Biologos and Peaceful Science Forums Address Timely Evolution/Creation Issues

There are a number of on-line resources for finding information on the technical issues raised by opponents of evolution such as proponents of young earth creationism and of Intelligent Design (ID). The venerable TalkOrigins archive has a well-indexed set of many articles on creationist claims, but this site has had few new articles or revisions since around 2005. Reddit has a wide variety of discussion threads on different, sometimes obscure topics. For instance, when I wrote an assessment of a recent presentation by Sanford, Reddit was the only place I found detailed current critiques of John Sanford’s claims that the course of the “Spanish flu” pandemic was evidence against evolution, and of the validity of his “Mendel’s Assistant” program which tends to show that populations always crash due to accumulation of harmful mutations. Panda’s Thumb has an ongoing series of relevant articles, and knowledgeable commenters. On Reddit and Panda’s Thumb, the original postings (while overall civil) sometimes have an element of sneering towards opponents of evolution (who are nearly all conservative Christians), and the comment threads may get downright nasty. This all may be off-putting for inquiring religious folks, who are the audience which most needs to engage this material.

Two sites which are perhaps more believer-friendly are Biologos and Peaceful Science.  Biologos has long had an internet presence with a pro-science, explicitly Christian point of view. Not only have do they publish an ongoing series of articles, but they moderate discussions on a vast variety of topics on their “Open Forum”.  The search function on the Biologos site helps you find discussions on subjects you are interested in. The posted rules for these discussions include, “Participate with an aim to gain deeper understanding about orthodox Christian faith and/or mainstream science, and constructively explore the relationship between them”, and “Focus on discussing other people’s ideas, not on evaluating their character, faith, communication style, or perceived ‘tone.’ “  It looks like any user who follows the rules can initiate a new topic. Here is a random snip of some recent Biologos forum topics:

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John Sanford Disputes Evolution [2020 NCCA Apologetics Confc, 5]

This continues our coverage on the  2020 annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics (NCCA), hosted by Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES) in Charlotte, NC. We focus mainly on faith-and-science and other natural theology issues. Previous posts in this series are:

Ken Wolgemuth on Preparing Homeschool Students for University Science, and on Grand Canyon and Noah’s Flood [2020 NCCA Apologetics Conference, 1]

Richard Howe: How Do I Know That I Know?; Defining the Good [2020 NCCA Apologetics Confc, 2]

Fazale Rana Disputes Evolution [2020 NCCA Apologetics Confc, 3]

Brian Huffling: Science Cannot Prove the God of Christianity But Philosophy Can [2020 NCCA Confc, 4]

 Here we discuss a talk presented by John Sanford, titled Genetic Entropy – We are Going Down, Not Up!    In this presentation it is claimed that deleterious mutations accumulate in populations faster than they can be removed by natural selection, and so all populations are degenerating at some significant rate. Not only is “upward” evolution impossible, but the implication is that life cannot possibly have existed on earth for millions of years. (This supports a young earth creationist perspective).

Dr. Sanford put forth a variety of scientific evidence to support this claim. We examine this evidence and find that none of it actually supports the claim of universal “genetic entropy”. Real world data for typical plants, animals, and microorganisms show that they do not demonstrate universal genetic degradation.

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Brian Huffling: Science Cannot Prove the God of Christianity But Philosophy Can [2020 NCCA Confc, 4]

This continues our series on the 2020 NCCA apologetics conference. Dr. Huffling is director of the PhD program at Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES) in Charlotte, NC, which hosted this conference. He brings SES’s trademark Thomistic philosophical approach to bear on arguments for the existence of God. He asserts that natural science (e.g. the fine tuning of cosmological constants) cannot provide clear proof for the God of Christianity. Such a demonstration can be made, however, within the framework of Aristotelian philosophy.

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Fazale Rana Disputes Evolution [2020 NCCA Apologetics Confc, 3]

This continues our series on the 2020 NCCA apologetics conference. Dr. Rana is with Reasons to Believe, (RTB) which was founded by Canadian-American astrophysicist Hugh Ross. Some distinctives of RTB are an evangelical faith, a clear presentation of the evidence that the earth is old (billions of years), and rejection of naturalistic evolution. Rather than denying the experimental evidence that points to the sudden origin of our universe over 13 billion years ago, they celebrate it; they tie the stages of the physical development of the earth and solar system into their stage-wise interpretation of the “days” in Genesis 1. Hugh Ross’s books were very helpful to me when I was trying to sort out old earth/young earth issues some years back. Another distinctive of RTB is a gracious attitude toward those they disagree with, which came across in Dr. Rana’s presentation.

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New Dead Sea Cave Finds: Scrolls, 10,500-year Old Basket, Lice Comb, etc.

The original 1947-48 finds of scrolls in caves near the Dead Sea were a huge sensation. Preserved by the aridity of that region in the southwestern part of Israel, these scrolls dated back to around 100 B.C.-100 A.D.  They included Hebrew texts of much of the Old Testament, which were about a thousand years older than previously known Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts and showed that the these texts had been transmitted rather faithfully over centuries of scribal copying. There were also other writings peculiar to the Jewish community that lived near those caves, which gave new insights into the religious and social currents of that day.

The last of those manuscript discoveries by scholars was in 1961. Since then, there has been only trickle of artifacts from looters who have dug up items to sell, but with no proper historical context. In the last few years, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has mounted an exhaustive survey of every nook, cranny, and hole in that Judean Desert area, in order to forestall further loss of ancient artifacts. The IAA has now announced some finds from that survey. They include further Bible texts (in Greek), the oldest known woven basket (10,500 years old), and a 6,000 year old mummified skeleton of a child, covered with a cloth. The searchers also found arrow and spear tips, coins, sandals and even lice combs, all from the time of the Bar Kochba revolt (133-135 A.D.).

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Blockchain: The Ingenious Basis of Bitcoin

Most of our financial transactions are managed by centralized institutions like banks and credit card companies. These companies have controls in place to manage digital transactions, so (for instance) no one can spend the same dollar twice. If you have $300 in your checking account, you can’t use your debit card to buy a $300 message chair, and then quickly purchase a $300 patio furniture set before the first purchase clears.

Satoshi Nakamoto, the enigmatic inventor of Bitcoin, wanted to set up a digital currency which would not be controlled by or dependent on any central institution. Rather, there would be a big network of thousands of independent computing nodes, which collectively would record and vet financial transactions. A problem he faced was how to prevent the sort of double-spending described above.

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Richard Howe: How Do I Know That I Know?; Defining the Good [2020 NCCA Apologetics Confc, 2]

As noted in my previous post in this series, in solidarity with a friend who was a presenter there, I signed up to attend (online) the 2020 annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics (NCCA). That link gives the schedule, with titles and speakers, for all the talks. This conference was organized by the Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES), in Charlotte, North Carolina.   When I saw the name “Southern” and “Evangelical”, I wondered if this seminary might be somewhat closed-in and anti-intellectual. It turned out to be just the opposite – – rather than hiding from difficult questions of ontology and epistemology, they have engaged fundamental intellectual issues with rigor and consistency.  Their approach is unique among evangelical seminaries: they have embraced the classical Thomas Aquinas (Aristotelian) philosophical framework, and rigorously weave it into their whole curriculum, to try to give a coherent account of the world and our place in it. That approach came through strongly in the two talks I summarize here.

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Ken Wolgemuth on Preparing Homeschool Students for University Science, and on Grand Canyon and Noah’s Flood [2020 NCCA Apologetics Conference, 1]

I have long appreciated the work that Ken Wolgemuth and his colleagues at Solid Rock Lectures do in using their expertise in geology to help their fellow evangelical Christians (especially at seminaries) to be comfortable with modern science as it relates to the creation of the earth. These folks contributed much to The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon? , a lavishly illustrated book which shows how the  geological features of the Grand Canyon are better explained by conventional geology than by the Flood geology of young earth creationism.  

When I learned that Ken was going to present two talks at an apologetics conference last fall, I decided to register to be able to see his talks on-line, along with all the other presentations. It turns out that many of these presentations were interesting and valuable, so I have decided to write up a number of them in the form of blog posts. This was the  2020 annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics (NCCA), whose theme was “Hold Fast”.

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GameStop Short Squeeze: Small Investors Sting Wall Street Hedge Funds

If you think the price of a stock is going to go up, you can buy shares and wait for the price to go up, then sell the shares to someone else. This is called being “long” a stock.
But what if you think the stock price is going to go down instead of up? You may believe the price has run up irrationally high, or your analysis uncovers poor earnings prospects. A favorite tactic of Wall Street pros, including hedge funds, in this case is to “short” a stock.

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Whale Origins: A Test Case for Evolution

The Challenge of Whales for Evolution

Nearly all of today’s mammals are tetrapods, having both a front pair and a hind pair of limbs. They generally have a mouth full of hard teeth, and have nostrils near the front of their snout. Fossil specimens of extinct mammals also have these features.

Whales are clearly mammals: they nourish their young in utero through a placenta, give birth to live young, feed newborns with milk, and possess a neocortex and three middle ear bones. However, whales are animals that are thoroughly adapted to living in the water. Modern whales and dolphins typically display no hind legs, their nostrils are located near the top of their heads, and they have various features in their head and jaws that facilitate hearing underwater. Also, one major class of whales lacks regular teeth: the whales of order Mysticeti use baleen plates to filter out food from the water.

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