Category Archives: science

Should Creationism be taught in Welsh Schools

Yes, but no!

YES! that will annoy some. Surely I should just shriek “NO”! We need more than a knee-jerk reaction.


In context, Creationism cannot be taught in England and Wales has yet to formulate its position, as new teaching guidelines do not mention creationism and could open the floodgates. As a result the British humanist Association have jumped and have got 50 leading scientists to sign , including at least three Christians – Prof Tom McLeish, Rev Prof Michael Reiss and Simon Barrow. I signed it but don’t think I’ll join the BHA.

Here’s the substance of the letter

The letter says:

‘As scientists and educators we believe that good science teaching is vital to the education and development of all children, wherever they live in the UK. We note the Welsh Government is currently consulting on a new national curriculum that will drastically overhaul education in Wales, including science education. The new Science and Technology Area of Learning and Experience (AoLE) doesn’t explicitly prohibit presenting creationism and other pseudoscientific theories as evidence-based, and evolution is only mentioned once (and only at secondary level at that).

‘Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. It is a fundamental concept that describes and explains the development of the diversity of life on the planet. Pupils should be introduced to it early – certainly at primary level – as it underpins so much else. What’s more, without an explicit ban on teaching creationism, intelligent design, and other pseudoscientific theories as evidence-based, such teaching may begin to creep into the school curriculum, when it is vital children in Wales are not exposed to pseudoscientific doctrines masquerading as science.

‘State schools in England, including primary schools, are already required to teach evolution ‘as a comprehensive, coherent, and extensively evidenced theory’, and ‘must not allow any view or theory to be taught as evidence-based if it is contrary to scientific or historical evidence or explanations’. We urge the Welsh Government to introduce the same requirements in Wales.’

So often evolution is called a belief and thus people may say “I believe in evolution”. That is unhelpful as evolution is a scientific theory it should not be dependent on belief but evidence. In that, it is contrasted to creationism which is a belief based on a particular reading of the Bible. I, for one, do not believe in evolution but accept the arguments and evidence for it.

I consider that this petition is too focused on biological evolution and ignores cosmological and geological evolution. In school, both at primary and secondary level, the concept of Deep Time must be taught. Yes, the universe IS 13.4 billion years old, the earth 4.64 billion  and the first life was between 4 and 3.5 billion and so on. The succession of life (call that evolution if you will) needs some treatment even at primary level.

I have taken part in teaching rocks and volcanoes to Years 3 and 4 (ages 7 and 8). Having climbed Mt St Helens I show slides of that  and the 1980 eruption and then ask “Where is the nearest volcano?”


That stumps them and then I tell them “in the Lake District, 450 million years ago.” Wow! Of course, they will soon forget the 450 million and if asked will just say “millions”, which is fine. Dinosaurs are a must and again their great age can be stressed. This gives an open door for evolution.

However my observation in schools (mostly Anglican primary) is that some teachers are unsure about it and fearful of either what they think the church believes or an awareness of fundamentalist parents. With many evangelical churches teaching creationism this can inhibit schools in their teaching.

Above all, YEC and Intelligent Design need to be excluded from the science curriculum.

What is creationism?

It may seem superfluous asking this question as most think they know what creationism is. Many, including those in churches, assume it is simply traditional Christianity.

Creationism, or more accurately Young Earth Creationism (YEC) holds that the bible, especially Genesis must be taken literally and that God created in 6 24-hour days. They further claim that before the Fall – when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit – there was no death, suffering or disease including among animals and that most of the strata were laid down during Noah’s Flood. I could deal with at great depth but this gives the outline.

On certain things there are variety of understandings but all coalesce on the above.

At times ideas get a bit far-fetched as with the suggestion of fire-breathing dinosaurs, described in this blog.


The Bible specifically states that the first few books of the Old Testament are not meant to be taken literally. Despite this, a number of Young Earth creationists promote a view of the ancient world where people lived alongside allosaurs and pterosaurs and so on. If you’ve seen a version of this page mentioning lemonade and homosexuality, it’s a spoof (the original text does not include that section of text). Image: (c) Ken Ham,  Dinosaurs of Eden .

Here is a recent tweet by a creationist. That shows the problem.

More than likely the dinosaurs died out after the flood due to large dietary requirements. After the centuries after that they were hunted to extinction by mankind due to their terror of dragons.

I would have thought most would baulk at that, but these views are held in many churches, especially independent evangelical ones. That includes some Anglicans. i have had some heated discussions with Anglican clergy on YEC.

This, briefly, is what they affirm but they also argue that scientists have got so much wrong, especially geologists, who have wrongly argued for an earth being millions or billions of years old for 300 years. When you dig into their writings you find they take an odd position on evolution  and thus claim that creatures evolved rapidly after the Flood, so that all cats from moggies to lions evolved in a few hundred years after landing at Ararat from the Cat-kind Noah took to sea!

I presume all intelligent people will find that nonsense, but that IS what  creationism (YEC) is. It is what I’ve read and heard from YECs for half a century.

My introduction to YEC was thrust upon in the Swiss Alps. After three years as an exploration geologist in Africa I felt called to the Anglican ministry and in preparation for that went out to study for a month in 1971 under Francis Schaeffer at L’Abri above the Rhone Valley. On arrival Schaeffer’s son-in-law, Udo Middelmann suggested I should read a host of YEC books. I was reluctant but did so. At first I was baffled and began to read The Genesis Flood. 


At first I felt they were incontrovertible, but then I started to discover the sheer dishonesty of the arguments and their systematic misquotations. The book was cleverly argued and those without geological knowledge would probably not identify the flaws. After that, I often muttered “bloody liars” under my breath as I read The Genesis Flood  and other YEC books. However few in Britain were concerned about YEC in the 70s as it only came to the fore in 1981.

The problem of dealing with YEC is that one needs skills in all branches of science and my skills become limited beyond geology. Even so, YECs continually present new killer arguments which appear plausible and not amenable to quick refutation. I and many others have done slow hatchet jobs on these arguments and without fail they always turn out to be based on bad science and misrepresentation (aka lying). Thus in the early 80s a certain Woodmorappe (alibi!) wrote an article on how so many radiometric dates were wrong and gave a list of 700 dodgy dates. Many came from the 1964 Geological Society of London tome on The Geological Time scale of which I had a copy. So laboriously I checked these out and there were about a hundred.  In every case the literature was misquoted. I could not reconcile that with the Ninth Commandment.

There are myriad examples of this , or at a popular level by Prof A Mcintosh, formerly of Leeds. I cannot see how a D Sc in anything could get things so wrong. McIntosh gives talks in various places and works alongside Ken Ham. He wrote a popular book Genesis for Today which has an appendix on why geology is wrong. The errors are horendous.

It is difficult not to get angry about this type of thing.

creationist binjgo

Yet YEC persists.

As well as that a fair number of Christians are fearful that this is the orthodox and traditional view of the churches and are initially bemused when I say it is not. I have found this for over 40 years in my ministry and consider it is because clergy have failed in their teaching and left the subject to one side. (My own policy has been to deal with creation and science , when the lectionary suggests a reading on creation, slip it out at Harvest as an aside, rather than hammer away. Most know of my being a geologist and often of my interest in Darwin.)


No, YEC is not the traditional view of the churches. Yes, Christians in the past did believe the earth was thousands. not billions, of years old, but that was before geologists had discovered the earth was ancient. Thus Archbishop Ussher who in 1656 argued for creation in 4004BC, was reflecting the best scholarship available and not rejecting and rubbishing science. It was 20 to 30 years after that some began to realise the vast age of the earth.

The historical relation of Christianity and science would require volumes, but suffice it to say that many early geologists were devout Christians. a good number were Anglican clergy, like Sedgwick, who taught Darwin geology, Henslow, Buckland and Coneybeare. Sedgwick was an inspiration, not only as a geologist, but for the way he tackled wrong ideas, as I show in this chapter/blog. (It was fun writing it!)

As for evolution, that was accepted in most churches within 20 years of the publication of The Origin of species (see for the last 150 years)

but is Creationism being taught?

The answer many in education will give is that it is not. That is what some educationalists have said to me – including within the church. However over the decades a few instances have come to light. I, and others, are sure there are many more.

Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, Bristol, England, UK

Some Bristol schools have taken pupils to this creationist zoo.

I lift this from another blog of mine. I just love the cart pulled by a dinosaur!!



The most public face of creationism has been in education, mirroring the American experience. This became apparent in 2002 after the Emmanuel Gateshead affair. It is difficult to estimate how much creationism is taught in British schools, but apart from independent (creationist) Christian and Islamic faith schools, creationism is taught as science in some state schools. It remains largely hidden because one cannot go round schools and ask the question outright and also a teacher teaching creationism would be wary of disclosing the fact.

First, the fifty independent faith schools do teach creationism as science for religious reasons. They often use American creationist material like Accelerated Christian Education. Secondly, several state secondary schools effectively teach creationism but claim to follow the National Curriculum. The first state school to teach YEC was probably Emmanuel College, Gateshead, a Christian foundation formed in 1992. In April 2002 Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis (the leading creationist organisation)[35] led a meeting at the school. As it was a case of hiring out the school hall it was not relevant, but it took on a media-life of its own. However it became clear that creationism was taught as science. Richard Dawkins, the Bishop of Oxford and others called for a review but a government inspection supported the school. Some indications had appeared on the Christian Institute website. The head McQuoid made his support of YEC clear and in 2000 The Christian Institute had hosted a lecture series on Christian education, mostly by teachers at Emmanuel Gateshead. Stephen Layfield, head of science lectured on “The Teaching of Science; A Biblical Perspective”. He suggested that the “Principal evidence [for the Flood] is found in the fossil-laden sedimentary rocks, the extensive reserves of hydrocarbon fuels (coal, oil and gas)…”[36]. This article can be considered a manifesto for creationist teaching of science by arguing that science teachers should question evolution or geological time at every opportunity, and teaching an alternative Creationist opinion. Thirdly, there are examples of creationist teaching within the state system, in a covert way. Numbers of teachers are creationists but short of surveillance one cannot find out what they teach. To teach creationism would be contrary to both government guidelines.

The pressure to teach creationism comes from many different groups, mostly from independent churches, which are involved in groups like Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International. However much writing on creationism appears in evangelical magazines, like, Evangelical Times, Evangelicals Today and in Evangelicals Now. The sheer weight of articles over many years has convinced many evangelicals that evolution is bad science and, at the very least, creationism or design should be taught as an alternative.

In September 2006 the group Truthinscience[37] began a public campaign to encourage ‘the critical examination of Darwinism in schools’ and the teaching of “design” schools. They claimed:

We believe that a critical examination of Darwinism and the controversy that surrounds it will enable students to fulfill some of these objectives. …We consider that it is time for students to be permitted to adopt a more critical approach to Darwinism in science lessons. They should be exposed to the fact that there is a modern controversy over Darwin’s theory of evolution and the neo-Darwinian synthesis, and that this has considerable social, spiritual, moral and ethical implications. Truth in Science promotes the critical examination of Darwinism in schools, as an important component of science education.[38]

Figure 7 Screenshot of the homepage of Truth in Science The DVD Set in Stone presents arguments fro a young earth and the website gives the impression of being “good” science


Their website scarcely touched on a young earth or Noah’s Flood but the board of advisors were Young Earth Creationists including Prof McIntosh of Leeds and an Anglican vicar. They claimed to be presenting Intelligent Design as an alternative to “Darwinism”. Design is used by creationists today as it is less threatening to the general public than creationism. They declined to affirm their belief that dinosaurs were on the Ark. One cannot determine how successful truthinscience has been in Britain. However, since September 2006 there have been many responses to the teaching of creationism. The concerns of creationists may be seen in Paul Taylor’s book entitled Truth, Lies and Science Education[39], written for the general reader. Taylor claims much science taught in schools is wrong and based on atheistic assumptions. The book is scientifically inaccurate and asserts much science teaching is actually scientism and gives radiometric age-dating as an example. That is simply absurd.

In 2010 another organisation Centre for Intelligent Design (C4ID) was formed with Alistair Noble as the Director.[40] This claimed that Design was a scientific position and thus ought to be taught. The website material is very ambivalent on the age of the earth, but it is difficult not to see it as a YEC front. C4ID has attracted much criticism especially from the British Centre for Science Education (BCSE)[41]. C4ID has attempted to influence scientists and teachers and have had lectures presented by American creationists.

Groups like Truth in Science and C4ID appeal for fairness and to encourage “critical thinking”. However in the push for fairness, there are no demands to teach a flat earth or phlogiston in chemistry. “Critical Thinking” sounds fine, but it is impossible to do that with the misrepresentation of science which is the hallmark of all creationism.

Over the last few years, there have been several official responses. On the official teachers’ website the document GUIDANCE ON THE PLACE OF CREATIONISM AND INTELLIGENT DESIGN IN SCIENCE LESSONS [42],  emphasized that neither Creationism nor Intelligent Design are scientific theories. Shortly after this in September 2007 the Association for Science Education published a similar statement on Science Education, Intelligent Design and Creationism[43] and stated that it agreed the consensus of science expressed in the Interacademy Panel statement[44]; a global network of the world’s science academies, which gave a statement on the unquestionable scientific consensus of the universe being billions of years old, the earth younger and the evolutionary succession of life, in contrast to creationist opinion that the universe and earth are less than 10,000 years old. This demonstrates that Creationism has minimal support in the scientific community, in fact, a fraction of one per cent.

However there are misunderstandings, as in September 2008 when Michael Reiss resigned as Director of Education at the Royal Society, after some Fellows of the Society protested about his views on tackling creationism in science teaching. At a meeting of the British Association in September 2008, Reiss argued that creationist pupils needed to be treated with respect and that simply attacking creationism was futile as creationism was part of a wider (religious) world view.[45] Reiss is a University Professor and chief executive of the Science Learning Centre in London, who has a Ph.D. in biology. He is also an ordained priest in the Church of England, which some atheists see as compromising his science. It seems that Reiss was misunderstood in his appeal to understand why some students are creationist as he made the obvious statement that understanding the students rather than criticizing them makes better educational sense.

Education and creationism have been in the news in 2011, and these type of issues have continued. In March2011 (and again in March 2012), Philip Bell of Creation Ministries International was invited to St Peter’s Church of England Aided School in Exeter to speak to GSCE students in which he gave ‘scientific’ arguments for creationism resulting in a protest by a Christian parent, Laura Horner, a geologist, who set up the CrISIS petition[46], followed by a letter of concern to Gove from several atheists and Christians, asking for clarification. In his reply on 7th July 2011 to Hugo Swire M.P. the Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb, replied with reference to St Peter’s School, explaining the government position on the teaching of creationist in science lessons;

‘Creationism does not fit with the scientific consensus…: nor does it employ the scientific method. As such it should not be taught as a scientific theory or body of knowledge as it is neither of those things.’

This is one of the few examples where attempts to introduce creationism into schools has come to the public’s notice. It highlights the situation in that teaching creationism is contrary to Government policy, yet it is occurring in British schools

The second case was as a result of the present government’s initiative in the setting up of Free schools, whereby a group can sponsor a new school, which will be independent of the Local Education Authority. A fundamentalist church in Newark, the Everyday Champions Church, was seeking to set up the Everyday Champions School, as a free school in Newark with a creationist basis. The application was turned down in October, as it would have contravened government policy.[47] As of April 2012 there are further applications for creationist Free Schools.

In 2013 a Lanarkshire school sent creationist books home for children. There was an outcry from parents and the BCSE was involved resulting in 18 months of controversy in Scotland and not yet resolved.

TruthBeTold (2)Cart pulled by dinosaur

See also Paul Braterman has several blogs on Scottish creationism.

Throughout the period from April to September 2011, articles on the issue of creationism in schools appeared in major newspapers and in publications like The Times Educational Supplement and the New Scientist. Possibly as a result of this, on 19th September 2011about 30 scientists, including David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins and Michael Reiss wrote an open letter to the government insisting that creationism should not be taught in schools.[48] Responses have been variable with positive reports in leading newspapers and Ekklesia[49] and strongly negative ones by Creationist groups like CMI[50] and AIG[51]. So far there has been no response from the mainstream churches and little from politicians. It appears that only interested groups , either “evolutionary” scientists or creationists, are concerned about teaching creationism in schools, and that opposition is confined only to those who have an interest i.e. scientists, rather than of concern to a wider society. The fact that such eminent scientists made such an appeal, indicates how seriously they take what they consider to be the threat of creationism to science education and are trying to persuade the wider public. Yet, the teaching of creationism in schools is not considered a serious problem among most people, including church leaders and politicians.

(see for the last 150 years)


As well as these I found one church secondary school where parents were leaning on the head over creationism, and I felt the head was reluctant to offend them. This is a soft way in. It needs to be watched.

And then some teachers lean to YEC or are fearful to deal with subject.

In England it is not permissible to teach YEC whether in county or church schools, but I pick up instances of teachers leaning to YEC, but not too overtly. After all you can raise doubts about evolution., without actually teaching YEC. You can hint at doubts about Darwin or geological time. Others have found the same thing. However the evidence is anecdotal rather than systematic.

However teachers , of any faith or none, must deal with creationists pupils with respect and understanding.

BUT there is another side to this, both in the teaching material and by teachers. It can be, and is, presented that Christianity is actually YEC with the implication that a science student cannot be a Christian. I can give examples.

SHOULD Creationism be taught?

In a word “No”.

YEC as I presented above is simply not science and is a hotch-potch of odd ideas cobbled together to discredit science. Further I does not have roots in either traditional church teaching nor the science of past eras. (Yes, I know science has changed and that some ideas have been long rejected, but these were ideas put forward by wise scientists trying to make sense of the world. I could give loads of examples from geology, and itemise where geologists like Sedgwick, Buckland and Darwin got things wrong! Each were superb geologists.) BTW I have published on Buckland and Darwin’s geological work, especially on Welsh glaciation.

YEC dates back to the 19th century. First, in England with the anti-geologists who tried to overthrow the geology of Buckland, Sedgwick and Lyell with an odd mish-mash of ideas. They were effectively silenced by Buckland and Sedgwick among others. The church was wiser back then – and less polite.)


This is Tom Sopwith’s painting of Buckland looking for Welsh glaciers in 1841. Yes, he was a bit nuts.

We then move to the USA with the ideas Ellen White of the Seventh Day Adventists, who wrote a rambling work claiming all strata were laid down i the Flood. This was taken up after 1900 by McCready Price with his “New Geology”. The new ideas simmered in the USA until Morris and Whitcomb  published The Genesis Flood in 1961. After that YEC slowly took off in the USA, becoming the default view of evangelicals. It spread to Britain by 1968 and gradually took root.

There is no way YEC should be taught as SCIENCE in SCIENCE lessons, but inevitably it will come up and teachers need to find a way of dealing with it in a sensitive fashion.

It is clear that YEC cannot be on any science curriculum, but its existence needs acknowledging.

However, if a teacher does teach it, then that has to be a disciplinary matter

The reasons for that should be obvious from what I have written.

YEC simply is not science.

Worse than that it is full of untruth, not in the sense that they get their science wrong, but by systematically distorting and misquoting standard science.

Beyond that it undermines a good understanding of so much science, especially geology and biology, which are needed both to understand  and deal with the pressing issues of today.

In a time of environmental crisis we must get our science right.

We cannot say with Calvin Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance that all fossil fuels were laid down a few thousand years ago when Noah was in the ark! This chapter from Religion in Environmental and Climate Change  deals with Beisner and YECs on Climate Change


If we do we cannot understand geomorphology and thus cannot make good judgments on how to deal with issues of flooding , earthquakes, climate change etc.

The same applies to more biological matters like medicines and medical methods etc.

The same for agriculture and forestry.

And so on, ad infinitum.

What should the churches do?

YEC has been present in the UK for nearly half a century and the churches have done little about it. It has taken over most independent evangelical churches, especailly with the activities of Answers in Genesis. I felt the Church of England has tried to look the other way , when their bishops could have spoken out decades ago. Some years ago Dawkins argued the Anglican bishops should have been forceful. I wrote to The Times agreeing with Dawkins and saying our bishops could have done more. A few days later I got an irate e-mail from my bishop criticising what I wrote! He’d sent it at 6 in the morning, so he must have been up all night fuming at me!!

Most mainline churches are not YEC, but they are a significant presence (at least 5% of clergy) in most, including the Church of England. There are several such vicars in my diocese!

Often in the churches teaching and preaching issues on creation , and thus of evolution, are sidestepped. This allows members to unwittingly think YEC may be true.

In recent years churches have, at long last, emphasised the care of the environment, which needs to be backed up by good simple science on geology, biology and evolution. Churchmembers do not need to know that the base of the Upper Bowland Shales is the Cravenoceras Ieion Marine Band, which was about 325.2 million years ago, but need a general awareness of deep geological time e.g. Ice Ages ended 10,000 years ago etc. YEC says the Ice Age took place after Noah’s flood!

Above all, there must be an insistence on integrity and rigorous honesty. Thus the churches must criticise YEC. I fear this will not happen.



YEC is  simply Untrue

The main reason why YEC should not be taught is simply that it is untrue.

That cannot be stressed too strongly whether it upsets anyone or not.

YEC twists and misrepresents science to produce a complete parody of science and such that one begins to question whether leading creationists are not deliberately lying. After half a century of reading creationist writings I would find it very difficult not to say that.

It is also very bad science

If you follow bad science, pseudoscience or untrue science, this has serious implications on science -based projects  in society whether for environmental work, medical improvements, agriculture, technology etc

And finally, as a Christian, I find YEC makes Christianity seem utterly false and dishonest.

Last of all to give a Welsh twist, William Williams (Pantycelyn)  who wrote Guide me, O thou great redeemer made it very clear in Golwg ar Deyrnas Crist that he thought the earth was much older than Ussher’s 4004BC.

P.S. I was asked to write this for the Geol Soc of London book  Geology and Religion. It brings out my position on geology and creation



Killing off the Conflict Narrative (of Science and Religion)

Another good blog on the whole issue of the supposed conflict of science and religion.

This should have been a dead duck decades ago , but it is still used as a rod to beat Christians with , comes out in science teaching at schools and in popular culture.

Faith and Wisdom in Science

It’s been a long and tiring century or more of fake news, but I nurture a precious hope (how can one live otherwise?) that the voices of evidence, reason and truth will ultimately prevail.

One of the more persistent myths that have invaded our conversion, media and (very sadly) education, is the late Victorian invention that religious faith and science are necessarily in conflict. So prevalent and normalised is this assumption, that recent surveys in UK high schools find up to 70% of 15 year olds think it (but without being able to say why). I say ‘late Victorian’ for before the publication of two books, now forgotten and unread but best-sellers in their time, there is no great ‘conflict narrative’. The books were: History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), by Andrew Dickson White, and History of the Conflict between Religion and Science

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The Poison of Precaution: The Anti-Science Mindset

The Precautionary Principle (PP) sounds good and wise, and we all use it up to a point in many aspects of life. If followed as Extinction Rebellion and other suggest we would not even have bicycles, due to their dangers, and clearly not trains . william Huskisson would agree about trains!!

So yet another warning of the the daft extremism which passes as environmentalism

The Risk-Monger

In last year’s excellent book, The Wizard and the Prophet, Charles Mann juxtaposed two polemics on the environment in the 1940s during the turning point of agricultural development: Norman Borlaug and William Vogt. Borlaug (the Wizard) took the scientific approach to innovate and develop new tools to solve problems facing agriculture. Vogt (the Prophet and arguably the founder of the modern environmental movement) would see an environmental problem as a reason for man to pull back and let the planet heal itself.

To this day, both approaches (to innovate or to pull back and take precaution) have defined environmental debates. There is no doubt which side I fall on. Borlaug’s scientific route has allowed humanity to thrive over the last 70 years. The Green Revolution in agriculture led to global economic expansions as abundance led to generations of risk-takers being able to leave the land and develop other opportunities…

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Sex differences in the brain

An interesting blog on whether there a sex differences in human brains

It does seem that there are and no amount of pleading can deny it!!

Why Evolution Is True

For a while I’ve been criticizing ideologically-based scientific claims, including the arguments that “evolutionary psychology is bunk” and “there are no differences between male and female brains in either structure or wiring”. These claims are based on ideology because both are palpably ridiculous from what we know about biology or from recently published research, and yet people maintain them because they want the brain to be a blank slate and they want there to be no average differences between men and women in brain structure and function. These wants come from left-wing ideology.

Although these claims are ideological and not scientific, they are based on a well-meaning philosophy: the view that people should be treated fairly and given equal opportunities. But this has engendered the fears that distort the science:  a fear that if we’re not blank slates, but that sexes and different ethnic groups differ genetically—perhaps in part because…

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Christian belief in Creation in relation to Geology

Can we believe in God from a scientific perspective?

Creación de Adán (Miguel Ángel).jpg

I shall avoid answering that  as it would take volumes.

However in August 2007 INHIGEO (International Union of Geological Sciences) held a conference on Religion and geology at Eichstatt in Germany. It was close to the Solnhofen quarry where the Archaeopteryx was found in 1860.  As I couldn’t go at the last minute for family reasons I missed both the conference and the field trip to Solnhofen

However all was not lost as I contributed a chapter to the book Geology and Religion: A history of Harmony and Hostility on Adam Sedwick and his conflicts with anti-geologists;

I was also asked to write a chapter on the doctrine of creation as seen by Anglicans today. That I duly did, and focussed on issues connected with geological time rather than the nature of humans or te environment. Thus if you think they should have been included, I agree, but it was outside my remit.

The volume is  Geology and Religion: A history of Harmony and Hostility Geol Soc of London Special Publication No310

So here it  is ;

with my ending

A brief account like this can hardly do justice to
the variety of understandings of the theology of
creation today. There is a wide range of views,
but a distinction must be made between those of
academia and those of the pulpit and pew. Academics, except for the increasing number of creationists in university positions, tend to incorporate
science into their theology. However, an increasing
number of clergy, who may have studied theology
at university, are becoming sceptical of science
and more inclined to adopt a creationist perspective
on creation. Thus within the Church of England,
there is the whole range from young-Earth creationism to a virtual denial of the existence of God. The
Anglican doctrine of creation is indefinable from
such a diversity of opinion. From my stance as a
practising Anglican priest, with ecumenical contacts and considerable contact with Christians in
the USA, it is difficult to give a simple summary.
Many within the churches take creation in the
wide sense for granted and are not concerned with
scientific issues. However, an increasing number
are accepting young-Earth creationism or else intelligent design without understanding the (lack of )
science behind them; this is partly in reaction to
aggressive atheism of Dawkins and others, although
this style of atheism came after young-Earth creationism became an issue in the early 1980s. The
confusing variety of attitudes encourages me to
play the orchestral introduction to Haydn’s The


An Anglican priest’s perspective on the doctrine of creation
in the church today


To close with my hero Adam Sedgwick


Dent church where Sedgwick’s father was vicar


Does Geology destroy God. Genesis and geology,Seven papers

Does geology destroy God?

Some say yes.

Read on

Angular Unconformity at Siccar Point, Scotland. Siccar Point, Scotland (Photo: Wikipedia “Hutton’s Unconformity”)henslow

Here are seven papers of mine on themes around Genesis and Geology. Only one (A history of design in unpublished


  1. Historical survey on Genesis from 1600 to 1850

Two bogey men, Calvin and Ussher. Or were they?


Genesis 1 & geological time from 1600-1850

2. A similar one for Evangelical Quarterly focussing on John Ray


Genesis of Ray

3. Geology and Genesis in the early 19th century

The age of william Smith


Genesis and geology unearthed

4. The geologist Adam Sedgwick on genesis and his opposition to the creationists of his day





5. A short doctrine of creation written for a Geol soc of London Special Publication

(N.b. it omits any reference to the environment – before you criticise!!)




6. Evangelicals and Climate Change (before the age of fracking!)

Increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations from 1958–2013




7. History of design


History of design1

a Warning


Why Mohler gets evolution so wrong? from Why Does the Universe Look So Old? (Albert Mohler)


Why Does the Universe Look So Old?

This seems a very odd question to ask.

Does the earth look old? Not when you see this – two photos of spring in Lancashire


But then in the winter or autumn (fall to non-english speakers) the landscape can look old and tired


This is an address  Albert Mohler gave way back in 2010, but it is an excellent summary of the scientific, historical and biblical arguments some use to uphold young earth creationism. Those who don’t know Mohler is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the leading seminaries for the Southern Baptists – one of the largest denominations in the USA. Mohler has probably shifted the Southern Baptists into a more fundamentalist and creationist stance, and along with John MacArthur one of the theological giants who argue their view is the only option for Christians.

I cannot deny the strength of his following, but I can say where he is wrong. I am afraid I read his address with increasing amazement;

First, his understanding of science,especially geology and cosmology is so inaccurate that it is dire. Geology is all about fossils and not rocks.

Secondly, his historical treatment of these sciences and Christianity is full of mistakes and error, and is a garbled version of the discredited Conflict Thesis. He totally ignores the fact that many early geologists were devout Christians

Thirdly, his grasp of the history of interpretation of Genesis 1 is very patchy and incorrect.

His address is internally coherent but wrong at every turn as he operates on  ping-pong false polarisations. By that I mean he presents only the extreme alternatives of a 6-day creationism centred on fundamentalist Christianity or the scientific atheism of Dennett, Dawkins and Hitchens. His address has the implicit call to decide for one extreme or the other and is probably quite effective.

He is very critical of all who don’t accept Young Earth Creationism. In the USA, Biologos, ASA, Peter Enns and Francis Collins are put on the naughty step as is Denis Alexander in Britain.

Mohler is quite unwilling to acknowledge that a vast number of highly orthodox Christians accept deep time (what he calls “fossils”) and evolution. Implicitly he puts large numbers of Southern Baptists on the naughty step too.

I am proud to be on the naughty step in solidarity with orthodox Chrsitans down the ages and throughout the world.

I can’t help asking what is taught at  Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and wonder how it will affect the Southern Baptists. I am aware why he has deflected a good number to follow his views. This address explains why Ken Ham has such a high regard for him.

This quote sums up the oddity of his views

The universe looks old because the creator made it whole.

I cannot even begin to grasp what he means.

Here is his address

Source: Why Does the Universe Look So Old? (Albert Mohler)

which I reproduce in full with my various criticisms.



Why Does the Universe Look So Old? (Albert Mohler)

The following video and transcript is from the 2010 Ligonier Ministries National Conference. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world. Mohler also hosts two programs on “The Briefing,” a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview; and “Thinking in Public,” a series of conversations with the day’s leading thinkers.



It is extremely assuring to see this room filled at this hour on a Saturday morning of people here to seek Biblical truth on any number of questions. This conference has hopefully drawn us to some of the most pressing questions that Christians face, the tough questions. It is an honor to be here as always with my dear friend Dr. R.C. Sproul, with so many others, all these speakers, and the dear colleagues in the fight of the faith in coming to understand the great truths of the Christian faith and how these might most helpfully be applied in the confrontation with the questions of contemporary life. For so many years Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul have demonstrated that you really can teach the deep things of the Christian faith to a church and to Christians in the late 20th and 21st centuries. We are indebted to a model of such faithful teaching and it is on the basis of that, it is driven by years and years of ministry, it is living in the surplus of all of that teaching that we are able to be here today in this conference to ask these questions. And our absolute confidence is that there is no question Christians need fear. There are only questions we need to learn how to answer. This is a tough one. My assignment: Why Does the Universe Look So Old?

This seems a funny question. How can it look old or young, for that matter? That is a very subjective question.

Well, we have limited options. Number one: Maybe the universe looks so old because it is so old. Option number two: Maybe the universe looks very old, but it is not actually so old as it looks. There could be perhaps a third option or any number of derivatives in which you simply say, “We can’t answer the question.” Or there would be some who would say, “The question isn’t important.” Now I’m going to suggest to you this morning that the question is extremely important and that it is one for which we must be ready to give an answer.

I want to invite you to turn with me to Genesis chapter one. We dare not seek to answer this question without first looking to the Word of God. [Reads Genesis 1, 2:1-3]. This is the Word of the Lord. What we have here in Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 is a sequential pattern of creation, a straightforward plan, a direct reading of the text would indicate to us seven 24-hour days, six 24-hour days of creative activity and a final day of divine rest.

This begs many questions on how you read Scripture

This was the untroubled consensus of the Christian church until early in the 19th century.

This is not the case. The early church varied on this and Augustine thought all of creation was simultaneous. After 1500 there was no consensus of any church. Both RC and Protestant churches tended to a young earth but soon reckoned the “time” of Genesis 1 was more than 6 days, so that by 1800 few educated Christians thought the earth was young.

Genesis 1 & geological time from 1600-1850


It was not absolutely unanimous. It was not always without controversy. But it was the overwhelming, untroubled consensus of the church, until the dawn of the 19th century.

Repeating himself but gives no evidence. As I demonstrated in cited paper there was no overwhelming untroubled consensus, but all churches gradually accepting geological time without regarding it as undermining of doctrine


Four great challenges to the traditional reading of Genesis have emerged in the last 200 years or so. The first of these is the discovery of the geological record. Early in the 19th century, building upon discoveries made in the late 18th century, there became an awareness of fossils that appeared to be telling a story especially in that period of time.

This is muddled. It was rock strata, not fossils, which pointed to a great age of the earth. The nature of fossils was only worked out in about 1690 and the fact of extinction only in the 1790s. Fossils only began to be used for relative age-dating after 1800. Mohler seems to focus on fossils when geologists centre on rocks. This is a warning signal to all that he doesn’t seem to understand the science he is criticising and rejecting. He should have read a good history of geology eg by Martin Rudwick (a fellow Christian) eg  Earth’s Deep history


In the wake of the enlightenment – when expeditions were going to far corners of the earth for the first time, in the discovery of so many things that were new and unknown – the knowledge of a fossil record and various strata of fossil deposits became known.

This is plain wrong. Knowledge of the fossil record was very limited until 1800. Mohler is highly confused both on geology and the history of scientific discovery in the 18th century. Geology began by trying to work out the history of deposition of strata and putting the rocks into sequence. It started in about 1660 and come to fruition after 1800


William Smith’s 1815 Geological Map

And that knowledge began to prey upon the minds of those who had been raised in a Christian culture, been taught Christian truths, and who had assumed that Genesis is the great historical account of how the world came to be.

This begs many questions. Many of these savants and scientists were Christians who believed that Genesis told them about the Creator but gave virtually no details. Apart from a few, new knowledge about geology did not prey on many minds


The second great challenge was the emergence of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Coming at the midpoint of the 19th century, we need to be reminded that Darwin was not the first evolutionist. We need to be reminded that Darwin did not embark upon the Beagle having no preconceptions of what exactly he was looking for or having no theory of how life emerged in all of its diversity, fecundity, and specialization. Darwin left on his expedition to prove the theory of evolution.

Speechless. Darwin did not go on the Beagle to prove evolution. There is no evidence to support that claim. He sailed as a competent naturalist and geologist trained up by the Revs John Henslow and Adam Sedgwick, two devout non-evolutionary Anglican clergymen. He did not consider evolution in his Notebooks until about 1837 , well after his return. This is simply false history



A theory that was based upon the fossil record and other inferences had already been able to take the hold of some in Western civilization.

It would be correct to say that Darwin devised the rudiments of a theory of evolution in about 1838, but previous attempts by Grandfather Darwin and Lamarck in about 1800 did not use the fossil record –  if only that it was too rudimentary to use. Evolution was based on many aspects of biology and geology eg, morphology, biogeography, fossil succession, classification etc


The dawn of the theory of evolution presents a direct challenge to the traditional interpretation of Genesis and, as we shall see, to much more. (10:55)

No. By 1859 most Christians, evangelical or not, had accepted geological time and thus did not take Genesis as an account of 6 days of creation. At that time only a handful of educated Christians did not accept geological time. In the USA the main ones were Dabney etc in the Southern Presbyterian Church (who supported slavery) and the Lord brothers. It is very hard to find more than 20 in USA and UK from 1860 to 1900. The main challenge perceived was the evolution of humans implicit in what Darwin wrote, which to some reduced humans to animals

The third great challenge in terms of the traditional understanding of Genesis came with the discovery of ancient near eastern parallels to the Genesis account. Once these ancient parallels became known, the Enuma Elish, the Epic of Gilgamesh, scholars began to look at these documents and then to look at Genesis and begin to see Genesis as just one more of these ancient near eastern creation accounts.

How are you meant to look at writings of similar age and some similarity of content?  Some did see Genesis after that as just one more account. Many did not.


The fourth great challenge to the traditional interpretation of Genesis was the development of higher criticism, and in particular the development of the documentary hypothesis—a hypothesis and an approach to the Old Testament, in particular to the Pentateuch, that sought to establish different strata, different sources and to take the text apart, treating it as a merely human document and seeking to look at dependence and borrowings and polemics and literary styles.

Biblical criticism had long been practiced , but some , especially in Germany, developed it in a way which removed any relaibility from the bible. Others did not and in the UK foremost were Westcott, Hort and Lightfoot


These four movements together were devastating in terms of the larger Western consciousness to the traditional interpretation of Genesis. When you add together fossils, Darwin, ancient near eastern parallels, and the documentary hypothesis, you have a brew for a massive shift in understanding.

Fossils again!!! Why not say geological time? The main issue, if there was one, were the last two.


Now when we ask the question, “Why does the universe look so old?” we’re asking it over against these challenges, and to each of those we will return. But first we need to define some terms.

If we’re talking about why the universe looks so old we need to ask the question just how old supposedly does the universe look? It’s fascinating when you look at the historical development of this question, that the expanse of time has grown exponentially once persons began to ask this question and to detach it from the Biblical reality. Just on the basis of scientific of phenomenological observation the age of the earth has been getting older and older.

This is naive and simplistic. Yes, in the 17th century geologists moved slightly away from 4004BC. By the end of the 18th, some reckoned the earth to be millions, but others following De Luc (a Christian) as many , many thousands. Up to 1860 there was a great diversity in ages, most were millions but some went for billions. Oddly in the 1860s Huxley and Kelvin suggested 100 million but the Rev Samuel Haughton of Dublin, who opposed evolution reckon that the base of the Cambrian was 1,800 million years ago, somewhat less than the 550 million reckoned today. Until rocks were radiometrically tested no firm dates could be given. This was first done in 1907 and soon it was clear that the earth was billions of years old. From 1946 the age of the earth has been concluded to be 4.56 billion. In other words that has not changed for 72 years. This undermines what Mohler says here.

There is a feeble argument claiming that “scientists” have encouraged this “growth”.  In geologists had no yardstick for time until radiometric age dating was used from 1907. For 40 years things were tricky, but the conclusion arrived at by 1946 have scarcely changed since


The scientific consensus right now is that earth, planet earth and this particular solar system, is approximately 4.5 billion years old. That’s billion with a “b.”

This has not been overturned since 1946. It is a consensus based on a vast number of dates and other geological work


The age of the universe is now established by scientific consensus to be about 13.5 billion years old. The distinction between the age of the universe and the age of the earth having to do with the age of the universe being tracked back to the hypothetical emergence of the Big Bang

A poor parody of astrophyisics. Does Mohler mean consensus is just opinion? But the Big Bang was actually put forward by the astrophysicist Fr Georg Le Maitre, a Roman Catholic priest in the 1920s. He was hardly an atheist!!!! More recently the work of John Polkinghorne has helped Christians on this

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and with the radiological RADIOMETRIC! data and with the physical extrapolation about the expansion of the universe, the assumption

This is simply nonsense and a mendacious attempt to cast doubt on the work of scientists


is that it would have taken 13.5 billion years to have created this universe looking at the radiometric data that is found here on the planet and in particular that has shifted amongst scientists now more towards the debris from meteorites rather than anything that was considered to have emerged from within the earth itself. The estimation is it’s 4.5 billion years old.

This is incredibly muddled. Mohler tries to reduce so much science to opinion and unfounded speculation.


Now just to place ourselves in the historical and intellectual context of our question, here’s what we’re really looking at. The inference and consensus of the church, through all of these centuries, that the earth and the universe, the cosmos as a whole, is very young, talking about a limitation of only several thousand years by the time you take the book of Genesis and especially its first eleven chapters, and you look at the creation account and you look at the genealogy and you add it all together you’re looking at no more than several thousand years.

This is simply not the case. The church (whatever that is) has never laid dwon what the age of the earth is.


We’re talking about a disagreement that is not slight. The difference between several thousand years and 13.5 billion years is no small matter and I would argue it comes with huge theological consequences.

One of the assumptions you need to have in mind in terms of the assumption about the age of the earth that the scientific assumption comes down to this: uniformitarianism. The assumption that is crucial to establishing the age of the earth is based upon an intellectual assumption that was made in the early 19th century by Charles Lyell and others called uniformitarianism which assumes that the way we observe processes now is a constant guide to how physical processes always have operated. Thus a steady state of understanding physical processes is what we’re talking about as the secular scientific assumption. We gauge these things and measure these extrapolated billions of years based upon the assumption, the scientists will tell us, that things as they are now are as they have always been in terms of physical processes.

This is utterly wrong. Lyell was born in 1797 and scientists were demonstrating the vast age of the earth before he was born!! Hence it cannot be based on Lyell’s Uniformitarianism!. Mohler doe not understand how geologists work, and determine the relative ages of strata. He bases his misunderstanding on a beleif that it was an “assumption”. I cannot see why he mentions a steady state! He would do well to study Uniformitarianism, Catastrophism and Actualism in geology.



Now with that as intellectual background, what’s the urgency of the question?



Why are we here at this meeting asking the question “Why does the universe look so old?” Is this an urgent question? Is it one that calls us to account? The answer to that has to be yes. And there are some recent developments that indicate again and again and anew why it is so. The controversy concerning Bruce Waltke, who even in recent months became a focus of controversy after making a video where he argued that, unless evangelical Christians come to terms with accepting the theory of evolution, we will be reduced to the status of a theological and intellectual cult. The urgency of this question and the demand for an answer comes over against what is pressed upon us with the definition of the assured results of modern science.


Constantly we are addressed with the fact that science has now presented us with a knowledge, with an assured confident knowledge, to which we must give an answer. William Dembski in a recent book, borrowing from Cambridge philosopher Simon Blackburn, speaks of our current mental environment defined in this way. He says, “Our mental environment is the surrounding climate of ideas by which we make sense of the world.” As professor Dembski makes clear in his argument, the current mental environment in which we move and live and speak and communicate and preach and bear witness to the Gospel, is a mental environment that is shaped by the intellectual assumption that the world is very old.

This is an odd argument

To speak in confrontation to that current mental environment, it is implied, comes at a significant cost. The old earth, it is suggested, and old being 4.5 billion years old for the solar system and 13.5 billion years for the universe, is simply part of that mental environment.

Because it is true!


An even greater urgency is pressed upon us by the emergence of the new atheism—Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, three of these four horsemen of the new atheism are scientists, two of them have made their reputation in the defense of the most extreme and yet now commonly held forms of evolutionary theory in terms of the scientific academy.

Extreme evangelical atheists, good to pit against another extreme

Richard Dawkins is the author of the book The Selfish Gene and it is Richard Dawkins who has suggested that Darwinism is what allowed him to become an intellectually fulfilled atheist. In their new argument very forcefully put forth, they are arguing that evolution is the final nail in the coffin of theism. And they are making the claim that the assured findings and conclusions of modern science make not only the book of Genesis, but theism, untenable. In his new book, The Greatest Show on Earth, Richard Dawkins goes so far as to suggest that deniers of evolutionary theory should be as intellectually scorned and marginalized as Holocaust deniers. Evolution, he says, is a theory only by arcane scientific definition. It is a fact—a fact he says no intelligent person can deny. We have the emergence of the evolutionary worldview and its hegemony in the larger intellectual elites.

The new atheism comes along with Daniel Dennett and his book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea suggesting that evolution is what he calls the universal acid. I have to tell you, every middle school boy knows exactly what he is talking about. Daniel Dennett talks about when he was in middle school and he imagined a universal acid. This is an acid that would be so powerful that nothing could contain it. You put the acid in the container, it consumes the container. You then find that it consumes the entire classroom as it breaks out of the laboratory. Then it consumes the entire school—every middle school boy’s dream! Then it continues to consume, and to consume, and to consume until eventually nothing remains. Daniel Dennett says that science has never discovered an actual acid with that physical property, but he suggests that Darwin’s theory of evolution is the intellectual equivalent of a universal acid. It destroys everything in its wake. It completely redefines every understanding of life and its meaning. And I would argue that in that sense he is right.

This is a ping-pong argument as by choosing the extremes of atheism he makes his extreme position seem viable


Darwinist evolution is the great destroyer of meaning. Not only the meaning of the book of Genesis, but of almost every dimension of life. The background of this is also panic among the cultural and intellectual elites. In the United States and increasingly in Great Britain and in Europe and beyond, the intellectual elites are absolutely frantic. They’re scratching their heads in incredulity. How is it that after the Darwinist revolution, after the hegemony of evolutionary theory in the sciences, a majority of Americans still reject the theory of evolution? It is driving them to distraction. My favorite illustration of this is from the year 2003 when Nicholas Kristof wrote an article about the virgin birth of Christ in his column in the New York Times. And he said—as I paraphrase him—I am absolutely frightened to live in a society where there are more people who believe in the historicity of the virgin birth than in the reality of evolution. Well “wake up columnist Kristof!” It’s not just in America. Creationism and the rejection of evolution is not losing ground in Britain and in Europe, it is gaining ground. And intellectual elites on both sides of the Atlantic are in sheer panic. How can these things be?(22:00)


I don’t see the point of this


It’s not just panic amongst the cultural elites in the secular world however. It is also panic among the theologians. There is the warning from Professor Waltke, that if we do not get with the program we will be marginalized as a cult.

There are the warnings of people like Peter Enns, the website BioLogos—a movement started by Francis Collins, now the director of the National Institutes of Health under President Obama, formerly the head of the Human Genome Project, the author of the book The Language of God in which he makes his own argument that, unless we get with the program, we are going to be intellectually marginalized.

Yes, they are correct. Creationism is such intellectual garbage that for Christians to believe it makes the Gospel seem garbage too

And Francis Collins makes the point made by so many others that we will actually lose credibility sharing the Gospel of Christ if we do not shed ourselves of the anti-intellectualism, which is judged to be ours by the elite if we do not accept the theory of evolution.

Collins is spot on, as are Biologos and British counterparts whether people like Polkinghorne  or McGrath or christians in Science and the Faraday Institute

And it’s not just in that circle as well. There are evangelical elites—the faculties of evangelical colleges and universities and seminaries. There are authors such as Karl Giberson and his book Saving Darwin; and then it goes back in terms of the evangelical movement to the emergence in the middle of the last century of the American Scientific Affiliation. Figures such as Bernard Ramm, a well-known evangelical theologian, who argued that there must be an acceptance of evolutionary theory amongst evangelicals.

Here Mohler’s history is very short. Yes the ASA only been going  since the 1940s but there is a long tradition  of Christians and science going back through 1900, 1800, 1700 and so to Copernicus in 1543.

I suspect Mohler has not read Ramm’s 1955 book who fell short of accepting evolution.

To consider geology Christians were in the forefront from 1800 to 1860, with geologists like Silliman and Hitchcock in the USA (Hitchcock’s The Religion of Geology 1850s is an excellent book relating Christianity to geology

In the UK are lots of christian geologists eg Sedgwick, Buckland, Coneybeare and Hugh Miller

In the early 19th century a few Christians in the UK opposed geology but were soon routed!! Consider the evangelical geologists Sedgwick


From 1860 there are Asa Gray and Dana in the USA with theologians like the Hodges and Warfield from Princeton and many others.

In the UK many fine Christians saw that evolution was no threat to faith.

In the USA the were some opposition culminating in the Scopes trial of 1925 but nothing like that in Britain.



In light of this, what are our major options? Thinking about the theories of the age of the earth, theories of the interpretation of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, I’ll reduce the options to four. The first is the traditional 24-hour calendar day view. Now this is the most straightforward reading of the text. As we read and heard the text Genesis 1 through the first three verses of Genesis 2, the most natural understanding of the text would be that what is being presented here by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is a sequential pattern of 24-hour days. The pattern of evening and morning, the literary structure, all of these things would point in a commonsense manner to 24-hour days. These 24-hour days would reveal a sequence, increasing differentiation, eventually presenting in the climactic creation of man as the image bearer of God. Six days of active creation and one day of divine rest. (25:29)

Is it?  Look hard at pre-geology texts  e.g. commentaries on Genesis. Most imply a short earth but have creation starting with chaos and then re-ordering. Several were open to a longer time span

The second option is what is known as the Day-Age view. In this view, what is argued over against the data that is coming to us that is claiming to represent a very old earth, what is presented to us is the option the Hebrew word Yom in this case need not always refer to a 24-hour calendar day but might actually refer to a much more indefinite presumably very long period of time. The Day-Age view, as held by most of its major proponents, would hold that what we have here is indeed a sequence. There’s a sequential understanding of creation towards greater differentiation, greater specialization pointing toward the creation of humanity as the image-bearers of God, but that these days, though sequential, are overlapping and not entirely distinct and are not to be taken as 24-hour chronological days, calendar days, as we know them.

This came up in the 18th century and was widely held in the 19th century. There was an issue over the days i.e. plants before sun. Superficially this Concordism worked but fell apart on detail and went out except for some conservative Christians by 1900.

The third option is what is most commonly known as the framework theory. The framework theory leaps over the question of the length of the days suggesting that it is only a literary framework and it also suggests it is a non-sequential ordering in the text. It is a literary way of telling a story about the providential ordering of creation by God. And thus there is theological content to be derived from Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, but in particular in Genesis 1 we are not to trouble ourselves with the question about the length of time, nor even about the ordering and sequence of the days, but rather to see that this is God providentially ordering his creation for his glory.

This was put forward by  Meredith Kline and is accepted by many Evangelicals who reject a 6 day creation

The fourth option is to take the first two chapters of Genesis, and actually far beyond the first two chapters, into at least the first 11 chapters, as being merely literary. Understanding that what we have here is a parallel near eastern text, in this case customized for the worship and the teaching of Israel. It is a creation myth, a mythological rendering that marks the beliefs of the ancient Hebrews.

This is a parody. The emphasis here is on seeing God as creator and that Gen 1 does that rather than give details.

The first conservative version of this was by George Rorison in Answers to essays and reviews in 1861. This collection of essays was edited by Samuel Wilberforce (!!) to counter the liberal views of Essays and Reviews.

This does not see Genesis as a myth but as a literary way of persuading the reader/hearer that God is creator.


There is a fifth option – Chaos -restitution, which was the dominant view from 1600 to about 1850 when it fell out of fashion. Evangelicals took it over making it much cruder in style in their Gap Theory.

This comes out in Haydn’s Oratorio The Creation 1798 , with the orchestral introduction The Representation of Chaos  and later the aria  and a new created world sprung up.

The libretto was originally written for Handel, showing this was part of the culture!
I am surprised that Mohler ignored the dominant view of evangelicals up to 1870, which gave them a way of accepting geological time, even though most reject evolution.

My article in the Evangelical Quarterly

Genesis of Ray

Now what do these have to do with the age of the earth? Well of all of these options, only the understanding of a 24-hour day creation necessitates a young earth. The rest of them all allow for, if they do not directly imply or assume, a very old earth. As we work backwards in terms of evangelical options, the idea that Genesis is merely literary has to be rejected out of hand as in direct contradiction to our understanding of the Bible as the inerrant and infallible word of God. That option, for any credible and faithful evangelical Christian, must be taken off the table. So then we are left with the framework theory, held by some prominent evangelicals but, I would argue, one of the least defensible positions when we understand that it is based upon the assumption, not only that there may be a very long period of time that is involved and incorporated in Genesis 1 and in the sequence of the days, but actually that the sequence does not matter. It simply is not credible, at least to me, that God gave us this text with such rich detail and sequential development merely that we would infer from it his providential direction without any specific reference to all the direct content he has given us within the text. It certainly seems by any common sense natural reading of the text that it is making historical and sequential claims.

The Day-Age view, working backwards, is much more attractive on theological grounds—much more attractive on exegetical grounds. It involves far fewer entanglements and issues, but as we shall see it involves issues that go even beyond exegeses. (30:24)

Ultimantely Day-Age concordism does not work.



The first thing we need to note, as has been noted by even more liberal scholars such as James Barr, is that any natural reading of the text would indicate that the author intended us to take 24-hour days, calendar days, as our understanding.

Barr is probably right but I wonder if the original writers or hearers were bothered. In fact Gen ! is telling us of the Creator not how he did it!!


I am arguing for the exegetical and theological necessity of affirming 24-hour calendar days.

The first issue we note is the issue of the integrity of scripture. And we must concede that those who hold to a Day-Age view or its equivalent, who argue for an old earth, in so far as they are our colleagues in the evangelical movement affirming the inerrancy of scripture, are seeking to do so in a way that does not do violence to the inerrancy of scripture.

No. It does violence to the science

But I would simply respond most quickly that there is no such need for strained defense when it comes to a 24-hour understanding of creation. But there are issues far beyond exegetical issues that are at stake here. And as time is brief, I want to suggest that what is most lacking in the evangelical movement today is a consideration of the theological cost of holding to an old earth. This entire conversation is either missing or marginalized in the evangelical world today. It is my purpose as I have this opportunity to speak to you about this question today to suggest to you that the exegetical issues are real. And the exegetical evidence based upon a reformation understanding of scripture and the proper interpretation of scripture would lead me to a natural understanding of 24-hour calendar day creation.

Not if you read Reformers eg Calvin who stressed the principle of Accommodation – as in his Genesis Commentary “Moses wrote for the rude and unlearned” and “he who would understand astronomy and other recondite arts , let him go elsewhere.”

In other words the Bible does not teach science


But I would wish to allow, just as a matter of conversation and consideration, that it might be possible that we could be over-reading the text in that regard. It could be possible that we are actually coming to this with the presupposition that it must be a 24-hour day and thus we should hear the warning that comes to us from those that hold to an old age of the universe that we just might be creating an intellectual problem here in late modernity that is not necessary. So I’ve done my very best to consider the question from that vantage point. And when it comes to the exegetical issues I will tell you that I think the exegetical defense of a 24-hour calendar day is sufficient. In other words, the exegetical cost—the cost of the integrity and interpretation of scripture—to rendering the text in any other way, is just too high. But I want to suggest to you that the theological cost is actually far higher.

Think with me here. As we are looking at the Scripture, we understand it to be as it claims, the inspired and inerrant word of God. Every word inspired by the Holy Spirit. We believe that the speaking God speaks to us in this word. This is an inscripturated revelation of the one true and living God. But we also come to understand that this text is telling us a story, and that story, just in a redemptive historical framework, has to be summarized so that we know our accountability to the story and the narrative; the grand narrative of the Gospel can include no fewer movements than these: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. We come to understand the grand narrative of Scripture, the redemptive historical narrative that is revealed in the unity of the Old and New Testaments in the consistent presentation of the revelation of God. And we come to understand that it begins with creation. It moves quickly to the fall. And then to redemption and consummation or new creation. We understand that the Bible presents a doctrine of creation that is more than merely an intellectual account of how the world came to be. It is a purposeful account of why the universe was created by a sovereign and holy and benevolent God as the theater of his own glory for the purpose of demonstrating his knowledge not only as creator but as redeemer. The doctrine of creation is absolutely inseparable from the doctrine of redemption. But it begins there in this story as is revealed in scripture. And thus we come to understand that what scripture makes clear is that God is revealed, how everything that is came to be, and why.

The second movement is of equal importance and that is the fall. Every worldview is accountable to answer the question “Why are things as they are? What is broken and how did this happen?” And the scripture so quickly takes us to Genesis 3 and to the fall and to human sinfulness and to the headship of Adam. And thus we come to Genesis 3; we come to understand that the world we know is the Genesis 3 world. The creation we observe is a Genesis 3 fallen creation.

Assuming we should take Gen 3 as fairly literal history , it does not speak of a fallen creation but of fallen humans. This is sheer eisegesis.

Mohler clearly believes in the Curse which cannot be gleaned for scripture. His beliefs are more in John Milton than the bible



And we come to understand that if we had merely these first two movements in the redemptive historical narrative of scripture, we would be lost and forever under the righteous judgment and under the wrath of God. But thanks be to God.



These then take us, as scripture takes us, to redemption. And there we come to understand that God, before the universe was created, had a purpose to redeem a people through the blood of his son. And he does this. And we come to understand how the scripture presents this in terms of the person and work of Christ, the meaning of his atonement, and the richness of the Gospel. But the grand narrative of scripture does not leave us merely there. It points toward consummation, final judgment, new Jerusalem, new heaven, new earth. It points towards the reign of God demonstrated at the end of history and the conclusion of this age. It points us to a time when every eye is dry and every tear is wiped away—to a final judgment. To a dual destiny. Heaven and hell. It points us to a new creation, to a new heaven and a new earth that is not merely the reestablishment of Eden, but something far greater. For in the new creation, God is known not only as creator but as creator and redeemer. His glory being infinitely greater by our beholding, by the fact that we know him now as those who have been bought with a price, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

It’s important for us to remember our accountability in that narrative, because this raises some central questions—two in particular. The first is the historicity of Adam. In Romans 5:12 we read, “Therefore just as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin and so death spread to all men because man sinned.” Paul bases his understanding of human sinfulness and of Adam’s headship over the human race on a historical Adam. A historical fall. Adam may be—indeed I believe really is—the most pressing question: the historicity of Adam and Eve and the historicity of the fall.

romans 5 does not touch on the rest of creation, so he is reading in again!!


An old earth understanding has serious complications because the old earth is not merely understood to be old. The inference that it is old is based upon certain evidences that also tell a story. The fossils are telling a story. And the story they are telling is of millions and indeed billions of years of creation before the arrival of Adam. But the scientific consensus of the meaning of that evidence goes far beyond that to suggesting that there were hominids and pre-hominids and there were hundreds of thousands of hominids and there were, well let’s put it this way. It is possible to hold under an old age understanding to a historical Adam, to the special creation of humanity, but it requires an arbitrary intervention of God into a very long process, billions of years in which at some point God acts unilaterally to create Adam and Eve. Eve out of Adam.

It comes with very serious intellectual entanglements. It is actually difficult and that is reflected by the fact that the contemporary conversation in terms of the age of the earth is requiring a redefinition of who Adam was. Interestingly as I’ve looked at this question I’ve been surprised quite frankly to see how many older evangelicals had already seen this and come to terms with it. In his commentary on the book of Romans, John Stott actually suggests that Adam was an existing hominid that God adopted in a special way, and out of Homo sapiens God implanted his image, and made Adam particularly in his image by ensouling him, and creating in Adam not only Homo sapiens but Homo divinus. Let’s just imagine for a moment what that would theologically require. It requires that there were Homo sapiens who were not the image bearers of God. It requires an adoptionistic understanding of Adam, rather than special creation of Adam.

Denis Alexander in his new book Creation or Evolution Do We Have to Choose?, a fellow at Cambridge University suggests, and I quote here, that “God in his grace chose a couple of neolithic farmers to whom he chose to reveal himself in a special way, calling them into fellowship with himself so that they might know him as a personal God.” Now is that in any way a possible, legitimate exegetical reading of Genesis? That God chose a couple of neolithic famers? What haunts me about that book is not just the contents of the book but what is on its front cover, a blurb from J.I. Packer who says “Surely the best informed, clearest, and most judicious treatment of the question and title that you can find anywhere today.”

Alexander takes a very conservative view of Adam and Eve



Do we not take into account what this means? Well, many others are taking it into account. For instance at the BioLogos website, now becoming the locus classicus for discussion, you find the argument made by Peter Enns very recently, just even in recent weeks in a series of articles entitled “Paul’s Adam,” I quote here, “For Paul, Adam and Eve were the parents of the human race. This is possible but not satisfying for those familiar with either the scientific or archeological data.” He goes on to suggest that we must abandon Paul’s Adam and suggests that Paul as far as he refers to Adam in Romans chapter five is limited by his dependence on primitive understandings.

Karl Giberson, Eastern Nazarene University, says this “clearly the historicity of Adam and Eve and their fall from grace are hard to reconcile with natural history.” He says this, “One could believe for example that at some point” – this dismisses the kind of Stott theory now just so you hear, what I want you to understand from this is that holding to this doesn’t even give you any advantage. In other words, if you’re trying to make peace with the modern secular mind and you’re trying to meet the intellectual elites halfway, guess what? They won’t meet you halfway. Listen to this: “One could believe, for example, that at some point in evolutionary history God ‘chose’ two people from a group of evolving humans, gave them his image, and put them in Eden, which they promptly corrupted by sinning. But this solution is unsatisfactory, artificial, and certainly not what the writer of Genesis intended.”

That’s not said by someone who’s defending the book of Genesis, but rather the theory of evolution, and trying to remove the possibility of the very kinds of things that some who identify themselves as evangelicals are trying to claim. An old earth understanding is very difficult to reconcile with a historical Adam as presented not only in terms of Genesis, but in terms of Romans. It requires an arbitrary claim that God created Adam as a special act of his creation and it entangles a good many difficulties in terms of both exegeses and a redemptive historical understanding of scripture.

That becomes clearer in view of the second great issue at stake here, which is the fall. We understand from Genesis 3 and from the entire narrative of scripture from texts like Romans 8 that what we know in the world today as catastrophe, as natural disaster, earthquake, destruction by volcanic eruption, pain, death, violence, predation—that these are results of the fall.

This is a gross misreading of Romans 8. As it is normally translated with ktitsis as creation, those verses do not imply volcanoes , quakes or animal death


We end up with enormous problems if we try to interpret a historical fall and understand a historical fall in an old earth rendering. This is most clear when it comes to Adam’s sin. Was it true that, as Paul argues, when sin came, death came? Well just keep in mind that if the earth is indeed old, and we infer that it is old because of the scientific data, the scientific data is also there to claim that long before the emergence of Adam—if indeed there is the recognition of a historical Adam—and certainly long before there was the possibility of Adam’s sin, there were all the effects of sin that are biblically attributed to the fall and not to anything before the fall. And we’re not only talking about death, we’re talking about death by the millions and billions.

Mohler has a full-blown view of the Curse and thus has to reject geological time.

Some who hold to an old earth in dealing with this question suggest that what Paul is actually talking about—what the scripture claims—is when sin came, spiritual death came. But I would suggest to you that is a very difficult claim to reconcile over against the totality of scripture. And the whole idea that before there could be humanity and certainly before there could be Homo sapiens and before there could be Adam and before there could be sin, there were all the effects of sin written backwards. Let me just point out in the first place that no Christian reading the scripture alone would ever come to such a conclusion, ever. And once you try to come to that conclusion, it’s very difficult to actually reconcile with the scriptures, with the grand narrative of the Gospel. What sense does it make to point to the kingdom and the consummation as when the lamb and the lion shall be together and lay together, if indeed there was predation before the fall. If the animosity between the lion and the lamb is simply a part of a very old story, a very old earth, that we picked up as some kind of symbolic illustration, the writers of scripture simply borrowing it in order to point towards the reality of a new creation, well how are we to understand the scripture at all?

There’s eschatological impact as well. And there is tremendous theological strain when it comes to trying to sever the doctrine of redemption from a straightforward understanding of the scriptural account of creation. We are reminded of how closely these are together. We are reminded that John Calvin teaches us that the knowledge of God is the knowledge of God as creator and as redeemer. The imperative that is presented upon us is not new. And much of the language that is used to confront Christians today on this question goes back all the way to Galileo. Galileo spoke of the two books as he defended himself. He spoke of the book of scripture and the book of nature suggesting that the believer ought to be accountable to both books. And that is a very attractive argument. It’s an attractive argument because we come to understand that the scripture itself tells us that there is a natural revelation, a general revelation. In Romans chapter one Paul goes so far as to tell us not only that God has revealed himself in nature, but that in nature even his invisible attributes should be clearly seen. There is a book of nature. We do learn much from it. We learn a lot of common sense observational truth from looking at the book of nature. We are not only licensed but as we are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, as we are those who by God’s grace have grown to know him as creator, we are given the intellectual responsibility to come to know this earth and this cosmos and all that is within what we might call the Book of Nature because we come to understand that God has revealed nature to be intelligible. But clearly there is a problem. And again we go back to the fall. Because Paul makes clear that, even though God has revealed himself in nature so that there is no one who is with excuse—given the cloudiness of our vision and the corruption of our sight—we can no longer see what is clearly there. The heavens are telling the glory of God, but human sinfulness refuses to see what is plainly evident. Calvin puts it this way in Book One: he says this knowledge is either smothered or corrupted partly by ignorance, partly by malice. The universe is telling a story and Christians have affirmed that the universe is telling a story. Herbert Butterfield, the great historian of science, points out that Christianity was the seabed of the rise of modern science because Christians were confident that God had created the world to be known in an intelligible manner.

Exactly  and that is why we have the billions of years of geology!!

(52:40) But modern science, part of the modern project, as driven by forces such as Darwin and his heirs, is seeking to present to the western mind and indeed to a global mind, an intentional challenge to the Christian account of the meaning of things. An intentional alternative to the Christian worldview and to the Christian Gospel.

It is simply untrue to claim Darwin and his heirs sought to challenge Christianity

Evolution is central to the great secular mythology. This is why it is cherished so much by persons such as Richard Dawkins who again said that it is Darwinism that allows persons to be intellectually fulfilled atheists. Now this is not to argue that all who hold to an old earth hold to evolution in any form. Nor to theistic evolution, which had I time I would suggest is the consummate oxymoron. But rather I would suggest that it is, that is an old age theory of the earth comes with theological and exegetical complications that I believe are in the end insurmountable.

It is not fair to say that an old earth position cannot hold to a historical Adam. It is to say that it cannot hold to a historical Adam without arbitrary intellectual moves and very costly theological entanglements. It is to say that this position seems to be at an insoluble collision with the redemptive historical narrative of the Gospel. The cost to the Christian church, in terms of ignoring this question or abandoning the discussion, is just too high. The cost of confronting this question is also costly. It can be very expensive because it can create intensity and conflict and controversy but I would suggest that the avoidance of this will be at the cost of our own credibility.

The two books. We need to recognize that disaster ensues when the book of nature or general revelation is used in some way to trump scripture and special revelation. And that is the very origin of this discussion. We would not be having this discussion today. This would not be one of those tough questions Christians ask, if these questions were not being posed to us by those who assume that general revelation and indeed the book of nature is presenting to us something in terms of compelling evidence, compelling evidence that is so forceful and credible that we’re going to have to reconstruct and re-envision our understanding of the biblical text.

We need to think more deeply about this. The BioLogos website has just even in recent days focused its attention on the direct rejection of biblical inerrancy. Understanding that any rendering of the bible as inerrant makes the acceptance of theistic evolution impossible. Certainly implausible. Kenton Sparks writing on that website suggests that, intellectually, evangelicalism has painted itself into a corner—that we have put ourselves into an intellectual cul-de-sac with our understanding of biblical inerrancy. He suggests that the Bible indeed should be recognized as containing historical, theological and moral error. Peter Enns, one of the most frequent contributors to the site, suggests that we have to come to the understanding that, when it comes to many of the scientific claims, historical claims, the writers of scriptures were plainly wrong.

Our only means of intellectual rescue, brothers and sisters, is the speaking God, who speaks to us in scripture, in special revelation. And it is the scripture, the inerrant and infallible word of God that trumps renderings of general revelation, and it must be so. Otherwise we will face destruction of the entire gospel in intellectual terms. When general revelation is used to trump special revelation, disaster ensues. And not just on this score. It’s not just on the question of the age of the earth. What about other questions? The assured results of modern science. There is so much that is packed in that mental category, that intellectual claim. Just remember first of all that science has changed and has gone through many transformations. The assured results of modern science today may very well not be the assured results of modern science tomorrow. And, I can promise you, are not the assured results of science yesterday.

In the New York Times just in recent days there’s been a major article about one particular fossil which is claimed to be a hominid and just about a year ago that same paper presented it as irrefutable proof of a certain trajectory of human evolution. Now you have scientists coming back saying we don’t even believe that it’s a hominid fossil. The assured results of modern science? What do the assured results of modern science say about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? What do the assured results of modern science in terms of the methodological naturalism that is absolutely essential to modern science, what does it say about the virgin conception of Jesus Christ? The assured results of modern science? Science is now claiming to tell us about sexual orientation in terms of a physicalist explanation. Is the Christian church going to make its understanding of human sexuality and sexual morality accountable to the assured results of modern science? Are we going to submit our cosmology, are we going to take the redemptive historical understanding of scripture and submit this to interrogation by the assured results of modern science? Let me suggest to you the end of that process is absolute (commercial interferes here) [..] of Scripture includes the claim that Scripture is norma normans normata. The norm of norms that cannot be normed. Any surrender of that on any question leads to disaster.

In conclusion, there is a head-on collision here. There are those that claim there is no head-on collision. Francisco Ayala, who just won the Templeton Award, says that science and religion cannot be in conflict because they’re answering two different questions. Science is answering the how, and religion is answering the who and the why. That is intellectual facile.

In many ways Ayala is  correct but there is much overlap especially on ethical implications


The scripture is claiming far more than who and why and any honest reading of the modern scientific consensus knows that it too is speaking to the who and very clearly speaking to the why. Stephen J. Gould, the late paleontologist of Harvard University, spoke of what he called non-overlapping magisteria. He said science and religion are non-overlapping magisteria. Each has its own magisterial authority and its own sphere of knowledge and they never overlap. Well the problem is they overlap all the time. They overlap in Stephen J. Gould’s own writings. We cannot separate the who and the why and the what, as if those are intellectually separable questions.

Many oppose Gould eg ASA Biologos, and in the UK Chistians in Science,  Polkinghorne Peacocke McGrath for starters.


In his new book Why Evolution is True Jerry Coyne cites Michael Shermer at the very beginning who says this, “Darwin matters because evolution matters. Evolution matters because science matters. Science matters because it is the preeminent story of our age. An epic saga about who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.”

Now it sounds to me like he’s talking about the why, not just the when and the what. I want to suggest to you that when it comes to the confrontation between evolutionary theory and the Christian gospel we have a head-on collision. In the confrontation between secular science and the scripture we have a head-on collision. I want to suggest to you that it is our responsibility to give an answer when we are asked the question “Why does the universe look so old?” In the limitations of time, it is impossible that we walk through every alternative and answer every sub-question. But I want to suggest to you that the most natural understanding from the scripture of how to answer that question comes to this: The universe looks old because the creator made it whole.

This is absurd rhetoric

When he made Adam, Adam was not a fetus; Adam was a man; he had the appearance of a man. By our understanding that would’ve required time for Adam to get old but not by the sovereign creative power of God. He put Adam in the garden. The garden was not merely seeds; it was a fertile, fecund, mature garden. The Genesis account clearly claims that God creates and makes things whole.

Secondly—and very quickly—if I’m asked why does the universe look so old, I have to say it looks old because it bears testimony to the affects of sin. And testimony of the judgment of God. It bears the effects of the catastrophe of the flood and catastrophes innumerable thereafter. I would suggest to you that the world looks old because as Paul says in Romans chapter 8 it is groaning. And in its groaning it does look old. It gives us empirical evidence of the reality of sin. And even as this cosmos is the theater of God’s glory, it is the theater of God’s glory for the drama of redemption that takes place here on this planet in telling the story of the redemptive love of God. Is this compatible with the claim that the universe is 4.5 billion years old in terms of earth, 13.5 billion years old in terms of the larger universe? Even though that may not be the first and central question it is an inescapable question and I would suggest to you that in our effort to be most faithful to the scriptures and most accountable to the grand narrative of the gospel an understanding of creation in terms of 24-hour calendar days and a young earth entails far fewer complications, far fewer theological problems and actually is the most straightforward and uncomplicated reading of the text as we come to understand God telling us how the universe came to be and what it means and why it matters.

At the end of the day, if I’m asked the question “why does the universe look so old?” I’m simply left with the reality that the universe is telling the story of the glory of God. Why does it look so old? Well that, in terms of any more elaborate answer, is known only to the Ancient of Days. And that is where we are left.

Actually no, the evidence of science is that it is 4.56 billion years old!!!


Finally this book is well worth a read


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Europe’s Plant Breeding Exit: A Regulatory Failure

Another good blog by Zaruk on the appalling decision by the EU to ban GMOs etc.

This is largely due to the pressure of anti-science NGOs who con too many people.


GMO EU action

Perhaps it gives an argument for leaving the EU – and the only one a remainer like me could be convinced of.722352388

Below must be the little shits in bee costumes

Featured Image -- 11199


The Risk-Monger

On 25 July 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that plants bred via recent mutagenesis techniques would fall under the suffocating 2001 GMO regulatory regime. The pre-designed hurdles this legislation intentionally imposes on researchers (data, time, money) will lower the likelihood of approving any seed breeding innovation in the EU to, well, zero.

This is a confused, scientifically illiterate decision in a European court that highlights failure on many levels:

  • A failure for science and science-based decision-making;
  • a failure of the European legal system to recognise how this case is part of a larger activist issue exploited by opportunistic zealots;
  • a failure for farmers and consumers who are becoming more dependent on technological advances to deliver healthy, safe, affordable food;
  • a failure for researchers in developing countries whose vital solutions to local problems will be stymied by regulatory copy-paste;
  • and most importantly, this is a failure…

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Should a Scientific Paper be Retracted Due to Serious Errors? Consensus: Yes

Scientific papers are the life blood of science, but some poor ones get through the net

This is happening far more often today.

Examples are Seralini on the alledged ill-effects of GMO

GMO EU actionDanger of GMO

and some health studies on fracking e.g. fracking causes cancer



It is not good enough to say it’s OK as science moves on, but scientific papers need to be rigorous.

As a historian of geology I am aware that the “best papers of the day” can turn out to be flawed. Tow examples are from about 1840. One is Darwin’s famous Glen Roy paper on the parallel roads of Glen roy which rejected glaciation and the the other is the less well-known paper by John Eddowes Bowman on the lack of glaciation in North Wales. Both turned out to be wrong but were sound science


The Honest Broker

dataThese are some notes for my future reference on editorial policies of major scientific publishers on retraction. Most publishers have retraction policies (see: Resnik, D. B., Wager, E., & Kissling, G. E. (2015). Retraction policies of top scientific journals ranked by impact factorJournal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA103(3), 136.).

Many, if not most, publishers rely on guidance provided by the Committee on Publication Ethics (here in PDF), and more generally here. COPE states: “Retraction is a mechanism for correcting the literature and alerting readers to publications that contain such seriously flawed or erroneous data that their findings and conclusions cannot be relied upon. Unreliable data may result from honest error or from research misconduct.”

Here are some guidelines from different publishers, with my present focus on cases of flawed data that underpins published results (there are obviously other reasons for retraction):

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