Examining Creationism – my Essay for a Course

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.

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EXAMINING CREATIONISM

 

Introduction

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.

Creation

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.

 

Christian Salvation

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Works Cited

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

 

 

 

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Confessions of a Disappointed Young-Earther – an Essay

While researching a subject I stumbled across this large PDF file containing a variety of essays and book reviews.

http://baptistcenter.net/journals/JBTM_10-2_Fall_2013.pdf#page=6

One essay has the title ‘Confessions of a Disappointed Young-Earther‘ and I though it made an interesting read. Its by someone called Kenneth Keathley, Ph.D. and he appears to be Southern Baptist. His journey is one of YEC to OEC so he’s not gone the distance like I did, however he arguments and points about YECism are still valid and worth reading.

Kenneth’s essay is on pages 6 to 20 of the PDF.

He covers quite a few YEC points and skips through them very quickly, giving little more than headlines on some. I did find his logic and prose concise and clear so the brevity is not a complaint.

 

 

Telling Others I am an Atheist

Over the past 3 years I have told several people that I am a former Christian, now an atheist. Interestingly, but probably not surprisingly, I’ve found that telling strangers is much easier than telling those I already know. I’m talking about face to face conversations here.

In my former job, I spent a good deal of time on the train to and from London; a journey of over three hours. So it is inevitable that I’ll occasionally end up in conversation with my neighbour and sometimes that conversation will go on for most of the journey. As a result, there are times when the subject turns to science or religion. In these circumstances I found myself being very open about my religious status. In almost every case the person I’ve been talking to has been a fellow atheist or agnostic. On revealing that I’m a former Christian, very few of these fellow travellers took the subject further and showed any interest in why I changed my stance. Those that did found my ‘science convinced me’ explanation sufficient and acceptable.

Basically, those who already hold a view that the god concept is either questionable or false have accepted my change of religious state with a ‘Cool, good for you’ and moved on. Sometimes that can be a little deflating; this is a subject that dominates my life after all. I lived a Christian life for many years and the step away was difficult and challenging and the ripples do continue. Changing your stance on religion is not comparable to changing your preference of car. This has been a good experience for me because it has forced me to step outside of what dominates my life and engage with others on what is meaningful to them. Something I didn’t do often enough when I was a Christian.

On the flip side, telling Christians is, predictably, a whole other experience. Those that know me are understandably sad, this is because they know me and care for me. Their response is out of love for a friend and I fully get that, but it is still not an affirming response.

Last week I told a total stranger, who is a Christian, and the result almost comical. I say almost because her reaction was instinctive, she wasn’t faking it. Thinking about it after the event I wonder how my Cristian self would have responded in the same situation. My timing also sucked a bit too. I was on my way home after a week of work and happened to sit next to her, with a work colleague, she overheard us talking about my upbringing in Africa and how I was from missionary stock. This encouraged her, because she happened to be on her way home from a Christian event called David’s Tent. Not something I am familiar with, but from what she said it seems to include extended sessions of worship that last over 24 hours. Not something I’ve done myself and strikes me as a tad excessive. Anyway, this girl, is on her way home, tired and full of the effects of having spent a week with fellow Christians; something I most certainly can identify with, I’ve been there many times, as a leader on a summer camp and as one of thousands at a popular Christian festival. Probably not the best time to get faced with a former Christian.

When I told her I had turned my back on faith she actually winced and leaned away from me. It was as though I had caused her genuine and severe mental anguish, maybe I did. The trigger seemed to be the phrase “I just don’t believe anymore”. It was as though her brain was trying to shout back, “that’s not possible”. I changed the subject onto her job and she relaxed again. It turns out she takes the same train route to and from work so maybe I’ll bump into her again, who knows.

Breaking it all down into its simplest states, Christian responses to my atheism are understandably sad while non-religious responses are either indifferent or congratulatory. Which brings me to a very serious point; this balance of reactions only encourages me to seek out my atheist brethren and form friendship bonds with them. If Christians want to win atheists back, they need to develop a better response.

 

Its all Change Around Here

Life in the limey residence is going to be different from now on.

Firstly, it’s because I now have a job. It is a big relief, but it is not quite what I was hoping for. I find myself being slightly more junior and at a lower salary than I wanted. This was always going to be a risk when my wife and I made the decision to relocate three years ago. Being this far from London has an effect on the types of job available and the corresponding salaries. Still, there are some prospects and the role will give me some valuable experience so I will be focusing on that rather than the negatives. The true is, we can afford to live and there are many who are worse off.

What it also means is that I am now out of the house by 7am each morning and arrive back home again at a similar time. Gone are the days when I can work from home, I am now a regular commuter, something I have not done for several years. That will take some adjustment, I enjoyed being home when limey daughter got home from school. I also enjoyed doing the school run on occasions. Those too are now in the past and we’ll have to adjust. I think I will miss that the most.

 

There is other news from the Church.

A vote recently took place to change the rules of the Church. The proposal was that women should be allowed to preach. Until now, the rules stated they could not, I don’t know the exact wording or what the exact change is. This is a vote that has been expected and anticipated since the split of last year when a bunch left the church to set up on their own. The leaving group basically consisted of the more fundamental attitudes. That’s a bit of a simplification, but the effect is that those left are a more liberal bunch and that means a vote like this can actually be considered and discussed.

Unsurprisingly, the vote was overwhelmingly in favour and the rules have been changed. In anticipation of this change my wife was primed with date and a passage and is to become the first woman to preach in the church. She has put many hours into her preparation and with about three weeks to go has it completed.

Over the years she has preached a number of times, sometimes in our church at the time and sometimes as a guest preacher. Since our move, she has preached as a guest in a local church a few times and has another engagement in just a couple of weeks. In all that time I have not seen her put the effort into a sermon that she has for the one she has just completed.

I am sure she’ll have other sermons to preach now and I fully expect that there will be several a year. The pastor continues to be a good and supportive friend and I know that he will encourage my wife in her ministry.

There was a time when I enjoyed hearing her preach, I liked how she explained certain passages and she makes an effort to use clear and concise language. I never enjoyed a sermon that went into intellectual theology to such a level that it required mental gymnastics. My wife avoids this and I think that is why she is so often appreciated when she preaches.

However, I haven’t heard her preach for more than four years and when I asked if she wanted me to attend this landmark event, she deemed it not important that I attend. I would have gone had she wanted it, but I think for her it is better that I don’t sit there disbelieving most of what she has to say. It’s not a specific problem in our life, but there are still areas where we need to work things through. Hmmm, that sounds worse than it actually is, please read that last sentence as an over statement and certainly don’t assume there are marital issues as a result, there aren’t. It’s simply some areas haven’t been discussed into minute detail because we haven’t had the need to do so.

So, life is different and we’ll adjust to the newness of it and however we adjust we’ll make sure it’s for the better. One thing it does mean is that I’m spending a lot less time sat at my computer in my office reading blog and failing to write stuff. Whether that’s a good thing or not is a whole other issue.