Sunday, 24 May 2015

The Christadelphian magazine and evolution. Part 4 - Andrew Godber

Andrew Godber's anti-evolution article [1] in the May 2015 edition of The Christadelphian takes a different approach from the previous three articles in that it does not directly attack evolution, but seeks to provide ways in which young Christadelphians can maintain their evolution denialism in the classroom. This is frankly reckless advice. Given that the evidence for evolution is overwhelming, it is quite likely that the young student, armed with the weak anti-evolution material seen in the previous three articles in The Christadelphian, will not only quickly see why > 99% of mainstream scientists regard the evidence for evolution as compelling, but will lose faith, particularly if their faith is rooted in evolution denialism.

One of the rhetorical flourishes special creationists love to invoke is the image of a faithful minority of special creationists being aggressively evangelised by the godless evolutionists in media and science. Godber's article makes full use of this trope:
"One such danger is the evangelical zeal with which we are bombarded by all parts of the media with the theory of evolution, so much so that we could easily feel browbeaten when we realise that we are in the minority. We are assailed by details of (supposed) evolutionary developments and their accompanying millions of years. Endless repetition of the mantra can seem to give credence to the theory of evolution. Many, however, are firmly convinced of the truth of the Genesis creation account despite this putting them in a minority and it is at times like these that examples from scripture are extremely useful. In a different context, Elijah once thought that he was the only one who served God. However, it was quickly pointed out to him that –
“… I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.” (Romans 11:4)
In any case we need to remember that being in a minority does not, automatically, mean that we are wrong.
As with any special creationist attack, a useful rule of thumb is to replace 'evolution' with any other scientific fact which is also denied by a tiny minority for religious reasons to see the flaw in the argument. Geocentrism, which like evolution denialism takes its motivation from a literal reading of the Bible and a creative distortion of scientific evidence makes an excellent demonstration:

One such danger is the evangelical zeal with which we are bombarded by all parts of the media with the theory of heliocentrism, so much so that we could easily feel browbeaten when we realise that we are in the minority. We are assailed by details of (supposed) astronomical demonstrations of heliocentrism and their accompanying mathematical proofs. Endless repetition of the mantra can seem to give credence to the theory of geocentrism. Many, however, are firmly convinced of the truth of the Biblical account that the Earth is fixed despite this putting them in a minority and it is at times like these that examples from scripture are extremely useful.

Of course, the media are not bombarding us with heliocentrism. They are reporting what has been an accepted fact for centuries - the Earth orbits the sun - and appeals to the literal meaning of the Bible count are unconvincing for those who are aware of the scientific evidence demonstrating the reality of heliocentrism. Likewise, the media is not 'bombarding' us with evolution. Rather, they are simply reporting what has been entirely uncontroversial in scientific circles for well over a century - the natural history of life reflects an evolutionary process. As evolutionary biologist T.R. Gregory reminds us: reliable observation has ever been found to contradict the general notion of common descent. It should come as no surprise, then, that the scientific community at large has accepted evolutionary descent as a historical reality since Darwin’s time and considers it among the most reliably established and fundamentally important facts in all of science. [2]
It is quite likely that YECs would reject this argument offered by a geocentrist because:
  1. They are aware of the scientific evidence against geocentrism
  2. They recognise that a literal reading of these words cannot be privileged against the scientiifc evidence, and interpret them differently
By recasting Godber's opening words as a geocentrist attack against astronomy, we see not just the tendentious, rhetorical nature of his argument, but also see the inconsistency of the anti-evolution position. Both heliocentrism and evolution are well-established ideas, with considerable scientific evidence supporting them. The challenge for Godber is to either show that the scientific evidence does not support evolution, or recognise that their evolution denialism, like geocentrism has no basis in fact and alter their interpretation of scripture accordingly. As I have said before, this willingness to abandon false interpretations of the Bible in light of scientific evidence is one with impeccable pedigree:
Supposing that it were ever established that they were the actual progenitors of our smaller forms (“There were giants in the earth in those days” might apply to birds and beasts), would the credibility of the Mosaic narrative suffer? Not at all, in our estimation. We should indeed have to revise somewhat our interpretation of the brief cosmogony of Gen. 1.; but should not waver as concerning its divinity. [3]
Obdurate refusal to discard mere human interpretations of the Bible in the face of the witness of the natural world is completely antithetical to this example.

Another well-worn special creationist trope is the Galileo Gambit, which asserts that if the 'establishment' laughed at Galileo who turned out to be right all along, then likewise we must be right because we are a tiny despised minority at whom the establishment laughs. Godber makes full use of this argument:
In any case we need to remember that being in a minority does not, automatically, mean that we are wrong. Indeed, there are very many examples in science where someone having a new idea was strongly criticised by an overwhelming majority of his scientific colleagues but subsequently proved right .
What Godber forgets is that those whose new idea was eventually shown right did so via the scientific method, not by appeal to personal interpretation of Biblical passages. Special creationists such as Godber never formulate hypotheses, test them against the evidence, refine them, make predictions, publish their results and win over the scientific community. Until he and his fellow special creationists do that, their special creationism will rightly remain a fringe view simply because the scientific evidence is better explained by evolution. Put bluntly, as Carl Sagan memorably observed, they laughed at Galileo, but they also laughed at Bozo the clown.

Godber's evolution denialism and invocation of the Galileo Gambit strongly suggest considerable ignorance both of the evidence for evolution and the scientific method. His next comment confirms this:
Headlines such as “Big Bang theory could be debunked by Large Hadron Collider” (Daily Telegraph, March 23) and “No Big Bang? Quantum equation predicts universe has no beginning” (, February 9) must surely strengthen our scepticism.
Godber has crammed an alarming amount of error into such a short paragraph. His first mistake is to confuse scepticism with denialism. Scepticism is the reasonable reluctance to accept a proposition in the face of insufficient or contradictory evidence. Denialism is the unreasonable refusal to accept a well-established proposition in the face of overwhelming evidence.

The second problem is his failure to appreciate the difference between theory and fact in science. A theory is a collection of facts, verified hypotheses and laws that has predictive and explanatory power. Furthermore, unless it can be falsified, it is not a scientific theory. If a scientific theory is falsified, the facts it seeks to explain still remain, and the successor theory not only has to explain the observations that the previous one did not, but those that it did explain.

The Big Bang theory seeks to explain facts such as the cosmic microwave background radiation, the expansion of the universe, primordial element distribution, and large-scale structure of the universe. None of these are going away even if the Big Bang was falsified. Furthermore, falsification of the Big Bang does not automatically make YEC true, In fact, given that YEC cannot explain these facts, it is automatically out of the running. Irrespective of the truth or falsity of the Big Bang theory, an ancient, expanding universe is a fact which remains irrespective of the theoretical model used to explain these facts.

When one takes the time to check Godber's references, it turns out that they provide no evidence for Godber's evolution denialism. The first point is that they do not say that the universe is young, static, or that its primordial element distribution and large-scale structure are completely inconsistent with the Big Bang. The second point is that the Big Bang has not been falsified. Rather, as the Telegraph science editor Sarah Knapton states:
"Now scientists at Cern in Switzerland believe they might find miniature black holes which would reveal the existence of a parallel universe.

"And if the holes are found at a certain energy, it could prove the controversial theory of ‘rainbow gravity’ which suggests that the universe stretches back into time infinitely with no singular point where it started, and no Big Bang" [4]
In other words, CERN scientists speculate (1) they may find miniature black holes and (2) if they are at a certain energy level, they could provide support for rainbow gravity, a theory which postulates an infinite universe with no singularity. Neither of those contingencies has arrived, and for Godber to tout the possible falsification of a theory as evidence against the scientific method and for special creation indicates both a failure to understand the scienticic method and a superficial reading of the article.

The article by Lisa Zyga does not comment on the possibility that CERN may generate mini-black holes that may be able to demonstrate 'rainbow gravity' but takes some time to provide a lay-accessible overview of the proposed theoretical model:
The universe may have existed forever, according to a new model that applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein's theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once.

The widely accepted age of the universe, as estimated by general relativity, is 13.8 billion years. In the beginning, everything in existence is thought to have occupied a single infinitely dense point, or singularity. Only after this point began to expand in a "Big Bang" did the universe officially begin.

Although the Big Bang singularity arises directly and unavoidably from the mathematics of general relativity, some scientists see it as problematic because the math can explain only what happened immediately after—not at or before—the singularity.

"The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of general relativity because the laws of physics appear to break down there," Ahmed Farag Ali at Benha University and the Zewail City of Science and Technology, both in Egypt, told

Ali and coauthor Saurya Das at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, have shown in a paper published in Physics Letters B that the Big Bang singularity can be resolved by their new model in which the universe has no beginning and no end. [5]
Apart from the fact that this model is just as irreconcilable with a YEC view of reality as the current model, this article ultimately is merely showing science at work - hypotheses being proposed, tested, and either refined or rejected. The falsification of the current Big Bang model will not make YEC true. Likewise, if we apply this to evolutionary biology, the facts that evolution seeks to explain - common descent and large-scale change in the fossil record - remain even if the current theory of evolution is falsified. It is difficult to see why Godber would even cite these articles unless he was after a sensationalist quote to exploit.

In passing, it is worth noticing that The Christadelphian's position on the Big Bang has changed over the years from dismissal through to acceptance.

The Shifting Sands of Christadelphian Interpretation
Christadelphian view
The Christadelphian magazine’s changing view on the Big Bang
1965: The Big Bang is just the latest theory; scientists are not reading the book of nature correctly
Theories of the origin of the universe have followed one another in succession since the eighteenth century, each being rejected in turn. Today the controversy continues between the “big bang” and “steady state” theories, each having an eminent Cambridge professor as its protagonist. The point of all this is to show how far from the truth is the supposition that scientists are reading the book of nature as Bible students read the book of revelation.’ [6]
1984: Scientists are confident about the Big Bang, which may be said to be compatible with Scripture
‘After toying with various theories of the origin of the universe, quite recently scientists have expressed themselves confident of the so-called ‘Big Bang’ theory, according to which the universe began in an immense explosion, a fireball which has sent matter hurtling to the boundaries of space ever since. It is a theory which may be said to be compatible with the Biblical concept of creation, and creationists have seized upon it to show how the Bible and science may be reconciled. Thus man has proved creation but declines to believe it!’ [7]
1989: We should all accept the Big Bang as an accurate understanding of how the planets were created
‘Of course, some things may indeed have occurred by gradual change: what we stated in an earlier article about the development of galaxies and the natural history of stars may be acceptable; until we have other evidence, let us also accept that our planet arose, with others, as the cooling dust and debris arising from the ‘Big Bang’ coalesced; that it was consolidated by gravitational forces, and settled down in orbit around the sun.’ [8]

A true scientist holds everything provisionally, subject to potential falsification by further evidence. Godber's article does not even remotely come close to providing evidence that would falsify not just the Big Bang, but an ancient, expanding universe.

Godber's motivation for this article comes from his experience as a school teacher where his special creationism is confronted by the fact of evolution, and his desire to protect that ideology from challenge. That he is a teacher and not a scientist would suggest the possibility that he is poorly informed on the subject, a contingency that is verified with this quote:
As a professional teacher, I realise that school is one arena in which believers in creation come across evolution presented as fact. Some teachers are, or may be in the future, required to teach evolution as a factual part of the curriculum even though it is just a scientific theory.
Only a theory? This is perhaps one of the worst special creationist arguments against evolution as it shows a complete failure to understand what theory means in science, not to mention the difference between theory and fact in evolution. That Godber invokes it shows how poorly informed his argument is, and given that he is offering advice to young students on how to preserve evolution denialism in the face of the scientific evidence, it suggests that his proposed strategies may cause more harm than good.

Once again, a theory in science is not a wild hunch, guess, or speculation. Rather, it is a collection of tested hypotheses, observations, and laws proposed to explain aspects of the natural world, one that has considerable predictive and explanatory power. In science, a theory is about as good as you can get. Examples of theories include general relativity - the currently accepted theory of gravity - and quantum theory, which explains how matter and energy behave at the atomic and subatomic level. Both of these are well-tested and have considerable explanatory and predictive power. Would Godber criticise general relativity or quantum mechanics because both are just theories?

Godber's misunderstanding of basic scientific epistemology places his proposed advice to students on an unstable foundation. By advancing the claim that evolution is 'just a theory' or a 'belief system' he gives reckless advice to teachers who do not want to teach evolution such as "swapping sections of the curriculum between order to cater for conscience". Some schools may be willing to indulge science denialism, but many others are hardly likely to tolerate such behaviour. His advice to students is far more dangerous:
At school, children come across the theory of evolution presented as fact, maybe even for the first time. Somewhat disingenuously, the word ‘theory’ is often omitted when evolution is taught and a number of things are therefore falsely implied.
Again, Godber trades on the long-debunked 'only a theory argument', but his approach can be readily subverted by pointing out that when other areas of science are taught such as gravity, optics, and electromagnetics, the word 'theory' is also omitted.

Godber seeks to justify his assertion that 'a number of things are therefore falsely implied' but provide nothing other than his complete ignorance of scientific epistemology and evolutionary biology, along with a number of allegations for which he provides no supporting evidence. He states:
Firstly, that evolution is scientifically proven – when actually it is a theoretical interpretation of the wonderful discoveries scientists have made.
Scientists do not 'prove' theories. Rather, they propose hypotheses, test them against the evidence, and refine or reject them according to what the evidence shows. Godber refrains from telling us what these 'wonderful discoveries' are, and why > 99% of life scientists regard them as providing overwhelming support for common descent and large-scale evolutionary change, and inconsistent with special creation or a global flood. These discoveries include:
  • The consonance of morphological and molecular phylogenetic trees
  • The fact that life can be classified objectively in a pattern of nested hierarchies
  • A biogeographical distribution of life inconsistent with a dispersal from Mt Ararat
  • The presence of considerable junk DNA in our genome
  • Shared identical genetic 'errors' between humans and apes at the same positions in their genomes
  • Large-scale morphological change in the fossil record over time and the presence of fossils with transitional features
  • Vestigial features and atavisms consistent with inheritance of a feature from an ancestor which no longer performs its original function and may have acquired a new function unrelated to the original purpose.
For example, common descent would predict that vertebrates without teeth, or with enamel-free teeth would have evidence of non-functioning enamel genes. Under a model of special creation, there is absolutely no reason why God would create an animal without teeth (or with enamel-free teeth) and insert broken enamel genes. Conversely, this is exactly what evolution would predict, and what scientists have confirmed:
Enamel is the hardest substance in the vertebrate body. One of the key proteins involved in enamel formation is enamelin. Most placental mammals have teeth that are capped with enamel, but there are also lineages without teeth (anteaters, pangolins, baleen whales) or with enamelless teeth (armadillos, sloths, aardvarks, pygmy and dwarf sperm whales). All toothless and enamelless mammals are descended from ancestral forms that possessed teeth with enamel. Given this ancestry, we predicted that mammalian species without teeth or with teeth that lack enamel would have copies of the gene that codes for the enamelin protein, but that the enamelin gene in these species would contain mutations that render it a nonfunctional pseudogene. To test this hypothesis, we sequenced most of the protein-coding region of the enamelin gene in all groups of placental mammals that lack teeth or have enamelless teeth. In every case, we discovered mutations in the enamelin gene that disrupt the proper reading frame that codes for the enamelin protein. Our results link evolutionary change at the molecular level to morphological change in the fossil record and also provide evidence for the enormous predictive power of Charles Darwin's theory of descent with modification." [9] (Emphasis mine)
One wonders how this 'wonderful discovery' fits in with the special creationism Godber espouses.

Godber continues by asserting that "[I]t is worth noting that many “examples of evolution” in standard textbooks have been shown to be erroneous despite being taught as fact." Godber provides absolutely no evidence to justify his claim, one which bears all the hallmarks of a YEC argument he has uncritically picked up without having first checked for accuracy. As Godber neglects to provide any evidence to back up his claim, it is hard to know what 'examples of evolution' to which he is referring, but one educated guess would be that he is referring to the book Icons of Evolution by the creationist Jonathan Wells, which asserts that scientists are deceiving the public about the evidence for evolution. Wells' book has been widely panned for its multiple errors of fact, with the review by evolutionary biologist Nick Matzke taking apart Wells' claims with precision:
Jonathan Wells's book Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? Why Much of What We Teach About Evolution Is Wrong (henceforth Icons) makes a travesty of the notion of honest scholarship. Purporting to document that "students and the public are being systematically misinformed about the evidence for evolution," (p. XII) via common textbook topics such as peppered moths, embryo similarities, and fossil hominids, Icons in fact contains a bevy of its own errors. This is not original -- creationists have been making mistakes about evolution for years. Newly and more insidiously, however, Icons contains numerous instances of unfair distortions of scientific opinion, generated by the pseudoscientific tactics of selective citation of scientists and evidence, quote-mining, and "argumentative sleight-of-hand," the last meaning Wells's tactic of padding his topical discussions with incessant, biased editorializing. Wells mixes these ingredients in with a few accurate (but always incomplete) bits of science and proceeds to string together, often in a logically arbitrary fashion, a narrative that is carefully crafted to make the semblance of an honest case for Wells's central defamatory accusation: that mainstream biologists are "dogmatic Darwinists that misrepresent the truth to keep themselves in power" (pp. 242-243). [10]
Godber's second argument is yet another tired special creationist trope, namely the claim that not all scientists believe in evolution:
Secondly, that all scientists believe in evolution and that if we don’t we are somehow behind the times. In fact, there are many scientists who believe in creation – several previous articles in this series were written by scientists.
One does not accept a scientific theory on popularity, but when > 99% of professional life scientists who work in disciplines directly relevant to evolution examine the evidence and state that it provides robust evidence for evolution, the burden of proof lies solely on the minority to show why the evidence is better explained by special creation. it is worth noting that only two of the authors of the current series are scientists, their arguments are demonstrably false, and a careful search of the scientific literature shows that they have not made a robust case for special creation that has been published in the scientific literature, and positively cited by their colleagues.

As for the claim that there are 'many scientists who believe in [special] creation', Godber again provides zero evidence for this assertion other than referring to the two who have already published, and given that there are probably more earth and life scientists in the world than there are Christadelphians, it is hard to call the few Christadelphians with science degrees who oppose evolution 'many scientists'. Even if we include all those who have bothered to sign declarations of dissent against Darwinism, they represent an infinitesimally small number. As historian of science Ronald Numbers notes:
After more than a decade of effort the Discovery Institute proudly announced in 2007 that it had got some 700 doctoral-level scientists and engineers to sign "A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism." Though the number may strike some observers as rather large, it represented less than 0.023 percent of the world's scientists. On the scientific front of the much ballyhooed "Evolution Wars", the Darwinists were winning handily. The ideological struggle between (methodological) naturalism and supernaturalism continued largely in the fantasies of the faithful and the hyperbole of the press. [11]
Godber's third point is the claim that evolutionary biologists 'take great leaps of faith in coming to their conclusions' on the evolutionary origin of life, one which yet again betrays a profound lack of understanding of the scientific method:
Thirdly, that to believe anything else is to live in a fantasy world, a world of faith rather than evidence, when in fact evolutionists – though they are reluctant to admit it – also take great leaps of faith in coming to their conclusions. One relatively recent example of this is the socalled saltatory evolution theory which suggests that evolution of a new species from an older one may occur by a large jump rather than by gradual accumulation of small steps – yet another theory trying to present evolution as fact! In stark contrast, our understanding of creation is firmly based on the word of the Creator.
Godber's remark about creationists 'living in 'a world of faith rather than evidence' is telling as it betrays a sensitivity to the often-made remark (a correct one as the AiG statement of faith demonstrates) that YECs are ultimately fideists, privileging blind faith over reason and disparaging all evidence that refutes their worldview. Despite this, Godber ends up embracing fideism in the same paragraph by declaring that 'our understanding of creation is firmly based on the word of the Creator.' One wonders why he goes to the trouble of accusing mainstream scientists of living in a world of faith rather than evidence in the first place.

His sole example cited to justify his claim that evolutionary biologists 'take great leaps of faith' when making their conclusion again betrays a profound ignorance of evolutionary biology and the scientific method. Godber refers to the 'relatively recent example' of  'saltatory evolution theory' which he describes as evolution of a new species in a single jump rather than many incremental changes. Given that saltationist theories were proposed in the early 20th century as an alternative to natural selection, which at that time had fallen out of favour, with Richard Goldschmidt's 'Hopeful Monster' hypothesis, advanced in the 1940s being the best-known example of a saltationist theory, it is hard to see how ideas 70 -100 years old could be seen as relatively recent. This suggests that Godber is thinking of Gould and Eldredge's 'punctuated equilibrium', but as Gould himself argued, PE was not a saltationist theory:
"[T]he urban legend rests on the false belief that ... punctuated equilibrium became a saltational theory wedded to Goldschmidt's hopeful monsters as a mechanism. I have labored to refute this nonsensical charge from the day I first heard it." [12]
As punctuated equilibrium was advanced in 1972 by Gould and Eldredge, it is likewise hard to call this 'relatively recent.' Anyone remotely familiar with the history of evolutionary biology would quickly appreciate that Godber has made the mistake of confusing punctuated equilibrium with saltationist theories.

The question of saltation in evolutionary biology is very much a live issue, but it is not the same thing as Gould and Eldredge's punctuated evolution, which as Douglas Theobald notes is in fact entirely compatible with standard Darwinian evolution. [13] The emerging discipline of evolutionary developmental biology shows how mutations in regulatory genes are able to effect large-scale changes. Developmental biologist Sean Carroll has shown how such mutations can cause large-scale evolutionary changes in the three spine stickleback fish, who are prone to predation by dragonfly larvae which grab the fish by their spines and devour them. Carroll notes:
The reduction of pelvic spines in bottom-dwelling populations is due to a reduction in the development of the pelvic fin bud. The major gene responsible for the reduction of the pelvic skeleton was recently identified as a tool-kit gene called Pitx1. This is a typical tool-kit gene—it has several jobs in the development of the fish, it acts by controlling other genes, and has counterparts in other animals, such as the mouse. In the mouse, Pitx1 helps make the hindlimb different from the forelimb (limbs are another repeated structure). 
We know from the fossil record that the pelvic fin was the evolutionary forerunner of the hindlimb of four-legged animals. The use of Pitxl in the development of the pelvic fins in fish and in mammal hindlimbs is a very nice, independent piece of evidence supporting that history. But the main point I want to make here is how the fishes' pelvic skeleton gets reduced by changes at the Pitxl gene without affecting other body parts where Pitxl also functions. 
The big clue comes from comparing the Pitxl proteins of the pelvic-reduced and full pelvic forms. There is not a single difference in the protein sequence. 
But, wait, didn't I say that changes at Pitx1 made the pelvic skeleton different? Yes, I did. The apparent paradox is resolved by understanding that, in addition to the coding part of a gene, every gene also contains noncoding DNA sequences that are regulatory. Embedded in this regulatory DNA are switchlike devices that determine where and when each gene is or is not used. Tool-kit genes can have many separate switches, with each switch controlling the way a gene is used in a different body part. The function of switches depends on their DNA sequence, and changes in their sequence can alter how they work. A critical property of these switches is that changes in one switch will not affect the function of the other switches. And therein lies a huge insight into how form evolves. That is, the use of a tool-kit gene can be fine-tuned in one structure without affecting any other structures. 
In the pelvic-reduced stickleback, the Pitxl gene is, in fact, not used in pelvic fin development. Changes in the switch that govern its use in the hindlimb have enabled the selective reduction of this part of the fishes' skeleton. The power of this example lies in its demonstration of how, at the fundamental level of DNA, a major change in body anatomy can rapidly evolve. [14]
Godber's comment about saltationist evolution not only betrays the usual special creationist confusion of punctuated equilibrium with the 'hopeful monster' theory, but ignores the fact that genuine research on how small-scale mutations can effect phenotypically significant change has been taking place for some time., This is anything but a 'fantasy world' of evolutionary biologists.

Finally, his claim that evolutionary biologists take great leaps of faith is easily refuted when we realise that one of the hallmarks of science is repeatability. The cold fusion fiasco shows that if a scientific claim cannot be repeated, it becomes discredited. A more recent example of this is the claim that under certain conditions, a bacterium could use arsenic rather than phosphorous in its DNA, a claim which was subject to considerable scrutiny and then debunked. Science lives or dies on the evidence.

Godber's article reaches a dangerous point when he implicitly conflates evolution denialism with our faith in Christ, and argues that being ridiculed for denying evolution is a good thing:
Fear of ridicule, especially by friends, fellow students etc. is a characteristic of human nature and affects most of us to varying degrees. Jesus himself encourages us not to be ashamed of his teaching (Luke 9:26).
It hardly needs stressing that Jesus never taught creation science nor did he say that YEC is a principle of one true faith, so Godber's attempt to turn the entirely justifiable criticism made by scientists of evolution denialism into Divine validation of obscurantism is without any scriptural basis. In fact, it is potentially dangerous. He continues with an unsubstantiated anecdote about a teenager who allegedly defeated her science teacher in an evolution debate:
A teenage sister was once challenged by her science teacher to a debate on “Evolution versus Creation”. He clearly thought he would easily win. However, it did not quite go the way he intended because when it came to a vote at the end, the sister won her case overwhelmingly. She had prepared well and gave a convincing account of her beliefs in the Bible narrative. Experience tells me that we cannot rule out a certain amount of bias in her favour on the part of her fellow pupils but, even so, one certain benefit of this event was that it did expose a wide audience to Bible truth which, otherwise, they would not have had.
Scientific truth is not determined by debate, so such anecdotes at best reflect a poorly informed science teacher or a student who was adept in debating strategy (assuming the story is even true). One wonders how her faith would have survived if she had been comprehensively defeated by an evolutionary biologist, as this example of palaeoanthropologist Tim White courteously but emphatically correcting a special creationist student demonstrates.

Godber inadvertently raises one valid point at the end of his article:
Standing up for the things of the Truth in the face of worldly opposition can seem quite daunting, but it gets easier with experience. Needless to say, a continuing study of God’s word is absolutely essential – we must be clear about what we are defending. In this context, regular Bible reading is vital.
What we are defending is the theology of creation, not a science of creation. The Bible emphatically declares that God is creator, but is silent about the precise mechanism of creation used. In fact, when it does touch on aspects of creation, it refers to things such as a solid firmament in which the sun, moon, and stars are set, one that separates waters above from waters below. No special creationist takes that reference literally. That alone points out the folly of trying to extract a science of creation from a text which as an earlier generation of Christadelphians realised did not speak in scientific terms, and was given to a pre-scientific audience for whom a scientifically accurate account of creation would have been inaccessible.
The Bible does not speak in the literal and strictly scientific language of the nineteenth century, but in the language of the day in which it was written. [15] 
"Moses’ testimony was given to Israel in what might be called the infancy of the world, when men did not know the extent of the earth, let alone that of the sun, moon, and stars. And, as we believe, it was given (by God through Moses), not so much to instruct Israel in cosmogony in detail, as to impress upon them the idea that The Most High God is the Possessor of Heaven and Earth (Gen. 14:22). And this against the claims of the gods of the nations, as was abundantly proved in Israel’s history." [16]
Walker's astute observation that the creation narratives were given not to teach science but remind Israel that YHWH, and not the other gods was creator reminds us that what we are defending is not a mechanism of creation, but the recognition that there is a creator. By linking the former with the latter, Godber is merely tying the case for Christ to a long-debunked view, and the theological consequences of this, as Augustine of Hippo observed around 1500 years ago are considerable:
Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticised and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? [17]


1. Godber A "Evolution, education, and the believer" The Christadelphian (2015) 152:212-2142

2. Gregory T.R. "Evolution as Fact, Theory, and Path" Evo Edu Outreach (2008) 1:46-52

3.Walker C.C. "Genesis", The Christadelphian (1910) 47:501

4. Knapton S "Big Bang theory could be debunked by Large Hardon Collider?" The Telegraph 23 March 2015

5. Zyga L "No Big Bang? Quantum equation predicts universe has no beginning" Phys.Org Feb 9 2015

6. ‘Science, Revelation and Origins', The Christadelphian (1965) 102:509

7. "Signs of the Times: AND KNOWLEDGE SHALL BE INCREASED", The Christadelphian (1984) 121:264

8. Morris, 'Science and the Disciple: 11 - "Or Ever Thou Hadst Formed The Earth"', The Christadelphian (1989) 126:453

9. Meredith, R.W., Gatesy, J., Murphy, W.J., Ryder, O.A., and Springer, M.S. 2009. "Molecular Decay of the Tooth Gene Enamelin (ENAM) Mirrors the Loss of Enamel in the Fossil Record of Placental Mammals." PLoS Genetics 5(9): e1000634.

10. Matzke N "Icons of Obfuscation" TalkOrigins Archive

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