“Answers in Genesis” Is Not Very Good at Answering Questions about Genesis

Today I’m gonna rant, because I’m very frustrated. In church for the last six months, we’ve been dipping our toes in a three-year study of Genesis, a curriculum provided by the organization Answers in Genesis, which exists to “equip” believers with “clear”, “non-negotiable” answers about the historical accuracy of the Creation and Flood stories and show us how belief in a literal creation account is absolutely necessary for spiritual growth. Or something like that. I haven’t been paying too much attention, honestly, because I feel like I’m getting a ton of knowledge in the course, but none of my burning questions have been satisfactorily answered.

But that isn’t why I want to rant, although AIG’s stubborn, bold determination to defend young-earth creationism is certainly rant-worthy. I’m upset at their approach because they make it out to be an either-or scenario. If you believe in evolution, you’re scoffing at God and His Holy Word. If you believe in evolution, you can’t live out your faith with your intellectual integrity intact. If you believe in evolution, it’s not really possible for you to draw closer to God, because you believe in a pack of lies.

They make this thing out to be a colossal battle between evolutionists and creationists, with absolutely NO room for someone like me to stand in the middle and try to figure things out.

For example, here is a random smattering of article headings I grabbed from the AIG website. Notice their tone. Notice how militant they are! My rather snarky opinion about each title is in parentheses:

  • Doesn’t Carbon-14 Dating Disprove the Bible? (No, it is just a method, reliable or not, of dating the age of the earth. It doesn’t prove or disprove anything.)
  • Peter Enns Wants Children to Reject Genesis (No, he wants children to keep an open mind, study science and study the Bible for themselves instead of being told what to believe by their parents’ interpretation of Genesis.)
  • Peter Enns-Mutilating God’s Word (No, he is offering a very reasonable explanation for the scattered, broken, inconsistent nature of the Creation and Flood narratives.)
  • Evolution: The Anti-science (Really? It maybe wrong science for all I know, but ANTI-science?! As far as I know evolutionists come to their conclusions based on the study of the world around them, I’d say that counts as science!)
  • Feedback: Evolutionary Call to Arms (Oh yeah. Cuz all evolutionists are trying to wage a war on the Christian faith here. Even theistic evolutionsists.)
  • The Creation/Evolution Battle Resumes (time to strap on the armor of God! We’ve gotta strike down those evolutionists with our Swords of Truth!)
  • Creation or Evolution: Yes, We Have to Choose (Ah, no. Choosing evolution doesn’t mean we’re rejecting creation—it just means we’re saying God created 4.2 billion years ago instead of 6,000)

Maybe everything I said in parentheses was a little rude or disrespectful to AIG. But I’m just tired of the way they paint young-earth creationism as the ONLY possible “side” a faithful, honest Christian can choose. I’m a hair’s breadth away from accepting evolution. But I will never, never accept that my belief in it means I can’t be a devoted follower of Christ who loves God with all my heart. Science and faith should work in harmony. And so far, everything that theistic evolutionists are saying about the age of the earth and human origins is making a lot more sense to me than what Ken Ham’s website has to say. Plus they say it patiently and wisely, without the antagonism that absolutely saturates the AIG website (and this blog post, hah).

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Posted on July 11, 2013, in Church, Evolution, Questions. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. The logic of AiG is “if evolution is true our theology is wrong, and our theology is synonymous with christianity, therefore if evolution is wrong christianity is wrong, and since christianity can’t be wrong evolution is therefore a lie”. It has nothing to do with science or evidence or fossils or DNA and everything to do with fear and terrible logic. Their theology can of course be wrong, and christianity can too, and their theology is not remotely synonymous with christianity or the bible or god.

    It’s a tangled web, but they call it home.

    • Yes! So true. When I read through their articles, I’ve been finding that every single one is laced with that sort of logic. And if AIG truly is as good as it gets as far as a scientific defense of young earth creationism, then I really can’t see any reason why I should buy into Genesis 1-2 as a literal historical account.

  2. Check out the tower of babel story sometime. Basically it goes like this – some people build a tower to get into heaven and almost succeed. God, worried they will get into heaven and run amok, “confuses” them so they can’t understand each other and can never cooperate to get into heaven again, and this is why people speak different languages.

    Ironically the real explanation for different languages perfectly mirrors evolution – languages spontaneously change and vary, every generation has new slang words and euphamisms etc, which are like genetic mutations. When people communicate a lot or consume the same media they stay up to date and can work around and terms they don’t know. But if a population is isolated the unfamiliar slang terms build up and eventually the language is indecipherable. This happened a lot faster before mass-media and dictionaries because language was not standardized and you could only communicate with people relatively nearby. In biology mutations and natural selection effect an organism more or less uniformly unless two populations are in different environments, are adapting in opposite directions (like one group getting smaller while the other gets shorter which makes it anatomically impossible to reproduce) or are genetically isolated, like being on the opposite sides of an ocean. Then there is no exchange of DNA and their genetic “vocabularies” never get updated so they can no longer “communicate” (ie successfully reproduce), producing similar but distinct organisms/languages. Different forms of mammals have so many anatomical traits in common because they branched off of a common lineage similar to the way french, spanish, english, german and so many other languages share the same root forms of words and all use the same 26 letter ancient roman alphabet – they are all descended from the same original language(s). And just like with evolution we can prove this by looking at writings and texts from different periods, transitional fossils if you will.

    One thing AiG is right about though is if genesis is a literal historical account then it’s bunk. And maybe it’s just mythology. But it seems to me to be dripping with metaphor and symbolism. What it really represents is the beginning of human civilization, which is what actually happened 6-12,000 years ago. From the perspective of early man it would’ve looked like the dawn of time/beginning of history. And a local flood would’ve seemed global to people who didn’t know how big the earth really is or have cell phones to call china and ask if they’re flooded over there too.

    Sorry for going on, I could talk all day.

  3. (like one group getting smaller while the other gets *bigger* which makes it anatomically impossible to reproduce)

    Sorry, typo.

    • Oh no, by all means, say your piece! I, at least, will really appreciate it. Having never been taught evolution, I find that I’m fascinated by what I’m learning now. I’m still a little critical of what I’ve been reading, but I think that’s just because I’ve been taught my whole life that evolution is nothing but a ridiculous, unfounded attempt at discrediting the Christian faith.

      I’ve been reading those stories in Genesis over and over again lately (especially the creation story) and every time I read them, the more loudly they scream “myth!!” to me. What’s more, treating these texts as stories instead of historic fact doesn’t at all diminish what they are trying to say, because the original author was never trying to make a scientific point by writing them, he/they (whoever!) was trying to make a THEOLOGICAL point. And the theological point, at least for me, remains the same. God created. God is the source of all life.

  4. I can find symbolic meaning in genesis but it could be that we just see meaning and form patterns whether they are there or not. I’ve thought many songs were really beautiful then found out they were originally meant to be about something else entirely, or that I was mis-hearing the lyrics and they’re not at all about what I thought they were. Such is the nature of art. The same is true of theology, ten people read the bible and take it ten different ways. We need science and skepticism to sort out the facts, but the meaning you get out of something is valid regardless. What I felt when I heard those songs was real even if it wasn’t the intention of the author. But then I don’t try to say it’s more than that or force it on others or attack other peoples’ take on the song.

    As for evolution being an attempt to discredit belief in god, you might find the last words of darwin’s On The Origin Of Species interesting:

    “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

    Creationists often claim the big bang is the atheist’s creation account and was similarly meant to attack the bible. Look who first proposed it…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema%C3%AEtre

    In reality the big bang, like the theory of evolution, does not attempt to explain the ultimate origins, but simply the development that came after. It describes the expansion and cooling of the cosmos, not how it began. The authors of both theories assumed there was a creator. Did you know darwin was a young earth creationist in his youth? What changed his mind was studying geology. Eventually he became a deist, which is to say he believed in a god that created the universe but does not interfere with it. You may also come across the notion that darwin “recanted” on his deathbed – that was debunked by his family after his death.

  5. I recently read “The Language of God” by Francis Collins, which touched on the idea that science can’t be used explain the existence of God (or lack thereof) any more than the Bible can be used to explain science. The two are entirely different realms–one involves consideration of the supernatural, and one does not. This isn’t to say science and religion should be separate, though; quite the opposite, they ought to work in harmony in order for either one of them to make any kind of sense in a person’s life. They just can’t explain each other, if that makes any sense? Haha, I’m still trying to figure out what the relationship between science and religion ought to look like.

    I do want to say, though…I really recommend “The Language of God”. It’s very good; it does an excellent job of debunking all the myths and misconceptions Christians have about evolution (such as the fact that a “theory” in the science world bears a lot more of the weight of evidence than Christians assume) and explaining just how widely accepted evolution is in the scientific community. At one point the author even says that it’s virtually impossible to understand biology with any sort of thoroughness without the foundational belief that all living organisms are related! I mean, really, that claim is so outrageous that scientists would be all over it if it weren’t true! Yet it is coming from the mouth of the guy who spear-headed the Human Genome Project!

    Yet, in spite of all this overwhelming evidence, we Christians keep plugging along in ignorance. It’s quite frustrating.

  6. “I recently read “The Language of God” by Francis Collins, which touched on the idea that science can’t be used explain the existence of God (or lack thereof) any more than the Bible can be used to explain science. The two are entirely different realms–one involves consideration of the supernatural, and one does not. This isn’t to say science and religion should be separate, though; quite the opposite, they ought to work in harmony in order for either one of them to make any kind of sense in a person’s life. They just can’t explain each other, if that makes any sense? Haha, I’m still trying to figure out what the relationship between science and religion ought to look like.”

    I’ve heard that position before too, that they don’t overlap. They don’t if you take genesis as a metaphor/allegory, but if you take it as a science textbook it does make specific claims about nature that can be tested (and don’t pass the test). So it depends. As far as proving there is or isn’t a god I think the trouble there is that we haven’t defined what “god” is supposed to be. For instance if I told you a car exists, but you didn’t know what a car was, you would have no way to evaluate my claim. But if I told you what a car can do or is like without really telling you what it is (for instance I said you can sit in it and it can take you from one place to another quickly) then you could go out looking for a car and find a plane, train, truck, rocket ship etc, and all of them would match my description. Similarly even if the god of the bible weren’t real we could go out into the cosmos and find a powerful alien and think “this is jehovah!” Primitive tribes have often thought more technologically advanced peoples were the gods of their culture. So I thought about this and wondered what would be the ideal situation for proving a particular religion’s god existed and I figured it would be if a god showed up and said “I’m the creator of the universe, I will submit to any test, observation or experiment, prove which god of which religion I am”. Even under those circumstances I don’t think we would be able to do anything. Not because science is flawed, but because we don’t have a meaningful definition to match any findings to. It’s like trying to prove Bob committed a crime, but without knowing anything about Bob, or even if Bob exists.

    Socrates said the beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms. In other words in order to understand the world we must start by defining the concepts we use. Terms like supernatural don’t seem to have a real definition, and “supernatural” seems like a category we just put everything we don’t understand into. Lightning was once considered “supernatural”, so were seizures, viruses etc. Us not understanding something doesn’t justify any particular conclusion about it or it’s origins.

    “I do want to say, though…I really recommend “The Language of God”. It’s very good; it does an excellent job of debunking all the myths and misconceptions Christians have about evolution (such as the fact that a “theory” in the science world bears a lot more of the weight of evidence than Christians assume)”

    Yup. Another thing that annoys me is the “if evolution were proven it would be a law by now”. Laws describe constants (which evolution is not) and theories explain facts. The theory of evolution attempts to explain the well-observed fact that life changes over time.

    “and explaining just how widely accepted evolution is in the scientific community.”

    Yeah it’s virtually unanimous – the usual way creationists deal with this is by claiming there’s a big conspiracy and christian scientists are too afraid to speak up for fear of persecution. Which is of course ridiculous since in the US and many other countries most scientists are christian. What, the majority is persecuting itself?

    “At one point the author even says that it’s virtually impossible to understand biology with any sort of thoroughness without the foundational belief that all living organisms are related! I mean, really, that claim is so outrageous that scientists would be all over it if it weren’t true! Yet it is coming from the mouth of the guy who spear-headed the Human Genome Project!”

    I agree, it’s said that nothing makes sense in biology except in light of evolution. Evolution is often called the “backbone” of biology, which is kind of a paleontology pun because the development of the backbone allowed for the skeleton limbs and so on.

    “Yet, in spite of all this overwhelming evidence, we Christians keep plugging along in ignorance. It’s quite frustrating.”

    It’s fear, fundamentalists poison people (especially kids) against science by making it out to be the anti-christ and painting scientists as atheist ideologues out to hurt their faith. This is often called “lying for jesus” and is sadly extremely common. Most people who believe this stuff are just sucked into it, but the people at the top usually know better. People like kent hovind (who is now in jail for tax fraud btw) are on video tape being told x, y and z fact in debates, then acting as though they are oblivious in the next debate. Though some people are just not willing to hear what churchill called “uncertain, conflicting and hazardous information”.

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