Lately, we’ve received a number of letters about a new posting, “Christian Faith Requires Accepting Evolution.” Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell responds.
Recently we examined a Huffington Post column, which exhorted us to let others do our thinking. Lately, we’ve received a number of letters about a new posting, “Christian Faith Requires Accepting Evolution.”1 The article proclaims belief in evolution to be our Christian duty.
Huffington Post blogger Jonathan Dudley warns that anti-evolutionists who believe they are “defending the Christian tradition” are naïve and have in reality “abandoned it.” He even accuses those who refuse to accept evolution of having “led America astray.”
Dudley recounts the common claim that nature is the 67th book of the Bible.2 He quotes Charles Hodge’s 1859 statement, “Nature is as truly a revelation of God as the Bible; and we only interpret the Word of God by the Word of God when we interpret the Bible by science.” Therefore, Dudley says, nature and the Bible are “basically the same thing.”
The fallibility of scientific knowledge is highlighted when Dudley tells us that the scientific truth we should accept is truth which has been “sufficiently debated, challenged and modified.” Yet he affirms his “belief that scientists can discover truth.” By declaring the book of nature to be not only equivalent to the Bible but also the yardstick by which the Bible should be interpreted, the author is echoing Thomas Paine’s 18th century booklet The Age of Reason.
Paine summarized the views of many humanistic philosophers who claimed man could figure out all he needed to know about God by reason without biblical revelation—in other words, man would be the ultimate authority, not God—which is the religion of humanism. Dudley is saying that in every age Christians can know truth by simply accepting the best science available at the time.
However, either the Bible is God’s complete revelation to mankind as it claims to be or it is nothing at all. Repeatedly God warns against adding to His Word.3 In fact, in Proverbs 30:6 God calls those who add to His Word liars. And Jesus goes on in Matthew 15:6-9 to warn that those who teach “as doctrines the commandments of men” are guilty of using tradition to render God’s Word ineffective. Those who want to take mankind’s fallible and changeable ideas about nature and make them equivalent to Scripture are the ones abandoning Christian faith and undermining the Bible’s authority. (See “TBN to Promote Genesis Compromise and Undermine Biblical Authority”—a blog post by Ken Ham.)
Science is not a neutral enterprise. Prior beliefs undoubtedly influence interpretation.
After correctly admitting, “Science is not a neutral enterprise. Prior beliefs undoubtedly influence interpretation,” the author tries to make creationists look stubborn and foolish. He says, “No amount of radiocarbon dating evidence will convince someone the Earth is 4.5 billion years old if that person believes God created the world to look old, with the appearance of age.” There are two major problems with his statement. First of all, nobody who understands “radiocarbon dating” thinks it shows that anything “is 4.5 billion years of age.” The half-life of carbon-14 places its limit many of orders of magnitude smaller than that, in the neighborhood of 50,000 to 100,000 years as a theoretical maximum. (See “Dinosaurs, Dating, and the Age of the Earth.”)
And when the author says creationists claim God created everything with the “appearance of age,” he is describing an illogical argument used by a few but not by Answers in Genesis, or most creationists. God created time as a reference point for human beings. The idea that something appears old only means that it has characteristics we typically associate with old things. God created the world fully functional and mature, but not with the intent of deceiving us (see “God Created Things to ‘Look Old’”). “Appearance of age” is a human perception.
The Huffington Post author’s attempted coup de grâce is that creationists have “failed to provide an alternative explanation for the vast majority of evidence explained by evolution.” Answers in Genesis discusses many scientific problems and logical fallacies associated with humanistic and evolutionary explanations. (Those answers are readily available in our website’s Answers topic page, which breaks down the topics by subject headings.)
Yet the usual evolutionary answer to those challenges is that we should patiently wait until they find the answer—in other words, some of that science still needs to be “sufficiently debated, challenged and modified.” Of course, the same courtesy is rarely extended in the other direction. Nevertheless, it is worth taking a quick look at Dudley’s indictment.
First, Dudley says creationists have “failed to explain why birds still carry genes to make teeth, whales to make legs, and humans to make tails.” Genetic evidence for such superfluous genes is not so conclusive. Since all creatures have a common Designer, we should not be surprised to see the same designs used for multiple applications. Genes often work together with other genes to produce a variety of results. For instance, one of the genes sometimes held up as a gene for tooth development actually has many functions having nothing to do with teeth.4 And birds can have teeth; the Archeopteryx did. Furthermore, a bird still needs an egg tooth to break out of its shell.
The so-called leg-like organs in whales are actually support structures for reproductive organs. And in humans, the muscles and ligaments that support the abdominopelvic structures against the pull of gravity are anchored on our so-called “vestigial tail”, which isn’t a tail at all. Without this support, the anatomical geometry necessary for bladder control, among other things, is lost. So the human pelvis with its coccyx is a good design, even after being subjected to a sin-cursed world for 6,000 years. Thus, the genomes of birds, whales, and people are not loaded with ancestral baggage but are equipped with genes for multiple interactive uses.
Then, the author asserts that creationists have “failed to explain why the fossil record proposed by modern scientists can be used to make precise and accurate predictions about the location of transition fossils.” This is a hollow claim, since no indisputable “transition fossils” have been found to fill those gaps. The demand for “transition fossils” presupposes that common ancestors existed and interpolates the differences between organisms as the “precise and accurate” locations of the missing fossils. But if no common evolutionary ancestors existed, then nothing is missing. What has been precisely pinpointed are the holes in the story of evolution.
The blog post claims creationists have “failed to explain why the fossil record demonstrates a precise order, with simple organisms in the deepest rocks and more complex ones toward the surface.” First, the geologic column does not display this precise order, and there are no truly simple organisms. Thus, his statement is rather deceptive. In fact, the order of burial is rather close to what we would expect from a global Flood. The so-called “simple” organisms memorialized by microfossils found in the Precambrian rock layers are most likely the record of pre-Flood sedimentary fossilization. The catastrophic upheavals of the Flood would have provided the means to rapidly bury masses of larger organisms as they fled from and were extinguished by the rising floodwaters. This subject is explored for laymen in our Answers Book series, which contain answers to the top questions in the creation-evolution and biblical authority debate (see “Doesn’t the Order of Fossils in the Rock Record Favor Long Ages?”).
Furthermore, Dudley claims that creationists have “failed to explain why today's animals live in the same geographical area as fossils of similar species.” First, it is not necessarily the case that animals are only buried near their extant progeny. We don't find crocodiles living in the Rocky Mountains or fish swimming on Mt. Everest, but we do find their fossils in those locations. Second, creationists do not have a problem explaining those cases in which fossils are found in areas where similar creatures still live. After the global Flood, animals migrated from the Ark and established new habitats; some then got buried in local post-Flood catastrophes. Typical examples would be kangaroo fossils in Australia and alligator fossils in Florida.
The geologic column does not come with labels.
The global Flood model also explains how mass extinctions occurred, often related to creatures' abilities to flee rising floodwaters. Thus, many organisms were buried in groups, sometimes near their habitats and sometimes far away. It further explains much of the deposition found in the geologic column in relation to the density of the organisms and the currents of the surging waters. These assertions are borne out by geologic findings. The geologic column does not come with labels. How it came to be is well-explained by the global Flood and Flood-related catastrophes. See Dr. Andrew Snelling’s two-volume set titled Earth’s Catastrophic Past for an even more complete treatment of this subject.
Then Dudley says creationists have “failed to explain why, if carnivorous dinosaurs lived at the same time as modern animals, we don't find the fossils of modern animals in the stomachs of fossilized dinosaurs.” What Dudley conveniently ignores is the fact that we hardly find any animals (even those he would consider contemporaneous with dinosaurs) in their stomachs!
In fact, other than the well-known fish-eating-fish fossils, there are relatively few fossils around with their last meal there for us to see. And those few samples of stomach contents and coprolites actually contain some surprises for evolutionists. A dog-like mammalian fossil was found to have eaten a small dinosaur (see “Dino Dinner Hard to Swallow?”). And a small theropod, Compsognathus, was found with a lizard in its belly.5 But for the mighty T. rex and its fellow theropods, “direct evidence of diet (e.g., gut contents, coprolites) among members of the clade are rare.”6
Most of the dogma concerning dinosaur diets has been based on assumptions about their teeth and a lot of story-telling. There have been some bone fragments and a good deal of plant material found in the stomach contents and coprolites. A 2010 study of the direct evidence available caused the author of the study to conclude that many dinosaurs presupposed to be carnivorous may have been vegetarian after all.7 Since very few dinosaur fossils have been found with stomach contents preserved, and since those we do have suggest plants or unidentifiable bone fragments, Dudley’s complaint rings hollow.
As to the “the broken genes that litter the DNA of humans and apes but are functional in lower vertebrates,” we must point out that the function of genes is actually quite complex. Some genes once supposed to have no function have been found to serve as regulatory genes or to function only in concert with other genes. Some genes serve multiple functions or function at certain times during development but not at others.8 To assume that a genetic difference between humans and apes represents a mutation is to assume they share a common ancestor. Without the common ancestor, there is no reason to assume any genes found throughout the genome of one or the other of a species is “broken.”9
Finally, Dudley asserts that creationists have “failed to explain how the genetic diversity we observe among humans could have arisen in a few thousand years from two biological ancestors.” However, all the calculations about the time required to attain today’s genetic diversity are based on molecular clock calculations (see “‘The Search for the Historical Adam’ and Population Genomics”). Those calculations are based on the assumed existence of a common ancestor evolving over a vast evolutionary timescale. Authoritative pronouncements about the time required to attain genetic diversity are based on circular arguments.
The Huffington Post author accuses creationists of “leading America astray” on the important issues of the day. On the contrary, by pointing people to the authority and reliability of the Bible from the very first verse, creationists such as those at Answers in Genesis are calling Americans and people throughout the world to acknowledge the one true and unchanging source of truth for today’s moral issues and tomorrow’s eternal ones.