Young Earth Science

Young Earth Science

 
 
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Jay HallThere are many different interpretations of the biblical and scientific data regarding creation and human origins. In addition to evolutionary creationsim and old earth creationism, there is young earth creationism. While Young Earth Creationists are often accused of ignoring science, many are wrestling with scientific evidence.

In this episode, I talk to Jay L. Hall, author of Young Earth Science and the Dawn of a New WorldView: Old Earth Fallacies and the Collapse of Darwinism. Even if you do not identify with young earth creationism, you may find this interview informative. I would also encourage you to listen to my interview with Andrew Walsh on evolutionary creationism.

My audiobook recommendation is Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design by Stephen C. Meyer

When Charles Darwin finished The Origin of Species, he thought that he had explained every clue but one. Though his theory could explain many facts, Darwin knew that there was a significant event in the history of life that his theory did not explain. During this event, the “Cambrian explosion”, many animals suddenly appeared in the fossil record without apparent ancestors in earlier layers of rock.

In Darwin’s Doubt, Stephen C. Meyer tells the story of the mystery surrounding this explosion of animal life – a mystery that has intensified not only because the expected ancestors of these animals have not been found but because scientists have learned more about what it takes to construct an animal. During the last half century, biologists have come to appreciate the central importance of biological information – stored in DNA and elsewhere in cells – to building animal forms.

Expanding on the compelling case he presented in his last book, Signature in the Cell, Meyer argues that the origin of this information, as well as other mysterious features of the Cambrian event, are best explained by intelligent design rather than purely undirected evolutionary processes.

Get this audiobook for FREE with a FREE trial of Audible.


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Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design – Review

Creation EvolutionOne of the most controversial theological topics is that of human origins and the age of the earth. Christians often hold very tightly to their position and are suspicious of different views. What was the means of creation? How do we understand evolution?

What is most important to know is that there is not one official Christian position on creation and evolution and this is reflected in Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design. Each of the authors are devout Christians who are attempting to find the proper interpretations of both the Bible and scientific evidence.

The viewpoints represented are young earth creationism, old earth creationism, evolutionary creationism (theistic evolution) and intelligent design. In many ways, intelligent design is the odd man out as it overlaps with many of the other views. Intelligent design does not attempt to interpret Genesis 1-2 but looks for evidence of design within science. However, Stephen Meyer, who writes for ID, does share his views, without attempting to speak for all who hold to an ID position.

One of the greatest needs is for there to be healthy conversation across differing view points. That is part of the aim of the four/five views books and of this volume in particular. It is important to read outside of one’s belief system and to encounter different ideas.

I found this book to be very enjoyable. The one disappointment was Ken Ham’s chapter on young earth creationism and his responses to the other chapters. It was not his views or his evidence that was the problem but his tone. Ham stood out as being the most aggressive toward the other views. Unfortunately I have seen this numerous times among young earth creationists. Other views are seen not as different perspectives but as rejection of biblical truth and treated with contempt. I’m sure that there are young earth creationists that can discuss other views with respect but Ham is not one of them.

I strongly encourage people to read Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design no matter what position you currently hold.


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Thoughts on Theistic Evolution

Theistic EvolutionOne of the most controversial topics among Christians is the role of evolution, if any, in the creation of humanity. I’m not referring to debates between Christians and non-Christians, but disagreements among people in the church. One of the issues is the concept of theistic evolution (also called evolutionary creationism).

I have read a lot in the area of evolution, theistic evolution, intelligent design and related topics. I must confess that I get frustrated with the conversation. Not only is there a lack of respect in the conversation, there is also a lack of clarity. What do we mean by evolution? What role did God have in it?

For example, those who hold to theistic evolution are strongly against intelligent design. Interestingly, they are more open to the argument from design on the cosmological level. This confuses me because if God used evolution to create humanity, why must that exclude any evidence of design?

This comes down to how we define evolution. For example, Michael Behe is a strong advocate for intelligent design. Behe believes in common ancestry, meaning that humans and other animals developed from other animals and animals that are much different now can trace their ancestors back to a common life form. That would seem to be a form of evolution since animals are, in Behe’s view, evolving from less developed animals.

But theistic evolutionists and intelligent design advocates would reject that as evolution. That is because evolution is much more than a belief in a tree of life that traces different species to a common ancestor. Evolution also includes the concept of random mutation. Behe, while holding to common ancestry, doesn’t believe the changes came about by random mutations. Behe believes that the changes are the results of God’s design.

What I would want to know from theistic evolutionists is what they see as God’s role. Is evolution something that can work all by itself, without any involvement from God? Is God necessary for human life to develop? In what way are we his creation? In what way is evolution theistic? Could it be possible for God to be active in the entire process of evolution, making sure things went the way he wanted?

This is not meant to be an attack on theistic evolution. I’m open to the idea that God could have used some form of evolution to create humanity. But so far, I’m not satisfied with the current form of the conversation.


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Views on Human Origins

I recently did a Twitter poll on people’s beliefs on human origins. Here are the results.

Obviously the numbers are not large enough to prove anything scientific. But the results are interesting nonetheless.

What do these results tell us? They tell us that there is diversity in views among sincere Christians. There are many instances when Christians have attacked each other over these issues. This should not be.

It is good for us to hold our views strongly that doesn’t mean that we should be intolerant of other opinions.

If you are interested in this, I would recommend this sermon that I preached on my church.




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Resources on Theistic Evolution

When I came to personal faith in my early 20s, I was told that young earth creationism was the only option for understanding the origins of humanity. I was told that any Christian that believed in evolution was not really a Christian. So I was shocked when I started seminary and a number of my professors believed in evolution.

I now understand that there is a range of interpretations of the biblical and scientific data. I believe that people in each camp are faithful Christians who are doing their best to understand the data.

I recently listened to a few podcast episodes that dealt specifically with theistic evolution (often also called evolutionary creationism). I thought I would share the links here to help further the conversation.

I also encourage you to check out this interview I had with Andrew Walsh on theistic evolution. You might also like this page I have started on creation and evolution.


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Interview With Andrew Walsh on Theistic Evolution

Interview With Andrew Walsh on Theistic Evolution
Hope's Reason

 
 
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Andrew WalshFaithful Christians have a variety of views on the origins of life and the age of the earth. One of these views is theistic evolution. Dr. Andrew Walsh shares with us his understanding of evolution and how that fits with his faith.

Recommended Links:
Recommended Books:
Quantum Physics and Theology by John Polkinghorne (USA) (Canada)
Language of God by Francis Collins (USA) (Canada)
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Doubts on Darwinism

Many people see Darwinism as scientific fact. But is there some room for doubt? J.P. Moreland shares some doubts about Darwinism based on both philosophical and scientific grounds.


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Options in Creation

CreationWhen I first came to personal faith, I was fully confident that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead in order to provide forgiveness of sins and eternal life. But there were other things that I was not so sure about. I particularly hated reading the first chapters of Genesis. I was a university student at the time and everything I was taught pointed to an Earth that was millions of years old. Yet I was being told to read Genesis 1 literally and accept that the Earth was only 6000 years old (plus a few thousand if people were generous). How was I to fit this, not just with the geological record but the archaeological record of civilizations far older than the supposed 6000 year-old planet?

To be honest, I just read the chapter and prayed to God, admitting the confusion that I felt. I did not know what else to do. My church at the time taught me that Christians had to believe in the young Earth. There were no other options.

I later discovered that there are options. Despite what some people say, you can still be a Christian and have different views of the age of the Earth and the means of creation. Here are some of the options:

Young Earth Creationism

This is where I began and I have many friend who believe this. It basically claims that Genesis 1 and the biblical genealogies give us what we need. Adding up the genealogies gives Earth (and the universe) an age of about 6000-10000 years. Creation took place just as Genesis 1 describes, with each day being a literal twenty-four hour period. Many of the geological features that seem to point to an older Earth were actually formed by a worldwide flood. Answers in Genesis is a good place to find out more about this option.

Old Earth Creationism

This option accepts the findings of geologists and astronomers when it comes to the age of the Earth and the universe. They see Genesis 1 as explaining creation in a rather poetic way. The purpose of the creation story is not to explain how and when things were created but to focus on God as the Creator and to see the design in what God made. Some see the days of Genesis 1 as being six periods of time, far longer than a literal day. In this view, God created Adam and Eve long after the Earth with all its plants and animals had been created. Reasons to Believe is a good place to find out more about Old Earth Creationism.

Theistic Evolution

This option has much in common with OEC when it comes to the age of the universe and the Earth. The difference is that OEC sees God creating animals, including humans, in a form that only allows for micro evolution. Cats have always been cats, dogs have always been dogs and humans have always been humans. Theistic Evolution accepts Darwin’s basic theory of evolution. Life would have began with simple one celled lifeforms. By the process of evolution, these developed into all the life forms that we see today, including humans. The difference from naturalistic evolution is that Theistic Evolutionists see God as guiding the process of evolution for his own purposes. BioLogos is a good place to find out more about Theistic Evolution.

Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design is not really an alternative to the previous three. It really overlaps with all three. Intelligent Design starts with the scientific evidence that there seems to be design in all lifeforms. It does not seek to promote a theological agenda. One could see evidence for design without believing in God. Some educators see ID as a thinly disguised YEC and do not want it taught in schools. Many believers in ID fall into the OEC camp. While there is potential for agreement between ID and TE, there is often tension as ID is usually critical of evolution. You can find out more about Intelligent Design at the Discovery Institute.

I share these things, not just for information sake, but as a plea for understanding. There have been heated arguments between the groups. Consider focusing on what we have in common rather than what divides.

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Science vs Religion

Science and religion are enemies. Or at least that is what some people would like us to think. One of the battlegrounds of this idea is the proposal to teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. ID proponents have not asked that evolution be removed from the schools, only that ID could be talked about as one of the dissenting views.

The response is always: Evolution is science and intelligent design is religion.

Science vs ReligionIs this true? Trevor Ray Slone in his new book, Science vs Religion, addresses this very subject. Slone sets up his argument by laying the logical foundation and providing the required definitions. Slone looks at each of the issues carefully, interacting with a number of sources. While Slone is a young earth creationist, we does not fight for just that view. He includes old earth creationism as something of value, even if he disagrees with that age of the earth.

If a reader is intimidated by the issues surrounding the intelligent design controversy, this is a good introduction. Slone does not talk over people’s heads. He writes in his own voice and includes many personal illustrations.

Available in Kindle, this is a very affordable introduction to an important topic. Make sure to check out Trevor Ray Slone’s Science vs Religion.

Canadian readers can purchase it here.

 

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Reflections on Reading Darwin

I recently read Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species. Although I wish that I could do a book review, I am definitely not qualified. Science is not my background and it probably was my worst subject in high school. The most I can do is to share some thoughts I had while reading it.

Charles DarwinI did not go into this book with a firm conviction that all forms of evolution are false. While I would most likely label myself as an old earth creationist, I am open to some form of theistic evolution. I say this to explain that I did not read the book with a firm philosophical stand against evolution.

While much of the book was dreadfully boring (it is a science book after all), there were other parts that were extremely interesting. Darwin’s descriptions of various animals and the parts of their bodies that enable them to survive their specific habitat were fascinating. I must confess that I struggled to write that sentence without using the word ‘design.’

That was in fact my main reaction to this book. As Darwin spoke about the complexity of life and the slight but vital differences between species, I felt more assured that this was the result of some sort of intelligent design. Darwin seemed to have noticed this as well. He would acknowledge that it looked like it was designed but then would assert that with enough time these things would happen on their own.

I guess my thoughts on Darwin would be that he had some excellent observations but some strained explanations. The things that he reported on are very helpful. However it seems that his theory as to how these things took place seems like more of an assertion than anything else.

I would suggest that if life has evolved in any way such as Darwin suggests, that evolution would need the guidance of an Intelligent Designer such as God.

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Creationism and Evangelism

When I first became a Christian, one of the hardest things that I had to deal with was not persecution but how to deal with Genesis 1. I always hated reading that chapter. It was not so much the question of evolution but the age of the earth. The Christians I knew expected me to believe in a 6000 year old earth and a literal six day creation. Believing in young earth creationism was just as important as believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus. To paraphrase the Catholics, there is no salvation outside of young earth creationism.

This is not meant as an attack on young earth creationism. You could substitute any of the other theories here. My point is that I did not know that there were other options. This brings me to my question. How important is getting a seeker to agree with your version of creationism in your evangelism? Would you insist that they agree with your understanding of the age of the earth as an essential to them becoming a Christian? Would you be okay with them having a different understanding of creation as they became a Christian or would you feel that their “error” would lead them on a slippery slope to other theological problems?

I will tell you what I think. If I was sharing my faith, I would not care what they thought of the age of the earth. If they were interested (I would not even bring it up unless they did), I would share the options and let them work it out.

Having said that, what would you do? I would love to hear your opinion.

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A Poorly Designed Chapter

In his chapter “Arguments From Design” Christopher Hitchens attacks the concept of intelligent design.  This was a frustrating chapter in a number of ways.  One reason is that Hitchens got off topic quite often.  He would be talking about evolution or intelligent design and then would be reminded about something else that ticked him off about religion.  Apparently no opportunity for a potshot should be overlooked, even if it breaks the flow of an argument.

Hitchens’ basic argument is that Darwinian evolution has basically removed any need for God, if there ever was one.  He seems to think that Darwinism has explained pretty much everything.  He sees Darwinism as more than a theory and intelligent design (ID) as less than a theory.  It should be remembered that Darwinism has official sanction to be researched, studied and published, allowing it to develop (evolve) as a theory.  At the same time, ID is banished from the conversation resulting in much more limited opportunities to be studied.  Still, ID has provided some impressive results despite what Hitchens claims.

There are definitely some limitations to Darwinism.  For example, Hitchens cites (sights?) Michael Shermer on the evolution of the eye.  Shermer argues that the current form of the eye was a gradual development from a simple eyespot with light sensitive cells.  Let us use our imagination.  We would have to assume that at one point, no organisms had any eyespots.  Then there was one that happened to have mutated with such eyespots.  We are not talking about an adjustment to size or colour.  Even a simple eyespot would be fairly complex, being able to measure the light and then transmit the information to the brain.  And that just appeared?  And then kept appearing?  And Ockham’s razor really makes that more likely than a Designer?  Then there is the thorniest problem, which is the origin of life.  How did such life first begin?  Hitchens (or Darwinism) has no really answers here.

One of Hitchens arguments is that if there was a Designer, he did a very bad job.  After all, there is sickness and age and death and eventually an end to our solar system.  Hitchens problem is that he takes one aspect of the Christian worldview, intelligent design, and dismisses it as not answering all the questions.  The Christian world view has many other aspects including God’s plan for the human life with an afterlife and a transformation of this world.  All of these things must be taken together.

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Tim Keller on Creation and Evolution

Tim KellerWhat is a Christian to do with the whole creation/evolution debate?  Do we clutch our Bibles with one hand and try to protect our ears from the claims of science with the other hand?  This is not just a theoretical problem, it is a pastoral problem.

People in our churches are really struggling with this.  Tim Keller has written a paper for the BioLogos Foundation on Creation, Evolution and Christian Lay People.  It is worth checking out.  You may not agree with his conclusions but he provides a good model of how to approach these issues both apologetically and pastorally.

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