Writing is something that I am trying to do more of. One of the ways I have tried achieve that is by signing myself up for on line learning courses, such as those available through Coursera. One of the reasons I like to write this way is that there is a course schedule and it forces me to make time to write. If I didn’t do that I’d never write anything. It is a double edged sword though because time spent on the course is time not spent on my own projects, including blogging. However, it also forces me into maintaining a habit and I have found that after working on an assignment, I then find I have the motivation and presence to do my own work, something that would not have happened if I hadn’t already spent a couple of hours on a course assignment.
I’ve done a couple of courses that take a similar structure and the peer review process is interesting. Some students review well and give excellent constructive feedback. Some tone their negative comments poorly and some are clearly reviewing to a ticking clock and are too rushed to put in the effort that the work they are reviewing deserves. Sadly, I find myself in the latter category too often, which is a shame as some students to submit good pieces that are worth reading. There are of course submissions are are not that great and it is difficult to be constructive with these and they can kill the motivation to carry on.
All in, I find the courses a challenge and I get more out of them by putting in the practice and and being focussed on doing the work than by actually counting my grades and hunting good reviews.
The course I am currently doing is focused towards academic writing and I was free to choose the subject. I decided to title my essay, Examining Creationism and I have just submitted it for peer review and grading by a random and anonymous selection of fellow course participants. One commenter on my draft submission suggested I might want to pick a different subject, one which was less controversial. I did change the focus of my essay as a result, the original draft was generalistic and commented about religion, this essay is more specific. I am looking forward to seeing what reviews I get.
So, for the pleasure of my readers, I have copied the text of my essay below, I have removed the header and title section, but left the essay text and citation references.
Enjoy, and feel free to give your own feedback.
Creationism is a brand of Christianity that interprets parts of the Bible literally. Specifically, this refers to the creation account in the opening chapters of Genesis. More broadly, this extends to other events such a global flood and the tower of Babel, both also in Genesis. Outside of Genesis there are events such as the Parting of the Red Sea in Exodus, Elisha ascending to Heaven in a fiery chariot in Kings, the Sun being commanded to stop moving in the sky in Joshua and the resurrection of Jesus in the Gospels of the New Testament. These are by no means an exhaustive list of seemingly impossible events recorded in the Bible, but they are among the most well-known.
What makes belief in a literal six day creation, as described in the Bible, most critical is that it puts this creation event at less than 10,000 years ago (Hodge, 2007), which directly opposes the sciences of biology, geology and astronomy which all put the age of Earth as significantly older. Current understanding is that Earth is about 4.5 billion years old (Redd, 2014), the universe is older still.
Human scientific investigation over the past 100 years has brought huge advances in understanding and knowledge, from how DNA makes us unique (Craig Freudenrich) to what makes a star explode in a supernova (Thompson, 2009). Understanding the world and the universe about us has been at the heart of human curiosity for the entire existence of our species and it should be with excitement and enthusiasm that we accept new understanding of something that was once a mystery.
This is the point at which Creationism and scientific progress meet head on. For the creationist, anything which contradicts the literal interpretation of the bible has to be wrong. The argument stops being one of evidence and rationality and instead becomes one of entrenched viewpoints and interpretation. This stops a meaningful dialog being held and the result is that the rhetoric of the opposing sides becomes increasingly dismissive.
Evolutionary science is a good example of this; Ever since Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Walace first presented their ideas of Natural Selection (Berkeley), scientists have been studying, testing and developing what we now know as the theory of evolution. In the intervening 150 years scientists have studied all aspects of Evolution, from digging up huge fossils to examining the components of DNA. The conclusion that scientists have come to, as a result of all this study, is that all life is related as a result of species adapting and changing over time.
Scientists are confident that these changes have happened over millions of years and that these changes have produced the many differing species we see today (Brain). Creationists don’t accept evolution because it contradicts the notion is special creation. The creation account of Genesis explicitly says that the Christian God created each animal as it appears today and it is for this reason that creationists won’t accept the scientific evidence for evolution. This firmly held belief and rejection of scientific evidence leaves no room for dialog with other religions or with the sciences that produce the evidence.
The issue for the creationist is more than just believing what the Bible says about creation over the steady advancement of scientific discovery. It is much more fundamental than that and touches on the basic Christian salvation message.
In order for the Christian to claim salvation through Jesus, there has to be the concept of original sin. This original sin came through Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and is a critical part of the creation account because Adam and Eve are seen as the parents of the whole human race. However, the story is highly doubtful as an historical account because human genetics shows that our lineage does not meet as a single couple anywhere in history (Barras, 2013). This is a critical blow because without a real Adam and Eve there is no original sin and there is no point in Jesus dying on the cross. Creationists know this and so anything that contradicts the creation account in Genesis is discarded or explained away.
In an effort to try and solve this dilemma, some, more liberal, Christians will take the view that Adam and Eve were a leadership couple over an extended population of humans (Christianity Today, 2011). The difficulty with ideas like this is that it adds information and interpretation to Biblical accounts. Some Christians have gone even further and suggest that the resurrection of Jesus was not a physical resurrection but instead he lives on in the hearts and minds of Christians today (Robinson, 2008). The question which must then be asked is; how much is it acceptable to change the Bible and our understanding of its intended meaning? When Christians disagree on critical areas like this, one wonders how the basis of the faith can have any relevance today. Doesn’t interpreting the story of the fall of man in the light of scientific evidence pollute the story to the point that the entirety of the dependent narrative becomes null and void?
The whole basis of the Christian faith relies on the belief that the Bible is the inspired word of God (Kraft, 2008). At its most basic, the Christian narrative is that the universe was created by God. Humans are the pinnacle of that creation and as such it is our duty to worship God (Ritenbaugh, 2000) and care for His creation (White, 2006). Christians say that man has failed in this duty and the punishment for this failure is to not spend eternity with God. In order to save his loved creation from this fate God sacrificed His begotten son, Jesus, to take the punishment and provide a path by which all of mankind can once again spend eternity worshiping his creator. The wider Christian message hinges on this sequence of events; if a Christian is to accept that they didn’t happen, or are interpreted as poetic stories, this must surely question the existence of the Christian God.
Fable or Truth
Creationists know these arguments and they know that doubting the existence of Adam and Eve as a literal couple has long reaching effects on the authenticity and reliability of the Bible. The reason creationists are so keen to promote and defend the creation story against the onslaught of science is more to do with defending their belief position than it is to do with learning new science. If one was to accept the argument that the Adam and Eve story is an anecdotal account of creation, designed to demonstrate God’s creative power and man’s fallenness; then one question that needs to be answered is where does it stop? At what point in the bible does the fable stop and the truth begin? More importantly, what is it about the Christian creation account that makes Christianity true and not any of the other creation beliefs? What is it that makes the Christian God more real than any other if the very start of the religion is only a fable? For the Christian who accepts the science of evolution and the big bang start to the universe, there is the uncomfortable truth that there is no reality in the story that is the very seed of their faith. Its validity is therefore no better than any other religion. This in turn means that the Christian God is no more real than any other god from any other religion. Since they can’t all be right, the logical conclusion is that they all must be wrong. The creationist believes in a literal creation account because they have to, not because it is true.
Creationists today accept that the sun is the centre of our solar system. There was a time in history when the general belief was that the sun and the other planets all orbited earth and that the Bible supported that notion (Wikipedia). Today we look back at the arguments that were had then and shake our heads at how hard it was for science to overturn the dogma of belief. Rigorous scientific study and questioning did eventually win out. In years to come, there will be a time when the creationist arguments of today are looked at with similar scorn.
Barras, C. (2013, March 13). The father of all men is 340,000 years old. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from New Scientist: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23240-the-father-of-all-men-is-340000-years-old.html#.U6ar1fldU0E
Berkeley. (n.d.). Understanding Evolution. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from Natural Selection: Charles Darwin & Alfred Russel Wallace: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/history_14
Brain, M. (n.d.). How Evolution Works. Retrieved June 29, 2014, from How Stuff Works: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/evolution/evolution7.htm
Christianity Today. (2011, June 6). No Adam, No Eve, No Gospel. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from Christianity Today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/june/noadamevenogospel.html?paging=off
Craig Freudenrich, P. (n.d.). How DNA Works. Retrieved June 29, 2014, from How Stuff Works: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/cellular-microscopic/dna4.htm
Hodge, B. (2007, May 30). How old is the earth? Retrieved June 24, 2014, from Anwers in Genesis: https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/how-old-is-the-earth/
Kraft, M. V. (2008, June 3). [Basics of Christian Faith 1] The Bible: The Word of God. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from Bible.org: https://bible.org/seriespage/basics-christian-faith-1-bible-word-god
Redd, N. T. (2014, February 27). How Old is Earth? Retrieved June 24, 2014, from Space.com: http://www.space.com/24854-how-old-is-earth.html
Ritenbaugh, J. W. (2000, October). Why Worship God? Retrieved June 15, 2014, from Church of the Great God: http://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/PERSONAL/k/64/Why-Worship-God.htm
Robinson, B. (2008, October 5). Alternative beliefs by some liberal & mainline Christians, secularists, etc. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from ReligiousTolerance.org: http://www.religioustolerance.org/resur_lt.htm
Thompson, A. (2009, May 4). What Is A Supernova? Retrieved June 29, 2014, from space.com: http://www.space.com/6638-supernova.html
White, B. (2006, November 1). Why should Christians care for the planet? Retrieved June 15, 2014, from Evangelical Alliance UK: http://www.eauk.org/church/resources/theological-articles/why-should-christians-care-for-the-planet.cfm
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Geocentric model. Retrieved June 29, 2014, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocentric_model