to the 18th century and therefore not of concern to the Biblical writers either. I think you missed the point I was making there.

      I am also aware that YECs like to make this a question about authority. Make no mistake. I have no problem with the authority of the Bible but I am prepared to question the authority of those who tell me I have to make a choice between modern science and the Bible. I think they are offering me a false dichotomy. I don’t think the Bible was concerned with writing an account of material origins at all. That is a post-Enlightenment concern being read back into the text. I would go further and, with N.T. Wright, suggest that it’s actually those who try to make the Bible say something it’s not saying who are denying Biblical authority. Modern YECs often reject the authority of the Bible in favour of the authority of their interpretations of the text. They are the ones refusing to hear the Bible in it’s ancient context in favour of coming to the Bible with a checklist of scientific questions which they want the Bible to answer and then they think they find answers to them in texts they have not taken sufficient time to understand. That’s not respecting the authority of the Bible at all in my opinion. I would much rather let the Bible dictate both what the important questions are AND what answers it gives to those questions.

      • anselmhart says:

        Hi, thanks for taking the time to reply.

        Re examples: sorry, I hoped these would be apparent from the rest of the post. They are:
        – that creationists want to suppress the teaching of evolution
        – that creationists “denounce the existence of water on other planets”
        – the “why not in peer-reviewed journals” point, when creationist papers are rejected point blank simply for being creationist

        Also, in a comment you refer to Galileo but the ones misreading scripture were the church, who were accepting the secular worldview of the day that the Earth was at the centre of the universe and trying to read this into the Bible – see http://creation.com/the-galileo-twist

        Re peer review, I don’t think there is a conspiracy theory. You accept as “uncontroversially true” that peer review can lead to bias, is rarely ever objective and can lead to censorship. What has happened is that, since the days of the founders of modern science, who used their Christian worldview to invent science, most scientists today have a very different worldview involving no divine influence (while still borrowing the Christian assumptions that make science possible). They have formed a history of the universe to match their godless worldview and it only works with long ages, or else there wouldn’t have been time for life to have evolved. So when they see something that claims to be evidence for a young earth, they think “that can’t possibly be good science, as we know the earth is old”, and dismiss it instantly. They dismiss it because it is incompatible with their worldview. A good example of this in action is here: http://creation.com/dinosaur-soft-tissue-and-protein-even-more-confirmation

        I don’t tell you to make a choice between modern science and the Bible. I have found modern science to be consistent with the Bible in many respects, and many others do too. Modern science and the worldviews of many modern scientists are different matters, however.

        You say “I don’t think the Bible was concerned with writing an account of material origins at all.” This is quite a remarkable claim. What is Genesis 1:1 saying if not that God created the material world in the beginning? Is this not an account of material origins? Not to mention the rest of Genesis 1-11 and how the Bible regularly refers to them as real events.

        Psalm 148:
        3 Praise him, sun and moon,
        praise him, all you shining stars!
        4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
        and you waters above the heavens!
        5 Let them praise the name of the Lord!
        For he commanded and they were created.

        – Here is an account of material origins. Material (sun, moon, etc.) had its origins in a command from the Lord, which is how they were created (as it says in Genesis 1).

        Exodus 20:11:
        For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.

        – Here is an account (on these days this happened, on that day this happened…) of material (“all that is in them”) origins (“the Lord made”).

        Paul in Acts 17:
        24 “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth,…”

        – Paul relies on the Bible’s account of the material origins of the world to explain the gospel to the people in Athens, by telling them that God made the (material) world, and that he made every nation from one man (Genesis 1-11).

        I don’t think creationists generally come to the Bible with a checklist of questions, but we do consider that when the Bible makes a statement that is relevant to a field of science then it is authoritative on that point. For example, the Bible says that the flood of Noah’s day was global in extent. We should therefore expect this event to have impacted the geology of the planet and should expect to find evidence of it (and we do). Also, if someone has a theory of the geological history of the world that doesn’t include a global flood, we should reject that theory on the authority of scripture, because scripture treats the flood as an historical event.

        In Christ,

        Anselm

        • michaelstheology says:

          Hi Anselm,

          Apologies in advance but I doubt I will have sufficient time to answer everything in your two most recent posts. Thank you for being willing to think about these matters.

          First I would like to explain what I mean more clearly when I say the Bible does not offer a teaching of material origins since you have misunderstood me there. What that means is that Bible does not given a complete physical description of how God created – that is what I mean. I do not mean that the Bible does not tell us God created and he did so ex nihilo – I think it’s pretty obvious it does. What I mean is that the Bible does not explain how species came to be as they are. Even the YEC will invoke talk of rapid micro-evolution when the Bible says nothing about that process at all so it’s clear even the YEC does not think the world is the way God created it. I just want to be clear on that matter.

          To the examples:
          1] I don’t think I’m suggesting YECs want evolution suppressed so much as I am claiming they want it taught as if it’s an equally valid theory next to creationism – and that I have a very serious issue with as you know.
          2] Well I have seen a good number of creationists (Ham is an example) getting all up in arms about scientists looking for water on other planets. Why is Ham so worried about this and how would it damage the Bible?
          3] Well that is the thing. I don’t accept that creationist papers are rejected out of hand per se merely because they are creationist papers. Since I have seen zero evidence for that I must reasonably conclude this is an excuse made up by creationist scientists to exaplin why they cannot get anything peer-reviewed. As I said before, and make no mistake, the claim that there is a humongous, worldwide, systematic deception going on in the scientific community is a claim that requires some huge evidence for me to believe it. If someone claims people didn’t land on the moon it’s not enough to make the claim and then expect people to believe the conspiracy theory is it? No. What needs doing is serious evidence of this idea needs to be presented if you’re going to get rational people to accept it. I still see no evidence of this whatsoever.

          As for Galileo – yes the church had bought into Aristotelean philosophy and proto-science but the point is they were using spurious verses from Scripture to bolster their case. They were not pointing to Aristotle and Ptolemy but misusing the Bible – largely poetic passages too – as their justification for justifying charges of heresy.

          You said:
          “Your argument is essentially this:
          1. Issue X was not an issue of significant dispute within the church between the 1st and 18th centuries.
          2. Therefore, the Bible has nothing to say about issue X.”

          Not so. Look again. I never made that argument at all.

          I dislike your concluding paragraph because now you are employing a fallacy often employed by Ken Ham I notice and that is the ad hominem. You attack the MOTIVES of these scientists (something you cannot possible know – which is one reason it’s considered a logical fallacy) rather than attending to their arguments. I think it’s a shame that one would have to stoop so low to attack Christian who are doing superb scientific work AND who hold to the authority of the Bible. What YECs so often miss is that Christians prior to evolution had serious problems with interpreting Genesis 1 as a literal, chronological account and the reason they had doubts was not because of science but because of how it was written. They wanted to be faithful to the text and the authorial intentions and they often concluded it should not be read literally.

          I doubt either of us is going to convince the other here but here are, as I perceive it, the biggest problems:

          1] Why is there no scientific evidence good enough to be peer reviewed to establish creationism as even being on the same evidential footing as evolution? And why does God not provide evidence of either YECism or the falsity of evolution as this would lead many people back to him? Conversely – why did God place positive evidence for evolution on the planet (eg. parasitic DNA)?
          2] Why do YECs have to rely on other explanations for 1 by resorting to conspiracy theories?
          3] [Based on 1 and 2] Does God favour saving irrational people since he has permitted such a huge amount of misunderstanding about how he created the world? (But then the Bible states that God does not show favourites?)
          4] If God wanted Genesis 1 understood literally and chronologically why would he inspire the writer to use a literary parallelism (thus misleading us and many ancients)?

          These are certainly big enough problems for me to not be able to take YECism seriously I’m afraid. Both the theological and scientific problems with it are too huge to answer and YECs who try often distort history (as with that article on Augustine which I will blog about I assure you) and employ logical fallacies to defend their views. I’m sorry but it’s not a view I can take seriously.

          What YECs need to do is stop having internet debates, stop having popularist debates with celebrities, stop trying to legislate for children to hear about YECism in the classroom, stop writing glossy books for kids, and stop ignoring top-quality biblical scholarship and they need to get in the lab and start getting the empirical evidence together. Nothing less will suffice.

          • anselmhart says:

            Hi, been a while but I thought I’d say a little more on this.

            You say “the Bible does not explain how species came to be as they are”. It doesn’t give all the details but it says that God made the various kinds of animals and that they were made to reproduce “after their kind”. This already conflicts with the overall evolutionary story that all life today shares a common ancestor. If that is true, then God didn’t create kinds and reproduction is not “after their kind”, so the Bible would be wrong on that.

            You say it’s “pretty obvious” that the Bible teaches that God created ex nihilo, but how can you put so much trust in the verses that you say show this, when you also don’t want to put any trust in the verses that say God created kinds of animals that reproduce “after their kind”, or the verses that combine to give a young age for the earth? How do you decide that Genesis 1:1 can be trusted to teach a truth about God’s creation but that later verses in Genesis 1 or Exodus 20:11 can’t be trusted in the same way?

            You said “Well I have seen a good number of creationists (Ham is an example) getting all up in arms about scientists looking for water on other planets. Why is Ham so worried about this and how would it damage the Bible?”. No one is complaining about these searches. The point that Ham etc. make is that scientists look for evidence of water on e.g. Mars because they see evidence of large-scale flooding in the surface geology of the planet. However, those same scientists object to interpretations of the geology of our planet that involve a global flood, despite there being loads of water currently on the surface.

            The reason creationist scientific papers aren’t accepted in secular research journals is because the scientific establishment of today has a worldview that rules out a young age of the earth as being a possibility. The grand-scale story of evolution is taken as a given and only deliberations within this paradigm are allowed. The movie “Expelled: No intelligence allowed” talks about this if you want some evidence https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5EPymcWp-g
            When those same creationist scientists apply to publish papers that don’t make assertions about the age of the earth, their papers get published.

            I’m not claiming there is a conspiracy theory, I’m claiming that people have a particular worldview and won’t accept challenges to that worldview.

            A minority of Christians prior to the 18th century may have had problems trusting Genesis 1, but I would quote Martin Luther who said that “When Moses writes that God created heaven and earth and whatever is in them in six days, then let this period continue to have been six days, and do not venture to devise any comment according to which six days were one day. But, if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are.”

            Your biggest problems:

            “1] Why is there no scientific evidence good enough to be peer reviewed to establish creationism as even being on the same evidential footing as evolution? And why does God not provide evidence of either YECism or the falsity of evolution as this would lead many people back to him? Conversely – why did God place positive evidence for evolution on the planet (eg. parasitic DNA)?”
            – The problem is your insistence on something “good enough to be peer reviewed”. My position is that overtly creationist papers are rejected as a rule by secular journals no matter how strong the evidence. If my position is true then there is no way you could come to accept it based on your requirement.
            – “Why does God not provide evidence?” 2 Peter 3:3-6 says “knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.” God has provided plenty evidence, most importantly he has told us in his Word how he created.

            “2] Why do YECs have to rely on other explanations for 1 by resorting to conspiracy theories?”
            – They don’t, as explained.

            “3] [Based on 1 and 2] Does God favour saving irrational people since he has permitted such a huge amount of misunderstanding about how he created the world? (But then the Bible states that God does not show favourites?)”
            – 1 Corinthians 1:27 “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong”. Christians aren’t irrational, but are often considered to be so by the world.

            “4] If God wanted Genesis 1 understood literally and chronologically why would he inspire the writer to use a literary parallelism (thus misleading us and many ancients)?”
            – First, where is the literary parallelism in Exodus 20:11?
            – Second, https://answersingenesis.org/hermeneutics/parallelism-in-hebrew-poetry-reveals-major-hermaneutic-error/

            I pray you might be willing to take YEC more seriously.

            A question for you:
            If a secular scientist came to you and asked you to prove the resurrection of Jesus, and asked why there are no papers in secular journals supporting the resurrection of Jesus, and showed you lots of secular papers proving scientifically that dead people stay dead, how would you respond? Would you encourage him/her to trust the Bible even if it says something that secular scientists refuse to consider? Would you point to papers written in non-secular journals? Do you think the scientist ought to consider such papers? Would you encourage him to question his worldview including the assumption that there is no God and that miraculous events can’t happen?

      • anselmhart says:

        …and if I may also come back on your statement that “All of these scientific questions are recent scientific issues and they were not of concern to the church prior to the 18th century and therefore not of concern to the Biblical writers either.”

        Your argument is essentially this:
        1. Issue X was not an issue of significant dispute within the church between the 1st and 18th centuries.
        2. Therefore, the Bible has nothing to say about issue X.

        I hope the following examples will illustrate the flaw with it:

        1. The existence of Jesus as a real historical figure was not an issue of significant dispute within the church between the 1st and 18th centuries.
        2. Therefore, the Bible has nothing to say about the existence of Jesus as a real historical figure.

        1. The belief that death came into the world as a result of Adam’s sin was not an issue of significant dispute within the church between the 1st and 18th centuries.
        2. Therefore, the Bible has nothing to say about the belief that death came into the world as a result of Adam’s sin.

        1. The belief that a global flood as described in the Bible actually happened was not an issue of significant dispute within the church between the 1st and 18th centuries.
        2. Therefore, the Bible has nothing to say about the belief that a global flood as described in the Bible actually happened.

        The reason that people within the church didn’t attack the belief that the world is millions/billions of years old and that death existed before Adam’s sin before the 18th century is because virtually no one within the church had this belief before the 18th century. That doesn’t mean that the Bible has nothing to say about where death came from or how old the earth is.

        You refer to modern “scientific” issues, and you are right that the Bible doesn’t specifically address all modern scientific discoveries and theories in detail. But where “science” makes a claim about history (i.e. that death has been around since life first existed, or that there was not a global flood), then the Bible does have something to say about that historical claim.

        I’m afraid that most of the compromising Christians you link to in the videos above are, for one reason or another, keen to avoid being scoffed at by the scientific establishment, and so are seeking to find a justification for not understanding the early chapters of Genesis as being historical accounts. This is not an appropriate way to approach scripture, and they would not approach other parts of the Bible in the same way. The correct approach is to see how the rest of scripture treats these chapters, and the clear result of this, without outside influence, is that the other Bible authors considered these events to be historical. The scientific establishment scoffs at the idea that a virgin can give birth or that a dead man can rise, but these same scholars will argue from the Bible that these things did happen, rather than trying to reinterpret the Bible to fit with the view of the current scientific establishment. It is very sad that so many Christians are not prepared to trust what the Bible says in the face of scoffing from outside the church in the area of origins.

  5. kangaroodort says:

    Just found this and thought you might find it interesting as it is directly related to your post and our brief interaction: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/01/hmm_heres_a_gre081701.html

    Enjoying your posts on Atheism. Dealing with atheism and atheist arguments are not my specialty at present, though I am getting increasingly interested in the debate. Your posts are very helpful.

    God Bless,
    Ben

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      Thanks Ben. Good to hear from you. Yes I’ve seen this video by Ham already. I just find it really hard to take Ham seriously. In Britain we don’t have this issue. The issue is simply not framed as evolution vs Christianity (and those who do usually show evidence of having been profoundly influenced by north-American fundamentalism. Evolution is broadly see as a religiously neutral scientific theory.

      So when Ham starts his ad hominem attack on Nye I just want to put my head in my hands and weep. Just look at what he says and count the amount of times he tries to discredit his opponent ad hom. It’s ridiculous! Nye has an agenda and Ham doesn’t? Nye has assumptions and Ham doesn’t? Nye want evolution taught to children and Ham wants it put on a level playing field with a non-scientific idea? Nye lacks the qualifications to speak authoritatively on this matter? The Ham gets the definition of what evolution is wrong. The he suggests that a non-religious person cannot have any sense of moral direction and must teach kids moral relativism. This is just nonsense. It’s a slippery slope fallacy too.

      I’m afraid I cannot even begin to express the amount of disdain I have for Ken Ham. If you want to find me a creationist to listen to you’ll need to find someone other than Ham.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the atheism stuff though – that’s good and I’m glad it’s of help.

      Best wishes,

  6. kangaroodort says:

    I’m afraid you entirely missed the point and I think that may be my fault. I am not defending or promoting Ken Ham or what he may have said in that video in the least (and remember, I am not a YEC guy). What I meant for you to see was what was written under the video with regards to the difference between ID and creationism. If you read that section under the video, you will see what I was trying to point out and how it relates to this post and our discussion. Sorry for the confusion.

    God Bless,
    Ben

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      Sorry about that Ben. I just saw the Ham video at the top and saw red again. No need to apologize – my bad. Yes I do agree there is a difference between ID and creationism.

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