Nazarenes Exploring Evolution

Breaking Away from a False Dilemma

False dilemma - a logical fallacy which involves presenting two opposing views, options or outcomes in such a way that they seem to be the only possibilities: that is, if one is true, the other must be false, or, more typically, if you do not accept one then the other must be accepted.1

Despite having been raised since birth in the Church of the Nazarene, I never encountered the ideas of Young Earth Creationism until I was almost 17. That's not to say that my church teachers accepted evolution, but none of them seemed to have a problem with the age of the earth. Much has changed in our church during the last 40 years.

I first encountered Creationist thought during high school in 1974 when I read the book Scientific Creationism2 by Henry Morris, the acknowledged father of the modern Creationist movement. This book explained how the earth was created about 6,000 years ago during six 24-hour days, how all of the fossil-bearing rock layers were deposited during Noah's Flood, how biological evolution was impossible, how scientists had conspired to make up theories that denied the evidence of Creation, and how true science confirmed a literal reading of the book of Genesis. Each chapter addressed an issue as a simple choice with only two answers (e.g., Evolution or Creation?, Accident or Plan?, Old or Young?, Apes or Men?), and those choices were summarized in the conclusion with the following statement.

"There seems to be no possible way to avoid the conclusion that, if the Bible and Christianity are true at all, the geological ages must be rejected altogether."3

With a high-school level understanding of science and theology, I was convinced by this "either-or" argument and, to my knowledge, became the first Young Earth Creationist in my local Nazarene church. I knew the enemy and the enemy had a name. It was Evolution.4

After high school, I enrolled at Olivet Nazarene University. Initially, I had no goal in mind other than possibly studying science. I was placed in the Chemistry program and spent the first year getting required courses out of the way. One of those required courses was Old Testament Bible, during which I frequently argued with the professor whenever ideas were presented that didn't support a literal reading of Genesis or a Creation event only 6,000 years ago. By the end of my freshman year, I felt led to change my major to a combined Geology-Chemistry degree. I had always loved collecting minerals, rocks, and fossils and dreamed of a career where I could travel to remote mountains and wild places. But geology also presented another challenge. I had heard that the geology professor didn't necessarily believe the earth was young.

I remember going to that first Geology class armed with every available Creation Science argument, ready to do battle for the faith. Yet despite my preparation, it was for naught. I found myself walking the same path as the earliest geologists, who, starting from a perspective of a Biblical Creation about 6,000-years in the past, saw evidence in the rocks for so many different events and environments, which convinced them the earth was much older than a few thousand years. I saw how rock layers could be grouped into larger "geologic ages" based on their depositional environment and fossil content with boundaries defined by major environmental changes or an extinction event. I was shocked to discover that these geologic ages had been identified and named, not by God-denying Evolutionists, but mostly by Christians and even ministers who saw their work as glorifying to God. Not only were the geologic ages real and the earth older than 6,000 years but the fossils within them told a story of change: starting in the oldest rocks with strange creatures unlike anything seen today, followed in order by the earliest appearances of fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammal-like reptiles, dinosaurs, birds, and placental mammals and with the youngest rocks containing fossils of extinct animals that closely resemble those extant. Thus, the rocks even supported one of the lines of evidence used by Charles Darwin in his argument for descent by modification (now called evolution).

Although I was fascinated by geology and had found a scientific field that I loved, my faith was in shambles. Based on what I had believed and read in the Young Earth Creationist literature, if the geologic ages were real, if the earth was old, if evolution had happened then the Bible was false, Christianity wasn't true, and Christ's death on the cross was meaningless. So what was left? I felt betrayed and seriously considered leaving the church. In retrospect, two factors kept me from leaving: (1) the support of a strong Christian family (and a young lady soon to be my wife) that gave me the freedom to question without condemnation; and (2) the strong witness of my Olivet geology professor, who had not only faced all of the same scientific evidence but was one of the most Christ-like men I had ever met. But before I could move on, I had to recognize that I had been snared by a false dilemma and that the Bible didn't need to be read as a scientific treatise on how to create a world. That was a time of turmoil and what I needed most was theological support that would allow me to reconcile what I read in the Bible with what I saw in the rocks.

Yet, in another way, I was fortunate. I had only lived with this false dilemma for 3 years before having to deal with scientific evidence that shook my faith. Unlike my own youth, today many young people in our churches have been inculcated since birth with these either-or statements through Sunday School, VBS, homeschool textbooks, and church-sponsored schools. How much harder is it for these students to study sciences like geology, astronomy, anthropology, paleontology, or biology and still preserve a faith that has been supported by a false dilemma? I have seen students break down into tears as they stood on an outcrop of rock and saw evidence that contradicted what their church had taught them. I have comforted my own daughter when she was told by a Sunday School teacher that she couldn't be a Christian if she accepted evidence for evolution. I have talked with scientists who were once raised in a church and are now bitter agnostics because the church "lied to them" about science.

My hope in these discussions is not that we all come to the same scientific or theological understanding of evolution or age-of-the-earth issues but that we can move away from the false dilemmas forced by an exclusive and rigid mode of Biblical interpretation. God is too great and majestic to be confined in man's theology. We have to allow Him to inspire and even surprise us from all of his Creation and not just from the Bible.

1 http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/False_dilemma

2 Henry M. Morris, Scientific Creationism (General Edition) (San Diego, CA: Creation-Life Publishers, 1974).

3 Morris, p. 255

4 For many Christians today, the term evolution doesn't just refer to the concepts of common ancestry, descent with modification, or natural selection; it has been expanded to include issues with the age of the earth, geology, cosmology, nuclear physics, paleoanthropology, and a host of other scientific ideas that are perceived to be in opposition to Young Earth Creationism. As one wag put it, "Evolution is all the science I don't believe in."





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Comments (47)

  1. Linda Tague:
    Mar 18, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    Extremely interesting Steve ! I saw your picture, and thought, "That guy sure looks a lot like Steve !" I read a bit, and sure enough it is Steve. Thanks for a very thought provoking article. Good to see you, and read what you have to say. Tell Debbie Hi. I miss seeing you both, and sure miss your singing. What a beautiful voice you have.

    Reply

    1. Steve Smith:
      Mar 18, 2013 at 06:07 PM

      Linda,
      It is great to hear from you. Thank you for your kind words. Debbie returns your greeting.

      Reply

  2. Charles Carrigan:
    Mar 18, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    Steve! Phenomenal, powerful, wonderful. Thanks for sharing, and representing us here at ONU Geosciences so well. This is the second article in this series that has referenced Max Reams' intro geology course!

    Reply

  3. Aggie Veld, Biology Dept., Olivet Nazarene University:
    Mar 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    Loved the article - and as far as, " the strong witness of my Olivet geology professor, who had not only faced all of the same scientific evidence but was one of the most Christ-like men I had ever met" - Max is still at it and still inspiring me to think in my own discipline and beyond to see the handiwork of God, that is more than we can think or imagine.

    Reply

    1. Steve Smith:
      Mar 18, 2013 at 06:15 PM

      Aggie & Charles,
      Yes, Max has been very influencial in my life. I caught his enthusiasm for geology ... and some would say I also caught his propensity for wry humor in lectures, too. Seems like I can't even give a technical talk at a professional meeting without including at least one humorous slide or remark.

      Reply

  4. Gary Hurd:
    Mar 18, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    Thanks for an excellent item. It was the best thing I read this morning.

    Have you heard about the National Center for Science Education's "Project Steve?"
    http://ncse.com/taking-action/project-steve

    Reply

    1. Steve Smith:
      Mar 18, 2013 at 06:27 PM

      Gary,
      Groucho Marx is reported to have said, "I would not join any club that would have someone like me for a member."
      Unfortunately, Project Steve would have to lower their standards to admit me to their exclusive list of Steves. My given name meets their first qualification. However, I fail their second qualification - which is to have a PhD in biology, geology, or some related field. Alas, I only have a M.S. degree and 30 years of experience and thus fail to qualify.

      Reply

      1. Gary Hurd:
        Mar 19, 2013 at 09:21 AM

        Ah. That's right. I recall that when we were putting the project together we discussed the lack of relevant degrees in the Discovery Institute "Dissent from Darwin" list. I particularly recall that one of their people having a MA in meteorology (among many without any graduate degrees) tipped the scale toward Ph.D.s.

        Again, thanks for an excellent essay.

        Reply

  5. Angela Martin:
    Mar 18, 2013 at 05:01 PM

    You do realise that evolution (and geology) contradict the account by "Moses" of the creation of Earth by God?
    "God is too great and majestic to be confined in man's theology." Have you looked at pantheism?
    You do know that you can be good, with out gods? Have you looked at Humanism?
    Both Pantheism and Humanism are in Wikipedia, and either seem better fit for you than cherry picking the Bible.

    Reply

  6. Elute:
    Mar 18, 2013 at 05:32 PM

    Thanks for a great piece Steve. I've been going through the intellectual and theological journey towards praising Christ for His evolutionary creation. We need more people like yourself who are experts and believers to help the protestant church accept God's creative action.
    God Bless!

    Reply

  7. Stephen Borger:
    Mar 18, 2013 at 06:07 PM

    Steve,
    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I have so much appreciated the spirit of each of the participants and articles. In my essay I mention but not by name my exposure to geology at ONC and indeed it was in the intro class with Max Reams. He was an incredible example and glad to hear he is "still at it".

    Reply

  8. Steve Smith:
    Mar 18, 2013 at 09:10 PM

    Angela,
    I am well aware that many people believe evolution and geology contradict the Mosaic account. In fact, one time I was greeting a person from another denomination who was visiting our church for a special event. After responding to my questions about himself, family, and work, he asked what I did for a living. When I replied, “I’m a geologist,” he blurted out his first thought, “Can a geologist be a Christian?” Then, turning red with embarrassment over his faux pas, he stammered, “I mean ... I mean that … that … that you believe the earth is young? Right?” I assured him that I believed Christ’s offer of salvation was available even for sinful geologists but that I did not think the Genesis account required us to deny evidence that the Earth was older than 6,000 years.

    I also know that many people believe evolution and geology contradict the Mosaic account because, as I wrote in this essay, I was once one of those people. Yet, if you believe these sciences contradict Moses, then I assume you also believe that the sun and stars orbit the Earth (geocentricism) and that meteorologists are lying to us when they forecast a snowstorm is coming because of the movement of a low pressure cell rather than acknowledging God’s sovereignty over the weather. If you insist on taking the Mosaic account literally, than you should be consistent when it comes to astronomy and meteorology too.

    I am an avid reader and have read many books on religion, philosophy, and history and am thus at least familiar with the tenets of pantheism and humanism. However as the old favorite hymn says, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

    Reply

  9. George P Hansen:
    Mar 19, 2013 at 08:04 PM

    Dear Steve,
    Thank you for your inspiring story. I always appreciate a thought or ideas that take me outside of my paradigms, as did this essay. I particularly like the tone you take in this narrative, showing yourself as one who is very thoughtful, even respectful of opposing views.
    Sincerely,
    George Hansen

    Reply

  10. Margaret Dodson:
    Mar 20, 2013 at 05:33 PM

    Having been an attendee of your Sunday School class on Evolution/Geology/Faith and felt a kindred spirit to my belief that our God is the solid foundation and growth (evolving) is going on continually as it has from "In the beginning God". Thanks for putting all of this down in such a concise manner. See you Sunday. . . . How about another round of your arrangement of "Solid Rock" soon!

    Reply

  11. Bill Payne:
    Mar 21, 2013 at 03:02 PM

    Hi Steve,

    I appreciate your thoughtful analysis. You say your hope is that "we can move away from the false dilemmas forced by an exclusive and rigid mode of Biblical interpretation." How do you handle verses such as "It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones . . . ." (Jude 1:14 ESV)? This verse seems to imply that Adam was a historical figure that lived a few thousands of years ago. Or the words of Jesus about the flood of Noah: "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24:38-39 ESV)

    Do you accept a literal, relatively recent Adam? Do you believe Noah lived and entered the ark before the flood?

    Thanks brother,

    Bill

    Reply

    1. Steve Smith:
      Mar 21, 2013 at 09:44 PM

      Bill,

      I am not surprised to find a comment from you here. Though we have never met personally, for over 16 years you and I have had cordial discussions on a number of different internet forums. All of our conversations have centered around one topic – Geologic evidence for the age of the earth: including the Grand Canyon, fossil bivalves, Cretaceous dinosaur tracks, sequence of geological events in central Colorado, sedimentation rates, fossilization rates, and so on. Although on at least 2 occasions you have admitted that you could not come up with reasonable young-earth explanations for the evidence I presented, I have been unable to move you from your position. And we both know the reason why – your theology, the way in which you interpret the Bible, will not allow you to accept evidence for an earth older than 6,000 to 10,000 years old.

      Herein lays the entire crux of matter: The age of the earth is not a scientific issue any more, it remains only a theological one. There is no scientific evidence that would lead someone to conclude that this earth is only 6,000-years-old. No one would even suggest that particular number had it not been for the efforts of scholars (in a pre-scientific age) to determine the age of the earth based on a combination of Biblical genealogies and theological presuppositions.

      However, I did not write this essay with the intention of convincing everyone in my denomination of my own specific point of view. I simply want to help clear the path so that the Nazarene church can hold the same sort of respectful, cordial, and charitable discussions that you and I have had. Despite our disagreements over scientific evidence and theological beliefs, I have never questioned your faith and you have never questioned mine and our discussions have never degenerated to ad hominem attacks. This is what this forum hopes to achieve. In that vein, I would encourage you to read some of the other essays here. The essays have all been excellent but since you arrived at this site from a link in another forum, I would encourage you to start with Dan Boone’s post. Dan did an excellent job of laying out the parameters of this discussion. Because of your concern over the authority of the Bible, I would then go to Shea Zellweger’s post, followed by those of Carl Leth, or Mark Mann. I will stop naming names here only because I’m sure to leave out some other excellent essays that you may find helpful. I wouldn’t skip a single one of them.

      Bill, you asked some specific questions concerning New Testament scriptures plus the status of Adam and Noah. I know these questions are of special interest to you because you’ve asked them before on the Association of Christian Geologists’ discussion forum (May 18, 2009). However, my expertise is in science and specifically geology. I am only a layman theologian. It would be reckless and foolhardy for an amateur like me to address theological issues on a forum that includes some of the foremost Biblical scholars in Wesleyan Holiness Theology. Perhaps one of the theologians here would be so kind as to address some of those questions. In return, I would be glad to address any scientific issues that may be directed toward them.

      Reply

      1. Bill Payne:
        Mar 22, 2013 at 01:55 AM

        Steve,

        Thanks for your kind words; I'm not sure they are completely deserved but I do strive to respect others with opinions contrary to my own, and have admired your ability to achieve that quality.

        Before posting I did read Dan and Marty's essays, and have now read Shea, Carl and Mark's. I gather that all of you are seeking to reconcile macro-evolution and deep time (billions of years) with scripture. The only dissent I saw was in Ryan's replies to Mark.

        I agree with you that my theological vs your geological interpretations are the crux of the issue. This is painfully apparent if you have followed the not-so-cordial comments to your essay on the ACG site (https://plus.google.com/102918344710770446511/posts/SzmoehimTxz). Niffe Hermansson is apparently not a believer, yet he succinctly frames the question: "This becomes obvious when you contrast things like Moses parting the red sea, and Noah's ark with things like Jesus' casting out of demons, walking on water and resurrection. All are supernatural claims yet anyone but a fundamentalist tends to only believe in a subset of them. . . . So my question stands: if some of the supernatural claims in the book are mere allegory, why are we to believe others as truths?"

        You said "There is no scientific evidence that would lead someone to conclude that this earth is only 6,000-years-old." I would add that there is no scientific evidence that would lead someone to conclude that: liquid water can stand vertically in a wall (Exodus 14:22 and 29); an iron axe head can float on water (2 Kings 6:6); the sun's shadow can reverse direction (2 Kings 20:11). As you chided Angela to be consistent, if we take literally the incarnation and resurrection, and if Jesus spoke of the Old Testament miracles as if they are historical facts, are we being inconsistent to do less?

        I appreciate and respect your position, Steve, and I look forward to your theologians bringing us onto common ground! :-)

        Bill

        PS: You might find some of these papers interesting: http://creationicc.org/iccschedule.php

        Reply

        1. Steve Smith:
          Mar 22, 2013 at 10:49 PM

          Bill. As children of God, saved by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we already stand on common theological ground. Unfortunately we tend to focus on minor differences rather than on our great commonalities.

          In this essay, I emphasized the false dilemma argument in the form that most affected me. However, we could generalize it to “If science is true, then the Bible is false.” Note that in addition to the logical fallacy of dividing the argument into only two sides with no middle ground, the false dilemma should also be rejected by Christians because it places science in the position of being the authority by which the veracity of Scripture and Christianity is judged!

          I was aware of the site you mentioned, but I have not been following it closely since the comments have been hijacked by participants that (a) either did not read or understand the point of my essay, (b) who are using false dilemma arguments to ridicule those who disagree, and (c) want to promote their own separate agendas. For example, the person that you quote goes on to argue that since science is obviously true and authoritative, you and I are both fools for believing any part of the Bible.

          You seem to be concerned that I am not consistent when reading the Bible, so let me clarify where I am coming from. I believe that the Bible is authoritative and was “given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation” and as Paul said to Timothy, it is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”. However I do not think it is useful for elucidating scientific history. And I do not believe that it was meant to be understood by forcing our 21st century, Euro-American cultural perspectives into a rigidly literal interpretation of an English translation of the text. I believe that God can and has performed miracles such as those given in your examples, realizing that science is an inadequate tool to investigate the nature of God. But I hesitate to call upon multiple miracles just to support catastrophic geologic events that are not mentioned in the Bible or supported by scientific evidence (i.e., Flood geology).

          Bill, although I enjoy our discussions it has been my experience that they often continue for days with each post becoming progressively longer and more involved as we address each individual point. I do not have the free time at this moment to continue in that fashion. You may have the last word in this exchange. --Steve

          Reply

      2. Don:
        Aug 06, 2013 at 03:53 PM

        Steve,
        I was reading your reply where you mention the Grand Canyon. Then in a later paragraph, you state "There is no scientific evidence that would lead someone to conclude that this earth is only 6,000-years-old." I would refer you to http://www.icr.org/article/261/ where one statement in the conclusion says that "Mount St. Helens provides a rare opportunity to study transient geologic processes which produced, within a few months, changes which geologists might otherwise assume required many thousands of years." There are formations in the area around Mount St. Helens that (while on a smaller scale) are very similar to those of the Grand Canyon. The processes and these resulting formations happened within our lifetimes - not thousands of years. This is observable scientific evidence that shows God does not need such a long period of time to create something like the Grand Canyon. To say that there is "no scientific evidence" is blatantly untrue. The rocks are crying out!

        Reply

        1. Steve Smith:
          Aug 07, 2013 at 12:31 AM

          Don. Thank you for your comment. In that post you mention, I knew I had made an assertion without giving a lot of evidence to back it up. I’m surprised that someone hasn’t called me on it sooner. However, I stand by that statement and welcome the opportunity to expand on it.

          In making that claim, I have not ignored the arguments from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). In fact, I’m on their mailing list and have read and kept every single Acts & Facts, Back To Genesis, and Impact article they have ever published – including the one by Steve Austin that you referenced. In addition, I have read Steve’s book on the Grand Canyon and watched his video on Mt. St. Helens. I have met and talked with Steve at Geological Society of America meetings where he presented posters and talks concerning his Grand Canyon studies and we have both participated in meetings of the Association of Christian Geologists. I respect his undeniable faith and his commitment to finding Biblical truth but I have issues with many of his scientific arguments and especially the way they are presented to non-scientific audiences.

          Let’s look specifically at the quote you noted from Steve Austin’s 1986 Acts & Facts article: "Mount St. Helens provides a rare opportunity to study transient geologic processes which produced, within a few months, changes which geologists might otherwise assume required many thousands of years." (emphasis added). The part that I have italicized is what is known as a “straw man argument”. Austin implies here (and elsewhere in that article) that geologists assume all geologic events take many thousands to millions of years and were therefore surprised or proven wrong by the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. However, geologists have long known that processes like deposition and erosion can occur at many different rates and scales. Rather than making assumptions, we actually observe and measure those rates in a variety of environments – from catastrophic events like volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, mudflows, and floods to gradual events in lake sediments, ocean floors, and glacial deposits. In addition, we set up repeatable experiments with huge flumes and tanks to reproduce textures and layering seen in the rocks and to determine exactly what the range of physical conditions is necessary to create those observed features. We know a lot about what textures or geologic features to expect of a catastrophic flood and what textures or features are impossible under those conditions.

          Austin’s argument can be boiled down to the statement, “Since some geologic events can occur rapidly, all other geologic events have happened rapidly and therefore the earth is younger than a few thousand years.” Do you see the poor logic behind that statement? We could continue this discussion by examining all of the reasons why the erosion of soft volcanic ash on the slopes of Mt. St. Helens is a very poor analogy for the carving of the Grand Canyon. I’ve hiked through the recent ash deposits of Mt. St. Helens, taken a 16-day raft trip through the Grand Canyon, and hiked across the Canyon from the south to the north rims. That discussion could take months.

          Note that nowhere in the article you cite does Steve Austin actually say that any scientific evidence gives us an earth age of 6,000 to 10,000 years. In fact, a book by ICR that describes research done by Austin and others specifically states …

          One principle agreed on by all the RATE members is that the earth is young, on the order of 6,000 years old. This is not simply a working hypothesis to be tested as to whether it is true or false. Instead, it is a basic conclusion drawn from the biblical record of creation as written by the only One who was present, God himself.” (p. 174, Thousands … Not Billions, Don DeYoung, 2005, Master Books)

          During a discussion on Christian Forums, a regular poster was challenged to show that the Earth was only 6,000 years old using only scientific evidence. The poster requested help on this challenge from Dr. Kurt Wise, a well-known young-earth creationist with a Ph.D. in paleontology from Harvard. Dr. Wise responded as follows:

          "I am a young-age creationist because the Bible indicates the universe is young. Given what we currently think we understand about the world, the majority of the scientific evidence favors an old earth and universe, not a young one. I would therefore say that anyone who claims that the earth is young for scientific evidence alone is scientifically ignorant. Thus I would suggest that the challenge you are trying to meet is unmeetable." From an email to JohnR7 posted on Christian Forums 3rd July 2003, (http://www.christianforums.com/t43741-geology-challenge-repost.html) downloaded 8/17/2006 8:06:15 AM

          These statements by respected young earth creationists agree with my own observations stated above, “The age of the earth is not a scientific issue any more, it remains only a theological one. There is no scientific evidence that would lead someone to conclude that this earth is only 6,000-years-old.”

          Reply

          1. Don Clevenger:
            Aug 07, 2013 at 11:35 AM

            Steve,
            While your statements sound good, you say that "Rather than making assumptions, we actually observe and measure those rates in a variety of environments – from catastrophic events like volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, mudflows, and floods to gradual events in lake sediments, ocean floors, and glacial deposits. In addition, we set up repeatable experiments with huge flumes and tanks to reproduce textures and layering seen in the rocks and to determine exactly what the range of physical conditions is necessary to create those observed features. We know a lot about what textures or geologic features to expect of a catastrophic flood and what textures or features are impossible under those conditions." I would ask you this - how do scientists and geologists duplicate and study the effects of a flood as described in Genesis 6-9? Or did someone have their video cameras set up to record it all? Your argument seems to be telling me that God could not have used a catastrophic event such as a world-wide flood to create the Grand Canyon in a relatively short period of time. Do you really want to limit God like that?

            Besides this, if the rocks existed long before man - as it seems you believe - then the fossil record would indicate that there was death and destruction on the earth before man was created. But in my Bible, when God created man, he said that His creation was "very good". It was only after the fall that God cursed the land and death came to be. Don't agree with that statement? Well, do you really think that God would call something "very good" if it was full of death and destruction? I don't know about you, but I don't think so.

            Reply

            1. Steve Smith:
              Aug 07, 2013 at 11:57 PM

              Don, you have some good questions. Your first question concerning how we might duplicate and study the effects of the flood as described in Genesis 6-9 has two complementary answers. The first answer is to examine the Scriptures and see exactly what it says about the geology of the Flood. Gen. 7:11-12 (KJV) says that the flood started when “all of the fountains of the great deep [were] broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” and that it rained for 40 days and nights. The depth of the waters increased until all the high hills (v.19) and mountains (v.20) were covered. God sent a wind and the waters were asswaged (v.8:1). The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain was restrained (v.2), the waters returned from off the earth continually (v.3) and eventually the earth was dried (v.14).

              What I find most interesting here is what the Scriptures do not say. Note that they do not give us a clue about how violent the flood was. Was it catastrophic or gentle? There is no description of how the flood eroded thousands of cubic miles of rock to make sediments; of how those sediments were sorted into various rock types; of worldwide tsunamis; of over 100 meteor impacts; of continents ripping apart and rapidly drifting around the earth; of mountain ranges being built and torn down; of land alternately bobbing up and down to form basins, oceans, and plateaus; of massive volcanic eruptions; of huge oceanic blooms of coccoliths needed to form the massive chalk layers; or of the receding flood waters carving large canyons. Yet all of these things (and much more) have been read into this passage by Flood Geology advocates hoping to explain the formation of the many geologic features in a short period of time.

              Secondly, you are correct when you question whether we have reproduced the exact conditions of the flood. We probably have not since (1) the Bible is rather vague about those conditions, and (2) we don’t need to test every possible set of conditions in order to predict the geologic features that result from violent floods and from gentle floods. We just need to test enough conditions to formulate some general rules concerning the features we would see as we increase or decrease the intensity of the flood waters. For example, from experiments we can determine how fast water currents must be to move different particle sizes of rock and sediment. A violent flood, capable of eroding the vast quantities of rock that have been reduced to sediments and re-deposited as sedimentary rock, would be characterized by bottom layers consisting of large boulder beds, grading upward through cobbles, gravel, pebbles, sand, silt, and clay as the flood waters were ‘asswaged’. Based on these kinds of experiments, I would also maintain that neither a gentle nor violent flood would lay down fossils in the order that we see them in the geologic record.

              Don, you also state “Your argument seems to be telling me that God could not have used a catastrophic event such as a world-wide flood to create the Grand Canyon in a relatively short period of time. Do you really want to limit God like that?” In response, I would say that the God that created a wondrous universe nearly 13.7 billion light years across and filled it with countless galaxies, stars, and planets is quite capable of using any means, catastrophic or not, to manage a minor little remodeling job like the Grand Canyon. The problem is that the evidence that He left behind in the rocks, does not point to a short catastrophic erosion event as suggested by Steve Austin and others. If God did do it in 6,000 years, then why don’t the rocks all give us young ages and timeframes?

              Let me take a couple of final paragraphs and address your last issue – the implication that rocks and fossils predate man and that there was “death and destruction before man was created.” You are justified in being concerned. The evidence of the rocks and fossils means that we need to reassess this cherished belief. Faced with this conclusion, many Christians would rather (1) deny the evidence; (2) accuse scientists of outright deception and fraud; (3) call upon miracles; or (4) attempt to recast the evidence in ways that strain science but don’t threaten their faith. I will plead guilty to having done all of those things myself before I was willing to re-examine my cherished beliefs.

              So how could God call a world full of death and destruction, “Very good?” Certainly, from a human perspective, death does not seem very good. But doesn’t that “limit God” when we approach His Creation from the perspective of what we personally think is “very good?” To look at the issue in another way, a world with no death is a world with no reproduction. You can’t have both or you will soon fill all of the earth with offspring. It has been calculated that if bacteria did not die, then they and their offspring would cover the surface of the earth to a depth of several feet within just a few days. If we pull out our calculators, we would quickly discover that any reproduction rate above 0 for any creature would result in an planet populated beyond its carrying capacity. From my personal perspective, a world without reproduction would not be “very good.” One could argue that from God’s perspective, a self-sustaining Creation with an ecosystem that balances death with reproduction would be “very good.”

            2. Bill Payne:
              Aug 08, 2013 at 11:44 PM

              Don (and Steve),

              I am fortunate to have attended the 7th International Conference on Creationism in Pittsburgh, which just concluded today (see creationicc.org). The presentations were first class and, for the most part, rigorously scientific in the highest sense. The arguments Steve offers strike me as being shallow and hopelessly out of date. I would urge both of you to get the DVDs of the Conference and work your way through the talks. I think ICC is offering PDFs of the papers as well as DVDs with ppt's.

              Major strides have been made in the creationist model in the past few years. In my mind the weight of evidence is shifting from old earth to young earth. This is no longer a "theological" issue only. If you get the papers, you should start with the one by Keith Davies: "Counting Back to Zero. A Review of Cosmological Models That Begin Under Conditions of Zero Entropy."

              Blessings,

              Bill

            3. Don Clevenger:
              Aug 09, 2013 at 05:22 AM

              Steve,
              In regard to your comment "To look at the issue in another way, a world with no death is a world with no reproduction. You can’t have both or you will soon fill all of the earth with offspring." You mention this like it would be a bad thing, but this is exactly what God told Adam and Eve to do. "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it." (Genesis 1:28b NIV) He repeated this to Noah and his sons after the flood in Genesis 9:1 "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth." If this was the will of God, how can it be a bad thing?

              In each of your replies I see things that seem to go against my understanding of the creation story. You say that the Bible is vague - OK, it does not say "God made the Grand Canyon between March and August, 6027 BC." But because you can't see it and can't seem to understand it you completely dismiss the possibility that it MAY HAVE HAPPENED in a shorter period of time. As a Christian, I am called to trust in God - the same God that says in Exodus 20:11a "For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day." My God does not lie. If He says he created it all in six days, then that's what happened. Either you believe in God or you do not. I choose to believe.

  12. Donald Byron Johnson:
    Mar 23, 2013 at 09:30 AM

    Thanks for your testimony on this subject. I came at it from the other end, I could see that evolution was correct at least in its broad outlines and I was an agnostic, that is, until I had an encounter with God. But now what? There were quite a few sincere believers claiming that I could not both believe in the God of inspired Scripture and evolution, that there was an inherent contradiction and I had to make a choice. But I did not see it that way, no matter if I felt very alone at times, as I believed all truth is God's truth.

    Reply

  13. Talitha Edwards:
    Apr 04, 2013 at 02:36 PM

    I really appreciate your words on the false dilemma. It is what bothers me most about the conversation between creationists and evolutionists. I grew up with creationism but my parents loved to discuss things and make us think so I never really felt the impact of that false dilemma. When I heard about others who had struggled with the false dilemma I felt the need to step outside of the conversation for awhile. It occurred to me that my thoughts on creationism had the power to possibly drive people from God if I bought into this false dilemma. I have the firm belief that I probably have some things figured wrong and because I wasn't there for creation I figured I couldn't say how God created exactly.

    Reply

    1. Steve Smith:
      Apr 05, 2013 at 09:40 AM

      Tabitha. Your comment is right on. We all need to be careful in how we present Creation Theology or Science arguments so that we don't push others into a "take it, or leave it" faith choice. Although for me the Creation Theology/Science arguments became a faith crisis issue, for others it is – and probably should be – a peripheral issue. Let’s not make it a faith issue for them … even if we believe their position is wrong. I don’t want to win the argument if it means someone else loses their faith.

      Reply

  14. Peter:
    May 24, 2013 at 03:07 AM

    Excuse me, but after reading several essays on this site, I'm amazed about how superficial these essays are! There's a lot of telling of personal stories like this one. When will anybody here start to deal with real issues? This particular essay's only real statement is that the 'evolution vs. creation' question is a false dilemma. But why is it a false dilemma? Because the author had a teacher who was both a christian and an evolutionist? I've read an entire book shelf by christian authors who are not fundamentalist creationists and they all focus on the geological time-scale, as if it's enough to say it's not necessarily 7x24 hours, to solve the problem. I want to read about how you're dealing with bible interpretation as a whole. If you don't take the creation account literally as a historic report, how about Jesus' ressurrection? Or the Virgin Birth? If one story is to be understood as a history report, and another is not, how should we make the distinction? It seems that some people take biblical accounts literally, until a conflict with science arises. Then suddenly, we should read it differently. That's too much an apportunistic approach. So, Mr. Smith, what is your approach to reading the bible? And what does it mean for other subjects in the bible, especially those that define the heart of the biblical message? I must admit I am still in the process of struggling with this dilemma. Is it false? I don't know. I have not yet found a proper explanation of how to take both the bible and modern science seriously. I don't loose my faith, because of my relationship with God. I just can't deny God, so the fact I don't know the answers is a limitation of my mind and not a problem with the Word of God. Yet, I'm really waiting for someone to write something substantial, that really deals with the hard issues and give proper insight, instead of just sharing personal development and avoiding all hot patatoes. I haven't found it on this website yet.

    Reply

    1. Steve Smith:
      May 25, 2013 at 11:07 AM

      Peter. Let me illustrate a false dilemma by taking an extreme analogy … “If that object is not white, it must be black.” The dilemma is false because it (1) divides the world into only two mutually opposed conditions (i.e., only white or black); and (2) it ignores all middle ground or intermediates like “gray” and doesn’t even recognize the whole world of colors. A false dilemma is particularly insidious when it forces someone to choose between their faith and the current understanding of science. Suppose I were to say that “If the earth orbits around the sun, then the Holy Scriptures are false.” Then I have just given a weapon to those who oppose God and Christianity and made science the authority over the truth of the Gospel.

      You may laugh at my example and say that no one would use that false dilemma but then you would be wrong. During the Copernican/Galileo controversy this argument was used to defend theological opposition against the heliocentric (sun centered) theory. (Google “Robert Bellarmine Letter on Galileo's Theories”). In his excellent essay on this site, Lowell Hall gives another example of this same false dilemma as expressed by Rev. Jacob Du Bois. Please read that essay. Misusing the Bible to oppose the heliocentric theory was very damaging to the Christian faith and witness. Yet I believe we did not learn from our own history and are making the same mistake today when we misuse the Bible to oppose the age of the earth and evolution. Comparatively speaking, today we have much more evidence that the earth is older than 6,000-10,000 years and that creatures have descended from common ancestors than Galileo ever had to support the heliocentric theory. And I believe, if God tarries, that future Christians will judge our generation to be just as foolish as we now consider those who used the Bible to argue that the earth was the center of the universe.

      Peter, I will respond to the remainder of your questions in another reply later this weekend. Steve

      Reply

      1. Bill Payne:
        May 26, 2013 at 01:37 AM

        “. . . . future Christians will judge our generation to be just as foolish as we now consider those who used the Bible to argue that the earth was the center of the universe.” Or maybe not, Steve. Astronomers have shown that galaxy redshifts are quantized into spherical shells around our Milky Way galaxy. The abstract from Russell Humphreys’ article:

        Over the last few decades, new evidence has surfaced that restores man to a central place in God’s universe. Astronomers have confirmed that numerical values of galaxy redshifts are ‘quantized’, tending to fall into distinct groups. According to Hubble’s law, redshifts are proportional to the distances of the galaxies from us. Then it would be the distances themselves that fall into groups. That would mean the galaxies tend to be grouped into (conceptual) spherical shells concentric around our home galaxy, the Milky Way. The shells turn out to be on the order of a million light years apart. The groups of redshifts would be distinct from each other only if our viewing location is less than a million light years from the centre. The odds for the Earth having such a unique position in the cosmos by accident are less than one in a trillion. Since big bang theorists presuppose the cosmos has naturalistic origins and cannot have a unique centre, they have sought other explanations, without notable success so far. Thus, redshift quantization is evidence (1) against the big bang theory, and (2) for a galactocentric cosmology, such as one by Robert Gentry or the one in my book, Starlight and Time. (see http://creation.com/our-galaxy-is-the-centre-of-the-universe-quantized-redshifts-show)

        Secular science supports the Bible’s assertion that Earth is near the center of the universe. The foolish part was thinking the universe was only as big as the solar system.

        I love having the last word. ☺

        Reply

        1. Don Clevenger:
          Aug 11, 2013 at 06:50 AM

          Bill (and Steve),
          Thank you for your input into the discussion that Steve and I have been having. I have noticed that my most recent messages no longer have the "Reply" option at the bottom - like they are not sure that they want my input on this site any more.

          With the differences in opinion that we have here - and I do strongly believe that the ONLY reason why one would need to add millions of years to the creation story is to leave room for getting evolution in and God out - I will be praying that God will frustrate the efforts of the conference that is planned for September.

          I was reminded this morning as I was preparing to go to church how Jesus had said in Matthew 24:11 "many false prophets will appear and deceive many people." I believe that this has all been foretold in scripture and I am not going to believe what they say. I just did not think that these false prophets would come from within my own denomination. I am ashamed to be associated with the same church as these people, but I will continue to stand on the word of God.

          Reply

          1. Steve Smith:
            Aug 11, 2013 at 08:17 PM

            Don. The reason that there is no "reply" link at the bottom of your last post in our conversation is only a function of this web site and not censorship of either your comments or those of anyone else. The web site simply does not allow discussion threads more than 5 or 6 levels deep. If you check other comments that have reached the same level you will see that they also do not have "reply" links.

            Reply

    2. Steve Smith:
      May 25, 2013 at 08:16 PM

      Peter: Part of the problem many people have with evolution and the age of the earth is that they believe the ideas undermine the authority of the Bible. As you ask, “If you don't take the creation account literally as a historic report, how about Jesus' resurrection? Or the Virgin Birth?” As I mentioned in the previous post, this was the same fear that was expressed by theologians when confronted with evidence that the earth was rotating once every 24-hours and orbiting the sun once per year. They were convinced that the Bible taught geocentrism and any other reading would render the Scriptures false.

      Today there are very few geocentrists but those that remain (Google “Galileo was Wrong”) are convinced that (1) a literal reading of the Bible demands belief in a stationary earth at the center of the universe; (2) the church abandoned the authority of the Bible when it allowed science to dictate the false doctrine of heliocentricism; (3) scientists know that geocentricism is correct but are in a conspiracy to hide the truth from the public; and (4) if you don’t take the Bible literally with respect to geocentricism then you have to abandon any belief in the resurrection and the Virgin birth.

      To take this thought even further, the flat earth movement that began in the 1840s also had adherents (See “Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea” by Christine Garwood, 2007, Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press) that were convinced that (1) a literal reading of the Bible demands belief in a flat earth at the center of the universe; (2) the church abandoned the authority of the Bible when it allowed science to dictate the false doctrine of a globe-shaped earth; (3) scientists know that the earth is flat but are in a conspiracy to hide the truth from the public (even to go so far as to fake moon landings); and (4) if you don’t take the Bible literally with respect to the shape of the earth then you have to abandon any belief in the resurrection and the Virgin birth. In case you think I have stretched this argument too far, Charles K. Johnson (1924-2001: President of the International Flat Earth Society, 1972-2001) was raised in a Nazarene church and Sunday School and “knew that the Bible was a flat-earth book” (ibid., p. 317).

      So where do you draw the line? Do you believe that the earth is flat? Do you believe that the earth is stationary and that all of the heavens revolve around us? If not, then you have abandoned the literal reading of a large number of scriptures due to evidence discovered by science. Having progressed this far down the “slippery slope”, have you felt it necessary to also deny the resurrection and Virgin birth as well as all of the other miracles in the Bible? I suspect that your answer is “No.” That being the case, why do you suppose that exploring the idea that God may have used evolutionary creation processes over vast periods of time will destroy your faith in the salvation offered by Jesus Christ?

      Looks like I may have to write some more later to get to the remainder of you concerns over how to read the Bible and when to take it literally. Steve

      Reply

      1. Peter:
        May 27, 2013 at 02:41 AM

        Thanks for the elaborate reply, Steve! Maybe I should explain more about my own views, before reacting. I'm not a fundamentalist young earth creationist and I have no problems with an old earth. I know the reasonings of so-called "creation science", which is no science, because the basis of what they say is not the scientific method, but a very specific way to interpret the bible. Many of their 'findings' have been debunked over and over again. In real science, a theory which has been proven untrue, in their case it remains, because of this particular bible interpretation.
        But I am a bible believing Christian and I'm just trying to find my way in this labyrinth of facts, thoughts and beliefs that sometimes seems to have not exit!

        From your replies I understand you think I'm defending Young Earth Creationism. But, what I missed in your essay is a satisfactory explaination why creation vs. evolution is a false dilemma. I know perfectly well what a false dilemma is, but to solve the issue, it's not enough to merely call a dilemma false.

        Concerning 'flat earth' and 'geocentrism', I believe we need to acknowledge that the bible writers wrote in the context of their own culturally determined paradigms. Of course, this stance has an importance theological aspect to it, which is the nature of scripture inspiration. Those who believe in 'mechanical inspiration' will probably have problems with this cultural aspect. Personally, I believe God inspired the message, but not the exact wording, style, or not even how it was expressed. If not, how could one explain the literary differences between the various bible authors. There's clearly a personal touch in each bible book. I love that. It shows that God doesn't use people merely as a commodity, but He works through and uses the persons we are.

        From this point of view, I conclude, first the bible neither teaches a flat earth, nor geocentrism. These concepts are merely part of the cultural paradigm of the day. In no passage a statement is made 'the earth is flat', or 'the earth has pillars' (which is poetic language from the psalms). With any passage of scripture, we should try to understand what message it conveys. When Jesus tells us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, the conveyed message is not that the earth literally has ends, but rather that we should take the gospel to even the most remote places on earth.

        But, and here I do see a problem, the message of Gen 1-3 is that God did create a single couple of humans, who fell in sin. If anything is the message of Gen. 3, it is that Adam and Eve fell into sin and took the all humanity with them. Personally I don't see how to reconcile this with evolution, which is never an individual thing, but always a process that affects a population. So only two original people is virually impossible with evolution. As a result, I don't think 'evolution' vs. 'a single couple falling into sin' is a false dilemma. It's a real one, isn't it? And if evolution is true, and this does imply literal Adam & Eve are impossible, then where does that leave us with the message of Rom. 5:12-19? How can we then believe that once there was a sinless world, which became a sinful world because of one man falling into sin?

        Reply

        1. Bill Payne:
          May 27, 2013 at 11:58 AM

          Peter,

          Tim Keller addressed your question of whether evolution and a literal Adam and Eve can both be true: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2011/06/06/sinned-in-a-literal-adam-raised-in-a-literal-christ/

          RTB has also addressed this question: http://www.reasons.org/Search?q=RTB+model+adam+and+eve

          Hope that helps.

          Bill

          Reply

        2. Steve Smith:
          May 28, 2013 at 12:01 AM

          Peter. I appreciate your reply. You are correct. Based on your first post, I misunderstood your position and plead only the limitations of this type of discussion format as a partial defense.

          You bring up two excellent points for discussion. To make sure that we are not speaking past each other, I will recast your points as I understand them. I believe your first point is that the Biblical doctrine of Creation and the scientific theory of evolution may actually be a true dilemma (i.e., the implications of evolution are so serious that there is no middle ground and our Christian faith is truly in jeopardy if animals, plants, and man have evolved from common ancestors) and thus you desire to know why I consider this particular either-or dilemma to be false. I believe your second point then follows directly: If evolution happened what does that mean for Adam & Eve, the Fall into sin, death as a result of sin, and ultimately the death and resurrection of Christ as a means for our salvation? Did I read you correctly this time?

          So why do I believe that the “evolution”/“creation” dilemma is false? My logic is as follows. I firmly believe that God is the Creator and that as the ‘author’ of Creation, He has revealed something of Himself and His character in Creation. Thus the study of the Creation, both in its present form and in its past development (a field of knowledge that we call science) is a worthy profession. I also believe that God has revealed himself to us through the scriptures. Thus the study of the scriptures, both in its present form and in its past development (a field of knowledge that we call theology) is a worthy profession. This idea is commonly known as the “Two Books of God” analogy (See Mark Mann’s “Creation, Incarnation, and Evolution” essay on this site). Since God is the ‘author’ of both books, there should not be a conflict. However, since science and theology are both human attempts to understand the Creation and revelation, we may perceive a false conflict when our science, or our theology, or both are in error. When this false conflict is expressed as an either-or statement pitting science against Christianity and not admitting any other resolution, then I believe the dilemma is false.

          Of course, this dilemma can only be false if evolution has happened and that, I believe, gets to the heart of your concern. Based on the available scientific evidence, the overwhelming consensus of those qualified to speak to the subject is that evolution has happened. There is a small but very vocal minority of scientists that disagree. Every day, the concept of evolution is tested and subject to falsification – every new fossil discovery and every new genome sequenced is a test of evolutionary theory and, after 150 years, it has not failed the test. Having studied the issues myself, I agree with the consensus and find overwhelming evidence showing that “decent with modification from common ancestors” has actually happened.

          I believe, Peter, that your second concern gets to the heart of the reason why many Christians fear and refuse to consider evolution. You are correct, since evolution has happened we may need to re-examine our interpretations of Adam & Eve, the issues of when sin and death, and Paul’s discourse in Romans concerning these issues. For many, it is safer to refuse to re-examine these issues, to deny the scientific evidence, and to accuse scientists of conspiracy, fraud, and deception. Though I disagree with your assessment that the essays on this site have been superficial, I do hope that some of the upcoming posts examine these crucial theological issues. Unfortunately the passions on these issues are so high that reasonable discourse is often impossible. I know of at least three Christian college professors in other denominations that have been disciplined and one was even convicted and censured in an ecclesiastical court for even trying to publically discuss alternative beliefs concerning Adam & Eve. I have read several of these alternative ideas but, not being a theologian, do not feel qualified to expound on or defend them here. I do not believe that Christ’s offer of salvation is limited to those that have a “correct” creation doctrine.

          Reply

    3. Bill Payne:
      May 26, 2013 at 01:07 AM

      Greetings Peter,

      You are basically asking the same question that Niffe Hermansson and I asked (see my March 22 post above). The concerns of each of us centers around how to interpret Scripture in light of science. Steve responded to this question on Mar 22 (above):

      In this essay, I emphasized the false dilemma argument in the form that most affected me. However, we could generalize it to “If science is true, then the Bible is false.” Note that in addition to the logical fallacy of dividing the argument into only two sides with no middle ground, the false dilemma should also be rejected by Christians because it places science in the position of being the authority by which the veracity of Scripture and Christianity is judged!”

      So Steve places Scripture and Christianity above science. He goes on to say:

      But I hesitate to call upon multiple miracles just to support catastrophic geologic events that are not mentioned in the Bible or supported by scientific evidence (i.e., Flood geology).

      I have a bit of a problem with this statement from Steve. Genesis and Jesus both make reference to the Flood of Noah, and a flood of the proportions described in Genesis should leave a record in the rock layers. Some Christians that are scientists (eg. Hugh Ross – reasonstobelieve.org) say that Noah’s Flood was a “universal, local” flood. This interpretation allows them to believe the Bible and also interpret the geologic column through a lens of billions of years. I am uncomfortable with that position.

      The rejoinder to my young-earth position is “last Tuesdayism.” Last Tuesdayism says that everything was created last Tuesday and all evidence to the contrary is false. By analogy, starlight must be from stars no more than 6,000 light years distant, since stars were visible from Earth on day 2 of creation. Supernova 1987a, measured by trigonometry to be 165,000 light years away, must be imaginary since the light from SN1987a would not be here yet if the universe is only 6,000 years old. Therefore young-earth creationists live in a dream world, disconnected from reality, and God is deceitful, making the universe appear to have a history that doesn't exist. (for a trail of links that respond to the starlight issue, start here: http://creation.com/creationist-cosmologies-explain-the-anomalous-acceleration-of-pioneer-spacecraft)

      Steve touched on this in his Mar 21 post (above):

      All of our conversations have centered around one topic – Geologic evidence for the age of the earth: including the Grand Canyon, fossil bivalves, Cretaceous dinosaur tracks, sequence of geological events in central Colorado, sedimentation rates, fossilization rates, and so on. Although on at least 2 occasions you have admitted that you could not come up with reasonable young-earth explanations for the evidence I presented, I have been unable to move you from your position. And we both know the reason why – your theology, the way in which you interpret the Bible, will not allow you to accept evidence for an earth older than 6,000 to 10,000 years old.

      I think Steve’s reference to sedimentation rates refers to some discussions about the settling velocity of clay particles and Stokes’ Law. I have been confronted with that line of reasoning several times, and how it would be impossible to get the thick clay deposits we see if the entire geologic column was deposited in one year. At the time I had no answer, no defense; all I could do was sit there and look stupid. In 2007 an article was published in Science regarding the deposition of mudstones. Here is the abstract:

      Mudstones make up the majority of the geological record. However, it is difficult to reconstruct the complex processes of mud deposition in the laboratory, such as the clumping of particles into floccules. Using flume experiments, we have investigated the bedload transport and deposition of clay floccules and find that this occurs at flow velocities that transport and deposit sand. Deposition-prone floccules form over a wide range of experimental conditions, which suggests an underlying universal process. Floccule ripples develop into low-angle foresets and mud beds that appear laminated after postdepositional compaction, but the layers retain signs of floccule ripple bedding that would be detectable in the rock record. Because mudstones were long thought to record low-energy conditions of offshore and deeper water environments, our results call for reevaluation of published interpretations of ancient mudstone successions and derived paleoceanographic conditions. (Schieber et al, Accretion of Mudstone Beds from Migrating Floccule Ripples, Science, 318, 1760)

      This research demonstrated that clays can be deposited with sands by flowing water; quiescent conditions and long periods required by Stokes’ Law are irrelevant. These authors said, “Mudstones make up the majority of the geological record,” and their “results call for reevaluation of published interpretations of ancient mudstone successions….” In other words, “derived paleoceanographic conditions” of the majority of Earth history are flat wrong.

      If the consensus of scientists regarding the deposition of clays can be upended by a simple flume experiment, what other collective wisdom is incorrect? In light of I Corinthians 1:18-31, I’ve often thought if I were God and I wanted to make “what is foolish in the world to shame the wise,” I would make young-earth creationism (YEC) true.

      Steve also mentioned Cretaceous dinosaur tracks. Dinosaurs supposedly died out 65 million years ago. However, the discovery of dinosaur skin, as well as red blood cells and flexible blood vessels from dinosaur bones in the Hell Creek formation of the western US suggests these fossils are much younger than previously thought. No one has been able to explain how organic molecules could survive, buried in rock, for 65 million years. They go to dust in thousands of years. (a paper on this topic will be published by the International Conference on Creationism in August)

      In summary, I am YEC because of the words of Jesus and Jude, as stated above. Steve said this forum includes some of the foremost Biblical scholars in Wesleyan Holiness Theology, and invited some of them to address the questions I posed. Steve avoided dealing with the theology himself, and to date as far as I know, none of the Biblical scholars have responded either. I find this lack of engagement curious, given the subject of this forum.

      Reply

    4. Steve Smith:
      May 27, 2013 at 12:17 AM

      Peter. Please be aware that I am a scientist with only a layman’s understanding of theology. Therefore it is probably just as foolish for me to give theological expositions as it is for most theologians to give scientific explanations. However, you (and others) repeatedly ask for my opinion on how to read the Bible. So plunging in where angels (and wiser people) fear to tread…

      First, as I said above in a reply to Bill Payne, I believe that the Bible is authoritative and was “given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation” and as Paul said to Timothy, it is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” I also believe that we should study the Bible diligently, with humility, and in community with other believers. We should additionally realize that while the Bible may be authoritative and inerrant when revealing the will of God concerning our salvation, our interpretation – our theology, whether individually or corporately – is neither authoritative nor inerrant.

      Second, you seemed concerned that people read the Bible literally until confronted with a conflict in science and that this is a bad thing. I would disagree with you here since I maintain that no one actually reads the Bible literally to begin with. Everybody who claims to be a literalist will switch from the literal meaning to another meaning as soon as they encounter anything that seems to conflict. For example, I have been told repeatedly by literalists that a day in Genesis must be a 24-hour day. Additionally, I have been told by literalists that Adam’s sin brought physical death into the world for the first time. Yet when we read in Genesis 2:17, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” the literalists immediately begin to backtrack. As we both know, during that 24-hour day when Adam ate of the forbidden tree; he did not physically die. I’ve read many literalists’ rationalizations about how in this verse (1) ‘day’ doesn’t actually mean a 24-hour day; or (2) ‘death’ is referring here to spiritual death and not physical death; or (3) that phrase ‘thou shalt surely die’ should actually be ‘thou shalt surely begin to die or become mortal’. Do you not see the irony here?

      Now I know someone will say that the apparent conflict here is because we are reading the Scripture in English rather than the original language. I totally agree. Yet most literalists seem to be perfectly content with reading the Scripture literally in English and only appealing to the original language when there are problems. To be even blunter, I think every modern literalist stops reading the Bible literally beginning with Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” When you read the word ‘heaven’, do you picture space sparsely populated with nuclear furnaces like our sun but at distances so great that they become points of light that we call stars? Do you see one of the magnificent pictures of planets, stars, galaxies, and nebula as photographed by the Hubble telescope? When you read the word ‘earth’, do you picture a blue globe with oceans, continents, and clouds hanging in black space like those pictures first sent back by the Apollo astronauts? If so, then you have just used modern science to change the literal meaning of the Bible. If you don’t believe me, then go read some of the commentaries on Genesis 1 from previous centuries and see how different the ‘literal’ reading was then from what literalists say now.

      Third, I would maintain that this problem of reading even Genesis 1:1 literally has implications leading to a better way to read and study the Bible. I’m not offering anything new and unusual here. These ideas come from better theological minds than mine. I would suggest that the best way to read and understand the Bible literally is to read it through the eyes of the original recipients of the Word. What was God saying to His people through the agency, education, culture, and literary genre of those human authors that wrote His Word? To do this means that reading the Bible is an exercise in time (and culture) travel. Once we understand what a passage was originally trying to say, then we can apply the lessons or information to our own situation. The worst way to read the Bible is to do so only through the eyes of our modern, western culture.

      We also need to acknowledge that the Bible contains more than just narrative or poetry. (Note: I’ve heard some literalists try to divide the Bible into just these two literary types – another argument using the false dilemma fallacy.) The Bible contains a multitude of literary genre: history, theological history, chronicle, saga, prayer, song, hymn, prose, poetry, parables, law, prophecy, exhortation, apocalyptic literature, wisdom literature, hyperbole, analogy, moral instructions, situational advice, cultural mores, and personal letters just to name a few. The problem isn’t just, “If one story is to be understood as a history report, and another is not, how should we make the distinction.” The problem is, “How do we know which literary genre we are reading?” Sometimes it is obvious (“And Jesus spake a parable unto them …”) and other times it is not. That is where reading the Bible in community becomes critical. Use the commentaries, examine and consider what various scholars suggest, explore traditions, consult ancient literature of various known genres, but be willing to confess that sometimes, we just don’t know with certainty which genre we are reading. The problem comes to a head when we think we know with certainty, exactly what genre a specific passage represents and then evidence from another source suggests that we may be wrong.

      Science has occasionally been one of those sources of evidence. Because of science, we no longer believe that the Bible must be read literally as an authoritative defense for a geocentrist universe. Because of science, most Christians did not join the flat earth adherents in the 19th and 20th centuries and insist that the Bible is a “flat-earth book”. Partly because of science, we are now engaged in re-examining some of our beliefs about the literary genre of some of the Creation passages. However, we need to acknowledge that many theologians had previously questioned whether those Creation passages should be read as literal history hundreds of years before evidence for the age of the earth or evolution was ever discovered.

      I’m sure that those with more knowledge of theology, Biblical languages, and philosophy will find fault with some of my explanations but that is to be expected when you ask for amateur theology from a scientist and Christian layman. I don’t have all the answers. I’m still on my journey too.

      Reply

  15. Steve Smith:
    Aug 10, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    Don. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify my point on death and reproduction. I meant to include God’s command in Genesis 1:28 as a counterpoint but, as a morning person writing late in the evening, I forgot. Yes, God told the man and woman that He created in Genesis 1 to “be fruitful and multiply.” This is what makes the "world with no death" idea ironic. Mankind would not only have multiplied until they “filled the earth”, without death or some other population control they would overfill it. However, long before humans would have ever reached that point, rabbits and other herbivores would have multiplied until they had destroyed all vegetation and occupied all available land plus all of us would be swimming in a slime of undying bacteria.

    With that ugly picture in our minds, let’s get back from this digression to the main point. The idea about the incompatibility of no death with a reproducing population is the sort of problem that a scientist would draw from the text. Of more importance to both of us is what the Bible says about death and the part that death plays in the doctrines of sin and the resurrection. That is a discussion that we need to have in light of the scientific evidence confirming the long age of the earth, the fossils, and the processes of evolution. To date, on this forum, only two essays – Mark Quanstrom’s “Much Needed Conversation” and Joseph Bankard’s “Theological Implications of the Evolution Debate” have raised these issues. Both of these essays call for thoughtful and open discussion on the topic of death. In several comments, many people like you, have raised the subject – some wanting open discussion, others stating that their firmly-held beliefs on the subject are good enough reason to reject modern science despite any evidence that may be discovered. Case closed. No discussion needed. However, it is my hope that we can have this open discussion in our denomination and in the church at large.

    Don. You concluded your last reply with, “My God does not lie. If He says he created it all in six days, then that's what happened. Either you believe in God or you do not. I choose to believe.” I also believe that God does not lie – either in His Word or in the rocks and bones of His Creation. If, as you insist, God created it all in six days only 6,000 years ago, then I must conclude that God has lied to us through the evidence left in the rocks and in our DNA. As I wrote, I have already struggled with that conclusion to the point that my faith was in jeopardy. Through that effort, my faith was stripped of many peripheral beliefs and refined down to the words of Paul and Silas, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” The Apostle’s Creed (See the essay “Evolution and Orthodoxy” by Steve Estep) sums up the remainder of my essential beliefs. When you say, “Either you believe in God or you do not”, I hope that you are not making the doctrine of a recent creation a “shibboleth” by which one can identify true Christians and reject others as false.

    Reply

    1. Don Clevenger:
      Aug 12, 2013 at 06:59 AM

      Steve,
      A while back, we had in our church a man by the name of Daniel Wallace from Dallas Theological Seminary. He conducted a seminar on "How We Got Our Bible". It was very interesting as he took us through an exercise to attempt to demonstrate how God has protected His holy word through the years from the original writings to the current translations. He had been a part of a team that had done a translation - the "New English Translation" or NET Bible. This version has many, many footnotes when there is any kind of question about any of the words that they had used in the translation - pointing out sources, other options, etc. to make sure that everything is very clear. When I looked at Exodus 20:11 - which I had quoted to you previously - it was worded just as I had stated it to you. There was not a single footnote, which tells me that there was not a single debate (among theologians) about any of the words used in that verse. And yet, you (a geologist) seem to question what God says there.

      From my point of view, it seems to me that you and others of the essay writers on this website have gotten to the point where you are trusting less in God and more in science. (I read the essay by Steve Estep as you had suggested. I asked him some of the same questions I asked you earlier.) Can you state positively that you KNOW what the conditions were in Genesis 1:1 when it says "In the beginning, God created..."? Can you say for certain that the experiments that have "proven" that the earth is older than 6,000 years have duplicated just what conditions happened in the intervening years?

      I have seen many articles posted on many secular websites where there is something mentioned about God or creation or some aspect of the Biblical account and the responses from the people would indicate that the world is looking at Christians and thinking that if WE cannot totally believe in our Bible, why should they believe any of it? We are ALL called to be salt and light to world. If we take them a story of redemption - of Jesus on the cross, they will ask why He had to die that way. We need to tell them because man has sinned - and it all started with the original sin in the garden of Eden. But that is a part of the creation story. They will say - "But the creation story is just a myth. It didn't happen in just 6 days like the Bible says. Why should I believe it?" What do we then tell them?

      Reply

      1. Steve Smith:
        Aug 12, 2013 at 11:47 PM

        Don. As you note, I am a geologist and not a theologian. I don’t pretend to be. Yet you ask me for theological interpretation. As a layman, I have studied the Bible for many years, have listened to countless sermons, and read many commentaries. Does that qualify me as an amateur theologian? Probably not and I would welcome correction from those who have made it their life’s profession to study these Scriptures. So with those dubious qualifications, let’s look at the issue you bring up with Exodus 20:11.

        To my knowledge, Exodus 20:11 is one of only two references in the entire Old Testament to a 6-day Creation followed by a Sabbath. The other, of course, is Gen. 1:1-2:3. Note that none of the other Creation accounts (such as Gen. 2:4b-3:24; Prov. 8:22-31; Psalm 104; Job 38-41; Eccl. 1:2-11, 12:1-7; Isaiah 40-55) mentions a 6-day Creation or even gives the same order of events. Thus, I consider Exodus 20:11 to be problematic for both of us when used as a proof text for a recent Creation. As Samuel Powell wrote in the essay that just appeared today (Two Reasons Why I Believe that the Theory of Evolution is Scientifically True), the 6-days of work/Sabbath motif suggests that the Genesis account “has a liturgical function–that its purpose relates to Israel's worship and not to scientific knowledge.” The reference in Exodus 20:11 confirms this – the seventh day is the Lord ’s Day; the Sabbath.

        Still, as I have been told, there it is – the 6-days of Creation – in the Ten Commandments written by the very finger of God on stone tablets and read by Moses before the entire assembly of Israel. Yet even this, to my mind, creates difficulties because those stone tablets were removed again from the Ark as Israel camped on the east side of the Jordan and once again read to the people (Deut. 5). In this parallel passage, the Ten Commandments are exactly the same as those in Exodus 20 with one notable exception. The parallel passage to Exodus 20:11 in Deut. 5:15 says, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” No mention of a 6-day creation. What happened to that passage? We know that these are the same tablets because in Deut. 5:22 Moses says, “These are the commandments the Lord proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.”

        Despite the seeming contradiction between these two parallel Scriptures, I do not have a problem with them. In the larger context, the main point is that God commands His people to “Shabbath.” But these Scriptures seem to me to create a problem for those that would demand that every word in the Bible be taken “just as God said He did” or else God is a liar. I would argue that we need to read these Scriptures first in the light of the culture to which they were originally written and not by beginning with our 21st century mindset. I am looking forward to seeing how others will answer your question.

        Let me make one thing very clear. I personally don’t want this project or any other project to attempt to read the age-of-the-earth or evolution into the Scriptures. Those are 18th-21st century problems that were not even relevant to those to whom the Scriptures were initially written. I don’t believe that the Bible should be used to prove that the Earth is young or old, is flat or spherical, has or does not have populated antipodes, is standing still or rotating around the sun, has rocks and fossils that were remnants of the Flood or the episodic deposition of sediments over long periods of time, is populated by the only life in the universe or has neighboring planets or solar systems with alien life, and is or is not afflicted with a changing climate. I have heard the Bible used to argue every one of these issues but believe that to do so is to not take the Bible seriously (See Shea Zellweger’s “Take Scripture Seriously” essay).

        Don. Once again, I have given a long answer to a short question. You have many other questions in your reply that deserve discussion but I will not be able to get to them tonight. Since I work long days and it would be unethical for me to use my employer’s time to write long personally replies on this forum, I will not be able to get to those other issues until tomorrow evening at the earliest. Steve.

        Reply

        1. Don Clevenger:
          Aug 14, 2013 at 06:57 AM

          Steve,
          A couple of thoughts - First of all, in regards to my comments (and your reply) regarding Exodus 20:11. A more careful reading of the scriptures shows me that at that time God was speaking to the entire nation of Israel. The words there were not "carved in stone". Moses did not go up the mountain and receive the tablets until Exodus 24 - and even then God had to make a second set because Moses smashed the first ones when he came down and saw the golden calf that the Israelites had set up and begun to worship. We do not know for sure that those words were on the stone tablets that were in the ark. When I look at the start of the book of Deuteronomy, it just says that Moses spoke the words to Israel - it does not specify whether he read them, so he may have read or may have done it all from memory So it looks like we had both may have misinterpreted this particular part in our own way.

          Second, whether Exodus 20:11 was carved in stone or just God speaking, it is still in the Bible that God said He created the earth and everything in it in 6 days. On this, I do not think you can really debate. I mean, I can walk into any bookstore in any city in any state or country in the world and pick up a Bible (if they have them available) and find Exodus 20:11 and it will say the same thing - and that it was said by God, who does not lie. So getting back to the question that I have asked of a number of different authors of essays on this website (and have yet to get a straight, definitive answer) - if I come across an unbeliever who says because of all of your scientific proof that if we cannot believe our Bible, why should they? And if the Bible is not true, why should they believe in God? How do I convince them that the Bible really is the true, inspired word of God and that they should believe? What do I tell them? Until I can get a good answer to this question, I am done with this website.

          Reply

          1. Steve Smith:
            Aug 15, 2013 at 11:41 PM

            Don. My apologies for the delay in responding. In your last few comments to me and others, you have asked variations of the question, “If we, as Christians, cannot totally believe in our Bible why should others believe any of it?” I would maintain that you and I both totally believe in our Bible, but that we disagree in what that means.

            From what I can gather in your comments, you would hold that we should accept every word in Bible as if it were written directly to us in the 21st century and that any evidence from geology, astronomy, biology, anthropology, archaeology, or history that appears to differ from the “plain meaning” of the text should be rejected without further cause. On the other hand, I would hold that we should accept every word in Bible as if it were written directly to the original audience, in their language and using the idioms and the cultural perspectives of their time to address issues that they were facing. Thus when we read in the Bible that the sun races around the earth instead of the earth rotating, that bats are classified as birds instead of mammals, that the heart is the organ that controls love and emotion instead of the brain, or that our conscience is found in our kidneys, we don’t need to go through theological contortions to maintain the “plain meaning” of Scriptures. And when we are faced with evidence from other sources that appears to contradict our understanding of the Bible, we are free to examine that evidence and, if necessary, also examine our Biblical interpretations in the light of that knowledge. Often I find that Biblical scholars have previously examined those same Scriptures based, not on science, but on textual clues in the passages and found deeper meanings in the disputed verses then those that seem evident in the “plain meaning.”

            So, if as I maintain, we both totally believe in our Bible, how do we witness to others who might wish to follow Christ? … and what do we tell our kids? First, rather than start with arguments about the Bible, I would encourage you to share your testimony and personal faith in the resurrected Christ. Christ should be first and foremost. Then I would use the Bible for the purpose to which it claims to be most useful – “… for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness …” (2 Tim 3:16-17). If and when questions of science and Creation are raised, share your personal beliefs but don’t make them an issue upon which the seeker’s faith must live or die. I believe it is important to acknowledge that there are other good and faithful Christians who hold views that differ from our own. You never know where their journey will lead them. Perhaps their faith will develop like that of my friend Bill Payne – a strong vibrant faith that is willing to believe in a Young Creation despite the evidence of modern science and with the optimistic hope that new discoveries will eventually support his belief. Or perhaps their path may follow one like mine where study into the wonders of Creation has enriched my spiritual journey and increased my awe and worship of the Creator.

            Reply

            1. Don Clevenger:
              Aug 18, 2013 at 05:22 PM

              Steve,
              I looked up the scripture references you had posted in an earlier message as "accounts of creation". Other than having the word "Creator" in them somewhere, I just didn't see where you were getting the story of creation from those. Must be the "scientific story" that I can't see.

              You and other authors on this website insist on adding your "science" to the scriptures - saying that this is the only way that we can get the true story. This would seem to be against the Articles of Faith of the Nazarene Church. Article of Faith #4 deals with the Holy Scriptures and states:
              "We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures,
              by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and
              New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing
              the will of God concerning us in all things necessary
              to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is
              not to be enjoined as an article of faith.
              (Luke 24:44-47; John 10:35; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Timothy 3:15-17;
              1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:20-21)"

              If you want to understand my point of view, read this article:
              http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/1998/01/23/young-earth-not-issue
              This sums up the way that I believe. I am not sure how you were taught, but I was raised to believe that when all else fails, trust the Bible and trust God - because God is faithful. As Steven Curtis Chapman said in one of his songs, "My Redeemer is faithful and true." Man will lead you astray, God will lead you home.

              All of the science books that I have read were written by men - and few if any of them were inspired by God. I choose to trust in the word of the one who was there "In the beginning...."

    2. Don Clevenger:
      Aug 12, 2013 at 12:53 PM

      Steve,
      One more thought - as a geologist, I thought you might be interested to know (if you did not already) that James Hutton, who is known as "the father of modern geology" had once said in his writings concerning the earth "The result, therefore, of our present enquiry is, that we find no vestige of a beginning - no prospect of an end." He was, in fact, denying that God created the earth - and, it seems, even the existence of God.

      Reply

      1. Steve Smith:
        Aug 12, 2013 at 11:42 PM

        Don. Thank you for reminding me of this familiar quote from James Hutton. Hutton, a Scottish Presbyterian, was trained in medicine and chemistry, made his fortune with a chemical process that used chimney soot to make a key component of metalworking flux, and retired early to be a gentleman farmer. With time on his hands, he turned to studying the rocks near Edinburg, Scotland. Based on what he saw and a textbook-worthy picturesque outcrop that he found at Siccar Point, Hutton developed his ideas on deep time. This quote comes from his 1788 publication of lectures given in 1784.

        Hutton expanded his ideas in a three-volume publication in the late 18th century. Actually, only volumes 1 and 2 were completed before his death in 1797. Note that this was over 60 years before Darwin published his seminal work, “On the Origin of Species” in 1859. Thus history’s timeline belies your assertion, made in earlier replies, “that the ONLY reason why one would need to add millions of years to the creation story is to leave room for getting evolution in and God out.” Frankly, geologists don’t care what biologists need for the theory of evolution. They will have to live with whatever ages we discover in the rocks.

        Although Hutton’s conclusions were controversial at the time, especially his idea of cyclical time, he did not present them with the aim of “denying that God created the earth - and, it seems, even the existence of God.” His words that you quoted were written in the common style of late 18th century prose and were a concise statement of the conclusion that he drew from his geological observations. In fact, though his cyclical ideas of deep time conflict with a strictly literal reading of Genesis 1, it is strikingly similar to the Creation account given in Ecclesiastes 1:2-11. These passages describe the Creation as endless cycles and never mention a beginning to the Creation. (William P. Brown, 2010, The Seven Pillars of Creation, Oxford Press)

        David Montgomery relates how Hutton’s 3 volume work was written to “show how God established the world's geological order at an unknowable date in the distant past and would terminate it at some unknowable date in the future.” (p. 109, David R. Montgomery, 2012, The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood; W. W. Norton & Company).

        Finally, Hutton’s quote is interesting in that it shows the development of thought concerning the evidence in the rocks for deep time. However, despite the fact that Hutton is credited as a “father of geology,” geologists no longer accept that quote as an accurate description of what we know about the age of the earth.

        Reply

    3. Bill Payne:
      Aug 12, 2013 at 09:47 PM

      Steve, you said: I also believe that God does not lie – either in His Word or in the rocks and bones of His Creation. If, as you insist, God created it all in six days only 6,000 years ago, then I must conclude that God has lied to us through the evidence left in the rocks and in our DNA.

      Previously you said: This idea is commonly known as the “Two Books of God” analogy (See Mark Mann’s “Creation, Incarnation, and Evolution” essay on this site). Since God is the ‘author’ of both books, there should not be a conflict. However, since science and theology are both human attempts to understand the Creation and revelation, we may perceive a false conflict when our science, or our theology, or both are in error. When this false conflict is expressed as an either-or statement pitting science against Christianity and not admitting any other resolution, then I believe the dilemma is false.

      The obvious other resolution, which you disregard, is that God spoke the truth in his Word and “in the rocks and bones of His Creation.” IMHO, your OEC understanding of science is in error, leading to your “either-or statement” and creating a false dilemma (“then I must conclude that God has lied”). You would say my YEC understanding of scripture is in error, creating the opposite false dilemma. It appears that we are two sides of the same coin. The dilemma is false; either your interpretation of geology or my interpretation of scripture is wrong. We each resolve the dilemma in our own way.

      Reply

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