Creation and Evolution: Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

(Paul Copan)

The former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca once said: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  This simple advice has wide-ranging application—whether we’re settling personal disagreements, planning our schedules, or trying to build bridges with non-Christians.

One area of bridge-building has to do with the creation-evolution “debate.”  In my book “That’s Just Your Interpretation” (Baker, 2001), I deal with a variety of philosophical and apologetical questions such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, Eastern monism and reincarnation, foreknowledge and free will, predestination, and the like. One question I address has to do with the Genesis-science issue.  I note that the fundamental question is not how old the earth is (although I do believe it is billions of years old); nor is the issue how long God took to create the universe (if we insist that God’s creating in six 24-hour days as more miraculous than a process of billions of years, this still wouldn’t be as miraculous as God’s creating in six nanoseconds…or just one!).  I also mention in the book that the fundamental issue to discuss with scientifically-minded non-Christians—the main thing—is not “creation vs. evolution”; rather, it is the question of “God vs. no God.”  There are, after all, evangelical theistic evolutionists such as theologian Henri Blocher and the late Christian statesman John Stott, and the theologian J.I. Packer seems quite open to theistic evolution (consider his endorsement of theistic evolutionist Denis Alexander’s book Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?).

Now I have my questions about evolution, but then again, a number of naturalists do too!  For example, the biochemist Franklin Harold writes: “We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity….but we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations.”[1] Hmmm…interesting.  At any rate, if evolution turns out to be true, then the Christian should embrace it as one dedicated to following the truth wherever it leads. This might mean reworking his interpretation of Genesis on the subject—much like Christians have had to rework their interpretation of biblical passages referring to the sun rising and setting, the earth not moving, or the earth resting on foundations.[2]

As I speak to secular audiences on university campuses and elsewhere, I don’t raise the creation vs. evolution issue.  Rather, for the sake of argument, I grant evolution and begin the discussion there. I don’t want people turned off to the gospel because I’ve lost sight of the main thing—the centrality of Jesus; unfortunately, a lot of well-meaning Christians do just that and end up running down this or that rabbit trail and never getting back to the main thing. Evolution is a secondary concern; we Christians should remember this when engaging with unbelievers rather than getting side-tracked.  Keep the main thing the main thing.

I typically highlight the following two points when speaking with naturalists.

1. If humans evolved from a single-celled organism over hundreds of millions of years, this is a remarkable argument from design!  Indeed, a lot of naturalists themselves utilize design language when referring to biological organisms—“machines,” “computer-like,” “appears designed” (a point I’ll address in a future blog posting). As believers, we shouldn’t be surprised to see God’s sustaining and providential hand operating through natural processes—though unfortunately even some believing scientists are reluctant to acknowledge this.  Alvin Plantinga’s recent book on God and science, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (Oxford), points out that the conflict is between naturalism and science, not God and science, even if this involves guided (not unguided) evolution. 

Now, the atheist Richard Dawkins has claimed that Darwin made it possible to be a fulfilled atheist.  Well, that’s not quite right. For one thing, Darwin himself didn’t see God and evolution in conflict with each other.  Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species (1859), “To my mind, it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes . . . .” And again: “There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one . . . from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”[3] But there’s more for the atheist to consider.


2. Several significant steps or hurdles must be overcome before evolution can get going:  Many naturalists claim that “evolution can explain it all.” For example, Daniel Dennett asserts that Darwinistic evolution is a “universal acid” that eats through everything it comes into contact with.  The problem, however, is that a number of massive hurdles must be overcome before self-replicating life can even get a running start.  Here are the key hurdles:

  • The origin of the universe from nothing: evolution’s no good without a universe in which it can unfold, and the universe began a finite time ago; it hasn’t always been around.
  • The delicately-balanced, knife-edge universe requires many very specific conditions for life;
  • The emergence of first life (and eventually consciousness): how life could emerge from non-life (or consciousness from non-conscious matter) continues to stump scientists; moreover, if humans could somehow produce life from non-life, this would simply show that this takes a lot of intelligent planning! Just because we have a life-permitting universe, this is no guarantee that it will be a life-producing universe.
  • The continuation of life in harsh early conditions: even if life could come have into existence on its own from non-living matter, there would have been immense obstacles to initial life’s continuation, development, and flourishing.

When we’re looking at the odds in terms of probabilities, this is what we have:



1. A UNIVERSE (OR, PRODUCING SOMETHING FROM NOTHING IN THE BIG BANG): Exactly 0. (Something cannot come into existence from literally nothing; there isn’t even the potentiality to produce anything.)
2. A LIFE-PERMITTING UNIVERSE Roger Penrose (non-theistic physicist/mathematician) notes that the odds of a life-permitting universe: “the ‘Creator’s aim must have been [precise] to an accuracy of one part in 1010(123).”[4] What number are we talking about? It “would be 1 followed by 10/123 successive ‘0’s! Even if we were to write a ‘0’ on each separate proton and on each separate neutron in the entire universe—and we could throw in all the other particles as well for good measure—we should fall far short of writing down the figure needed. [This is] the precision needed to set the universe on its course.”[5] Astronomer Donald Page (a theist) calculates the odds of the formation of our universe at 1 in 10,000,000,000124.[6]
3. A LIFE-PRODUCING UNIVERSE (LIFE FROM NON-LIFE) Stephen Meyer (a theistic philosopher of science) calculates the odds for the necessary 250 proteins to sustain life coming about by change as being 1 in 1041,000.[7]
4. A LIFE-SUSTAINING UNIVERSE (MOVING FROM THE BACTERIUM TO HOMO SAPIENS Frank Tipler and John Barrow (astrophysicists, the latter accepting the Gaia hypothesis) calculated that the chances of moving from a bacterium to homo sapiens in 10 billion years or less is 10-24,000,000 (a decimal with 24 million zeroes).[8]  Francisco Ayala (naturalistic evolutionary biologist) independently calculated the odds of humans arising just once in the universe to be 10-1,000,000.[9]

Many naturalists will simply deny design at every stage (and for all of them).  It seems that no matter how much the odds are ramped up, design would never be acknowledged—an indication that the issue isn’t scientific after all.  This is a theological and philosophical issue.  At any rate, from the literal outset (the beginning of the universe) the falsity and folly of an “evolution did it all” explanation is apparent.

So the main thing is to keep the main thing: God vs. no God—not creation vs. evolution.  And if evolution turns out to be true, why couldn’t this be one of the means by which God brings about his purposes on earth? Indeed, God has revealed himself and his nature through two “books”—God’s Word and God’s world—and Christians should view them as ultimately in concord with one another.

[1] Franklin Harold, The Way of the Cell (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 205.

[2] See Gen 19:23; Deut 16:6; Ps 19:6; 93:1; Ps. 104:5.

[3] Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, orig. pub. 1859 (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, n.d., corr. ed.). Quotations from pp. 459 and 460.

[4] Roger Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind (New York: Bantam., 1991), 344.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Noted in L. Stafford Betty and Bruce Coredell, “The Anthropic Teleological Argument,” Michael Peterson, et al. (eds.), Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, 3rd edn.(New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 239.

[7] Mentioned in Stephen Meyer, Signature in the Cell (New York: HarperOne, 2009). For documentation of other biologists’ calculations, see Meyer’s peer-reviewed essay, “Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,” in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (2004) 117/2: 213-239.

For a brief video on the intricacies of the cell, see “Journey Inside the Cell”:

[8]John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 557-66.

[9] Noted in Frank J. Tipler, “Intelligent Life in Cosmology,” International Journal of Astrobiology 2 (2003): 142.

328 Responses to “Creation and Evolution: Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing”

  1. Daniel, with respect to Mr. Glenn Morton, he critiqued the Doctoral thesis of Mortenson which I refer to here; Mortenson has posted online, in several places, a long response to many points made by Morton. I have not read it so that is all I know. Mortenson’s response is from 2002.

    Incidentally, Morton apparently worked and now publishes in the geology field (among many others) but has no formal training in geology; I think physics was his field. He appears to have an extensive portfolio in the PSCF journal

  2. Sooner or later, we need evidence to support our presuppositions.”

    These both have formal definitions and methodologies. To be a presuppositionalist does not mean to proceed with no regard for evidence.

    Which I gather you supposed, without evidence.

  3. @Daniel #43, 3rd page
    ‘Many Christians went into geology in the mid 1800′s in the belief that they would find evidence for a global flood. And the evidence just wasn’t there.’

    If one studies the history of geology, the above is completely backwards. The geologists of the 1700’s and 1800’s were seeking to distance themselves from any notion of the Biblical Flood of Noah found in the Scriptures. The belief in a global, universal Flood in Noah’s day had permeated the Church up until that time, and the idea of ‘deep time’ and its idea of millions of years was the product of speculation and imagination rooted in anti-biblical philosophical assumptions.

    Niels Steenson (1638-1686), or Steno, proposed the widely accepted principle of superposition, and yet expressed belief in a roughly 6000-year-old earth. English geologists like John Woodward, Alexander Catcott, and the German geologist Johann Lehmann in the 1700’s wrote books reinforcing this young-earth, global-Flood view. This was consistent with what the church believed for the first 18 centuries.

    It wasn’t until men like Comte de Buffon, Pierre La Place, Jean Lamarck, and James Hutton (and then later Charles Lyell) who expressly rejected the biblical Flood of Noah’s day that we start to see this idea of ‘deep time’, itself carried over into the newly separate field of geology with its systematic field studies, collection and classification of rocks and fossils, and development of theoretical reconstructions of the historical events that formed these rock layers and fossils. This separate field of science, geology, is only about 200 years old.

  4. Last year I attended a lecture by Dr. Jonathon Sarfati. There over 1300 people in the hall. He answered questions for about an hour. One young person asked him if there were any “real scientists’ who held his position. This year I read parts of many of his books, I also read nine back issues of the magazine Creation. My question to this group is whether you have read the same material? Thank you in advance for your responses.

  5. Charles, I *did* look up Morris’ history. His degrees have him in school until 1980, when he got his PhD in Geologic Engineering. He then stayed in/at school and taught until 1984. At that point, he joined his dad at ICR, where he has been ever since. According to his own bio, “Dr. Morris received his B.S. in Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech in 1969 and his M.S. in Geological Engineering at the University of Oklahoma in 1977. He received his Doctorate in Geological Engineering at the University of Oklahoma in 1980. Dr. Morris can be heard each day on the Back to Genesis radio program. He is the author of numerous books, including The Young Earth. Dr. Morris taught geology at the University of Oklahoma before joining the faculty of the ICR.”

    If you have any evidence that he was EVER “in the oil industry” or “a petroleum geologist”, please provide it. Just because someone takes science classes and can teach what they were taught doesn’t make them a scientist.

  6. As far as AUG and straw men go, I will give you a personal account of my my daughter’s commencement speech that was given by AIG’s Dr. Georgia Purdom. This was shortly after some of her comments and Ham’s defense of them got AIG dis-invited from some homeschool gatherings. She talked of Peter Enns and Biologos mixing science with their faith and literally put their “faith” in a fingered quotation marks kind of way as if it were something else entirely. She went on to suggest that Mr. Enns, and likely BioLogos itself due to his association with that organization, questioned or doubted core doctrines like the virgin birth because they believed theologies are provisional. And her basis for this? A much-highlighted quote from Enns where he said “All theologies are provisional. Welcome to the conversation!” She read that with much flair and got some actual gasps and murmurs from the crowd upon its delivery.

    Believing this was probably out of context and had nothing to do with the virgin birth at all, I quickly scribbled down that phrase and decided to see if I could locate it in context to see what was really said. I found that in fact Enns was not speaking of the virgin birth at all. The quote in question comes at the very end of a presentation entitled “Erasmus Lecture” given at Westmont College. You can watch the entire 49-minute YouTube lecture yourself, but this was the very last statement in the lecture, the last point on the last slide, and there is a LOT of context leading up to it that Purdom failed to mention in her commencement address.

    Ultimately, Enns’ point is that while Paul brings Adam into the New Testament and makes it part of doctrine and not just history, it doesn’t change the doctrine of redemption that Paul is teaching if one sees Adam as a literal man that represents Israel in many ways, or just as a representation of Israel. Either way though, Enns recognized that sin and death are real, and says that the solution for sin, the Gospel message, is still the same regardless of where you see sin originating. The solution doesn’t change. Far from casting doubt on core doctrines, his whole point is that they remain intact even if you have a different interpretation of some of the elements used to explain them.

    Here is Enn’s actual full statement. It has nothing at all to do with the presented context that Biologos doubted core doctrines of the Bible. “All of theologies, including my own, are provisional. Welcome to the conversation. And it’s been going on for 2,000 years. Thinking people trying to put all the pieces together. Who is God? Who are we? What’s the Bible? How does all this effect how I live today? How does how I live effect how I read the Bible? This is not new. It’s just now the issues are different and, in some ways, they are more pressing. Evolution is a pressing theological issue. There is a sense in which it is a real game changer. It takes a lot to think through it, but it is not a new idea. Welcome to the conversation.”

  7. Let me get this straight, Charles. Someone that worked and now publishes in the geology field is to be doubted about his work experience because his school degree is in something else, but someone that NEVER worked in those areas is to be trusted when he identifies himself as being in that field because he once taught something somewhat related to it? The point is that Morton was showing what he had discovered in personal work and Morris had no first-hand evidence to the contrary – just what he’d been told and then repeated. You are not really suggesting that, are you?

  8. “… Someone that worked and now publishes in the geology field is to be doubted about his work experience because his school degree is in something else, but someone that NEVER worked in those areas is to be trusted when he identifies himself as being in that field because he once taught something somewhat related to it?”

    To answer your question: in short, no. It’s an interesting reversal, and it often happens in life. As far as I am concerned, truth is truth, and Morris and Morton should both be evaluated on that basis, regardless of what they have done or not done. Both have degrees in legitimate scientific write about science. Neither should be dismissed based on their job descriptions.

  9. Steve, the fact that not all geologists were looking for evidence of the flood does not invalidate my statement. Have you ever read the history of the creationist movement in Ronald Numbers’ “The Creationists”?

  10. Just something to keep in mind if any of you end up talking to a scientist (Ph.D. or in the field). Many quotes and comments and rebuttals are not actually coming from biology/ists. This may not be apparent or important to some of you, but to a scientist, trying to refute evolution with Big Bang arguments won’t work. The Big Bang, age of Universe, etc. is astrophysics. As soon as a Christian uses this line of argument against evolution, most scientist aren’t listening. You just jumped fields.

    Same goes for the scientist quoted to refute evolution. Try to stick with those who are Biologists – Biochemists are NOT biologists (I don’t know how many times I have dealt with this one). Biochemistry is a branch of chemistry. Chemists didn’t propose evolution, chemists don’t use the theory in their works and chemists don’t need to know evolution to excel in their fields. They are dealing with substances much smaller than living organisms. Even amoebas are much larger and complex structures than Chemists focus on and study. To biologists, however, they observe organisms, learn about the components of organisms and experiment on (parts of) organisms (not just molecules).

    It is biologists who understand why and how evolution works, so, if you are going to ‘major on a minor’ with a biologist, at least do the recipient a favour and quote a biologist to refute evolution. People quoted in this thread are not biologists, except Gorgia Purdom that Daniel mentioned (I think). Dr. Sarfati – Chemist, Meyer’s Geophysicist, etc.

    I haven’t googled all names, but I am wondering why more biologists aren’t quoted to refute evolution?

    A creationist who is a biologist is Todd Wood:

  11. “If you have any evidence that he was EVER “in the oil industry” or “a petroleum geologist”, please provide it. Just because someone takes science classes and can teach what they were taught doesn’t make them a scientist.”

    The interchange recorded by Morton, which took place at the International Creation Conference in Pittsburgh in 1986 (Morton’s paper is listed in the Proceedings of that conference but so far I have been to locate it anywhere else.

    Morton does not provide exactly what Morris said, he provides his own interpretation, and I cannot find other corroborating descriptions of the discussion, even though Morton’s account is repeated in many places. I wonder if it is only hearsay in that case.

    Dr. Morris has done more than “take some science classes”, I promise you.

    It is not necessary to “work” in the oil industry to be a competent petroleum geologist. There are professional organizations for petroleum geologists, with websites, and you can go onlinrepore and read about the various professional activities these people engage in.

    Dr. Morris (whose name fyi is John, not Steve) is the President of the Institute for Creation Research. You can reach him by telephone, they might even have a 1-800 number.

    I have a call in to the press department of ICR with inquiries about Dr. Morris. I will get back to you on that.

  12. ” Have you ever read the history of the creationist movement in Ronald Numbers’ “The Creationists”?

    Daniel, it is “a” history, not “the” history. There are other writers on that subject. Please be more precise.

    Every writer has a selectivity and a bias.

  13. Daniel, regarding the history of geology, if you don’t have time to read, you could still verify that Terry Mortenson provided a reply to Morton’s critique of his doctoral thesis on the 19c “Scriptural Geologists”. The thesis has been made into a book which is online.

    There are also available online, Daniel, a number of the original documents by the men featured in the book.

  14. Daniel, I also will be contacting answers in genesis about Dr. Purdoms itinerary and her comments about BioLogos. If you provide me with the name of the school I will contact them also

    I can understand why you would take offense at Purdom’s remarks.

    However, from your comments above, I inferred that this “straw man” building has been going on for a long time, and by at least two organizations, and has had a widespread influence long, long before this commencement exercise for your daughter. So you are not being straight about this Daniel. You put this on the table.

    What I am looking for is one case from each organization, of a written and scientifically erroneous statement about the specific issues raised here, primarily the plausibility of EC or just evolution, which has created confusion or deception.

    Given also your own online forums and your qualified interest in this field, I wonder whether when you have seen these ‘straw men’ and contacted these agencies to object to or correct their errors. I have found that they usually reply to enquiries. For instance I contacted CMI questioning whether they should rely on a certain document for a story, and they emailed me corroborating information on the background. I am still not satisfied the original in fact exists, or whether the account is a hearsay account (Ie somebody is said to have seen it) but I would be happy to provide you with the details of my inquiry.

    I wrote to the late Dr. Henry Morris some years ago to question his use of Gail Riplinger as a source for an article he wrote about Bible versions. I do not agree with ICR’s King-James only stand. Dr. Morris did reply to me and was very gracious.

  15. Daniel, with respect to Dr. Purdom; you may not appreciate her sarcasm about BioLogos. But did she slander, libel, lie, or defame them or their leaders? Did she misquote them?

    If not, it is fair comment, and does not sound more harmful than the many, many accusatory comments you have written in this forum.

    That is what happens, and has happened all through history. BioLogos has been highly critical of creationists. Are you aware of what even such a man as Bruce Waltke has written and said (and Waltke has enough integrity that he put his academic standing and career on the line by so doing) on BEHALF of BioLogos?

    I have already mentioned that the worst critics of BioLogos are the radical evolutionist types like PZ Myers. They don’t want any bridges being built. They are not impressed by Francis Collins and Karl Giberson and John Polkinghorne. And do you understand Daniel, that BioLogos is not just ‘out there’ producing their website. They are after the next generation of Christian young men and women and even children in the Sunday school. They are after the pastors and church leaders. They want their agenda front and center in churches across the US–and Canada, where I live. They want into my church and into my kid’s heads; and they are doing it with large cash from the Templeton Foundation, to whom the Dalai Lama and Jesus are pretty much the same thing.

    Is that what you think Daniel?

    Stay out of my church, BioLogos. Repent, Tim Keller and NT Wright and Alistair McGrath and the whole lot of you.

  16. Loo:

    Chemists didn’t propose evolution, chemists don’t use the theory in their works and chemists don’t need to know evolution to excel in their fields.”

    You are right about the need to know evolution; however, I think a lot of chemists/bio

  17. Loo:

    “Chemists didn’t propose evolution, chemists don’t use the theory in their works and chemists don’t need to know evolution to excel in their fields.”

    You are right in the latter; but are not a lot of biochemists messing around with origin of life experiments?

  18. @Daniel #11,
    I think Charles answered quite correctly in #14. So at least let’s get a correct understanding of the history of geology. Let’s stop this farsical nonsense that a young universe, young earth view is a recent development. Yes, there are exceptions, but by and large the church had held that view for 18 centuries. The gap theory, day-age theory, progressive-creation theory, theistic evolution-theory, analogical or framework hypothesis views followed after the advent of modern geology and its notions of ‘deep time’.

  19. @Wayne #6,
    I think you need to be more specific with your question brother. Personally, Sarfati’s books are at the top of my reading list. I have hosted a conference for him here in my hometown in 2008. He is an excellent writer, speaker, and debater on scientific issues. He himself is a ‘Christian scientist’, holding a Ph.D in physical chemistry, and a former New Zealand national chess champion.

    Any theistic-evolutionary adherent should at least read his books to understand the ‘other’ side.

  20. That is a good point Steve.

    Given the large number of creation-related sites, (thank God!) and articles out there, inevitably certain things get embellished, modified, passed on when they should be buried, etc, it is important to focus on what is the best resource for a given situation. I have heard Carl Wieland speak to groups about the importance of quality control in ministry, how people and ideas and publications need to be vetted carefully.

    With men like Sarfati, we have access to resources such that it is not bragging to say, ‘unless you have been through this writer/book etc, you are really avoiding the issue.’ If Sarfati can be refuted-and that not by third party smears-then that is something everyone ought to note.

  21. tps Steve I got smacked down by Sarfati recently on facebook, when I suggested on his thread that photons have no real existence, they are an imaginary construct.

    “Not so” he wrote back, “as I prove in such and such an article”, which turns out to be the entire history of quantum mechanics back to Newton.

    And there it is; since I cannot understand a substantial part of the article by this expert on light chemistry (spectroscopy), what do I say in reply?

  22. @Charles #21
    Perhaps you have read Sarfati’s ‘The Greatest Hoax on Earth? Refuting Dawkins on Evolution’, no? If not, I recommend it. I recommend it especially in light of my comment above to my Christian brothers and sisters as theistic-evolutionary adherents who are open to seeing the ‘other’ side.

  23. @Charles #22,
    Eat a little humble pie, perhaps? :) What are the sources you referred to for photons being an imaginary construct?

  24. Charles said, “Every writer has a selectivity and a bias.” And I’m reminded of that every time I read one of his posts. LOL Seriously? We are going to argue over the article I used to refer to a history book? LOL

  25. Charles, you keep moving the goal posts here. You tell me I’m wrong when I say Morris isn’t in the petroleum industry and tell me I need to look it up. I provide his bio, and suddenly the argument switches to whether he’s smart or done other things. You asked about straw men and I provide you a personal example of distorting another’s position and you change the argument to whether she slandered or misquoted him. It’s a different argument. And the fact that you seem to see the need to verify my account by checking her speaking schedule comes across as a challenge to my integrity. And now Steve is playing the same game by suggesting I was arguing for YEC being a recent development when my statement about Numbers’ book was in the context of Christians who went into geology expecting to find evidence for a global flood and ended up becoming old-earthers. We are not only on different pages here, but different planets. At this point, I am not even sure what your goal is in the targeted interaction with me. We can’t even agree on history, much less how to interpret it. All one has to do is go read Augustine to see that old earth interpretations pre-date Darwinism and the study of geology. Yet we see these absurd statements like all the old-age interpretations “followed after the advent of modern geology” and yet you are so busy busting MY chops over whether Numbers wrote about “the” history or “a” history to address such blatant historical revisionism. The irony of this in a topic about majoring on the majors doesn’t escape me.

  26. @Daniel #26,
    ‘All one has to do is go read Augustine to see that old earth interpretations pre-date Darwinism and the study of geology.’

    I can’t believe you want to pull out this old canard simply to try and prove ‘your’ revisionist take on history. I’m trying to be charitable here Daniel, and in the spirit of irenic discourse flatly tell you that the church despite some examples like Augustine and others, believed in a young universe, young earth for the first 18 centuries of its existence. Augustine, by the way argued for an instantaneous creation, not one of long ages, and 1) in his Interpretation of Genesis used Jerome’s Latin translation, not the original language, 2) had to use the Latin because he did not know Hebrew, never personally grappling with the original text, 3) was identified with the Alexandrian school, well known for its heavy allegorizing than any rigorous systematic philological method, 4) did not believe there was human death before the Fall, 5) believed in a literal global Flood, 6) does not inspire confidence that he ever distanced himself far enough from his early Neoplatonic leanings, and 7) believed that the ‘six days’ of creation typologically predicted that the entire history of the earth would last six millenia.

    Who are you reading, Hugh Ross?

  27. “Charles, you keep moving the goal posts here. You tell me I’m wrong when I say Morris isn’t in the petroleum industry and tell me I need to look it up.”

    You are in error about Morris’s qualifications and experience; your original point (or Morton’s in his article) was whether Morris was in the oil industry in 1986, when the conference took place at which Morris challenged Morton when Morton presented a paper.

    You prefer to present Morris as someone who “took some classes and did some teaching”. I gather so as to sugge st he had no professional qualifications to speak authoritatively on geological matters. The facts are entirely otherwise, and you can verify them for yourself.

    Morton, as I have already pointed out, does not provide exactly what Morris is supposed to have said at the 1986 conference, and there is so far as I know no corroborating witness to the alleged conversation, at least not a recorded one.

  28. Daniel,

    I have spoken to the communications office at ICR today, advising them there are allegations on the internet and at this website concerning the professional credentials and experience of Dr. John Morris.

    They have advised me to detail these issues in writing to Dr. Morris and clarification from him. This I will do within the next week.

    Meanwhile, I reiterate that Glenn Morton’s credibility and recall of events and facts are in dispute by Dr. Terry Mortenson, a qualified expert on the history of geology in the 19th century, whose doctorate on the subject Morton cast into disrepute.

    Because you obviously have a strong interest in the subject, and have strong views on the influence of geology on theology and church history, I strongly suggest you complement your reading of Numbers with Mortenson’s work. Then you might be qualified to have a valid opinion on geology yourself, and take your focus off whether Morris is a valid authority. As it stands, your position appears weak on is not improved by your attacks on Morris, about whom I suspect you know little or nothing.

  29. Daniel, with respect to Dr. Purdom, it is obvious from what I wrote above that I had, and have no doubts as to whether she spoke at your daughter’s commencement, or whether she criticized BioLogos.

    In contacting Answers in Genesis, I did what you should have done if Purdom offended you. I’m doing what a fair person would do, which is to see if there is another side to the story. What school did she speak at? What did she say? Does she recall parents taking offense? If you did take offense Daniel, you should at least tell the school. As it is, you have brought your grievance over here, where it has nothing to do with whether the view of evolution presented by BioLogos is plausible, whether theistic evolution is plausible.

    Daniel, if you are going to make truth claims here, especially if they involve character issues of third parties, and you claim to be a teacher yourself, why does it surprise you and offend you that others check your claims ? Is it because you yourself are unwilling or unable to check things for yourself? Is this a habit foreign to you? You will reply that you checked up on Dr. Morris. But most inadequately in proportion has you have smeared his reputation here.

    Just a reminder, Dr. Morris’s first name is John, not Steve.

  30. “…you are so busy busting MY chops ”

    Come on Daniel; look back at what you have written and see that you have busted more chops than Samson did with the jawbone of a donkey. Most of it in the form of generalizations.

    I said there is nothing wrong with Purdom criticizing BioLogos publicly, or making comments that suggest people should not trust them. My point is that you have claimed Aig and ICR have been creating straw men for years and messing with every Christian’s head regarding creation and geology, and Purdom’s comment at a (you don’t say how recent) event is representative of that.

    Your point is that this is a longstanding problem affecting a great many people. Clearly then Purdom is not the issue. The issue is, what and where are the specific statements writing about the science, history and geology you claim to know so much about, that are demonstrably wrong and have messed up peoples’ heads; and I expect you to provide the analysis with real facts.

  31. Daniel, Glenn Morton claims to know and have testimony from a number of ICR graduates, that “not a single fact they learned about geology turned out to be true in the field”.

    In my conversation with ICR this morning, I advised them of this claim, which Morton has published. ICR employs and collaborates with a number of professional geologists doing active field work at Mt. St. Helens, the Grand Canyon and other places. We will see how this plays out.

  32. The point, Steve, is that you are fighting a straw man. I never claimed that the church only recently started teaching YEC. I stated, and stand by the claim, that as geology started coming into its own, many Christians started using it to find evidence of a global flood and were unable to do so. That is all. To suggest that things like the gap theory or literary framework interpretations only came about in the last couple hundred years is just factually inaccurate – to put as charitable of a spin on it as possible. Was it the most popular view in the church? No. But I never made that claim. Augustine believed everything was created back “in the beginning”. The fact that he didn’t believe in the day-age theory doesn’t make your claim accurate. You can give all the excuses you want for why he held those beliefs, but it doesn’t eliminate him as a prime example of how your statement was false. Whether he was right or wrong, whether his reasons were good or not, he and others like him who held to things like the framework interpretation DID pre-date darwinism and geologic study.
    I’m NOT saying that all the ancient church fathers were old-earthers. I know better. I’m saying that they didn’t all hold to what is now considered the literal/clear YEC reading of the text. Several of the early church fathers couldn’t be further from a literal interpretation that could be used to date creation. They took it as allegory. But just as we cannot equate things like the framework interpretation or days of revelation interpretation with “old earth” (even as they ARE used in old earth interpretations and don’t post-date geology) we also can’t equate “young earth” with the flood-geology model on which it is currently largely based. As Whitcomb and Morris clearly document in “The Genesis Flood”, that has not always been the common belief. It was presented as a new model for a reason.

    As far as Ross goes, let me just say that he’s wrong about a lot of things and just leave it at that.

  33. Charles said, “Every writer has a selectivity and a bias.” And I’m reminded of that every time I read one of his posts.”

    Daniel, this is tilting at windmills. You have not made a great discovery, since I have already revealed my bias and my selectivity and bias numerous times.

  34. “ geology started coming into its own, many Christians started using it to find evidence of a global flood and were unable to do so.

    You are once again in error Daniel. Go to the work of Mortenson and see what I mean. And remember, the work of many of these men whom he researched, is available free online in digital form. Decide for yourself, from the primary sources, how well they succeeded,

    My bias in the end however, is that if I don’t believe scripture on this subject, I will not believe if someone comes back from the dead.

  35. We will just have to agree to disagree on what geology has actually found with regards to proof for a global flood or the motives of the Christians that went into that field. I’m comfortable with what the evidence shows and comfortable that it doesn’t contradict what the Bible actually teaches. So I applaud you in believing what the Bible says about the topic, but encourage you to focus on what it ACTUALLY says without the “benefit” of all the interpretation of folks like Ken Ham that are frequently added to it as if it is equally inspired. I also encourage you to try to read it not as it reads/speaks to YOU today in the 21st century, but see it for what it said in the context and to the audience of the time it was written.

  36. Steve and Charles indicated that have read Jonathon Sarfati. I have his book THE GREATEST HOAX ON EARTH beside me now. I am watching A bunch of Creation Ministry International DVD’s this week. Are the following men, who lecture on these DVD’s reputable men of science or not; Dr. Tas Walker, Dr. Don Batten, Dr. Jonathon Sarfati, Dr. Emil Silverstru and Dr. Werner Gitt. The following men also have earned Doctorates and they all affirm Sarfati’s book on the back cover: Dr. Robert Carter, Dr. John Stanford , Dr. Felix Konotey-Ahulu and Dr. John Baumgardner. Are they all to be immediately dismissed because they hold to a literal understanding of Genesis? Perhaps, Daniel would like to comment on this please. Thanking you in advance.

  37. I am familiar with Sarfati, but have not read much of his book-length stuff. I don’t know these other folks. My only comment about the experts that different sides trot out is to find out if their degrees are from legit places, see if they have actual work experience in the field, and limit their expert opinions to those topics. Just because someone claims a doctoral degree doesn’t mean it was earned or in the area that they opine on. Just look at “Dr. Dino”. LOL

  38. @Daniel#33,
    That I’m fighting a straw man, brother, is like the pot calling the kettle black.

    ‘I stated, and stand by the claim, that as geology started coming into its own, many Christians started using it to find evidence of a global flood and were unable to do so.’

    A sweeping generalization as Charles has pointed out. Can you cite the Christians who started using it to find evidence of a global flood but couldn’t, please?

    ‘To suggest that things like the gap theory or literary framework interpretations only came about in the last couple hundred years is just factually inaccurate – to put as charitable of a spin on it as possible.’

    Another sweeping generalization, Daniel. Can you please cite the sources of these theories, their originators, and the dates. I honestly don’t think you have any clue as to when these theories originated and came into prominence or the dates involved, or you wouldn’t make such a statement.

    ‘As Whitcomb and Morris clearly document in “The Genesis Flood”, that has not always been the common belief. It was presented as a new model for a reason.

    Please cite the page numbers in ‘The Genesis Flood’ Daniel, so I can check my copy and respond.

  39. Steve, the examples and specifics you demand are well documented in Number’s book. I no longer have my copy of it so I can’t give you specific page numbers, but it isn’t hard to find online. If you are serious about wanting answers and details, that is where you can find them. Short of that, just Google the following statement and see if it pre-dates 1850 or not.
    “It is quite foolish to think that the world was created in six days or in space of time at all…because every period of time is a series of days and nights…these can only be made by the movement of the sun…the world was not made in time, but that time was made by means of the world, for it was heaven’s movement that was the index of the nature of time.”

  40. Daniel,
    Why the mystery, brother? You think one example from someone you don’t cite, but ask me to google will prove your case? Cite your source and we can discuss it. As to being serious about wanting answers and details, yes, I always like to see people back up their claims with sources, dates, specific names; something I’ve noticed just in the short time I’ve been here you are reluctant to do.

  41. Daniel,
    ‘the examples and specifics you demand are well documented in Number’s book. I no longer have my copy of it so I can’t give you specific page numbers, but it isn’t hard to find online.’

    I asked you for the names of Christians who started using geology to find evidence for a global flood, but couldn’t. You’ve read the book but can’t remember a single Christian name and date to support your claim? Again, I am sorely puzzled by your lack of specifics. You write in sweeping generalizations, but can’t remember anyone’s name to back up your statement?

    I also asked you to substantiate with page number(s) in ‘The Genesis Flood’ your claim about Whitcomb and Morris. Specifics, Daniel.

  42. The “mystery” as you put it is because you don’t know me from Adam and obviously don’t just trust anything I say. So I thought I’d point you to an objective source that doesn’t have a dog in this fight. If I say X and you are skeptical of me, I have to overcome your bias. But if you go LOOK for X, you are more likely to accept it because there are no genetic fallacies to overcome. But if a copy-and-paste of a phrase is more trouble than you are willing to commit to, at least I’ve found out the level of your involvement in the conversation without wasting a lot of time on it.
    To solve your mystery though, Philo Judaeus is the one that said “It is quite foolish to think that the world was created in six days in a space of time at all.” But he wasn’t alone in this non-literal interpretation. We’ve already mentioned Augustine. Josephus also stated that the length of day was something that needed more of his attention. Clement of Alexandria, Origin, and others also followed interpretations other than what we are told “the church has always taught”.
    If you want to get a real kick, check out the Genesis commentary written by Ephraim the Syrian back in the 300’s. He’s a saint of the Syriac Orthodox Church. You can find it at His focus on the four elements of earth, wind, water, and fire, and his reading Genesis 1 not in a way that dates creation but in a way that validates his calendar and puts the moon as 15 days older than the sun should be enough evidence that until Darwin, not everyone understood this passage the same way.

  43. @Daniel #43
    No, I don’t know who you are, nor do I care. Whether you are credentialed in some specialist field, have a few letters after your name, a few books to your credit, it matters not one wit to me. I choose to use my first and last name when I blog, a practice I see not all share. What does matter to me, are cogent arguments with specifics, well reasoned arguments with support material, quotes, dates, page numbers, etc. That you have submitted this in #43 above will lend to a more fruitful discussion. You speak to my level of involvement in the conversation as if in some pedantic way your smug superiority stands in contrast to my ignorance? Am I getting that right?

    I am out the door tonight Daniel, but I’ll pick the rest of your comments up tomorrow.

  44. Steve, I’m sorry that you are disappointed by my lack of specifics. It is only fair that you know that I too am sorry that I am not good at recalling the specifics on demand. But there is a reason for it that goes beyond me just not having the answers so I must be wrong. If you, like I, had a 23% deficit of red blood cells. a 18% deficit in total blood volume, and a 15% deficit in blood plasma, and lost an *additional* 14% of that within half an hour of being up carrying on a conversation like this, you too would have problems remembering page numbers and specific names of long dead people that you read about several years ago. So I’m content in remembering where the information IS so that I can get it should I need to, but don’t have the details down pat like I used to. Most of my Genesis study took place prior to my disability. I now remember the general plot lines of things and the broad strokes of books, but not the character names and now many times they were mentioned on a specific page. So if pointing you to the source of the information isn’t enough for you, I’m unable to help further.

  45. Steve, I’m not being smug. Nor do I think you are ignorant. I just think you are misinformed when you make statements like, “The gap theory, day-age theory, progressive-creation theory, theistic evolution-theory, analogical or framework hypothesis views followed after the advent of modern geology and its notions of ‘deep time’”. I will grant that they became a lot more popular as evidences of age were discovered, and obviously Theistic Evolution came after Evolution was proposed, but non-literal interpretations go back for centuries. And even if they believed they were reading it “literally”, folks like Augustine and Ephraim the Syrian show that what they think it MEANS is a lot different than what modern folks like Ken Ham thinks it means. Our worldview and how we interpret the passage is much different than that of the 4th century, and even further removed from back when it was written. That is why I balk at this false dichotomy that folks always understood this the way Ken Ham does until Darwin came along and then came up with interpretations to force-fit science into the account. The resurgence of YEC flood geology in the 60s is every much an attempt to merge science with scripture as any of these other interpretations which are said to do so. We can’t pretend that this is a debate between the Bible and taking it literally and some compromised version of it that was co-opted by science when the YEC position is called “creation science”.

    The “age” issue is not a non-issue.
    a) Determining the “age” of things is what science is quite good at. See the excellent paper that reviews fallacious young-earth arguments in light of what is actually known about finding the ages of things, “Finding the Age of the Earth: By Physics or by Faith?”
    b) Old-earth creationism has to contend with not just a single great flood but with five or six major extinction events on earth. What “creator/designer” works for millions of years creating life forms that continue dying painfully and becoming extinct, sometimes en masse in major extinction events? Popping new creatures into existence each new eon only to kill many of them en masse during the next eon? Allowing countless branches to simply go extinct?
    c) What’s the value of the Noah’s Ark story in old-earth creationism? A Local flood? Why not walk away from it? Move. And why preserve so many animals in one boat if they were all around the earth still?

    The “God” or “no God” question involves more intermediate questions than Copan admits.
    a) What kind of “God” do you think it would take to create a cosmos with such fragile short-lived life forms? At best this cosmos is filled with wildly dangerous levels of radiation, unstable planetary bodies sterile of life, comets and asteroids smacking into such planetoids even the ones with life on them, and stars that sometimes get too near each other or explode, as well as galaxies that sometimes collide. At best this wild mix up of atoms and energies in the cosmos produces living organisms in a few teensy “habitable zones,” and I bet most of the places in the cosmos where life is found only consist of single celled life forms.
    b)So the cosmos appears at best, in equilibrium with life and death. And the intelligent life on this planet is living on the shifting quaking surface of a planet hung like a shooting gallery in space.
    c) And we are restricted to the surface such that if we ascend up or down five miles from the earth’s surface we’ll freeze or burn. And most of the earth’s shifting surface isn’t extremely amenable to human habitation, it’s either frozen tundra, sandy desert, too rocky and steep, or too infested with diseases and parasites.
    d) What kind of God allows so many different religious views to co-exist? And has so many people’s visions and NDEs differ? Most people who are revived do not even report having an NDE. Of those who do, Betty Eade met a Mormon Jesus, a Thailand Buddhist met a turtle God, another person met a clown, another person claims he met a guy named “Bob” who comforted him. Most NDEs are not highly descriptive, just a tunnel and light. And of those whose NDEs free them from fear of death, not all of them are Evangelical Christians, far from it. So the NDEs and visionary experiences of say, native Americans and Hindus and Buddhists and Christians differ in many respects. There’s also Christian mystic universalists like Julian of Norwich, and Christian mystics whose experiences and writings have commonalities with mystics from other religions.
    e) So Copan is naive to suppose that the question is simply one of God or no God. The question of what kind of God would create this kind of cosmos, and also allow so many different religions (and rival inspired writings and commentaries of those writings) and such varieties of visions and NDEs to exist, is a question that remains wide open. What do we really know?
    f) Also, Copan and other Evangelicals can’t even agree on the meaning of Genesis 1:1!

  48. Dear brother Daniel, The last thing I want to do is bring you distress and grief. Thank you for being so candid and direct about your struggles with your health. In that spirit, may I recommend Sarfati’s THE GREATEST HOAX ON EARTH? The book was written to answer the very best questions raised by Dr. Dawkins in his book THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. This is considered by many to be the best defense of creation (young Earth) available today. I want to publically express my gratitude for all the excellent I.D.M. material indicating that the evidence points to an personal Designer behind creation. That is all very valuable. I hope you get a copy of THE GREATEST HOAX ON EARTH? and study the book for personal profit. You may still disagree with the author when you finish it but I think you will also respect some of the biblical and scientific arguments he attempts to make for a growing segment of the Church. May our Lord bless and keep you. Peace in the Lamb, wayne.

  49. Wayne, I appreciate the book recommendation. Unfortunately, things about the length of a long blog post are about the extend of my reading comprehension any more. That is why I shipped off my library of books on this issue to the Credo House for their use there. I am well aware of the most popular scientific claims of the YEC organizations though. I held that belief myself and made those same arguments for decades. And even though I no longer see them as valid, I think it is important for every Christian to be aware of them and to test/validate them. And part of that comes from researching what OTHERS say about the arguments. Since most YEC creationist claims are not peer reviewed by anyone that is objective or skeptical, it is important to seek out the the opposite opinion. As Proverbs says, the first to make a case SEEMS right until the other comes and examines him. Or, as Paul said it, test EVERYTHING and hold to the good.

  50. Ed, in your first point, you ask about why there was a flood if it was only local. I can think of a couple of different reasons. It was not only a test of faith and obedience for Noah, as well as a witness to others while the ark was being built, but ultimately destroyed to corrupt civilization in which Noah lived. So it was a judgment as well. These reasons are not weakened at all if the penguins of the Antarctic or the koalas of Australia didn’t also perish. As far as preservation of animals do, just because a flood might not have been planet wide doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have covered a significant area that before the days of planes, trains, and automobiles would have been a hardship to replenish from elsewhere.
    If you are interested in discussing the extent of the flood, I think we are about to get into that a wee bit on Theologica.