The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Reading — March 2009

Here are the books I finished in March:

  • The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark Noll. Noll examines Evangelical thinking (or the lack thereof), and comes down really hard on two specific realms of Evangelical intellectual activity: politics and science.
  • The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman. Would the world really be better off without us? I don’t think so—we are part of the biosphere, not a cancer on the biosphere—but this book certainly opens one’s eyes to the increasing impact of human activities.
  • 2010: Odyssey Two, by Arthur C. Clarke. This is the science fiction sequel to 2001: A Space Odessey. In 2010 a joint Soviet-American expedition brings HAL back to life, we find out more about what happened to astronaut Dave Bowman, and something very interesting happens to Jupiter.

Here are some additional books I’ve been working on this month:

  • A History of the American People, by Paul Johnson. This one might take me a couple more months to get through.
  • Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe, by Christian paleontologist Simon Conway Morris. A famous statement by Stephen Jay Gould was that if one were to rewind the tape of evolution and play it over again, chance events would result in a very different world, probably without humans. Conway Morris argues the opposite, that convergence (e.g. multiple evolutionary pathways that lead over and over to similar structures) dictates that once evolution gets going in multicellular animals, something like human beings will inevitably occur.
  • Economic Mineral Deposits, by Jensen and Bateman. Right now I’m in the chapter on hydrothermal alteration. I’ve done a lot of re-reading in my geology textbooks in the past six months. Depending on the employment prospects that looked most promising at the time, I have re-read substantial portions of textbooks on sedimentary petrology, geochemistry, igneous petrology, petroleum geology, and groundwater hydrology. This hasn’t led to a job yet, but I’ve had fun, as well as learned (re-learned) a lot.

Grace and Peace

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Reading | Leave a comment

Snow — finally

Denver has had a warm, dry winter. This past week, we finally got our first good snowfall of the year (up to 17 inches or 43 cm). Most of the snow came on Thursday, with sub-zero wind chill factors. Friday was bright and sunny, and NASA’s Terra satellite was kind enough to take this picture of the Denver area:

Credit: NASA/

Credit: NASA/Terra/MODIS

If the resolution were a lot better, you would be able to see the Nelstead family sledding, cross-country skiing, building a snow thing (can’t really call it a snow man), and having a snow ball fight.

I love snow.

Image from NASA’s Earth Observatory.

Grace and Peace

March 30, 2009 Posted by | Imagery | 1 Comment

Spurgeon distorted

Apparently, the young-Earth organization Answers in Genesis doesn’t want its readers to know that 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon had no problem with an Earth that is millions of years old. AiG is posting Spurgeon sermons on its web site, but has edited at least one sermon to remove references to an old Earth. A few weeks ago I had a post on Spurgeon’s old Earth beliefs, and included the following quote from his June 17, 1855 sermon “The Power of the Holy Ghost.”

In the 2d verse of the first chapter of Genesis, we read, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” We know not how remote the period of the creation of this globe may be—certainly many millions of years before the time of Adam. Our planet has passed through various stages of existence, and different kinds of creatures have lived on its surface, all of which have been fashioned by God. But before that era came, wherein man should be its principal tenant and monarch, the Creator gave up the world to confusion. He allowed the inward fires to burst up from beneath, and melt all the solid matter, so that all kinds of substances were commingled in one vast mass of disorder. [emphasis added]

The AiG version of this sermon removed the part I have in bold, and changed other parts to match their young-Earth system. When others pointed out this omission, AiG added the sentence as a footnote, but did not revise its other editing of the message.

The truth is that one can have a very high view of Scripture, as Charles Spurgeon did (and as I do), and accept an old age for the Earth. It seems AiG wishes to shield its readers from this truth.

To non-Christians reading this: don’t reject Christianity because of what organizations like AiG say.

HT: beyondcreationscience.com

Grace and Peace

March 28, 2009 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , , | 5 Comments

What is a day?

The blog Tough Questions Answered has a good five-part series addressing the question “What is the meaning of the word ‘day’ in Genesis?”  The posts take a look at reasons why the six days of Genesis 1 are not necessarily six literal consecutive 24-hours days.

Young-Earth creationists have much of the Evangelical world convinced that the Bible requires a young Earth, and that to allow for an old Earth is a compromise of some sort. In reality, it is often the old-Earth Christians who have taken the closest look at what the text actually says and how this fits into the cultural setting of second century BC Israel. There are many instances where it is the young-Earth creationists who are reading more into the text than what it actually says.

Grace and Peace

March 24, 2009 Posted by | Creation in the Bible, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | | 2 Comments

Dolphin Bubble Rings

Gandalf can blow smoke rings. Dolphins can blow bubble rings!

HT: The Dynamic Earth, who has a brief discussion of the fluid dynamics involved.

Grace and Peace

March 21, 2009 Posted by | Biology, Fun, Videos | , | Leave a comment

Eruption of underwater volcano, Tonga

Here’s a video of an eruption of an underwater volcano near the South Pacific island of Tonga on March 19, 2009:

News articles:

London Times: Underwater volcano sends huge columns of ash into Pacific sky

Honolulu Advertiser: 7.9 quake off Tonga could intensify volcano’s eruption

From NASA’s Earth Observatory: Submarine Eruption in the Tonga Islands:

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

Grace and Peace

March 20, 2009 Posted by | Geology, Imagery, Natural Disasters | , | Leave a comment

Fundamentalism and creationism

Young-Earth creationism isn’t a necessary part of Christianity, even to those of us who have a very high view of the truthfulness and authority of the Bible.

Here’s another quote from The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark Noll:

Despite widespread impressions to the contrary, [young-Earth] creationism was not a traditional belief of nineteenth-century conservative Protestants or even of early twentieth-century fundamentalists. The mentality of fundamentalism lives on in modern creation science, even if some of the early fundamentalists themselves were by no means as radical in their scientific conclusions as evangelicals have become in the last forty years. For instance, during the century before the 1930s, most conservative Protestants believed that the “days” of Genesis 1 stood for long ages of geological development or that a lengthy gap existed between the initial creation of the world (Gen. 1:1) and a series of more recent creative acts (Gen. 1:2ff) during which the fossils were deposited. As we have seen, some conservative Protestants early in the century — like James Orr of Scotland and B. B. Warfield of Princeton Theological Seminary, both of whom wrote for The Fundamentals (1910-1915) — allowed for large-scale evolution in order to explain God’s way of creating plants, animals, and even the human body. (As it happens, their position closely resembled official Roman Catholic teachings on the subject.) Popular opponents of evoution in the 1920s, like William Jennings Bryan, had no difficulty accepting an ancient earth. [pp. 188-189]

Some observations:

  • Once again, this demonstrates that one can accept an old age for the Earth, and even evolution, and still hold to the truthfulness of Scriptures. B. B. Warfield, for example, was an earnest advocate for the truthfulness of Scriptures and a founder of the fundamentalist movement.
  • The present domination of young-Earth creationism in our churches and Christian schools hasn’t been around forever.
  • The original meaning of “fundamentalist” was someone who held to the five fundamentals of Christianity taught in the series of books The Fundamentals. The five fundamentals were 1) The deity of Christ, 2) The virgin birth, 3) The substitutionary atonement of Christ, 4) The bodily resurrection, 5) The inerrancy of Scriptures. These points describe my core beliefs, though I would add a couple more from the Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds.
  • The word “fundamentalist” is almost useless now. I don’t consider myself to be a fundamentalist because now the word means something like “ignorant, anti-scientific, narrow, religious extremist.” The stereotype, often true, is that fundamentalists are separatistic (don’t have much to do with non-Fundamentalists), don’t drink alcohol, and hate gays. None of these describe me.

Grace and Peace

March 19, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | Leave a comment

The abyss of atheism?

From Christianity Today: Staring into the Abyss by Dinesh D’Souza. The subtitle for the article is, “Why Peter Singer makes the New Atheists nervous.”

Atheists like Richard Dawkins argue that we can have morality without God. And I acknowledge that many atheists are very moral people. But is their morality based on their atheism, or is it a relic of the Christian-influenced culture in which they were raised?

Peter Singer is a bioethics professor at Princeton University, an atheist, and a promoter of utilitarian ethics. He has attempted to build an ethical system based completely on his atheist world view, and it includes the following values.

  • Humans have no more value than animals; sometimes they have less value
  • Abortion allowed in all nine months of pregnancy
  • Infanticide
  • Euthanasia of unproductive members of society: the elderly and disabled

These values are frightening.

Here are some exerpts from the CT article:

Singer argues that even pigs, chickens, and fish have more signs of consciousness and rationality—and, consequently, a greater claim to rights—than do fetuses, newborn infants, and people with mental disabilities.

To understand Singer, it’s helpful to contrast him with “New Atheists” like Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins. The New Atheists say we can get rid of God but preserve morality. They insist that no one needs God in order to be good; atheists can act no less virtuously than Christians. (And indeed, some atheists do put Christians to shame.) Even while repudiating the Christian God, Dawkins has publicly called himself a “cultural Christian.”

Why haven’t the atheists embraced Peter Singer? I suspect it is because they fear that his unpalatable views will discredit the cause of atheism. What they haven’t considered, however, is whether Singer, virtually alone among their numbers, is uncompromisingly working out the implications of living in a truly secular society, one completely purged of Christian and transcendental foundations. In Singer, we may be witnessing someone both horrifying and yet somehow refreshing: an intellectually honest atheist.

Here are my questions:

  • Are Singer’s views the only natural outcome of an atheistic world view?
  • Can Hawkins Dawkins and the New Atheists really construct an ethical system apart from a Christian foundation without it looking something like Nazism?

Grace and Peace

March 19, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Ethics | | 4 Comments

Church death

We have books and seminars on church growth. Christianity is growing rapidly in places like China and parts of Africa. Christ has given us a commission to take the gospel to all nations, and we expect the fulfilment of this Great Commission.

But churches also die. Local churches die. In church history, we see entire regions go from predominantly Christian to places where there are virtually no Christians. This happened in the past in North Africa (what is today Tunisia and Algeria) and Turkey.

Persecution can lead to church growth. Tertullian, around the year 2000, wrote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Christianity grew despite the persecution of the Romans. In the twentieth century, the Christian church grew by the tens of millions in China during intense communist persecution.

Tertullian lived in North Africa. In the 700s the Moslems conquered the area, and Christianity was completely gone within a few hundred years.

Christianity has existed in Iraq for 2000 years. This could be coming to an end. Persecution may not always cause church growth. In this case, it is causing church extinction.

Will there be Christianity in North America 200 years from now? There is no guarantee.

Christianity Today has an article about this: The Other Side of Church Growth by Philip Jenkins.

Grace and Peace

March 19, 2009 Posted by | Christianity | 3 Comments

Augustine: The Literal Meaning of Genesis

I recently finished The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll, and will be sharing a few insights and quotes from this important book. The first quote is a long one from St. Augustine of Hippo, from his work The Literal Meaning of Genesis, written in about AD 415.

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of the world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion [quoting 1 Tim 1:7].

(emphasis added; quoted from Noll, pp. 202-203, from the John Hammond Taylor translation of 1982)

Here are a few of my thoughts on what Augustine said:

  • Augustine, even though his work was entitled The Literal Meaning of Genesis, does not read Genesis 1 in the same “literal” way that modern young-Earth creationists do. Augustine believed that the creation was an instantaneous event rather than being spread out over six literal days, and that the six days of Genesis 1 were a literary structure rather than a statement of the order or timing of events. This is a remarkable insight from a deep thinker, who was in no way influenced by modern understandings of the age of the universe. This also should remind us that modern interpretations that understand Genesis as not requiring a 6000-year old Earth are not just forcing a modern interpretation on the text. Instead, the idea that Genesis doesn’t tell us how old the Earth is could be something that flows out of the text.
  • Augustine believed that non-Christians were perfectly capable of understanding the world, and he was convinced that whatever the Bible teaches, it won’t contradict the world as it really is.
  • Augustine came down hard on Christians who said things that the “scientists” of his day knew were foolish. This applies to us today as well: how will the world believe the Bible when it speaks about salvation if we also try to convince them that the Bible requires belief in dinosaurs living with humans, all the sedimentary rocks being deposited in Noah’s Flood six thousand years ago, or that all evidence of human prehistory can be compressed into less than a thousand years. These are all things taught as dogma by some Evangelicals, but none of them are explicitly taught in Scripture. And the world laughs, not only at us, but at the Creator.

Noll follows the long Augustine quote with this observation:

Augustine’s claim is nothing less than that a Christian who attempts to interpret passages of the Bible with cosmological implication s will misinterpret the Bible if that believer does not take account of what can be learned “from reason and experience.” To limit oneself only to the Scriptures in such instances, says Augustine, is to misread the Bible. (p. 203, emphasis in original)

Grace and Peace

March 17, 2009 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Young-Earth creationism | , | 42 Comments

Looking for a hydrologist or environmental scientist?

In the midst of economic hard times, there are still some employment bright spots. Being that I am looking for a job in the Earth sciences, it is encouraging to me that there are openings out there in hydrology and environmental science:

HYDROLOGISTS

From the New York Times: Hiring in Hydrology Resists the Slump:

“Demand for hydrologists has been predicted to grow 24 percent from 2006 to 2016, much faster than the average for all occupations.”

“Most hydrologists did not earn degrees in hydrology; in fact, only a handful of undergraduate and graduate hydrology programs exist across the country. It is far more common for hydrologists to come from a hard-science or engineering background.” [I have an M.S. in geology.]

“In fact, computers have revolutionized hydrology in ways beyond sampling. Data collected in the field is now plugged into complex mathematic models that allow hydrologists to make predictions — for example, about the effect of climate change on sea levels. The models also help them develop recommendations for solving problems, like how much water can be diverted from a river to combat a drought.” [I have extensive experience with GIS, and recent training in GIS spatial analysis and 3D analysis, both of which have hydrology applications.]

“People interested in hydrology often don’t understand you need to be very strong in math.” [GRE Quantitative: 94th percentile; A’s in calculus-based physics and graduate-level nuclear chemistry.]

“They also need to communicate well, because their research is often written in reports and presented to others — to policy makers, if they work in the public sector, or to clients in the private sector.” [Strong written and verbal communication skills gained through graduate school, employment as a cartographer, and teaching at various levels.]

HT: Geology News

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTISTS

From Monster.com: The Top 10 Hardest Jobs to Fill includes environmental scientists in its list.

I am well qualified for work as an environmental scientist:

  • M.S. and B.S. in geology
  • Minor in biology
  • 37 semester hours in chemistry and geochemistry
  • Strong communication skills
  • ArcGIS experience
  • Love for the creation

HT: The Evangelical Ecologist

You can contact me by commenting below, or by emailing me at geochristianblog (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Thanks,

Kevin

March 17, 2009 Posted by | Employment, Environment, Geology | , | Leave a comment

Interactive denomination maps

The Association of Religion Data Archives has an interactive map showing the distribution of a large number of Christian denominations and other religious groups over time. Here are three maps showing the growth of my denomination, the Evangelical Free Church of America from 1980 to 2000:

EFCA 1980

EFCA 1980

EFCA 1990

EFCA 1990

EFCA 2000

EFCA 2000

Maps are available for many denominations and groups, ranging in size from the Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics, down to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Old Order River Brethren.

HT: Internet Monk. Michael Spencer has had a series of posts on what he sees as the upcoming collapse of Evangelicalism, which he believes has already begun. The Evangelical Free Church of America is still growing, but is not immune from the weaknesses of Evangelicalism as a whole: focus on the culture war rather than the gospel, failure to pass on the faith to the next generation, consumer-driven worship, the rising tide of secularism, emphases on relevance and success, placing subjective feelings above objective doctrine. Michael Spencer summarizes his reasoning in last week’s Christian Science Monitor: The coming evangelical collapse.

Grace and Peace

March 17, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Maps | | Leave a comment

A man who reads

My friend Glenn is one of the smartest people I know. With ACT, SAT, GRE percentiles in the upper 90s (some portions in the 99th percentile), I am an intelligent person. When I am with Glenn, I am reminded that I am only down at the bottom of the 99th percentile, because he outsmarts me by a bunch. Glenn says that he knows plenty of people who are smarter than him, and I suppose they all know smarter people too, until you get up to the Albert Einsteins and Henry Kissingers up at the top.

Glenn, a PhD biochemist, plans on reading the Bible cover to cover four times this year. I suspect that he is able to do this with a high level of focus and understanding. In addition, Glenn read 131 other books last year, with a goal of reading 110 this year. Because of this, Glenn can talk intelligently about a wide range of topics: the Bible, teaching the Bible, politics, the family, or feeding the world.

Glenn doesn’t read just to boost his ego. He reads for the glory of God, the building up of the body of Christ, and to excel in the workplace.

He wrote about his reading habits today on his excellent blog, Be Bold, Be Gentle: Learning Faster — The Great Need. Here are a few quotes:

In addition to regular, deep time in the Word of God, teachers, pastors, and leaders need to be students of life.

Now I strongly believe that Christians should be the best learners and thinkers on the planet — we have the Mind of Christ!  But it is often not so.

Are these extraordinary, superhuman accomplishments?  Absolutely not!  They are well within the range of most adults.
What sets great teachers, pastors, and leaders apart on the learning scale is
* they know what they need to learn, and why
* they understand what learning really is, and have mastered the practices of learning
* they apply what they learn (because the point of learning is not knowing, it’s doing)

Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Not all of us will read the Bible four times in one year, but I suspect that most Christians don’t even read the New Testament once in a year.
  • We don’t all have to read 131 books per year, but I suspect that most of us could read more than we do.
  • Glenn has reading goals: “they know what they need to learn, and why.” I have some reading goals, but I think I could strengthen them.
  • Glenn knows what works for him. What works for you or I might be different than what works for Glenn. Do you know the best ways for you to learn?
  • Glenn is a doer. He takes what he reads and applies it.
  • Selectivity is important. I have 86 books in my Amazon shopping cart “to buy later” section. I have unread books here at home (I can’t say on the bookshelves; we’re still living out of boxes after our move from Romania last year). What are the most important books for me to be reading, in terms of ministry, family, work, and knowing God better?
  • Not everyone is called to an intellectual vocation (though again, I suspect most of us need to be readers with clear objectives). Romans 12:3-10 applies to all in the church:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (NIV)

And let him who studies, do it diligently for the glory of God and the good of people.

Thanks, Glenn. I’m inspired.

Grace and Peace

March 16, 2009 Posted by | Reading | 1 Comment

Third anniversary of The GeoChristian

The first post of The GeoChristian was on March 16, 2006. At first I called the blog The Earth is not Flat, but later changed the name to The GeoChristian. The name GeoChristian indicates two important things about me. The first is my Christian faith, which is a core part of who I am. The second is my interest in the subject of geology, which isn’t at the core of who I am, but close.

Here are a few statistics from my first three years of blogging:

  • 178,213 hits (not counting my own page views)
  • 659 posts
  • 414 comments (thank you!)
  • 3,516 spam comments deleted

I believe that The GeoChristian is close to unique in the blogosphere. There are plenty of excellent Christian blogs, and there are a number of excellent geology blogs. There are not many that combine the two.

The most commonly viewed post on The GeoChristian is one about Despair.com, which people find through search engines. This post doesn’t really fit into my overall theme. Here are my favorite posts from the past three years:

Thanks again for reading The GeoChristian.

Soli Deo Gloria — To God Alone be the Glory

Grace and Peace

March 15, 2009 Posted by | Misc | 1 Comment

Thagomizers

I learned something valuable as I was doing a little research for yesterday’s post on Stegosaurus. The tail spikes on a Stegosaurus are called “thagomizers.” This term comes from The Far Side cartoon, where a lecture in a cave man school states “Now this end is called the thagomizer, after the late Thag Simmons.” Thag is a common name used by cartoonist Gary Larson for his cave men.

The story and the cartoon can be seen at Wikipedia: Thagomizer.

Grace and Peace

March 14, 2009 Posted by | Geology | 2 Comments

Stegosaurus in Cambodian temple?

Does this carving at the Ta Prohm temple complex in Cambodia prove that dinosaurs of the genus Stegosaurus were still alive in Southeast Asian jungles only 1000 years ago?

dddddd

Carving at Ta Prohm temple, near the more famous Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Image from Neurologica Blog.

Some young-Earth creationists think so. An example of a web page dedicated to this is found at Bible.ca: Dinosaurs in ancient Cambodian temple — Amazing evidence that dinosaurs and humans coexisted. Other carvings in this temple are of local animals such as deer, monkeys, and birds, and so this carving must prove that Stegosaurus was wandering around the jungles of Southeast Asia as well.

My response is: No.

I’ve been wanting to write about this one for some time, and was prompted into action when I saw this discussed on a paleontology blog this morning (Dinosaur Tracking: Stegosaurus, Rhinoceros, or Hoax?).

Superficially, this carving looks like a Stegosaurus. It has the arched shape that Stegosaurus toys sometimes have, and a row of things that look like plates running down the back. Here are my reasons why I don’t think this carving is of a Stegosaurus:

  • The head is completely wrong for Stegosaurus. Stegosaurus had a tiny head; the carvings in Cambodia show a creature with a proportionately larger head.
Stegosaurus, ddd Museum, from Wikipedia. Note the tiny head.

Stegosaurus, Senckenberg Museum, Frankfurt, Germany. From Wikipedia: Stegosaurus. Note the tiny head. Credit: Evak

  • The tail is wrong for Stegosaurus. Where are the spikes?
  • The legs are wrong for Stegosaurus. In the carving, the front and hind legs are of equal length; in a real Stegosaurus the hind legs are considerably longer than the front legs.
  • The body is wrong for Stegosaurus. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Stegosaurus, and many other dinosaurs, were depicted with arched backs. Based on further study, we now know that most dinosaurs had less curvature in their backs. Look at the picture  above for a modern interpretation, and at the picture below for the 100-year old interpretation.
stegosaurus_3

From Wikipedia: Stegosaurus. Drawing from O.C. Marsh, 1896.

  • The back plates in the carving are only superficially similar to the plates found on fossil Stegosaurus, which actually had two parallel rows of plates.
  • Similar features are found on the perimeter of some other carvings (though not on the backs of the animals). For example, here is a carving interpreted by Bible.ca as a water buffalo, with, um… Stegosaurus plates for a decorative border:
Credit:

Credit:Bible.ca

  • If Stegosaurus lived in Cambodia only 1000 years ago when the Angkor Wat/Ta Prohm temples were built, why are there no Stegosaurus bones found in Asia, whether in archeological sites or in the fossil record?
  • There are plausible alternatives. Some have suggested a rhinoceros or boar in front of a vegetated background. I think a much better alternative is a chameleon. The head and eyes are right, the overall body shape isn’t bad, and chameleons have a serrated ridge along their back (though not as pronounced as on the carving). The tail isn’t quite right, but it isn’t right for being a Stegosaurus either. Given two possibilities—Stegosaurus or chameleon—I think we should go for the chameleon in this case.
Chameleon. From Wikipedia: Chameleon

Chameleon. From Wikipedia: Chameleon. Credit: Adrian Pingstone

  • Another alternative is that this represents a mythical Hindu creature, such as a makara.
dddd

Hindu god Varuna riding a makara. From Wikipedia: Varuna

I would hope that the above reasoning would be sufficient to convince even young-Earth creationists to not use this sort of argument. In some cases this has been true: I see this kind of stuff on the fringe YEC sites, but haven’t seen it used by Answers in Genesis or the Institute for Creation Research, both of which have people capable of sifting out the more extreme claims. [Update 3/23/09: AiG does use this as evidence. Sigh]

As a Christian who accepts an old age for the Earth, I would add one more argument against the validity of the Ta Prohm Stegosaurus carving:

  • Stegosaurus fossils are only found in rocks of the Late Jurassic period, with no examples from the Cretaceous or Cenozoic. Did they hide for 145 million years, only to show up in the jungles of Cambodia?

Another possibility is that this carving is a fraud, having been carved in the past century. This could be, but I have assumed in this post that the carving is genuine.

In conclusion, to use the Ta Prohm carving as evidence that humans and dinosaurs lived together only a short time ago is bad apologetics. This is one more thing to make us look silly in the eyes of nonbelievers. Don’t feed this to your kids, and don’t use it to try to convince anyone of the truthfulness of Scriptures. As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is true and that it says exactly what God wants it to say. We don’t have to resort to pseudoarcheology to defend it.

Grace and Peace

March 13, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Archeology, Geology, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , | 47 Comments

Australia flooding images

While the southern parts of Australia have been burning over the past two months, the northern parts have experienced cool weather and heavy rainfall. The following images are of Normanton, Queensland, which has been cut off by flooding for several weeks.

Credit: NASA, EO-1

Credit: NASA, EO-1

Credit: NASA, EO-1

Credit: NASA, EO-1

The first image is in natural color; the second is enhanced with infrared, which gives a clearer indication of ground that is covered by water.

From NASA’s Earth Observatory: Floods in Australia.

Grace and Peace

March 13, 2009 Posted by | Imagery, Maps, Meteorology, Natural Disasters | , | 1 Comment

Creation Care and Climate Change

There is no inherent reason for a scientist to not be a Christian, nor for a Christian to care deeply about the creation.

From the Harvard Divinity Bulletin: The Greening of Jesus by Mark Pinsky.

Riding the train down to London last summer, after a two-week fellowship session on science and religion at the University of Cambridge, I noticed an article in the Independent newspaper about a new book which reinforced that notion of an increasingly irreligious Europe. It is true that outward signs of faith—apart from biblical passages emblazoned on London’s famed red double-decker buses by jesussaid.org—are difficult to come by.

But I found deeply felt Christianity alive and well in an unlikely setting: the academy’s scientific community. To many, this may seem counterintuitive. The evangelical theologian Alister McGrath told us he once believed that “science was the ally of atheism.” Yet among our other lecturers at the Templeton-Cambridge program were major figures in science, from cosmologists to biologists to particle physicists, who pronounced themselves believers. Of course, given the interests of the late Sir John Templeton, who endowed the fellowships, in the relationship between science and religion, this should not have been surprising.

Still, these towering figures—Simon Conway Morris, John Polkinghorne, Sir Brian Heap, Sir John Houghton—characterized themselves as evangelicals as well. Polkinghorne, author of Science and Theology, preaches at a Cambridge church on weekends. To be sure, these are evangelicals of a particular sort. By and large, they reject creationism and intelligent design, embracing the concept of “theistic evolution,” a God-created, billions-years-old universe. None numbered themselves among any of the apocalyptic American evangelical tribes of arrogant dominionists or fanciful premillennial dispensationalists of the “Left Behind” stripe.

[emphasis added]

The article goes on to describe the increasing acceptance of man-made global warming in the Evangelical community, led by Evangelical Christians such as Sir John Houghton, former head of the British Meteorological Office.

The Harvard divinity school is hardly a bastion of Evangelicalism, the article contains a good description of what is going on.

HT: Crunchy Con

Grace and Peace

March 7, 2009 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment, Meteorology | | 1 Comment

Evolution in Texas

From Christianity Today: Darwin Divides — Christian college professors split on Texas science standards.

The state of Texas is working on revising its science education standards, and one of the proposals is to remove a requirement that teachers include weaknesses in the theory of evolution.

Christian biology/science professors in the state are divided on this one. Some Christian professors support the teaching of evolution without restrictions:

“I hope to reach others on the weightier matters of the Resurrection, hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven while I work out how evolution does not have to conflict with Christianity,” said Daniel Brannan, a biology professor at Abilene Christian University.

Brannan joined hundreds of scientists in signing a 21st Century Science Coalition petition that supports new curriculum standards for the state’s 4.7 million public-school students. The petition states that “evolution is an easily observable phenomenon that has been documented beyond any reasonable doubt.”

Others—proponents of ID—are in favor of retaining standards that require teaching weaknesses of evolution:

“We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged,” declared the hundreds of dissenters, including biology professors from Baylor, Lubbock Christian, LeTourneau, and other Christian universities.

Still others haven’t taken a side:

Nichols [professor of biology at Abilene Christian] said[,] “I suspect [the curriculum debate] is really more of a political/religious showcase than something that will really affect public education. “I and many others live relatively comfortably in both camps and tire from attacks from both sides,” he added. “With all the real problems in the world, this is a serious waste of energy to keep beating on this topic.”

I suspect that whatever the state standards say, high school biology teachers will continue to teach what they want to teach. Teachers who completely embrace evolution won’t teach that there is evidence against evolution. They may bring in some state-mandated evidences against evolution, only to tear them apart. Biology teachers who accept some of the ID arguments (this would actually be a substantial number of teachers, though certainly not a majority) will bring anti-evolutionary concepts into the classroom even if the statement regarding problems with evolution is removed from the standards.

Grace and Peace

March 7, 2009 Posted by | Biology, Geology, Origins, Science Education | | Leave a comment

Unemployment Map

From the New York Times: The Geography of a Recession. Go to the NYT for some customization options.

unemploymentmap

Grace and Peace

March 7, 2009 Posted by | Maps | , | Leave a comment