January 09, 2012

Problems with Other Views of Creation

I sincerely don’t want to bash Christian organizations. That is not the purpose of this post. But, I do want to identify a few problems with two significant Christian organizations. The very nature of God is at stake.

Answers in Genesis (AiG) is an organization devoted to young-earth creationism. They are sincere people, and I believe they have done much good by preaching the Gospel. For that reason alone, they deserve high marks. Also, most of their material contains some measure of useful scientific truth that helps in the fight against humanistic Darwinism. The major problem with AiG is that they profess to be scientific but they simultaneously reject scientific evidence that seems to contradict their traditional interpretations of the Bible. Their traditional views of creation are infallible in their minds. They put on “biblical glasses” (a bias for their particular interpretations of the Bible) to reinterpret the evidence found in Nature to fit their views.

Thus, radiometric dating—other than a limited use of radiocarbon dating—is deemed to be flawed by default and rejected on the basis of presumed faulty assumptions. They believe that decay rates may have changed substantially in the past, but this is a very hopeful assumption that goes against the prevailing wisdom of the scientific community.

AiG fails to take much scientific evidence seriously. If they cannot adequately explain evidence that seems to contradict their belief in a young earth, they often gloss over that evidence, presuming that alternative interpretations of the data will eventually be discovered. Now, considering that this is done in faith of the Bible, I cannot fault them for this. It is admirable that they tenaciously hold to their faith, as any Christian should. However, the problem is that they fail to recognize that Nature is a genuine revelation of God. They interpret Nature in light of the Bible. They believe that there are only two options: interpret the Bible in light of Nature, or interpret Nature in light of the Bible. They fail to recognize that there is a third option, which is also the correct option. They claim that Nature is not a sixty-seventh book of the Bible, but they fail to see that the Bible itself teaches that Nature is a limited Divine revelation, making Nature indeed a sort of obscure book of the Bible.

Nature is a direct revelation of Nature, and God’s Word is a direct revelation of God. The Bible was not intended to be a Book of science giving us details of how the universe works, but Nature was intended to be a “book” giving us details about its own operation. Thus, it should not seem radical to believe that Nature can help us understand what happened with the universe in the past and how it operates currently, augmenting our understanding of the Bible’s limited scientific revelation. They themselves inconsistently recognize this in rare moments.

Let me explain that point. The earth was once considered flat based upon literal interpretation of the Bible and phrases that speak of the four corners of the earth and the ends of the earth. This view was strongly held, especially by the Catholics in Galileo’s days. If the scientific evidence for a spherical earth wasn’t rock solid, many Christians would probably still believe in a flat earth. AiG, I suspect, would hold to this view also if there was no proof of its spherical nature. So, the bottom line is that AiG has accepted a nontraditional interpretation of the Bible in light of the overwhelming evidence supporting it. They have recognized that the Bible was never meant to be a scientific textbook using precise and absolute terminology. Fortunately for them, there are some pretty clear Bible passages that indicate a spherical earth.

Also, geocentricity was once supported from a literal and absolute reading of the Bible. Today, we have proof that the earth goes around the sun and not the other way around. Again, AiG supports the non-traditional interpretation of the Bible in support of the scientific truth. The difference with these two things compared with other scientific discoveries is that science proved these to be true long ago. If science was only now showing that the earth revolves around the sun, traditional Christian groups would probably not accept it as true at first—meaning for several generations. Just like with the old-earth debate, they would reject it based upon their literal and absolute interpretations of Scripture.

So, AiG (along with other young-earth creationist organizations), acts inconsistently in their treatment of scientific discoveries and how to interpret the Bible in light of them. They have become reactionary to humanistic evolution. In zeal for the Bible they have vehemently refused to yield a single inch to the theory of evolution, presuming that macroevolution of any kind is antithetical to the core doctrines of the Bible. Somehow, the theory of evolution is inherently of the devil, in their view. Perhaps if a Christian had been the main proponent of evolution rather than atheistic Charles Darwin, they would have been more receptive of it.

That being said, even AiG acknowledges microevolution and that major speciation happened in the past. In fact, they propose rapid speciation (a form of evolution) that not even evolutionists would dare to propose. They can suggest this happened because they believe that all the genetic information was stored up in the genes of animals, just waiting to be expressed after Noah’s Flood, similar to the theory that I propose but on a much, much shorter timescale. The problem with naturalistic evolution is that information cannot randomly come into existence, and I agree with that part of their beliefs. So, evolution was limited by God’s design. (Traditional Christian groups are generally unwilling to use the term ‘evolution’ in reference to non-information–producing evolution, since they see it as fundamentally different from minor reconfigurations of existing genetic information, such as microevolution.)

One of the primary issues that AiG has with current, non-Christian science is Big Bang cosmology and the reported age of the universe. Inadvertently, AiG has been effectively teaching, “The heavens only seem to indicate great age and a Big Bang, which are lies from Satan,” instead of, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” What they are willingly ignorant of is that if Nature sends us a strong message that is deceptive and distracts from the truth then it does not declare the glory of God, and it would give unbelievers an excuse for not believing in God, which is contrary to the teaching of Romans 1. For Nature to properly declare the glory of God it must present us with the truth without deception. For that reason it is doctrinally unsound to believe that Nature has the strong appearance of age when it is actually very young. To believe in such a thing is to believe in a deceptive God, in effect, though such is not the intention by any means of AiG or similar organizations. They certainly do not believe that God is deceptive, but they unwittingly intimate that when they suggest a false appearance of age. As one friend of mine said, he would believe the Bible regardless of how strongly evidence in Nature seemed to contradict it. In other words, he sees no problem with the most-reasonable interpretation of the evidence contradicting the Bible. This is the wrong way to approach the evidence of Nature, for it is purely irrational and unscientific. A heliocentric solar system would not have ever been accepted if Christians had all treated the evidence in such a way—holding unwaveringly to the most literal understanding of the Bible regardless of the strength of the evidence in Nature to the contrary.

One thing that AiG has said is that some things had to have a false appearance of age, which would probably be part of their rebuttal to the above argument. Adam and Eve, for instance, had to look like adults even at the beginning of their existence. The difference with that, however, is that Adam and Eve are not on display as evidence of Nature for scientists to inspect. Scientists cannot be misled by inspecting Adam and Eve since they will probably never find their remains. Adam and Eve would not have been misled, because God would have explicitly told them of how they were made. Scientists today do not have God speaking directly in their ears telling them that the universe is really only about 6000 years old. Furthermore, there is another major difference. If someone told me that a full-grown tree was somehow miraculously only a day old, I would not believe them at first. But, if I chopped down the tree and found that there were no typical tree rings showing a history of many years, I might begin to entertain the idea that the tree was young based on the evidence. Thus, a tree could look old and still have compelling evidence to show that it did not have a long history of existence. If Adam and Eve had found scars on their bodies, they would have reason to doubt that they were just created. If they could recount memories from many past years, they would also have reason to doubt a recent creation. If they already had children and grandchildren, they would have reason to doubt that they were just created. Likewise, if the heavens show evidence of a long and detailed history of galaxy formation and supernovas and planet formation, then there is good reason to doubt it was made only about 6000 years ago. A simple appearance of age is not a big problem, but the appearance of eons of complex history with enough details to extrapolate specific past events going back billions of years is a serious problem. It would be the equivalent of an elaborate hoax. In my personal understand of the nature of God, He would never do such a thing. If the universe were truly so young, He would make the evidence of its youth shout out in deafening volume compared with a small whisper of evidence showing great age. In that way alone could He maintain His truthfulness and clearly declare His glory in the heavens.

The other part of their rebuttal is that the universe does have evidence of youthfulness. However, such evidence is generally based upon extremely simple extrapolations using the assumption that things in the past were happening just like today. For instance, the amount of dust on the moon is considered by AiG to be too shallow for it to be 4.5 billion years old. But, to show this, they use the bad early estimates of secular scientists! Today, it makes sense to scientists that the dust is shallow because we now know things that were not known before, like the fact that the sun’s solar flares routinely blast dust from off the moon. Another evidence for a young earth is supposedly the distance of the moon. Using simple extrapolations, AiG suggests that if the moon were 4.5 billion years old it would have receded much further from earth. But, in my estimation, mainstream scientists have adequately explained how the moon ended up at its current distance. They have carefully modeled how the moon may have formed and receded, and there is nothing unexplainable for them. AiG simply uses too simplistic estimates, and so they draw bad conclusions.

The other organization I wish to discuss, though more briefly, is Reasons to Believe (RtB). They teach an old earth with perpetual supernatural creations of animals throughout the history of life on earth. Evolution is religiously rejected by this organization as well. Though they are generally more receptive to mainstream scientific discoveries, they are constantly in reaction to discoveries that seem to support evolution, and they are continually defending their view of creation. These people are brilliant and all of their material is informative and helpful, but I sense that they are slightly insecure about some of the bigger discoveries related to the theory of evolution, such as purported evolution that led to the formation of Man and various hominids like Neanderthals. What they are failing to understand is that a designed form of evolution, where “libraries” of information were latently stored up in the genomes of ancient cells, is no less doctrinally tenable than their view of perpetual creation. In either case, God is the Creator, life is miraculous and limited to earth, and God made the animals specifically as He pleased. The main difference is the method by which God made the animals. Was there a set of many miraculous creations of different kinds of life, or just a single miraculous creation of the first living cell(s) loaded with information? For that matter, there is always the possibility that God did something in between these two extremes and sometimes created new forms of life and otherwise let life evolve on its own per the information that He placed within genomes.

From the best I can tell, human genetic information does not fit RtB’s model. From what I understand of their model, the first humans (Adam and Eve) were placed somewhere in Mesopotamia near the Persian Gulf. Noah’s Flood destroyed all the people existing beforehand, leaving just Noah and seven others. Then people eventually spread across the world. Today, paleontologists have found remains of Homo sapiens in Africa that date back to roughly 100,000 years ago, which in RtB’s model would be before the Flood. What were humans doing in Africa before the Flood? The dating must be off, it would seem, if their model is correct. Furthermore, confirming that Homo sapiens originated in Africa, there is the genetic information that indicates that modern Africans are most similar genetically to the early Homo sapiens, and all ethnic groups can apparently trace their genetic origins back to Africa. This, as far as I can tell, is a huge problem with RtB’s model. They seem oblivious to this fact. Humans should not have originated in Africa. Perhaps RtB has a good explanation for this, but it is hard to see how it could be consistent with their model. I, on the other hand, in my theory have a simple and easy answer to this Out-of-Africa theory and the genetic information that seems to support that theory, but my answer involves “pre-humans,” which requires a form of evolution of Homo sapiens. If we entertain the idea that humans originated in Africa, then how did a local Flood in Mesopotamia destroy all the people? How would modern Africans by chance be most genetically similar to the early people living in Africa before the Flood? The RtB model does not solve these questions, as best I can tell.

The main problem with RtB is that they seem to hold to their interpretation of the Bible just as intractably as AiG. They are unwilling, apparently, to consider other models or other reasonable interpretations of the Bible. We are all creatures who desire stability, so their inflexible stance is understandable, but it is not a scientific approach any more than AiG’s approach. A fully scientific approach is always ready to tweak the current theories and models to best fit the evidence. As soon as one becomes completely settled on their unproven theories they become scientifically stagnant. RtB is certainly well-intentioned and entitled to their opinions, but they have unfortunately come to some wrong conclusions about the interpretation of the Bible, I personally believe. Doctrinally speaking, there is absolutely no difference between God creating new species supernaturally and instantly and Him creating them through a process of brilliantly designed evolution. Again, either way, God literally created the animals by His wisdom. I would argue that creation by evolution would require much greater wisdom, planning, intelligence, foresight, and providence. Who are we to limit God in His method of creating the animals?

Given that the Bible even ascribes natural processes like lightning and rain directly to God’s action, no different than if He were supernaturally doing such things, there is no reason to believe that a natural process of evolution that He created would not be similarly ascribed to His action. God claims complete responsibility for His sovereign acts in Nature. Because of His supreme sovereignty and His wise planning, He can and does claim to be the direct cause of all the events in Nature. He makes it rain and He sends the lightning as His arrows. He makes wind and earthquakes. Science has not invalidated these claims of Divine control and action. Likewise, even if creatures were made through a brilliantly created process of evolution, God is still the One who created the fish, the mammals, the birds, insects, etc. Genesis would not be invalid. RtB seems to miss this critical point. Life would still be a miraculous creation. I do not believe that this view is inconsistent with God’s redemptive work. Obvious miracles have always been rather sparse in God’s economy and seem to have come in spurts.

I believe that the genetic evidence for a wisely planned evolution of living things is significant and should not be easily dismissed. I believe that God would not place unused genetic information in animals if He were making animals supernaturally from nothing, for such a thing would be misleading and sloppy. For instance, humans have genes for the regeneration of body parts, similar to some creatures. Also, sponges have genes for sodium channels very similar to humans, but there is no known purpose for these genes in the sponges. Such evidence (and there is plenty more of it) is indicative of common descent and not of the idea that each creature was supernaturally handmade from scratch. RtB seems to hastily dismiss this evidence primarily on the basis of faith that their interpretation of the Bible is correct—that evolution could not fit the biblical message. Ultimately, RtB’s model unnecessarily results in the same problem as AiG: that God is deceptive and has done things in such a way as to leave the door wide open for people to naturally misinterpret the evidence found in Creation. RtB obviously believes that evolution is not supported by the evidence, but most secular scientists would emphatically disagree and would point to numerous cases that support the basic concept of evolution. RtB is right in being highly skeptical of un-designed and random evolution, since such an idea is logically untenable and contrary to the evidence, but they disallow the possibility that God specifically made evolution work efficiently. The evidence deserves a fair hearing, and they are not willing to let it be innocent until proven guilty, similarly as AiG is not willing to entertain the idea of an old earth.

Someone will ask, “But where do you draw the line? Why not just embrace Darwinian evolution as taught by secularists?” Two reasons: (1) there are countless biblical interpretive problems with excluding God from the picture; and (2) logically, random un-designed evolution cannot be more plausible than designed evolution, making Darwinian evolution clearly no more reasonable or scientific than a created form of evolution. Secularists embrace Darwinism because they do not trust the Bible’s account of creation to be informative of what actually happened. The Bible and the evidence of Nature must both be treated seriously, for both are a revelation from God. The two will not contradict. Anyone who pits “science” against a reasonable interpretation of the Bible is foolish. Anyone who pits the Bible against a reasonable interpretation of the evidence in Nature is misguided. (However, anyone, holding carefully to the Gospel, who sincerely believes that some scientific theory is consistent with the Bible, and who carefully considers and honors the Bible’s teachings, is acting respectably.)

Hopefully I have not been too harsh towards these organizations. Godly men are behind these groups, and they both hold fast to the Gospel, as best I can tell. Thus, these groups deserve commendation to some extent. God bless them for their desire to win people to Christ. My purpose here has been only to show how I disagree with their views. In the end, I’m willing to admit that I could possibly be wrong. Maybe AiG is right, or maybe RtB is right. Perhaps I do not know God’s nature as well as I’d like to think. Maybe He did make a universe that seems to have a bunch of misinformation in it . . . but I really doubt it.

Here are some pertinent verses, some translated in a literal way by me (my interpretations/additions are in brackets):

“The heavens [universe] declare the glory of God…” Ps 19:1 (KJV)

“…God … cannot lie [intentionally deceive]…” Titus 1:2 (NKJV)

“…[God’s] invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made [Nature] ... so that they are without excuse [in believing in the one true God of the Bible]…” Rom 1:20 (NKJV)

“Before the mountains were brought forth [long ago, ~1 bya], or ever You had [even] formed the earth [long before that, ~4.5 bya] and [even] the world [long before that, ~13.7 bya], even from everlasting [before the universe, >13.7 bya] to everlasting, You are God.” Ps 90:2 (NKJV)

“And the fear of you and the dread of you shall come to be [via adaptation] upon every beast of the earth…” Gen 9:2 (my translation)

“And God said, ‘The earth shall cause [by a process of evolution?] vegetation to come forth…’” Gen 1:11 (my translation)

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness [but not necessarily science], that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work [not scientific understanding].” 2 Tim 3:16-17 (NKJV)

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