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Documentary, Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

Dismantled: a scientific deconstruction of the theory of evolution

Documentary 2020 / 93 minutes Rating: 8/10 The Creation vs. Evolution debate is sometimes portrayed as being the Bible vs. Science, but Dismantled wants us to know that while creationists certainly stand on the Bible, they aren't conceding on Science. Flipping the script, the documentary begins by asking if evolution should be considered scientific.

"Is it proper to equate evolution with science? Does science have the ability to address questions regarding past events that we were not there to directly observe or verify – events like the spontaneous origins of the universe, the origin of life from non-life, and the evolution of the earliest life forms into mammals? Or might we be giving science a power that it does not have? To answer this, it is important that we accurately define science, as well as its limitations."

Evolution has street cred because it's supposed to be scientific – it claims to come from the very same source of knowledge that gave us rockets, microwaves pizza, smartphones, and self-driving cars. But as Dismantled notes, evolution has little in common with that sort of science. A quote from the film, taken from a biology textbook, explains that:

"Scientific inquiry is a powerful way to know nature, but there are limitations to the kind of questions it can answer. These limits are set by science's requirements that hypotheses be testable and falsifiable and that observations and experimental results be repeatable."

It is precisely the testable, repeatable, falsifiable nature of operational science that got us a man on the moon, and it is precisely those points that evolution's historical science doesn't share. Our origins involve events that happened long ago and aren't repeatable, making these events hard to test, and these theories hard to falsify. So the origins debate isn't about the Bible vs. Science, but more about one historical account vs. another... with the notable difference that one of those historical accounts is thousands of years old and unchanging, and the other is a recent creation and constantly being revised. That's the film's lead-off point, and it takes the first 20 minutes to make it. From there, they go on to assess which of these two historical accounts seem a better fit with the world we observe around us. That's the bulk of the film, and this 70-minute tour takes us through topics including: the micro = macro fallacy which assumes, without evidence, that small changes can add up to bigger ones genetics including the limits of supposed "beneficial mutations," and the problem of genetic entropy – that we as a species are breaking down faster than natural selection could ever build us up – and the supposed genetic similarity between man and apes the fossil record including Man's supposed ape-like ancestors, and the humanity of Neanderthals radiometric dating and its problems Dismantled is a slick production – the visuals are fantastic! – but its strength is in the scientists consulted. Whether it is Jason Lisle, John Sandford, Georgia Purdom, Rob Carter, Andrew Snelling, Nathaniel Jeanson (PhDs one and all), they all know how to explain big ideas to the rest of us who may not have been in a science class for decades. That doesn't mean this is all easy to understand, and I think most of us will have to (and be happy to) watch this twice, just because there is so much here to chew on. Cautions The one caution I'll note regards a mistake the film could, indirectly, encourage: believing the Bible only when the evidence says it is reasonable to do so. It is important to remember the evidence discussed in Dismantled wasn't available 100 years ago, and yet God's Word was just as true then. We need to know the Bible isn't true because it syncs up with the evidence; rather, the reason the evidence syncs up with the Bible is that the Bible is true. If that doesn't seem like much of a difference, its significance becomes apparent when the evidence doesn't seem to fit with the Bible. In those circumstances, if our trust is grounded in the evidence rather than the Bible, then we will side with it, against God's Word. But if we trust God, then we'll always stick with the Bible, trusting that any apparent conflicts will be resolved in time. Conclusion Dismantled is superb, summarizing important foundational concepts even as it presents the most current findings. I'd recommend it as a purchase, rather than a rental, because you'll want to watch it again to be able to properly digest all that is on offer. The target audience is high school and up, and for those who want to dig in even deeper, a great place to start is the recommended resources list available on the film's website. You can check out the trailer below, and then rent it on Amazon.com or buy the DVD or Blu-ray at Creation.com.

Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution, Watch for free

Secrets of the Cell with Michael Behe

When Darwin first published On the Origin of the Species, the science of his time saw the cell as an uncomplicated organism. That’s quite the contrast with what we’ve learned in the 150 years since: the deeper we delve into life on the smallest scale, the more we find there is yet to discover. Even the simplest cells are more intricate than the most complex automated factories. In the five short videos that follow, Dr. Michael Behe shares "secrets of the cell" to show us how evolution's random mutation and time simply can't account for the magnificent design we find even on the cellular level. And in each episode, he uses helpful analogies and computer animations to introduce key Intelligent Design concepts. Behe is one of the principal figures behind the Intelligent Design (ID) Movement, which argues that Nature gives evidence of being intelligently designed. Creationists would agree, but the two groups part ways on who gets the credit. ID proponents refuse to name their Intelligent Designer, leaving room in their tent for Muslims, Moonies, Christians, and even agnostics (some of whom might believe in thousands of years, and others who hold to millions of years). Meanwhile, creationists give glory specifically to God for how fearfully and wonderfully we have been made. Thus these ID videos, on their own, don't bring us to the Truth. However, they do a fantastic job of exposing the evolutionary lie. Episode 1: Someone Must Have the Answer! (4 minutes) In the opening episode, Dr. Michael Behe introduces us to "the unseen world of organic micro-machines" contained inside the "most fundamental unit of life," the cell. He also shares how he first came to question the explanatory power of Darwin's Theory: "My own view of the cell took a turn years ago. I was in a lab at the National Institutes of Health doing postdoctoral research; I was discussing the origin of life with a fellow postdoc. As she and I thought about the cell, we wondered, how could its complex membrane, proteins, metabolism, genetic code, how could all that have formed by the accumulation of undirected changes? So we were both sort of stunned by the notion. But then we just laughed it off. We figured that even if we didn't know the answer, somebody must know..." But that isn't what he found. Episode 2: The Complexity of Life (5 minutes) One of the key evidences of Intelligent Design is how some biological "machines" could not have evolved via any sort of step-by-step process – they need all the steps already in place to function. This is what Behe calls "irreducible complexity" and he gives as one example, the flagellum – a type of "outboard motor" that some single-cell bacterium use to move about. " has a number of parts a driveshaft, a universal joint, a rotor, bushings, stator, even a clutch and braking system. The motor of the flagellum has been clocked at a hundred thousand revolutions per minute and...removing even one component of this elegant machine destroys its function..." So how could such an irreducibly complex machine have been "developed blindly, in stages"? Episode 3: The Power of Evolution (6 minutes) Behe begins with how bugs are amazing, and far more intricate than anything Man can engineer. In fact, there is a whole field of science called biomimetics, or biomimicry devoted to improving human designs by studying bug and animal mechanisms that are "both precise and purposeful." Did you know that one bug even comes complete with gears?!?  Behe talks about mutation and natural selection, and because these are key elements of Darwin's Theory, Christians sometimes make the mistake of thinking we must oppose and deny their impact. But the way to figure out the truth isn't simply to hold to a position 180-degrees from that of mainstream science – evolutionists can't be trusted to be that reliably wrong. The key difference between evolution and creation is not in whether mutation and natural selection happen, but rather in what they can accomplish. Evolutionists say mutation and natural selection can, together, create wholly new species, accidentally. We argue that the changes possible are of a more minor sort, and the potential for them is largely built-in, or the changes come about as a result of mutations causing information loss, which would be better called devolution. Episode 4: Effects of Mutation (7 minutes)  Richard Lenski's 30-year long E coli bacteria experiment is one of the most popular, and seemingly best examples of evolution observably happening. Mutations had helped the offspring grow faster, and grow bigger than their ancestors. But what sort of mutations were these? It turned out that they involved broken genes. Thus this was, once again, devolution and did nothing to explain the growth in complexity that would be needed to take us from the simple first molecules to the awesome creature that is Man. But how does breaking genes help a cell grow faster? Behe notes that just as jettisoning key car parts - maybe the doors, most of the seats, the hood, and cigarette lighter – might allow it to run further on a tank of gas, so, too, some broken genes can increase a cell's ability to reproduce in a given environment...but only at the expense of the complexity it might need to deal with other circumstances. As Behe puts it, such "...helpful mutations are not a DNA upgrade." Episode 5: The X Factor in Life (8 minutes) In this conclusion, Behe invites us to follow where the evidence takes us. Conclusion For more Michael Behe, be sure to check out his full-length free documentary Revolutionary: Michael Behe and the Mystery of the Molecular Machines, which is both an account of the man, and also a history of the Intelligent Design Movement. The film, and our review, can be found here....

Science - Creation/Evolution

Evolution as a gravedigger

Theistic evolution undermines God’s Truth, but it’s only continuing what Old Earth Creationism began *** Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland has recently published an excellent article, "Theistic evolution, Christian Knowledge and Culture's Plausibility Structure", in the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies (Volume 2, Issue 1:1-18, 2017). In it he reflects on the broader cultural implications of adopting theistic evolution as a means to integrate Christianity and science. Knowledge and plausibility structures Dr. Moreland notes that our Western society is highly empirical. Our culture presumes that valid knowledge can be acquired only through science (scientism), whereas non-empirical claims concerning values, ethics, spirits, and the like, are merely personal opinions (cultural relativism). Today, the central issue is not whether Christianity is true, but whether it can be known to be true: Does Christianity have a valid source of knowledge? Knowledge is defined by Dr. Moreland as "true belief based on adequate grounds".  He contends: The deepest issue facing the church today is this: Are its main creeds and central teachings items of knowledge or mere matters of blind faith–privatized personal beliefs or issues of feeling to be accepted or set aside according to the whim of individual or cultural pressures? Do these teachings have cognitive and behavioral authority that set a worldview framework for approaching science, art, ethics–indeed, all of life? Or are cognitive and behavioral authority set by what scientists, evolutionary biologists, or the members of BioLogos say? Are the church’s doctrines determined by what Gallup polls tell us is embraced by cultural and intellectual elites? Do we turn to these sources and set aside or revise two thousand years of Christian thinking and doctrinal/creedal expressions in order to make Christian teaching acceptable to the neuroscience department at UCLA or the paleontologists at Cambridge? The question of whether or not Christianity provides its followers with a range of knowledge is no small matter. It is a question of authority for life and death, and lay brothers and sisters are watching Christian thinkers and leaders to see how we approach this matter. And, in my view, as theistic evolutionists continue to revise the Bible over and over again, they inexorably give off a message about knowledge: science gives us hard knowledge based on evidence and with which we can be confident, and while theology and biblical teaching do not give us knowledge, they provide personal meaning and values for those with the faith to embrace them. Every culture, Dr. Moreland writes, has a plausibility structure – a set of background assumptions that determines what ideas people are willing to entertain as possibly true. Our current Western cultural plausibility structure elevates science, and bans Christianity from serious consideration. Such cultural bias makes effective evangelization difficult. Theistic evolution as a gravedigger Dr. Moreland contends that the acceptance of theistic evolution by many Christians has greatly contributed to the undermining of Christianity as a source of knowledge: In my view, there are certain contemporary currents of thought that risk undercutting Christianity as a source of knowledge, and I shall argue that by its very nature, theistic evolution is the prime culprit. It is one of the church’s leading gravediggers... The term "gravedigger" (from Os Guinness's 1983 book The Gravedigger File) refers to Christians who, though well-intended, adopt views that eventually undermine the church. Dr. Moreland raises three concerns: Theistic evolution reinforces scientism. It exemplifies the notion that, when science and the Bible clash, we revise the Bible, not science, since scientific truth claims exhibit solid knowledge based on facts. Such willingness to revise Biblical interpretations held for 2000 years implies that Biblical teaching is tentative. The most pervasive form of theistic evolution holds that God's involvement in evolution is undetectable, so that it is in practice indistinguishable from naturalistic evolution. Most theistic evolutionists are opposed to Intelligent Design, the notion that God's hand can readily be discerned in nature. According to Dr. Moreland: Theistic evolution is intellectual pacifism that lulls people to sleep while the barbarians are at the gates. In my experience, theistic evolutionists are usually trying to create a safe truce with science so Christians can be left alone to practice their privatized religion while retaining the respect of the dominant intellectual culture. ...Sometimes theistic evolutionists claim that by embracing evolution, they are actually contributing to the plausibility of Christianity by removing an unnecessary stumbling block – the rejection of evolution – before one can be a well-informed Christian. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. While there are exceptions, my experience with theistic evolutionists is that they have a weak faith, do not see many answers to prayer, and lack a vibrant, attractive Christian life. Ideas have consequences, and if one knows he had to revise the early chapters of Genesis, it will weaken his confidence in the rest of the Bible...After all, if we have to provide naturalistic revisions of the Bible over and over again, why take the yet-to-be-revised portions of scripture seriously? This approach significantly weakens the cognitive authority of the Bible as a source of knowledge of reality... Given scientism, theistic evolution greases the skids towards placing non-scientific claims in a privatized upper story in which their factual, cognitive status is undermined... Dr. Moreland expresses particular concern about the readiness of some Christian scholars to abandon belief in the historical reality of Adam and Eve. Given our culture's current plausibility structure, this contributes to the marginalization of Christian teaching. He comments: If I am right about the broader issues, then the rejection of an historical Adam and Eve has far more troubling implications than those that surface in trying to reinterpret certain biblical texts. The very status of biblical, theological and ethical teachings as knowledge is at stake in the current cultural milieu as is the church’s cognitive marginalization to a place outside the culture’s plausibility structure. Those who reject a historical Adam and Eve inadvertently harm the church by becoming its gravedigger. Finally, Dr. Moreland notes that evolution entails that we are purely physical beings, and that an immaterial soul is no longer considered plausible within our modern culture. He deplores the fact that a number of Christian philosophers have adopted a physicalist view of humans. Responding to cultural challenges How should Christians respond to our culture, with its anti-Christian plausibility structure? Dr. Moreland urges that we should not cave in to the prevailing contemporary currents of ideas. Instead, Christians should hold their ground, "eventually winning the argument due to hard-hitting scholarship and confidence in the Bible": Accordingly, it is of crucial importance that we promote the central teachings of Christianity in general as a body of knowledge and not as a set of faith-practices to be accepted on the basis of mere belief or a shared narrative alone. To fail at this point is to risk being marginalized and disregarded as those promoting a privatized set of feelings or desires that fall short of knowledge... I want to win people to Christ and to “bring down strongholds” that undermine knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:3-5), to penetrate culture with a Christian worldview and to undermine its plausibility structure which, as things stand now, does not include objective theological claims. He stresses the importance of apologetics, especially scientific apologetics, such as is done by the Intelligent Design movement (ID). The church should seek ways, such as a scientific critique of naturalist evolution, that may help to modify a person's plausibility structure so as to create space in which Christianity can be seriously entertained. How should conflicts with science be handled? Dr. Moreland advises that we should not be hasty to revise Scripture. Rather: No, we should be patient, acknowledge the problem, and press into service Christian intellectuals who are highly qualified academically, have respect for the fact that scripture presents us with knowledge (not just truth to be accepted by blind faith), and who want to work to preserve the traditional interpretation of scripture and avoid revisionism. These intellectuals should be given the chance to develop rigorous models that preserve historical Christian teaching, unless, in those rare cases, our interpretation of scripture has been wrong. These intellectuals are heroes because they value loyalty to historic understandings of scripture over the desire to fit in with what scientists are currently claiming. The Intelligent Design movement is just such a set of intellectuals... Rather than tucking their tails between their legs at the first sign of a conflict between the Bible and science, and standing ready (even eager) to let the scientists tell them what they must revise, the members of the ID movement have the intellectual courage and confidence in biblical teaching not to back down. Rather, ID advocates “deconstruct the pretentiousness” of truth-claims that go against biblical assertions that are properly interpreted (and they don’t grab for an interpretation that, all by itself, gives in to the other side of the conflict.) And they don’t make excuses for the Bible; they advance arguments in its support. Digging deeper There is much in this article that I can heartily endorse. I fully concur with Dr. Moreland that theistic evolutionists help dig the church's grave by promoting modern culture's plausibility structure, which has no place for Biblical knowledge. Allowing science to change our views on Adam and Eve is certainly a prime example of this danger. Further, it is commendable that the Intelligent Design movement exposes the weaknesses of naturalist evolution, and seeks to show that nature exhibits many marks of an Intelligent Designer. Yet, in stressing scientific argumentation, and rarely referring to Scripture, the ID movement itself may be contributing to scientism. Moreover, many proponents of ID do not consistently exhibit great confidence in the Bible as a source of knowledge. For example, most of them – including Dr. Moreland – accept an ancient age for the earth, as given by mainstream geology. This obliges them to revise the traditional reading of Genesis 1-11, regarding such things as the creation days, the physical extent of Adam's Fall, Noah's Flood, the genealogies of Gen. 5 & 11, etc. For more discussion on this issue, see my article The Cost of an Old Earth: Is it Worth it? Indeed, the plausibility structure reigning in most of Christian academia is such that it scorns those rare Christian academics who still promote traditional Biblical history. Old Earth Creationism is subject to the same concerns that Dr. Moreland raises regarding theistic evolution, namely: It reinforces scientism. It exemplifies the notion that, when science and the Bible clash, we revise the Bible, not science, since scientific truth claims exhibit solid knowledge based on facts. Such willingness to revise Biblical interpretations held for 2000 years implies that Biblical teaching is tentative. Moreover, the Biblical Adam, though an essential part of traditional Biblical history, becomes blatantly implausible when thrust into the setting of mainstream geology and paleontology, which traces modern humans back at least 300,000 years, with much earlier ancestors, exhibiting suffering and death from the beginning, etc. Consequently, a plausibility structure that includes mainstream geology, and correspondingly downplays Biblical ancient history, paves the way for plausibility structures that exclude further Biblical teachings, such as the historical Adam. I have a high regard for Dr. Moreland. He has written much worthwhile material, and made important contributions to Christian scholarship. Nevertheless, I believe that he has been inconsistent in upholding his own standards, thereby inadvertently contributing to grave-digging. Theistic evolutionists are merely deepening the grave already substantially dug by Old Earth creationists. In his article Dr. Moreland cautions: It should be clear that naturalism is not consistent with biblical Christianity. If that’s true, then the church should do all it can to undermine the worldview of naturalism and to promote, among other things, the cognitive, alethic nature of theology, biblical teaching and ethics. This means that when Christians consider adopting certain views widely accepted in the culture, they must factor into their consideration whether or not such adoption would enhance naturalism’s hegemony and help dig the church’s own grave by contributing to a hostile, undermining plausibility structure. Wise advice! Perhaps Dr. Moreland should heed it by reconsidering his own plausibility structure. This article first appeared in an Oct. 24, 2009 post on Dr. John Byl’s blog Bylogos.blogspot.com and is reprinted here with permission. Dr. John Byl is a Professor emeritus for Trinity Western University, and the author of "God and Cosmos: A Christian View of Time, Space, and the Universe" and "The Divine Challenge: On Matter, Mind, Math & Meaning.”...

Science - Creation/Evolution, Theology

The cost of an old earth: Is it worth it?

Until recently, most Christians believed that the Bible teaches us that the earth was only a few thousand years ago. This contradicts mainstream science, which holds that the earth is billions of years old. Consequently, many Christians, have modified their reading of the Bible accordingly. At first sight, this may seem rather harmless. The age of the earth hardly seems to be a doctrine essential to the Bible's main message of salvation. Yet, much more is at stake than first meets the eye. Accepting mainstream science on the age of the earth entails that we accept the reliability of its dating methods, with all the underlying presumptions. It entails also that we should likewise accept other results of mainstream science that are based on similar assumptions. Let’s see what this implies. The order of creation  We note first that mainstream science challenges not only the timescale of the Genesis creation account but also its order. Genesis 1 says: Day 1 – Water, earthly elements, then light Day 2 – Firmament, then oceans, atmosphere Day 3 – Dry land, then land vegetation, fruit trees, grass Day 4 – Sun, moon, stars Day 5 – Marine life, then birds Day 6 – Land animals, then humans Mainstream science says: 14 billion years ago – light/light elements, then stars/galaxies, then heavy elements/water 4.58 billion years ago – Sun 4.54 billion years ago – earth 550 million years ago (mya) – first fish 440 mya – first primitive plants 360 mya – first land animals – reptiles 245 mya – first mammals 210 mya – first birds 140 mya – first flowering plants 70 mya – first grasses, fruit trees 2 mya – first tool-making humanoids Note that the two orders differ at many places. For example, Genesis has fruit trees first, then birds, and then land animals; mainstream science has exactly the reverse. Genesis has the earth before the Sun and stars; mainstream science has stars and Sun before the earth, etc. Since it does not help to simply recast the creation days as long periods of time, most commentators trying to accommodate mainstream science now advocate that Genesis 1 has to be taken as a purely literary structure, with no real historical information – other than stating that God created the entire universe. The effect of the Fall A second consequence concerns the Fall of Adam. Calvin (and Kuyper) believed that predation, death, disease, thorns, earthquakes all arose as a result of the Fall. Viewed in terms of the traditional reading of Genesis, the fossil record reflects events that all happened after the Fall. Acceptance of an old earth, on the other hand, entails that the fossils we observe mostly reflect life before the Fall. Predation, pain, suffering, disease, earthquakes and the like, must then have existed already before the Fall. The fossil record, thus viewed, implies that the Fall did not have any observable effects on the earth or on non-human life. It follows that proponents of an old earth must minimize the physical consequences of Adam's fall. Traditionally, all animal suffering is seen as a result of human sin. But now it must be seen as part of the initial “very good” creation. Further, if the current world is not a world that has fallen from a better initial state, how can there be a universal restoration (cf Romans 8:19-23; Col. 1:16-20)? There are other difficulties. For example, how could Adam name all the animals if by then more than 99% had already become extinct? Human history Consider further the implications for human history. According to Genesis, Adam and Eve were created directly by God (Gen. 2) about 4000 BC (Gen. 5 & 11). They were the parents of all humans (Gen. 3:20). The Bible describes Adam as a gardener, his son Abel as a shepherd, and his son Cain as a farmer who founded a city (Gen. 4). Tents, musical instruments and bronze and iron tools were all invented by the offspring of Cain (Gen. 4), who were later all destroyed by the Flood (Gen. 6-9), which destroyed all humans except for Noah and his family (cf. 2 Pet. 2:5). Within a few generations after the Flood there is a confusion of language and people spread out to populate the earth (Gen. 11). Mainstream science, on the other hand, gives the following outline of human history: 2 million years BC – homo erectus, anatomically very similar to modern man 200,000 BC – oldest anatomically human Homo sapiens fossils (Ethiopia) 40-50,000 BC – oldest artistic and religious artifacts 40,000 BC – first aborigines in Australia (and continuously there ever since). 9000 BC – first villages 7500 BC – first plant cultivation, domesticated cattle and sheep (neolithic era) 5000 BC – first bronze tools 3000 BC – first written records 1600 BC – first iron tools The Biblical account is clearly at odds with the mainstream interpretation of the archaeological and fossil evidence. For example, if Australian aborigines have indeed lived separately from the rest of the world for 40,000 years then the Flood, if anthropologically universal, must have occurred more than 40,000 years ago. But Genesis places the cultivation of plants and cattle, metal-working, cities, etc., before the Flood. Mainstream science places these events after 10,000 BC. Hence, according to mainstream science, Noah’s flood could not have occurred before 10,000 BC. Consequently, an old earth position forces us to demote the Genesis flood to a local flood that did not affect all humans. Likewise, the tower of Babel incident (Gen.11) must now be localized to just a portion of mankind. Consider also the origin of man. Since Adam’s sons were farmers, mainstream science sets the date of Adam no earlier than 10,000 BC. This entails that the Australian aborigines are not descendants of Adam. Thus Adam and Eve are not the ancestors of all humans living today. This undermines the doctrine of original sin, which the confessions say was propagated in a hereditary manner from Adam to all his posterity (Belgic Confession 15-16; Canons of Dordt 34:2-3). This, in turn, undermines the view of Christ’s atonement as a penal substitution where Christ, as a representative descendent of Adam, pays for the sins of Adam’s race. Many of those who accept an evolutionary view of man have thus re-interpreted the work of Jesus as merely an example of love. Further, given the close similarity between human fossils of 10,000 and 2 million years ago, it becomes difficult to avoid concluding that Adam and Eve had human-like ancestors dating back a few million years. But that entails that Adam and Eve were not created directly by God, contrary to Gen. 2, and that human suffering and death occurred long before Adam’s fall, contrary to Rom. 5:12. Conclusions To sum up, embracing mainstream science regarding its assertion of an old earth entails the following consequences: Both the timescale and order of the creation account of Genesis 1 are wrong. The Flood of Gen. 6-8 must have been local, not affecting all humans. The Babel account of Gen. 11 must have been local, not affecting all humans. Adam’s fall – and the subsequent curse on the earth – did not significantly affect the earth, plants, animals, or the human body. Adam, living about 10,000 BC, could not have been the ancestor of all humans living today. Hence the doctrines of original sin and the atonement must be revised Adam had human ancestors Hence human physical suffering and death occurred before the Fall and are not a penalty for sin. These, in turn, entail the following constraints on the Bible: 1-11 does not report reliable history. Hence the Bible cannot be taken at face value when describing historical events, in which case we cannot believe everything the Bible says (cf. Belgic Confession 5; Heidelberg CatechismQ/A 21). In sum, acceptance of an old earth has dire consequences for the rest of Gen. 1-11, for Biblical clarity, authority and inerrancy, and for the essentials of salvation. Worldviews come as package deals. One cannot simply mix and match. Logical consistency dictates that those who do not whole-heartedly base their worldview on the Bible will ultimately end up rejecting it. A better course of action would thus be to hold fast to the full authority of the Bible, to re-consider the presuppositions leading to an old earth, and to interpret the data in terms of scientific theories that are consistent with Biblical truths. This article first appeared in an Oct. 24, 2009 post on Dr. John Byl’s blog Bylogos.blogspot.com and is reprinted here with permission. Dr. John Byl is a Professor emeritus for Trinity Western University, and the author of "God and Cosmos: A Christian View of Time, Space, and the Universe" and "The Divine Challenge: On Matter, Mind, Math & Meaning.”...

Science - Creation/Evolution

I believe in theistic evolution

I recently realized I believe in/affirm theistic evolution.  Depending on your perspective, have I sold out or have I finally come to my senses?  Neither.  Let me explain. It has long perturbed me that those who affirm or allow for Darwinian macroevolution to be compatible with a biblical worldview will sometimes call themselves "creationists" or will claim to believe in/affirm biblical creation.  They do this knowing that biblical creation is usually understood to refer to a view that holds to God having created in six ordinary days on a timescale of some thousands (rather than millions or billions) of years ago.  By claiming to believe in creation they lay concerns to rest, whereas all they have really done is disguise their true position. Stephen C. Meyer has helped me to see I could do the same thing with theistic evolution.  Meyer wrote the "Scientific and Philosophical Introduction" to Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, a massive volume published in 2017 by Crossway.  He notes that theistic evolution can mean different things to different people, as can "evolution" without the modifier "theistic."  For example, it can refer to common or universal common descent or to the creative power of the natural selection/random variation (or mutation) mechanism.  But evolution can also just simply mean "change over time."  And if one believes that God causes "change over time," then that can be understood as a form of theistic evolution.  With that, Meyer contends, no biblical theist could object (p.40).  He concludes, "Understanding theistic evolution this way seems unobjectionable, perhaps even trivial" (p.41).   So, in the sense of believing or affirming that there is change over time directed by God, I am a theistic evolutionist -- and I suspect you are too! But what's the problem with this?  Let's say I were to (miraculously) get myself invited to a BioLogos conference as a speaker who affirms theistic evolution.  It appears I'm on board with the BioLogos agenda.  The conference organizers are a little doubtful, but I insist that I affirm theistic evolution and they take me at my word and welcome me in their midst.  Then I give a talk where I evidence that I'm actually a six-day creationist who believes Darwinian macroevolution to be a fraud.  "But you said you hold to theistic evolution!"  "Oh, but you didn't ask me what I meant by that.  I believe that God causes change over time -- that's how I'm a theistic evolutionist."  Would anyone blame the conference organizers for thinking me to be lacking in some basic honesty? Integrity is really the heart of the matter.  If I say, "I read a book and I realized I'm a theistic evolutionist," most people will hear that and conclude that I still believe in God, but I also affirm Darwinian evolution.  And that is not an unreasonable conclusion.  Furthermore, what would be my purpose for making such a claim?  Would it be to tell something designed to mislead so as to advance my cause?  Does the end justify the means? If you affirm Darwinian macroevolution as the best explanation for how life developed on earth and you believe God superintended it, then man up and say so.  Honestly say, "I am a theistic evolutionist."   As for me, believing that God created everything in six ordinary days on the order of some thousands of years ago, I will say directly, "I am a biblical creationist" or "six-day creationist," or "young earth creationist."  But let's all be honest with one another. Biblical creationists also have to stop being naive.  Just because someone says they believe in biblical creation doesn't mean they actually believe the biblical account as given in Genesis.  They can fill out those terms with their own meaning.  So we have to learn to ask good questions to ferret out impostors.  Questions like: Do you believe God created everything in six ordinary days some thousands of years ago? Was the individual designated as Adam in Genesis ever a baby creature nestled at his mother's breast? Was the individual designated in Genesis as Eve a toddler at some point in her life? Do you believe it biblically permissible to say that, as creatures, the figures designated in Genesis as Adam and Eve at any point had biological forebears (like parents/grandparents)? What does it mean that God created man from the dust of the earth? These are the types of questions churches need to be asking at ecclesiastical examinations for prospective ministers.  These are the types of questions Christians schools need to be asking prospective teachers at interviews.  True, even with these sorts of questions, there are no guarantees of integrity, but at least we will have done our due diligence. Dr. Bredenhof blogs at yinkahdinay.wordpress.com and CreationWithoutCompromise.com where this first appeared. ...

Apologetics 101, Science - Creation/Evolution

God is visible to any with eyes to see

Our universe, if just slightly different, would never have been able to support life. For example, a proton’s mass is 1,836 times greater than that of an electron, but it carries a positive charge that is exactly equal to that of the electron’s negative charge. How very strange that the two, so different in size, would yet be perfectly matched in charge! If they weren’t paired just so, then the vast array of elements could never have formed and life could never have existed. This is but one example of the fine-tuning that so troubles atheists that they’ve resorted to “what if” stories to explain it away. Yes, they acknowledge, the universe is too finely tuned to have come about just by chance…if we’d had only one role of the dice to get here. But wait, what if this wasn’t the only universe? What if there were billions and trillions and gazillions of universes out there somewhere? What if we could stack the odds in our favor by supposing as many universes as we might need? Then it wouldn’t seem so very improbable that at least one of these might be suited to life…right? However, there's a problem. As physicist Frank Tipler notes, there's as much evidence for these other universes as there is for the existence of leprechauns and unicorns. None at all. So on what basis do scientists propose this theory? Because they need it to be true – otherwise the odds are so obviously against them. And these same atheists will mock Christians because we speak of faith! The only case that can be made for this "multiverse" theory is that the alternative is too terrible for them to consider – that a Fine-Tuner brought the balance, order, and wonder to our universe. Atheists can be inventive, but God won’t leave them with any excuse. As Psalm 19 explains the heavens declare His glory. Want to explain away fine-tuning by postulating a multiverse? Well, then answer this: why would the Sun just happen to be roughly 400 times bigger than our moon and also 400 times further away? This precise pairing means that the moon and sun appear to be the same size in our sky. This allows us, during a solar eclipse, to study the Sun’s corona in a way that we just can’t any other time and wouldn’t ever be able to if the two celestial bodies weren’t sized just so. As the moon passes in front of the Sun only the corona is still visible – flaring fire crowning the moon in the dark daytime sky. Yes, dear atheist, we are not only in a universe impossibly finely tuned for life, but implausibly suited for us to study our own Sun. Why would that be? The multiverse doesn’t explain it. There is no reason that the one universe in which all the dice rolled just right for life would also be the same universe in which we’d be gifted with a moon that was sized exactly right to study our own Sun. Atheists have no explanation. But we do. We know our God created us as the very pinnacle of His creation (Psalm 8:3-9, Genesis 1:26-28) and that our purpose is to glorify Him. So it isn’t surprising to us that God would so arrange things that the precise sizing of the moon enables us to study our Sun – God is showing us His wonders! A version of this article was first published in the May 2016 edition of Reformed Perspective. A related article by Eric Metaxas, of Breakpoint Ministries, called "Observatory Earth" can be found here. Also, be sure to check out this great 6-minute clip below about more amazing interactions between our moon and the Earth. ...

Lists, Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution, Watch for free

12 free Creation videos that'll have you awestruck

There's something to be said for short and sweet. Each of the following dozen clips is just 6 minutes or less, totaling up to just over 40 minutes of content. They're broken into three categories: the inner working of the human body the wonders of the animal kingdom problems with the theory of Evolution So this evening, instead of your regularly scheduled programming, why not take a peak at some of God's creative genius? Be sure to gather the kiddos too (though do note the warning on the very first video). These clips may well get them imagining what it would be like to be a biologist, doctor, vet, scientist, or farmer – occupations that allows them to be around and study God's creatures full-time. And while all of the videos are amazing, if you only have time for a few be sure to include the one on starlings! 1. WE ARE FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE  (Ps. 139:14) Conception and implantation (4 minutes) The amount of teamwork between a woman's egg and her body, and the man's sperm is astonishing. (WARNING: This might not be suitable for younger audiences, not because of anything graphic in the content, but only because of the questions that it will prompt, and which mom or dad might not want their younglings to have to think through quite yet) .  Transport inside the brain (4 minutes) How do signals get transported to and through the brain? It's an intricate combination of intra and intercellular highways that we're only starting to understand. To see this same information presented in a lighter, almost comedic manner, be sure to check out "A Day in the Life of a Motor Protein" (5 min). For another informative video, see: "The Workhorse of the Cell: Kinesin" (4 min).  Our cells' microscopic power generators (3 minutes) Your body needs fuel constantly. And wouldn't you know it, our cells come complete with power generations facilities – we have our own power plants! The simple cell is insanely complex (3 minutes) You don't have to understand every bit of this to be hit by how awesomely crafted we are, even on the smallest of scales. An introduction to irreducible complexity (4 minutes) Bacteria are all around us, including in us, some to good effect in our digestive tract, and some causing us problems by making us sick. What we're looking at here is a bacteria's flagellum motor which can spin as fast as 100,000 revolutions per minute, and stop completely in just one quarter turn. For more on this astonishing outboard motor and other amazing cellular machines, be sure to watch the free one-hour documentary Revolutionary: Michael Behe and the Mystery of Molecular Machines, available here. 2. CREATION DECLARES GOD'S GLORY Even a bird's feathers are amazingly designed! (2 minutes) Any time you dive into God's creation, whether it's on the grand scale of space or on the teeny tiny cellular level, you can see what an amazing Craftsman our God is. Here we look at the "simple" feather, and find out it is anything but. Butterflies are bizarrely cool (4 minutes) Butterflies are like a Model T that suddenly encases itself in a garage and, after some delay, the garage doors burst open to reveal a helicopter swooping out. And that might not even be the coolest thing about butterflies: just consider their migration. The journey that Monarch butterflies undertake each year involves them navigating a path that their grandparents took. So how do they know where to go? You can learn more about that journey here and in the DVD Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies that these clips come from.  Starling murmuration is stunning! (4 minutes) This is my favorite clip of the bunch, with starlings diving, dodging, and dancing, as if the thousands of birds were, together, one living cloud. This is from the fantastic documentary Flight: the Genius of Birds (which we review here). Dolphins are designed to "see" and hear underwater (4 minutes) Anyone who watched Flipper as a kid is going to want to see this – dolphins are even cooler than we imagined! 3. PROBLEMS WITH EVOLUTION Is antibiotic resistance evidence for evolution? (6 minutes) Creationists agree that change happens over time – after all, we believe that today's dogs come from just the two that survived the Flood. So the fact that bacteria can mutate and change and even develop antibiotic resistance isn't surprising to us. The real point of dispute is, do these sorts of mutations support the goo-to-you type of evolution – evolution that involves increases in complexity – that is needed for a naturalistic explanation of Man's origins? And the answer is, no. This antibiotic resistance leaves the bacteria less fit in the long term. Evolutionary "proofs" that actually show devolution (1 minute) Most advantageous mutations involve a loss of information. And while this degeneration fits in well with a biblical understanding that the world is fallen and decaying (Romans 8:21-22, Gen. 3:17-19), it doesn't fit in well with an evolutionary theory that needs to explain how complex Man arose from one-celled organisms via a long chain of ongoing increases in information and complexity. Mutations are causing us to devolve, not evolve (2 minutes) It turns out that mutations, Evolution's key mechanism, not only aren't helping us, they're hurting us. In fact, the accumulation of mutations means that we, as a species, are "rusting out." If this clip has you interested in learning more, you can watch Dr. John Sanford's fantastic 1-hour lecture, "All Creation Groans." ...

Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution, Watch for free

Science Uprising: a revolutionary case for Intelligent Design

The Bible tells us this world and this universe were spoken into being by God Himself, and that Mankind is the pinnacle of His creation (Ps. 8:3-9, Gen. 1:26-28). Meanwhile mainstream science – the sort we read about in the newspapers and get taught in our public schools and universities – says we're only modified monkeys. So which is it? Are we a special creation? Or does the scientific evidence show we're just the products of time and chance? As the six videos below lay out, there's evidence aplenty to undermine mainstream science's modified monkey theory. And while evolution preaches we are matter and nothing more, that turns out to be philosphy, not evidence-based. Each of the videos are between 6 and 8 minutes long, and all are part of the "Science Uprising" project crafted by the Intelligent Design think tank Discovery Institute to "directly confronts the false views of science held by the growing number of science popularizers like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye.” Be aware, though, that Science Uprising is not a specifically Christian argument. In none of these videos is the Bible mentioned, and the Intelligent Designer the series argues for is never specifically named. That means the project, as compelling as its argument is and as professional as the production values are, has a notable shortcoming: it ably tears down evolutionary arguments, but it never raises up God's Truth. If we share this material with non-Christian friends, we need to also point out everyone's need for a Redeemer, and share with our audience who that Saviour is, the God-man Jesus. That limitation noted, this whole series is remarkable. This is as succinct and slick a presentation of the Intelligent Design argument as you will ever find. So grab some popcorn, shut off your phone, and for the next hour kick back and enjoy the show! Materialism vs. reality - Episode #1 The Bible says that the universe and all that is in it was created by Someone who is more than it and beyond it. But materialist science tells us "the cosmos are all there is, all there was, and all there ever will be." So is our universe matter and nothing more, and is it anti-science to believe that non-material things like love and consciousness are real? Dr. Jay Richards weighs in. No, you're not a robot made out of meat - Episode #2 Who are we? The Bible says we are physical and spiritual beings – we have a body, but we are more than our body. If I lose an arm and leg, I may have lost 25% of my body, but I am still all there – there isn't 25% less of me. And the evidence agrees. For example, it shows that our immaterial minds – our thoughts – can actually change our material brains. The Programmer - Episode #3 The Bible says we were are "fearfully and wonderfully made" by a Master Craftsman. And what does Science say? The materialist scientists reduce us to mere machine. And yet they have to acknowledge that "our DNA code is more complex than any man-made software..." And as Stephen Meyer explains, our observations of the world show us "information always arises from an intelligent source." You don't suck - Episode #4 The Bible declares that Man is something special, created in the very image of God (Gen. 1:26-28). Materialist science has a very different perspective. As Bill Nye puts it, "I am a speck on a speck, a whirling speck, among still other specks in the middle of specklessness....I suck!" At the same time, scientists are discovering that this supposedly purposeless universe seems to be especially and improbably fine-tuned to not just support life but to enable us to thrive. How do the materialists explain that? By proposing this is just one of millions or billions or trillions of universes out there, and this is the one where everything came out just right. One problem: as physicist Frank Tipler explains there's exactly as much evidence for this "multiverse theory" as there is for the existence of unicorns and leprechauns The origins of life - Episode #5 The Bible says that life was designed, and came about by an extraordinary supernatural act of God. In contrast, materialist science says that life came about by simple, random, unguided chemical interactions. But if life really could come about by sheer unintended luck, then why haven't the world's most brilliant scientists – with their billions of dollars in equipment, awesome computing power, refined chemicals, and ready blueprints all around them – ever been able to create life on purpose? Mutations break; they don't create - Episode #6 The Bible says that due to Man's Fall into Sin the perfect world that God created is broken, and wearing out (Isaiah 51:6, Ps. 102:25-25). In this worldview it is no surprise that mutations are harmful, causing things like cancer. It's no surprise because Christians understand that we as a species are breaking down. But evolutionary theory says Mankind is the end result of a long process of beneficial mutations that changed us and improved us, progressing upward from life's simple origins as a single cell, to eventually evolve into the incredibly complex creatures that we are today. Evolution says that we as a species are improving. So which worldview fits best with the evidence? Do we see mutations improving us, or harming us? A closer look at the science shows that mutations don't have the type of creative power the evolution proposes and needs. The picture at the top of the page is a screenshot from episode #6....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

Evolution's Achilles' Heels

Documentary 2014 / 96 minutes Rating: 10/10 I’ve watched this at least 5 times now, and many sections many more times than that. This is the best, most succinct, most content-dense, anti-evolution presentation I’ve ever seen. That said, my first go-through didn’t leave me all that impressed. I was watching it while doing some paperwork, not giving it my full attention, and what I saw just seemed to be a bunch of interviews, lots of talking heads. It didn’t seem all that interesting. But when I gave it another go and actually paid attention…. Whoah! What the folks at Creation Ministries International have done here is, in one hour-and-a-half presentation, boiled down all their very best arguments into the shortest possible form. That’s why I’ve watched it so many times already – I had to keep stopping, rewinding, and then listening to sections again because so much of what these interviewees say in just a sentence or two is something that others have written articles and even whole books on. For example, here’s a line from Dr. Donald Batten: “The survival of the fittest does not explain the arrival of the fittest.” At first listen, this struck me as a great turn of a phrase, and it certainly is. But let’s hit the pause button and just think about all that’s being said here in just this one line. Survival of the fittest (AKA natural selection) is supposed to explain how species adapt and change: those with advantageous mutations will prosper, while those without will eventually die off. But survival of the fittest is a selective process – it picks the best out of the group. How then, does it work before there is a group to pick the best and brightest from? Natural selection is a key mechanism for evolution, but it doesn’t offer any explanation for how animals come to be in the first place! This one, short, ever so quotable line, points out a gigantic problem with evolutionary theory! In addition to Dr. Batten, the documentary features 8 other PhD scientists, and together they highlight, as the title puts it, Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels. They cover a wide range of problems, grouped under categories like the Fossil Record, Genetics, Natural Selection, Cosmology and Radiometric Dating. I really can’t praise it highly enough: from beginning to end this is brilliant, and as good an introduction to the problems with Evolutionary theory as you will ever find. If an evolutionist friend was willing to watch one video of my choosing, this is definitely the one I would pick. And if you like this video, be sure to track down the book of the same name which, while also concise, has the space to dig even deeper. ...

Science - Creation/Evolution

ON THE ORIGIN OF ARTICLES: You thought this article was designed? How unscientific of you!

You might think that someone wrote this article. But of course, you would be mistaken. Articles are not written by people. They are the result of chance. Every intelligent person knows it. There might be some people who want you to think that articles are written by people. But this view is totally unscientific. After all, we cannot see the person who allegedly wrote the article. We cannot detect him or her in any way. The claim that this article has an author cannot be empirically verified, and therefore it must be rejected. All we have is the article itself, and we must find a scientific explanation for its origin. IT JUST SEEMS DESIGNED Since no intelligent source can be empirically detected within this article, empirical science must look to the chance processes of nature for its formation. In other words, we must not allow ourselves to think that this article came about from a mind; for this would be unscientific. Since it is not the result of a mind, it follows logically that this article is the result of chance. The article has not been designed – it is not the result of some unseen conscious forethought. Naysayers might suggest that this article bears evidence of design. They might point out that it has a logical flow, that its sentences are coherent, and that it contains creative information. True enough. But this is only evidence of apparent design at best. We must certainly grant that many articles appear designed, as if they had been planned by a mind and written with creative forethought. But to assume that the design came from some unseen, undetectable author would be unscientific. ALL THIS GENIUS IS JUST GLITCHES What then is the true origin of articles? We know that articles can be copied. Articles on paper can be duplicated using a Xerox machine, and electronic articles can be copied from one computer to another. We also know that errors can occur in this duplication process. A simple glitch in the computer can result in a letter being changed, or a sentence or paragraph being duplicated or removed. Most of these random changes would make the article less readable than the original. But such variations would not be copied. (Who would bother to Xerox a bad article?) And so eventually they would be lost. We must assume that occasionally, very rarely, a mistake in the copy would actually improve the quality of the article – making it more readable and more interesting. In such cases, the improved article would be much more likely to be copied than the original. In this fashion, articles gradually improve, often growing in length, complexity, and interest. It stands to reason, therefore, that all articles started out as a simple word, or perhaps even a single letter, which was gradually changed as it was duplicated due to errors in the duplication process and selection of the more readable variations. COMMON ORIGINAL ARTICLE It is also sensible to conclude that all articles have diverged from a common original article which itself consisted of nothing more than a single word. This is obvious by virtue of the fact that all articles have certain things in common. For example, all articles use words. And in all cases these words are organized into sentences. Many of the words used in many articles are exactly the same! For example, the word “the” appears very commonly in almost all articles. Are we to believe that this is just a coincidence? Clearly not. It is evidence that these articles share a common source. They have each diverged from a common article in the distant past. Naysayers argue that articles are written by people. But would people use the very same words in different articles? The common words, common grammar, and common sentence structure clearly point to a common origin for articles. It is reasonable to conclude that articles which share more common words and sentences are more closely related than those that have fewer common words and sentences. Clearly this extends to larger works of literature – books for example. Books are the most advanced form of literary diversification, and so they must also be the most recent. WE HAVEN'T SEEN IT HAPPEN BUT... Critics of our position (“authorists”) might object that we have never seen one article transform into a completely different article. In other words, all observed changes have been only minor transformations. But is this really surprising? After all, it would take a very long time for an article to have accumulated enough changes to be classified as a completely different article. And people simply don’t live long enough for this to happen within our lifetime. But the fact that all articles share common words is positive evidence that it has happened, even though the process is too slow to see it in its entirety today. We do see minor transformations today. And it is reasonable to conclude that these minor changes will add up to major changes over long periods of time. Some readers might be bothered by the fact that we do not have a complete record of how the simpler articles diversified into the wide variety of complex articles in our present world. But this does not in any way disqualify our basic thesis that articles do share a common original source. After all, considering the trillions of variations that must have existed and been destroyed in the vast time necessary for this process, we would expect that the record of links in the chain would be fragmentary at best. And we do know of some links. For example, there are several minor variations of the book The Hobbit. These are known to exist, and it is obvious they stem from a common original. So it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that all works of literature share a common source. THIS WOULD TAKE A LONG TIME Given the slowness of the diversification of articles, it is reasonable to conclude that articles are far older than “authorists” assume. The process of an article becoming longer and more interesting likely takes millions of years – perhaps even hundreds of millions of years. It may even happen in spurts, rapid diversification followed by long periods of relative stasis. This may account for the fact that we find so few intermediate forms in ancient libraries. NO IRREDUCIBLE SENTENCES One objection to our position is the idea that some sentences in some articles contain a degree of “irreducible complexity.” This is to say that even a minor change of any kind would make the sentence unclear or unreadable. However, this notion fails to consider that multiple simultaneous changes – though rare – can occur in the process of time. The fact that we cannot conceptualize an intermediate sentence does not actually prove that no such intermediate is possible. The process by which articles diversify from a common source is still being studied, and so we do not have the answers to every detail yet. But this does not mean that such answers will not be forthcoming in the process of time. The formation and diversification of articles from a common source is a scientific fact and well supported by the evidence even though some of the details are not yet understood. BELIEVING IN AN AUTHOR IS BLIND FAITH To assume that articles have an author is a faith position. It is a belief in something that cannot be perceived with the senses. As such, it is unscientific and should be rejected. If some people feel that they must believe in an author, that’s okay, but please remember that your view is religious and not scientific. Please don’t force it on others or teach it in school. Just think about it. This very article which you are now reading is the result of countless copying errors which gradually increased its length and complexity over time. How amazing that such a process of nature has resulted in so many wonderful works of literature! Such literature is not the result of some mysterious, unseen, undetectable “author.” It is simply the inevitable result of the mindless duplication process working over unimaginable periods of time. This article was first published on JasonLisle.com and is reprinted here with the permission. Dr. Jason Lisle is the founder of the Bible Science Institute.   QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION How do you go about telling the difference between an object formed by chance and one that has been designed? What distinguishes the designed object? How can you know this article was designed? Do we seem like the sum total of countless copying errors over millions of years? Or do we seem “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14)? Why might even non-Christians agree? Evolutionists see common elements of design – like the fact that many animals have four limbs (or like the word “the” that appears in this article and many others) – as evidence of a common origin. How would a creationist respond? Creationists and evolutionists both agree that “copying errors” (mutations) can cause changes within a species. But if we agree that mutations can cause minor variations, why don’t we believe they can, over millions of years, turn molecules into Man? What is irreducible complexity and why is it a problem for evolution? Is it more reasonable to think this article was designed, or crafted by chance? Which position requires blind faith? ...

Science - Creation/Evolution

Biomimicry recognizes the genius (but not the Genius) behind the wonders of creation

Earlier this month, Vox media reported on the discipline of biomimicry, which encourages engineering teams to include a biologist to help them solve problems by seeing what already works well in the natural world. It’s a return to copying designs that the Creator put into place thousands of years ago. In Christophe Hawbursin’s Vox article “The man-made world is horribly designed. But copying nature helps.” the illustration he gives of how biomimicry helps is the Japanese Shinkansen Bullet Train. At 170 mph, whenever it exited a tunnel, it caused a sonic boom that annoyed people up to 400 meters away. To get a quieter, faster, and more efficient train, an engineering team was created, headed by Ejii Nakatsu, who was also an avid birdwatcher. It turns out that bird connection was key – the team based components of the redesigned bullet train on characteristics of three different birds: The owl: the pantograph – the rig that connects the train to the electric wires above – was modeled after the owl’s feathers, reducing noise by using similar serrations and curvature The Adelie penguin: the penguin’s smooth body inspired the pantograph’s supporting shaft to provide lower wind resistance The kingfisher: the kingfisher’s unique no-splash beak was copied for the front of the engine By copying designs from creation, the new train became 10% faster, 15% more efficient, and the decibel level was significantly lowered. Other examples of biomimicry include studying sharkskin to learn to repel bacteria, and studying the self-organization of ants to enable autonomous cars to communicate with one another. Biomimicry also studies the eco-system to create a circular economy where there are no wasteful byproducts. And recently, scientists have begun a website at AskNature.org where people all over the world can match problems with solutions advised by “nature.” There is an irony in how Janine Benyus, the author who popularized the term biomimicry, recognizes that the design found in Creation far exceeds that of Mankind’s best minds. And yet she doesn’t see a better Mind behind any of it, choosing instead to credit these wonders to mindless evolution working over the last 3.8 billions years. As the apostle Paul might put it, she worships and serves “created things rather the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). But for Christians, how wonderful it is to be reminded of just how much humans can learn from the genius of our God who declared all the creatures He made “good.”   Sharon L. Bratcher has a book with 45 of her RP articles in it, and a 2-year lesson plan entitled “Bible Overview for Young Children” ages 2-6 and 6-9. For information on these, contact sharoncopy@gmail.com....

Science - Creation/Evolution, Science - General

The appendix question solved

For many years, we were told that the human appendix was a leftover of our evolutionary development and the proof was in the fact that it does nothing useful. If anything, that thing dangling off your intestine can only do you harm when it becomes infected and doesn’t get removed in time. For Christians, however, we humbly rest in the fact that we have a Creator and he knows far more about human anatomy than we will ever know. He created us with an appendix and the Designer knows why. Perhaps we will eventually discover that reason or perhaps not. It turns out scientists are beginning to discover why we have an appendix after all. Already in 2007, medical researchers were starting to find evidence that the appendix is important to overall intestinal health. Duke University published findings that proposed the appendix as a “safe-house” for helpful bacteria while the intestines are being flushed out by illnesses. In 2011, a follow-up study at Winthrop University Hospital determined that “individuals without an appendix were four times more likely to have a recurrence of Clostridium difficile,” a nasty illness often found in hospitals. Australian molecular immunologist Dr. Gabrielle Belz has recently (2015) published research that confirms and develops these earlier findings. According to her team’s work, the appendix definitely holds a key role in maintaining good digestive health. When gut health is threatened, the appendix works to keep the digestive system populated with the right bacteria. Of course, when the appendix was considered useless it served as proof of evolution – the appendix was a vestigial organ leftover from plant-eating ancestors. Now that it’s found a purpose, it still serves as proof of evolution because, according to one scientist, “it no longer serves the function for which it evolved.” No matter which way the evidence points, it can never point to a Creator! You see, it’s not really about the evidence after all. When God is ruled out at the beginning, all evidence to the contrary has to be seen in that light. SOURCES: Randy J. Guliuzza’s “Major evolutionary blunders: our useful appendix – evidence of design, not evolution”; Rob Dunn’s “Your appendix could save your life”...

Science - Creation/Evolution

On DNA and how "things are seldom what they seem"

Sometimes we forget that scientists like to be amused just as much as other individuals, and the illustration in the November 20/08 issue of Nature is certainly amusing. You see five ducks swimming serenely in a row. Above the water line, they are all identical but below the surface one duck is propelled along by a massive tricycle, one has extremely long legs with webbed feet, one has normal legs, one is propelled by a motorized propeller and the last one sits serenely on top of a gigantic octopus. It all makes one think of the sentiments expressed by “Little Buttercup” in the English operetta H.M.S. Pinafore. She warbles:  Things are seldom what they seem, Skim milk masquerades as cream… Black sheep dwell in every fold All that glitters is not gold. The amusing illustration in the Nature article, was actually promoting a similar idea. Organisms may look similar on the outside, it declares, but on the inside, their genetic information may be vastly different. Why does this matter? Well, it is certainly contrary to evolutionary expectations. Defying expectations As scientists first started building up a database of DNA coding in various organisms, they knew what they expected to find. Based on evolution theory, they expected that organisms that seemed to have a close evolutionary relationship would exhibit similar DNA codes, and those with a remote connection would show much different collections of code. In previous generations, scientists looked for similarities in form and function among organisms to draw conclusions about evolutionary relationships. Thus catlike animals would all be placed in the same group. Obviously the experts expected that the results of DNA coding studies would reflect the relationships already established on the basis of similarity in shape and biology. But often that’s not what happened. The illustration of the ducks, so similar above the water line, represents the form and function of organisms. The vastly different controlling mechanisms below the water represent the here-to-fore hidden differences in the DNA controls inside organisms. The first sign of unfulfilled evolutionary expectations was when the DNA from a spectrum of organisms was compared. Often the most similar DNA coding was not found among organisms that looked the most similar. Similar appearance ≠ similar DNA? This discovery can also be compared to an adult assembling two children's toys. The first box is opened and various component parts fall out along with an instruction sheet. The brave parent duly sets to work and assembles the toy. Now imagine a second box is opened and a similar toy needs to be assembled. The parent thinks this one should be easy, but alas, he discovers the component parts are all differently shaped and the instructions are different too. However in due course the second toy is assembled, and it looks and works much like the first toy. If the parent didn't know that the insides of the two toys were very different, he might have thought they came from the same company. But after seeing the instruction sheet and all the parts, the parent realizes that these two toys must have come from totally separate sources. Even if the first company had wanted to produce a slightly more elaborate model, it would not change the basic components and instructions. It would merely modify the initial program as required. It is the same with DNA coding in an organism’s cells. Even if the end result looks and works the same, if the instructions and component parts in the cell are very different, we suspect that the organisms have entirely separate sources, or lines of descent. Similar DNA ≠ similar appearance The response of the scientific community to this unfulfilled expectation was to change the groupings of organisms so that the pattern of DNA differences once again gave a picture of gradual change. The problem with this solution however is that the new groupings did not make much sense. Now creatures were grouped together as closely related, in an evolutionary sense, that did not have much in common at all. Hence we now have a classic “conflict between molecules and morphology .” As a result, over the past twenty years, we have seen a “radical re-ordering of relationships” among many animal groups (Nature Feb. 12/09 pp. 812 and 816). The same holds true for plants. So scientists have rearranged their groupings, often in illogical ways, to make the DNA fit an evolutionary scenario. The ducky illustration, however, applies more closely to other problems for evolution theory. Biochemists firstly noticed that many creatures which have few characteristics in common, nevertheless have many genes which are “virtually identical” (Nature Nov. 20/08 p 300). This can be made to fit both evolution theory and design. Evolutionists interpret this as showing lines of common descent, even if very remote. Meanwhile creationists understand this as showing God's choosing to use some similar elements in otherwise very different creatures. But at the same time, the experts have found “closely connected species can connect up their genes in very different regulatory networks while keeping the end result deceptively unchanged” (p. 300). Not only have the scientists found that similar organisms may use genes in different ways, but they may even use entirely different genes to produce the same result (p. 301). This discovery of very different codes in organisms that appear so similar is, of course, not predicted by evolution theory. Naturally these experts are looking for explanations that will still fit their theory. Thus: “Now researchers are trying to understand how evolution finds the solutions it does, and why. Some think that this ‘underground’ variation was selected for. Some think it appeared by chance” (p. 300). When scientists appeal to chance for an explanation, it means that they have no explanation. What’s your presupposition? The article in Nature declares that the situation “feels very counter-intuitive.” But is it? It all depends upon one’s basic premises. If evolution is the basis for one’s interpretation of nature, then the results do not make sense: very similar organisms (often microorganisms) using very different molecules to achieve the same result. It is obvious that many DNA data do not fit evolutionary expectations. However, the scientists involved simply look for alternative evolutionary explanations. It seems evident that this irregular pattern of DNA coding better fits an explanation involving intelligent choices by God the Creator. The evolutionist may retort that this does not prove the case for creation. Fair enough. There is no proof to be had in science. The evolutionists claim that all data can be accommodated within their worldview – this is not proof, but preference. Similarly we insist that all data fit Biblical revelation. In the case of DNA, the information from nature does not fit evolutionary expectations very well at all. It does fit the creation model better. Don’t expect ducks, however, to show the scale of internal diversity illustrated in the Nature article. That was merely for purposes of illustration. However, if anyone sees a duck driven by a propeller, let me know! This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in September 2009 issue under the title "On ducks and DNA." Dr. Margaret Helder is the author of No Christian Silence in Science, a book every Christian teen considering a career in Science should read before heading off to university....

Science - Creation/Evolution

The Galileo myth as a universal solvent

What do theistic evolutionists and church-attending gay activists have in common? Both think Galileo makes their case. Theistic evolutionists have long loved the story of Galileo - how he corrected the Church, and was persecuted for it, when he proved that the Earth went around the Sun, and not, as the Church said, the other way around. The moral of this story, they propose, is that just like Galileo corrected the Church in his time, the Church today needs to reinterpret it's understanding of Genesis 1 and 2 in light of what Science has discovered about our origins. Church-going gay activists are taking up Galileo as their champion, too, to argue that the Church needs to re-examine its stance against homosexuality and gay marriage. In his book God and the Gay Christian, Matthew Vine writes: ...remember that Christians in Galileo's day....did not change their minds about the solar system because they lost respect for their forebears or for the authority of Scripture. They change their mind because they were confronted with evidence their predecessors had never considered.... Does new information we have about homosexuality also warrant a reinterpretation of Scripture? (his emphasis) Galileo as the universal solvent There is a problem though. This version of the Galileo story can be used by more than evolutionists and gay activists - it's infinitely adaptable, and can act as a universal solvent to dissolve orthodoxy of every kind. Yes, the Bible says we are conceived and born in sin (Psalm 51:5). But that's not what many psychologists contend, so isn't it about time the Church learned its lesson from the "Galileo incident" and re-examined Original Sin in light of what we now know about human nature? The Church once thought God created them male and female (Mark 10:6). But now we know gender is a social construct with dozens (71 to date on Facebook) to choose from. So why wouldn't this new information about gender also warrant a reinterpretation of Scripture? Evolution, homosexuality, Pelagianism, gender fluidity, polygamy: Galileo is a friend to them all. Or what if Galileo taught a different lesson? But what if the Galileo story doesn't prove what so many want it to prove? What if a better moral to the story might be something along the lines of, it is very dangerous to let outside sources tell us how to understand Scripture? The truth is, it wasn't a biblical view that Galileo overturned, but rather a Greek one. As Philip J. Sampson explains in his book 6 Modern Myths, "Aristotle – not the Bible – taught explicitly that, 'everything moves around the Earth.'" The Church held to a Earth-centered cosmology because they were influenced by Aristotle, and, as one author put it, read the Scripture "through Greek spectacles." They were wrong to do so. Of course, it certainly is possible for the Bible to be misinterpreted by the Church – that's one of the premises behind the Protestant Reformation! But the story of Galileo has been used by evolutionists, and is now being used by gay activists, to argue that it is self-evident that what we are discovering today, particularly in the field of Science, is far more reliable than the Bible, and thus we should readily reinterpret even the longest-standing biblical doctrines in light of what these new findings tell us today. Not only is that not a lesson we can draw from Galileo, we could very readily draw the opposite: the moral to this story should be that the Church's big mistake was interpreting Scriptures in light of the Greek Science of the day. Hat tip to Gary DeMar's "Kirsten Powers Jumps on the Pro-Homosexual Bandwagon"...

Apologetics 101, Science - Creation/Evolution

Wrong questions lead to wrong answers

Why don’t brilliant scientists see evidence of God’s design in Nature? Because they deliberately blind themselves to this evidence. The conflict between Biblical revelation and some aspects of modern science is a longstanding issue, and Christian young people can’t avoid being impacted by this dilemma. What should they believe? Should they accept that creation took place in six literal days, or should they seek some sort of accommodation of Scripture with the teachings of science? Many have anguished over this choice. The appeal of trying to accommodate to the popular scientific view – the appeal of bundling the Bible with the Big Bang – is clear. After all, don’t objective scientists know what they are talking about? So don’t we need to listen to what they are telling us they see? Christian vs. secular agendas In this context, what everyone must understand is that there are no objective scientists. Everyone has starting assumptions. The Christian naturally confesses that God exists, that He is omnipotent and omniscient and has communicated with us. Nature is God’s handiwork. Thus the Christian confesses that we see testimony to God’s work and character when we look at nature. For example we read in Psalms 19:1-3: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Another famous passage about the testimony of nature is Job 12:7-9: But ask the beasts, and they will teach you, and the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you, or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you, and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? When we study biology, we see that God is the creator! The secular position contrasts sharply with the Christian view. Mainstream scientists maintain that natural explanations can be found for everything. No supernatural input will ever be evident. For example, an editorial in the journal Nature (March 12, 1981) remarked concerning the definition of science: “…one prejudice is allowable, even necessary – the preconception that theories can be constructed to account for all observable phenomena.” Thus the Christian expects to see God revealed in nature, while the secular person says God will never be revealed in nature. Different expectations prompt different questions How does a square melon get square? Newly sprouted watermelons are placed in plastic boxes, and as the melon grows it fills in the available space until this unique shape results. With different expectations come different questions – there is a big difference between what secular scientists and what some Christians will ask about natural systems. And their different questions will result in very different answers obtained. How does a square melon get square? Newly sprouted watermelons are placed in plastic boxes, and as the melon grows it fills in the available space until this unique shape results. For example, suppose somebody showed you a photograph of three unfamiliar objects, green in color and square in shape. If you were to ask that person “How did Nature form that?” the only possible response would be some sort of natural process. However, if you were instead to ask, “Did Nature form that?” then the person has the opportunity to investigate whether or not these square watermelons (which is what the objects turn out to be) had a simply natural origin. Only then could they discover that no, they did not. Similarly, if a scientist asks, “How did life come about spontaneously?” then the only possible answer is a natural process. If the same scientist were to ask “Could life come about spontaneously?” in this case he has the opportunity to examine what cells are like and what the biochemical processes in cells are like, and thereafter conclude that life could not have come about spontaneously. Thus the answers obtained from the study of nature depend upon what questions are asked. No results There is no issue that more clearly demonstrates the impact of what questions are asked of nature, than the discipline of origin of life studies. Specialist John H. McClendon’s summary of the situation was as follows: “Since we know that life did arise, we are obligated to find mechanisms to accumulate enough organic matter to start life.” Scientists may feel themselves obligated to find such a scenario, but they are having a difficult time finding one nonetheless. The difficulties of proposing and defending a reasonable scenario for the origin of life were further highlighted by Simon Conway Morris in 2003 in a chapter entitled “The Origin of Life: straining the soup of our credulity” from his book entitled Life’s Solution. Of these chemists who are not discouraged by the results of their experiments, he remarks: …chemists have devised reaction pathways that can produce reasonable quantities of ribose , but the sheer complexity of the process and the careful manipulation of the many steps during the reaction make one wonder about its applicability to the origin of life. Dr. Morris is telling us that the kind of chemical reactions that require fancy manipulation by a chemist do not occur spontaneously in nature (apart from in living cells). Scientists were still looking for support for the “RNA world” in 2014 when the following description of a possible process was printed in Nature: After ten rounds of selection and amplification of catalytic molecules; pruning of superfluous sequences; insertion of another randomized segment to create a new pool; and then another six rounds of selection and amplification, a D-ribozyme was isolated that could perform template-directed joining of L-substrates about a million times faster than the uncatalyzed reaction. One would have to be very gullible indeed to believe that any of this could happen spontaneously. Indeed the article referred to the process as “engineering” which presupposed that an intelligent agent (the chemist) carried out the process. An article in Nature five years previously had similarly highlighted the difficulties of the RNA world hypothesis, the most popular explanation today for how life could have originated in spontaneous fashion. Matthew W. Powner et al declared: At some stage in the origin of life, an informational polymer must have arisen by purely chemical means. According to one version of the “RNA world” hypothesis this polymer was RNA, but attempts to provide experimental support for this have failed (italics mine). The determination of the mainstream scientists to keep looking for a spontaneous solution to the origin of life, even when the results are totally contrary, has long been recognized. But they do not see this situation as a problem. Thus David Deamer remarked in a book review on origin of life theories: Harold argues that, notwithstanding the vast literature, progress has gone little beyond the findings of Soviet biochemist Alexander Oparin and British polymath J. B. S. Haldane more than 80 years ago, when they independently argued that Louis Pasteur’s dictum “All life from life” was wrong. Note that the “findings” of Oparin and Haldane that Pasteur was wrong, were not based on any evidence, (they still aren’t), but on a choice to believe that life can come from non-living chemicals. Their bias blinds The secular scientist approaches the study of nature with a specific agenda. Nature is to be interpreted only in terms of matter, energy, and natural processes, even if the results look ridiculous. A prominent geneticist, Richard Lewontin (b. 1929) actually stated this very clearly. In a famous review of a book by Carl Sagan, he wrote: Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science…. because we have an a priori commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. What Dr. Lewontin said, was that scientists bias their studies so that only natural explanations will ever be obtained. Similarly astronomer Robert Jastrow (1925-2008) equated such an approach as almost a religion for scientists: Scientists…. believe that every event that takes place in the world can be explained in a rational way as a consequence of some previous event. If there is a religion in science, this statement can be regarded as its main article of faith… Nothing to do with the truth It is certainly reasonable to ask how legitimate it is to restrict science to only naturalistic hypotheses. The answer you’ll get to that question depends upon whom you ask. Biologist Leonard Brand (b. 1941) replies that such restrictions are not legitimate. Our research only answers the questions we are willing to ask, naturalism allows only certain questions to be asked… Naturalism has a powerful biasing influence in science, in steering scientific thinking, and, in many cases, deciding what conclusions are to be reached. Others point out that secular scientists may restrict what explanations about nature qualify for the term “science” but they cannot at the same time claim, that what they are dealing with is truth. For example, philosophers of science Stephen C. Meyer (b. 1958) and Paul A. Nelson (b. 1958) point out: Restricting science to naturalistic hypotheses is not an innocuous methodological stratagem which nevertheless leaves science free to pursue the truth. God, after all, may not have been away on other business when life originated, or humankind came to be. These men declare that the secular assumption that God did not intervene directly in nature does not make it so. Similarly Calvin College (in Michigan) philosopher of science Del Ratzsch points out that: If nature is not a closed, naturalistic system – that is, if reality does not respect the naturalists’ edict – then science built around that edict cannot be credited a priori with getting at truth, being self-corrective or anything of the sort. What Dr. Ratzsch has pointed out is that wrong questions will always elicit wrong answers. Scientific explanations may change (and indeed they do) but the answers will never be any closer to the truth if the wrong questions are being asked in the first place. It is often said that science is “self-corrective” i.e. that errors are exposed and better explanations developed. However the term “self-corrective” is meaningless when the studies are biased from the beginning. Conclusion Secular scientists, with their expectations of never seeing God in nature, have confined themselves to mechanistic explanations and interpretations. Such, of course, is the theory of evolution. As Dr. Ratzsch remarks: “… materialists have no viable choice but to view the world through evolutionary spectacles of some sort.” Similarly Dr. Brand tells us: “The evolutionary theory is based on the philosophy of naturalism, and does not consider any hypotheses that involve divine intervention in the history of the universe.” Influenced by their secular colleagues, many Christians choose a theistic evolution type of explanation for origins. For example, Clarence Menninga (b. 1928, science professor emeritus at Calvin College), wrote in The Banner: But it is presumptuous and arrogant for us to restrict God’s options by claiming that he could not have used natural processes to bring about certain complex structures and functions, even if we do not understand in scientific terms how that was done. Thus Dr. Menninga explains the appearance of living creatures in terms of an evolutionary process. He assumes that this is so, contrary to what the Bible says, even though he is unaware of a scientific explanation for the process. It is evident that if such scientists were to ask different questions, based on the expectation of seeing God’s work and character revealed in nature, they might not necessarily come to any evolutionary conclusions at all. In addition, the concept of long ages is a necessary ingredient in any evolutionary scenario. If there were no process of gradual change (evolution), if organisms were created directly, then there is no need for a long period of past time other than the few thousands of years for which we have historical records. This is an extract from Margaret Helder’s book "No Christian Silence on Science" which you can buy at the Creation Science Association of Alberta website...

Adult non-fiction, Science - Creation/Evolution

The Galileo myth: Stories that we all know, often ain't so

As we grow up, receiving instruction at home and at school, we hear many stories that are enduringly imprinted on our minds. Even years later, an adult is often able to recount in detail that vivid scene in the court of King Solomon when he had to rule in the case of the two prostitutes and the one baby, or is able to describe the story of our Lord and the little man Zacchaeus who waited for him in the sycamore-fig tree. But Scriptural stories are not the only ones imparted to us as we go through the years of our elementary and secondary education. We also hear other “timeless tales,” stories that everyone knows through one source or another. We all know, for example, the story of the flat earth; in the Middle Ages, people believed that the earth was flat and believed that those who went too close to the edge would fall off. It is usually said that this was the official teaching of the church, and was something that restricted any voyages of discovery. The church’s ignorance on this point is considered another aspect of the superstition and intellectual decline that typified the so-called Dark Ages. But though the “villains” of this story, the ignorant ecclesiastical leaders, tried to squelch any exploration, the “hero” Columbus bravely stood against the power of the church and its feared Inquisition, and ventured out onto the high seas – and lived to tell about it. Other familiar tales from the past could be added to this one, stories that have been told so often and so widely that they attain the status of “myth.” The purpose of a Myth When we say “myth,” some might automatically equate this with fiction or fable. But “myth” in a wider sense is a grand story, sometimes true, sometimes not, that explains who we are and how we fit into the universe. A tale told and re-told and perhaps re-enacted on television becomes part of the understanding of our past and of our position today. In the tale of the flat earth, we are confirmed in our view of the Middle Ages as a period of ignorance and superstition. The church was blindly opposed to scientific progress, while intelligent sailors courageously showed the conventional understanding to be wrong – a well-known story, but one that is not true. Contrary to the details of this tale, historians have long recognized that all educated people of the medieval period knew that the earth was round, and that the account of the church’s suppression of the intrepid Columbus is pure fiction. And yet this myth is still retold, for it nicely contrasts for our minds the rational modern world with the foolish bigotry that preceded it. It is the place of modern myths that Philip Sampson examines in his book, 6 Modern Myths About Christianity and Western Civilization. After providing the example of the flat earth in his introduction, he looks at other tales that are less innocuous, larger stories that influence the perception of a whole culture – myths that invariably assault Christianity and misrepresent the Scriptures, while lauding humanism and reason. Sampson has selected six grand stories, the most common value-conveying tales. “ are the modern mind’s way of communicating its beliefs about the fundamental problems of origins and meaning…A myth presents values and beliefs to us as though they were facts and history.” He observes that myths are not necessarily invented with the conspiratorial intention of obscuring the facts, but are told as reflections of the society that tells them. The pattern of a Myth Before beginning his work of showing how several “meaning-carrying” modern myths are truly fictional, Sampson summarizes their general characteristics. The vocabulary connotations in each diverse story are remarkably similar: religion is typically associated with belief, omens, ignorance, superstition, heresy, excommunication, torture, and blood; science is always associated with enlightenment, scholarship, intelligence, open-mindedness, and observation. Each story will also have a plot (usually the struggle of a free-thinking underdog against the ignorant church), a hero (an independent thinker), and a villain (the representative of the powerful church). These stereotyped characteristics already betray the selectivity and bias that underlie each myth. In the book, six modern myths are first retold, often in the very words of the philosophers and historians that perpetuated these falsehoods and their intended cultural meanings. Sampson then carefully debunks these ideas, telling the real, more complex stories. In addition to Galileo, he tells of: Darwin and how his ideas were received in "A Story of Origins" Christianity’s impact on the environment in "A Story of Mastery" how missionaries treated native peoples in "A Story of Oppression" Scripture’s view on the human body in "A Story of Repression" the Church’s treatment of witches in "A Story of Persecution" Let’s join Sampson as he deals with the first of the six myths, Galileo. Galileo: a story of a hero of science! The story of Galileo tells us how we fit into the modern world: “We occupy a small planet circling an average sun of one galaxy among many.” “The Received Version” is probably familiar to our readers: the setting is Renaissance Italy; the plot is the warfare between science and religion; the characters are the plucky Galileo, armed only with a telescope, and the cruel Inquisition and her thumbscrews; the story’s end is that Galileo was tortured, condemned as a heretic, and left to rot in a prison cell, while science floundered. A geo-centric or "Aristotelian" model of the universe from Oronce Fine's 1549 book "Le Sphere du Monde." The contrast is between the high ground of reason and observation and the cramped cell of religious dogma and truth. As many schoolchildren learn, “The Bible said that everything moves around the earth but Galileo’s observations showed that the earth moves around the sun.” It’s a familiar tale, but as Sampson observes wryly, “The main drawback…is that most of it is untrue.” So what is the truth? Sampson then does some “demythologizing.” The dominant model of the universe in western Europe up to the late Middle Ages was derived from Aristotle, who reasoned that the heavens, a perfect, unchanging realm, would also be unchangeable in their physical qualities and motion. The earth is at the centre (lowest point) of a universe of concentric spheres, but while the heavenly bodies are ever-perfect, the earth is made of imperfect, changeable matter. This Aristotelian cosmology was essentially the standard view, until the “revolution” of Copernicus (who died twenty years before Galileo was born), who revived the ancient Pythagorean hypothesis that the sun, not the earth, is at the centre of the universe. A common sub-plot in this “cosmic” myth had to do with how man’s importance was tied to where the earth was placed in the universe. It is usually asserted that the pre-Copernican men had an exaggerated and arrogant sense of human importance and that was why they placed earth as the center of the universe. Then, when it was discovered that we are only “the third rock from the sun,” man was humbled, and simultaneously Scripture was undermined: “If man’s abode was not at the centre of things, how could he be king ?” But, as we have seen, the pre-Copernican cosmology was no compliment to earth’s occupants, for in that model the earth is the least important and most transitory place in the universe. Indeed, it was the Copernican system that elevated humanity, lifting the earth to the ranks of perfect heavenly bodies and its inhabitants to heavenly creatures. Far from engendering humility, the end result of the Copernican view was a proud glorification of man and his ability. Mock the Pope at your peril The question must be asked, though: Why Galileo as the hero? Why not Copernicus, who had earlier made the key contribution to the “new” cosmology? Sampson notes that Copernicus is not an appropriate character, for he was a canon of the church, he enjoyed the support of the pope, and his book circulated without problem for many years. But Galileo – he was condemned by the church for teaching that the sun is the centre of the universe, and his book confiscated. The retold modern tale features the persecuted Galileo as scientist and hero. It is said that he invented the telescope, discovered how the earth moves around the sun, conducted his famous experiment on the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and asserted, even in the face of the powerful church, that it is the earth that moves. The truth is, he didn’t invent the telescope, likely didn’t drop cannon balls from the Tower, and didn’t discover the dynamics of the pendulum. He did make major contributions to astronomy, but could not prove that the earth moves around the sun. Indeed, there was insufficient evidence at Galileo’s time to prove the Copernican view. Copernicus had been hesitant at first to publish his opinions, not for fear of church punishment, as is said, but for fear of being ridiculed by fellow astronomers who still maintained the dominant Aristotelian cosmology. Galileo feared the same rejection, but persistently asserted that the earth literally moves around the sun, “and popularized his views in snappy Italian rather than the arcane Latin of the universities” His book on cosmology became a bestseller. Galileo’s relations with the (Roman) church at this time were cordial. Most of the church leaders favored his view over Aristotle’s, though they acknowledged that more evidence was needed to establish his case. They judged that Galileo’s view made excellent sense “as a hypothesis.” But Galileo then began to push the envelope; to prove that the earth revolves, he proposed an ingenious but erroneous theory of tides, he argued that comets were a form of optical illusion, and he reinterpreted certain Scripture passages in the light of Copernican reasoning. Then the last straw: he also wrote a “dialogue” in which his view and the Aristotelian view are represented by two characters. In the dialogue, he put a favorite cosmological argument of his friend Pope Urban VIII in the mouth of the conversation’s simpleton. As Sampson notes: “this was not a wise move, and the rest is history.” The major cause of Galileo’s troubles was then not his view of the earth’s motion as such, but that he had made fun of his Holiness. Sampson notes that today most historians accept that the events surrounding Galileo’s troubles with the church involved complex intrigues of politics and patronage rather than “dogmatic reservations” about Biblical teaching. The dialogue was confiscated and Galileo summoned to Rome in 1633. But the stories of dank prison cells and torture are modern embellishments; he was detained, and forced to abjure heliocentrism, but he was given his own room and servants, in keeping with his position of favor in the Roman church. In the end he did not die a lonely and broken man, as the Received Version runs, but returned to his home with a church pension to live out his years in peace. It is said that a larger result of the imagined escapade was that science long floundered under the church’s domination. But Sampson, having dispelled the modern myth of a brave Galileo resisting an ignorant church, now points out another historical fact: rather than warfare between science and religion in this period, there are direct positive connections between them. The Reformation churches, in particular, replaced Aristotelian reasoning (still persistent in the Roman church) with insights from the Bible, and so provided the soil that enabled science to grow. The relationship between Biblical Christianity and the rise of science is a complex one, but Sampson identifies four basic aspects of it in the Reformation. Firstly, there was a restoration of the perspective that nature is created and not divine, and is therefore open to free inquiry and investigation. Secondly, the principle of man’s God-given dominion over creation, not domination, was rediscovered. Thirdly, reason was properly demoted as dependent on God and not vaunted as a “key” to unlocking God’s secrets, thus encouraging again the study of creation. Fourthly, God’s sovereign care for creation was again recognized, with the corollary that certain God-ordained laws in the universe could be discovered through science. The theme of conflict between religion’s ignorance and science’s enlightenment is at the heart of the Galileo myth. A proper historical study demolishes the oft-repeated tale that lauds free science and mocks repressive religion, and affirms instead the positive framework that Biblical Christianity affords to free investigation. Postmodern stories Modernity asserts that reason, facts, and scientific achievements underpin its self-confidence, yet it is persistently told fables that in reality receive the central place in the communication of its worldview. Indeed, it is nothing new that stories are used to pass on modernity’s core beliefs – many societies have used narrative in this way. The question must be asked though, says Sampson: why do the modern myths have such a negative focus, concerned with the warfare between science and religion, reason and superstition? He suggests that this myopic view represses another story, “one less congenial to the modern mind,” namely that of the damage science has done (e.g., the Chernobyl disaster) and of the brutal reality that confronts the idea of human progress (e.g., two world wars). “Modern myths constantly reinvent a superstitious image of religion in order to brush it aside and with it modernity’s role in oppression.” A well-told story provides an opportunity to neglect the facts and distract attention from corporate shortcoming and guilt. Postmodernism has recognized the unrealities in modernism’s vision of the world, but the familiar stories have not disappeared. Rather, modern stories are still used, but now selectively, and with strange bedfellows. The modern myths’ presentation of enlightening science is combined with elements of “spirituality” (e.g., the tale of Galileo is accepted by the same person who puts credence in his daily horoscope). Today, tradition and religion are not rejected, but are incorporated with science, in accord with postmodernity’s spirit of eclecticism. And so the falsehood of retold myths will continue to confront us in this postmodern age. On the book At first blush one might think that Sampson’s book is only another example of “revisionist history,” where historical events or periods are radically reinterpreted, usually to conform to the historian’s implausibly slanted thesis. But a consideration of the great amount of research carried out by Sampson, also in primary sources, should dispel any fear of revisionism. Indeed, every historian will write from his own perspective and presuppositions, making “objective” historiography impossible. At the same time, we can be honest and careful with the historical evidence that we examine and interpret. Sampson’s honesty is observable throughout his book. Though depicting the modern myth as invariably characterized by stereotyped features, he resists the temptation to do the same in his retelling. For example, though refuting the image of an ignorant and repressive Christianity, he acknowledges where churches and popes were autocratic; though disputing the extent of the witch hunts (also in Salem, Mass.), he concedes that many women were wrongly killed by Christians for exaggerated charges or suspicions of witchcraft. 6 Modern Myths About Christianity and Western Civilization is relatively short, but bursting with the fruits of Sampson’s research. A slight criticism would be his use of endnotes, which necessitate the use of two bookmarks (which aren’t that scarce, I know) – the interested reader always has to flip to the back of the book to read his often fascinating footnotes, as Sampson digs up varied and obscure sources. The book is not a light read, but it is a stimulating and exciting one, as we accompany the author to the courts of Renaissance Italy, to the jungles of South America, and to the colonial towns of New England. He also provides an abundance of “signposts” for the reader to follow him to his startling conclusions. Sampson clearly works from a perspective that values the historicity and authority of the Bible. Though he has much to say that is negative about modernity’s credos and their narrative expression, he also makes positive statements about the value of a truly Christian worldview, one that touches all of life and offers a proper approach to all we encounter. This book would be eminently helpful for any thoughtful Christian reader. Its appeal is broad because the stories Sampson treats are well-known to many of us – familiar stories, but ones whose values and bases are not usually recognized for what they are. With the help of this book we may continue to assert in the world the relevance of the Scriptures for everyday life and may continue to witness to the true freedom that the gospel of grace affords. Rev. Reuben Bredenhof is pastor of the Mt. Nasura Free Reformed Church in Western Australia. You can find a Dutch translation of this article here. For more on the Galileo myth, see also this excellent article on First Things....