When Do False Dichotomies Ever Mesh?

on July 4, 2009
Featured in News to Know

: “Paleontology and Creationism Meet but Don’t Mesh” In covering a visit by paleontologists to our Creation Museum, a New York Times’ article spreads some misunderstanding (including in an associated blog by the reporter).

In a small item at the end of last week’s “And Don’t Miss” section, we mentioned that a group of paleontologists had visited the Creation Museum. (The Associated Press had released a short report on the visit.) This week, the New York Times chimed in with their own coverage.

The interpretation is how old that rock layer actually is.

Kenneth Chang opens the article with a focus on Tokyo Gakugei University geologist Tamaki Sato, one of the 75 or so scientists visiting the museum. According to Chang, Sato was “confused” by the dinosaur exhibit, which gave each dinosaur fossil a “date of demise” around 2348 BC—the year of the Flood.

Apparently the confusion comes because we use (for convenience) the same terms as old-earth paleontologists for rock layers. So when we say a fossil is from the “Lower Jurassic,” we mean that, yes, this fossil is found in the same set of rocks that evolutionists say it is found in. That is the unchanging “fact.” The interpretation is how old that rock layer actually is, and that—the dating—is where we differ.

Chang also errs (slightly) when writing, “In the creationist interpretation, the layers were laid down in one event—the worldwide flood.” Technically, we believe there are some pre-Flood and some post-Flood strata. But he gets it right in reporting that the museum emphasizes “Same facts, different conclusions.”

The Times quotes our own Dr. Terry Mortenson, who elaborates on the museum’s emphasis. “Everyone has presuppositions[:] what they will consider, what questions they will ask. The very first two rooms of our museum talk about this issue of starting points and assumptions. We will very strongly contest an evolutionist position that they are letting facts speak for themselves.” Chang adds that we claim to “look at the same rocks and fossils as the visiting scientists, but because of different starting assumptions they arrive at different answers.”

Out of all the academic concepts in the museum, we hope that’s what hostile visitors leave with—the emphasis on worldviews. Sadly, their comments seem to indicate that the paleontologists did not leave with any added appreciation of worldviews. “I think they should rename the museum—not the Creation Museum, but the Confusion Museum,” said paleontologist Lisa Park of the University of Akron, who told Chang she was a Christian.

Chang himself seems to misunderstand our message as well, based on the behind-the-scenes account he gives in a Times blog entry. “The most amazing thing about the Creation Museum is that it espouses evolution,” he writes, a prelude to his confusion of the term “evolution.” He continues:

The key event for the young Earth creationist interpretations of geology and biology is the great flood, which the museum places at 2348 BC. Obviously, Noah’s ark could not fit two of every single land animal. The exhibit notes that the Bible says two of every “kind” of animal, so there weren’t two dogs, two wolves, two dingo dogs, etc., but rather one pair of wolf-like dogs. After the flood, the two wolf-like dogs multiplied and “diversified” into a panoply of species.

Usually, creationists make a distinction between “microevolution”—antibiotic resistance among microbes, for instance, which they accept—and “macroevolution”—the appearance of new species, which they dispute. If dog to fox is microevolution, then it seems that hominid to human would also be microevolution.

What really matters is not the size of changes, but rather whether changes add information to a creature’s genome.

The first part, Chang gets right: two members of a “dog kind” on the Ark could have given rise to the many canine species we see today. But then he imports something Answers in Genesis does not say and actually recommends against: the microevolution/macroevolution dichotomy. Chang’s disproof of that dichotomy demonstrates just why we don’t use it. “If dog to fox is microevolution, then it seems that hominid to human would also be microevolution,” he writes.

What really matters is not the size of changes, but rather whether changes add information to a creature’s genome. Observational science tells us that all the “evolutionary” changes we observe either keep genetic information constant or reduce it. That’s the opposite of what molecules-to-man evolution would require. Furthermore, humans are set apart as a unique created kind in the Genesis account.

Thus, Chang reports that our own Dr. Andrew A. Snelling told him (in Chang’s words) “rapid diversification occurred because of the open ecological niches after the flood and the geographical isolation of small population groups.” Chang concludes that our belief thus “fit[s] with the usual biological explanation of how evolution works.” Again, this is because Chang is looking at all changes equally. Instead, the issue is the origin of genetic information, which has only been observed to originate from an intelligent source.

As frustrating as it is to report on such misunderstanding, we thank and praise God for bringing more than 750,000 guests through the museum in a little over two years. And for every visitor who fails to understand our message, we hope and pray there are many more who hear the message and come to a saving relationship with Christ (or, for those who are already Christians, have their biblical worldview strengthened).

Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us.

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