Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Rusty Lopez of the New Covenant blog has an entry in reply to a comment I left him. In a post a few days ago, he made a reference to a new Hugh Ross book that he said contained a “testable creation model approach to the issue of the origin of life”. I left a comment on his blog saying that I could not conceive of even a hypothetical way to test a creation model. He replied:

I’ll address your inquiry in a new post. Keep in mind that the testing being described is not with regards to a particular law of physics but to a scientific model; i.e., we are not testing to see if water boils at 212 F at sea level but, rather, whether data supports one model of life’s origins over another.

And indeed he has addressed my inquiry. I don’t have the time to address everything in his post right now, but I will post a more thorough response later, hopefully this evening. Rusty specifically refers to the model offered by Hugh Ross. That model can be found here on the Reasons to Believe page. Hugh Ross is an Old Earth Creationist (OEC), as opposed to a Young Earth Creationist (YEC). He believes that the universe and the earth are as old as mainstream geology and astronomy have concluded that they are, but that life did not evolve from a common ancestor, as evolutionary theory maintains. Ross (and presumably Rusty as well) believes that God created life on earth over a long period of time and that the order of creation corresponds with the biostratigraphic fossil record.

For now, I will say just two things about Rusty’s post. First, the brief synopsis of Ross’ model that he provides doesn’t seem to be identical to Ross’ model, and in one or two cases appears to contradict it. For instance, Rusty refers to life forms that “appear quickly in the fossil record”, while Ross’ page refers to the “many transitional forms seen in the fossil record”, which he regards, oddly, as evidence that God was active in creating new species. Perhaps over time we can hash out those differences.

Second, it appears that both he and Ross use what I regard as a rather anachronistic definition of “testable”. The primary focus of the article by Ross that Rusty cites as the “testable creation model” was on how to read modern scientific theories IN to the Genesis account, and the technique used to do it was to take vague statements from Genesis and read an infinite amount of detail into it so that it appears that the bible predicted what we have now found to be true. For example, Ross takes Genesis 1:2-6, which says:

2. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4. And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
6. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

and translated them into this section of his “model”:

2. planet Earth singled out for a sequence of creation miracles. At its beginning, Earth is empty of life and unfit for life; interplanetary debris and Earth’s primordial atmosphere prevent the light of the sun, moon, and stars from reaching the planet’s surface
3. clearing of the interplanetary debris and partial transformation of the earth’s atmosphere so that light from the heavenly bodies now penetrates to the surface of Earth’s ocean
4. formation of water vapor in the troposphere under conditions that establish a stable water cycle

It strikes me as a tad bit fanciful to translate “without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep” into a reference to “interplanetary debris and the Earth’s primordial atmosphere” or to translate “divided the waters” into “formation of water vapor in the troposphere under conditions that establish a stable water cycle”. I somehow doubt there is a Hebrew word for troposphere. Certainly no one took the “model” presented in Genesis 1 and used it to form hypotheses about the earth’s primordial atmosphere, or about how interplanetary debris was cleared away and formed planets and so forth. At best, this is only an attempt to interpret a religious text to be compatible with scientific models, it is not by any rational criteria a model in and of itself that makes testable predictions. Testability requires more than a mere appearance of compatability. Testability means that you can take the model itself and use it to draw logical inferences and thereby make predictions about the nature of new evidence. It is a forward-looking process, not one that looks backwards and tries to reconcile non-scientific stories with later scientific theories.

I’ll have much more on this later in the form of a thorough critique of Ross’ claims. I may do two separate postings, one responding to Rusty’s post on the subject and one responding to Ross’ claims that Rusty refers to for support.