Around the Web 10/23/2014 — Old Earth textbook, No Ham for dinner, inverted smileys

I’ll break out of my semi-monastic lifestyle for a few moments to pass on some good GeoChristian kinds of links…

Old-Earth Classical Christian Middle School Earth Science TextbookNovare Science and Math, a relatively new Christian curriculum publisher, has announced that they will publish an old-Earth middle school Earth science textbook in time for the 2015-2016 school year. Does anyone want to guess who is writing that much-needed textbook?

Ken Ham Rejects Entering Into “Gracious Dialog” With Old-Earthers — Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis and the world’s foremost promoter of young-Earth creationism, has turned down a dinner invitation from the president of BioLogos, the world’s foremost promoter of evolutionary creation (i.e., theistic evolution).

Part 1 — The invitationKen Ham, We Need a Better Conversation (Perhaps Over Dinner?) — BioLogos president Deborah Haarsma, concerned about the level of acrimony among Christians over the topics of evolution and the age of the Earth, invited Ken Ham to have dinner with herself and Reasons to Believe head Hugh Ross:

“All three organizations are also concerned about the departure of young people from the church over origins issues. Each tends to think that the positions of the others are contributing to the problem! But studies have shown that it is the acrimony over this issue that drives young people away. We respect the commitment that Reasons to Believe has demonstrated to gracious dialogue with those of other positions. We completely agree with Hugh Ross that “If we Christians can resolve this issue in a peaceful way it’s going to attract non-Christians to enter into dialogue with us. But if we continue to fight…it turns them off.” Perhaps Ken Ham could join Hugh Ross and me for a friendly conversation over dinner? My treat.”

Part 2 — The rejectionShould I Have Dinner With BioLogos? — Ken Ham compared himself to Ezekiel, warning the people of God against compromise, and Nehemiah, who refused to be distracted by the enemies of God’s people, though he added that he doesn’t consider Hugh Ross to be a personal enemy, only an enemy biblical authority.

“We at AiG are busy “rebuilding a wall.” We are equipping God’s people to defend the Christian faith, and I believe we are doing a great work for God. We are busy being “watchmen”—warning people of those who undermine the authority of the Word of God.”

Ken Ham later wrote that Answers in Genesis “will not, however, send out such a kumbaya message,” by fellowshipping with compromisers.

Part 3 — Hugh Ross respondsAmbassadors for Reconciliation — Hugh Ross is a gracious man, but is obviously disturbed by the discord sewn by those who villainize old-Earth Christians.

“One way we can help people receive our message of reconciliation with God is by modeling reconciliation among ourselves. John 13:35 says, “All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” And yet, although creation beliefs hold a core position in our Christian faith (Hebrews 11:6), no other subject exposes a greater lack of love among believers. Some creationists treat fellow believers with ugly, disparaging disdain.”

“Enough is enough. There are mission fields still to be reached. How can we ask nonbelievers to dialogue with us if we cannot graciously dialogue with one another, if we treat one another as enemies? Unless we make some progress in reconciling our differences, how can we expect to help reconcile a skeptical world to Christ? We are commissioned by God to be His ambassadors. It’s time for us to start behaving as ambassadors.”

It seems strange that someone like Ken Ham can interact graciously with Christians who disagree with him on issues such as eschatology, predestination, baptism, or spiritual gifts without condemning those who disagree with him as “compromisers,” and yet when it comes to a secondary issue such as the age of the Earth (which is an issue of interpretation, not biblical authority), he cannot even have dinner with those who differ from him.

I must add that my limited personal interaction with Ken Ham has been cordial: Do Old Earthers and Young Earthers Agree On Anything?

A Hundred Inverted Smiley Faces — I had moderate success viewing today’s partial solar eclipse with a shoebox pinhole camera and by projecting the eclipse onto the patio with my binoculars. But when I walked back into the house, I was welcomed by hundreds of solar eclipse images on the floor, steps, and walls. Gaps in our horizontal blinds acted as pinhole cameras and projected a multitude of eclipse images:


Around the web 7/4/2014 — Science curricula, ichthyosaurs, and antipodes

A promising alternative for science in Christian schools and home schools? — Christian educators generally have had two choices when looking for secondary-level science curricula — young-Earth creationist material or secular curriculum packages. When I was a high school science teacher, I always opted for the secular. It was much easier to integrate biblical principles into the “secular” textbook than to undo all of the really bad science (and some pretty questionable biblical interpretation) found in the YEC materials. I just stumbled across a link to Novare Science and Math. Here’s what they say about the age of the Earth:

Finally, virtually every Christian science textbook publisher is overtly committed to an agenda of rejecting mainstream scientific evidence pertaining to the age of the earth. For both Biblical and scientific reasons, we believe it is time to put this debate behind us. We find the literalistic model of an earth approximately 10,000 years old to be not only not necessitated by the soundest principles of Biblical exegesis, but to be in conflict with the “other book” of God’s revelation: the creation itself. From Psalm 19 and other passages we believe the creation reveals the glory of the Lord. Since scripture and creation both come from the same God, they cannot be in conflict. And when both are rightly understood, they won’t.

Does anyone know anything about Novare?

Icthyosaurs eat YEC arguments for breakfast — Naturalis Historia blog has had a consistent stream of great articles. For example, in When Marine Reptiles Ruled the Sea: Huge Ichthyosaur Fossil Find and the Age of Reptiles, biology professor Joel Duff outlines the serious problems young-Earth creationists have with Mesozoic marine reptiles, such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. Marine reptiles had similar ecological niches as do Cenozoic cetaceans (whales and dolphins), but the two are never found together. Cetaceans have never been found in Mesozoic strata, and the large marine reptiles have never been found in Cenozoic strata. If the standard YEC attempts to explain the nature of the fossil record were valid, one would expect some mixing of these organisms to occur in the fossil record. YECs try to explain the order in which fossils occur in the geologic column with a combination of differential mobility and ecological zonation, but these processes completely fail to explain why marine reptiles are always stratigraphically lower than cetaceans, and why the two are never found together. An even greater difficulty is that it is not just individual organisms that must remain sorted during the flood, but entire ecosystems.

The problem with YEC is biblical as well as scientific — Here’s a good 30-minute presentation on why young-Earth creationism is not Biblical:

Did you know where your antipode is? — When I was a child, I was told that if I dug deep enough, I’d reach China. Actually, if I dug straight down, I’d come up in the Indian Ocean near the snow capped Kerguelen Islands (we can ignore the inconvenient problems of digging through Earth’s mantle and core). If you don’t know where your antipode is, this dual map will nail it for you: Antipode Map (AKA Tunnel Map).

Persecution of Christians continues — from CNN: Extremism fuels abuse of Christians in Mideast. The atrocities that make the news–such as the acts of Boko Haram in Nigeria–are just the tip of the world-wide iceberg of religious persecution.

Around the web 2/18/2014 — Christian scientists (that is, scientists who are Christians) refute some YEC arguments

TURNING A YEC ARGUMENT ON ITS HEAD — Young-Earth creationists like to tout soft tissues preserved in the fossil record as one of their prime evidences for a young Earth. A closely related issue is the preservation of ancient complex biomolecules, such as DNA, in the fossil record. The Natural Historian blog brilliantly turns this argument around as an evidence against young-Earth creationism: Young Earth Creationism and Ancient DNA. If Noah’s flood was global and created the fossil record (something the Bible nowhere states), and if it occurred only 4300 years ago, then preserved DNA ought to be fairly easy to find throughout the geologic column, from Cambrian through Neogene. It isn’t.

TURN IT ON ITS HEAD AGAIN! — The Natural Historian does it again: Rapid Burial Allows Preservation of a Hadrosaur Fleshy Head Comb.

Rather, what struck me about this rooster-like comb on this hadrosaur is that its existence is more of curse than a blessing for YEC apologists.  How can that be? Well, where I convinced that a global flood 4 to 6 thousand years ago were responsible for all the dinosaur fossils, then I should EXPECT to find soft tissues preserved to some extent as the norm rather than the exception to the rule. Why? Because the special conditions that are required for preservation of soft tissues like those found in this hadrosaur are just the kind that should have been produced by a global flood.  Combine those conditions with its having happened only a few thousand years ago and you have to ask, why don’t we find skin impressions, remains of feathers, and other impressions of large organs (like these combs) and gobs of biomolecules throughout the dinosaur fossil record?

What I am saying is that if you asked a priori what you would expect to see in the fossil record had a flood destroyed all living flesh from the face of the earth in a short period of time and deposited all those organisms in what we call the geological record?  I would expect to find a majority or at least a significant number of dinosaurs to be represented as complete skeletons. I would not expect to find rampant evidence of scavenging and given the fast burial I would expect to find the impressions of many parts of their bodies not just their bones since they would have been covered with their flesh intact.  Since this happened not long ago I would expect to find very abundant biomolecules, possibly even intact DNA in the material around the bones, and especially in the bones, even if cells themselves were no longer present.

As I pointed out before this is not what we find in the fossil record. We find some but not much evidence of biomolecules and few cases of soft tissue preservation even if be only the impression of where soft tissues once laid.   Just look at mammoths and mastodons from the fossil record. Some of these have abundant cells, DNA, hair and sometimes cellular tissues preserved. If these biomolecules could survive for 4000 years then why shouldn’t animals killed in Noah’s flood just a few hundred years earlier not also be expected to be preserved in a similar fashion?

HOW BILL NYE WOULD HAVE RESPONDED TO HAM IF NYE WERE A GEOCHRONOLOGIST — “45 thousand-year-old fossil wood encased in 45 million-year-old basalt”: Conflict Revisited, from Questioning Answers in Genesis.

Ken Ham’s appeal to young fossil wood within old basalt may have caught Bill Nye off guard, but his claim remains unsubstantiated. The actual radiocarbon ages of this fossil wood were not reproducible by independent labs within analytical uncertainty, suggesting that contamination and/or background interference was responsible for much of the detected radiocarbon. Recent advances in AMS radiocarbon dating have focused on how to account for the fact that contamination is always introduced during sample preparation and how to correct for various kinds of background interference. Regardless, radiocarbon ages close to the practical limit of the method are always treated with some suspicion.

THE SAD STATE OF SCIENCE LITERACY — 1 in 4 Americans Apparently Unaware the Earth Orbits the Sun. I would guess that it is even worse than this, as many of those who answered correctly just flipped a  coin.

Grace and Peace

Around the web 11/18/2013 — More on salt magmas, more atheists convert to Christ, and more…

CARBONATE ≠ CARBONATITE! — Back in March, I wrote a critique of a young-Earth creationist proposal that evaporite deposits, such as thick layers of halite (rock salt), were actually formed during Noah’s flood by crystallization from gigantic eruptions of salt lavas. I would have ignored this proposal completely if it had come from the fringe of the YEC movement, but it was published in one of their leading “peer-reviewed” journals, and endorsed by one of the leading YEC geologists. The author, Stef Heerema, has written a response to my critique on the website: Clarifying the magmatic model for the origin of salt deposits. I don’t think Mr. Heerema scored a single point. A response to the response will be coming soon.

ANOTHER BRIGHT ATHEIST/AGNOSTIC COMES TO FAITH IN CHRIST — From Christianity Today: Fox News’ Highly Reluctant Jesus Follower. This is the story of Kirsten Powers.

If there was one thing in which I was completely secure, it was that I would never adhere to any religion—especially to evangelical Christianity, which I held in particular contempt.

ANOTHER ATHEIST TELLS HIS STORY — From atheism to Christianity: a personal journey, by Philip Vander Elst.

And once again closer scrutiny of the facts forced me to abandon my old prejudices against Christianity.

HT: Jay Wile

GOOD CREATION BOOKS — Naturalis Historia has a good list of books on the biblical doctrine of creation: Modern creation debate books.

IS IT TIME FOR EVANGELICALS TO RETHINK BIRTH CONTROL? – I hold abortion to be a great evil. But like most Protestants, I have been more ambivalent about non-abortive birth control. But I’m not so sure about that anymore. Here’s a Roman Catholic perspective on birth control: Time To Admit It: The Church Has Always Been Right On Birth Control.

The Church teaches that love, marriage, sex, and procreation are all things that belong together. That’s it. But it’s pretty important. And though the Church has been teaching this for 2,000 years, it’s probably never been as salient as today.

Today’s injunctions against birth control were re-affirmed in a 1968 document by Pope Paul VI called Humanae Vitae. He warned of four results if the widespread use of contraceptives was accepted:

  1.  General lowering of moral standards
  2. A rise in infidelity, and illegitimacy
  3. The reduction of women to objects used to satisfy men.
  4. Government coercion in reproductive matters.

Does that sound familiar?

Because it sure sounds like what’s been happening for the past 40 years.

Grace and Peace


Around the web 10/16/2013 — the latest Jesus conspiracy theory and YEC attacks on old-Earth Christians

AN INVENTED JESUS? — The media has started giving publicity to the latest Jesus conspiracy theory: Story of Jesus Christ was ‘fabricated to pacify the poor’, claims controversial Biblical scholar: Christianity was a sophisticated government propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of a the Roman Empire, claims scholar.

So, the Romans invented a story in which Roman soldiers crucified the peaceful leader of a new religion to make themselves more palpable to their subjects? I don’t think so.

Parchment and Pen has an introductory analysis: Ancient Confession Found: ‘We Invented Jesus Christ’ (Hint: no “ancient confession” has been found).

Also see Never Read a Press Release Headline at Stand to Reason Blog.

FROM THE “OLD-EARTHERS ARE IN LEAGUE WITH THE DEVIL” CLUB — Here’s an excerpt from a loving note from the head of the Creation Science Hall of Fame:

Dear Creationists & Friends,

Hugh Ross must be stopped! He has caused many good Christians to stumble. I have witnessed good Christian Churches argue over the interpretations of Genesis more than any other topic. I have now witnessed good Christian Churches that have broken up directly as a result of Hugh Ross teaching a mixture of evolution and Christianity.

The Bible teaches us to judge other Christians by their fruits. Hugh Ross has no fruits, but he has caused many Christians to stumble in their faith. He is causing so much harm among Christians all over the world and he must be stopped. Evil is using him in a great way.


It seems that to the folks at the Creation Science Hall of Fame, the age of the Earth is more important than the gospel, Christian unity, truth, or love.

HT: Old Earth Ministries: Creation Science Hall of Shame

WHO’S FAULT IS IT? — Another YEC who blasts old-Earthers, of course, is Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis. Here’s what Mr. Ham recently wrote about Daniel Hamlin, a member of a Nazarene church, who had written a testimony about how evidence for biological evolution had caused him to have a crisis of faith:

Well, Hamlin shares that when he began reading about evolutionary ideas, he came to the conclusion that “Christianity is a lie and I’ve been duped.” He believed he had been “deceived” by Christian leaders, and he writes that he “chose science and for a time questioned the existence of God.” Wow! Those kinds of statements really demonstrate the way evolutionary ideas can undermine the authority of the Word of God and the gospel. Hamlin’s automatic conclusion was that Christianity had to be false if evolution and millions of years were true—these things are mutually exclusive!

So here’s what happened:

  1. Christian hears “If the Earth is old, then Christianity is false” (or if evolution is true, then Christianity is false).
  2. Christian learns that there is plenty of evidence for an old Earth, or for biological evolution.
  3. Christian concludes that Christianity might be false.

So who’s fault is it? I would say these crises of faith are due primarily to the bad science and false dichotomies presented by the YECs.

Read Hamlin’s story: Evolution and Faith: My Journey Thus Far.

Around the web 10/4/2013 — Super-duper fast volcanoes, dashing dinos, pornography, powerful forgiveness, and more

KEN HAM, PROFESSING CHRISTIAN? — To Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham, any Christian who disagrees with young-Earth creationism is a compromiser who undermines the authority of the Bible. In a recent blog post—Never-ending List of Christians Who Compromise—Ham wrote about a Christian biology professor who is an advocate for theistic evolution, referring to him as “Dr. Jeffrey Schloss, a professing Christian.” I know from previous experience that many young-Earth creationists would blow their tops if I started referring to YEC leaders such as Ham as “professing Christians.” But for some reason Ken Ham gets off the hook.

GIANT VOLCANOES BUILT SUPER-DUPER FAST — Tas Walker’s BiblicalGeology blog has an article on a recently described Large Igneous Province (LIP) in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, known as the Tamu Massif. Walker’s article is The Tamu Massif, the largest single volcano on earth, erupted during Noah’s Flood. One problem with Walker’s proposal is that LIPs tend to be complex features that defy explanation in terms of the single-emplacement models that are required in the very short time frame of the YECs.  This ties into one of the basic problems with YEC flood geology: too many events, too little time. Near the end of the article, Walker writes, “If these scientists who are so puzzled would read their Bibles and take what they read seriously it would all make sense.” I take my Bible seriously, and I am confident that it does not say anything about Cretaceous volcanism. Like most YECs, Walker is reading a lot of stuff into both the Bible and Earth history that simply is not there.

RUN DINO RUN — Walker also writes about dinosaur footprints in Alaska: Dinosaurs caught fleeing rising waters of Noah’s Flood along the Yukon River, Alaska. “Footprints like this are classic evidence for the Inundatory stage of Noah’s Flood, in particular the period as the waters were approaching their peak.” So, even though many areas where dinosaur footprints are found are underlain by many hundreds of meters of earlier sedimentary rocks that cover tens or hundreds of thousands of square kilometers, the YECs want us to believe that dinosaurs somehow survived in some refuge and then had the energy to go on long walks more than half way through the flood? Fortunately, the Bible does not require me to believe such stuff. I’ve written about dinosaur footprints before: Dinosaur footprints part 4.

SEASONED WITH SALT — Speaking of Tas, I have now had some correspondence with Tas and Stef Heerema, author of the article I critiqued earlier this year on salt magmas. They have been very cordial, but haven’t presented anything that will make me revise anything I wrote.

YECS WILL NEED MORE INVERTED REASONING FOR THIS ONE — Naturalis Historia presents an excellent three-part series on inverted valleys in Utah. An example of an inverted valley is when a lava flow fills a river valley, and then because the volcanic rocks are more resistant to erosion than the surrounding sediments, the sinuous lava flow that was once in a valley becomes a ridge. In the third part in the series, there is a list of all the events that would have to happen in a very short period of time if YEC were true. Once again, too many events, too little time. See The Exhumed Paleochannels of Utah and MarsAncient Lava Flows and Inverted Valleys in Utah, and Inverted Valleys – A Question of Age.

HAVING ISSUES WITH ISSUES ETC. — I think Issues Etc. is one of the two best programs on Christian radio (the other being White Horse Inn). When I lived in St. Louis I regularly listened to Pastor Todd Wilken on IE during my afternoon commute home, and I miss that. But… every once in a while Wilken would get on the topic of the age of the Earth, and there is only One True Interpretation of Genesis in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and that is young-Earth creationism. J.W. Wartick has written a nice response to Wilken: Responding to “Nine Questions for the Old Earth Creationist”.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUR PORNO CULTURE — There is a growing understanding among secular people that pornography is a great threat to our children. As an example, read through the disturbing article by Martin Daubney, former editor of a semi-porn “mens” magazine in Britain: Experiment that convinced me online porn is the most pernicious threat facing children today. Someday I’ll incorporate this into the “sexual argument for the existence of God.”

FORGIVENESS AS A CHRISTIAN WITNESS — I read three powerful stories this week that testify about the power of forgiveness in Christ:

Grace and Peace

Around the web 9/14/2013

LETS MAKE A DEAL? — A lot of atheists like of Richard Dawkins; many others find him to be an embarrassment (here and here). A lot of Christians like ____________; many others find him to be an embarrassment. Rachel Held Evans suggests that both Christians and atheists stop using silly statements from the other side as representative of that side:

As tempting as it is to classify Dawkins’ views as representative of all atheists, I can’t bring myself to do it. I can’t bring myself to do it because I know just how frustrating and unfair it is when atheists point to the most extreme, vitriolic voices within Christianity and proclaim that they are representative of the whole. So, atheists, I say we make a deal: How about we Christians agree not to throw this latest Richard Dawkins thing in your face and you atheists agree not to throw the next Pat Robertson thing in ours?

I want (and often achieve) respectful dialog with atheists. The problem is that there are plenty of atheists out there who listen to Richard Dawkins (and end up sounding like comment #8 in my post on the cosmological argument) , just as there are plenty of Christians out there who listen to silly, unbiblical statements from ____________.

A better solution would be to continue to critique the belligerent and often middle-schoolish arguments of some of the “new atheists” but to not lump all atheists in with them.

FORGIVENESS FOR ATHEISTS? — Pope Francis also wants respectful dialog with atheists: Pope Francis tells atheists to ‘obey their conscience.’  What’s missing from the Pope’s statement on forgiveness for atheists? Jesus. That is why I’m a Protestant.

VOYAGER 1 OUT OF SOLAR SYSTEM? — I guess it is hard to say what really defines the edge of the solar system, but NASA scientists think Voyager 1 has finally crossed the line (CNN — Voyager 1 becomes first human-made object to leave solar system). It is past the Kuiper belt (sort of a second asteroid belt out past Neptune), but nowhere near being past the hypothetical Oort cloud.

One of the most amazing things is that we can detect signals from the Voyager probes as they approach 20 billion kilometers away from Earth. Here’s the description of the signal from the NASA/JPL Voyager page:

The sensitivity of our deep-space tracking antennas located around the world is truly amazing. The antennas must capture Voyager information from a signal so weak that the power striking the antenna is only 10 exponent -16 watts (1 part in 10 quadrillion). A modern-day electronic digital watch operates at a power level 20 billion times greater than this feeble level.

GEO WRESTLING – I missed this when it was posted, but better late than never. J.W. Wartick summarizes a debate between Gregg Davidson (old-Earth Christian geologist) and Andrew Snelling (YEC geologist for Answers in Genesis) — Gregg Davidson vs. Andrew Snelling on the Age of the Earth. The debate occurred at the November 2012 meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

Snelling is probably the world’s leading YEC geologist, and is better at his geology than most YECs, but he is still trying to fit the square peg of YEC flood geology into the round hole of geological reality. I discussed his arguments for flood geology a few years ago: Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis.

DID THE ASTRO-FROG CROAK? — Probably. CNN’s report on Rocket frog takes a flying leap tells the story.

STEALTHY SKYSCRAPER? — Is building an invisible skyscraper near a busy international airport really a good idea? Read about it at World’s first ‘invisible’ tower.

Grace and Peace