Q&A – Science/Christian Worldview Seminar
The following are the questions (bold) that were texted in, followed by our answers.
MJ = Mike Johnson, MDiv
ZV = Zachary Varpness, PhD
Mike said, “what has been considered settled science has changed over the years and what we think we know now will probably keep changing.” What did you mean by that?
MJ: The scientific community is always learning more, seeing more, etc. That’s not bad. However, it does mean that things that are presented today as “settled science” (whatever that is) might be completely revised by the scientific community tomorrow. Unlike God, the scientific community is not immutable. That is one danger to the pressure Christians feel to trade biblical truth for settled science. It is never very settled.
Are there other methods besides carbon dating which can be used to estimate the age of artifacts beyond 80000 years?
ZV: There are things like uranium-lead dating and potassium-argon dating. The principle is the same. The half-life of these atoms is much longer than carbon.
Is there science that supports the flood?
ZV: Yes. The science that supports ice ages could also be interpreted as caused by a flood. On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted. A few years later there was a significant rainstorm that moved through and carved valleys in the volcano aftermath. If you put a geologist in a helicopter and fly them around to confuse them and then land them in one of these valleys. The geologist would date it at millions of years old even though it happened in the 1980’s.
In Genesis, the Bible says there was no helper found fit for Adam. Can one conclude that evolution was taking place beforehand out of other creatures?
MJ: There is no warrant in that biblical text to see things that way, and interpreting it that way is problematic at best. Obviously, for the human race to survive even a generation, both male and female are necessary at the same time.
Do either of you believe that there is a correlation between theistic evolution and theological liberalism?
MJ: Sure there is a connection. Both systems of thought take the biblical text lightly (low view of Scripture). Whether one came from the other is harder to establish, but they are two peas in a pod. I don’t know very many strong proponents of theistic evolution (the way I described it in the session) who are also theologically conservative in other areas.
Without first having faith, can I come to the conclusion that the Bible is a 100% factual account?
MJ: In a sense, faith is needed to believe that anything is true. So yes, faith is required to believe the biblical account. It is important to note that faith is also necessary to believe the origins story promulgated by evolutionists.
What impact do catastrophic natural events have on the dating of the fossil record?
ZV: Really none. Radiodating is not changed by physical conditions like temperature and rainfall.
Are theistic evolution and the age of the earth/universe separate questions? Can you reject the former and not the latter?
MJ: They are different – but connected – questions for sure. The difference is evidenced by the fact that there are young-earth creationists and old-earth creationists. Some do reject theistic evolution and also reject young-earth creationism. So they are different questions. However, the reasons for subscribing to old-earth theories are often the same reasons people cite for buying into theistic evolution. So I think there is also a connection.
What does the speed of light have to do with carbon dating?
ZV: α= e2/4πε0ħc = 0072973525664(17). Without getting too nerdy, this equation is used to determine the nuclear decay rate. In the equation, the c at the end is the speed of light. If you change the speed of light you change the decay rate.
Do you have advice for a biology major who has to take evolution to graduate?
ZV: Give the “scientifically correct” answers. Don’t pick a fight your grade will suffer.
Mike tried to make the case that we see the difference between a dog and a human child and used that as an argument for human value. However, Zack showed that evolution also gives us a reason to feel supremacy over other creatures. Doesn’t that thwart Mike’s argument?
MJ: It is interesting that you didn’t ask this the other way around. Why not ask, doesn’t Mike’s argument thwart Zack’s? 🙂 The fact is, most everyone sees a foundational difference between a dog and a human child, as far as significance goes. My point was that we see it that way specifically because of special creation, as recorded in the Genesis account. Only people are made in the image of God. The sanctity of human life is, therefore, a moral and theological conclusion. The evolutionist might see it simply as rooted in natural supremacy or in species-survival, but that isn’t satisfying because it isn’t based on moral reasoning. And we seem to understand this difference at the moral level.
Is there a precedent for allowing strong scientific evidence to cause you to reconsider your biblical interpretation?
MJ: No. And I know that sounds closed-minded. But consider switching the question around: is there a precedent for clear biblical interpretation to cause you to reconsider your scientific conclusions?
Dinosaurs and mammoths are supposed to be in different eras. Where do they fit in with the biblical account?
MJ: God created dinosaurs and mammoths on the 6th day of creation. They obviously went extinct sometime after that. We don’t know when for sure, but I think they went extinct sometime after the flood because of postdiluvian climatic changes. Small/young pairs of dinosaurs and a young pair of mammoths could have fit on Noah’s Ark without difficulty.
Could you explain more about your assertion that evolution is like a religion?
ZV: If you start with a definition that religion explains where the world came from and man’s role in the world and not just the belief in a higher power, then evolution fits the definition of a religion.
Where do we believe, disbelieve science? Where is the line?
ZV: The line I draw first is whether it contradicts the Bible. The Bible is true. Anything that disagrees with that is false by definition. Second, I look at the science itself to see if it was conducted in a scientifically valid way.
Does the scientific community, largely influenced by evolutionary theory, also promote critical thinking?
ZV: It does. However, not in all areas. They start with the false idea that evolution is true. There are many biases in science that are ingrained and very hard to remove. I believe this is one of them.
Wasn’t the Bible accused of asserting some ideas (e.g., flat earth) that have been clearly proven wrong?
MJ: Yes, always mistakenly. Your example – the flat earth theory – is nowhere espoused in the Bible. Occasionally the biblical writers used metaphors and other figures of speech which would seem scientifically wrong – such as saying, “the four corners of the earth”. If you hear a scientist chide the Bible for that, chide him for saying ‘sunrise’ and ‘sunset’. Is he not aware that the sun does not actually rise and set, but that the earth is simply rotating? We should give the same charity to the biblical writers in their use of colloquialisms (et.al) that we give to every other normal person.
Theology was once referred to as the “Queen of Sciences”. Why is that no longer the case?
MJ: Because we are an arrogant lot who do not always assign the study of God – the highest and most significant reality in the universe – its due significance.
Without having a good grasp of science how do I evangelize someone who is “scientifically-minded”?
MJ: I would start with the gospel. Man’s sin. God’s holiness. God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ. His substitutionary atonement and resurrection. And our need to trust in him alone.
ZV: You will never convince someone of the truth of the gospel by arguing science. I understand the science pretty good and I don’t try that. I start with their guilt before a holy and righteous God.
What is your response to the assertion that Christianity was necessary before scientific advancement but is no longer necessary to understand the world around us?
MJ: That’s a pretty smug way to view history. I.e., people before us were all dumb so they needed religion. We are smart and don’t. Really?
Both please answer: how should Christians interact with the world on these topics?
MJ: With love, humility and with winsome and biblical arguments.
Are you familiar with the cosmic temple view? And if so, what do you think of it?
MJ: No. Sorry.
Why are the Bible’s historical accounts scrutinized so much more than other literature?
MJ: Probably because the Bible is the most important book in human history (by every measure). And the Bible claims to be true. Scrutiny is expected. I don’t mind scrutiny as much as empty skepticism. The Bible can stand up fine to any honest scrutiny.