Science

Dear Bill Maher, Stop Saying Creationists Believe the Earth is 5,000 Years Old

bill maher

Polly and I regularly watch Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. Real Time, along with John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight and Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, highlight the important news stories of the week, giving them a comedic twist. Sometimes, when these shows focus on American religion, especially Evangelical Christianity, I am often irritated when they play loose with the facts. Bill Maher, by far, is the worst.

Maher loves to bash creationists. I am all for him doing so, but I wish he would not distort their beliefs when he does. As an atheist and a critic of religion, Maher has the responsibility to speak accurately when critiquing, attacking, or ridiculing creationist beliefs. Look, they make it easy for us, so the least we can do is represent their beliefs accurately.

Over the years, I’ve heard Bill Maher repeatedly say creationists believe the earth is 5,000 years old. I know of NO creationist who believes this. None. Nor do I know any who think the earth is 10,000 years old. Adding another zero doesn’t make their belief any more rational or scientifically correct. Creationists are literalists. They believe the book of Genesis is a science and history textbook. When the Bible talks about Adam living  930 years, Noah living 950 years, Abraham living 175 years, David living 70 years, and Jesus living 33 years, creationists believe these ages are factual. They also believe the genealogies found in the Bible are factual. This is why James Ussher, a 17th century Church of Ireland archbishop,  was able to add up the ages and genealogies and conclude that the God created the universe on October 22, 4004 BC.

According to Wikipedia:

The chronology is sometimes called the Ussher-Lightfoot chronology because John Lightfoot published a similar chronology in 1642–1644. This, however, is a misnomer, as the chronology is based on Ussher’s work alone and not that of Lightfoot. Ussher deduced that the first day of creation began at nightfall on Saturday, October 22, 4004 BC, in the proleptic Julian calendar, near the autumnal equinox. He elsewhere dates the time to 6 pm. Lightfoot similarly deduced that Creation began at nightfall near the autumnal equinox, but in the year 3929 BC.

Ussher’s proposed date of 4004 BC differed little from other Biblically based estimates, such as those of Jose ben Halafta (3761 BC), Bede (3952 BC), Ussher’s near-contemporary Scaliger (3949 BC), Johannes Kepler (3992 BC) or Sir Isaac Newton (c. 4000 BC). Ussher’s specific choice of starting year may have been influenced by the then-widely-held belief that the Earth’s potential duration was 6,000 years (4,000 before the birth of Christ and 2,000 after), corresponding to the six days of Creation, on the grounds that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). This view continued to be held as recently as AD 2000,six thousand years after 4004 BC.

The universe then, according to creationists, is 6,019 years old not 5,000 years old. I sent Maher an email and a tweet about his inaccurate date. He did not respond.

Here’s why this matters. We who think the universe is 14 billions years old often criticize creationists for playing loose with the facts. I know, the difference between 6,019 and 5,000 is just 1,019 years, but we should do our best to accurately represent our enemy.  If atheists and scientists are going to do battle with creationists, then the least they can do is know what their enemy believes,  Far too often, atheists say things about Evangelical beliefs that are not true.  They read a meme or see something on Facebook or Twitter and they assume that what they read is correct. We make ourselves look bad when we misstate our opponents beliefs.

Abortion Facts, Lies, and Contradictions

when women have abortions

When Women Have Abortions, 2010 Guttmacher Institute

Here are the FACTS about abortion:

Very few abortions occur at late or full term. 89% of all abortions occur in the first trimester, with 63% occurring in the first nine weeks. 98.8% of abortions take place before viability. Late term abortions after twenty week are 1.2% of all abortion procedures performed in the United States. Out of 1.2 million annual abortions, 14,400 are after 20 weeks. Most of these abortion are medically necessary due to the health of the mother, the fetus, or both.

These FACTS can be found at the Guttmacher Institute.

I realize that almost half of Americans are pro-life, or at least when polled  they say they are pro-life. I am not at all convinced that as many people are pro-life as the polls suggest.

I wonder how pro-lifers would respond to polling questions like these:

  • Your eleven year old daughter is raped by a serial rapist and she became pregnant. Would you support your daughter having an abortion?
  • Your wife is raped by an AID’s infected man. Her rape was a Todd Akinlegitimate” rape and she became pregnant. Would you support your wife having an abortion?
  • Your wife is pregnant with a fetus that tests show will be born without a brain. Would you support your wife having an abortion?
  • Your wife is in danger of dying  if her fetus is carried to term. The doctor says unless she has an abortion she will die. Would you support your wife having an abortion?
  • Your wife is carrying a dead fetus. Should she have an abortion to remove the fetus? Why? Perhaps almighty God will work a miracle and breathe the breath of life back into the fetus. Shouldn’t you wife wait to see if God works a miracle?

When faced with reality and not political talking points I wonder how many people would actually stand by their no-exceptions anti-abortion stance?

Some pro-lifers say they support exemptions for rape, incest, and if the life of the mother is at stake. However, these exceptions are antithetical to the pro-life view. If life begins the moment the egg and sperm unite, then any abortion is the killing of a human life. It is inconsistent and hypocritical to call yourself pro-life and then turn right around and say, in some circumstances, it is permissible to kill the fetus. Shouldn’t this life and death choice be left in the hands of God?

In February 2015 I wrote:

According to anti-abortionists, life begins at conception. At the very moment the sperm and egg unite a new life is created. Anti-abortionists are intractable when it comes to their position. Life begins at conception…end of debate.

Let me tell you a story……

This story takes place at the We Make Life Possible Fertility Clinic.

Sue gave birth to a beautiful baby girl through in vitro fertilization. Her baby girl is 1 month old . Sue stopped by the Fertility Clinic to show off her newborn to the Clinic staff.

While Sue was at the clinic, a huge explosion rocked the place and the clinic was engulfed in flames. Later speculation on World Net Daily, suggested a supporter of Barack Obama was behind the attack.

John, named after John THE Baptist, a pro-life activist, happened to be passing by the clinic when the explosion took place. John went running into the clinic hoping to perhaps save someone from the fire.

John had been to the We Make Possible Life Fertility Clinic before. His wife Patience had problems conceiving, and not wanting to wait on God to open her womb, John and Patience went to Clinic. While the treatment was successful, Patience miscarried a few months into the pregnancy.

John knew the Clinic stored hundreds of fertilized eggs (embryos) in a freezer. As he rushed into the Clinic, John saw Sue huddled in a corner with her newborn daughter trying to get away from the fire. John thought “Surely I should save these two.”

John thought for a moment, asking himself What Would Jesus Do? Suddenly, he realized the fire was going to destroy all the frozen embryos. John told Sue and her baby Sorry, maybe Jesus will come rescue you, and he rushed to the freezer where the frozen embryos were stored. Through John’s heroic effort, hundreds of frozen embryos were saved. Sadly, Sue and her newborn daughter were burnt to death.

Who among us would fault John? After all, he acted according to the greater good. Who wouldn’t save 200 lives at the expense of 2 lives?

The above story follows the logic of the life begins at conception viewpoint to its illogical conclusion.  There is no difference between 200 embryos and Sue and her baby.  Life is life. It makes perfect sense for John to save the frozen embryos and not Sue and her little one. Surely John would be praised for saving the 200 embryos, right? If the clinic is unable to reopen, perhaps the frozen embryos can be put up for adoption. After all EVERY embryo is a life.

If life begins at conception and terminating a pregnancy is the murder of a baby as pro-life zealots claim, then the following conclusions can be made:

  • The woman who has the abortion is a murderer
  • The doctor who performs the abortion is a murderer
  • The nurse who helps with the abortion is a murderer
  • The receptionist who books the abortion appointment is a murderer
  • The person who took the woman to the clinic is a murderer

If these conclusions are true, then it means that none of these people will go to heaven when they die. Why? The BIble says:

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. Revelation 21:8

It is also fair to conclude that people who kill innocent men, women, and children in war are murderers too. Where are the same pro-life zealots proclaiming the evil of war? It seems that killing a zygote is murder, but killing an Afghan child or mother is not. It seems that the only life pro-lifers protect is that which has not yet been born. Why is this?

I have come to the conclusion that pro-lifers who do not condemn war are guilty of facilitating murder.(use their logic and exegesis)  Pro-lifers charge those who believe abortion should be rare, safe, and legal with facilitating murder. Pro-lifers make it quite clear that those who promote and facilitate abortion cannot be a Christian. How can they be since they are facilitating murder? I ask then, what about pro-lifers who promote and facilitate war. How can they be Christian and support the murder of innocent men, women,children, and the unborn? It seems to me that heaven is going to be quite empty if murderers are barred from entering. If you still doubt that no murderers will enter heaven:

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. Revelation 22:14,15

And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matthew 19:17-19

(If you have not done so, please read 25 Questions for Those Who Say Abortion is Murder.)

In 2011 I wrote:

In about 17 months there will be a Presidential election. Republicans know they have a fight on their hands. They need to make sure that the faithful turn out in record numbers and vote for the Republican candidate. They need to appeal to the value voters, those who hold to right-wing political and social beliefs.

One of the key issues that will make it to the ballot in 2012 is whether or not a fertilized egg is a person. Personhood USA is circulating petitions in all 50 states hoping to get politicians to enact personhood laws. According to Rachel Maddow, there are already eight states debating personhood legislation and with 2012 being a Presidential election year it is quite likely that there will be a concerted effort to get personhood initiatives on the ballot.

One of the implications of Personhood laws is that they could make the use of birth control pills illegal. (since birth control pills are an abortifacient and can, and do cause spontaneous abortion) 46 years ago in Griswold v. Connecticut the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the right of privacy extended to the use of contraceptives and states could not ban the sale of contraceptives. (it is hard to believe there was a time when selling birth control was illegal)

Personhood laws could upend not only Roe v. Wade but Griswold v. Connecticut. If a fertilized egg is a person, then any deliberate effort to kill the fertilized egg would be considered murder. A quick perusal of The Pill Kills website will make it clear that the personhood crowd is dead serious about banning abortion and birth control.

What is the implications of a personhood law?

  • All abortion would be illegal, including abortion in the case of rape and incest
  • Abortion to save the life of the mother would be outlawed since it is illegal to murder one person to save another
  • Using any form of birth control that is an abortifacient would be illegal
  • Our entire legal code would need  rewriting to reflect that a fertilized egg is a person
  • A person causing a woman to miscarry could be charged with murder.
  • Parents would be able to claim the fertilized egg as a dependent on their income tax return
  • Fertilized eggs would be eligible for adoption
  • Stem cell research would be curtailed and possibly banned

I can imagine a new Evangelical evangelism outreach to fertilized eggs. “Winning People to Jesus, One Fertilized Egg at a Time.”

We must not sit on the sidelines while right-wing Christians attempt to push their social agenda down the throat of the American people. We must consistently and continually point out that personhood laws are fraught with legal implications that will turn the legal code into a mine field.

Right-wing Christians are not going away. Obama being elected President was a wake up call and they have no intentions of sitting idly by and letting liberal, fertilized egg killing Democrats win in 2012. I expect a vicious fight, not only on the federal level, but the state and local level too.

Look at the graphic below. Is what you see a baby? Is aborting this the same as murdering your mother, father, or grandmother?

3 day old human embyro

Three Day Old Human Embryo.

Only those blinded by their religious ideology can conclude that this is a picture of a baby. At best, it is potential life, but not life itself.

Now let me get personal for a moment.

If you believe people who support a woman’s right to an abortion are murderers or evil people, then why do you have anything to do with me? If this is your view, why would you want to associate with a neighbor, friend, husband, father, father-in-law, or grandfather who advocates m-u-r-d-e-r? IF I am a murderer because I support the slaughter (your word) of over a million babies a year, then aren’t I just as evil as Jeffrey Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy?

And herein lies the problem with your shrill rhetoric. I am a kind, decent, loving neighbor, friend, husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather. Yes, I am an atheist but I am more “Christian” than many of the Christians you know.

How about asking me WHY I support a woman’s right to an abortion? If asked, you would find out that:

  • I don’t think human life begins at conception. Potential life, yes, but human life? No. Science tells me that this is true, not a pre-science, antiquated religious text.
  • When I look at the embryo above I don’t see a “baby.” It is a group of cells, not a baby.
  • I support a woman’s right to use birth control to keep from getting pregnant. I know that some forms of birth control might cause a spontaneous abortion, but I have no problem with this since I don’t think life begins at conception.
  • Since 89% of abortions occur in the first trimester, long before viability, I fully support a woman’s unfettered right to an abortion. This right includes over the counter access to morning after drugs.
  • I do not support abortion on demand after viability. However, only 14,400 a year occur after viability, and, in most cases, these abortions are medically necessary due to the health of the mother, the fetus, or both.

I am an atheist. I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe the teachings of the Bible. My beliefs are not governed by the Bible or the teachings of a sect. When I came to the view I now hold on abortion it was because of the science behind the abortion debate.

I am also a husband, father, father-in-law, and a grandfather. If ANY of the women in my family were raped or were carrying a fetus that could cost them their life, I would want them to have access to every medical and psychological means necessary to help them. I am most concerned for the LIVING.

I didn’t come to this position easily. I have a daughter with Down Syndrome. I know many women have an abortion when they find out they are carrying a fetus with Down’s. I can’t imagine our life without Bethany. My brother was born three months premature, not too many weeks past the viability line. I can’t imagine life without my little brother.  My point is this: everything doesn’t fit neatly in a pro-life or pro-choice box. Life is messy and we are often forced to make hard decisions.

This post is an attempt to get people to see that it is simplistic and offensive when people label someone like me a murderer or evil. But, I don’t do that, you might say. Are you sure you don’t? Every time you post to your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest that people who support abortion are murderers or evil, you ARE saying I am a murderer or evil. This is the inescapable conclusion of your rhetoric and moralizing.

abortion facts

Just substitute abortion for climate change. This is how I often feel when trying to talk with someone who confuses their beliefs for facts.

I have come to the conclusion that there is no common ground to be had with people who are pro-life.  They start with religion and not science, and I see no way of finding common ground. All I can do is present the facts about abortion and work to keep them from causing any further harm to women.

I understand the pro-life view, I really do. I was pro-life for most of my adult life. I fully understand the why’s of being pro-life. I know all the proof-texts and I think the Bible supports the pro-life view, along with the pro-slavery, pro-polygamy, pro-incest, pro-genocide, pro-war, pro-peace view.

I understand where you are coming from. Now it is time for you to give me the same courtesy.

The Ken Ham Maxim: The Bible Says…

god said it

The Ken Ham Maxim, The Bible Says…

It is quite easy to predict how Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham will react to a new scientific discovery. It doesn’t matter what the discovery is, Ham will judge its veracity based on whether it bolsters his literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-3. If it does, he loudly proclaims that the new discovery proves God created the universe in six literal 24 hour days, 6,019 years ago. If it doesn’t, Ham, filled with the righteous indignation of an Old Testament prophet, declares that scientists are wrongly interpreting the data, using wrong methods, or are secret agents working for secularists who want to rid the world of Christians.

Ham is upset about a recent study published by the Arizona State University Institute of Origin about a human jawbone discovered in Ethiopia in 2013:  The Guardian reports:

A lower jaw bone and five teeth discovered on a hillside in Ethiopia are the oldest remains ever found that belong to the genus Homo, the lineage that ultimately led to modern humans.

Fossil hunters spotted the jaw poking out of a rocky slope in the dry and dusty Afar region of the country about 250 miles from Addis Ababa.

The US-led research team believes the individual lived about 2.8m years ago, when the now parched landscape was open grassland and shrubs nourished by tree-lined rivers and wetlands.

The remains are about 400,000 years older than fossils which had previously held the record as the earliest known specimens on the Homo lineage.

The discovery sheds light on a profoundly important but poorly understood period in human evolution that played out between two and three million years ago, when humans began the crucial transformation from ape-like animals into forms that used tools and eventually began to resemble modern humans.

“This is the the first inkling we have of that transition to modern behaviour. We were no longer solving problems with our bodies but with our brains,” said Brian Villmoare at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

The new fossil, found at a site called Ledi-Geraru, has a handful of primitive features in common with an ancient forerunner of modern humans called Australopithecus afarensis. The most well-known specimen, the 3m-year-old Lucy, was unearthed in 1974 in Hadar, only 40 miles from the Ledi-Geraru site. But the latest fossil has more modern traits too. Some are seen only on the Homo lineage, such as a shallower chin bone…

…Other researchers agree. In a separate paper published in Nature, Fred Spoor at University College, London, reports a virtual reconstruction of a Homo habilis skull. “By digitally exploring what Homo habilis really looked like, we could infer the nature of its ancestor, but no such fossils were known,” said Spoor. “Now the Ledi-Geraru jaw has turned up as if on request, suggesting a plausible evolutionary link between Australopithecus afarensis and Homo habilis.”…

Ken Ham has a problem with any number that has more than four digits, that is unless it is a tax credit from the state of Kentucky, then he likes the number 18 with six zeroes. Since scientists are using numbers with lots of zeros to date the jawbone, Ham has published an article repudiating the recent find:

Headlines are buzzing with news about the oldest known human in the fossil record. The specimen—half a lower jawbone with five teeth—was found in the Ledi-Geraru research area in Ethiopia and has been recently reported in the journal Science. This jaw was found in 2013 about 12 miles from where “Lucy” was originally discovered. Lucy, of course, is an extinct ape called Australopithecus afarensis, and evolutionists believe Lucy was an important step in human evolution.

Officially dated at 2.8 million years, the Ledi jaw has been assigned a date midway between the “most recent” specimens of Australopithecus afarensis and the “oldest” examples of human fossils, Homo habilis. Researchers have not been able to determine the Ledi jaw’s species, but they are convinced it is a species of Homo. Its discoverers are touting it as a transitional form, a missing link between Lucy and Homo.

Now, we’ll post a more comprehensive article about the Ledi jaw next week. Our qualified AiG researchers will describe for you the anatomy of the new fossil and how it compares to the jaws and teeth of apes like Lucy and those of humans. But as much as the evolutionary community is raving about the convenient timeline connecting Lucy, the Ledi jaw, and later humans, many of their conclusions are based on the unverifiable dates assigned to it. And like all such millions-of-years claims, these dates are totally dependent on assumptions and worldview-based interpretations of radiometric dating methods. They are calling some of the Ledi jaw’s features “primitive” and others “advanced” because they assume that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors along this timeline.

You see, your worldview determines how you interpret the evidence. These scientists have a secular worldview, and they start with the assumption that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors so that’s what they see..

…But what does the Bible tell us? God made all kinds of land animals as well as Adam and Eve on Day Six of Creation week about 6,000 years ago. He made animals to reproduce and vary only within their created kinds. And this is confirmed through observational science. God made the first man, Adam, in His own image on that same day, from “the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7)—not through evolutionary processes and ape-like ancestors. He also made the first woman from the man (from Adam’s side). Obviously Christians cannot claim God supposedly used evolution as some try to do! No matter what evolutionary scientists claim about fossils like this, the truth is it is that while a fossil could be human or could be an ape, it could never be a transitional form…

matchbox

For Ham, it’s never about the science. The Bible says…end of discussion. No matter what scientists find, if the new discovery contradicts Ham’s literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-3,  “qualified AIG researchers” will find some way to discredit the discovery. Their entire worldview depends on their ability to keep modern science contained within the matchbox of young earth creationism. Scientists long ago lit a match and set fire to this box, but Ham and others like him, sit in the ashes of their ignorant beliefs and continue to pretend the box is still whole.

Is there any hope of reaching someone who is a creationist? Sure. Thousands of former creationists read this blog. They, at one time, had beliefs similar to Ken Ham, so they are a testimony to the possibility of change. But, the only way for this to happen is to destroy the foundation these errant beliefs are built upon. Until a creationist is willing to let go of literalism and the inerrancy of the Bible, there is no hope of reaching them. They have walled themselves off from anything that does not fit with their fundamentalist beliefs.

Creationist Ken Ham and the Boiled Frog Story

ken ham and origen

Snark ahead. You’ve been warned!

Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creationism Museum and a defender of young earth creationism, stated in a recent radio interview that the state of Kentucky is treating him like a second class citizen. According to Ham, by refusing to give him $18 million worth of tax incentives for his latest project, the Ark Encounter theme park, state officials are attacking his right to speak and worship freely.

Ham’s legal battle with the state of Kentucky over tax incentives is just the latest in a long string of controversies swirling around Ham’s creationism empire. Ham has spent most of his life being “persecuted”  by scientists, secularists, humanists, atheists, liberal Christians…well by anyone who doesn’t think and believe just like he does. Ham gins up controversy so those who support him will be “righteously angry” and continue to support his moneymaking enterprises.

Last Monday, Ham was a guest on Janet Parshall’s radio program. (Parshall, a fundamentalist Christian, “is the host of the Christian talk show In the Market with Janet Parshall, which is broadcast on the Moody Radio network”) During the program, Ham  stated:

“If we don’t do something about this it’s like the old idea of the frog in the water that you can boil it up and boil it to death and it doesn’t you’re doing it because it keeps accommodating to the temperature around it. If Christians just keep accommodating and allowing this to happen more and more, we will lose that free exercise of religion.”

I wonder if Ham, Parshall, or those who listened to the program on Moody Radio, know that the boiled frog story is bad science. Probably not. Since creationists jettison any science that doesn’t fit within the framework of a literalist interpretation of the Bible, I guess it would be too much to ask them to research the story before using it as a metaphor for Christian inaction and acclimation to culture.

In a 2011 article titled Frog Fable Brought to Boil, Dr. Karl S. Kruszelnicki wrote:

If you plunge a frog into boiling water, it will immediately jump out. But if you place the frog into cool water and slowly heat it to boiling, the frog won’t notice and will slowly cook to death. So claims the myth. Indeed, everyone—from corporate consultants to politicians to environmental activists—cites the frog fable as proof that people often don’t see change happening and cannot deal with it in the aftermath.

So how did this myth begin? Maybe it arose because frogs are cold-blooded. We humans are warm-blooded: our internal thermometers measure the local temperature, and then we shiver or sweat to maintain a body temperature of around 37 degrees Celsius. But a cold-blooded frog maintains the temperature of its immediate environment. Perhaps somebody once wrongly thought that this meant frogs had an inferior or inadequate thermometer…

Dr. George R. Zug, curator of reptiles and amphibians at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and Professor Doug Melton of Harvard University both agree on this point.

Second, a frog would notice the water getting hot. Dr. Victor Hutchison, a herpetologist at the University of Oklahoma, has dealt with frogs throughout his professional life. Indeed, one of his current research interests is “the physiological ecology of thermal relations of amphibians and reptiles.” Professor Hutchison states, “The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ [the maximum temperature an animal can bear] of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water.”

So real-life experiments show that the frog-in-boiling-water story is wrong. If only this fact could make it into real life, too.

The aforementioned article was adapted from Kruszelnicki’s book, It Ain’t Necessarily So…Bro. (I earn a few shekels if you buy the book)

After doing some reading on the boiled frog myth, I found a study that best describes Ham’s use of the myth:

As part of advancing science, several experiments observing the reaction of frogs to slowly heated water took place in the 19th century. In 1869, while doing experiments searching for the location of the soul, German physiologist Friedrich Goltz demonstrated that a frog that has had its brain removed will remain in slowly heated water, but an intact frog attempted to escape the water when it reached 25 °C.

Frog…brain removed…Ken Ham…young earth creationism…

Hey, I’ve come up with a new metaphor for creationism.

Any day now, I expect Ham to come out with an Answers in Genesis defense of the boiled frog story. Like the voice of God speaking to Moses on the Mount, the utterances of Ken Ham are treated as infallible by his cult followers. Ken Ham, like the Bible and God, is never, ever wrong.

The easiest way for Ham to prove the boiled frog story is to conduct a frog boiling study. Oh wait, Ham doesn’t do research. He’s too busy preaching the Gospel of Genesis 1-3, also known as The Bible According to Hammy®, to take any time to conduct a study. With millions of dollars at stake, there is no time for bothering to speak scientifically when pretending to be a scientist on the radio. Souls are at stake. The future of America depends on the Creation Museum and Noah’s Ark theme park. If these beacons of ignorance are closed, what would Christian schools and homeschoolers do for science class field trips?

Perhaps one of Ham’s followers might say, yes, the science of the story is wrong, but the moral story behind the metaphor is correct. Oh, you mean like the B-I-B-L-E? Let he stammering begin…

Note

The boiled frog story has been used by people of every political, social, and religious persuasion. I even know one redheaded preacher who used it years ago in his sermons.

Ohio Legislators Trying AGAIN to Outlaw Abortion

3 day old human embyro

Three Day Old Human Embryo.

Ohio legislators continue to push bills that will make it hard or impossible for a woman to have and abortion. Currently, the right win Republican driven legislature are discussion no less than four bills that, if passed, will severely limit a woman’s right to abortion or outlaw it altogether.

Using a throw it and see if it sticks approach, Ohio Republicans are doing everything they can to make abortion illegal. One bill makes abortion illegal after 20 weeks. Another bill bans aborting a fetus with Down Syndrome, and yet another adds “a trigger clause to block abortions in Ohio should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade.”

Yesterday, Ohio legislators began debating HB 69,  also known as the Heartbeat Bill. Marc Kovac, Capitol reporter for Dix Communications, had this to say about their deliberations:

State lawmakers began deliberations Tuesday on legislation that would ban abortions within weeks of conception.

This is the third session the Heartbeat Bill has been offered. Sponsors told the House’s Community and Family Advancement Community that the proposed law change is needed to address “the human rights issue of our generation.”

“Biology is crystal clear that at the moment of conception, a unique organism comes into existence,” said Rep. Christina Hagan (R-Alliance), who carried the Heartbeat Bill last session and who is a primary co-sponsor again this session. “Since this new life possesses human DNA and is the offspring of human parents, it can only be described as a human life.”
She added, “As far as observable science is concerned,human life begins at conception.”

Hagan and Rep. Ron Hood (R-Ashville) offered testimony and answered questions for a hour and a half Tuesday afternoon during the initial hearing on HB 69, which would “generally prohibit an abortion of an unborn human individual with a detectable heartbeat” and “create the Joint Legislative Committee on Adoption Promotion and Support.” Proponents believe the
legislation could serve as the vehicle to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

“… It’s been 42 years of abortion on demand which has destroyed the lives of 56 million human beings,” Hood said. “At some point we actually have to do more than regulate how and where we kill children. We actually have to protect them. “The Heartbeat Bill will finally recognize the universal indicator of life —the heartbeat, the human heartbeat of a human life.”

Opponents, however, think the Heartbeat Bill goes too far. Some abortion opponents say the resulting legal challenges could end up undoing other abortion-related restrictions in state law. Others call it an attempt by Statehouse Republicans to further restrict women’s access to health care…

Fetus at 28 days, HB 69 would making aborting this illegal

Fetus at 28 days, HB 69 would make aborting this illegal

HB 69 is fifty pages long, filled with legalese meant to obfuscate and confuse, with the desired result being no Ohio doctor will be willing to perform ANY abortion procedure. The bill not only makes abortion illegal after a heartbeat is detected, it also adds layers of reporting and counseling requirements. The goal is simple…NO ABORTIONS.

human fetus

Fetus at 56 days, 1/2 inch long

Ohio Republicans are hypocrites. The issue isn’t science. No matter how many big words they use in the bill in an attempt to give HB 69 respectability, the real reason for this bill is that its sponsors are Christians who believe God is the giver and taker of life. Their agenda is a religious one, and they will not stop until all abortion procedures are illegal. In their mind, abortion is murder, yet the HB 69 makes no provision for criminalizing the actions of those who are culpable in the death of the fetus. Shouldn’t everyone who played a part in the abortion be charged with murder? (Please read 25 Questions for Those Who Say Abortion is Murder)

These days, I wonder if I went to sleep one night in Ohio and woke up the next day in North Carolina. What happened to the progressive Ohio of my youth? Ohio has become a joke, a state-owned and operated by Jesus H Christ. The Heartbeat bill has failed twice, but I fear it might have a good chance of passing this time.

I’m Not a Scientist but I Play One on Atheist Blogs

creationism cartoon

This is not a science blog. I have no training in science, outside of a high school and college biology class and whatever knowledge I have gained from the books I’ve read.  I don’t engage in long, protracted science discussions because I don’t have the education necessary to do so. I know my limitations. Theology, the Bible,Evangelicalism, and sex are my specialties and this is why I primarily write on these subjects. (OK , maybe not sex)

When I post a science article, I do so because I think it will either help readers or it illustrates the ignorance that is pervasive in many corners of the Christian and Evangelical world.   I don’t have the skill or knowledge to adequately defend evolution, but I do know people who do, and I trust  them because they have the requisite training, knowledge, and experience to speak authoritatively. All of us, to some degree or another, trust experts. No one knows everything.

The problem that arises when I post a science article is that it attracts young earth creationists. Armed with a limited understanding of science, colored by creationist presuppositions,  creationist want to debate and argue with me about the article I posted. Generally, I try to steer such arguments back to the Bible and theology because I think that is the best way to disembowel creationism. Ask yourself, when’s the last time you’ve seen a creationist abandon their beliefs as a result of a blog debate or discussion? It doesn’t happen and the reason is quite simple: abandoning their beliefs would require them to also let go of their faith. Until the creationist is willing to entertain the notion that they might be wrong about the inerrancy, infallibility, and inspiration of the Bible, there is no way to reach them. Facts don’t matter because faith always trumps facts.

Young earth creationists love to come to blogs like mine because they can make themselves look like they are an expert in disciplines like biology, archeology, and cosmology. They know I am not going to engage them in a science discussion, and unless someone with a science background responds to them, that’s where the discussion ends. I’m sure they think they’ve won a mighty victory for God, but all that has happened is that no one wants to waste their time with someone who has no true desire to follow the evidentiary path wherever it leads.

I am content to let them play a scientist on this blog. If those of you trained in the sciences want to engage them, please do so.  I will stick to what I know, theology, the Bible, and Evangelicalism. And even with these things, I have backed countless Evangelicals into a corner only to have them throw their hands up and tap out by saying FAITH FAITH FAITH! Once someone appeals to faith, all discussion is over. (at least for me it is)

Going forward, I think I will point those who want to argue and debate science to blogs like Why Evolution is True, Exploring Our Matrix, The Sensuous Curmudgeon, God of Evolution, The Panda’s Thumb, or Confessions of a Young Earth Creationist. (if you know of other writers who have a good understanding of science, creationism, and Evangelicalism, please share the link to their site in the comment section)  Each of us have competency in certain subjects or disciplines. I know where my competency lies and I don’t pretend to know what I don’t know. Now, this does not mean that I have no understanding of science and the scientific method. I do, and my knowledge increases every time I read a science article, blog, or book. But, I could follow this path for the next 25 years and still not have the necessary expertise to pass myself off as an expert. I find it laughable that someone, anyone thinks they can read x number of books and be as competent and knowledgeable as someone who has spent 6-10 years in college training for a specific scientific field and now works in that field every day of their life. Such thinking is called hubris.

The good news about my areas of expertise: theology, the Bible, and Evangelicalism, is that rarely is there any new information. Outside of archeological finds that might have some connection to the Bible, there’s not much happening in Bible Town. Sure, there are small skirmishes going on over the historicity of Jesus and what the Bible really, really, really says about _______________, but, for the most part it’s just the same shit, different day.  I don’t wake up in the morning and say, Hey, I wonder what new and exciting story about the Bible, theology, or Evangelicalism awaits me.  (and this is one of the reasons Hector Avalos gives for the ending of Biblical studies programs. The End of Biblical Studies by Hector Avalos)

Note

I am not suggesting that someone can’t become conversant and competent in a specific subject without going to college. I know firsthand the importance of study and hard work. That’s what I did for 25 years, spending hours and hours each week reading and studying the Bible and theology. Would I have been better off if I had gone to Princeton and not an Evangelical Bible college? Sure, but I did a pretty good job over 25 years of plugging up the lack of knowledge holes. I still have gaps in my knowledge, but that can be said of every person. None of us know everything, even when it comes to our particular area of expertise. I am a serious amateur photographer and I know a good bit about the craft. But, the more I read and practice my craft, the more I realize how much I still don’t know.  Wise is the person that understands their intellectual limitations and doesn’t try to pass themselves off as something they are not.

Christian Fundamentalists are Right about Genesis 1-3

6 days of creation

“I think that if the data is overwhelming in favor, in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult, some odd group that’s not really interacting with the real world. . . . And to deny the reality would be to deny the truth of God in the world and would be to deny truth. So I think it would be our spiritual death if we stopped loving God with all of our minds and thinking about it, I think it’s our spiritual death. It’s also our spiritual death in witness to the world that we’re not credible, that we are bigoted, we have a blind faith and this is what we’re accused of. . . . And I think it is essential to us or we’ll end up like some small sect somewhere that retained a certain dress or a certain language. And they end up so . . . marginalized, totally marginalized, and I think that would be a great tragedy for the church, for us to become marginalized in that way.”

Christian Hebrew scholar Bruce Waltke

Cameron Buettel, a student at The Master’s Seminary, a fundamentalist institution connected to John MacArthur, recently wrote an article on the Grace to You website about the importance of believing in a literal six-day creation. Here’s what he had to say:

Most of us are familiar with politicians who obfuscate simple questions with complex political answers. Who can forget Bill Clinton’s “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”? Unfortunately, obfuscation exists in the realm of theology as well. God may not be “a God of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33), but there are scores of biblical scholars, theologians, and pastors who insert plenty of it into the first few chapters of Genesis.

Evangelicalism abounds with theologians who don’t know what the meaning of the word “day” is. The Hebrew word for day, yom, appears more than two thousand times in the Old Testament and would attract virtually no debate were it not for six specific appearances in Genesis 1. But those six days of creation are now at loggerheads with modern scientific dating methods. Rather than stand firm on the biblical account, church leaders acquiesce to unprovable theories and confuse the clear and consistent biblical teaching on origins…

Buettel is correct when he says the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 is at odds with modern scientific dating methods. The gap between the two is so vast there is no possible way to reconcile the two viewpoints. Both could be wrong but both can’t be right.If you accept that universe is about 14 billion years old, then the idea that God created the universe in 6 literal 24 hour days is false.

Later in the article, Buttel addresses the implications of the 6 days of creation being anything other than literal 24 hour days:

…There are only two ways to deny a six-day creation: ignore the text or reject the text. Scholars ignore the actual text by blinding themselves to the genre, grammar, and layout in order to insert their own. Skeptics simply reject the text as erroneous. Either way, the result is the same—a clear text becomes a confused text.

Some people like to dismiss this debate as a secondary issue, not directly related to the gospel. But it is clearly an issue that goes to the authority of Scripture. And furthermore, as MacArthur rightly points out, it has massive repercussions for the gospel:

“If Adam was not the literal ancestor of the entire human race, then the Bible’s explanation of how sin entered the world makes no sense. Moreover, if we didn’t fall in Adam, we cannot be redeemed in Christ, because Christ’s position as the Head of the redeemed race exactly parallels Adam’s position as the head of the fallen race: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18–19). “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life–giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45; cf. 1 Timothy 2:13–14; Jude 14).

So in an important sense, everything Scripture says about our salvation through Jesus Christ hinges on the literal truth of what Genesis 1–3 teaches about Adam’s creation and fall. There is no more pivotal passage of Scripture.”

The opening chapters of Genesis are not up for debate, nor are they negotiable. The academic credibility of our faith is meaningless if we’re so quick to sacrifice the meaning of Scripture at the altar of public opinion. Better to be counted a fool for the sake of God’s Word than to be embraced for our willingness to compromise it.

I think Buettel and MacArthur are correct. There is no textual or theological warrant for making the six days of creation mean anything other than six  24 hour days. The natural reading of the text demands that the word day=24 hours. Revisionists, desperately trying to reconcile evolution with Genesis 1-3, need to stop with the intellectual and theological gymnastics. The text says what it says. There are no gaps, no alternative explanations.

The only question that remains is whether to accept or reject what Genesis 1-3 says. If a Christian goes with science and the universe being 14 billion years old, they must explain what they plan to do with Adam and Eve and the fall. Earlier this year, biologist Jerry Coyne had this to say about Adam and Eve:

…The problem, as you’ll know if you’re a regular here, is that genetic data show clearly that the genes of modern humans do not descend from only two people (or eight, if you believe the Noah story) in the last few thousand years. Back-calculating from the genetic diversity seen in modern humans, and making conservative assumptions, evolutionary geneticists have shown that the human population could not have been smaller than about 12,250 individuals: 10,000 in Africa and 2,250 in the group of individuals that left Africa and whose descendants colonized the rest of the world.  There was a population “bottleneck,” but it was nowhere near two or eight people.

This shows that Adam and Eve were not the historical ancestors of all humanity. And of course that gives theology a problem: if the Primal Couple didn’t give rise to everyone, then whence our affliction with Adam and Eve’s Original Sin? That sin, which the pair incurred by disobeying God, is supposed to have been passed on to the descendants of Adam and Eve, i.e., all of us. And it’s that sin that Jesus supposedly came to Earth to expiate. But if Original Sin didn’t exist, and Adam and Eve were simply fictional metaphors, then Jesus died for a metaphor. That’s not good!

That doesn’t sit well with theologians, of course, who, if they accept the science (and most of the smarter ones have), must then explain the significance of Adam and Eve, and whether they really existed. I discuss this in the Albatross as well; suffice it to say here that there are several interpretations of Adam and Eve as both historical and metaphorical, many of them funny and none of them coming close to solving the problem of Original Sin and the coming of Jesus…

It’s the slippery slope. Abandon a literal six-day creation results in abandoning a literal Adam and Eve. No Adam and Eve? No original sin. No original sin? No need for Jesus to die on the cross.

Fundamentalists are right on this one. So what’s a Christian to do? Simple, use the brain you say God gave you. Based on the available scientific evidence, is the universe 6,000 years old or 14 billions years old? Does evolution best explain the biological world or does a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3? If you answer 14 billion years and evolution, then a greater intellectual task awaits you: reconciling what you believe about sin, Jesus, and redemption with what you know about the universe.

I don’t think it can be done, though I admire and appreciate those who try. I know many Christians want to embrace what science says about the universe and hang on to the Bible and what it says about sin, Jesus, and redemption, but I think this is a match made in hell, one that requires a good bit of cognitive dissonance.

It’s not up to me to tell people what to believe about God, but I do think Christians should be honest about the dilemma science poses for them. How is it possible to reconcile a 14 billion year old universe and evolution with what the Christian church has historically taught about creation, Adam and Eve, original sin, Jesus, and redemption?

six days of creation 2

Note

Of course, young earth creationist Ken Ham thinks Cameron Buettel’s article is a-w-e-s-o-m-e.