Tag Archive: Creationism

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 BoilDr. 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.

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 and Western Civilization depends on the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. 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 the 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.

082216

Global Warming and the Fatalism of Creationist Alan White

global warming

Warning! Risqué cartoon below.

Recently, Answers in Genesis published an article by Dr. Alan White about global warming. The article, The Globe is Warming, But It’s Not Your Fault, is chock-full of statistics and charts. Like every defender of a 6,000 year old earth, White spends a lot of time talking about science. I am not sure why he bothers to do so. After all, according to White:

The Globe Is Warming, But It’s Not Your Fault!…

…Christians are less likely to be concerned about the climate going out of control since they believe the earth and its climate were designed and created by an all-knowing and all-powerful God. Those who believe that the heavens and the earth are the result of a random, accidental process naturally will be concerned about what may happen next…

…What is your worldview? Do you trust that God brilliantly designed and created everything and trust that He has your best interests at heart, or will you always be worried that the planet is on the verge of going out of control?…

Let me sum up White’s viewpoint: The Christian God of the Bible is in control of everything, so if the earth is warming it is because God wants it this way.

At the heart of Evangelicalism is fatalism. Since God is sovereign and in control of his creation, if the overall temperature of the earth rises and the seas someday engulf Pacific islands, it’s because God wants it this way.  Evangelicals believe God has the whole world in his hands. He is working out his purpose and plan, and there is nothing humans can do to thwart him.

Usually, people who think like this also believe that Jesus will soon return to earth to judge the living and the dead, destroy the heavens and earth, and make a new heaven and a new earth. Since God is in control of everything and he is fixing the burn the house down, there’s no need to call the fire department.

Why is then that Evangelicals like White are content to appeal to the sovereignty of God when it comes to climate change, but when it comes to the culture war, they fight and work as if their God doesn’t exist or is on vacation? If God has everything under control, wouldn’t that include abortion and same-sex marriage?  Since God, the biggest abortionist of all, could stop women from having an abortion and could cause the courts to rule that marriage is between one man and one woman, that he doesn’t must mean that God ordained abortion and same-sex marriage.

I am simply taking White’s argument to its logical conclusion. God’s in control, don’t sweat it. Since God holds the world and the itty bitty baby in his hands, there’s no need for Christians to concern themselves with the future. Dr. White needs to explain why fatalism is the proper response to global warming but not abortion and same-sex marriage. The same God who controls the global thermostat is the same God who controls the life and death of every human being. Theological consistency demands Christians let go and let God. Even if they don’t let go, God is still going to work out his purpose and plan.

Those of us who spent a lot of time in Sunday school remember the story recorded in Daniel 4 about God teaching King Nebuchadnezzar about who is really in charge. One day, while walking in his palace, prideful Nebuchadnezzar had this to say:

Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?

God, busy helping the Israelites find the keys to their chariot, stopped what he was doing and focused his attention on punishing Nebuchadnezzar for his insolence. How dare the King think that Babylon is his kingdom! I’ll show him:

While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.

As Daniel 4 makes clear, Nebuchadnezzar got the message:

And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?…Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

The theology of this story is embedded in the DNA of Evangelicals. The Bible is clear, God is God and all power, authority, and control belongs to him. No need to fret, fuss, or worry about global warming and climate change. Yet, when it comes to social issues, Evangelicals act as if God doesn’t exist. Why the hypocrisy?

Fatalism, also known as the sovereignty of God, is nothing more than a tool used by Evangelicals to avoid or do away with data that conflicts with their literalist interpretation of the Bible. Since White believes his God created the earth 6,020 years ago, he dismisses any science that doesn’t fit in the creationist box.

White could have saved Answers in Genesis readers a lot of time if he had just stated his belief about God’s sovereignty and left it at that. In White’s worldview, God is the end all, he’s the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. The answer to every question is GOD, and not just any God, the CHRISTIAN GOD!

teaching creationism

082216

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 high school and college biology classes 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 (Okay , 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, creationists 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 creationists 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 creationists are 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 experts in disciplines such as 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 such as Why Evolution is TrueExploring Our MatrixThe Sensuous CurmudgeonGod of EvolutionThe 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 has 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 those who have spent 6-10 years in college training for a specific scientific field and now work 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. (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 knows 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.

081516

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 established by 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 six 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. Abandoning 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 billion years old? Does evolution best explain the biological world or does a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 explain it? 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.

081516

Biologist Jerry Coyne Mentioned My Deconversion Story on his Blog

No, he didn’t write a post about my vast knowledge of science. That would have taken all of eight words: not much, but more than I knew yesterday. In the post, Why I Stopped Believing, I mentioned five of the books that played an instrumental part in my deconversion. Coyne’s book, Why Evolution is True, was one of the books I mentioned. The book was quite helpful when I was trying to hang on to some sort of God who created. One chapter in particular, Remnants: Vestiges, Embryos, and Bad Design, had a profound effect on how I viewed the natural world.

In a post titled, In Which I Help Deconvert Someone, and on What Works, Coyne writes:

I’ve always said that the definition of “success” in mentoring graduate students is “producing a student who can replace you.” And though I’ve had very few students, I’ve replaced myself in that sense at least three times, so I’m quite happy.

And I consider the definition of “success” as an anti-theist to be “turning at least one person away from the delusions of faith and towards the virtues of reason.”  After all, if theists can boast about bringing people to Jesus, why can’t atheists take pride in helping people go in the reverse direction?

Now I can’t claim full credit for doing that to any one person, but I claim partial credit for helping quite a few—or so they tell me. And I’ll add those partial successes up to assert that N > 1.

The latest partial convert is Bruce Gerencser [sic], a former Christian minister, who explains on his website what led to his leaving the church. As is nearly always true for the deconversion of ministers (or anyone else, for that matter), it is a long, tortuous, and complex process involving many inputs…

…But read Gerenser’s [sic] whole piece (it’s short), because he traces the roots of his apostasy back to the very virtues instilled in him by his religious parents, including a love of reading and having the courage of one’s convictions.

The other point this makes is that it’s better, if you want to advance reason, to write and publish (if you have that privilege) rather than to give lectures and have debates. That is because in the quietude of authorship, you can polish and fully express your views, and people can read them at leisure and compare them with contrary views. In a public talk, I often find that the audience comprises people who are already on my side, and have come out of curiosity or to seek affirmation. Those are both fine reasons, and, after all, we all need affirmation (except perhaps Christopher Hitchens!), but in truth I’d prefer a higher titer of opponents when I speak. But again, I prefer to write, and that’s why I wrote The Albatross (soon to be available in fine bookstores everywhere)…

You can read the entire article here.

faith vs fact

Coyne has a new book coming out in May, Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible. You can pre order the book here. (I receive a few shekels if your order the book through this link)

081516

Why Accepting Evolution is Incompatible with Christianity

bible vs evolution

As much as some people might try, it is impossible to square evolution with Christianity. Even embracing theistic evolution requires a significant amount of intellectual gymnastics in order to reach the conclusion that the Christian God is behind evolution. In my opinion, theodicy — the problem of evil and suffering —  presents an insurmountable problem for theistic evolutionists. Why would a God, any God, choose such a violent, painful, deadly way to create?

Jerry Coyne, a biologist and a professor at the University of Chicago in the Department of Ecology and Evolution, writes:

…It is in fact different from asking whether one believes (“accepts” is a better word because “believe” implies a religious-like faith) in theory of gravity or generality relativity, and the reason is obvious. The theories of gravity and relativity don’t impinge on anyone’s religious beliefs. Evolution carries implications that no other science does—save, perhaps some branches of cosmology. It implies that humans evolved by the same blind, materialistic, and naturalistic process involved in the evolution of every other species, and so we aren’t special in any numious sense. It implies that we’re not the special objects of God’s creation. It sinks the “design” argument for God—the most powerful argument in the canon of Natural Theology. It implies that we were not endowed by God with either a soul or moral instincts, so that our morality is a product of both evolution and rational consideration. It implies that much of our behavior reflects evolved, genetically-influenced propensities rather than dualistic “free will.” It implies that even if God did work through the process of evolution , He did so using a horrible and painful process of natural selection, a form of “natural evil” that doesn’t comport well with God’s supposed omnibenevolence…

081516

How I Answered Science Questions When I was a Baptist Pastor

intelligent design

As a Baptist pastor, how did I answer science questions? The short answer is…I didn’t.

I was five years old when my parents joined Tim LaHaye’s church, Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego, California. I would remain associated with the Evangelical church for the next forty-five years, pastoring churches in Texas, Ohio, and Michigan. Whether as a church member or as a pastor, the world I was a part of was insulated from secular science. I rarely had someone ask me a science question and the reason for this is quite simple. I believed and taught others to believe:

  • The Bible is the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God.
  • The Bible, in most instances, is meant to be read literally.
  • Genesis 1-3 accurately, literally records HOW God made the universe and everything in it.
  • If science conflicts with what the Bible says, science is wrong and the Bible is right.
  • Questions and doubts are the works of Satan.
  • Certainty of belief is a sign of faith and maturity.

We had our own science books and scientists. My favorite Evangelical “scientists” were Henry Morris and John Whitcomb. Morris had a degree in engineering, Whitcomb a degree in theology. Even though their books contradicted accepted scientific facts, they had a high view of Scripture and accepted the Bible as the final answer to every question, so their books carried great weight in many Evangelical circles. I have no doubt that if I was still a pastor I would have taken church groups to the Creation Museum so they could see the “proof” of our creationist beliefs.

The children in the churches I pastored  were insulated from the world. Many of the children were home schooled or attended private Christian schools. Children were not encouraged to go to college, especially a wicked secular college. The highest calling for a woman was to marry a godly man and bear children and the highest calling for a man was to become a preacher or a missionary. All other vocations were considered inferior.

rod and staff science book

Rod and Staff Publishers 8th Grade Science Book

From 1983-1994, I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. For five of those years, we operated a tuition-free, church-member-only, Christian school. We used Rod and Staff science textbooks, books that emphasized the young earth creationist point of view. Rod and Staff is a Mennonite/Amish book publisher.  My wife and I also home schooled our children. We used Rod and Staff textbooks to teach science to our younger children.

I have very little science training. I took a general science class in 9th grade, biology in 10th grade, and biology in college. My college biology class was an absolute waste of time. No lab. No experimentation. The teacher, a local pastor, read to us from a biology book published by a Christian book publisher. The only thing I remember from my college biology class (the same class my wife took) was the teacher’s lecture on not marrying outside of your class, religion, or race. He was quite bigoted and racist.

The few times I was asked a science question that challenged my creationist beliefs I replied:

The BIBLE says…

This was the answer I gave for almost every challenge to what I taught.

The BIBLE says…

THE BIBLE SAYS really meant:

This is my interpretation of the Bible, my interpretation comes straight from God, my interpretation is final, so shut up and get back to serving Jesus.

There are thousands of churches and pastors who hold similar views. We are one of the most scientifically advanced nations on earth, yet, at the same time, we are quite ignorant about basic scientific fact. We can thank religion for our collective ignorance.

081116

The Charles Darwin Day Resolution

 

darwin day

The American Humanist Association reports:

Today United States Representative Jim Himes (CT-4) introduced U.S. House Resolution 67, also known as the Darwin Day Resolution, which would recognize Charles Darwin’s birthday, February 12, as a national day to celebrate science, education and humanity.

“Charles Darwin’s discoveries gave humankind a new, revolutionary way of thinking about the natural world and our place in it. His insatiable quest for knowledge and decades of meticulous observation and analysis opened new pathways for advancements in biology, medicine, genetics and ecology,” said Rep. Himes. “Without Darwin’s contributions to science, philosophy and reason, our understanding of the world’s complexity and grandeur would be significantly diminished.”

This is the fourth year that the Darwin Day Resolution has been introduced. For the past two years, it was introduced by former U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) and was also introduced by former U.S. Rep. Pete Stark (CA-13) in 2011.

The American Humanist Association worked closely with Rep. Himes, his staff and other members of Congress to introduce this resolution. The resolution is co-sponsored by Representatives Matthew Alton Cartwright (PA-17), Stephen Cohen (TN-09), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Bill Foster (IL-11), Mike Honda (CA-17), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Alan S. Lowenthal (CA-47), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Adam Schiff (CA-28), Louise Slaughter (NY-25), Adam Smith (WA-09), and Jackie Speier (CA-14).

“With climate change deniers and others with anti-science views threatening our planet, there is an urgent need for our politicians to openly voice their support for scientists and science education,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “We are grateful to Rep. Himes and the resolution’s co-sponsors for their recognition of Charles Darwin’s contributions to science and humanity.”

HOUSE RESOLUTION 67

Expressing support for designation of February 12, 2015, as ‘‘Darwin Day’’ and recognizing the importance of science in the betterment of humanity.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
FEBRUARY 2, 2015

Mr. HIMES (for himself, Mr. SCHIFF, Mr. POCAN, Ms. DELAURO, Ms.SLAUGHTER, Mr. HONDA, Mr. COHEN, Mr. FOSTER, Ms. LOFGREN, Ms.NORTON, Mr. CARTWRIGHT, and Mr. SMITH of Washington) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

RESOLUTION

Expressing support for designation of February 12, 2015, as ‘‘Darwin Day’’ and recognizing the importance of science in the betterment of humanity.

Whereas Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by the mechanism of natural selection, together with the monumental amount of scientific evidence he compiled to support it, provides humanity with a logical and intellectually compelling explanation for the diversity of life on Earth;

Whereas the validity of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is further strongly supported by the modern understanding of the science of genetics;

Whereas it has been the human curiosity and ingenuity exemplified by Darwin that has promoted new scientific discoveries that have helped humanity solve many problems and improve living conditions;

Whereas the advancement of science must be protected from those unconcerned with the adverse impacts of global warming and climate change;

Whereas the teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States education systems;

Whereas Charles Darwin is a worthy symbol of scientific advancement on which to focus and around which to build a global celebration of science and humanity intended to promote a common bond among all of Earth’s peoples;

and

Whereas February 12, 2015, is the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin in 1809 and would be an appropriate date to designate as ‘‘Darwin Day’’: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) supports the designation of ‘‘Darwin Day’’;
(2) recognizes Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge.

While this resolution stands no chance of passing, it is encouraging to know that there are Representatives that have a good understanding of the natural world and the importance of science.

See International Darwin Day website for more information.

Ken Ham Needs to Buy a Dictionary

dictionary

Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum, is ever on the watch tower looking for a conspiracy he can gin up to rouse the faithful. According to Ham’s recent blog post, public school students are being taught to worship the sun. Here’s what he said:

Imagine if public school students in their science classes were encouraged to worship the sun. And yet this is happening! But how do they get away with it? Well, they just call worshipping the sun “science,” and then claim they can teach this “science” in the public schools!

You see, the following statement is allowed to be made (and is being made in a number of instances) to public school science students:

Our ancestors worshipped the sun. They were far from foolish. It makes good sense to revere the sun and stars because we are their children. The silicon in the rocks, the oxygen in the air, the carbon in our DNA, the iron in our skyscrapers, the silver in our jewelry—were all made in stars, billions of years ago. Our planet, our society, and we ourselves are stardust.1

This statement was made by Neil deGrasse Tyson in the new Cosmos series. Evolutionists are encouraging teachers to use this series in public school classrooms.

Evidently, Ham doesn’t know what the word revere means:

revere

While the word worship can be thought of as reverence, it is almost always used in a religious sense. Neil deGrasse Tyson is NOT using the word revere in a religious sense. Of course, Ham denies this because he believes atheism, humanism, and secularism is a religion.

Faith and the Chair

dog in a chair

I suspect most of us who were raised in fundamentalist/Evangelical Christianity have heard the faith/chair analogy. If you have not heard it before:

Faith is like deciding to sit in a chair. You don’t know that the chair will hold you, yet by faith you believe it will, so you sit down in the chair.

Quite deep theology there, brethren.

I read an Evangelical blog post the other day that used this analogy, so it is still out there being used by Evangelicals zealots to wow the ignorant.

Here’s the problem with this analogy; sitting in a chair does not require faith at all. Let me explain it this way. I am a big man, so making sure a chair will withstand my considerable ass sitting in it requires me to use the scientific method of inquiry.

Before I ever sit in a chair I ask myself, does this chair LOOK like it will hold me? Now looks aren’t enough, as I learned several years ago at a Toledo Olive Garden. After the hostess brought us to our table, I glanced at the chair and quickly sat down. Except I didn’t make it all the way down. As I started to put my weight on the chair it kicked out from me and I landed flat on my back in the middle of Olive Garden. I hit my head on the cement floor and could not get up. The manager came running in to make sure I was all right. I was. The only injury was to my pride. So, was the chair defective? Not at all. The chair had roller casters and I didn’t see them. As I started to sit down, the chair rolled out from underneath me and I fell. Because I didn’t pay attention to the construction of the chair, I ended up on the cement floor. This is what having faith in the chair got me.

Most of the time, when we go out to eat, I carefully check not only the construction of the chair, but the ingress and egress. As a disabled man, it is important for me to know the lay of the land. Where’s the bathroom, can I easily walk to the bathroom, etc. As far as the chair is concerned, I rock the chair back and forth and side to side making sure it is solid and I press on the seat  making sure it will hold me. I have been to more than one restaurant where I’ve had to ask for a different chair lest the one they wanted me to use breaks. The only thing worse than a chair breaking is the embarrassment that comes from it.

Using the scientific method, I test a chair to make sure it will hold me. After I have done so, and it passes the tests, I feel confident that the chair will support my 6 foot, 360 pound body. I have been a big man most of my adult life and this method of determining chair worthiness has never failed me. The only time I have ever had a chair break is when I “faith” it.

The faith/chair analogy breaks down in another way because the chair is an inanimate object that I can see and touch. God can not been seen or touched and believing in God requires, to some degree, blind faith.

This is one of the reasons I am an atheist. I see no evidence for the Evangelical Christian God. Believing in such a God requires faith, a faith that I do not have. For me, seeing is believing, and I do not “see” the Evangelical God.

Hebrews 11:1,3 states:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

What is Christian faith?

  • The substance of things hoped for
  • The evidence of things not seen

Perhaps the wording of the NIV will make it clearer:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Many Evangelicals get upset when someone suggests that their faith is a blind faith. But isn’t that exactly how Hebrews defines faith, believing without seeing; that faith is the proof of belief in that which can not be seen?

Creationists would do well to read Hebrews 11 the next time they try to scientifically prove creationism. Hebrews 11 makes it clear that believing God created the universe requires faith. It requires faith to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence for the formation of the universe, earth, and life. Creationists embarrass themselves and besmirch their religion when they try to make creationism fit in a scientific box. And when their efforts fail, what do they do? They retreat to the safety of faith, a place they should have stayed to start with.

042616

Questions about HB 597

letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News.  Published September 7, 2014.

Dear Editor:

Almost a hundred years after the Scopes Trial, Christian fundamentalists continue to demand creationism be taught in public school classrooms. Whether through young earth or old earth creationism or their gussied up sister intelligent design, fundamentalists want to teach theology in place of sound science. Publicly, they appeal to the American sense of fairness. Teach the controversy, they say with fingers crossed behind their back. Except there is no controversy. Court after court has ruled that creationism has no place in the public school classroom.

Yet, despite almost a century of litigation and scientific advancement, fundamentalists in Ohio are attempting once again to have their peculiar theology taught as a valid scientific theory. On July 29, Ohio Republican representatives Andy Thompson and Matt Huffman introduced House Bill 597 (HB 597) that would subtly pave the way for creationism to be taught in the science classroom.

HB 597 states “The standards in science shall be based in core existing disciplines of biology, chemistry, and physics; incorporate grade-level mathematics and be referenced to the mathematics standards; focus on academic and scientific knowledge rather than scientific processes; and prohibit political or religious interpretation of scientific facts in favor of another,”

While the defenders of God and creationism will quickly point out that the bill does not mention creationism, its language opens the door for teaching the non-controversy “controversy”. Representative Thompson’s recent statement concerning the bill leaves little doubt about the objective of his bill. Thompson stated, “I think it would be good for [students] to consider the perspectives of people of faith. That’s legitimate.”

If Thompson is speaking about a high school philosophy or world religion class I would agree with him. I have long supported high school students being required to take a class in philosophy and world religion. In a world religion class students could learn about the various creation myths and how best to interpret and understand them.

However, fundamentalists don’t want their beliefs reduced to a chapter in a world religion textbook. They don’t want just a seat at the table; they want to be the only seat at the table. Their belief system demands certainty, exclusion, and fidelity. In their worldview, there is no place for open, honest discussion about religion and creationism. In their mind, there is one true creation story and that story is found in a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3.

Creationists want students taught that Genesis 1-3 is the Christian God’s blueprint for the creation of everything. The universe is 6,000 years old, and according to creationist hero James Ussher, the earth was created the evening before Oct. 23, 4004 B.C. Everything that biology, archeology, astronomy, and geology tells us about the universe contradicts the creationist story. If we want our children and grandchildren taught sound science then we must make sure that creationists are not permitted to sneak their theology into the classroom. Theology belongs in the church and home, not the public school classroom.

Let’s hope reason and science rescues Ohio students from HB 597.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney