Monday, May 22, 2006

"Dinosaurs on the Ark": Groan

Regular readers know that I am more than a little irritated by the High Priests of Atheist Evolution who refuse to admit that there are some genuine questions about the mechanisms--questions that Intelligent Design asks rather well. Where the High Priests of Atheistic Evolution get me upset is their arrogant certainty about matters that are, at best, in the area of speculation.

There's another group that upsets me as well, and that is the bunch that insists that the Earth is 6000 years old (maybe 10,000 years, for some of the really liberal members of this crowd). Okay, I will admit that it is possible that the Earth is actually vastly younger than it appears--but if so, it means that someone (or perhaps Someone) has put a lot of energy into making the Earth falsely appear to be quite old.

The Young Earth claim is rather like those who claim the Holocaust didn't happen. Yes, there is an extremely remote possibility that a vast, tremendously competent conspiracy made lots of films, falsified records, arranged for me to meet survivors with numbers tattooed on their arms, talk to people who knew survivors, etc. It just isn't very likely. It is far more likely that what the evidence shows is what really happened.

So, last night, just to give them the benefit of the doubt, my wife and I watched a video put out by Dr. Kent Hovind, who runs something called Creation Science Evangelism and Dinosaur Adenture Land in Florida.

The video's title was, "The Age of the Earth" and the cover materials claimed that it would demonstrate that science shows that the Earth is actually only 6000 years old. First problem: at least thirty minutes in, he had advanced no argument to support this claim, except Bishop Ussher's early eighteenth century century claim based on adding up the years recorded in the Old Testament. Even nineteenth century opponents of evolution were quick to acknowledge that the word translated as "begat" in the King James Version of the Bible does not necessarily mean a son or daughter, but only a descendant. In short, the important figures are listed, but not necessarily all members of the line. This blows out any attempt at using the "begats" as a method of determining precise dates.

Second problem: for someone who puts a big focus on the Bible as the source of all knowledge, Dr. Hovind doesn't seem to know it very well--or at least he quotes it out of context. At one point in his rambling and not well organized lecture, he mentions that George Washington was bled to death by doctors who thought that this was good medical procedure, and then Dr. Hovind quotes from Leviticus 17:11, that "the life is in the blood" to show that Washington's doctors should have looked to the Bible, instead of their own limited understanding. But read in context, you can see that this quote is about the eating of animals, not about medical care:

10 "'Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood--I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people.
11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.
12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, "None of you may eat blood, nor may an alien living among you eat blood."
13 "'Any Israelite or any alien living among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth,
14 because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, "You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off."

Third problem: Dr. Hovind is great fun to listen to, cracking jokes--but the result is more like standup comedy than a serious discussion of the questions related to cosmology, evolution, and the title issue that he can't seem to get around to discussing in a timely manner: "The Age of the Earth." Worse than this is that Dr. Hovind's mocking of evolutionists is not conducive to serious debate of the questions.

It is irritating when I hear evolutionists suggest that all skeptics of their theory are ignorant knuckle draggers, and I am not any happier to see creationists such as Ken Hamm and Dr. Hovind engage in the same sort of nastiness. (It is even less acceptable when such persons are claiming to follow Jesus.)

Fourth serious problem: Dr. Hovind attempts to show that the dramatic expansion of the teaching of evolution in public schools, starting around 1959, reaching a peak in pages of science textbooks in 1963, caused higher crime rates, promiscuity, divorce, abortion, etc.

There are actually a whole bunch of other changes that are happening in that same period, of which the most important is that a huge number of baby boomers born in the years following World War II were reaching sexual maturity. It is also unclear whether Dr. Hovind's charts are showing raw counts, or rates per 100,000 people. The U.S. Supreme Court also struck down laws mandating prayer in public schools; broadened protections for criminal defendants; effectively gutted laws against obscenity. Trying to nail evolution in biology textbooks for the social changes when you have so many other possible factors is absurd.

Okay, all of this could be carelessness--but while many of his graphs show rates for these antisocial behaviors up to 2000, his crime rate chart stops at 1990--even though the data is readily available. Why? Because violent crime rates started to fall in 1991, and have dropped to levels that we haven't seen since the early 1960s--and this wouldn't be so easy to explain with his simple model of blaming evolution in textbooks.

Fifth serious problem, and the one that got us to turn it off: dinosaurs on Noah's Ark. The word used in the Hebrew that is sometimes translated as "the world" has several meanings, including "the known world." There is no geologic evidence for a world wide flood. There is abundant evidence for at least one catastrophic regional flood in Mesopotamia--large enough that to the people of that time, the distinction between "the world" and "the known world" might have been quite irrelevant. (Or at least that's what the textbook my professor assigned for Ancient Middle East says.)

Dr. Hovind, of course, insists on a world wide flood--and then claims not only that dinosaurs are contemporaneous with man, but that Noah took baby dinosaurs onto the Ark. Where, oh where, are there any dinosaur remains that have not been fossilized? We have examples of mammoth bones that were used by humans for making shelters--and these bones are recent enough that they are still bone, not stone. But there are no T. rex teeth, or bones, or leather. Why? Because it has been millions of years since the dinosaurs.

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