In a twist of Dobzhansky’s famous quote “nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution”, host Del Tackett concludes his film Is Genesis History with this statement:
Nothing in the world makes sense except in light of Genesis.
Whose Team Are You On?
Is Genesis History? is not constructed as a conflict between science and faith, but as a conflict between two world views.
Immediately from the beginning and throughout it all, the film places those who accept evolution and an ancient earth firmly on the side opposite God and faith.
With the teams drawn up (Team God’s Side and Team Everyone Else), the film launches into interviews with geologists and biologists, an engineer, a couple of philosophers, and an astronomer – thirteen in all. The research frame for each man is the same: start with Genesis and make the science work.
Each man gave the same rationale for looking at Genesis first:
- I have a biblical worldview
- the biblical text is not compatible with the standard science view
- we only have one eyewitness to creation (God)
- therefore, we must go to the Bible to reconstruct the age of the earth and explain the diversity of life.
And… if evidence points to something other than a young earth and special creation, discount it because (see the bullets above). Circular logic and distressing.
Pretty Movie, Bad Science
The film is beautiful – a lot of time is spent in the Grand Canyon, with emphasis on its origin via a catastrophic world flood. Because their world view requires a literal Genesis, the speakers dismiss out-of-hand, without elaboration, any references to a canyon older than four thousand years. All agreed – the canyon was formed suddenly and catastrophically by raging and then receding flood waters.
One geologist cites his evidence regarding the formation of the canyon: “claims of scripture and my own observation”.
According to the astronomer, light from stars millions of light-years away must have been “fast-forwarded” to earth like a time-lapse movie. The paleontologist said that our ideas about dating dinosaurs are just plain wrong. Each speaker in turn speculated on the fossil record, astronomy, and geology – all starting with the assumption of a young earth. So that’s that.
I was honestly disappointed – I expected more “here’s what science says, and here’s why we think it’s wrong”. Instead, each speaker explained how things “could have happened” in a way fitting a literal Genesis narrative. Any evidence contrary to a young earth and a catastrophic creation of the Grand Canyon was simply dismissed without discussion. Have questions? You’re directed to the literature for the movie.
(However, I recommend this link: A Geological Response to the Movie “Is Genesis History?”)
One exception is a segment regarding the discovery of soft tissue in a dinosaur fossil. The conclusion? The presence of soft tissue means that the dinosaur couldn’t possibly be millions of years old … and if this dinosaur is young, then all dinosaurs are young … you see where they went with this. The film fails to mention the follow-up studies done with this sample, what was found, and the dismay of the discoverer (herself a committed Christian) that her research is being touted as evidence for young earth creationism.
My question: in what other areas of science do we start with the Bible and force modern science evidence to conform? Do we study modern meteorology only within the context of literal storehouses for snow and hail (Job 38:22)?
Evolution of the Squirrel-Monkey-Fish
You name the misconception about evolution theory, and it was front and center.
Would a God of love stand by and watch his creatures flopping around on the ground, trying to produce wings? Trying to produce lungs?
This is an actual quote from one of the scientists in the film.
From the usual arguments of design (“you can’t build complexity one step at a time”) to the absurd (“you aren’t going to get a shark to evolve into a bird”), it was painfully apparent that those interviewed had no idea what the theory of evolution actually says, much less the evidence for it.
The Cambrian explosion is cited as an “out of nowhere and all of a sudden” appearance of life in the fossil record.
(“Sudden” only by comparison – the Cambrian lasted 53 million years.)
There are no “missing links”, no transitional forms in the fossil record.
(Well, no, there’s not if you are looking for creatures flopping around trying to grow lungs. There is not “a” transitional … there are actually thousands.)
You can’t trust science because it is always changing.
(A simplistic misunderstanding of what scientists mean by theory. Science theories may be tweaked or fine-tuned, but science theories are so well-established by time and testing that the fundamentals remain the same. We will learn more about evolutionary processes, but the foundations of evolution theory are stable.)
I recently heard Neil deGrasse Tyson speak at the Winspear in Dallas. Dr. Tyson made this point: unlike artists who often are not famous until after their deaths, scientists can be famous in their lifetime. If empirical evidence debunking evolution and modern geology exists, the discoverers would be globally and immediately famous.
My observation: it’s easy to tear down a straw man.
A Fragile Faith
One of the more disturbing aspects of this film is its insistence that belief in young earth creationism is essential to Christian faith. Here’s the rationale: If Genesis is not actual history, then Christianity is not actual history. If Genesis is not history, then the entire Bible is useless.
Ironically, tying young earth creationism to Christianity is one of the primary reasons cited by those who abandon Christianity.
The film goes further. Without a historical Adam and Eve, we have no basis for morality. Even theistic evolutionists (belief in God and evolution as his way of creating) are not off the hook because they “take out the Creator”.
The day after I saw this film, I saw Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo on stage. The opposition of young earth creationists to evolution and an ancient earth is alarmingly identical to the early seventeenth century church’s opposition to Galileo’s sun-centered solar system:
If the earth is not at the center, then man is not at the center and apple of God’s eye. We can’t believe anything in the Bible. If the earth is just one rock among many, would God have sent his son to such a place?
My question: is the gospel story so fragile that it crumbles in the presence of modern science?
Is Genesis History? Encore performance March 7th, in a theater near you.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge
you should really learn more about Intelligent Design, so you don’t lump it in with creationism. Scientists like Behe, Dembski amd Meyer are as savvy as any evolutionist, heyjust hold different views. Even evolutionists like Shapiro and Conway-Morris have respect for the questions ID is asking.
I am quite familiar with the concepts underlying Intelligent Design and what its proponents assert.
The Intelligent Design movement arose in response to the ruling by SCOTUS (1987) that creationism was a religious idea and could not be taught in public schools.
The Dover trial (2005) was the landmark trial for intelligent design. The best and strongest voices in the Intelligent Design movement testified. In the end, the presiding judge (a conservative, by the way) ruled that intelligent design was creationism given a new name. In fact, evidence showed that the most famous ID textbook (Of Pandas and People) literally removed the words “creationism” and “creation” from an earlier edition and replaced them with “design” and “intelligent design” over and over again.
Great resources for more information on Intelligent Design as well as the Dover Trial are “Only a Theory” by Kenneth Miller and the NOVA documentary “Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial”.