Sunday, 19 July 2015

Demonising old earth creationism to protect evolution denialism - the latest anti-evolution strategy

There's an interesting development occurring among the more militant evolution denialists in our community in an attempt to protect their distorted reading of both Bible and nature from attack, and that is to declare belief in an old earth a 'gateway drug' to evolutionary creationism. The logic of this move is fairly easy to see as by denying that the Earth is old, the millions of years needed for evolution are taken away, making special creationism true by default.

We can see evidence of this in comments such as this one made at a Christadelphian science denialist Facebook group, in a thread advertising Don Pearce's controversial lecture which alleges that humans and dinosaurs coexisted as recently as several hundred years ago:
The implication are enormousness [sic] if you accept YEC - it means you cannot have evolution!. It's only the Old earthers that then leave it wide open to TE's. Why are so called believers of God quick to dismiss the statement 'In the Beginning God Created' Please Please accept God at his word - 1This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; 2Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the 'DAY' when they were created.
Treating OEC as a 'gateway drug' to EC and criticising it accordingly is a new and disturbing development in militant evolution denialism. Not only does it marginalise contemporary OEC Christadelphians by declaring their position to be theologically unsound as it "leave[s] it wide open to TE's", it guarantees that by grounding faith on the fiction of a young Earth, it ensures that once intellectually honest YECs encounter the evidence for an ancient Earth, the chances of them taking the well-worn path from YEC straight to atheism will be quite high. Far from protecting faith, such reckless moves dangerously undermines it.

The implications of accepting YEC are indeed profound, but not in the way that the poster thinks. Insisting on a 6000 year old Earth may indeed appear to deny the time needed by evolution [1] but given that OEC was the default position for our community prior to the mid-20th century, dogmatic statements such as those made above are effectively declaring our community to have been profoundly misguided on this point. Evidence that the original Christadelphians realised that the Earth was ancient is easy to find:
"Instead of six thousand, they can avail themselves of sixty thousand; for the scriptures reveal no length of time during which the terrene angels dwelt upon our globe."  Thomas  Elpis Israel, p. 11 (1990 ed.).

"Fragments, however, of the wreck of this pre-Adamic world have been brought to light by geological research, to the records of which we refer the reader, for a detailed account of its discoveries, with this remark, that its organic remains, coal fields, and strata, belong to the ages before the formation of man, rather than to the era of the creation, or the Noachic flood.’, Thomas, Elpis Israel, p. 11 (1990 ed.).

"It is a demonstrable fact that the earth has existed for ages. To adopt a view that appears to make it begin only 6,000 years ago would create a difficulty. There is no need for adopting such a view.’, Roberts R., ‘In the Beginning’, The Christadelphian (1885) 32:141 
"I have not the slightest doubt concerning the truths revealed in the strata of the earth’s crust. There can be no reasonable doubt that long ages have passed away since the matter of the earth first took existences by the fiat of its Almighty Creator. … The facts of old mother earth’s storehouse are too convincingly inscribed upon her crust to allow me to doubt.", Welch., 'Knowledge.- No., 12 Geology', The Christadelphian (1891) 28:416 
"Ten years ago the average scientist would have asserted that our habitable globe had not existed for more than a hundred million years. Now it would be hard to find a competent physical specialist who would fix a definite maximum below a thousand million years:", Walker, ‘The Age of the Earth’, The Christadelphian (1911) 48:450
It is clear that our community maintained a strong belief in an old Earth for the best part of a century before YEC began infecting it in the mid-20th century without leaving the community 'wide open to TEs'.  Hysterical, alarmist claims that "Old earthers that then leave it wide open to TE's." are readily dismissed by the fact that over a century of accepting an old Earth did not result in an inevitable drift towards evolutionary creationism.

The contempt with which militant evolution denialists in our community hold their brothers and sisters in Christ who accept the fact of evolution is made plain by comments such as this one made in the comment above:
Why are so called believers of God quick to dismiss the statement 'In the Beginning God Created'
Calling those for whom Christ died 'so-called believers of God' because they have the honesty to accept the overwhelming witness of the natural world which declares the reality of an ancient, evolving creation is unfortunately par for the course for militant evolution denialists. It is painfully clear that those who make such statements have failed to heed the call for calm made by the then arranging brothers of the Watford Ecclesia who in the wake of the excommunication of bro. Ralph Lovelock declared:
"At the same time, we are strongly of the opinion that the problems that undoubtedly exist should be frankly admitted by us as a community, for we do naught but dishonour to the word of God by pretending that these problems are not there.

"Our Brotherhood bears a responsibility to those in search of Scripture truth, and especially to those of tender years, to turn its attention to the solving of these difficulties in an atmosphere of calm, sincere, conscientious study, unhindered by the rumours, mistrust, suspicion and hasty judgments that have been all too prevalent among us in recent times.
Unfortunately, as the recent antievolutionary rhetoric emanating from militant groups such as the one in which the above comment was found shows both a reflexively ignorant dismissal of the existence of the problems which make YEC and evolution denialism untenable, and a sub-Christian demonisation of evolutionary creationists who are contemptuously dismissed as "so-called believers".

The claim that we do not 'accept God at His word' apart from being a gratuitously offensive swipe is also one which makes the classic YEC error of simply assuming without any substantive justification that the creation narratives are meant to be read in a flat, literal manner as scientifically accurate accounts of creation. I've repeatedly shown why this YEC hermeneutic is false, so further elaboration will be repetitive. [2] However, it is well worth pointing out that our early community had a far more nuanced reading of the creation narratives:

Moses’ testimony is not so “plain” that it cannot be misinterpreted or misunderstood...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. 
As to “the fourth day,” we do not know of any “day” in the literal sense apart from the sun and its motion. And, therefore, if the “days” of Genesis 1. are to be taken as literal days, we feel bound to admit the sun as the origin of the “light,” and “evening and morning” that were the characteristics of “the first day.” How can you have “evening and morning” without the sun? We must settle up “the plain testimony” of verse 5 with that of verses 14–19. As we said before (The Christadelphian, 1910, p. 269), “If we understand Moses as saying that the sun came into existence on ‘the fourth day,’ we make him contradict himself; we make him present us with day and night, evening and morning, without the sun upon which these things depend.” [3] (Emphasis mine)

ECs, contrary to the baseless allegation made by evolution denialists such as the one quoted above, do take God at His Word. They take the Bible seriously enough not to read it in the flat, literal manner which C.C, Walker, an OEC, recognised created not a few contradictions. Far from protecting the authority of the Bible, the flat literalism championed by people such as the author of the above post actually undermines the credibility and authority of the creation narratives by making them self-contradictory.

It is this which is ultimately the most dangerous and reckless aspect of militant evolution denialism; its potential, by attacking the reality of an old Earth, to undermine faith. This, as I have pointed out many times is what happens when people base faith not on Christ, but on a distorted view of the creation narratives that owes everything to sectarian views and nothing to the Bible or science.

Examples of how unbelief follows when YECs discover that reality contradicts their dogma abound on the internet, but this one, by a woman so strongly invested in the YEC movement that she wrote  children's book on YEC show why the rigid, inflexible, unthinking YEC as seen in the comment quoted at the start of my post is a sure way of generating unbelief:
After a long and difficult struggle, I'm finally stepping away from the Christian faith I've known for 46 years--the faith I grew up in, then selected for myself as an adult and shared with my husband and our 5 children, and hundreds of people in churches, women's groups, Sunday school classes, and Awana clubs. 
Shortly after "coming to Christ" and being "born again" at 22, I discovered Young Earth Creationism through Answers in Genesis, and was completely convinced by their mantra: "The issue is not the age of the earth, but biblical authority. If you can't trust Genesis, you can't trust the Bible." Without the Genesis explanation of "original sin" corrupting God's perfect Creation, there would be no need for a Savior to save us from its consequences, and no explanation for the disease, suffering and death we observe despite "God's goodness". 
I decided--and taught--that if you're going to invest your life in a religion with the Bible as its foundation, that demands that you study it, quote it, sing it, connect with others over it, legislate your morality by dissecting it, and worship and pray to its central figure, you must accept it as true and fully reliable--or you've allowed "compromise" to creep in, and any undesired doctrines could be cast aside as well: you could tell God what he really meant. So I subscribed to Answers magazine, watched AiG videos, funded an advertising campaign for their Creation Museum on a Christian radio station, and visited it along with nearly 2 million others. I knew YEC was dismissed by many Christians as a "fringe belief", but I championed it because it starts with the Word of God, not man; I often declared, "God made the rules, so he has the right to say we're wrong." 
A year ago, my book was published and I got on Twitter to promote it...and was challenged by atheists who knew a lot more about science, reality and the Bible than I did. In order to be able to present my position with any credibility--and be a good witness to my faith--I had to quickly learn what the arguments were and how to address I continued to engage in conversations with non-believers...and became one myself. [4]

1. Having said that, YECs, in arguing that Noah only took a handful of 'kinds' on board the Ark which after the flood underwent massive hyper-evolution to create the diversity of life seen today, are arguing for a rate of evolution faster than what mainstream scientists believe happened. Even when we ignore the fact that the Hebrew word for kind does not refer to any biological classification term, undermining the entire premise of baraminology, the fact that YECs are arguing for turbo-charged evolution post-flood which magically stops at an ill-defined 'kind', the argument that a young earth prevents evolution rings quite hollow.

2. In short: a literal reading of Gen 1 clashes with Gen 2 in the length, sequence, and duration of creation, teaches the reality of a solid firmament, and means that three day/night sequences would have existed before the creation of the sun and moon which were specifically created to separate day from night. Such a literal reading creates internal and external conflict in the creation narratives.

3. Walker C.C. "Is is 'Wrong' to Believe That the Earth is a Sphere?’ The Christadelphian (1913) 50:348

4. Sandra Edwards ... YEC To Atheist A Christian and an Atheist Oct 16 2014