Bible & Science Conference: The News from Harvard

(system) #1

International Conference on the Bible and Science, St. George, Utah -- On Sunday evening Kurt Wise, a Baptist who has degrees in geology from both the University of Chicago and Harvard University, and who directs the Creation Research Center at Truett-McConnell College, spoke on the topic “My Experience in a World of Secular Science.”

Kurt (I don’t think he’d mind if I call him that — he seems a friendly and relaxed fellow) is a charming and witty storyteller, with a flair for both drama and suspense. Much of his time was spent relating anecdotes with a much-appreciated storyline: Young Creationist enters Secular World; YC hides light under bushel; YC is ashamed and owns up to his commitment; SW persecutes and mocks YC; eventually the humans in the SW learn to respect and like YC; YC proceeds successfully with higher education, gradually becoming a Middle-aged Creationist. Many of the stories had wonderfully ironic punch lines, and the geologists on the front row seemed particularly delighted by news from the anti-Lake Wobegon.

This refreshing break from the linear and the argumentative, which had proceeded pretty much non-stop throughout the day on Friday and Sunday, was welcome. Storytime had finally arrived and the audience visibly relaxed into the stream of upbeat humor at the expense of the gods of Science. The underdogs were finally having their day.

All seemed to be continuing in the same vein as Kurt began to speak of Stephen Jay Gould, the widely-read paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science who was Dr. Wise’s advisor and mentor at Harvard. We heard of the grand adventure of trying, as a creationist, to even be accepted into the prestigious Ph.D. program; of the discussions among the men who were writing his letters of recommendation (“Shall we tell Stephen he’s a creationist??”); of being accepted and eventually breaking the awful news (“I am a young earth creationist!”); of the happy ending of a warm and meaningful friendship between the two men.

But — we also hear of the awful moment when Stephen learns that he has cancer, and only months to live. Providentially, he shares this moment with Kurt, who sees the vulnerability in his friend and prays silently that the Holy Spirit will find a way to touch this famously atheist man. And then comes the terrible story, the story we don’t want to hear; not about the creationist who triumphs, the YC who persuades the denizen of the SW to turn his heart toward God.

No, this story breaks our hearts.

Stephen has received a letter from a creationist, just days before his diagnosis, telling him, “I wanted to pray for you to stop teaching evolution, but I know you won’t. So I’ve asked God to give you cancer so you will die and go to hell.”

The shock in the room seems palpable. No! Stop! Surely this isn’t how it goes.

Kurt has tears in his voice. “I loved Stephen Jay Gould. He was my friend. And that letter closed his heart. Evolutionists are souls for whom Christ died. Let us never forget that. We must love our evolutionist friends.”

As we filed out of the room that evening, the mood had altered, or at least it seemed so to me. I myself was deeply touched. I felt that we had been reminded of what was truly important. Not doctrine, not facts, not being right. People. Love.

We returned thoughtfully to our rooms on Sunday evening, full of good stories and the love of Jesus. Outside, the sky was turning deep blue over the red hills of Utah. It didn’t seem to matter quite so much how old they were, at least for a little while.

The author was an attendee of the recent ten-day International Conference on the Bible and Science: Affirming Creation in Utah. The author has asked to remain anonymous.

Image: Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) by Kathy Chapman.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Sirje) #2

If you’re finding your way here, then I’m replying to your comment, “The verses I quoted in my last post refer to God’s people. His faithful remnant.” KP

My answer: So am I.

(jeremy) #3

"Flagella’s evolution is worked out in reasonable detail
It never fails to amaze me that YEC say “I studied the work of thousands of scientists and I am sure they are wrong”, without realizing this says a lot about their study and little about the science, especially when they basing their study upon a few off-main-stream writers like Behe."

i’m not buying this rheticus…once again, because someone is able to speculate on a flagellum’s supposed evolution, you feel this is working it out in reasonable detail…but has the mechanism(s) noted in your wiki reference ever been demonstrated even under controlled conditions…the similarities between various systems in different organisms don’t have to be interpreted as evidence for a common ancestor or one evolving from the other…i think they can be seen as a hidden signature of a master designer who solved problems, sometimes in similar ways, or used similar structures to solve unrelated problems…you seem to think form is totally the product of function, but i see function as the product of form…for instance, why doesn’t an elephant develop wings, and a suitable size and structure, and fly…after-all, supposed millions of years have been at work, yet we see no movement in this direction…to me it is clear that an intelligent designer decided that elephants wouldn’t fly…therefore the form of an elephant doesn’t lend itself to flight…evolution in elephants is restricted to what their original function was pre-determined to be…

(Rheticus) #4
  1. How would one distinguish between such an intelligent designer and evolution at work? Every time something is similar, you say “design”, every time it is different, you say “design”. Every time we point to some feature that is badly designed you say “there must be some reason I don’t understand”. What test are you going to use to decide whether something points to design v evolution?

  2. Yes, using mutation and selection we have modified organisms in the lab to do things we selected for. Monsanto makes a business out of this, as do horse breeders, plant breeders, etc. More recently there is a selection process going on in Africa right now for resistance to Ebola amongst the various mutations of various human genes

  3. Predecessors of elephants did indeed develop wings and fly. Some developed in a denser fluid than air - their modern descendants are whales etc. Others are the bats, flying squirrels, etc. If you want to know why modern elephants haven’t any descendants that can fly, maybe it is because you haven’t waited long enough. There are no insurmountable differences between elephants and flying squirrels.

(jeremy) #5

1…well, every time something is similar, you say they had a common ancestor…every time something is different, you say they had a common ancestor millions of years before the things that are similar had a common ancestor…it’s not a question of there being a reason not to understand…what’s not to understand that a supernatural power created what we see, and that environmental changes selectively drove the minor variations we see…i don’t see that there can be a test that can settle the creation vs. evolution debate…creationists cannot point to a mechanism for divine action, and evolutionists cannot replicate in a controlled environment what supposedly happened millions of years ago in a random environment…and even that million year + age is completely based on assumptions that conditions we see now existed in the past…

2…no-one is arguing modifying phenotypes to arrive at qualities that are more useful or desirable…obviously god put into the genome of living things the ability to adapt to the environment in a way that preserves their existence…

3…this is pure speculation, as you cannot prove these “predecessors” developed into elephants…and you can’t prove flying squirrels are distantly related to elephants…you can only point to the supposition that this must be so…and isn’t it convenient to say, when we don’t see evolution operating, that we need to give it millions of years, after which neither you nor i will be around to verify anything…

the fact is, supernatural visions are the only eye-witness accounts we have of what the world was like in the past…an eye witness account, from a credible source - such as a prophet of god - has to be more accurate than theories based on unprovable suppositions…

(Rheticus) #6
  1. “every time something is similar, you say they had a common ancestor”

Not true. For example there are multiple distinct pathways that created eyes. The panda’s thumb and the ape thumb come from completely different paths. The tree of life was originally created using a combination of estimated age and location and recognizing weird similarities often unrelated to the main function of the organ rather like using unusual colors in a jigsaw to grab the right pieces from a much larger collection of similar pieces.

With the completely different technique of cladistics the tree has been reorganized slightly, with some major moves.

It is amazing how these two completely different techniques led to approximately the same tree. YLC have no explanation for this - this is one reason why YLC requires God to have been deliberately deceitful.

  1. “every time something is different, you say they had a common ancestor millions of years before the things that are similar had a common ancestor”

Again, not true. Standard evolutionary theory has some splits incredibly deep in the tree, and it is not until you get to RNA/DNA that many come together, and there are “life forms” (debatable whether to label them as such) such as prions that don’t even use that.

  1. “evolutionists cannot replicate in a controlled environment what supposedly happened millions of years ago in a random environment”

and even if they did, you would argue that “can” does not mean “did”. This is a bogus argument, getting weaker all the time, that YLC put out there as though it proves anything.

  1. “obviously god put into the genome of living things the ability to adapt to the environment in a way that preserves their existence”

That is called evolution.

  1. “you can’t prove flying squirrels are distantly related to elephants”

I can look at the dna sequences and at the fossil record, and in very fine detail each of these shows a tree that has an elephant down one branch and a flying squirrel down the other

  1. "supernatural visions are the only eye-witness accounts "

Except that you can’t prove that Genesis was based on a supernatural vision, nor can you prove that supernatural visions show scientific truth.

You never did answer whether you have read Neil Shubin’s “Your Inner Fish”. Your arguments and claims would be strengthened by being able to address the issues that he raises.

(jeremy) #7

rheticus, i’m under no illusion that i have an inner fish that needs attention - why would i waste my time reading something so ludicrous…and let me clarify, if evolutionists were able to document the transition of an elephant into a flying squirrel, i seriously doubt anyone would say, yes it can, but nevertheless it didn’t…this would be the start of a conversation that would have far more potential than any that are possible now…

understand that revelation operates on a different platform than science…the assumption is that there is a supernatural god who has chosen to communicate to his chosen people through human mediums who receive a comprehensive view of the past, the present, and the future…when this human medium makes a pronouncement - for instance, egw making the pronouncement that god created the world in six literal days - this is presumed to be the truth of a subject because it’s as if god himself has said it…

at the moment, this evolution/creation debate really boils down to what any given person gives precedence to: inspiration, which doesn’t usually operate on evidence; or science, which is evidence based on the assumption that inspiration doesn’t exist…in terms of what this means for our church, i would say i agree with ted wilson…because we are the one denomination based on inspiration, there’s no room for evolution - or anything that diminishes inspiration - in our church…

(Rheticus) #8

Neil Shubin was a professor of anatomy at the University of Chicago medical school, and a paleontologist. This book is not some silly pop-psychology dealing-with-your-inner-child nonsense. It is an introduction to the anatomy of a range of creatures from sea anemones to primates, showing those similarities and differences that you don’t understand.

If you read the book, and other books about how the genome is expressed to create the anatomy, you would understand that science has already basically shown how an elephant can evolve into a flying squirrel - we can show you some dna sequences that control things like size, number of vertebra, amount and shape of hair, …

Your resistance to reading such material is ludicrous, given your claims about having studied this area and your requests for examples that are readily available and your misunderstands of even the elementary details - it is equivalent to shutting your eyes and saying “I can’t see why I am wrong”

Your claim that an EGW statement “is presumed to be the truth of a subject because it’s as if god himself has said it…” leads to the most amusing of errors, because EGW herself said this is not so, so (by your reasoning) God has told you this statement is false, and yet you are pushing it. ““In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible. His word is true, and in Him is no variableness or shadow of turning.”—Ellen G. White letter 10, 1895.”

You forget that the origin and basis of the SdA Church was and is people who decided to search for and follow the truth regardless of how it matched their preconceptions. This is the true core of the SdA denomination, not clinging to the particular results of those founders search, but continuing the search.

(jeremy) #9

rheticus, your understanding of egw letter 10, found in 1 selected messages:37, is way off…this statement is not intended to convey the idea that anything egw or the bible writers said under inspiration is subject to a completely contradictory teaching instigated by those who have no interest in god or the soon return of jesus christ, much less his church on earth…egw means that she personally, apart from inspiration, is no more infallible than you or i - that the inspiration in her works, as in the case of the bible writers, is not affected by her personal fallibility…this personal fallibility is very far removed from what she said under inspiration on the subject of origins, for instance, which, as in the moses account, is that god created the earth and everything in it in six literal days…that god created the earth and everything in it in six literal days is not the product of her or moses’ personal fallibility…this very fundamental teaching is given to us through the medium of these prophets by god…this truth is as absolute as if god himself thundered it to us from sinai…it is not subject to revision even by inspired prophets, much less atheists…

when i say i haven’t read shubin’s “your inner fish”, i don’t mean to suggest i haven’t glanced at it…to me it is nothing more than one more variation on the tired theme of “similarity means common ancestry”, hacked to death since the very unfortunate, pre-electron microscopic days of darwin…where you and shubin see a common ancestry, i see a common artist - a common signature implanted at creation by the infinite god…this common signature is, on an infinitely grander scale, reminiscent of bach’s goldberg variations - an aria followed by 30 related, but very unique and separated, variations…a study of these variations shows a very strong inter-relatedness with the aria theme in terms of proportion, harmonic movement, and intuitive conjecture, so much so that any other composer is immediately excluded…in the same way, similarities throughout creation show a common origin in terms of the god who miraculously called it into existence…these similarities do not mean that the minor adaptations to environmental changes we see caused the entire spectrum of life as we know it to emerge in small, guided or unguided successive steps over eons of time from a single primordial ancestor…this concept is an unwarranted philosophical extension of the adaptability we see in all living things, which was implanted into their genomes at creation as one more tool to ensure their survivability…

i am not saying that creation doesn’t require faith…and this faith is not required because the competing view of evolution has been proven…rather, faith is required because there is no way to explain it - god’s works, like god himself, are not amenable to a test tube or a petri dish…but let’s not lapse into the illusion, and in fact the delusion, that evolution, as a theory of origins, is in any way a proven fact…the minor adaptations to environment we see in all living things is very far removed from the unprovable claim that these minor adaptations, over time, can lead to substantially different life forms…this part of evolution’s claims is pure speculation, based on the assumption that god and divine intervention do not exist, and that they cannot be used to explain existing data…i think you will find that an adherence to evolution destroys all possibility of believing the claims of christ, or any of the miracles associated with his ministry, including his resurrection and ascension into heaven…this really is what jesus meant when he said:

“for had ye believed moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me…but if ye believe not his writings - that god spoke the world and everything in it in six literal days - how shall ye believe my words”, john 5:46-47…

in view of this, which ted wilson obviously understands, he is correct to say that those who are teaching evolution in our schools as a proven fact need to do the honorable thing and resign…i would venture to say what ted has not said, which is that those who teach creation in a school that is resolute in the position that god does not exist, should also do the honorable thing and resign…creation and evolution are explaining the same facts in diametrically opposed ways…there can be no mixing of the two…

(Rheticus) #10

If you ever find anything in Mrs. White’s writings that to you seems without doubt to be a mistake—a historical inaccuracy, a mistake in geography, arithmetic, or chronology—just remember that Mrs. White never claimed infallibility, and that her inspiration is in no wise affected by such a slip of the pen. It might even turn out that Mrs. White herself was not responsible for the mistake at all.

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #11

In the case of EGW, it’s her agreeing w/ Bishop Ussher’s 6K years chronology, something not defined in the Bible, that is at stake.

Be that as it may, the pivotal question is why we need to undergird the Bible by either supporting or denying the findings of science. It always ends up in the misguided requirement for belief or disbelief in some scientific claim.

Didn’t we learn from the official Christian response to Galileo? Whether or not the church agreed, the sun did not circle the earth. The church finding this to be theologically & Biblically contradictory did not change reality, & this should be the unforgettable lesson against tying any particular interpretation of religious belief to any particular phenomenon studied by science.

Should we—personally & in running hospitals—reject the Germ Theory of Disease because the Bible doesn’t teach it? Should we limit ourselves to the medical treatment Jesus used, i.e. spit, or spit & dirt combined? Does rejecting Jesus’ methods in preference to modern medicine declare that we deny him as our divine Lord & Savior?

(jeremy) #12

rheticus, the people working at the white estate are non-inspired persons, meaning they are no more an authority on the significance and meaning of egw than any of the rest of us…but if you are reading into this statement that anything and everything egw wrote under inspiration is amenable to a wholesale revision by atheists, i assure you that this is not the meaning of this statement…certainly something as fundamental as fiat creation in six days is not open to revision…what you are proposing - what evolution is proposing - is nothing short of a direct challenge to the existence of god and his ability to create…this kind of teaching will never harmonize with inspiration…

you may also be interested in knowing that even secular society is not convinced by darwinism, or hundreds of millions of years of evolution:

in other words, darwinian evolution appears to be an eclectic hobby of academics - in which they feel they can demonstrate their self-importance - that isn’t gaining traction in society…

(jeremy) #13

i truly doubt whether intelligent adventist creationists depend on the accuracy of ussher’s masoretic chronology, given that egw relied on it, to evaluate her inspiration…of course we know that the septuagint adds almost 1,500 yrs to this chronology, and presumably egw would not have had an issue citing a bible chronology based on that greek translation, had it been the authority in circulation in her day…to me, egw’s use of a presumed authoritative dating scheme is analogous to her paradise valley sanitarium “error” - in which she was told of and cited a 40-room plan that in reality was 38 rooms - which has absolutely nothing to do with the authoritative nature of her inspiration…even paul cites the erroneous doctrine of baptism for the dead to make his case for the resurrection, 1 corinthians 15:29…

the pivotal question, in reality, is whether we accept inspiration’s authority, or the authority of science, which in the case of origins has precluded the existence of god…galileo is very far from being a poster boy in this dispute…galileo was citing what he actually saw, not what he speculated after excluding the role of inspiration…moreover he wasn’t challenging the existence or role of god, or even necessarily the centrality of the earth in terms of any accepted soteriology…by way of extreme contrast, evolutionists haven’t actually seen evolution operate through natural selection for 4.5 billion yrs…they use time measurements based on the assumption that current physical constants were identical to previous ones, that biological phenomenon are now what they always have been, and that divine intervention cannot be used to explain data…these are important, unprovable assumptions, upon which the entire doctrine of evolution rests…intrinsically, it purports the same unquestioned authority that belongs only to inspiration - evolution is set up so that nothing can challenge it…after-all, who can disprove what cannot be proved…

and btw, hopeful, if any hospital discovers jesus’ methods of healing, to the point of raising patients from the dead, much of your argument becomes a moot point…to reduce jesus’ methods of healing to spit is disingenuous, at best…

(George Tichy) #14

Apparently we didn’t!
Some people never learn anyway, right?..

(Carolyn Parsons) #15

That is an unfair characterization of Evolutionary theory. The theory of Evolution is at the core of all sciences from the eclectic academic sciences to the applied sciences such as human medicine.

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #16

You misunderstand my 1st point, which has nothing to do w/ which OT text is misused in arriving at a very short chronology.

You misunderstand my 2nd point, which has nothing to do w/ denying faith in God as Creator.

You misunderstand my 3rd & last point, which has nothing to do w/ devaluing the healing of Jesus.

(Randy Givens) #17

Evolution by itself is not science.

1 : knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation

Evolution can not be tested or observed .So by definition evolution can not be called science .

Fact is evolution isn’t science, fact, theory, nor hypothesis. It is a
belief–and nothing more.

(Rheticus) #18

Maybe you should use surveys of more than the US population before you make such claims.

And maybe you should use a survey question that addresses all the other forms of life other than humans.

You are really good at finding junk sources that reinforce your preconceptions. You should seriously study ones that challenge them instead.

(Interested Friend) #19

Right on target, Randy. Evolution seems to “evolve” incessantly while the Biblical account remains firm.
In The Grip of Truth Not Fiction

(Doug Logan) #20

Ah, Randy. Here you are. Our conversation about “deception” got interrupted by the change of systems.
Since the old comments disappeared a few days ago, I haven’t found a way to go back and review your original comment to which I replied, to double check on what you really said. You seemed to assert that Wise had somehow employed a deception to get accepted. The fourth paragraph of the anonymous article uses “accepted” twice, in two different senses.
I assumed that you were referring to the first instance, which was getting admitted into the graduate program at Harvard. Having read the article at least four times now, I still don’t see the evidence for that.
But, I may have misunderstood what you meant. If so, I apologize. The second instance of “accepted” is that, once admitted, he became accepted by his classmates and professors.
Even if he intended not to hide his light under a bushel, it would have been a good strategy to keep his head down for a while until a degree of mutual trust had been established between himself and his classmates and professors, before he exposed himself. I really don’t see any deception here, either. Had he started waving the YC flag on the first day of classes, he would likely have killed any future chances for meaningful dialogue with the classmates and professors.
Or, perhaps you had a third sense in mind …