I’ve been working with a Creationist

I must confess I find this amusing.

In my work for an IT consultancy I tend to work at a variety of customers and not always with the same colleagues. The past few weeks I have been working with a chap who I first met about a year ago on another project and during the three short weeks we were working together we got on well.

This time round we it is nearer 3 month and we’ve had the chance to get talking on various subjects, including personal things and it came out that he was a Christian. I told him my wife was and I used to be. There wasn’t time to continue that conversation at the time but he did indicate that he would be interested in the story of why I left the faith.

Well, last month that chance came, by coincidence it was the last day I was on the project and so I don’t know when we’ll next work together.

I told him that I used to be a creationist (this piqued his interest) and that as I gained a better understanding of science the realisation that I could no longer trust early Genesis to be true caused problems and as that realisation spread through other parts of the bible I eventually realised that no Adam meant no original sin and therefore there was no point in Jesus; at which point it was game over.

Of course he disagreed with my conclusion and during the conversation it became clear that he was sympathetic to creationism, even though he didn’t out himself as one specifically. When he said that the flood was global in his mind and that carbon dating was shown to be flawed I knew his creationist credentials were there.

I tried to counter his claims with the standard scientific explanation and he came back with the same creationist stuff I was saying 20 years ago. It was a very bizarre form of déjà vu.

He also came out with the classic claim that scientists are always changing (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/oh-science-why-do-you-change-so-much/) their minds while the apologists stick to the same message. The explanation that mind changing is good because scientists follow the evidence simply didn’t wash, much the same as with my 20 year younger self.

It also became apparent in the conversation that he was swayed more by good rhetorical argument then he was by good scientific explanation. I guess the same would have been true of me once too, though I am not conscious of it.

It was sad to experience, maybe my conversation will help to challenge him to look at science more, we’ll see. He probably equally hopes he has helped me back onto the right path and may even pray for his witness to me and for my eventual conversion.

Maybe there will be an update when we cross paths on the next project, who knows.

 

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The Questioning Continues

Having started to realise that much of what I thought was true was wrong, (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/noah%E2%80%99s-ark-gilgamesh-or-just-a-story/) and (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/the-first-nagging-doubts/). I decided to more open-mindedly explore the boundary between science and religion.

The most obvious place to start was evolution. My non-acceptance of evolution put me squarely in the minority of people I knew and it was now very important to me that I challenge my views fairly and adjust accordingly.

I had now pretty much come to accept that the age of the earth was much more than the ten thousand years (or thereabouts) that creationism would have us believe. The most obvious conclusion to this was that is the earth was actually very old, and my eyes had seen the evidence for this, then many other things that relied on a young earth must also be false.

I started off with listening to various science podcasts on the subject of evolution, I also subscribed to a few creationist podcasts to try and balance out the information I was getting.

The creationist podcasts subscriptions didn’t last long. To be blunt, they were awful, the science wasn’t convincing and they lacked technical detail. By contrast the evolutionary science podcasts overflowed with technical science and evidences. The more I listened the more I realised that evolution was true and that the special creation of humans simply could not have happened as described in Genesis.

Adam and Eve are now well and truly relegated from history and into myth, (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/the-problem-of-adam-and-eve/).

What Next?

With the basic tenets of creationism gone; 7-day creation, Adam and Eve and Noah’s Flood, the question that remained was “What Next?”.

Well, that would be the story of Joseph and the Israelite Exodus under Moses, surely they can’t be false as well can they?

Noah’s Ark, Gilgamesh, or Just a Story?

Noah's sacrifice

Image via Wikipedia

I had never previously doubted the account of Noah’s Ark.Yet, once I started to have doubts about the young age of the earth (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/the-first-nagging-doubts/), I found that I was now critically analysing key events in the Bible. Specifically, key events that rely on and require a young Earth. Such as the Genesis account of Noah, the ark and a global flood.

Basic Problems with the Global Flood Account

The most obvious issue with the account of the global flood is the volume of water required. There simply is not enough water in our atmosphere to produce enough rain to fill the earth up with water to the height of a mountain. The Genesis account also mentions waters of the deep, which some have interpreted to mean great reservoirs of water below the earths surface opened as a result of earthquakes and water flowed up from them. The problem with this is that it would require huge reserves of water to cover the entire earth, reserves which simply have not been found. Something truly miraculous would be required to cause a global flood.

Then of course there is the issue of the animals. All those animals need feeding and, more importantly, watering. The carnivores would present a specific problem, plus there would have to be very strong and very significant means of separating them apart.

Post flood, there is the very real problem of how to explain that the species of animal are unique to specific parts of the world, the indigenous animals of Australia are the most obvious example.

So the believability of the global flood is found wanting, yet I managed to unquestioningly believe it for many years.

So what of Gilgamesh?

The Epic of Gilgamesh (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_of_Gilgamesh) is a fascinating story, it probably best you follow the link or do your own searches on it rather than me repeat it all here.

The tale predates Noah’s Flood and it is suspected in some circles that the story of Noah’s Flood is a direct retelling of the Gilgamesh story, wrapped up for a different audience and several cultural additions. This is how myths, legends and stories evolve over time anyway.

Gradual Realisation

One of the key moments in me realising that the Flood account was not a real event was a documentary about the Flood, which expanded on some of the evidence I have indicated above. That same documentary drew parallels with the Gilgamesh account and I found myself compelled to question what I had previously accepted as true.

So, now I was not only questioning a young Earth, I was now questioning the validity of the Bible, or at least the validity of a literal interpretation of some Biblical passages.

Genetic evidence

Recent DNA analysis has shown that Adam and Eve could not have existed (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/the-problem-of-adam-and-eve/). I would go further and suggest that this evidence also puts into doubt the possibility of Noah and his extended family being at one point in time the only human inhabitants on the planet.

Creationism is just denialism

Its easy to say this now that I have stepped away from my creationist beliefs, but that doesn’t stop it being true. All that creationism does is look for things in science that are not clearly defined and try to punch holes in them in an effort to create doubt and therefore, by association, add credence to creationism.

I acknowledge that I’ve just been very negative about creationism and so now sound like every other sceptic or atheist on the internet. The thing is, I’ve been there and I know its true.

When I think about the things convinced me that the world was created in 7 days, its things like the falsehood known as Piltdown Man that had me believing that evolutionary science was misguided at best and fraudulent at worst.

The trouble with creationism is that it starts with an assumption; that the world (and therefore the universe) was created in 7 days and then looks for the evidence to support that. This active searching for supporting evidence means that there is an already agenda, this is very bad science and its cynical religion.

When you are that person, as I was for many years, you just don’t see it. People brought up in church hear time and time again of the changeless God, the same, yesterday, today and forever. For me, this unchanging mindset was a problem because it created in me an assumption that the world was created as described in Genesis and had not changed since.

This made it very easy to be critical of the scientific method.

Science revels in change, science loves the hard to explain, science even likes to be wrong. Without any of these things, scientific knowledge would never advance. In science, assumptions are only made when there is a conclusion to be drawn from the gathered evidence.

Creationism never has and never will do that.

As a creationist I scoffed at what I described as the mind changing that scientists did in trying to explain our existence. As if arrogant little me knew any better. When I peruse creationist posts I see in them the same attitude I had, the looking for the small thing that could make the scientific description even slightly questionable and then exclaim ‘Aha! See, its all wrong’.

The thing is, when all you do is look for the tiny imperfections, you miss the much bigger picture. Just because science can’t absolutely explain how the Hippo and the Whale descended from the same ancestor, doesn’t mean its not true. It is true because DNA profiling shows the relationship and anatomical similarities help with the evidence. We know the end result with certainty, even if we don’t know exactly how.

Yet as a creationist I would not and could not accept that. The dynamic world of science with new discoveries and evolving theories did not fit with my creationist worldview of a static and unchanging world where we already knew how it happened because the good book said so.

When I look back on those days I genuinely shudder with embarrassment; yet I also empathise with those who still hold that view, because I understand why they do. If only they too would open their eyes and realise that their hole picking will get harder and harder as the scientific community discovers more and more about the wonderful world in which we live.

Can You Adam and Eve It?

I don’t remember exactly when it was, but at some point in a lesson, someone asked the question about how did Adam and Eve’s sons have children when there were no other references to women being created after Eve? Not an unreasonable question to ask and certainly one that children will zone in on sooner or later.

People tend to only remember Cain and Abel, but the Bible does specifically mention that Adam and Eve had more children, including daughters. The answer given at the time was that the only possible solution is that Adam and Eves sons must have married their sisters. Cue sounds of ‘ewww’ from the assembled class.

If someone believes in the literal seven day creation and that all of mankind is descended from Adam and Eve, then there really is the one conclusion to come to. That first family had no option but to engage in incest. A titbit I would repeat years later as a leader on a Christian summer camp when faced with the same question, provoking the same ‘ewww’ response.

What about the ribs!

The knowledgeable will know that Eve supposedly came from Adams rib. This was used to confirm the fact that men have an extra rib on one side of their body; or rather a missing rib on one side of their body.

Firstly, why should Adam having his rib removed to create Eve mean that all his descendents will also have one rib missing? People who have parts of their body removed do not produce offspring with that same part missing. The assumption that God removing Adams rib means that all men will have a missing rib has no basis in Biblical teaching or logical thought.

As a child I accepted the fact without question. Even if the Genesis account of Adam and Eve was true, there is no reason at all, anywhere, that equates to all descended men having a missing rib.

As it happens, men do not have a missing rib. It proves nothing on its own, but it’s a daft thing to believe anyway.

Critical Questions

Reading those first few chapters of Genesis with a critical eye brings up many questions. Why put a mark on Cain when everyone one around would have been related to him anyway and so know what he did? Why would Cain have to build a city when there would not yet have been enough people about to justify a city? Did he build the city single handed? How long did that take? So many questions.

Not to be taken literally

Now would be a good point to bring in the fact that serious scholars do not consider that the beginning of Genesis was written to be a literal account. It is meant as an indication that God created everything and that sin is a human thing and that God reserves the right to punish his creation. That’s very simplistic, but the main point I want to make here is that to the early writers and those who would read this years later; this is not meant to be a description of what God did, merely a setting up of what we see is God’s creation.

The literal interpretation is a much more modern thing.

Still, as a young child with no reason to question this further, I didn’t. So the seed that was to become an adult creationist was sown.