Friday, September 29, 2006

And if I had bothered to read a few lines down the page...

Carol Hill also wrote a paper called "The Noachian Flood: Universal or Local?" in which she argues that there is good geological and biblical evidence that the flood was local and the mountain on which the Ark landed was Jabel Judi or Mount Qardu and not Agri Dag (Mount Ararat).

She correctly points out that "universal flood" story has been a major stumbling block to belief in the the Bible, primarily because, as I mentioned two posts back, there is not a shred of geological, archaeological or biological evidence for it. Importantly, she notes:

In addition to a lack of any real geological evidence for flood geology, there are also no biblical verses that support this hypothesis. The whole construct of flood geology is based on the original assumption that the Noachian Flood was universal and covered the whole Earth...The “leaps of logic” build one on top of another until finally, as the result of this cataclysmic event, almost all of the geomorphic and tectonic features present on the planet Earth (e.g., canyons, caves, mountains, continents) are attributed by flood geologists to the Noachian Flood.

She also mentions some of the same problems that Mark Isaak points out in his excellent TalkOrigins paper "Problems with a global flood." which is phrased in a series of questions. If there was a world wide flood, then why do we see x? It is a devastating attack on the world-wide flood argument and should be read by anyone even remotely inclined toward that position.

Although I am somewhat skeptical of the position that the person of Noah can be certainly delineated (Lloyd Bailey argues that Noah the ark-builder and Noah the viticulturalist are two different people) or that the Genesis flood account is not a retelling of the flood story in the tale of Gilgamesh, She makes a valiant effort.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

And in Michigan...

The University of Michigan's Daily Wire writes that Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos has joined the ranks of ID by stating that he supports the teaching of Intelligent Design in the classroom. You can be sure that whatever else ails the state of Michigan (read: Ford and GM), the media will not let this one rest. The Wire quotes him as saying:

In the end, I believe in our system of local control. Local school boards should have the opportunity to offer evolution and intelligent design in their curriculums.

The democratic challenger, Jennifer Granholm, supports the teaching of evolution:

The theory of intelligent design has some interesting ideas, but there is no scientific evidence to support any of the ideas. It would be a great topic in a current events course.

Granholm also stated that the decision about whether to teach evolution or intelligent design should not be left to the local school boards. I concur.

This cuts to a fundamental example of cognitive dissonance in my own thinking. I have, over time, become a federalist in much of my political thought. I think that states rights have been de-emphasized in recent decades at the expense of an expanding federal government.

The problem is that you can't have patchwork science education. Certain ideas must permeate the entire educational establishment. All English teachers are required to teach the use of articles in a sentence. If one teacher decided he didn't want to do that, the students in his area would receive substandard education. The same is true of science.

At the moment, ID arguments rely on negative evidence--that is not how science operates. Science works from hypothesis to theory. ID has neither. Science teachers should teach the most up-to-date and heavily supported scientific theories, regardless of what they think of them.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Numbers and Sense in Genesis

Carol Hill wrote an article a few years back called "Making sense of the numbers of Genesis." This essentially takes the position that when one views the numbers of the ages of the patriarchs in Genesis within the context of numerology and gematria, they make sense.

She starts off with a bang by quoting Hugh Ross, who states:

When readers encounter the long life spans in Genesis, they become convinced that the book is fictional, or legendary at best, whether in part or in whole (Ross 1998)

Conrad Hyers referred to this as " believing as many as three impossible things before breakfast! " Hill points out that the numbers in the Primeval History are base-sixty, a conclusion that was also reached by Hyers and Lloyd Bailey, in his excellent work Noah: the Man in History and Tradition. When one reads the ages of the patriarchs, their life spans end in 0, 5, 7 or 2, with the exception of Methusaleh, who, at the age of 769, dies in the flood or in the year of the flood. She notes that this is a "chance probability of one in a billion."

She makes some other points that would be uncomfortable to most YEC supporters. Namely,
• That the Mesopotamian Ubaid culture was using advanced numerical terminology as early as 5500 B.C. (or 1500 years before the creation of the world)
• That the sacred numbers that the Mesopotamians used were the same ones the early hebrews used
• The literal ages of the patriarchs vary depending on which version of the Primeval History that you use (Masoretic Text, Septuagint or Samaritan Pentateuch), sometimes dramatically.

This is a good attempt to grapple with a truly vexing issue and my only quibble with her argument is when she tries to correlate the lives of the patriarchs with the rise of complex civilizations in the Near East. The problem is that right smack in the middle of the genealogical information is a world-wide flood that wipes everything off of the map. Hill makes no mention of this, an event for which there is not a shred of credible evidence. Arguments such as hers will have to address this elephant in the room before they can be successful in their presentation.

Bailey, Lloyd. (1989) Noah: The Person and the Story in History and Tradition South Carolina Press

Ross, H. The Genesis Question (1998) Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1998, 115.

Why I don't use Internet Explorer

I just spent an hour on a post that Internet Explorer wiped out in a fraction of a second. And they wonder why people don't like their POS browser.

The Nature article

Sorry, what I should have posted was this: The Nature article is called "A juvenile early hominin skeleton from Dikika, Ethiopa." It is by Alemseged, Spoor, Kimbel, Bobe, Geraads, Reed and Wynn. It is in Vol. 443 (21 September 2006) and is found on pages 296-301.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Nature Article About the Child

The Nature article about the new Australopithecus afarensis child (which is behind a subscription wall) gives more details. The endocranial volume is estimated because the head is not quite complete and it overlaps with both ape and human ranges. Other things:

• craniodental characteristics place it with A. afarensis
• post crania clearly indicates bipedality
• scapular border is more ape-like than human

This is a really interesting mix of traits and lends more credence to the idea that A. afarensis was a transitional form in the truest sense of the phrase.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Another article on the child

The Myway news article is a bit better on detail.

Australopithecus afarensis child

From the Washington Post comes the story of a three year old girl that, apparently, got washed away in a flood and drowned----3.3 million years ago. The almost complete remains belong to Australopithecus afarensis, a hominid that lived from about 4 mya to about 3 mya. States the author:

Scientists are still painstakingly extracting the fossilized bones from the surrounding stone, but they have already made striking discoveries, dramatically reinforcing the idea that the creatures were a transitional stage between apes and humans. Although they had legs like humans that enabled them to walk upright on two feet, they also had shoulders like gorillas that may have enabled them to climb trees; although their teeth seem to have grown quickly, like chimps' teeth, their brains may have matured more slowly, like those of humans.

This is exciting. Unfortunately, palaeoanthropologist Fred Spoor is quoted as saying:

"If you imagine how this child would have sounded if it was crying out for its mother, its cry would appeal more to chimp ears than to human ears. Even though it's a very early human ancestor, she would sound more apelike than humanlike."

It will soon be claimed by the YEC supporters that this form was not human at all.

Friday, September 15, 2006

"Is Intelligent Design Biblical?"

Denis Alexander writes a provocative paper entitled "Is Intelligent Design Biblical?" in which he argues (quite persuasively in my mind) that it is not. In it, he notes some peculiarities about the current movement:

For whereas traditional design arguments perceive the whole universe to be created by God, ID proponents argue that certain components of the world around us are designed whereas others are not. [William] Dembski suggests that the universe may be likened to an oil painting. Some parts of the painting result from 'natural causes' whereas other parts are due to 'design'.

As he correctly points out:

One of the striking characteristics of the Biblical doctrine of creation is that God is described as the author of the whole created order without exception, both in its origins and in its on-going sustaining...The Bible therefore has no concept of 'nature' for the simple reason that the term is redundant.

He suggests that there are four ways in which ID is unscientific. 1. It proposes a split creation, 2. It uses "God of the Gaps" arguments." 3. It proposes that the designer not necessarily be the God of the Bible or that there even be a God at all. 4. It suggests that organisms that are responsible for great suffering in humans (the bacterial flagellum for example) are intelligently designed, making God out to be cruel.

I am not sure I agree with the last one but that likely stems from my belief that God has created a self-sustaining universe in which all parts are necessary. He is exactly right about the "God of the Gaps" argument. Kenneth Miller points that out in Finding Darwin's God. For me, that is a fatal flaw. Read the whole thing.


I have finally gotten around to joining the American Scientific Affiliation, an organization of scientists committed to God's Word. The organization was founded in 1941 and officially takes no position on controversial matters. Articles that have been pro- and antievolution have appeared in the pages of their journal, Perspectives on the Christian Faith. Interestingly, some years after the founding of the group, several members, who felt that the ASA was getting too liberal, split off and formed the Creation Research Society. That organization was headed until recently by the late Henry Morris.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Historical Adam

John McIntyre has written a truly unusual article on the historicity of Adam, in which he argues that the idea that Adam was the biological ancestor of all humans dates to Augustine and not to the scriptures themselves. In it, he notes the same thing that Davis Young observed:

[The traditional] account of Adam and Eve was acceptable until prehistoric humans, Homo sapiens, were discovered by the palaeoanthropologists. Since these creatures lived more than 100,000 years before Adam and across the surface of the earth, they could not biologically inherit Original Sin from an Adam living in Mesopotamia in 4000 BC.

This is a serious stumbling block for the literal interpretation of these passages and has led to more than one theologian surmising that Adam is not historical (I should have citations here. I will try to run down a few).

He makes a somewhat bald assumption, however, when he posits Adam and Eve in the garden at 4000 BC because then, the ages of the patriarchs are taken literally. As noted by Carol Hill, Conrad Hyers and others, the numbering system used in the genealogies is likely base sixty and not literal. Further, he sees no problem taking a literal reading of the primeval history and yet makes no mention of how we should read the accounts of the flood and the Tower of Babel, two stories for which there is not a shred of extra-biblical evidence.

He then takes a left turn and states:

Of course, we could accept the traditional Adam of the Christian church. However, in a remarkable way, the recognition that humans have an evolutionary inheritance clarifies the scriptural account of Adam and Eve.

This is a position I held some years back before (after considerable prayer) I had to abandon it in favor of a less literal reading of scripture and in the face of too many questions that I could not answer. Such a position demands a completely literal reading of scripture and yet tacit acceptance of all of modern science. It is nigh on impossible to reconcile the two.

An interesting take on things.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ice Cores and the Flood

Catching up again. In an article that appeared at the end of 2003 in the ASA's journal Perspectives on the Christian Faith, Paul Seely argues that the information coming out of Greenland on the GISP2 ice core provides "strong evidence that there was no global flood." The article lays out the evidence that annual layers can be counted down to 110 000 years and, in no instance, is there a melt layer that would correspond to a world-wide flood.

He is particularly critical of Michael Oard's argument that there has been only one ice age, remarking:

Oard’s second argument is based on his hypothesis that there was only one Ice Age and that the ice sheet during that time (c. 2700 to 2000 BC) would have been lower and temperatures warmer, and this would have produced “more melt or hoar frost layers (cloudy bands) … Therefore, what uniformitarian scientists are claiming as annual variations are simply oscillations that occur within a single year.” (Oard 2001: 42 in Seely)

If the weather was sufficiently warmer in the past to frequently raise the temperature above freezing, then more melt layers would be produced. But, Oard has confused melt layers with hoar frost layers. Any experienced glaciologist will tell you that melt layers are quite different in nature and appearance from hoar frost layers; and thus are easy to spot and discount. (text note omitted) (Seely 2003: 256)

He further notes:

Oard’s confusion of melt-layers with hoar frost layers and his failure to understand that the latter are due to seasonal differences invalidates his second argument. (Seely 2003: 257)

Marvin Lubenow relies very heavily on Oard's arguments about there being only one ice age. Kevin Henke absolutely destroys those arguments here.

I finally got around to joining the ASA. If you are interested in these issues, you might think about it also. The web site is

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Papal About Face?

Also in the Pew Forum is this note, in which it is said that some reconciliation has taken place. The story states:

Pope Benedict and his former doctoral students plan to publish the proceedings of their weekend seminar on evolution to promote a dialogue between faith and science on the origins of life, participants said.

The minutes, to be issued later this year, will show how Catholic theologians see no contradiction between their belief in divine creation and the scientific theory of evolution, they said after the annual closed-door meeting ended on Sunday.

This is surprising, given the prominent position taken by Cardinal Schonborn and the firing of the papal astronomer recently. I look forward to the minutes.

Home Schooling

The Pew Forum has posted an article relating the push among evangelicals to pull their kids from public schools. It reads in part:

"The courts say no creationism, no prayer in public schools," said Roger Moran, a Winfield, Mo., businessman and member of the Southern Baptist Convention executive committee. "Humanism and evolution can be taught, but everything I believe is disallowed."

The father of nine homeschooled children, Moran co-sponsored a resolution at the Southern Baptists' annual meeting in June that urged the denomination to endorse a public school pullout. It failed, as did a similar proposal before the conservative Presbyterian Church in America for members to shift their children into homeschooling or private Christian schools.

I sympathize. One of the primary reasons we don't have Marcus in public school is the generally low quality of the education and the overall sway of the NEA, which is reflexively left. I also sort of sympathize with the evolution part, although if nothing else because it is taught badly in public schools and there tends to be a trend toward philosophical naturalism at the expense of methodological naturalism.