Looking for answers…and not from Ken Ham

Hello,

I have a few questions. I didn’t realize until recently that most of my beliefs about creation and origins and the way I read Genesis with extreme literalism are all very limited and that there are possibly other views that might not force the text so much. I understand the basics of these subjects mostly from Ken Ham over the years and finally am giving up frustrated because I feel like there are too many limitations to interpreting Scripture if I have to interpret it as a 5 year old might.

That said, I think I’m open to the possibility of God using evolution as his miracle process to creating mankind and an earth that is older than 4K years.

Would anyone be able to tell me what your smoking gun is for evidence for evolution? I realize there’s probably a lot of reasons. But is there a really big one that is hard to refute?

And secondly, is there anywhere in scripture that gives us reason to believe evolution was the correct process? Or is it just that science shows evolution and scripture leaves room for that interpretation?

And last, any good book recommendations for theistic evolution? I know literally nothing…

Thanks In advance

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Hi, and welcome! Glad you found your way here. I grew up with most of my “answers” coming from Ken Ham also, but like you came to realize that that reading was far too simplistic.

This will be different for different people depending on where they’re coming from, but for me, getting a clearer picture of the utter wealth of information offered by the fossil record was a big one. One of my “epiphanies” came when I was starting to question, and I visited Dinosaur State Park in Connecticut and watched a video about how dinosaur footprints were fossilized. It had just never really occurred to me that footprints could not form in the “great flood catastrophe” format that YEC organizations push as the answer to the majority of the fossil record. Footprints and some other kinds of trace fossils require a tranquil environment to form, not rapid burial like bones do. And then on top of that, realizing that not only were there many many fossilized trackways in the fossil record, but layers with footprints and layers with bones were all interspersed with each other. There’s no way a single flood could have caused that. This article by Joel Duff really helped me get a good picture of how that works, and I’d recommend his whole website as he is a geologist who tackles YEC claims from a Christian EC perspective.

Not that I’m aware of. I’ve come to accept that scripture simply doesn’t speak to science, and was never intended to. Reading the Bible as if it were a science textbook could cause other problems, such as Joshua’s “sun standing still” moment. But also, as Bible scholar John Walton has pointed out, we can be too quick to take our own Western, 21st century expectations for texts and then apply them to Genesis, which he considers cultural imperialism. I have been trying to learn to respect the text as it was written in its culture and be more aware of times when I try to force modern expectations on it.

Speaking of John Walton, his book “The Lost World of Genesis One” was really helpful to me. He has a whole series that I still haven’t read yet but hope to soon.

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You have come to the right place @SonsofThunder! I suspect you are about to collect a reading list longer than you ever intended, so please take a moment right now to give yourself permission to take all the time you need processing stuff. None of this has to be figured out and nailed down this week or even this year. Try to enjoy the learning curve, because it’s a big one.

There are multiple lines of scientific evidence that fit really well with the evolutionary model. They are:

  1. The order of fossils in geological layers
  2. Genetic evidence of common ancestry that can be uncovered by comparing sequences of DNA between related organisms.
  3. Homologous structures in related organisms that follow predictable nested hierarchies
  4. Evidence from embryonic development.
  5. The distribution of species in different areas of the earth (i.e. marsupials vs. mammals in Australia)

The Stated Clearly YouTube channel has a lot of good quick explanatory videos that help people understand the basics of some of the scientific evidence, like this one. It’s a good place to get an idea of a topic and then you can look for more in depth discussion once you have a feel for the main points.

If you want a little more technical discussions, Darrel Falk, the author of the book Coming to Peace with Science has some good videos here:

There are a lot of good books out there and it kind of depends what your main questions and interest is in. Some people are really interested in the science around a particular theological or biblical question, like Adam and Eve or the biblical flood. Some people are interested in the whole discipline of Bible interpretation and what ways we can approach understanding the Bible that don’t impose unfair expectations on what it can tell us and what it is trying to do. Other people are interested in more general apologetic faith/science. There are different resources for different lines of inquiry.

I would look at the common questions and see what topics feel most important to you:

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Misinformation can “refute” anything if there is someone who is going to believe it. Virtually every single line of modern science points to biological evolution and a very old earth and universe. You don’t really need a smoking gun when literally all the evidence there is points this way. Biological evolution is no more controversial to biologists than atomic theory is to chemists or physicists. YECism is on part with belief in a flat earth.

Explaining this to fundamentalist Christians is another matter though. I mean, how do you teach a common young earth creationist enough chemistry and physics so they actually understand radiometric dating and its clear implications? Or teach them enough general biology and enough details about the fossil record so they can clearly see its implications? If a subject is too complex it is easy to dismiss and doubt it just by waving a hand at it. After all, they are in the good company of their pastors, church community and friends, many of whom are authorities to them and share their mistaken beliefs. This is a nice, insulated and self-perpetuating circle. The truth is our science education kind of sucks in the USA. Better science education is needed.

But if I had to recommend a single book, I remember Ken Miller’s “Finding Darwin’s God” was very influential to me when this whole creation/evolution thing was new to me and actually popular. That is back when Behe’s mousetrap and irreducible complexity argument was around (Darwin’s Black Box). I though Miller did a great job defending evolution and putting things in context.

Vinnie

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Personally, I don’t tend to think about the debate in terms of whether evolution is true or not. Instead, I ask a different question: who is supporting their position with accurate and honest weights and measurements?

This is something that the Bible demands in several different places, for example Deuteronomy 25:13-16:

¹³Do not have two differing weights in your bag — one heavy, one light. ¹⁴Do not have two differing measures in your house — one large, one small. ¹⁵You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lᴏʀᴅ your God is giving you. ¹⁶For the Lᴏʀᴅ your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.

If you study science at university, a lot of what you learn is basically drilling down into what accurate and honest weights and measures look like in practice in a very fine level of detail. You learn a whole lot of rules and principles that apply to every area of science, and then once you graduate, you’re sent out into the workplace where you have to apply those rules and principles in your job – very often in situations where getting them wrong could have devastating consequences.

I’d personally recommend that before you try to get your head round evolution, try to make sure that you understand, at least in general terms, how science works. In particular, if you can brush up on your maths and/or get involved in one or two science-based hobby projects in your spare time, that would help enormously in that respect. As it stands, you’ll get bombarded with a variety of claims left, right and centre, and gaining that hands-on experience and understanding of how science works in general can go a long way to helping you figure out who is telling the truth and who isn’t.

For me, it’s that hands-on experience (I’m a software developer with a university degree in physics) that gave me the understanding needed to approach the subject. As I read young Earth claims from people such as Answers in Genesis, I repeatedly found that their approach to weights and measures was all over the place. In fact, it is so bad that if I were to apply similar standards and lines of reasoning in the workplace, I would drive my employer out of business and quite possibly even kill people in the process – if, that is, I weren’t fired for gross professional misconduct and sued out of my insurance first.

I cover it all here:

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Yes. The Bible doesn’t explain the process that generates rain and science tells us the what generates rain. The Bible doesn’t explain the process which generates the sun’s light and science tells us the nuclear process that generates light. Beginning to catch my drift? Is it any wonder then that the Bible doesn’t address the process of evolution?

Going up to the 20,000 foot level, the Bible tells us why God created but says nothing about how He did so. I know it feels like trying to drink from a fire hose. I surprised nobody has yet mentioned the Common Questions you can access on the main page.

And welcome to the forum.

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Welcome! You have already received some excellent suggestions. While there are many evidences of an old earth, to me the most telling sign of common descent with modification that defines evolution is ERVs. I do not know if your background has included them, but basically they are the coffee stains and streaks on the copies that tell you what copy machine and where your copy of the agenda came from. These viral scars on the DNA code are passed through time from species to species, leading you to a common ancestor.

However, that evidence is secondary to realization I had in college that an old earth and the relatedness of creation was real and true, and if it was true, then my lingering thoughts of a literal interpretation of Genesis were false, if the Bible were also true. The choice was not science vs. faith, but rather a reconstructed, integrated faith vs.falling away.

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As others have mentioned some of the best evidence is the geological layers. But they are only important if you understand how to interpret the data.

But first thing to know is that the layers are laid on top of one another. Now you can have oddities caused by earthquakes, mudslides and so on but those are outlier ( not common ) events and they tend to have great scientific answers. The way they are layered is called superimposition. Older layers on the bottom. Newer layers on top.

When we look at these layers we see the fossil record. This is important because we can see morphological developments. Such as we never see humans in the same layers as dinosaurs. We never see humans in layers older than dinosaurs. We never see dinosaurs in layers after humans. We have never found a human that was killed by a dinosaur. We never find dinosaurs that have human weapon damage done to the bones.

We don’t see bipedal primates showing up earlier than the earliest primates who walked around on all fours. We don’t see humans before earlier primates. We don’t find angiosperms predating gymnosperms.

So when we look at the geological layers we see within them a steady and ever evolving line of linages. We see morphological changes.

A flood can’t answer these issues. A global flood would have species in all layers. Not in order. If it was in order it would be consistent. We would not see big and small animals in the same users but not in other layers. The facts they are in different layers let us know it happened at different times.

When we see chimps we see a lot of similarities. Morphologically and even more importantly genetically.

Here are two great podcasts about evolution and geology

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As for does scripture directly say evolution is the process? No.
Does scripture indirectly say evolution is the process? No.

Does scripture leave room in its interpretation that evolution is the process? Probably not in the way you think.

We don’t look at scripture to tell us how the climate works, or how tornadoes work, or how fire works , or anything.

Try to use just scripture to explain how the weather works to someone who has no idea how it works.
Try using just scripture to explain algebra or chemistry. You can’t. That’s because the Bible is not a scientific textbook.

Likewise try using scripture to teach about Germania, a complete understanding of the Roman Empire or Sumerians. You will not get to far. That’s because the Bible is not a world history book. It’s not even a complete history of the Jews. Christ, the most important figure in the entire set of scriptures still has very little as far as a autobiography goes. It tells us just a little bit of a few years of his life with the majority of blank. That’s because the Bible is not a autobiographical/biographical story.

Now the Bible mentions a bit of science and history. But that’s not it’s main goal.

So when we come to something like genesis 1-2 we must ask ourselves what’s the genre, what’s the narrative and what’s the literary techniques being employed.

So ask questions like is genesis 1 main point what was created on each day? Is the narrative of day six simply about when humans was created. Are there any literary techniques being used such as what’s important about the time frame of a week ( 7 ) or what does Adam’s name mean. Is it wrote as history or is it being wrote as a mythology tale. If we can determine reasonably that it’s being written as a non literal tale
When we then see something in the New Testament mentioning it we can be fairly certain it’s hyperlink and to understand it we much must consider that original context.

This is where many of us struggle initially. We don’t understand the proper context. We get the context of the story within the story. But we don’t get the context of the writing style. We don’t understand ancient Hebrew world views or how they shared those tropes, patterns and jokes.

When we are watching a horror film and we see promiscuous counselors not paying attention to some dying kid we can be fairly certain some monster is about to show up. When the monster kills the guy first and then then goes after the girl and she trips and falls down three times we are never really shocked. We recognize that as a common trope in horror.

But when we are reading the Bible and it suddenly mentions that God told someone to do something and then it mentions they headed out East we typically just presume it means nothing more than they went east. We don’t realize that it often has meaning deeper than that.

When someone comes up to us that’s 7 foot tall and 400lbs and they say their nickname is Tiny we know
It’s a joke. It’s a funny oxymoronic nickname. But when we see the names of Ruth’s husband we may miss out on the joke.

John Walton’s “ The Lost World “ series is pretty good at doing this. Also the podcast, “ The Bible Project “ also covers a lot of this.

So before asking ourselves does genesis teach evolution, it’s better to ask what’s the purpose of genesis. Then decide if that purpose dismisses the possibility of evolution.

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Only in general terms. Nobody can ever say why it doesn’t rain in a sky full of cloud. Like we had in England for the whole of August. Not even God.

For decades - four - I was a TE in the have your cake and eat it too mold. The rocks don’t lie and neither does Genesis. I was extremely primitive for the first decade… or two, denying evolution and that it was divine intervention all the way to tohu and bohu and beyond. A bit of a handicap for a biologist. That dinosaurs were Satan’s World and all the crazed circle squaring one has to do. By the fourth decade I’d got to full on evolution with a side helping of Eden grafted seamlessly in. I mean abiogenesis and the human mind were naturally impossible, right? As born out by Fermi’s paradox in our practically infinite but strangely finite sole universe. Right?

It was the dawning of eternity that changed everything, that put nature as the ground of faith. Nature un-denied. Nature un-prevaricated. Nature clear as a cloudless day. Faith? Desire that Jesus be for real.

I echo what @jpm said: retroviruses are as close to a ‘smoking gun’ as you can get, IMO. In fact, the genetic evidence as a whole is.

If you want an overview of what retroviruses are and why they are such compelling evidence for common ancestry then watch this short lecture by Dr. Graeme Finlay, who is also a Christian.

On retroviruses and pseudogenes watch this short lecture by this forum’s very own @glipsnort.

You could also search for Denis Venema’s various posts on the BioLogos site on genes and evolution.

To get a better understanding of all the evidence for common ancestry, pick up a copy of Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True. At various points Coyne specifically addresses the claims of Creationists. From a Christian perspective, Darrel Falk’s book Coming To Peace With Science is also a very good introduction to all the evidence, and he also specifically addresses Creationist claims.

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On evidence for an ancient earth, and for evolution in marine invertebrates, I can provide some points.

The southeastern US has something like 40 distinct fossiliferous layers (not all in the same spot, but you can tell what order they are in from comparing hundreds of sites), varying in their constituents as you move both horizontally and vertically. They are in a very clear sequence, based on the fossils contained. As an example for some of the relevant layers: The Lower Goose Creek Limestone has an extinction rate in the mollusks of 83%; the Upper Goose Creek Limestone, 82%; Raysor Marl, 80%; Darlington beds, 78%, Elizabethtown beds, 68%; lower Waccamaw Formation, 65%; upper Waccamaw Formation, 56%; Bermont formation, 15%; Wando Formation 0%. You can also look at specific types of fossils, and where they are found in the layers.

For evolution within the layers; Argopecten, Chesapecten, and Otodus are well-studied examples.

Radiometric dating also gives extremely good evidence for an ancient earth:

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Oh my this is so much good information! Thank you everyone for all of the info and resources. I’m looking into each one and have ordered some of the books mentioned as well.

I live in WY and I’m very happy to be able to be more open minded to science and not have to try and find all the scientific answers only from scripture as it doesn’t seem to be the purpose of the story. I feel like some chains are coming off.

Thank you for your openness to share you knowledge. It’s very encouraging. Many YEC (won’t name names) often call believers who move towards other interpretations “compromisers” so I appreciate the willingness to share with me and not put down my lack of knowledge here as I move away from YEC and open up to new ideas.

I’ve also found this website to have a ton of information today. I didn’t realize there was so much so I’m very excited to take it in and think on it.

Thanks again!

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There is no end to the information that validates the antiquity of the earth and the universe, and new evidence always supports it. A personal favorite is this, by a Christian:

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It is possible to read Genesis very literally, just as Ken Ham does, and to recognize the ancient age of the earth without the confusing pseudoscience of biological evolution. If you want to understand how this can be, I refer you to my book published by Amazon’s Kindle Press, found at this link: https://smile.amazon.com/Resolving-Age-World-Argument-Biblical/dp/B092HCV2T6/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=L.+Ralph+Rohr&qid=1632746649&sr=8-3.
Ralph :slight_smile:

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Good to meet you, Ralph. Do tell us about yourself: Is your background in science, theology, Biblical studies?

Best,
Chris Falter

EDIT: I found the website https://sowhatistruth.com/ when I googled your name. Is that your site?

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My cult used to do that decades ago. It gave up that pseudoscience as the science of evolution was so clear. Even so I had a side bet on Eden until a decade ago. It’s amazing how tenacious these memes are.

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Yes, that is my blog site. My background is in science (formal, M.D.) and biblical studies (informal and personal). You can find my thoughts about Genesis reading and age of earth on that blog site, and in my kindle book on amazon :slight_smile:

Hi Ralph, perhaps you be kind enough to share one or two thoughts here on the forum. That way other users can engage with them directly.

Anything relevant to the topic being discussed in the last half dozen or so posts would be particularly welcome.

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Genetics. The effort is made to explain this away as required for the design. But too much of it is simply not used for anything EXCEPT maybe evolution. The information contained in the genetics is vast and is now telling the story of where it came from in great detail now that we are learning to read it.

Not exactly, but there are certainly places in scripture which do not agree with YEC and Adam and Eve being the first homo sapiens. Genesis chapters 4 and 6 which talks of an earth filled with people already and explaining that the sons of Adam and Eve married the daughters of those other people out there.

Certainly the book of Job tells us that (at that time) we knew NOTHING about how God created things and thus Genesis has NOT explained how God created everything in some kind of creation for dummies text.

I recommend most reading the posts of this forum.

There are some important philosophical/theological issues in addition to the direct Biblical and scientific evidence…

  1. What is life? Everything in science tells us that this is NOT some magical non-physical addition to matter in order to animate it, but rather is a dynamic interactive process derived from the properties of matter.
  2. From AI we are learning that intelligence is not as important or special as we have thought. It really come down to little more than the ability to follow a set of instructions like a computer. And that includes the ability to make complex and sophisticated designs.
  3. Thus we should realize that the portrayal of God as a great watchmaker (creator of dead machines) is a product of Deism, while the portrayal of God in the Bible is that of a shepherd (creator of living things). Because creating living things is NOT a process of clever design but one of love, care, teaching, and guidance.
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