Martin Rudwick’s shallow assessment: “Creationists out of their depth”



Dr Martin J.S. Rudwick is arguably the foremost historian of geology in the world. Unfortunately, he does not live up to his reputation in the appendix to his new book, Earth’s Deep History,1 entitled “Creationists out of Their Depth”. Interspersed with intemperate rhetoric, Rudwick weaves a tale of modern creationism that bears little resemblance to reality and displays a striking unfamiliarity with creationist work. He cites nothing, refers only to George McCready Price and The Genesis Flood, and apparently hopes his reputation will mask this lack of research.

Rudwick’s rhetoric is unexpectedly clumsy. He begins by describing creationism as a “strange feature of the current scene … so strange, and … far outside the mainstream of scientific thinking and practice … .” (p. 309), and ends concluding that: “Young-Earthers are now unmistakably equivalent … to flat-Earthers, and proponents of Intelligent Design are equally out of touch.” He finishes with this flourish:

For all the noise that creationism generates, it is no more than a bizarre sideshow that has set itself in implacable opposition to one of the most solid and reliable of human scientific achievements. Sadly, creationists are utterly out of their depth (p. 315).

If a creationist were to write the same paragraph, replacing “creationist” and “young-Earther” with “evolutionist” and “old-Earther”, he would rightly be criticized for a shallow ad hominem attack apparently made to avoid any intellectual exchange. One expects more of a scholar of Rudwick’s standing. As a historian, he should understand the danger of inventing history for polemic purposes and fitting facts to a predetermined narrative, but he evidently forgot that lesson. His ‘facts’ and ‘arguments’ are stale, and his ignorance of modern creationism is embarrassing. However, this appendix is useful: first, it offers insight into the present state of anti-creationist ‘higher criticism’, second, it shows the hostility endemic to modern academia, and finally, it offers an opportunity in answering it to show the strength of the creationist position. For that reason, I will present his argument in red and address it in detail.

1. … ‘ creationism’ … rejects almost all aspects of the interpretation of the history of the Earth and its life that has been worked out over the past three or four centuries by those who are now called scientists.

In implying that creationists are not scientists because they oppose the work of others who are, Rudwick commits a category error and ad hominen attack in one statement. Note his belief in a necessary evolutionary progress in science inevitably leading to truth, when we give ‘science’ three or four centuries to work it out. He contradicts himself by trying to imply that the “interpretation” of “history” is equivalent to science, simply because it is done by “those who are now called scientists”. This begs the question of how to define both “science” and “history”, and ignores the role that opposing worldviews may play.2,3

2. What is most prominent in creationism is its vehement rejection of evolution, and particularly of what are alleged to be the implications of evolutionary theory for understanding human beings (p. 309).

What a novel idea—creationists oppose evolution! He fails to mention the corollary—evolutionism is a “vehement rejection” of Genesis history. Furthermore, Rudwick may not like the anthropological implications of evolutionary theory, but his problem is then not with creationists, but with those who actually invented those “alleged implications”: a long line of evolutionists, like Darwin, Spencer, Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, the Huxleys, Mead, Sanger, Watson, etc. who trumpeted the replacement of the biblical view of man in order to justify everything from casual sex to genocide. Creationists have merely reported the results in the context of the retreat of Christian civilization, as documented in works of Christians from C.S. Lewis to Vishal Mangalwadi.

3. But what is also prominent is its startling re-invention of… a “young Earth,” which the sciences of the Earth outgrew for very good reasons back in the 18th century (p. 309).

Once again, we see Rudwick’s unstated evolutionary axiom; modern man has evolved an old-Earth evolutionary view of the past and any deviation must be excluded since it would violate Dollo’s law. Yet reading his own books on the subject (as well as many others), it is clear that the idea of an old Earth was driven in large part by an Enlightenment desire to distance itself from the Creator and thus liberate man from Christianity. (See Early arguments for deep time Part 1, 2 and 3.) This has been clearly stated by its proponents, from Lamarck to Provine. Furthermore, ‘scientific’ evidence for an old Earth put forward by the secular intelligentsia in the 18th century highlighted their uniformitarian bias and actual field data have shown their errors, and that their ‘examples’ are equally well explained in a young-Earth framework. Rudwick’s basic argument could equally well have been made in 1500 in support of the geocentric model of the solar system.

4. … 17th century chronologists used the Bible as one of their sources for constructing a timeline of world history…. they believed that biblical texts eventually became the only historical records available (p. 310).

Ussher’s Annals did not represent a passing fad of the 1600s. Biblical chronology has been practiced throughout Church history. Nor did Ussher or other leading chronologists think the Bible was “the only historical record available”. Otherwise, why would he have cited so many hundreds of other historical documents? Christian chronologists believed that the Bible was the most reliable record because, as a part of orthodox Christian theology, they believed it was God’s revelation to man. However, the chronologists addressed as many extant documents as they could find and translate. Ussher is also reputed to be an accomplished linguist, learning several ancient languages in order to facilitate his work. These kinds of subtle distortions unfortunately permeate this appendix; helping drive his false narrative that creationism is nothing more than a weird American 20th century social and political phenomenon.

5. … the two Creation stories in Genesis were taken to be the only accounts of the earliest times of all… (p. 310).

The hackneyed “two-creation story” theory has long been used to create confusion in exegesis and pave the way for a non-historical interpretation of Genesis 1.4 In the strict sense, both Genesis 1 and 2 are historical narrative,5 not a “story”. Rudwick reveals a casual attitude toward the Bible that obviously influences his understanding of its meaning. If by the “earliest times of all”, Rudwick refers to the events at Creation, then the creationist position is the only logical one because there was only one possible eyewitness—God! Or if Rudwick is willing to give or take a week, then Adam and Eve were there too, as Christ himself noted in Mark 10:6. Moses received revelation directly from God (Exodus 33:11), and Jesus confirmed that it was from God, and that Moses transmitted it accurately (John 17:17). But in the old-Earth evolutionary view, there can be no eyewitnesses of the “earliest times of all”. This position must include a prior assumption that the Bible is not revelatory or that if it was, God did not tell the truth. Although archaeologists and anthropologists have found many creation stories from many civilizations, Genesis stands alone as the only divine revelation, not the only account.6

6. … they were thought to be reports of what must, necessarily, have been disclosed by God directly to Adam or his descendants (p. 310).

The Bible and Jewish and Christian tradition have always supported a Mosaic authorship, not an Adamic one. No doubt many details of the creation events were told to Adam when he walked with God before the Fall, and it is possible that accounts from the patriarchs were passed down to Moses. However, Christ’s validation of Moses’ product in John 17:17 points us to the real issue—the truth of the account, not its author. It is suggestive of his bias that Rudwick shows no interest or concern with the many other events in the Pentateuch that may also have been passed down to Moses; it is not the mode of transmission that bothers him, it is the content. Whether Moses had access to accounts passed down from his ancestors is unknown and unknowable, although the literary structure of Genesis suggests that might have been the case. But Rudwick does stumble on the fundamental point that truth requires revelation, it must be “disclosed by God”, and God’s nature requires that revelation be true (Romans 3:4; Hebrews 6:18). This truth is supported by human experience; both in the long history of man’s fallibility apart from revelation and verification of biblical revelation in everything from fulfilled prophecy to human behavior.

7. But although the rest of the Bible was also believed to be in some sense “inspired,” it was recognized to be a collection of diverse texts written or recorded by human beings… (p. 310).

Though a competent historian, Rudwick is less so in theology. The fact of, and sense in which Scripture was inspired is stated plainly in the Bible and has been addressed by theologians throughout church history (2 Timothy 3:16; Ephesians 2:20). Human agency does not preclude inerrant inspiration, and that God was able to communicate truth through a variety of people over many centuries in no way detracts from it. It is interesting that in this instance Rudwick is willing to contradict his own evolutionary view of knowledge; there was an ongoing fallibility in receiving and understanding Scripture for millennia, but of course a few centuries of ‘science’ inevitably led to truth.

8. Back in the early or “Patristic” centuries AD/CE the variety of possible levels of interpretation of specific biblical texts had already been well explored; the “literal” was just one of several, and not the most highly valued (p. 310).

Rudwick exhibits a gnostic understanding of Scripture—levels of hidden meaning and corresponding levels of “interpretation”. However, the development of a theology of Scripture and its interpretation has been well documented throughout church history. One such doctrine is that of the perspicuity of Scripture. We can shortcut much of this and simply ask how Jesus—God in the flesh—understood it. Clearly He would be the best judge. His simultaneous elevated view of the material combined with His affirmation of its clear meaning are evident from his own words. Who could be in a better position to make authoritative assertions about the text and its meaning than Christ the Son of God? Who could better judge its import to the human mind than Christ the second Adam?. Furthermore, since Rudwick affirms a Protestant Calvinistic heritage, we suggest he read the first chapter of the Westminster Confession, which states this doctrine as it was believed by his self-confessed spiritual forefathers … a view that dramatically contradicts his own.

Rudwick uses “literal”—both here and throughout his appendix—in a rhetorical, not dialectical manner, distorting to denigrate, in order to open the door to his heterodox interpretation of Genesis. “Poisoning the well” is the most common name for this fallacy. His use of the equivocal term “valued” affirms this. He could discover how the church viewed Genesis 1–11 if he read mainstream interpreters throughout church history. He would see a monolithically orthodox view that included his dreaded young Earth and global Flood until about 1800—a phenomenon better explained by compromise with the hostile and overtly secular new ‘science’. That is a more accurate framework than the ‘discovery’ of new “interpretive” schemes, which are all post hoc accommodations.

9. Furthermore, the “principle of accommodation” had acknowledged that the language used in the Bible … must necessarily have been adapted to the capacities of the original audience … (p. 310).

The distortion of the Reformation’s “principle of accommodation” again reflects an evolutionary presupposition. In the original sense, this principle allowed interpreters to account for the use of ordinary language, with its assumptions and idioms. In the past century or more, liberal critics have distorted it to deny the obvious meaning because the evolutionary divergence between the ‘primitive’ Israelites and ‘modern’ enlightened men must mean that the Bible’s text was also ‘primitive’. Isaiah 40:87 destroys this version of chronological snobbery. Thus, the Genesis accounts cannot be tossed aside because they might be communicating a too-complex truth in a simplistic fashion for the ‘primitive’ audience. It is amazing that the poor Israelites could grasp the magisterial language of the Law and prophets like Isaiah, but could not understand simple concepts like “old” and “young”! Using the same principle, how does Rudwick justify his own ‘primitive’ 18th century views in the face of a ‘more evolved’ post-modern relativism?

10. In much later centuries the deepening of biblical scholarship, and a growing historical awareness of the “otherness” of earlier cultures, led scholar and theologians to recognize, for example, that the “days” of the first Creation story might not have referred to days in the modern sense, and that the recorded universality of Noah’s Flood might have referred to the world as it was known at first hand to the story’s original audience (p. 310).

Again, evolutionary presuppositions demand that biblical scholarship grow better through time, especially once the Enlightened idea of interpreting Scripture through the lens of so-called ‘scientific history’ was realized. The “growing historical awareness” of the “otherness” of earlier cultures is merely a delicate way of placing the Bible on the same level with other creation myths and flood legends, when in all likelihood, they were distorted echoes of the truth the Bible records! Interpretive schemes like this were at best outliers of church theology until pressure from Enlightenment secularists began forcing an extra-biblical accommodation. Surprisingly, the only narratives of concern for Rudwick are those in Genesis 1–28,9,10 and 6–9.11 If Rudwick was familiar with creationist literature, he would know that these issues have been resolved.

11. … the primary purpose of the Bible was to record and interpret the historical events on which central Christian concepts such as Incarnation and Redemption were founded … it was not to instruct humanity in any of the sciences (p. 310).

If the Bible cannot be subordinated to modern ‘science’ by reference to Babylonian or Sumerian flood myths, perhaps the inconvenient parts can at least be minimized by ‘just focusing on Jesus’. Ironically, this mirrors the 20th century fundamentalist escapism which Rudwick later castigates. But even this tactic fails; Jesus himself made it clear that both His incarnation and the redemption of His followers were necessarily tied to the so-called ‘minor’ issues like man being created in God’s image, original sin and its consequences, and parallels between the Flood and the final judgment (Matthew 24:37). Later New Testament teaching followed Jesus (2 Peter 3), so this minimalist approach to Scripture is simply special pleading. The attempt to minimalize Genesis is followed by Rudwick’s variation of the tired old ‘the Bible is not a textbook of science’ argument, long used by secular skeptics and compromising Christians to avoid the historical reality of what the Bible does teach, and repeatedly answered by Christians who do not want to repress biblical truth.

12. As Galileo was said to have quipped, the Bible was there to show us how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go (p. 310).

And as Jesus was said to have ‘quipped’, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead!” (Luke 16:31). Rudwick attempts to use the icon of Galileo (and the baggage of his hagiography) to deflect from the historical accuracy of the Bible. Archeology confirms much of it, and science by its nature cannot disprove the recorded events. We might ask what from the Pentateuch is rejected, apart from the days of creation and the extent of the Flood? Secularists pick and choose what is useful in their worldview, confident that their brand of human reason can select truth from error.

13. In the light of this long historical tradition of scholarly “hermeneutics” or methods of interpretation, the revival of biblical “literalism” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most prominently in American Protestantism, was surprising to the rest of the Christian world (pp. 310–311).

First, note again how Rudwick uses “literalism” emotively. If we substitute “grammatico-historical method” for “literalism”, Rudwick’s argument falls apart, since that method has proved valid and has been the subject of intense scholarly investigation since the Reformation. Taking Genesis at face value always was theological orthodoxy until the Enlightenment.12 Rudwick claims a Protestant Calvinistic tradition; perhaps he should read John Calvin’s sermons on Genesis,13 which take this “surprising” recent literalism back into the 1500s. Orthodox hermeneutics came under fire from Enlightenment secularists, along with the entire Christian worldview, and the trends of the 19th and 20th centuries are better characterized by the gradual separation of sheep from goats in the visible church.14 Thus, the “surprise” of continued faithfulness in parts of the visible church was not to those familiar with the theology of the church, but to the disappointed secularists who had hijacked the civilization it had built.15 Rudwick proceeds to show something other than “surprise” when he attempts a clumsy comparison between the faithful retention of the orthodox Protestant view of Genesis and the 19th century Roman Catholic “revival of cults based on local miracle”, a rhetorical false analogy designed to reinforce the idea that creationists are theological luddites.

14. More particularly the idea of the absolute verbal “inerrancy” of the Bible, as propounded by some American religious figures, was a startling innovation (p. 311).

Rudwick again uses equivocation to distort history, never explaining what he means by “absolute verbal inerrancy”. In the orthodox Christian world, it means the same thing taught by Jesus, his Apostles, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, as well as “some American religious figures” like Jonathan Edwards, Robert Dabney, Charles Hodge, etc. It means that God’s revelation is true—which is a logical inference from God’s inability to lie. For centuries, this was the view of the church, until Enlightenment compromise swept it away. The real “startling innovation” was the attempt of the past two centuries to distort and eliminate inconvenient truths from Scripture by wholesale rejection, selective reading, or inducing compromise in theologians. Note again how Rudwick sneaks in an ad hominem implication that people who hold this historical orthodox view are only being influenced by a few “American religious figures”, (e.g., the creationists).

15. … “fundamentalism,” was designed to resist this trend by restating basic Christian doctrines; the primary target was ultra-liberal theology and the reductive variety of biblical criticism that underlay it, not scientific ideas as such (p. 311).

Rudwick’s fantastical history of the past 200 years continues, as he uses the trigger word “fundamentalism” to reinforce the negative stereotypes he attributes to creationism. But all history requires context, and the context of early 20th century fundamentalism is the continuing trend of secular hostility and religious retreat begun in the 18th century. In a sense, it could be said that his principal error is in failing to recognize that Enlightenment secularism is a belief system at odds with Christianity, not some evolutionary development of it.16,17 Thus, Christian responses are not surprising; they are expected. He attempts to build a wall between the secular “scientific” attacks on Christianity from the compromising theology inside the church, but of course, the entire secular worldview must be addressed. This ability to ignore the elephant in the room has characterized most secularists, who, clinging to an 18th century view of science, think their beliefs are ‘established facts’, and cannot see their own belief system.

16. … Bryan led a moral crusade in which the horrific brutality of the war itself and all the social ills of postwar modernity were blamed on the supposedly atheistic implications of the idea of evolution … . this was the background to the high-profile trial in Tennessee in 1925, in which Bryan—a moralist rather than a biblical literalist—led the successful prosecution of John Scopes for having broken state law by teaching human evolution in his biology classes (p. 311).

Having introduced “fundamentalism”, Rudwick continues to set the emotive table with William Jennings Bryan and the Scopes trial. But the questions that are unasked and unanswered—does evolution have atheistic implications? and did evolutionary ideas create social ills?—seem to have even more clear affirmative answers today. The people who actually linked atheism and evolution were the evolutionists and the atheists; Christians were simply taking them at their word. Proponents of modernism and Enlightenment atheism in the early 20th century almost uniformly credited evolution for their ‘liberation’ from Christianity. Rudwick implies that the reaction against evolution was misguided and that evolution does not have atheistic implications. He is wrong in both cases. Everyone from Darwin to Dawkins drew and draws that implication, and if one examines the evolutionary premises of the 19th century revolutionaries like Nietzsche, Mikhail Bakunin, Marx and their 20th century children, like Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, the implication is almost impossible to evade. Looking back from the 21st century, the concerns of Bryan and others reacting to disintegration of the West are understated if anything.

After implying that Christians in America were ignorant populists (and that even their leader was not a dreaded “literalist”), Rudwick continues the narrative by zooming in on the Scopes trial. Looking back on the development of evolutionary thought and its social implications in the first half of the 20th century, one would think that a historian in the 21st century would pay more attention to Karl Marx and his disciples, Margaret Mead, Margaret Sanger, Sigmund Freud, C.G. Jung, John Watson, John Dewey, brothers Aldous and Julian Huxley, and the various radical movements they and other secularists spawned in the name of evolution and atheism. In context, the Scopes trial, which gained prominence as a means to promote evolution, was hardly a blip on the world’s screen of events. Its main use was (and continues to be) as secular propaganda, despite abundant factual errors in the popular narrative.

17. A combination of diverse factors specific to American social and political life lay behind this trend, which had no close parallel in the rest of the world … . Above all there was the distinctively American constitutional separation of church and state, which was crucial to the question of what could or should be taught in the public education system (pp. 311–312).

Rudwick diverts attention again from the issue of the worldview conflict by focusing on 20th century America, and attempting to sweep away the remnant of the church by labelling them a “social and political” anomaly. While there is no doubt that America has a unique set of social factors, the same is true of every other nation. The implied difference is between America and Europe, but that can also be seen simply in terms of Europe’s being a century ahead of America in the implementation of the secular agenda. Churches in America held out much longer; not until the 20th century did American denominations fall in line with their European counterparts. So there actually was a parallel disintegration of Western civilization; one only needs apply a delay factor to invalidate Rudwick’s explanation. His confusion over the establishment clause in the American constitution reflects a secular bias that seeks to drive Christianity from the public square. Although Christianity was the driving force behind American education until the 20th century—one need only look at the origin of many colleges and universities—the secular takeover was largely completed under the guiding hand of atheist John Dewey. American intellectuals have secularized public schools, and have retained with an iron hand a censorship of what “could or should be taught in the public education system”. If secularists truly were the ‘open-minded’ scholars they profess to be, they would welcome competing worldviews. Their happy talk about ‘respecting diversity’ stops the moment they encounter opposition. Ironically, under post-modern multiculturalism, the only worldview not welcome inside the public schools is that which made education a Western distinctive.18

18. The idea of evolution became the fundamentalists’ main scientific target; and particularly what was understood as Darwinism, owing to its reductive application to the origin and nature of human beings (that in all respects we are “nothing but” naked apes). The Earth’s extremely lengthy history, and the fossil record that scientists interpreted as evidence for long-term and large-scale evolution, were recognized as essential to the scientific case that the fundamentalists needed to undermine (p. 312).
wikipedia.org dry-falls
Dry Falls, central Washington, five times the width of Niagara, is now thought to have formed during the catastrophic Missoula Flood during the Ice Age, when the flow was ten times the current flow of all the rivers in the world combined.

The history of the Christian church in the 20th century could be seen in retrospect as the overly-slow, but steady retrenchment in the face of the hostile onslaught of Enlightenment secularism. Since evolution and deep time were the heavy weapons used in the secular attack, it is not surprising that Christians would eventually begin to question their validity and examine how they were used to secularize society. Rudwick seems to say that the reductionist view of man is not a valid implication of Darwin, but that is certainly the implication taken by the secular intelligentsia from the 19th century until today. In fact, the reality is much worse; mankind has not been reduced to the status of “naked apes”, but to that of assorted atoms and molecules. Modern anthropology, sociology, psychology, and philosophy have all pushed this low view of man, often to justify ethical behavior that Christianity had categorized as sin. In fact, Darwin was not the first to do so; earlier Enlightenment figures, like the Marquis de Sade, had already figured out that if man was not created in God’s image that he was merely a mechanistic mass of conflicting desires, and therefore any behavior was permissible.19 The past century has shown the world the results of jettisoning the Christian view of man created in God’s image for a view that seeks to differentiate and diminish humanity—the evolutionary approach. A theological response to that view requires then an apologetic (since Christianity has always valued reason) to the “evidence” adduced from the rock and fossil records, as well as the evidence for the supposed “lengthy history” that enables the evolutionary view to exist at all. Creationists (most of whom were scientists and engineers) were simply the first to push that theological battle into the public square.

19. … the Adventist writer George McCready Price had found inspiration in the ideas of the American founder of his sect, to argue that the basic principles of geology—of which he had minimal practical experience—were fatally flawed (p. 312).

Rudwick follows popular anti-creationists, such as Hugh Ross and Ron Numbers, in trying to attribute modern creationism to the Seventh Day Adventist Church. However, had he gone to the original sources, such as Henry Morris’ 1984 History of Modern Creationism,20 he could have seen his error. Furthermore, his implication that Price was unqualified because he lacked “practical experience” in geology is a tired ad hominem attack, as Morris stated: “He was certainly far better educated, in the true sense, than 90% of the Ph.D.’s and Th.D.’s cranked out by the assembly lines of the educational establishment.” Morris also demonstrated that Price was not a lone crank, and other Adventist creationists, like Frank Marsh, Harold Clark, and Clifford Burdick, did obtain advanced degrees and decades of “practical experience” in geology and biology. Furthermore, Morris describes a number of Christians from various denominations, and from America, Canada, and Europe who were creationists during the mid-20th century. And, of course, as Sarfati pointed out:

Ross also copies the ploy of the apostate Ron Numbers, attributing biblical creationism and flood geology to ‘the visions of an Adventist prophetess [Ellen White]’ via George McCready Price. A number of papers by Dr Terry Mortenson in Journal of Creation show that the early 19th century scriptural geologists presented such ideas well before Price…. Ken Ham pointed out that he had never even heard of Price at the time he founded CSF/AiG, and that he adopted creationism because of the biblical teaching. Even if Ross were right about Price, he is wrong to think that discrediting Price is enough to refute creationism—this is a classic case of the genetic fallacy.

It is ironic that Rudwick faults Price for thinking that the “basic principles of geology” were fatally flawed, since the past four decades have seen an extensive literature critiquing the fundamental principle of geology—uniformitarianism—and its understanding of the rock record.21

20. … though the leading geologist Charles Schuchert epitomized scientific opinion about it when he dismissed Price as “harboring a geological nightmare” (p. 312).
wikipedia.org Touchet-formation
The Touchet beds exposed in the Burlingame Canyon south of Lowden, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, consist of up to 60 distinct layers and are part of a chain of evidence which helped identify the catastrophic Missoula Flood, which occurred during the Ice Age.

Fortunately, we are more interested in truth than in “scientific opinion”, which, of course, has proven highly fallible over the years. One wonders had Schuchert lived longer, if he would also have been one of the highly visible professional geologists that criticized the work of J Harlen Bretz on the Channeled Scablands. Like Price, Bretz was also reviled by the strict gradualists, who, of course, were entirely wrong. But Rudwick seems to have not learnt that lesson about the reliability of “scientific opinion”. There is not enough space here to detail the legion of errors in “scientific opinion” through the centuries. Suffice to say that any implication of the infallibility of science cannot hold water to anyone remotely familiar with its history.

21. … but they [Price and followers] were criticized from within the American Scientific Affiliation—a body set up in 1941 to represent scientists who were theologically conservative Christians—for failing to take account of the strong geological evidence for an ancient Earth (p. 312).

Rudwick moves from an appeal to secular authority (Charles Schuchert) to an appeal to ‘religious’ authority in the guise of the ASA. Although the ASA was set up in 1941 to “represent scientists who were theologically conservative Christians”, its drift into secular accommodation was catalogued by Morris’ History of Modern Creationism, which provided eyewitness testimony to the rapid adoption of theistic evolution by that society. Their criticism of creationists and creationism is therefore completely expected, and the “strong geological evidence” that they present is merely a rehash of what any atheist geologist would affirm. However, the concept of a struggle within the visible church over theological orthodoxy and apostasy seems foreign to Rudwick, even though it has been a feature of the church since apostolic times.

22. The future of young-Earth creationism therefore looked unpromising, and remained largely confined to Adventists, until the publication of The Genesis Flood (1961) by the Bible teacher John Whitcomb and the engineer Henry Morris: both came from fundamentalist backgrounds and had no greater experience of geology than Price had before them (p. 312).

Again, if Rudwick had read The History of Modern Creationism he could have obtained a first-hand account of the growth and success of young-earth creationism even before to the publication of The Genesis Flood. There is no denying that the book was significant and influential, but as noted above, there were creationists from a large variety of backgrounds, including Adventists, during the middle of the 20th century. Rudwick seems to continue to imply that creationists know little of the subjects they are criticizing. That assessment is completely wrong. To clarify, Whitcomb graduated Princeton University and earned Masters and Doctoral degrees in theology from Grace Seminary, where he taught the Old Testament for decades after. Morris earned a Ph.D. in engineering and taught for many years at both Rice University and Virginia Polytechnic University, where he was chairman of the department. Morris was widely read in geology and biology; to the extent that he was able to successfully debate a number of evolutionist academics. It seems an intentional slight to their stellar careers to call them a “bible teacher” and “an engineer”. Perhaps it is meant in the same sense that we might call Mr. Lyell “a lawyer”. In my professional opinion, Morris possessed a superior understanding of geology, even if he never bothered to seek a degree in the subject. Furthermore, there are many creationists today with advanced degrees in the applicable sciences. If our predecessors were as ignorant as Rudwick implies, I doubt that any of us would be creationists.

23. … the Creation Research Society; its membership was restricted to those with scientific qualifications—though not necessarily in the sciences relevant to the contentious issues … (p. 313).

If we take Julian Huxley’s word that “all reality is a single process of evolution”,22 then it seems that any science, indeed, any discipline, would be both “relevant” and “contentious”. That is the inevitable end of any clash of worldviews. Rudwick’s ad hominem hint that creationists are ignorant and unqualified is falsified by a quick examination of the many creationists who are obviously not. If Rudwick means geology and biology, then the Creation Research Society has always opened its membership to practitioners of both sciences, who have joined. Perhaps what Rudwick is trying to say is that it is not open to evolutionists and uniformitarians, as they must automatically be opposed to its mission, although it is probably more welcoming than most public education institutions, scientific organizations, and journals, which actively suppress and harass creationists out of the public square. Censorship and control have proven more characteristic of the worldview of naturalism, just as tolerance had proven characteristic of Christians. What would the world look like if Christians had treated Enlightenment secularists as they have been treated for the past century?

24. For example, they sought to undermine “ancient Earth” stratigraphy and paleontology by identifying Mesozoic dinosaur footprints as those of early human beings, and by interpreting the Grand Canyon as the product of ultra-rapid deposition of the huge pile of rock formations following immediately by ultra-rapid erosion of the deep canyon through them as the water drained away … (p. 313).
For over a century secular geologists have failed to resolve the origin of Grand Canyon by appealing only to ‘ultra-slow’ deposition and erosion processes.

Rudwick continues his selective view of history by focusing on the Glen Rose tracks controversy, ignoring the many controversies of modern secular stratigraphy and paleontology. Creationists have done exactly as science demands. They examined the evidence and concluded that the tracks were not human footprints. This self-checking mechanism is applied continually in science, but Rudwick fails to mention the many times that secular geologists and paleontologists were forced to change their ideas because of new evidence or a re-examination of old evidence, even though such descriptions are found throughout the pages of his books.

Investigations into the origin of Grand Canyon are ongoing, and the failure of secular geologists to arrive at any consensus for its formation—given the time, money, and man-hours spent—is an indication that it may not be the product of ‘ultra-slow’ deposition followed by ‘ultra-slow’ erosion. Does the inability of uniformitarian geologists to reach an answer invalidate their entire paradigm? If not, why then is that true of creationists? Rudwick’s double standard is clear. Creationists must be infallible, while secular geologists’ long history of dead ends and doubtful theories is irrelevant to their belief system of deep time and uniformitarianism.

25. Others, in a major tactical shift, campaigned for creationism to be given “equal time” with “evolutionism” in American public education, on the grounds that they were alternative theories that were scientifically equivalent and equally entitled to a hearing. Whereas the first group continued to argue that all the evidence of geology and paleontology could be reinterpreted in line with a narrowly literal reading of the Genesis narratives, the second downplayed Genesis altogether and sought to rebrand itself as strictly scientific (p. 313).

As a careful historian, Rudwick has long written against the simplistic reductionism of geology to what Gould called a “cardboard empiricist myth”. He shows repeatedly that the interplay of personalities and ideas is always more complex in reality than it seems in retrospect. Yet his narrative of creationism is a ‘cardboard empiricist myth’ that addresses creationism as if it were some 20th century conspiracy theory. He creates the dichotomy between science and politics, when in fact, the major creationist organizations, particularly CRS, have never been involved in the public education controversy. Rather, the realization by the public that biblical history was a feasible option that was either silenced or ridiculed in public education, created a backlash against a thoroughly secularized and increasingly radical educational establishment. There was no ‘first group’ or ‘second group’ in the sense of subversive cells, and CRS, ICR (and later AiG and CMI) continued doing what they had always done—research and presentation of the results to the public and the church. Note again Rudwick’s attempt to smear creationists and divide them from other Christians with his reference to the “narrowly literal reading” of Genesis. Rudwick commits a similar error in his “second group”. It was not downplaying Genesis. One only has to read the literature of the time to see that. It was instead arguing against the persistent Enlightenment meme of the ‘war’ between ‘religion and science’ by showing that the investigation of Earth’s natural history could be done in a manner just as scientific as that used by uniformitarians and evolutionists. Since that time, creationism has grown more sophisticated, and begun emphasizing the role of worldviews,23 but Rudwick again shows his ignorance by not noting this development.

26. Revealingly, Morris’s school textbook, Scientific Creationism (1974) was published in two versions: one, for public schools, with no reference whatever to the Bible; the other, for “Christian” (i.e., fundamentalist) schools, with an extra chapter on “Creation according to Scripture.” And “scientific creationism” later rebranded itself as “creation science”: to its critics, a glaring oxymoron (p. 313).

There is little “revealing” about ICR’s decision to print Scientific Creationism in a way that distinguished scientific creationism from biblical creationism. At the time, the culture was still heavily invested in the ‘war-between-science-and-religion’ meme, and Morris and other scientific creationists were trying to demonstrate that the common view that their arguments were, by definition, ‘religious’, while those of their opponents were, by definition, ‘scientific’ seemed a sensible approach. What they could have done (and what many creationists have since done) is carry the argument to its logical conclusion; that science being the child of Christianity is upheld by Christian presuppositions that are contrary to the worldview of naturalism. This renders arguments from science against Christianity, self-contradictory. “Creation science” might be a “glaring oxymoron” to its “critics”, but that ad hominem jab has little to do with truth. That’s because if science is truly the child of Christianity, then it is ‘atheistic science’ or ‘evolutionary science’ that is actually the more glaring oxymoron.

27. The subsequent history of creationism, into the 21st century, was marked by a sequence of very public court cases … in which creationists’ claims to be given “equal time” in American public education were aired repeatedly (p. 313).

Statisticians would undoubtedly be disappointed in Rudwick’s definition of “a sequence”. There were two court cases, in 1983 and 1987, brought by concerned parents and political interest groups. Both are more than a decade removed from “the 21st century” and no creationist organization was active in promoting those cases. Rudwick seems to be conflating the lawsuit by Intelligent Design advocates in 2005 (Kitzmiller vs. Dover), with the previous cases, but the 2005 case did not involve creationists in any way. Rudwick is ignoring the cause of the lawsuits—the legitimate concern of parents that their children are being indoctrinated with a secular worldview. Since a large minority of people in the United States are young-earth creationists and a vast majority desire to see creationism given “equal time”, it stands to reason that the suppression of that desire is contrary to the much-trumpeted Enlightenment tradition of ‘democracy’, ‘freedom of thought’, and ‘open-minded tolerance’. Instead, it demonstrates that secularists are close-minded and intolerant, especially when they hold the levers of power. Furthermore, the reductionist argument that creationism is no more than a “sequence of very public court cases” ignores the reality of the vast amount of research, publication, and presentation which is the actual work of creationists. In addition, Answers in Genesis has built a museum (against bitter opposition by secularists) to show the results of some of that research. The “subsequent history of creationism, into the 21st century” is better demonstrated by stacks of the Creation Research Society Quarterly, the Journal of Creation, the Answers Research Journal, Creation Magazine, Acts and Facts, many books and technical monographs, and the websites of the major creationist organizations. It appears that Rudwick has no familiarity with any of them.

28. A further tactical shift appeared in the 1990s with the emergence of a fresh set of creationist arguments. “Intelligent Design”… simply rewarmed the traditional argument from design (p. 313).

Rudwick again shows his ignorance of the creationist movement by labelling the Intelligent Design school as a part of creationism, which it is not. Intelligent design advocates pursue the chimera of scientific acceptance by the weight of their evidence, while most creationists have come to realize that the secular belief system precludes a place at the table for Christians who challenge evolution, no matter what their evidence. His characterization of that development as a “further tactical shift”, makes it seem as if some dark mysterious master of creationism had decided to move all of his troops yet again on the game board. Such a view is laughable. Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates disagree on any number of issues, and have no organizational common ground. His language also suggests that the argument from design, which had to be “rewarmed”, has no validity. That may be true for atheists, but by definition, a theist must consider the argument compelling, because the Cause of the obvious evidence of design exists. Furthermore, it should be noted that Henry Morris and other early creationists used the argument from design regularly—a point Rudwick would grasp if he had read any of their works.

29. But biologists swiftly pointed out that the allegedly “irreducible complexity” of these features was just as open to interpretation in evolutionary terms as, for example, the amazingly complex adaptations of the human eye had proved to be in the 19th and 20th centuries (p. 314).

His point needs to be amended to read “But evolutionary biologists swiftly argued …” Evolutionists always argue that any evidence can be interpreted in evolutionary terms because evolution is a belief system. He also implies that evolutionists had successfully explained the “amazingly complex adaptations of the human eye” long before, but these explanations always seemed to fall short of the demands of a viable evolutionary mechanism. Modern evolution has become a naturalistic substitute for God; its ‘magic’ transformations are a parody of divine acts of creation and providence. In that sense, evolution can ‘explain’ anything. This has been true in any number of cases, like the incompleteness of the fossil record relative to Darwin’s predictions. That is why creationists and Intelligent Design proponents like Phillip Johnson have begun to understand that they must address the philosophical presuppositions of their opponents, as well as their ‘science’.24

30. Nonetheless, Intelligent Design gave creationism a tactical boost in the early 21st century. It prudently concealed the movement’s roots in biblical literalism; it enhanced—at least in the eyes of the non-scientific public—its claim to be a legitimate “science”; and it played down its insecure reliance on “young Earth” geology (p. 314).

Rudwick’s alternate ‘history’ continues to stumble at every point. Since creationists and Intelligent Design advocates are independent from each other, and not part of a grand conspiracy, then any “boosts” to creationists from the work of Intelligent Design advocates would simply be those of a common ground in truth. Creationists have never “concealed” their biblical “roots”. In fact, in the 21st century, creationists have asserted and defended the biblical basis for their views of origins and natural history with increasing vigor. That is because the logical and historical underpinnings of the worldview of naturalism cannot sustain a biblical critique that focuses on the theological justification—in both history and logic—of its presuppositions. For example, uniformity is a critical assumption of science and underlies the derivative uniformitarianism of secular natural history. Yet there is no valid non-theistic justification for uniformity.25 It cannot be based on observation—not enough of the spatial and temporal limits of the universe have been observed.26 Both historically and logically, uniformity is only adequately justified by reference to God and His nature and providence. And, as Rudwick must surely know as a historian of science, that is how uniformity was originally justified by the early scientists.

It is ironic that Rudwick can echo the arguments of the creation trials—the supposed ‘separation’ (and inherent antagonism) between ‘science’ and ‘religion’ that has been discredited by historians such as Rodney Stark. The irony lies in the fact that philosophers of science (as modernism has given way to post-modernism) have been struggling to validate demarcation criteria for science as an absolute source of truth.27 Most have even given up, to the extent that some argue that there is not even a real ‘scientific method’.28 This problem of what science is and is not is exacerbated for Rudwick in the ‘historical sciences’, which lack the same observational and experimental criteria that traditionally defined science from its inception. Thus, the “insecurity” for historical geology is not limited to those advocating a young Earth, but extends to any who would attempt to find scientific certainty in unobserved events of the past. Some, like Cleland,29 have attempted to find novel justifications, but they depend in part on dragging down experimental science to make historical science look better. For that reason, creationists have remained confident in their young-earth position, not “insecure”.

31. Arguments for an Earth created from scratch only a few millennia ago, and one ravaged by a worldwide and ultra-catastrophic Flood still more recently, had had to rely ever more obviously on assuming a radical disjunction between the present world and all its earlier history, involving major changes in some of the most basic physical “laws of nature.” No one had been so rash, at least not since Woodward in the 17th century invoked a temporary suspension of Newton’s universal gravitation to help account for his worldwide deluge: that was the scale of what, implausibly, “young Earth” creationism required (p. 314).

Rudwick pulls together a stunning combination of misstatements to create a large error in fact. First, the Christian doctrine of Creation emphasizes the ex nihilo bringing into existence of all that exists by God’s spoken word. That is not “from scratch”, which implies pre-existing materials used to fashion something else. Included in this ex nihilo creation was a provision for the ongoing action of the “physical laws of nature”, but this provision was not deistic, but providential.30 It has been argued by prominent theologians through church history that what we call “laws of nature” is simply the physical manifestation of God’s nature and active providence. Second, the Flood was not necessarily “ultra-catastrophic”, although I expect that even Rudwick could not define that rhetorical jab in a geologically meaningful manner. Third, Rudwick’s “radical disjunction” between the antediluvian world and the present world implies that the cause of such a disjunction invalidates gravitation and other natural ‘laws’, a case certainly unsupported by evidence and not logically required at all. In fact, this analysis can be turned around; secular natural historians are in worse shape because creationists place ultimate causal continuity in the hands of an eternal, unchanging God, in whose will there can be no “radical disjunctions” outside what He desires. Secular natural historians must account for the much greater “radical disjunction” of the big bang, but must do so without the causal continuity found in a providential universe. Fourth, Rudwick does not cite any creationist who argues for the interruption of gravitation or other fundamental processes; because creationist models tend to stress physical continuity of natural law almost to the point of denying the miraculous aspects of the Flood. Finally, Rudwick sets himself up as the judge of what is plausible and implausible, which despite his well-deserved reputation as a historian, may be a little over the top, considering that if Genesis is God’s word, there can be no comparison. God is the ultimate judge of what is “implausible” or not. Rudwick promotes a deistic view. Many miraculous works recorded in Scripture are “implausible” from a ‘scientific’ point of view, yet are historically true. Only the prior assumption deism or atheism could render the results—reported to us in the plain language of revelation—“implausible”.

32. Only in the late 20th century was creationism exported to other parts of the world, usually with massive financial support from American fundamentalists (p. 314).

Creationism never had to be “exported” anywhere. It has existed wherever orthodox Christianity has existed, and its presence in Europe is noted in Morris’ History of Modern Creationism. Its smaller presence in Europe is better explained by the greater and earlier degeneration of the church there relative to America. Rudwick’s assertion is also falsified by the existence of the Evolution Protest Movement in Britain, dating back to 1932, and the independent founding of Creation Science Foundation in Australia in 1979, which initiated an American branch in 1994, which later became Answers in Genesis. Furthermore, Creation Ministries International is an Australian ministry, not an American one. There was no American ‘conspiracy’ driven by the ‘fringe’ of a distinctly American fundamentalism; there is only the concern of orthodox Christians for the preservation and propagation of their worldview, and the recognition that the old Earth and evolutionary worldview of natural history has been used by secularists to attack the church since the 18th century. And if American money somehow taints creationist efforts, then by the same standard all the American money spent to promote evolution and other secular icons would logically be likewise tainted. And the fact that those promoting the evolutionary worldview have commandeered government monies to support and propagate their worldview amounts to an inappropriate use of taxpayers funds.

33. What all these movements have strikingly in common is a tight linkage between their rejection of the very idea of evolution and their vehement hostility to a characteristic cluster of other supposed evils of modernity such as divorce, abortion, homosexuality, and even feminism. Creationism has come to be linked, most obviously in the United Sates, with a specific kind of political ideology (pp. 314–315).

Note how stridently Rudwick uses negative language to characterize creationism. One could just as easily say that organizations promoting secular materialism have in common “a tight linkage between their rejection of the very idea of” creation, and “their vehement hostility to a characteristic cluster of” Christian ethics. That is what opposing worldviews do—they oppose each other. Yet it was not orthodox Christianity that was the aggressor. Does Rudwick deny that social pathologies like divorce and abortion have harmed the social fabric of the West? Or does he deny Christian the right to make moral judgments based on their understanding of history? He seems quite comfortable in making his own judgments about history. Why does he seek to deny Christians the same privilege? Furthermore, the linkage between evolution and social pathologies, including eugenics and genocide, was made by their proponents, not by creationists or the church. Rudwick reveals his political agenda in opposing creationism in the last sentence, trying to link creationism with American conservative politics, but no creationist organization takes a political stance or engages in political activism. One wonders if Rudwick simply wishes to smear his political opponents with creationism … or is it the other way around?

34. Young-Earthers are now unmistakably equivalent—philosophically—to flat-Earthers, and proponents of Intelligent Design are equally out of touch. For all the noise that creationism generates, it is no more than a bizarre sideshow that has set itself in implacable opposition to one of the most solid and reliable of human scientific achievements (p. 315).

Rudwick concludes his shallow and deeply flawed diatribe with the well-reasoned conclusion that Christians who believe that Genesis represents a real historical account of the origin and early history of the world are “equivalent” to those who believe Earth is flat. We welcome Moses, Jesus, the Apostles, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Aquinas, Edwards, and a host of others as honorary “flat-earthers”. Perhaps for Rudwick, that accusation remains the ultimate insult and final word on any intellectual argument; although Jeffrey Burton Russell must have been wasting his time showing that the whole flat-earth controversy was a secular myth created to insult the church. In that sense, perhaps the distorted caricature of creationism presented by Rudwick does have a “philosophical equivalence” to the flat-earth ‘controversy’, being equally removed from reality and equally the result of a bitter man with an axe to grind against God.

Creationists may well be out of their depth when comparing their academic achievements, awards, positions, resources, and public repute to their secular counterparts, but the ultimate aim of any scholar is a search for truth, not acclaim. In that, creationists stand with Moses, Jesus, and all who have stood with them for more than three millennia. It is only fitting that St. John’s vision of heaven included a myriad of God’s people singing praises for His act of creation (Revelation 4:11). Until the time that music comes—and we sincerely hope that Rudwick will be one of the crowd—creationists will take comfort in being “out of their depth”, since “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27, NASB).

Published: 14 May 2015

References and notes

  1. Rudwick, M.J.S., Earth’s Deep History: How it was Discovered and Why it Matters, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 2014. Return to text.
  2. Reed, J.K. and Klevberg, P., Beyond “origin” and “operation” science, part I: critique of OS2, Creation Research Society Quarterly 50(4):237–251, 2014. Return to text.
  3. Reed, J.K. and Klevberg, P., Beyond “origin” and “operation” science, part II: an alternative, Creation Research Society Quarterly 51(1):31–39, 2014. Return to text.
  4. Kulikovsky A.S., Creation, Fall, Restoration: A Biblical Theology of Creation, Mentor, Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland, 2009. Return to text.
  5. Boyd, S.W., Statistical determination of genre in biblical Hebrew: Evidence for an historical reading of Genesis 1:1–2:3; in: Vardiman, L., Snelling, A.A., and Chaffin, E.F. (Eds), Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, ICR and CRS, pp. 631–734, 2005. Return to text.
  6. Cooper, W.R., The Authenticity of the Book of Genesis, Creation Science Movement, Portsmouth, UK, 2011. Return to text.
  7. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Return to text.
  8. Gerald Schroeder and his new variation on the “day-age” theory: Part 1, 1 August 2000. Return to text.
  9. Taylor, C.V., Days of Revelation or Creation? 18 August 2001; creation.com/showdays. Return to text.
  10. Grigg, R., How long were the days of Genesis 1? Creation 19(1):23–25, 1996; creation.com/sixdays. Return to text.
  11. Kruger, M., Genesis 6 9: Does all always mean all?, J. Creation 10(2):214–218,1996; creation.com/all. Return to text.
  12. Mook, J.R., The church fathers on Genesis, the Flood, and the Age of the Earth, in: Mortenson, T. and T. Ury (editors), Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2008. Return to text.
  13. Calvin, J., Sermons on Genesis: Chapters 1–11, McGregor, R.R. (translator) Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA, 2009. Return to text.
  14. Hall, D.W., A brief overview of the exegesis of Genesis 1–11: Luther to Lyell, in: Mortenson, T. and T. Ury (editors), Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2008. Return to text.
  15. Mortenson, T., “Deep Time” and the church’s compromise: historical background, in: Mortenson, T. and T. Ury (editors), Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2008. Return to text.
  16. Reed, J.K. and E.L. Williams, Battlegrounds of natural history, part I: naturalism. Creation Research Society Quarterly 48(2):147–167, 2011. Return to text.
  17. Reed, J.K., Modern Geohistory: An Assault on Christianity, Not an Innovative Compromise, Creation Research Society Quarterly 46(3):201–216, 2010. Return to text.
  18. Stark, R., How the West Won, ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware, 2014. Return to text.
  19. Jones, E.M., Libido Dominandi: Sexual Liberation and Political Control, St. Augustine’s Press, South Bend, Indiana, 2000. Return to text.
  20. Morris, H. M., History of Modern Creationism, Master Books, San Diego, California, 1984. Return to text.
  21. Reed, J.K., Untangling Uniformitarianism, Level I: A Quest for Clarity, Answers Research Journal 3:37–59, 2010. Return to text.
  22. Huxley, J., The evolutionary vision, In: Issues in Evolution, volume 3, p. 261, 1959. Return to text.
  23. Reed, J.K., Klevberg, P. Bennett, C.B., Froede, C.R., Jr., Akridge, A.J., and Lott, T.L., Beyond Scientific Creationism, Creation Research Society Quarterly 41(3):216–230, 2004. Return to text.
  24. Reed, J.K., Natural History in the Christian Worldview, Creation Research Society Books, Chino Valley, Arizona, 2001. Return to text.
  25. Reed, J.K. and Klevberg, P., Historical geology’s virtual past, Creation Matters 19(4):1, 4–5, 2014. Return to text.
  26. Reed, J.K., Untangling Uniformitarianism, Level II: Actualism in Crisis, Answers Research Journal 4:203–215, 2011. Return to text.
  27. Laudan, L., The demise of the demarcation problem, in: R.S. Cohen and L. Laudan (eds), Physics, Philosophy, and Psychoanalysis, Reidel, Dordrecht, 1983; reprinted in But Is It Science?, pp. 337–350, Prometheus Books, New York, 1996. Return to text.
  28. Bauer, H.H., Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, Illinois, 1992. Return to text.
  29. Cleland, C.E., Common cause explanation and the search for the “smoking gun”, in: Baker, V.R. (ed), Rethinking the Fabric of Geology, pp. 1–10, Geological Society of America Special Paper 502, Boulder, Colorado, 2013. Return to text.
  30. Reed, J.K. Naturalism and providence, Creation Matters 18(2):1–6, 2013. Return to text.

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