Friday, 29 January 2016

Why Evolutionary Creationism?

In response to feedback from a reader, I have expanded and edited the section "Why Evolutionary Creationism" to provide a more substantive overview of the theological and exegetical issues involved. In addition, I have provided links to a number of resources that I have found very useful in refining my views on the subject.

Monday, 25 January 2016

The Christadelphian website "Life's Big Questions" gets it wrong on science and the Bible. Part 3

Before continuing with my critique of the deeply flawed anti-science article in the LBQ website, I would like to point out that even among old earth creationists in our community, one of the claims made by LBQ is regarded as fanciful. LBQ claims that when scientists advance the Big Bang theory, they claim that scientists assume without assumption that "nothing has ever happened to change the physical laws that we know today." The truth is that the assumption is quite reasonable, a point that the old earth creationist John Bilello has ably made:

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Christadelphian website "Life's Big Questions" gets it wrong on science and the Bible. Part 2

The Christadelphian website Life’s Big Questions as I pointed out in the previous post is badly compromised by its section on science which adopts a flawed ‘evolution or Christianity’ approach to the subject, one that ignores the fact many scientists and theologians over the last 150 years have seen no fundamental conflict between evolution and Christianity. This false dichotomy is perilous as it leads to loss of faith when those inculcated with this mindset discover that evolution is a fact, and conclude that the Bible is wrong.

LBQ continues its deeply flawed approach to this subject in its section ‘Facts and Theories’ which fails to properly define what scientists mean by theories, and worse still, with its slighting reference to scientists having “no way of knowing whether the assumptions used in a theory are right” when “considering what happened in the past”, is using the bogus YEC concept of ‘historical science’ and ‘observational science’.

Contrary to what special creationists such as those behind LBQ assert, evolution is both fact and theory. Evolution refers both to the fact of common descent and large scale evolutionary change, and to the theoretical mechanisms proposed to explain these facts. While the currently accepted theory of evolution – like any scientific theory – is capable of being falsified, this does not mean that the facts it seeks to explain vanish. Furthermore, the successor theory needs to explain both the facts that the previous theory could not, as well as those which it was perfectly able to explain. By its demonstrably flawed grasp of scientific epistemology as well as failing to recognise that evolution refers to fact and theory, LBQs attack fails at the first step.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Christadelphian website "Life's Big Questions" gets it wrong on science and the Bible. Part 1

When done poorly, Christian apologetics ends up completely destroying the credibility of those advancing bad defences of the faith, and worse still, the message they are trying to proclaim. Given that creation evangelism is increasingly popular in our community, this means that many Christadelphian apologetics / preaching efforts are fatally compromised by their evolution denialism.

One example is the Life’s Big Questions website, which in its section Has Science disproved the Bible? makes the mistake of assuming a literal reading of the creation narratives is the only was in which one can read the Bible, thus automatically generating a conflict between Bible and science which would never have occurred if those behind the website had not chosen such a flawed hermeneutic.

Furthermore, it makes the usual long-refuted special creationist errors such as not understanding what is meant by theory and fact in science, failing to grasp what science means by evolution, relying on the argument from personal incredulity to deny that evolution could ever occur, and making the tired claim that the fossil record does not support evolution. Worse still, it indulges in fairly blatant example of quote mining, in which a scientist is quoted completely out of context.

This is not how to preach the gospel.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Created kinds and creation in six literal days? Not at all, according to the Bible.

A new blog with the title "Biblical Cosmology and the Apocalyptic Imagination" is always going to attract my attention just on the strength of the title alone. So far it has only two posts, but both are corkers. The first looks at the motif of creation in six days, and provides an elegant answer with which to answer the YECs who insist that an appeal to a literal reading of Ex 20:11 is sufficient to overturn all the evidence that shows the universe is ancient and most definitely was not created 6000 years ago in six days. The second shows how the YEC pseudoscience of baraminology is refuted from the Bible, a particularly damning fact given the YEC claims to base their belief of a literal reading of the creation narratives.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

The stone tool saga continues: YECs reject intellectual design

I've made a number of posts on Joel Duff's articles on how the volume of stone tool artifacts is impossible to reconcile with a YEC timeframe. Unsurprisingly, some YECs have attempted to refute this argument, including sadly some from our our own community. In terms of presenting our community in a good light, such obsessive, amateurish attacks on science and contemporary scholarship by these YECs do incalculable harm to our image.

Other YEC attacks on Duff have come from Answers in Genesis, specifically the historian Terry Mortenson, who has claimed that the stone artifacts are in fact rock pieces which purely by chance have become shaped to look like stone tools. The irony of YECs arguing that blind chance magically shaped rocks into stone tools is of course palpable.

Duff's latest article comments both on Mortenson's attempt to deny the obvious in order to preserve human dogma and YEC credibility, as well as the frankly offensive behaviour of YECs who dismiss scholarly and scientific opinion, insisting that they and only they are qualified to comment on reality. The arrogance and hubris exhibited by Mortenson and AiG is breathtaking, but tragically will simply continue to erode Christianity while YEC remains its most visible public face.

The greatest sin of young earth creationism

By framing the debate this way, militant YECs in our community are contributing to the loss of faith of intellectually honest people who know that the Earth is ancient, creation in six literal days is impossible, evolution is a fact, and the fundamentalist distortion of Genesis 1 is exegetical nonsense. One hopes they come to their senses and recognise the incalculable damage their obstinate adherence to human distortion of the Bible and slavish adherence to dogma is causing our community.

Source: God of Evolution

Monday, 11 January 2016

YECs and OECs show why special creationists cannot answer the ERV evidence for evolution

I make no secret of the fact that I regard the presence of identical endogenous retroviral elements at the same place in human and ape genomes as the most powerful evidence for human-ape common ancestry.

The evidence for this is unassailable; they are unarguable evidence for large numbers of ancient retroviral infections which integrated into the host DNA ages ago, and as the odds of the same retroviruses integrating into exactly the same places in both human and ape genomes is billions to one against, the only rational explanation for these are infections of human-ape common ancestors by retroviruses which became integrated into the genome, and were subsequently inherited by both humans and apes.

Special creationists are desperate to explain away this evidence but have failed miserably. This however does not stop them trying to hand-wave away the facts, with Reasons to Believe for the OECs, and both Todd Wood and Answers in Genesis attempting to offer special creationist explanations. However, as Barry Desborough shows, their explanations are at best unconvincing, and at worst intellectually dishonest.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Christadelphians Learning From Science debunks an anti-evolution article

Elsewhere, I have commented on the website Christadelphian Answers, whose otherwise admirable focus of apologetics is hopelessly compromised by its factually inaccurate attacks on evolutionary biology. Regrettably, the website has continued its anti-evolution campaign with an article "The Case Against Common Descent" which makes many basic errors of fact and at times uncritically regurgitates opinions from young earth creationist and intelligence design sources. It is clear that the article has never been reviewed by competent, independent, impartial sources as the errors of fact are such that not even an undergraduate would make.

The Facebook page Christadelphians Learning From Science is currently critiquing its arguments. While this may appear akin to breaking a butterfly on a wheel, given the persistence of pseudoscientific views in our community, there is pedagogical benefit from such refutation. This page will be updated with each new installment.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

From YEC to evolutionary creationist - Brad Kramer shows how a new generation accepts evolution

The ease with which people can access factual, authoritative material on evolution and the age of the Earth means that YEC will eventually die. Truth cannot be suppressed forever. Evidence of a generational shift reflecting this can be seen in the opinion polls that show a majority of young people in America now accepts evolution. Not only will our community have to accept the fact that any preaching campaign based on attacking evolution and promoting YEC is going to fall flat as the target audience will rightly dismiss such attacks as ignorant and uninformed, it will also need to recognise that this generational shift is, and will be reflected in our community. Attacking those who are the future of our community is not a smart move.

While the cynic would regard the heavy YEC indoctrination in conservative Christian denominations - including sadly our community - as too much to overcome, the evidence of YECs abandoning science denialism and embracing both faith and science, though anecdotal, is becoming hard to dismiss as an aberration. It would appear that positive change is coming. The example of Brad Kramer, managing editor at Biologos provides an excellent case study for how someone thoroughly inculcated in the YEC evangelical world can not only escape, but maintain a robust Christian faith while accepting evolution and work to ensure that this example becomes not a curiosity but normative.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

If you prefer the term 'Evolutionary Creationist' then you're in good company.

Evolutionary creationism, as I have pointed out on a number of occasions, is by far a better term to use to describe theists who regard evolution as the means by which God created than the term 'theistic evolutionist', a point that the 20th century geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky pointed out in his 1973 article in The American Biology Teacher when declared, "I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God's, or Nature's method of creation." The term rightly places emphasis on the fact we are creationists, something the term 'theistic evolutionist' completely fails to do, while differentiating the evolutionary creationist from the special creationist. Furthermore, it does not share the major failing of the term 'theistic evolutionist'; one does not prefix the term 'theistic' to all other branches of science, so why should one do the same for evolution?

Yet another major player in the evolution-creation discussion has weighed in on this subject. Palaeoanthropologist James Kidder, author of the splendid Biologos series on the fossil evidence for human evolution has commented on points made in the book Long March of the Koalas by Christian commentator Fred Clark. Clark asserts that the term 'theistic evolutionist' is meaningless: