An Old Earther on Peaceful Science

Mark Moore, Early Genesis Book CoverMark M. Moore is an Old Earth Creationist (OEC), and has been an active participant on the Peaceful Science forums. He recently became one of our moderators.  Of note, Mark wrote an important book, Early Genesis, on Genesis 1-11, where he independently comes to a reading of Genesis 1 and 2 which describes a population outside the garden.

For one entertaining exchange, look at the blurry line between OEC and Theistic Evolution (TE). When we realize that science is silent on God’s action, the lines begin to blur. God could have inspired important mutations in our history.

So, Mark found a home on the forums. I invited him to explain why he has found value in Peaceful Science. This is, after all, a blog and forum run by a scientist that affirms evolutionary science. Why would an OEC find himself here?

I (Mark Moore) have been an Old Earth Creationist for decades, since the 1990s, including when I taught earth and life science in public schools. During and after my time in the classroom I continued to take part in apologetics classes sponsored by an area church in which I vigorously argued against evolution as the sole explanation for the diversity of life on earth. For a time, though I had some doubts about the details of their model, I was a repeat donor to Reasons to Believe. I still have a lot of respect for their work in astronomy. Though, I now adhere to a different Scriptural framework than do they (the Christ-Centered model for early Genesis), my views fall within the Old Earth Creationist Camp.

So why would a person like me find home on the Peaceful Science forum? After all, Dr. Swamidass, who hosts the forum, endorses the view that evolution is the method by which God created everything from bacteria to people. And he not only holds this position, but proactively explains his position. So why would an Old Earth Creationist choose to identify with his forum? Why would I become a moderator here?

Not for some counterfeit understanding of “peace.” I am unwilling to seek peace at the expense of integrity. I doubt that we will ever end all conflict in the origins debate any ways. The peace I hope for is the peace which comes from Christ, the one which “passes all understanding” and is therefore not dependent on tranquil circumstances to become manifest.

The invitation to the Peaceful Science forums is “to understand and to be understood.”

This type of peace is very attractive to me. Americans are increasingly turning inward. Dialogue is vanishing as people either talk past or dismiss those with which they disagree. Or they may simply seek out their own echo chambers, conversing only with those who feel like they do. I have, instead, looked for a place where diverse views were welcome and seriously scrutinized. We cannot hone and refine and improve the ideas if we do not subject them to real scrutiny. In the end, questions of origins are an inviting conversation for all people, even though we disagree on the particulars

A vision like this is no better than the people on the mission. I’ve watched how Dr. Swamidass handles controversy and disagreement. It is not just that he is a sincere Christian. He also has a complementary role in the Body to mine. Not everyone in the body of Christ has the same mission (1 Corinthians 12), but the different members of the body should not look down on those whose function within the body is different. If we all thunderously declared God’s standards for justice then who would preach His mercy? And if we all did nothing but preach his mercy, how would anyone outside the body even know why they needed it? So, it was not just that I saw we shared the same faith, but I also saw him as a balance to my natural inclinations.

While I am unconvinced by evolution, I do not define myself in opposition to evolution. I define myself in allegiance to Christ. When I see a brother or sister, I will fellowship with them on the grounds that the details of God’s creative work are among the non-essentials that should not divide us. In one way or another, perhaps both of us are wrong on this or that, but we can only discover that in journey together.

For me, the biggest surprise is the strong alignment I find with Dr. Swamidass and my reading of early Genesis. His scientific work on population genetics seems to invalidate not only Young Earth Creationist ideas about Adam, but also the model of the most prominent Old Earth Creationists at Reasons to Believe. As challenging as that sounds, I was surprised how consistent this was with my own reading of Genesis. His work on genealogical ancestry shows that Adam could have been recent, with people outside the garden.

Surprisingly, Dr. Swamidass’ scientific work and my understanding of Genesis turned out to be a fantastic pairing. I had already independently concluded, from Scripture alone, that there were people outside the Garden. Scientific evidence aside, this is what Scripture really seemed to be saying.

So, here I am, the Old Earth Creationist Moderator of the Peaceful Science forum. I hope you can join us sometime, to understand and be understood.

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Notable Replies

  1. Count me in as an (unusual, like Mark) OEC, too. No shame in that label, just a bit prejudicial to some. Cheers!

  2. Welcome Mark, I really enjoy RTB. Hugh Ross is excellent on explaining the latest in astronomy. I just finished his piece on Dark energy and the measurement of w= -1 to tighter and tighter precision. Faz is good too, but he reports on the latest hominid discoveries and gets himself all contorted over Neanderthals being just like us back then or being lesser animals with spears. I am waiting for a discovery of a 40,000 year old Neanderthal/Sapian family painting on a cave wall. That will get Faz scratching his head. I am looking forward to the discussion of TE and OEC as from the science end of things, TE and OEC looks pretty similar from a scientific POV. Regarding the multiverse, TE, OEC and physicist working on it have the same credibility.

  3. Sure, I will do it.

  4. I also have long appreciated Hugh Ross. He has always impressed me with his graciousness in dealing with debate opponents. I’ve also seen interviews where he discusses his experiences dealing with his Asperger’s Syndrome and learning to understand himself. I’ve recommended such to a number of parents.

  5. Then he must be very intrigued by the this paper:

  6. Fascinating. Notice that on that same webpage are several links to other articles linking autism to various genomic topics. I am often “blown away” when I read such news items. In the 1960’s I always enjoyed reading a now-defunct periodical called Science Digest and one of my favorite topics was the analysis and manipulation of DNA. (I well remember a popular cover story from 1968(?) on the possibilities for animal cloning.) I never dreamed I would see in my lifetime the routine sequencing of genomes. Today, it seems that every time I read a science periodical or website, there is yet another published genome for increasingly “obscure” species and breeds. One can even order DNA kits from various companies for determining the muzzle and coat colors of the likely offspring of one’s Labrador Retrievers. And I’ve used my own Y-DNA signature for genealogical research at a very reasonable cost.

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Science has always hurtled forward in ways which amaze us. (And the Bible says that in later times knowledge will greatly increase.) But the older I get, the more I marvel that the rate of progress always seems to exceed my expectations (except in disappointing areas like Artificial Intelligence and the boot time and inefficiencies of Microsoft Windows.)

    Meanwhile, I also am increasingly concerned about a major inequality in our society. Just as the gaps between the “haves” and “have-nots” in American society are growing, there seems to be ever larger gaps between the “knows” and the “know-nots” among Americans, especially in understanding scientific fundamentals and the role of science in dealing with societal problems. Widespread scientific ignorance can be a tremendous threat to a free and democratic society. Even a lot of affluent college-educated people I know are not only in denial on scientific realities like climate change and vaccination topics, they appear to have no appreciation for why the world’s Ph.D. scientists in fields relevant to various newsworthy topics are far more qualified in explaining reality to us than the average person on the street. (How does one spend four years on a university campus without understanding what scientists do and how much knowledge they must process in order to even begin their careers?)

    Obviously, Peaceful Science is a great educational effort. Yet, it is very sobering that most origins-related forums frequented by Christians on the Internet are not only less than educational, they can be downright pseudo-science infested and anti-science. This seems to reflect the same post-modernist and “anti-elitism” trends impacting society at large. As a retired educator, I can’t say I have any great answers to America’s failures in science education. I am often startled at how many Americans failed to master even basic science facts which I know we all saw explained in our middle-school science textbooks. (e.g., “Why are there seasons?”) I even saw a scientific paper a while back by researchers who surveyed humanities professors at some Ivy League schools and a huge percentage incorrectly explained why days get shorter and temperatures colder as winter approaches in the northern hemisphere—and a relative few understood that the earth is actually closer to the sun during the USA’s winter. How can that be?

    I’m not aware of any other forums comparable to Peaceful Science and Biologos. It’s a sobering thought to me.

  7. Yes you did. I was referring to the professors’ erroneous reasoning. And, obviously, the relationship between earth’s axis title and the seasons is explained even in elementary school textbooks. Despite that fact, many of the humanities professors who responded in the survey thought that winter occurs because the earth is further from the sun than in the summer. So they thought distance determined the season. (Of course, even if they had gotten the timing and distance right, they were ignoring the fact that the southern hemisphere has seasons opposite to the northern hemisphere—so the distance from the sun is immaterial. Thus, they didn’t think their answer through all that far.)

    By the way, even Dr. Ben Carson, who has written books and lectured on “science and the Bible” gets a lot of basic science wrong and erred on the earth’s orbital distances in a related way. For example, Carson states that the earth is a perfect distance from the sun because one million miles more and the earth would freeze, while one million miles closer and we would be burned to a crisp. (I didn’t put that last part in quotes because I’m paraphrasing the best that I can recall it.) Carson apparently thinks that the earth’s orbit is a circle and not an ellipse, and he doesn’t realize that the earth-sun distance varies over the course of a year by about 4 million miles, yet we don’t freeze or burn up.

    Several of us posted corrections to an Seventh Day Adventist website interview of Dr. Carson (about eight years ago??) which repeated those and other errors. The SDA webmaster responded by deleting all of our comments and removing the comments feature itself from that particular webpage. I don’t know if the error-filled interview is still on the website. (I counted at least six basic errors of scientific facts in the Carson interview. Of course, during Carson’s presidential run he also claimed that the pyramids of Egypt were built by Joseph to store grain. He said he was simply standing up for the Bible!)

  8. This is even more interesting: A science educator some years ago did a study where middle-schoolers were tested on this “Why are there seasons?” question on two occasions: (1) immediately after covering the relevant chapter in their science textbook, and (2) several months later. The professor discovered that many of the best science students could give the correct answer immediately after that science unit was covered----but several months later they had reverted back to an “intuitive” (but incorrect) answer involving the distance of the earth from the sun.

    So the educator was trying to figure out how we must teach science differently in order to correct our errant intuitions. She described serious science knowledge “slippage” over time, even with the best students.

  9. @AllenWitmerMiller,

    If I were to wager, I would wager that the bold contempt for evolutionary science was the opening wedge for a generally cavalier attitude that scientists are not to be relied upon. FYI (and for you too, @swamidass) - - a notoriously helpful graph for showing the correlation between ocean height, temperature and CO2 concentration.

    The key finding revealed in this chart is that once the continents opened up to create the Atlantic, and the two Americas fused at the isthmus containing the currents, the Earth eventually found itself in a “climate sweet spot”.

    A decrease of 100 ppm of CO2 (down to 180 ppm) was enough to sustain an Ice Age (or Glacial Period), forming glaciers a mile or more over Manhattan island. And an increase of no more than 100 ppm could virtually melt away most of the Earth’s glaciers. The graph also shows that in 800,000 years, there have 8 major glaciations. This 100,000 year periodicity is driven by one of the 3 Milankovitch Cycles - specifically Orbital Eccentricity of the Earth around the Sun.

    When the net gravitational effect of Jupiter, Saturn and the other planets are at their maximum effect, the Earth’s orbit around the Sun is nearly circular (this is when it receives the most energy from the Sun); at the other end of the cycle, the Earth resumes it’s more natural oval-shaped orbit around the Sun, which puts the Earth at a greater distance from the Sun for most of its travel time.

    Finally, now that CO2 is at 400 ppm, Earth has been pushed out of this sweet spot, and a reversal of 100 ppm (through the M-cycles) doesn’t get the Earth anywhere near the point where it re-absorbs the CO2 down to 180 ppm. It takes much longer to “fix” carbon than it does to burn it.

  10. This is what troubles me. I don’t have any problem with fellow Christians expressing their reservations about evolution – heck, I even have some reservations of my own – but what really, really upsets me is when it goes beyond an honest and informed scepticism about specific claims that fly under the banner of evolution, and turns into a wholescale attack on vast swathes of science in general. You see this when you hear snide remarks about “secular science” or “putting your trust in science,” or when they say that “scientists are always changing their minds,” or when they use “evolution” as an umbrella term for anything and everything about science that they don’t like, or when they tell you that you “have a spirit of science that is making it hard for you to hear God.”

    Here’s the thing: science could well be described as the art of fact checking. A training in science trains you to scrutinise people’s claims, and call them on it when they start spouting effluent of a bovine nature. It basically teaches you to apply the command of 1 John 4:1: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

    This being the case, attacks on science and the scientific method in general are basically attacks on basic principles of honesty, factual accuracy and quality control. As Christians, we should be at the forefront of demonstrating – and demanding – these basic principles in the world. When we allow any kind of hostility to science to creep in, it completely undermines our ability to do so. And the only people who benefit when that happens are liars, fraudsters, and snake oil salesmen.

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