A Letter to my Son about Creation

(Phil) #21

I agree with you that we tend to see things through the lens of whatever philosophy or worldview we have, but ultimately have to deal with the data, and try to make sense of it. Have a blessed day!

(Chris Falter) #22

Excellent point, Casper. The speed of light is constant both across enormous distances–as far as we can detect electromagnetic radiation–and across time. The light we see today from those vastly distant stars was emitted millions and even billions of years ago.

(Mark Twombly) #23

Thanks Phil.

The kind of dogmatism around scientific interpretation must always be avoided, if for no other reason that scientific data is constantly changing and theories tweaked. Let’s be wary of this - whether that be from YEC, ID, or theistic evolution positions.

(Mark Twombly) #24

Thank you James, you’ve provided some excellent points to consider.

One of the things I observe is that these converged conclusions have in common the assumption of uniformitarianism. I believe that needs to be considered, in particular its historical and philosophical roots. Creation.com had a recent article on this which I think is worthy of consideration: http://creation.com/the-science-of-charles-lyell

(Mark Twombly) #25

Thank you Christy, that is very enlightening. It sounds like your upbringing in some of these issues was not as robust and healthy as it should have been, and I am sorry to hear that. I think you and I may find common ground in some of the things you object to! I too was exposed to some things in the YEC world that I find, frankly, ridiculous, although those things were not a strong emphasis at all in my childhood. I remember for example, a book called ‘The Handy Dandy Evolution Refuter’, and let’s just say that I don’t recommend it!

That said, I am intrigued at how loosely you hold on to biblical interpretation and how firmly you hold on to scientific interpretation.

There is no evidence per se that God created the heavens and the earth - yet we do believe it by faith. My observation is that there are things you need to reconsider believing by faith even if there is no scientific evidence for it.

Thanks as always for listening and engaging so helpfully.


(Christy Hemphill) #26

I appreciate the dialogue as well, Mark. It is good to have your voice here on the forum.

I think you raise important the important issue of epistemology or how we know what we know and how certain we can be of that knowledge.

I would say there are different kinds of knowledge, based on how we arrive at it.

Would you agree that the knowledge that 2+2=4, and an oxygen atom has 8 protons, and the speed of light is a constant approximately equal to 299,792,458 meters/second are fundamentally different kinds of knowledge than “my husband loves me,” “the Holy Spirit indwells believers,” or “the Bible is God’s revelation.” Whereas the first three can be arrived at via logic, measurement, and empirical observation, the second three are arrived at via personal experience, intuition, and faith.

I don’t think that all “real” or “certain” knowledge must be based on empirical evidence or deducible via reasoning and logic. Some of the most important things we know are not arrived at by purely rational processes.

It’s not that I hold Bible interpretation loosely and scientific evidence firmly, so much as I recognize that because we know things in a variety of ways, we need different tests and standards for how we evaluate the certainty of our knowledge. Given the subjective, personal, fallible nature of human communication, experience, intuition, and faith, I think more humility is in order when we claim knowledge arrived at by those means. Math, chemistry, and physics are by their nature more objective and straight-forward when it comes to truth value. Those areas of knowledge are always developing and refining and exploring new areas of insight, so I realize that scientific knowledge has its limits and blind spots as well, but I think some basic facts have been pretty well nailed down empirically.

What, specifically? Also, do you acknowledge there is a difference between believing something by faith when scientific evidence clearly contradicts the truth claim and believing something by faith when science does not provide any evidence to support the truth claim? I do think there is a difference. Jesus died for my sins to reconcile me to God is not “scientifically provable.” I still think it is true and something we can know with certainty by faith and personal experience.

(James McKay) #27

Hi Mark,

I’ve seen this response to the converged conclusions from YEC ministries before. It seems their stock answer to anything they can’t otherwise explain is to hand-wave it away as “the same assumption of uniformitarianism.” I’m sorry to have to say this, but it’s complete nonsense. The converged conclusions don’t assume uniformitarianism; on the contrary, they test it.

Here’s why. “Uniformitarianism” isn’t one single unified assumption, but many. There are hundreds of different processes and constants that may or may not have varied in the past. Nuclear decay rates, the speed of light, the fine structure constant, rates of continental drift, lake varves, atmospheric carbon-14, and so on. The “uniformitarian-nesses” of these processes are, in many cases, completely independent of each other.

Now here’s the thing. If you take two measurements – visual counting of lake varves and radiometric dating, for example – and get the same result, you can conclude one of two things. Either the two rates were indeed constant, or else there was some unknown factor that caused them to vary in exactly the same way.

Similarly, if you take three methods and they all give the same result, there must have been some factor that affected all three of them in exactly the same way.

Not only that, but the effect on each process must have been linear. If you had an effect that caused lake varves to be deposited at a rate of x per year, and that also causes nuclear decay rates to be accelerated by a factor of x squared, you would not get the same concordance. If this effect had any kind of lag between accelerating nuclear decay rates and accelerating deposition of lake varves, again, you would not get the same concordance.

Furthermore, the processes that aren’t independent of each other tend to be coupled together in ways that are definitely not linear. To give just one example off the top of my head, if you changed the speed of light, you would change the rate of energy production in the sun by the square of that amount, in accordance with e=mc2. This means that you’re going to have to postulate additional unknown factors in these cases to balance things out even more.

As the number of cross-checks that you carry out increases, the probability of multiple such unknown factors being at work, affecting everything in exactly the same way, in perfect sync at all times, becomes vanishingly small to the point of absurdity. At this point, the only realistic option you can claim is some kind of concerted divine effort to make the earth look older than it really is. Omphalos again.

There’s actually been quite a lot of research into establishing numerical limits on how much the physical constants could have varied in the past. For most of the fundamental constants of nature, physicists have established upper limits of one part in 1010 to one part in 1011 per year at most.

For more information, see Time variation of fundamental constants on Wikipedia; “Have physical constants changed with time?

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #28

Hi Mark,

I hope you’re well. Perhaps I shouldn’t re-engage in discussion, as you didn’t respond to my last comment. I do seek to engage graciously, even if I’m a bit “dogmatic.”

Just chiming in to agree with you here, in part: Scientific data IS constantly changing and theories are being tweaked. That’s why, for me personally, I don’t take a dogmatic stance on abiogenesis, or even on the various mechanisms by which mutations or selection occurs, or on the weighting to be given to each of those mechanisms. As far as I’m aware, these are still up for grabs, and I’m excited to see where science goes with all that for as long as the Lord gives me life and time to keep learning.

But the basic notion of common descent over geological time has stood the test of 150+ years of science. 99% of scientists accept it. It draws support from numerous corroborating independent lines of evidence from disparate fields of inquiry. It’s not going anywhere. New scientific finds will not be overturning the basic outline of this model.

To me it makes as much sense to say we shouldn’t be dogmatic about common descent and geological time periods as to say that we shouldn’t be dogmatic about heliocentrism or the most basic notions of gravity.

That said, I really do get that the issues surrounding evolution and scripture can make us uncomfortable about embracing evolutionary theory. (That’s why we’re all here on this forum, anyway; we all get that.) But I don’t think it’s a matter of these scientific “interpretations” being shifty or subject to major overhaul.


(Greg Rogers) #29

Hi Mr. Wolfe: I read a bit about the book your recommended for me to check out and I don’t think it is worth my time a seems maybe a bit too basic and flowery. There are very intelligent folks in the theistic evolution camp and very intelligent folks in the creationist camp. Just as a piece of American history will never be relayed by the author as exactly what occurred and rather will be their interpretation of what occurred by the fact that human beings have presumptions that taint even the most worthy pursuit to report even a recent historical event with accuracy…so with the history of the world…if my base assumption is one of naturalistic tone, then the history and interpretation of this will naturally will follow the naturalistic curve, which the Christian scientist may follow because they sound smart.

For this, I still choose to side with the basic assumption that God created kinds with the ability to evolve in small ways and that He has only given many thousands of years for this paradigm. I choose this side by faith in God and in the same way that history is written with naturalism basic assumption that sound smart, so can history written with God created kinds. I am going to have to leave it there.

I see a lot of attempts for science to support micro evolution over long amounts of time towards change in species that thus is accepting of naturalistic worldview of evolution from a cell to intelligent complexity and still sense huge leaps in logic in that there are basic assumptions they cannot knock away from view in the attempt.

God CREATED the kinds. And He did it in a much shorter timeframe than millions of years. My God has done miracle after miracle before my eyes in these last years and I trust Him and His revelation in this.

Blessings to you and your theistic evolution crew. One day you may be surprised to find a theologian of a very different type sitting on the top of the hill of truth that you and yours are climbing. Blessing in that journey.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #30

Hi Mr. Rogers (with apologies for not having disclosed my first name on this forum… you could just call me Wolfe without the Mr.),

I appreciate the time you’ve taken to respond. Thanks. It’s rare in this day and age that people get to sit down and talk respectfully about things they disagree about. I think that kind of dialogue is worth it even if we all still disagree in the end.

A couple of clarifications, if I may.

You continue to imply that Christians who believe in macroevolution do so because of social pressures to sound smart. Please reconsider this approach. First off, it is unloving to slander your brothers and sister in this fashion. We are all (YEC and EC proponents alike) truth-seekers, not fashion-seekers. Second, this argument can cut both ways, because there are others who could potentially choose to follow the YEC approach because it makes them “sound holy.” What I’m getting at is, there are social pressures in every social situation. Some people may be swayed by these social pressures, even subconsciously. In the case of evolutionary creationists, I don’t think for most of them that that’s their primary rationale, and it’s not appropriate to assume that it is.

I praise God with you in these miracles. To be clear, embracing evolutionary timelines and processes does not mean rejecting miracles. These are two separate issues. There are certainly some folks (especially in the atheistic camp) who categorically reject miracles, including miracles of special creation. But I think probably a majority of the folks commenting here in the Forum (at least, from what I’ve observed, and I just passed the one-year mark in my participation here) both believe that God created through evolutionary processes AND affirm God’s ability to do miracles, both the ones recorded in Scripture and others throughout history. There are a variety of ways to approach this issue but please understand that it’s a separate issue from evolution per se.

In general, I get the sense that, despite some comments to the contrary, you still feel that a belief in evolution somehow undermines one’s respect for Scripture, or one’s trust in what God says. It sounds like you feel that a belief in geological time scale is in chorus with the snake of Eden, taunting, “Did God really say…?” Most of us here don’t see it that way. If you believe, as we do, that the actually message of Genesis 1 (what God intended to communicate) is something other than “God directly created each of these groups of creatures out of nothing,” then advocating macroevolution does not mean joining in the snake’s chorus. Far be it from any of us to join in that chorus.

There is a lot of actual evidence that God used the process of macroevolution over millions of years to create all the diversity that we see today. There’s a coherent picture that comes together from a lot of different fields, whether it’s plate tectonics, or the different layers of rock and the fossils we find (and don’t find) in them, or the distribution of what kinds of animals we find where on earth, or what we find in the genetic code, or the chemical properties of different elements, or the speed of light and the appearance of the heavens… etc. Falk’s book explains some of these quite effectively, if you should happen to change your mind.

Saying this evidence doesn’t exist is kind of like trying to describe the Civil War (to continue your analogy) or do Civil War scholarship without bothering to read the journals that people wrote from the period, or to look at official records. The contention of evolutionary creationists is that a young earth model rejects massive amounts of evidence from several different fields of science, and that it doesn’t take much diving into the details to see that a recent creation doesn’t square with the evidence.

That’s true. I know some of both. But most intelligent folks aren’t intelligent in every area of life and study. I’ve got an advanced degree in my field, but that doesn’t mean I know what I’m talking about in the domain of, say, Civil War history. In that field, sure, I can state some things because I trust other people who have said them, but I myself haven’t studied in that field, so what I say wouldn’t really be worth listening to. And the vast, vast majority of people, Christian and non-Christian, who have studied biology believe that God created using macroevolution and did it over many millions of years. This isn’t because they all got brainwashed or that they all as a group decided that they wanted to “sound smart” but because that’s where the evidence leads. Mind you, they argue over the details… some believe that every mutation in the genetic code was a miracle of God, whereas others see a more hands-off role for God in the process, and there are all kinds of variations on a theme here (which you’ll see here on the Forum, where we debate these things ad nauseam)… but the general picture is that, somehow or other, all of life is a big family that God created and diversified over millions of generations of procreation.

There are PhDs in biology that are also YECers. I know one. But he takes the YEC view that is in my view the most intellectually coherent, which is that God created the universe with the appearance of age. That, by golly, the entire universe looks like it’s 15+ billion years old, and it sure looks like macroevolution happened, given all the mountains of evidence in its favor, but it’s actually an illusion, just like God miraculously creating trees that have rings and miraculously creating Adam with a belly button.

In closing, I would encourage you first to look at the question of Scriptural interpretation. As long as you believe that evolutionary creationists are putting God on trial, you’re going to find ways to discount everything we say. And rightly so. Anything by John Walton is good in this vein, in my opinion. If at some point you start to see that there are other ways of reading Genesis 1 that are at least plausible, if not probable, then maybe it might be a good time to pick up that Falk book and see if it could be worth your time. Meanwhile, please reconsider your position that all of us evolutionary creationists are just putting on airs so we’ll look smart around our hoity-toity friends. That simply isn’t true, and it’s not charitable.

Respectfully yours,

(Fred Snowden) #31

I pray your son gets a Biology teachers who is honest about the paltry claims of evolution, which are more faith than science.