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WHATS IN THIS BLOG:
Three positions for Genesis believers.
Young Earth Creation (YEC).
Theistic Evolution.
(Evolution of birds from dinosaurs plus DNA evidence for evolution).
Old Earth Progressive Creation.
Each position has a dilemma.

This is the third part of a three-part series on creation and evolution. It’s a mix of science and spiritual. The subject here is personal belief, and how your belief compares with others. As always, I use as much data and facts as possible.

THREE POSITIONS FOR GENESIS BELIEVERS. If you believe in biblical truth AND you believe in science, you fall into one of three positions, as laid out in a book by Hal Reed and Duane Thurman called How to Think about Evolution (2015). It’s a carefully researched book, not yet published, by two biology professors. We have drawn from this book, and provided excerpts below.

Figure 1. Noah’s Ark in Kentucky. Source: https://arkencounter.com/

The three positions are:
(1) Young-earth creation.
(2) Theistic evolution (evolutionary creation).
(3) Old earth progressive creation.
A fourth position, called Intelligent design does not include God.

All three positions support biblical truth. But they vary in their interpretation of Genesis chapters 1-12. All three positions face dilemmas, which we talk about below.

(1) YOUNG EARTH CREATION (YEC).
What we believe about God’s word will determine what we believe about science.
[Ken Ham]

• In Figure 1, the Ark in Kentucky is a full-sized replica. The length of the ark is 170 yards (one and a half football fields), and its height is 7 stories.
• Included in the ark are models of dinosaurs, as well as Noah’s family. Wait…..dinosaurs were in the ark? Yes.
• Plus explanations of the creation story. But which creation story?

The story presented in the Ark is that God made the earth in 6 literal days of 24 hours each day. And this was just 6,000 years ago. The long dates of deep time from science are not accepted. Finally, God created the first two humans.

This position accepts the inerrancy of scripture over modern science, and the inerrancy is based on a literal interpretation of Genesis chapters 1-12.

The YEC position contends that all fossil layers and geological strata, all over the world, are a result of Noah’s flood in Genesis, which occurred 4,500 years ago. The flood also caused the Grand Canyon in USA, when a huge dam located above the Grand Canyon suddenly broke.

Major proponents of the YEC position include Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis Institute (who organized the Ark in Kentucky), and the Creation Research Society.

Figure 2. Tree ring dates are consistent with lake varve dates and carbon-14 dates. Lake varve counts go back 50,000 years. Source: Gregg Davidson and Ken Wolgemuth, Biblical and Scientific Shortcomings of Flood Geology, Part 4 (tree rings plus varves), 2012.

THE DILEMMA OF YOUNG EARTH CREATION.
Tree ring counts go back 14,000 years and lake varve counts go back 50,000 years. The dilemma is that science says the earth can’t be younger than 50,000 years. Do we trust the science? The reliability of these dates was discussed in Part 2 of this series on Creation-Evolution.

(2) THEISTIC EVOLUTION
If God created science, how can science not be true? [Oral Roberts]

At the other extreme, we find the position of Theistic Evolution, where deep time dates from science are accepted. For example, the earth is 4.5 billion years old. Part 2 of this series discusses deep time.

In this view, God was involved in and created the world by evolutionary processes. God is the creator of all things, using biological processes that he developed.

God created these processes and allowed them to progress over billions of years to form past and present biota, including humans.

God is involved via the processes that he created, and perhaps even guided which is called directed evolution.

Figure 3. A feathered dinosaur called zhenyuanlong discovered in China recently. Click image to enlarge or to source.
Another feathered dinosaur, the size of a sparrow, is the subject of a recent blog of mine (click HERE).

EVOLUTION OF BIRDS FROM DINOSAURS.
This topic is about transitions between life-forms. The absence of transition forms has in the past been used as an argument against evolution. The following is excerpted from a website Evolution is True by Dr Jerry Coyne:
• The dinosaurs with feathers (see Figure 3) are exactly what we expect for transitional forms.
• They have a largely dinosaurian skeleton but birdlike feathers, and moreover, appeared in deep time well after theropod dinosaurs (the presumed ancestor) but before modern birds appeared.
• Further, the fossils become less dinosaurian and more birdlike as one gets to more recent strata. Whether one calls these “birds” or “dinosaurs” is a matter of taste.
• The important thing is that they are exactly the transitional forms we expect, and they appeared at exactly the time they should have if dinosaurs evolved into birds.

We have fossil records of many transitional forms: not just those from reptiles to birds,
but also from reptiles to mammals, amphibians to reptiles, terrestrial mammals to whales,
and from early hominins that had small brains, big teeth, and walked on their knuckles to the more cerebral and gracile species of Homo Sapiens.

All of these, and newer evidence from genetics as well (see below), attest to the truth of evolution.

DR FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR OF NIH IN THE USA, HAS WRITTEN AN EXCELLENT BOOK called The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (2006). Here are some quotations from the book about evolution, and belief in God. Collins was a manager of the famous Human Genome Project which was completed in the year 2000.

No serious biologist today doubts the theory of evolution to explain the marvelous complexity and diversity of life. In fact, the relatedness of all species through the mechanism of evolution is such a profound foundation for the understanding of all biology that it is difficult to imagine how one would study life without it…

Evolution, as a mechanism, can be and must be true. But that says nothing about the nature of its author. For those who believe in God, there are reasons now to be more in awe, not less…

A profound consequence of the study of multiple genomes has been the ability to do detailed comparisons of our own DNA sequence with that of other organisms. Using a computer, one can pick a certain stretch of human DNA and assess whether there is a similar sequence in some other species. If one picks the coding region of a human gene (that is, the part that contains the instructions for a protein), and uses that for the search, there will nearly always be a highly significant match to the genomes of other mammals. Many genes will also show discernible but imperfect matches to fish. Some will even find matches to the genomes of simpler organisms such as fruit flies and roundworms… [87% of human DNA is the same as that of chimpanzees.]

Dr Francis Collins, director of NIH, physician-geneticist.

What does all this mean? At two different levels, it provides powerful support for Darwin’s theory of evolution, that is, descent from a common ancestor with natural selection operating on randomly occurring variations. At the level of the genome as a whole, a computer can construct a tree of life based solely upon the similarities of the DNA sequences of multiple organisms. Yet its similarity to conclusions drawn from studies of comparative anatomy, both of existent organisms and of fossilized remains, is striking…

So here is the central question of this book: In this modern era of cosmology, evolution, and the human genome, is there still the possibility of a richly satisfying harmony between the scientific and spiritual worldviews? I answer with a resounding yes! In my view, there is no conflict in being a rigorous scientist and a person who believes in a God who takes a personal interest in each one of us.

THE DILEMMA OF THEISTIC EVOLUTION.
Science explanations for evolution of species from primitive life-forms are compelling. But be aware the argument (by extrapolation) that the cosmos and life are merely products of natural causes. Such arguments are misdirected and would diminish God’s involvement.

It’s helpful to recall that science explanations are inadequate for the following (see Part 1 of this series):
• What existed before the big-bang (the science is unconvincing, my opinion)
• The origin of life on earth from inanimate matter (the science is non-existent)
• The origin of human consciousness (science has no consensus)

(3) OLD EARTH PROGRESSIVE CREATION
• The earth is ancient based on geological evidence…. 4.5 billion years old.
• Organisms and their molecular components are too complex to have been created by ultra-slow, step-wise Darwinian evolution.
• God formed adult organisms representing the major body forms during direct creative periods throughout earth’s history. For example, the Cambrian “explosion” which started 530 million years ago and lasted only 10 million years – see Figure 4. God is invoked to explain this “punctuated equilibrium” model of evolutionary change which is attributed to Stephen Jay Gould (rapid change in life-forms followed by long quiescent periods of little change).
• Humans are a special creation by God.

Figure 4. Ultra-short time period of Cambrian explosion – only 10 million years. Number of phyla (different body-forms) jumped from about 5 to 100 in this short time. Click to enlarge or to source.

THE DILEMMA OF OLD EARTH PROGRESSIVE CREATION.
If God acts as a designer in this way, why not design the world all at once? Why intermittent intrusions into the world’s creation? This is sometimes referred to as God-of-the-gaps. But if God is invoked to explain sudden leaps of evolution, such as the Cambrian explosion, the risk is that science will eventually find an explanation that will close the gap and squeeze God out.

If God appears periodically, He disappears periodically.
If He comes upon the scene at special crises, He is absent from the scene in the intervals….
The idea of an immanent God, which is the God of evolution, is infinitely grander than the occasional Wonder-worker…
[Henry Drummond, a Scottish biologist and evangelist, circa 1890s]

Supporters of Old Earth Progressive Creation include astrophysicist Hugh Ross, and his Reasons to Believe organization.

TAKEAWAY.
Science’s domain is to explore nature. God’s domain is in the spiritual world, a realm not possible to explore with the tools and language of science. It must be examined with the heart, the mind, and the soul. [Francis Collins]
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For more information about the book How to Think about Evolution you may contact Dr Hal Reed, professor of biology at Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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The Gray Nomad ….. think well and stay informed.
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It is humbling for me, and awe-inspiring, to realize that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God. [Francis Collins announcing the decoding of the human genome in 2000]
Belief in God can be an entirely rational choice, and the principles of faith are, in fact, complementary with the principles of science. [Francis Collins]

Leave a Reply

8 Responses to Creation and Evolution, Part 3: What do you believe?

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  2. Ian, thanks for putting this series together. I at some point came to believe that any serious scientist couldn’t deny the existence of God. Your research and celebrating of the various bits of knowledge helps reinforce my belief. It would appear I believe in a mix of Theistic Evolution and Old Earth Progressive Creation, particularly the lack of science for certain aspects pointed out at the end of your Theistic section. Why is consciousness needed for the non-God theories? Only humans and some minimal level in some animals have it?

    • Hi Kevin. “Why is consciousness needed for the non-God theories?” If you mean why is consciousness important for evolution sans God (without God), I think its a challenge for evolution to explain why only humans evolved to have higher levels of consciousness (after all, 87% of human DNA is the same as that of chimpanzees.) IMO, its much simpler to attribute formation of human consciousness to God.

  3. Hi Ian,
    Your research is quite mind-boggling but I stumble at the first hurdle – Genesis. I have bypassed the first book for years because my logical (and simple) brain just can’t believe that it only took seven 24 hour days to create the Earth. I reason that, if God has been around forever, then He is not going to rush things into a seven-day time frame. I have reasoned that a God-day could be millions of years and that science is probably nearer the mark in placing an estimate of 4.5 billion years compared to a Biblical age of 6,000 years. I believe that animals have been evolving, mutating and disappearing for whatever reason, e.g. an Ice Age, for millions of years and that humans are just new kids on the block. Lets face it Ian, if humans were created only 50,000 years ago, they would have destroyed the Earth 10 times over by now!
    But I do believe in a Creator God – how and when it all came into being is a mystery. And I think we can spend so much time wanting to know why – when it will always be a mystery. When God is no longer a mystery, then Man becomes his own God and we are in deep trouble.

    • Thanks Bob for your thoughtful comment. I think your “reasoning” is shared by many people. Mentally, it’s very difficult to compress 4.5 billion years into 6,000 years for a young-earth creation. One writer said it would be like walking into a Dennys restaurant that’s been there for years and believing that everyone and everything in there was created only one hour ago.

  4. I enjoyed reading your blog on creation and evolution. I learned a lot about the different views. Each view one accepts is based on FAITH, whether you consider yourself a scientist or a theologian. But it was interesting to read your reviews of the different approaches.
    Thanks for all the study you have put into this and for sharing it on your blog.

    • Hi Don, as my brother remarked, its a rich subject. My goal was to add some clarity to the subject. Along the way I found it intensely stimulating. Really glad I took it on. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Mary Ann Pollock |

    Ian this is very interesting and it sure gives me something to think about. I have always believed in a pre-Adamite world. Since the DNA in humans and chimpanzees is close, does evolution mean that chimpanzees and humans come from the same ancestor???????

    • My understanding of evolutionary biology is that humans and chimps come from the same ancestor — its one part of a family tree. Just like dogs and wolves and coyotes are another part of the family tree, and they arose from one ancestor. This is called common descent. Now I believe that man (homo sapiens) was created by God to be unique in the animal kingdom (made in the image of God, as stated in Genesis). This is the subject of consciousness as discussed in Part 1 of this series. If one believes in Genesis and evolution, then God must have intervened somewhere to make homo sapiens unique (in His image). When, I do not know. I do know homo sapiens has been around for 300,000 years, according to paleontologists. But maybe God intervened much more recently than this — possibly even within the last 10,000 years.

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