Review of the Lecture “Evolution & Creation: Conflicting or Compatible?”

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Abstract

Did God provide the history of life in His Word? Taken at face value, the Bible does, in the book of Genesis, reveal the origin of the universe and all life. And while the biblical account of our origins affirms the observable facts of science, it is not compatible with evolutionary interpretations. On October 15, 2014, paleontologist Patricia Kelley, a theistic evolutionist, in her presentation “Evolution & Creation: Conflicting or Compatible?” at the Cincinnati Museum Center, explained how she reconciles this conflict with her firm acceptance of molecules-to-man evolution.

To promote acceptance of Darwinian evolution among Christians, the Cincinnati Museum Center and EmpowerUOhio recently sponsored a lecture by theistic evolutionist Patricia Kelley. In “Evolution & Creation: Conflicting or Compatible?” Dr. Kelley, a paleontologist and geology professor at University of North Carolina Wilmington and an active member of her pastor/husband’s Presbyterian church, explained that she believes only people who misunderstand the nature of science and religion could deny that Darwinian evolution is “the best scientific explanation for the history of life.”1

Definitions and Extrapolations

While Dr. Kelley provided an excellent definition of observational, operation science she treated claims having to do with historical, origins science as if they were as testable, repeatable and incontrovertible as observations made in the present. Similarly, Dr. Kelley explained different definitions of the term evolution—the observable “fact” that organisms change and vary over time, and the “theory” that all organisms are related by descent with modification from a common ancestor. She provided numerous examples of the former—ordinary speciation and variation within created kinds of viruses, bacteria, butterflies, plants, dogs, finches, and stickleback fish. For example, she pointed out that some species of Hedylepta moths in Hawaii have mouthparts that can only function with bananas as a food source. Since bananas were only introduced to the island paradise a thousand years ago, she says the moths evolved in that time. Yet speciation is an example of variation within a created kind, not molecules-to-man evolution. Dr. Kelley presented no evidence that the genetic information for those particular forms of mouthparts were not already present in the DNA of the Hedylepta moth kind. In other words, she presented no evidence that new genetic information had been added to the Hedylepta moth genome after the introduction of bananas to the islands. Nevertheless she treated these observable examples of variation within a kind ( “evolution”) as supporting evidence for molecules-to-man evolution from one kind to a new different kind of creature.

The broad outline of evolution is not “known” but merely assumed by those with her same naturalistic worldview.

We often point out that evolutionists don’t acknowledge the difference between observable and origins science. After all, fossils—though they were buried in the past—preserve an observable record of long-dead animals that we observe and study and test in the present. For instance, the Creation Museum recently acquired an Allosaurus fossil that will be observed and tested in many ways. This is observational, operational science. However, when evolutionists talk about how many millions of years ago a fossilized animal lived or what it evolved from or into, they are engaging in origins science. Then their conclusions depend on worldview assumptions about a time of origins, a time no scientist was alive to observe. To know about those origins we need a historical record—provided by God in the Bible—if we are to draw conclusions consistent with a reality that reaches back beyond the capacity for the scientific method to observe.

Dr. Kelley did a fine job of explaining the process of natural selection. She pointed out—correctly—that environmental pressures ordinarily “select” the organisms in a population that already possess the most advantageous variations to survive and pass on those traits to offspring. Yet as in her example of banana-dependent species of Hedylepta moths, she extrapolated from observable variations that result from reshuffling and sorting existing information within a kind to support molecules-to-man evolution. Because natural selection occurs, she again concluded, “Evolution is the best scientific explanation for the history of life.”

Dr. Kelley—who as a believer in a Creator God should know better—insisted that all explanations in science must be natural, never admitting the possibility of the supernatural. While she is correct that the supernatural cause of something—like, for instance, the creation of life, or of the earth—cannot be subjected to testing with the scientific method, it is very short-sighted of her to think that all things that exist, and even the laws of science themselves, came to be without a supernatural cause. If a Creator exists at all in Dr. Kelley’s worldview—and she says He does—just what is it He is supposed to have created if only natural processes are understood as the origin of all things that exist? Does Dr. Kelley’s concept of God require that He confine His supernatural intervention in history to the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

By way of example, we know that one of the most important principles of biology is that life only comes from life. Evolutionists maintain, without evidence and contrary to this scientific law, that life came into existence through natural processes, although Dr. Kelley did not broach this topic during her lecture. From Genesis 1, we learn that the living God supernaturally created the first plants, animals, and people. We also learn there that He designed them to reproduce, so that all subsequent plants, animals, and people would come to exist through the natural processes that He also created, reproducing “after their kinds.” God is the author of all creation as well as the scientific laws that govern it.

Facts, Theories, and Beliefs

Facts in science are observable, and theories are well-supported, falsifiable but non-falsified hypotheses, Dr. Kelley explained. Yet while she claims that an individual’s failure to accept evolution generally represents that individual’s failure to properly understand science, she herself confuses observational science with historical science. She equates variation within a created kind with the evolution of complexity up the evolutionary ladder. And she treats natural selection—which does not produce new genetic information to evolve a more complex kind of organism—as observable evidence of the “fact” and “theory” of evolution.

“Evolution is not a belief,” Dr. Kelley emphasized. However, as an evolutionary paleontologist, Dr. Kelley drew support for her confident acceptance of millions of years of molecules-to-man evolution from the conventional worldview-based interpretation of the fossil record. Fossil layers contain a diverse assortment of organisms. Because she, like all evolutionary geologists, interprets the fossil record as a record of biological evolution over millions of years, Dr. Kelley claims these fossils show an evolutionary progression over time. She explained that the broad outline of biological evolution is known but that the details are still being worked out. I maintain that she would have been more accurate if she had said that even the broad outline of evolution is not “known” but merely assumed by those with her same naturalistic worldview.

As we’ve explained many times, the fossil record—when stripped of naturalistic worldview-based interpretations of the dates assigned to its layers—is perfectly consistent with the historical global Flood described in the Bible. Much of the fossil record consists of billions of organisms catastrophically buried during the global Flood and as such reflects not the evolutionary transitions of life forms over millions of years but rather the order in which organisms were overwhelmed, sorted, and buried beneath tons of water-borne sediment during the year-long Flood of Noah’s day.

Transitional Forms

Dr. Kelley did not discuss the Flood but, with confidence in the conventional dates secular geologists assign to geologic layers, claimed that the fossil record is packed with transitional forms. The examples she provided as strong support for evolutionary theory were the usual ones—Archaeopteryx and many so-called feathered dinosaurs, the alleged fish-to-terrestrial vertebrate transitions, Triceratops and its supposed 45 million-year predecessor Protoceratops, whale evolution, horse evolution, and human evolution from ape-like ancestors. We’ll not go through these examples in detail here as numerous articles (including those linked here and below) have already addressed each one.

Although Dr. Kelley completely rejects young-earth creation, she gave absolutely no evidence in the lecture of having ever read our refutations of this “compelling evidence” of evolution. In fact, in her few direct references or allusions to young-earth creation, she generally used straw-man arguments, attributing to us preposterous ideas that we have never suggested and then shooting them down. For example, after insisting that the Grand Canyon was formed by natural processes, she showed a picture of what looked like angels and dismissed that idea that the canyon was created by a miracle. But no creation geologist believes God created the Grand Canyon supernaturally. Rather we believe the fossil-bearing sedimentary layers were deposited by Noah’s Flood and the canyon was carved by either the retreating floodwaters or in a post-Flood erosion event. Bible-believing scientists, willing to take God at His Word, do not leap to blindly grasp at imaginary ideas that cannot be tested—like molecules-to-man evolution—but rather confine their models for how things came to be to models consistent with the history documented in the Word of God.

Dr. Kelley of course has much faith that these fossils can be lined up to demonstrate how one kind of organism evolved from another. Pointing to a diagram utilized in Tiktaalik-discoverer Neil Shubin’s program Review: Your Inner Fish she exclaimed, “This figure says it all!” Yet a series of fossils—the remains of distinct diverse organisms with a variety of similarities and differences—does not demonstrate they evolved into one another but only that diverse organisms were buried over a short period of time in association with the global Flood about 4,350 years ago.

Dr. Kelley emphasized that the scientific method demands that hypotheses be falsifiable. For this reason, she says, religious beliefs cannot serve as scientific hypotheses, as they cannot be proven either right or wrong. Yet the evolutionist interpretation of the fossil record is highly contrived and their examples of transitional forms are simply examples of variation within a kind or never-existing creatures made by artistic imagination applied to limited fossil evidence.1 On the other hand, the fossil record actually confirms the history recorded in Genesis 1–11—that organisms can reproduce and vary only within their created kinds and that a global Flood remodeled the earth’s surface and buried billions of organisms within the space of a few months. The Bible makes sense of and explains the observable facts of science.

Code of Life

Like other evolutionists, Dr. Kelley also claims that the genetic code is evidence that all living things are descended from a common ancestor, although she never showed the famous evolution “tree of life.” The genetic code—the language with which DNA transmits instructions in genes—is the same in all organisms from protozoans to plants to primates. This is quite understandable and good given that all organisms share the same basic biochemistry and live together on the same planet. Dr. Kelley pointed out that organisms that are more similar to each other genetically are also more similar to each other structurally; she considers this strong evidence for Darwinian evolution. Yet a wise common Designer—the Creator God—would naturally use such a common genetic code in the living things He created. Structural similarity is of course reflected in genetic similarity because genomes direct the development of the anatomic structure in the first place. To claim this supports Darwinian evolution is merely circular reasoning. It is assuming the very claim that needs to be proven.

Reconciling Scripture, or Compromising It?

Having confidently explained why she espouses an evolutionary explanation for the history of life, Dr. Kelley tried to explain how she reconciles her position with her Christian faith. She insists that the Bible’s textual history is too complicated for it to be taken literally and that no trustworthy translation of the Bible is possible, due to problems with the ancient texts. She says that because vowels were not used in ancient Hebrew but only added centuries later, the Hebrew allows a lot of room for interpretation, making it impossible for us to really know what much of the Bible means.

Dr. Terry Mortenson, Answers in Genesis speaker and researcher with a PhD in historical geology and a Masters of Divinity degree, explains that these arguments commonly used as an excuse to twist and disregard what God’s Word plainly states is specious:

This is patently false and misleading. It reveals Dr. Kelley’s shallow thinking or ignorance of how any written or spoken material is translated from one language to another. Languages are full of idioms, metaphors, and other non-literal language, but that does not mean that a good translator cannot produce an accurate translation that faithfully communicates the meaning of the original in the second language.

Her assertion that the addition of vowels to make the ancient Hebrew easier to read aloud was arbitrary and altered the meaning is also misleading and false. Prior to 1947 the earliest manuscripts of the Hebrew Old Testament (Masoretic texts) dated from the 900’s AD. But that year the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) were discovered. Containing most of the Old Testament, these copies dated back to just before the birth of Christ. Comparison of the Masoretic texts with the DSS confirmed how incredibly careful the Jewish scribes were in their copying of Scripture and demonstrated the meaning had not been altered by the addition of vowels.

Furthermore, the Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament producing by Jewish scholars in Egypt about 270 BC. It shows that the Hebrew text was very understandable.

Multiple Conflicting Creation Texts?

Alleging that the first two chapters of Genesis are mutually incompatible, Dr. Kelley asserts with liberal textual critics that Genesis chapter 1 was first written down with its account of seven days during the Babylonian captivity in the 6th century BC to counter the seven tablets containing the idolatrous Babylonian creation story. She attributes Genesis chapter 2, which concerns the creation of Adam and Eve, to a 10th century BC effort to discourage the idolatry that Solomon’s many foreign wives brought to Israel. However, there is no need to resort to such odd and insupportable contrivances, for these chapters are not in conflict at all. A natural reading of Genesis chapter one as the sequential account of six creation days and Genesis chapter two as the more focused account providing details on the creation of Adam and Eve leaves no confusion nor any alleged conflict.

Dr. Mortenson explains that this argument commonly used to discount the Genesis account of Creation amounts to nothing more than a popular urban legend among those who choose to twist and ignore the origins history God provided:

There is no biblical or extra-biblical basis for this dating of Genesis 1 and 2. It is theologically liberal mythology. Jesus clearly affirmed that the first five books of the Bible (Genesis–Deuteronomy) were written by Moses, just as all Jews in His day also believed. The eleven toledoths ( “these are the generations of”: Genesis 2:4, 5:1, 6:9, 10:1, etc.) show that Genesis is a unified document. Genesis 5:1 says “This is the book of the generations of Adam” suggesting that Moses wrote Genesis based on information in pre-existing documents passed down the centuries by the patriarchs.2

Genesis 1 and 2 differ on many details because Genesis 1 gives a wide-angle lens view of the whole Creation Week whereas Genesis 2 gives a telephoto-zoom lens view of some events on Day 6. Dr. Kelley claims God used a different method of creation in the chapters. In Genesis 1 God created many things, including land animals, by His spoken word. But that chapter does not say God created Adam and Eve that way, so there is no contradiction or difference with Genesis 2, where God says that He created Adam from dust and Eve from Adam’s rib. Genesis 2 does not say that God created animals in some way other than by His word. Dr. Kelley points out that the two chapters use different names for God. However, the Old Testament uses many names for God, each conveying different truths about God’s character. The use of different names in no way implies that Genesis 1 and 2 were written by different authors at different times in history.

Like progressive creationist Hugh Ross, Dr. Kelley thinks the Bible contains lots of creation texts in addition to those in Genesis.3 And she thinks they tell many conflicting stories. She cited passages in Proverbs 8, Psalms 74, and Job 26. Dr. Mortenson explains how—even though she teaches Bible study in her home church—Dr. Kelley’s claims reveal her poor grasp of how to read the distinct literary types in the Bible in their proper context:

Genesis 1 is a creation account and Genesis 2 focuses on some events on Day 6. Both are historical narrative passages. In contrast, Proverbs 8, Job 26, and Psalm 74 are poetry, not historical narrative. To see the difference, compare Judges 4 (a historical account) to Judges 5 (poetic song about the historical event). Do the same with Exodus 14–15.

Proverbs 8:1–21 is about the qualities of wisdom, verses 22–31 about the origin of wisdom with a couple of very brief references to Genesis 1 events, and verses 32–36 are about a wise man. Proverbs 8 is not a creation account. Job 26 isn’t either, for it gives no clear reference to the events of Creation Week.

Psalm 74 is also not a creation account. Only verse 16 of this poem vaguely refers to Creation Week. Verses 13–14 seems to vaguely refer to the crossing of the Red Sea in the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, verse 15 may be referring to the crossing of the Jordan River at the time of Joshua, and verse 17 seems to point to the Flood (cf. Genesis 8:21–22). The rest of the psalm refers to Israel and her adversaries.

Intelligent Design: Bad for Science, Bad for Religion?

The existence of diverse organisms past and present does not demonstrate that some are the “evolutionary precursors” to others except in the imagination of those who already insist that molecules-to-man evolution really happened.

A common argument that demonstrates the impossibilities of evolutionary claims is that of irreducible complexity—the idea that random natural processes could not produce the many parts needed to form complex functional biological structures over millions of years because they must all be simultaneously present. Dr. Kelley said that irreducible complexity is a “science stopper” because, once a “designer” is invoked, no further study of the design is needed.

This claim that belief in an intelligent designer is “bad for science” is absurd. Scientists who uncompromisingly accept the biblical account of origins as authoritative limit their views of the unobservable past to models that are consistent with the eyewitness history provided by the Creator. But Bible-believing scientists use the same scientific method to investigate the world as scientists who do not. Bible-believing scientists are just as eager as evolutionists to discover how the natural world works. For example, the young-earth creationist beliefs of Dr. Raymond Damadian were foundational to his development of MRI technology, and that same Bible-believing worldview has guided Dr. Stuart Burgess to study of God’s creation to develop many patented engineering technologies for the good of man. His illustrated lecture on the uniqueness of man is just one example of how believing the Bible can lead to great scientific discoveries—and how evolution has actually inhibited scientific understanding.

Dr. Kelley conversely claims that belief that there is an intelligent designer is detrimental to religious faith. We have often pointed out that intelligent design arguments do not go far enough in that they fail to place trust in the only authoritative source of reliable historical eyewitness source of information about our unobservable origins. But that is not what Dr. Kelley is talking about. Rather, she, like many secularists, seems to think biblical creationists only invoke a role for God when materialistic (naturalistic) arguments fail. She says that when all the “evolutionary precursors” (transitional forms) that intelligent design arguments claim should not exist are found, “where does that leave God?”

In the first place, those who accept biblical history understand that God is the author of all creation including all scientific principles and laws. Believing this does not make us afraid to peek behind the curtain, so to speak, and see what the Master has done. Science works because God created! Understanding how things in nature work does not marginalize God or minimize His creative role. Furthermore, the existence of diverse organisms past and present does not demonstrate that some are the “evolutionary precursors” to others except in the imagination of those who already insist that molecules-to-man evolution really happened.

Theistic Evolution

Like other theistic evolutionists, Dr. Kelley’s allegiance to the fallible opinions of man has led her to compromise Scripture and to claim that evolution is simply the means God used to create. By analogy, she says that she is confident that God created her children. At the same time she says she clearly recalls how her kids entered the world and knows they were not “zapped” into existence. How does Dr. Kelley know this, though? She knows because she was an eyewitness (and obviously a participant) to the process. Yet no person witnessed God’s creation of the universe and all the kinds of life He made 6,000 years ago. We need an eyewitness account to truly be sure of our facts about origins. God provided that eyewitness account in Genesis. And we are accountable to believe it—to use it as the yardstick by which man’s models and ideas are measured—not to twist what God said by means of the ideas and claims of sinful man.

Dr. Kelley closes with an attempt to bring glory to God—I’m sure with all sincerity—by saying, “The incredible power of God to create is shown in evolution.” Yet how can we bring glory to God if we question His competence to tell us the truth about our origins? How can we inspire others to trust what His Word says about the origin of sin and death and the Savior who paid the price for our sin on the Cross if we twist and cast doubt on the plain truth in the Bible? How can we trust that the Bible contains the truth about Christ’s Resurrection—proof of His deity and power to save us for eternity—if we suggest that the faith Jesus expressed in the historicity of the Mosaic account is not to be believed. The incredible power of well-meaning human beings to deceive themselves—and others—is shown by Dr. Kelley’s belief in molecules-to-man evolution as the trustworthy explanation for the history of life rather than the history preserved in God’s Word.

Jesus Christ repeatedly spoke of events in the Mosaic writings as historical. So did the writers of the New Testament epistles. Though biblical history is not in conflict with the observable facts of science, a natural reading of God’s Word is certainly in conflict with claims that life evolved over millions of years. Dr. Kelley must therefore reconcile her faith in the worldview-based interpretations of secular scientists with the Word of God. To do this she leaves off the 2 Timothy 2:15 admonition to rightly divide the Word of God, assumes the Bible is not to be taken too seriously, and puts it through gymnastics that contort it enough to make it fit whatever view the fallible human beings she trusts assert to be true.

To God Be the Glory

While Dr. Kelley claims “the incredible power of God to create is shown in evolution” and mentions the importance of spreading the gospel, it is ludicrous to claim that not taking God at His Word and ignoring our Savior’s evident faith in the historicity of the Genesis account of Creation and Flood history could somehow encourage people to trust their eternal destiny to the God of the Bible, much less glorify a Creator dependent on such a random, inefficient, and barbaric process as evolution. According to John 1:1–3 and Colossians 1:16–17, Jesus Christ the Son of God, being coequal with God the Father, is also our Creator. Yet in Dr. Kelley’s view, Jesus Christ—whose death and resurrection purchased our salvation—is too incompetent to communicate in the Bible what He actually did early in our history. Thus, nothing about Dr. Kelley’s position brings glory to our God. Her position—that of theistic evolution—is but a trap that panders to the 6,000-year-old rebellious human desire to put the authority of fallible human beings above God’s authority.

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2014 Volume 9

Footnotes

  1. See Carl Werner, Evolution: The Grand Experiment and Living Fossils
  2. This is not advocating here a “tablet theory” that Moses just “cut and pasted” and “stitched together” some documents. Rather, the reference to a book in Genesis 5:1 suggests that people before the Flood wrote down history and that Moses under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20–21) could have used written sources to write Genesis (just as other Biblical writers sometimes did, e.g., Joshua 10:13, 2 Samuel 1:18, and Luke 1:1–4).
  3. Look for a refutation of these in an upcoming paper in Answers Research Journal.

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