Ken Gilmore refutes the Neville Clark 'Theistic Creationism' video (Part 2)

The Ken-Cat
By Christadelphian Ken Gilmore
Brisbane Ecclesia Australia

 
Neville Clark's next major error is in failing to properly define what evolutionary creationists (or theistic  evolutionists as Clark and other science denialists in our community persist in calling them) believe.
 


His major blunder here is to conflate abiogenesis and evolution and argue that 'theistic evolutionists' reject abiogenesis but accept evolution. This ignores the fact that there is no unanimity among evolutionary creationists on this point. Some accept abiogenesis while others reject it. The fundamental points on which they agree, and which Clark's clumsy taxonomy ignores are that they accept the fact of common descent and large-scale evolutionary change and do not see Genesis as being concerned with the specific details of how God brought about the diversity of life we see both now, and in the past.
 
Even more disturbing is his seeming endorsement of young earth creationism, an utterly ludicrous idea which was unknown in our community until the mid-20th century, and which was rejected by educated Christians in the first half of the 19th century, well before Darwin's book was published. 
 
Evolutionary Creationism or Theistic Evolution?
 
Within the first three minutes of his presentation, Clark attempts both to define theistic evolution, and to construct a taxonomy of belief and unbelief:

Evolutionist: Natural origin of life and natural origin of the complexity of life
 
Creationist: Supernatural origin of life and the complexity of life
 
Theistic evolutionist: Supernatural origin of life and natural origin of complexity of life

 
In part 1, I pointed out that Clark's first major error was in failing to adequately differentiate between the fact of evolution (common descent and large scale evolutionary change) and the theoretical mechanism proposed to explain how evolution occurred. In other words, he failed to differentiate between evolution as fact, and evolution as theory. Evolutionary creationists accept the fact of evolution; whether they accept the modern synthetic theory as an adequate explanation for common descent, believe that it needs extension, or believe that it is due for replacement is irrelevant from a theological point of view. This is because once one has accepted common descent, the idea of recent monogenism (the entire human race descending exclusively from only two people living 6000 years ago) and any erroneous reading of the Bible that is contingent on monogenism both become untenable.
 
Ken and Barbie
(This cartoon is NOT part of the
original Ken Gilmore article)
His next error lies in his taxonomy, where he divides the world into atheist evolutionist, special creationist, and theistic evolutionist. His criterion for dividing theistic evolutionist and atheist evolutionist is in his belief that theistic evolutionists believe that the origin of life lies in a miracle. This is false. I accept abiogenesis, though freely admit that there are many unsolved problems in the discipline. Other evolutionary creationists reject abiogenesis, and regard the origin of life as a miracle. What fundamentally differentiates evolutionary creationists from evolutionists is not their view on abiogenesis, but their belief that the overwhelming evidence from the natural world attests to the fact of common descent and large scale evolutionary change, and that God employed an evolutionary process to bring about the diversity of life we see in the natural world throughout time.
 
En passant, Clark makes another mistake in defining evolution. His definition: "Simple organisms become diverse and more complex by the natural selection of beneficial genetic mutations" not only (as I said in part 1) fails to differentiate between evolution as fact and evolution as theory, but overlooks the fact that natural selection acting on mutations is not the only mechanism of evolution. Genetic drift, along with natural selection is a significant component of evolutionary change. As respected evolutionary biologist Douglas Futuyma states:
Genetic drift and natural selection are the two most important causes of allele substitution - that is, of evolutionary change - in populations. Genetic drift occurs in all natural populations because, unlike ideal populations at Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, natural populations are finite in size. Random fluctuations in allele frequencies can result in the replacement of old alleles by new ones, resulting in nonadaptive evolution. That is, while natural selection results in adaptation, genetic drift does not - so this process is not responsible for those anatomical, physiological, and behavioral features of organisms that equip them for reproduction and survival. Genetic drift nevertheless has many important consequences, especially at the molecular genetic level: it appears to account for much of the difference in DNA sequences among species. [1] (Emphasis in original)
Details such as this betray the fact that Clark is not providing an informed opinion, but rather simply regurgitating a deeply superficial understanding of the subject. That does not inspire confidence in the scholarly integrity of the remainder of his discussion, to say the least. Anyone who cannot accurately define evolution and fails to recognise the difference between adaptive and non-adaptive evolution is simply not in a position to offer an opinion on the subject.
 
One final comment. Clark uses the term 'theistic evolutionist', one which evolutionary creationists such as myself regard as misleading. I do not prefix the term 'theistic' to every other branch of science I accept. I am not a theistic atmospheric physicist, theistic solid state physicist, theistic inorganic chemist, theistic biochemist or theistic geochemist. Likewise, I am not a theistic evolutionist. 
 
Neville Clark rejects the early Christadelphian consensus on an ancient Earth
 
After his cursory and deeply flawed look at evolutionary biology, Clark betrays his extreme young earth creationist leanings when he declares:
"And how did - ah - how did complex life forms get developed? Miracle. Easy. God created everything all at once in the first six days of creation. And that's all that happened." [2]
While Robert Roberts, John Thomas, C.C. Walker and their peers rejected evolution, all of them were united in their rejection of a young Earth, with some of them freely accepting the fact that  life predated the creation of Adam. Some even rejected the idea of a literal creation week, based on the geological and paleontological evidence extant in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
 

Expositor
Age of Earth
Life predating Adam
Creation week
Thomas
Ancient
Yes
Six Days
Roberts
Ancient
Yes
Six Days
Jardine
Ancient
Yes
Unsure
Simons
Ancient
Yes
Not stated
Welch
Ancient
Yes
Six days
Walker
Ancient
Yes
Many ages


Thomas
  • Instead of six thousand, they can avail themselves of sixty thousand; for the scriptures reveal no length of time during which the terrene angels dwelt upon our globe. [3]
  • Fragments, however, of the wreck of this pre-Adamic world have been brought to light by geological research, to the records of which we refer the reader, for a detailed account of its discoveries, with this remark, that its organic remains, coal fields, and strata, belong to the ages before the formation of man, rather than to the era of the creation, or the Noachic flood. [4]
  • The six days of Genesis were unquestionably six diurnal revolutions of the earth upon its axis.’ [5]
Roberts
  • It is a demonstrable fact that the earth has existed for ages. To adopt a view that appears to make it begin only 6,000 years ago would create a difficulty. There is no need for adopting such a view. [6] 
  • Geology proves the existence of forms of life long before the Mosaic creation; and the Bible tacitly affirms a pre-Adamite order of things, in the words addressed to Adam and Eve “replenish (or fill again) the earth,” which are the words made use of to Noah, when the world had been cleared of its antediluvian inhabitants. [7]
  • If it be urged that the fossil remains of the past include human remains, as well as remains of the inferior races, the answer has to be made that there is a lack of scientific evidence that these remains are identical with the Adamic race. The animal and vegetable remains are those of species now largely extinct, belonging to pre-Adamic ages; and analogy would require that what are considered human remains, if they are human remains (which is by no means certain from the evidence) are the remains of an anterior race, existing at a remote time, when as yet the earth had not been overtaken by the convulsion which brought it to the state (enveloped in darkness and submerged in the deep) depicted to us in Gen. 1:2. [8]
  • Either the Lord in some sense made heaven and earth in six days, or the Bible is a human and fabulous writing. [9]
Jardine
  • And in the reasonings of the geologist concerning him as opposed by the antagonisms which are imagined between geology and scripture, and of the incapacity of the theologian as the artizan of a school philosophy, to set the other right or aid him in arriving at a definite conclusion regarding the antiquity of man in harmony with the Mosaic record, the geologist is justified from the discovery he has already made as to other animals, in presuming to think man’s origin is of remoter antiquity than is set down in the preambles of confessions of faith. [10]
  • From this point of view therefore the geologist is free from coming into collision with scripture. He may come to discover traces of a race of beings similar to man, but not of Adam’s posterity. [11]
  • [A] race of beings similar to man did exist prior to Adam and a constitution of things likewise similar to what now obtains, and all this we have from scripture itself. [12]
  • This arena was originally a contracted territory—the garden of Eden and its vicinity. Beyond this the Bible gives no account, but this is no reason to presume that all that was exhibited under the dominion of Adam here were the all of the whole globe, or that all that was transacted here was the origin of all that then did exist on the face of the earth or even now exists, but that it was the all and the origin of all as pertaining to a new creation yet to be revealed, as the beginning of the world to man in this relationship, as the beginning of the purposes of God to both him and his habitation in view of a higher and nobler destiny—is without dispute. And from this point of view the seven days of creation may have been but seven days—a week—to set in order this territory as the earth on which to begin those purposes. But we do not say this was the case; we merely at present suggest it. [13] (Emphasis mine: Jardine allows the possibility that the six days refers to the creation of the Edenic environment rather than the entire globe).
Simons
  • Geology teaches us much; it speaks of a time and creation on this earth when animal life, if not totally, was nearly unknown, and only the lower order of vegetable life covering its face, and this must have existed many thousands of years. [14]
  • Geologists show that there has been five separate independent creations on the face of our earth prior to the present, and during the whole of those long periods, the Almighty Architect has been bringing the earth into form and suitability to the creatures His wisdom has made. [15]
 
Welch
  • I have not the slightest doubt concerning the truths revealed in the strata of the earth’s crust. There can be no reasonable doubt that long ages have passed away since the matter of the earth first took existences by the fiat of its Almighty Creator. … The facts of old mother earth’s storehouse are too convincingly inscribed upon her crust to allow me to doubt. [16]
  • In my judgment, however, I think the evidence leans as strongly, if not more strongly, to the pre-Adamic judgment, and therefore to a pre-Adamic race. [17]
  • Among the alluvial deposits of this age (either recent or post-pliocene) are found the remains of man for the first time. These remains belong to a drift age. Was that drift age the Noahic deluge or a previous and longer and more overwhelming deluge? If the former, then the remains belong to those of the Adamic race. If the latter, then they do not. It is, however, possible that they belong to a pre-Adamic race in part, and to the Adamic race in part; [18]
  • The days of the creation week of Genesis were days of twenty-four hours, each embracing the “evening and the morning.” [19]
Walker
  • Ten years ago the average scientist would have asserted that our habitable globe had not existed for more than a hundred million years. Now it would be hard to find a competent physical specialist who would fix a definite maximum below a thousand million years: [20]
  • The Bible leaves room for a pre-Adamic race, but that need not disturb our faith in the Mosaic record of Creation which Christ endorsed. [21] 
  • The term “day” obviously signifies an indefinite period in Gen. 2:4. “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” Truly there is no mention of evening and morning in this case; but for the reasons given in the notes above-named we do not feel shut up to the conclusion that the Lord God occupied only twenty-four hours in making the firmament. It has been thought that the law of the Sabbath necessitates six literal days in creation; but on second thoughts this does not seem conclusive, since the millennium is a “Sabbath” of a thousand years duration, and “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:9). [22]
  • Yet it does not seem necessary to confine the allusions of this first chapter of Genesis to six literal days on the last of which man appeared. We may take that view (the literal) and yet admit an allusion to six periods of great length preceding the appearance of man, just as we do in the other direction when we speak of “The Great Mediatorial Millennary Week of Seven Thousand Years,” the last “day” of which is God’s Sabbath of Rest for a tired world. [23]
The point of citing these early Christadelphians is not to argue that their specific comments should be normative for our community. The most recent comment in the above list is over a century old, and considerable advances in geology and palaeontology have occurred since then. Rather, it is to show that well over one hundred years ago, early Christadelphians recognised that not only was the evidence for an ancient Earth overwhelming, but the evidence for a progressive appearance of life over geological time was also impossible to ignore. 

How they reconciled Genesis and science shows an increased awareness of the growing evidence against a naive literal reading of the creation narrative, as we see a move from the gap theory, where the six days of Genesis were seen as literal days of recreation following a cataclysm, to a day-age theory as seen in CC Walker's comments. Needless to say, in the century since Walker's last comments, the evidence for an ancient Earth and a progressive appearance of life over thousands of millions of years of time has not just grown stronger but become beyond rational dispute. [24-25] Clark's blithe assertion that everything was created in six days is not just impossible to reconcile with the evidence, but suggests that he is simply ignorant of the sheer weight of evidence against his naive creationism.

It is worth pointing out that CC Walker was honest enough to recognise that if the scientific evidence demanded that we change how we read the creation narratives, then intellectual honesty would demand that we do this. Walker realised that the fossil record showed evidence of large birds now extinct, a view which is difficult at best to reconcile with Clark's assertion that everything was created in a six day period:
"As with fishes, so with birds, many remains are found in the rocks, of a kind not now found upon earth. Our museums contain footprints of gigantic birds impressed in sand now turned to rock, and remains actually embedded in rock.

"If we understand Moses as teaching that the earth and all that therein is came into existence some 6,000 years ago, we shall scarcely be able to account for these evidently very ancient remains of creatures that do not now exist. 
"If we suppose a sudden and absolute break some 6,000 years ago, or before, resulting in the destruction of all life, and that the creation account of Genesis describes a new creation following, we ought to find some evidence of the break, and we cannot well account for the apparently close relationship that obtains between extinct and existing forms. There are forms becoming extinct in our own day from slow and natural causes. May it not have been so in pre-Adamic times? The professors tell us for instance that some of these ancient birds, whose strides we can see for ourselves from their footprints were from four to six feet long, were like gigantic ostriches. 
"Supposing that it were ever established that they were the actual progenitors of our smaller forms (“There were giants in the earth in those days” might apply to birds and beasts), would the credibility of the Mosaic narrative suffer? Not at all, in our estimation. We should indeed have to revise somewhat our interpretation of the brief cosmogony of Gen. 1.; but should not waver as concerning its divinity, nor await with less faith and patience the reappearance of Moses in the land of the living." [26]
 
 
It is an indictment on how far parts of our community are sliding towards ignorance, science denialism, and anti-intellectualism that one finds a more open-minded, rational, informed approach towards this subject from an article written well over a century ago.

Christadelphian fundamentalists reject pioneer teaching on the age of the Earth 

Ironically for a section of our community that prides itself on adhering to the 'teachings of the pioneers', fundamentalists like Clark not only are rejecting the deep-seated old earth creationism of the early Christadelphian community, but are uncritically swallowing a view of Genesis that comes from evangelical Protestantism, and ultimately the Seventh Day Adventist church. [27]

Belief in a young earth and flood geology became prominent from the middle of the 20th century when pseudoscientific dreck such as Whitcomb and Morris' "The Genesis Flood" and "The World that Perished" by the latter author infected our community, despite warnings from brothers such as Alan Hayward, who recognised recent creationism and flood geology for the pseudoscientific nonsense that it is. In a 1977 letter to The Christadelphian, Hayward exposed the scientific vacuity of recent creationism and flood geology as advanced in Whitcomb and Morris' book: 
Several geologists of repute, including Prof. J. R. van der Fliert of Amsterdam Free University and Dr. R. M. Ritland of the Geoscience Research Institute, Berrien Springs, have pointed out numerous passages in The Genesis Flood where Morris and Whitcomb are wrong on their facts. This is not just a matter of loose reasoning and dubious speculation (though there is plenty of that in the book, to be sure!) but of mis-statements about various rock formations and other matters of common observation. It appears that, because of the authors’ rather inadequate knowledge of the world’s geological structures, many of their arguments are based on false premises. 
The review says that The Genesis Flood “caused somewhat of a sensation in both religious and scientific circles”, and “provoked considerable discussion in the religious and scientific journals in the USA.” This may possibly be true of the religious circles and journals, but it certainly is not true of the scientific side. The scientific community ignored the book as being unworthy of serious notice, in much the same way as earlier generations of scientists ignored the publications of the Flat Earth Society... 
To sum up, it seems that Flood Geology creates far more difficulties than it solves. The reasons that caused Brother Thomas and Brother Roberts to reject it are still valid today. When Dr. Peter Moore reviewed The World that Perished for a journal published by the Bible-believing Inter-Varsity Fellowship, he concluded:

“I feel that a book such as this one … can do a great deal of harm in alienating from the Christian faith those who have some knowledge of and respect for the natural sciences.”

There are many brethren, Brother Editor, who share his fears. [28]
One sorely laments the fact that Hayward's warning against YEC and flood geology has gone largely ignored in parts of our community as it has resulted in the patently nonsensical views touted by scientifically ignorant laypeople such as Clark to flourish to such a degree that some in our community think that YEC was the default Christadelphian position.

Is Clark arguing that it is the YEC way or the highway? 

Clark's gross ignorance of the evidence against a young earth and recent creationism is damning, but arguably what is even more disturbing is this comment:
In fact I've got a quote down the bottom there from a brother in Melbourne who believes in theistic evolution, who if he goes on won't be a brother for that much much longer, I think. [29]
Is Clark implying that evolutionary creationism is merely a stepping stone to unbelief, or is he making a less than subtle threat that fundamentalist like himself would disfellowship him if they had the chance? If the former, then Clark is making the outrageous claim that this brother's faith will collapse as a result of his acceptance of evolution. How does he know? Has he spoken to him? If the latter, then we have in plain view the intolerance and fear that is an inseparable part of the fundamentalist wing of our community, one which will arguably drive away the best and brightest of our community if allowed to prevail.

This is not hyperbole. In 2011, the Barna Group, a respected Christian market research firm completed a five year survey into challenges facing young Christians and found that nearly 60% of young Christians aged over 15 either left their faith permanently, or disconnected from it for extensive periods. They identified six reasons behind this significant dropout, of which two were the perception that Christians are fundamentally opposed to science, and that Christians are unfriendly to those with honest doubts:
Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
One of the reasons young adults feel disconnected from church or from faith is the tension they feel between Christianity and science. The most common of the perceptions in this arena is “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” (35%). Three out of ten young adults with a Christian background feel that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%). Another one-quarter embrace the perception that “Christianity is anti-science” (25%). And nearly the same proportion (23%) said they have “been turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.” Furthermore, the research shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.

Reason #6 – The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt. 
Young adults with Christian experience say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts. They do not feel safe admitting that sometimes Christianity does not make sense. In addition, many feel that the church’s response to doubt is trivial. Some of the perceptions in this regard include not being able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church” (36%) and having “significant intellectual doubts about my faith” (23%). In a related theme of how churches struggle to help young adults who feel marginalized, about one out of every six young adults with a Christian background said their faith “does not help with depression or other emotional problems” they experience (18%). [30]
Cartoon inserted by Editor
NOT part of Ken Gilmore's article
It is all too easy to imaging the response that a young believer undertaking a graduate degree in the earth or life sciences would get if she approached someone like Clark asking for help to reconcile the extreme fundamentalist reading of Genesis that she has been told is normative for all Christadelphians (under pain of disfellowship) [31] with what she can see for herself in her graduate studies. If our community is to survive and flourish, the views advanced by Clark need to become little more than an embarrassing footnote in the history of our community.
 
I alluded to Clark's YEC views earlier, but space constraints preclude a detailed takedown of his utterly ignorant views on understanding of radiometric dating, taphonomy - and to be blunt, all of geology and palaeontology. I will cover this in the next post.

References

1. Futuyma D Evolution (2005: Sinauer) p  226
2.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQF9WRXEsH8#t=240
3. Thomas, ‘Elpis Israel’, p. 11 (1990 ed.)
4. ibid, p 11
5. ibid, p 11
6. Roberts, ‘In the Beginning’, The Christadelphian (1885) 32:141 
7.  Roberts, ‘Were There Human Beings on the Earth Before Adam?’, The Ambassador of the Coming Age (1868) 5:171
8. Roberts, ‘The Reign of Death’ The Christadelphian (1913) 50:254 
9.  Roberts, ‘The Law of Moses: Chapter V. - The Sabbath Law’, The Christadelphian (1894) 31:417
10. Jardine, ‘The Bible as a Law of Life and Immortality’, The Ambassador of the Coming Age (1865) 2:115 
11. Jardine, ‘The Bible as a Law of Life and Immortality’, The Ambassador of the Coming Age (1865) 2:127 
12. ibid, p 127
13. Jardine, ‘The Bible as a Law of Life and Immortality’, The Ambassador of the Coming Age (1865) 2:115 
14. Simons, ‘Why Man was not at once made Perfect’, The Christadelphian (1884) 21:177 
15. ibid, pp. 177-178 
16. Welch., 'Knowledge.- No., 12 Geology', The Christadelphian (1891) 28:416 
17. ibid., p. 417. 
18. ibid., p. 417. 
19. Welch, ‘Knowledge.- No., 12 Geology’, The Christadelphian (1891) 27:344
20. Walker, ‘The Age of the Earth’, The Christadelphian (1911) 48:450
21. Walker, ‘An Ancient Skeleton Very Like A Modern One’, The Christadelphian (1912) 49:181
22. Walker, 'Genesis', The Christadelphian (1910) 47:361 
23. ibid., p. 362.
24. Dalrymple GB "The Age of the Earth" (1992: Stanford University Press)
25. Prothero D "Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters" (2007: Columbia University Press)
26. Walker, 'Genesis', The Christadelphian (1910) 47:501
27. See Giberson K "Adventist Origins of Young Earth Creationism"
28. Hayward A "Letter: Flood Geology - A Note of Caution" The Christadelphian (1977) 114:268
29. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQF9WRXEsH8#t=300
30. https://www.barna.org/teens-next-gen-articles/528-six-reasons-young-christians-leave-church
31. Some of the fundamentalist ecclesias in South Australia have evolutionary biology as a 'doctrine to be rejected.' I am not making this up, sadly.

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