I am going to provide links to a couple of articles from Creation magazine. My purpose is not to ride on other people’s coattails. The articles are 20 and 19 years old, so they are not covering new information. Instead, I want to reflect on the content of these articles. Though they may seem different, they are actually closely related. And, despite their age, they are still relevant today. Thus, I am providing links to these articles so that you may read them yourselves. In addition to linking to the articles, I want to make some comments about both of them.
The first article is “Moving Forward: Time moves on, science changes, new discoveries are made, old ideas are updated with new information…” by Jonathan Sarfati. Here is the link:
I believe that this is one of the earlier, infamous lists of arguments that creationists should not use. I say “infamous” because there are some creationists who dislike it when big names at the head of large organizations tell them what not to do. I have noticed that a lot of the complaints about big creationist groups “controlling” the small creationist groups are directed at Ken Ham, so I find it interesting that this particular article is written by Jonathan Sarfati, demonstrating that such an article “enforcing restrictions” is not limited to a single person or a single group (currently, Sarfati is part of Creation Ministries International while Ken Ham is with Answers in Genesis).
As for the claim that someone like Sarfati or Ham is controlling the little guys, on the one hand, that is blatantly not true. Unless you work for either Creation Ministries International or Answers in Genesis, there is nothing either man can do to restrict the things that you say. So let us clear that up right away: large creationist organizations do not have direct control over smaller creationist organizations. “Yeah, but they can influence people!” one may counter. Isn’t that what all of us involved in creation ministries are trying to do? Don’t we all want to change the people around us, change our culture, one way or another? The larger organizations simply have large audiences, audiences that they have built up over time. We can strive to have that same influence ourselves, but it is not unjust that they have reached that goal before we have.
When it comes down to it, science is all about falsifiability. Every scientific idea, whether it be a hypothesis, a theory, or even a law, is subject to falsification. Sure, some ideas, like laws, would be incredibly difficult to overturn, but science is structured such that any idea is subject to change. Thus, pointing out that such and such an argument is unsound or fallacious should not be taken as a personal attack. If we want to use science in our apologetics, we should just get used to our arguments being subject to change, since that is what happens in science. It is as simple as that. Sarfati’s article is not meant to offend, shame, or belittle. Science requires scrutiny, and that is all he is doing in his article.
Now, different people may have different standards of falsifiability. That is, one scientist may believe that sufficient contrary evidence has been accumulated so that a particular argument should be discarded, while another may look at the exact same contrary evidence yet conclude that the argument still has merit. In other words, expect there to be differences in opinions as to the validity of certain creationist arguments. Having said that, there is one advantage large creationist organizations have that small organizations do not: total accumulated expertise. A small organization has only a few members, while a large organizations can number in the hundreds. Which one will have a better base of knowledge to be able to advise on the reliability of an argument? The larger organization.
I would encourage you, as you read Sarfati’s article, do so with an open mind. He is not attacking you personally, he is not trying to make your ministry more difficult, he is not trying to control you. He is trying to strengthen you by refocusing your attention, not on the arguments, which can be fallible, but on the Word of God, which will never change.
The second article I am linking to is “Searching for the ‘MAGIC BULLET’: Why do creation-defenders often seem to be too quick to jump onto the latest exciting-sounding ‘evidences’?” by Ken Ham. I am actually going to provide two links to this article. The first link is on Creation Ministries International website. CMI publishes Creation magazine, so I am considering this link the “original” post.
The second link is to the article on the Answers in Genesis (AiG) website. It is the same article. The difference is, at the time the article was first published in Creation, AiG and CMI were united under one banner. When AiG and CMI parted ways, CMI had the article, since Creation his a publication of CMI. However, it appears that Ken Ham took his article with him to AiG as well. Just as a note, the fact that these two organizations separated from one another just goes to show that even the large organizations can have disagreements about how to approach creation apologetics. Again, there can be disagreements between anyone when it comes to science. Anyway, here is the AiG link:
This article was formative for me. I grew up in a creationist home. I attended ICR seminars, remember the arrival of AiG, but I spent of a lot of time hearing and reading Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation. This was a video series, a book, and a lecture series by Dennis Petersen. Across all three media, Dennis Petersen always talked about the Paluxy River mantracks. His perspective was very simple: these prints are clearly human and they are found right alongside dinosaur tracks. This can only be explained by both living at the same time, which contradicts evolution and confirms creation. In fact, the conclusion about these tracks was so evident that anyone who questioned the authenticity of these tracks must be driven by a refusal to accept creationism. There was no other explanation why anyone would question such clear evidence.
I accepted Petersen’s argument and believed that evolution was a fallacious theory, not because the Bible contradicted it, but because the evidence clearly opposed it. Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw Ken Ham’s article in Creation. Now, there is an image that is present in the print version of the article which is not seen at either of the links provided above. It is a cartoon drawing of Ham taking away a human footprint, representing a Paluxy River mantrack. A fellow creationist is clinging to the print, pleading with Ham to leave it alone and to stop taking away all of the good evidence for creation. Being one who believed that the Paluxy River mantracks were not only authentic, but a magnificent confirmation of the Genesis account, I was perplexed. Why would Ken Ham oppose such evidence? The article itself provided precious little details. All it says is that a group of creation scientists had decided that the evidence for the authenticity of the Paluxy River mantracks was less certain than they first thought, and so they were advising creationist to not use it as evidence for creation.
It was years later that I learned some of the specific reasons why creationists like Ken Ham advised against using the the Paluxy River Tracks as evidence for creationism. One reason is because some of the mantracks have a questionable provenance. “Provenance” describes an object’s history: when was it found, who found it, where was it kept, and so forth. The purpose of provenance is to provide a record of the object, to verify its history. In fact, museums hire people called curators, and one of the main jobs of a curator is to record the objects in a museum. Why? So they know, and can tell other people, what objects are in the museum, where they came from, who brought them in, and so forth. This record provides a paper trail, to show doubters that such and such an artifact is authentic. It is hard to question the authenticity of a jacket once worn by a founding father if you can provide the paperwork that shows the jacket was brought to the museum by the estate of that founding father.
Most of the most human-looking mantracks lack any significant provenance. Probably the most famous of the Paluxy River mantracks, the Burdick track, has a very poor provenance. No one knows exactly where it came from. In fact, it was excavated before paleontologists recognized the significance of the Paluxy River Formation. Since we do not know who excavated it or when, we do not know where it has been since being excavated. Since we do not know where it has been, we have little assurance that it has not been embellished or outright fabricated. Rather than providing a paper trail to show where it came from, detailing which section of the river it was excavated from, who excavated it, where it was kept during all that time, and so forth, people instead debate whether it looks “good enough” to be considered a genuine human track. In other words, it is difficult to even use it as evidence for creationism when you have to first prove that it is real, not by providing documentation of where it came from, but because it “looks real.”
There is more, a lot more, that can be said about the Paluxy River tracks. Suffice it to say that many of the “classic” mantracks have poor provenance, and those that have a known provenance, like the Taylor trail, have peculiar features that are not easily explained as part of human tracks. The point is, the Paluxy River mantracks are, at best, ambiguous. Attempting to use them as evidence for creationism will immediately get you bogged down in defending them as genuine human tracks before you can even get to the part about how they fit so much better in creationism than evolutionism.
Hence, Ken Ham’s focus on “magic bullets.” Rather than addressing the Paluxy River mantracks directly, or any number of other controversial creationist topics, Ham addressed the creationist mentality. As Ham described it, some creationists believe that the origins debate will be settled by which side, creationist or evolutionist, has the most and the best evidence. In such a mentality, it is easy to accept things like the Paluxy River mantracks, the moon dust argument, and the “ark” discovered at the base of Mount Ararat. These things must be true, because they support creationism, and we need them to counter the evolutionary evidence.
I think that there is another concept at play here. I think many creationists are convinced that evidence for creationism must exist because God says that it is out there. After all, we have Romans 1:20, which flat out tells us that the world proves God’s existence. If the world proves God’s existence, and the Bible says that it does, then things like the Paluxy River mantracks, the moon dust argument, and the “ark” must be some of that evidence.
However, I think that such an argument is based on a misreading of Romans 1:20. To put it simply, nowhere in this verse does Paul say that the physical world demonstrates the existence of God. Here is the verse in the ESV:
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Notice that it is not the physical or the natural world, it is “the things that have been made” that convicts people of God’s invisible attributes. God created far more than the physical world. He created angels, demons, height, depth, the future, powers (Romans 8:38-39), and a host of other, non-physical things. Thus, we have a guarantee that the things God made demonstrates God’s eternal power and Godhead, but we are not assurred that the physical world of the natural world demonstrates God’s eternal power and Godhead. Thus, Romans 1:20 is not proof that scientific evidence will prove that the Bible is true.
Returning to Ken Ham’s argument, “magic bullets” don’t exist because the evidence does not speak for itself. What we call evidence is simply a description of what is out there in the real world. The meaning of that evidence, whether it supports creationism or evolution, is an interpretation based on the worldview of a person. The significance is taken away from the evidence itself and is instead placed on a person’s worldview. An evolutionist will look at the facts and see evolution, while a creationist will look at the same evidence and see creation.
I would like to add an observation. Some creationists try to circumvent the interpretive nature of evidence by claiming that, yes, it is true that both sides interpret the same evidence. However, the evidence fits creationism better than it fits evolution. They conclude that since the evidence fits creationism better, evolution should be rejected or at least, we should treat it as a “blind faith.” Unfortunately, I believe that such an argument fails to grasp the full extent of what it means to say that a person’s worldview affects his interpretation of the evidence. Yes, we can compare both worldviews, yes we can see how each of them interprets the evidence, but these observations then become their own set of evidence. That new set of evidence is then interpreted by a person’s worldview once again. Think of it as a set of nested Russian dolls. The evidence we see out in the natural world, the observations we make of the world around us, constitutes one set of evidence. This is the inner shell of a Russian doll. We then take this set of evidence and place it into creationism and into evolutionism. Then, we observe the differences between the worldviews, specifically noting how each accounts for the evidence. These observations make up a second set of evidence, an outer doll in the nested set. Yet, we still interpret this second doll by our own individual worldviews, meaning all of our interpretation of the entire set of nesting dolls is subjective. Put simply, deciding which worldview fits the evidence better is influenced a person’s worldview, which means it is still impossible to be objective.
The result is that evidence will not win the case for creation. Hence, our mentality should not be to search for that one, best, irrefutable piece of evidence. As demonstrated by Sarfati’s article, several creationist arguments have fallen by the wayside as new evidence is accumulated. As seen in Ham’s article, worldview plays too much of a role in interpreting the evidence. Our strength lies not in the evidence that we accumulate, but rather in the God that we serve and the special revelation that He has given to us. This is not to say that evidence is unimportant. We have to explain the evidence in light of creationism. Too often, people in our culture reject the Bible because of perceived contradictions with science. Showing how the evidence can be consistent with the Biblical account removes that stumbling block. However, the evidence will always remain fluid: new evidence will be incorporated into our interpretations and discarded evidence will be removed. The core of our beliefs, the actual account of Genesis 1-11, will remain unchanged. That is the rock upon which we should build our creation apologetic.
Thoughts from Steven