And what about the dinosaur fossils?

WHILE taking a break from door-knocking in Glasgow East today, discussion round the table turned, rather inevitably, to religious extremism. And then to the subject of creationism. And a colleague claimed that a recent survey had concluded that 40 per cent of the British public believe in the biblical version of the creation of the world.

No way. I just don’t believe that figure. I fully accept that the theory of evolution is just that: a theory, not fact. But those who dispute it can’t simply substitute religion for science; if there’s an alternative scientific theory of how life developed on earth, I’m open to it. But simply to say that evolution is wrong and that God created the universe in the space of six days just over six thousand years ago (October, apparently) is a statement of faith, not science.

I’m a Christian. I know that God created everything in existence. But I don’t accept the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis because I believe in scientific empiricism; that everything in the universe can be explained by the laws of science. Moreover, I believe God created those laws too.

But when religious fundamentalist types start trying to sound all scientific by talking about “intelligent design”, it’s only because that sounds less dogmatic than “creationism”.

Shortly after starting my journalism course in Edinburgh in 1984, some Christian friends suggested I go along to a lecture being given by a visiting American professor who, unusually in those days, was expounding his theory of creationism. They figured it might make for the basis of a news story which I might be able to sell to a newspaper. The professor, it turned out, was clearly very sure of his facts, and was certain of the scientific weaknesses of the theory of evolution. But I wasn’t convinced. Just because you can pick holes in an established scientific theory, it doesn’t mean that scientific theory itself should be abandoned for religious dogmatism. That’s a bit like concluding that if a light in the sky can’t be immediately explained, then it must be an extra-terrestrial spacecraft.

Creationism, or intelligent design, is a concept of faith. As such it should only be expounded as a religious tenet, never in the context of scientific debate.

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28 Comments

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28 responses to “And what about the dinosaur fossils?

  1. seadiver7

    Hiya,
    You said you don’t ‘accept the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis because I believe in scientific empiricism’, but are you sure the two exclude each other? The greatest scientists in history, empiricists par excellence, believed Genesis to be literal and historical. What exactly is there in the laws of science that preclude a literal six day creation about 6,000 years ago? It’s true when we talk scientifically about the beginning we have to talk ‘origin science’ instead of ‘observational science’, as even evolutionists admit that no humans were there to observe the beginning, and different laws must have been operating for matter to come in to being [it would be an exception to the first law of thermodynamics, that matter is no longer being either created or destroyed]. They push the time way back [big bang], but have the same issue.
    What do you think?

  2. Mike

    religious extremism, including loony creationism, is being promoted by the academies this government has introduced.
    What about the religious extremism of Ruth Kelly and her ultra zealot Opus Dei friends?

  3. Seadiver7 – Huge issue, but basically, without the creation myth as contained in various religious books, including the Bible, there would have been no presumption about an earth created in the relatively recent past. “What exactly is there in the laws of science that preclude a literal six day creation about 6,000 years ago?” you ask. Well, how about the fact that dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago? Or that the light from stars which are millions of light years away has reached us already?

  4. stewartcowan

    I knew you used to go to Queen’s Park Baptist Church, but I didn’t know you were a Christian (or still a Christian), you know, being a (non-religious) minister.

    I am a Christian and I accept the Genesis account because if it is wrong then you can be free to pick and choose from the rest of the Bible (as most do).

    Christ quoted from Genesis. The Creation account is written as narrative, not poetry or opinion, but actual history.

    In your first paragraph, you talk about religious extremism, then you mention “religious fundamentalist types” as if people who believe Genesis as literal history are somehow mad and dangerous.

    “Intelligent Design” is a ridiculous phrase anyway for people who have reasoned SCIENTIFICALLY that life was created using intelligence and are too scared to admit that this Creator must be God.

    I mean, who else can it be?

    “Just because you can pick holes in an established scientific theory, it doesn’t mean that scientific theory itself should be abandoned for religious dogmatism”

    No, it can be abandoned, or at the very least, viewed with more suspicion, on the clear scientific facts that are available, yet not promoted.

    Before I started researching Creation science a few years ago, I never had the slightest idea just how much evidence there is for the Creator.

    It is utterly compelling to find out the richness of evidence on the other side of the coin and also how society has been manipulated to believe in very dodgy ‘science’ from those promoting the Theory of Evolution.

    I put it to you that education must be changed to allow discussion of Creation science and let real knowledge be spread and let people evaluate for themselves what is true and not told what is “true” by a prejudiced ‘education’ system.

    The present system is not education, but indoctrination.

    “Creationism, or intelligent design, is a concept of faith. As such it should only be expounded as a religious tenet, never in the context of scientific debate.”

    No, like I said, the science is there to back it up, so how can you possibly say it should be ignored as a “religious tenet?”

    A serious debate on these issues is well overdue (by about 150 years).

  5. I’m sorry, Stuart, but as far as I’m concerned, “creation science” is a contradiction in terms. I admire your unquestioning acceptance of the literal truth of the Bible, and I understand where you’re coming from; I guess I’m just not capable any more of that level of faith. I know that sounds a bit Gamaliel, but there we are.

  6. Stuart – And another thing… you wrote: “I didn’t know you were a Christian (or still a Christian), you know, being a (non-religious) minister.” Does that mean you assumed that being a government minister precludes you from being a Christian?

  7. stewartcowan

    Hello again Tom. Creation Science cannot be a myth because it is real science. You just haven’t encountered it yet.

    I have a four-DVD set of very easy to understand Creation Science lectures by two genial, amusing scientists (real scientists). Each DVD only lasts 40-50 mins.

    I would be happy to send them to you if you promise to try and watch them. You can’t argue against it if you don’t know what Creation scientists are saying. Agreed?

    About your reply to Seadiver7:

    Evolution scientists use strata to date fossils. Unfortunately, there is no proper evidence that any stratum is its given age as all dating methods are open to hugely inaccurate readings.

    The stars might be millions of light years away, but that doesn’t mean it took that long for them to get there.

    The Bible always has the answer. The sun, moon and stars were SET in place from the beginning as in Genesis ch. 1:

    “14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

    15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

    16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

    17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.

    The sun, moon and stars were already in place when man came along on day six.

    Why would the all-powerful Deity wait billions of years for the Big Bang to RANDOMLY produce stars and planets and take the chance that one of those planets would be the right size for life; not too far or too close to its sun for life; not too close or too far from the centre of its galaxy to sustain life; not spin too quickly or too slowly; not be subjected to too much radiation; have the right atmosphere to foster all forms of life required for man’s existence, etc., etc.

    THEN the whole process of life has to start – chance combinations of extremely complex chemical structures appearing that, more billions of years later, end up creating mankind who then wonder about God and where they came from.

    I know if I were God, I would just create my world in the shortest time and the way I wanted it!

    Ideal atmosphere; right distance from sun; moon right distance from earth; stars declaring the glory of God and acting as signs and seasons; all the animals, vegetation and minerals for mankind to achieve his potential.

    How could God leave all this to a Big Bang. Order out of chaos?

    As Einstein said, “God does not play dice with the universe.”

  8. Auntie Flo'

    I’m a Christian too. Don’t know how God created everything, perhaps we are not meant to know. I am, however, sceptical about the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis and creationism. The bible seems top me more likely to contain figurative truth – symbollic, in other words – than absolute truth.

    However, I am also sceptical about scientific empiricism. As your fellow Scot David Hume said, it explains too little and leaves too many unaswered questions. Empiricism is surely just another religion, the latest of those scientific paradigms that science has latched onto periodically in its history before reality steps in with one too many contradictions for comfort. The old paradigm then dies and a new one is fabricated.

    Didn’t Hawking suggest as much?

  9. stewartcowan

    “Does that mean you assumed that being a government minister precludes you from being a Christian?”

    It certainly should not, but for eleven years the Government has done about all it could to try and diminish Christianity and basic values of decency in our country in exchange for the dogma of the religions of political correctness/secular humanism and environmentalism.

    One can therefore only assume that there are no Christians speaking up as they should.

    But then Mr A. Campbell said you don’t ‘do’ God and it sure shows.

    The amazing thing is how many people are at a loss to explain why teenagers are copulating like rabbits, behaving like morons and killing each other or themselves.

    The Government and Archbishop of Canterbury are obviously hell-bent on doing Satan’s work as if they are working to fulfil the prophecies in Revelation: the former working towards a one world government and the latter (did you read about his latest pathetic fawning to Muslims) paving the way for a one world religion: in other words, a complete Beast system – Hell on Earth.

    Something fully understood by the ancients, but generally laughed at today despite it being set up in front of our eyes.

  10. Stuart, I’m disappointed, but not entirely surprised, that some British Christians are imitating some of their more paranoid American cousins with regard to “one world government”. You’ll be writing about “black helicopters” next.

  11. Auntie Flo'

    for eleven years the Government has done about all it could to try and diminish Christianity and basic values of decency in our country in exchange for the dogma of the religions of political correctness/secular humanism and environmentalism. (stewartcowan)

    Don’t accept your creationism, Stewart, but agree with the above. They aren’t even Socialists, they’re hybrid Thatcherite Tories. What a mess their new religion has got us into too.

  12. Wrinkled Weasel

    Just thought I would drop this in..(The Scotsman, 5th May 2006)

    BELIEVING that God created the universe in six days is a form of superstitious paganism, the Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno claimed yesterday.
    Brother Consolmagno, who works in a Vatican observatory in Arizona and as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Italy, said a “destructive myth” had developed in modern society that religion and science were competing ideologies.”

    Who says the Catholic Church hasn’t moved on since Galileo?

    But this is about the conflict between the metaphysical and the personal. Louis Aragon said, “Can the knowledge deriving from reason even begin to compare with knowledge perceptible by sense?”

  13. stewartcowan

    Tom, it’s happening.

    Firstly: black helicopters over Denver and Florida last month:

    http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/june2008/180608_b_helicopters.htm

    That’s nothing compared to the overall plan.

    The late Hollywood producer, Aaron Russo (Trading Places, The Rose, America: Freedom to Fascism), was asked by his friend and member of the ‘elite’ Nick Rockefeller if he wanted to join the Council on Foreign Relations and explained about the plan to microchip the population and that the ‘war on terror’ was a hoax –

    http://www.jonesreport.com/articles/210207_rockefeller_friendship.html

    Russo turned down the lucrative offer and turned to fighting for freedom.

    There’s only paranoia where there are no grounds for concern and there are plenty.

    What is being done incrementally is transference of power from the individual to the state. This is why the family, religions and communities are under attack – under surveillance – because they have their own power structures on various levels.

    A press release yesterday from the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, is warning of serious data protection issues with the Government’s plan to record details of every telephone call made and email sent.

    Look at the USA. Under the pretext of keeping the population safe from terrorists, the Government is diluting most of the Bill of Rights. There are ‘free speech zones’ in what was the Land of the Free.

    FEMA Concentration Camps are being set up to round up dissident Americans as well as illegal immigrants.

    Watch: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5515356061137526953

    This is another subject I have been studying for a few years, so I know what I’m talking about, Tom.

    Your colleague, Harry Cohen, agrees with so-called conspiracy theorists that:

    – the US is attempting to force civil war in Iraq
    – the British are helping the US take over Iraq’s assets
    – US to stay in Iraq for the long term to rob the country of its resources

    That story is here – http://www.infowars.com/?p=3016

    In Britain you can have your business raided for selling fruit and veg in lbs and oz (metricmartyrs.co.uk)

    We must all be homogenised to comply!

    More on implantable microchips from Verichip – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adM9V-gFV00

    Have you heard of Zbigniew Brzezinski?

    He advised various presidents and now Barack Obama and has called for the world to be unified under control of the UN:

    http://www.knowledgedrivenrevolution.com/Articles/200710/20071001_Chessboard_1_US_UN.htm

  14. seadiver7

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the reply, interesting thread.
    Dunno about there being no presumption of a certain age without the biblical text. If someone has the scientific method perspective, they won’t say how old a rock is unless they have some way of knowing. Since 1980 Mt. St. Helens has deposited up to 400 feet of strata, now lithified. A small eruption in 1992 carved a canyon over 150 feet deep in a single day. Some think when you see 30 feet of horizontal strata in fine layers that it must have taken hundreds of thousands of years to form, but direct observation showed it formed in one afternoon.
    You mention the ‘fact’ that dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, but one of the main ways of dating the dinosaurs is their depth in the sediment layers. But the layers had to be deposited quickly to preserve the animals as fossils, so the layers are really evidence for a brief event – a rapid, catastrophic water burial. It also seems strong to me that there are sober accounts of encounters with dragons in every culture – long tail, long neck, bulbous body – same body style as generic dino.
    On starlight I like Humphrey’s cosmology [“Starlight and Time”, Master Books]. No cosmologist knows where the center of the universe is, and if God spread everthing out from around our galaxy it would mean the earth is at the bottom of a universe-wide gravitational well. That would mean all physical processes happen faster the farther you get from us [gravitational time dilation, like you see in the difference between atomic clocks in Denver and Greenwich].
    Sorrow for the long post.

  15. A problem for creationists and intelligent designers is the scientifically interesting question of who created the creator or who designed the designer. Another is the perverse nature of such a creator/designer who littered the Earth with loads of stuff that suggests it’s about 4 billion years old.

    A problem with the “the Bible’s just an analogy” school of thought is that the boundaries of that analogy keep having to be pushed back. So a couple of hundred years back it wasn’t unreasonable to accept that mankind was created as is and even a hundred years ago it was still just about possible to accept that God created the mountains. Now that the bothersome but highly plausible theories of evolution and plate tectonics provide much more satisfactory explanations, proponents must rely on God having created the conditions for those processes to occur or, more recently, having set the balance of the fundamental constants exactly correctly so that the universe could come into being. I guess that when the theories around these interesting things become better established as reasonable explanations the boundaries will be pushed back again.

    A problem for those who say that there are things we’re not meant to know and therefore shouldn’t ask is that we keep finding answers!

    I’m a lapsed Anglican (having risen as high as a place on a PCC) and, if pressed, would describe myself as an agnostic. And I’m deeply unimpressed by anyone who would use force to spread their faith (or their lack of it) or anyone who says you can’t pick’n’mix bits from scriptures because every faith seems to do so. Fortunately there aren’t many extreme agnostics around.

    The awful (or endlessly fascinating (depending on your point of view)) truth is that each of us is but one of about six billion people on Earth today and humans are just one of millions of species and our planet just one of billions in a very big universe. For such insignificant creatures to expect to understand the answers to all the big questions is about as daft as a tea leaf expecting to know the history of the East India Company – as the late Douglas Adams sort of put it….

  16. stewartcowan

    Tom, I must protest about Brian Hughes’ suggestion that:

    “Another [problem] is the perverse nature of such a creator/designer who littered the Earth with loads of stuff that suggests it’s about 4 billion years old.”

    MAN has decided on the billions of years theory.

    Maybe you like to blame the Almighty for everything. I know I have done in my time, but it doesn’t do any good!

    I am grateful for seadiver7’s last comments. The pyroclastic flows from Mt St. Helens in 1980 laid down what is known as the ‘Little Grand Canyon’ with thousands of strata that amazed scientists because they previously presumed that such formations must have taken millennia.

    And yes, to preserve fossils, especially those that stand vertically through (allegedly) millions of years of strata, the layers had to be deposited quickly so as seadiver7 says, “the layers are really evidence for a brief event – a rapid, catastrophic water burial.”

    The fossil record and Mt St. Helens are evidence that massive geological changes occur very, very quickly. There is evidence of large trees which have grown through coal seams.

    Of course, they didn’t really; everything points to the reality of a global catastrophic event in the past: completely compatible with Noah’s Flood.

    But, because the new national religion of atheism/humanism has infected every aspect of society, the masses have become shielded from these truths.

    How many schoolchildren are taught about the reality of Little Grand Canyon?

    Like I said previously, the present system is not education, but indoctrination.

    That’s a fact; there can be no argument.

    So you’re an agnostic now, Brian Hughes? I’m not surprised if you had been involved in the CofE as they have been moving away from the truth like most other churches. I hope you at least read Revelation again and see that what was prophesied is coming to pass.

    You said, “I’m deeply unimpressed by anyone who would use force to spread their faith (or their lack of it) or anyone who says you can’t pick’n’mix bits from scriptures because every faith seems to do so.”

    This is another myth that Creationists are ‘forcing’ our beliefs on people. It’s called education, based on evidence, derived from observable truths.

    “Fortunately there aren’t many extreme agnostics around.”

    As they say, if you don’t stand for something, you fall for anything.

  17. Spike

    “…I believe in scientific empiricism; that everything in the universe can be explained by the laws of science. Moreover, I believe God created those laws too.”

    Tom, can your science prove the God you believe in? The science you seem to believe in is the interpriation of the eveidence by scientist who don’t believe in a God, the science i believe in is the interprition of the evidence by scientsits who do believe in God and it fits a lot better with the evidence!

  18. So… who’s got the vessel with the pestle?

  19. Phil

    just found your web site Tom and after splutternig at your trite McDonalds tale now read that God created scientific laws.
    pause.
    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha (pauses to wipe tears from eyes while picking up latest book by Richard Dawkins) ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha (pauses to put down Dawkins book and pick up Christopher Hitchens book) ha ha ha ha ha ha.
    Got it, this blog is a spoof and is actually written by John Selwyn-Gummer. It was the burger thing which gave it way.

  20. Ok, Phil, you got me. I was quite content to continue to be a Christian, but that was until I realised you’ve read Dawkins and Hitchens. It’s a fair cop…

  21. Martin Cullip

    “Stuart, I’m disappointed, but not entirely surprised, that some British … are imitating some of their more paranoid American cousins …”

    Tom, there are huge sections of your PLP that are imitating their American cousins with certain wildly paranoic ‘health’ initiatives that weren’t lobbied for, except by a couple of shrill-shrieking, highly-funded ‘charities’ … you know to what I am referring. 😉

    The black helicopters will be over my local sweet shop soon

  22. Mike

    The religious right in this country were courted by Blair who loves all that nonsense.

    Religion used to be dismissed by all decent real socialists for the patriarchal, reactionary garbage it is. Of course we have precious few socialists in the ‘Labour’ party these days…

  23. Auntie Flo'

    Phil

    just found your web site Tom and after splutternig at your trite McDonalds tale now read that God created scientific laws.
    pause.ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

    If, as you believe, God didn’t put rationality into the cosmos, who did?

    If you’re going to try to argue, as Dawkins effectively has, that there is no rationality in the universe then please explain why I should believe your irrational claims about anything.

  24. The British Centre for Science Education works to fight against the infiltration of creationism into british science classrooms.

    We have a comprehensive wiki of intelligence on many of the key players in the UK creationism scene as well as detailed analysis of their “scientific claims” or links to such.

    http://bcseweb.org.uk/

    stewartcowan – some questions for you;

    Which DVD’s are you referring to?

    How old do you think the world is?

    When do you think the dinosaurs died out?

    – – –

    BCSE also has an forum for discussions of both the political aims of the creationism movement and the “scientific claims” it makes.

    All welcome.

    http://community.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php

    – – –

    Keep science in the science classroom and religion in the religious education classroom.

    – – –

    Tom,

    It’s good to hear basic common sense from a politician about this issue.
    Regards,

    Psi

  25. seadiver7

    Reply to Brian: As to who designed the designer, the force of the argument from design is not that a designer can be explained, but just that the observed universe indicates that there had to be a designer. Then one may point out that the observed universe is material, subject to time and sequence, but it’s creator would have to be greater than [outside of, or above] time and sequence, and so would not have a precursor. Otherwise, if subject to time, you are asking ‘who created the creator?’ to which logic would reply, ‘an over-creator’. Then one asks, ‘then who made the over-creator?’ to which logic replies, ‘an over-over-creator’, and so on infinitely. So it is mobetter to agree with the biblical view that God is outside of time and sequence.

    As to the loads of stuff indicating the earth is about 4 billion: there are various scientific dating techniques, some indicating a great age, some indicating less than the 6000 of the Bible, but all are based on unprovable assumptions: e.g. radiometrics assume a stable decay rate, known quantity of parent elements, no leaching in or out of the sample, etc. But many techniques indicate a younger age than 4 billion, e.g. the salt content of the oceans. What’s helpful is if you have someone who was there, and leaves a reliable record. If God is real, he would have observed creation, and would be able to cause a reliable record to be written, and preserve it through the ages.

    No fair to mix creating man and creating mountains. We can point to physical processes that build mountains, but not that build men [excepting the Marine Corp]. The greatest expert on plate tectonics is probably geophysicist Dr. John Baumgardner [try a google on him] of Los Alamos Laboratories, who says the geologic evidence squares with the earth being about 6000 years old.

    True we are but one in 6 billion on a speck in the vastness, but apparently God values person more than place. The vastness makes it hard not to concede the greatness of the one who made it and is over it. It says he made it all for the sake of his name [which would be vain for a man, because the great things a man does come from a power the man received – not so for God].

    To Psiloiordinary: It’s not scientific to presume, but that is what BCSE does when materialism is preached as the only acceptable faith. Natural selection is inadequate because nature can only select from what nature can produce, but BCSE excludes the possibility of the supernatural. Information is not a property of matter, but the first living cell had to have prodigious information. The BCSE want people to be like the man who finds a watch on the beach and pries it apart, seeing all the gears moving and keeping time, but because he is a materialist he theorizes that the gears were rolling about the beach and fell together just right. Keep science in the classroom, yes, but rationality in science is dependent on the existence of a transcendent rational Creator [see Auntie Flo’s point above].

  26. Psiloiordinary, I visited your website and was surprised to read that the British Centre for Science Education “believes in the tools for everyone to think for themselves – Science, Education and Reason – and the outcome – Democracy, Pluralism and Liberty.”

    You want people to ‘think for themselves’ but believe in denying them the information they need to do so.

    Do you think it’s right that you should demand that people are barred from knowing certain things based on your own prejudice?

    How can you possibly expect “democracy, pluralism and liberty” to result from your wishes to limit the debate on “Science, Education and Reason?”

    How bizarrely arrogant of you to assume that your ‘reason’ is right and must be promoted and someone else’s should be completely silenced.

    Without a Creator, there is no purpose and therefore no reliable method to determine reason according to your worldview.

    Your campaign is “dedicated to keeping all forms of creationism including Intelligent Design out of the science classroom in the UK.”

    You’re not scientists as much as you are bigots – your campaign is political, thinly veiled as scientific.

    To answer your questions:

    Which DVD’s are you referring to? – Ones made by Creation scientists who used to be secular scientists but realised their folly and present their science in a good-natured manner.

    How old do you think the world is? – A lot younger than you believe as the evidence shows.

    When do you think the dinosaurs died out? – A lot more recently than you believe. No dating method you rely on is dependable.

    I say let the people decide – you say let yourselves decide based on your political, not scientific, objectives.

    I noticed on your site that you revel in character assassinations: another tactic to divert the reader’s attention away from what Creationists are actually arguing.

    I did a Google search on the Little Grand Canyon which was formed by the eruption of Mt St Helens in 1980, but could only find the information on Creation websites.

    As usual, if the evidence contradicts evolution theory, it gets ignored by the mainstream.

    Your science, like your logic and reason, is built on sand.

  27. I’m sorry I started this now…

  28. seadiver7

    Tom, thanks for starting it anyway. Ya never know if the discussion will remain positive and constructive, but if you don’t try …

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