I thought that we’d slightly deviate from only refuting Loftus’ arguments, and instead have a look into his view on the Creation Museum. At his blog he details his visit and I thought that it would be interesting to have a review of his excursion.
The Creation Museum & the Young Earth Creationist:
The Creation Museum is, what I consider to be, a fundamentalist Christian organisation in the United States. I consider it as such since it imposes, as I see it, a misguided exegesis from scripture on to what we know from the natural world. Basically, Ken Ham (the founder of Answers in Genesis) and co. hold to the belief that the universe is just 6000 years old & that dinosaurs lived alongside man! They have set up an attractive looking museum with all sorts of gadgets, information and figures supporting these beliefs; beliefs that they claim are well grounded within the Bible. I also consider them fundamentalists because they claim that their view is the only correct one, or the only way to read the Bible, while everyone else is deluded and/or compromises scripture. I myself am open to correction where I have been wrong, or I am willing to change my views where evidence confronts it (such is the process of learning & such is what makes any investigation stimulating) – however, Christians like Ken Ham insist, vehemently, that they are right in their interpretation of the Bible and that everyone else is just wrong no matter the quality of counter evidence. Pastor Matt explains this: “I have my problems with fundamentalist Christians like those who, in the face of all the evidence, insist that the King James Bible is the only true translation or that instruments aren’t allowed in worship or that only a young earth interpretation is biblical but atheist fundamentalists take the cake” (1).
Likewise David Montgomery tells us that these “young Earth creationists essentially ignore centuries of Christian theology” (2). They further ignore what science has suggested from the natural world. So, as a Christian that prizes my faith to be evidence based & rational this does disturb me especially since so many Christians hold to this interpretation. Philosopher & Christian apologist William Lane Craig says in an interview: “Now when you think about that, Kevin, that is just hugely embarrassing. That over half of our ministers really believe that the universe is really 10,000 years old. This is just scientifically, it’s nonsense, and yet this is the view that the majority of our pastors hold. It’s really quite shocking when you think about it” (3).
Let me clarify a further detail. I don’t view YEC’s (young earth creationists) as any less Christian than I am for it is belief in the historical event of Jesus’ resurrection that ultimately matters. And not how we interpret Genesis. I also don’t bother too much about these issues since it bears little on my view of scripture and on the truth claims of Christianity. So, when skeptics attack Christianity by focussing on these sorts of interpretations they really say nothing about my view. So, in short I have a live and let live policy that everyone can believe what they want. Nonetheless, I view YEC as damaging to the truth of Christianity since it forces young people to dismiss Christianity as a result of being pitted against modern science and so forth. After all, YEC’s argue against what just about every natural science, from biology to palaeontology & archaeology, has thought to have revealed to us about the natural realm.
However, now we shall focus on Loftus’ journey to the Creation Museum.
1. Loftus: “Yesterday I walked through Ken Ham’s Creation Museum in Kentucky. Without a doubt he is fitting the data into the grid of the Bible. I saw a 5 minute video where he takes the literal view that the earth existed before the stars. That is an extreme case of what I see other Christian apologists doing.”
I agree with Loftus that Ham is fitting data into his own view of the Bible. However, it depends what Loftus means by “grid.” If he is saying that the YEC interpretation is the only way, or the only grid, by which to view scripture then I disagree fully, especially since there are over a dozen interpretations of the creation days within the book of Genesis. It’s just too limited to attempt to undermine Christianity off just a single interpretation of the Genesis creation account.
Secondly, there is the objection that the Earth existed before the sun & stars were made (since they were made on the 4th day). However, the days prior to day four are said to have mornings and evenings. Is the Genesis account wrong on this point? How can mornings and evenings exist before the creation of the sun? An understanding of the original Hebrew language suggests that, rather than being created, the sun & stars appeared on the fourth day. According to biblical scholar John Collins: “The verb made in Genesis 1:16 does not specifically mean ‘create’; it can refer to that, but it can also refer to ‘working on something that is already there’ or eve ‘appointed’” (4). According to philosopher of science John Lennox: “This interpretation fits well with the explanation, given in the very next verse, of the sun and moon as visible lights in the sky” (5). In other words, when the clouds covering the Earth parted, on day four, the rays from the sun penetrated through. Since the Holy Spirit is said to hover over the water of the early Earth (which is surprisingly consistent from what we know from the natural world (6)) at the beginning of the narrative it would appear that the Genesis creation narrative acts as an eyewitness account of God’s creation activities from the Holy Spirit’s vantage point. So, I believe that we get the Holy Spirit’s view of the penetration of the sun on the 4th day.
2. Loftus: “All it takes to believe is to ignore the objective facts, the facts of science. The power of the delusion is that strong. It requires Christians to deny science in favor of what some pre-scientific people wrote in an ancient set of canonized books, even though they accept the results of science in every other area except when it conflicts with their pre-scientific book!”
I am lead to believe that Loftus’ misrepresents the nature of science here. Science does not deal in absolute “facts” as he seems to suggest, rather it deals in theories and hypotheses about the natural world that are viewed to have high degrees of probability until overturned by additional more explanatorily powerful theories. So, we can’t “prove” that the Earth is four billion years old, or we can’t “prove” that the universe began 14 billion years ago, rather we can hold that such theories have a high degree of probability based on what data we know from nature. In fact, many scientific theories are unprovable and speculative in nature, for example, the special theory of relativity hinges on the assumption that the speed of light is constant in a one way direction between any two points A and B, but this cannot be proven as we have to assume it in order to uphold to the theory (7). However, one ought to be cognizant that this is not an attack on science, rather it is an attack on the misuse of science that is so overwhelming present in atheist literature and in their arguments. These are details that any good philosopher of science knows well, but such deification of the scientific enterprise is hardly a surprise when it comes to atheists (this is known as scientism and any reader may access my investigation of this here).
However, I actually agree with Loftus on the fact that many Christians do deny contemporary scientific theories in order to hold to their own interpretations of scripture. However, this is also clearly the case with atheism since many atheists actually hold to beliefs that have minimal scientific evidence in its favour. Notable cases would be their belief in an eternal universe as the Secular Humanist Manifesto well affirms: “Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.” Further, the speculative & unobservable multiverse hypothesis (which is what I tend to think Loftus holds to) is particularly problematic. So, Loftus and his fellow atheists can also be accused of being unscientific when they want to make data fit their preconceived ideology. The fact that so many atheists hold to scientism is also enormously unscientific. So, Loftus should take caution that he is not being hypocritical here.
A third point to be made is that I also don’t think that Loftus gives enough credit to our biblical authors. He constantly charges them as being ignoramuses but then hardly takes note of when they evidently explain phenomena which is unusually accurate in the context of our current scientific models of reality. To name a few, the authors mention details such as the creation of the universe from nothing (Gen. 1:1), the early Earth being covered in water of which is an accurate scientific description of early Earth (Gen 1:2), the Earth being stationed in the expanse of space (Job 26:7), the description of springs at the bottom of oceans (Gen. 7:11), and many other little nuggets of revealed truth. Although reading modern science into the Bible is anachronistic and ought to be avoided one still can’t help but take note of these details that any writer two or three thousand years ago would never have known. As an accumulative case this convinces me of the inspiration of scripture. So, not only have we tackled the notion in our previous rebuttal of Loftus’ chronological snobbery, but I also don’t think he is at all fair when treating the biblical authors.
3. Loftus: “Since there is no actual archaeological evidence that dinosaurs lived among us they concoct it from the may legends of mythical beast stories that have been told around the world. I found this to be amazing as well.”
Loftus goes on to write about how amazing he finds it that YEC’s really believe that dinosaurs existed alongside man in the remote past. I find the YEC claim equally amazing. It does appear desperate when Christians try to use mythical stories about beasts as evidence of their claims. One exhibition at the museum shows a poster (titled “Dragon Depictions”) with five or six photographs of ancient pottery discoveries that appear to have dinosaur-like creatures sketched & decorated on them. The YEC uses these to argue that dinosaurs existed alongside these ancient people. However, only five pieces? We only have five discoveries to affirm that dinosaurs existed in our remote past? The evidence is a little weak don’t you think?
Nonetheless, many Christians also try to force this view into the Bible. For example, in Job 40:15-24 we have the description of a behemoth that the YEC often argues to be a depiction of a dinosaur (8), particularly that of a Sauropod! However, scholars have suggested that this creature is probably just that of a hippopotamus, or an elephant, rhinoceros, or water buffalo (9).
4. Loftus: “The Contrast is Between God’s Word and Human Reason. We have different starting points, different assumptions, that’s all!”
What Loftus is on about here is that the Creation Museum creates a dichotomy of God’s reason (as they view from their own interpretation) as opposed to human reason. Anything that disagrees with their interpretation they label as “Man’s Word” as opposed to that of “God’s Word.” So, expect scientific theories such as evolution, big bang theory, and an old Earth to fall under the “Man’s Word” label. I can well understand Loftus’ amusement at this.
5. Loftus: “What does faith offer us by contrast? Faith is an irrational leap over the probabilities.”
Again Loftus irrationally harps on about faith, however, we have refuted him on this point in our previous rebuttal so we needn’t say anything further. What is particularly striking here is that Loftus quotes philosopher Stephen Law’s book where he writes on the notion of faith (which is again just an ignorant rehash of what Christians exactly do not mean by faith). It is rather entertaining when we find out that Law authored a book by the name: Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole! Now that’s an authoritative academic source you cited there John! I wonder how serious Loftus would take me if I quoted from Ray Comfort’s book: You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think. Again, this is very unsurprising to say the least.
6. Loftus: “In one part of the museum there is a section depicting the evils that result when people reject creationism and embrace evolution instead. Pictures of crime, drugs, sex, unwanted pregnancies, and rock & roll abound, you see. That’s what happened in our society. We went to hell in a hand-basket because we accepted evolution.”
Yes, it would appear absurd that these Christians view evolution as evil, probably because they (alongside atheists like Loftus) assume that it supports naturalism. However, many Christians who hold to evolutionary creationism would fully disagree. In fact, a sizable chunk of 40% of American scientists polled believed that God “guided” evolution to create humans (10). Other Christian scientists hold to a Darwinian Theory and explanation of evolution (11). Further, we ought to note that there are intellectually gifted Christian philosophers and scientists (although a minority) who reject the molecules to man evolutionary explanation. Many Christians hold only to micro evolution (small observable incremental changes over time within a species or population) as opposed to macro evolution (the speciation of biological creatures where new biological species arise). The Christian view on evolution is by no means uniform. But I think that most Christians who are not YEC’s would think that it is absurd to call evolution evil whether they believe in it or not.
7. Loftus: “Noticeably absent in this museum was any depiction of hell. Since they believe in the “literal” interpretation of the Bible it also depicts hell as located in the belly of the earth. Hmmm, selective “literalism” right?”
I think Loftus touches on an interesting point here but one that still appears to be uninformed. YEC’s, at least from what I know, mostly have a strictly literal interpretation of the Genesis account, however, that does not necessarily mean that they view everything in the Bible as strictly literal. Would a YEC, regardless of how he views Genesis, believe that Jesus was literally a door? According to John, Jesus says: “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9). Probably not, so the same may apply to their exegesis of the doctrine of Hell. Loftus would need to grapple with their views first before he accuses them of “selective literalism.” This John evidently has not done.
8. “Nonetheless, crime, drugs and other ills of our society have a multifaceted number of causes. Ignored in this section of the museum are the many harms that faith produces.”
Yip, like those many evil soup kitchens and orphanages across the road. In all seriousness I am aware of the evils done in the name of Christianity, but Loftus’ claim is woefully ignorant of facts and fairness.
9. Loftus: “I used to believe and defend the indefensible just like Christian apologists do (although I was only briefly an uninformed young earth creationist in my early years). All it takes is one false presupposition, that the Bible as we have it is God’s word. From there the rest is a foregone conclusion. Just force the data to fit.”
That he says Christianity is “indefensible” is just another cheap shot by Loftus. This also further illustrates the fundamentalism of Loftus by once, as a Christian, holding to the YEC view. So, he practically hopped out of fundamentalist Christianity and into fundamentalist atheism. Further, in contrast to Loftus’ claim many skeptics and unbelievers have actually converted to Christianity through thorough investigation. So, although his claim may be true of many Christians, it is simply unjustified to assume that it is the case with all Christians.
To be continued…
1. Pastor Matt. 2013. Atheist Fundamentalism. Available.
2. Montgomery, D. 2015. Even setting evolution aside, basic geology disproves creationism. Available.
3. Hallquist, C. 2013. William Lane Craig: young-earth creationism is an embarrassment. Available.
4. Collins, J. 2003. Science and Faith: Friends or Foes? p. 57.
5. Lennox, J. 2011. 7 Days That Divide the World. p. 59.
6. New Scientist. 2008. Ancient Earth was a barren waterworld. Available.
7. Video: Dr William Lane Craig vs Dr Peter Atkins highlight (2:30 – 2:58). Available.
8. Steel, A. 2001. Could Behemoth Have Been a Dinosaur? Available.
9. Van Der Toorn, K., Becking, B. & Van Der Horst, P. 1999. Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible: Second Extensively Revised Edition. p. 165–168.
10. Witham, L. 1997. Many Scientists See God’s Hand in Evolution. Available.
11. Biologos. About Us. Available.