Friday, June 17, 2011

Dr. Michael Behe on theistic evolution

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – My intent was to give you a synopsis of Dr. Michael Behe’s presentation on theistic evolution, but I woke up Friday morning with a migraine, which, despite medication, only got worse.

As a result I spent most of the day in bed, praying that I would be well enough to drive an hour to hear him at 7 p.m. I awoke after 6 p.m. and decided I would be able to make the trip, but I would get there late. As it turns out, I missed about three-fourths of his talk.

I’m sure you can read much of his story at his webpage on the Lehigh University website, and also, Fixed Point Foundation is selling audio and video versions of the conference, so both you and I will be able to hear his entire talk once those are mailed out.

I think it's generally safe to say that Behe sees the complexity in creation demanding an engineer with a purpose rather than it being the result of random mutations.

When I finally made my way into the audience, Behe was talking about travelling with a friend and looking at a mountain range. “Look at that slope,” he tells the friend. “From that mountain top to the other one is an angle of 19 degrees!”

“Yeah, so what?” his friend asks.

Next they travel to see Massachusetts’ Old Man in the Mountain formation. Behe notices how the rocks resemble a human face and wonders if perhaps they were designed my some primitive culture.

Finally, they arrive at Mount Rushmore, seeing the perfectly chiseled faces of four U.S. presidents. The slope from the top to bottom of George Washington’s nose clearly was formed by a designer.

Even noted atheist Richard Dawkins admits the “appearance” of a purposeful arrangement of parts in even some of the most simple of life forms, Behe said.

Behe coined the term “irreducible complexity” for his theory, likening it to a mousetrap, which has several components necessary to make it work. If you remove half the components, he said, “you won’t get a mousetrap that works half as well. It won’t work a fourth as well. It’s a broken mousetrap.”

Behe finds it amazing so many biologists would latch on to Darwin’s theory. “The bottom line: There is strong evidence for design, little evidence for Darwinism.”

Radio host Rick Burgess closed out the evening, noting that he, too, is an Oxford graduate. He got his high school diploma from Oxford High School in Oxford, Ala.

“I’m going to ask a question I’ll bet none of these men with Ph.D.s asked,” Burgess said. “I read Genesis and I wonder stuff like: What if, instead of a snake, it had been a giraffe that tempted Eve in the garden. Can you image giraffes with no legs? What if you saw a legless giraffe out in the garden and hollered, ‘Honey, bring me a shovel or hoe!’ then tried to cut that long neck off?”

Turning serious, Burgess said that while it’s good to engage in debates such as the origin of may, Christians shouldn’t make it a litmus test for salvation.

The conference concludes on Saturday, with Q&A sessions with Behe, young earth (or biblical) creationist Dr. Terry Mortenson and old earth creationist Dr. Hugh Ross, a roundtable discussion among all three, a sermon on Genesis 1 from Gilbert Lennox and a concert by modern hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty.

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Photo: Owen Tew

Terry Mortenson, Hugh Ross on new, old earth creation

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Dr. Terry Mortenson presented the case for young earth creationism, and Dr. Hugh Ross made the argument for old earth creationism at Fixed Point Foundation's conference Thursday night at Briarwood Presbyterian Church.

The third night of "In the Beginning: 3 Views on Creation," continues tonight with Dr. Michael Behe arguing for theistic evolution. Fixed Point Executive Director Larry Taunton noted that all speakers agree on the authority of the Bible, they just have different interpretations of the text.

Though Christians disagree on the details of the universe's origins, it's vital they engage the culture, Taunton said, because "whoever gets to tell the creation story -- they are the priests of our society."

Mortenson, pictured above, of Answers in Genesis, said the earth and universe were created in six 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago. He took exception with others who argue that the "days" mentioned in Genesis 1 might be long epochs. The literary form in Genesis is narrative, he said, not poetry, parable or prophecy, meaning it was to be taken as literal history.

"That was Jesus' view, and all the other biblical writers treat it as history," he said.

Mortenson, who said he didn’t grow up believing in a 6,000-year-old earth, said Genesis 1-11 is vital to the Christian doctrine of salvation. “Genesis is foundational to the rest of the Bible.” He said parts of the world where the church has accepted evolution have gone on to reject other biblical doctrines as well.

The previous night, Dr. John Lennox had argued that other creatures might have lived and died long before man came along, but didn’t see “decay” that entered the world after the fall of man. Mortenson said fossils have shown that dinosaurs had cancer, so if they existed millions of years before man, they did see decay.

Mortenson said the layers of sediment seen in the Grand Canyon don’t represent millions of years of deposits followed by millions more of erosion. They point to a cataclysmic event: Noah’s flood. He pointed to an atheist scientist who had reached the same conclusion about a deposit in England.

Secular scientists, and some Christian ones, get false results because they are using the wrong lens, he said, just as if he looks through the bottom of his bifocals he would presume members of the audience have heads, but no eyeballs. Looking through the top of the top lens, he can see more clearly. Most Christians who don't believe in his view haven't closely examined the evidence, he said.

Ross, of Reasons to Believe (pictured left), described his view as “constructive integration.” “The Bible and science can be completely integrated,” he said. “God has given us two books: the book of science and the Bible.”

Ross grew up secular, but at the age of 17 decided the complexity he saw in nature demanded a creator. He read the scriptures of all the major religions, finding only the Jewish/Christian texts describing creation the way science does.

The space-time theorem states that the universe began with a singularity, but it had to have an outside causal agent. That agent, Ross said, is God.

While Genesis provides an account of creation, Ross says the Bible contains 27 separate accounts of the universe’s origins. Genesis doesn’t say what God did between creating the universe and man, but elsewhere such things are explained, including his stretching out of the heavens. Science wouldn’t discover the universe is expanding for thousands of years.

Ross rejects young earth creationism, but does believe that God created creatures as they are today; he didn’t use the process of evolution. “There’s been no discernible change in human DNA in 25,000 years,” he said, adding that on average one new species appeared on earth until man showed up. Since then there have been zero.

He said Genesis 1 is written from the perspective of the earth, and that’s why light appears before the sun and moon. The earth was previously covered in clouds, as Venus still is. After God removed the permanent canopy of clouds, photosynthesis could occur, allowing plants to grow.

Ross believes Adam was on the earth a long time before Eve was created. Part of that reason, when Adam first saw his wife he exclaimed, in Hebrew, happa ‘am (At long last!)

Ross said it’s important to find a creation model that synthesizes the Bible with science or it will be impossible to win skeptics over. “If skeptics can’t get past the first page of the Bible, they aren’t likely to get to John 3:16.”

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Photos: Owen Tew