Category Archives: 4004BC

How do you measure (geological) time? (according to Creationists)

Learn More About the Is Genesis History? Bible Study Set

So asks a recent blog of “Is Genesis History?”

They seem to think that geologists in the early 19th century just made it all up from their fantastical imaginations!!

That is not quite true as I show, but first a family diversion.

When our daughter was about 6 or 7 she took some rocks and put labels on them with enormous numbers – 436740 years , 736400 years etc. All were less than a million. Sadly, many like Mr Snelling do not have as an advanced understanding as she had then!!

I found this short blog absolutely face-palming as it made almost as many serious errors as words! It is amazing, and very concerning, that anyone with more than a 6 year olds understanding could get so much wrong.

Yet “Is Genesis History?” has qualified geologists producing their material and one has to ask why it is so wrong, as well as pointing out where it is wrong. Today we hear much of Unconscious Bias, but this seems worse than Conscious Bias.

https://isgenesishistory.com/5-measure-time/?fbclid=IwAR13z2BSgB3mmkOnq0pWnq9Hk8LpyBGh0Pd6QDrGOIA1sZYXgt6XY-bv-AU

Here it is in full

“The Bible would say that the past is the key to the present.” – Andrew Snelling, Geologist at SP Crater & Sedona, Arizona

If the Bible presents a concise timeline of history, where does the idea of millions of years come from?

Geologists like Charles Lyell wanted to replace the history recorded in Genesis with a naturalistic history of their own construction. They started with the idea of long ages, then interpreted the rocks in light of their new paradigm.

Today, geologists rely on measuring radioisotope decay and interpret its results in terms of the conventional paradigm. Yet anomalies in these dating methods question their conclusions. Instead, one can look at geological formations to see evidence of a young earth transformed by a global catastrophe: the flat and enormous extent of sedimentary layers; a lack of deep and widespread erosion between most layers; and evidence that sediment was rapidly deposited by huge amounts of water.

Learn more about radioisotope dating and flood geology in

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“The Bible would say that the past is the key to the present.” – Andrew Snelling, Geologist at SP Crater & Sedona, Arizona

Simply empty affirmation . Where does the Bible say it? It is meaningless.

Geologists like Charles Lyell wanted to replace the history recorded in Genesis with a naturalistic history of their own construction. They started with the idea of long ages, then interpreted the rocks in light of their new paradigm.

This is simply a gross misrepresentation about how “long ages” came into being. Not one geologist started “with the idea of long ages”. Consider how “long ages” developed;

Up to the mid-17th century almost all scholars from Columbus to Ussher thought that the earth was a few thousand years old, with Ussher giving his famous date of 4004BC.

Jacobus_ussher

This made great sense at the time but was undermined within a few decades.

The journey began in the 1660s, when Nils Steno (later a Catholic bishop who got beatified) was studying fossils and strata in Italy and worked out the Principle of Superposition. He was rather undecided on the age of the strata. But he had made a vital breakthrough.

Twenty years later Edward Lhwyd and Rev John Ray

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spent much time botanising in Snowdonia. Lhwyd was struck by the number of boulders in Nant Peris. As only one had fallen in living memory, he tentatively concluded that the hundreds of boulders must have fallen at intervals of several decades, meaning that Ussher’s age of 4004BC needed to be revised upwards. After all 500×50 =25,000. A wee advance on Ussher! In fact, they were glacial erratics dumped almost together some 20,000 years ago, so Lhwyd was wrong! Even so, it was an interesting idea showing a questioning mind.

Others reckoned the earth must be older too as did Hooke and Hobbes (see my Genesis and Geological time p41)

Genesis 1 & geological time from 1600-1850

Going into the 18th century more and more studied the rocks throughout Europe and almost all concluded that the earth was old. Less geological was Buffon who in his Epoques of 1778 argued from cooling globes the earth had to be at least 74,000 years old, but privately argued for millions. If you want more read Martin Rudwick’s Earth’s Deep History or Gabriel Gohau Les sciences de la terre aux XVII et XXVIII siecles.

Few continued with a young earth after Scheuzer, apart from the English Hutchinsonians, followers of John Hutchinson (1674-1737). One was Alexander Catcott whose Treatise of the Deluge (1768) is the oldest book I own. It’s a mix of biblical theology, speculations about the ark ( which included 2 camelopards and quoting Bishop Willkins “1825 sheep… for the rapacious beasts” ) and some good geomorphological observations.

By the end of the 18th century few scientists/savants did not accept Deep Time and the Irishman Richard Kirwan was one of the handful who didn’t. Even J.A. de Luc, who is often presented as a young earther, believed in an ancient earth, but not as ancient as Hutton’s!

In the last decades of the 18th century Hutton just took the standard view of an ancient earth along with a galaxy of workers all round Europe –Rev J  Michell, Fr. Soulavie, de Saussure (of Mt Blanc fame), De Luc, Werner and others in almost every country, but an Anglocentric approach, which only considers Hutton and Lyell, misses that.

Hutton is NOT the father of Deep Time, but one of many very able scientists, who worked on deep time.

james-hutton-caracitureAngular Unconformity at Siccar Point, Scotland. Siccar Point, Scotland (Photo: Wikipedia “Hutton’s Unconformity”)

James Hutton and Siccar Point

We also need to note that from 1660 Christians, especially clergy, were involved in the discovery of geological time. In 1785 the Rev William Robertson, Moderator of the Scottish Kirk, was totally supportive of Hutton and reckoned that nothing in Hutton’s  work was “in any respect repugnant to the Mosaic account of creation.” And for the last 235 years most Christian ministers, evangelical or not, have agreed with Robertson, from Billy Graham to John Stott, loads of Popes and Archbishops and those in local churches.

By 1800 few geological savants denied “long ages”. The geologist William Smith

200px-william_smith_geologist      William Smith's A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales with part of Scotland (1815)

William Smith and his map of 1815

was persuaded out of a young earth by several local vicars, notably Benjamin Richardson and Joseph Townsend. Townsend, an evangelical, published a major work in 1813, but his prowess was soon overtaken by several other Church of England clergymen, John Henslow, William Conybeare, William Buckland and Adam Sedgwick, who made great contributions to the Geological Column, especially from the Cambrian to Carboniferous. Buckland introduced the concept of an Ice Age to Britain

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Henslow and his exquisite map of Anglesey 1823

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William Buckland checking for ice and hyenas!!

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 Sedgwick wanting to get back to the field

As they were in their prime a young Scot and pupil of Buckland began his geologising, but disagreed with the catastrophic “long ages” ideas, especially of his friend Conybeare and in 1831 published the first volume of his Principles of Geology. By the time Lyell began geology almost all geologists were convinced of the evidences for “long ages”. Here we’ll be told of the Scriptural Geologists expounded by Terry Mortensen. Despite Mortensen’s claims only one, George Young, carried out any field geology  (in Yorkshire) and was criticised for rejecting geological time.

Lyell was very much a johnny-come-lately , and neither he nor anyone else “started with the idea of long ages”. That is blatantly false. By the time Lyell picked up his hammer, geologists had slowly been finding evidence for “long ages”. Lyell continued and found even more evidence!!

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   Lyell looking principled  BucklandArchiveCauseEffect002

Many geologists didn’t like Lyell’s uniformitarianism in 1831 and so De La Beche painted a watercolour of why Buckland’s son could not make a big valley by having a pee.

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 Tow others having a pee with no more success

To claim that “Geologists like Charles Lyell wanted to replace the history recorded in Genesis with a naturalistic history of their own construction.” is also a falsehood and without evidence. It is not true of Lyell, nor any other geologist, except George Young. Lyell was very critical of those like Young who tried to squeeze a “history” of the earth from Genesis. Here he was almost entirely in agreement with all the clerical geologists like Buckland.

This is a blatant misrepresentation which has no basis in history. I would have thought Dr Snelling would have known that it was wrong. Or perhaps not.

Today, geologists rely on measuring radioisotope decay and interpret its results in terms of the conventional paradigm.

It is so much easier, and briefer, to make a statement like this, which is devoid of truth than to refute it. Yes, radiometric age dating is used, but its results are weighed up, with and against the older geology and assessed with care

Yet anomalies in these dating methods question their conclusions.

What anomalies does the writer mean? This statement simply gets readers to be suspicious and thus dismiss all geological dating. It does not seem to be in the spirit of the Ninth Commandment. Over the years I have come across many alleged anomalies and when I have been able to check them I ALWAYS found them to be false accusations.

A classic example is the paper “Radiometric Dating Reappraised” by John Woodmorappe which originally appeared in the Creation Research Society Quarterly (Volume 16, September 1979. It lists some 800 anomalies and some 40 years ago I went through and checked about a hundred. None were anomalies and all were misrepresented. Sadly I didn’t record my findings but here is a short account of some whoppers.

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/woodmorappe-geochronology.html

Again the Ninth is pushed to one side!!

And so at the end of a short article replete with dissimulation there is a triumphant conclusion

Instead, one can look at geological formations to see evidence of a young earth transformed by a global catastrophe: the flat and enormous extent of sedimentary layers; a lack of deep and widespread erosion between most layers; and evidence that sediment was rapidly deposited by huge amounts of water.

What can anyone say to that?

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October 23, 4004: The Creation of the World

Happy Birthday Earth according to Archbishop Ussher.

Jacobus_ussher

For his time Ussher was good as he was a fine scholar and according to Martin Rudwick introduced a proper historical understanding.

He published a decade before Steno and others began to understanding the geology and then time, so he seems out of touch.

Fewer followed him on time than we are led to believe

This book chapter of mine puts Ussher in a longer contexthttps://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2021/01/28/genesis-chapter-1-and-geological-time-from-grotius-to-thomas-chalmers-1620-1825/

Enjoy this short article , except for the last comment on scotch farmer!!!

Source: October 23, 4004: The Creation of the World

Creationists diss Climate Change. Snowballs from “Is Genesis history?”

Well, Creationists from “Is Genesis History?” are giving reasons why we should not worry about climate change.

Here it is in a short blog showing their arguments to be dubious and duplicitous and thus misleading their flock. It also shows how bad science or pseudoscience can lead to bad ethical decisions – here on climate mitigation.

Before you read this, here is an account of Evangelicals and climate Change taking the story up tp 2010, so is now rather out-dated https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/07/10/evangelicals-and-climate-change-1990-to-2011/

So here is there blog from the glaciers of Washington State;

https://isgenesishistory.com/reason-no-one-worry-about-climate-change/?fbclid=IwAR0SnsFm3YqgFE6BsxBIuk0bIYQjLXedm8JDlRc8fyR6aKGZo6lJYUmQER4

Part is all about a winter’s visit to the glaciers of Washington state and Vardiman and Purifoy use that backdrop to play down climate change. Read the whole article, which is like a cosy chat with some dubious ideas thrown in.

I reproduce their dubious ideas and then show why they are flawed both in their explicit comments and what is implicit.

Del, Larry, and the other guys in our crew had donned their snow shoes and were slowly making their way to the passage we had dug out. I was amazed to see them climb up, put one foot on the snow…and not sink in! Del, who is from Colorado, chuckled at my comments about snowshoes: he had spent years using them and knew how necessary they were in deep snow.

It was an incredibly beautiful day. The snow flurried a bit in morning, then the clouds cleared away and the sun came out. The ice on the glacier literally shone with a blue light. It was amazing.

I love the mountains of Washington but have only climbed Mt St Helens in October 2009. Many are covered in glaciers and what is most evident is that these glaciers are receding.  No mention is made of  retreating glaciers. This has been considerable in the last century and in itself indicates a warming temperature, whether the warming is natural of not. This is a useful article and shows some of the changes in Washington State where there visiting.

I enjoyed seeing the new glacier on Mt St Helens in 2009

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Here is an article on Washington glaciers

https://glaciers.us/glaciers.research.pdx.edu/Glaciers-Washington.html

During the Ice Ages much more of the Rockies were glaciated right down to New Mexico. The evidence for glaciation is clear above Taos around Wheeler Peak.

227To put a spanner in the works this photo looking north from Wheeler Peak NM is either of a rock glacier, or a short-lived glacier from the Little Ice Age, i.e. about the 18th century.  I’d like to go back and check it out.

Surely not mention glacial retreat is rather selective and shows at least an unconscious bias? Or conscious?

Virtually all glaciers have receded in the northern hemisphere since about 1815 with the end of the Little Ice Age. I have seen many examples in the Alpes

As we settled in to listen to Larry and Del, I was absolutely fascinated. Larry explained the cause of the Ice Age and how it related to the unusual atmospheric conditions in the world immediately after the global flood.

This begs so many questions. Larry admits to an Ice Age, but then fails to say the the Ice Ages started 2 million years ago and there have been a whole succession of Ice Ages and warmer periods . This has been gradually worked out and in Britain the main period is the Late Devensian reaching a maximum 18,000 years ago.  This carved out most of the glacial features in British mountains. Later, there was a smaller glaciation  – the loch Lomond Stadial, which was a short cold spell and resulted in much less glaciation, often leaving smaller moraines where the previous glaciation had been active.

Larry is showing a conscious bias by not mentioning the wider context.

When the Ice Age(s) were discovered it was almost assumed there was only one Ice Age and not a succession. Agassiz and Charpentier were there first to discover the Ice Age in the 1830s in Switzerland. When Buckland visited Switzerland in 1838 Agassiz convinced him of the Ice Age and then on a visit and tour of Northern England and Scotland Agassiz, Lyell

Louis Agassiz: Overview of Louis Agassiz180px-charles_lyell

and Buckland demonstrated that Britain too had an Ice Age. They found their first proof in  a drumlin between Lancaster and my house in Garstang. They also challenged Darwin’s blunder at Glen Roy.

The following October Buckland and Sopwith went to Snowdonia in appalling weather and identified the main glacial features there. (picture of Buckland here often wrongly claimed to be of Mary Anning!)

BucklandRhydDdu1841

In june 1842 Darwin checked out Buckland’s work and concurred! He found various glacial troughs which could not have been formed by piddly little streams!!

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a re-enactment (almost) as it was sketched by de la Beche in 1831

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Darwin made much of these boulders found in Cwm Idwal

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To read more see https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/darwins-boulders/

To most geologists this was the final draining of the Flood, but in some illegible notes Buckland argued that the Flood was a result of all the ice melting.

However there have been several sets of Ice Ages during geological time with five significant ice ages throughout the Earth’s history: the Huronian (2.4-2.1 billion years ago), Cryogenian (850-635 million years ago), Andean-Saharan (460-430 mya), Karoo (360-260 mya) and Quaternary (2.6 mya-present). Approximately a dozen major glaciations have occurred over the past 1 million years, the largest of which peaked 650,000 years ago and lasted for 50,000 years. The most recent glaciation period, often known simply as the “Ice Age,” reached peak conditions some 18,000 years ago before giving way to the interglacial Holocene epoch 11,700 years ago.

The Cryogenian is often known as Snowball  Earth as it seems the whole planet was covered in ice. I was lucky enough to work on the Numees glaciation of Cryogenian age in South Africa , at a time when its glacial basis was questioned. What convinced me were dropstones falling into varved sediments. I have also seen Ordovician glaciation in rocks of the Howgill Fells of Northern England.

So much for a summary of standard glacial geology, so back to the specious nonsense from these expert geologists of “Is Genesis History?”

i am simply gobsmacked by his suggestion of “the unusual atmospheric conditions in the world immediately after the global flood.” There is simply no evidence. Further the last great diluvial geologist, William Buckland, argued that the Flood was the result of melting ice from the Ice Age. He was not far off.

I’d love to know what these supposed atmospheric conditions actually are!! It may sound convincing to those who are aware there was an Ice Age but little more! It is simply duplicitous bullshit.

This led to an explanation of current concerns about climate change, and how they are the result of a deep confusion about earth history.

WHAT!!!! This just dismisses earth history in a throw away comment.  It is simply absurd to say there is “deep confusion about earth history” when earth history is so well known and understood and has been for over two centuries. The deep time of earth history goes back further than the Periodic Table and even Dalton’s atomic theory and predates Phlogiston! Geology was on the right track before chemistry!!

This is a duplicitous way of getting ill-informed readers to believe that earth history is unfounded and thus “Is Genesis History?” s claim of a 10,000 year old earth is correct.

By casting Climate Change as a result of confusion over earth history, doubts are implied about climate Change and the unreliable arguments and claims about it.

Duplicitous is not the right description of this. The wording is vague but is intended to lead readers into thinking that Climate Change is not happening and thus is of no concern.

There is no doubt that Climate Change is happening and that much/most of caused by humans and is have a bad effect of the whole planet and the conditions many people live under.

He then moved to the question of ice cores and explained how they actually point to a major catastrophe in the past.

Really? I’d love to see the evidence for that. This is another unsubstantiated throwaway comment, which the less-informed will take as indicating a Flood in the past.

This is a must-see video if you want to dispel the concerns and hysteria that have overwhelmed so many people today concerning climate change.

This is cleverly and deceitfully put as if concerns about Climate Change are to be equated with the hysteria which some come out with. We need to see firstly the reality of issues of Climate Change  and thus of dangers  as well as hysteria, which is whipped up by some, including school truants wanting you to panic.

Only a fool would deny the seriousness of Climate Change and the need for carefully thought-ought action and mitigation

The concerns are real. The amount of CO2 has doubled in my lifetime and it is clear that world temperature is rising.

Without going into details CO2 and CH4 emissions must be reduced. Not all agree on how that should be done. Often the emphasis is on governmental level action, with insufficient on the sum of actions of individuals.    ???

Too often Climate Change is considered above all other environmental issues, and then only in relation to fossil fuels. The more extreme wish only renewables (which are insufficient) a rapid  disengagement with fossils and an refusal to use nuclear power. As we see in the energy crisis of late 2021 this will result in fuel poverty and associated deaths as winter draws in.

There also needs to be consideration of more “natural” solutions; tree-planting (but only the right trees in the right places!), restoration of wetlands (peat bogs), inter-tidal zones  as well as shallow seas. There will need to be changes in agriculture and not necessarily those put forward by activists like Vandana Shiva!!

Here is a useful article from an Oxford/Oriel professor

https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2021-10-11-natural-world-critical-climate-professor-yadvinder-malhi

What I wrote previously are the real concerns of Climate Change which need addressing.

There is also the hysteria.

This comes out with protesting youngsters holding up placards “You will die of old age, we will die of climate change.”

That is due to extreme green groups whipping up hysteria and over-egging the problems so that all seems apocalyptic. It is seen when founders of Extinction Rebellion untruthfully say billions will die of climate change.

It comes out with school kids write of their fears of the future and creating eco-anxiety. Certain truants from school add to this hysteria, along with some scintists, who let their activism guide what they say.

This is not helped by activists slating others and being quick to dismiss the unhysterical as climate deniers. There are some climate deniers but many of the so-called deniers don’t buy into the hysteria.

Here the right buttons of the Creationist audience are pressed and with carefully crafted dismissal, Creationists are liable to reject the essential truth of Climate Change and the need for action by implying it is simply hysteria.

If you’d like to learn more about creationist ideas concerning the Ice Age, I recommend two books by Mike Oard, another scientist who worked closely with Larry Vardiman: The Frozen Record (on ice cores) and Frozen in Time (on the Ice Age).

https://creation.com/michael-j-oard

Oard’s arguments for an Ice Age lasting only a few hundred years are simply poor and also depend on the rejection of geological Time and the previous four glaciations going back two billion years. I wonder how he ties the Cryogenian into a Genesis timescale. Maybe it was after Cain murdered Abel!!!

For more information on climate change, consult The Cornwall Alliance. (Sign up for their emails – they are fantastic!)

Actually they are fantastical and have no grounding in reality.

Dr. Vardiman’s full interview is included in Beyond Is Genesis History? Vol 1 Rocks & Fossils. The topics he talks about are extremely important to understanding what happened after Flood.

Conclusion
This blog from “Is Genesis history?” is written to persuade readers that Climate Change is not happening and uses dubious arguments to get that across.
I hope my comments make it clear why they are so very, very, very wrong and , in fact, rather duplicitous. It says little for the skills of the “scientists” behind “Is Genesis history?”
Jer 17 vs9 The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Climate Change is real, it is here and needs mitigation.
(we may disagree on how to mitigate it!!)

The War that never was. Evolution and Christian Theology

We are often told of the how the church opposed Galileo, Darwin, early geologists and almost every advance of science. There is a merest smidgeon of truth in it, but mostly they are stories invented to discredit Christianity. Much originated with Draper and White in the 19th century. Dawkins has fallen for it, among others. Over the lasty fifty years the idea of conflict between science and Christianity has been discredited.

World of Books - Science | A History of the Warfare of Science the Theology - War College Series By Andrew Dickson White

Recently there have been a spate of books on the conflict thesis of science and religion. Here is one coming to it from a catholic angle.

The War That Never Was: Evolution and Christian Theology Paperback – Illustrated, May 29, 2020

Kenneth W. Kemp is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the co-translator of Archbishop Jozef Zycinski’s God and Evolution: Fundamental Questions of Christian Evolutionism.

The blurb

One of the prevailing myths of modern intellectual and cultural history is that there has been a long-running war between science and religion, particularly over evolution. This book argues that what is mistaken as a war between science and religion is actually a pair of wars between other belligerents—one between evolutionists and anti-evolutionists and another between atheists and Christians. In neither of those wars can one align science with one side and religion or theology with the other. This book includes a review of the encounter of Christian theology with the pre-Darwinian rise of historical geology, an account of the origins of the warfare myth, and a careful discussion of the salient historical events on which the myth-makers rely—the Huxley-Wilberforce exchange, the Scopes Trial and the larger anti-evolutionist campaign in which it was embedded, and the more recent curriculum wars precipitated by the proponents of Creation Science and of Intelligent-Design Theory.

My review

As I read this book, I kept thinking of the Second World War hoax made into the film The man who never was

The Man Who Never Was By Ewen Montagu

A convenient corpse with a briefcase attached was allowed to wash up in Spain so Germans would read the documents giving false information about allied plans. The argument of Kemp’s book is that there was no war between Christianity and Evolution. The conflict thesis of religion and science has taken a battering during the last fifty years but many still believe it. Much will be familiar to some, but Kemp has re-packaged it in a different way as he leads from the ‘War’ started by Draper and White, through the Scopes trial to the various Creationism and ID trials of the last 40 years.   His emphasis is transatlantic, but the issues are worldwide. With the author being a Catholic philosopher he gives a new perspective The author says the book is a partial account focussing on the paleaetiological sciences (2, 3) i.e geology, palaeontology and evolution.  . That would be fair enough but it omits so much of those sciences and does not put geology into a full perspective – which can be done briefly, though he claims to leave it for another book. It is an odd claim to say that Lyell was the founder of geology.

180px-charles_lyell anning

Llyell (left) and his geology teacher Buckland looking at glacial striae at Rhyd Ddu in North Wales, 1841

The heart of the book gives a historical account of particular conflicts of evolution and Christianity, mostly of the more extreme kind. There is little on more atheistic questions but almost only on Christian opposition to evolution of the more extreme kind.  More on genuine wrestling by Christian thinkers would have been helpful as for example Adam Sedgwick,

300px-Adam_Sedgwick

Princeton theologians and Bernard Ramm. The introduction is a philosophical reflection with a succinct discussion of theology and naturalism. He concludes with recommending a ‘modest methodological naturalism’ for our theology and science and criticises Johnson’s appeal to ‘immediate divine action’. A good and nuanced account of the conflict thesis as it began in the 19th century follows, concluding with ways of assessing the various arguments.

Despite many who claim there was conflict over Genesis and geology, the author is right to say there was none, beyond the peripheral early 19th century Scriptural geologists. A sharper trajectory on how geology developed from Steno in the 1660s, would have shown the gradual dawning of the realisation of Deep Time and its relation to Christianity over the next 150 years. The presentation, which tends to flip backwards and forwards, makes it difficult to follow, if one does not have familiarity with the subject matter.

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Darwin and how some see him (statue in Shrewsbury)

The chapter on the aftermath of 1859 devotes much space to the Huxley-Wilberforce episode but sheds little new light.

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Wilberforce and Huxley, who got on quite well!!

It stresses its iconic position in the conflict thesis. Rather than consider the variety of Christian responses – Asa Gray is hardly mentioned, we are given four vignettes of evolutionists losing their university positions, hardly a large number

Chapter 5 is on the first Curriculum war of the Scopes era.

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The author first gives an account of events, which almost seem farcical. This undoes some of the myths surrounding Scopes. More importantly the Scopes trial is not seen as purely an anti-evolution crusade but wider than that.

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Andrea at the Dayton Courthouse and myself in the dock

There was a moral side and, in a sense, Bryan and others occupied the high moral ground despite their poor science. Part goes back to Kellogg’s visit to the German trenches in 1915, where German militarism was (wrongly?) traced back to Darwin. Bryan’s concern was more moral, which is why he could not accept evolution for humans. Kemp does not mention the anti-evolutionists opposition to eugenics in contrast to many biologists and modernist churchmen. Kemp regards the Scopes affair as not a battle between science and religion but rather between conservative Christians and also sees it as a three-way conflict between fundamentalism, modernism and scepticism (139). This spoils the cardboard cut-outs of Inherit the Wind, but brings out the complexities of Interwar American society. Anti-evolution was only part of it.

Chapter 6 deals with Creationism and ID in the last sixty years, termed the second curriculum war. Much is historical and familiar from Numbers The Creationists. Little is given on the renaissance of Creationism and more on legal aspects on the teaching of evolution as with the repeal of Scopes Laws and the Arkansas judgement of 1982.  The narrative moves on to Intelligent Design, which is wrongly seen as going back to Paley. The presentation is very last century with the focus on Johnson, Behe and Dembski. There’s a nod to the Dover trial of 2005, In a long section ofn the development of anti-evolutionist thought the difference between Creation ascience and ID is clarified but on ID focues on Johnson, Behe and Dembski in the 90s and omits later developments and thus gives little on how both Young Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design has evolved in the last fifteen years. Thus little is provided to understand anti-evolution in the twenties.

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Ken Ham, possibly the most significant Creationist of the 2020s, gets no mention

In conclusion Kemp emphasises that Scopes was over human evolution, whereas both creationism and ID challenge almost all of evolution and geology as well. He rightly says that the (187) NABT and new Atheists add to confusion by not distinguishing between methodological and metaphysical naturalism. He concludes this ‘war’ is doing damage to religion, as many readers must have discovered

The conclusion begins with a quote from Pope John Paul II on the Galileo myth, which is almost as pervasive. As with Galileo the Warfare Thesis fails on three grounds; it presupposes a clear demarcation between science and religion, assumes that scientists and Christians are neatly arrayed on opposite sides and. Finally, theologians were always opposed to new ideas.

Augsutine

With such distortion the Warfare Thesis is not a good lens to understand the relation of science and religion. ‘The war that never was’ re-surfaces the whole time – whether  in churches or without. It thus needs wise engagement rather than dismissal.

As an Anglican priest I am frequently asked by those within and without the church how can I be a geologist and a Christian? Such is the indelibility of this myth.

This is not the easiest book to read, as rather than just give a narrative the author goes beyond a simple science versus religion explanation, and attempts to tease out various factors. As a result, this will help to give a better understanding of The War that never was and why there has been conflict over some aspects of science and some aspects of religion.

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Tall el-Hammam; an airburst of gullibility; it gets worse

Another appeal to proof of the Bible which must be taken with a pillar rather than a pinch of salt!

It’s a claim to explain the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is sciencey but emanates from a nutty establishment in Alberquerque or shall I say here alber quirky!!
Any attempt to tie an event into the scanty details of Genesis is always fraught as there simply so little to latch on to.
It is easier for later parts of the bible and the New Testament where there is mopre detail in the text.
This article which some fell for is a classic example of desperation in proof.
Paul has given a good and fair assessment and should be a warni
ong to naive Christians desperate for verification of the Bible.
(For myself I accept Abraham et al were historical figures but only have the very scanty statements in the bible. All we can say is that the accounts “fit in” with the sitz im leben of 2000BC and no more)

Primate's Progress

I shared the excitement when I read at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-97778-3 that

in ~ 1650 BCE (~ 3600years ago), a cosmic airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam, a Middle-Bronze-Age city in the southern Jordan Valley northeast of the Dead Sea

File:Tall el-Hammam overlooking the Jordan Valley 2007.jpg
Tall el-Hammam, overlooking Jordan Valley. Dead Sea and Jerico beyond it on horizon, to left. Creative Commons via Wikipedia

and that this event could have given rise to the biblical account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Then I learned that the work was conducted by a group based on an unaccredited Bible college (Trinity Southwestern University, TSU), that the world’s leading authority on airbursts has denounced the claims as impossible, that eight separate major research groups have questioned the assumptions, reproducibility, and factual accuracy of related earlier work by the corresponding author, that there is an unusually active thread criticisng the work on PubPeer, and that Retraction Watch, which says that criticism…

View original post 1,828 more words

Is “Is Genesis History?” History? The Hutton-Lyell Myth

“Is Genesis History” is a relatively new Creationist project attempting to give solid reasons for believing that Creation took place 6 to 10,000 years ago and not the billions years of science. They have recruited leading “creation” experts and scientists to give substance to the material.

isgenesishistory

The videos and blogs are well-produced  and seemingly coherent and reliable. One key aspect is to claim that until about 1800 all Christians believed in a young earth. At first sight that seems very plausible as geology is usually reckoned to have started with Hutton in about 1790.

james-hutton-caracitureimage-4

Just consider this video by Prof Ian Stewart.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wkc23

or better

https://youtu.be/FYfuI2uZLmg

However Stewart’s claims about the bible are more assertion than based on evidence. Further Hutton was by no means the founder of geology as that started a century earleir.  This chimes in with the popular view that all were happy with a young earth until the geologists came along. This comes out in popular treatments of science, and even by competent scientists.

This video comes out with same story https://learninglink.oup.com/access/content/prothero-earth1e-student-resources/prothero-earth1e-see-for-yourself-james-hutton?previousFilter=tag_chapter-01

Both “Is Genesis History?” and popular views of science regurgitate forms of the now  debunked Conflict Thesis of science and religion. Many scholars have been debunking it for over half a century and thus there is no excuse to regurgitate it. The blog cashes in on old popular views of conflict and comes out with what may be termed the Hutton-Lyell myth, whereby they are presented as the first and leading voices for a vast age of the earth and sought to deliberately undermine Genesis. That simply ain’t true.

By doing this they ignore

  1. earth history only began to be understood in 17th century
  2. By 1700 many “geological” savants realised earth was older than what Ussher proposed
  3. Before 1650 it was reasonable to assume young earth as it was also reasonable to accept geocentrism – and not to know about the circulation of the blood or the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies!
  4. Biblical interpretations were more fluid in the 1800 years before Hutton than some claim!
  5. From 1600 there were essentially 3 main interpretations namely  – a 6/24 hour creation, gap theory  (or rather chaos restitution) , and day-age.  All were rather vague on the time involved. But then the geologists were vague on time too!

This is the second of five posts dealing with the question of ‘The Age of the Earth and the Bible.’ It is taken from the Is Genesis History? Bible Study available in our store. Read the first post here.

Learn More About the Is Genesis History? Bible Study Set

https://isgenesishistory.com/does-the-bible-speak-to-the-age-of-the-earth/

Adding up the Genealogies

Starting in the first century A.D. and continuing to the present, most interpreters examined the genealogies in the Bible and said they can be used to calculate the age of the earth.

There is some truth to this but it is very sweeping. You could also say that until well into the 17th century biblical interpreters also held the sun to go round the sun and thus the trials of Galileo and all that. As there was no hard evidence that the earth was ancient until about 1700 (yes, 1700 not 1800) it’s not surprising that theologians didn’t think the earth was ancient before then. More on this as we go along.

The first genealogy used this way is in Genesis 5. It reports the age of Adam when he fathered his son Seth, then the age of Seth when he fathered his son Enosh, and so on down to Noah who is said to have been 600 at the start of the Flood. If one sees Genesis 1 as a record of six normal days, and the genealogies as relationships without gaps, then it appears one can calculate the time from Creation to the Flood.

The next genealogy using the same pattern is in Genesis 11. Noah’s son Shem is said to have fathered Arpachshad two years after the Flood. The names and ages continue through Terah, the father of Abram, thereby providing a way to calculate the time between the Flood and Abraham’s birth.

There is no consideration on what the genealogies are and whether they are even complete. B B Warfield’s classic 1911 paper is worth a read https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/On_the_Antiquity_and_the_Unity_of_the_Human_Race

From Abraham forward, it is not as simple a process. There are no longer linear genealogies like the ones in Genesis 5 and 11 listing the father’s age at his son’s birth, so one must track down references to ages at significant events, cross-compare, then calculate together. This process takes one from Abraham to David; from David through the kings of Judah to the Exile; and from the Exile to Jesus’ day.

Once this Biblical timeline is established, specific people and events are seen to intersect with other calendars in the ancient world. These can then be matched to an ‘absolute’ astronomical calendar to determine an approximate age for the earth. For instance, the Jewish historian Josephus, writing around 94 A.D., used this process to calculate the age of the earth as approximately 5500 years from the date of his writing in the first century A.D.

Other men in the early church calculated similar ranges, with estimates provided by Cyprian, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexander, Julius Africanus, Hippolytus, Lactantius, Chrysostom, and Augustine. All of them put the creation of the world as less than 6000 years old from the date of their writing (with many approximating it at 5500 BC).

Prior to the 19th century, almost every significant Biblical commentator thought the Bible spoke to the age of the earth in a definitive way.

This is very sweeping and ignores the changes in interpretation after 1600 and more so after 1660, when Steno began his geological work. There was further extra-biblical evidence whether on geology, geography i.e. existence of Americas and Australasia only came in for Old World scholars  after 1492 with the age of exploration, along with new understandings of astronomy – and every aspect of science.

I have dealt with this in a book chapter, though it deserves a book in itself; Genesis Chapter 1 and geological time from Hugo Grotius and Marin Mersenne to William Conybeare and Thomas Chalmers (1620 – 1825) Read it here sp273-39

To summarise most commentators in the 16th century, both Roman and Protestant, took Genesis very literally, tending to a 6/24 day scenario. This was due to the influence of the Reformations on all churches almost making them take the bible more literally and avoid any allegorical meanings. Some theologians, RC and Protestant, adopted a chaos-restitution interpretation (a more erudite form of the later gap theory). In the early 17th century this is found in the massive commentary on genesis by the mathematician- priest Mersenne. It is the biggest book I have ever handled!! These writers argued that god first created chaos and after a period of time reordered it in 6 days. This linked in with Greek and Latin writers like Hesiod. The period of chaos could either be long or short and for Ussher it was only half a day!

My chapter shows how writers, Roman or protestant, held these views, chaos-restitution,  a day age or a 6/24 creation week, with a reticent on the age of the earth. Few of those who held the third argued against those who did not.

If I had to give numbers, I would suggest that most accepted chaos-restitution and thus extended Ussher’s timetable. This continued through Bishop Patrick and the Theeories of the Earth of the late 17 th century and into the 18th, before the hammers proved an ancient earth.

By 1770 many theologians were convinced that the earth was old, due to findings og geological savants since Steno. I come to Hutton later!

The period 1600-1800 marked a change in understanding the history of the earth as slowly evidence came in demonstrating an ancient earth. Many biblical commentators and theologians discussed these, though some did not. As evidence poured in for the vast age of the earth, many theologians took that into account .

These systems of dating continued through the medieval church and persisted up to the 17th century with the well-known calculation of Archbishop Ussher in England. Like other Protestants, Ussher used the Hebrew ‘Masoretic text’ used by Jewish scribes, a text somewhat different than the older Greek ‘Septuagint’ used in the churches of the first century. This choice resulted in him shrinking the timeline of the world by 1500 years and placing the date of creation at 4004 BC.

Ussher did not make great use of genealogies and his date of 4004 Bc for creation was not based on them.

Jacobus_ussher

He, like others at that time, thought the earth would exist for 6 days of 1000 years; 4 before Jesus and 2 afterwards, making creation at 4000BC and the consummation in  2000AD. However from extra-biblical materials he realised Jesus was born in about 4 BC thus Creation was in 4000 + 4 = 4004BC. He deffo got the date of the consummation wrong at that should have happened in 1996! 1996 undermines Ussher as nothing else does!! Against that Ussher was a very fine scholar who only had the material available in 1656. Judged by 1656 his scholarship was immense and Rudwick argues that he gave us a sense of history AND geological history, thus beginning a revolution in history.

Why the difference in age? The Hebrew text of Genesis 5 and 11 often lists younger ages for fathers at their sons’ births in comparison to the Greek text. For instance, in the Greek Septuagint Adam is 230 years old when he has Seth. In the later Hebrew Masoretic text, however, he is 130 years old. The difference in ages adds up to a variation of approximately 1500 years. But where did this difference come from?

Although a complex and controversial topic, it is thought by some that a group of Jews living during the second century AD in Palestine intentionally adjusted some of the numbers in Genesis 5 and 11 in order to keep early Christians from using the age of the earth to calculate Jesus’ arrival as the fulfillment of a messianic prophecy. By subtracting approximately 1500 years from the history of the earth, Jesus would have been born too early to fit into the messianic window.[1]

Today, modern creation scientists and scholars are divided as to whether to accept the longer ages in the older Greek text or the shorter ages in the more recent Hebrew text. The former group places the age of the earth at 7500 years old; the latter at 6000 years old, often still relying on the work of Archbishop Ussher.

All other Christians do not use the genealogies in anyway to calculate the age of the earth

Ussher, of course, was just one of many scholars living during his day who, although disagreeing on specifics, ultimately agreed that the age of the earth was less than 10,000 years old. The point is that prior to the 19th century, almost every significant Biblical commentator thought the Bible spoke to the age of the earth in a definitive way.[2]

Not so as argued earlier. It would be fair to say that before 1660 (Steno) most held to a young earth, but undogmatically, but by 1800 the vast majority accepted an ancient earth, and this was for Evangelicals and Roman catholics too.

The Opinions of the New Geologists

In the early 19th century, however, the new sciences of geology and paleontology began to exert an influence on interpretations of Genesis.[3]James Hutton, George Cuvier, Charles Lyell, and others argued that the history of the earth was much older than 10,000 years; they based this view on their new interpretations of the rock layers and the fossils within them.[4]

It became obvious that the traditional view and the new view could not both be accurate since they provided two competing histories of the earth.

The major flaw is that the writer considers the “New Geologists” to have started with Hutton in about 1770, whereas geology had a long history going  back to 1660, and was already influential by 1700. Hutton, Cuvier and Lyell were not the only “New Geologists” but three of a large number from all over Europe who researched from 1770. To find out more read the mammoth tomes of Rudwick Bursting the Limits of Time  and Worlds before Adam. Some were Christian like J. A.  de Luc, Townsend, Soulavie, and the Anglican clergy like Buckland, the Conybeares and Sedgwick from 1810.

In the 1780s when Hutton was preparing his Theory of the Earth he wrote a preface in July 1785 arguing that his views were consistent with Christian revelation. He also argued that each Day of Genesis was of indefinite length

Hutton theory

Hutton sent the draft to the Rev William Robertson, Moderator of the Church of Sctoland and Principal of Edinburgh University. Note that Robert Darwin, father of Charles went to Edinburgh in 1783. Robertson de-drafted Hutton’s preface and here is part of it.

huttonmod1huttonmod2

Thus, we see that, by 1785 church leaders were accepting of a long geological time scale, and right at the heart of the so-called conflict. Robertson was not changing his views to placate Hutton’s geology, but re-iterating old understandings going back a century of more.

There are many more examples both in Scotland and England. In 1802 Thomas Chalmers furthered this with his exposition of a “Gap Theory”. He had been a student at Edinburgh in the 1790s .

It was similar in England with the Evangelical vicar of Pewsey, Joseph Townsend, one of William Smith’s advisors,

200px-william_smith_geologist

arguing in a similar vein in his 1813 The Character of Moses established for veracity as a Historian. Despite its title this work was a good summary of recent geology AND demonstrated its conformity with the Gospel.

By 1800 the evidence of these so-called “New Geologists” was over-whelming  and only a few rear-guard scholars opposed it. However several theologians like Thomas Scott simply ignored geological findings.

As a typical Englishman I shall leapfrog over Cuvier as I prefer rosbif and go to Lyell – who was a scot thus a haggis-eater rather than liking roast beef! At Oxford Lyell

180px-charles_lyell

studied geology under Rev William Buckland

Bucklandglacier

and probably imbibed his views of an ancient earth from him and other geologists, many of whom were clergy. Significant as Lyell became as a geologist after 1830, he had no effect on encourage people to accept an ancient earth. Those who say he did either suffer from a conscious or unconscious bias or are lying.

I hope that with a few well-aimed guided missiles I’ve demolished this re-iteration of the Hutton-Lyell myth which is totally false and has no historical substance to it.Yet it is repeated time and time again by Creationists and the semi-heducated.

Many more as any historical account of geology would show eg Rudwick

This is an important observation: it was not simply a matter of differences in timescale, but of differences in events happening during those timescales. Everyone understood the implications of the profound change in age. In the new view of geology, the earth had a “deep history” with a series of events occurring in it that were radically different than the events recorded in special revelation.

As I demonstrated earlier this New view of Geology  goes back to 1660s with Steno and then others in Britain. It was not NEW.

Although non-Christians had already assigned Genesis to the realm of myth, these differences created a major issue for Christians: how did the history in Genesis fit with the new history of the earth? And what did it mean for the doctrines of revelation and creation?

One answer was to question the geological findings themselves. This was done by a series of “scriptural geologists” with limited success, a history that Terry Mortenson documents in his book The Great Turning Point.

The so-called Scriptural Geologists had virtually no grasp of geology and risible even by the standards of the 1830s. Here is my summary of them

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/01/06/creationists-in-the-19th-century/

The other answer was to change one’s interpretation of Genesis.

New Ways to Interpret an Old Text

As a result, the 19th century saw the introduction of a number of new interpretationsthat attempted to synthesize Genesis 1 with a much longer period of time.[5] One was the ‘gap’ view which argued there was an indefinitely long period of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.

They should be less partisan and more accurate here and actually note that the so-called new interpretations of Genesis in the early 19th century were minor modifications of older ones. This I argued earlier.

Another idea was the ‘day-age’ view which said each ‘day’ in Genesis 1 was actually a long period of time. There was much discussion as to just how long a period of time, as well as which events each ‘day’ symbolized, but, in the end, this view provided a symbolic or allegorical function that could be shifted as needed to match changing scientific views.

The result of these interpretations was that, for those who held them, it no longer became possible to determine the age of the earth from the Bible. Instead, it was the role of geologists to determine the age of the earth. This meant that geologists became the new historians of the earth, removing from the Bible the ultimate authority concerning the actual history of creation.

Oh for some accuracy here!! Most had not determined the age of the earth from the bible at least from 1700 as geological evidence came to light.

Some commentators and pastors argued this was an incorrect way of interpreting Genesis 1; they said these views were neither in the history of interpretation nor in the text itself.

They should have said who so that their case would have some substance.

n spite of this, it became more and more popular to interpret Genesis in light of the seemingly indisputable claims of many geologists that the earth was far older than 10,000 years. For some, it was an easy concession because it seemed to maintain the historical integrity of Adam and Eve as well as the rest of the Biblical text.

Due to their many historical howlers their case can be dismissed

The one nagging problem was the fossil record.

Yes it was a nagging problem for young earthers but no one else. This final comment is a vacuous rhetorical flourish evading the falsity of their arguments.

Perhaps their grasp of the science of geology and evolution is better than their history of science.

[1] For more details, see Henry B. Smith, Jr. “MT, SP, or LXX: Deciphering a Chronological and Textual Conundrum in Genesis 5,” Bible and Spade 31.1 (2018), 18-27.

[2] Terry Morteson, The Great Turning Point (Master Books, 2012) 44-45.

[3] Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Evolution and the Authority of the Bible (The Paternoster Press, 1983) 72.

[4] Martin Rudwick, Earth’s Deep History (The University of Chicago, 2014) 99,110.

[5] Mortenson, 33,35.

********************************

To read; M Rudwick as in their references
D Young and Stearley. The Bible, rocks and Time
2876
Michael Roberts Evangelicals and Science (chapters available on my blog ; here is chap3 in biblical interpretation https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/11/27/a-history-of-evangelicals-and-science-part-3-of-12/

Bishop Spong meets Charles Darwin

On 12th September the controversial Bishop Spong died at the age of 89. I’d known of him for decades and in the 80s he helped at a wedding at a Welsh church where the vicar was a very conservative evangelical, which gave us a smile.

As someone who is fairly conservative and orthodox I have never been partial to Spong with his extreme liberal views almost throwing out every item of the Christian faith for a progressive faith. He is a person whom people either loved or loathed. Spong raises many issues and especially the absurdities of extreme fundamentalism, but throws the baby out with the bathwater. I will not give a general assessment of him but focus on one issue.

Bishop John Shelby Spong in an undated photo. He used a combination of celebrity and tireless writing and speaking to open up the Episcopal Church.

That issue is his understanding of Charles Darwin and the effect of his science on the Christian faith. Way back in the 1990s he explained some of the reasons why he rejected “orthodoxy” and much hinged on Darwin. He claimed that until 1859 all Christians believed in a literal Genesis and then with The Origin of Species Darwin torpedoed that making it totally untenable.

Probably most people would agree with Spong on that and it has been the received view among most who consider themselves educated. In his book and TV series of the 1980s The Sea of Faith Don Cupitt came out with same arguments. Many thought it wonderful, but his history had a bit to be desired! A similar view comes out in older church histories and among writers of popular science, including Richard Dawkins.

I never kept the article where I read Spong’s views on Darwin but at some lectures in 2018 he repeated the same line. These were lectures he gave at the Chautauqua Institution and reported in The Chautauquan Daily – their official newspaper.

“On Tuesday in the Hall of Philosophy, Spong explained how Darwinian and Christian values came to divide the Christian faith in his lecture titled, “The Assault of Charles Darwin and Why the Christian Church Retreated before Darwin.” Spong continued Week One’s interfaith theme, “Producing a Living Faith Today?”

Here is what the report said of his lecture, when he dealt with Darwin. It all sounds so familiar

http://chqdaily.com/2018/06/spong-dialogue-between-darwinism-christianity-critical/

One of the scientists who pushed the status quo was Charles Darwin, who Spong called the second “obsession of the church.”

Darwin began his work in 1831 when he got a job as a naturalist on a five-year survey voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle. It took him 25 years after the trip, but Darwin claimed his place in history when he released the Origin of Species.

The book sold out immediately and raised questions that had previously been debated, but were never analyzed from a perspective like Darwin’s. Christians did not welcome these findings with open arms, Spong said.

“The war was on,” Spong said. “Darwin was now an enemy to the Bible, as the Bible was interpreted literally, and he was an enemy to the church in the way (Darwinism was) interpreted theologically.”

In an attempt to set the record straight, a debate took place in 1860 between Thomas Huxley, a biologist and an avid defender of Darwin’s, and Samuel Wilberforce, the bishop of Oxford and an advocate of biblical literalism. Wilberforce resorted to ridicule and at one point asked Huxley which side of his family was descended from apes. Wilberforce won the debate, but Spong said it was not enough to earn him a lasting legacy.

“Sam Wilberforce was hailed as a hero, but what’s interesting is that heroes don’t last forever,” he said. “He was very popular in his lifetime, but his reputation has faded.”

After the debate, Darwin’s theories made their way into the bloodstream of western civilization. At first, evolution was taught in small, private settings, but as it began to gain momentum in 1910, the Christian Church decided to tackle the issue head on.

A group of Presbyterian divines proposed a series of pamphlets on the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Once the project received funding, more than 500,000 were sent out each week. As time went on, the pamphlets became more popular, and by the 1920s, every church in the world was divided over being classified as fundamental or modernist.

“You can’t force truth into popularity,” Spong said. “Darwin seemed to have the truth, and after a while, these fundamentals of the Christian faith did not seem fundamentalistic after all.”

The Presbyterian leaders published five fundamentals all Christians were required to believe in order to identify as Christian. Among them were the ideas that the Scriptures are the infallible word of God and human beings are created perfect but fell into sin. Spong said those fundamentals were too similar to the myths of the religion to survive.

“They were so absurd, no one in the academic world would give them credibility,” he said.

The problem facing modernists, on the other hand, was that they knew too much to be fundamentalists, but did not know how to be Christian, Spong said.

“That is reflected in the world today,” he said. “The major mainline Christian churches are all in a frantic of political decline. The fundamentalistic churches are strong, but they are also declining. The world is catching up, and fundamentalism is not a viable option any longer.”

The fall of these ideals caused a rise in Darwin’s ideals. At that time in history, there was no longer a medical school in the western world without a foundation built upon Darwinian principles, and hardly a science department in the United States that was not embracing evolution. That was until the public school system implemented “creation science,” Spong said, designed to be a fair alternative to Darwinism. Although creation science is not taught in public schools anymore, Spong reminded the audience it was not that long ago that former President George W. Bush endorsed it.

“Bush wanted people to be fair, to have a chance to voice an opinion,” Spong said. “He thought you could decide by majority vote what truth is. It doesn’t work that way.”

After Bush’s endorsement, the U.S. Supreme Court declared creation science unconstitutional.

“By virtue of its own strength and integrity, Darwin became stronger and stronger,” Spong said. “There is hardly an educated person in the western world who does not accept Darwin’s point of view as truth.”

Spong asked why Christians fought so hard when they knew they were wrong. The answer, once again, was Darwin.

“There was something about Darwin that challenged not just the Christian story, but the way in which we told that story,” he said. “Darwin said there was ‘no perfect creation,’ but the church said we were ‘created perfect and then all fell into sin.’ You can’t fall into sin if you are not perfect to start with.”

Spong acknowledged how difficult it can be to accept the similarities humans have with the apes, but in a time where millennials check “none” for their chosen denomination more than the rest of the other options combined, he believes the dialogue has to continue between Darwinism and Christianity in order for the faith to survive.

“I think we have a wonderful faith,” he said. “Not the only faith, but a wonderful faith. And we have to work hard to make it live in our generation, and I think we can.”

[Clearly this is an account of what Spong said and not his actual words. However from what I’d previously read what Spong himself wrote on Darwin, it seems to be an accurate and trustworthy account. Thus as I have no reason to doubt its authenticity I shall treat as Spong’s views of 2018, which are similar to those he held two decades earlier.]

On the surface this seems reasonable and historically accurate both with regards to Darwin’s life and work and the effect on the Christian church.

But it is not!

As he started in 1831 he could have mentioned that Darwin receieved the letter inviting him to join the Beagle after a few weeks geologising in Wales with the Reverend Professor Adam Sedgwick of Cambridge. BRESSAN_2013_Geologizing_-Darwin_Map1

Darwin’s Welsh visit of 1831 More here https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/07/03/just-before-the-beagle-darwin-in-wales-1831/  

300px-Adam_Sedgwick

Rev Adam Sedgwick, father of the Cambrian system. Susan Darwin had a crush on him.

Sedgwick was one of the great Anglican clergy-geologists. He was one of the most significant geologists to elucidate the Lower Palaeozoic and Devonian from 1831-1845. But, horror of horrors, he was also an evangelical. Now what was an evangelical doing as a professor of geology and doing fundamental work. Like most evangelicals of his day i.e. before 1859, he had no problems with geological time and did not see it as destroying his faith. He was very scathing about those who rejected geology and tried to insist on a literal Genesis. Here deal with some of his spats, which are quite funny too.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/how-to-deal-with-victorian-creationists-and-win/

It’s a pity Spong did not know about Sedgwick and his many Christian geologists! And so he dug a bigger hole;

“The war was on,” Spong said. “Darwin was now an enemy to the Bible, as the Bible was interpreted literally, and he was an enemy to the church in the way (Darwinism was) interpreted theologically.”

My question to Spong is simple. Who in the churches interpreted the Bible literally? For 40 years I have tried to find some examples and beyond slave-holders in the Southern States and other nuts, I am still wandering around in the wilderness looking for one.

Quite simply, virtually no Christians with a modicum of education in the 1860s took Genesis 1 literally and denied geological time. I think that is slam dunk against Spong. I’ll now go slam dunker and gently point out that Samuel Wilberforce was not a biblical literalist.

1869_Wilberforce_A504_001

Bishop soapy Sam Wilberforce

He was a competent amateur scientist and while at Oriel College , Oxford in the 1820s he went to William Buckland’s geology lectures for three years running. (The attendance records are in the Oxford museum. From my brief study of it, he was the only one who went every year.)

anning

Buckland checking out glacial Striae at Rhyd Ddu in Snowdonia 1842. Buckland introduced ideas of an Ice Age to Britain

230px-Cyclomedusa_cropped

Rev William Buckland giving a geological lecture at Oxford

His review of the Origin in the Quarterly Review is competent scientifically and is similar to what most scientists would have written in 1860. Wilberforce was no literalist and no fool, but was a rather soapy bishop! Spong could have mentioned Christians who accepted Darwin from 1859 including the evangelical Rev H B Tristram, Charles Kinsgley and others. Read this for the British scene from 1859

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/evolution-and-religion-in-britain-from-1859-to-2013/

Spong next dealt with The Fundamentals of 1910 “At first, evolution was taught in small, private settings, but as it began to gain momentum in 1910, the Christian Church decided to tackle the issue head on. A group of Presbyterian divines proposed a series of pamphlets on the fundamentals of the Christian faith.” Really! Head on? Many may know the series of brown paperback booklets called The Fundamentals. So much for taking Darwin/Evolution head on. One or two articles did, but most which dealt with Darwin or Genesis at least accepted geological time and in the case of James Orr, evolution as well. Spong simply had not doen his homework and was woefully inaccurate. So much for saying, “They were so absurd, no one in the academic world would give them credibility,” In fact many had academic credibility from competent conservative scholars, but some were not. Spong cannot have studied the background or content of these leaflets. If anyone was absurd it was Spong!

He continued “Darwin said there was ‘no perfect creation,’ but the church said we were ‘created perfect and then all fell into sin.” When did the church say that? Some fundamentalists did, and still do, say that but they are not the church but just a small part!

He ought to have known that humans ARE apes, and thus have similarities with all the other apes. A lack of biological knowledge here.

So what should we say about Spong’s encounter with Darwin?

Most obvious is that he has adopted a popular and extreme form of the Conflict Thesis of science and religion and out- whites White. To claim that the church was literalist in 1859 is simply completely and utterly false. Just to take the Anglican church, the vast majority of clergy had accepted geological time, and thus a non-literal Genesis way before 1859. In fact a higher proportion of Church of England clergy in 2021 are literalist than in 1860.

The best that can be said is that his confirmation bias to buttress his understanding of Christianity is to assume what he claims. This is simply not scholarly and is a very shoddy way of presenting an argument. Sadly others like Don Cupitt have done the same but he did (mis)quite contemporary authors! I agree with Spong on how awful Young Earth Creationism is in every way, but we need to ensure that what he say about others is accurate. He does not.

In 1998 Spong nailed his 12 Theses to the internet and Rowan Williams dismembered the lot with simplicity and clarity.

https://anglicanecumenicalsociety.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/bishop-spong-and-archbishop-williamss-response/

Williams exposes the shoddiness and wrongness of all his arguments both theological and ethical. I don’t need to repeat Rowan’s arguments.

On the positive side Spong is good at raising questions and especially those which come as a result of being swept up in fundamentalism. But he is not so good at understanding and tilts at the non-existent strawmen of ultra-fundamentalism and includes all the mainline orthodox in his tilting. His dealings with Darwin are just that. His ideas may resonate with those escaping from fundamentalism, but for the rest of us (who often have serious questions about our faith) he provides nothing of merit and an easy target for a hatchet job.

What Bishop Spong gives is not a new and progressive Christianity for a the 21st Century but an incoherent and muddled rejection of the faith. Sadly some would disagree with me and Rowan Williams!!

Why creationism bears all the hallmarks of a conspiracy theory

A fine article by Paul Braterman on Creationism as a conspiracy theory.

My only caveat is that I don’t consider Creationism to stem from biblical infallibility or inerrancy

Otherwise great and reasoned rather than polemical

Primate's Progress

A friend asked me why I bother about creationism. This article spells out my reasons. It has had some 150,000 reads since first published in The Conversation in February, and has been featured in Snopes and Yahoo! News, and attacked by Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge of Answers in Genesis, Jake Hebert Ph.D [sic] at the Institute for Creation Research, and others.

https://images.theconversation.com/files/381349/original/file-20210129-21-zsa3bk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&rect=0%2C374%2C4031%2C2015&q=45&auto=format&w=1356&h=668&fit=crop
A replica of Noah’s Ark from the biblical tale at the Ark Encounter theme park in Kentucky.Lindasj22/Shutterstock

Many people around the world looked on aghast as they witnessed the harm done by conspiracy theories such as QAnon and the myth of the stolen US election that led to the attack on the US Capitol Building on January 6. Yet while these ideas will no doubt fade in time, there is arguably a much more enduring conspiracy theory that also pervades America in the form…

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Young-Earth Creationism in 2021: The Dawn of The New Creationists, Part 1

This is a good account of a less strident alternative to Ken Ham’s pugnacious Answers in Genesis and Sarfarti’s acidity in Creation Ministries.

He deals with the second generation of “Is Genesis History” and focuses on the people rather than the content.

Sadly knowing the work of the creation scientists involved, I fear that it will not be even passable science.

I have found Joel Duff’s writings on creationism to be very good, as he started by describing not criticising!!

Will there be a rabbit in the Precambrian?

Naturalis Historia

In 2017 the film documentary Is Genesis History? marked a significant moment in the history of creationism evangelism.  A professional-quality production defending the young-earth interpretation of Scripture and overview of the state-of-the-art in creation science—the attempt to conform the physical evidence of creation into the Young-Earth biblical framework.

Upon its release, I wrote several reviews of this important film including my reflections on its significance to the Young-Earth community including A Landmark Film for the Young-Earth Community: Reflections on “Is Genesis History? and Mountains, Meadows and Marmots: Creation or Judgement?. In the first of those reviews I wrote the following:

“I expect this film to become one of the most effective apologetics tools the young-earth movement has ever produced both because of who produced it—a group outside of the major creationist organizations—but also because of who is not in the film—AiG president Ken Ham. Ken Ham has become such…

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Hugh Miller and Me: Geology and Scripture Reconciled

Hugh Miller was a fascinating guy – geologist and evangelical.

Here Alex Staton, another 19th Century throwback of a geologist and clergyman (there are not many of us) writes about his life

This is good stuff and rock solid!!

Unconformable Views

I had promised myself (and you!) that I wasn’t going to allow myself to be drawn into interminable debates about the Bible and geology. There are two reasons for this. The first is that these kinds of debates go round in circles. They are frequently accompanied by a great deal of nastiness. The second reason is that there is no debate. We know that the earth is unimaginably old and that evolution is true(1). It doesn’t matter that some claim the Bible insists otherwise(2).

My reason for turning to geology and the Bible now is that I have been reading the excellent Hugh Miller, the Cromarty Stonemason. For those that may not know, here is a brief biography of the man.

Hugh Miller (1802-1856). Painting by William Bonnar (1800 – 1863). Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. Highland Council.

Hugh Miller was born in Cromarty in October…

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