Debate Part II: Biblical Creation or Theological Evolution

Here’s Part Two of the debate between the theistic evolutionist, Karl Giberson and creationist Randy Guliuzza. If you missed the first part, check it out here. Both Dr. Giberson and Dr. Guliuzza presented their opening remarks, and here they’re offering their rebuttals, and then answering questions from the audience.

Dr. Giberson says that Dr. Guliuzza misrepresented how scientists approach origins, and that he’s using a debating trick by switching definitions. Giberson says that such a boundary between observational science and historical science doesn’t exist because science is done by examining scientific episodes, which are indistinguishable. As an example he uses the sun and asks if we’re studying it in the present or the past? Or if we look at the stars, are we studying the present or history? He referred to several supernovas, including the one seen by Tycho Brahe in 1572, which (supposedly) happened millions of years ago. Giberson says that no one can build a laboratory to observe these events, but we have scientific principles resulting from such things as supernovae. He then says that we do science in the same way in the past as we do in the present. He admits we can’t go back in the past, but must extrapolate based on theory, but that doesn’t mean we can’t study those things scientifically. He also referred to volcanoes and continental drift and pointed out that we can’t create laboratories to test them. Therefore, to restrict science to what can be observed, tested and repeated puts it out of history, and he doesn’t know anyone who’d define science that way.

Giberson thought Guliuzza’s identification of comments by Dawkins, Gould and Lewonton were odd. Their comments were anti-God; these men want Christianity to go away and die. They fashion science to use against Christianity by extrapolating beyond what the scientific data can support; they put a theological interpretation on everything in science to make it incompatible with Christianity, but we shouldn’t let them do our Christian theology for us. We should look to genuine theologians to get a thorough explanation of God as creator. They’re amateur theologians that can be ignored.

The normal meaning of Genesis came into play, and Giberson responded to Guliuzza’s claim that those living in Biblical times understood Scripture as it was written. Giberson says that the meaning of Genesis isn’t a simple a concept. We read the Bible in English and think it can be easily translated without confusion. Genesis one says: “In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. He claims this verse can’t be referring to a planet because no one thought of the earth as a planet until the 17th century. He says planets were called wandering stars by the ancients… an object in the heavens moving in an inexplicable way that couldn’t be understood. But they didn’t call the earth a wandering star because it was fixed and at the center. He claims we’re ripping Genesis out of context, which is unreasonable. God created a firmament, which literally means a dome, and this caused a lot of puzzlement. The names Adam and Eve had Hebrew meanings, such as “man” and “the mother of all living”, and this gives us a much different story from the normal meaning. Giberson says there’s a difference in interpretation that we need to understand, and he suggested that, rather than have it be a “God’s truth” or “man’s word” approach, we need to understand that God gave us two books: the book of Scripture, and the book of nature; two distinct revelations by God brought into harmony (Thomas Aquinas). He says we can’t subordinate one book against the other, and that they both have the same author, and we need to have a good understanding of both.

Dr. Guliuzza responded and explains that the main reason evolutionists won’t give Genesis its normal meaning is due to the supposed evidence supplied by evolution. He says that when we speak, we give words a normal meaning and context. But evolutionists say we shouldn’t do that with Genesis because of science and other sources. Guliuzza claims it’s not just that evolution got it wrong- it’s that the Bible got it right. So if evolution can’t get it right, why should we give it any credibility at all by not giving the words of Genesis their normal contextual meaning? Science doesn’t even have an answer to the Cambrian explosion, junk DNA, or the tree of life, so why should it stand in judgment of the Bible?

Guliuzza states that the universe shows fantastic design that’s not explained by the Big Bang, which sounds like a magical story as it progresses from star formation, planets, and people, while skipping over biological complexity. It’s just one fanciful story after another.

Guliuzza objected to Giberson accusing him of using a rhetorical trick when he defined the term science to differentiate between observational science and historical science. He says that science is based on observation and testing, and there’s a big difference between the two: one allows us to run tests to tell us if things work or not, while the other doesn’t.

He says that the example of whale evolution provided by Giberson is simply based on artistic license. Fossils are extremely fragmented and are missing many bones, and that Ambulocetus is a land dwelling creature with no real transition in between- it’s just a fanciful story.

Guliuzza rebutted Giberson’s explanation of Common design vs. Custom design by explaining that God used a good working design over and over. Giberson had said that he’d expect God to customize organisms so that, if they weren’t related, they wouldn’t have similar designs. But Guliuzza pointed out that Giberson made an unreasonable assumption and wouldn’t know what God would do. He also showed that evolution was spectacularly wrong about shared genes or pseudogenes.

He explained how webbed toes result from a process in development. The webbing isn’t like a fish, and the human tailbone isn’t a real tail. And all the problems we face with varicose veins, windpipe and back problems, are not a problem of bad design, but a problem of getting old and breaking down.

Guliuzza discussed sin and how God told Adam that he would surely die if he disobeyed, and it’s that sin that lead to our sinful nature.

He says that our mysteriously powerful brain is evidence against evolution. If we evolved, then our brain should have stopped evolving after the point that we could survive, so why is it “super, super designed”? To map the neurons in our brain would take 1 trillion DVD’s to store the information. But it was designed so that we could know and understand God.

He responded to Giberson’s claim that there are two books from God (Scripture and nature) and says that nature doesn’t trump the Bible, and the Bible warns about giving glory to the creation rather than the creator.  He says that we have a natural tendency to move away from God, and that’s why we always need scripture to guide us to the truth.

He says that we have no reason to reject the Bible because the evidence for evolution has vanished.

Giberson had a chance to respond and took issue with Guliuzza for using such descriptions to describe evolutionists as “fanciful”, “concocted”, and using “artistic license”. He says this description of the scientific community isn’t necessary, and that the field of science is one of integrity. It’s the search for truth, and he’s never known anyone to “concoct”. He also mentioned that scientists are poorly paid.

Next he responded to Guliuzza’s evidence debunking evolution by explaining that scientists are developing better answers, and that he didn’t have time to present all the lines of evidence for evolution. He says that evolution is complex, and changes rapidly, and that Guliuzza shouldn’t be quoting geneticists from 1963 because it’s a rapidly changing field. He maintains that evolution is moving slowly with integrity and isn’t a concoction or fraud.

Guliuzza responded and discussed the notion of consensus in science. He says that, in the 1930’s, the vast majority of scientists (the establishment of the day) believed we should help the human race evolve by getting rid of the unfit, and some states forcibly sterilized humans and applied eugenics. Therefore we know that scientists can be dreadfully wrong in vast numbers.

At this time the debate moved to the Question and Answer session, and there were some good ones. Dr. Guliuzza addressed a question about human and chimp DNA, and he explained that the latest research by Jeffrey Tompkins demonstrates that humans and chimps are not anywhere near similar. Evolutionists have cherry-picked the data to get 98%, and now it’s down to 70%. In fact the human and chimp Y chromosome’s similarity is down to 60%.

Giberson responded incredulously to the term “cherry-picking” and said we need to be careful. He explained that when we’re making comparisons with DNA, we need to know if we’re comparing gene sequences that do something and ignoring those that don’t. He says there are different ways to do comparisons and that he’s skeptical of 70%. He rebuked Guliuzza, saying that there’s no reason for scientists to cherry-pick the data and that it’s very disingenuous to suggest that. He says that evolution is the reigning paradox.

One audience member asked, “Who was Adam”? Giberson stated that some Biblical scholars see the “Adam” story as Israel, and this was a powerful parabolic lesson- a powerful way of talking about a relationship to God. He says that the connection between Jesus and Adam is complicated. Paul isn’t arguing that if Adam didn’t sin, then Jesus wouldn’t be necessary. There needs to be a recognition that we’re sinful creatures, that humans are flawed and need to be redeemed. The point isn’t that Adam is real- the point is that we need to be saved.

Guliuzza responded that Adam was a real human being, just like Jesus, and that Genesis One isn’t a story about Israel. He wondered why anyone would be compelled not to read Genesis as a historical account. What in the text would lead one to think about this being a parable for Israel? It’s extraneous. It’s an attempt to harmonize Scripture with an evolutionary origin of humans. Why should it be complicated? It’s not complicated at all. The book of Luke gives a genealogical account from Jesus to Adam. Jesus is tied to Adam, and is a flesh and blood kinsman redeemer- Jesus could suffer on our behalf because he was both God and man. Paul explains that when Adam fell, we fell with him.

Another person asked about the Urey/ Miller, origin of life experiment. Giberson says the experiment wasn’t supposed to prove that life originated in a particular way, but it took on a life of its own. He says you can make complicated amino acids without having any design, and that recent experiments are encouraging and pointing us in the right direction for a self-replicating cell. It’s a very complicated problem and may take another century to resolve, or we may never get there.

Guliuzza agreed that the experiment took on a life of its own. But Miller Urey proved to him in college that life originated spontaneously, and he was fooled by it. Scientists, he says, don’t have a clue how life originated. We’re not close to a self-replicated cell.

Someone asked if there’s any Biblical evidence for billions of years, and Giberson referred to the second book of nature, saying there’s no contradicting evidence there.

Guliuzza said there’s nothing in the Bible telling us that God used evolution rather than supernatural creation. This is forcing evolution into Scripture.

Another person asked if there’s any geologic evidence for an old or young earth, and Guliuzza responded that there’s carbon 14 in every fossil we date when there shouldn’t be. After 100,000 years there should be no measurable carbon 14 left. And in 2005 actual soft tissue from dinosaurs was found in what was believed to be 65 million year old dinosaur blood.

Giberson said that carbon 14 can be used for dating, but there are many different types of dating techniques.

Overall, in my opinion, Guliuzza triumphed big-time over Giberson. Guliuzza was prepared, articulate, logical and coherent. I thought Giberson gave some very contrived answers; he was incoherent, unprepared, inconcistent, and very convoluted, especially in his theological answers. Giberson didn’t have any real answers for as to how theology can be wedded to evolution, and his explanation of Adam as a parable to Israel made no sense on its own.

As a young earth creationist I’m certainly critical of Giberson, but that’s because I see some very real problems that he hasn’t addressed, or can’t address. Here are some of my criticisms.

Firstly I don’t find it surprising that he went from being a creationist to a theistic evolutionist. When I study his arguments, assumptions and criticisms about young earth creationism, it’s clear that he never really understood creationism. If he did, he wouldn’t have made the basic mistakes he’s made.

He claimed that no key theological concepts are harmed by believing in evolution, but I think his responses made it clear that there are key problems when evolution is mixed with Scripture.

Giberson accepts all the evidence in favor of the Big Bang, but there’s plenty of evidence against it that he’s either unaware of, or is ignoring. There are many scientists who’ve rejected the Big Bang, and many of them submitted a letter to the scientific community listing their concerns, including the acceptance of hypothetical entities that have never been observed, such as dark matter, dark energy and inflation, to prop up the Big Bang. Instead of there being successful predictions associated with the Big Bang, there are retrospective observations fit into the parameters; but there were no quantitative predictions validated by observable evidence. So the successful predictions that he claim “undergird” the central scientific explanation for the evolution of the universe collapse. http://creation.com/secular-scientists-blast-the-big-bang

He says that human fossils are never found with dinosaurs, but such a claim doesn’t distinguish evolution from creation. At the time of the flood most people would probably have been living in close proximity to each other, and dinosaurs probably wouldn’t have been living among them, so we wouldn’t expect human fossils to be buried with dinosaur fossils. However, after Noah’s flood we do have evidence of humans and dinosaurs coexisting, including Biblical references to the behemoth and leviathan. Dr. Guliuzza did a nice job pointing out that the tree of life is imaginative speculation and has been turned on its head; this falsifies evolution rather than confirm it.

Giberson’s discussion of Common design vs. Custom design was nonsensical. For a theistic evolutionist there should be no talk of design because the organisms supposedly evolved and were not designed. Sometimes he spoke as though organisms were designed by God, and at other times he talked as though pure evolutionary processes were responsible for the organism’s appearance. Design is usually used by creationists and Intelligent Design adherents, but not evolutionists. Guliuzza also correctly pointed out that God isn’t limited to designing in a way that would satisfy an evolutionist; God designed things based on a common design that works and isn’t constrained to design organisms in a dissimilar way.

Giberson’s explanation for vestigial organs has long been disproven, so it’s hard to understand why he even brought that up. He seems to have no concept about how the effect of Adam’s sin would have caused the problems that he calls bad “design”. He says it’s hard to understand why things like vestigial tails, webbed feet and hands exist in a creationist model, but that’s only because he doesn’t believe in the Fall of Man, which actually explains that. The Fall also explains cruelty, which didn’t exist prior to The Fall. These were all the result of The Fall and came afterwards.

His explanation for the “image of God” and our sinful nature is problematic. He says God’s image gradually emerged over time, but then that would mean there’s a point where humans are sub-human, and are not unique or special to other organisms, and this could be used as an excuse to justify such things as abortion and eugenics, which has already been done. The Bible, however, tells us that we’re made in God’s image right from the beginning of creation and at conception, and that’s a powerful argument against abortion and murder. In the same way we’re born into sin as a result of Adam’s sin. No one has to teach a baby or infant how to sin or do wrong; it comes naturally. Giberson’s concept is very vague. To say that sin “emerged” does nothing to help our understanding of Scripture or theology.

He also seems to merge Intelligent Design into his theistic evolutionary beliefs. He mentioned the fine-tuning argument, which actually favors creationists and not evolutionists. From an evolutionary perspective, why is it that the universe, earth and all of life have the appearance of design if they weren’t designed? Evolutionists have to confront that issue, while it’s apparent to creationists that the design is very real. When Giberson says he’s in awe of God’s creation, it’s because God designed it awesomely- not because of some evolutionary or naturalistic processes. If God is responsible for tuning the knobs, then it wasn’t left to natural processes as he previously claimed.

It’s also apparent that Giberson doesn’t understand the difference between operational science and historical science because he claims they’re indistinguishable. That’s strange because he’s able to articulate the difference without believing it. If they’re really indistinguishable, then why are we able to distinguish between them? He also says that we can’t build a laboratory to observe supernovae, volcanoes, or continental drift. But he doesn’t seem to understand that you don’t need to build a laboratory in order to observe and test, or to make predictions. And we don’t need a laboratory in order to observe the effects of any particular process, like gravity. He says that we do science in the past the same way we do in the present, which is not true. He even admitted that we can’t go back into the past, but must EXTRAPOLATE based on theory. Therefore, if we extrapolate based on theory, we can’t perform an experiment on the past to verify if the extrapolations were correct. He also says that to restrict science to what can be observed, tested and repeated puts it out of history, and that’s the point. He seems to understand it, but doesn’t want to acknowledge it because that would damage the credibility of evolution. This is extremely important because so many people think evolution is a proven fact. They can’t see the difference between observational science and historical science. Historical science cannot be substantiated. It’s also interesting that Giberson rebukes evolutionists like Richard Dawkins as one who extrapolates beyond what the scientific data can support, but he doesn’t see that he’s doing the same thing with evolution. If Giberson could see this distinction I think he’d be able to see the evidence for evolution falling apart.

I thought it was interesting how Giberson discussed how we should interpret scripture because he has an odd way of doing it. He argues that the ancients couldn’t have understood what it meant when Scripture said that God “created the heavens and the earth” because they didn’t know what planets were. But I find that irrelevant. They would have understood the meaning; they would have known what the earth was and what the heavens were referring to, and that would be enough to understand the plain meaning. Guliuzza was right to point out that nature doesn’t trump Scripture, while it seems that Giberson elevates science over Scripture by equating nature with science.

Giberson tried desperately to defend the integrity of science, but it’s clear that he’s unaware of all the scientific frauds that have been exposed, such as Piltdown man, Archaeoraptor, Haekel’s embryonic drawings, peppered moths, horse evolution, and even global warming. Scientific frauds are not uncommon because, as Giberson admitted, there’s little money to be made from being a scientist. Grant money is needed, and in order to obtain grant money, the scientist needs to be successful, and that often leads to fraud, cherry-picking, artistic license, concoctions, speculation, and fanciful explanations.

I also thought it was interesting how many times Giberson resorted to the terms “complexity” or “complicated”, as if it were an admission that he had no idea.

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18 thoughts on “Debate Part II: Biblical Creation or Theological Evolution

  1. Quite frankly, at this point I’m not even sure why such debates take place. I guess on the surface it’s interesting. But no amount of “proof” is ever going to convince the other side to change their values or belief system. Beyond it a certain point it just seems like a lot of grandstanding and a waste of time and resources.

    • You’re right in a lot of ways, but there are plenty of good reasons to hold such a debate. First, you never know when someone is sincerely searching and wants real answers.

      I don’t expect the debaters to change each other’s mind, but they may very well change the minds of those in the audience. There are people on the fence, and they’re looking to see who’s real and who’s not. I’ve heard countless stories of people who were on one side or the other, and then changed sides, and I’m one of them. I would have called myself an old earth creationist at one point, but I heard enough good arguments for a young earth that I was willing to change my mind.

      I also have a real interest in listening to a debate like this. It challenges me to understand both sides of the argument so that I’m better informed and equipped. I also like a good discussion, so I welcome anyone with opposing views and wants to have a good, real dialogue.

      • But what’s the point of having a dialogue? I could offer you a point by point refutation of every single argument put forth by the creationist in this debate. And I’m sure you’d have a rebuttal for all of my refutations and in the end we wouldn’t accomplish anything. Similarly there isn’t a single piece of evidence you could offer me to cause me to even remotely consider young earth theories, because the body of scientific evidence is overwhelmingly against it. Certainy none of the arguments or evidence in this debate did anyhing for me scientifically or logically. But then again creationists and evolutions define evidence differently.

        So we won’t ever change each others’ minds, but what about those on the fence people? Personally, I never try to “convert” people because ultimately, people will interpret the evidence available to them through their own unique, subjective lens. I might try the old Socratic method to try and lead people to question why they believe what they believe, because ultimately they’re the only ones responsible for changing their minds. At times this debate seems to me like trying to interpret a poem. We’re both looking at the same words, yet each of us is deriving a different meaning for different reasons. Perhaps there really is only one correct interpretation. Perhaps their isn’t. So long as its always framed as a debate, as an adversarial relationship of mutual exclusivity, it will never ever be a productive dialogue.

    • I guess the point is manifold: Educating myself, and educating others. Being able to defend my position and substantiate my claims. To formulate sound, rational arguments. Allow people to see that what you have to say is worth thinking about and worth discussing. Possibly change someone’s mind. Building credibility for a cause I believe in. For the sheer enjoyment of it. Because I like intellectual and stimulating conversations. For the challenge of succeeding in a minority position. Because I’m not afraid to be bold and take a stand for what I believe. Demonstrating the value of my position. Showing people that there’s a different way to look and think about things than what they’re used to. Gaining legitimacy and respect. For the love of communication. I think the dialogue is successful and productive if I’ve accomplished any of the above. But most importantly I hope the dialogue brings glory to God.

      You’re right that we could go back and forth with rebuttals, but I hope others are at least able to see the points I’m trying make, even if I don’t change their mind. I’d like people to be willing to take what I say seriously, listen to my arguments, consider my position, and then respond sincerely. Everyone is welcome to disagree, but I just want them to know that I’ve respected their position and considered their points as well. Perhaps we’ll both be better afterwards, respecting each other more.

      If we could be specific, that would be great too. I’ve heard many times that there’s “overwhelming” evidence in favor of evolution and against young earth theories. Just for the fun of it, if you have just one example that you’d like to discuss, I’d love to go into some depth and examine it.

      I agree that definitions play a huge role in understanding either side. And like you, I don’t believe in “converting” people because I know that can’t be done. As a Christian, however, I do believe that God can change people’s minds. I leave that to him and don’t worry about that. That’s not my job.

      • I appreciate that you don’t try to convert people! I also apologize for the late reply. I see no problem with people educating themselves on either side of the debate. To me, though, it just seems rather pointless for people like you and I, who have already essentially made our minds up, to debate.

        Quite frankly, I don’t really want to go into specific “evidence” because I already know exactly what will happen. I already know exactly what you’ll say if I mention something like, say, fossils, or radiocarbon dating. It has nothing to do with you specifically, but rather the nature of the debate. We’ve both defined what constitutes evidence differently, and we both approach the same body of evidence with a different lens. Honestly, it’s enough for me to read your thoughts on the matter, and to take in the perspective that your belief system offers. I guess what I’m ultimately trying to say is that I will continue to faithful read up on the viewpoints you so graciously offer all of us who follow your blog with interest, but I’m pretty much done with trying to provide the scientific counterpoint.

    • Understood.

      At some point I’d be interested in understanding how you “know” what you know about fossils and radiocarbon dating, and how you’re able to verify that your belief or interpretation is right without having to accept it by faith. We can leave that for another day 😉

      • Well in the case of radioactive isotopes, simple observation and math. So carbon-11 has a half-life of 20 minutes.  Half-life means that every time that time elapses, half the atom’s mass is reduced.  Because Carbon-11 has such a short half-life, we can literally test it over and over again within a day to perfect the exponential formula used to predict half-life. Granted, different isotopes have different rates of decay, but math is universal. The laws of chemistry and mathematics don’t change from isotope to isotope.

        But what about isotopes with half lives of thousands of years? Impossible to observe, right? Well, we can make observations on the decay rate and apply the same mathematical principles and models. Unless you’d argue that math itself changes throughout history, then there really is no reason to doubt the results of the equations.

        Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

    • No problem, this is exactly the kind of challenge I was hoping for! I’m sure we’ll end at a stale-mate, but it’s enjoyable to discuss nonetheless. Math and observation are extremely important in science, and your explanation of Carbon-11 makes complete sense. That’s great that we can make predictions, observe what’s happening, test the results, and form conclusions. But there are some assumptions being made when extending this example to isotopes with half lives of thousands of years, and these assumptions cannot be tested. Some of the assumptions are:
      • that the initial isotope amounts are known (the original concentrations of parent and daughter elements in that rock)
      • the rate of decay of the parent into the daughter element (that the decay rate has remained constant at today’s rate and hasn’t changed over time)
      • the sample has remained in a closed system for millions and billions of years.
      • that no amount of either parent or daughter has leached into or out of the rock since its formation

      If, however, any of our assumptions are wrong, then the age in question will be way off. The RATE group, sponsored by the Institute for Creation Research and Creation Ministries International, has presented evidence that all these assumptions have been violated, and that there have been one or more periods of accelerated radiometric decay in the past.

      Evidence for this was presented by Russ Humphreys on the diffusion of helium out of zircons from the Precambrian granite at Fenton Hills, New Mexico. Andrew Snelling presented evidence that radiohalos offer further proof for accelerated radioactive decay. The researchers also demonstrated that different dating methods result in different dates on the same rock. One such example was on a 20th century lava flow from Mt. Ngauruhoe, New Zealand, which gave a Rb-Sr isochron age of 133 Ma, a Sm-Nd isochron age of 197 Ma, and a Pb-Pb age of 3.908 Ga for the cooling time of the modern lavas.

      John Baumgardner showed evidence of carbon-14 in coal and diamonds, and even evolutionary geologists admit to reporting such results numerous times.

      Other scientists, such as A.J. Monty White (physical chemistry) and Nuclear Physicist Jim Mason support these findings and agree that these dating methods are not reliable because the underlying assumptions are unprovable and unknowable. Sometimes it’s assumed that there was no daughter element when the original rock was formed, but we cannot know that.

      And again we have examples where different dating methods provide different ages for the same rock, and many of these examples come from evolutionists who have trouble rectifying the discrepancies and suggest the age be determined by the fossils found in the rock or from fossils in adjoining rocks. But that leads to circular reasoning.
      Dr. Mason also explains that radiometric dating doesn’t really measure age at all. Instead it measures the ratio of the radioactive ‘parent’ element to the stable ‘daughter’ element, and the age must be inferred by using math, which is relying the unverifiable assumptions previously mentioned.
      Another example where radiometric dating has provided incorrect dates is with Mt. St. Helens, in which a lava flow was dated at 2.6 million years old.

      So there’s no reason to argue that the math itself changes throughout history. It’s these other assumptions that are unknowable that is the real issue.

      Here are two articles I’ve cited here. Let me know if you have any criticisms with what they’ve presented.

      http://creation.com/radiometric-dating-and-old-ages-in-disarray

      http://creation.com/jim-mason-nuclear-physicist

      • In regard to the first point, we can create these isotopes in a lab, so we do know what their initial starting mass should be.

        With regard to the second point, why would the decay rates change? And even if they changed, would they change enough to severely affect the estimates of age? Moreover, if there really truly is a scientific, observable phenomenon that somehow accelerates the decay of isotopes, then it’s also subject to measurement. I don’t really see why it wouldn’t be possible to ascertain a measurement of how it would affect the decay rate, and then simply adjust the age estimate.

        With regard to the third point, nothing operates in a closed system. Even a laboratory, although technically a “closed system” really isn’t one. Variability is a factor in any practical experiment, and is usually factored into results.

        With regard to the fourth point, I can see how this might appear to muddle results. In this hypothetical scenario, say you find a fossil with two different amounts of the same isotope. In this scenario you’ve set up, perhaps one of the isotopes leached into the bone from a surrounding rock. So how do you tell which is which? The obvious answer is the test the surrounding rocks. Then you can distinguish which isotope in the bone came from the rock, and the remaining one must be the bone.

        With regard to different dating methods giving different measurements given different ages, I’d have to ask how large the differences were. Are we talking about thousand of years apart? Hundreds of thousands? Millions? Even if different methods of dating produced different dates that were 250,000 years apart, that’s actually a very small magin of error if we’re talking about a timeframe of millions of years.

        As far as the diamonds go, I don’t really know enough about geology to speak to this. I would have to do more research into the matter.

        I’ll have to give the articles you cited a goings over once I have spare time. But two final thoughts. One, you can’t have decay without a measurement of time. Yes, we are measuring a ratio, but that ratio is a function of time. Perhaps the rate of decay fluctuates (I personally am rather dubious of this assertion and shall do further research), but there’s mathematical ways to factor in variability.

        Two, with regard to the Mt. St. Helen’s example you provided, along with other alleged inaccurate dating, there’s a fairly simple explanation for that: human error. I won’t pretend that incompetent scientists don’t exist, and even the good ones are still capable of making an error in calculation. I’m reminded of the NASA scientists who crashed the probe because they forget to convert miles to kilometers. In both cases, the math and scientific principles were sound–it was the humans applying them who were in error.

        Actually, I do have one more final thought, one that’s been plaguing me. You keep arguing against “the unknowable.” But it occurs to me that the very same points you’re making about secular science undercut creation science as well. The “unknowable” argument is an illogical and poor argument because in the most basic sense, technically everything is unknowable. Scientifically speaking, even things that you “know” and see have a very small degree of probability of being totally different, or at the very least affected by things that we either aren’t aware of or can’t test yet. Gravity, for example. The math holds very well to repeated tests and observation. But there’s a very small statistical chance that our concept of gravity is missing something very important, some yet to be discovered aspect. Or take our concept of time. You and I perceive the passage of time differently. Which perception is more accurate? If time is subjective to the observer, does it even mean anything to then objectively measure it?

        The scientific arguments that creation scientists use fall prey to the exact same “unknowable” fallacy that you yourself are using. In using that argument, you’re also arguing against all of the assertions that the creation scientists are also making. The “unknowable” argument is a bit like the irreducible complexity argument. Since statistically and scientifically speaking we can never be 100% sure that anything is really correct, all science, all investigation, and all thought would be essentially pointless. Unless of course you decide that there is a certain degree of evidence, both historical and observation, that you take as truth. At which point the “unknowable” argument loses all of its steam.

        So can someone use the “unknowable” argument to say, “haha! It’s impossible to know x because its unobservable!” Sure, you can make that claim. But then you can make that claim or similar ones about literally anything. I could turn around and say, “haha, mathematically there is a degree of probability stating the measurement of carbon 14 in your diamond example is wrong because of lurking and confounding variables!”

        Ultimately, trying to use the “unknowable” trap leads to the downfall or denigration of every single observation, result, and theory–even the ones used by creation scientists.

      • I mean, ultimately, the bible that the creation scientists are basing all of this off of is nothing but a compilation of purely historical evidence. There’s no way to test anything in the bible, and nobody around today was around when it was written or when everything in it allegedly happened. All of the gospels are second hand accounts of things. Yet you and the creation scientists that you cite take everything in it as literal truth, despite the fact that its historical and untestable evidence, the two very things that you’re arguing against in my use of science. I don’t really see why basing an objective understanding of the world using a collection of purely subjective evidence is any more reasonable than basing an understanding off of math and empirical evidence. Quite frankly, and I mean this with all due respect, it smacks of hypocrisy to make such allegations about mainstream or secular science when creation science itself is based purely off faith that the untestable, unobservable events in a book written 2000 years ago actually happened.

      • *An addendum. I meant a book written about events that occurred 2000 years ago, not that the bible itself was written 2000 years ago. It’s late and I’m typing this on my phone lol.

    • I hate long responses, but you’ve brought up a lot of great points. Here goes:

      1: Maybe I’m missing something simple, but how could we know the original concentrations of parent and daughter elements in a rock we pick up from an ancient lava bed? We may know what they “should be” based on certain assumptions, but there’s no way to verify that what “should be” is.

      2: Scientists in the RATE project have proposed a possible mechanism to explain why the decay rate changes. According to the article, one possibility for accelerated decay is “a slight variation in the strength of the nuclear or strong force that would cause a dramatic increase in alpha decay- around 5 to 8 orders of magnitude”. And “if the alpha energy increases by only 10%, the decay constant increases by about 5 orders of magnitude”. The RATE project concludes that the change would be enough to severely affect the estimates of age. And you’re right that the acceleration is subject to measurement, and creationist scientists have adjusted the age estimate, which works very well for a young earth. The article indicates that Baumgardner found “no correlation between the 14C abundance in coal and its putative age in the geological timescale, offering support that the coal samples are all the same age (e.g. the time of the Flood). Then if a more realistic past 14C /12C ratio is substituted in the dating equation, the dates telescope to a maximum date of around 5,000 years! This is the Flood model version in which much more 12C existed before the Flood and was taken out of the biosphere by subsequent Flood burial.”

      3: It sounds like you agree that radiometric dating which assumes a closed system is problematic. The article discussed this in regards to the Beartooth Mountain samples that were collected.

      4: I still think that leaching is problematic. Evolutionary paleontologists and geologists routinely assume contamination is responsible for creation scientists presenting such anomalies. I’d think that if it were so simple, then the scientists assuming contamination could falsify the results by repeating the experiments.
      As for different dating methods giving different measurements, I mentioned a rock formed in a lava flow from Mt. St. Helens in 1986 was radiometrically dated as 2.6 million years old. That’s pretty significant considering that the rocks are of known ages. Snelling tested lava flows from Mt. Ngauruhoe, New Zealand, and they gave a Rb-Sr isochron age of 133 Ma, a Sm-Nd isochron age of 197 Ma, and a Pb-Pb age of 3.908 Ga for the cooling time of the modern lavas. These aren’t small margins of error.

      It’s refreshing to hear that you agree that scientists aren’t infallible. I have a lot of respect for scientists, but most people seem to deify them, and scoff at the notion that they could be wrong. In this original post I discussed how Giberson seemed to paint that kind of picture.

      I’m glad you’ve taken notice of the “unknowable” argument, and that’s one of my major points. You’re absolutely right that I’m using the same argument in creation science. Most people don’t understand this and think facts and evidence don’t need to be interpreted according to any specific worldview or faith. They typically think “evolution is a proven fact”, without ever considering how the evidence was interpreted or how the conclusions were determined. The difference between secular vs. creation science is that we’re not hiding this; we’re very open about our assumptions and worldview, and we want everyone to be aware of how they view the evidence. Unfortunately none of this is ever discussed in education because it could “confuse” students (or could potentially cause them to doubt evolution!) according to the NCSE. In fact Eugenie Scott said, “In my opinion, using creation and evolution as topics for critical-thinking exercises in primary and secondary schools is virtually guaranteed to confuse students about evolution and may lead them to reject one of the major themes in science.” Public education won’t mention any of this because it would go directly against their secular agenda.

      I don’t see how this argument is illogical or poor. You’re right that technically, everything is unknowable. But nobody is questioning gravity, and it doesn’t contradict the Bible in any way. Evolution and the age of the earth and universe are at severe odds with the Bible, which I believe to be God’s Word and revelation to all mankind. Therefore it’s necessary and perfectly reasonable to question the very premises that are held, which most people are completely unaware of. Those who maintain that there’s “overwhelming” evidence for evolution, or that it’s a “proven fact”, or that “no real scientist questions evolution” should absolutely understand what’s at the root of their beliefs, and they should be aware of the faith that they’re expressing (even while denying it). By faith you and I believe that we’re right and that we know what we know. But when we boil it down, examine the evidence, and question what we know, it turns out that faith is at the root. And there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just that we need to be aware of it and acknowledge it in order to make any real progress and attain true understanding (real philosophical, huh?).

      And all science isn’t pointless. I’ve also made the distinction between “observable” or “operational” science and “historical” science (as did Dr. Guliuzza). Operational science is what actually works and does stuff; it put a man on the moon, created light bulbs, cars, x-rays, medicine, etc. All this is the result of the scientific method. Historical science is all about the past and cannot be examined via the scientific method the way operational science can. This is why we’ve sentenced many innocent people to prison or death in our justice system- because we can’t verify that what we believe about the defendant is true or not; we can only be certain “beyond a REASONABLE doubt”, and that’s enough to put someone to death, even though there’s the possibility that we could be wrong. I’m sure you’re aware that prisoners have been set free after years in prison and on death row for crimes they didn’t commit (even on the basis of scientific evidence), and often it’s new evidence that that exonerates them. So, if we can be so wrong about the recent past, how can we be so certain about the distant past (millions and billions of years ago)? It seems that the further back we go the less certain we can be, especially if our starting point and assumptions about the past are incorrect. Our beliefs about historical science are based on faith. And it’s not pointless if we start with the correct worldview. It’s only pointless if our worldview and beliefs happen to be wrong- just like it’s pointless to put an innocent man to death for a crime he didn’t commit. One side is right and the other is wrong. The defendant is either guilty or innocent, and each side is trying to prove that their explanation of the past is the right one- built upon solid scientific evidence to support their claims.

      There are certain things we can agree on about the past, but where we disagree is when the secular worldview clashes with what we believe God has revealed to us in the Bible.

      There’s no “trap” in this “unknowable” argument. As long as our science works, then all is good. If our science allows us to develop better weapons, better computers, better technology and medicine, then that’s what’s important, and that’s operational science. We don’t rely on the Big Bang, the extinction of the dinosaurs, Lucy, or the age of the earth to build hospitals or cure diseases. All this can be done without making assumptions about the past. All the past can do is instill a philosophical and religious understanding and an appreciation of the past. It’s not as useful or practical as operational science.

      I don’t think there’s anything hypocritical about this because creationists are being open with their beliefs. And I’d argue that, based on the arguments I’ve presented, we’re both using subjective evidence (the past, which can’t be tested) along with math and empirical evidence (operational science). Math and empirical evidence are not exclusive to secular science. The RATE group used empirical evidence and math to reach their conclusions, just as secular scientists did to reach their conclusions. Yet both are relying on assumptions about the past in order to reach their conclusions.

      And even though the Bible is a historical document, I’d argue that there’s plenty of circumstantial evidence to authenticate its claims. The fine-tuning argument is an excellent one, archaeology provides evidence, written documents, the power of prayer, having a personal relationship with Jesus, and scientific evidence that is consistent with the Bible.

      • I guess what I’m ultimately driving at is that, to me, it makes no logical sense to try to fit objective fact into a subjective box. You don’t see how your predisposition toward the bible taints objectivity? Can you please explain to me how it makes more rationale sense to assume truth in events from a book that are completely subjective and unprovable and untestable than to base things off of empirical evidence? For all of the alleged flaws you see in the scientific argument, I can still observe with my own two eyes radioactive decay. What I can’t observe is anything, literally, that the bible alleges transpired.

        Ultimately my point about the “unknowable” fallacy is that if it invalidates the secular scientist, it also invalidates the creation scientist, which is why there’s no point in using it as a rhetorical device. And I mean this as a statement of fact, it’s not a matter of opinion. Logic isn’t open to interpretation. If the flaws in secular science are untestable historical evidence, then there’s no way you can argue that the same flaws don’t exist in creation science. You’re essentially arguing the invalidity of your own assertion to long as you continue to make these claims about science.

        The overarching problem here is that when I look at radioactive decay, I ask, “how does this work?” While creation scientist asks “how do I use this to prove a very specific and narrow set of untestable hypotheses.” There’s a HUGE different in intent, clarity, objectivity, and bias.

      • Let me put it another way. And please understand that I’m saying this with respect and in earnest. It seems to me that creation science will never acknowledge a fact so long as it goes against their worldview. It seems that no matter what evidence science provides, no matter how logical, testable, observable it is, creation scientists will automatically dismiss it if it doesn’t fit into a biblical framework. Physicists could unveil a fully functional grand unified theory of everything tomorrow, and if it disproved the existence of a God or contradicted the biblical account of everything, creation science would automatically dismiss it regardless of how sound the math is, how demonstrable it is, etc.

        My question to you is: is there any amount or quality of evidence that would ever convince you or other creation scientists that the bible is incorrect?

        Part of what I don’t understand about creation science’s resistance to empirical data and their need to reinvent evidence is that even if the biblical account of everything is ultimately disproved, it doesn’t even remotely prove that there is no god. So the events in genesis didn’t occur. So what? Does that automatically mean there’s no longer a God that created the universe or even a God that loves us? No, that’s not at all what it means. Does the fact that there was no Noah’s ark take away from the idea of loving your brother, of humility, of generosity? No, of course not. I don’t understand the logical leap from, “one subjective, untestable account of creation was wrong,” to “everything I know is a lie and there is no god.”

    • I agree- we shouldn’t try to fit objective facts into a subjective box. But most evolutionists don’t see it that way. History is subjective (because we can’t use the scientific method on the past), while the present is objective (because the scientific method can only be used in the present). I do see how my predisposition towards the Bible taints my objectivity, and I’ve openly admitted that. Can you see how your predisposition towards secularism taints objectivity? That’s the rub. Most secularists don’t see how tainted their objectivity is, and that’s what I’m trying to point out. It’s a false premise that secular beliefs are based on empirical evidence while creationist beliefs aren’t. This “empirical evidence” that you’re describing is subject to interpretation by both sides based on a particular worldview. But if that worldview is wrong, then the interpretation will also be wrong. Secularists often assume they’re right because they believe there’s no other way to interpret the evidence. If, however, God is real, then all of a sudden this “empirical evidence” can be interpreted in that light. I could ask you, “What sense does it make to assume that there is no God in order to reject a clear revelation of a young universe?” If God exists, and his revelation is correct, then what good is a secular interpretation of the empirical evidence over a creationist interpretation of the same empirical evidence? Your argument only works if God doesn’t exist, which is an assumption.

      You’re right that we can’t observe what transpired in the Bible, but neither can we observe gravity, life spontaneously generating from non-life, or a dinosaur evolving into a bird, yet I think you believe those. We can observe radioactive decay in the present, but not in the past. We can also observe the effects of gravity. Likewise we can observe the effects of the past and use logic- that’s how we can believe the Bible. If we can find consistency with what the Bible teaches, then that lends credibility. Archaeological finds have supported the Bible’s claims. Secular scientists once assumed the Bible was wrong when they searched Jericho, but archaeologists who believed the Bible started with another premise and found evidence that the secularists missed. They found evidence that supported the Biblical events surrounding the capture of Jericho. We also have the Prophesies of the Old Testament that were fulfilled long after they were written. Jesus fulfilled all the Prophesies about the coming Messiah. That should erase any doubt about the existence of God and Jesus’ claims of deity. The fine-tuning argument demonstrates that the earth is perfectly suited to be our home, just as the Bible claims. Once we leave earth we observe nothing but a barren, dead space that seems to go on forever. No sign of life anywhere outside our amazing planet with its incredible, varied environments that allow us to utilize the resources put there for our needs. Evolutionists must believe this is all an accident. Where’s the logic in that?

      My point is that the “unknowable” fallacy puts both the secular scientist and the creationist scientist on the same playing field when making conclusions about the past. They’re both bound by the same rules. Secularists can’t claim they have empirical evidence on their side and that creationists don’t. Creationist’s conclusions about the past are equally valid as the secular scientist. One side can’t claim superiority over the other. That’s a statement of fact and isn’t a matter of opinion. As you said, logic isn’t open to interpretation.

      When you ask the question “how does this work?” when looking at radioactive decay, you’re not aware of the worldview and assumptions behind this question. You’ve been taught that the universe is ancient and probably never questioned it; therefore you interpret the evidence with that in mind. Notice that you didn’t ask, “how does this work in light of my what I’ve been taught about the age of the earth and universe?” If, however, you knew exactly how old the earth and universe were, then you’d have to ask other questions, like, “how do we calibrate the radioactive decay so that we can obtain a reliable date based on a young earth?” Or, “why does this rock from Mt. St. Helens indicate that millions of years of decay have occurred when it’s about 30 years old?” Scientists have to ask the right questions in order be on the right track, and if they don’t ask the right questions then they’ll be forever wrong. You may not agree, but in order to maintain that the earth is 4.55 billion years old and that the universe is 13.7 billion years old you must deny the existence of God, which is a subjective belief and not objective. We all have biases, and I’d like to see secular scientists simply acknowledge them.

  2. So after reading the RATE groups discoveries quite a few years ago and trying to source out their peer-reviews I’ve come to a few conclusions. Perhaps I’ll blog the entirety of the conclusions, but here I’ll leave one point.

    In regards to accelerated decay, I saw that they had mentioned isotopes such as rhenium – 187 being able to go from 42 billion years half-life to just 33 years, so long as the isotope remained fully ionized. These two rates differ by a factor of 1 billion. Now, given what we know with the laws of thermodynamics, that increase in decay would also increase the heat given off.

    If we needed to fit such isotopes as rhenium – 187, Thorium – 232 (1.41×10^10 years), Indium – 115 (5.1×10^15 years), and several other billion+ half lives, into the model of accelerated decay in a planet less then 10,000 years old, we’d have average accelerations of 4.2 million, 140 thousand, and 510 billion (respectively to the examples above) times greater than their natural decay, meaning we could assume that we’d an equal increase in the heat their giving off.

    I know those sounds great and all, but let me use examples with isotopes that matter. Potassium – 40 is estimated to generated over 50% of the earth’s radiogenic heat, followed by thorium – 232 and uranium – 238. The half lives of these isotopes are 1.3 billion years, 1.4 billion years, and 4.5 billion years respectively. So these main sources of radiogenic heat would have had to give off 130 thousand, 140 thousand and 450 thousand times greater heat than the do to meet accelerated decay model in a 10,000 year time frame.

    I’ve seen some people say that the acceleration could have all occurred in a short span long ago and then regulated out over the past few thousands years to deliver us to our comfortable heat zone, but I imagine the talk would be more about the inferno rather than the flood. And if such heat generation was created in such excess long in the past, I doubt we’d have as much deep permafrost as do. The deep permafrost in Prudhoe Bay in Alaska has been calculated to be over 500,000 years old (which I know the calculation methods are under question here, but if we are generous for the sake of debate and say they had an error of plus or minus 90%, which would bring the low to 50,000 years).

    So, under the accelerated decay model to fit a young earth, at some point, we would have either:
    Had a ridiculous burst of radiogenic heat, lost most, if not all our deep permafrost, and it regenerated when the radiogenic heat normalized (just to be slowly losing it again).
    -OR-
    The average radiogenic heat output would have gone up by at least 130 thousand times, just spread over the course of 10,000 years.

    Since this is already long enough, I’ll just leave it at where it is.

    • Thanks for your comments grrrman. I had forgotten about the radiogenic heat criticism, so I had to revisit that again and give it some more thought. First, Russ Humphreys does discuss this in the article below on argon diffusion. He explains that the RATE group “hypothesized an accelerated cooling mechanism that would get rid of much of the resulting radiogenic heat,” And “Accelerated nuclear decay and accelerated cooling during and a little after the year of the Genesis Flood, the rock temperature should have changed very little in the more than 4,300 years (Hebrew Bible chronology) that have elapsed since the Flood ended. So there is every reason to believe that the argon age is roughly correct—that the deep Precambrian ‘basement’ rock is thousands, not billions, of years old.”

      I had another idea that might prove useful, depending on the accelerated cooling mechanism. The Flood would have played a major role. Creationists have explained how the water would have been very warm as a result of the Flood, and that would have been the catalyst triggering the one and only Ice Age.

      Secular scientists believe in many ice ages, yet their astronomical theory doesn’t get enough moisture into the air.

      The Flood Model, on the other hand, would cool the summers and prevent the ice from melting. Volcanic ash and gases would have been in the air and would have reflected the sun’s heat back into space. The water forced up from within the earth would have been very hot and would have mixed with the ocean water, resulting in a very warm ocean. That would have lead to greater evaporation, which would have generated enough snow and ice to produce the great ice sheets for the Ice Age. Eventually the Ice Age would have reached its maximum about 500 years after the Flood.

      I can’t help but wonder if your explanation of radiogenic heat would be an additional benefit for the flood model by producing the heat necessary to evaporate the water into moisture. Let me know if these articles are helpful.

      http://creation.com/tackling-the-big-freeze

      http://creation.com/argon-diffusion-age

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