First I would like to begin by thanking Randy for his formal response. Argumentation is a necessary process for finding truth. In the very serious business of deciding verdicts in our court system, we use both the Socratic Method and the scientific method. Although not a perfect process as dishonesty, incompetence or corruption can cause any system to fail; our society believes that cross examination combined with empirical evidence is the best method of determining innocence or guilt. I’m glad that this particular evolution vs. creation debate has sparked interest, and I hope that the readers enjoy reviewing both sides of the argument. Ultimately it is up to the audience to determine the winner.
Mr. Ruggles begins by stating that he didn’t have enough space to counter all my assertions and therefore picks 4 topics.
Here is what Randy decided not to address:
The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams recognizes that humans evolved from other animals.
Pope John Paul II recognized the realities of evolution in 1996.
Hydrogen came before helium.
Single-celled organisms came before multi-celled.
The fossil record demonstrates a progression of species complexity over time.
Many Christians laugh at the notion of taking the Bible literally and recognize that Biblical stories such as Noah’s flood are fables.
Mr. Ruggles focuses his response on the Christian fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, Christianity’s contribution to science, denouncing the “who designed the designer” question, and the similarities and contrasts of atheist and Christian beliefs.
In my response I will focus on the motivation of creationists, evidence for old universe, a counter to the “great flood evidence” claim, how the Bible is not the word of god, the ancient Greeks contribution to science, and defending the “who created the creator” question.
As Randy Ruggles is a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) there is really only one thing that must be addressed in defeating his position. The earth is far older than 6,000 years. There is no need to engage in discussions about abiogenesis (the origin of life), evolution, the cosmological question of what existed before the Big Bang, intelligent design, epistemology, or even the Biblical flood story.
Why do creationists like Randy Ruggles believe that the earth is 6,000 years old?
This comes from a theological estimate of 4,000 years between the first man in the Bible named Adam and Jesus Christ. Add 2,000 years since Christ and you get 6,000 years.
YECs believe that Biblical Genesis must be taken literally. As Mr. Ruggles stated, a day in Genesis was clearly intended to mean our 24 hour period definition. Why must Genesis be taken literally? If all the writings in the Bible were guided by a perfect god, everything must be taken literally under that premises. In order to have a source of perfect guidance and perfect morality there must be a perfect god who creates a perfect plan. If the Bible is not perfect, it was not guided by a perfect god. Every Christian who does not take the Bible literally is not being true to their religion according to YECs. The atheists agree completely.
The Earth is far older than 6,000 years!
In his critique, Mr. Ruggles brought up the fact that the universe was believed to be static until the 1930s. What does this mean? Even the greatest of scientists like Einstein previously believed that the stars were stationary and eternal. This is not the case and scientists changed their views when presented with new discoveries. Randy insists a dynamic universe that can be traced to a beginning (Big Bang) somehow gives Biblical Genesis integrity. I’m going to use this very angle to show how this proves the fallacies of the Bible.
Usually arguments on how old the earth is focus on geology. In regards to the physical earth my argument is very simple. Geologists aren’t stupid and they’re not part of some great atheist conspiracy. This is only an article; I don’t plan to copy and paste an entire text book on earth science. Geologists have discovered insurmountable evidence that the earth is billions of years old that can be validated using the scientific method. For this section, I won’t even focus on the evidence here on earth; I will simply turn to the stars. YECs not only believe that the earth is 6,000 years old, but the entire universe.
We now know that stars are not stationary, the universe is expanding. The velocity of this expansion can be measured. Using this measurement we can trace the expansion since the Big Bang with a timeline that extends billions of years. We know from the distance of galaxies and the composition of stars that the universe is very old; as in 13,750,000,000 years (give or take a few). If the universe was only 6,000 years old it would be far more compact, far more hot and only made of hydrogen and helium. Our existence would not yet be possible.
In the beginning there was a galactic explosion of massively hot hydrogen. Through gravity and coagulation the first stars were formed. These were first generation stars made up of hydrogen and helium. The heavier elements didn’t exist yet. The enormous gravitational pressure of stars causes nuclear fusion which converts hydrogen to helium. By dissecting light we can tell the hydrogen/ helium composition of stars and thereby estimate the age. In the furnace of the first generation stars heavier elements were formed and scattered throughout the universe when those stars eventually exploded and died.
Judging by the composition, our sun is estimated to be a third generation star. The heavier elements that not only make up our planet but also our very bodies come from exploding stars long ago. The mere notion of all this happening in a day is not rational, and we haven’t even touched the surface of the evidence we have here on earth. Any YEC who argues that their position rests on science is not being honest with themselves or others.
A worldwide flood is not the best explanation for the fossil record
In the Biblical story of the great flood it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Nowhere in the Bible does it say god put the earth in a jar, filled it with water, and shook it up. There are many reasons that the earth has many layers. In areas with a history of volcanic activity there would be a covering of fresh lava and ash. Lava rock would erode, vegetation would grow and animals would thrive. Further volcanic activity would cause another layer of fresh rock and ash and the cycle would begin again.
There are many reasons why in the layers of the earth we would find signs of water and aquatic life. Tsunamis and local floods provide explanations. The existence of ancient lakes which had long cycles of drying out and replenishment also leave layers. Tectonic activity that would cause land under water to rise above sea level provides another explanation. Often fish are dropped inland from birds. Recently a small shark was dropped onto a golf course about 5 miles away from the Pacific Ocean. If the remains of these creatures were somehow preserved and discovered millions of years later it would not prove a global flood.
The stacked layers of the earth can be disturbed by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other tectonic activity. When these shifts in order are found it is not due to a global flood. Natural forces have the ability to bend rock over extremely long periods of time. In very old bent layers of rock; the fossils within the layer are distorted as well. Evidence that the earth is old can be found in layers of earth and ice and erosion of rock. And then there are the dating methods of radio carbon, potassium-argon and rubidium-strontium dating.
The greatest advancements of science have been in the increased ability of precise measurement. This includes measurement of temperature, weight, distance, matter, energy, DNA and measurement of time. Dating methods include the measurement of decay in radioactive isotopes. Despite the desperation of creationists to point out a failed experiment or use some quote saying otherwise, these dating methods are reliable. The technology we have is incredible and we are truly fortunate to be living in such interesting times. Consider the technological differences of our world only 50 years ago.
Of course the YECs will refute any evidence that goes against their fantasy of Biblical perfection. No matter what evidence is presented, they will keep coming up with further nonsense to try and dispute established scientific knowledge. But what exactly are they defending? What happens when we look into the story they are trying to sell; the Biblical story of Noah’s Flood.
A common criticism of the great flood story was the impossibility of all the animals to get into the boat. How did the lemurs get there from Madagascar? How did the kangaroos get there from Australia? YECs believe they have solved this riddle by claiming there was one continent, and that the global flood caused the continents to divide. But that doesn’t solve this one of many particular problems, it only pushes it back. (Note: There was at one time a supercontinent, but that was billions of years ago. The separation of the once supercontinent provides great evidence for evolution as when species were separated by water they eventually took different evolutionary paths. If there was no evolution we’d find common species on all the continents and islands. Instead we find unique species on each continent and group of islands.)
In the Biblical story of Noah the earth eventually dries out and the ark is able to settle on dry land. Nowhere is it mentioned that Noah sailed throughout the world dropping off each breed and species of animal into the area and environment that it was best suited for. How did the lemurs get back to Madagascar? How did the kangaroos get back to Australia?
And this only scratches the surface on the absurdity. Noah is said to be 600 years old when he sets sail. When Noah finally got off the boat what did he do? He makes burnt offerings of every clean beast and fowl. God makes the rainbow to promise he won’t drown everybody again. But we know how rainbows are made. They have a natural explanation. We no longer believe in gods that make lightning, but we’re supposed to still believe in gods that make rainbows?
And then things get really strange. Noah planted a vineyard. He makes wine, gets drunk and passes out. His son Ham sees him naked. You would think after a flood that killed countless men, women and children that seeing Noah’s naughty bits wouldn’t be a headliner. But it is. Ham was not supposed to look. He should have walked backwards to cover things up. He didn’t do this. So what happens? Canaan becomes a slave. Who’s Canaan? He’s Ham’s son. Did he see Noah naked? No! And this is the kind of madness we’re supposed to embrace while abandoning science and reason according to YECs.
The Bible is not the word of god; it’s the word of men claiming to speak for god
Everything you’re about to read are the words of god. Such a claim made by anyone today is considered ridiculous and anyone making that kind of declaration thousands of years ago is not deserving of anything more. A belief that man spontaneously generated out of dirt is not a belief in science; it’s a belief in magic. The Parts of Animals, The Generation of Animals, The History of Animals, The Movement of Animals and The Progression of Animals are all books written by Aristotle. He did the best he could with his wits and the means that were available during his time to increase our understanding of the world around us. He was a pioneer in fields of studies that would be carried on long after his death, even to present times. Not surprisingly, there are things that Aristotle got wrong. He believed in spontaneous generation. Flies would “spontaneously generate” from dung.
The men who wrote the Book of Genesis did the best they could with their wits and the means that were available during their time to increase their understanding of the world. They put together a chronological order of events. They figured that before plant eaters, there should be plants. Before plants there needs to be earth. Before earth there should be a sun. There was a man-god who created these things in this order; an all-powerful being with 2 arms, 2 legs and a penis. Overall they didn’t do too bad of a job on the chronology, although they put birds before the things that creep instead of after. Not surprisingly, there are other things they got wrong. The first Homo sapiens male did not magically generate out of dirt. The first Homo sapiens female did not magically generate from a rib. The first hominids did not have sophisticated oral language from day one.
Today nobody argues that flies spontaneously generate from dung. People fully admit that Aristotle got that wrong. But what if Aristotle claimed this knowledge came from god and had a loyal following? What if the Romans were to adopt Aristotlism and spread it throughout all corners of the world? Today you would have people like Randy Ruggles arguing that science and reason clearly demonstrate that flies magically appear out of crap. Although it doesn’t explain flies, spontaneous generation out of dung does provide the best explanation for Biblical creationist arguments.
The only difference between the works or Aristotle and the men who wrote the Bible (besides the greater abundance, detail and quality of Aristotle’s work) are that one side makes a claim that they speak for god while the other does not. Throughout history thousands if not millions of men claimed to speak for god with absolutely no authority to do so aside from their own arrogance. There is no reasonable evidence that the 40 different authors who wrote the Bible over a 1,600 year period had any more divine vision than the staff at Psychic Hotline. Believing in the literal interpretation of the Bible isn’t an exercise in science and reason; it’s an act of desperation. These people distract from the facts while hypocritically babbling out fallacious argument accusations.
The ancient Greeks accomplished far more than anything in Biblical Genesis
The idea that laws of nature rather than myths can provide explanations to what is currently unknown
Thales of Miletus (624-546 B.C.)
First inkling of evolution
Anaximaner (610-546 B.C.)
Everything is made up of atoms (Greek word for “uncuttable.”)
Democritus (460-370 B.C.)
Earth and other planets orbit the sun.
Aristarchus (310-230 B.C.)
Determined the circumference of the earth at 25,000 miles (actual is 24,901)
Eratosthenes (276-195 B.C.)
I know that I know nothing philosophy that became a key foundational component of modern science.
Socrates (469-399 B.C.)
Note – Thomas Huxley recognized Socrates as the first agnostic. This was due to his philosophy, not the definition and belief of god Socrates held personally while rejecting Zeus.
The Christian scientists that Randy Ruggles listed in his argument of Christianity’s contribution lived during the times of when educated people learned the Classics. And what was included in the Classics? Literature of the ancient Greeks. There is no doubt that there have been Christian scientists throughout history who have made great contributions; however, if any god is to receive gratitude for these achievements, all glory goes to Zeus.
Mr. Ruggles accuses me of stating that religion has stunted scientific progress throughout history. This is not entirely true. I claim that no search for answers should end at “god did it” and religious extremism has caused delays in scientific advancements. For 300 years Baghdad was the intellectual capital of the world. Islam ruled mathematics and science. War, bloodshed and extremism brought an end to that reign.
The Bible is not a book of science and reason; it is a book of false authority. Advancements in science were not made because of the Bible, they were made despite it. Inquisitive nature and human spirit allowed mankind to make great advancements in science and technology despite the mental chains of religion.
Who created the creator?
If there is a designer, what is the origin? Randy Ruggles doesn’t like this question for some reason. He accuses it of being fallacious, illogical and childish. Contemplating the universe and presenting a what if scenario of a higher intelligence and wondering the origin in regards to that possibility is the question of any thinking person whether it be a child or an adult. To attack such philosophizing as being childish or fallacious is nonsense. The question is legitimate. The argument of a creator does not answer the question of first cause, it only pushes the question. An all knowing and all powerful god causing the Big Bang has no more legitimacy than a sporadic quantum fluctuation.
In his rant, Randy states that god, according to the Bible, is beyond time and space and has always been. But what does the Bible really say? God looks like an ape. He has toe nails, eye lashes, nostrils, armpits and a butt crack. Why does he need these things if he’s “beyond time and space?” He was walking in the Garden of Eden. He wasn’t around during the talking snake and apparently didn’t see it coming. He speaks to people (but just one at a time.) He’s also not the only god in town. There are other gods much older like Shiva. But YECs like Mr. Ruggles suggest that questioning the god of Abraham’s origin is a “silly” question.
I had stated that Biblical creationists don’t have a prayer when it comes to any kind of honest argument with an evolutionist. That statement still stands. Randy Ruggles claims to be unbiased, and his Biblical assertions are merely where science has taken him. Simon and Garfunkel once sang that a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. That is certainly the case with Mr. Ruggles. Science does not coincide with Biblical Genesis or the story of Noah’s flood.
Mr. Ruggles asks the question, “How does he (James Wall) know what God would or wouldn’t do or be?” I found this inquiry to be very strange. I know by reading the Bible, the same book that creationists argue must be taken literally. How do I know that the God of Abraham is jealous? These are not my words, they are his. Is the thought of a singular all powerful being jealous of monkey looking humans that can barely get off their own planet irrational? I think so. And that is one of gods’ minor character flaws that we’re supposed to somehow equate with perfection.
Here are two nonsensical claims Randy Ruggles has made in his critique:
“The trillions of fossils we find all over the earth in sedimentary rock strata that were laid down by water is best explained by a global flood in the days of Noah.”
“Atheistic materialism most assuredly IS a religion. Evolution is merely its official creation myth.”
Carl Sagan said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. YECs have not provided extraordinary evidence for their beliefs in magic. Using an incident of a fake fossil or scientific mistake to try and undermine an entire field of study is dishonest. This along with the intentional misrepresentation or the blatant ignoring of scientific discoveries signifies the desperation of creationists.
The rationalists must protect science from the perversion of creationists. Every other week there is some misguided state politician (always a Republican) trying to promote legislation that would bring creationism into science class in public schools. With 7 billion people in need of food, water, shelter, sanitation, energy and millions of years of future generations needing a planet to live off of, can we afford to go backwards in scientific competency? I say no. It’s time for the fairy tales to end. It’s time for all adults to grow up. It’s time for grown men to stop needing a daddy and be the daddy. It’s time to unequivocally put science and secular philosophy over religion.
James Kirk Wall
Note – A key source of creationist pseudoscience is an organization called Creation Ministries International. http://creation.com
Note – An excellent book on evolution is Richard Dawkins The Greatest Show on Earth. Unlike some of his other work, this book is not antitheist. He focuses on the evidence and even presents a “what if” scenario of a designer. In a matter of days you will experience the greatest evolutionary discoveries of someone who has spent a lifetime in biology.
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