Sunday, 4 September 2016

The Two Books of DIvine Revelation and the YEC Denial of Reality

The Facebook page Science and Scripture is currently running a series of articles on the long-established "Two Books" view of divine revelation in response to a poorly-researched and tendentious attack on this well-established principle by two conservative Christadelphian opponents of evolution. This series is well-written, impeccably researched, and by showing that the 'two books' approach was maintained explicitly and implicitly by Christadelphians as early as John Thomas, neatly refutes the attempt to link the 'two books' view to evolutionary creationism given that the early Christadelphians were not evolutionary creationists.

Given the comprehensive nature of the Science and Scripture series, and the fact that this website has on many occasions touched on this subject, there is no point in repeating these points again. However, a few observations on the tendentious nature of such attacks on the 'two books' approach, and the misrepresentation of the views of those in our community who accept the 'two books' approach are very much indicated.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

A roundup of interesting blog posts

Joel Duff has endured an AiG lecture and fisked it to within an inch of its life, sparing you both the tedium of listening to YEC mendacity, but also exposing the usual AiG sophistry and the utter intellectual dishonesty of their anti-evolution message:
AiG employs some very effective speakers.  But the talks are really only as good as the information content that a very small core of staff scientists are creating for them. In this case, the talk was very powerful and probably very persuasive to many in the audience. But because the the content suffers from many misconceptions and incorrect statements any truth that was really presented is diluted by the baggage of bad information that came along with it.   I liken it to listening to a Joel Osteen lecture – I can’t call them sermons.   There are bits of truth in some of his words but there is so much there that is wrong that it really isn’t worth listening to on the whole.
Harsh? Hardly. AiG take advantage of the fact their audience is scientifically naive and therefore will not be able to question the absolute howlers made by the speaker. As Duff notes, when commenting on an AiG speaker appealing to a creationist:
Osborne [the AiG speaker] introduced the quote above by saying:  “I love this quote from this secular scientist..” Again, another Dr. Spetner quote that includes misconceptions of how natural selection, genetic drift and mutation actually work in populations.  Quoting Spetner is a bit like me lecturing to a group of scientists about the meaning of an Old Testament and quoting Joel Osteen as my source of Biblical scholarship.  If the audience doesn’t know who Joel Osteen is they will assume that I am presenting them with the best available understanding of OT theology but in reality they will walk away with a very poor understanding of meaning of the text.
Duff's post can be found here

Geologist Jonathan Baker has a guest post at his Age of Rocks blog by former YEC David MacMillan who uses whimsy and humour to skewer the YEC mindset in a post entitled "Mr Creationist Goes to Court":
Defense: Your honor, my client is not guilty. He has already explained that he only drew his gun to check the safety, and it went off by mistake.
Prosecutor: You’re joking, right?
D: Absolutely not! How could you joke at a time like this? One man is already dead and an innocent man’s freedom hangs in the balance!
P: Innocent? The victim is dead because your client shot him. Four times. That is not an accident.
D: Now, I think we all know that’s just your assumption. Don’t act like your whole “four shots” theory is fact.
P: It is a fact. The victim had four bullet holes in him.
D: Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t, but I’m just saying, let’s not let your obvious assumptions get in the way of justice. After all, you are the prosecutor; it’s not like you’re unbiased.
P: Four bullet holes. Four.
D: I wish you’d stop repeating that assumption. Look here, bullets can bounce, right? You assume the so-called victim was shot four times but only one bullet was actually in his body!
P: The victim was shot twice in the chest, once in the abdomen, and once in the head. There are clear entry and exit wounds on three of these, and the fourth bullet was found embedded in his spine.
D: Fourth bullet? There you go again with your biased assumptions. How can you possibly know which bullet was fired last, especially when we don’t even know for sure that there was more than one shot? Have you even considered the bounce theory?
 Those familiar with the tortured logic, paranoia, and science denialism of YECs will quickly know where the defence is going here. There's a nice sting in the tail too. Full article is here.
MacMillan has been on a roll recently; at the always-excellent Panda's Thumb blog, he tears apart the latest attempt by AiG to show how a small number of animals on board the Ark could post-flood hyper-evolve in a short period of time to produce the diversity of life we see today:
In the buzz of excitement surrounding Opening Day at the Ark Encounter, the team of writers at Answers in Genesis continues their struggle to explain how all terrestrial life could have been shoved onboard the Ark and then exploded back out into millions of species in only a few dozen centuries. The more they write, however, the more difficult it becomes to make sense of their approach. Nathaniel Jeanson has a new post that further compounds my confusion.
One of AIG’s youngest writers, Jeanson sports an impressive Harvard degree in cell biology and has previously worked with the Institute for Creation Research. Given his degree, it must be assumed he has enough education to understand the subjects he is writing about. Jeanson appears sincere, and it is evident he believes his conclusions fervently. He has to know, though, that his arguments are completely detached from those conclusions. He writes with the awkward obfuscation of someone trying to defend a sinking ship while earnestly attempting to remain tenuously bound to the uncomfortable constraints of reality.
Is it really that bad? Indeed it is.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Graeme Finlay 2016 Australian lecture series on the evidence for evolution and evolution, cancer, and suffering

Dr Graeme Finlay,  cell biologist, cancer researcher, and senior lecturer in scientific pathology at the University of Auckland was in Australia recently giving a series of lectures on the evidence for evolution from molecular biology, a subject with which he is deeply familiar during his decades of research into cancer, as well as looking at the relationship between evolution and suffering. Finlay needs no introduction to readers of this blog as I have frequently referred to his excellent material.

The audio of his ISCAST-CASE lecture on the 5th July 2016, "Unequivocal Genetic Evidence for Human Evolution, and Implications for Christian Faith" given at New College, University of New South Wales is available below:
Lecture 1: Download GF-L1 mp3
Q & A session: Download GF-Q1 mp3
PDF of Lecture slides:  Download GF-L1 pdf

The abstract of his lecture (courtesy of the ISCAST website) follows:
In this lecture Graeme wants to do two things. Firstly to present the unequivocal evidence from comparative genomics that we are an evolved species. And then (because he knows that many Christians find it difficult to assimilate this) he goes on to emphasise that this strengthens and enriches our faith. The ‘givenness’ of evolution forces us to purify our approach to exegesis (Genesis), theology (creation), providence (God’s action in history), and the meaning of our own humanity.
The video of Finlay's lecture at Tabor College on the 13th July "Genetics, Evolution, Cancer, Suffering and God" can be found here. The PDF of the accompanying slides can be downloaded here.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Genesis and the Flood: A new BioLogos series from OT scholar Tremper Longman III

BioLogos is currently running a multi-part series on Genesis and the Flood by renown OT scholar Tremper Longman III. Fundamental to understanding the first eleven chapters of the Bible is to recognise their genre and sociocultural context. YECs fail to understand these chapters properly by simply assuming that they are meant to be read literally as a scientific and historical account of the origin of the universe. As Longman says:
First, the question of genre of Genesis 1-11 is often presented as a choice between two alternatives. Is it history (giving a literal depiction of events) or is it myth (having no real connection with actual events)? There is no reason to think there are only these two possibilities. People on both sides of the question want us to think so. Those who think that this part of the Bible gives us a literal depiction of events also want us to think that anyone who doesn’t agree has sold out and no longer holds to “biblical truth.” On the other side, those who take a mythical view of the text often characterize those who take a literal approach as crass fundamentalists who just stick their heads in the sand. Again, we need to avoid this unfortunate and unnecessary characterization of the question of genre.

Second, as we address the question of genre, we need to remember that the Bible, while written for us, was not written to us. The authors of the books of the Bible had an original audience in mind when they wrote, and that audience is not us. As I like to tell my students, they don’t call the book of Romans “Romans” for nothing! It was written to the church in Rome and when we read it, we need first to put ourselves in the place of the church of Rome before applying it to ourselves.

Thus, to understand the Old Testament books, we have to put ourselves in the “cognitive environment” (to use the phrase made memorable by my friend John Walton of the time) in which the book was written.
Those who fail to put themselves into the 'cognitive environment' of Genesis will set themselves up for needless conflict with the reality of an ancient, evolving creation.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

How I Changed My Mind About Evolution - the latest BioLogos book

Over the past few weeks, I've posted excerpts from the latest BioLogos book How I Changed My Mind About Evolution in which a number of scientists, theologians, pastors, and Biblical scholars note how they have accepted the fact of evolution while remaining firm in their Christian faith. Given that the debate has long been framed in terms of fundamentalism versus ardent anti-theism, books such as this play a valuable role in disabusing the interested reader of the belief that the only scientific voices are anti-theists and the only Christian perspective a fundamentalist, anti-science one.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Evolution and the Gospel: From Enemy to Harmony

I never get tired of reading anecdotes from ex-YECs who escape fundamentalism but manage to avoid sliding into atheism as they show that contrary to what YECs allege, rejecting fundamentalism does not result in loss of faith. For a community as thoroughly enmeshed in fundamentalism as ours is, this is good news indeed. Plant physiologist Keith Furman, writing at BioLogos notes how he managed to travel from YEC to OEC and then EC; he now maintains a website The Gospel and Evolution where he aims to show that faith in Christ and acceptance of the fact of evolution are not mutually exclusive.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Vestigial structures - one of the best lines of evidence for evolution

The existence of atavisms and vestigial structures was one of the lines of evidence for evolution Darwin advanced in his Origin of Species, and to this day remains one of the most misunderstood arguments for evolution. Special creationists still think that vestigial means useless, but as Darwin pointed out:
"[a]n organ serving for two purposes, may become rudimentary or utterly aborted for one, even the more important purpose, and remain perfectly efficient for the organ may become rudimentary for its proper purpose, and be used for a distinct object." [1]
In other words, a structure is vestigial if it has lost its original function, irrespective of whether it has secondarily acquired a new function. Examples of vestigial structures include the inner wings of flightless beetles that are atrophied and unable to perform their original function of flight, and the human coccyx, which no longer functions as a tail, but has secondarily acquired new function. The presence or absence of function is not relevant as to whether the structure is vestigial.

This short video shows a number of vestigial structures in the human body, and shows how they provide evidence for common descent - they are features inherited from a remote ancestor which are present, but no longer have the same function that they do in related species with whom we share common ancestry.


1. Darwin C. " On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" (1859: John Murray: London.)