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Friday, July 25, 2014

The APACHE Conference

Posted by jlwile on April 19, 2011

Last Friday and Saturday, I spoke at the Association of Peoria Area Christian Home Educators (APACHE) conference. It was held in the Peoria Civic Center, which is a very nice facility. Interestingly enough, the home education convention was sharing the facility with a pool and darts convention, which led to some interesting overlap. For example, I wasn’t sure exactly where to go at first, and I ended up walking into an exhibit hall to see what was going on there. I figured I was in the wrong place when a saw a booth with a beer tap!

Once I found where I was supposed to be, I had a great time. Since I am not selling anything these days, I really don’t need a booth. However, the APACHE conference was kind enough to give me one, and it was nice. I put a small card table in the middle of the booth and just sat there, waiting for people who wanted to talk with me. I guess it seemed inviting, because a lot of people sat down and talked with me at length. I got to know several homeschooling parents as well as their children/students.

I ended up talking with two students who had graduated homeschool and are now in college. One was pursuing mechanical engineering, and the other was pursuing crop science, probably with an emphasis in genetics. It was great to hear how well they are doing in their coursework and how much they are enjoying science. Those kinds of conversations really lift the heart of this science educator.

I got two interesting questions that are worth discussing, both related to science.

The first one I want to discuss came after my “Ask the Beasts” talk. This talk starts with Job 12:7-10, where we are told to ask the beasts and let them teach us. We are also told to speak to the earth so that it can teach us. I interpret this passage as indicating that we should study the beasts and the earth so they can teach us about their Creator. As a part of this discussion, I spend a lot of time talking about how special the earth is, and one special aspect of the earth is its sun. I compare the sun to many other stars in the universe, demonstrating that it is really quite rare as stars go.

As a part of that comparison, I show models of different stars. Some of those models are yellow, some are white, and some are red. A student asked why we use yellow to represent the sun, since it looks white when we see it in the sky.

Well, to begin with, the sun generally looks white to us because it is producing all colors of light, and when all colors of light mix together, the result is white light. However, even though the sun produces all colors of light, it tends to produce more yellow light than the other colors. Our eyes aren’t really sensitive to the overabundance of yellow light, but many scientific instruments are. Because it produces more yellow light, the sun is called a “yellow star” and is typically drawn yellow in scientific drawings. Other stars produce more of other colors of light. Some stars, for example, produce more blue light than others. Not surprisingly, they are called “blue stars.” Others produce more red light and are called (surprise!) red stars.

What causes this difference in color production? Ultimately, it is the temperature of the star. Blue stars are hotter than yellow stars which, in turn, are hotter than red stars. When various stars are drawn, then, you will often see them depicted in different colors, which represent their different temperatures.

The other question came after my “Why I Believe in a Young Earth” talk. In this talk, I discuss the theology of Genesis to show that the Bible really doesn’t make a clear-cut case for the age of the earth. You can certainly read it in a way that indicates a young earth, but you can also read it in a way that indicates an ancient earth. As a result, I think that true Bible believers can be open-minded when it comes to the age of the earth. This allows us to analyze the scientific evidence more objectively than those who are committed to evolution, since evolution requires an ancient earth. I then go through the scientific evidence for a young earth to show why I think the earth is young.

After the talk, a student asked why dinosaur fossils and human fossils haven’t been found together. I told her that some people claim they have found human and dinosaur footprints together, but I am rather skeptical of those claims. However, I really don’t see a problem with the fact that human and dinosaur fossils have not been found together. Dinosaur fossils are very rare in the fossil record, and human fossils are even more rare. Thus, the chance of finding them together is very low.

More importantly, however, there are lots of fossils that we do not find with human fossils, despite the fact that the creatures represented by those fossils live today, right along with human beings. Of course, the most famous example of this is the coelacanth, a fish that is found in the fossil record only in Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurrasic, and Cretaceous rock. Human fossils are found only in Quaternary rock. As a result, those who are committed to an ancient earth and therefore force geology into an old-earth interpretation concluded that coelacanths and humans never lived at the same time. Of course, we now know that to be incorrect, thanks to the discovery of living coelacanths.

If this were one isolated case, it wouldn’t be all that illuminating. However, there are many, many such cases. Tuataras, Laotian rock rats, and wollemi pines come to mind. They are all examples of organisms whose fossils have not been found in the same rock as human fossils, but they all exist today, right along with us. From those examples and more, it is clear we cannot conclude that two organisms didn’t live at the same time just because their fossils aren’t found in the same type of rock. As a result, the fact that human and dinosaur fossils are not found in the same rock really means nothing when it comes to whether or not humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.

Comments

8 Responses to “The APACHE Conference”
  1. Deanne says:

    Guess we forgot to tell you about the “beer tap” and pool games that were held after the workshops..LOL. Thank you for being so kind to us. We also were rather shocked at the facility’s scheduling. Hopefully, we showed a bit of Jesus to the other participants!

  2. jlwile says:

    Deanne, thanks so much for inviting me. I’ll have to keep an eye out for those “after workshop” games next time I am there!

  3. josiah says:

    Those who are committed to an ancient earth have to say that still living animals never coexisted with humankind. Well, I think you’ve just given me a new favourite quotation.

  4. jlwile says:

    Perhaps that will partially pay you back for all the fine comments you have left!

  5. Kevin N says:

    It isn’t just that dinosaur fossils and human fossils are never found together, but that dinosaur fossils are always stratigraphically lower than human fossils. And trilobite fossils are always stratigraphically lower than dinosaurs. And large mammal fossils are always stratigraphically higher than dinosaurs. One does not find fossils arranged Cambrian-Devonian-Jurassic-Quaternary in one place, Jurassic-Quaternary-Cambrian-Devonian in the next, and a hopeless jumble in a third location (which is what one would expect if the flood produced the sedimentary rock record).

    Some creationists deny that there is such a thing as the geologic column. Most creationists who know anything about the rock record recognize that there is an order to the fossils that needs an explanation. A few decades ago a lot of effort was expended trying to show that thrust faults (which sometimes appear to put things out of order) were all figments of evolutionists’ imaginations, but I don’t see this too often in YEC literature any more. Other YECs have invoked some sort of ecological zonation prior, during, and after the flood to explain the order in which fossils appear, but this has turned out to be an utter failure as well.

    The problems for YEC flood geology go far beyond the question of “why dinosaur fossils and human fossils haven’t been found together.”

    With respect,
    Kevin N

  6. jlwile says:

    I agree, with your first point Kevin. However, the same can be said of coelacanth fossils. They are always found stratigraphically lower than human fossils. The same can also be said of tuatara fossils, wollemi pine fossils, and Laotian rock rat fossils. However, all three of these types of organisms live currently with human beings. Thus, the fact that a set of fossils is always found stratigraphically lower than humans seems to have little to do with whether or not they lived at the same time as humans.

    Actually, as far as I can see, ecological zonation, combined with the concept of floating logmats and worldwide flood distribution, is a much better explanation for the geology we see today than is old-earth geology, and it is far from a total failure. I know that you prefer to look at geology in an old-earth framework, and I respect that. However, I see far too many problems with it. The young-earth view of geology seems to be much more rational to me. Of course, I am not a geologist, but there are PhD geologists who agree with me on this point. That doesn’t mean I am right, but it does mean that Flood geology is at least a reasonable view in some very highly-educated, well-credentialed geologists’ minds.

  7. Kevin N says:

    There are a number of problems with the floating vegetation mats idea. There would have to be multiple enormous floating mats; some of them would have Cretaceous biota on them (dinosaurs, small mammals, birds…), some of them would have Pennsylvanian creatures (amphibians, insects…), and so forth. The Pennsylvanian logmats would all have to be deposited before the Cretaceous ones, all around the world wherever there are Pennsylvanian coal beds. While these are being deposited, the Cretaceous mats would have to stay afloat elsewhere. At just the right time, all of the Cretaceous critters would have to jump off of their floating mats at about the same time (not too early, not too late) to end up in non-coal deposits, or stay afloat to end up in Cretaceous coal-bearing strata. But they all need to be in their places before the Tertiary logmats float into position. All over the world, logmats would have to stay sorted in their Mississippian-Pennsylvanian-Permian-etc order, without exception.

    What the Triassic critters floated on I’m not sure, as there are few coal beds in Triassic sediments.

    The ecological zonation idea has a number of problems as well. In a lot of YEC literature this is presented as a progression from marine at the lower levels to terrestrial at the higher levels, with marine creatures being overwhelmed by the flood first and fast-running mammals surviving longer and being buried at the highest levels. This is a gross over-simplification of the nature of the sedimentary rock and fossil record. For example, there are marine sediments and fossils found throughout the geologic column, from the Precambrian through the Quaternary. Likewise, there are terrestrial sediments found throughout the geologic column (and terrestrial fossils from the Silurian onwards), from a wide variety of environments (stream, wind, lake, glacial, etc.). There is no ecological zonation reflected in the geologic column as the YECs propose.

    The YEC geologists are smart guys and I respect them for their commitment to Christ, to the Bible, and for their hard work. However, I find few (if any) of their arguments to be compelling (for example, see my Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis series). Given that the Bible doesn’t require a young earth or a global flood, I’ll stick with standard geological interpretations.

  8. jlwile says:

    Thanks for your comments, Kevin, but as is typical for most old-earth geologists, you completely mischaracterize both the floating logmats idea and the ecological zonation idea. First, there is no reason to expect a mixture of the various ecological zones in them. Since the Flood waters destroyed individual ecological zones as they rose, you would expect the logmats that formed to show ecological zonation as well. Also, the floating logmat idea is a significantly better explanation for coal deposits than the old-earth idea:

    http://www.icr.org/article/did-modern-coal-seams-form-peat-swamp/

    In addition, given that the creatures floating on them were not quickly covered and preserved by sediment, you would not expect them to have fossilized to any great extent.

    I think the only gross oversimplification that is going on here is your characterization of ecological zonation. Just as not all ecological zones are ordered in terms of altitude, you would not expect all the ecological zones in the fossil record to be ordered. There is an enormous amount of ecological zonation reflected in the fossil record, especially when you look at the actual fossils in their actual locations rather than a global construct that is based on evolutionary assumptions to begin with.

    I think that old-earth geologists are smart guys as well, and I admire their hard work at fitting geology into a timespan that doesn’t seem reasonable. However, given their commitment to an old earth despite the overwhelming evidence against that view, I think I will stick with the more scientific young-earth interpretation.

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