Young Earth Creationism Is Evolving

Image: FB/CW Brown/Godless Utopia
Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of evolution, some 40% of Americans reject the theory and adhere to young earth creationism. I have long believed that the most effective way to combat young earth creationism is within religion. Biologos, an organization promoting theistic evolution, is attempting just that—and with some success. Answers in Genesis has recently posted a series of blog posts combatting Biologos’ efforts—and making arguments that seem, as someone raised in an evangelical young earth creationists home, bizarre.

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Earlier this year Biologos praised the publication of a new book: Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture After Genetic Science, by Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight, a geneticist and a New Testament scholar. Together, the two scholars lay out the scientific evidence on the origins of man and examine the words of Paul and others, outlining and defending a theistic evolutionary perspective compatible with modern science. As Biologos explains:

Christians who take the Bible seriously want to interpret it correctly. We’re not looking to bend and shape it to our personal beliefs, but to have it shape us and our beliefs. As such, we should be open to considering whether we have inherited ways of interpreting Scripture that are more a product of previous cultures than they are the absolute and unchanging word of God. If science can help us see more clearly what God has communicated, then we should be grateful.

Unsurprisingly, Answers in Genesis has a serious problem with this, and has published a whole series of blog posts rebutting Venema and McKnight’s claims. Addressing one of Venema’s chapters on science and genetics, Answers in Genesis’ Nathaniel T. Jeanson writes that: 

Venema discusses four categories of scientific claims: (1) Venema says fossil transitional forms (like Tiktaalik) have been discovered—a finding which fails to reject evolution; (2) Venema implies that the order of fossils in the fossil record fails to reject evolution; (3) Venema claims that gaps in the fossil record are being filled—again, a finding which fails to reject evolution; and (4) Venema says multiple (e.g., paleontological, embryological) converging lines of evidence fail to reject evolution, further bolstering its scientific strength.

Has Venema applied the scientific method correctly?

Let’s apply it again to his evidences, this time considering competing (i.e., YEC) explanations. For Venema’s arguments to support evolution as a scientific explanation, they would not only have to fail to reject the evolutionary explanation; they would also have to successfully reject the YEC view.

Jeanson does not object to Venema’s statement there are transitional fossils, and that the gaps in the fossil record are being (or have been) filled. Instead, he accepts these claims. He asserts simply that transitional fossils and the increased filling of gaps in the fossil record are not incompatible with young earth creationism. In other words, they can be true and evolution can still be false, and young earth creationism true. What’s strange is that this argument is very different from the one I grew up hearing.

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