Flat Earth? Flood Geology? Young-Earth? Steve Hays & Edward T. Babinski discuss Steve Austin, Kurt Wise, Henry Morris & Henry Gee

Steve Hays of Triablogue is a young-earth creationist with whom I've been having a bit of a discussion since I too used to be a young-earth creationist. In his blog entry, "Babel, Babble, & Babinski," he told me that he read John Walton's NIV APPLICATION COMMENTARY ON GENESIS (2002) in which Walton pointed out that "Moses used architectural metaphors [in the creation story of Genesis, chapter 1] to foreshadow the tabernacle. That would also fit with the literary unity and intertextuality of the Pentateuch." Therefore, the flat-earth creation account in Genesis 1 is an accommodation to Moses's "flat-tent" view of the cosmos--strictly metaphorically speaking that is.

Hays also stated, "I’m more concerned with exegeting Scripture than exegeting Steve Austin." (Austin is a Ph.D. geologist who is a formal member-teacher at the Institute for Creation Research, a young-earth organization).

Hays ended his blog entry with mention of the pro-evolutionary geologist Dr. Henry Gee, "who has documented at length that the fossil records is not a continuous sequence frozen in rock, but discontinuous data-points which are rearranged into a continuous sequence by a value-laden reconstruction of the record that is enormously underdetermined by the actual state of the evidence. A thousand theoretical interpolations to every isolated bone fragment. Of course, Gee isn’t trying to undermine evolution. Rather, like so many others, he’s trying to retrofit the theory. But to clear the ground for cladistics, he must slash and burn phenetics [=the phylogenetic ancestor-descent trees involving arrows showing which fossilized creature descended from which other fossilized ancestor], and it’s quite a spectacle to see how little is left over after his scorched earth policy. So now we have another outbreak of the Darwin Wars."

My response follows on those three topics that Hays raised:

STEVE AUSTIN, KURT WISE, HENRY MORRIS, THE GENESIS FLUB

I brought up Steve Austin and Kurt Wise because they are two of the most prominent young-earth creationists in the entire U.S. who have also published a lot since the 1970s in creationist books and magazines. They are also among the few young-earth creationists in the world with Ph.D.s in geology and paleontology, repsectively. (Henry Morris who wrote The Genesis Flood and founded The Institute for Creation Research [ICR] only has a Ph.D. in hydrology.) I say "few" because I once checked the ICR and Answers in Genesis lists of young-earth creationists who work for both institutes and who had advanced degrees, and I counted only about 8 scientists there with Ph.D.s in geology, and no Ph.D.s in paleontology other than Wise. And they both agreed that Morris's attempt in The Genesis Flood to cite the Lewis Mount Overthrust (the largest such "reversal of fossil layers" found anywhere in the world) as not a genuine overthrust, was a failure.

Yet it was Henry Morris's book, The Genesis Flood, along with the founding of ICR, that is credited at ICR as being God's means to bring back Flood Geology (from the grave in which it had lain since Christian geologists of the 1800s had proven it to be indefensible). Unfortunately for Morris, his book has since been thoroughly discredited, and found to consist of unchecked folk science tales, strung together with faulty photos, and mistaken geological assertions. If that's the book that "God used" to give "Flood geology" a recharge (and "the book that God used to get Ken Ham [of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Science museum in the U.S.] in creation ministry") then it seems more like the devil's book, full of lies spoken in God's name to embarrass the Christian faith. At least that's what some of my old-earth creationist friends might say. And since then, creationists have continued to back down from a host of ridiculous assertions that formerly were touted as disproving modern geology. Just read the Answers in Genesis online piece, "Arguments We Think Creationists Should Not Use." Instead, modern young-earth creationism tries to invent accommodations with modern geological evidence of an old-earth. It does not try to disprove it like it once did. Both ICR and Answers in Genesis admit that the search for "pre-Flood" human remains and artifacts or any new startling evidence of a young-cosmos, is probably hopeless: "Where are all the human fossils?" by Don Batten (editor), Ken Ham, Jonathan Sarfati, and Carl Wieland. The final line of that article is classic: "When God pronounced judgment on the world, He said, ‘I will destroy [blot out] man whom I have created from the face of the earth’ (Gen. 6:7). Perhaps the lack of pre-flood human fossils is part of the fulfillment of this judgment?"

Or perhaps God just didn't want to supply young-earth creationists with the evidence they so desperately crave?

And what about the new "Creation Museum" museum opening soon in the U.S. with its exhibits of humans alongside dinosaurs? The folks who built that museum admit that pre-flood human fossils have not been discovered, but they built exhibitions showing humans alongside dinosaurs. How scientific of them!

And speaking of the age of the earth what about the evidence of an old-earth from a variety of sources likeLake Suigetsu, Ice Cores, The Greenriver formation and what about the way radiometric dating has been done on individual varve layers, individual ice layers, individual tree rings (in three known series of tree rings that each stretch back in time at least 10,000 years), individual sections of sea floor that arose via the expanding molten rifts from the center of the Atlantic as it continues to spread--and in each case the processes of lake varves forming, ice layers forming, tree rings growing, and sea floors spreading, continue to take place today at known rates of formation that show agreement with the radiometric dating of individual portions of older sections of those formation? What are the odds that a load of coincidences would match up? See here and here and here. And my own story, here.

JOHN WALTON AND HIS NIV APPLICATION COMMENTARY ON GENESIS

Walton admits in his commentary that the ancient Hebrews, and the author of Genesis, assumed a flat cosmos and a solid firmament.

Whether or not one also assumes that the creation story in Genesis may be interpreted as a metaphor of the tabernacle-tent spoken of in Exodus is another question. Such a view of the cosmos as a house or tent (built flatly and on a firm foundation) does not lay outside of ancient near eastern assumptions in general, for instance note the 'wall-ring' representations of the firmament lying above a flat earth in ancient Egyptian iconography, or ancient mestopotamian cosmologies in general.

And more importantly, the lack of any insight into how the cosmos is truly shaped, means that the ancients wrote and assumed things on par with the pre-scientific knowledge of their day, and not a sign that one can cite that Genesis demonstrates in was composed via special inspiration.

HENRY GEE, CREATIONISM, AND I.D.

Lastly, about Henry Gee. Creationists and I.D.ists don't understand correctly what he's saying, as Gee himself has complained about numerous times, even directly to creationists and I.D.ists. I have some of his correspondence with them from 2006. He's describing the difficulties of dating the exact chronological order of fossils that lay relatively close together in the geological record, and advocating a greater use of cladistics to aid in determining the order of relationships in such cases. (Note: The way evolution works is that populations split from one another, then the more robust sections of a population grow more numerous and more widely established in different places round the world, which increases the odds of the new species's fossilization, but by the time the new species has spread far and wide enough to increase its chances of being fossilized, it is not likely to simply be the direct descentdant of species that precede it in the fossil record, but a cousin. Hence, Gee's complaint about the drawing of direct lines between species in textbooks. The actual evolutionary lines of descent are more complex, and what we have are the fossils of the most robust cousin species that were living during certain overlapping eras.)

HENRY GEE'S RESPONSE

Henry Gee (henrygee) wrote,
@ 2006-06-12 22:43:00:
"I have become somewhat irked lately at the way that some creationists continue to attribute beliefs to me to which I do not subscribe. For example, creationists of the 'intelligent design' tendency have used my book Deep Time (sold in the US as In Search of Deep Time) to suggest that whereas I don't support their views, my own work somehow legitimises them... even though I have explicitly refuted this attempt at hijack, many years ago.

"I pointed this out recently to creationist Jonathan Witt at ID The Future and as a result have had a civil and gentlemanly email exchange with him (and by extension his colleague Jonathan Wells, who has also quoted from my book)."

See also this discussion at the Quote Mine Project of the use that creationists/I.D.ists have tried to make of some Gee quotations.

7 comments:

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

At one time I was all for battling YECs and demonstrating how nonsensical the theory was. But I am beginning to wonder, given the fact that there is literally ZERO non-biblical evidence for a worldwide flood, or for a young earth, if we are making a mistake.

Is it possible that merely by debating them, merely by discussing the question -- rather than simply pointing out the evidence for evolution when desireable -- we are giving them too much 'respectability'?

They are the ones who are making the claim that they can overthrow ideas from all branches of science. They are the ones who think they are accomplishing something by pointing out that -- as with any scientific theory -- there are debates on minor matters having to do with evolution that do nothing to cast doubt on the theory as a whole or cause it not to be accepted by the scientific community.

Maybe we should simply say that, unless they come up with positive evidence favoring their side, we will ignore them.

What do you think, Ed? Did you cease being a YEC because of debates against them, or simply because you looked at the positive evidence favoring evolution.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

On the other hand, there's always humor. I finally got around to reading the current edition of the Skeptic's Circle -- this edition framed in honor of Douglas Adams.

"Creationism:
The scientifically untenable position that when it comes to all the life in the universe, “God did it,” which many humans seem to find comforting despite the obvious logical conclusion that results, i.e., God consciously and purposefully produced David Hasselhoff, leukemia, and Bill O’Reilly."

Hallq said...

Good post, Ed. It will be interesting to see how Hays responds to having his misuse of Gee pointed out to him (so do keep me posted on that).

Dennis said...

One can only imagine what would happen if skeptics were as critical to their own views as they are to those they disagree with. Just a few examples from this post:

Ed wants to make points out of Morris' book "The Genesis Flood" containing a lot of arguments that are now even rejected by many YEC's. Any argument made also needs to be applied to Darwin's book "The Origin of Species". You don't think Darwin's book is outdated and contains arguments refuted by even secular scientists?

>And what about the new "Creation Museum" museum opening soon
>in the U.S. with its exhibits of humans alongside dinosaurs?
>The folks who built that museum admit that pre-flood human
>fossils have not been discovered, but they built exhibitions
>showing humans alongside dinosaurs. How scientific of them!

You've never visited a natural history museum, have you? Of course, lack of human fossils hasn't stopped secular science from proposing that we've evolved from chimpanzees or whatever the flavor of the month currently is.

>Is it possible that merely by debating them, merely by
>discussing the question -- rather than simply pointing out
>the evidence for evolution when desireable -- we are giving
>them too much 'respectability'?

How scientific! Let's stop having discussions with those that disagree us.

I don't think evolution's position as a minority view among the US population has anything to do with debates between evolutionists and creationists. Most people have never listened to one of these debates so don't see how this could be driving public opinion.

EPSU said...

Any argument made also needs to be applied to Darwin's book "The Origin of Species". You don't think Darwin's book is outdated and contains arguments refuted by even secular scientists?

Who are the secular scientists, and what refutations are you referring to? While I’ve no doubt that Darwin’s work has been refined, most of these secular scientists who have actually read the book and are familiar with the 150 or so years of research and experimentation that have taken place since are typically remarkably struck by how accurate Darwin’s initial hypothesis has turned out to be given the aforementioned subsequent research (and Darwin’s lack of knowledge of same). When you factor in that Darwin had no knowledge whatsoever of the (then) nonexistent science of genetics, it becomes even more astonishing how much his ideas have withstood the test of time, and numerous experiments and attempts to turn up evidence that would render his theory of evolution by natural selection false.


Of course, lack of human fossils hasn't stopped secular science from proposing that we've evolved from chimpanzees or whatever the flavor of the month currently is.

No scientist has ever said we evolved from chimpanzees. They have, however, come to the conclusion that chimpanzees are our closest living relatives, given the fact that humans share 98% of their DNA with chimps, and that therefore chimps and humans almost certainly have a common ancestor.

And what lack of human fossils are you referring to? Paleontologists have found several fossils for many species of primate that are undoubtedly related to us (Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon, homo erectus, homo habilis, etc.), to say nothing of fossils of homo sapiens dating back to about 195,000 years ago.

I can understand your point about museum displays—but I doubt very many of those associated with the reconstructions of early humans would try to represent them as any more than a *possible* reconstruction, and shouldn’t necessarily be taken as “gospel” for what the earliest humans (and their close relations) truly might have looked like. However, between archaeology and paleontology (to say nothing of climatology and other related sciences), such recreations are based on a considerable amount of evidence. Just what, precisely, is the evidence upon which the Creation Museum’s “humans cavorting with dinosaurs” exhibits based?


How scientific! Let's stop having discussions with those that disagree us.

When YEC (and for that matter, even those who espouse an older earth flavor of creationism) types actually start ponying up something (besides their interpretation of the Bible) as actual evidence, then we might be able to engage in something resembling a “debate.” I can’t speak for Jim, but I believe his point was that given the complete lack of evidence on the creationist side, there really isn’t a debate. At best it’s YEC and ID types cherry-picking and misrepresenting scientists like Gee in order to try and paint a completely false picture that evolution is not merely “just a theory,” but a theory in crisis. That assertion is not factually true, and I suspect many of them (like the Discovery Institute types) know this, but they choose to pander to the scientific illiteracy of most Americans anyway.

I don't think evolution's position as a minority view among the US population has anything to do with debates between evolutionists and creationists.

You’re absolutely correct. The driving force behind that view is the result of ignorance, and the fact that most people in this country couldn’t tell you what the theory of evolution actually says. Like yourself, they merely want to say what they think (or want) it to say, e. g., “we've evolved from chimpanzees.”

Most people have never listened to one of these debates so don't see how this could be driving public opinion.

Oh, indeed. It would certainly be nice, for example, if “most people” would just sit down and read the transcripts from Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Dennis said...

>Who are the secular scientists, and what refutations are you referring to?

Example: Darwin proposed that birds evolved from flying fish.

Of course, lack of human fossils hasn't stopped secular science from proposing that we've evolved from chimpanzees or whatever the flavor of the month currently is.

>No scientist has ever said we evolved from chimpanzees. They have, however,
>come to the conclusion that chimpanzees are our closest living relatives,
>given the fact that humans share 98% of their DNA with chimps, and that
>therefore chimps and humans almost certainly have a common ancestor.

Do you believe DNA similarity is enough to conclude that it resulted from evolution?

>Just what, precisely, is the evidence upon which the Creation Museum’s “humans
>cavorting with dinosaurs” exhibits based?

The fact that we can pretty easily obtain dinosaur soft tissue that hasn't completely fossilized and ancient artwork and cave paintings that depict dinosaurs come to mind.

Can you explain to me what you mean when you say YEC's have no evidence? Don't you mean to say you disagree with their interpretations of the evidence they use?

>You’re absolutely correct. The driving force behind that view is the result of
>ignorance, and the fact that most people in this country couldn’t tell you
>what the theory of evolution actually says. Like yourself, they merely want
>to say what they think (or want) it to say, e. g., “we've evolved from chimpanzees.”

The ignorance falls on both sides of the fence. I can't tell you how many times I have heard people suggest that natural selection proves macro-evolution (ie. Bacterial resistance proves macro-evolution takes places).

>Oh, indeed. It would certainly be nice, for example, if “most people”
>would just sit down and read the transcripts from Kitzmiller v. Dover
>Area School District.

Yeah, right. People are going to read thousands of pages of transcripts. Have you actually read all the transcripts?

live-n-grace said...

Um... just asking, what are the odds of everything in the universe and here on earth coming perfectly together, and mind you life coming from nothing? I think it's the closest number to zero possible. Like the opposite of inifinity, except they should call it the big bang number, basically impossible to get.