About 400 people gathered at Cedarville University in Ohio from 16–19 July for the Ninth International Conference on Creationism.
The ICC has been held every four to five years since 1986 and is the world’s premier creationist research meeting. It attracts scholars from across North America, Europe, and Australia.
There was a packed programme of research presentations, with three or four simultaneous tracks, meaning hard choices had to be made about which talks to listen to!
I can only mention a few of the highlights here, and inevitably they reflect my own choices – but hopefully this will give you a taste of the conference.
The Grand Canyon
Arizona’s Grand Canyon has been the focus of much creationist research, and for several decades geologist Steve Austin has championed the idea that the dramatic landform was carved by the catastrophic drainage of large lakes that developed in this region after Noah’s Flood.
However, a persistent criticism has been: ‘Where are the preserved lake shorelines?’ So it was exciting to hear Dr Austin and his colleagues at this year’s ICC describe how they have identified a series of former lake terraces at high elevation, using new satellite imagery and drone footage. The critics’ objection seems now to have been answered!
Another ground-breaking paper was by palaeontologist Kurt Wise, who presented a remarkable analysis of a database of one and a half million fossil occurrences from all over the world.
The results of his analysis not only help us to pinpoint where the Flood begins and ends in the rock record – a matter of some contention among creationists – but also reveal several distinct fossil ‘zones’ that seem to represent the burial of different ecologies of the pre-Flood world.
These zones seem to record how the Flood overwhelmed first the creatures living in the oceans, then those living around the coastlines, and finally those living on the land, and it was striking to me to see how this pattern ‘fell out of’ the data analysis.
Humans and apes
Fossil humans and apes have been a particular research interest of biologist Todd Wood, and he and his associates gave three presentations about their latest findings.
One study was particularly impressive, representing the culmination of three years’ work, during which Dr Wood and his co-worker collected original measurements of fossil bones and skulls from the published literature, museum specimens, casts, and publicly-available 3D scans.
The results of their analysis confirmed that there is no obvious evolutionary continuum between fossil humans and apes. Rather, these groups can be consistently distinguished from one another, just as one would expect given the Bible’s account of their separate creation.
I had the honour of co-authoring a couple of research papers at this year’s ICC. One was a study investigating how well the order of appearance of different fossil groups matches the predicted evolutionary order based on the sequence of branching in evolutionary trees.
Our research group analysed over 2,700 evolutionary trees and found strong agreement with the fossil order in only 25% of cases. That seems a significant result!
We intend to continue our study of fossil order because we think it will give us some important insights into other questions, such as the ecological structure of the pre-Flood world and the nature of created kinds.
Rocks and ages
My other paper was a collaboration with two Cedarville students, analysing a huge database of about 29,000 radiometric ages on rock units from across North America. We wanted to see how often radiometric ages on the same rocks agreed with one another.
Our preliminary analysis found that the more ages there are for any particular rock unit, the more disagreement there is. Also, the disagreements seem systematic, not random.
Certain radiometric dating methods consistently give older ages than other methods for the same rock samples. Of course, they should give the same age – assuming that the methods are accurate! Our findings may help us to understand what’s really going on.
Other research highlights included new work on ice age climates, speciation in cavefish, the famous fossil horse series, carbon-14 dating, the origin of limestone caves, and much more.
There was also a display of research posters, which are a way for researchers to get feedback on their work before it’s ready for publication as a full paper.
In addition, there was a series of plenary presentations by keynote speakers, summarising the state-of-the-art and future prospects in a range of disciplines from theology, palaeontology, and genetics to cosmology, archaeology, and education.
Speakers included Drs Andrew Snelling, Russ Humphreys, John Sanford, and Doug Petrovich. These evening sessions were also open to the public.
Another feature of this year’s conference were the roundtables, addressing major topics of interest within creationism.
The first was about feathered dinosaurs and their creationist implications – and, yes, feathered dinosaurs are real, as this workshop made clear! It was a masterclass by paleontologists Matt McLain and Marcus Ross – well informed, well presented, and persuasive.
Chad Arment’s workshop focused on how the ark animals dispersed around the world after the Flood, including how they crossed major ocean barriers. I was one of seven speakers taking part in a panel discussion about where the Flood begins and ends in the geological record.
There was also a ‘pop-up’ planetarium show featuring amazing new images from the James Webb Space Telescope; a field trip to see the geology and wildflowers of nearby Massie Creek; a showing of the soon-to-be-released sequel to the hit movie, Is Genesis History?; and booths representing many creationist organisations and vendors.
Biblical Creation Trust shared a spot with our friends at Core Academy of Science, promoting our Let’s Talk Creation podcast with a fun photo booth!
We also recorded interviews with conference participants, which can be viewed in podcast episode 65 on our YouTube channel (@Let’s Talk Creation).
The ICC is not your typical creationist conference with popular-level, apologetics-type talks focused on the flaws in evolutionary thinking. Instead, it’s an academic conference, featuring scholarly, peer-reviewed presentations of original research, with the emphasis on developing positive creationist models.
But it’s certainly the place to be if you want to know what’s happening at the cutting edge of creationism. The message from many attendees was that this was the best ICC yet.
For me, a particular encouragement was seeing so many students at the meeting. Several Christian colleges were represented, and many of these students were presenting their own research papers. This is a healthy sign of vitality for the future of the creationist movement in the USA.
But it raises the question of how we, in the UK, lacking the advantages of tertiary Christian education, can train and mentor our own students to the same high level. To help address this need, Biblical Creation Trust has ambitious plans for a student research centre in Cambridge, and if you’d like to know more about that, please contact me at: email@example.com.