Biblical Creation Ministries
In March, Biblical Creation Ministries (BCM) hosted a speaking tour by Dr Todd Wood of the Centre for Origins Research, Bryan College, Dayton, Tennessee.
Public meetings were held in Salford, Coventry, Cambridge and Elsenham. Three of these were devoted to the theme of ‘Science and the supernatural’ while a fourth considered ‘The challenge of Darwin’.
In ‘Science and the supernatural’, Dr Wood confronted the popular argument that
creationism is not scientific because it invokes supernatural explanations. He demonstrated that science can and does evaluate supernatural claims, using examples from the peer-reviewed literature.
His examples included the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. This is open to empirical investigation. For example, is it a first-century burial cloth; and does it carry pollen of Middle Eastern origin? Science has tools to evaluate empirical claims regardless of origin or motivation.
Todd pointed out that creationism likewise offers testable hypotheses amenable to empirical study – and this is acknowledged by anti-creationists every time they offer scientific arguments against creationism.
It would be more consistent for critics to argue that creationism is bad science rather than unscientific by definition. But that would open a door they would rather remained closed!
If creationism is bad science, then it can be improved! Furthermore, the idea that ‘science’ and ‘religion’ should be kept entirely separate because they deal with non-overlapping compartments of reality was rejected, since Christianity claims the supernatural can and does impact upon observational reality.
This talk provoked interesting discussions, with a particularly lively question and answer session following the Cambridge meeting.
In Coventry the subject of Todd’s talk was ‘The challenge of Darwin’. He began by drawing a distinction between high level explanations (e.g. macro-evolution) and low level theories to connect high level explanations with the empirical world (e.g. the origin of new species by natural selection).
High level explanations may be held for a variety of reasons – pragmatic, philosophical or religious – and are relatively immune to scientific evaluation. However, they help us formulate low level theories, which are amenable to scientific evaluation.
The implications for the development of a creationist science of biology were outlined. To provide an alternative to the evolutionary model, creationists need to connect the high level concept of ‘creation’ to the empirical world, by developing low level theories in five key areas – design, natural evil, speciation, systematics and biogeography.
The area in which most progress has been made is systematics. ‘Baraminology’ has allowed new techniques to be developed to identify the created kinds. Some work has also been done to explain biogeographic patterns, such as the proposal that after the Flood animals dispersed by rafting on vegetation mats.
Creationist theories concerning speciation (how species change) and natural evil (the origin of predators, parasites and pathogens) are less well developed. In addition, there is a need for an overarching theory that explains the large scale patterns of biological similarity and discontinuity – in other words, a theory of design in its broadest sense.
Todd’s lectures provided a helpful context for understanding creationist research in biology and was appreciated by all who heard it. A DVD of his talk on the Galápagos Islands is available from BCM (Galápagos revisited: Creation and evolution in the Galápagos Islands; 57 minutes; semi-technical, suitable for adults and older teens; £8.50 incl. p&p; from 54 Frank Bridges Close, Soham CB7 5EZ).