t f p g+ YouTube icon

Science and the Bible: Scientific Creationism, Part 1

Bookmark and Share

May 22, 2012 Tags: Biblical Interpretation

Today's entry was written by Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

Science and the Bible: Scientific Creationism, Part 1
Noah’s Ark, by Edward Hicks, 1846. Oil on canvas, 26 5/16" x 30 3/8” (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

My columns so far have prepared us to examine five different approaches to science and the Bible that are currently popular among Christians. Beginning today, I’ll identify core tenets or assumptions for each of those approaches. I’ll start with propositions about the Bible, draw some conclusions, and then conclude with a short historical commentary—sometimes taking more than one post to cover all that ground.

According to numerous polls in recent decades, the single most popular view among American Protestants is the one I’m calling “scientific creationism,” or “young-earth” creationism (YEC). (Data reported by LifeWay and Gallop are consistent with this.) It is this type of creationism that a federal district court ruled against in 1982 and the Supreme Court ruled against in 1987, and it is usually this type of creationism the people have in mind when they use the word “creationism” without a preceding adjective.

Merriam Webster defines “scientific creationism” as “a doctrine holding that the biblical account of creation is supported by scientific evidence.” That’s a decent definition, but the date given for its first use (1979) is obviously wrong. The late Henry Morris, the leading creationist of his generation, published a work with this exact title in 1974, as part of an effort he spearheaded to get creationist ideas taught in public schools, without referencing the Bible. It was the scientific evidence for creation that he focused on. For a few years, some creationist works were published in two versions, one including biblical evidence and the other without it. Morris did not actually invent the term, which had already been used by some Seventh-day Adventist and Missouri Synod Lutheran authors. However, Morris is the best known example, and even though the strategy he endorsed is no longer in use, the term has stuck.

Core Tenets or Assumptions of Scientific Creationism

(1) God was the only eye-witness of the creation, and he has told us in Genesis exactly what took place. There can be no higher authority than this. Therefore, the Bible is the only truly reliable source of knowledge about the origin of the earth and the universe.

This is a very sensitive matter for creationist proponents, who tend to take a dim view of any speakers or seminars (such as this series) that present alternatives without openly condemning them (see above). Old-earth interpretations of the Bible are seen as genuinely heretical and gravely harmful to the Bible, and thus to Christianity itself. Christians simply must not “compromise” by accepting an old earth. In speaking about such views, creationists often use the words “compromise” or “accommodation” as pejorative terms, such as in this aptly titled book. Now, take a close look at the subtitle: “A Biblical and Scientific Refutation of ‘Progressive Creationism’ (Billions of Years), as Popularized by Astronomer Hugh Ross.” When you realize that Ross is a staunch anti-evolutionist who directs a very conservative apologetics ministry, you see what I’m getting at: he’s hardly the first target one might think of in this context, yet his ministry was specifically targeted a few years ago by Ken Ham’s creationist organization, Answers In Genesis (for example, see this post).

Likewise, consider what Ham himself has said about William Dembski, a leading advocate of ID and a strong opponent of theistic evolution. Ham has lamented, “how disappointing it is that Dr. Dembski holds a position at one of the premier Southern Baptist seminaries in the country,” a statement that Dembski understandably takes as a thinly veiled threat to his job. According to Ham, Dembski “is really promoting a type of ‘theistic evolution’,” an analysis that simply boggles the imagination (Dembski’s response can be found here).

(2) Scientific evidence, when properly interpreted, is consistent with a literalistic interpretation of the Bible.

Many areas of science present no challenges to creationism, for they have no direct bearing on origins. As I pointed out in my last column, it’s only the “historical” sciences whose methods and conclusions are not acceptable to them. An idea known as “uniformitarianism” is often singled out as the prime offender, and it is typically contrasted with biblical catastrophism (indeed this came up exactly in this way in the comments on my last column). William Whewell (the same person who coined the word “scientist”) invented the word “uniformitarianism” in the 1830s to capture the essence of Charles Lyell’s “steady state” picture of earth history—a picture abandoned long ago. As used today, it means simply that physical processes in the past were like physical processes in the present in terms of how they actually work. The Wikipedia account is pretty good.

The acceptance of modern uniformitarianism entails the acceptance of an old earth. This is the ultimate reason why creationists reject it. As chemist Jonathan Sarfati has said, “Since the rise of uniformitarian ‘science’, there have been many compromises of Scripture away from its original meaning. But this has had baneful effects on the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. It also undermines the sin-death causality that underlies the Gospel teaching that Jesus died for our sins.”. For creationists, it’s just a few short steps from accepting an old earth to denying the gospel.

(3) The Bible tells us that the earth and the universe cannot be more than a few thousand years old, since Adam and Eve were created 6,000-12,000 years ago and the earth is only five days older than humanity. (Terry Mortenson gives this as the possible range for dating the creation) Mainstream science, on the other hand, puts the age of the earth at about 4.6 billion years (BY) and the age of the universe at about 13.7 BY. Obviously these figures can’t be made consistent—someone here has to be very badly mistaken.

As part of this idea, creationists believe that the original “created kinds” of living things were all created separately, in six 24-hour days. It should also be noted that whatever the original “kinds” were, they do not correspond closely with any specific modern biological category, such as species or genus. Dinosaurs were actually created on the same day as humans, and they co-existed with us until some point after the Flood, as depicted on the cover of a widely distributed creationist workbook (right). A great deal of adaptation has taken place within the boundaries of the “created kinds,” however, especially since the Flood. One could say with some justification and irony, then, that creationists accept a lot of very rapid evolution, but they strictly limit its scope in order to deny a fully evolutionary scenario.

The universe was also created very quickly, starting on the first “day” in Genesis with the creation of light. Creationists believe that the big bang is a false theory that contradicts the Bible and functions as a godless alternative to the Bible—despite the fact that many other Christians believe that the big bang provides powerful evidence for theism.

(4) The Flood was responsible for producing almost all fossils, during one year of human history rather than during hundreds of millions of years of earth history before we arrived on the scene.

This view is called “Flood Geology”. If it is true, then the fossil record (a collective noun that has no plural form, properly speaking) is just one enormous, world-wide photograph of a single moment in time, showing which organisms perished in the Flood. On the other hand, according to the mainstream scientific view, the fossil record is an enormous collection of individual photographs, taken at millions of individual moments and places, showing which organisms have lived at those times and places. From the latter collection of photographs, one can draw an evolutionary inference, but not from the single photograph associated with the former. In short, Flood Geology utterly undermines evolution; consequently, it’s absolutely crucial to Scientific Creationism. The definitive work arguing for Scientific Creationism is called The Genesis Flood for a reason. (For more on the history of this influential book, see this post).

(5) The fall of Adam and Eve radically altered the laws of nature, such that the pre-fall world was very different from the post-fall world in which we now live. There was no death among higher animals (those that feel pain and suffer) prior to the fall. There were no carnivores, no parasites, and no disease organisms.

The issue here is not a minor one: why is there suffering and death in the world? Does it all result from the first sin? It is no accident that, when this topic was debated in America before the Civil War, it was known as “death before the fall.” The larger issue is called theodicy. For YECs, there is no more important theological issue; indeed, to a significant degree, the “young” in the YEC view derives from a strongly felt need to interpret the “good” and “very good” of the creation week in terms of an original perfection akin to the perfection of heaven.

Many creationists used to link the fall with the onset of the second law of thermodynamics (entropy), which they called “the law of death and decay,” but this view is now much less popular.

Looking Ahead

This is enough for now. On June 5th, we will continue our study of Scientific Creationism, drawing some conclusions about the YEC view and sketching its history. In the meantime, please explore the links and share your comments.

Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

< Previous post in series Next post in series >

View the archived discussion of this post

This article is now closed for new comments. The archived comments are shown below.

Page 1 of 1   1
Bilbo - #70047

May 22nd 2012

Hi Ted,

I’m not a YEC, but your discussion inspires a few comments and a question:

1.  I’ve noticed a parallel between YEC and Methodological Naturalism.  Just as someone working with the YEC presupposition that their literal interpretation of Genesis is the correct one and supercedes all apparent empirical evidence to the contrary, so someone working with the presupposition of Methodological Naturalism believes that no amount of empirical evidence should allow for a Supernaturalistic interpretation, but must await a Naturalistic interpretation, however long it may take to come up with one.  It would seem to me that a more rational position would be one that allows for empirical evidence to have more input on our original presuppositions.

2.  There seems to be at least one interpretation of the Biblical “kinds” of animals that matches up with the scientific “kind”:  Phyla.  I believe that nearly all the present phyla of the animal kingdom first appeared during the Cambrian explosion.  I realize that most YECs probably wouldn’t be happy with such a broad interpretation of “kinds,” but it should be noted, anyway.

3.  My question:  You brought up the debate about the “no death before the Fall.”  In a previous post here, there was a print of a painting from the early 16th century depicting a lion lying down with what looked like a deer of some kind, implying that at least the artist seemed to think carnivorousness wasn’t very common before the Fall.  I’m curious how far back in Christian (and Jewish) thought this goes, and whether it was the majority or the minority view.  Would you know?

Ted Davis - #70054

May 22nd 2012

Three excellent quetions/points, Bilbo. I don’t know the answer to #3, but I’d like to. I know view discussed was common in America prior to the Civil War—something we’ll come back to, if I get to do a separate series on religion and science in America—but I don’t know the literature in earlier periods well enough to answer with any confidence. Anyone who can provide specific examples from any period in Christian history is encouraged to do so.

Re #1: If one accepts methodological naturalism (MN), then (as you say) one might be faced with data that cannot presently be “explained” fully—not a novel situation in any science. It seems to me that we identify at least 4 possible approaches to MN, in general.

(a) ALL events have “natural” explanations, whether or not we can produce them now, based on our limited knowledge. It is *never* legitimate to invoke “supernatural” agency. We might perhaps call this the strong form of MN; it’s not held provisionally and not open to supernatural agency in any way.

(b) A weaker form of MN: we should always do the best we can to find a “natural” explanation, since we know from experience that “natural” explanations almost always work well to explain events. Science must confine itself to such explanations, but we cannot rule out the possibility that certain events simply do not have scientific explanations.

(c) A strong rejection of MN: MN is appropriate for the experimental sciences, but absolutely inadmissible in the historical sciences. The Bible tells us what God actually did, and we must interpret all data in light of this.

(d) A weaker rejection of MN: MN is generally valid, even in the historical sciences, but it must not be used arbitarily to rule out design; it must allow the possibility that an intelligent cause (whether acting “naturally” or “supernaturally”) is a necessary part of the complete explanation of the data.

Is that a reasonable way to parse this, Bilbo?

Cristian Pascu - #70048

May 22nd 2012

I am a YEC, but in no way could I claim that creationism can be scientific. It’s the past, and we can’t do science about the past. At much, we can provide scenarios about could plausibly have happened. But that’s it and it’d be all speculations.

Evolutionism alike is also a set of scenarios built using scientific tools, but not scientific at its core.

Jimpithecus - #70049

May 22nd 2012

We can’t do science about the past???  That will come as a great shock to all of the forensics experts and criminal lawyers all over the world.  That is exactly what they do.  And it is sound.  And it works. 

Cristian Pascu - #70050

May 22nd 2012

They make abductive inference or reasoning. Notice that what they do, aims events that didn’t happened thousands or millions of years ago. Nor do they study planetary or cosmological phenomena. 

marklynn.buchanan - #70053

May 22nd 2012


One problem with ‘historical science is not science’ reasoning how to know when you cross the line. You no doubt accept archeology as legitimate science but how far can you go back before you slip into illegitimate historical science? There is no clear line between archeology and paleontology in some cases.


Cristian Pascu - #70062

May 23rd 2012

There’s problems with archeology too. Of course you can say more about the artefact you find, understand the writings, the inscriptions, etc. But there will always be alternative scenarios, even plausible ones, that will explain the origin of the artefact. 

Just think how many doubt the historicity of Christ. 

sy - #70064

May 23rd 2012

The problem with the rejection of historical science, is that it leads logically to a rejection of history as well. The major evidence we have of historical events are written documents, such as the letters of Paul, the books of the Old Testament, and so on. But how do you, living in the present, know for a fact that any of these writings are not forgeries prepared at some time in the past? You were not there to witness their being written, nor is there an unbroken chain of custody to rely on. The same tools of historical science are used in history as well. If you reject those tools, you must reject everything you have not seen with your own eyes.

marklynn.buchanan - #70068

May 23rd 2012


You wrote ‘There’s problems with archeology too.’

Of course there are - any research of any kind has difference of opinions and ‘controversies’ - that isn’t the point. Creationists claim that ‘historical science is not valid’ because of the argument ‘you weren’t there’. My question to you is where or how to you draw the line between something that is acceptable and not acceptable?

If your answer is something like: ‘If the ‘science’ comes to any conclusion that disagrees with the bible then the conclusion can’t be true’ then certain consequences are inevitable.


Klasie Kraalogies - #70326

June 8th 2012

In fact, CP, your approach, after a redcutio is applied, is essentially nothing different from “Last Thursdayism”.  

brutewolf - #70090

May 24th 2012

Cristian, to make the claim that forensic science is okay, but not if it goes back “thousands” of years, requires you to state where you draw the line between historical science or current science.

For instance, genetic testing for paternity is likely acceptable to you. But we can use the same science to learn of relationship to distant cousins and, here in Oklahoma, relationship to Native American tribes.

We can then determine when various tribes split apart from each other. Is this acceptable science? I’m assuming it is, because we often only have to go back a few hundred years, rather than thousands or millions.

But next, we can determine how long ago these tribes separated from their Old World ancestors. Now we’re getting into the thousands of years.

I’ve never heard a young earth creationist refute genetic studies for recent ancestry. So the onus is on you to tell us where “historical science” begins. I have a feeling the answer is going to be somewhere around 6,000 years. And if so, you owe it to us to let us know how you arrived at that figure.

In the end, you’re not playing fair to call it “historical science” when in fact you’re implying “unbiblical science”.

PNG - #70077

May 24th 2012

I have to respond that in reality science never deals with anything except the past. If we look up and make measurements of the position of Mars, it is the position of Mars several minutes ago that we see. If I run an enzyme reaction in the morning, stop the reaction and separate the products for analysis in the afternoon, I am making inferences hours or days later about what happened in the test tubes in the past. The past of a few hours ago is just as utterly gone as the past of a million years ago. There is only the evidence that remains later to analyze, whether it is streams of photons traveling through space or DNA sequences. All science is “forensic” in this respect. We cycle between making deductions about past events (based on data and previously known theories) and using what we deduce about groups of past events to test new hypotheses about how things work in general. Any distinction between historical science and “operation” science is totally artificial, and is really only an arbitrary way of holding evidence at bay that doesn’t agree with your view of the Bible (or some other authority.) I think it would be more straightforward to just admit that that is the operative “principle,” rather than to try to construct an arbitrary distinction between some kinds of science and others. Some kinds of evidence degrade quickly, which limits us sometimes, but DNA sequences, which are the relevant evidence in the current controversies, are actually incredibly stable, chemically and biologically. 

Jimpithecus - #70111

May 25th 2012

Good comment, PNG!!!  You are absolutely correct. 

Arnold Sikkema - #70200

May 30th 2012

Cristian, please read my post at Reformed Academic, which addresses precisely your objection, which had been my objection as well (in the past). In that piece, I show that all human knowledge depends upon the past, and that maintaining a sharp distinction between “origin science” and “operation science” (as scientific creationists call it) is not only not possible, but it also necessarily leads to radical skepticism and extreme doubt, if not existential despair. God, however, invites us to a confidence in our sense experiences, especially when shared communally (as in the scientific enterprise, e.g., including the many Christians in science), which for the Christian is possible only due to a robust doctrine of creation, including a recognition of God’s covenant faithfulness to his creation and us his creatures.

Bilbo - #70059

May 22nd 2012

(In the past I have missed replies to my own comments by not carefully and repeatedly sifting through all comments.  So I prefer to just put my replies at the bottom of the queue.)

Yes, I very much like your comprehensive breakdown of the different approaches to Methodological Naturalism.  Personally I prefer (d), but out of deference to Mike Gene (we debated this almost ad nauseum) I’m willing to go along with (b).

Bilbo - #70060

May 22nd 2012


Whoops, I forgot to address that last comment to you.  BTW, I like you parsing of the approaches to MN so much, I’ll probably put it up at my blog.

GJDS - #70061

May 22nd 2012

Ted, I want to discuss briefly the following:

God was the only eye-witness of the creation, and he has told us in Genesis exactly what took place. There can be no higher authority than this. Therefore, the Bible is the only truly reliable source of knowledge about the origin of the earth and the universe.

I do not want to enter into a controversy regarding this point, but simply seek to understand how such a view would arise. I have re-read Genesis and some of Augustine’s commentary, and also some pointsfrom, “ Exposition of the Orthodox Faith” by John of Damascus. I reprint below one portion from the latter:

“Concerning things utterable and things unutterable, and things knowable and thinks unknowable.

It is necessary, therefore, that one who wishes to speak or to hear of God should understand clearly that alike in the doctrine of Deity and in that of the Incarnation(1), neither are all things unutterable nor all utterable; neither all unknowable nor all knowable(2). But the knowable belongs to one order, and the utterable to another; just as it is one thing to speak and another thing to know. Many of the things relating to God, therefore, that are dimly understood cannot be put into fitting terms, but on things above us we cannot do else than express ourselves according to our limited capacity;…”

This interesting document continues on attributes of God, but I will not go on. It is clear that some things are utterable, and knowable, and other things not so.

This does not support or deny the above statement, but does make it difficult to reconcile it with received wisdom. Thus for a human being to state that God is an eye-witness to His own creation is either a contradiction or a vacuous statement; i.e. unless the person saying this was a witness and he is testifying this to us.

The second point I want to make is the entire Bible is a Testament by people of the Faith. It is their exposition, and as they are regarded as God’s servants who have proven to be faithful, and their understanding sufficient because of the faith they have displayed, we who believe are guided by the Holy Spirit accept their testament as sufficient, or as from God Himself. To believe God is the Creator is correct because of their testament.

Thus my question is this: “Do we have a solid basis for discussions regarding the Biblical accounts? Should we not provide this first, and then seek a meaningful discussion regarding Science, or MN, or related matters. After all, one possibility may be that we may not have a Bible vs Science question to deal with at all?”

It may sound naïve, but I guess the basis for some of these statement in your excellent article is unclear to me.

Ted Davis - #70067

May 23rd 2012

Very nice question! Someone may indeed be naive here, GJDS, but I don’t think it’s you.

To defend the way in which I stated this, let me quote this: “What we almost exclusively say is that we have been given an eyewitness account to creation (and subsequent events) in the Bible. We often claim that God is an eyewitness to His creative acts and has given us an eyewitness account in His Word, the Bible.” Source: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2006/06/23/feedback-bible-gods-eyewitness-history.

Justin - #70073

May 23rd 2012

I attended a Christian school that taught Creationism.  This is an excellent summary.  It seems the views haven’t radically changed since I was in school.  The only biggie that I see omitted is “canopy theory”.  Does anyone know if this is still en vogue in creationist circles?  The idea, as I remember it, was roughly; There was a canopy of moisture around the earth at one time.  As a result, the entire earth had a temperate climate and this partially accounted for the long pre-flood lifespans.  At the time of the flood, this canopy collapsed and covered the earth in water.

I also remember that some credence was given to cryptozoology in the classroom.  Biblical verses describing Leviathan and Behemoth were interpreted as describing a plesiosaur and brontosaurus.  Credence was given to stories such as the Loch Ness Monster and Mokele Membe.  Also, there was that famous, now debunked photograph of a Japanese fishing boat catching a plesiosaur carcass.  Oh, and don’t get me started on the Caolecanth!

For point of reference, I’m 31 years old and went to Christian schools with a Bob Jones University or Pensacola Christian College curriculum until college.  I haven’t kept up with creationist teaching in about a decade, and I’m curious. 

marklynn.buchanan - #70083

May 24th 2012


Sounds like your YEC teaching was out of date when you were being taught it. For the latest and most ‘informed’ YEC go to CMI (J. Sarfati uses ‘informed’ to describe the best of creationist thinking - clearly implying that there are uninformed creationists). There is quite a bit of stuff ‘to keep up with’ - there seems to be no end of creationist theories.

The canopy theory is quite out of favor currently.

Mark Buchanan

PS I used to be a YEC - currently I accept the evidence for evolution without the need for supernatural intervention. I describe myself as a skeptical theist.

Ted Davis - #70089

May 24th 2012


Thank you for the comments on my column. The canopy view is indeed pretty much gone from creationist thinking. Glenn Morton (an OEC and former YEC who writes a lot about origins) has a nice account of this at http://home.entouch.net/dmd/canopy.htm. Morton’s demonstration of severe technical problems with the canopy theory is a big reason for its demise.

For several years I was in regular contact with a minister who did more research on the history of this view than anyone else I know of. Despite my pleas to publish, that work remains unpublished. A very short version of the history of the view is as follows: Isaac Newton Vail to Howard Kellogg to Harry Rimmer to Henry Morris to the rest of the world. You can fill in the blanks to some extent by exploring each of those names in connection with “vapor canopy.”

Justin - #70131

May 26th 2012

Thank you Ted and Mark for indulging my curiosity.

Jimpithecus - #70112

May 25th 2012

If I recall correctly, when the RATE project was published, Larry Vardiman floated the Vapor Canopy model as a possible explanation for the flood.  That was only a few years ago.

Joseph Noor - #81956

July 21st 2013

As much as we hold the ceationist vision dear to our hearts, we have to be truthful and face the facts. There are serious cracks in this theory and the evidence supporting evolution is too overwhelming to ignore. Evolution is a fact and no longer just a thoery. In his book Finding Darwin’s God, Kenneth R. Miller, a committed Christian and scientist gives an excellent account of the debate of creationism vs evolution. 

PNG - #70076

May 24th 2012

This question is actually pertaining to Ted’s previous subject, the Copernican Revolution. Has anyone written an account of the process by which the Copernican view came to be generally accepted? I gather that Newton’s work was seen to settle the whole matter by reinventing physics, but there can’t have been too many people who could read and comprehend Newton at the time. Was the testimony of those who could read Newton enough to turn the tide quickly, or was there still significant resistance, religious or otherwise, to accepting the Copernican-Newtonian package. Of course I ask because I wonder if we might learn something about what time course to expect for the evangelical collision with evolution.

Ted Davis - #70091

May 24th 2012

I can’t fill in the details, unfortunately, but it seems clear that by the mid-18th century the Copernican view was almost without opposition from scientists. By the 1830s, when annual parallax was finally observed, the truth of heliocentrism was no longer in doubt. I see the timeframe for accepting heliocentrism as basically 200 years (1543 to ca. 1750), and I’d be surprised if that for accepting evolution proves to be any shorter. See my comments at http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/2008/06/evangelicals-evolution-and-academics.html.

penman - #70086

May 24th 2012

To answer a question posed at the start by Bilbo:

The belief that carnivores are part of God’s good creation is an ancient & catholic belief. You will find it expounded, for example, by Basil of Caesarea, Augustine, & Thomas Aquinas. I can give the references if you like. Insistence that carnivores are a result of the Fall is no part of orthodox or catholic faith.

The “lion lying down with the deer/lamb” is more a motif of the NEW creation, I would have thought.

Jon Garvey - #70087

May 24th 2012

Thanks for that penman - I cried out for you on the “Adam’s Dream” thread and you turned up to answer here. Have to use a different incantation next time!

Merv - #70096

May 24th 2012

Justin (in #70073 above) spoke of attending a Christian school & asked about the canopy theory.  I can’t speak to that one specifically, but I teach at a Christian school and use a BJU text & have this anecdote to offer.

The original BJU ‘Basic Chemistry for Chrisitan Schools’ text (1984) has this insight in its last chapter on nuclear chemistry:

While unsaved scientists wonder what strong nuclear forces are, Christians have an authoritative source of information about this seeming mystery.  Colossians 1:17 reveals that Jesus Christ “is  before all things, and by him all things consist.”  God is ultimately responsible for holding all the protons in all the atoms of this world together.

[end quote]

While this statement may be sound theologically, it is quite amusing to see it in a chemistry text—even a Christian one.  I don’t remember the BJU physics book explaining gravity in terms of God.  They gave equations for that one.  I searched BJU’s 3ed (2009) of the same book and could not find this statement anywhere.  It essentially is what many theists believe anyway (myself included), that God’s providence is manifested in everything from gravity to whatever other causal relatioships we may or may not know about.  Maybe BJU editors got nervous about how it sounded, though.

And by the way, the same chapter contains an article dedicated to poking holes in radioactive age-dating methods.  Wasn’t much change in that article apart from the 2009 book adding a discussion of the RATE project calling it a success.  No mention of the heat problem.   No signs of softening up on the 6000 yr. old earth yet.


GJDS - #70104

May 25th 2012

Ted do you have a comment on the basis for discussions of Biblical accounts vs scientific accounts of creationism? Is this part of a larger debate concerning science, nature and biblical teachings? If so, is it possible to analytically search for a clear basis, or is the alternative continuous debates, with the only respite from modificaitons made to the debates that capture public most interest?

Ted Davis - #70109

May 25th 2012

The basis was political, not theological or biblical or scientific. I mean “political” not in the partisan sense, but as a reference to the American political system with “a wall of separation between church and state” as the currently received (though IMO incorrect) interpretation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Because creationism was drawing attention from attorneys, it was deemed wise to keep the Bible out of certain texts in order to try to get them adopted by public schools.

I’m not in my office with my books right now, but the following excerpt from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creation_Science#cite_note-11 cites two of the books I would consult if I were:  “Creation science texts and curricula used in churches and Christian schools were revised to eliminate their Biblical and theological references, and less explicitly sectarian versions of creation science education were introduced in public schools in Louisiana, Arkansas, and other regions in the United States.”

The two sources cited at that point are Numbers, R.L. (2002), “Creationism Since 1859,” in Ferngren (ed.), Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, and Toumey, Christopher P. (1997), God’s Own Scientists: Creationists in a Secular World. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. I’ll assume the accuracy of the citations unless someone tells us otherwise.

penman - #70105

May 25th 2012

Jon Garvey #70087

==Thanks for that penman - I cried out for you on the “Adam’s Dream” thread and you turned up to answer here. Have to use a different incantation next time!==

The best incantation is Ph’nglui mglw’nath Cthulhu (sorry, an in-joke).

The idea that the whole created order is now ontologically corrupted does seem to me distinctly Gnostic. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4 that all created things are good - present tense - so that the divine verdict of Genesis 1 (“behold, it was very good”) has never been revoked.

Paul’s conclusion is even more interesting: because all created things are good, they are good TO EAT. We can eat anything edible. So the goodness of creation mandates meat-eating. What does that say about the idea that carnivores are a bad result of the Fall? Paul’s reasoning is the opposite….

GJDS - #70116

May 25th 2012

Reply to Ted #70109

Thanks for that; I understand the debate and legal cases in America regarding creationists and evolutionists has cuased a stir, even outside of the USA. I have read a couple of other resources on this informative biologos site regarding the activities of scientists who were also actively involved in various denominations in the USA. It seesm to me that a tradition has grown, or possibly a continuation of the European debate especially after Newton. In any event thanks for such interesting discussions.

Ando Poore - #70136

May 26th 2012


I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed this article, and am looking forward to the continuation of the topic.

As a bit of background, I was raised a very conservative Christian, mostly Independent Baptist churches here in GA. Between Sunday School and just my parents talking to me, I was raised as a YEC, very skeptical of any time science seemed to contradict that very literal interpretation of Genesis. I seem to remember a book I read as a child called “It Couldn’t Just Happen”.

From 4th grade on through the end of High School, I was home-schooled, and a big factor in my parents’ decision to home-school me was that scientific topics that would attempt to contradict our YEC beliefs were beginning to come up, and they wanted to make sure I wasn’t “confused” by conflicting theories until I had a chance to strengthen my beliefs.

I never really had an issue with this until I was almost finished with college, and most of my newer friends were not only not Christian, they were hostile to Christianity and loved to point out areas where science had “proven the Bible wrong”. And when I started dating (and subsequently fell in love with) an agnostic girl with a VERY strong belief in logic and science, I was very challenged to come through with backup on my beliefs. Something I had never had to do before.

Basically because of marrying that girl (who attempted for a while to convert to Christianity because of me, but ended up deciding she just can’t believe), I have had to start truly cementing my beliefs, and have started to realize that my earlier YEC leanings really aren’t holding up. I think recently the last of my resistance to admission that an old universe and old Earth are still compliant with a faith in God is starting to crumble.

I said all of that to say that I ran across this site, and this article was the first thing I read, and I am now very glad I found it. It’s probably going to take a bit of time for my innate stubbornnes against changing my POV to allow for these ideas to take hold enough, but I am trying to be mature and reasonable, and reading these logical statements of a reconciliation of faith to science is really doing me a lot of good, methinks.

So, to summarize, thank you!

marklynn.buchanan - #70138

May 26th 2012


Thank  you for sharing your background. It took me a few years to go from a YEC to accepting evolution (with no ID included). It also took my wife a few years to get comfortable with evolution. Not to say that you will be convinced evolution is true of course.


Ted Davis - #70141

May 26th 2012

I respond to Ando and Mark, but also to anyone else who resonates with their stories. My goal in this series is not to persuade anyone that a particular view of origins is right or wrong (see what I said at http://biologos.org/blog/science-and-the-bible-five-attitudes-approaches), but I do hope that some of the things we talk about will be genuinely helpful to many people, whether or not they are Christian believers, though I imagine many readers are indeed Christians. My interest is to promote and to deepen understanding.

This isn’t to say that I have no opinions; obviously I do, and I’m not going to hide them. But, perceptions of the truth will differ among honest inquirers. If we can *understand* one another more fully, whether or not we persuade one another, that is enough for me.

Thank you, Ando and Mark, and everyone else who has expressed appreciation. If you do find this series helpful, and we’re only about halfway through it, then please forward the link to others who might also benefit.



Justin - #70152

May 28th 2012

Wow, Ando.  My journey has been remarkably similar to yours.  I also grew up in independent Baptist churches in Georgia.  My questioning started a bit earlier; junior high.  Since college, I have been a skeptic, believer and everything in between.  I can’t say I’ve found completely satisfactory answers yet, but sites such as this one are helpful.  Good luck as you continue to search and think.

Merv - #70234

June 2nd 2012

I just finished reading “Darwinism and the Divine in America” by Jon Roberts, after securing it through interlibrary loan as a direct consequence of—- I could have sworn it—- seeing it as a “reading assignment” in one of Ted Davis’ previous blogs.  Now that I peruse back, complete with help of search engines, I am unable to find where you mentioned this work, Dr. Davis.

Oh well!  It was a good read and I do see that the author and book come well recommended, to which I can now personally affirm.  If anybody is curious about the relationships between theology and Darwinism or science in general from 1859 to 1900, this book will give you the guided tour. 

It impressed me how so much of what we wrestle with now was already being wrestled with then.  Just add in quantum mechanics, chaos theory, and another couple layers of evolutionary evidence (genetics) to their discussions, and the discourse doesn’t appear much changed.  Much more could be said, but since I may have just completed a “non-assignment”, I’ll leave it be.


Ted Davis - #70258

June 4th 2012

Somewhere out there in cyberspace, Merv, I did indeed say that Roberts’ book was the best one on this specific topic (theological responses to Darwin in the 19th century). I believe I had recommended James Moore’s “Post-Darwinian Controversies” to someone, and I mentioned Roberts in this connection.

Say as much as you want about this book here. It need not be a “non-assignment.”

Merv - #70260

June 4th 2012

I may have been on a different site and just thought it was one of your posts here.  In any case, the work speaks for itself, and I’m glad you put me onto it.

Roberts describes the irony of Darwinism being considered non-scientific (not accepted by most scientists) prior to about 1875.  So theologians didn’t waste a lot of powder and shot on it.  Why worry about something that will be just another short-lived fad?  It was the science community that was most reticent.  Then that switched for the last quarter of the century when science did an about face and bought into it wholesale.  Then the Protestant theologians were divided between those who accepted this new theory as something we’ll need to incorporate in our theological considerations; and those who decared war on science (the ‘false’ evolutionary kind, anyway),  rather than accept evolution.  According to Roberts this was the first time in a couple centuries that Protestant intellectuals (those who chose the warfare path) found themselves attacking science.  For many prior decades science had been the darling of Christian apologists.  Much prestige and respect was invested into the scientific enterprise by the religious community.  An irony to think about today.   Thanks for your recommendations, Ted, in whatever forums they come from.



Joseph Noor - #81955

July 21st 2013

I am a practicing medical doctor and have a keen interest in science and religion.

Your statement that the Bible is the only truly reliable source of knowledge about the origin of the earth and the universe is extremely bold. The reason is that we do not have an original Bible, not even a certified copy. Even the authours are unknown and therefore we cannot establish their credentials and reliability. This issue is raised by another gentleman in your comments (GJDS - #70061, May 22nd 2012). Should we not first establish the authenticity of the Bible before discussing other matters in the Bible? 

Ted Davis - #86167

August 11th 2014

Dear Dr. Noor:

I only just saw your comment, and given the importance of what you say I asked the webmaster to open the comments page briefly so that I could leave this reply.

I share your keen interest in this general topic, and I hope you will allow me to point out a flaw in your comment. Apparently you did not realize that the statement you object to (the Bible is the only truly reliable source of knowledge about the origin of the earth and the universe) was simply my effort to state one of the core assumptions of the view I have explained in this particular column about Young-earth creationism. It certainly does not reflect my own view at all: indeed, I entirely agree with your point that this claim is “extremely bold” and needs further justification. This column is just one part of a long series about Science and the Bible, in which I’ve tried to explain five different views on their own terms, then provide commentary on each one. I explain my goals and strategy for the series here:


Thank you very much for leaving that comment, so long after the conversation had died down. It gives me the opportunity to leave a clarification for any future readers—you can’t be the only reader who has dropped in briefly, read one or two columns without seeing the whole series, and missed the bigger picture. Thank you for visiting BioLogos. I invite you to explore our site more fully.



Page 1 of 1   1