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Should CMI ignore the atheists? Plus human vs ape skin

Published: 12 June 2010 (GMT+10)
atheist Richard Dawkins
If CMI were to stop critiquing Dawkins’ pronouncements, would he go quiet?

Two enquiries this week—the second correspondent asking about the differences between human skin and ape skin.  Dr Don Batten answers both. Firstly we have Australian correspondent Mary B., who wrote:

Why all this emphasis on your website to rebutting atheists? They are only really in the minority (admittedly vocal at present)—yet your website probably spurs the more rabid ones to speak out all the more. “Rebutting” atheists, as you put it, I think is not only unnecessary but also strategically unwise. Better to let them shout away into the wind; if we all ignore them they might soon tire of it. Meanwhile it’s people who are zealous for God but whose zeal is misdirected (Romans 10:2) that we should be helping.

Incidentally, from the articles I’ve perused on your website (not all, I admit) you’re making the mistake of viewing the Bible literally. An understandable error, but an error nonetheless, no matter how well-intended. Much Scripture is in fact written as metaphor. Hence it brings to the earnest believer (i.e. anyone who is prepared to accept its Divine origins) deep theological truths. It is not, nor was it intended to be, a science textbook.

The noble purpose of science is to understand the world around us. While I am not condoning the antics of some scientists who deny the existence of God, one cannot put one’s head in the sand, i.e. denying the scientific evidence, just because of facts that might seem to contradict the Bible. There is no justification for intellectual slothfulness! Rather, as science gives us new insights into how life developed we can marvel at the deep truths “sealed” up in the Bible, which are really only now becoming apparent to man with the benefit of modern knowledge. I would ask that you take the time to probe more deeply on these matters.

Dr Don Batten’s responses are interspersed below:

Why all this emphasis on your website to rebutting atheists? They are only really in the minority—yet your website probably spurs the more rabid ones to speak out all the more. “Rebutting” atheists, as you put it, I think is not only unnecessary but also strategically unwise. Better to let them shout away into the wind; if we all ignore them they’ll soon get sick of it. Meanwhile it’s people who are zealous for God but whose zeal is misdirected (Romans 10:2) that we should be helping.

We agree that we can give too much attention to the "new atheists", who are a very noisy small minority. We believe that New Age ideas / Eastern mysticism, etc., are arguably far more rampant and competitive with true Christian faith than atheism, at least in Australia. But the atheists have certainly increased their media profile in recent years—witness the Year of Darwin celebrations and the reporting of various atheist-supported events (e.g. the Global Atheist Congress in Melbourne in March)—I wonder if you have heard the heavy coverage given to the atheists by our taxpayer-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)? High-profile atheist Richard Dawkins seemed to be on every second program. And then they even played one of his more provocative anti-Christian statements repeatedly over several weeks—their excuse being their self-promotion of the ABC AM program (Dawkins was given 20 minutes to strut his anti-Christian diatribe out of this 30 minute prime-time program!). So I don’t think our efforts to counter Mr Dawkins give him any publicity that he is not already getting truckloads of via "our" ABC and other media.

While statistics would suggest that only maybe 15% of Australians say they are atheists, many more are functional atheists (live as if there is no God to whom they are or will be accountable). Furthermore, atheism is a growing proportion of the population and already comprises significant proportions of many western European countries. Census figures in France indicate that 33% of people consider themselves atheist and 14% agnostic. That is a very significant proportion of the population—47% in total. Surveys of teenagers in Australia suggest that atheism is certainly on the rise in younger people, which is not surprising considering the doctrinaire teaching of the materialistic worldview (via cosmological, geological and biological evolution).

While atheists are a minority, they tend to be an influential minority, with many of them influential in higher education and the media, so it would be foolish for Christians to ignore them and not to counter what they are saying and doing.

Probably the biggest threat to Christianity today in this country is apathy, as written about recently by Bill Muehlenberg: Our Own Worst Enemies.

Incidentally, from the articles I’ve perused on your website (not all, I admit) you’re making the mistake of viewing the Bible literally. An understandable error, but an error nonetheless, no matter how well-intended. Much Scripture is in fact written as metaphor. Hence it brings to the earnest believer (i.e. anyone who is prepared to accept its Divine origins) deep theological truths. It is not, nor was it intended to be, a science textbook.

If the Bible is the inspired Word of God, which we take it to be, then it is incumbent upon us to interpret what we read according to how it is meant to be understood (exegesis), not to twist it to fit with what we would like it to say (which is eisegesis). Was Genesis (for example) written as metaphor or as literal history? Genesis was written as historical narrative—as testified for example by Oxford Hebraist James Barr: Genesis means what it says!. It is not poetry, metaphor, myth, a polemic or whatever other slippery term that has been invented to avoid the clear import of what it says. Please see articles at: Genesis questions and answers. See also: Statistical determination of genre in biblical Hebrew: Evidence for an historical reading of Genesis, where the author, Dr Stephen Boyd, shows using a statistical approach that the likelihood of Genesis being historical narrative is higher than 99.5%.

The noble purpose of Science is to understand the world around us. While I am not condoning the antics of some scientists who deny the existence of God, one cannot put one’s head in the sand, i.e. denying the scientific evidence, just because of facts that might seem to contradict the Bible. There is no justification for intellectual slothfulness! Rather, as science gives us new insights into life’s development we can marvel at the deep truths “sealed” up for our benefit in the Bible, which are only now becoming apparent to man with the benefit of modern knowledge. I would ask that you take the time to probe more deeply on these matters.

Clearly you have not looked at much of the content of our publications (or even our website, which has over 7,000 articles written at all levels, including by experts in Hebrew, history, theology and various fields of science). You say, "I would ask that you take time to probe more deeply on these matters." Considering that that these matters are what our ministry is about, your statement must be made in ignorance, so I will not be insulted. Please consider the following (I must restrain myself here as I cannot do justice to over 7,000 articles!):

None of us involved with Creation Ministries International have forfeited our abilities to think scientifically and rationally on these matters—quite the contrary. The only ‘science’ that contradicts the Bible is ‘historical science’, which involves imagining what happened in the past based on what is seen in the present. This is a very imprecise ‘science’ that is strongly driven by materialistic presuppositions, in contrast to experimental or operational science. See ‘It’s not science. Again I wonder how much of our material you have read.

Rather, it is those who say the Bible is about theology only and has nothing to say about history (e.g. no Flood of Noah; just a story) who park their scientific (geological) brains. The non-overlapping magisterial approach, whereby the Bible is seen as only about theological concepts, morality, etc., involves compartmentalizing knowledge in a very destructive manner. I have been there and it is very destructive of faith in God and confidence in His Word. See my story: Harvesting real fruit—Creation Magazine (Don Batten interview) Jesus said, “If they do not believe Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe, even if someone comes back from the dead.” (Luke 16:31).

By the way, there is abundant scientific evidence that the earth is not billions of years old. See, for example: Age of the earth evidence (but note the introduction). For more, see: Young Age Evidence Q&A.

When you marry the Bible with the long ages claimed by secularist geology (see the origin of the long ages: The origin of old-Earth geology and its ramifications for life in the 21st century), then you destroy any consistent theodicy (an explanation of the goodness of God). See: Creation, Suffering and the Problem of Evil and Cosmic and universal death from Adam’s fall: an exegesis of Romans …

I trust this has helped a little in increasing your comprehension of what we are about and why we do what we do.

Kindest regards,

Don Batten


This next enquiry is from Christina C. (Australia), who wrote:

I subscribe to Creation mag, work at [a hospital], have the magazines in our waiting room, saw ‘Expelled‘ on the weekend, support you and have been to many talks, seminars, have supported you financially and want to continue to do so etc. I remember hearing at one of them someone saying monkey/ape skin is completely different to human skin and could not have evolved, it was very interesting and I have heaps of books but so far cannot find any reading matter to expand on this so I can share this with people. Can you tell me which book or reference I can find regarding the diff in human/ape skin?

Many thanks. Keep up the great work.

Christina C.

Don Batten replies:

Dear Christina,

Thanks so much for your support and encouragement, which we greatly appreciate.

It is true that human and ape skin is quite different. This was one of the evidences adduced by the "aquatic ape" proponents, who argue that humans were not descended from apes of the savannah, but from an aquatic stage. Elaine Morgan is the prime proponent of this theory. The main publication is a book published in 1999 (The Aquatic Ape). You can find a review of the idea in our Journal of Creation article The Aquatic Ape Theory: challenge to the orthodox theory of evolution.

The major differences in the skin are the presence of subcutaneous fat in humans (the only primate with it) and the type and distribution of sweat glands and sebaceous glands (oil glands). You can read about the differences in the above article.

I hope this helps.

Every blessing,

Don Batten


Helpful Resources

15 Reasons to Take Genesis as History
by Dr Don Batten, Dr Jonathan D Sarfati
US $4.00
Soft Cover