Fake News

Fake News
In the last two years, the word “fake” has shown up so many times in the media and political arena that people are now well aware of the fact that not everything is as it appears. Fake news is nothing new, and the early Christians had to deal with fake apostles, fake witnesses, and scams of all kinds. (See Acts 6:13 and Acts 8 for examples.)

In the scientific area, there have been so many fakes in every field that there are some people who make a living just exposing fakes. This is a constant problem in the field of paleontology where fake fossils have confused the theories of evolution and earth history. In The Week magazine for August 10, 2018, carried an interesting story about “The Great Chinese Dinosaur Boom.” Scientists have found rich fossil beds in northeastern China. Local farmers have discovered that they can make good money by selling fossils to collectors who are not scientists. The result is that they have glued pieces together to make it look like a new form of life. This reminds us of the fake human tracks that were promoted in Glen Rose, Texas, in past years by people trying to sell the religious position that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.

There are several lessons for all of us here. One is not to trust any human without checking out their claim. That is true of every endeavor in our lives. Few of us would buy a used car without investigating the claim of the salesman about what an excellent deal we are getting. Why would we accept religious or secular claims without giving the same spirit of investigation to the story?

In a world of fake news, the one thing we can trust and that is absolutely true is God’s word. Don’t trust what people claim that it says. Study it for yourself. That may mean looking up the meaning of the words of the original language and taking the time to look at the context. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is useful for teaching, for refuting error and for giving guidance as well as for moral discipline, that the man of God may be complete and adequately equipped for all good work ” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Ham-Nye Walking Debate

Ham-Nye Walking Debate
You are probably aware of Bill Nye and Ken Ham and their debate which took place in 2014. As if that debate wasn’t embarrassing enough (for both sides), Ham and Nye followed it in 2016 with a walking debate at Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter in Kentucky. The Ham-Nye walking debate was more of the two men talking past each other.

Bill Nye, you will recall, calls himself “the science guy.” Ken Ham, the producer of the Creationist Museum and Ark Encounter, is the CEO of Answers in Genesis. Nye takes a naturalist position on everything. While he avoids admitting to being an atheist, atheists hold him in high esteem, and he is heavily backed by atheist publications such as Skeptic, Skeptical Inquirer, and American Atheist. Ham takes an extreme young-earth position and promotes the ideas that dinosaurs lived with humans, that the flood explains all of geology, and that dispensationalism is the proper understanding of biblical history.

What happens in the “walking debate” is that Nye walks through the Ark Encounter exhibits challenging what Ham and AIG have put together as bad science. At the same time, Ham attempts to denigrate Nye’s scientific material with religious views of young-earth creationism. The Ham-Nye walking debate doesn’t resolve anything and only serves to bring the two sides farther apart.

The “Does God Exist? program maintains that science and faith are compatible and that science supports belief in God and the Bible as His word. Over the years we have pointed out that what the Bible actually says is not what either of these gentlemen is presenting. Nye is correct in showing some very bad science in Ham’s exhibits. Ham correctly points out Nye’s tendency to use unproven scientific guesses and assumptions to attack those who believe in God. It is evident that Ham knows little about science and Nye knows even less about the Bible.

Our courses, books, booklets, DVDs, and websites go into a more in-depth discussion of science and faith. If you want to hear two extremes that both oppose our position, you can watch the first debate or the second debate on YouTube.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

Ken Ham Entangling Doctrine and Creationism

Ken Ham and the Ark Encounter
The May 2018 issue of the Christian Chronicle carries a major article by Bobby Ross titled “Ken Ham on God, Creation and the Earth’s Age.” Ken Ham is the founder of the Ark Encounter theme park in Grant County, Kentucky, and also the Creation Museum in Peterson, Kentucky. In 2014 he had a highly publicized broadcast debate with science guy Bill Nye.

At first glance, it might seem that a museum and theme park to teach biblical history would be a good thing. However, denominational doctrines presented by these venues conflict with teachings of the New Testament and include a great deal of bad science. Ham and his associates give an incomplete view of Earth’s history and the plan of salvation.

In the article by Ross, Ken Ham presents the plan of salvation as simply: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. Romans 10:9. In other words, salvation is conditioned on faith in Christ. Faith alone. Grace alone. Christ alone.” Although this correctly quotes Romans 10:9, it is an incomplete view of salvation. It ignores all of the passages that talk about the necessity of confessing Christ, repenting of our sins, and being baptized for the remission of sins such as Acts 2:37-40 and Romans 6.

When considering the age of the Earth, Ken Ham accepts the 6,000-year chronology of 17th-century Archbishop James Ussher and ignores the literal meaning of the words used to describe the animals in the creation week. He also fails to take Genesis literally by considering who wrote it, who he wrote it to, why he wrote it, and how the people of the time would have understood it.

Atheists use the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum to discredit the Bible. Ham’s debate with Bill Nye was a disaster for believers, and atheist groups have printed transcripts of the debate and encouraged people to distribute them at the attractions. In addition to the bad science in some of the displays, there is an association with dispensationalism which is also based on an incomplete view of the Bible.

The Does God Exist? program is about education. We are surprised that the Christian Chronicle, which is associated with the Church of Christ, would uncritically give full credence to Ken Ham and his denominational teaching of Bible history and the plan of salvation. We encourage our readers to go to the articles we have published on the errors of denominational creationist materials such as HERE and HERE and on the errors of dispensationalism you will find HERE.

We must not accept denominational interpretations of the Bible, but consider what the Bible actually says. To get a better understanding of Genesis 1 by examining the original language, we suggest that you read “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word.” It’s available in printed form HERE or free online HERE.

As we reach out to the secular world and to family and friends who are struggling with their faith, we need to be careful not to use bad science or bad theology. Denominational creationists like Ken Ham have a great deal of both.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Dinosaur Mania in Media

Dinosaur Mania
We seem to have an obsession with dinosaurs, and popular science magazines can’t seem to get enough dinosaur articles. Dinosaur mania struck in May 2018 with Smithsonian Magazine, Scientific American, and National Geographic all featuring dinosaurs as their main articles.

Smithsonian told about new discoveries in China. Scientific American gave a speculative review of how new discoveries affect the classification of dinosaurs. National Geographic provided us with pictures of new fossils of the birds and bird-like dinosaurs. Their article makes the argument that modern birds evolved from dinosaurs after the asteroid collision that ended the dinosaur age. All of these articles are presented with wonderful pictures and charts.

Many people in both the scientific community and in the religious community seem to believe that there is a conflict between what these articles present and what the Bible says. Children receive indoctrination in dinosaurs from “Dinosaur Train” and other shows on children’s TV and websites plus revisions and repeats of “Jurassic Park.” It is important in all of this dinosaur mania that children should not be taught that the Bible is anti-science.

There is much about the history of the Earth that the Bible doesn’t address. There is an economy of language in the Bible, and it doesn’t give us information about how God prepared the resources He knew we would need. The Bible simply says He did it, not how He did it. Passages like Proverbs 8:22 ff and Romans 1:18 ff tell us that wisdom and design were involved, but they give no specifics about when it happened, how long it took, or what the processes were.

No Hebrew word used in the Bible could be applied to dinosaurs. The words used in the creation week referred to animals that Moses knew. We don’t see references to bacteria, viruses, platypuses, penguins, or organisms that use chemosynthesis instead of photosynthesis to produce their food. The Bible does consistently use four classifications of animals. First Corinthians 15:39 is the clearest statement of this: “All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes and another of birds.” In Genesis 1:21-27 the same classifications are used: cattle (behemah), winged fowl (kanaph oph), and great sea creatures (tannin). (For a detailed treatment of these Hebrew words, please see “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word” on our doesgodexist.org website.)

We may be accused of being too literal in our understanding of these words, but we are looking for the agreements between the evidence and what the bible writers express. So were the dinosaurs birds or were they reptiles (part of the “flesh of fish” grouping)? Science has not answered that question yet. The National Geographic article pushes the argument hard that the birds are simply dinosaurs that survived the asteroid collision, but there are many scientists who disagree. Dinosaur mania has taught us much, but there is still much to learn.

Either way, the biblical account is not in error. It simply does not address what seems to have been an effective tool God used to help prepare the Earth for humans. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” is short, brief, and leaves many questions for us to answer ourselves. The methods God used are not important to the overall message of the Bible. If God created everything, and if science is knowledge of what actually happened, they must agree. If they don’t agree, we either have a poor understanding of the scientific evidence or a poor understanding of what the Bible intends to convey. None of us are immune to those two problems, and that certainly includes your author. Let us keep learning and searching for positive answers and stop trying to generate conflict that is destructive to everyone.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Job’s Dinosaur

Job's Dinosaur
There is an interesting Bible reference to a fearsome creature in Job 40:15-24. Some creationists consider this to be Job’s dinosaur showing that dinosaurs and humans interacted at the time of Job. This is part of an attempt to suggest that dinosaurs and early humans were contemporaries to disprove the scientific evidence that dinosaurs became extinct long before humans existed on Earth.

The question is, “What kind of creature Job is describing?” Did an animal that existed in the past fit this description? The Hebrew word used for this creature is “behemoth” which literally means a large creature. Many animals that lived in the past and some living today could be called large creatures. We must look at the properties of this animal as described in the passage. We know that it was an herbivore (“feeds on grass like an ox”). Also, we know that “his tail sways like a cedar.” The description also tells us that he was virtually impossible to control.

The AP reported on May 5 about a discovery at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. Scientists found human footprints inside the footprints of a giant ground sloth. The giant ground sloth was an herbivore that could stand seven or eight feet tall, had tight muscles and front legs tipped with wolverine-like claws. It had a huge tail used mostly for balance when it stood on its hind legs to get at vegetation. It appears that some humans were hunting the sloth and tracking it closely.

There is no denying that ancient humans interacted with these huge creatures. In the Natural History Museum in Chicago, there are displays of the fossils of these creatures, and the picture shows a recreated giant ground sloth at Kartchner Caverns near Benson, Arizona. The finding of human tracks intersecting the tracks of the sloths leaves no doubt about the fact that they were contemporaries. You can’t prove that Job’s dinosaur was actually a ground sloth, but the description fits very well. It is certainly more likely than the claim that the animal was a T-rex or a brontosaurus.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Dinosaur Train and Reality

Dinosaur Train and Reality
I have been blessed over the past year with a two-year-old who calls me “Booh” which is Thai for “Grandpa.” It has been a wonderful experience for me in several ways. One of the things I have learned as he has grown older and watches children’s television is how much bad good and bad information children are exposed to in their preschool years. My adopted grandson’s favorite television program is a PBS Kids series called Dinosaur Train.

The program opens with a small pair of creatures that look like pterodactyls standing by a nest containing four eggs. The eggs hatch and the first three hatchlings look like their parents, complete with the ability to fly. The fourth egg hatches a few seconds later with a baby who looks nothing like the parents and who says, “What am I doing in a flying reptile nest?” The mother dinosaur picks up the baby, and the whole family flies to a train station called the Dinosaur Train.

On the train, a conductor takes the family on a trip to different geologic time periods–Mesozoic, Cenozoic, Paleozoic, Triassic, etc. There the family meets dinosaurs from the various time periods who explain what they eat and how they find their food. The train has a cattle car with large dinosaurs in it, and the family goes to a coach containing smaller dinosaurs.

Occasionally a scientist identified as a paleontologist presents a mini-lecture. The lecture may be on the meaning of words, the current evolutionary beliefs about the animals, or the geological processes that shaped the history of the Earth. His presentations are generally accurate, and he attempts to give the viewers a vocabulary that would be the envy of most college freshmen. Sound effects are very entertaining, and the program stays away from blood and gore and tends to focus on herbivores.

There are lots of concerns that parents may have about the current geologic and evolutionary beliefs that are presented as facts. I am concerned about the anthropomorphism of the dinosaurs. The train is a mid-twentieth century coal-burning steam engine and the train station is from the same time period. The conductor is a dinosaur wearing an outfit that looks like a circus barker. He not only calls the “All aboard,” but he gives Powerpoint-style explanations. The dinosaurs all speak perfect English and behave as humans. Everyone is friendly, T-Rex speaks kindly with everyone, and groups of dinosaurs sing Broadway-style tunes. Dinosaur Train is quite frankly very entertaining.

The problem I have is that the dinosaurs are essentially humans, engaging in human contests, doing human things, and having human relationships. Mom and dad have human roles and enjoy human activities like picnics and visits to different climates and places of recreational value. It is no wonder that those who tell children that humans and dinosaurs lived together find a ready audience of young people. I have hunter friends who dislike the story of Bambi because it vilifies hunters and fails to present children with the importance of balance in nature and the role that carnivores like ourselves serve. The same difficulty is present when people don’t understand the role that dinosaurs had in preparing the Earth for humans by supporting the ecology that produced the resources we need to survive on this planet.

Dinosaur Train is interesting and creative, but parents need to take time to give more accurate and realistic teaching to their toddlers as they get old enough to understand. There is no problem in explaining the role of dinosaurs if we understand how God designed and planned for humans from before time began.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Largest Land Animal-Titanosaur

Largest Land Animal
The first week of August a report was made in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences of perhaps the largest land animal that ever existed.

This dinosaur, found in Patagonia, Argentina, is named Patagotitan mayorum. It was more than 120 feet (36.5 m) long and weighed more than 76 tons (69 tonnes). It is also one of the most complete fossils with 150 bones recovered. When it is reassembled, the skeleton will be roughly the size of a Boeing 737.

What scientists want to learn about an animal of that size is, “How could it get so big?” We recently published a post about the world’s largest snake, the titanoboa. Reptiles, unlike mammals, continue to grow during their entire lives. In this case, the question is, “What sustains such massive growth?” How much food must the animal eat? How would its vascular system work? What is its significance to the ecology of the area where it lived? What environmental temperature and oxygen levels would allow an animal of that size to live? How could a human exist in such surroundings? Some of these questions are being addressed. Some are so complex that researchers on the site say it “is really hard to imagine” the answers.

We have pointed out that the ecological system that produced the resources humans would need to exist on this planet had to be different from what we have today. Those conditions would be hostile to human survival. This fossil of the largest land animal supports that point very well.

For more see USA Today, August 9, 2017, page B1.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Vulture

Tyrannosaurus Rex
We tend to view Tyrannosaurus rex as a 20-foot tall flesh eater who ran down its prey. Some have called this dinosaur “the most efficient carnivore who ever lived.” Science fiction movies like Jurassic Park have probably been the main source of this image, but the fact is that T. rex was nowhere near that fast.

Past studies of T. rex suggested that its huge mass–in the vicinity of nine tons–prevented it from running down much of anything. The muscle strength needed to accelerate that mass is simply not available to any form of life. Now simulations of acceleration and bone strength have verified that understanding. A speed of about 12 mph would have been the top limit for T. Rex and for only a short distance. That means a human could easily outrun a T. rex.

Tyrannosaurus rex was probably more of a scavenger than a hunter. There were other slow-moving dinosaurs such as Edmontosaurus, Triceratops, and Ankylosaurus that T. rex might have been able to catch. It is more likely that the T. rex population were the vultures of their day, not the lions of their day.

God created dinosaurs for a purpose, and every year we understand more about how they helped sustain the ecosystem that produced many of the resources we need. Every little boy seems to be fascinated with the media presentations of these creatures, but they really were not that glamorous.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Dinosaur Pseudoscience Part 2

Dinosaur Pseudoscience Fire-breathing
Yesterday we stated that one of the greatest challenges that this ministry faces is the bad science and false claims by creationists, including dinosaur pseudoscience. In addition to the ones we mentioned yesterday, another example is the claim of many creationists that dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons.

In the Middle Ages, there were numerous stories about flying dragons who breathed fire. In recent years we have seen movies showing everything from Puff the Magic Dragon to How to Train Your Dragon as well as video games showing dragons that look like dinosaurs. Creationists have proposed that dinosaurs had hypergolic chemicals (chemicals that ignite when combined) that they used to produce literal fire. The scientific problems with such proposals are huge. Hypergolic chemicals are highly toxic to biological organisms. Fire going out of an animal’s mouth or nose would cause damage to the tissue. Atheists and biblical skeptics have written numerous articles showing the impossibility of these proposals on a scientific basis.

What is the biblical passage that creationists use to suggest that dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons? The answer to that question is Job 41. The key word in this chapter is “leviathan.” The word is used three other times in the Bible–Psalms 74:14, Psalms 104:26, and Isaiah 27:1 In all of these references the leviathan is a sea creature. In other non-biblical Hebrew writings the word is used to describe a sea creature, and in a few cases, a sea crocodile is the translation. Job 41:18 says that when leviathan sneezes a light shines and his eyes look like the dawn. Verse 19 says that fire comes from his mouth and verse 20 says that smoke comes from his nostrils. This is poetic language and obviously doesn’t describe the animal anatomically. Verse 29 says that the leviathan laughs and verse 31 says that he makes the sea boil like a pot of ointment. These are obviously poetic descriptions of a very fierce sea creature. It is not a dinosaur living on the land, flying, and belching fire.

There is no valid fossil support for humans and dinosaurs living at the same time, and there is no biblical passage that states it. Cherry-picking a poetic description in Job to back up a denominational belief system is not taking the Bible literally.

Those of us who believe in God are in a war with forces who wish to destroy Christianity and the Bible. Pseudoscience used to defend a denominational understanding of a biblical passage just becomes a tool of those who despise Jesus Christ. It is a tool they use to destroy the faith of bright and well-educated young adults. We must not give them that tool.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Dinosaur Pseudoscience

Dinosaur Pseudoscience
One of the greatest challenges that this ministry faces is the bad science and false claims that are generated by creationists associated with various denominational groups. One of the challenges relates to dinosaur pseudoscience. History professor Ronald Numbers has shown that over 90% of creationist materials presented in this country are produced by dispensational and millennial groups who start with their denominational doctrines and try to shoe-horn science into their belief system. (Ronald L. Numbers, The Creationists, Harvard University Press, 2006.) We prefer to take the Bible literally.

Atheists and secular groups use the bad science involved to discredit the existence of God and the Bible as His word. The most basic problem presented by these creationist groups is that in spite of their claims, they do not take the Bible literally. By cherry-picking biblical statements, they attempt to make the Bible give a date to every event in the history of the Earth. They suggest that all 26-million different forms of life on the Earth today were present on the day of creation which they claim was roughly 6,000 years ago.

The fact is that the Hebrew words in Genesis were descriptions of animals that Moses knew and that his contemporaries had domesticated. Bacteria, viruses, platypuses, flightless birds, and countless sea creatures were not what Moses was referring to, and not what his readers would have understood him to be describing. For more on this go to doesgodexist.org and read the booklet titled God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word.

Perhaps the best example of creationist pseudoscience is their effort to explain the dinosaurs. We need to understand that none of the words used in Genesis 1 could reasonably be applied to dinosaurs. Creationists try to tell us there is scientific evidence that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. They point to a painting by the Kuku Yalanji tribe of Queensland, Australia, which shows an animal that looks like a plesiosaur. It turns out that the tribesman actually copied a painting from a children’s book called The Giant Golden Book of Dinosaurs published in 1960.

Another example of this kind of bad science is the claim that a Japanese fishing boat named the Zuiyo-Maru snagged a carcass of a dead plesiosaur in 1977. It was badly decomposed, and research has since shown that it was the carcass of a basking shark.

To say that humans and dinosaurs lived together defies many scientific facts and brings ridicule on faith in God. Perhaps the most laughable suggestion is to insist that there were fire-breathing dinosaurs. We will deal with that bit of dinosaur pseudoscience tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2017