Cover Story

Riding the rapids

"Riding the rapids" Continued...

Issue: "Rocks in their heads?," Sept. 11, 2010

With evolution, the opposite is true: The Bible is clear and current science, contrary to some evolutionist claims, is muddled. We could all agree that when there's a conflict between what the Bible clearly states and what a contemporary scientific theory stipulates, we go with the Bible. The Bible clearly states that God created everything according to its kind, and specially created Adam and Eve.

But those discussions came to an end on the afternoon of the sixth day as we ran Lava Falls: During a harrowing quarter-mile the Colorado drops 37 feet over an ancient lava flow. We gripped the ropes and plunged down as the water poured over us. Then we soared, bounced many times, and were through. One final night under the firmament, a helicopter ride up and out the next morning, and we were back on what those a mile below call "rimworld," where we live by wristwatches instead of watching the sun.

What to make of young-earth creationists? As former fashion marketer Pennington observed, they have been out of fashion for a century-but that's not entirely bad when we review the frequently changing hermeneutics of science. Some producers within Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) have garnered some dollars but much sarcasm by trying to find a baptized singer who "sounds like" whatever is hot in secular pop. Contemporary Christian Science should not imitate that.

We should also recognize what philosopher Alvin Plantinga points out: Untested assumptions lie behind all knowledge claims. This is particularly true about historical science, which is different from operational science. Scientists can observe laboratory experiments, but the only eyewitness to creation was God. The rest of us are detectives, scrutinizing sticks and stones and interpreting data based on beliefs that are outside of science. Calling a theory a "fact" does not make it so.

We should be particularly skeptical about science hype. Just 10 years ago the Human Genome Project declared gene sequencing victory and prophesied that individuals would soon be able to get medical treatment based on their genetic makeup. Now, biologist/entrepreneur J. Craig Venter calls that "one of these silly naïve notions" and Fortune describes "the great DNA letdown."

This is not to say that we should readily accept young-earth theories, which even young-earth scientists acknowledge need much work. Young-earthers argue that the accepted radiometric ages of rock samples are wrong. They argue that radioactive decay rates were different in the past-but they acknowledge that they don't yet fully understand how that could be so. Critics of young-earth Grand Canyon geology contend that caverns and sinkholes in some layers indicate their formation over long periods of time, that the limestone and Coconino sandstone layers took a long time to develop, etc.

And yet, conventional theories have numerous holes as well, as author Ranney and others admit. Besides, the difference between operational science that concerns present-day processes, and historical science that attempts to figure out the past, is huge: Scientists collect data but the data do not interpret themselves, and presuppositions play a huge role.

Ranney's Carving Grand Canyon, from its secular perspective, takes issue with some 80-million-year estimates and exults, "The Grand Canyon has certainly been an exciting place in the last 630,000 years!" Could it have been that exciting a place in the last 6,300 years, with Noah's flood propelling huge amounts of water at 100 miles per hour against rock walls that would come tumbling down? And if so, could the world really be only thousands of years old?

My bottom line: We need investigation, not arbitrary exclusion of what is scientifically unfashionable. In particular, Christian colleges, funding sources, and fellow scientists should not excommunicate young-earthers. We should encourage debate among all those who see the Bible as God's Word but have differences in interpretation. We should criticize those who make Science their god.

Creation and evolution at home

By Alisa Harris

Larry Farris takes a forensic approach to his "Broken Science" class for homeschool high-school students: "Let's 'convict' God of the crime of committing the flood. What's the evidence?" The high-school students sitting in his living room engage their observational powers and also hunt for hidden evidence in peer-reviewed journals and magazines like Discover.

The irreligious are a minority among the nation's 1.5 million homeschoolers. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 83 percent of homeschooling parents say they homeschool to provide moral or religious instruction-up from 72 percent in 2003. Homeschooling lends itself to an interdisciplinary approach, so moms and dads often intertwine science and religion with the story of the earth's beginning. Here's how three homeschooling parents do it:

Farris, who manages renewable energy investments, blends logic and evidence. He describes paleontologists finding a pile of dinosaur bones, all laid in the same direction with no small bones among them and no signs of attack, and asks: How could this happen? He suggests that the Genesis flood's enormous waves came, picked up this herd of dinosaurs, and laid the medium-sized bones in the direction of the water's flow while sweeping the smaller bones away. Students give presentations using sources non-Christians would recognize as reliable. One student, a senior who hopes to teach high-school math or science one day, gave a presentation arguing that the process of piezoelectricity-a charge that accumulates in response to pressure-could have created rocks during the Flood. Farris has invited a mining geologist to speak to the class, and he takes the students to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show where they look at fossils and quartz.

English professor Marian Anders says she and her family are Episcopalians who believe in evolution. When her daughter was young, Anders taught her the Genesis creation story along with Greek and Native American creation myths. When her daughter got older, Anders taught evolution. She uses a pedagogical method that teaches the imaginative and scientific together, calling them two different ways to look at the same thing. Her daughter learned that a star is a burning ball of fire as she learned Greek mythology concerning constellations. Anders taught insect anatomy but also hatched butterflies out of cocoons to impart a sense of wonder at creation.

Circus performer and comedian Pat Davison takes his daughter Mabelle to his performances at school assemblies across the country-and he says he wouldn't trust most with his daughter's education. He calls his daughter's Calvert School curriculum balanced but not Christian, so he integrates scientific conversations with the rest of Mabelle's education instead of teaching a class on creationism. They last discussed it while watching the Ben Stein documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. He said Mabelle found the film-about the academic world suppressing critics of evolution-a little dry, but, "She's 14. Her mind is on the Jonas brothers more than anything else." God creating the world makes sense to her: "She doesn't have any problems believing what the Bible says about these things."

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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