New Archaeological Find Supports the Biblical Account of Gideon

Dutch painter Pieter Aertsen’s imagining of Gideon tearing down the altar to Baal
In the sixth chapter of the book of Judges, we read that the children of Israel were being oppressed by the Midianites. A young man named Gideon was harvesting wheat and trying to hide from the Midianites when an angel of the Lord visited him and told him that he could save the children of Israel. As a first step, Gideon had to tear down the altar to Baal that his fellow Israelites had constructed. Gideon did as the angel commanded, and when the people heard what he had done, they wanted to execute him. His father (Joash) stopped the execution with some simple logic:

But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal, or will you save him? Whoever will contend for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, since someone has torn down his altar!” Therefore on that day he named Gideon Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he had torn down his altar.

Gideon went on to lead a small army of untrained men against the Midianites, saving the children of Israel from them. The Gideons International, an organization of which I am a member, takes their name from this inspiring Biblical account.

Recently, archaeologists have uncovered evidence that supports one detail of this account. While digging in a small site 3 km west of the large archaeological site/Israeli National Park called Tel Lachish, they uncovered pottery fragments that are thought to have been made in the late twelfth or early eleventh century BC, which is the same time period in which Gideon’s story happened.

While the pottery is far from complete, the recovered pieces contain a painted inscription that reads, “Yrb‘l,” which means Jerubba‘al, the name Joash gave his son. In discussing their find in the context of other relevant finds, the archaeologists say:

The chronological correlation between the biblical tradition and ancient Judean inscriptions indicates that the biblical text preserves authentic Judean onomastic traditions.

In other words, this find and others indicate that the names mentioned in the Bible are not fictional. They are real names that were used in the relevant geographic and historical settings.

My Review of Exploring Creation With Earth Science

Cover of the book being reviewed, emphasizing the new author.
Normally, the only new titles I review from my former publisher are those that I originally wrote or had an important hand in developing. So far, I have reviewed six of them (here, here, here, here, here, and here). However, I feel compelled to review this new title, for two main reasons. First, I have just finished writing a middle school/high school earth science course, and some people might wonder if this elementary course will prepare students for my upper-level course. The answer is, “No.” Second, the author is different from all the other books in the publisher’s “Exploring Creation With…” elementary series, and readers need to be aware of that, because it makes this book very different from the others in the series. If you liked the previous books (authored by Jeannie Fulbright), you probably won’t like this new book.

Why do I say that? Let’s start with the way it is written. Fulbright has a knack for explaining science to elementary students without “talking down” to them. In my opinion, that’s not the case with this book. The tone comes off as condescending from time to time. More importantly, Fulbright is passionate about young-earth creationism and includes “Creation Confirmation” sections in her books. These sections highlight how the material being discussed confirms the young-earth creationist view. This book studiously avoids any direct mention of the age of the earth or even the method of creation. Students who use this course will not learn anything about the creation/evolution debate or the age of the earth debate.

Worse yet, while the author doesn’t discuss the age of the earth directly, there are several statements she makes that support an ancient earth. When discussing soil, for example, the author states:

How long does it take to make soil? That depends on where you start. If we start with really big rocks and wait for them to break down through the weathering process we studied, it can take thousands of years until they become the particles we know as sand, silt, and clay.

First, this statement is utterly false. Soil is formed incredibly rapidly during catastrophic floods and other high-erosion events. Second, it implies that sedimentary rocks take longer to form than the young-earth timescale, since the breaking down of rocks through the weathering process is just the first step in making sedimentary rocks. If that takes thousands of years, there is no time left for sedimentary rocks to form.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying it’s bad that the book allows for an ancient earth. I don’t have a problem with that, even though I disagree. The problem is that the rest of the series is unabashedly young-earth, so I would assume that parents will expect this new book to be young-earth, and it is definitely not.

Also, there is not a single mention of the worldwide Flood in the entire course. I can’t imagine Fulbright ignoring such an important topic in the study of geology. After all, if you are a young-earther, the Flood is what shaped most of the geological structures we see today. If you are not a young-earther, you need to explain why you think the Flood didn’t do that. Instead, this book ignores the Flood entirely. It also pretty much ignores fossils! There are two sentences about fossils in this entire earth science book!

Another way this book differs from the others in the series is that it is not a “living book.” Fulbright strove to make her books deep and rich, and she tried to teach science by telling a story. By contrast, this is like an Usborne book. It is full of pictures, random facts, and terms that are often not explained or explained many pages after they are first discussed. In addition, it barely scratches the surface of nearly everything it covers.

There are also many scientific errors in the book. Based on a Wikipedia article, the author says that water is naturally blue, when it can be defined as, “A tasteless odorless colorless liquid with the chemical formula H2O.” She says that pressure isn’t a real force (it is), but then discusses the Coriolis force as if it is a real force (it isn’t). She also says:

The Sun actually provides us too much energy, so the earth has to get rid of some energy or it will overheat. Getting rid of extra heat is something important our atmosphere does.

Of course, the truth is that the atmosphere retains energy through the greenhouse effect in order to make the planet habitable. That is the opposite of what the book says.

If you are interested, this PDF lists the details of the 11 things that show this book is different from the others in the series, the 5 statements that implicitly support an old earth, the 18 serious scientific errors, and the 17 minor scientific errors that I found. It also lists 4 things that I simply do not understand.

How Preconceptions Influence Science

Two different scientific reconstructions of the average energy the earth has received from the sun since 1800. (graphs edited from one of the papers being discussed, original shown below)

In its Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated:

It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together. (p. 5, emphasis theirs)

In other words, more than half of the warming that has been observed since the mid 1900s has been caused by human activity. How did they arrive at that conclusion? The scientists involved attempted to determine the natural variation in global temperature that would have occurred without human influence, and they found that it accounted for less than half of the observed warming that has been observed. Thus, human activities are responsible for more than half.

The problem, of course, is how do you determine how much warming would have occurred without human activity? The way the IPCC did it was to look at the natural variation that has occurred in the factors that are known to influence the temperature of the planet. One of the biggest factors is how much energy the earth is getting from the sun, which is often called the total solar irradiance (TSI). Well, we have been measuring the TSI with satellites since 1979, and while each satellite comes up with a slightly different value (the reason for that is unknown), all of them agree on how it has varied since they began their measurements.

However, in order to properly understand the long-term effect of TSI, we need to go farther back in time than 1979. As a result, observations that should be affected by TSI are used to estimate what it was prior to 1979. These are called “proxies,” and their use is common among scientists who attempt to reconstruct various aspects of the past. Unfortunately, it’s not clear what the best proxies are for TSI, so the details of how it has changed over time varies substantially from one study to another. That’s what I am attempting to illustrate in the figure above. It shows two different graphs for how TSI has changed since the year 1800. Notice the one on the left (from this study) shows that TSI has been quite variable, while the one on the right (from this study) shows it hasn’t varied significantly over the same time period. Both of these studies were published in the peer-reviewed literature, and both use accepted methods for reconstructing TSI from proxies. The difference, of course, is caused by the different preconceptions in each group of scientists. Whose preconceptions are correct? We have no idea.

To demonstrate just how much variation occurs due to these preconceptions, here is a figure from a very interesting study that I somehow missed when it first came out (in 2015). It shows eight different reconstructions of TSI from eight different peer-reviewed studies:

I used the top two graphs to make the illustration that appears at the very top of the post. As you can see, the eight reconstructions are arranged so that the ones which show a high variability in TSI are on the left, and the ones which show a low variability are on the right. What about the “CMIP5” that shows up on low-variability graphs. It indicates that those were the graphs used in the IPCC’s Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report, which I quoted above.

Think about what that means. The IPCC specifically chose from the scientific literature TSI reconstructions that indicate there has been little variation since 1800. Thus, natural variation in TSI cannot explain much of the variation we see in global temperature. However, if they had used one of the reconstructions on the left, their conclusion would have been much different. In fact, the authors of the study from which those eight graphs were taken showed that if you used the top left reconstruction, you could explain the vast majority of the variation we see in the earth’s temperature. Thus, had the IPCC chosen that reconstruction, their conclusion about the effect of human activities on global warming would have been radically different.

Hopefully, you can see what I am driving at. All eight of the reconstructions above are legitimate, peer-reviewed reconstructions of TSI. If you choose the ones on the right, you reach one conclusion about the extent to which human activities have affected global temperature. If you choose the ones on the left, you come to a completely different conclusion. How do you choose? You choose the ones you think are best. In other words, you choose the ones that fit your preconceptions.

Unfortunately, this inconvenient fact is left out of most discussions of climate change. As a result, most people state what the “science” says, when they are utterly ignorant of how much that “science” depends on the preconceptions of the scientists who produced it.