Does acceptance of "deep time" or evolution imperil Christian belief?

It appears that in the YEC community there is a perception that academics subscribe to evolution in order to conform to peer pressure, because surely evolution could not be compelling on its own merits. That is not my own experience, and I expect that is not a significant driver in general.

My own persuasion to mainstream science was not due to any single influence, but first year biology was part of it. Evolution was barely discussed in lectures; most of the time went to plant and animal physiology, and biochemical pathways. In lab however, we dissected a rat to identify the innards. By the time I was done with the critter, despite years of creationist reading, common descent was the only thing that made sense of what I was looking at.

The coherence of the evolutionary framework was the pull, the push was that I just could not make a recent global flood work. I tried. For six weeks, I fixated on the question, to the point of near mental breakdown. Since emerging from that internal debate decades ago, it has been increasingly clear to me that it is flood geology that is defined by contrivance, duplicity, and patched with rescue devices, and that the YEC critique of conventional science is projection.

In all of this, I had neither any desire to fit in with secular peers, nor practical advantage to be gained.

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“Accomodationist” theologically is the opposite of that: it means that God accommodated His revelation to the writers He chose and their audience. I had no problem with that idea when I first encountered it because it just sounded like an extension of Paul’s point about speaking in language people will understand. It actually helped strengthen me against the wild excesses of the extremely critical schools of thought because they were plainly not asking that question but were imposing modern worldviews on the Bible’s stories.

As a pastor I knew noted, if correct interpretation is not required at all then there wouldn’t need to be seminaries.

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My astronomy professor once talked about peer pressure in academia. He said that until tenure was achieved you either bowed to peer pressure or had to be so plainly brilliant that people listened anyway. But once tenure had been achieved bowing to peer pressure was actually detrimental because those who just “follow the herd” get no real recognition. My first geology professor echoed that, so I presume it applies across all the sciences. In fact from what my glaciology professor said if you wanted to get published you had to resist peer pressure because papers that were just “more of the same” went right into the trash; journals wanted material that turned new ground.

I never thought about it before, but now thinking back it strikes me that the biology students in our informal intelligent design club were nearly all juniors and seniors.

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Or, a third option that I’m aware of–work in a field with so few researchers that the rest of them are just glad to have someone else doing some of the research that they can’t afford the time to do; and be at least good enough that you don’t have most citations of your papers being about how bad they are.

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I have not seen any widespread attempt to ‘appease the academy’ during my career. There has often been an attempt to select the words carefully to avoid being misunderstood but that is not the same thing. The experience is rather the opposite - my successful colleaques have often been eager to promote their more or less controversial new ideas and interpretations because novel and controversial ideas give more citations, fame and funding. If someone could have shown that some part of the evolutionary theory is wrong, they would have eagerly published that result - a sure way to get much attention and fame.

Biblical scriptures have preserved to our generation the core teachings about God and His will. In this sense, what is written is very important and understanding it correctly is important. Yet, scriptures themselves are not the focus of our faith, rather these point towards the God behind the scriptures - I believe in God, not the Bible.

The core teachings are repeated in many parts of the scriptures, which helps us to interpret the core teachings correctly. Less central teachings may be mentioned only once or twice in the scriptures, so these may be more easily misunderstood. Genesis 1 includes valuable teachings about our Creator and His world but it is not so crucial that misunderstanding it would destroy our future and relationship with God.
Faith in God through Jesus is a core topic in the NT, something that can be read and understood from many parts of the NT. If a particular passage is misunderstood, it does not change the core teaching. Naturally, if this core teaching is not understood correctly, that puts our life on shaky ground.

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Three messages from Genesis 1:

  • YHWH-Elohim is king and Creation is His realm.

  • YHWH is Elohim and Creation is His temple

  • YHWH is the only true God; all the rest are beings He made to serve Him

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Im going to make my response to this rather simple…

Please CAREFULLY read the following from the Apostle Peter…then tell me YEC are misinterpreting scripture with a literal reading of Genesis chapters 1-11 (or perhaps you want to make the claim Peter was wrong and he did not recieve any revelation directly from Christ during his ministry, the Father in heaven, the Holy Spirit, and the prophets?

17For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”c 18And we ourselves heard this voice from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

19We also have the word of the prophets as confirmed beyond doubt. And you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation. 21For no such prophecy was ever brought forth by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 2

4For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them deep into hell,a placing them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; 5if He did not spare the ancient world when He brought the flood on its ungodly people, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, among the eight; 6if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction,b reducing them to ashes as an example of what is coming on the ungodly;c 7and if He rescued Lot, a righteous man distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9if all this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.

A careful reading of this again for what is now what, the tenth time you have posted this, shows me Peter never said he had received a revelation for anything that he knew before he had met Jesus. In fact he says the only thing received by revelation was prophecy and he didn’t claim that revelation for himself but for “the prophets”. Which, BTW, was contained in portions of the Hebrew scriptures. So even this was something he would have known before he met Jesus.

I would suggest you take off your YEC glasses and read what was actually written.

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Declaring things to be revelation (or visions) when there is nothing in the text to say that is necessary for many ideas to be sustained, YEC among them.

It goes hand in hand with the fact that they ultimately are inconsistent in that they refuse to actually grapple with the text by tackling the Hebrew in its linguistic, literary, and cultural/worldview context, yet they rely on such things in order to even have an English translation. And even if they recognize the inconsistency they don’t dare admit it since their entire sets of premises rely on reading an English translation through the glasses of a modern scientific materialistic worldview.

Right, I hear that basic sentiment often enough that I’m tempted to believe it.

The main problem there is that it contradicts something I hear even more often – that evolution is settled science and an indisputable fact (as well as the central organizing principle of biology, the single greatest idea in the history of science, etc.). Now if science journals (and their readership) uniformly regard evolution as settled science and an indisputable fact, there is really no point in waiting for science journals to publish a serious challenge to evolution. They aren’t going to publish anything that they hold to be false a priori; and besides, if evolution is presumed an indisputable fact it’s really not falsifiable in principle.

The other problem there is that even if scientific journals were to begin to consider the possibility that evolution might be false, a better scientific theory for the origin of biodiversity would still have to be found to replace evolution. But if the truth of the matter is that the origin of biodiversity is due to the direct action of God (as I believe to be the case), there will be no viable scientific theory to replace evolution (God speaking the world into existence and breathing life into his creation are not scientific mechanisms or explanations, after all). The upshot is that evolution remains the dominant scientific theory by default – quite regardless of how complicated it becomes or how many “mechanisms” and ad hoc assumptions are required to shield it from falsification.

A potential solution to this dilemma, I think, is to simply realize that a scientific theory of a phenomenon need not explain its origin. We don’t have to know (and we don’t know) how gravitation or atoms came to be to have a good theory of how gravitation works or a theory of how various atoms are structured and how they interact. And the origin of life itself remains a mystery. With the scope of explanation reduced this way, other theories become potential contenders for best theory in biology.

Given that the biosphere is replete with complex systems and subsystems, system(s) theory, for example, could turn out to be a more powerful unifying principle than evolution. Systems biology is already recognized for its explanatory usefulness and practical applicability, working from the basic assumption that a functional system is more than the sum of its parts – or in the case of evolution, more than the coincidental arrangement of its naturally selected mutations.

Thanks for your viewpoint, Don. Even when we disagree on something, it is good to see how and why you think that way.

My thoughts on your line of reasoning regarding the openness of science to change in regard to evolution, primarily centers around evidence, whereas the idea of creation as is, including the biodiversity, relies on a particular reading of the biblical text as being literal/historical. Evidence that contradicts past evolutionary thinking is welcomed and celebrated by the scientific community as it further helps us understand the mechanisms involved. Current evolutionary ideas, while still including the natural selection that characterized Darwin’s early work in the field, now are much more robust and well defined. Every major advance has only served to strengthen the overall framework. Genetics, population data, evo-devo, DNA sequencing, new fossil finds, geologic studies, etc all have been consistent with the idea of common descent with modification. Far from being a rescuing device, changes reflect genuine evidence and data.

Now, if evidence came along that truly challenged the underlying theory, it would be amazing, and would be Nobel prize material, but it would be a hard hill to climb. So far, no one has even come close on a scientific basis, and the only objections have been religious/philosophical in nature, and in conflict with physical findings. I think people like Todd Wood are much more credible who hold to young earthism as a faith issue, rather than as a scientific proposal.

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I don’t see that. Systems theory is already a field that is part of evolutionary theory, so it can’t be “a more unifying principle”; after all, a subset can’t be a better descriptor of the primary set than the entire primary set is. The whole idea of biology already is that a system is greater than just the sum of its parts; that applies to cells just fine. Then of course on the higher level systems theory becomes ecology.

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Which just happens to be contrary to the text itself, as anyone who has really studied the Old Testament recognizes.

Dang it, Knox got excited about a loud car stereo going by outside and I lost track of why I clipped this! Silly dog was a quiet one when I got him but he’s learned my buddy’s dog’s bad habit of challenging anything moving or noisy.

Here’s the guilty party:

Ah – Now I remember what I was going to say!

It seems to me that no view that sees species as immutable is going to be able to launch much of an attack on evolution because it excludes all the data showing that organisms do in fact come up with new genetic information. I’ve shared here before the account of how a ranger in Colorado experimented with bacteria that survived in water with a mild arsenic content by increasing that content slightly over and over until one day he realized that one strain of bacteria was sequestering arsenic in its cell, and many iterations later on he discovered that some of those bacteria had gained the ability to actually metabolize arsenic. That series of experimental steps cannot be explained except by acquisition of new genetic information.
A YEC-ish friend I shared this with one day started to respond and stopped with his mouth partly opened as he realized there was no way to get around that. A wonderful result was that he started from that point to increasingly find beauty in science, which in turn strengthened his faith.

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Publishing something that challences the old doctrines demands convincing evidence. You have to convince the referees and editors of the publication channel. If you have sufficient evidence, you can get the results published. When acting in the role of an editor, I sometimes encountered situations where the reviewer wrote that he does not believe the conclusions but he votes for publication because the controversial conclusions deserve to be told and other researchers need to get the opportunity to demonstrate that the conclusions were wrong.

I have encountered situations where journals were reluctant to accept a manuscript that had some evidence for the conclusions. The topics were not against the evolutionary theory but otherwise sensitive conclusions. One case was a paper where the author showed that in certain conditions, raping increases fitness. He had sufficient evidence but the editors feared that the conclusions would be misunderstood as speaking for raping. That would be really bad and they did not want to take the risk. If I remember correctly the author told to me that he got 11 (or possibly 12) rejections before óne journal finally accepted the manuscript. Even in that case, the manuscript was finally published.

Although people speaking for YEC may list observations that they interpret as evidence for a young Earth or a global flood, these ‘evidence’ do not stand critical inspection by experts. They are not rejected because of philosophical disagreements but because these observations can be explained more convincingly with the prevailing theories than with the alternatives.

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One of my geology professors had that happen. In fact he said ahead of time that he expected it, but he published because he really couldn’t figure out an explanation of his data that satisfied him and after grappling with it for a few months he decided to throw it out there to let the international geological community wrangle with the data.

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The position on Adam and Eve suggested by Joshua Swamidass is perfectly compatible with biology. In fact, the basic genetic idea has been brought up (without invoking Adam and Eve) in purely biological settings. It’s popular historical trivia that practically anyone with western European ancestry is descended from Charlemagne, for example. He had loads of kids (even some legitimate), there’s been over 1200 years for their descendants to mix through the population, and there’s some tendency for royal families to distribute their offspring across multiple countries, more so than the average peasant. Depending on your exact population genetics models, by ca. 6000 to 10 000 years ago, there’s an individual who is in every living person’s family tree, and not too much farther back you will reach the point where all humans alive at that past time are ancestors either of all living humans or have no living descendants. Thus, it is biologically reasonable to have an “Adam” and “Eve” be not too far distant into the past and be an ancestor of everyone today. Swamidass suggests that as a way to be scientifically honest while also having everyone be descended from Adam and Eve, which might help get over some of the common concerns of young earthers.

If you want all modern humans to be descended from just two individuals, with no genetic contribution from anyone else alive at the same time, then you have to make the date much further back, at least a few hundred thousand (depending on both the population genetic model and on whether a few hybridization events with other hominids are allowed as a source of outside DNA or if those others also have to be descended from Adam and Eve).

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