examinescience

A personal journey into the world of Science and Human History

Category: Young Earth Creation

Should a Christian Study Evolution?

I hesitate to even write this post. What if I sound fake? What if I sound like I’m throwing my conservative upbringing aside? What if I’m labeled a heretic and never get to minister in theologically conservative churches again?

Yes, Christians should study evolution. Here’s why: Your kids are in school! My son is in advanced biology. He brought home an assignment a few days ago that detailed a certain aspect of evolution. I talked with him about it, and it became clear that, while he rejected the notion because of what he was taught in church, he was still being fed evolution in the classroom. Our kids may not be able to differentiate the issue enough to know that they actually are the same. Instead of realizing that teachers are trying to tell him his God didn’t create the world, he’s compartmentalizing school and church.

And I don’t know that our church is teaching him this either. Not that it’s really my church’s purpose. I am his father. It is my job. Time to get busy. What I learn over time I will be teaching you.

As an involved father, at least as involved as I can be my navy career notwithstanding, I need to be a part of my children’s learning process. I can’t just say, “Well, it’s not true,” when they bring home an assignment. Why? Because their grade depends on them writing papers and doing projects that support evolutionary theory! So what do I do? I study the issues so I can arm my kids with facts.

Here are a few other reasons we should study evolution:

  1.  Some of it is probably true: I’ll be writing a post in the next few weeks about dating methods
  2. Evolutionary theory can show us how God created the world.
  3. Most importantly, studying evolution and realizing points 1 and 2 can help the conservative church restore humanity to God.

I don’t often agree with the strategy flavor of the week. I don’t think that churches should be marketing themselves (more than simply making themselves known in the community), I don’t think things are really “purpose” driven, or driven in any other way (Gospel, Community, whatever). I think churches should be places where the sick are cared for, the poor are elevated, where women and children are equals, and things like this.

However, after reading some of the book The Next Christians, by Gabe Lyons, I realized an unsettling truth…I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be separate from the world, and from less-conservative (theologically) churches. Lyons calls it restoring the world to a relationship with God, and that’s true. If our faith story starts in a perfect garden, but science doesn’t teach that, then we have an issue. My work on this project seeks to find the truth so we can restore the unbelieving world to a relationship with God.

So we study.

What’s faith got to do with Science?

In my estimation, the average atheist scientist has as much or more faith than the average Christian. 

I’ve been studying the ideas of evolution and creation for almost a year now. My reason for examining science has been many fold, and will be covered in a different post. I’ve researched cystic fibrosis, which is something near and dear to me as it runs in my family. From there I started studying human origins. To that end, I’ve written about Neanderthals and I’ve got a post in the works on Lucy, thought to be one of the first human ancestors.

In doing this research, with what I believe are now proper motivations, I’ve started feeling pretty good about myself. After all, I want to find out how God did it. How did he design the whole thing? Did he use a long time? How did he move one species to another? While sometimes I admit that the process gets me down, overall I’m quite excited about the research.

Until recently when I read Hebrews 11. Of course, as a person who grew up in the church, I have read the faith “hall of fame” many times. Hebrews 11:1 is a verse that (in KJV) I know by heart to this day.

The verse that got me thinking was the third verse: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

Suddenly, I was unnerved by the Word of God. I do still believe in the Bible, don’t I? even if I’m willing to admit that Genesis 1 may not be the whole story, don’t I believe in the first verse? As I write this post, yes, I do believe that, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Scientifically speaking, this is the big bang. Whether the point of singularity was God-created (for Christians) or a dense piece of matter (evolutionists), the heavens and the earth were created at some point.

But do I believe that it was God? and if I do, isn’t that as far as I need to go? Shouldn’t it spell the end of the blog/research project?

 

I don’t think so, although the situation reminded me to keep this research project in perspective. I do believe it is important, from a purely apologetical perspective, to discover as much about science as we can. But more important than that, studying how this all came about helps us reach the lost. It helps us understand the average Joe’s base mindset going in to a discussion.

To answer the question posed in the title of this post, faith has everything to do with it. An evolutionary scientist does not know how everything came about, but he or she believes with great faith that science will betray the answers of the universe in time. In my estimation, the average atheist scientist has as much or more faith than the average Christian.

I don’t mean that flippantly, like some Christian apologists do when they say, “It takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does the Bible.” I don’t think that’s a true statement. I mean that, for the gaps that still exist in science (and there are plenty), the average scientist believes with an amazing amount of faith that the answers will be found and that those answers will continue to prove out the modified theory of evolution.

Yet I also have faith…faith that their research will give me answers in my research!

Because I’m convinced that this research project holds value as a tool to understand how God created everything, I will continue it, albeit at a slower rate than I had been going. Human evolution, or whatever it is, intrigues me, as does the overall age of the universe. I expect to learn a great deal while studying these things.

Until next time…

Ussher was Wrong

800px-James_Ussher_by_Sir_Peter_LelyOutside of truly fundamentalist circles, very few people believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old. AIG and ICR still hold to the idea that the earth was created on or about October 23, 4004BC. The AIG article I linked to is much more extensive in its declaration that Ussher was right.

I grew up believing the data that Ussher calculated. I also grew up with the misconception that he calculated the data only based on the Bible. This gives the indication that, if the Bible is proved false in its interpretation of historical events, then Ussher’s calculation is automatically void. However, he based his calculations on much more data than just what is in the generational account of the scriptures. In fact, Ussher used sources from the Greek regarding the ages of the Babylonian rulers. The reason for this is because the Biblical account becomes somewhat muddy concerning generations and timeframes after that period. I suppose it’s hard to keep track when you’re a slave.

Ok, so what? Well, I want to present two facts about this.

  1.  Ussher did the best research he could considering what he had available. As a scholar, Bishop Ussher managed to cross connect a variety of sources. His efforts are to be commended. In fact, I would call it (without resorting too much to heresy) the third revelation of God in our lives. I will explain them in a future post.
  2. Ussher was wrong. Just because it was the best scholarship of the day does not mean that he was correct. He was just correct for his time. I don’t think I believe the six literal days of Genesis are correct, but they were correct for their time and for the purpose God intended.* It is not different for Ussher. He may have been on to something, such as delineating the generations since Hebrew civilization took hold, but he did not know the age of the earth.

Ussher did not have the benefit of radiocarbon dating, which in itself allows for things to be dated to around 50,000 years, almost ten times as old as Ussher would have ever allowed. Yes, the dating method has some issues, but it is far more accurate than it is not.

Further, we have other methods of dating objects and fossils. I will undoubtedly delve deeper into this at some point, but some of the accurate ones are radiometric dating and argon, etc. Almost all dating methods (outside of Ussher’s genealogy dating and tree-ring dating, etc) use half-life measurements of various isotopes (such as argon from potassium), which break down into other elements over time. These dating methods suggest the earth is very much older than Ussher thought (and Newton, Kepler, and others, by the way). A good, basic primer on dating can be found at this website.

Ussher was wrong, almost by any measurement of time. This doesn’t even account for the age of light coming from distant stars, which is a topic unto itself.

My research on the age of the earth will continue, as will the work on the evolution/creation of man. I have learned some things about Lucy that I’m particularly interested in getting your thoughts on. Until the next post…

 

*Some reading this, and perhaps someday if I ever get this data published, may say that I have flipflopped, or that I started with preconceived ideas about the age of the earth, man’s evolution, etc. That is the detrimental thing about a blog. As my impression of the evidence changes over time, I appear to flipflop like a politician. I am merely trying to make sense of the data, just like you might. In fact, I hope you will seriously look into this issue, wrestle with it, and see just how much you flipflop yourself.

This Day in History: Scopes Monkey Trial

In the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, in some of the hottest weather of the year, two heavyweights or oration and law met over the teaching of a quiet teacher of slight build named John Thomas Scopes. It was one of the worst events in the church’s collective history. While it did not kill people like the Salem witch trials or the Inquisition, it effectively alienated the religious institution from the scientific community.

To be fair to my fundamentalist forefathers, it was a circus show to begin with. The ALCU staged most of it by picking a fight through the likes of Scopes. I rather think that Scopes had no idea what the ALCU had cooked up for him, but such is life.

Still, even though baited and prodded by the ALCU and others, Scopes did indeed break the law (Butler Act of 1925), by teaching evolution in his classroom. The funny thing is that no one ever thought that the law would be enforced. Not even the governor of Tennessee planned to actually enforce the law he signed.

Yet the stage was set and the big guns came in to town for a trial starting on the 1oth of July, 1925. I think that Bryan thought he was winning (indeed he did get the ruling as a fine was levied against Scopes), but in hindsight, he lost before he started, just like the modern evangelicals are losing with the issue of homosexual marriage.

The Scopes Monkey Trial ended in the death of Bryan (he passed five days after the trial), the end of Scopes’ teaching career (he went on to study geology), and almost zero pressure on evolutionary scientists while it further alienated Christianity from science. It was not worth it.

We must be better…do better. And we will.

Transition to the next Topic

Your children, as you already know, are inundated with ages of the earth that are astronomically different than most evangelical estimates. This can cause some confusion and leave evangelical children outside looking in socially and educationally in public schools. The goal of this blog is to keep that from happening by arming you with real data in as unbiased a manner as possible.

The central question to be asked in order to combat his issue is this: Can Genesis and evolutionary science reside together? I hope so, but I have concerns that must be addressed. This post attempts to do so while providing a path ahead.

We know, in general terms, what evolutionary science tells us about the “creation” of everything. Most notably, it takes a very, very long time and like doesn’t always give way to like. Creation accounts from Genesis, however, suggest that creation was fairly short, certainly not billions upon billions of years, and that God created everything, “after its kind.”

This is the problem: If God created everything, and evolution says everything happened by chance, how could they coexist?

We must always go back to the beginning. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” We can debate timeframes later. The important thing to understand is that it doesn’t allow for macro forms of evolution. “Read literally, this precludes evolution of one “kind” of plant or animal to another.”[1]

Genesis isn’t the only place that this occurs. John 1:1-3 tells the same story, but introduces Jesus as the co-creator with the Father. Here is the passage:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

My concern is that both of these passages, if read literally, remove the allowance of any macroevolution of any kind into the mind of the faithful follower of Christ. It probably doesn’t remove the idea of microevolution, as my daughter’s cystic fibrosis (CF) didn’t create a different kind of humanoid, but just a mutation that is at least hypothesized to defeat tuberculosis.

The Bible says that God created all of the “kinds” of animals, plants, fish, etc on this planet and left no place for the creation of one “kind” from another by chance. If evolution were proven correct, then, it would leave little place for the Bible. At best, it would remain as a testament to an older time of myth. At worst, it would be a relic of ignorant fools.

The example I can’t shake is the Mammoth, which is a cousin to the Asian elephant via some ancient, prehistoric elephant. If AiG and ICR are correct, then the Mammoth and the Asian elephant were together on the ark. Presumably the African elephant as well. Genetics suggest a different story.

I read a good book on this subject called How to Clone a Mammoth, by Dr. Beth Shapiro. It’s an excellent book on cloning, genetics, evolution, and extinction. The problem is that it lays out a good case for how the mammoth and other elephants evolved, and that wasn’t even the goal of the book!

The biggest issue is the genetics connection between the mammoth and the Asian elephant. Geographically, it makes sense that the two are related because Asian elephants could have been a natural southern cousin to the northern mammoths. But the problem is that they’re different species, yet have so much concurrent genetic code that we can use Asian elephants (someday) to clone a mammoth (or something close to it).

I don’t want to be too forward in invoking the dad card here, but we’ve simply got to figure out this stuff. First, does the Bible allow for this sort of evolution? I’m not sure it does. Genesis 1:1+ and John 1:1-3 seem to allow only for God in creating actual species. I don’t think the Bible cares how long we’ve been here, but I do think it wants us to know that He created all of the species.

Unfortunately, naturalists have known for a long time that not all species lived together at the same time. As early as the 1820s, long before Darwin sailed to the Galapagos Islands, naturalists and paleontologists knew that different strata in the geological record had different specimens. More than that, the specimens appeared and disappeared, indicating different creations and extinctions.[2] This idea had sprung up around the same time in England with a fellow named William Smith, who, as a canal digger, realized that different strata along his canals contained very different specimens. While Smith never made a conclusion against faith, and as far as we know stayed true to his religious stance, he did realize that something wasn’t as traditionally taught.[3]

But there were no other creations, at least not without a gap theory, and we’ve looked into that and found that theory lacking, unfortunately, though more research is needed.

So I’m going to turn my attention from cystic fibrosis (as a research project) to the fossil record, particularly with the mammoth, to see if I can find an answer to the issue at hand.

Your comments are welcome below, as is your subscription to this blog, which you can get by clicking HERE.

[1] Larson, Edward J. Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory. Random House. New York, NY, 2004. Pg 11.

[2] Ibid, pg 29

[3] Prothero, Donald R. Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters. Columbia University Press, 2007. pg 55.

The Fall of Man, Microevolution, and the Cruelty of Nature

As I review the scientific literature, I become more and more convinced that some microevolution occurred and probably still occurs. I also believe that this microevolution could be the result of the fall of man. The end of this argument postulates that the fall of man created the petri dish of the current natural order.

Let me give you an example:

Darwin made the case for evolution based in part on how cruel the world was, including how vicious animals were in the wild (humans too really). This was to counter the idea that God’s creation was perfect and that, even in its fallen state the natural order continued in the design of almost benevolence.[1]

I think that the fall of man demands cruelty in the natural world. When Adam and Eve fell, the world order crumbled under the weight of their sin. Natural order that had existed suddenly didn’t. Replacing it was the necessary reality that many animals continued to eat plants, but some animals became adapted to eating other animals, and humans adapted to eating both. Teeth structures, digestive systems, instincts, etc, need time to adapt, so it would probably have been several generations for this fall to fully come to pass. During that adaptive process, mutations of other sorts also occurred, such as my nemesis, cystic fibrosis.

I realize that I’m speaking as an apologist in this post. I am, at my core, a believer in Jesus Christ who is wrestling with the natural history of the world. I am simply a husband, father, and believer seeking to find answers. The answers I’m finding so far, however, don’t tell me that evolution is true as natural selection suggests.

So the search continues. Click HERE to sign up for updates.

[1] Larson, Edward J. Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory. Random House. New York, NY, 2004. Pg 90.

The Day that God Created the Heavens and the Earth

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The next several verses detail that creative act that takes place, from a literal reading of the Bible, in six days. Yet in Genesis 2:4, the writer says, “these are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.”

So did he take six days or one day? Traditionalists, fundamentalists, and most evangelicals will believe that an old earth creation is just not possible because God took six days to create the earth, not billions, and that there are generations for only six thousand years or so.

Here’s the problem with that thinking. If you’re willing to read the Bible literally, and I certainly believe there are parts that should be read that way, then you have to decide if God made the earth in six days, as Genesis one says, or in one day as Genesis two says.

I don’t personally see a problem because I don’t think it should be read literally. I think Genesis one shows that God was intimately involved in the creation of the world and everything in it, and I believe that Genesis two is the general brush strokes that show his artistic style.  I think, by the way, that this is another summary statement, much like Genesis 1:1 and 2:1. If anything, the “day” in Gen 2:4 suggests an “age” of creation, which denotes a progression, but I digress.

Also, there may very well be two writers of Genesis, with a second writer expanding on the first. This really upsets my more traditional brethren and sisters because it suggests Moses didn’t write Genesis with his own hand. I’m sure that I’ll write on that at some point, but I just don’t have time at the moment.

The point of this post isn’t to drive a wedge between Moses and the book supposedly authored by him, but to show my fellow fundamentalists that the traditional reading of scripture isn’t necessarily plausible and never was. Genesis tells us that God made everything, but even by chapter two of the first book of the Bible we have word problems.

In closing, I’m not saying that this is a problem. Instead, it is a fresh drink of cool water as it shows us that we can open up the scriptures and take a look at them, and see how God might have used the fossil record to fill in his gaps in creation. I’m very excited for this, and I hope you are too!

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Worst Case Scenario

It’s in the very back of my mind almost every time I crack open a book on science or read a peer-reviewed journal article. Reading many biblical peer-reviewed journals compounds the issue as well. Some are traditional and evangelically minded, but many are not.

It’s the issue of whether or not Christianity is sustainable as a non-truth. If it is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that humans came from a lower life form and not the direct hand of God, what happens next? Does it spell the end to Christianity? Of religion in general? Will it lead to the loss of faith altogether? Will it remove all barriers to immorality on the earth?

These are very important questions to those of faith, but many fundamentalists are afraid to ask those questions. Well, we can’t be afraid, so we ask the question.

First of all, most scientists already believe that they’ve proven humanity’s evolution beyond a shadow of a doubt. While everyone acknowledges that gaps in the record exist, no one thinks they won’t someday prove how it all happened…through evolution.

Second, AiG, ICR, and other groups continue to think that science does not prove evolution correct. At best, it is a flawed attempt by unbelievers to avoid giving God credit for creation. For some groups, such as the ones mentioned here, any thought other than the traditional six thousand year creation story is heresy, whether it’s OEC, gap theory, or evolution.

Third, it would be very difficult to prove beyond all doubt that evolution is a fact vice a series of hypotheses. What will they find? Another humanoid jawbone? Or a mammal that dragged its useless hind feet on land, but found its home in the water? These things, while possible, are not very probable, and again, it wouldn’t really matter if paleontologists found these items. It wouldn’t change the minds of most fundamentalists.

Maybe this post asks the wrong question. Maybe it has nothing to do with the church in general, and everything to do with the individual Christian that is contained in my skin and bones and the faith in my spirit.

To that end, I have to decide what the scientific evidence means to me. As I continue going through the data, a project that will take me a very, very long time, I continue to be shown evidence that the earth is really old, that dinosaurs lived a really long time ago, and that light from the stars had to start coming toward us an extremely long time ago. Yet the research also shows that science cannot explain how everything really came to be. We have, arguably, millions or billions of years to play with, but no idea where the basic building blocks came from. Oh, there is an answer to that, but it was a dying universe that passed away before the one we have now. That’s not a very good answer, in my unlearned opinion, because it gets circular at some point. It’s as untestable as Genesis One.

And I’ve already shown, in previous research, that genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis are un-provable as microevolutionary events because evolutionary biologists are unable to show exactly when the diseases came about. Unfortunately, this is also true of the Bible’s lack of evidence.

What it means right now is that the earth is older than most fundamentalists want to accept, but not that evolution is a proven fact.

Of course, this is a continuing topic and will be followed up upon in future posts. Click HERE to subscribe to updates.

Easter and Evolution

Pattaya Day 04 007

Picture of Sunrise Service on board USS Antietam, taken in Pattaya, Thailand. Easter 2009.

Happy Easter! I’m on duty today, but I started my morning with God and it has been a wonderful morning thus far.

I wanted to write today about what evolution means for Easter as I read something about the Scopes Monkey Trial that I found unnerving. William Jennings Bryan, who joined the prosecution in an effort to lend credibility to what was otherwise a small town affair, said the following: “if this evolution doctrine is true, this logic eliminates everything supernatural, and that means they eliminate the virgin birth…the resurrection of the body…and the doctrine of atonement.”

Is that what it really means though? Sometimes I wonder if the answer is yes. I wonder if modern evangelicalism (which replaced, at least in name, fundamentalism of the 1920s) can survive the pressing reality of evolution. I’ve written about it in my book, and I have a post coming about it on this blog, that suggests our faith might be in trouble if Genesis One can’t stand up to the scrutiny of modern science. I’m concerned that Jennings might be right if this is the case.

Yet I’m hopeful…it is spring after all. I am hopeful that our faith in God is stronger than our fears about engaging science. I’m hopeful that God will show us through nature what he planned in our faith. I’m hopeful that we will celebrate Easter in the many years to come as a sign of hope for our coming resurrection, not as a faded memory of a dead faith.

I’m mostly hopeful that evangelicalism as a political voting bloc, will itself fade, replaced by a faith that is willing to engage with science to learn more about the Creator. I think this is possible, and I’m hopeful for that day.

So happy Easter everyone. Praise the Lord for what he has done for us, and may he continue to teach us new things about him every day!

 

 

Out of the Garden and Into the Cradle

Periodically, as research can be made into hypothesis and the other way around, I will return to the issue of making sense of the data. This will be an imperfect process of course, and my conclusions may change over time. It’s science…this sort of thing happens all the time. So let’s dig in for the first issue: Out of the Garden and into the Cradle.

Modern man came from eastern Africa, according to the “Out of Africa” model of evolutionary history. While two theories exist to explain the evolution of modern man (replacement and regional continuity model[1]), it is generally not thought to be compatible with what the Bible suggests happened in our history (with Eden).

This is the crux of the problem. Many fundamentalists suggest that the Garden of Eden was in modern day Iraq. This is due to the fact that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, mentioned in biblical Eden, water that area of the globe.

This seems to be a contradiction. Can mankind come from both the Garden of Eden as the Bible suggests and the cradle of mankind, thought by modern scientists to be eastern Africa?

At this point, I refer you to a great article on the ICR website.[2] I can be extremely critical of the Institute for its almost dogmatic defense of YEC, but I can also recognize a good defense when I see it. Essentially, for all we know, the Garden of Eden was in eastern Africa. We have no idea where the biblical Garden was because the flood, if it happened as the Bible said it did, would have completely reshaped the globe. Noah would have renamed the current landscape after what he thought things were based on when he was walking the pre-flood earth.

Answers in Genesis also discusses the issue and comes up with much the same answer.[3] The one thing I’m concerned about is that the author of the AIG article claims the Garden couldn’t be in modern Iraq because of the millions of dead things, which wouldn’t have been there before sin entered the world. This is an unneeded argument, because nothing would have been dead until sin entered the world, whether in eastern Africa or Iraq and by the time of the flood, sin most certainly abounded. It’s just not a logical argument, in my opinion.

The problem with the AIG article is that it suggests that the Garden remained perfect even after sin entered the world. Essentially, even though Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden, the physical garden would have remained perfect. This isn’t logical. Mankind had been placed there to care for it. In their absence, and with sin abounding, the garden would have been overrun and become overgrown. Still, the rest of the article is very good.

In summary, the argument is not necessarily two beginnings of mankind. We don’t have to accept either the fossil record or biblical record (in this case!). As pointed out by both Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research, we don’t know Eden’s location. For all we know, they could be the same place (and probably were).

Notes:

[1] http://anthro.palomar.edu/homo2/mod_homo_4.htm

[2] http://www.icr.org/article/where-was-garden-eden-located/

[3] https://answersingenesis.org/genesis/garden-of-eden/where-was-the-garden-of-eden-located/