Posts Tagged ‘Young earth creationism’

Regarding polls on evolution and creation

June 13, 2014

Deborah Haarmsma of Biologos has an elegant post on recent Gallup polling of people’s views on evolution and creation. While the poll suggests that factions supporting young earth creationism and atheistic evolution are stable and unyielding, when you break the questions down with more detail you find a far more nuanced situation. Worth reading if you are interested in these questions, regardless of your point of view.

Advertisements

The Adam Quest

December 16, 2013

Two weeks ago one of the scientists I profile in The Adam Quest, Mary Schweitzer, was featured in The Economist Magazine. Here’s the article. Do you know how rare it is for any scientist to get this kind of recognition? She’s certainly on top of the world in paleontology. And her research is really full of surprises! Very interesting stuff.

So is her life’s story, which I tell in The Adam Quest. She was a housewife raising three kids when she decided to take some courses at Montana State for personal enrichment. She took a class on dinosaurs because she remembered being interested in them as a child. (She was also a Young Earth Creationist who believed that the earth, and thus dinosaurs, were only a few thousand years old. And she had never taken science classes, because they were too hard.)

Mary’s story may be the most interesting and surprising of the scientists whom I profile, but they really are all quite fascinating people.  The theory behind the book is that it’s much harder to demonize people whom you get to know. It certainly worked that way for me.

The book comes out in two weeks. It features profiles of eleven scientists who are Christians and involved in creation-evolution discussions. They are all (or have been) working scientists, defined as science PhDs who have published papers in peer-reviewed journals. They come from different points of view regarding the age of the earth and whether God used evolutionary means to create. I think you’ll find it a very interesting read. Some of my pre-pub readers told me they couldn’t put it down.

How Do You Like Your Octopus?

September 19, 2011

Lots and lots of cool stuff can be found on the internet, such that one could spend all day, every day searching it out. I sometimes suspect that David Graham does so, but I think he has a real job as a doctor. Anyway, of all the cool things, David came up with this quite amazing video of an octopus and its camouflage, which I highly recommend: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pB4N8_PUFc0&feature=youtu.be

How do you respond to such wonders? Or to the amazing processes of orchid pollenization, which I learned about last evening from an eminent geologist who has extended his scientific interests to Costa Rican orchids? Evolutionary biologists try to envision the step by step process by which such wonders came to be, through material processes over millions of years. Young-earth creationists imagine God doing it almost instantly, like a magician. They say that random processes could never invent such complex things, and that God and random material processes are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

That’s very debatable–doesn’t God cause the clouds to rain? and coins to come down heads or tails?–but whichever side you take, all theists worthy of their theism will see the wonders of God rampant and worthy of praise. I defy anybody to watch that octopus and insist that it is pointless.

 

 

Creation or Evolution?

September 13, 2011

I’ve just finished a book I’d highly recommend: Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? by Denis Alexander. Alexander is a biochemist heading the Faraday Institute at Cambridge. I interviewed him back in July, somewhat embarrassed that I had only read bits of his writing. (But not embarrassed enough to skip the interview.)

He writes as an unapologetic evangelical with a robust view of the sovereignty of God, and as a convinced (and practicing) evolutionist. He begins with a strong statement of God the creator, a view from Scripture. Then he gives a careful and thorough layman’s explanation of genetics and how an evolutionary biologist sees the genome evolving over millions of years. It’s a serious treatment, which stretched me considerably. (I’m sure a biologist would find it mundane.) It helped me understand to some degree the complex knowledge that binds together evolutionary theory with a thousand strands; and it also helped me comprehend to some degree the plausibility of the theory. The creativity is in the details, and what seems impossible in the large (the self-assembling 747) begins to look quite realistic in the small.

I can’t begin to convey what he says. You have to read it for yourself.

I was struck by the level of detail that scientists have already drawn from genomic studies, only a few decades after we first grasped what DNA is. One small example: approximately 1,000 genes have been detected enabling a mammal’s sense of smell. All or nearly all of these can be found in human DNA (which is largely identical to any other mammal’s) but 60% have been “switched off” by mutations. They are there as genetic fossils. By contrast, mice have “switched off” only 20%. Eighty percent of their smelling genes remain functional, which is why mice smell so much better than we do. One presumes that humans are not nearly so dependent on smell for survival, so our mutations have piled up. For mice, poor senses of smell get weeded out.

One might possibly explain these facts by other theories, but evolution surely is an excellent fit. And there are many, many, many such particular examples.

Alexander goes on to cover everything that somebody worried about evolution and creation could be interested in. He is a thoughtful and careful student of Scripture, and it shows in his thorough treatment of Genesis and other important texts. He takes up Adam and Eve, the Fall, questions about God’s responsibility for natural evil (the tooth and claw critique of creation), and the biblical understanding of death. He critiques Young Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design.

Some of this is undoubtedly subject to counter-critique. Alexander obviously is extremely knowledgeable on multiple fronts, and he is generally charitable. (Not so much in his criticisms of ID.) But a detailed argument will always be answered, and for lay people like me it is hard to assess the quality of the arguments.

What I particularly like is the foundation of Alexander’s thinking: that God made the universe, and the task of science is to figure out how. He takes Christian delight in his conviction that his own and others’ scientific work has revealed a great deal of the magnificent “how” of God’s work. But in his chapter on the origins of life—i.e., the first cell—he is not bothered in the least by the admission of ignorance, that “at present we have very little idea as to where the DNA does come from.”

“I would like to suggest that theologically it doesn’t matter two hoots whether we ever manage to understand the origins of life scientifically or not. The simple reason is that God’s work in creation is not dependent upon whether we understand it or not.”

In that chapter he gives a great deal of information about the state of research into the origins of life. Alexander obviously does think that eventually, maybe in fifty years, scientists will be able to offer a credible story of how God brought life into being. But he doesn’t think for a moment the story will reveal “blind, materialistic, naturalistic forces” at work.

“These are God’s chemicals, God’s materials, that are being talked about here. A mystery bigger than the origin of life is why Christians should ascribe pagan-sounding characteristics to God’s world. Is this God’s world or isn’t it? … To confidently proclaim that the precious materials God has so carefully brought into being in the dying moments of exploding stars do not have the potentiality to bring about life, seems to me… insulting [to God]. Christianity, in a sense, is a very materialistic religion. We believe that all the materials of the universe without exception are God’s materials. ‘Who are you, oh man’, to tell God what potentialities are or are not built into his materials? All we’ll ever come up with anyway, if ever, is a detailed step-by-step description as to how God did it.”

That seems to be a very strong idea of God’s creation and of science’s role in exploring it.