Never forget that the claim of today’s Young Earth creationists to be following the Bible is simply untrue. The fantastical convulsions, supposedly occurring at the time of the Flood, that they invoke to explain the facts of geology are not at all biblical, but derived from the visions of Ellen White, founder-prophetess of Seventh-day Adventism. In this post, my friend Michael Roberts, geologist and priest, gives us a sample of the extensive scholarship in which he sets the record straight.
Where did Creationism come from?
Creationism still confuses many people. So often it is seen as a throw-back to the time when people were not so enlightened or intelligent and under the sway of church dogma.
It is amazing some still hold that and fail to recognise the scientific skills of those in the Middle Ages – most notably Christians and clergy like Bacon, Grossteste among others.
We may despair, as I do of those like Ken Ham, Henry Morris and others, who try to prove the earth is only 6000-10,000 years old and we may be tempted to pour scorn as this cartoon does.
However we should assume that this crazy ideas were the views of Christians in previous centuries and so much of the work of scholars like John Hedley Brook, David Livingstone and Ron Numbers among many others have demonstrated this time and time again in the…
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From my friend the Rev Michael Roberts. How Buckland and then Darwin, exploring in Wales, came to accept Agassiz’ Ice Age theory, with Michael’s own stunning images of locales. And no kittens, I’m afraid, but a field assistant [sic] dog
In June 1842 Charles Darwin undertook his last geological field trip. He was at his father’s house, The Mount in Shrewsbury, that month and after a winter of sickness, he felt somewhat better. Thus, he went in his gig to Snowdonia to assess whether Buckland was correct in identifying proof of a former Ice Age. In October 1841 William Buckland travelled to Wales with Thomas Sopwith (his grandson designed the Sopwith Camel, a WW1 fighter plane) to see whether Agassiz could be right about a former Ice Age. In a few days of horrendous Welsh weather Buckland identified all the main glacial troughs
Buckland dressed for Welsh Glaciers by Thomas Sopwith
View from top of Y Garn 3104ft showing the Llugwy trough leading to Capel Curig, Llyn Idwal, a morainic lake.
To the left is Nant Francon, viewed below – with embellishments.
In 1831 de la Beche painted this watercolour…
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Catastrophism versus gradualism; this controversy was laid to rest by TH Huxley in his 1869 Address to the Geological Society, but UK Young Earth Creationists persist in parading the corpse as if it presented a living challenge to current thinking. Perhaps it appeals to their absolutist binary mindset.
McIntosh himself is a member of the group mendaciously mislabelled Truth in Science, which distributed the equally mendacious neo-creationist tract Exploring Evolution to UK schools some years ago, and is an author of the error-saturated Origins, Examining the Evidence, published by that group. BCSE has published a detailed review of Exploring Evolution here.
This piece by my friend, the geologist historian Anglican priest Michael Roberts, will tell you more about McIntosh’s writing than you wish to know, but will convey a wealth of fascinating geological and historical information in the process.
THE GEOLOGY OF GENESIS FOR TODAY
One of the best selling British creationist books is Genesis for Today by Andy McIntosh, which is now in its 5th edition. https://www.dayone.co.uk/products/genesis-for-today
Most of the book is a popular exposition of Genesis 1 to 11 – and some of it I agree with, but not his insistence that it is literal history.
In Genesis for Today McIntosh gives three scientific appendices, which are much the same in the 1st and 5th editions. I could either go through and nit-pick his geological errors or consider them under main headings. I have chosen the latter.
Most would think that a professor in a scientific discipline at a leading university (with a first-rate geology department) would be able to make a reasonable showing on geology.Many amateurs and non-geologists I’ve met in geological societies have a clear grasp.
From the whole of his book, other writings and…
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Relative dating from sedimentology dates back some 200 years, as beautifully explained here by my friend, field geologist and Anglican priest, Michael Roberts, with illustrations from what he has seen himself, while we have now had absolute radiometric dates for over a century. Index fossils are used only to establish that rocks are the same age, and the way creationists manage to forget this fact is indeed miraculous.
This piece gains added interest because of its first-hand accounts, both of geological exploration, and of attempts to persuade creationists to accept the results.
This incredibly duplicitous meme appeared on my twitter feed today. Fri 13th Jan 2017
Evolution is wrong as it is a circular argument from the age of fossils worked out from evolution
Yes, it is the old chestnut of Young Earthers that the age of rocks is based on a circular argument from evolution. It took me back to 1971 when I made the felicitous mistake of going to L’Abri to sit at the feet of the evangelical guru Francis Schaeffer. I arrived ther all bright-eyed and bushy tailed thinking of all the wondrous things I would learn in the next four weeks. I learnt much but not what I had expected.
On my first morning i was sent to Shaeffer’s son-in-law Udo Middlemann to discuss what I would study. I explained that I was going into the Anglican ministry and had just returned from 3 years working as an…
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Young Earth Creationism is not just a belief, but proof of allegiance to a very special group, the Real Christians (or, I now fear, Real Jews or Real Muslims). Once a belief assumes this function, rational criticism is counter-effective.
(Of course you and I, dear reader, are not as others are, and would never allow our allegiances to shape our beliefs.)
It baffles many people whether Christian or not why some Christians are Young Earth Creationist, with a belief in a 10,000 year old earth and rejection of evolution. It cannot be denied that Young Earth Creationism has caused bad relationships among Christians, influenced education and results in much mockery from some. A major reason for the friction is that YEC’s claim explicitly or implicitly that the majority of Christians who accept modern science with the vast age of the earth and evolution are at best naughty or heretical Christians.
With YEC making inroads into churches (including the Church of England) and trying to call the shots over education in all parts of the world, it is best to know what they believe and why they do as they go against all scientific teaching and what most churches actually believe.
WHAT YOUNG EARTH CREATIONISM IS;
As YEC attracted so much more heat than…
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A lengthy scholarly discussion by my friend Michael Roberts of the concept of design, from Paley to the present day, making important distinctions between different concepts of design, and placing the Intelligent Design (ID) movement in context. The author, a geologist and historian (and CofE priest), argues that Paley’s concept of the individual design of organisms was obsolete long before Darwin, given the discoveries of deep time and the rich sequential fossil record. Present-day ID is a curious hybrid, and its evolution is discussed in some detail. However, neither the refutation of Paley nor the demolition of ID affect broader design arguments, such as that from fine-tuning or the glory of the natural world. (Disclosure: as my friends will know, I do not find these latter arguments convincing, but I do consider them worthy of respect, and have criticised attempts to use them as justification for evolution-denying creationism, which is not.)
A SHORT HISTORY OF DESIGN Michael Roberts
The first thing I should do is to define what Design is. That would be no easy task as the word is used in so many different ways to mean so many different things. I hope some of the variety of meanings comes clear in this paper. Part of the confusion is that Design can be synonymous with the teleological argument for the existence of God, but often it is more restricted to biological structures. Hence Design means different things to different people. Distinguishing between these meanings is important as confusion reigns when one switches from one to another. To give a rough typology there are four types of design;
1 Design of the universe; – front-loading or teleological (fine tuning)
2. Guidance of natural processes through history; Asa Gray
3. Ahistorical recognition of biological structures as designed; Hooke, Paley,
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Casey Luskin has just announced his departure from the Discovery Institute, in order to further his studies. We will miss the enlightenment that he brings. For example, in his farewell piece, he tells us that
Evolutionary biologists are now admitting we need “post-Darwinian” models to explain the Cambrian explosion.
Casey is right; we really do need “post-Darwinian” models to explain the Cambrian explosion. Things like Mendelian inheritance, mutation, population genetics, and, in this context, palaeogeochemistry, which is why evolutionary biologists have been decidedly post-Darwinian since around 1905.
Casey does not tell us what he is going to study, but I rather hope that it will be chemistry. Then, in due course, he will be fully equipped to explain to us that Dalton couldn’t even get the structure of water right, that Faraday’s electrical theory of bonding needs to be revised in the light of quantum mechanics, that many of the postulated intermediates in chemical reactions have never even been observed, that (as predicted by Intelligent Alchemy) many of Lavoisier’s elements turn out not to be elements at all, and that our schools should allow students to evaluate for themselves the unwarranted metaphysical assumptions of chemical materialism, and the merits of the phlogiston theory.
Disclosure: unlike many far better people, I have been insulted by Casey only once, when he accused me and the British Centre for Science Education of concealing our atheism for tactical reasons. Guilty as charged; we conceal it so well that one of BCSE’s most prominent members at the time, now its official spokesman, is an Anglican priest. Devious, these evolutionists. You need to watch them.
Casey, you will be sadly missed.
Update; more here: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2016/01/luskin-i-am-lea.html The word is that he will be replaced by Ann Gauger, who knows more biochemistry and therefore has, and uses, a much greater capacity for misunderstanding.
The spectacles are not mine, but those of my good friend Michael Roberts. For what it’s worth I think he underestimates Darwin’s attachment to religion. In his Autobiography (not intended for publication) Darwin says that when he was writing On the Origin of Species, he considered it impossible to conceive of this woderful Universe as the product of mere chance, writing “I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind to some degree analogous to that of man, and I deserve to be called a Theist.” And he attributed his later agnosticism to doubt as to whether a mind evolved through natural selection was capable of grasping such lofty matters. (A doubt shamefully misrepresented by Plantinga, as I have shown elsewhere, for his own self-serving reasons)
CHARLES DARWIN (1809-1882)
February 12th 2009 saw the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth. Along with Isaac Newton he was one of the greatest British scientists, though his science is still controversial. To some he was a great scientist and to others the devil incarnate!
He was a quiet family man, whose life was marred by illness. He was born into an affluent home in Shrewsbury and went to Cambridge to study for the Anglican ministry. In 1831 he was invited to join the Beagle to sail round the world. That changed his life and the course of science. On that voyage he was more interested in geology and only later “moved” over to biology.
Darwin learned his science at both Edinburgh and Cambridge and some of his student notes survive. His family was scientific and as a teenager he had a well-equipped chemistry lab in an outhouse at the Mount
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Historian geologist school governor priest writes supporting petition against creationism in Scots schools
how creationism should be handled in schools, we can assume he knows what is talking about. And the Scottish Secular Society therefore particularly appreciates his backing of our petition seeking guidance to prevent creationism and Young Earth pseudoscience being taught as fact in Scottish state schools:
This petition closes on September 3, so there is still time to join the Rev Michael, three Nobel Prize scientists, and numerous others in showing your support. As to why you should do so, I cannot do better than let Michael speak for himself:
The vast age of the universe and the earth has been known since the 18th century, and evolution since 1859 or earlier, and thus no science makes sense without these facts. Any worldview which rejects them must clearly be seen as false, including Creationism with its denial of such basic and well-proven science. In the 19th century Scots Presbyterians were in the forefront of accepting both deep time and evolution, from Thomas Chalmers to Henry Drummond, to name but two.
In the past few decades, a strain of thought, variously known as creationism, creation science, flood geology, and Intelligent Design, has arisen, challenging these plain facts. This resurgent creationism has its roots in Seventh Day Adventism, but has now spread to more main-stream churches. Proponents of such creationism are well organised, well funded, and represented by such groups as Creation Science Ministries, Creation ministries International, Truth in Science, and Answers in Genesis, as well as the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, and its Glasgow-based offshoot Centre for Intelligent Design, which may allow for an ancient earth but not evolution.
There has also been an influx of US-based (and occasionally Australia-based) fundamentalist churches, such as West Mains Church, East Kilbride (responsible for the distribution of creationist texts at Kirktonholme), Westwoodhill Evangelical Church (with representatives on the chaplaincy committees of five schools in South Lanarkshire), Craighalbert Church (providing the chaplain for four schools in North Lanarkshire), and Freedom City Church (also North Lanarkshire). In addition, Seventh Day Adventists are also represented on school chaplaincy teams, as are more traditional churches (Baptist, various Presbyterians denominations) that are often influenced by creationism.
It is almost impossible to determine the extent to which such creationism has influenced classroom teaching, especially as many Local Authorities regard the identity and affiliation of school chaplains as protected confidential information for Freedom of Information Act purposes. However, we note with alarm that, in addition to the reasons for concern listed above, the extreme anti-science West Mains Church was allowed to operate for eight years without question, that the Challenger Bus, which carries literature from Answers in Genesis, makes regular visits to many schools, and that at least two schools have organised debates or Q&A sessions with creationist speakers, thus placing creationism on an equal footing with scientific reality.
Present Scottish Government policy is to leave these things to the discretion of individual teachers. This is to place an impossible burden on them, especially as creationist utterances are liable to come from chaplains, who are not part of the teaching establishment, and may be put forward in contexts such as Religious Observance where they could hardly be challenged. Creationists are plausible, and well practice in presenting their arguments. They commonly make direct factual claims, based on spurious science, which pupils (or indeed teachers without a background in biology) will not recognise as the untruths that they are. The creationist tactic is to present their point of view as having an equal claim to be heard, thus appealing to reasonableness and fair play, and to maintain that the kind of policy sought in this petition is an unfair restriction of free speech. We would not accept such an argument in the case of Holocaust denial (or even climate change denial), and should not accept it in the case of evolution denial or old earth denial either.
Rev Michael Roberts, M.A., F.R.Hist.S on behalf of the British Centre for Science Education
Michael has posted an interesting and informative commentary on his submission on his own website. He reminds us that Young Earth creationism was a minority view among Christian churches by the mid-19th century, and that Christians had generally accepted evolution by around 1880. The anti-scientific creationism, and grotesque imaginings of “creation science” and “flood geology”, have their roots in Seventh Day Adventism and have only become at all prominent in more mainstream churches since 1960.
Much that Michael refers to will already be all too familiar to my readers (see e.g. here and here and here), and creationist activities in schools, even before the Kirktonholme scandal, were among the factors leading to the formation of the Scottish Secular Society. Readers will also know of the presence of unelected representatives of religion on the Local Authority Education Committees to which teachers are answerable, and that these are on occasion known to be extreme creationists.
There are some other features that I would mention. Creationism in the UK is closely linked to groups based in the US. Evolution denial is linked to climate change denial, both of which you will find on websites advocating Intelligent Design, and that this is not perhaps surprising when one considers their ultimate sources of finance. It is also worth noting that while the Intelligent Design movement in the US is associated mainly with Old Earth creationism, it has been notably promoted in the UK by Young Earth creationists, and has close links to the Orwellian-titled organisation, Truth in Science, whose distribution of creationist materials to schools led directly to the formation in 2006 of the British Centre for Science Education.
Michael also touches briefly on the question of quasi-compulsory Religious Observance in schools, and the resulting potential for abuse. This was the subject of Scottish Secular Society’s earlier petition, which led to formal reiteration of the oft-neglected guidelines and, more importantly, forced the opening up of debate, across the entire faith spectrum from Calvinists to Humanists, regarding the role of RO. This is just one facet of Scotland’s current process of self examination, which will continue whatever the result of the Referendum ballot.
And we expect the current petition to achieve no less.