Dr. Ray Bohlin Publicly Debates in Belarus

Something wonderful and heretofore-unseen happened in March 2018 in the formerly Communist country of Belarus, part of the Soviet Union until 1990. The capital city of Minsk was the site of a public debate between two scientists: Dr. Mikhail Gelfand, an atheist biology professor at Russia’s Moscow State University, and Probe’s own Dr. Ray Bohlin, a Ph.D. in molecular biology.

Ray had submitted a number of intelligent design-related topics to Dr. Gelfand who refused them all, deciding instead on the topic “Evolution or Creationism?” It was clear he was expecting a religious rather than a scientific argument from Ray, who presented “Is intelligent Design Science?” with the primary evidence that the DNA genetic code requires an intelligence. Dr. Gelfand did not respond to any of Ray’s points.

Belarus debate

Following their presentations, the debaters responded for an hour to written questions submitted by the audience. One question was, “Would either of you consider changing your mind if shown sufficient evidence of the other side?” With clear contempt, Dr. Gelfand dismissed the possibility that there was evidence for anything other than evolution. Ray related how, in his graduate studies in evolutionary biology, he continually asked, “Show me the evidence for evolution. Please convince me.” By the end of his studies, he was more of a skeptic of evolution than ever before.

Belarus debate - Shaking handsConcerned about making his flight back to Moscow, Dr. Gelfand gathered up his things. He was very surprised when Ray came over and, smiling, shook his hand after having been insulted several times during the debate. Christian kindness and compassion is its own kind of culture.

Following the debate, 55% of participants in an online vote chose Ray as the winner. The debate was uploaded to Russian YouTube with over 1000 views that weekend  (Link to English YouTube video is here). There was quite a bit of social media buzz about it, including requests to bring Ray back to Belarus in November for another debate.

The following weekend, along with his Probe colleague Todd Kappelman, Ray traveled several hours by train to Brest (on the border of Belarus and Poland) for another debate, this time with a professor of the history of Slavic people, Dr. Alexander Svirid. In his presentation Ray pointed out that the fossil evidence for human evolution is sparse and open to many interpretations. His opponent was not able to refute what Ray said, but suggested that the way information has “evolved” from the early computer software to what we have today is evidence of evolution. Ray pointed out that it takes an intelligent mind to rewrite and update software. Dr. Svirid was quite gracious and complimentary of Ray, remarking that “each of us would have been a good student of the other.” (Link is here.)

Monday through Friday for two weeks, Ray and Todd spent time with friends and potential church leaders. (Feel free to ask us for more information about that.)

Churches

This was Ray’s 14th trip to Belarus, and every time he goes, he speaks in the churches of people who have become friends. The first Sunday (of three), he preached in a church outside Minsk where one of his excellent translators is a teaching elder. He preached on Romans 1:18-20 in every church he spoke at, because after the previous day’s debate, many young people asked why the belief in creation mattered. Drawing on his worldview perspective sharpened by 40+ years of speaking and writing for Probe, he said that if there is no God, there is no purpose or meaning to any living thing—especially humans. Romans 1 assures us that we all know there is a Creator, so maybe the Creator’s intended purpose and meaning for us gives us worth and value. This is especially good news in a country that was recently Communist, which denies the worth and value of people. Questions continued through lunch, turning Sunday into another four-hour marathon like the (debate) day before.

The second weekend was jam-packed with ministry opportunities. On Friday night, Ray answered questions at an English club (for those working on learning to speak English). He heard the one question he can always count on: “What do you like about Belarus?” People always love his go-to answer: “Chocolate!”

On Saturday afternoon, he spoke at a student conference sponsored by CRU (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ). Both the Christians and the seekers in attendance were interested in hearing Todd address problems and issues in technology, and Ray was asked to address the problem of evil. Todd and Ray, along with their translator Sasha and his wife, took the train to Brest, arriving very late at night.

Brest debateThe next morning was the second debate, arranged by the pastor of Brest Bible Church, who had seen the YouTube videos of Ray’s 2016 debate and 2017 lecture, and really wanted him to come to his city.

The third weekend, with both men very tired, meant being driven to Brest and back the same day, to speak at a conference in another church. Todd, who doesn’t use a cell phone or wear a watch, spoke to the issues and challenges of technology, particularly smartphones and computers.  Ray, playing “good cop” to Todd’s “bad cop,” explained how helpful technology is to him as he tries to explain science to students and various audiences, especially the visual component of technology. Powerpoint is invaluable to him for showing graphs, tables and pictures, as well as showing videos using animation to demonstrate molecular machines inside the cell. Getting personal, he also explained that his wife Sue, a polio survivor who is no longer able to walk (and thus can no longer accompany him to handicap-unfriendly Belarus), needs the technology of her scooter to be mobile at all. Otherwise she would be bedridden, or unable to leave their home—which is what happens to most disabled Belarusians.

On Sunday, their last day, both Todd and Ray gave a short 20-minute talk in the small house church of a pastor and his wife who have become good friends of the Bohlins. That night at another small church, Ray answered lots of questions about the Minsk debate.

He was especially glad for the question, “Why bother?” Why, indeed, would anyone from Probe go 5500 miles to the former Soviet Union, giving time, energy and passion to the point of utter exhaustion, year after year?

It’s an opportunity to provide unbelievers with a reasoned, rational response to evolution.

It’s an opportunity to model to Christians how to engage in controversial issues without defensiveness or anger.

We pray something sticks, planting a “pebble in people’s shoes,” so to speak, sowing seeds of new information and a different perspective by asking questions for which the listeners have no answers. It starts a journey.

For over forty years, that’s what Probe Ministries has been doing. Sowing seeds, asking questions, planting pebbles in people’s shoes so they think.

In 1973, when Probe was founded, there was no glimmer of hope for debates like these behind the Iron Curtain, much less in the Soviet Union. But look what God did in March 2018! There is a great hunger for honest answers to honest questions in Belarus. The debates are possible because they are about science, not religion . . . because true science—the study of what God created—is the truth that points to Romans 1.

And for that, we thank and praise God.

 

Note: The funding for this trip is several thousand dollars short of what was needed to cover expenses. There is still an opportunity to invest eternally in what God is doing through Probe in Belarus! You can donate here and designate Dr. Ray Bohlin. All gifts will receive a tax-deductible receipt.

©2018 Probe Ministries


The Five Crises in Evolutionary Theory

apes and books

Dr. Ray Bohlin discusses five crises in evolutionary theory: 1) the unsubstantiation of a Darwinian mechanism of evolution, 2)The total failure of origin of life studies to produce a workable model, 3) The inability of evolutionary mechanism to explain the origin of complex adaptations, 4) The bankruptcy of the blind watchmaker hypothesis, and 5) The biological evidence that the rule in nature is morphological stability over time and not constant change.

Spanish flag This article is also available in Spanish.

The Case of the Missing Mechanism

The growing crisis in Darwinian theory is becoming more apparent all the time. The work of creationists and other non-Darwinians is growing and finding a more receptive ear than ever before. In this discussion I want to elaborate on what I believe are the five critical areas where Darwinism and evolutionary theory in general are failing. They are:

1. The unsubstantiation of a Darwinian mechanism of evolution
2. The total failure of origin of life studies to produce a workable model
3. The inability of evolutionary mechanism to explain the origin of complex adaptations
4. The bankruptcy of the blind watchmaker hypothesis
5. The biological evidence that the rule in nature is morphological stability over time and not constant change.

Much of the reason for evolution’s privileged status has been due to confusion over just what people mean when they use the word evolution. Evolution is a slippery term. If evolution simply means “change over time,” this is non-controversial. Peppered moths, Hawaiian drosophila fruit flies, and even Galapagos finches are clear examples of change over time. If you say that this form of evolution is a fact, well, so be it. But many scientists extrapolate beyond this meaning. Because “change over time” is a fact, the argument goes, it is also a fact that moths, fruit flies, and finches all evolved from a remote common ancestor. But this begs the question.

The real question, however, is where do moths, flies, and finches come from in the first place? Common examples of natural selection acting on present genetic variation do not tell us how we have come to have horses, wasps, and woodpeckers, and the enormous varieties of living animals. Evolutionists will tell you that this is where mutations enter the picture. But mutations do not improve the scenario either. In speaking of all the mutation work done with bacteria over several decades, the great French zoologist and evolutionist Pierre-Paul Grasse’ said:

What is the use of their unceasing mutations if they do not change? In sum, the mutations of bacteria and viruses are merely hereditary fluctuations around a median position; a swing to the right, a swing to the left, but no final evolutionary effect.

When I speak of evolution or Darwinism, it is the origin of new biological forms, new adaptive structures, morphological and biochemical novelties that I am referring to. This is precisely what has not yet been explained. When people question the popular explanations of the origin of complex adaptations such as the vertebrate limb, or sexual reproduction, or the tongue of the woodpecker, or the reptilian hard-shelled egg, they are usually given a litany of reasons why these structures are beneficial to the organisms. More precisely, the selective advantage of these structures is offered as the reason they evolved. But this begs the question again. It is not sufficient for an evolutionist to explain the function of a particular structure. What is necessary is to explain the mechanistic origin of these structures!

Natural selection does explain how organisms adapt to minor changes in their environment. Natural selection allows organisms to do what God commanded them to do. That is to be fruitful and multiply. Natural selection does not, however, explain the crucial question of how complex adaptations arose in the first place.

The Origin of Life

We have been led to believe that it is not to difficult to conceive of a mechanism whereby organic molecules can be manufactured in a primitive earth and organize themselves into a living, replicating cell. In fact, the ease by which this can (allegedly) happen is the foundation for the popular belief that there are numerous planets in the universe which contain life. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Early experiments suggested that it was relatively simple to produce some of the building blocks of life such as amino acids, the components of proteins. However, the euphoria of the Miller- Urey experiment of 1953 has given way to a paradigm crisis of 1993 in origin of life research. The wishful, yet workable atmosphere of ammonia, hydrogen, methane, and water vapor has been replaced by the more realistic, but stingy atmosphere of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and hydrogen cyanide. This is the stuff that volcanoes belch out. This atmosphere poses a much more difficult challenge. Molecules relevant for life would be much rarer. Even more damaging is the possibility of the presence of molecular oxygen in the atmosphere from the break-up of water vapor. Molecular oxygen would poison any reaction leading to biologically significant molecules.

Coacervates, microspheres, the “RNA world,” and other scenarios all have serious flaws obvious to everyone in the field except those who continue work with that particular scenario. Some have privately called this predicament a paradigm crisis. There is no central competing model, just numerous ego-driven scenarios. Even the experiments in which researchers try to simulate the early earth have been severely criticized. These experiments generally hedge their bets by using purified reactants, isolated energy sources, exaggerated energy levels, procedures which unrealistically drive the reaction toward the desired product and protect the products from the destructive effects of the energy sources which produced them in the first place.

The real situation was summed up rather well by Klaus Dose:

More than 30 years of experimentation on the origin of life in the fields of chemical and molecular evolution have led to a better perception of the immensity of the problem of the origin of life on earth rather than to its solution. At present all discussions on principal theories and experiments in the field either end in stalemate or in a confession of ignorance.” [From Interdisciplinary Science Review 13(1988):348-56.]

But all of these difficulties together, as staggering as they are, are not the real problem. The major difficulty in chemical evolution scenarios is how to account for the informational code of DNA without intelligence being a part of the equation. DNA carries the genetic code: the genetic blueprint for constructing and maintaining a biological organism. We often use the terms of language to describe DNA’s activity: DNA is “transcribed” into RNA; RNA is “translated” into protein; geneticists speak of the “genetic code.” All these words imply intelligence, and the DNA informational code requires intelligent preprogramming, yet a purely naturalistic beginning does not provide such input. Chemical experiments may be able to construct small sequences of nucleotides to form small molecules of DNA, but this doesn’t make them mean anything. There is no source for the informational code in a strictly naturalistic origin of life.

The Inability to Account for Complex Adaptations

Perhaps the single greatest problem for evolutionary biologists is the unsolved problem of morphological and biochemical novelty. In other words, some aspects of evolutionary theory describe accurately how existing organisms are well adapted to their environments, but do a very poor job of explaining just how the necessary adaptive structures came about in the first place.

Darwinian explanations of complex structures such as the eye and the incredible tongue of the woodpecker fall far short of realistically attempting to explain how these structures arose by mutation and natural selection. The origin of the eye in particular, caused Darwin no small problem. His only suggestion was to look at the variety of eyes in nature, some more complex and versatile than others, and imagine a gradual sequence leading from simple eyes to more complex eyes. However, even the great Harvard evolutionist, Ernst Mayr, admits that the different eyes in nature are not really related to each other in some simple-to-complex sequence. Rather, he suggests that eyes probably had to evolve over forty different times in nature. Darwin’s nightmare has never been solved. It has only been made 40 times more frightening for the evolutionist.

In his 1987 book, Theories of Life, Wallace Arthur said:

One can argue that there is no direct evidence for a Darwinian origin of a body plan—black Biston Betularia certainly do not constitute one! Thus in the end we have to admit that we do not really know how body plans originate.

In 1992, Keith Stewart Thomson wrote in the American Zoologist that:

While the origins of major morphological novelties remain unsolved, one can also view the stubborn persistence of macroevolutionary questioning…as a challenge to orthodoxy: resistance to the view that the synthetic theory tells us everything we need to know about evolutionary processes.

The ability to explain major morphological novelties is not the only failing of evolutionary theory. Some argue that molecular structures are even more difficult to explain. The molecular architecture of the cell has recently described by molecular biologist Michael Behe as being irreducibly complex systems which must have all the components present in order to be functional. The molecular workings of cilia, electron transport, protein synthesis, and cellular targeting readily come to mind. If the systems are irreducibly complex, how do they build slowly over long periods of time out of systems that are originally doing something else?

While publishing hundreds of articles pertaining to molecular homology and phylogeny of various proteins and nucleic acids over the last ten years, the Journal of Molecular Evolution did not publish one article attempting to explain the origin of a single biomolecular system. Those who make molecular evolution their life’s work are too busy studying the relationship of the cytochrome c molecule in man to the cytochrome c molecule in bacteria, rather than the more fundamental question of where cytochrome c came from in the first place!

Clearly then, whether we are talking about major morphological novelties such as the wings of bats and birds, the swimming adaptations of fish and whales, the human eye or the molecular sub- microscopic workings of mitochondria, ribosomes, or cilia, evolutionary theory has failed to explain how these structures could arise by natural processes alone.

The Bankruptcy of the Blind Watchmaker Hypothesis

In his 1986 book, The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins states, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” He explains that

Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purposes in view. Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning.

Darwinism critic, Philip Johnson, has quipped that the watchmaker is not only blind but unconscious!

Dawkins later suggests just how this process may have brought about the development of wings in mammals. He says:

How did wings get their start? Many animals leap from bough to bough, and sometimes fall to the ground. Especially in a small animal, the whole body surface catches the air and assists the leap, or breaks the fall, by acting as a crude aerofoil. Any tendency to increase the ratio of surface area to weight would help, for example flaps of skin growing out in the angles of joints…(It) doesn’t matter how small and unwinglike the first wingflaps were. There must be some height, call it h, such that an animal would just break its neck if it fell from that height. In this critical zone, any improvement in the body surface’s ability to catch the air and break the fall, however slight the improvement, can make the difference between life and death. Natural selection will then favor slight, prototype wingflaps. When these flaps have become the norm, the critical height h will become slightly greater. Now a slight further increase in the wingflaps will make the difference between life and death. And so on, until we have proper wings.

This can sound rather seductively convincing at first. However there are three faulty assumptions being used.

The first doubtful assumption is that nature can provide a whole chain of favorable mutations of the precise kind needed to change forelimbs into wings in a continuous line of development. What is the larger miracle, an instantaneous change or a whole series of thousands of tiny changes in the proper sequence?

The other assumption is “all things being equal.” These mutations must not have secondary harmful effects. How is the creature’s grasping ability compromised while these wingflaps grow? These little shrew-like animals may slowly be caught between losing their adaptiveness in the trees before they can fully utilize their “developing” wings. Or there might be some seemingly unrelated and unforeseen effect that compromises survivability.

A third faulty assumption is the often used analogy to artificial selection. “If artificial selection can do so much in only a few years,” so the refrain goes, “just think what natural selection can do in millions of years.” But artificial selection works because it incorporates foresight and conscious purpose, the absence of which are the defining qualities of the blind watchmaker. In addition, artificial selection actually demonstrates the limits to change since an endpoint in the selection process is usually reached very quickly.

The blind watchmaker hypothesis, when analyzed carefully, falls into the category of fanciful stories that are entertaining—but which hold no resemblance to reality.

The Prevalence of Stasis over Mutability

Rather than observing organisms gradually evolving into other forms, the fossil record speaks of “sudden appearance” and “stasis.” New types appear suddenly and change very little after their appearance. The rarity of gradual change examples in the fossil record were revealed as the trade secret of paleontology by Steven J. Gould of Harvard. Gould also refers to stasis as “data” in the paleontological sense. These are significant observations.

Darwin predicted that there should be innumerable transitional forms between species. But the reality of paleontology (the study of fossils) is that new forms appear suddenly with no hint of the “gradual” change predicted by evolution. Not only that, but once these new forms have appeared, they remain relatively unchanged until the present day or until they become extinct.

Some animals and plants have remained unchanged for literally hundreds of millions of years. These “living fossils” can be more embarrassing for the evolutionist than they often care to admit. One creature in particular, the coelacanth, is very instructive. The first live coelacanth was found off the coast of Madagascar in 1938. Coelacanths were thought to be extinct for 100 million years. But most evolutionists saw this discovery as a great opportunity to glimpse the workings of a tetrapod ancestor. Coelacanths resemble the proposed ancestors of amphibians. It was hoped that some clues could be derived from the modern coelacanth of just how a fish became preadapted for life on land, because not only was there a complete skeleton, but a full set of internal organs to boot. The results of the study were very disappointing. The modern coelacanth showed no evidence of internal organs preadapted for use in a terrestrial environment. The coelacanth is a fish—nothing more, nothing less. Its bony fins are used as exceptionally well-designed paddles for changing direction in deep-sea environment, not the proto-limbs of future amphibians.

Nowhere is the problem of sudden appearance better demonstrated than in the Burgess Shale found in the Canadian Rockies. The Burgess Shale illustrates that in the Cambrian period (which evolutionists estimate as being over 500 million years ago) nearly all of the basic body plans (phyla) of animals existing on earth came into existence in a geological instant (defined as only 20-30 million years), and nothing that new has appeared since that time. The Cambrian explosion as it is called is nothing less than astounding. Sponges, jellyfish, worms, arthropods, mollusks, echinoderms, and many other stranger-than-fiction creatures are all found to suddenly appear in the Cambrian without a hint of what they descended from nor even how they could all be related to each other. This is the opposite expectation of Darwinism which would have predicted each new body plan emerging from pre-existing phyla over long periods of time. The Cambrian explosion is a direct contradiction of Darwinian evolution.

If Darwin were alive today, I believe he would be terribly disappointed. There is less evidence for his theory now than in his own day. The possibility of the human eye evolving may have caused him to shudder, but the organization of the simplest cell is infinitely more complex. Perhaps a nervous breakdown would be more appropriate!

©1993 Probe Ministries


How to Talk to Your Kids About Evolution and Creation – What Kids Should Know About Evolution

dinosaur

Sue and Dr. Ray Bohlin bring decades of Christian worldview thinking and a PhD in science to the important topic of communicating a balanced rational position to our children and teenagers on questions that they will encounter in our society.

This article is the transcript of a Probe radio program the Bohlins recorded. Sue’s questions and comments are in italics, followed by Ray’s answers.

Problems with Evolutionary Theory

Why is there a problem with evolution in the first place? Someone once asked you, “What should I believe?” Remember what you told them?

Basically I said you should only believe what there is evidence for. After spending years studying evolution in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs, I can tell you that, first of all, there is evidence for small changes in organisms as they adapt to small environmental fluctuations.

Second, there is evidence that new species do arise. We see new species of fruit flies, rodents, and even birds. But when the original species is a fruit fly, the new species is still a fruit fly. These processes do not tell us how we get horses and wasps and woodpeckers.

Third, in the fossil record, there are only a few transitions between major groups of organisms, like between reptiles and birds, and these are controversial, even among evolutionists. If evolutionary theory is correct, the fossil record should be full of them.

Fourth, there are no real evolutionary answers for the origin of complex adaptations like the tongue of the woodpecker; or flight in birds, mammals, insects, and reptiles; or the swimming adaptations in fish, mammals, reptiles, and the marine invertebrates. These adaptations appear in the fossil record with no transitions. And fifth, there is no genetic mechanism for these large-scale evolutionary changes. The theory of evolution from amoeba to man is an extrapolation from very meager data.

So the problem with evolution is that it is a mechanistic theory without a mechanism, and there is no evidence for the big changes from amoeba to man.

The Evolution of the Horse

I have our son’s eighth-grade biology textbook here. Every textbook, including this one, has a story about the evolution of the horse. It is always offered as proof of evolution. What do you say?

It does not prove much about evolution at all. David Raup, with the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, says:

“Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn’t changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transitions than we had in Darwin’s time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information—what appeared to be a nice simple progression when relatively few data were available now appear to be much more complex and much less gradualistic. So Darwin’s problem has not been alleviated in the last 120 years and we still have a record which does show change but one that can hardly be looked upon as the most reasonable consequence of natural selection.”{1}

There is no chronological sequence of horse-like fossils. The story of the gradual reduction from the four-toed horse of 60 million years ago to the one-toed horse of today has been called pure fiction. All that can be shown is the transition from a little horse to a big one. This is not significant evolutionary change, and it still took some 60 million years. It does not say anything about how the horse evolved from a shrew-like mammal.

Homologous and Vestigial Organs

Homologous organs: What are they?

Homologous organs are organs or structures from different organisms that have the same or similar function. Evolutionists say this similarity is due to common ancestry. The important question is, Do these organs look and function the same because of common ancestry or because of a simple common design? In other words, do they look this way because they are related to one another, or were they designed to perform a similar function? Homology is not a problem for creationists; we have a different but reasonable explanation. It is the result of common design, not common ancestry.

What about vestigial organs, the ones that are supposedly left over from the evolutionary past? I remember being taught that the coccyx, the tailbone, is left over from when we were monkeys. And the appendix, same thing—we needed it when we were evolving, but we do not need it now. Vestigial organs are unused leftovers from our evolutionary past. Since we do not use them, they have diminished; they have become vestiges of their past function—according to evolutionary theory.

Yes, according to evolution. But we have discovered that these structures do have a function. The prime example is the one you mentioned, the tailbone. The coccyx serves as a point of attachment for several pelvic muscles. You would not be able to sit very well or comfortably without a tailbone.

The appendix was also long thought to be a vestigial organ, having absolutely no function within our bodies, but now we find it is involved in the immune system. It does have a function. It is true that you can live without it. However, as we learn more about the appendix, we realize that if it remains uninfected, it may be serving a very useful purpose.

So in other words, “vestigial organs” are not necessarily useless; we just may not have discovered what their role is.

Yes, very often we have called these things “vestigial” because we never bothered to investigate their function because of their reduced stature. Now we find that things like the coccyx and the appendix really do have a function. And if they have a function, then we cannot call them vestigial; they are not leftovers from our evolutionary past.

I am looking at pictures of embryos in this textbook that are very similar. The explanation given in the book is that they are similar because they have a common evolutionary ancestor. Obviously, this is being advanced as evidence of evolution. Is that what it is?

Definitely not. Embryological development does not follow the history of our evolutionary past. That idea was proven wrong 50 or 60 years ago. It is unfortunate that this error is still in the textbooks. Obviously, there are some similarities among species very early in embryological development; for instance, among mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. That is because they all start from a single cell. As development progresses, they become less similar. That is exactly what you would expect from an evolutionist or creationist perspective.

The Early Atmosphere of the Earth

You know, I was pretty happy with how this particular textbook treated evolution. It does not even use the word evolution, and it treats it strictly as a matter of theory, not fact. But you came across another, newer high-school textbook that is stridently pro-evolution. I am concerned about some things I see in this chapter on the origin of life. It is talking about the earth’s early atmosphere, and this statement is in bold print (so the students know it’s going to be on the test, don’t you know!) <smile>

“The earth’s first atmosphere most likely contained water vapor, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide, and hydrogen cyanide.”

Then in the very next section it talks about Stanley Miller’s famous experiments in 1953. It says the atmosphere he was trying to recreate was made of ammonia, water, hydrogen, and methane. What is going on here?

This particular section is confusing at best and misleading at worst. Clearly they have described Miller’s classic experiment, but researchers today agree that the atmosphere used for that simulation did not exist. But yet Miller’s experiment produced results. If you use the atmosphere that the textbook describes as the real one, the results are much less significant. The textbook gives the impression that chemical evolution is easy to simulate. But this is far from the truth. One experimenter says:

At present, all discussions on principles and theories in the field [meaning the origin of life] either end in stalemate or in a confession of ignorance.{2}

But you would definitely not get that impression from reading this section of the book.

Phylogenetic Trees

I have another question. Here is this beautiful, tidy chart that shows how neatly different animals evolved from one common ancestor. This evolutionary tree has a crocodile-like animal at the bottom, and all these branches coming out from him, and we end up with turtles and snakes and reptiles and birds and mammals all descended from this one animal. Are we talking science fantasy here, or is there a problem with this evolutionary tree?

Evolutionary trees, or phylogenetic trees, are regularly misrepresented in high-school textbooks. The nice solid lines give the impression that there is plenty of evidence, plenty of fossils to document these transitions—but the transitions are not there. If we were to look at this same type of diagram in a college textbook, all those connecting lines—the transitions—would be dotted lines, indicating that we do not have the evidence to prove that these organisms are related. The transition is an assumption. They assume these organisms are related to each other, but the evidence is lacking. Stephen Gould, a paleontologist and evolutionist from Harvard, says,

“The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches. The rest is inference, however reasonable: not the evidence of fossils.”{3}

In other words, these charts make pretty pictures, but they’re not pictures of reality.

That’s correct.

Natural Selection and Speciation

In this same high-school biology text, I am looking at the chapter on evolution called “How Change Occurs.” The big heading for this section is “Evolution by Natural Selection.” Natural selection always seems to be linked inseparably to evolution. What is it?

Natural selection is a process where the organisms that are fit to survive and reproduce, do so at a greater rate than those that are less fit. It sounds circular, but it is a simple process, something you can easily observe in nature.

There are some pictures here of England’s famous peppered moths. Why do they keep showing up in science textbooks?

They keep showing up because the peppered moth was the first documented example of Darwin’s natural selection at work. There were two different color varieties of the same moth: a peppered variety and a dark black variety. The peppered variety was camouflaged on the bark of trees, but the black variety was conspicuous. As a result, the birds ate a lot of black moths. The most common variety, therefore, was the peppered variety. But then the bark of the trees turned dark or black because of pollution. Now the dark form was hidden, but the peppered variety stood out, so the birds ate up the peppered variety. The proportion of peppered moths to black moths shifted in response to the change in the environment.

So here was a change of frequency. At one time we had more peppered moths, and now we have more dark ones. A clear example of natural selection taking place. But the question is, Is this really evolution? I don’t think so. It just shows variety within a form. This does not tell me anything as a biologist and a geneticist about how we have come to have horses and wasps and woodpeckers.

When we are looking at peppered moths, we are dealing with natural selection within the same species. What about a whole new species; for example, Darwin’s Galapagos finches off the coast of Ecuador. Isn’t that an evidence of evolution?

Here is another area where we need to be careful. Speciation is indeed a real process, but speciation only means that two populations of a particular species can no longer interbreed. The two populations get separated by a geographical barrier such as a mountain range, and after a time they are no longer able to interbreed or to reproduce between themselves.

But all we have really done is split up the gene pool into two different, separate populations; if you want to call them different species, that’s fine. But even Darwin’s finches, although there are some changes in the shape and size of the bill, are clearly related to one another. Drosophila fruit flies on the Hawaiian Islands—there are over 300 species—probably originated from one initial species. But they look very much the same. The primary way to distinguish them is by their mating behavior.

There is a lot of variety within the organisms God created, and species can adapt to small changes in the environment. But there is a limit to how far that change can go. And the examples we have, like peppered moths and Darwin’s finches, show that very clearly.

Responding to Evolutionary Theory

You have given a creationist’s response to evolution in textbooks, but apart from the books there is a personal issue to deal with. How do you think Christian students ought to react when they get to evolution in a science curriculum in school?

First, don’t panic. This should not be a surprise; you knew it was going to come eventually. Second, understand that evolution is a very important idea in society today. It is important to know about it and to understand it. Try to explain it to your kids in that way. You do not have to believe it or accept it, but you need to understand it, know what people mean when they talk about evolution.

What about answering a question on a test?

Here it can get a little sticky. You may feel that you have to lie in order to give the answer the teacher wants. But I do not think that is the case at all. What you are doing is simply addressing the issue of evolution; you are showing that you understand it. You do not have to phrase your answer in such a way that says, “I believe this is the way it is.” It may come down to how you state your answer. But you are simply demonstrating your knowledge about evolution, not your acceptance of it.

It seems to me that when you show you understand the concept of evolution, you are demonstrating respect for the teacher and really for the theory too, as the prevalent theory of our day, without having to make a statement of, “Yes, I believe this!”

Sure. The concept of respect, I think, is extremely important, because you have to realize that as a middle-school or high-school student, you are dealing with teachers who have studied or taught evolutionary theory for many years. Their level of understanding is much deeper than yours. You cannot simply go in there and try to convince the class that the teacher is wrong, or that evolution is wrong; you need to play the role of a student. And the role of a student is to learn, to try to understand and comprehend the ideas being discussed. But you do not have to communicate in such a way that you appear to believe evolutionary theory.

I found this page in the textbook we have been looking at, right after the chapters on evolution. It is a message from the authors to the students. It says,

“Evolutionary theory unites all living things into one enormous family—from the tallest redwoods to the tiniest bacteria to each and every human on Earth. And, most importantly, the evolutionary history of life makes it clear that all living things—all of us—share a common destiny on this planet. If you remember nothing else from this course ten years from now, remember this, and your year will have been well spent.”{4}

I have never seen a message like this before, from the authors to the student. This textbook obviously has a very strong evolution bias.

Here we have to realize that what is being taught is not science anymore; this is a worldview. This is a statement of naturalism. Obviously, evolution is extremely important to the naturalistic worldview, and the authors are trying to communicate its significance. We are going to see more and more of this bias in textbooks.

Before Christian parents can talk to our kids about evolution, we first must have an understanding of evolution itself, as well as an understanding of the problems with it. We don’t need to be afraid of this powerful theory; we do, however, need discernment, in sifting through the rhetoric and distinguishing it from the truth about God’s world.

Genesis 1

Typically, if a child spends any time at all in Sunday school, he gets to the point where he realizes, “Hey, this doesn’t relate at all to what I’m learning in school!” Our hope is that we can help parents integrate the truth of Scripture with what is known about origins in the world. As Christians, our starting point for thinking about origins is Genesis 1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” From that point on, though, there are a lot of different perspectives explaining the rest of the chapter.

That is true, and unfortunately it not only gets confusing for many of us, but it gets very confusing for many of the academics and the scholars as well. There are a number of different ways to interpret Genesis 1. Let me just run through three of the most prominent views among evangelicals today.

The first is the literal or the very recent creation account. Some people would call the proponents of this view “young earth creationists.” They believe that each of the six days of creation was a twenty-four hour period similar to our days today. These days were consecutive and in the recent past, probably ten to thirty thousand years ago. They hold that the flood was a world-wide and catastrophic event and that all the sedimentary layers were a result of Noah’s flood. All the fossils, therefore, are a result of the flood of Noah.

The second way of looking at Genesis 1 is the Day Age Theory, sometimes called Progressive Creation. Here, each of the six days of creation is a very long period of time, perhaps hundreds of millions of years. God would have created progressively through time, not all at once. The flood was a local event in Mesopotamia or perhaps even a world-wide, but tranquil flood. Therefore, the flood did not leave any great scars or sediments across the earth.

The third view understands Genesis 1 as a Literary Framework. This view suggests that Genesis 1 was not meant to communicate history. Peoples of the Ancient Near East used a similar literary device to describe a complete or perfect work; in this case, a perfect creation. God could have created using evolution or progressive creation; the point is that there is really no concordance between earth history and the days of Genesis 1.

We need to explain to our children the view that makes the most sense to us, but at the same time let them know that there is some disagreement between evangelicals. You may even be confused yourself, and it is okay to communicate to your children that you do not know, either, and that not knowing is all right. We need to give direction but leave the doors open for other options.

Can we know which one is the correct interpretation?

Creation is a mystery. We need to show respect, not only for the mystery, but also for those people holding different views. Evangelicals with backgrounds in Hebrew and Greek differ on their understanding of Genesis 1. So how can we expect a ten-year-old to grasp the problem and make an actual decision?

When we explain the creation account in Genesis 1, we need to communicate to our children that different scholars, all committed to the Bible as God’s Word, interpret Scripture differently. The important thing is that we stress that God created the earth, the universe, and every living thing, especially humans.

Early Human History

Now we are going to look at some specific issues that arise from Genesis in terms of early human history. Let’s start with Adam and Eve. Were they real people?

This is a very important question, and I think it is one that most evangelical scholars can agree on. Adam and Eve were real people, and almost all evangelical scholars agree that they were created by God. The reason is that this is the one creation event where God gives us details as to how He went about it. When He created the other mammals and the sea creatures and the birds, He made them or He created them or He formed them, but we are given details about Adam and Eve’s creation. We are told how God did it. Adam was formed from dust, and Eve was created from a rib taken out of Adam’s side. It is clear that humans do not have an evolutionary origin.

What about australopithecines, those supposed ape-like human ancestors?

Australopithecines most likely are simply extinct apes. Some quibble as to whether they walked upright and therefore may have been on their way to developing into human beings, but even if they did walk upright, that is not a real problem. They are still extinct apes, and they really had no human qualities whatsoever. There is a very good book that you may want to look at called Bones of Contention. There are a couple of books called Bones of Contention, but this is a recent one by Marvin Lubenow. Lubenow goes into great detail about the actual fossil finds—what they mean, where they fit—all from a creationist’s perspective, and he does a very good job. He talks about the fact that human remains seem to span the whole era of supposed human evolution from four million years ago to the present, and that even the one particular type of fossil called homo erectus covers a very broad range. Homo erectus does not really fit where he is supposed to, and the fossils seem to contradict evolutionary theory rather than support it.

There is one more question that keeps coming up again and again. Where did Cain’s wife come from?

In some ways it is surprising that this question seems to be so perplexing to people, but in another way I really understand it. Clearly, Cain married a sister. We react against that idea today because of the many laws we have today concerning incestuous relationships. We have laws against incest because the children that result from that type of relationship are often afflicted with a genetic disease. This is because all of us carry detrimental recessive genes within our chromosomes. Closely related family members may carry similar if not the same set of recessive genes. When we marry within the family, those recessives can pair up and result in a child who is genetically handicapped. But in the original creation, there was no such problem. These were the originally created beings, there were no genetic mutations to worry about.

When it comes to human origins, the Bible gives no room for anything other than God’s personal fashioning of Adam and Eve. It is the fact that God personally created mankind that gives us such intrinsic value.

Noah’s Flood

The flood of Noah is extremely important because several New Testament teachings depend on it. The Lord Jesus told us that the time right before He returns will be just like it was in the days before the flood. Peter reminds us that God’s judgment fell once on the earth and He has promised to do it again. If the first judgment was not real, what are we to think of the second one?

But all too often what comes to mind when we think of Noah’s flood is the image of a cute little round boat with the heads of fluffy sheep and tall giraffes and friendly elephants sticking out of it. We think of it as a harmless bedtime story like Cinderella or Scuffy the Tugboat, a remnant of childhood Bible lessons and storybook times. Did the flood of Noah really happen?

We are talking about an historical event and one that is very serious. It is spoken of in Genesis in a historical narrative. But evangelicals do disagree as to just how it happened. There are basically three different views.

One is the universal catastrophic flood account, where the flood was a world-wide event. It did indeed cover all the high mountains at that time, and it was catastrophic—lots of tidal waves and breaking up of the fountains of the great deep.

The other view is that the flood was universal—it covered the whole earth—but it was a tranquil event and probably did not leave any scars or sediments on the earth.

And the third view is that the flood was just in the Mesopotamian area. Since its intent was to destroy mankind, and mankind had not spread very far, the flood only had to cover the Mesopotamian area. Again, as with the creation account, we need to tell our kids what our conviction is. What do we think about it? And again, if you are not certain, if you are not sure about your view, go ahead and communicate your uncertainty as well. It is okay to be uncertain about some of these things; scholars do not really know everything about them, either. And we have to be ready to realize that the kids might not even like our particular interpretation, or they may have heard things in school, Sunday school, or church that may differ with our view. But it is okay to give our kids a little bit of room on these kinds of issues.

With all of these different interpretations of the flood, what can we feel safe telling our children? What is the point of the flood? What is the bottom line of this event?

The purpose of the flood of Noah was to destroy mankind as it existed at that time. Where scholars differ is just how far mankind had spread. Some suggest that the human population may only have been a couple hundred thousand, so they may have been contained in the Mesopotamian area. But if humans had been around for four or five thousand years, and they had a chance to multiply and grow, there may have been several millions or tens of millions of people spread across the earth. That may be why some suggest that, in order to destroy mankind, the flood had to be universal. But we still do not know whether the flood was a catastrophic or a tranquil event, and so there is some room for discussion. I think all these different theories are helpful because they allow us to investigate God’s Word to the best of our ability and try to determine what it really means.

There is one view of the flood—the universal catastrophic flood model—that has really captured the attention of much of the Christian community. Several organizations propose this model. In fact, you spent a couple of weeks in the Grand Canyon with one of these organizations investigating the flood model for the formation of the canyon. We want to address a few specifics about this catastrophic model of the flood of Noah. Would you give just a brief outline of this model?

This catastrophic model definitely suggests a very different scenario than the cute animals or the little round boat. We are talking about the breaking up of the fountains of the great deep and huge amounts of water rocking back and forth across the earth. The young earth creationists suggest that most of the sedimentary layers were formed during the flood. Most of the fossils that we find in those sedimentary layers, therefore, would have been laid down as a result of the flood of Noah. There should also be evidence around the earth of the catastrophic formation of all these sedimentary layers.

How close to the truth is this model? Does it explain everything?

There are a lot of things that it does explain. There is evidence for catastrophic origin for most, if not all, sedimentary layers. Organisms seem to require a very rapid burial in order for them to be formed as fossils. But there are problems with this model as well, and I think it is important that we recognize what those are. For instance, all the different types of sediment would have to be the result of just one event, a catastrophic flood. When we look at these sedimentary layers, we have sandstone, limestone, mudstone, shale—all different types of rocks—but they all would have had to come from the same event, and that is a bit of a problem. The majority of Christian geologists believe that the strata are due to other events like river floods, deposits from big storms or hurricanes that occurred periodically or, in some cases regarding the sandstones, even desert sand dunes. While the catastrophic model is a captivating idea, I do not see a need to force ourselves to accept it or reject it at this time.

There is a lot of work to be done concerning this model. If you have a curious, science-oriented child, why not encourage him or her to pursue a career in science and become a part of the group that tries to investigate it?

Cavemen

Another question the kids are often curious about: Where do cavemen fit into the Bible?

Most creationists believe cavemen were the early survivors of the flood. Remember, if the purpose of the flood was to destroy mankind, then most of these fossils would be individuals who survived the flood or lived soon afterwards. Cro-Magnon man and Neanderthal man, and probably even fossils described as homo erectus, are all post-flood humans, descendants of Noah’s three sons. The so-called primitive characteristics could be due to genetic in-breeding, faulty diets, and life in a harsh environment.

Racial Differences

Where do the different races come from? If we are all descended from one couple, Adam and Eve, why are there different colors of skin?

Races would have originated with Noah’s three sons and their wives. Several sets of genes produce the wide variety of skin color present in the current population. It is not difficult at all to envision genetically-similar populations becoming isolated after the flood and being the progenitors of the different races. Much of this genetic variability may have been contained in Noah’s sons’ wives, arising from genetic segregation that took place since the creation of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were probably people of intermediate skin color with most, if not all, of the genetic variability present in their genes.

Dinosaurs

We cannot talk about explaining creation to our kids without addressing the inevitable question of the dinosaurs. Where do dinosaurs fit into the Bible?

There is no question that kids today, particularly boys, are really enamored of dinosaurs. The answer depends on what your approach is.

If you are approaching creation from an old earth perspective, then the dinosaurs have been extinct for seventy or so million years and there is no reason to expect them to be mentioned in the Bible at all. Men and dinosaurs never existed together.

If, however, you are approaching creation from a young earth model, where everything was created in the fairly recent past, then dinosaurs must have existed at the same time as man because they were created on the same day, only ten to thirty thousand years ago. And that raises the question as to whether Noah took dinosaurs on the ark.

It is difficult to imagine a brontosaurus getting on the ark, and most creationists answer that by suggesting he probably did not take adult dinosaurs on the ark, just juveniles or small babies. The extinction of the dinosaurs then was probably due to the flood. Even if Noah did take some on the ark, apparently the climate and ecology of the earth had changed dramatically as the result of the flood and they were not able to survive following the flood.

But it also raises the very distinct possibility that some dinosaurs may still exist in small, isolated pockets around the world. I do not want to add too much credence to this, but there are very intriguing stories—and I just want to call them stories for right now, not fact—from the Congo of different kinds of dinosaurs being reported by villagers and even some missionaries seeing very large reptile-like creatures out in the swamps. We have cave paintings from South America of dinosaur-like creatures. We have legends from all over the world about dragons, in China and the East and in Europe during the Middle Ages. We seem to have it in our heads that big reptiles are out there somewhere. It is a lot easier to think of them as being left-overs from the flood rather than having existed in small pockets for sixty or so million years since they became extinct in an evolutionary perspective. It is also feasible that dinosaurs could be mentioned in the Bible.

You mean under a different name?

Yes. For instance, Job 40 talks of a creature called “behemoth” in verses 15 to 24. He feeds on grass, he has strength in his loins,

What we have tried to do in this discussion is help parents understand the biblical accounts of creation in the early earth so that they can explain it to their children. Although we have presented a few options instead of absolutes, we can still tell our kids that God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and that the flood was a real event, although some of the details of how these things happened may escape us at this time. This approach allows us to communicate clear biblical truth while at the same time encouraging a child’s curiosity and desire to investigate God’s world. This is our Father’s world, and it delights Him when His children want to discover it and search out the mysteries of the past, of history, of His story.

Notes

1. David Raup, “Conflicts Between Darwin and Palentology,” Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, vol. 30, no. 1 (1979): 25.
2. Kraus Dose, “The Origin of Life: More Questions Than Answers,” Interdisciplinary Science Review 13 (1988): 348-56.
3. Stephen J. Gould, The Panda’s Thumb (New York: Norton, 1980), 181.
4. Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine, Biology (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1991), 335.

© 1993 Probe Ministries

See Also:

Pictures and Account of Ray and Sue Bohlin’s Visit to the Galapagos Islands
All the Probe articles on Origins


The Texas State Board of Education and Public School Content

The Facts

The Texas State Board of Education is a group of fifteen individuals, representing various districts in Texas. One of their roles is to decide on standardized, statewide guidelines on public school contents for grades K-12. These guidelines are delineated in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), which dictate the content for every subject for every grade level that students must master in order to graduate from a Texas accredited public school. Importantly, these guidelines also dictate what textbooks are approved for classrooms and selection criteria for universities. While these guidelines are not enforceable in the private school setting, private schools that are college preparatory must consider these guidelines in determining student advancement and subsequent collegiate eligibility.

The old draft of the TEKS, which was approved in 1998, states that students are expected to “analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.”{1}

The new draft of the TEKS, set for final approval in March 2009, states in the parallel section that students are expected to “analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing.”{2} This line is in the introduction to the Biology class content under “scientific processes.” The content portion of the biology class has various topics listed, and what students are required to master within each of these topics. Topics include Cells and Cellular Processes, Molecular Genetics and Heredity, Evolution and Populations, Classification and Taxonomy, Biochemistry, Systems and Homeostasis, Ecosystems, and Plants. Under each of these topics are specific items that students need to know.

The Contentious Issues

Those are the facts of the issue as best as we can describe them. However, these changes have created more than a little uproar from various groups that have a vested interest in how evolution is taught. The lines divided as such: advocates of the unquestioned teaching of evolution in public schools who were in favor of the new wording, and advocates of questioning certain aspects of evolutionary theory who were in favor of keeping the wording “strengths and weaknesses” within the TEKS. Many people that were for the new wording said that there were no weaknesses to evolutionary theory, or accused the other side of using this language of “weaknesses” to somehow smuggle creationism into the classroom. Many people who wanted to keep the strengths and weakness language intact accused the other side of censorship and subversively teaching an ideology and abridging academic freedom.

The Texas State Board of Education hosted a public hearing on Wednesday, January 21 (2009), where they welcomed testimony from individuals. The hearing would close at 12:40 p.m., no matter how many testifiers were left on the schedule. With a list of nearly a hundred, the Board only got through thirty testifiers. Some provision was made for trading up and testifying earlier, and the Board members invited select individuals to testify at the public hearing. However the majority of people there to be heard, including me (spot thirty-nine), and my husband (a science teacher who has taught both in public high school and private middle school and was spot sixty-three) went unheard. While each testifier had a three-minute time limit, an obviously divided Board asked several questions, either for clarification or to be on public record for having asked.

Whatever one may read or hear in the media, most of the testimonies on both sides were articulate and intelligent, and the testifiers fielded their questions remarkably well. If you look at the audience, you might think it looked like a rally; the room was a bit of a zoo. But the testimonies were certainly at a higher level than some kind of emotionally-charged, rah-rah pep rally. Whether we agreed with them or not, we thought each testifier made good points.

Testimonies

While we do not necessarily agree with everything below, we have summarized the main points presented by each side.

For the Proposed Wording and Against “Strengths and Weaknesses” Wording

• The old wording does not provide guidance to teachers, especially new teachers.

• Students are not necessarily capable of analyzing evolutionary theory, or are not necessarily capable of evaluating the current research.

• Academic freedom refers to the university level, and students do not have the same freedoms of speech as adults.

• The current draft has more specific wording.

• There is a possibility of litigation as has happened in other states.

• Students could fall behind if they are taught supposed weaknesses in evolutionary biology.

• “Strengths and Weaknesses” wording would block the publication and adoption of good textbooks. In fact, it could result in the adoption of subversive Creationist books designed to exploit this flaw in educational guidelines.

• These weaknesses are pseudoscience, or these weaknesses are from sources that engage ifn pseudoscience (no satisfactory definition of pseudoscience was given).

• The word “weaknesses” has changed in meaning due to the use of it for P.R. by certain Creationist groups, and therefore should not be included in the TEKS.

• Warning that people may doubt the integrity of Texas education if strengths and weaknesses are allowed.

• “Strengths and weaknesses” is inaccurate because there are no weaknesses. These supposed weaknesses are false and misleading information. Teaching weaknesses is likened to teaching that Grant surrendered to Lee.

• It’s better to get your information from the National Academy of Sciences than from “creationist” sources [quotes are mine].

• The peer review literature does not argue whether evolution happened, it is just researching how it happened. Whether it happened is not in question.

Against Proposed Wording and For “Strengths and Weaknesses” Wording:

• Even within the “strengths and weaknesses” wording, there has been silencing of students, and some teachers are intimidated to even broach the subject. Examples were cited by two of the testifiers.

• Cases of scientific hoaxes were cited by several people, including Piltdown Man and Haeckel’s Embryos. These are significant because many evolutionists will not admit these were hoaxes/errors. While they could be examples of how theories grow and change (something they agree is part of science and should apply to evolution), they instead go unaddressed and worry those who respect true scientific research and achievement.

• No one area of science has answers to everything, so there are always weaknesses in theories.

• There has been no litigation in the last twenty years with the wording “strengths and weaknesses” and to say that this encourages pseudoscience, brings up the question as to whether Texas has been engaging in pseudoscience for the last twenty years.

• Standards should promote academic diversity and critical thinking. Some of the great minds in science were non-conformists.

• Children begin thinking abstractly at young adolescence, and their abstract and cognitive abilities continue to develop through high school. This stresses the importance of including critical thinking skills in the TEKS. Teaching strengths and not weaknesses does not promote abstract thinking.

• Teaching strengths and weaknesses is more honest.

• Examples were cited of students who did learn strengths and weaknesses and it worked well.

• Real science deals with strengths and weaknesses of a theory; why should evolution be held to a different standard?

• We should not proclaim high school students too dumb to understand (my note: two of the testimonies were given by high school seniors).

• “Evolution” is a tricky term because when someone says “evolution” they may mean three different things, one of which is a fact and two of which are conjecture: 1) Microevolution (fact), 2) Common Descent (theory), 3) Natural Selection acting on mutations is how things evolve (theory). Student should distinguish this.

• Scientific consensus is only one part of science, the conclusion part. Students need to also know the scientific process.

• There is a difference between scientific law, theory and hypothesis.

• All theories are refined in the scientific process. Evolution does not have testable postulates. (This testimony was cut off due to time, but he was going to distinguish between origins and operations science).

Assessment

My husband David is a science teacher who has taught high school science in public school and now teaches middle school science in a private, college-preparatory school. I have two degrees in science and am a research associate at Probe Ministries. Here is our assessment of the TEKS:

The wording “strengths and weaknesses” seems very intentionally omitted from the proposed version, which is suspect, but neither one of us can say definitively that it was left out in order to promote a particular agenda of misleading students or indoctrinating them by evolutionist advocates. “Analyze and evaluate” does convey something different than “analyze, review, and critique” and it does seem to be a very subtle difference that allows for slightly less freedom of discussion within the classroom; however, with this language, by itself, there may still be opportunity to have a rigorous discussion of weaknesses, especially if it falls under the category of “evaluating.” Its omission from the TEKS however, as one Board member pointed out, does communicate something as well, so we are skeptical of the perceived freedom with this language.

Another, and what I think is a blatant problem with the evolution curriculum, is in the specific wording within the evolution content section. Within the TEKS Biology section, there are several topics that the students must cover. Within each of those topics are specific things that they must master. In the TEKS proposed draft, the evolution section of high school biology requires students to:

A. Identify how evidence for common ancestry among groups is provided by the fossil record, biogeography, and homologies including anatomical, molecular, and developmental;

B. Recognize that natural selection produces change in populations, not individuals;

C. Describe the elements of natural selection including inherited variation, the potential of a population to produce more offspring that can survive, and a finite supply of environmental resources resulting in differential reproductive success;

D. Recognize the relationship of natural selection to adaptation, and to the development of diversity in and among species; and

E. Recognize the effects of other evolutionary mechanisms including genetic drift, gene flow, mutation, and recombination.{3}

The action verb at the beginning of each of these points is important because each verb is intentionally chosen, and from an educator’s perspective has a technical meaning. According to Bloom’s taxonomy of educational activities, verbs such as “describe,” “define,” or “identify” represent a low level of cognizance, while words such as “explain,” “recognize,” “illustrate” and “predict” are mid-level, and words such as “compare” “analyze,” “interpret” are higher level of cognizance.{4} In all of the other science concepts taught in biology, students are asked to “compare,” “investigate,” “predict,” “analyze,” and “interpret.” However, evolution is kept at a purely definitional level, meaning that even though the proposed TEKS include “analyze and evaluate” within the general scientific process section, there is no opportunity to do this when the students get to the evolution section; they are only required to essentially memorize definitions or memorize what fossils lead to common descent. Many testifiers claimed that students were free and in fact encouraged to discuss evolutionary theory. They said the “strengths and weaknesses” language was being replaced by the better, more specific “analyze and evaluate.” This is intentionally misleading. The general standards do read that way, but the evolution section itself is exempt from this rigid treatment in the new TEKS.

I was particularly unimpressed with Terrence Stutz’s article from the Dallas Morning News, in which he labeled the board members who wanted to include “weaknesses” as being aligned with “social conservative groups that in past have worked to cast doubt on science-based theories on the origins of life,”{5} when really, most of the testifiers and Board members that wanted “weaknesses” left in the TEKS, including my husband and myself, are arguing for academic freedom and free inquiry. The way evolution is handled in the proposal does nothing to promote even an analysis and evaluation, let alone an atmosphere of inquiry on a theory that is supposed to be the cornerstone of biology. {6}

The Vote and Results:

The Texas State Board of Education had a preliminary vote Thursday, and it was tied 7-7, which means that, so far, “strengths and weaknesses” language will not be in the next version of the TEKS (it requires a majority). However, the board has until March to make its final decision, and make a final vote.

While “strengths and weaknesses” is not in the current draft of the TEKS, the board did vote on some amendments that ask students to “analyze and evaluate” specific aspects of evolutionary theory, bringing the evolution science concepts up a notch (or two) on Bloom’s scale.

According to Evolution News and Views,{7} the wording change is as follows:

(7) Science concepts. The student knows evolutionary theory is a scientific explanation for the unity and diversity of life. The student is expected to:

(A) analyze and evaluate how evidence of common ancestry among groups is provided by the fossil record, biogeography, and homologies including anatomical, molecular, and developmental;

(B) analyze and evaluate how natural selection produces change in populations, not individuals;

(C) analyze and evaluate how the elements of natural selection including inherited variation, the potential of a population to produce more offspring than can survive, and a finite supply of environmental resources result in differential reproductive success;

(D) analyze and evaluate the relationship of natural selection to adaptation, and to the development of diversity in and among species; and

(E) analyze and evaluate the effects of other evolutionary mechanisms including genetic drift, gene flow, mutation, and recombination.

Furthermore, the Board passed an amendment that asks students to “Analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis, and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record.”{8} Unfortunately, media coverage on these particular amendments are scarce. We would consider these amendments a success, especially since they address the issue of low-level cognizance in the evolution requirements. Now they are at a level that seems much more appropriate for high school biology, and we feel will promote good critical thinking and intellectual inquiry. We also believe that these amendments will better serve to prepare our students for the intellectual rigor and higher level thinking skills that they will need at the collegiate level.


Texas State Board of Education
Public Testimony
Heather Zeiger, M.S.
Research Associate, Probe Ministries

I went to Texas public schools for junior high and high school. I knew then that I was going to pursue a career in science, and ended up choosing chemistry my senior year. I graduated in 1999, and at the time, I had received some education in evolutionary biology. That education mostly consisted of memorizing facts and definitions, but gave no indication that there was anything more to be discussed. By way of example, one of the things we learned in biology was the Miller Urey experiment. We learned that this was the prevailing theory on how life began, and this is how it worked. There was no further discussion on chemical origins, and as far as I knew from what I was taught in the public high school, scientists agreed that this was how it happened. Except . . . it turns out that there were and still are many questions about chemical origins. In fact, as I later learned, there is an entire field of study in which chemists deal with the very fundamental questions of how life began. There is more than a little contention among those who believe that life came from an RNA-based world and others who believe that it was originally metabolic. There are still others who think that life beginning from purely chemical processes may not even be possible under our current theories.

What was presented as a boring little tidbit in our biology books, actually is an entire field of inquiry. Chemical origins is just one area of evolutionary theory; and as we all know there are evolutionary biologists still researching these issues, which means that there are still challenges or unexplained parts of the theory to be investigated. The students that go into science, the ones I’ve worked with, are fascinated by the unexplained parts of a theory, by the mysteries. I think is a disservice to our children and to the scientific community to gloss over the places where a theory needs more work. We should encourage students to go on and become the next scientist to answer these questions in evolutionary theory. While the proposed draft does discuss strengths and limitations, in science, in general, it does not leave the evolution section open to this, but keeps it at a definitional level. I therefore contend that the Biology TEKS, science concept seven (evolution) should be phrased in such a way that would go beyond the less interesting part of science, identification and description of terms. And hopefully, this will open classroom instruction to analysis and discussion of current strengths and weakness within this important theory.

Texas State Board of Education
Public Testimony
David Zeiger
Texas SBEC Certified Science Composite Teacher for Grade 9-12

My name is David Zeiger and I am a certified composite science teacher for grades nine through twelve. I taught Chemistry and Physics for two years in Garland ISD, and now I teach seventh grade Life Science at Trinity Christian Academy, a private college preparatory school in Addison. In my relatively brief tenure as a science teacher, I have had to come to terms with a simple discouraging fact: most of my students will not love science as much as I do, let alone become researchers, engineers, doctors, nurses, or even science teachers. In fact the National Science Foundation found that in 2000 only one third of college students earn bachelor degrees in science and engineering.{9}

Therefore, when I read the TEKS as the guiding structure for my curriculum, I have to ask what my job as a science teacher truly is. Am I wasting my time with two-thirds of my students? Memorizing the parts of a plant, reeling off the periodic table, or calculating using laws of motion; are these things that students are going to use again? Do I even want them to memorize a chart with the strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory? No. The things that every student can take with them are how to gain information from their environment, whether that environment is a job training manual, a relationship with their spouse, or a new technique for hammering a nail; how to test that new information against their previous experience and training; and most importantly, how to be flexible enough to change their ideas when it turns out they were wrong.

Those important methods of learning are included in the TEKS for non-biology science classes and in the non-evolution biology standards. When teaching science other than the evolutionary theory, students are asked to “compare,” “predict,” “investigate,” “explore,” “explain,” “analyze,” “interpret,” and “model,” activities from the whole range of cognizance. But, the proposed recommendations on evolution use language that refer to and limit the students to the simplest level of cognitive learning: memorization.

If we don’t teach the simple fact that every theory has weaknesses, we don’t teach young people true science. If we don’t teach them to find and evaluate those weaknesses, we don’t teach them to be humble in their search for truth. And if we don’t teach them how to keep or reject those theories, we leave them as prey to whoever has a stronger opinion than they do.

Please keep teaching students to analyze and evaluate scientific theories. Critical reasoning is one of the few things I know all my students will need and use every day of their lives.

Notes

1. 1998 TEKS, Section 112.43, (c), (3), (A).
2. Section 112.43 (c), (3), (A) of proposed TEKS
3. Proposed 2009 TEKS Section 112.43, (7)
4. www.teachervision.com
5. Terence Stutz, “Texas Board of Education votes against teaching evolution weaknesses,” Dallas Morning News, January 24, 2009. tinyurl.com/bncw55
6. Theodosius Dobzhansky, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” American Biology Teacher 1973, volume 35, pp. 125-129.
7. www.evolutionnews.org/2009/01/recap_texas_board_of_education.html
8. Ibid.
9. www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind04/c2/c2s3.htm


“What About the Water Vapor Canopy Hypothesis?”

You say that the literal translation makes the most sense, yet you say that there are things about it that make no sense. Well here is my suggestion. I am a literalist… I believe what the Bible says about creation – literal. 6 days. But read your Bible about the creation of the “sky.” God separated the waters from the waters. It doesn’t say that he created mists, or clouds from the waters to make up the sky… it says he separated the water from the water. In fact, wind, rain, and rainbows are not mentioned anywhere in the Bible until the flood… so what if the atmosphere was different in the original times? What if there was literally a solid water “layer” above the sky…. this would create an atmosphere like a green-house effect on earth… therefore totally changing the oxygen and most importantly CARBON levels in the air… which would totally ruin all “carbon-dating” tests prior to the flood… which would then in effect also explain why people lived longer prior to the flood. Not only were we closer to perfection then… but there was probably better levels of oxygen in the air… and oxygen is known to have healing properties (especially O3). Just a thought to consider…

Thank you for reading and writing.

I am very familiar with the Canopy Hypothesis you describe. I even accepted and taught it for several years. While definitely still around, it has fallen into disfavor in many creationist circles for two primary reasons.

The first is biblical. The description of Day Two in Genesis describes the separation of the waters and that God placed an expanse in the midst of the waters. This has usually been interpreted as the atmosphere. However, on Day Four, God places the sun, moon, and stars in this same expanse.

The second involves the inherent instability of any water vapor canopy above the earth’s atmosphere. So far calculations show that it would require a miracle of constant intervention to keep it in place until the flood. There is also a difficult problem with the condensation of the canopy into water droplets to fall as rain for forty days and nights. This would release a tremendous amount of heat that would cause additional problems.

Hope this helps.

Respectfully,

Ray Bohlin


Is Intelligent Design Dead?

What Is Intelligent Design?

On December 20, 2005, Judge Jones handed down his decision in the lawsuit brought by several citizens from Dover, Pennsylvania, who objected to a new policy adopted by the Dover School Board. This policy mandated a statement be read before all biology classes indicating that evolution was a theory that needed critical evaluation and that Intelligent Design was a rival theory that students could seek information about from the library.

Judge Jones not only struck down the policy as unconstitutional; he went further to declare that ID is not science and was purely motivated by religion since it was just a repackaged creationism. His written opinion was scathing. This of course delighted proponents of evolution and many have declared that ID now is dead.

In what follows I will examine this “death certificate” and declare it null and void. ID is alive and well, and the coming months and years will demonstrate convincingly the health of ID. But first, let’s make sure we know what ID really is.

The media often simply portray ID in a negative context. One student reporter from Southern Methodist University recently put it this way: “Essentially ID is a theory that proposes that there are parts to a cell that are simply too complex to have been evolved.” He adds as an afterthought the idea “that rather they have been altered by some sort of ‘designer.’”{1} But ID is truly more than just a critique of evolution. The Discovery Institute’s Web site describes ID this way: “The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.”{2}

It’s interesting to realize that many evolutionists recognize that living things in particular look as if they have been designed. British evolutionist Richard Dawkins said, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”{3} Many in the ID community simply reply, “If it looks designed, maybe it is!” So ID is simply an attempt to quantify scientifically what most people clearly recognize: the design of the universe and of living things.

The major contention with evolution is the claim that mutation and natural selection can account for everything we see in living things. ID accepts that evolutionary processes do account for some change in organisms over time. But ID says certain structures, like the bacterial flagellum that closely resembles a human designed rotary motor, are better explained through an intelligent cause.

In particular, the universal genetic code has all the distinguishing characteristics of coded information or language. Our experience tells us that language only comes from a mind. If so, then the genetic code also likely came from a mind.

Is ID Science?

Judge Jones made several errors in his reasoning. The recent book from the Discovery Institute, Traipsing Into Evolution, answers Judge Jones on several levels.{4} I will focus on three areas: first, how a federal judge can tell us what science is and is not when philosophers of science continue to struggle with this; second, Judge Jones’ claim that ID has been refuted by scientists; and third, Judge Jones’ claims that ID has not been accepted by the scientific community. For these and other reasons, Judge Jones claimed that ID simply is not science and is religiously motivated; therefore it should not even be mentioned in a high school science classroom.

The first question that should occur to you is, Why does a federal judge with no training in science use his courtroom as a means of determining what is and is not science? This problem has been referred to as the “demarcation problem.” How do we demarcate science from non-science? Philosopher of science Larry Laudan writes, “If we would stand up and be counted on the side of reason, we ought to drop terms like ‘pseudo-science’ and ‘unscientific’ from our vocabulary; they are just hollow phrases which do only emotive work for us.”{5}

In addition, philosopher Del Ratzch argues that there are very real possible payoffs for science in considering ID.{6} Judge Jones knew of these positions but chose to ignore them.

Judge Jones claims that ID has been refuted by mainstream scientists. He cites the work of Kenneth Miller in particular. This is rather strange indeed. For ID to be refuted means that it has been tested by science and found wanting. If it is testable scientifically to the degree that it can be refuted, then it is science after all. This logical contradiction does not seem to occur to Judge Jones.

The judge ruled further that ID cannot be science because it is not accepted by the scientific community. But science is not a popularity contest. New and controversial theories are never accepted by a majority of scientists at the beginning, but that doesn’t make them unscientific. The Discovery Institute now lists over six hundred scientists from around the world who are willing to sign a list saying they are skeptical of Darwinism. Surely that counts for something.

ID uses empirical data to demonstrate the plausibility of a design inference. It’s as scientific as Darwinism.

Is ID Just Reinvented Creationism?

Several parents challenged a directive by the Dover School Board allowing the mention of Intelligent Design in the science classrooms of this district. Judge Jones ruled the directive unconstitutional. One of his reasons was that ID is just reinvented creationism which the Supreme Court has already ruled is substantially a religious doctrine and not appropriate as science.

One of the texts that the Dover school board members made available was the supplemental text Of Pandas and People.{7} Having subpoenaed early drafts of the book from the late ‘80s, the ACLU tried to show that Pandas only began using the phrase “Intelligent Design” after the Supreme Court struck down the Louisiana creation law. Therefore Judge Jones ruled that ID is in fact just creationism with a new label.

While it is true that the Supreme Court decision did indeed affect editorial decisions in Pandas, it’s not for the reasons Judge Jones assumed. The authors and editors of Pandas knew their ideas were not the same as creationism and were wrestling with what to call it. Once the Supreme Court ruled that “creationism” meant a literal six day creation, the authors of Pandas knew they needed to use a different term.{8}

In addition, the term Intelligent Design had been floating around for several years before Pandas was in print. Lane Lester and I used the term in our book The Natural Limits to Biological Change in 1984, three years before the Supreme Court decision in Edwards vs. Aguillard struck down the Louisiana creationism law. We said, “The simple point is that intelligent design is discernibly different from natural design. In natural design, the apparent order is internally derived from the properties of the components; in crea­tive design, the apparent order is externally imposed and confers new properties of organization not inherent in the components themselves.”{9}

Furthermore, none of the leading scientists of the Intelligent Design movement were ever a part of the creationist movement. People like Phil Johnson, Michael Behe, William Dembski, Charles Thaxton, and Steve Meyer never considered themselves to be part of this group. Their ideas were always similar but definitely not the same.

Some creationist groups today even go to great lengths to distance themselves from the ID movement because ID essentially maintains that the Designer cannot be known from the science alone. Therefore, because of ID’s attempts to stop short of naming the Designer, some creationist groups will sell some ID books but not endorse their program. This would be very strange indeed if ID is just relabeled creationism.

Once again, Judge Jones got it wrong.

Traipsing Into the Dover Court Decision

In their excellent discussion of the Dover decision, the authors of Traipsing into Evolution attack six accusations against Intelligent Design used by Judge Jones.{10}

On page sixty-two of the Dover decision Judge Jones said, “ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation.”{11} The main problem for Judge Jones is that ID scientists said repeatedly prior to the trial and in direct testimony during the trial that the science of ID is not able to identify the Designer. It was expressly pointed out to Judge Jones during the trial that the type and identity of the intelligent agent supposed by ID is only identified by religious and philosophical argumentation. That does not mean that design itself cannot be detected scientifically. Indeed, if we ever receive an obviously intelligent message from outer space, we will most certainly be able to determine it has an intelligent cause even though we may have no idea who or what sent it.{12}

Judge Jones also states that “the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980s.” What Judge Jones is referring to is his notion that ID is just a negative argument about Darwinism. If Darwinism can be shown to be false, then ID wins.

But this grossly misrepresents ID. Michael Behe’s formulation of irreducible complexity asserts that Darwinian evolution does not predict irreducibly complex machines in the cell where Intelligent Design expressly does predict such machines. So there is definitely a negative component to irreducible complexity. But Darwin himself said that “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”{13} Darwin invited a negative critique.

But there is also a clear positive case for irreducible complexity. When we come across a machine, we intuitively understand it to be intelligently caused, whether we think it functions effectively or not. Intelligent agents can and do produce machines. The concept of irreducible complexity is one way to determine what a machine is.

Judge Jones’ third complaint against Intelligent Design was that the attacks on evolution by ID advocates have all been refuted by the scientific community. Judge Jones ignored the fact that at the time of the decision, over five hundred scientists had signed a statement acknowledging their dissent from Darwinism. That list now stands at over six hundred.{14} Certainly some scientists have challenged Behe, Dembski, and others. But their criticisms have been answered effectively both online and in print.{15}

Judge Jones’ fourth accusation was that Intelligent Design had failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community. But this is clearly a matter of opinion. As I mentioned previously, over six hundred scientists now express their dissent from Darwin, and most of those also support Intelligent Design, many of them at mainline universities.

No doubt there has been and continues to be strident opposition to Intelligent Design in the scientific community, especially among biologists. But there is always resistance in science to new ideas. And much of the opposition is for philosophical reasons, not scientific ones. Many Darwinists such as Will Provine from Cornell and Richard Dawkins from Oxford are very up front that their adherence to evolution and their disdain for Intelligent Design is over the issue of a Designer by any name. The science is just a backdrop.

Judge Jones’ fifth complaint against Intelligent Design was that proponents of ID have not published in the scientific peer-reviewed literature. This is simply not true. De Wolf et al., in their book Traipsing Into Evolution, document in Appendix B a list of thirteen different peer-reviewed articles and books by ID scientists advocating different aspects of the theory. This is admittedly a small number, but that is because there is clear evidence, documented in the same book, of editors having to shy away from ID papers and responses for fear of intimidation by the scientific community. One editor who followed established procedure in getting an ID article reviewed and published was nearly run out of his institution for the offense.

Finally, Judge Jones declared that ID has not been the subject of testing and research. Indeed, any scientific theory needs to be testable in some form or it is not likely to be of some use. But ID microbiologist Scott Minnich testified right in Judge Jones’ courtroom that in his laboratory at the University of Idaho he has demonstrated the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum. Minnich also testified to other research he was familiar with which also was testing principles from ID.{16}

As I have summarized, Judge Jones failed to make a reasonable and fair evaluation of the evidence. Intelligent Design is far from dead. Rather, such a poor decision in the Dover case may actually serve ID well as it self-destructs in the years to come.

Notes

1. Brian Wellman, April 26, 2006, Merits of intelligent design, evolution debated, www.smudailycampus.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2006/04/26/444ef833078bc
2. The Web site of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, www.discovery.org/csc/topQuestions.php.
3. Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: W. W. Norton, 1986), 1.
4. David De Wolf, John West, Casey Luskin, and Jonathan Witt, Traipsing Into Evolution: Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Decision (Seattle, WA: Discovery Institute Press, 2006), 25-57.
5. Larry Laudan, “The demise of the demarcation problem,” in Michael Ruse (ed.), But Is It Science?, (Amherst, MA: Prometheus, 1983), 337-350.
6. Del Ratzch, Nature, Design, and Science: The Status of Design in Natural Science (Albany, NY: State University Press of New York, 2001), 147.
7. Percival Davis and Dean H. Kenyon, Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins (Dallas, TX: Haughton Publishing Co., 1989), 166 pp.
8. DeWolf et al., 22.
9. Lane P. Lester and Raymond G. Bohlin, The Natural Limits to Biological Change (Richardson, TX: Probe Books, 1984), 153-154.
10. DeWolf et al., 29-45.
11. Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School Board, No. 04cv2688, 2005 WL 3465563, *26 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 20, 2005).
12. I don’t expect we ever will hear from any extraterrestrials. Earth appears to be more and more unique with every passing day. See my article “Are We Alone in the Universe?” at www.probe.org/are-we-alone-in-the-universe-2/.
13. Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (New York: New American Library [A Mentor Book], 1958), 171 (this is a reprint of the 1872 sixth edition).
14. From the Web site of the Center for Science and Culture, www.dissentfromdarwin.org/ accessed October 11, 2006. The statement reads; “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”
15. William Dembski, The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 334 pp.
16. De Wolf et al., 56.

© 2006 Probe Ministries


“What’s Your Position on Creationism?”

Kerby,

Thanks for coming to the Worldview Weekend. I know you don’t hold to evolutionism, per se. But after the conference in Wichita last week, I was wondering, do you agree with the Bible’s chronology of the earth being older than the sun. That the record in Genesis (and Ex. 20:11) of the six days of creation are to be understood as ordinary days. Finally, do you agree with the idea of no bloodshed and disease before the fall of man? In other words, should I believe the Bible or what I have been taught?

The reason why I am asking is I know that I have compromised in these areas of Genesis and lead many down a road of disbelief because of that.

Please send me your answers with Biblical references.

Thank you for your e-mail. You might want to visit the Probe web site (www.probe.org) and read two articles. One deals with different views of science and earth history. The other deals with why we believe in creation. I think these two will help you think through the issues and would accurately represent the perspective of all of us on Probe Ministries staff.

Thanks for writing.

Kerby Anderson
Probe Ministries


“Why Don’t You Cite Young Earth Creationists in Your Material?”

Ray:
I couldn’t help but notice that ICR/Dr. Henry Morris and Answers In Genesis/Ken Ham aren’t cited (or at least I did not see their viewpoints) in some of your material about creation/evolution. Are there points of disagreement? Do you take a stand beyond design that commits to either a young earth or old earth?

I do occasionally refer to writings from young earth creationists. The article on human fossils, for instance, comes directly from young earth creationist Marvin Lubenow’s book Bones of Contention. I focus on intelligent design because it is an area that nearly all creationists, young and old earth agree on. At Probe we do not take an official position on the age of the earth question primarily because most of us here, including myself are undecided (see Christian Views of Science and Earth History) about this critical issue. I agree with Phillip Johnson that we need first to stand united against the current naturalistic filibuster in science by opposing the naturalistic approach to origins and then come back to the age of the earth question later.

Respectfully,

Ray Bohlin
Probe Ministries


“What About the Ice Age?”

My son told his teacher that he was tired of learning about the Ice Age because there is nothing about it in the Bible and he shouldn’t have to learn about things that aren’t in the Bible. Any advice?

The quick and simple answer to your question is that yes, there was an ice age, but there is disagreement as to its extent, length of time, and actual time of occurrence. Standard old earth (this would include old earth creationists; see our article Christian Views of Science and Earth History) rendering concludes that there were several ice ages over the last 50,000 years with the ice advancing and retreating several times. Young earth creationists also accept an ice age but there was only one and it occurred much more recently (within the last 10,000 years) as a post-flood event.

The dilemma you write about can indeed prove difficult for young minds at times. They have difficulty drawing a distinction between learning about something and believing it is true. In my article How to Talk to Your Kids about Creation and Evolution I address this in section seven titled, “Responding to Evolutionary Theory.” I basically suggest you tell your kids that simply demonstrating knowledge about evolution is not the same as believing it. You can always phrase your answer this way, “According to evolution . . .” This way you can demonstrate you understand the material but not necessarily believe it. I also address this in the section “Cultivate a Teachable Spirit” in the article Campus Christianity.

I think you’ll find both of these articles helpful.

Respectfully,

Ray Bohlin
Probe Ministries


“Why Won’t You Take a Stand on the Age of the Earth?”

Dr. Bohlin,

I just read over your article on the Age of the Earth to get Probe’s stand on the issue. Apparently, the official stand is officially no stand.

I was wondering after I read this statement of yours: “Biblically, we find the young earth approach of six consecutive 24-hour days and a catastrophic universal flood to make the most sense. However, we find the evidence from science for a great age for the universe and the earth to be nearly overwhelming. We just do not know how to resolve the conflict yet.”

How do you (we) know for sure that the earth is millions if not billions of years old? I have been looking into this issue for a while, and I have found that ALL dating methods suffer from one major problem. They are ALL based on Fallible (un-testable) Assumptions. Now that is a major problem to probe into because it seems that the main reason why Probe is not willing to hold to and defend the clear written revelation in Genesis is because you believe those dating methods are more trustworthy than Genesis 1.

I believe Rich Milne and I qualified our statement sufficiently. To say that we think the young earth position makes the most sense Biblically does not intend to suggest we believe it is the “clear” written revelation of Genesis 1. There are many conservative evangelical Old Testament scholars who do not hold to it. Men who certainly understand the OT and Hebrew much more than this molecular biologist. If I believed it was the clear revelation of Genesis, I would accept it regardless of the scientific evidence.

What you refer to in the assumptions of dating methods is true especially of the radioactive dating methods. But we explain one of our hesitations in the problem of starlight in the body of the paper. I also find it significant that most young earth geologists and physicists (Russ Humphreys is my source from personal conversations during our ICR Grand Canyon trips together) recognize that radioactive dating methods consistently portray an older-to-younger sequence when going from the bottom to the top. So much so that they are searching for a way incorporate this into their flood model. They don’t accept the actual dates but the sequence seems real. Therefore the dating methods are not totally without merit. This is more than just suggestive.

I do understand that an international group, meeting through ICR, is working on a paper concerning dating methods which I anticipate with eagerness.

Respectfully,

Ray Bohlin, Ph.D.