Monday, May 23, 2016

Todd Wood, AAPA and Evolutionary Creationism

I started writing this post a bit back and it has taken me awhile to get back to it.  

I did not get to the annual American Association of Physical Anthropologists convention this year due to a confluence of scheduling and health issues.  Hopefully next year.  In any event, Todd Wood did.  He had some thoughts on what he found and, along the way, took a parting shot at evolutionary creationism. The picture at the top of the blog is a keychain with a replica of the OH 5 Australopithecus boisei skull on it.   He writes:
I had some interesting feedback from my comments on the AAPA conference I attended in Atlanta. Before that, let's admire my cool new key chain that I picked up at the exhibitor booth for the Kenya National Museum. Yes, the very same Kenya National Museum that put the KNM in KNM-ER 1470! They had full-sized casts available too, but I was on a budget. Even though it's tiny, my new skull is pretty neat.

My keychain actually has relevance to one of the more curious comments I got. One reader enjoyed reading my comments because I didn't sound like an average creationist. I admit that stung a little (I should sound like a creationist, right?), but it was meant as a compliment.
News flash. I got one of those very same keychains a few years ago. It lasted exactly a month before it broke. The skull still sits on my night table.  Onward.  No, he don't sound like a regular creationist.  His knowledge of science, especially biology is much higher than that of your average creationist.  It is easy to pick apart the false claims of Robert Menton or Elizabeth Mitchell (to name a few) because, even a cursory reading of their output reveals that they know little about what they write.  No so with Todd Wood, who has taken other creationists to task for their batty science.  Wood also wrote once upon a time (probably much to his everlasting regret) that the evidence for evolution is very good:
Evolution is not a theory in crisis. It is not teetering on the verge of collapse. It has not failed as a scientific explanation. There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power. There is no conspiracy to hide the truth about the failure of evolution. There has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory. It works, and it works well.

I say these things not because I'm crazy or because I've "converted" to evolution. I say these things because they are true. I'm motivated this morning by reading yet another clueless, well-meaning person pompously declaring that evolution is a failure. People who say that are either unacquainted with the inner workings of science or unacquainted with the evidence for evolution. (Technically, they could also be deluded or lying, but that seems rather uncharitable to say. Oops.)
Consequently, it is with not a little bit of consternation that we read the following:
I have been doing what I do for a long time now, and I have a great deal of personal peace and confidence about my position as a creationist. I just don't feel a need to constantly reassure my audience or even myself that I'm a creationist. I suppose some might think that I should be more indignant because of all these evolutionists undermining the truth or some such, but I'm far more unsettled by fellow evangelical Christians promoting evolution than by non-Christians doing it. They really should know better.
My initial reaction to this statement was to think I had been insulted.  Why should we know better????  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this statement on Wood's part cuts to the principle disagreement between young-earth and evolutionary creationists.
In a nutshell, and very generally: Young earth creationists are absolutely convinced that their view of scripture represents objective reality and that the science can be interpreted in different ways.  Evolutionary creationists, on the other hand, are absolutely convinced that their view of science represents objective reality and that the scripture can be interpreted in different ways.

Todd Wood thinks that evolutionary creationists should know better because the scripture has to be interpreted exactly the way it is written.  Therefore, evolution has to be wrong.  While he admits that there is “gobs and gobs” of evidence for evolution, it simply cannot reflect biological reality because it counters what is clearly written in the Bible.

Evolutionary creationists, on the other hand, look at the evidence for evolution and find it absolutely overwhelming, reason that God would not lie to us about his creation, acknowledge that there have been many studies that argue that the primeval history does not reflect a word-for-word account of events, and conclude that young earth creationists are reading the Bible incorrectly.

While it appears on the surface that this represents a fundamental disagreement about the primacy of scripture, such is not the case.  This disagreement revolves, instead, on what the purpose of the scripture in question is.   Once again, in a very general sense, the young earth model promotes the view that the primeval history serves not just as a powerful statement about the creative action of the one true God, but also as an account of how He brought his creation into being.

For your average evolutionary creationist, while the first holds true, the second not so much. The generally default position of evolutionary creationists is that the second, while being absolutely important (hence its presence in scripture) is not a literal account but, instead, establishes the primacy of God as ultimate creator.

For example:

My family and I were reading Genesis last night because we are going to read through the Bible in a year with the kids and, listening to my wife read the first eleven chapters of Genesis and how drastically it differed from the account beginning with Terah and leading to Abram, it struck me how much like traditional Mesopotamian myth the Primeval History sounded.  As Conrad Hyers put it:
The Bible is credited with stories which, when reduced to their most literal dimensions, are on the level of a child's garden of verses. Instead of the oceanic depths of Genesis, we are shown a small fishpond of space and time: six literal days, a young earth, a small and recent universe, and a reduction of geological ages to the effects of a single flood. It is as if Genesis were a kind of Alice in Wonderland where one is invited to believe at least three impossible things before breakfast!
This is not true only of the creation story, but of the story of the flood, and my sixteen-year-old is starting to wonder about it, asking questions about dinosaurs, life spans and so on. These accounts are, on their face, fantastic. For example, he correctly pointed out that the tower of Babel would not be able to stand due to the laws of physics and wondered who the "we" was in the passage.  I didn't even broach the issue of the vertical limit.  Most theologians view this story as satire, a direct attack on the Babylonian ziggurats and paganism, and, thus, not literally.  Further, there has been no demonstrable evidence that a world-wide flood ever occurred. 

It has been common in recent years for people like Ken Ham to insinuate rather broadly that those who accept evolution are not really Christians.  Recently, he has extended that to old-earth creationists in general.  This sets him at odds with just about every mainline denomination and every old-earth  creationist that I am aware of.  Most evolutionary creationists (myself included) and even Old earth creationists are perfectly willing to see people like Ham and Wood as saved members of the Kingdom of God who will find their eternity with the Father.   Wood, I am pretty sure, is content to see ECs and OECs as Christians.  It is disturbing that Ham does not.  To use Wood's phrase: "he should know better."


1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to see you responded to Todd's comment about 'knowing better'. I actually sent Todd an e-mail and mentioned both you and Dennis Venema as likely targets. My question to Todd was the same as your initial thought; should they know better because the science clearly shows YEC or because 'true' Evangelicals would never promote Evolution? I also commented that I enjoy reading articles/blogs by you and Dennis because you both make science understandable to lay people like myself and you back up your comments with data. I asked Todd if you two were being dishonest or trying to mislead for some unknown reason. I didn't get a reply. I do agree with your assessment that for YECs it is the Bible first and any science that counters the stories is immediately discarded. Unfortunately I think Todd has become more of an apologist than a scientist.