Jonathan Sarfati

Response to the PBS-TV series Evolution

Episode 7: What about God?

by

This episode tries to obscure the obvious, that evolution and Biblical Christianity are diametrically opposed. Actually, they hardly discuss Biblical Christianity, but interview people who believe that ‘God’ used evolution. They do interview representatives of Biblical Christianity, but they omit the strongest case of the best defenders, and give much airtime to those who haven’t the faintest idea about defending it. But the program may be useful, clearly showing the baneful effects of compromise, and it should also raise alarms in pastors to exhort their flock to be ready with answers, as the Apostle Peter commanded in 1 Peter 3:15.

Seminar snippets shown

The narrator talks about ‘Christian fundamentalists like Ken Ham’, but never defines the word, of course. Presumably they hope to exploit modern connotations of the word, and they would have received an unexpected bonus with the recent terrorist attack, attributed to Muslim ‘fundamentalists’. But Paul Enns states:

Historically, fundamentalism has been used to identify one holding to the five fundamentals of the faith adopted by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the USA in 1910. The five fundamentals were the miracles of Christ, the virgin birth of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the bodily resurrection of Christ, and the inspiration of Scripture.1

Of course Ken and his ministry as a whole uncompromisingly affirm fundamentalism in its historic sense.

The narrator prattles about how Ken is one of those who teach a literal interpretation of the creation accounts (sic) in Genesis. This is designed to imply that there is something unusual about taking Genesis literally, but ignores what CMI teaches about interpreting historical narrative as historical narrative, and poetry as poetry, and the distinctions between them—see Should Genesis Be Taken Literally?

The Hebrew grammar of Genesis shows that Genesis 1–11 has the same literary style of Genesis 12–50, which no one doubts is historical narrative. For example, the early chapters of Genesis frequently use the construction called the waw consecutive, usually an indicator of historical sequence; contain many ‘accusative particles’ that mark the objects of verbs, and terms are often carefully defined. But Hebrew poetry is characterized by parallelisms, which are absent from Genesis, except where people are cited, e.g. Genesis 4:23. If Genesis were truly poetic, it would be like that verse throughout.2

The mention of ‘creation accounts’ is simply a hint at the defunct ‘documentary hypothesis’, amply refuted by Did Moses really write Genesis? The charge of contradiction between Genesis 1 and 2 is amply resolved by noting that Genesis 1:1–2.4a is a summary outline of the whole creation, while Genesis 2:4b ff. focuses on the creation of male and female, so they are complementary rather than contradictory—see Genesis Contradictions?

Ken Ham is interviewed, saying that evolution is an evil to be fought, and pointing out the conflicts between the Bible and secular ‘science’ that deals with origins. Then the program shows snippets from a free seminar he gave, but deceitfully shows money changing hands at the same time as they show people entering the auditorium. But the money was either for books, videos etc., or for another seminar (most meetings are free). The program presumably wished to present they were in it for the money.

Then they showed him presenting a number of arguments, but the omissions in the PBS program were conspicuous. They were present for the whole seminar, and interviewed him for two hours. They omitted one key problem for all proponents of evolution or billions of years, discussed in the rebuttals of Episodes 1 and 4, the problem of death and suffering before Adam’s sin. Ken also presented extensive scientific criticisms of evolution in both the seminar and interview, e.g. showing that natural selection and variation, e.g. breeding of dogs, merely involves sorting and loss of genetic information, while goo-to-you evolution requires increase of information (see this part of Rebuttal to Episode 1).

But presenting this information wouldn’t suit the PBS propagandists for two reasons:

  • In general, they wish to portray all objections of evolution as ‘religious’. Of course, they must ignore the many scientists who are creationists, as well as most of the founders of modern science—see Creationist scientists’ biography page.

  • Specifically, these points blow most of the ‘evidence’ presented on the programs sky high, as shown in previous rebuttals.

Scopes trial and Sputnik

The narrator talks about the famous Scopes Trial (1925), and says that William Jennings Bryan was victorious, and that it had the ‘chilling effect’ of expunging evolution from science curricula from many states. Amazingly, for a series containing millions of dollars worth of misinformation, it didn’t present Inherit the Wind as a serious account of the trial. A good thing, because of its gross distortions documented in Inherit the Wind—an historical analysis.

Then the program showed the Sputnik, and claimed that American authorities were so alarmed at that the Soviets beat them into space that they decided to make science education a priority. Somehow evolution was smuggled in there. However, the science that put spacecraft on the moon is nothing like evolution. Rocket science involves repeatable experiments in the observable present; evolution is a just-so story to explain the unobservable past without God’s direct intervention. It’s especially ironic that the leader of the Apollo program, Wernher von Braun, was a creationist!

It’s also blatantly revisionist history. During this alleged scientific nadir of supposed evolution censorship between Scopes and Sputnik, American schools produced more Nobel prizes than the rest of the world combined. This was especially pronounced in the biological field (Physiology and Medicine), supposedly one that can’t do without evolution—America produced twice as many as all other countries. The Soviet Union beat the USA into space merely because the totalitarian government made it a top priority. While the USA had a good space program, there were other spending priorities, such as helping a war-torn world rebuild. When the USA put its mind to it, it quickly surpassed the USSR, and was the first to land men on the moon in 1969. If it had needed scientists trained in evolution, the moon landing wouldn’t have happened till the next generation had gone through the public school system.3

The PBS series is not the only one trying to equate ‘science’ with evolution. One of the most vociferous anti-creationist organisations is the pretentiously named National Center for Science Education. This is a humanist-founded organisation, and its chief spokesperson, Eugenie Scott, is the winner of humanist awards and is also a consultant for the PBS series. It’s significant that the only ‘science education’ NCSE seems interested in is evolution—not chemistry, physics, astronomy, or even experimental biology (or rocket science for that matter). See How Religiously Neutral are the Anti-Creationist Organizations? and A Who’s Who of evolutionists.

Wheaton College: compromise causes confusion!

Wheaton College is said to be a conservative Christian college. According to its website, costs for 2001–2002 (9 months, 2 semesters) $16,390 in tuition fees alone (room, board, books and personal expenses add another $6844). The website claims:
‘Wheaton College selects candidates for admission from those who evidence a vital Christian experience, high academic ability, moral character, personal integrity, social concern, and the desire to pursue a liberal arts education as defined in the aims and objectives of the College.’
This is the show-pony of the PBS series of how people can mix ‘God’ and evolution. But one must wonder how they define a ‘vital Christian experience’ since they evidently don’t believe the Bible, the only source of information about Christ. One part of this episode shows a field trip that proclaims that a water hole is 33 million years old.

There was a controversy when Prof. Walter Hearn promoted evolution at Wheaton in 1961. So now they apparently insist that professors sign a statement that Adam was a historical figure.

But it was abundantly clear that this statement is a dead letter. If the Profs themselves ‘support’ this, they have no qualms about inviting people who don’t believe it.

One example is a Keith Miller, who claims to be an ‘ardent evangelical Christian’. He claimed, without evidence, that there are lots of transitional forms. When questioned, he said that God chose Adam and Eve out of other humans that existed. This just shows that the word ‘evangelical’, like ‘Christian’, has become debased currency. At one time, it meant someone who believed the Reformation (and Biblical) doctrines of the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture. This is not always so nowadays, and certainly doesn’t apply to Miller. Genesis 2:7 teaches that the first man was made from dust and became alive when God breathed the breath of life into him. This rules out the idea that Adam was already a living primate of some kind when God breathed on him. Eve was made from Adam’s rib (Gen 2:21–24). Luke’ genealogy of Christ traces His lineage (through Mary) all the way back to Adam, then directly to God, not via any ape-like creatures or pond scum (Luke 3:23–38). Further, 1 Corinthians 15:45 states that Adam was the ‘first man’, and Eve was so-named because she was to become the ‘mother of all living’ (Genesis 3:20). Also, Paul’s teachings about male and female roles in 1 Cor. 11:8–9 and 1 Timothy 2:13–14 explicitly support the historical order of creation in Genesis 2:21–23.

The sad thing about Wheaton is the admission shown on this episode that most people become more confused about their Christian faith while they attend this compromising ‘Christian’ college. They wonder whether there’s a place for God if evolution is true, and rightly so—see The horse and the tractor: Why God and evolution don’t mix.

This confusion should hardly be surprising—Billy Graham’s former colleague Charles Templeton totally apostatized after attending the compromising Princeton Theological Seminary (see Slippery slide to unbelief: A famous evangelist goes from hope to hopelessness). We have other testimonies of people whose faith was shipwrecked by compromising ‘Christians’ but restored with the help of CMI’s consistently Biblical approach, e.g. from ‘Sonia’, ‘Joel Galvin’ and Lita Cosner.

Seeds of apostasy

One star is a Nathan Baird, a physical chemistry student (as I was). He had a sort of creationist upbringing (but see below), but now from his lofty height proclaims that most Christians don’t understand evolution, and dismiss it. Now he thinks that God used the big bang and evolution, and infused a spirit supernaturally into some humans. He proclaimed: ‘God is bigger than the box I’ve put him in.’

This slogan is hardly original with Nathan. Rank apostates like John Shelby Spong also spout such vacuous tripe. But creationists don’t put God into any box; rather, they are humble enough to believe what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible, including when and how He created. It’s people like Nathan who put God into a box of their own making, by presuming that God would not have intervened in his creation in a different way from the way He currently upholds it (Col. 1:16–17, a passage referring to Christ, the God-man). They also, in effect, presume that God was unable to communicate in clear prepositional revelation about the history of the universe.

Lack of apologetics

Nathan’s upbringing is sadly typical of the lack of apologetics teaching in the churches, meaning that many Christians have no idea how to defend their faith. The most serious problem is parents without answers to their children’s questions.

Nathan’s father correctly believed that evolution was a frontal assault on Genesis 1, but didn’t seem very well informed about the issues (or else his most telling arguments were edited out, as with CMI). At one point, the family was outside having lunch, and Nathan’s father couldn’t answer some of his facile arguments, and asked his mother to bail him out.

Nathan’s mother correctly pointed out that non-compromise was a common factor in church growth. She also recounted the advice of a friend, ‘Don’t send Nathan to Wheaton—it could destroy his faith.’ One might argue whether person who ‘loses his/her faith’ truly had saving faith to begin with (1 John 2:19), but this shows that Wheaton has already given the impression of undermining students’ faith. It’s a shame that Nathan’s mother didn’t follow this advice before forking out a fortune to a college that doesn’t teach what it claims. The money may as well be spent on a secular college, because at least their students know what to expect. It’s fortunate for Wheaton and many other ‘Christian’ colleges that they can’t be sued for false advertising.

[Note added 26 October: a Wheaton college student objected to the above comments about her college. But as Dr Carl Wieland [Managing Director of CMI-Australia] showed, my comments were understated, if anything. See her letter plus Dr Wieland’s response.]

Creation in public schools?

It’s important to note that CMI is not a lobby group for compulsory creation in public schools. For one thing, one school of thought is that sending kids to public schools is like Moses sending the Israelite children to Canaanite schools. But mainly, we wouldn’t want an atheistic teacher forced to teach creation, and deliberately distort it.

Jefferson High School (in Lafayette, Indiana, USA) featured extensively. A student petition requested the creation model in the science curriculum. One teacher admitted that the signatories included ‘outstanding students’ and even some teachers. Of course this shows that one can be a top student without swallowing the evolutionary story.

But they interviewed teachers who claimed it was dangerous (i.e. to listen to students and parents). One teacher, Clare McKinney, claimed to be a Christian, but she claimed that science can’t involve God, essentially swallowing the non-overlapping magisteria promoted by the Marxist Stephen Jay Gould. As explained in this part of rebuttal to Episode 1, this is only possible if the Bible and the real world have nothing to do with each other, or if God and reason are mutually exclusive.

Another teacher said that science is peer-reviewed, testable and repeatable. He failed to explain how a claim such as: ‘A reptile turned into a bird 150 million years ago’ is testable or repeatable! As often pointed out, it’s hard to come up with a definition of ‘science’ that includes evolution and excludes creation unless it’s blatantly self-serving. Sometimes these definitions are self-contradictory, e.g. some have claimed, ‘Creation is not scientific because it’s not testable’, then explained how it has allegedly been tested and shown to be wrong. The atheist Eugenie Scott of course spouted her usual stuff proclaiming that the study of origins must be naturalistic.

The school board refused the petition, claiming that creation is not part of science. Amazingly, ‘Claire’ was shown lamenting how biology would be unteachable if evolution were censored, but that was not what the petitioners requested. But the upshot was that any criticisms of evolution are censored instead.

Not shown on the program was one chemistry teacher who was constructively dismissed for having creation speaker Geoff Stevens address his class on chemical evolution, surely an appropriate topic for chemistry class. Mr Stevens presented a purely scientific case that non-living chemicals could not form a living cell by natural processes (see also Q&A: Origin of Life), and didn’t mention God or religion at all. But the school superintendent, Ed Eiler, issued a formal letter of reprimand to the teacher of the class, Dan Clark, falsely accusing him of introducing ‘religion’ to his classes. The real problem was that ardent evolutionists refuse to tolerate any challenges to their materialist faith.

References

  1. Paul Enns, Moody Handbook of Theology, p. 613, Moody Press, Chicago, 1989.
  2. Kaiser, W.C. Jr., ‘The literary form of Genesis 1–11’ in Payne, J.B., New Perspectives on the Old Testament, pp. 59–60, Word, Inc., Waco, Texas, USA, 1970.
  3. The Discovery Institute’s critique makes these good points.

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