Earth Science Ireland uses clergyman in geological controversy
Argues theology but ignores science
Published: 4 November 2008 (GMT+10)
We previously published an open letter by geologist Angus Kennedy protesting the hostile anti-Christian attitude expressed in the Spring 2008 edition of Earth Science Ireland. The editor, Dr Tony Bazely, published extracts of his letter in the Autumn 2008 edition (3/4 of a page), assuring readers, ‘We do not allow any article in this magazine that is anti-Christian or any other religion.’ Nevertheless, he included in the same issue a two page anti-creationist article by former geologist Rev Ronald Elsdon, Rector of St Bartholomew’s Church, Stranmillis, Belfast, which had one simple message: ‘Good science exposes creationism as wrong.’ Interestingly, Eldson did not cite any scientific evidence, but simply presented out-of-date theological arguments. Angus sent another open letter to the editor in an attempt to correct the biased, ill-informed articles in the magazine, including copious scientific evidence for biblical creation. That letter is reproduced below.
Monday 27th October 2008
Dr Tony Bazley
Editor, Earth Science Ireland
Dear Dr Bazley,
I recently found the Issue 4 Autumn 2008 Earth Science Ireland publication via the Habitas website.1 I thank you for publishing excerpts from my letter protesting the anti-Christian and anti creationist tone of some articles in the previous edition, and giving indication of where the full text may be read. It was good to see even a small portion of Genesis chapter 1 cited.
May I take this opportunity to respond to the main points the Reverend Doctor Ronald Elsdon raises in his ‘Rescuing Genesis’ article. The present discussion may go some way to addressing the ‘dialogue of the deaf’ that Elsdon alludes to. However, I do note that your articles on ‘creation’ are concluded with this edition, so our dialogue may be short.
‘Sadly, creationism is no longer merely a religious oddity’
That creationist scientists can effectively use both the Bible and science to put forward a sound case for God, His intrinsic nature (holy and true) and His power and omniscience (as shown in creation), should be a source of encouragement and hope to Bible-believing Christians.
‘Good science exposes creationism as wrong’
On the contrary, the house of evolution is built on sand. Consider that Darwin himself admitted the main weakness of his theory was the lack of intermediate fossils (so-called missing links). Over the years, evolutionists have put forward many ‘missing links’ which they have hotly debated amongst themselves. Most have fallen by the wayside, some have been found to be fraudulent (e.g., Piltdown Man, Archaeoraptor), but the finely graduated series of forms intermediate between phyla are simply not there, despite Donald Prothero’s protestations.2 If evolution were true, why did Goldschmidt postulate ‘Hopeful Monsters’; or Eldredge and Gould put forward their theory of Punctuated Equilibrium? Both are supplementary theories to try to rationalise the lack of evidence for the main theory.
As recently reported in the media,3 the Census of Marine Life has discovered that out of 178,900 marine species reviewed to date, only 122,500 had valid scientific names. The census has ‘rooted out’ some 56,400 aliases (where the same species is named more than once). The most over-named was found to be a species of Atlantic sponge, Halichondria panicea, whose various forms had been named 56 times by different researchers. This was ‘ … by no means an exceptional case’. If scientists have ended up giving living organisms multiple names, how sound is fossil naming? Fossil identification is based on much less information—almost exclusively on morphology (outward form) based on hard parts, moulds, casts, or impressions or traces of soft parts.
Evolutionists construct their evolutionary tree largely based on morphology. Now, not even morphology can be assumed to demonstrate evolutionary descent. DNA research continues to contradict the theory—witness the ‘Why a grebe could be pretty as a flamingo’ story headlined recently by a credulous media.4 The study5 purported to show, among other ‘surprising links’, that grebes and flamingos are ‘close sisters in evolutionary terms’. As a result of the research, which showed that appearances can be deceptive, it was claimed that the family tree of the bird kingdom, biology textbooks and birdwatchers’ field guides will all have to be revised. Again the research is on living organisms; it can not be carried out on the vast majority of fossils. If it could, how many fossil lineages would be set in disarray? [Given] that evolution can not be inferred by morphology, and with DNA research not confirming expected patterns, what is the difference between the facts now being elucidated and special creation?
For years evolutionary biologists have thought that the entire complement of human genes resided in only 1.5% of the DNA, dismissing the remaining 98.5% as ‘junk’ left over from our evolutionary past. Recent research on only 1% of the genome shows that the ‘junk’ is actually an active and important part of how cells work, being in effect the cell’s ‘operating system’. The differences in the operation of these genes between humans and other species were also found to vary significantly, up to 70%. As reported in the media,6 the implications of the research are so profound that it ‘could turn basic biology concepts upside-down’ and ‘even challenge our understanding of the way evolution works’—no doubt to the satisfaction of creationists.
The above demonstrates the unimaginable complexity of only a fraction of a cell’s DNA ‘software’, not considering all the other cellular components, or ‘hardware’, used to produce all the proteins, hormones etc. needed for life. No doubt evolutionists will still rationalise God out of the matter with just-so stories of how blind chance and evolution could accomplish such marvels. Christians can agree with the psalmist that we ‘are fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14).
Thus evolution can not be demonstrated as incontrovertible fact. Evolution can only be inferred by those who reject special creation.
Regarding the supposed millions of years of earth history, those convinced of it should consider that its basis, uniformitarianism, i.e., the erosion, transportation and deposition of sedimentary rock layers being interpreted as having occurred at the slow rates observed today, has, over the last few decades, been overturned by the efforts of neo-catastrophists such as the late Professor Derek Ager (I acknowledge that there is a significant difference of degree between creationists and Ager, as between ‘The Flood’, and repeated ‘local disasters’ over time). The scale of past catastrophic events studied is impressive. The most recently reported involved the ‘megaflood’ that cut the English Channel,7 separating Britain from the continent. Neo-Catastrophism fits in well with the biblical Flood and its aftermath. If the actual evidence on the ground shouts out ‘catastrophe’, why should the veracity of the Genesis account of the Flood be rejected a priori, as it almost always is?
‘Creationist theology is bad theology that, sadly, plays into the hands of Dawkins and others … ’
Creationist theology is orthodox—it treats the Bible as the inspired Word of God. It is sad that a ‘convinced Christian’, who represents the established church, could seek to ‘rescue’ Genesis from fellow Christians. May I be as plain as to suggest that the Reverend Doctor should try to reclaim the authority of the Scriptures from long-age evolutionists, the majority of whom are atheists who have no truck with God, the Bible or Genesis?
I am satisfied that Genesis 1 can be simply read and understood by everyone, and that the plain meaning that the words ‘day’ and ‘the morning and evening were the first day’ etc. refers only to twenty-four hour days. That this is the case regarding grammar and context is also agreed by Hebrew scholars. No amount of extra-scriptural reasoning can force millions of years and evolution anywhere into Genesis 1, whether ruin/reconstruction, gap or theistic evolution. What does it say of God if in fact Adam was standing on ground whose strata contained the remains of life buried in local disasters over eons of time, and that showed predation and disease as well, that He could then declare that His creation was ‘very good’? Theistic evolutionists are left questioning the authenticity of Adam—was he an evolved ape given soul, spirit and a better brain by divine act, or was he created? How does the theistic evolutionist deal with the Fall and the question of sin? At least atheists know they are not troubled by such difficulties.
The authority and credibility of the Genesis account of origins, and the Bible as a whole, was undermined by churchmen who accepted Hutton and Lyell’s ideas that the earth was far older than given in the Bible. Churchmen who mistook the present as being the key to the past have instead taken away the key of knowledge, and, not entering in themselves, have hindered those who would enter (cf. Luke 11:52). If church leaders who compromised then were not fully convinced that the Bible is 1) God’s Word, 2) a true account of world history; from creation, Adam and Eve, the fall, entrance of sin, to redemption, and final consummation, and 3) showing throughout that God is not remote but active in His dealings with men, it is not surprising that many present-day churchmen are not convinced either.
However, Genesis is foundational to the Bible message. The apparent overthrow of Genesis leads many to conclude that if it is only a myth concocted to suit the understanding of a mere pastoral tribe in the wilderness, then Jesus’ claims as being God incarnate and omniscient are false. Jesus, on the matter of divorce and marriage, referred directly to the Genesis account of Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4–5). He also referred to Noah and the Flood (Matthew 24:38–39). With Genesis gone, what is left to convince any unsaved person of the virgin birth, deity, atoning death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ? For such, at best, Jesus will be regarded as a great teacher, but a mere man. The end result is an emasculated Gospel, with no sign of transforming faith. At worst, it will turn away those seeking meaning and purpose in life and forgiveness of sin through faith in Jesus Christ. Witness the near terminal decline in the established church. It is hollow to bewail the loss of ‘Christian values’ in British life today when what these values are based on—God’s word, including Genesis—is rejected.
This rejection has culminated in the Church of England’s recent official ‘apology’ to Darwin’s descendants. Apparently its Victorian hierarchy showed too much ‘anti-evolutionary fervour’. The apology was dismissed by Darwin’s descendants as ‘pointless’. The Church of England not only hosts Darwin’s tomb in Westminster Abbey, but also hosts a website set up to honour him. Harsh though the question may be, if the church lauds the founder of an atheistic and materialistic ‘scientific’ creed that does away with the God it professes to represent, what exactly does it stand for?
‘Creationism today is essentially a modern phenomenon.’
This is not the case. A literal six-day creation only thousands of years ago and a global Flood was the near-universal position of the church until the intimidation by uniformitarian pressures in relatively recent times. This included the overwhelming majority of the church fathers, great Reformers such as Calvin and Luther, and John Wesley, to name but a few. Belief in long ages has a long history—it was prevalent in pagan civilisations in India, Chaldea, Egypt, Greece and Rome.8 Paul spoke against it; witness his address on Mars Hill, where he declared the ‘God that made the world and all things therein’ (see Acts 17:22–34) to the rationalists of his day. The early Christians, such as Theophilus of Antioch (AD 115–181) and Julius Africanus (AD 200–245) spoke out against long ages as well.
‘[Creationism] seeks to ‘correct’ mainstream science with an alternative view using the bible as a scientific textbook. In this sense it is adversarial: one source of knowledge has to be seen to conquer another.’
I don’t use the Bible as a ‘scientific textbook’, nor do creation scientists in general.9 I do accept the Bible as being God’s inerrant word on how we arrived here, why we are here, and what we are in His sight—rebellious sinners under God’s judgement. I also accept what it says about Jesus Christ and forgiveness of sins—that he is God’s Son and that ‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).
‘[Creationism] also reflects a search for certainty … human life can seem desperately precarious … ’
Evolutionists certainly provide no comfort regarding those with a desire for any certainty other than nihilism. Provine puts it bluntly as to what evolution signifies for him: ‘ … There are no gods, no purposeful forces of any kind, no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be completely dead. That’s just all—that’s gonna be the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.’10
However, there is hope and certainty for all who believe God is, and ‘that he is a rewarder of all of them that diligently seek him’ (Hebrews 11:6). When individuals acknowledge their sins, ‘For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23), repent, and accept the vicarious sacrifice of God’s incarnate Son, their sins are forgiven. Jesus Himself said, ‘ … him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out’ (John 6:37).
At least the Reverend Doctor accepts God’s view of the brevity of life, ‘For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away’ (James 4:14), and ‘ … it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement’ (Hebrews 9:27). This is the imperative of why Christians must be ‘ … ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear’ (1 Peter 3:15).
‘The threat from continued global warming is so great that every voice that can be brought to bear on it must be heard.’
After more than forty years exposure to scientific materialism, it is no surprise that the Reverend Doctor appears to ignore biblical eschatology and sees the only threat to mankind as being global warming. The Bible has a ‘ … more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed’ (2 Peter 1:19), which is unique and sets it apart from all other books. Careful reading of the apocalyptic events related in Revelation, in the light of current issues such as global warming (see Rev. 16:8–9), potentially unstable volcanic islands11 (see Rev. 8:8–9), a global economy coupled with efforts to prevent identity theft and fraud (see Rev. 13:16–17), near-earth asteroid tracking and poisonous comets12 (see Rev. 8:10–11) etc., should be thought-provoking.
Whether or not what has been touched upon will persuade any to fully trust the great Creator God of the Bible is a moot point. The range of opinion on origins is populated by such disparate groups—militant atheists, theistic evolutionists, intelligent designers and creationists. Evolution is inimical to creation, and vice versa. Christians who try to harmonise them are left in an unhappy middle position, not wholly accepted or even rejected by their atheistic scientific peers, and at the same time undermining the veracity of the Bible and vitiating the eternal import of its message to every soul on this planet—‘ye must be born again’.
- Issue 4 can be accessed from the website of ES2k Earth Science 2000. Click on ‘Magazine’ then ‘Earth Science Ireland Issue 4’. Return to text.
- ‘Creationists peddle lies about fossil record says scientist’, Daily Telegraph, 28th February, 2008. See one creationist’s response at https://creation.com/article/5659 Return to text.
- Register clears out ‘fishy’ names BBC News, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7473707.stm Return to text.
- ‘Why a grebe could be pretty as a flamingo’, Daily Telegraph, 27th June, 2008 Return to text.
- See also ‘Major Evolutionary Study Rewrites Bird ‘Tree of Life’, www.clas.ufl.edu/events/news/articles/20080630-birds.html Return to text.
- ‘Life just got a lot more complicated’, The Daily Telegraph, Tuesday June 19, 2007 Return to text.
- See ‘Megaflood made Island Britain’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6904675.stm Return to text.
- See ‘The long story of long ages’, by David Green at https://creation.com/article/759; Return to text.
- See ‘But the Bible’s not a science textbook, is it?’, by Carl Wieland at https://creation.com/article/302/; ‘But Genesis is not a science textbook’, by Jonathan Sarfati at https://creation.com/article/505/. Return to text.
- Provine, W.B., Darwinism: Science or Naturalistic Philosophy? The Debate at Stanford University, William B. Provine (Cornell University) and Phillip E. Johnson (University of California, Berkeley), videorecording © 1994 Regents of the University of California (see also Origins Research 16(1):9, 1994; arn.org/docs/orpages/or161/161main.htm), as cited in ‘Is Richard Dawkins an atheist?’ by Don Batten at https://creation.com/article/5560/ Return to text.
- ‘Giant wave could threaten US’, concerning Cumbre Vieja volcano, La Palma, Canary Islands. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/956280.stm Return to text.
- ‘Cyanide comet lights the skies’, The Daily Telegraph, 27th October, 2006. Return to text.