Todd is also one of two scientists whose life stories are featured in an interesting article in the latest Christianity Today. The other is Darrel Falk. You can read the article here.
Yesterday I posted the news that the National Trust had included creationism in its new visitor exhibition at the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim. I predicted that this would set the cat among the pigeons and I wasn’t wrong. The National Trust has been besieged by critics – egged on by the likes of P Z Myers and Jerry Coyne.
But what does the exhibit in question actually say? Allow me to quote the National Trust’s own press release:
The Giant’s Causeway visitor centre provides a state-of-the-art exhibition area which showcases the science and the stories of the Giant’s Causeway.
All of the information presented to visitors in relation to how the Giant’s Causeway was formed, and how old it is, clearly reflects mainstream scientific understanding that the Causeway stones were formed 60 million years ago.
For centuries the Giant’s Causeway has prompted debate about how it was formed and how old it is.
One of the exhibits in the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre tells the story of the part the Giant’s Causeway played in the historic debate about how the earth’s rocks were formed and about the age of the earth.
In this exhibit we also state that for some people this debate continues today.
And here is the actual part of the exhibit that refers to creationism:
Like many natural phenomena around the world, the Giant’s Causeway has raised questions and prompted debate about how it was formed.
This debate has ebbed and flowed since the discovery of the Causeway to science and, historically, the Causeway became part of a global debate about how the earth’s rocks were formed.
This debate continues today for some people, who have an understanding of the formation of the earth which is different from that of current mainstream science.
Young Earth Creationists believe that the earth was created some 6000 years ago. This is based on a specific interpretation of the Bible and in particular the account of creation in the book of Genesis.
Some people around the world, and specifically here in Northern Ireland, share this perspective.
Young Earth Creationists continue to debate questions about the age of the earth. As we have seen from the past, and understand today, perhaps the Giant’s Causeway will continue to prompt awe and wonder, and arouse debate and challenging questions for as long as visitors come to see it.
Now you might be forgiven for thinking this is fairly modest stuff. It doesn’t affirm the creationist position or offer a creationist interpretation of the site. It simply acknowledges that not everyone accepts the mainstream view of the age of the earth. It could even be seen as a worthy attempt by the National Trust to strike an inclusive note in a province that has historically been beset by religious division and prejudice.
But not so according to the internet critics. No, this National Trust exhibit is, in fact, nothing less than a national disgrace, an attack on the very foundations of free thought, a dangerous concession to the faith-heads and myth-mongers, and can only lead inexorably to the downfall of western civilisation.
Some of you may feel this is a trifle hot headed and I would find it hard to disagree. We live in a nation in which our economy is flatlining, our media, politicians and bankers are caught up in scandals and our young people face an uncertain future – but what seems to raise the ire of these modern Chicken Littles is the acknowledgement by a public body that creationists exist.
So here’s my advice to the wilder critics racing around cyberspace declaring that the sky is falling. Take some time out from your laptop, lie down for a while in a cool room and try to regain a sense of perspective. It will do you and everyone else the power of good.
Well this is going to set the cat among the pigeons:
An exhibit in the new Giants’ Causeway Visitors’ Centre acknowledges the creationist view of how the world-famous stones were formed.
The National Trust said it wanted to “reflect and respect” the fact that some people contest the views of mainstream science.
Its state-of-the-art new complex, which opened on Tuesday, features an interactive audio exhibition showcasing the stories and the science behind the Giants’ Causeway.
It looks at the origins of the basaltic columns on the Co Antrim coastline.
The trust said that the exhibit gives recognition to the fact that, for creationists, the debate about the age of the Earth is still ongoing.
A statement read: “The Giants’ Causeway has always prompted debate about how it was formed and how old it is.
“One of the exhibits in the Giants’ Causeway Visitors’ Centre interpretation tells the story of the part the Giants’ Causeway played in the debate about how the Earth’s rocks were formed and the age of the Earth.
“This is an interactive audio exhibition in which visitors can hear some of the different debates from historical characters.
“In this exhibition we also acknowledge that for some people, this debate continues today and we reflect and respect the fact that creationists today have a different perspective on the age of the Earth from that of mainstream science.”
I can already hear the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth. You can read the full report on the Ulster TV website.
Phil Senter shows no signs of letting up in his anti-creationist crusade. For those just joining us, Phil is a palaeontologist at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina and over the last three years has written a stream of papers intended to refute creationist claims. These include papers about Lucy, vestigial organs, the Kachina Bridge “sauropod”, dinosaur baraminology (parts one and two) and Flood geology. The July/August edition of Skeptical Inquirer (organ of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) has his latest offering.
In this new article he tackles what he describes as “the Melon Rex Myth”, the idea that the sharp, recurved teeth of Tyrannosaurus rex and other theropods were originally used for herbivory and only after the Fall co-opted for carnivory. He points to creationist literature claiming that the incrassate teeth of Tyrannosaurus rex were shallow rooted and thus not well adapted for predatory behaviour, and illustrating the tyrant lizard king munching on melons. In fact, Senter shows that tyrannosaur teeth had very deep roots and in any case were continuously replaced from beneath by new teeth. Furthermore, palaeontological evidence such as serration marks on bones, molds of bite marks and preserved stomach contents leave little doubt that theropods with similar (“ziphodont”) teeth were using them for carnivory and scavenging. He also shows that modern herbivores with sharp canines (such as the giant panda and fruit bats) cannot serve as modern analogues for “herbivorous theropods”, since none of them possesses ziphodont teeth and they do not routinely use their canines for food processing.
Of course, the greatest irony about such arguments is that they are completely unnecessary. As Senter himself points out, young earth creationists “have long recognized that each baramin (“created kind” of organism) has diversified into many species since it was created” and that baraminological studies have revealed evidence of continuity between carnivorous and herbivorous coelurosaurian theropods. He concludes: “It is consistent with the YEC worldview to infer that God originally created theropods with herbivore-style teeth like those of Falcarius and Jeholornis and that ziphodont and incrassate teeth arose in later generations as a result of the Curse.” However, he adds that he will mourn the passing of the Melon Rex Myth since it has given him “countless hours of joyous chuckling”.
Senter P. 2012. Dinodang: the Melon Rex Myth. Skeptical Inquirer 36(4):52-57.
Last week I was in Belmont-Luthézieu in the rural southeast of France speaking at a retreat for church pastors and their families. Our hosts were Francis and Donna Foucachon of Huguenot Heritage Ministries. Several nationalities were represented at the conference including France, the UK, the USA, Germany, Holland and the Ukraine, and we enjoyed wonderful surroundings, fine French cuisine and great fellowship.
I was delighted to share the speaking with Dr Gordon Wilson, Senior Fellow of Natural History at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. The overall theme was ‘Genesis: Creation and Evolution’ and Gordon and I each gave four talks:
- Creation or evolution: what’s at stake? (PG)
- The new creationism: building scientific theories on a biblical foundation (PG)
- Baramins and the boundaries of biological change (GW)
- Fossils, formations and phylogenetic trees (GW)
- Desert or deluge? Recent research confirming the global flood (PG)
- Young earth creation (GW)
- Claws, jaws and dinosaurs (PG)
- Predators, parasites and pathogens (GW)
In addition there was lots of time for questions, debate and discussion, whether over the dinner table or around the evening bonfire. We also spent an afternoon at Les Grottes du Cerdon, a magnificent show cave carved into the Jura Limestone, which afforded us the opportunity to think about its origin and history. The convivial atmosphere made for a thoroughly enjoyable conference and I trust that those who attended went away with much to think about.
Here’s an announcement just posted on the Biblical Creation Ministries website:
Steve Lloyd took part in a debate on the age of the earth on Monday 28 May 2012 at Gunnersbury Baptist Church in London. Hugh Ross and Ken Samples from ‘Reasons to Believe’ defended an old earth position. Steve and Andrew McIntosh presented young earth positions. Justin Brierley of Premier Christian Radio chaired the debate. The evening was recorded for Premier Radio and it was broadcast as the ‘Unbelievable’ show on 17 June 2012 and is available for download here.
The recording begins with four opening presentations of 15 minutes each (Steve is the fourth speaker), followed by a round-table discussion, then questions from the floor and finally closing statements of 5 minutes from each speaker.
I hope you enjoy listening to the discussion. You may find Steve’s presentation somewhat different to what you expect.
Among the geological challenges facing creationism is how to explain the deposition of thick and extensive carbonate sediments during the Flood. Some of us suspect that microorganismal blooms played a major role, and indeed much of the micritic lime mud in the Palaeozoic may have been generated by cyanobacteria (Pratt 2001).
Intriguingly, a forthcoming paper in Geology suggests that microbes may also have helped generate dolomite deposits. Dolomite formation has been an enduring mystery for sedimentologists. Copious amounts of primary dolomite occur in the geological record, even though it forms today in only a few restricted localities such as hypersaline pools and lagoons. Stefan Krause, lead author of the new study, says, “As these systems are very limited in space, there is an explanation gap for geologists for the widespread presence of fossil dolomite.”
In the new paper, Krause et al. (2012) propose that large amounts of primary dolomite can form when quantities of organic matter in the sea bed are degraded by sulphate-respiring bacteria. This suggests some interesting avenues for developing catastrophist models of dolomite formation.
Krause S. and five others. 2012. Microbial nucleation of Mg-rich dolomite in exopolymeric substances under anoxic modern seawater salinity: new insight into an old enigma. Geology doi:10.1130/G32923.1 (Advance online publication)
Pratt B.R. 2001. Calcification of cyanobacterial filaments: Girvanella and the origin of lower Paleozoic lime mud. Geology 29:763-766.
One of the hot button topics in evangelical circles today is how we should understand Adam, as he is presented to us in the early chapters of Genesis and in the New Testament.
The traditional view that Adam was a single, historical individual through whom sin and death entered the world is being challenged. According to some, Adam was not a historical individual and there was no historical fall. Rather we should see Adam as “everyman” and the fall as something we each experience as we are awakened to our own sinfulness and alienation from God.
This view is not a new one, although it is only more recently that its appeal has grown among professing evangelicals.
I was reminded of this recently when reading volume one of the Collected Writings of John Murray (Banner of Truth, 1976), a book we have been studying at a series of men’s breakfast meetings at our church.
Murray was Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia from 1937 to 1966. In an essay entitled ‘The Relevance of the Historical’, he has some very pertinent things to say concerning Adam and the way that we relate to him.
Here is an extract from Murray’s essay, in which he addresses comments to “unsuspecting evangelicals” that we would do well to ponder:
Theologically speaking, at least, the most influential movements within Protestantism deny the historical character of what is recorded for us in Genesis 3. And we risk all reputation for scholarship and hope of being worthy of theological respect, if we maintain the historical authenticity of this chapter. Genesis 3, men say, is myth or legend, not history but story, portraying what happens to all men, but not a once-for-all series of events with abiding implications by virtue of the relations that Adam as the first man sustained to all men. Adam is every man; we are all Adam; we all sin as Adam sinned.
This might appear to be an effective way of maintaining, notwithstanding the denial of the historicity of Genesis 3, the fact that all have sinned. To unsuspecting evangelicals it becomes an appealing apologetic for the universality of sinfulness. But a little examination will show the fallacy.
It is not true that all sinned as Adam. There is a radical difference between Adam and posterity. We all come into the world as sinners. Adam and Eve did not. If we are all Adam, then two positions basic to the Bible’s view of man are denied – the imputation to us of Adam’s sin, and the doctrine of original sin. The beginning of our sinfulness was not by voluntary defection and transgression, as in the case of Adam, but by divinely constituted solidarity with Adam in his sin. And original sin, means that we are by nature dead in trespasses and sins, not by acquisition as in the case of Adam and Eve.
We are dealing with the gospel in our day, and dealing with sin as that in relation to which alone the gospel has meaning. The whole question of Adam and of the record in Genesis 3 is basic. If we adopt the dialectical approach and interpretation, then we have failed to assess the human situation in sin to which the gospel is addressed. There is a fundamental error in our construction of the existential, and, deflected by this error, we cannot bring the gospel in the marvel of its grace to bear upon the real truth of sin in its gravity and depth. In reality it is the failure of relevance. For as the preachers of the gospel encounter the sinfulness of men, whether it be in the squalor and wretchedness of what we call the slums or in the façade of complacency of the opulent suburbs, the only explanation of the tangle of iniquity and the web of misery is the doctrine of original sin which Genesis 3 in the context of the biblical interpretation alone provides. ‘The judgment was from one’ (Rom. 5:16).
In my book, The New Creationism (ch. 2), I briefly drew attention to some remarkable design features of our Sun, including the fact that many Sun-like stars produce enormous superflares, but our Sun does not. A paper in this week’s Nature reports new data from the Kepler satellite that may help to explain why.
Superflares are many thousands of times more energetic than typical solar flares. Although superflares can occur on Sun-like stars, Maehara et al. (2012) conclude that they are more frequent on rapidly rotating stars and on stars with ‘starspots’ much larger than the sunspots with which we are familiar. Fortunately it seems extremely unlikely that our Sun will ever host a superflare.
And in an online preview of a forthcoming paper, Pierce et al. (2012) present a quantitative analysis of limb mobility in the iconic Devonian tetrapod Ichthyostega. The new reconstruction indicates that Ichthyostega could not have pushed its body off the ground or moved its limbs in an alternating sequence, like more terrestrial tetrapods. One of the implications is that the tetrapod trackways described in 2010 from the Middle Devonian of Poland could not have been made by a tetrapod with the skeletal morphology and limb mobility of Ichthyostega.
Maehara H. and eight others. 2012. Superflares on solar-type stars. Nature 485:478–481.
Pierce S.E., Clack J.A. and Hutchinson J.R. 2012. Three-dimensional limb joint mobility in the early tetrapod Ichthyostega. Nature doi:10.1038/nature11124 (Advance online publication)
In the USA there is the National Center for Science Education. Here in the UK we have our own self-appointed anti-creationist watchdogs. Morbidly fascinating though they are, my usual policy is to ignore them and devote my time to more interesting things. But sometimes they are just so wrong…
In response to a question on its discussion forum, here’s what the official spokesman of one of these watchdogs said about me earlier today:
Yes. He runs his own ministry, Biblical Creation Ministries, which, last time I looked, had an annual income of around £45. It’s a business, basically. Such full time creationists have a “rate card” for events where they push their crapola. Garner appears to be a full timer and he has a side kick, John Peet, who works for BCM part time but is otherwise retired. Garner also gets money from his book and, presumably, the DVD associated with it.
Before setting up BCM Garner was an “adminstrator” for a company in Cambridge. I’ve no idea what the term “administrator” means here (even though I have a master’s in the subject). It could cover anything from clerical work to the CEO’s position.
Now, tedious though it is, let’s examine this statement one clause at a time.
“He runs his own ministry, Biblical Creation Ministries”. Wrong. I am employed by Biblical Creation Ministries. BCM is run by its trustees, to whom I am accountable as an employee.
“which, last time I looked, had an annual income of around £45″. I take it he means £45K. Actually that figure is about four or five years out of date, as BCM’s annual returns available on the Charity Commission website will show.
“It’s a business, basically”. Wrong. It’s a charity and, as such, a non-profit-making organisation and bound by charity law.
“Such full time creationists have a “rate card” for events where they push their crapola”. I have no idea what others do, but I do not and have never had a “rate card” or charged a fee for speaking. If asked, we explain what our expenses are, but all gifts are voluntary donations and go straight to the charity, certainly not to me personally. Incidentally, we have never turned down engagements on the grounds of cost.
“Garner appears to be a full timer and he has a side kick, John Peet”. Wrong. My co-worker in BCM is Dr Steve Lloyd.
“who works for BCM part time but is otherwise retired”. Wrong. Dr John Peet has never been employed by BCM part time or full time. He did, for a while, serve in an unpaid capacity as a trustee.
“Garner also gets money from his book and, presumably, the DVD associated with it”. Only partly true. I receive a small amount of royalties from sales of my book, but unlike J.K. Rowling I won’t be retiring on them. I receive none from sales of the Set in Stone DVD, which is not associated with my book.
“Before setting up BCM Garner was an “adminstrator” for a company in Cambridge”. Wrong. I did not set up BCM; its first trustees did that. Furthermore, my previous employment was not as an administrator; it was as a senior information scientist.
So, let’s sum up. Two short paragraphs, at least six errors, some outdated information and a bit of erroneous speculation. Not bad for an organisation that calls itself “the most authoritative body in the United Kingdom on creationism and Intelligent Design”.
- Age of the earth
- Big Bang
- Bombardier Beetle
- Cain's wife
- Cambrian explosion
- Carnivorous plants
- Catastrophic flooding
- Cell biology
- Charles Darwin
- Conference Proceedings
- Conference Report
- Creation Biology Society
- Creation Biology Study Group
- Creation Geology Society
- Creationist models
- Derek Ager
- Enough's enough
- FAST Project
- Flood geology
- Canyon formation
- Sutton Stone
- Giant's Causeway
- Great Unconformity
- Heart Mountain Slide
- Historical contingency
- History of creationism
- Hutton's unconformity
- Lake District
- Loch Ness
- Magma ascent rates
- Metamorphic fluids
- National Center for Science Education
- Natural evil
- Navajo Sandstone
- Old-earth creationism
- Opinion polls
- Petroglyphs and rock art
- Philosophy of science
- Plate tectonics
- Post-Flood climates
- Radiometric dating
- Regional metamorphism
- Seawater chemistry
- Set in Stone
- Snowball Earth
- Stephen Hawking
- Steve Austin
- Suboptimal improvisations
- Terry Hamblin
- The 'ex-Christian' movement
- The Church Fathers
- The Genesis Flood
- Theistic evolution
- Transitional forms
- Tree of Life
- Wayne Frair