Creationist Wisdom #917: Not by Chance

Great news, dear reader! We found a letter by our favorite preacher, who has been featured in this collection six times before. The last was #706: Our Favorite Preacher, and that links to all the others.

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Rockdale Citizen of Rockdale County, Georgia. It’s titled Modern science holds that we are all God’s creation, and the newspaper has a comments section.

Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name — but today we’ve got a preacher — John Pearrell, pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington, Georgia. The church’s website says they’re affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. We’ll give you a few excerpts from rev’s newest letter, enhanced with some bold font for emphasis and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]. Okay, here we go:

After a few paragraphs about the rev’s recent trip to Kenya, the fun begins:

While science continues to cling to a form of Darwinian Evolution, I believe in creation. [We know.] Personally, I think the evidence of science points more toward creation than it does time plus chance. In fact, modern scientific discoveries render Darwin’s theory obsolete. That is why the modern version of his theory is now called neo-Darwinism [Oh, so that’s why!] and has some scientists claiming that our world was “seeded” by aliens.

Goofy scientists! Then he says:

At least one noted scientist, Dr. Michael Behe, contends that “If what we know scientifically today had been known in Darwin’s time, his theory would never have gotten off the ground.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! See Michael Behe. After that the rev tells us:

I understand that some cling tenaciously to Darwin’s untenable theory and consider anyone who believes in creation as uneducated cretins. [Gasp!] I have learned from experience that when people know they do not have a leg to stand on, they always resort to attacking the person rather than advancing any real argument for their view. Such is the case with those who are uneducated themselves in the facts of modern scientific thought as they continue to think of evolution as a scientific law rather than the scientific theory it is.

Wow — evolution is only a theory! The rev continues:

So, grant me for a minute my premise: that we are creations not the by-product of chance. If we are creations, what Moses, Paul and Jesus said about Adam and Eve is true. If Adam and Eve are literal historical figures, all of mankind [scripture quote] are in fact blood relatives!

Wow! Let’s read on:

Despite our differences in appearance, the color of our skin or the shape of our eyes, ultimately we are all brothers and sisters! If that is the case (as I believe it is), it is high-time we end our family feud and learn to get along in this world!

Great idea! And now we come to the end:

As the old children’s song reminds us, “Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in God’s sight.”

Thanks for another great letter, rev!

Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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18 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #917: Not by Chance

  1. “If Adam and Eve are literal historical figures, all of mankind are in fact blood relatives!”
    Yes, but as I understand it, if Adam and Eve are NOT historical figures, all of mankind are blood relatives.

  2. On the Antiquity and Unity of the Human Race
    This famous 1911 essay by an early fundamentalist Christian, B B Warfield, argued for accepting Darwin’s account of the unity of humanity
    It can be found often reprinted or on Wikisource.

  3. “I have learned from experience that when people know they do not have a leg to stand on, they always resort to attacking the person rather than advancing any real argument for their view.”

    Yep, and so here I go.

  4. @TomS, thanks. Unfortunately, Warfield goes on to argue that “Aimless movement was supposed, if time enough were allowed for it, to produce an ordered world. It might as well be supposed that if a box full of printers’ types were stirred up long enough with a stick, they could be counted on to arrange themselves in the order in which they stand, say, in Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason.’ They will never do so, though they be stirred to eternity.” Anticipating Hoyle’s junkyard.

    He also invokes Kelvin’s lower limit for the age of the Solar system (20 million), unaware of the advent a few years earlier of radiometric dating, mocks Geicke and others for postulating 100 million, places humanity as post-ice age because of the (then) poverty of the fossil record, and was aware of the beginning Eclipse of Darwinism. So he made what was at the time a very good argument for human origins to have been within the past 10 to 20,000 years, and claimed that that match the scientific consensus. For these reasons, I don’t really want to quote him now.

    Maimonides, explicitly, said that “day” was not to be taken literally. Do you have links to others making this point, or making the kind of point that Warfield is making about the incompleteness of genealogies? The older the better.

    Thanks as always for your erudite input.

  5. I was interested in the comment about Darwin being compatible with Christian belief in the unity of human-kind. BTW, ithis is not relevant, but it appears that Kelvin’s final estimate was based on a mistake, which was pointed out at the time (and ignored) by John Perry: see the Wikipedia article on “John Perry (engineer)” in the section “Challenging Lord Kelvin”. Also, the argument about mixing up type goes back at least as far as Cicero, in his “De natura deorum” On the Nature of the Gods, ii.34 (it is cited in Wikiquote). We can be sure that Warfield knew his Cicero (and could assume that his readers did, also).

    As far as your request:

    There is the very early Christian “Epistle of Barnabas”, which is from the first or second century. (Nobody believes that this was written by the Apostle Barnabas, nor that it is an autoritative, but it is an example of very early Christian writing.) In Chapter 15, he brings up the “a day is a thousand years” interpretation to argue that the world is going to last 6000 years. Yes, this is still “young earth”, but it is decidedly not taking the “days” literally. You can find the Epistle of Barnabas here:

    A more reliable source is Augustine of Hippo, who apparently struggled with literal readings of Genesis for quite some time. As I type this, I discover that I have misplaced the citation, so I’m relying on Wikipedia, which I discover, has also other ancient commentators on the subject. See the Wikipedia article
    “Allegorical interpretations of Geness” section “Days of creation”.

    Another very early writer is Philo of Alexandria, writng from the early first century CE, who was Jewish, but is not considered very reliable, but did write extensively on allegorical interpretations of Scripture. He argued the difficulty of reading the days of Genesis literally. See

  6. @TomS, good stuff. I’ve written about Perry and the gap in Kelvin’s heat of the Earth argument; Perry invoked what we now call mantle convection:

    Kelvin’s lower estimate, however came from the problem of the origin of the Sun’s energy, a different arguent. But this, too, was soluble (“solved” would put it too strongly) by invoking the energy of nuclear processes, as Rutherford famously (details in above link) observed.

  7. But what about “proof”? I’m dissatisfied with my own response which is to say that logical proof is not attainable for statements about the world, but the evidence gives proof beyond reasonable doubt. This sounds weak and apologetic. Does anyone have better ideas?

  8. Paul Braterman asks: “Does anyone have better ideas?”

    I don’t. Instead, I offer this: Everyone knows that the kind of logical proof that we have in math and geometry doesn’t exist in science. However, when test after test, observation after observation, all converge in support of a scientific theory — and no verifiable evidence to the contrary exists — then we have … what?

    We don’t have “proof.” But we have excellent justification for confidence in the scientific theory. With the understanding, of course, that such confidence is provisional, because new evidence can always pop up requiring a revision or even replacement of the old theory, resulting in one that is even more consistent with the evidence.

    So that’s all we have. But it works, and compared to what creationists have … well, there’s no comparison.

  9. Let us compare two propositions according to the same criteria.
    Propositon A: The Earth is a planet of the Sun, like Mars, it rotates in several hours and goes around the Sun in hundreds of days and is made up of the same sort of material.
    Propositon B: Life on Earth is physically related by descent with modification.
    Criterion 1. Whether the obvious reading of the Bible.
    Criterion 2. The consensus of modern science.

    I. A is supported by 2 and conflicts with 1.
    II. B is supported by 2 and is weakly in conflict with 1.

    Argument about I:
    In brief, nothing in astronomy makes sense except in the light of heliocentrism. But it is difficult to make an argument which rests only on observations and reasoning which is accessible to the citizen without at least college-level understanding of science and mathematics or access to sophisticated scientific apparatus. In the face of a determined geocentrist, one may have to resort to the General Theory of Relativity and the findings of 21st-century space technology. There is a well-known alternative explanation (whether or not one rejects the evidence for it, if any, there is an alternative).
    The Bible was understood by everyone for someting like 2000 years as being compatible only with geocentrism. Although there were a few people who brought up variations from simple geocentrism, and even though there were difficulties with the standard Aristotle-Ptolemy model, no one suggested that the Bible is obviously meant non-literally on this topic before about the year 1500 or so.

    Argument about II:
    Again, noting in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. In particular, the kinds of arguments adduced by Darwin are mostly accessible to the average educated person. For example, everyone recognizes that many of the familiar tetrapod animals fall into a pattern of a “Tree of Life”, and that the simple explanation of descent wth modification accounts for this.
    One doesn;’t have to rely on the opinions of experts to see this, although, of course, there is consensus of the experts. There is no known alternative explanation (let alone evidence for an alternative).
    On the other hand, for much of the history of the Bible, there was no mention of the denial of evoluton. Nobody brought it up. It is difficult to find proof-texts to reject evolution. But I am not going to insist on this.

    At the most, the science-versus-the-Bible criteria give us a tie, in comparing A with B. If one wants to reject B on the use of these criteria, then one ought to also reject A.

  10. The simplest explanation is that we are all “blood relatives” by common descent, not the offspring of two individuals. Two people, even if separately created (rather than clonally if from a rib), could not contain the large amount of genetic variation observed across humanity. Proponents of creationism either ignore the variation or invoke genetic mechanisms for which there is no evidence (but then they don’t care about evidence). I’m quite happy to be related to all life forms by descent. And, I’m quite content that all of my genes had their origin as chance events. I’m a mutant and so is every living thing.

  11. @Scientist
    I don’t object to anything that you wrote. But I have some comments.
    If there were a bottleneck some 6000 years ago, in the snese that we are all descended from a population of two individuals (or, BTW, another bottleneck a bit later on Noah’s Ark, of eight individuals – or actually five genetically different: Noah, Mrs. Noah, and Mrs. Shem, Mrs. Ham and Mrs. Japheth) it would seem to take some mathematics to work out the possibilities. But it is easier to point to the example of the inbreeding of the Spanish Habsburgs, with the tragic individual Charles II, all eight of his great-grandparents being descendants of Joanna and Philip I of Castile. The least of his worries was the so-called “Habsburg lip”. (Apparently some doubt that his problems were due to excessive inbreeding.)
    Anyway, at least saying that we are all descendents of Adam and Eve at least has the strength of being an explanation. But, as with all real explkanations, it has the difficulty that it can then be examined hw well it fits the facts.
    On the other hand, the facts of our similarieties and differences with other forms of life on Earth – as far as I know, no one has even suggested any explanation other than common descent with modification. (“That’s the way it is” does not count, even if it is in the form “that’s the way that an agent which is capable of doing anything chose to do it, out of the literally unlimited possibilities.”)

  12. @TomS
    Yes, bottlenecks reduce genetic variability, sometimes significantly as in the case of cheetahs. Human genetic variability doesn’t give any evidence of such a bottleneck. And, because archaeological evidence indicates that humans were widely dispersed 6,000 years ago, no bottleneck of 2, 5 or 8 individuals is reasonable. Evidence for the relatedness of all life forms is overwhelming: membranes of lipid bilayers; ATP currency; catalytic RNA at the core of ribosomes and mechanism of protein synthesis; “universal” genetic code; mechanism of DNA replication, to name the biggies at the molecular level. Common descent with modification seems compelling, and I’ll accept that both natural selection and genetic drift have played prominent roles, with the former responsible for adaptive evolution. All natural, all the time. No one has anything better.

  13. @Scientist
    No one has anyting better.
    I insist rather:
    No one has anything else.
    ID-iers have been known to define ID as “There is a better explanation than naturalistic evoluton.” Without a decription of what that better explanation is. That is, they do not rise to the weaker standard of offering an explanation, whether better, worse or incomparable.
    I am fond of citing the 1852 essay by Herbert Spencer, “The Development Hypoothesis”, in this regard, in Wikisource. “They are merely asked to point out a conceivable mode…” (Spencer’s emphasis)

  14. I just left Cruzzie down the pub; he was, shall we say, “under the weather”. Apparently he was rostered on to make replies to the SC blog this week. He normally gives a pass to Letters to the Editor, but the discussion about Pearrell’s letter has hit him for six.

    “Mate, I don’t understand it. A perfectly good crackpot Letter to the Editor, from a bloke with a good track record, and what happens? Instead of putting the boot in, they’re discussing philosophy, logic, Augustine, Lord bloody Kelvin for heaven’s sake. What’s a bloke to do? Kenny Ham will hit the roof and Klingie, oh mate, he’s gunna go ballistic”.

  15. @Michael Fugate, powerfully argued. Less ingenious creationists argue that when similar looking organisms resemble each other genetically, that proves that the Designer has used similar DNA to produce similar results. But here we are told that the real evidence for a designer comes when similar results are produced using dissimilar DNA. We bow the head and do not understand.

    Parallel evolution and indeed parallel sympatric speciation occurs when isolated environments are invaded by, for example, cichlid fish. I didn’t know about the other examples,and will add them to my database

  16. @PaulBraterman Are you suggesting that the Kane article has legs?

  17. @tedinoz, Kane article? I can’t find that name earlier in the thread -did I miss something?