Creationism isn’t about science, it’s about theology (and it’s really bad theology).

(iStock photo)

The Creation Museum is a $27 million example of how Christians can lose their way fighting the culture wars. After spending time there this Christmas, I left convinced that as wrong as the museum’s science is, the most frightening driver of its “logic” is an impoverished theology, which is coupled with a desire to win moral arguments. This toxic combination propels devout people into strange and unnecessary battles with modern science.

I did not visit the Creation Museum, and the offices of its parent organization Answers in Genesis, to have scientific arguments. The pseudo-science behind the beautiful exhibits (Eden is lovely, full of lush greenery and gentle vegetarian dinosaurs) has been sufficiently refuted by more qualified experts. But those refutations hold little sway over the almost half a million yearly visitors. So I spent most of my visit struggling to understand the purpose behind the museum, and also the reasons why so many people find its teachings compelling.

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Creationist engagement with science is a consequence of attempting to read Genesis literally. Scientific knowledge is not the source of their literalism. For this reason, scientific debates like those between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum, are a waste of time. The museum isn’t here for scientific reasons, even though it presents itself that way.

The question we need to ask is: What beliefs are creationists trying to uphold with science?

When I visited the museum, Mark Looy, the chief operating officer and vice president of outreach, altered his busy schedule to meet with me on short notice. The place is welcoming, and the staff was extremely kind and hospitable. Mr. Looy explained that, for the purpose of getting the word out, they encourage even their most skeptical critics to visit and see the place for themselves.

What beliefs are creationists trying to uphold with science?

Mr. Looy noted that from his perspective natural selection is wasteful and thus cannot be true. He described his realization that “[evolution] went totally against God’s nature…. Evolution is a story of the struggle of the survival of animals…‘nature, red with blood and tooth and claw.’ It didn’t make any sense from that philosophical and logical point of view.”

This concern about evolution and what it implies about God reveals that creationism’s core motivation is not science, but questions about evil, pain and suffering. Can a loving God use a process of death and competition to create life in all its awe-inspiring diversity? Can the biblical tradition give us insight? How and why can we trust that tradition if the narratives in the Book of Genesis do not match up with scientific facts? These are great theological questions, but they are not scientific ones. The Creation Museum has a serious theological problem that needs theological scrutiny.

In addition to the theological problems, the Creation Museum also has a moral viewpoint that warrants an honest moral debate. Answers in Genesis has a particular vision of society and what it means to be a virtuous and upright Christian person that it wants to protect.

 

In my journey through the museum, I passed through a series of dark rooms with eerie red lighting. One room was covered with news clippings describing mass shootings and terrorist attacks; in an adjacent space, videos showed painful conversations among young people about abortion, teen pregnancy and pornography. The mood was dark and the implication was clear: when our society abandons Scripture, we get hopelessness and pain. These dark rooms lead into another space filled with bright light, where a soothing voice slowly read the opening verses of Genesis.

Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson, a research biologist who works on the Answers in Genesis staff, told me that during arguments about culture war issues like divorce, same-sex marriage or abortion, “at some point people are going to say, ‘Why? Why is this right or wrong?’: He explained, referring to Ken Ham, “His point has been primarily to Protestant churches, saying ‘Hey, biblically all of these issues are grounded in Genesis.’”

Mr. Ham’s motivations for founding the museum and its parent organization clearly grew out of the culture wars. Answers in Genesis argues for the inerrancy of the Bible and specifically for a literal interpretation of Genesis because they think this provides them a strong footing in public discussions. And that, I think, is exactly how this group of Christians got lost. They are trying to win moral and theological debates with what look like scientific arguments.

Strangely, in their attempt to provide definitive empirical answers to moral and theological questions, creationists like Mr. Ham have more in common with some of their most strident scientific opponents than with the broader Christian tradition. They are proponents of the strictest form of biblical inerrancy and literalism. And in this mode they are actually advancing a mirror-image of scientism, in which God’s revelation, both in Scripture and in creation, is meant to convey a list of facts.

Places like the Creation Museum make any appeal to the biblical tradition seem foolish.

But for the broader Christian tradition, God’s revelation is compatible with scientific inquiry even as it explores realities and questions that are beyond the realm of science. Pretending that scientific answers will solve theological questions gives in to the proponents of scientism, who treat science as the sole arbiter of meaning and truth, instead of one avenue of human understanding alongside others, like theology or ethics. Ultimately, creationism starts with a failure of faith, not of scientific rationality.

Literal interpretations of the Book of Genesis buttressed by pseudoscience weakens the standing of Christian conceptions of the human person in our public discourse. Places like the Creation Museum make any appeal to the biblical tradition seem foolish, which presents a greater danger to the public understanding of faith and morality than it does to our understanding of science.

The Creation Museum’s scientific questions are not serious enough to require careful debunking, but the theological and moral goals that inspire their mission are—and they deserve a thorough and charitable refutation on those grounds.

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J Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

Darwin is equally bad science. I am not using the YEC's (young earth creationist) version of why Darwin is wrong. Mutations and natural selection just cannot explain the origin of new proteins and complex biological systems. It can explain small differences over time between variants of a species and is really the equivalent of modern day genetics which is very useful for lots of medical applications. But for macro evolution, it is bad science.

I am not defending YECs though they are often really good people who have internalized Christian principles. I will never defend their science but they can make great scientists in some areas and in the medical field, very good doctors..

But those who insist on Darwin and natural selection as the methodology for the development of life are equally guilty of forcing bad science into a pre-determined theological framework which is also non-Christian. I suggest that one should look at the science that we know and seems reasonable and see if it fits into the traditional Christian view of God.

Answer it does.

This does not mean we should stop exploring any and all aspects of life but what it does mean is to recognize that we do not have at present answers to many of the basic issues of life, especially the origin of things.

And if we are Christians, we are all creationists . Just not necessarily the young earth variety. We believe in an interventionist God and the power of prayer who created life and made us in His image.

Gary Hurd
2 months 2 weeks ago

Natural emergence of new species is commonly observed. That is the "all and all" of evolution. The oldest published account I know of was;
Vries, H.D., 1905. Ueber die Dauer der Mutations-periode bei Oenothera Lamarckiana. Berichte der Deutschen Botanischen Gesellschaft, 23, p.382.

This emergent new species was also the first published example of polyploidal speciation. The scientist, de Vries, was a botanist who actually opposed the notion that darwinian natural selection was the major driving force for evolution. I think that explained the species name "Lamarckiana" used as a put-down of Darwin.

This was in spite of the 1903 discovery of Xanthopan morganii from Madagascar. Darwin had predicted in 1862 that just such a critter had to exist on the island.

But even de Vries eventually had to come to the truth.

We also study the molecule by molecule changes in genes that lead to new function, and evolution. Here is an example;

"Acceleration of Emergence of Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance in Connected Microenvironments" Qiucen Zhang, Guillaume Lambert, David Liao, Hyunsung Kim, Kristelle Robin, Chih-kuan Tung, Nader Pourmand, Robert H. Austin, Science 23 September 2011: Vol. 333 no. 6050 pp. 1764-1767

And we can work back to the primitive origins of genes;

Jean Lehmann, Michel Cibils, Albert Libchaber 2009 “Emergence of a Code in the Polymerization of Amino Acids along RNA Templates” PLoS ONE 4(6): e5773

Trifonov, Edward N. 2004 "The Triplet Code From First Principles" Journal of Biomolecular Structure & Dynamics, ISSN 0739-1102 Volume 22, Issue Number 1

Brooks D.J., Fresco J.R., Lesk A.M. & Singh M. 2002 "Evolution of amino acid frequencies in proteins over deep time: inferred order of introduction of amino acids into the genetic code". Molecular Biology and Evolution 19 (10): 1645-55.

Gary Hurd
2 months 2 weeks ago

I should have included two papers to those above (age is my only excuse).

First is a very interesting report on reconstructing ancient RNA sequences.

S N Rodin & A S Rodin 2008 “On the origin of the genetic code: signatures of its primordial complementarity in tRNAs and aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases” Heredity, 100, 341–355

And then the seminal publication of ribozymes is A MUST READ!;

Kelly Kruger, Paula J. Grabowski, Arthur J. Zaug, Julie Sands, Daniel E. Gottschling, Thomas R. Cech, 1982 "Self-splicing RNA: Autoexcision and autocyclization of the ribosomal RNA intervening sequence of tetrahymena" Cell 31, 147-157.

J Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

Natural emergence of new species is commonly observed

No they are not commonly observed. I would not cite a 1905 paper. They had no clue what a species was then or what caused one to be different from another. Supposedly the groundbreaking example was the so-called "Darwin's finches" from Galapagos but then they found out all these finches were one species and nothing new had emerged even after millions of years. The differences between variants of the finches were epigenetic and not genetic.

Even if one could point to species emerging, and they can't, the differences between what they would be pointing to would be trivial.

There is no documented emergence of a new protein family. What has happened on occasion is minor variations of an original protein with essentially the same genetic sequence leading to similar folding patterns. An even rarer occasion is a frameshift that leads to a new functional sequence. I know of one.

There are about 50 ways a genetic sequence can be altered between generations but there almost no examples of these ever leading to new functional proteins let alone to a new species that is not just trivially different. If there were such examples the books would be full of them. But like the Adventures of Silver Blaze, there was no dog barking in the night.

As genetic sequences get mapped and corresponding proteins are analyzed for their properties, novel proteins are common with no known origin. They haven't a clue how they could arise and just mysteriously appear.

There will always be lots of speculation but speculation is not evidence let alone proof. It's fun to speculate and often this is how science makes a breakthrough. But it is not science.

Gary Hurd
2 months 2 weeks ago

Obviously you are among the "willfully ignorant."

Clueless.

We use bacteria to study evolution at the molecular level because they have such short generation times, and nobody gets outraged when we juice them for chemical analysis. So you need to read;

"Acceleration of Emergence of Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance in Connected Microenvironments" Qiucen Zhang, Guillaume Lambert, David Liao, Hyunsung Kim, Kristelle Robin, Chih-kuan Tung, Nader Pourmand, Robert H. Austin, Science 23 September 2011: Vol. 333 no. 6050 pp. 1764-1767.

The duplication of genes, and even entire genomes leading to the evolution of new genetic functions is well known.

See;
Wagner, A., 1998. The fate of duplicated genes: loss or new function?. Bioessays, 20(10), pp.785-788.

Zhang, J., 2003. Evolution by gene duplication: an update. Trends in ecology & evolution, 18(6), pp.292-298.

Conant, G.C. and Wolfe, K.H., 2008. Turning a hobby into a job: how duplicated genes find new functions. Nature Reviews Genetics, 9(12), pp.938-950.

Duplication is not limited to single genes, or to "jumping genes." Duplication can involve entire chromosomes. See;

Baron, C.A., Tepper, C.G., Liu, S.Y., Davis, R.R., Wang, N.J., Schanen, N.C. and Gregg, J.P., 2006. Genomic and functional profiling of duplicated chromosome 15 cell lines reveal regulatory alterations in UBE3A-associated ubiquitin–proteasome pathway processes. Human molecular genetics, 15(6), pp.853-869.

Clark, A.G., 1994. Invasion and maintenance of a gene duplication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 91(8), pp.2950-2954.

In the 'higher' animals chromosome duplication is often a strong negative selection factor. Not so in the early evolution of complex life in the Ediacaran Era. See;

Wolfe, K.H. and Shields, D.C., 1997. Molecular evidence for an ancient duplication of the entire yeast genome. Nature, 387(6634), p.708.

Francis Miniter
2 months 1 week ago

You seem to forget that viruses mutate constantly. The AIDS virus, for instance, appears to change all the time, making a vaccine difficult. And at the viral level, yes we are talking about protein shifts.

Ellen B
2 months ago

Catholics are not creationists as defined by evangelical christians.

Frank Pray
2 months 2 weeks ago

Mr. Looy’s reason for creationism belief is the central unanswered question: Who is this God who uses evolutionary processes to advance his creative purposes? It is true that “waste” in human terms is present in many aspects of life on earth, but why would someone feel confident that he or she could define God as subject to our ideas of waste? We have no criteria by which to define God (an impossible exercise anyway) except by projection of our own characteristics of what is good or evil. God is simply too complex to pigeon-hole in that way, however much comfort it brings to do so. When Christians accept that evidence God’s character can be also inferred from scientific discovery, our awe and worship will only increase.

Gary Hurd
2 months 2 weeks ago

One core error made by all creationists is that denying scientific fact supports their faith. There are fanatical creationists of all sorts of religions. No amount of science denial can support any particular religion. For examples, see these various sorts of creationists who all very similar in their denial of biology and utterly opposed on religions;

Jewish
Spetner, Lee 1997 "Not By Chance: Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution" New York: The Judaica Press

Muslim
Harun Yahya (real name Adnan Okbar), 2007 "Atlas Of Creation" Istanbul: Global Publishing

Hindu
Michael A Cremo, Richard L. Thompson 1998 "Forbidden Archeology: The Hidden History of the Human Race" Bhaktivedanta Book Publishing

Neo-pagan/Native American
Deloria, Vine Jr. 1997 “Red Earth, White Lies” Golden Colorado: Fulcrum
Publishing

J Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

These are staw man arguments. Actually all you have done is not even that elegant. You just assumed that because they have a religious connection, it is invalid. May be true but still your argument is not valid. This is especially true of Spetner's book.

I was once at a conference sponsored by a Catholic organization and expected to hear quasi religious arguments and all I heard was science and logic. That started me on my path to investigate the topic and quickly led me to abandon Darwin's ideas.

I suggest you review Stephen Meyer's books, Signature in the Cell, Darwin's Doubt and Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. You should also read about the Third Way which are evolutionary biologists who formed a research program based on the inadequacy of Darwin's ideas and has zero religious connection.

The science denial is with those who endorse Darwin's ideas.

Gary Hurd
2 months 2 weeks ago

I have read Steve Meyer, and we have exchanged ultimately pointless emails.

Have you read;

Mark Perakh
2003 "Unintelligent Design" New York: Prometheus Press

Matt Young, Taner Edis (Editors),
2004 "Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism" Rutgers University Press (My contribution, Chapter 8 “The explanatory filter, Archaeology, and Forensics” was used in the 2005 Dover ID trial).

Barbara Carroll Forrest, Paul R. Gross
2004 "Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design" Oxford University Press

We don't need to go past the 2005 Dover, Pa. creationist trial, Kitzmiller v Dover. My favorite part was:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/day12pm2.html#day12pm475

Douglas Fang
2 months 2 weeks ago

The YECs have a very defective mental process based on my own personal experience interacting with them. They know that the universe as we observe today has been around for many billion years. They just cannot accept that it is the case. They claim that it just appears old and that means God is the biggest deceiver!!! He created a universe that just appears old based on our capability to observe, the capability that God has given to mankind! This is a fundamental disconnection between reality and perception. People who have such a mental defect have a tendency to believe in all kinds of conspiracies or fake realities. They make Christianity looks like a lunatic group of people.

Gary Hurd
2 months 2 weeks ago

These creationist are pathetic

J Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

Mr. Hurd,

I appreciate that you have validated my comments.

Clueless, willfully ignorant

Any time one resorts to ad hominems it means their own argument is invalid as yours have been. The bringing up of bacterial evolution and gene duplication are two examples of irrelevant arguments.

Gene duplication is just one of the 50+ ways genomes can change from generation to the next so I am well aware of it. What is missing is how such an event can lead to novel proteins. That is the issue. And it is not something that can be waved away with a quick list of some studies. By the way I could provide a much more valid list of studies.

Bacterial changes are well known and are the scourge of anti-biotic treatments to disease. But these are not macro evolution.

By the way the author and Mr Fang are creationists as am I. We are just not the young earth type. If one claims to be a Catholic as the author is by the SJ after his name and Mr. Fang who has several times identified himself as a Catholic then they are creationists.

There are several types of creationists and it is s rhetorical trick to try to pigeon hole every creationist as the young creationist type. I am definitely not a YEC and have a record of criticizing their beliefs on both science and religion. The creationist act could be singular or many and could have taken place at various times in different ways. Each Sunday Catholics recite the Nicene Creed.

through him all things were made.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

That is the reason I listed the book on Theistic Evolution (TE) which is a particular strain of creationist. And TE's are particularly critical of Young Earth Creationist. So if you are going to comment further, please do not distort the conversation with invalid arguments.

The author identified theology as the issue of his article. Maybe you would like to address that.

Biology is a relevant issue since one has to explain the physical world. The only problem is that Darwin's ideas do not do it.

Genevieve Burns
2 months 2 weeks ago

Very good. Well stated. They do try and lump everyone together by infering that if you don’t believe in their fairy-tale of Evolution, you think the world is 7,000 years old.

A Catholic priest came up with the Big Bang theory, not Einstein. Evolution is totally unproven. Sure a sperm whale “evolved” from primordial microscopic muck! Lol. Prove it!

Gary Hurd
2 months 2 weeks ago

I presented you with straight, documented facts, and you deny them. That is clueless and willfully ignorant. Since you are such a biblical and scientific expert, I thought you would at least get the "willfully ignorant" reference.

Pathetic.

Jim Lein
2 months 2 weeks ago

In looking through other comments, two books come to mind: "The Phenomenon of Man" (1959 in English) by Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit paleontologist, and "At Home in the Universe" (1995) by Stuart Kauffman, MD, theoretical biologist and complexity researcher. It is almost like Kauffman added a more modern biological and evolutionary follow up to Teilhard's sweeping Christian outlook. But apparently not: no mention of Teilhard in the book or the references. None either in Kauffman's later book, "Rethinking the Sacred" (2008).

Reading some atheistic philosophers, like Denial Dennett, it seems that evolution was only by chance, extremely unlikely, but with enough time, eons, it happened. Kaufmann, from an equally scientific outlook, sees it as inevitable--and he describes in some detail how this is so. He sees the world much as Teilhard did yet without Teilhard's Christian perspective.

Douglas Fang
2 months 2 weeks ago

Thank you for mentioning “The Phenomenon of Man” from Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. His thought on the evolutionary process of the universe has deep philosophical and theological meaning and was ahead of his time. The participants at the recent plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture that discussed “The future of humanity: new challenges to anthropology” had unanimously approved a petition to be sent to Pope Francis requesting him to waive the “monitum” issued by the Holy Office in 1962 regarding the writings of Father de Chardin.

Genevieve Burns
2 months 2 weeks ago

Evolution is UNPROVEN!! No fossil record whatsoever!

By taking the hate position agsinst your co-religionists it sends a message that you prefer atheism. You need to be a better example to young people.

Douglas Fang
2 months 2 weeks ago

“No fossil record whatsoever” – “The earth is flat” – “Fake moon landing” … Oh my! Rampant conspiracies and fake realities!!!

J Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

There is a fairly extensive fossil record but not one that supports any known mechanism of evolution. It shows a sudden emergence of new life forms as opposed to gradual transitions from one species to the next. This gave rise to a theory of what is called punctuated equilibrium which tried to explain this sudden emergence of these life forms. The primary proponent was Stephen Gould.

In order to explain this phenomenon at the genome level it is thought that genomes would mutate away with non coding segments forming over time till they had changed enough to produce new proteins and then became active and producing major changes.

The only problem is the lack of genomic examples and the fact that these changes were most likely probabilistic impossible. The changes required were too great. Hence macro evolution is still a mystery even given trillions of years let alone the relatively short time life has been on earth. Deep time expressed in hundreds of millions of years sounds like enough but in reality it is far from enough. So another explanation is needed. Darwin's small changes just cannot hack it.

The fossil record remains unexplained. Lots of speculation based on preconceived beliefs but no real evidence or practical theory.

Douglas Fang
2 months 2 weeks ago

There is a hypothesis circulating around in the world of theoretical physicists and astrophysicists that our entire universe could be a "vast and complex hologram” created by a super advanced civilization or a “Supreme Intelligence”. It seems that this hypothesis is well compatible with our Christian view of the world. God, or the Word of God (Logos), has created this universe out of nothing by issuing a command, an incomprehensible set of complex equations that govern all the laws of physics, mathematics, and biology at the beginning of time and space to enable an infinitesimal point to evolve into a vastly expanding universe with everything contained in it as we observe it today. These laws are sufficiently miraculous to allow the universe to emerge with intelligent life such as human beings so that we can now observe and recognize the original intelligence that has created it! God does not need to constantly tweak and interfere in the evolution process as what He set in motion from the beginning is good enough.

“Perhaps hyper-advanced life isn’t just external. Perhaps it’s already all around. It is embedded in what we perceive to be physics itself, from the root behavior of particles and fields to the phenomena of complexity and emergence. In other words, life might not just be in the equations. It might be the equations”
CALEB SCHARF - Astrophysicist, the Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University in New York, and a founder of yhousenyc.org, an institute that studies human and machine consciousness

Gary Hurd
2 months 2 weeks ago

There are creationist commenters that are like burrs in sheep wool. Perhaps they might consider their rejection of reality is not a new problem. Considering the venue, Augustine of Hippo might be persuasive.

Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430) who advised Christians trying to interpret Scripture in the light of scientific knowledge in his work The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim). The following translation is by J. H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although *they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. I, xix, 39. {Augustine here has referred to 1 Timothy 1.7}”

Gary Hurd
2 months 2 weeks ago

Another well known Catholic, Thomas Aquinas (c.a. 1225 - 1274) advised, "In discussing questions of this kind two rules are to be observed, as Augustine teaches. The first is, to hold to the truth of Scripture without wavering. The second is that since Holy Scripture can be explained in a multiplicity of senses, one should adhere to a particular explanation only in such measure as to be ready to abandon it if it be proved with certainty to be false, lest Holy Scripture be exposed to the ridicule of unbelievers, and obstacles be placed to their believing." - Summa Theologica, Prima Pars, Q68. Art 1. (1273).

Aquinas was directly citing both;
Matthew 18:
7. "Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!”

And the Apostle Paul (or his crew) who wrote, "determine this--not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way" (Romans 14:13).

They are all actually referring back to,
Lev 19:14 Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.

Steve Greene
2 months 2 weeks ago

I'm not surprised that a Catholic would describe any theology different from Catholic theology as bad theology. That is, of course, a circular argument.

More broadly, I presume that many religious believers would describe any theology that has been discovered to be empirically wrong (such as creationism) as bad theology. But, again, that is a circular argument.

In fact, *all* theology is bad, precisely because it is theology, which by definition means that it isn't relevant to reality, because it isn't based on reality at all, but is merely based on religious doctrines based on false religious notions/traditions derived from particular religious texts considered to be "holy" (this applies to Christian Catholicism just as much as it applies to evangelical Protestantism - or to Mormonism, or to Islamic belief, or to any of the kazillion varieties of Hinduism, and so on).

Indeed, the versions of Christian theology that treat the Bible as somehow supernaturally special, as giving us special lessons about some god or for human as in some manner (whatever that might be) divinely inspired, but it's only the metaphorical lessons that are valuable while anything actually empirically testable the Bible might say is treated as 'incidental particulars in the language of the people of the time but not relevant to the intended message' is just a nice way of trying to cling to the primitive religious baggage while ignoring the fact that in regard to real world testability the Bible is a failure.

Since in this context "good theology" merely means the ultimate retreat to subjectivity (i.e., running away from the failures of the Bible in regard to empirical testing), then in fact creationism is the superior theology, since it least they haven't run away from real world testing entirely, even while they've got the answers horribly wrong.

J Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

Theology is at the center of this. I often make a claim that there is no conflict between traditional Catholic theology and science. The problem lies elsewhere mainly in how we interpret events in natural history. The theology often proposed as a response to what science has supposedly found is one foreign to Catholics but sounds nice. No theology judgments were made in this article except to say that Young Earth Creationism is both bad theology and bad science. The author did not say what was good theology just what was bad. But a lot of Young Earth Creationist theology was traditional Catholic theology through the ages. Not all but definitely some. That we lived in a young earth created by God and as mostly described in the bible was widely believed by most theologians. If you had asked any theologian through the ages about that, they would have nodded their head in agreement.

What happened? Science is what happened and what it has discovered. It has proceeded in leaps and bounds in the last 200 years especially in the last 75 years. The earth is no longer 6000 years old but closer to 4.5 billion years. life did not suddenly appear in a quick pattern but very slowly starting about 3.5 billion years ago. In other words the seven days of the God of the Bible is not in sync with our conclusions from the data that we have discovered. The age of rocks and when life appeared in its various forms tell a different story even if we say that a biblical day could be tens of millions of years. These findings of science require a reassessment of traditional theology.

But how much?

Another problem is the Christian understanding of the Judeo Christian God as omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent. God is all knowing, all powerful and all good. If we have an extremely slow process that has led to us, the apparently only self-conscious species we know of, then why so long? And along the way there was a lot of trials and misses and a lot of what are judged as cruel events. If God was omniscient and omnipotent then why were so many species created only to die away, often in very violent ways? It it is as if God did not know how to get it right. He put the various species here so why did they have to disappear in such a way? Could He not just get it right in the first place? On top of this there are a lot of what we call cruel events. Besides, species dying out there are violent predators tearing individual animals apart and young children who die cruel and painful deaths. How could an omnibenevolent God let this happen?

So traditional theology has taken a hit. Now what has replaced it? The author has shied away from this. I maintain there is no need to replace any traditional theology. But others have offered all sorts of ideas to ameliorate traditional theology to fit what they see as inconsistencies. One popular idea is that God is all the attributes above but He set the whole system in motion and then let it play out. That way He could be absolved of any bad things that happened since He did not directly cause them. This is a God one could be proud of, One that was so powerful and knowing that all He had to do was start a very complicated process in motion, like an incredible set of falling dominos. He started a sequence of falling dominos till it got to us. The dying out of species were just a necessary step as some were needed for a time in order to move to a higher level. Predation was part of this upper movement and so violence was a necessary part. God could be absolved.

In other words the response to the realization that the world is not exactly as the Bible said it was for many, was that we had a Deist God. One who was so brilliant that it all just happened automatically. He set up the initial conditions and the laws of physics to work in a certain way and then after there was a long period there would be us and all that we see around us. One major problem is this is not the Judeo Christian God. It is not a God who intervenes in His creation or one that we can appeal to with prayer. There are no Ten Commandments from on high or a "burning bush" or a healing of the sick or any other miracles. There is no Fall or even an Adam and Eve. Only a well planned plan that doesn't need Him anymore.

This type of God has permeated a lot of the Catholic Church and it is interesting that proponents of this God needs Darwin and his ideas to be correct. Otherwise God would have to intervene and then He would be the lesser tinkering God who couldn't get it right. Darwin is essential because proponents of this God cannot figure how else He could have life move ahead till it got to us, the current apex of the living world. So Darwin is essential because there is no other theory that has any promise. That is why it is defended so fiercely by some. (an aside it is also defended fiercely by atheists because they need it just as much to show there is no need for a God. This is truly ironic.)

Now along come the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) who start finding flaws in Darwin and these flaws are obvious. And by the way YEC's are not the only ones who see these flaws. As it turns out Darwin's ideas are nonsense but the books have been cooked so that we believe it all happened this way despite the lack of proof. One way to counteract these criticisms is to point out the obvious nutty science the YEC's believe in and therefore their ideas on Darwin must be equally nutty. In the process of discrediting the YEC’s anyone who doubts Darwin is then associated with the YEC's and also called a creationist and also a loony. But they are not in any way like the YEC’s.

This distracts from a careful examination of the evidence both in terms of science and in terms of theology. Do we want to be associated with a God who could not get it straight the first time and have to constantly modify His creation. What kind of God could be an alternative? Maybe a God who is loving and knows that it is best for His creation if He constantly intervenes.

This was quickly written but it lays out the stakes and they are not that simple. There is no problem with the findings of the natural world for Catholicism if God has created a world where He made intervention an essential part. Essentially He is a loving God.

Related to this is the problem of bad things happening to animals and humans and is God really omnibenevolent? This is the theodicy problem or how could a Good God allow evil or pain in the world?

Steve Greene
2 months 1 week ago

"Creationists" consists of young earth creationists and old earth creationists. Old earth creationists, of course, didn't really exist until the latter part of the 18th century, and then became the large contingent in the 19th century as the discoveries of geological science expanded in the public consciousness and most Christians realized they had to modify their religious beliefs to incorporate the now widely known fact of the earth's antiquity (or suffer irrelevancy, like the young earth creationists). (Not to ignore the theistic evolutionists, which also became a dominant position, but I'm focusing on the term "creationist" at this point.)

Old earth creationists are indeed like the young earth creationists in regard to their denial of science according to their religious beliefs in religious doctrines based on religious myths in a religious book. Now, granted, their base starts from the modified 19th century reset on the topics incorporating the antiquity of the earth, but it doesn't change the fact they operate in exactly the same ways as young earth creationists, attacking genuine science with all manner of pseudoscience rhetoric, and based on concerns generated by religious motivations (concerning adherence to religious doctrines based on religious myths in their religious book). Yes, unlike the young earth creationists, they accept geological science and astronomical science - but at the same time they deny biological science and paleontological science, and for exactly the same religion-based motivations as the young earth creationists, and the old earth creationist literature is no less filled with scientifically illiterate pseudoscience nonsense than the young earth creationists. Just like young earth creationism, old earth creationism does not exist in the professional science literature. That's because it's religion, not science, exactly like young earth creationism.

Jim Lein
2 months 1 week ago

No need for religious people to deny science. Religion can be a check against regarding science as the last word on anything or everything. Science explains--sometimes too well, in a sense. Living requires more than explanations; it requires experiencing, first hand, in the first person. Science is more indirect, more cerebral, third person.
This reminds me of an English cognitive scientist whose name I can't recall. He had an aha, mystical experience when he felt he had truly awakened and was experiencing reality more directly, more clearly--the kind of experience Mother Theresa didn't have during her last 50 years. What he did was quickly remind himself that it was just neurons firing in a particular manner--and (whew!) pulled himself out of this period of enlightenment rather than experience it, experiment with it--right back into his everyday sleeping mode, as we are in almost all the time. He couldn't appreciate, was frightened by, the glimpse he had of first person experienced reality. He had no perspective for understanding it or experiencing it.

David Cruz-Uribe, OFS
2 months 2 weeks ago

I want to thank Fr. Sundrup for his distinguishing between the science and theology of creationism. For many years I have felt that the correct Catholic response to creationists is to ask why they believe in creationism. Their interpretation of scientific evidence is (if you will pardon the expression) jesuitical and tortured, more concerned with supporting a pre-determined philosophical/theological position than in using anything resembling scientific methodology to get to the truths of natural reality. While I am very grateful for the biologists and physicists who are patient enough to rebut them, for most of us, it is like mud wrestling with a pig: you get dirty and tired, and you discover the pig likes it.

For us as Christians, the biggest problem is that the loudest voices attacking creationists are new atheists and devotees of scientism, who are happy to use creationists to tar all Christians. Therefore, we need to stake out a third position and make clear to one side that there is no contradiction between being a faithful Catholic and accepting the results of modern science, and on the other showing that science does not prevent us from taking firm stands that uphold both the glory of God and the dignity of the human person.

Francis O'BEACHAIN
2 months 2 weeks ago

Elementary science totally disputes Creationism. Pre- Genesis Myths show the precedents for the basic themes of the Book

Adeolu Ademoyo
2 months 2 weeks ago

Historically, scientifically, philosophically, theologically the Interrogatives What, How, When and Why have been used to explain the mysteries of and in the empirical world. I think the author of this essay Mr. Eric Sundrup makes an important point about Creationism and its defenders. This point is being missed. The point Mr. Sundrup is calling attention to is that Creationism and its defenders are raising a "moral" point (the never ending theological, ethical and philosophical debate which is that why a living and loving God will use evolution which is painful to create the empirical world, in other words how can a living and loving God "create" evil?) as if they are raising a scientific point! So it is kind of Fork on the road. Mr. Sundrup seems to correctly suggest that defenders of creationism create a fork in their claims and argument. On the wrong assumption that they are talking about science, creationism and its defenders seem to give a moral answer to the question, which is that "Evolution generates pain and evil, so, No! a loving God cannot use an instrument -i.e. evolution, which generates pain and evil to create the world." We cannot do anything about this- yes literalism is part of reasoning and scholarship in our world and academia but it is a dangerous and an unhelpful scholarship and poor tool of reasoning. Some good people fall into the unhelpful tradition of a literal reading of the Bible. But it is only a literal reading of the Bible that will argue that science, scientific thinking (not scientism) and God are incompatible. On the contrary, science, scientific thinking are compatible with the living and loving God for while science provides bold and courageous answers to the questions what, when, how, science's answers to the fundamental question why is at best an arbitrariness that for the deep, and the deep mind shows the compatibility of science with the living and loving God- a compatibility creationists tend to deny, something scientism also denies. Over all, while this is an important conversation for faith, for us Christians, however another important thing is HOW we-Christians in words(not literal) and deeds (not literal) live our Christian faith in our world today, in our society today. Do we live our faith in accordance with the core of Christianity-John 17: 21? That is the bigger question! Thanks Mr. Sundrup for this brilliant essay-God Bless.

James Haraldson
2 months 2 weeks ago

I suspected this article would as shallow as most of the articles on America. I was hoping some acknowledgment might be made of the serious examinations being made into intelligent design theory but instead it is limited to another liberal me-too alignment with religion haters targeting the simplistic among the religious by a contributor whom I doubt would examine the simplistic reasoning among religion haters with the same enthusiasm.

Gary Hurd
2 months 2 weeks ago

Toward the end of Eric Sundrup's excellent essay he touched on the political goals of "Answers in Genesis."

I would recommend an extended book length examination of AiG and how their 'museum' is structured as a political indoctrination center.

Susan L. Trollinger and William Vance Trollinger, Jr.
2016 “Righting America at the Creation Museum” Johns Hopkins University Press.

AiG is part of a larger project known as "Christian Dominionism." For historical reveiws see;

Ingersoll, Julie J.
2015 “Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the world of Christian Reconstruction” Oxford University Press

Michael McVicar
2015 "Christian Reconstruction: R. J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism," Univ. of N. Carolina Press).

A core belief of Domionists is that America must become a theocracy; "The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church's public marks of the covenant--baptism and holy communion-must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel." Gary North, "Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism," Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989, p. 87.

Marina Barnett
2 months 2 weeks ago

I view creationists as being afraid that God doesn't know what He is doing. The story of the first man and woman tells us, in a microcosm, what God's plan is all about. Both "theories" blend, and do not cancel each other. A good theologian to study is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (a 19th century Catholic priest) who proposed that the the history we witness in the world today is following a proscribed path to God Himself. Evolution is a slow process, nature does involve death and killing, and wrongs are committed, but growth happens. Witness the surge in female empowerment of today for example. If people insist that a person named Adam and a person named Eve ate a piece of fruit and were alone responsible for sin coming into the world, then that diminishes all that humankind has learned about life throughout time. Remember-- Copernicus was excommunicated for daring to announce that the sun (gasp!) did not revolve around the earth. I bet creationists accept that idea NOW.

George Obregon
2 months 2 weeks ago

I view atheists as being afraid that there is a God, a First cause. Nevertheless, Copernicus was never excommunicated. What’s more he had a good relationship with the Catholic Church. Copernicus was respected as a canon and regarded as a renowned astronomer by the Church.

Gary Hurd
2 months 2 weeks ago

And he made sure his heliocentric hypothesis was published after he was dead and buried. He was a good Catholic, and he was no fool either.

Instead ask Galileo or Bruno how things went.

Ann Johnson
2 months 2 weeks ago

It seems that most of the 30 postings shown ignored your request to "be brief" - these aren't comments but essays and not something that most of your readers will bother with.

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

The theology of 2000 years is being overturned and you are asking for short pithy statements. This is one.

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

Much of what the Young Earth Creationists believe is what the Catholic Church believed for nearly 1900 years. But the author calls it really bad theology. Another brief statement.

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

There is nothing in modern day science that contradicts traditional Catholic theology. To discuss that even briefly would require a very long essay. To discuss it completely would require a book.

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

There is no need to embrace a theology that implies that God did not intervene in the world since His creation. But that is being espoused by many in the Catholic Church. Most haven't a clue this is happening.

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

The author has condemned the Young Earth Creationist as have many here including myself but he has not espoused anything. Others have espoused various things about science and theology.

Baron Corvo
2 months 1 week ago

Eric Sundrup is careful to let us know by the inclusion of the "S.J." appellation that he is a wanna-be Jesuit 'scholar,' but his failure to tell his readers where this silly evangelical playground-cum-misinformation center is located would suggest otherwise.

Journalism 101A, Eric.

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

It's in Petersburg Kentucky

Eric Sundrup
2 months 1 week ago

The website for the Creation Museum can be found here: https://creationmuseum.org/

You'll be able to locate most of the information about Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum there. It will also link you up to The Ark, which is much more of a playground than the Creation Museum.

E.Patrick Mosman
2 months 1 week ago

On the question of science and religion, anyone who is prepared to speak on, champion, teach biology or any science course that covers evolution should be prepared to answer a basic question, where from and why the first extremely complex but elegantly simple double helix DNA molecule. Do evolutionist believe that it was 'luck' or 'chance' that brought a bunch of A, T, C, G, building blocks together for a game of Double Twister and that the rules of the game like choosing a shape, choosing partners, how to react to other substances and to change were determined by accident or luck thereby bringing every form of life on earth into being. Was DNA an accident of the 'Big Bang' which many scientists refused to accept as many thought it presupposed a "Creator' as there was no way to determine by observation what, if anything, existed nano-seconds before the 'Bang'. Since there is no scientific way to disprove a 'Creator' it is necessary for the disbelievers to find a scientific observable rationale for the existence of our universe and its "constants and laws of nature" that are observable. This has lead to many 'theories', one of which 'string theory' has lead to predictions of any number of parallel universes existing together, ours being only one of the many. The 'Big Bang ' is explained as simply a collision of universes which led to the destruction of both and the formation of a new universe.
This approach is a violation of 'Occam's Razor' which was a common principle in medieval philosophy and simply stated says that "one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything."

Gary Hurd
2 months 1 week ago

There are no easy introductory texts for origin of life, abiogenesis. The best is by Prof. David W. Deamer, “First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began” (2011 University of California Press). However, the last 6 years have seen a lot of significant new work. Plus, Prof. Deamer did tread softly on some of the more challenging work. He obviously favored his long-time research interest on the spontaneous formation of lipid membranes and how they enclose both microscopic minerals, and naturally occurring CHON molecules. An example from over 20 years ago is;
Chakrabarti, A.C., Breaker, R.R., Joyce, G.F. and Deamer, D.W.,
1994 "Production of RNA by a polymerase protein encapsulated within phospholipid vesicles" Journal of Molecular Evolution, 39(6), pp.555-559.

I doubt that providing more recent scientific publication data would be helpful, but I will if you ask.

Regarding the origin of the universe, I am just going to suggest three books. Why I like them is that they all disagree with each other;

Krauss, Lawrence
2012 “A Universe From Nothing” New York: Free Press

Susskind, Leonard
2005 "The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design" New York: Little and Brown Publishers

Woit, Peter
2006 "Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory" New York: Basic Books

I'll let Charles Darwin speak to your assertion that a biology course needs these topics covered before students can learn about biology; "It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter." (C. D. to Joseph Hooker, 29 Mar 1863).

J Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

Science has no coherent theories on a series of important origins.

The origin of the universe and its incredible fine tuned nature.

The origin of life which requires at a minimum incredibly complicated machinery to replicate itself. No one can adequately define what life is. Life is an information system regulating thousands of interacting parts. How such an information system arose is no where close to having a solution.

The origin of complex biological systems which often require the presence of precise interlocking proteins/RNA elements to work. No adequate theory on how new protein families can arise.

The origin of the earth which is an amazing small probability event which takes place so that it exist on the outer edge of a galatical arm so it can observe the rest of the universe. Odds are so small that it is unlikely to be duplicated in rest of universe.

The origin of consciousness. Humans have elaborate control mechanisms that affect gene expression of proteins associated with neural activity. Incredibly more complicated than any other species.

At best there is speculation but that is all it is, speculation.

The only honest answer is it is a mystery.

Douglas Fang
2 months 1 week ago

I completely agree that there is always an element of mystery about things in the universe that will never be completely understood by science as we can never fully fathom the mind of God. However, that should not prevent science from probing ever deeper into the nature of the world, to understand how the world works and the laws that govern it. For example, even though we may not completely understand how the evolution works at this moment, we cannot deny the evidence of the evolutionary process that has been taking place over billions of year and science will continue to work on the premises that one day, we can completely understand biological laws that govern this process. We cannot just stop and say this is a mystery and there is no need to investigate further.

Also, believing in a God that was so omnipotent and omniscient that when he created this universe, it contains all the necessary laws to allow life and intelligent to emerge from it over billions of years. It does not mean that He would completely let this process running on autopilot. This is where His providence come from. As a person of faith, each one of us should experience how this providence is playing out in our life. This providence is so subtle that we have to have faith and humility to recognize it, to differentiate it from a just a series of random events.

Gary Hurd
2 months 1 week ago

Well stated. We can categorically say that every grain of beach sand was once a part of a larger rock. We have total confidence in this without being able to glue each and every sand grain together to reassemble those ancient rocks.

We are actually better able to trace back our genetic lineages. See for example;

Kelly Kruger, Paula J. Grabowski, Arthur J. Zaug, Julie Sands, Daniel E. Gottschling, Thomas R. Cech, 1982 "Self-splicing RNA: Autoexcision and autocyclization of the ribosomal RNA intervening sequence of tetrahymena" Cell 31, 147-157. *This is the seminal publication of ribozymes. A MUST READ!

Ura, Yasuyuki, John M. Beierle, Luke J. Leman, Leslie E. Orgel, M. Reza Ghadiri 2009 "Self-Assembling Sequence-Adaptive Peptide Nucleic Acids" Science Vol. 325 no. 5936 pp. 73-77

Yang Z., S. Kumar, M. Nei, 1995 "A new method of inference of ancestral nucleotide and amino acid sequences" Genetics 141:1641-1650.

Brooks D.J., Fresco J.R., Lesk A.M. & Singh M. 2002 "Evolution of amino acid frequencies in proteins over deep time: inferred order of introduction of amino acids into the genetic code". Molecular Biology and Evolution 19 (10): 1645-55.

Jean Lehmann, Michel Cibils, Albert Libchaber 2009 “Emergence of a Code in the Polymerization of Amino Acids along RNA Templates” PLoS ONE 4(6): e5773

Trifonov, Edward N. 2004 "The Triplet Code From First Principles" Journal of Biomolecular Structure & Dynamics, ISSN 0739-1102 Volume 22, Issue Number 1.

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