Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Creationist Radiations

This post title is a deliberate attention-getter. Radiation is seldom used in this context of creationism. The term commonly signals some sort of energy transfer carried by electromagnetic waves. For example, light is a form of natural radiation composed of electromagnetic waves. Radio and television waves are man-made electromagnetic radiation similar to light with substantially different wave lengths. In the context of paleontology and origins science, however, a radiation signals a completely different phenomenon. Radiations are a vital part of evolutionary theory.

In contrast with the traditional evolutionary concept of gradual change in earth’s life forms, naturalistic scientists need a mechanism to explain why most evolutionary episodes actually occur relatively suddenly. The suddenness may be represented graphically by steps on a stairway. A linear representation of a gradual incline does not represent how life has developed on earth. Several years ago an evolutionary scientist proposed biological origins analogs to the “Big Bang” physical beginning of our universe. He called the phenomena “Biology’s Big Bangs.” Here is a link to my past post:

Evolutionists see the development of the present complexity of life on earth as a naturalistic random process driven by traditional evolutionary mechanisms such as mutation and natural selection. To strengthen their evolutionary paradigm biologists have developed new theoretical explanations for the “fits and starts” processes powering evolution, including gene flow, genetic drift, and others. However, only “natural selection” is likely to adapt a population to its environment, they hold. In this popular phrase, the key word is “natural.” It just happens “naturally.”

Re-enter the term radiation. Under the banner “evolutionary radiation” there exists a secondary term in evolutionary literature. It is called “adaptive radiation.” The Wikipedia definition reads, “Adaptive radiation is a process in which organisms diversify rapidly into a multitude of new life forms, particularly when a change in the environment makes new resources available and opens environmental niches.” The key term in their definition: rapidly.

We have highlighted the startling radiation of the Cambrian Explosion, the sudden proliferation of new animal phyla with no reasonable antecedents preceding them in the fossil record. Evolutionists assign other geologically sudden appearances to the category of radiations marking the arrival of fish, reptiles, land plants, insects, birds and mammals. For those interested in more specifics, you may consult resources detailing the Cambrian Explosion, the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event, the Mesozoic-Cenozoic Radiation, and the Cretaceous Radiation.

Most radiations are characterized by sudden changes of past life forms in the geological columns we observe. Believers in naturalistic evolution are untroubled by these many rapid appearances. They claim (1) sudden appearances, (2) lack of legitimate antecedents, (3) missing transitional species, and (4) stasis of existing species do not weaken their theorized evolutionary paradigm. Stephen C. Meyer decries the obvious error in mistaking a hypothetical scenario for an adequate explanation.

We now introduce the new term creationist radiations into our personal blog glossary. The numerous sudden appearances of animals and plants as recorded in the paleontological record, including the very recent advent of fully modern human beings in the image of God, strikes creationists as a sequence of divine creation events. To those who “think creationally,” not evolutionarily, the proposals of creation events and supernaturally initiated design are not difficult to endorse using discoveries and principles of science. Our newly-minted term creationist radiations refers to rapid creation events on earth producing the glorious diversity of new forms of living things.

Psalm 104:27-30, when combined with physical evidence of divine creation and design, is a powerful two-edged sword of affirmation for a creationist mentality. This passage speaks of God’s provision of food for earth’s creatures. It suggests periodic extinction events on this planet, and God’s creative Spirit to renew the face of the earth (to re-create) following the multiple extinction events over eons of geologic history. This powerfully suggestive passage harmonizes theology and science:

(Living things) all look to (God) to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away your breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth. (Psalm 104:27-30 NIV)


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Creationist Mentality

Mentality: “The characteristic attitude of mind or way of thinking of a person…” This internet definition focuses on human attitudes, processes of thought, and beliefs across a broad range. When we attach the term creationist, we construct an interesting term--“creationist mentality.” We must guard against defining the topic of creationism too narrowly. Our recent posts have highlighted the term frequently. We respond that the topic of creationism as it addresses life and species origins, a topic of specialty for many scientists, is a topic of never-ending interest for many of our non-scientist readers. We desire to broaden the definition of creationism.

To reinforce our last point, we repeat one of our favorite definitions of creationism offered by Mark Noll, evangelical historian: “…creationism by rights should define a divine mind at work in, with, or under the phenomenon of the natural world.” Defined as such, we acknowledge that the natural world provides the umbrella for our daily activities of work, family life, social interactions, and recreation. In short, the natural world provides the setting for all our activities. We do not confine our study of the natural world, therefore, to a specific interest in the study of “nature,” wonderful as that is. Our moment to moment existence integrates the wonder of our physical surroundings.

Are we aware of the “divine mind at work” in the presence of living and non-living things around us and our body’s sensory links with everything and every person in our surroundings? How does the term “creationist mentality” connect with our daily existence? Origins topics such as the time line of historic creation events and the length of Genesis creation days, fascinating as they are, lose their immediacy when we spotlight the present. Our awareness of creation in the present provides our lives with satisfying richness and fullness.
Historic origins studies and timelines of events over eons of time retreat to secondary importance as we concentrate on motivating forces of life in the present.

Old Testament prophet Isaiah was God’s spokesman speaking primarily to men of his own time, delivering a “forthtelling of God’s messages” of repentance for Israel’s present, as well as more familiar well-known “foretelling of God’s actions” in the future. Isaiah was not interested in the historical timelines of creation events in the distant eons of time. A majority of his book addresses events of his own time as he conveyed the messages of God to Israel of the 8th century BC. Isaiah’s “creationist mentality” must have been powerfully motivating as he delivered God’s message to the people of his day. The prophet cites supernatural creation in many parts of his book, not as lessons in historical geology, but as motivators for reverent holiness in God’s people.

Consider the force of Isaiah 45:18 (NIV): “For this is what the Lord says—he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited—he says: I am the Lord and there is no other.” The Apostle Paul, in an unusual scriptural account of an exchange with the pagan men of Athens (Acts 17:24 NIV) also applies “creationist mentality” as a motivator for repentance and righteous living: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.” Paul’s powerful sermon continued, “‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” (Acts 17:27)

Isaiah and Paul referred to past creation events without making their message solely a lesson in origins geology. They used “creationist mentality” as inspirational triggers for joyful and upright living in the present. We encourage readers to work toward influencing public perception of the heavily loaded term creationism, not only within our church fellowship circles, but also outside our personal church community. We have described Holy Scripture as a creationist text based on our knowledge of past and continuing realities of divine creation events. Perhaps our description of “creationist mentality” makes the terms creationism and creationist more appealing.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Creationism: A Broad View

The professional science community studies and describes the functions of living systems from simple to advanced, from bacteria to humanity. It has also provided advanced knowledge of physical processes governing our world. The scope of their discovery is overwhelming. Science educators have communicated this knowledge to our young people at their appropriate levels of understanding, from primary school to middle school, and from secondary school to college and beyond.

A theistic worldview superimposes a strong creationist flavor to the knowledge of bioscience and physical science. First, we define what we mean by creationist in this context. Evangelical historian Mark Noll has penned a succinct definition of creationism. Noll says, “The word creationism by rights should define a divine mind at work in, with, or under the phenomena of the natural world.” Noll’s definition prudently broadens the definition.

Secular textbooks do not acknowledge a “divine mind” at work in the natural world, particularly in the world of living things. Secular biology textbooks, however, trumpet evolution as the guiding force channeling the trajectory of life’s history. Their message is unequivocally religious in tone.

Some may object to use of the term “religious” in this context. Perhaps authors of modern textbooks object, because religion and science have been described as consisting of widely separated realms. Such objections would depend primarily on their singular definition of religious, ignoring several alternate linguistic definitions. Religious commonly relates to belief in divinity according to one familiar definition. An alternate definition states, “Strictness of fidelity in conforming to any practice as if it were an enjoined rule of conduct.” Still another describes religious as, “belief in any cognitive content held as true.” Many other modern definitions of religious do not include the divine or the supernatural.

Knowledge of the beauty, structure, function, and behavior of Earth’s living things as well as the physical universe is an occasion to glorify the God of Creation. These traits and features provide us with opportunity for intuitive perception of a deeper reality. Thousands of science professionals have unlocked the secrets of our magnificent cosmos and the intricacy of its living inhabitants. Those who see God as Creator, Designer, and Sustainer of all cosmic systems are appropriately termed creationists.

Secularists disparagingly mock creationists, claiming the recognition of a “divine mind at work” (Mark Noll’s eloquent phrase) is a religious intrusion into the naturalistic realm of science. Creationists, they claim, impinge on the sphere of secular naturalism they wish to preserve for the domain of science as they conceive it. When the ancient prophet penned Isaiah 40:26 and many other majestic creation passages he was fully aware of the multidimensional concept of the theology of creation. Broad concepts of creationism and the theology of creation are often poorly appreciated even by leaders in our churches. We link a previous post:

The Bible is a creationist text. It contains dozens of creationist passages. Our Christian worldview enables us to proudly own the title “Creationist.”

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Diverse Clergy Positions

A recent survey (A Survey of Clergy and Their Views on Origins) conducted by BioLogos reported the results of 743 telephone interviews with clergy of all Christian denominations in churches of all sizes. Pastors were polled on their views of creation and evolution. The survey reported on many related issues as perceived by the pastors.

Young Earth creationism is espoused by 54% of American Pastors--19% with absolute certainty and 35% who expressed qualified certainty. Progressive Creationism describes 15% of pastors--7% of these are absolutely certain while 8% express qualified certainty. Theistic Creationism is the position of 18% of the pastors, of whom 3% are absolutely certain and 15% claim qualified certainty. One more category was termed Uncertain by the pollsters: The remaining 12% of pastors believe God created life, but admit they are not certain how. (In the general population another category would undoubtedly be represented: those who believe in naturalism--the view that there is no God who created the universe. The cosmos essentially self-assembled, they claim. This represents the view of atheists, but not the view of pastors.)

Our blog has frequently discussed the three main positions described above and what their adherents believe with respect to creation and evolution. Those positions represent approximately 87% of pastors in the survey. It is our opinion that the general population has a somewhat different opinion profile. Between 40% and 50% of the population subscribes to the young earth creationist view of human origins. This indicates a strong view of creationism. The remaining population subscribes mostly to a view of theistic creationism, according to many sources. The views of creationism are not changing significantly.

The questions of evolution and creation are significantly intertwined. Did God create life, or did life self-organize? Did creation events take place only in the last 10,000 years? Did life develop slowly and gradually over millions of years? Did life develop in step-like fashion over millions of years? (This would point to creation events.) What process does evolution describe, and how does (or how did) it occur? Such questions are integrated with our theological and scientific beliefs. The integration is not like simply blending two chemical entities to create a homogeneous mixture. It is far more complex.

If we call ourselves creationists, do we displace our embrace of science? If we embrace science, do we displace our embrace of creationism? Our embrace of creationism has affected our embrace of science, according to the scientific community. But should it? This blog has advocated the soundness of scientific method according to a theistic world view. In the last four hundred years, most Christians in the sciences believed that the scientific method supports a theistic world view.

The strife between creationists, epitomized by the results of the BioLogos survey, traces its roots to a phenomenon of the late 19th century. Stephen C. Meyer, in his concluding chapter of Darwin’s Doubt, places the blame on what is now termed the “New Atheism,” described by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others. According to Meyer, the “New Atheism” is not really new. It represents “a popularization of a science-based philosophy called scientific materialism which came into currency among scientists and philosophers during the late nineteenth century in the wake of the Darwinian revolution.”

Scientific materialism was an outgrowth of the Darwinian Revolution. It denied evidence of supernatural design in nature, especially in the world of life forms. Sadly, the same scientific materialism even denied ultimate purpose in human existence. Christians should reflect on the marriage of their belief in evolution, driven by mutation and natural selection, to the theistic worldview as expressed in biblical creation passages.

We are thankful that a large majority (69%) of Christian pastors do not adhere to evolution. But by the same token, we are saddened that 31% of the population subscribes to evolution or is uncertain of the evidence for divine acts of creation in our world of living things, including the world of human beings. And we are uneasy with the young earth creationists’ out-of-hand rejection of legitimate science findings with respect to supernatural acts of creation over long time periods. Our prayer is that our agreement on God’s divine acts of creation overwhelms our disagreements over the time frames of creation.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Philosophy of Origins

The subject of evolution occupies a prominent position in secular bioscience education for our students from middle school through college. As a creationist making use of the many wonderful advanced bioscience resources, I have wondered how the educational impact of biology would be diluted without the incessant mention of the paradigm of evolution. I have concluded bioscience textbooks could present a fully adequate account of fundamental knowledge of bioscience for students, notwithstanding the popular utterances by Theodosius Dobzhansky and other evolutionary scientists. In 1973 Dobzhansky famously stated, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

Modern textbooks and instructors commonly discuss principles of philosophy supporting and enriching their course subject matter. Sometimes these discussions serve to stimulate student interest at an introductory level. Insightful historical snippets may be skillfully woven into the coursework fabric. Subject matter in other science disciplines such as chemistry or physics is enhanced as talented teachers incorporate a historical flavor within their instruction. Subject matter and philosophy in some scientific disciplines, however, often becomes heavily intertwined. Bioscience is such a scientific discipline.

The naturalistic origin of life and the evolutionary, common ancestor theory of the origins of species are fundamental tenets of evolution. Theistic evolutionists, lately assuming the label “evolutionary creationists,” in effect join with secular evolutionists in pronouncing the new label’s emphasis is on evolution, not on creationism or the Creator. National Center for Science Education (NCSE) executive director Eugenie Scott states that it is a type of evolution rather than creationism, despite its name. Many secular scientists agree that the emphasis of the phrase is on “evolution.”

Reading almost any secular biology textbook, one comes away with unquestioned accounts of naturalistic evolution, presented with confident certainty and bathed in the imprimatur of “science.” The questions and problems raised by creationists are not even worth asking according to those who confidently assert “Evolution is true.” The paradigm of evolution is embraced and published as proven, notwithstanding the many overarching questions about (1) sudden appearances, (2) lack of legitimate antecedents, (3) missing transitional species, and (4) stasis of existing species. Hidden among and extending beyond such lists of fundamental points are overwhelming questions concerning the highly unlikely and complex process of speciation.

As a general academic discipline, philosophers study the nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. More specifically, we could describe the “philosophy of science accordingly: “Philosophers of science typically understand the epistemological and philosophical dimensions of science--presuppositions, values, what kinds of knowledge claims are being made and how they are justified.” As we examine the terms and phrases of our definition, many issues come to mind.

Presuppositions are “tacit beforehand assumptions prior to argument or action.” Evolutionists presuppose naturalistic processes to explain origins. Theistic (supernatural) explanatory causes are ruled out. Creationists, on the other hand, presuppose theistic action in the origin and sustenance of our existence, past and present.

Values are those traits found to be useful, important, worthwhile, or deserving. This category is difficult to assign with respect to our discussion. Both evolutionists and creationists judge their beliefs to be useful, important, worthwhile, and deserving.

What kinds of knowledge claims are being made sharply distinguishes the evolutionist from the creationist. Evolutionists maintain God did not initiate new species of life following the naturalistic appearance of the primal common ancestor. Perhaps, they maintain, life self-assembled, later to incorporate itself into an early life form which became the common ancestor of all living things, including man. Creationists propose the scripture’s use of create in multiple Bible passages describes the true reality of origins. God created new forms of life which did not previously exist. This includes humanity.

How knowledge claims are justified also sharply distinguishes the evolutionist from the creationist. Evolutionist belief relies heavily on the force of complex evolutionary theory and the overwhelming power of inference. For example, they infer that genetic molecular similarity among living things points to a common evolutionary origin. The creationist does not rely heavily on complex theory to justify his belief. Creation is a supernatural process producing a previously non-existent entity. Creationists also rely heavily on inference. For example, in the absence of satisfactory explanatory power that naturalistic processes are adequate to generate the multiplicity and complexity of the incredibly beautiful life forms on Planet Earth, the creationist intuitively infers the scriptures are true. God created! Our Judeo-Christian Bible is a creationist text!

Creationists of all stripes in America far outnumber evolutionists in spite of the heavy drumbeat of philosophical lobbying. Secular instructors in life science strongly affirm evolution. Secular textbooks lean heavily toward evolution, touting it even when it serves no subject matter value. Perhaps our young people have become more indoctrinated toward evolution while many of their parents still retain their creationist leanings. It is surprising that the creationist population in the United States outnumbers evolutionists in view of the pressure exerted by vocal evolutionists championed by our media.

Many verses in Isaiah (chapters 40-48) contain creation passages. We would do well to use these passages for devotional reading. We may compare how inspired creationist scriptures of the prophet Isaiah eight centuries before Christ compare with the philosophy of origins coming to the fore in the last 1½ centuries of our increasingly secular age.