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Science and the Bible: Scientific Creationism, Part 2

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June 5, 2012 Tags: Biblical Interpretation
Science and the Bible: Scientific Creationism, Part 2

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

In the first half of this column on May 22, I presented five core tenets or assumptions of Scientific Creationism. We resume our discussion of that view today with certain conclusions that follow from those assumptions and a short history of modern creationism.

Some important conclusions of Scientific Creationism

1. Scientific evidence for an old earth is either misleading or misinterpreted

Geologists and other scientists often say that the evidence for an ancient earth and universe is “overwhelming,” because that is probably the best word to describe it. It comes from many different, often independent processes yielding information that can be checked for consistency and coherence. Consequently, almost all scientists (including most Christian scientists) think that the earth and the universe are billions of years old, although the precise figures they would give for those ages might vary just a little.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those scientists are right; scientific theories and conclusions are always somewhat tentative, and many of the things that we presently think will probably be discarded or modified eventually. But, it does mean that the burden of proof is on the creationists: it is they who must persuade the vast majority of scientists that all of that evidence has been badly misinterpreted for all those many years. But even that would not be enough. They must also persuade those same scientists that the evidence actually makes more sense working from an assumption of a recent creation. The scientific attitude is always to ask, why should I think this, rather than that? It is not true that the evidence can be interpreted equally well to fit either a “young” or an “old” earth, or that it all comes down to making different assumptions.

The evidence for an ancient earth can be divided into two general categories: radiometric data (pertaining to radioactive decay processes of various specific types) and other data. Let me point to a few of the best places where you can learn about how conclusions are reached in this area of science. Roger Wiens’ article is a great place to start. After that, this well-written, wide-ranging book is the single best overview I have seen, and you don’t need a science background to understand most of it (the web site is good, but be sure to borrow the book itself). Another comprehensive site that includes links to creationist material can be found here.

On the other hand, YECs devote much time and energy to refuting this standard evidence and to providing evidence for a “recent” creation. Their focus has usually been to raise doubts about uniformitarianism, the idea that physical processes in the past were no different than those we find now, in terms of the mechanisms that drive them. The most comprehensive project of this sort, known as RATE, is described on the Institute for Creation Research's website (here and here).

2. Some features of the earth and the universe appear to be much older than they really are because they were created with apparent age

The basic idea is simple: weren’t Adam and Eve created as adults? If you saw them ten minutes after they took their first breaths, wouldn’t you think they’d been alive for many years? Related to this is the famous question, did Adam and Eve have navels? Obviously they had no need of them, since they didn’t have mothers, but if they were created to look older they might also have lots of “evidence” from earlier “years” that they never actually lived through. You get the drift. The whole question of apparent age was presented in great detail in a highly original book published in 1857 (just two years before Darwin’s On the Origin of Species) by the English naturalist Philip Henry Gosse. The title of the book, Omphalos, is the Greek word for “navel”. Now you know why!

Henry Morris and other creationists of an earlier generation used this idea deliberately and often, but contemporary creationists are much more reluctant to do so. The idea of a false history is obviously not very attractive to those who believe in a trustworthy God, so contemporary creationists do their best to avoid it. Nevertheless, it still keeps coming up, despite efforts to paper it over.

3. The fossils provide an accurate record of the types of plants and animals that were killed in the Flood; they were laid down all at once, not over millions of years. Therefore, the “fossil record” does NOT tell us the order in which various forms of life appeared and disappeared through eons of earth history

We explained this when we mentioned “Flood Geology” in Part One. I restate it here, as an explicit conclusion, to make sure you don’t miss it: Flood Geology claims to undermine the argument for evolution from the fossil record.

4. Quite a bit of “micro-evolution” has happened within “created kinds” since the creation week, especially since the Flood (after which the world had to be repopulated, starting from the creatures that made it onto the Ark), but “macro-evolution” is denied by the evidence

A big question related to this is “How many ‘transitional’ forms need to be found before an inference to common ancestry is justified?” For creationist John Morris (son of the late Henry Morris), transitional forms are virtually non-existent, creating in his opinion a huge problem for evolution. On the other hand, creationist theorist Todd Wood thinks that certain “intermediate” forms (as he calls them) are definitely representative of transitions that occur within a “baramin”—a word meaning “created kind” that creationists coined by combining the Hebrew words for “create” (“bara”) and “kind” (“min”) in Genesis. In his view (contrary to Morris), the famous series of horse fossils is likely the outworking of variation within the horse baramin. Other famous fossil “intermediates,” such as feathered dinosaurs or fossil hominids, are more challenging, and it’s not clear how they could be interpreted within a creationist framework.

The basic problem here is a disagreement about what counts as a transitional form. It’s always possible to argue that the discovery of a new type of animal, apparently an intermediate between two already known types of animal, has just created two new “gaps” in the fossil record that replace one older (but larger) “gap.” There is obviously no end to this type of “infinite regress” argument.

Historical Comments

From the mid-nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century (roughly 1860 to 1960), most conservative Protestant writers in the United States accepted the validity of an old earth and universe. This is reflected in the notes to Genesis One in the Scofield Reference Bible (1909), which was very widely used by conservative Protestants in North America and England for decades. I will say more about this in my next column; for the time being, please accept it as a fact.

Many conservative Protestant writers also believed that Noah’s flood had been geographically localized, covering part of the ancient Near East but not the whole globe, an interpretation popularized by the English abolitionist theologian John Pye Smith. Most writers in this period believed that the flood did not have very much geological significance, whether or not it was “local.” In short, they did not believe in Flood Geology.

During this period, belief in the combination of a young earth and Flood Geology was prominent only among fringe groups such as the Seventh-day Adventists, who followed the creationist views of prophetess Ellen G. White. She claimed to have experienced trance-like “visions” in which God revealed various truths to her. Describing a vision about the creation week, she wrote about how she was “carried back to the creation and was shown that that the first week, in which God performed the work of creation in six days and rested on the seventh day, was just like every other week.” (This connects closely with Adventist teaching about Saturday worship.)

White’s ideas were later popularized by another Adventist, the Canadian schoolteacher George McCready Price, who wrote dozens of books over six decades. Price was inspired by White’s “revealing word pictures of the Edenic beginning of the world, of the fall and the world apostasy, and of the flood.” The more he delved into White, the more he saw a need to spread her ideas and to combat what he regarded as the godless theory of evolution.

In 1906, Price published a thick pamphlet (now rare) called Illogical Geology: The Weakest Point in the Evolution Theory (pictured at the top of this post).

As the subtitle indicates, it was intended to attack evolution at its “weakest point,” geology. Price rejected the standard geological column, the organizing principle according to which younger rock is found on top of older layers and certain specific fossils are used to help date the layers in which they are deposited. Instead, Price proposed that the fossil-bearing rocks had been produced all at once, during human history, in a single world-wide flood—the one in which Noah built an ark. In Price’s pamphlet we find the main elements of Scientific Creationism: the creation of the earth about 6000 years ago, the creation of all life in six literal days, and Flood Geology.

Price developed this picture more fully in many lengthy books and numerous articles in religious magazines—and not just Adventist magazines. In the years surrounding the Scopes trial (which took place in the summer of 1925), fundamentalists paid a great deal of attention to Price, so much so that William Jennings Bryan tried to persuade him to appear as an expert witness on the creationist side (Price, who was in England at the time, declined to make the trip).

Significantly, fundamentalist leaders admired Price’s opposition to evolution, but not his defense of a young earth and Flood Geology. Like Bryan, they accepted an old earth and the extinction of many animals long before humans existed. The testimony of Baptist preacher William Bell Riley, founding president of the World Christian Fundamentals Association, is quite revealing: he could not identify a single “intelligent fundamentalist who claims that the earth was made six thousand years ago; and the Bible never taught any such thing.” (Quoted by Ronald Numbers, The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, 2006, p. 60.)

Indeed, commitment to a young earth and Flood Geology remained on the periphery of fundamentalism until the publication of The Genesis Flood, by John C. Whitcomb and Henry Morris, in 1961. Morris had already endorsed Price’s ideas in a book, That You Might Believe (1946), which Morris later described as “the first book published since the Scopes trial in which a scientist from a secular university advocated recent special creation and a worldwide flood.” Several years later, after Whitcomb heard Morris speak, Whitcomb decided to base his doctoral dissertation on Price’s young earth and Flood Geology, leading to the jointly written book that launched the modern creationist movement and made Scientific Creationism the generally received view among fundamentalists and many conservative evangelicals today.

Why has Scientific Creationism been so successful? One reason is surely its appeal to Christians who want to have a “biblical biology,” vis-à-vis a biblical view of biology. They aren’t the same thing, but the difference is as subtle as it is important; perhaps you will want to talk about this. Creationists are essentially treating the Bible as a science book, although they don’t want to put it quite that way themselves. This makes sense to large numbers of ordinary Christians, who look to the Bible for guidance in all aspects of their lives and try to take it as literally as possible: why should scientific matters be treated any differently?

Just as surely, another reason is the presence of certain social factors weighing heavily on American Christians. The Genesis Flood appeared in 1961, early in a decade that might have seen more unrest and social change than any other in the last century. The 1960s witnessed the sexual revolution, a great expansion in the use of hallucinogenic drugs, the civil rights movement, Supreme Court decisions against Bible reading and prayer in public schools, hard rock music, Woodstock, and opposition to the Vietnam War. At the same time, evolution was returning to center stage in high school biology texts, after having been effectively removed by publishers after the Scopes trial. For many conservative Christians, too much was changing too quickly—and in the wrong directions.

While most Christian scientists today are not young-earth creationists, tens of millions of Christians are. In his wide-ranging study of modern American religion and science, historian James Gilbert writes perceptively about “a fault line between popular and professional science, ready to break open during times of stress in American culture in the 1920s and again in the postwar period.” Though laying the results of such wide-ranging social upheaval at the feet of a scientific account of biology is certainly an enormous stretch, Answers in Genesis blames racism, pornography, abortion, and the breakup of families on the acceptance of “millions of years” in earth history. While no period was more stressful than the 1960s when Scientific Creationism rose to prominence, Christians today are no less concerned about the pressures contemporary postmodern culture is putting on the traditional values they rightly hold so dear; and they are just as eager as their 20th-century predecessors to identify the sources of cultural decline, and find ways to respond.

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.

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Bilbo - #70269

June 5th 2012

Thanks Ted, for an excellent history lesson.  I’m wondering whether you offer a special class on this at Messiah College?

Ted Davis - #70273

June 5th 2012

I appreciate your appreciation!

My courses at Messiah are all devoted to either (a) aspects of the history of science, (b) science and Christian faith, or (c) both. This series of columns ultimately grows out of lectures on “science and the Bible” that I started doing in a physical science course for elementary education majors nearly 20 years ago. The two most popular courses I presently teach are “Issues in Science and Religion,” which I team teach with philosopher of science Robin Collins (http://home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/) and biologist David Foster (http://www.messiah.edu/departments/bioscience/fosterbio.htm), and “Religion and Science in Modern America.” I use lectures similar to these columns in both of those courses.

A number of years ago, the John Templeton Foundation sponsored a large program of grants over several years, for faculty at any college, university, or seminary who wanted to develop and teach a course on science and religion (http://www.ctns.org/srcp/teaching_winners.html). Messiah’s commitment to such courses predates the Templeton program, and one of our courses was chosen as a “model course” for the program. Five of our faculty received course development grants through the life of that program. To the best of my knowledge, this is the most of any institution in the world. We also have an endowed library collection for science and religion—which is the only one I know about anywhere.

For any students who may be reading this: if you want to learn about science and religion, guess which college should be on your short list?

Apologies for the commercial, but we do think what we do in this area is very important and probably unique.

Bilbo - #70277

June 5th 2012

I’ve been to Messiah College’s campus, though it was back in the late 70s.  If it hasn’t changed much, then it is a very beautiful campus, and I would recommend going there for that reason alone. 

Ted, I’m wondering if you’ve thought of writing a book on this topic?

Ted Davis - #70279

June 5th 2012

Yes, in a word. It’s something I’m considering. I have another project to complete first, however—it always seems to be so. Thank you for the suggestion.

Nicholas Olsen - #70284

June 5th 2012

I thoroughly enjoy your work on the history of science & faith topic!

Will you be noting more work from pastors, theologians or churches in early America? It’s quite fascinating that you list people from colonial days, post civil war (BB Warfield) and the surrounding time of the Scopes trial. I get the vibe from the average “church-goer” and else-where that the “traditional” view was YEC. Yet, you have compiled and explained a list of people in these eras that hold Old Earth views. Even if these people were a fringe group of academics rather than the average citizen; it still goes to show there was credibility through the ages. 

I don’t what to say to this, but if the “traditional” view is just flat out wrong, then how did that become so widely held?

I mean, you could say the average Christian from the mid-60s to today = majority YEC , but just because my mom (she was born in 1958) and her slightly older peers held to YEC =/= tradtion…. -_-

Ted Davis - #70292

June 6th 2012


I’ll have historical comments (though not too extensive) on each of the five views. I won’t usually go back as far as the colonial period (and actually I didn’t do that here, either), but where relevant I will. Mainly I will discuss from the 1820s onward. When I present a short history of concordism (probably on Aug 3), I might push further back. I could do a separate course on the whole history of Christianity and science, if BioLogos were to want that, but that’s not presently in the works. This series might be followed by a more in-depth history of religion and science in America, which would start in the colonial period; but that will be up to BioLogos.

Ted Davis - #70293

June 6th 2012

The “traditional” view, Nicholas, was simply that the earth and the universe were created several thousand years ago, not millions or billions of years ago. Flood Geology wasn’t usually part of that before the late 17th century, but a “recent” creation certainly was the standard view into the 18th century.

That was all prior to the development of modern natural history, the discovery of other Ancient Near East creation stories, and “higher” biblical criticism. Those 3 things altered the way(s) in which Christians viewed Genesis, mainly from the early 19th century forward, although biblical criticism has 17th century roots, and even Renaissance roots if you realize that humanist scholars developed all the tools that were later applied to the Bible. Once Christians started to understand that the Bible *has a history*, that it isn’t something that just appeared all at once as a fait accompli, the whole ballgame of interpreting Genesis changed. The YECs don’t really accept that, however.

KevinR - #70288

June 6th 2012

IT will really be interesting to hear Jesus’ comments about this debate when we get to meet him. Someone is sure to have a lot of egg on their faces. Who will it be?

Roger A. Sawtelle - #70303

June 6th 2012


Since I really don’t want you to get egg on your face or worse when Jesus busts you for Biblical Legalism, please read John 1 again.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #70289

June 6th 2012

Nicholas Olsen wrote:

I don’t what to say to this, but if the “traditional” view is just flat out wrong, then how did that become so widely held?

There are two practical reasons why many people adhere to the traditional views of science.  The first is that most people are tradition bound and do not like change.  They will stay with the old as long as it means their needs and often much longer.  In addition it is only relatively recently that science has become as important as it is, so many people did not study science in school and do not see the need for change.

However there is also an important theological reason not to change, and that is Christians do not like to criticize or seem to criticize the Bible.  Sadly it is not the Bible that is wrong, but a particular understanding of the Bible that is mistaken, but fundamentalists do not make this distinction.

It is easy to tell people what they want to hear, what they are acustomed to hearing, rather than to break new ground that can be misunderstood and cause confusion and strife within the church, even though it is Biblically sound. 

The issue needs to be made clear.  It is not the Bible vs. Science, but it is a false understanding of the Bible vs. the rational Word of God, Jesus Christ.    

Bilbo - #70294

June 6th 2012

Ted wrote:

I could do a separate course on the whole history of Christianity and science, if BioLogos were to want that, but that’s not presently in the works.

Let’s hope they put it “in the works” real soon.  We Christians need to know about our roots.

Nicholas Olsen - #70300

June 6th 2012

THanks for the input guys!

I can definitely see the reasons for keeping tradition in times of change and discovery. Fear of the unknown seems to make most keep their feet planted in what they know. (even if it could be flatout wrong)

This question is probably for another topic, but given what we have just read in the last 2 parts. We see the traditional view of YEC pre-1800s, then a large portion of Christians take in ANE discoveries, higher criticism, and modern natural history then they change their interpretation. We see starting with Ellen White & Price in late 1880s and early 1900s a grassroots YEC movement that is a tad different from “tradition”, so it seems to me that an interpretation of Genesis has gone up and down drastically.

1st traditional YEC, then OEC with some evolutionists, and now we have the Answers In Genesis type YECS and Biologos or ID style TEs. Can we escavate the reasons for all these drastic theological swings in time? OEC of the Hugh Ross stripe seems to be the 1 position that hasn’t changed much over time all though i could be wrong on that since I’m only saying based off what i read here and else where…. haha!

Ted Davis - #70306

June 6th 2012

Ross’ position is modern—i.e., post-17th century. I will comment more about types of “Concordism” (I put Ross in that category) in my next two columns on June 19 and July 3. Stay tuned.

Ross seems to think that the church fathers had similar ideas, but I don’t think they did. Prior to the 18th century there were two basic ways of interpreting Genesis—the standard day view (each day was an ordinary solar day) and the instantaneous view (God created everything all at once, and the “days” are an accommodation to our understanding). In both cases, creation was “recent.” There were questions about the nature of the first three days, since the Sun wasn’t “made” until the fourth day, but interpreters weren’t thinking of an “ancient” earth & universe as something to worry about. Modern interpreters tend to read Genesis without any reference to science at all, taking it (they will say) on its own terms, as a revelation to a pre-scientific people given to polytheism and pantheism. We’ll talk about this in July.

Merv - #70301

June 6th 2012

The “two castles” cartoon posted is packed with an essay’s worth of discussion at least.  It should provoke criticism and/or tweaking from the proponents of various views represented.

If pressed, young-earthers I think would admit that 6-literal-day interpretation is not the foundation of the Christian edifice, though they might insist that the Bible is, and that by attacking the literal understanding one is attacking the Bible.  Roger (rightly) reminds us that Jesus is the living Word of God.  That invites the challenge:  so how do you know this? ...  because the Bible tells us so.   So does that make the Bible the Word of God?  Well, even though we often refer to it that way, it does point to Jesus who is our true foundation.  (I Corinthians 3:11)  also the apostles and prophets are referred to as the foundation (Eph. 2:20) with Christ as the cornerstone.  So one can go back and forth about how the “apostles and prophets” are known to us by their writings (our Bible)—but of course when Paul wrote this our present “Bible” did not yet fully exist; and round and round it goes.  But regardless of our quibbling over semantics, I think Christians will agree that Jesus Christ is our true foundation.  And when that foundation is abandoned, all the other “balloon” problems will manifest themselves. 

I hope others noticed the little figure on the Christian side firing the cannon ball down at his own foundation.  No doubt this is what YECs think evolutionary Creationists are doing.  One should be able to sympathize (even if they don’t agree) with the emotional urgency they feel about this. 

So it has finally been illustrated what kind of offensive weapon a “canon ball” is.  (Hopefully that won’t be totally lost on avid spellers.)


Ted Davis - #70309

June 6th 2012

As usual, Merv, you’re very perceptive; you didn’t miss the subtleties. This particular cartoon has been around for a long time. I used to use the black & white original version, from Ken Ham’s book, The Lie: Evolution. You can see that one at http://zenoferox.blogspot.com/2008/07/creationism-evolves-again.html. Ham talks about it himself at http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/au/building-up-arsenal. The version I used here, from 2002, has cannons, not missles like his latest version apparently has. I chose this one b/c it spells out the “millions of years” thing, which is not spelled out in the original version.

Yes, the Christians firing the cannons are clueless. This is one of the things Ham wants us to get from the cartoon. They fire at each other, at the baloons but not at the foundation of the humanist castle (evolution), at their own foundation (creation in 6 days), or just off in the wrong, random direction.

As for cannons and canons, I can’t resist responding to your joke with an even worse one. CAUTION: if you don’t like dry humor, QUIT NOW. The author takes no responsibility for the consequences. You may know the story of Thomas a Becket, murdered on orders from Henry II for defying royal authority and subsequently made a saint. Later, Henry VIII, who detested what Becket stood for, had his bones disinterred, burned and (allegedly) fired out of a cannon to scatter them to the winds. (See http://www.amazon.com/The-Quest-Beckets-Bones-Canterbury/product-reviews/0300061153 for a version of this.) Thus, Becket is the only man to have been canonized twice.

Nicholas Olsen - #70315

June 6th 2012

I’m not quite sure what the balloons mean inside the pic, but if you were to read/watch the “state of the nation” address that Ken Ham gives, which is on here, but probably dated a year or 2 ago. You’ll see that AiG really thinks “evolution” and “millions of years ” somhow justifies homosexuality, abortion and moral decay. I don’t know if they (AiG) would even consider biologos to be on the Christian side if they really & honestly think evolution leads to those problems.

A picture is worth a thousand words because millions just isn’t biblical! GET IT?!!? 

Ted Davis - #70319

June 7th 2012


For AiG and most other YECs today, “evolution” does not mean simply the scientific theory that humans and other organisms are related by descent with modification. It means a great deal more. It means “millions of years,” even though geologists would believe in an ancient earth whether or not Darwin had ever existed, and even if scientists today believed that all organisms were separately created. It means the Big Bang, even though scientists would mostly believe in that whether or not Darwin had existed. It means “sin,” in the sense of human autonomy and rebellion from God. Henry Morris believed that Satan probably revealed “evolution” to Nimrod at the Tower of Babel.

Consequently, it’s pointless to point out that homosexuality, racism, abortion, pornography, euthanasia, and the breakup of families all existed long before Darwin. Pointless. We miss the point if we think there’s a point to noting that obvious fact.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #70302

June 6th 2012

It is interesting that Seventh Day Adventists (and the Jehovah’s Witnesses) grew out of the disappointment in the Second Coming in the 1800’s and their stance is generally OT and legalistic as seen by the 7th day emphasis and dietary laws.

It is also interesting that the Creationists blame Racism in the cartoon on the liberal view, when many conservative churches in particular the Southern Baptists were strongly segregationist.    

If we, evolutionists and creationists, on the basis of our faith Jesus the Logos, as Merv suggests, then we need to do so and see where that leads us, rather than arguing about secondary issues.     

Klasie Kraalogies - #70327

June 8th 2012

Roger, sadly, it is almost always about secondary issues. 

Merv - #70305

June 6th 2012

Good point about racism, Roger.  In fact that might be the most serious deficiency of that portrayal.  Christians throughout history have inflated their share of all of those balloons.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #70316

June 7th 2012

It appears to me that when fundamentalists make the Bible the basis of God’s authority, they make Christianity subjective.  We believe in God the Father. . . Who is real, not the Bible, which is a narrative.  Paul based his faith on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as a reality, not just a narrative.

The Bible does not make God Real, God makes the Bible true.  One can criticize the Bible all one wants but this does not change the reality of God the Father as the Creator, or God, the Messiah and Logos, Jesus Christ, as the Savior, or God the Holy Spirit as the Comforter.   

God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the basis of God’s authority.  The Bible is the narrative of God’s mighty works.  To believe that God can be discredited because this narrative has some holes in it is absurd. 

We know Who God is.  We know what God has done.  We also know that we never will understand how God is God until we meet God face to face and even then we will not be equal with God.     

Bilbo - #70320

June 7th 2012

Ted wrote:  “Thus, Beckett was the only man to have been canonized twice.

Any more of that and you’ll be given Beckett a run for his money.

Bilbo - #70321

June 7th 2012

er…that was supposed to, “...you’ll be giving Beckett a run for his money.”

penman - #70324

June 8th 2012

From Ludwig Ott’s “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma”:

”...as the hagiographers in profane things make use of a popular, that is, a non-scientific form of exposition suitable to the mental perception of their times, a more liberal interpretation, is possible here. The Church gives no positive decisions in regard to purely scientific questions, but limits itself to rejecting errors which endanger faith. Further, in these scientific matters there is no virtue in a consensus of the Fathers since they are not here acting as witnesses of the Faith, but merely as private scientists… Since the findings of reason and the supernatural knowledge of Faith go back to the same source, namely to God, there can never be a real contradiction between the certain discoveries of the profane sciences and the Word of God properly understood” (p.92).

“As the Sacred Writer had not the intention of representing with scientific accuracy the intrinsic constitution of things, and the sequence of the works of creation, but of communicating knowledge in a popular way suitable to the idiom and to the pre-scientific development of his time, the account is not to be regarded or measured as if it were couched in language which is strictly scientific… The Biblical account of the duration and order of Creation is merely a literary clothing of the religious truth that the whole world was called into existence by the creative word of God. The Sacred Writer utilized for this purpose the pre-scientific picture of the world existing at the time. The numeral six of the days of Creation is to be understood as an anthropomorphism. God’s work of creation represented in schematic form (opus distinctionis—opus ornatus) by the picture of a human working week, the termination of the work by the picture of the Sabbath rest. The purpose of this literary device is to manifest Divine approval of the working week and the Sabbath rest.” (p.93).

Gregory - #70325

June 8th 2012

Given Ted Davis’ regard to George McCready Price, the 7th Day Adventist schoolteacher from Canada turned ‘creationist,’ it might also be worth mentioning Aimee Semple McPherson (or Sister Aimee), another prominent evangelical Christian creationist born in Canada, who made a significant impact (especially via new media channels) on evangelical views of evolution in the U.S.A. The FourSquare Church movement (or International Church of the FourSquare Gospel) was built by McPherson. She included anti-evolutionary pronouncements regularly in her Christian ministry. Perhaps, as a historian (in this case, not of biological sciences), Ted might share some comments on her story of evangelical Christianity as it relates to ‘scientific creationism’ as well.

Tiger Thorn

(aka Gregory)

Ted Davis - #70355

June 10th 2012


I’m familiar in broad outline with McPherson and her ministry, but (unfortunately) I’m not well versed on the details, so I won’t have any comments specifically on her.

Klasie Kraalogies - #70328

June 8th 2012

I recently ran into a very intensive argument for “apparent age”. That idea is still strong in some sectors. Of course, they are strongly offended if one indicates that Apparent Age arguments logically lead to “Last Thursdayism”, and would effectively destroy any epistemology (like some radical post-modernists seem to want to do). 

Merv - #70343

June 9th 2012

The distinction of ‘Young-Earthism’ from ‘Last Thusdayism’ would be that they see the Bible as making the more or less explicit claim that the earth is only thousands of years old.  Whereas nobody is seriously making the claim that it was created last Thursday.  The latter (like the flying spahgetti monster) is only a rhetorical device useful for debate, and there is no reason or evidence to believe it at all.  Whereas scriptural instruction (or our understanding of the same) does count as evidence (putting it mildly) to Christians and as requiring a young earth to those who interpret Genesis 1-11 that way. 

Last Thursdayism, though, is useful to illustrate why some conjectures (and even convictions) are simply not testable scientifically and never will be.  Those who propose that supernatural events are  within the realm of scientific testability do, I think, need to find some theological or philosophical answer to these kinds of retorts.


Klasie Kraalogies - #70346

June 9th 2012

Merv, my point is not that “scientific” YEC is akin to Last Thursdayism, but that there are folks who do not dispute the evidence for an old Earth, but claim that it was created to look old, to have false histories. The claim is that these folks are essentialy no different than the hypothetical Last Thursdayist, and cannot even hope to defend themselves from the accusation of being Last Thursdayists, since they have evidently given up their belief in a rational universe. they are, in fact, post-modern in the extreme.

Merv - #70347

June 9th 2012

I wouldn’t say they have given up their belief in a rational universe so much as that they have given up saying that all aspects of it (especially the origins aspects) are rational (to us).  For example, a YEC-based text may speak respectfully of known “laws of nature” that are now in operation, and how those laws enable us to have intelligible science; but then the same text will note how those laws could not have always been in operation from the beginning because when God created the universe ex nihilo the laws of conservation were obviously not in force.  But they are quite willing to allow that those laws are in force now.  But your point is well-taken since they would still allow for miraculous activity not bound by law, now or then (as would most of us theists).  But evolutionary creationists just insist that the universe is quite intelligible and seemingly rational enough that science works quite well doing the things it has tools to do. 

I don’t think most (or even any) YECs would self-identify with the post-modernism in any shape or form.  But I’ll leave it to them to defend themselves from the charge 


Bilbo - #70349

June 9th 2012

Hi Merv,

You wrote:  “Last Thursdayism, though, is useful to illustrate why some conjectures (and even convictions) are simply not testable scientifically and never will be.  Those who propose that supernatural events are  within the realm of scientific testability do, I think, need to find some theological or philosophical answer to these kinds of retorts.

Those who propose that supernatural events are not within the realm of scientific testability—in other words, only Methodological Naturalism is allowed in science—are placing themselves in the same position as YECs.  Just as no amount of empirical evidence could ever overturn YEC, so no amount of empirical evidence could ever overturn MN.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #70354

June 10th 2012


In a sense I agree with you.  When you start out with certain assumptions, whether it is Creationism is right and evolution is wrong, or vica versa, one can reationalize almost any concept to fit your view. 

Of course the problem with the view that God created the universe in such a way that it appears much older than it really is, itr that it makes God out as a liar, when Jesus said, “The Devil is a liar ands the Father of (all) lies.”  God despite the Quran indicating the contrary does not lie, which of course is much of the basis for claiming that Genesis is absolutely true.

The fact is if one is looking for certain truth, one does not look to the Bible or to science.  Bible-ism and Scientism are both dead wrong.  People are made by God to live by faith and not by sight (certain knowledge.) 

This argument is not about science or the Bible, but about God and theology and the sooner we understand this the better it is for all, especially for those people of faith, who have been jerked around too long by the false prophets of Creationism.   

The longer we argue about these secondary issues, the longer we avoid the primary issue which is the unity of knowledge in the LOGOS, the rational WORD of God, Jesus Christ.  

Bilbo - #70359

June 10th 2012

Hi Roger,

The YEC proponent can always answer that the evidence only seems to indicate an old Earth,  Once we know all the evidence, we will be able to correctly interpret that seeming evidence as being compatible with a young earth.  So YECs would say that there is no need to think that God has deceived us.  We just don’t have all the facts, yet.

Likewise, a Methodological Naturalist, given evidence that seems to indicate that a supernatural event has occurred, can say that we just don’t have all the evidence, and once we do have it, we will understand that the seeming miracle was really just a natural event.

In other words, both the YEC and the Methodological Naturalist have presuppositions that allow them to ignore any evidence that contradicts their views. 

Perhaps I’m wasting my time in pointing this out, but nonetheless I find it interesting and enjoyable to do so.  Sorry for wasting your time.  Feel free to ignore my comments in the future.

Merv - #70361

June 10th 2012

Bilbo wrote:  “Likewise, a Methodological Naturalist, given evidence that seems to indicate that a supernatural event has occurred, can say that we just don’t have all the evidence, and once we do have it, we will understand that the seeming miracle was really just a natural event. “

An MN *can* say that, but they don’t (or are not speaking with their MN hat on if they do).  An MN can’t say anything at all about miracles (though as a Christian he can certainly affirm and believe them—especially if given good theological and biblical reason to do so.)  All the MN can do when confronted with the proposed miraculous event is say:  “I don’t know.”  “But if you want me to investigate, all I can look for are possible natural causes, since I have no tools for investigating God.”


Merv - #70362

June 10th 2012

Just in case this gets bumped to the next page, be aware that it is a clarification I’m adding to my last reply to Bilbo above (or possibly on previous page.)

Actually, Bilbo, I should have used stronger language about the paragraph you quoted ... where I replied that an MN *can* say that but doesn’t.   Let me modify that (in light of your last sentence of that pasted paragraph) to state more emphatically that an MN cannot say that at all.  If the MN takes any proposed supernatural event, he cannot insist in advance that unfound causes will be found.  If he insists on that, then it is no longer MN that is talking; it is PN.  However, confusion can be forgiven anybody for disagreeing because the MN may exhibit lots of confidence that a natural cause for some event will be findable (ID and irreducible complexities being the obvious example).  But the MN’s advance confidence only gets expressed as generalized certainty if he decides to don a PN hat over his MN one.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #70360

June 10th 2012


The “seems” is very important to the Christian.  How can we say that all the evidence points to the fact that God is telling a lie?

This should be very important to the Naturalist also.  If a preponderance of the evidence points to the fact that the universe was created by a rational Being, they are abandoning their rational and scientific stance by going against the evidence.   

You are not wasting our time, because we must recognize the ability of people to rationalize their biases.  We see that every day in politics.  It just seems that part of the calling of our faith is to point to the Truth, no matter how painful and disturbing this might be. 

Again Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Satan on the other hand is a Liar and the Source of all lies.  It is our task to point to Jesus for believers and non-believers.  God is not hiding from us, or seeking to avoid our knowledge.  Jesus is very visible.  God just is not the subject of certain knowledge, which seems to be a problem for unbelievers and some people who say they believe.   

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