I too am glad that we can have an opportunity to dialogue about this issue at a personal level. I do agree that this topic is an urgent and essential one–but the fundamental reason why I say this is because I believe it is a vital foundational issue that relates to biblical authority itself, as I hope to explain as we continue in this exchange.
I, like you, was raised in a Christian home. My father was a school principal, but he had spent his life studying the Bible. Being brought up in a country (Australia), with (percentage wise) very few Christians, to be an active Christian really stood out. We lived in a number of different rural areas, as my father was transferred to a different location when he was promoted. In many of those rural areas there were few (if any) churches, and we often came across Church leaders who did not take the stand on Scripture my parents did. My parents had such a burden to proclaim the gospel to all ages–they saw eternal things as more important than anything else.
My father was not one for imposing Christianity upon us as children, but teaching us logically how one could defend the Christian faith–building Christian thinking from the foundation of God’s Word upwards. He certainly taught us what it meant to understand that the Bible was what it claimed to be–a revelation from our Creator to us to enable us to have a foundation we could trust to understand the universe and the purpose and meaning of life. When a pastor of a church would preach that the plagues of Egypt, or the feeding of the five thousand (as recorded in John 6), for instance, were not miracles, but all could be explained by natural processes or other means, my father would always (in front of his family), lovingly and gently challenge this pastor with the words of Scripture itself concerning what had been taught by the pastor and what Scripture obviously stated.
My father’s favorite verses of Scripture included those with statements such as, “Have you not read…”, “It is written…”, “Thus says the Lord…” (eg: Matthew 4:7; 19:4) My father was passionate for upholding the Word of God. All six children have a similar passion for God’s Word and the spread of the saving gospel message. That is certainly my heartbeat and the reason I am involved in this ministry. I praise the Lord for Godly parents.
When I was taught Darwinian evolution and millions of years in High School, I didn’t have any of the massive numbers of resources we have available to us today to research the topic. I recognized, though, that there was a big difference between conducting experiments in a laboratory with direct observable results (such as applying acid to certain metals etc) and discussing the origin of those metals in the first place. Even as a young teenager, I understood (though perhaps not in these terms) the difference between empirical science (observable, repeatable experiments–operational science) and the origins issue (an issue concerning history, when we were not there to observe directly what happened).
My training in the Scriptures led me to understand the conflict this way: The Bible claims to be the infallible (God cannot lie – Numbers 23:19) Word of God–that it is “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16)–thus the Word of God (even though it was written by different people in different literature forms such as history, poetry, etc), was the infinite Creator’s revelation to us. Logically, the only way one can be sure of coming to the correct conclusion concerning the origin of the universe and life, is to know someone with all knowledge who can be totally trusted to reveal to us what happened. Only the God of the Bible can do and has done this. I therefore resolved the conflict between what I was taught at school this way:
1. There is a contradiction between what I was taught at school concerning how humans arose (from some ape-like ancestor) and what I understood Genesis to teach–that the first man (1 Corinthians 15:45–Adam was the first man) was made from dust and the first woman (Genesis 3:20–Eve was given that name because she would be the mother of all the living) made from Adam’s side.
2. I therefore went to Scripture to ensure I was taking it the right way. Genesis seemed to be written as history (and many scholars wrote that it was written in typical Hebrew historical narrative). To confirm this, if Genesis (and the rest of the Bible) is a revelation to us from an infinite God, it must be self attesting and self authenticating–and Scripture must interpret Scripture. I checked out the New Testament. Jesus (the Son of God–The Truth–The Word) quoted from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19: 4-6 when discussing the doctrine of marriage. Obviously Jesus (and Paul in Ephesians 5) referred to Genesis as literal history in building the doctrine of marriage being one man and one woman (and the whole understanding of one flesh–Eve came from Adam, as it also states in 1 Corinthians 11:8).
I was now sure I was taking Scripture the right way. I didn’t know the specific answer to many of the evolution arguments I learned in school–but recognized that my teachers were teaching me an interpretation of various fossils in the present, in relation to what certain scientists believed concerning how these fossils fitted into history when there was no human observer. I also understood that only God knows everything, and compared to what God knows, my teachers (and the scientists who gave them this interpretation of supposed ape-like human ancestors) were fallible finite beings–who, compared to God, knew very little.
As a Christian, my father had also shown me that the gospel message (the good news of salvation in Christ) was founded on the literal history in Genesis–as Paul in the New Testament makes obvious in passages such as Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. I therefore saw the importance of standing on the authority of God’s Word and determined there was a problem with what I was being taught at school–even if at that time I couldn’t resolve it back then. I needed to search for answers–and I did. It began a journey that has led me to where I am today.
You specifically brought up “psuedogenes.” Applying how I deal with such as per my above approach outlined in summary to you, I’d like to address your claim that the study of genetics supports common ancestry for animals and humans (assume you are including humans). From the way I take Genesis (as I did as a student), I would have to conclude there is something wrong with this interpretation (and it is an interpretation). I would also recognize that no scientist knows everything about such structures–that there is a lot we don’t know about genetics and DNA–in fact, scientists are finding new information all the time. I therefore consulted one of AiG‘s scientists–Dr. Georgia Purdom, who has a Ph.D in molecular Genetics, and interestingly, was once a Professor at a Nazarene University. She gave me this information:
“It is a form of prejudicial conjecture to suggest that pseudogenes are non-functional leftovers from past duplication events. The function/non-function of pseudogenes has been hotly debated for years. Several studies have shown that some pseudogenes are, in fact, functional. The ENCODE Project has revealed that much of the human “junk” DNA (pseudogenes fall into this category) may have a function, especially in the area of regulation. Regulation of gene expression is especially important to prevent cancer and other diseases. The psi beta pseudogene in the human beta globin gene cluster has been suggested to play a regulatory role in the expression of the other globin genes in that cluster. Another possibility is that some pseudogenes are the result of genes originally designed by God to have a function but as a result of mutation after the Fall are no longer performing this function.”
I say all this to you, Karl, because I really believe that there are at least two major differences between us that we may never be able to resolve in this dialogue:
1. Our respective approaches to Scripture
2. Our respective understanding of what I and others call “Operational Science” and “Origins Science,” and how we relate these to Scripture.
Regarding the first issue, it makes sense to take Scripture in a natural way – reading the poetic sections like Psalms as poetry, and taking the historic sections as literal history. That Genesis is historic is clearly the position of Christ and the Apostles, as I’ve mentioned above. Indeed (as is the theme of my book “The Lie” that you refer to), every major Christian doctrine can be linked back to a literal Genesis directly or indirectly.
Regarding the second issue, it is crucial to understand the nature of starting points when interpreting the evidence around us–which is why our Creation Museum starts with a “starting points” exhibit. We all have biases–both creationists and evolutionists–so we in no way wish to denigrate scientists for having biases. Indeed, certain starting assumptions/biases are necessary in order for science to be possible in the first place–such as the assumption that our senses are basically reliable. (Why bother to do an experiment if we could not trust our senses?)
When it comes to science in the present (science “proper” – empirical, testable, repeatable observation and experimentation), there is actually little disagreement between creationists and evolutionists. However, when it comes to reconstructing past events, our different starting points will cause us to interpret the same evidence differently. After all, creationists and evolutionists have a different view of history–even a different philosophy of what is possible in the past. The creationist is open to supernatural events during the creation week, whereas evolutionists largely believe that naturalism should guide our understanding of the past. The creationist embraces the history and the catastrophic effects of Noah’s Flood, whereas evolutionists largely dismiss the Flood as a global event, and embrace the philosophy of uniformitarianism (to varying degrees) instead. Our different worldviews cause us to interpret the same evidence differently.
Consider the fact that living creatures share commonalities in their DNA patterns. This is exactly what creationists would expect. All the original kinds of organisms were created by the same God, so we would expect them to have some similarities. Moreover, given that genes code for traits, it is hardly surprising that organisms with more similar traits have more similar genes. There is no rational reason to think that in all cases similarity implies common ancestry. To think otherwise, as one of my colleagues would say, is to commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent.
Karl, in order for us to get anywhere in this debate, we must get to the heart of the matter. Which method of interpreting evidence can be rationally defended? Which worldview (biblical creation or evolution) can account for human experience and reasoning in a way that is consistent, non-arbitrary, and makes sense of Christian doctrines? I would argue that the things necessary for empirical science, knowledge, and a Christian worldview are set forth in a natural reading of Scripture, and therefore a literal Genesis. It is my position that a straightforward reading (i.e. reading history as history, poetry as poetry) of God’s Word is the only rational position possible–the others being either internally inconsistent, arbitrary, or destroying foundation of both knowledge in general and Christian doctrines specifically.
Yes, there is certainly good science that confirms the Genesis account of creation. Ultimately, however, I believe in creation for the same reason I believe in the resurrection of Christ: it is the clear teaching of the Word of God (John 3:12).