To my fundamentalist friends

Many of my friends think Young-earth Creationism is the only real “Christian” opinion about the origins of life, the universe, and everything. Oh dear. So I’ve cobbled together some of the best stuff I could find to support the FAR more rational position of Theistic Evolution.

This is the site that switched the lights on for me:
http://www.talkorigins.org/
Here’s a complete rebuttal of the young-earth pseudoscience:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html
They also have a huge “index to creationist claims”, this link covers young-earth arguments:
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html#CD

Here’s another brief summary of Creationism and Intelligent Design:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/faq/cat09.html#Q01A

Quote from PBS.org:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/religion/faith/index.html

“For many people of various faiths, support for the scientific theory of evolution has not supplanted their religious belief. And throughout the modern Judeo-Christian tradition, leaders have asserted that evolutionary science offers a valid perspective on the natural world. They say that evolution is consistent with religious doctrine and complements, rather than conflicts with, religion.

There are, however, some Christians — in particular, fundamentalists and some evangelicals — who perceive a conflict between evolution and their literal interpretation of the Bible.”

A library’s worth of evidence supporting Evolution:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/04/index.html

American Scientific Affiliation; Science from a Christian perspective:
http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Evolution/index.html

Converging lines of Evidence in support of Evolution:
http://www.freethoughtdebater.com/FEvolutionCase.htm

A quote from St. Augustine: (I discussed this in an earlier post).

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, 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,”

Christians do not have a monopoly on the truth. A bit of humility and respect for the centuries of painstaking work by generations of scientists would not be amiss. The Bible supports the notion of critical thinking:

Acts 15:6,7a
The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them …

Acts 17:11
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Also, the Bible itself is not ALL meant to be taken literally!
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CH/CH102.html

  • 2 Corinthians 3:6 says of the new covenant, “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
  • 1 Corinthians 9:9-12 says that one of the laws of Moses is figurative, not literal.
  • Galatians 4:24 says that the story of Abraham is an allegory.
  • Jesus frequently taught in parables, with the obvious intention that the lesson from the story, not the details of the story, was what was important.

(OK the above link is a bit worrying but it’s worth thinking about)

Lastly, I think the Bible appears to be in favour of Intelligent Design, but ID is too new and it’s facing an uphill battle. The next few years should be interesting, if a philosophy more explicitly religious in nature were to spread through academia.

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56 thoughts on “To my fundamentalist friends

  1. This is sad. Most upper level science people I know can utterly humiliate fundies who believe in a ‘young Earth’ in any sort of debate about the origins and age of the Earth, but they don’t of course. I guess such people are seen as being beyond help.

  2. AL, indeed most of them are beyind help, preferring to hold to their simple fantasies, rather than face the complex reality of the world around them.

    It’s why I don’t mention “I believe in Evolution” to most of my Christian friends because they invariably assume I am falling away from the faith. Not likely, as (by the grace of God) I have been a Christian for 18 years or so.

  3. Hi Servant, nice of you to drop by!
    Yup I prefer a “real” conversation, sharing my life with people. Not arguing over abstractions (that’s what blogging is for!)

  4. Excellent post !

    You’ve obviously done a lot of work on the data.

    I don’t actually come into much contact with “fundamentalists” – for want of a better term – so please enlighten me: why are they so aggressive or dismissive of the vast bulk of Christian derived evidence for a theistic model that you and I both think more plausible?

  5. Hi MrTips
    Unfortunately most people are unaware of “the vast bulk of Christian derived evidence for a theistic model”, and I haven’t really found a huge number of resources (perhaps you could recommend something?). I suppose it’s a problem of publicity.

    Many churches accept the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy particularly Article XII:
    We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.
    Statements such as this seem clearly in favour of an exclusively literal interpretation of Genesis, particularly six creation days (despite the fact that the 2 creation accounts in Genesis differ markedly). Radio Rhema frequently airs programmes by “Answers in Genesis”, a religious organisation that begins axiomatically with a literalist reading of Scripture and then attempts to bolster its position with pseudoscientific garbage. Many Christians take perverse delight in regurgitating AIG’s regular emanations of misleading propaganda.

  6. Encouragingly, the Exposition section of the statement goes like this:
    So history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth. Differences between literary conventions in Bible times and in ours must also be observed: Since, for instance, nonchronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable and violated no expectations in those days, we must not regard these things as faults when we find them in Bible writers. When total precision of a particular kind was not expected nor aimed at, it is no error not to have achieved it. Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.

    The truthfulness of Scripture is not negated by the appearance in it of irregularities of grammar or spelling, phenomenal descriptions of nature, reports of false statements (for example, the lies of Satan), or seeming discrepancies between one passage and another. It is not right to set the so-called “phenomena” of Scripture against the teaching of Scripture about itself. Apparent inconsistencies should not be ignored. Solution of them, where this can be convincingly achieved, will encourage our faith, and where for the present no convincing solution is at hand we shall significantly honor God by trusting His assurance that His Word is true, despite these appearances, and by maintaining our confidence that one day they will be seen to have been illusions.

    Wrangling over such things has become a standard procedure for Protestants, thank God for the RCC’s voice of reason! :^)

  7. Hi guys,

    Apparently I’m Irrational, I’m beyond help and I cannot face the complex reality of the world around me.

    How about uplifting your Christian brother without such posts and comments!

    I doesn’t really help your cause making such sweeping derogatory statements!

  8. Jonathan:
    Sorry buddy, but some things must come into the light. Young-earth creationism *IS* irrational. It doesn’t mean believers are irrational all the time, but on this matter I have personally encountered a lot of ignorant and uninformed opinions from overconfident people who don’t have a science background.

    I don’t mean to be accusatory against any PERSON, but I think that foolish IDEAS are fair game. If I don’t genuflect at the altar of young-earthism I am seen as some kind of apostate!

    Why not uplift this Christian brother by (instead of assuming I am backsliding), assuming that I am seeking after Truth!

  9. Thanks peasant,

    However… by saying that the idea of young-earthism is irrational you are putting me in the position that you are asking not to be put in yourself.

    The concept is of young-earthism is not unreasonable… and if you really believe this… then there is no point debating the issue with you.

    Also, I don’t think you’re back sliding. There are many different areas of thinking which can be looked at from different angles. Adult Baptism vs Infant Baptisim, Creation vs Evolution, Aminianism vs calvinism, etc. Just because you believe one or other of these things doesn’t make you less or more of a christian.

    I think it’s a shame that there’s all these diferences. Christians could be so much more effective in this world if we were unified.

  10. I also must be irrational!!!

    But I don’t believe creationism is the only “Christian” view. I have argued this many times in my praching.

    I have a reasonable scientific knowledge and have done a basic science degree – so I don’t think I am entirely ignorant or irrational.

    The comments here remind me of some of my creationist friends who are very scathing of people who don’t agree with them. I don’t think it is good for any of us to go down that line.

  11. Jonathon, Scotty:
    Is Revelations also literal? Or did Jesus *really* want us to hate our fathers & mothers? How about Ezekiel 1?

    The Bible is a text. The purpose of any text is to be interpreted. I agree with you guys that it conveys the very truth of God, but parts of the bible are allegory, parts are poetry, parts are oral tradition passed down by an ancient nomadic people, and authored by great leaders such as Moses. I doubt Moses was intending to write a scientific treatise. The broad message is clear that God is the Almighty Creator. But numerous independent lines of physical evidence converge to show that the Earth is in fact ancient.

    I am in awe of God’s wondrous handiwork, and I am sure he *could* have created the Earth yesterday, but that would be a vast deception! There’s too much stuff out there that confirms an old Universe, a Big Bang, and development of species by a mysterious mechanism called Evolution. Therefore I must conclude that Gen 1 is some kind of poetic story.

    Theistic evolution is easily compatible with faith in God and Scripture.

  12. Thanks peasant!

    I agree That the bible is not to be taken completely literally.

    I can also see how thestic evolution is compatible with faith in God.

    Where I’m lacking is how it is compatible with scripture. I asked for the meannig of Gen 1. You told me it must be a poem, yet did not give any meaning.

    As you mentioned I believe the Bible conveys the truth of God. Our Faith calls us to believe this truth above any other ‘truth’ as it is the only information we have that is the written word of God. Until I’m shown another way which makes sense and is consistent with scripture, I believe the meaning of Gen 1 to be literal.

    You also mentioned that there is a lot of physical evidence in support of evolution. This means that in my mind there is a contradiction between physical evidence and mans thinking, and the Word of God as I interpret it.

    (Now this is why you think i’m irrational and have no grip on reality)

    I would rather believe there is fault in physical evidence and in mans thinking, than believe there is fault with the Word of God.

  13. The Catholic Encyclopedia has a good overview of various interpretations of the 6 Creation days, by some of the greatest Christian (and other) thinkers throughout history, concluding:
    Considering the foregoing theories without bias, and in the light of both science and Revelation, a moderate form of Concordism or the theory of vision will be found to serve the Catholic interpreter most effectually both from a scientific and a critical point of view.

  14. Alright, may I wade into this a little more?

    There is no problem with God’s word, God’s word is accurate…. the issue is with interpretations of God’s word.

    Scripture is also to be taken literally, but the question is “HOW is it to be taken literally?”

    Far too many people come to the text with their own cultural assumptions, simply read it and assume they know exactly what its saying. Such assumptions are dangerous because they remove the ability for us to dialogue and wrestle with the text in community and hear other voices.

    When we read the text there are very important things that need to be considered. The text was written over a period of about 1000-2000 years and was completed and put together as we know it just over 1500 years ago, meaning that the oldest offerings within it are far removed from our own time a culture. We need to consider that the cultures which produced those scriptures were very different from our own, hence what they considered important was very different. The questions they were asking were different, the way they read and wrote things were different.

    We also need to consider that what the majority of us read is an english translation of languages very different from our own. Thus what we get is not as rich and accurate as the original. This does not mean we cannot gain from it but it does mean that with some things we need to be aware of our own assumptions.

    Let me give you an example. The aramaic word “mush” appears in the Genesis account in relation to the fall of man and it is translated literally as “death”. In our scientifically saturated culture that finds its seat in what is material, when we read this word we automatically think of a person or animal breathing their last breath, dieing. The word has many more implications than that though and often it is referring to spiritual death.

    This one word has big implications for the creation/evolution debate because one of the arguments on the creation side is that death (as we understand it) could not have existed prior to the fall since it is God’s explicitly stated punishment for sin. Yet if we read the word “mush” as spiritual death then death as we understand it could have existed in this world prior to the fall with no negative implications… of course that raises many questions, but I think you get my point. So the big question is, when the word is used, what is the writer trying to say and what would the original readers have heard? The answer to that question is what is to be taken literally.

    In the Genesis account there are other words that need to be discussed and thrown around to find it’s real intent and purpose, the word “yom” is a biggy, it is translated in Genesis 1 and 2 literally as “day”. In Genesis 1 many people want to take it as a literal day, yet if the same is done when it is used in Genesis 2 then the 6 day creation goes out the window and it becomes a 1 day creation. So the question is how did the original reader hear the word “yom”.

    The word “erets” is another. It is translated in Genesis 1 and 2 as earth (global) yet it can also be translated as soil, or a local area.

    All of these have implications beyond our own limited understanding of the english words we read.

    So we need to ask what it is actually trying to convey. I have a feeling the writer couldn’t have cared less about scientific accuracy and was actually trying to convey something far deeper. What picture is given? A picture of a creative God who created out of himself, a God who created humanity with lov and purpose in his own image. These are the themes of Genesis 1 and 2 and they are far more important than the scientific arguments. These things are to be read literally when we come at literally with the right understanding of its intent.

    That’s my 2 cents and that’s why we need to humbly listen to each others understanding of scripture and allow our own to be measured.

  15. sorry, quick correction, the word I gave as “mush” is actually “muth”

    The corresponding Greek word in the New Testament is Thanatos…. which can also read as spiritual death or literal physical death.

  16. The funny thing is, I myself see physical evidence as pointing to a young earth and entirely compatible with a literal (6 day) biblical creation account.

    So physical evidence is as interpretable as the biblical account.

  17. One creation model is based on a narrow interpretation of ancient manuscripts.

    The other creation model is based on an entire planetload of physical evidence. You are free to ignore it or filter it how you please. But scientists do not have that option.

  18. Frank said:
    we need to humbly listen to each others understanding of scripture and allow our own to be measured.

    Thanks for the reminder, I know I get on my high horse sometimes. Humility and listening should always be the first option. But I’m sure that being provocative is also a valid rhetorical style. I’m not trying to marginalise anybody, but I am stating my case the best I know how.

    I appreciate all my Christian brethren, and value your comments.

    kia ora,

  19. For me, one of the things that is of concern is the processes as to how theistic evolutionary thinking has come about.

    I get the impression from most poeple who hold to these views that they have studied the physical evidence and then taken another look at Genesis 1 and then thought “ok because the physical evidence proves ‘this’ then Genesis 1 must mean ‘this'”. Seemingly, trying to make the Bible fit into evolutionary ideas. rather than the other way around. This is not be true of all who hold these views. It is simply something I’ve observed from many who do.

    Could someone also elaborate on the poem idea?

    I don’t understand what is poetic about Genesis 1.

  20. It’s all to do with the structure of it in the original language. We lose this in the English translation.

    Do some study of Hebrew poetry structure. It’s really interesting and will give you insight into the depth,intricacy and life of much of the Bible.

    You may also want to look at the distinct differences between Genesis 1 and 2. If they are literal accounts of creation, which one is correct…. since they are different. Genesis 2 says it was all created in one day… if we understand “yom” to mean a literal day.

    Stop looking at western scientists and their understanding of scripture and start looking at millenia old eastern hebrew understandings of scripture (since that’s what they were itended for). I think you will find that evolution vs creation is not actually an issue and nor is it the intent of the passages.

    I don’t look at science all that much since it can be used to argue almost anything, but I am very interested in our interpretations of scripture, their context and the meanings of the original languages and how we translate them.

  21. One way of looking at it is:

    If you want to understand God, study His Word.

    If you want to understand Creation, study the world around you!

    See how they are kinda different areas? The problems come about when scientists begin to extrapolate and make (anti-)religious-sounding statements (which simply reveal their unscientific bias), or when Christians make statements about the physical world which also have no basis in reality.

  22. An example…

    If You want to know how your lawnmower was built.

    Studying the lawnmover pulling it apart, testing all the pieces, putting it back together, etc will never give you the exact answer as to how exactly the lawnmower was built. I can give general ideas and indicate certain thing. But it won’t give you a definative answer.

    The other way to find out how it was built is to ask the person who built it or to find a record of how they built it. Unless the builder or record maker was being deceptive this would be a far better way to find your answers.

  23. hi Jonathan,
    “Studying the lawnmover pulling it apart, testing all the pieces, putting it back together, etc will never give you the exact answer …”
    That’s a good description of the scientific enterprise. All science is based on theories that model the physical world based on available evidence. Mathematical certainties aren’t so common.

    “But it won’t give you a definative answer.”
    I agree. But the law of gravity (for example) is pretty hard to avoid, even though the science behind it is “only a theory”.

    “The other way to find out how it was built is to ask the person who built it or to find a record of how they built it.”
    Agreed. I think our philosophical differences are really quite small. I think that the geologic column, fossil evidence, galactic redshifts, cosmic background radiation is an excellent record of the Creator’s work. Again, I don’t think Genesis 1 is a science text. But I fully concur with the biblical teaching of a Creator God. In fact I think the theistic evolution model fits the Bbile better than the literalist YEC model.

    cheers,

  24. I would consider that the geologic column, fossil evidence, galactic redshifts, cosmic background radiation were not part of the creators record, but part of creation itself which is open to huge amounts of debate.

    I’m not a great scientist by any means. But for example, if you were to find a piece of fossil evidence and give it to 10 difference scientists and ask them to independantly report on how this fossil came about and how old it was. I don’t believe you would get a unanimous answer. Evidence of this nature does not lead to consistent definate results. As Dan said earlier physical evidence is as interpretable as the biblical account. If not more!

  25. Servant,

    I don’t have access to the original text. But I’ve had a look at Genesis 2 regarding your referenece to a 1 day creation. Are you talking about verse 4?

  26. Jonathan said:
    “I’m not a great scientist by any means”
    Then I am surprised that you can so glibly ignore the most authoritative science with lame excuses.

    “How do you think Adam and Eve came about?”
    Their names give a clue as to the allegorical nature of the text. Adam = generic “Man”, Eve = generic “Mother”. The point of the story of the Fall is that all humanity has participated in the original sin.

  27. Their names give a clue as to the allegorical nature of the text. Adam = generic “Man”, Eve = generic “Mother”.

    How do you know this?
    Why could it not be that “man” = Adam because he was the first, and “mother’ = Eve because she was the mother of all? Could it not be that their names give a clue to their actual physical created roles, rather than the other way around, as you suppose?

    To suppose as you do is bordering on the ridiculous.
    I could say that the fact that the name Jesus means “God Will Help” means that the gospels are simply allegorical, that Jesus didn’t necessarily exist and that the biblical stories about Him are just to show how God will help us.

    And how could the point be made that all humanity has participated in original sin unless all have literally descended from the two original, actual, literal and real sinners, Adam and Eve?

  28. Peasant,

    Could you please show exactly how my excuse was lame? rather than attacking me personally with statements such as “Then I am surprised that you can so glibly ignore the most authoritative science with lame excuses”
    This way I might learn something from you, rather than just feeling offended!

    So you claim that fossil evidence is the most authoritative science?

    Gravity that you refered to earlier is authoritative science. You can test it again and again and come up with consistent results.

    Historical science is not authoritative science. Historical Science is all about interpreting evidence. You have presupposed ideas that will affect your interpretation.

    The fact is that the world provides evidence for evolution. It also provides evidence for a literal Genesis. It will also hold evidence for several other plausable and some rediculous reasons for the earths existance.

    What it comes down to is your Worldview… How you choose to view the evidence.

  29. Jonathan, the established scientific models are structured ONLY on the evidence, NOT on someone’s preconceived ideas. The evidence from numerous lines of research is overwhelmingly in favour of an old Earth. I already mentioned some of them off the top of my head. The scientific community usually does not bother “debating” these results, just as I wouldn’t bother debating someone who told me gravity is a lie! The fossil evidence coheres with observations from biology, DNA research, geological strata, and radiometric dating. A classic example of a transitional fossil is Archaeopteryx. I’m afraid that Creationist “evidence” has been thoroughly debunked.

  30. Dan:
    OK I’ll back off a little, I’m more a student of science than a biblical scholar. After looking up a few references, I’ll *tentatively* accept that Adam and Eve were actual people.

    I still have a problem with the doctrine of “original sin”, the phrase is found nowhere in the Bible. All humans are culpable for their own sinfulness, but original sin implies we can partly blame Adam & Eve.

  31. Jonathan, the established scientific models are structured ONLY on the evidence, NOT on someone’s preconceived ideas.

    You missed my point… The exact same evidence can be view by two different people and these two people can come up with two completely different explainations for that same evidence. Just as the exact same case could go before two different Judges and, due to the judges different prejudices, there be two different outcomes. Everyone has preconceived ideas. It’s part of life.

    You linked to a website which puts this debate as Science vs. Religion. This is not correct assessment.

    Science; you think of things like examination, observation, making and proving theories, methodical study, etc.
    Religion or Christianity; you think of a set of beliefs, morality, a higher being, a student of scripture, etc.

    These 2 things are not opposing! Science is nonmoral. It is not a worldview. It is a tool. Used by people who already have a worldview. Christianity is a worldview. If fact there are many different Worldviews which are part of Christianity.

    Creationism uses Science. If you look back over the last centuries you will see that alot of pioneers in science were Creationists! Science in and of itself is not apart from nor opposed to Creationism.

    Evolution in it’s purest form is not just science. It’s a worldview that uses Science to back it’s claims.

    Another site you linked to opens with this quote “Creationist claims are numerous and varied, so it is often difficult to track down information on any given claim. Plus, creationists constantly come up with new claims which need addressing.” I find this quote interesting. It seems this person is atempting to mock Creationists when you could quite happily replace the word ‘Creationist’ with the work ‘Evolutionist’ and not be wrong.

    We’re not going to get anywhere in this discussion unless we can find some common ground. We’re curently arguing our case from completely different perspectives. I guess that because you believe in an anagolous Genesis and I believe in a literal genesis we may never have a common ground/worldview.

    Everything else we’ve been talking about are really sideissues to the fact that we have different Worldviews.

  32. Scott, your answer boils down to this: “If the Bible tells me the moon is made of green cheese then that’s my Worldview — Scientists are just biased”. The point of my original post was to show that the Young-Earth position is very weak, and not backed by ANY credible sceince.

    Your worldview argument is (perhaps) based on a misunderstanding of philosophical naturalism (materialism) vs. methodological naturalism (the scientific method). I am no materialist, and neither are 40% of scientists. See the first link in my previous comment.

  33. your answer boils down to this: “If the Bible tells me the moon is made of green cheese then that’s my Worldview — Scientists are just biased”.

    Nice! That would be trying to make me look Ignorant by creating a statement that’s blatantly absurd.

    My answer boils down to this “God through His Bible tells me that He made the heavens and the earth in 1 day and that over the next 5 days things on the earth were manipulated and created. I am yet to see a factual (provable beyond any doubt) piece of scientific evidence that does not fit this biblical idea. — Some scientists are misinterpreting the evidence.”

    You could very easily reverse your comment… ‘The point of my comments was to show that the Old-Earth position is very weak, and not backed by ANY credible biblical stance.’. Like I said before… we’re arguing from different perspectives and hence not getting anywhere fast.

  34. It’s not about “worldviews” or “perspectives”. I’ve given you plenty of evidence in my numerous links. If you choose to deny the evidence (thousands of lifetimes spent in the scientific quest for the actual, real nature of our world), then that is indeed your perogative. I recommend that you read science texts other than Creationist literature, and learn some of the basics of the science involved.

  35. Science is a mere tool. You put something in, and something comes out.

    Science cannot prove anything beyond firstly, what is understood of its input, and secondly, how its output is interpreted.

    With that in mind, I don’t see how any non-Creationist scientific literature can be any less biased, or even any less wrong, than Creationist scientific literature.

    What is different, however, are non-scientific aspects of these various views.

    Since no-one knows everything (excepting God Himself), there will always be unknowns, and hence assumptions and presuppostions.

    I don’t think Jonathan, nor myself, nor indeed anyone who can think rationally, would necessarily deny any evidence. What they may question is – what variables were used to produce such evidence, and how can this evidence be interpreted.

    As a result, I find that there is no point in attempting to resolve points of contention with regard to evidence, as I’ve seen that both sides of the argument can equally and rationally refute the other.

    We have to look at the non-science bits if we want to make some sense of it all.

  36. Yes Peasant, I have heard of Cognative dissonance. What does this have to do with the creation of the earth? or are you trying to imply that I’m ignorant again?

    ———-

    If you are going to work out the age of a piece of volcanic rock you may choose to use Potassium-Argon Dating. (May I point out that at this point you have already made assuptions about the rock by choosing to use this form of dating)

    However this is perfectly rational, and is using science.

    You would compare the porportion of K-40 to Ar-40 and come up with a figure.

    This is perfectly rational, using scientific means to find a result.

    But now what happens is not pure science! Because you have to interpret what these figures means
    ! To interpret this figure you have to make assumtions about the history of the rock. These assumtions are affected by your worldview! You have presupposed ideas to interpret what this figure means!

    ‘The evidence’ is that there is x amount of K-40 and there is y amount of Ar-40 in the rock.

    How you interpret what that means is not evidence.

    As Dan has said, The problem is where Science ends and where interpretation begins.

  37. Quote from an essay about Scientific Creationism and Error

    Scientific creationism differs from conventional science in numerous and substantial ways. One obvious difference is the way scientists and creationists deal with error.

    Science is wedded, at least in principle, to the evidence. Creationism is unabashedly wedded to doctrine, as evidenced by the statements of belief required by various creationist organizations and the professions of faith made by individual creationists. Because creationism is first and foremost a matter of Biblical faith, evidence from the natural world can only be of secondary importance. Authoritarian systems like creationism tend to instill in their adherents a peculiar view of truth.

    Many prominent creationists apparently have the same view of truth as political radicals: whatever advances the cause is true, whatever damages the cause is false. From this viewpoint, errors should be covered up where possible and only acknowledged when failure to do so threatens greater damage to the cause. If colleagues spread errors, it is better not to criticize them publicly. Better to have followers deceived than to have them question the legitimacy of their leaders. In science, fame accrues to those who overturn errors. In dogmatic systems, one who unnecessarily exposes an error to the public is a traitor or an apostate.

    Apparently you guys have science/ evolution/ (methodological naturalism) confused with evolutionISM/ secularISM/ (philosohical naturalism).

    Potassium-Argon Dating
    This method is used to determine the age of extremely old artifacts and rocks. Geologists have used this method to date rocks as old as 4 billion years old. The radioactive isotope potassium degrades into the gas argon. Because the rate of decay is a known constant — a 1.25 billion year half-life — scientists can compare the ratio of potassium to argon and determine the age of the artifact or rock. This technique requires the presence of volcanic rock. It’s based on the assumption that any argon would have burned off when the hot lava first flowed, so the hardening rock would start off with all potassium and no argon. Archaeologists find it most useful when lava flow overlays strata, showing evidence of human existence. Using the law of superposition, this indicates that evidence found below a lava flow must be older than the date determined by potassium-argon dating.

    Clearly, Radiometric Dating Does Work
    ! (from NCSEweb.org):
    The creationist approach of focusing on examples where radiometric dating yields incorrect results is a curious one for two reasons. First, it provides no evidence whatsoever to support their claim that the earth is very young. If the earth were only 6000–10 000 years old, then surely there should be some scientific evidence to confirm that hypothesis; yet the creationists have produced not a shred of it so far. Where are the data and age calculations that result in a consistent set of ages for all rocks on earth, as well as those from the moon and the meteorites, no greater than 10 000 years? Glaringly absent, it seems.

    Science is rich in evidence. Creationism is distinctly lacking, instead it relies on empty rhetoric.

  38. See, I think you’re missing the point, peasant.

    It’s easy to pick an article or an argument that supports ones point-of-view. I could refer to this article (research paper, even), for example, that shows that Potassium Argon dating might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

    But that’s not the point I was making.

    No matter how much science you throw at a problem, the answer lies not in the solution itself, but in a) how we interpret the solution, and more importantly, b) did we understand the problem properly in the first place?

    The answer is outside of science and inside our hearts.

  39. Ok ok ok ok!!!

    Having studied geology at university (almost did it as a major), could I please say that even there we were taught that certain assumptions were made as part of the testing. Furthermore, the results *could* be flawed because of these assumptions. So let’s not over state the case from radiometric dating.

    In your reply to Jono you ‘demonstrated’ that radiometric dating works. But Jono in the previous comment didn’t deny this. He just was showing how assumptions occurred in deciding to use the test, and the interpretation of results gained from it.

    I don’t think you ‘see’ the point Dan and Jono are making. Plug numbers into a framwork, and you will get answers. But what about the assumptions that lead you to use that particular test in the firstplace? (Let alone the assuptions inherent in the particular test you may be using). Interpretation of results is not/never has been a neutral thing.

  40. At last! An attempt to support your claims with a reference!

    The Bible is open to *far* more interpretation than the evidence from numerous diverse, independent fields of science, all supporting an Old Earth.

    The only reason YEC has *any* traction is because AiG and ICR are either poor scientists or fundamentally dishonest. Why didn’t Snelling submit his anti- K/Ar paper to a peer-reviewed academic journal? Here are some good reasons why Snelling’s work doesn’t make the cut:

    Most of Snelling’s examples fall into two classes: (1) rocks which were never expected to be datable by K-Ar and understandably yield nonsensical results (e.g., minerals formed in the mantle); and (2) rocks which will yield accurate long-term K-Ar dates (though they don’t yield accurate short-term K-Ar dates) because their initial argon is negligible (despite being non-zero).

    To start the rebuttal, I’d recommend that folks examine the data which Snelling references. E.g., obtain Dalrymple’s original study and compare the actual data to Snelling’s misleading spin-doctoring job on the paper’s contents. Dalrymple reported K and Ar analyses of 26 samples from lava flows observed in historic times. Of those 26, one contained obvious (upon visual inspection) mantle inclusions. Not a single one of the remaining twenty-five samples contained enough excess argon to interfere with long-term K-Ar assessments. For example, Snelling listed the Mt. Etna basalt from that study. When it is 60.0 million years old (younger than any mesozoic, paleozoic, or precambrian formation is today), it will give a K-Ar age of 60.3 million years — an error of one-half of one percent due to initial argon. Dalrymple’s study actually indicates that K-Ar dating is quite dependable for long-term isotopic age determinations, which is precisely the opposite of the the position that Snelling tried to use it to support.

    Misleading claims aside, Snelling’s approach is critically flawed in three ways:

    1
    First and foremost, the data do not support the position that he wishes to promote — that all old isotopic results based on the decay of (40)K can simply be ignored as untrustworthy. The bulk of the data suggests that the methods are reliable (more detail below). Snelling can try to create the opposite impression with a slanted presentation of carefully hand-picked data, but even then (as noted above) the data that he picked out don’t really support the position he wants to promote.

    2
    Further, if Snelling wishes to make a general case against (40)K isotope dating, it’s not going to be done by dealing in laundry-lists of marginal cases, deliberate misapplications of the dating methods, and concentrating on the least reliable methodologies. Instead he should be trying to bring down the opposition’s best evidence — the most reliable methodologies (Ar-Ar in most cases), the samples which by all other tests appear the most suitable, the results whose interpretation isn’t unclear. Snelling and other creationists never touch that data, perhaps because they know they don’t have a case against it.

    3
    And, finally, even if Snelling succeeds with the first two items, his case is still only half-finished. It is fairly easy to make up excuses for ignoring the evidence, but that’s apologetics rather than science. Snelling can’t turn his own desired timescale into a legitimate alternative until he stops merely “explaining the evidence away” and begins to “explain the evidence.” Snelling would have to show how the observed pattern of results is a necessary and expected consequence of the age and history of the Earth which he accepts.

    For example consider the Albian Stage, which sits roughly in the middle of the Cretaceous. It was identified in the 1840s — more than a century before isotopic methods became widely utilized — by distinctive fossil composition. The identification was performed by geologists who believed in fixity of species, decades before Darwin published Origin of Species. It cannot be argued that the age or position of the stage is driven by “evolutionary” concerns.

    Harland et al. (A Geologic Time Scale 1989, pp. 89-90) report more than 30 samples from several locations which (by stratigraphic position) were formed during the deposition of the Albian Stage. The number of samples for just that one stage is greater than the number of bad ages that Snelling produces. Unlike Snelling’s list, these samples are ones which have the highest appearance of suitability — for example, least evidence of weathering or later metamorphism, greatest concentration in the relevant isotopes. Several of the reported individual numbers are in reality the “aggregate” result of a suite of several samples and several measurements. The results are (values in millions of years, by K-Ar methodology except bold which are Rb-Sr):

    95.00 ± 1.00     98.70 ± 2.50     100.00 ± 0.80     104.40 ± 0.75
    96.18 ± 3.11     98.90 ± 1.23     100.27 ± 3.00     105.36 ± 0.91
    96.18 ± 3.14     99.00 ± 1.12     100.60 ± 0.50     106.00 ± 0.50
    96.50 ± 1.35     99.24 ± 3.38     100.60 ± 2.50     107.45 ± 5.00
    97.50 ± 1.00     99.25 ± 1.39     100.62 ± 4.02     110.48 ± 3.87
    97.60 ± 0.48 (*2)     99.40 ± 0.65     100.62 ± 4.00     114.76 ± 4.01
    97.60 ± 1.00     99.60 ± 2.50     102.57 ± 4.10     116.05 ± 1.24
    98.22 ± 2.00 (*1)     99.70 ± 1.10     103.10 ± 0.95
    98.22 ± 3.22     99.72 ± 0.76 (*3)     103.55 ± 4.00    
    98.35 ± 1.16     99.77 ± 0.98     103.58 ± 0.72    

    The correlations are even more significant than the above list indicates on its own. Formations sitting on top of Albian formations date to younger than 97Ma; formations sitting below Albian formations date to older than 110Ma. Not only do the list of best-sample Albian dates fall into a consistent range, that range is in agreement with the ranges of formations which were necessarily deposited before and after (by simple geological relationships that even Snelling would agree with).

    Why do these samples from all over the world — identified by distinctive fossil composition — consistently date to similar values by multiple isotopic methods? The mainstream scientists’ answer is simple: the results consistently agree because the methods work, and because the Albian stage represents a span of roughly 15 million years of time, roughly 100 million years ago. But what is Snelling’s answer to the same question? If the methods are as wildly unreliable as he would have us believe, and all Albian formations were deposited at most 6,000 years ago… why is there a consistent pattern of results agreeing on ages more than four orders of magnitude off?

    As an illustration, consider: We have volcanic sanidine and biotite from Montana and Wyoming which sit with late Albian fossils (marked (*1) above). These contain a range of concentrations of potassium, and yet give a series of almost-identical ages around 98 million years. We also have glauconite (a mineral that forms in clays where deposition is slow, often replacing fecal pellets, shells, and other objects) from Germany which sits with late Albian fossils (marked (*2) above). These contain a range of concentrations of potassium, and yet give a series of almost-identical ages around 98 million years. We also have glauconite from France which sits with late Albian fossils (marked (*3) above). Multiple samples give Rb/Sr ages of 97 to 102 million years (each with about 3 million years uncertainty). Did each of these inherit “excess argon” (and excess (87)Sr) from a different mysterious, unnamed source? Did the samples with the most potassium “coincidentally” end up with the most excess argon so that the whole suite of ages would agree? Why do all of these far-flung groups of “fictitious, meaningless” ages agree on the same value — and how did they each get buried with
    identical (but locally unique) fossil assemblages?

    Generic claims about excess argon do not explain the pattern of results. The young-Earth crowd doesn’t have a sensible explanation for the results. Snelling knows this, which makes his obfuscation about K-Ar dating all the less excusable.

  41. I’m sorry peasant but you really missed the point we all are trying hard to make here.

    The main thing you responded to from Dan and Scott’s comments was a paragraph of Dan’s which was followed by this statement…

    But that’s not the point I was making.

    Thanks peasant for the disscussion so far but we’re not really getting anywhere,

    My hope is that you will come to see that Creationism and Evolution are, while at different ends of the spectrum, not that different from each other. In the way that the both use physical evidence, both use science and both think each other are brainwashed and ignorant due to the fact that both rely on assumptions based on that persons faith/worldview. I also hope that you don’t ignore creationism in the same way that you seem to think I am dismissing evolution. I’m not ignorant. I’m simply unable to see what you see in the same way. Something that seems clear and obvious to you is not at all clear and obvious to me, and vice versa. This is because when we look at evidence we are affected by things that we already believe to be true (assumptions). Hence you statement “The Bible is open to *far* more interpretation than the evidence from numerous diverse, independent fields of science, all supporting an Old Earth.” This is simply YOUR belief… from my perspective I would say the complete opposite.

    I don’t believe you’re back-sliding because of your stance and I don’t think that that your belief in evolution makes you a non-christian. However I strongly believe that Genesis, in regard to the order of creation, Adam and Eve, the fall, Cain and Able, the flood etc, shows so much of the nature of God, who He is and what He’s about that by removing meaning from Genesis by saying it’s just a poem and ‘far more open to interpretation’ means you are also removing so much meaning from the rest of the Bible and missing out so much of who God really is. And I think that’s a shame.

    I challenge you to read Genesis 1 through 3 a few time over a few days. Also read passages like;

    1 Chronicles 1:1
    Romans 5:14
    1 Corinthians 15:22
    1 Corinthians 15:42-49
    1 Timothy 2:13
    Jude 1:14

    These will help you to see how foundational to the Biblical Text the story of Adam is and hence how important the Creation account is to the Bible as a whole.

  42. peasant, I really can’t believe how selective your reading of our comments is. I’m astounded, even.

    Go back and read my last comment, then have a long hard think about why I consider your response to be a complete waste of time.

    Jonathan is spot-on. Please read his comment carefully.

  43. Dan, Jonathan, Scotty

    I have been slow to respond to this because I agree, we aren’t getting anywhere. I find it ironic that you think I have missed the point! I have made a titanic effort to repeatedly address your “points”, only to hear a recurring mantra-like response of “worldviews”, assumptions” “interpretation”.
    I was once a young-earther too. I’ve heard it all before.

    If you really study scientific materials, you will learn that evolution is indeed as much a fact as gravity, and it is not a philosophy. Philosophies are not constructed from physical evidence and experimentation, but science is!

    You have to provide hard evidence as to why evolution is not true… not that you just can’t believe it. Creationists have yet to provide ANY evidence that disproves evolution. I have provided several rebuttals to creationist’s ridiculous claims. You also have to come up with a viable, scientific alternative to evolution. Creationists have been unable to do so… all they can do is quote scripture. I’m looking for science here.

    Are you aware that not everyone is Christian, or belongs to your particular sect of Christianity? If your goal is to “undo the damage” done by evolution, and to convince people that the bible is not a myth, you have not even begun to start. How is looking at scientific evidence “in the light of the bible” different from looking at it in any other light? Are you suggesting that the conclusions should be influenced by biblical faith? Shame on you. Facts are facts, regardless of your beliefs.

  44. Peasant,

    I find it somewhat ammusing that you are so happy to point out how you think Creationists are ignorant, closed-minded and suffering from cognative dissonance. It seems, from you last comment, these qualities may actually be a bit closer to home than you may like to think!

  45. Look, I was once a believer of evolution too. I’ve heard it all before.

    “Are you suggesting that the conclusions should be influenced by biblical faith?”

    Why not? There can be no conclusions that aren’t influenced by some sort of belief.
    As a Christian, if one cannot be influenced by nothing, what better thing to be influenced by than the Bible?

    “Facts are facts, regardless of your beliefs.”

    Yes, but I’m not arguing about the facts. I’m questioning conclusions that are based on the facts.

  46. Wow, Robert! It’s Eric from LA. You have a lively debate going! It was great meeting you in Christchurch at Grace a few weeks ago! Hope all is going well!

    I enjoyed an afternoon surfing at South Brighton Beach!

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