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Monday, February 02, 2009

Young-Earth Creationism and fossils

A post in the Panda's Thumb refers to a 1995 article by Kurt Wise, and labels him an "honest creationist." (The Panda's Thumb post indicates how to access the article by Wise.) The Wikipedia article on him indicates that he is an important and influential young-earth creationist. He has more than adequate scientific credentials, having taken a Ph. D. in paleontology at Harvard under the late Stephen Jay Gould.

Wise says, in the indicated article, at least two interesting and important things:

". . . there is no sense in which creationist paleontology at this point is capable of addressing the traditional transitional forms issue in any rigorous sense." CEN Tech J., vol 9, no. 2, 1995, p. 216.

"Evidence for not just one but for all three of the species level and above types of stratomorphic intermediates expected by macroevolutionary theory is surely strong evidence for macroevolutionary theory. Creationists therefore need to accept this fact. It certainly CANNOT said that traditional creation theory expected (predicted) any of these fossil finds." p. 219 (emphasis in original)

Wise is not about to give up young-earth creationism, and he makes that clear. He believes that explanations compatible with young-earth creationism can be found eventually. However, he argues, in this article, that young-earth creationist scientists should be concentrating on fields other than fossil transitional forms.

Even though this article is nearly 15 years old, I know no evidence that young-earth creationist paleontology has changed enough in the meantime to negate what Wise said in 1995. In other words, the fossil record can be taken as providing evidence which supports mainstream evolutionary theory.

Thanks for reading.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

what is your problem with young earth creationism? you consistently sight material that undercuts any positive take on it. no hebrew in their right mind could have ever read millions of years into the Gen account. all old earth creation is is an attempt to superimpose a scientific timeframe upon a text that could not be interpreted that way without a preconception of this theory. and undermining scripture does little for evangelism or the glory of God. there is good material out there that supports young earth creationism scientifically--check out the book "Thousands not Billions" as one of the best examples, and "Icons of Evolution" deals with most of the supposed transitional forms. Just be a little more fair to the more conservative position.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, anonymous, whoever you might be.

Granted, no Hebrew would have read millions of years into Genesis.

My basic problems with Young-Earth Creationism are two-fold.

1) The Bible itself tells us, in Psalm 19, and Romans 1:20, that God has revealed Himself to us through nature. (That's not the only way, of course!) To ignore that evidence, or distort it, is a serious mistake.

The post you are commenting on illustrates this. Kurt Wise is one of the most prominent Young-Earth Creationists, and he, himself, cannot find good scientific evidence for that position in the fossil record. There is abundant evidence that the earth is older than a few thousand years in that record.

2) The Bible does not necessarily teach Young-Earth Creationism. For example, Genesis 2:5 poses what I view are serious problems for the Young-Earth view. (See this post for more on that.) Many God-fearing, Bible-believing scholars are not convinced that the Bible definitely teaches that the earth is only a few thousand years old, that the days of Genesis 1 were literal, or that the flood of Genesis was world-wide. And, as far as I can determine, the Young-Earth view is comparatively recent, becoming prominent only in the nineteenth century.

On another matter, Icons of Evolution has been pretty thoroughly discredited, as I understand it. Wells is not a Christian, but a Moonie (although that doesn't make what he says wrong) and he is not a Young-Earth Creationist, but a member of the Intelligent Design movement.

Martin LaBar said...

More on Wells. He has written:
Many people have been given the impression that the chronology of Genesis is the root of the conflict between Christianity and Darwinism. Surprisingly, however, biblical chronology played almost no role in the initial opposition to Darwin's theory, because most Christians in the nineteenth century accepted geological evidence for the age of the earth. Nor was chronology an issue at the 1925 Scopes trial, because creationist William Jennings Bryan accepted the old-earth view. Historically and theologically speaking, the basic conflict between Christianity and Darwinism is not chronology, but design.

In other words, Wells is not a Young-Earth Creationist.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the "anonymous" had to change the name to protect the innocent...

"To ignore that evidence, or distort it, is a serious mistake" agreed, my undergrad is in biological sciences. but just because Kurt Wise thinks that throwing a bone to old earth creationists or darwinists will earn him a hearing in a scientific community that blackballs young earth creationists, doesn't mean that this is the final word. Darwin himself believed that the fossil record was the greatest objection to his theory. and David Raup (curator for the Nat Science Museum in Chicago, and an evolutionist) was quoted as saying, "120 years after Darwin...we now have fewer examples of evolutionary transition than in Darwin's time." Dr Gary Parker has written about half of his book, "Creation: Facts of Life" about the support for young earth creationism in the fossil record. and the science in "Thousands Not Billions" is way over my head, but I really encourage you to read it.

and I would argue that old earth creationism would be more recent comparatively speaking, b/c upto the 19th cent, nobody had even dreamed of millions of years in the biblical account, let alone billions.

I think it could just as well be argued about Gen 2:5 that it is one long sentence v.4-6 (as trans in the NKJV), and just a matter of fact statement rounding off the introduction to chapter 2.

and I think that an old earth position with a non-literal adam and eve poses many more problems biblically with the rest of scripture's witness, especially that of the gospels. i would rather think that our scientific conclusions may be further clarified in the future rather than conduct exegetical gymnastics to read into texts things that may not be there. our responsibility is not to put words into the mouth of God, and not say what He didn't say.

sorry, I won't site Icons anymore, didn't realize it was that discredited. there are plenty of other more reputable choices pointing out the major flaws in neo-darwinian macroevolution.

thanks for the interaction, I read your blog regularly, but I guess I got a little frustrated at beating that horse (of young earth creationism). but that is the world of blogging...exchange of ideas. if I can ever get my tech guy rolling, I am going to integrate a blog to our website and start blogging myself...

Martin LaBar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, anonymous:

Here is part of Genesis 2:, from the NKJV:
This [is] the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 5 before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and [there was] no man to till the ground;
6 but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground. 7 And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

I would note three things about this passage, as quoted here. First, the use of "in the day" seems to negate one of the fundamentals of Young-Earth Creationism (YEC), namely that the the first part of Genesis always uses "day" to mean a twenty-four hour period.

Second, this seems to be describing a time period when there was dry land, but no humans yet. Dry land, and plants, are both mentioned as being created, or brought about, on the 3rd day. Why specially mention a period in the middle of the third day?

Third, and most importantly, the passage reads as if humans were created before green plants.

All three of these considerations seem to argue against a straightforward literal interpretation of Genesis 1.

Anonymous said...

Hi Martin,

I would really like to encourage you to read Evolution:The Grand Experiment Vol 1 and Living Fossils Evolution: The Grand Experiment Vol 2.

They will clear up a lot of issues you have with science vs. a literal interpretation of the Bible as it reads.
You don't have to twist God's words. He makes everything plain to those willing to listen

Carolyn

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous.

I looked up information about the books. They are by Carl Warner, I believe it is.

zuma said...

I do not find anything wrong when God mentions that Psalm 84:11, "...the Lord is the sun and the shield..." As we know God is every where and this universe could not even contain God. God is in the sun too. As God is also available in the sun, I do not find anything wrong when God mentions that Psalm 84:11, "..the Lord is the sun and the shield.." unless someone would mean that the Bible cannot be trusted or it is not the word of God.

zuma said...

When God mentions that Psalm 84:11, "...the Lord is the...shield..", the shield here refers to invisible shield in which it helps in defending the saints.
Soldiers in the past used visible shield to defend themselves and yet the saints have God to be the invisible shield in which He defends His people.

zuma said...

Yes, God has revealed Himself to us by nature. Or in other words, we could acknowledge His existence bys seeing the nature of things. However, the Bible does not mention the word, evolution, but the word, nature. As the word, evolution, is not mentioned in the Bible, it is irrational to use it to support evolution theory.
Let's observe at the living creature all around the world. There is an orderliness among cretaures, such as, all animals have their heads to be in front. All animals have almost the same digestive system that they consume food from mouth. The nature of the above similarities hae revealed to us that God must have existed and in control of all of them. The nature has hinted us the existence of God. If God is non-existent, how could there be orderliness among animals?
The nature itself has proved evolution to be wrong. This is due to there would be many living molecules to be formed in the beginning if the eveniconmental factors that would deem fit would appear. As many living molecules could be formed in the beginning on the assumption that evolution would be true, each living thing would evolve itself to its own creature. There would not be any identical feature among living creature. The creation of orderliness among living things would not be there. As different molecules would evolve themselves into another beings. living animals might not have the heads to be formed in front of their bodies. Some animals worse, have odd number of eyes, such as, 1 eye ore. Thus, evolution itself is not realistic.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your comments on Psalm 84:11, zuma. God is a protector, and a source of light (of all kinds).

The word, nature, in the KJV, at least, only refers to the natural order, or natural law, or intrinsic properties, as for instance in Galatians 2:15, where Paul mentions Jews by nature. The concept of nature, in the sense of the natural world as a whole, seems to be a relatively modern idea.

Just because a word is not in the Bible doesn't mean that the Bible can't be used to support an idea about that word. "Rapture," for instance, is not in the Bible.

I'm sorry, but I don't understand your last paragraph, except for the first sentence, which I disagree with. If nature had proved evolution to be wrong, we wouldn't be discussing it -- the subject would be unimportant, or not even exist.

I think you are saying that evolutionary processes would have been expected to develop lots of different kinds of organisms, more than we have today. Perhaps. But it is also possible that evolution only developed one type of living thing, one using DNA as genetic material, etc.

Many scientists believe that the fossils found in the Burgess Shale represent types of animals not found anymore. See here for a little about that: http://paleobiology.si.edu/geotime/main/htmlversion/cambrian3.html

zuma said...

Let's assume that evolution is true. Provide the prmitive environmental condition and factors that would be deemed fit for the generation of first living thing, i.e. DNA as genetic material or etc., there should be more than one living thing, i.e. DNA or genetic material or etc., to be generated. Why is it that there should be only one living thing, ie. DNA or etc., be generated at that time when the environmental factors and condition at that time would deem fit to generate living things?

zuma said...

If there should not be any reason that there should only be one living thing, i.e. DNA or genetic material or etc., to be generated at the time when the surrounding environmental factors and condition would deem fit to generate new life, evolution is indeed questionable about its reliability and its existence.

Martin LaBar said...

I'm sorry, but I don't follow you.

If there really was more than one type of life form, then why couldn't all but one of them become extinct, due to competition?

It could well be that God designed the universe so that only one type of life form, DNA-based, was possible.

zuma said...

How could one become extinct due to competition? What kind of competition would it be that it would have caused all of them to die? Be more specific!

zuma said...

What has enhanced the competition that would cause one to survive? As we know there might be everywhere in production of living thing on the condition if the environmental factors and condition would deem fit best for the generation of livng thing. All the place and this would include North, East, South West. There might deem to be billion of living things to be created. The utmost part of the cell in the North might not be able to reach to the cell that would have produced in the utmost part of the South. How could both of them to reach out to turn up to be only one left in the whole wide world?

zuma said...

If evolution is true, there would be a time of generation of new cell due to the environmental factors and conditions would deem fit for best production of living thing. Let might be generation of new cells in the very North and the very South. How could the living cell in the very North to knock out the cell in very South the distance would be quite far off?
You have mentioned that God would have designed the universe so that one type of life form based, was possible. However, nothing is stated in the Bible that God did design the universe so that one type of life form based, was possible. Which verse of the Bible does support your view?

zuma said...

The above have put evolutionary theory a big question mark. Its reality and its reliability is indeed questionable.

Martin LaBar said...

I see nothing in your responses that puts natural selection in question.

I don't think you understand it.

I think this extended conversation has gone far enough, and again, I recommend that you use your time in another way. Sorry.

zuma said...

How could this be possible that billion of living things could be formed in the beginning when the enviromental factors and condition would deem fit for the generation of lively things and yet only one living thing, i.e. DNA, survive through natural selection or competition especially the living thing in the very North that would be created might not in contact with the cell in the very South?
Let's give you an illustration. For example, certain type of tigers might be extinct in Africa due to natural selection and competition. Those tiger that would have been located in America might not be extinct due to nothing would have affected them as Africa is many distance far apart from America.
This proves that evolution is indeed unreliable.

zuma said...

If evolution is true, it would stand the test if anyone would ask about its reality and reliability. If it could not stand the test, the existence of generation through evolution is in doubt.