One of the Oddest Ideas I Have Seen in a While

I have been exposed to a lot of odd ideas over the years: the flat earth, the idea that we never landed on the moon, chemtrails, etc. etc. Well, I can now add another to the list. This one comes from Answers in Genesis (AiG), which is warning Christians about the dangers posed by Young Earth Evolutionists. If you looked at those three words and said “What?”, I don’t blame you. Obviously, there is no such thing as a young-earth evolutionist. Evolution (at least in the sense most people use the term) requires billions of years, so if you are an evolutionist, you cannot believe in a young earth.

What does AiG mean by “young-earth evolutionist”? Apparently, it’s a young-earth creationist who is unwilling to pledge fealty to AiG’s tests of orthodoxy. Consider, for example, Dr. Todd Wood, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and was once the director of bioinformatics at Clemson University’s Genomics Institute. He is a committed Christian, a knowledgeable creationist who has done original research in the field, and an expert in baraminology, the scientific study of what kinds of living organisms were originally created by God. He believes (and teaches) that the days listed in Genesis 1 were roughly 24 hours long, that there was a worldwide Flood that is responsible for most of the fossil-bearing rocks we see today, and that the land animals we see today (with the possible exception of many kinds of insects) are descended from the animals that walked off the Ark after the Floodwaters receded. In short, he is a young-earth creationist.

Why does AiG call him a young-earth evolutionist? Because he is being honest about the data related to origins. For example, AiG takes issue with his famous statement that there are “gobs and gobs” of evidence for evolution. AiG doesn’t like this, because it claims that all this supposed evidence has already been “dealt with,” so none of it qualifies as actual evidence. While the first part of this statement is true, the second part is clearly not, and that goes to the core of the difference between AiG and many serious creation scientists. Yes, creationists have “dealt with” data that seem to support evolution. However, as any serious scientist understands (and AiG gives lip service to), scientific data require interpretation. Yes, creationists can interpret data in a way that is consistent with their ideas, but evolutionists can interpret that same data in a way that is consistent with their ideas. AiG seems to think that once creationists have figured out a way to interpret the data in a manner consistent with their ideas, the data no longer qualify as evidence for evolution. That is simply not true!

Anyone who has spent any significant amount of time seriously studying science understands that there is often no way to decide which interpretation of the data is correct. Often, one side’s interpretation of the data seems desperate, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. Let me give you two examples. First, consider the GULO pseudogene. Evolutionists think that it is a broken version of a gene that was originally functional in early mammals, but mutations rendered it nonfunctional during the course of evolution. Well, the same mutations that are thought to have rendered it nonfunctional in apes are also found in humans. This is thought to be excellent evidence that humans and apes have a common ancestor whose gene had already been rendered nonfunctional, and that nonfunctional gene was passed on to both apes and humans. It’s true that the most straightforward way to interpret the GULO pseudogene is through the lens of common ancestry. Now, of course, there are ways to interpret it in the context of young-earth creation, and I give one of them in the link above. However, if you read it, you can see that it is not the most straightforward interpretation of the data.

Next, consider the phenomenon of homology. Many very different organisms share very similar features. All vertebrates (animals with backbones), for example, have the same basic plan for their forelimbs. Evolutionists assure us that this is because all vertebrates evolved from a common ancestor that passed on its forelimb plan to each of its descendants. In other words, homology is the result of common ancestry. However, there are many, many examples of similar structures that cannot be the result of common ancestry, because evolutionists have decided that those organisms don’t share a common ancestor that could give them that structure. As a result, they say that in such cases, homology is not a result of common ancestry. In other words, sometimes homology is a result of common ancestry, and sometimes it is not. That’s not a very straightforward interpretation of the data. A better interpretation of the data is that organisms were originally made by the same Designer, who simply used the same basic design over and over again when it was appropriate.

So….is the GULO pseudogene evidence for a common ancestor between apes and humans? Absolutely yes! Can creationists accommodate the GULO pseudogene in their view? Yes, but it seems a bit desperate. Is homology evidence for a common Designer? Absolutely yes! Can evolutionists accommodate it in their view? Yes, but it seems a little desperate. To any serious scientist out there, this shouldn’t seem strange. In every field where there are competing theories, those who support one theory have a set of evidence that is very strong, and those who support a competing theory have another set of evidence that is very strong. Typically, both sides can accommodate the other side’s evidence in their theory, but often, that accommodation seems desperate. Indeed, we often make decisions between scientific theories by deciding which one seems the least desperate when dealing with all the data!

Not only does AiG hate admitting that there is evidence for any view that disagrees with its own, it really hates the way Dr. Wood explains how he personally deals with the “gobs and gobs” of evidence for evolution. He says that he has faith. It’s rather odd for a creationist organization to argue against faith, but that seems to be what AiG is doing! It claims that in emphasizing his faith, Dr. Wood comes very close to fideism, which says that faith is opposed to reason. Of course, this is a gross mischaracterization of Dr. Wood’s views, and anyone who has honestly read Dr. Wood’s work understands that.

In fact, you don’t even have to honestly evaluate his work to see that AiG is mischaracterizing Dr. Wood’s views. You just have to go to YouTube and see his 12-minute video about why he is a creationist:

I really encourage you to watch the entire video, because it shows how a serious creationist honestly deals with evidence that seems to contradict his view (he specifically mentions one piece of data and vaguely refers to another). In case you do not, however, let me summarize what he says. Like any real scientist, he says that he is comfortable not having an answer to every question related to origins. As a result, his faith can remain strong despite challenges to it, which allows him to work towards finding answers to those challenges.

Now please note that I do not agree with everything Dr. Wood says. In fact, I disagree with his idea that there are “gobs and gobs” of evidence for evolution. Based on my interpretation of the data, I find that there is some evidence for evolution (which is why serious scientists can believe in it), but the “gobs and gobs” of evidence support the creationist view. However, I am also humble enough (despite what my students might say) to admit that I could be wrong. Thus, I value Dr. Wood and his contributions to creation science. In fact, I thank God for what he is doing!

Please note that AiG calls other very serious creation scientists “young-earth evolutionists.” I plan to address that in at least one more article.

Discovering Design With Physics

As I mentioned in my previous post, I haven’t been blogging much because I have been busy teaching classes and writing my new physics course, Discovering Design with Physics. However, that book is now at the printer, so I have more time for blogging. My previous post discussed how I begin and end the course, and now I want to give my readers an idea of what the differences are between my new physics course and the one that is still in print (Exploring Creation with Physics, 2nd Edition).

I wrote Exploring Creation with Physics, 2nd Edition almost 20 years ago, and while the material required for a college-prep physics course hasn’t changed since then, there have been some new developments in physics that are worth addressing. For example, over the past 11 years, the Voyager spacecrafts left our solar system. That is not only interesting in and of itself, but it is also a dramatic demonstration of Newton’s First Law of Motion. After all, they have been moving at roughly the same velocity since 1989, despite the fact that they haven’t used their fuel for propulsion since then! As another example, Pluto lost its status as a planet about 17 years ago. Thus, in this new physics book, it is not listed as one of the planets in the solar system.

More importantly, I decided to take a completely different approach in writing this new book. The “traditional” approach to physics is to start with the definitions of displacement, velocity, and acceleration. From there, you use equations to analyze motion in both one and two dimensions. After that, you then discuss Newton’s Laws, which actually dictate the behavior you have been using equations to analyze. That’s how I wrote Exploring Creation with Physics, 2nd Edition, because that’s the way every text from which I taught did it. However, I have never been happy with that approach. So for the new book, I decided to discuss displacement, velocity, and acceleration in the context of Newton’s Laws. That means the students learn about displacement and velocity in the context of Newton’s First Law, and then they learn about acceleration in the context of Newton’s Second and Third Laws. That way, the students learn why the motion being analyzed actually happens. The PhD physicist who reviewed the book for accuracy told me that this was a more satisfying treatment of motion.

In addition, I decided to take a new approach with the experiments as well. In the previous book, the students did several experiments where they were measuring things like acceleration, velocity, the period of a system’s motion, etc. Since those experiments involved measuring short intervals of time, the students had to repeat the experiment several times and then average the results so as to reduce experimental error. That is an important technique to learn, but it is also time-consuming. In the new physics course, the students do fewer experiments like that. They still learn the technique, but since they don’t use it as much, the experiments are not as repetitive or time consuming. Of course, that doesn’t mean there are fewer experiments. In fact, there are six more experiments in the new course compared to the old course!

Also, since I have been teaching physics for many years since the first book was written, I have learned better ways to communicate some of the more difficult concepts in the material. As a result, students will understand the material better. To ensure this, I field-tested the course with more than 70 students. They regularly communicated with me regarding how they were learning, and they even offered some excellent suggestions which led to some changes in the text. I have something very exciting to share about the results of that field test, but I am not at liberty to do so at this time. Be assured that I will do so when I am allowed.

Finally, my publisher has given me assurances that the student text will always be published as a hardcover book, since we encourage parents to use it for all their children over the course of many years. This is important, as there are some homeschooling publishers who have been producing their student texts as softcover books, which I think is unfortunate.

Of course, you might be wondering whether or not you should get this new text if you already have Exploring Creation with Physics, 2nd Edition. The new course is most certainly better than the old one for the reasons mentioned above. However, the old one is still a very good course. Thus, it really depends on how much strain the cost of the new course will put on your budget.

How I Begin and End My New Physics Book

Dr. Alfred Kastler (left), Dr. Isidor Isaac Rabi (middle), and Dr. Nathan T. Brewer (right)

My blog has been mostly silent because I have been teaching classes and working on my new physics book, Discovering Design with Physics. However, classes are winding down, and my new physics book is at the printer. I will have a more thorough post about the book itself next week, including how it is different from my old physics book. For right now, however, I thought my readers might be interested in how it begins and ends. The introduction to the student text begins this way:

Have you ever taken something apart in an attempt to figure out how it works? I have. Usually, I end up ruining it and not learning much. On the rare occasion when I am successful, however, I get a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. In some ways, that’s what the subject of physics is all about. We try to “take the world apart” to see how it works. We look for laws and equations that allow us to analyze processes that occur on a very small scale (like electrons traveling through a conductor), processes that occur on an everyday scale (such as baseballs being hit by bats), and processes that occur on a very large scale (like planets orbiting the sun). If we can properly analyze these processes, we can start to understand how the world works.

As you start “taking apart” the world in this course, you should be struck by how intricately designed everything is. The world runs amazingly well, because all its parts have been designed to work together. As French physicist and Nobel Laureate Alfred Kastler states:

The idea that the world, the material universe, was created all by itself, seems absurd to me. I only conceive of the world with a creator, therefore a God. For a physicist, a single atom is so complicated and so rich in intelligence, that the materialistic universe has no meaning.
(Fabre-luce Alfred, L’été de la résurrection, Grasset 1971, p. 105, translated from French by Fernando José Walsh)

I hope that as you read this book, you will come to see the truth of Dr. Kastler’s words.

After spending 16 chapters “taking apart the world,” I end my discussion of physics this way:

You have reached the end of this high-school physics course. You have learned a lot about how God’s creation works, and I hope that this has given you a deeper sense of awe for our Creator. That’s certainly what studying physics has done for me. As I learn more and more about the intricacies of how the world works, I cannot help but be filled with wonder for its Designer.

I think Dr. Isidor Isaac Rabi, who won the 1944 Nobel Prize for physics, said it best:

Physics filled me with awe, put me in touch with a sense of original causes. Physics brought me closer to God. That feeling stayed with me throughout my years in science. Whenever one of my students came to me with a scientific project, I asked only one question, “Will it bring you nearer to God?”
(“I. I. Rabi As Educator and Science Warrior,” Physics Today, 52(9):38, 1999).

I think that’s a great question to ask of any endeavor you wish to pursue.

It’s important to note that many other scientists share Dr. Rabi’s view. Homeschool graduate Dr. Nathan T. Brewer is a nuclear physicist whose research is focused on creating new elements. He says,

The world is absolutely breathtaking, and studying the world’s beauty fuels my faith.

As you continue to study more of the amazing creation that God has given us, I hope you end up agreeing with Drs. Rabi and Brewer!