Last week, I had the privilege of attending the eighth International Conference on Creationism (ICC). This conference is a “meeting of the minds” in which several hundred creation scientists, Bible scholars, and other creation advocates can present and critique their research in various fields, including biology, geology, astronomy, physics, archeology, and biblical studies. The ICC has taken place every 4-5 years since its inception in 1986 and is sponsored by the Creation Science Fellowship.
For any Bible believer who is interested in science, the ICC is terrific fun. Attendees get to see how the latest research in various fields of science continues to confirm biblical creation. More importantly, there is opportunity to interact with the researchers themselves, asking them questions and in some cases challenging their conclusions. This year, there was a four-track schedule throughout the mornings and afternoons. For each time slot, four different presentations occurred simultaneously in different rooms, so attendees had to choose which one of the four to attend. The ICC organizers ensured that concurrent talks always dealt with different topics, so that it was possible to attend all of the presentations within a particular discipline. Since I enjoy many different fields of science, I must admit that I was sometimes torn because I wanted to hear two or three presentations that were concurrent. Fortunately, all the research papers have been posted online and are available for free. In the evening, all attendees met together for a keynote presentation.
The Astronomy Meeting
The ICC is a collaboration of scientists from many different fields. But a smaller meeting consisting of experts within one particular field can also be very beneficial. For this reason, creation astronomers often meet just before the main conference of the ICC as well as the annual meetings of the Creation Research Society. My friend Danny Faulkner of Answers in Genesis has organized such meetings for the past several events and this year was no exception. This astronomy pre-meeting was very helpful and enjoyable.
We discussed a range of topics such as the expansion of the universe, the exact meaning of the “expanse” mentioned in Genesis 1:6, star formation, dark matter, dark energy, heavy-element formation, and general relativity. Since we all have different backgrounds, each of us was able to contribute our relevant knowledge of the topic and critique the various conclusions. Such discussions are very helpful.
For example, I knew that the secular claim that all the elements heavier than iron were produced by supernovae was problematic. But I didn’t appreciate just how problematic until we discussed the issue. We agreed that star formation is very problematic at best, particularly for the first generation of stars. Secular astronomers must assume that new stars are constantly forming because we see so much evidence of youth in the universe. Blue O-type stars, for example, cannot last billions of years, and yet we find them in the arms of spiral galaxies. If they do not form naturally, then this indicates that the universe was created supernaturally and much more recently than the secular (big bang) adherents assume.
Our various backgrounds sometimes resulted in different interpretations of evidence. Interestingly, we found that creation astronomers are inclined to think that dark matter is the best explanation for galaxy rotation profiles, whereas creation physicists were more inclined to think that new physics is the answer. Some people have the impression that dark matter was invented to fix the big bang model of origins. But it wasn’t. Dark matter is invoked to account for velocity profiles in galaxies. Namely, if galaxies had no dark matter, then the stars in the disk should orbit much slower than they do. Unless our understanding of physics is wrong, their high speeds imply that more gravitational mass exists within the galaxy than can be accounted for by stars, gas, dust, and everything else that is observationally detected.
Christian Scholarship and Fellowship
We can also benefit greatly by studying a range of different scientific disciplines. The ICC main sessions cover a range of scientific and theological studies. In addition to the technical discussions, I was very blessed to touch base with good friends and to meet new friends as well. Since creation scientists are a relatively small group (though growing), there is a great deal of comradery. Some of this is because we share common interests. But the heart of our fellowship is that we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
I was delighted to catch up with old friends from ICR, AiG, and others. Some of these scholars have been in the ministry far longer than I have. Some are pioneers of the creation science movement and people that I have admired for years. It was such a delight to be surrounded by my heroes of the faith.
Ken Ham opened the conference with a Sunday evening keynote presentation on the importance of Genesis and research in biblical creation. Genesis is foundational for all Christian doctrines. Hence, attacks on Genesis have naturally contributed to the rejection of Christianity in this nation and around the world. Ken is a superb speaker particularly on this topic and the response was very positive.
Keven Anderson delivered a fascinating keynote presentation on the soft tissue that paleontologists are regularly finding in dinosaur remains. Such soft tissue decays quickly and cannot last millions of years, which confirms the biblical timescale. Dr. Anderson showed the results of studies that had measured the rate of decay of substances like collagen which are found in dinosaur remains, and yet cannot last vast ages. The following evening, Dr. Steve Austin presented on the topic of geology. He showed how rapidly deposited mud can account for the evidence we find in geologic formations. There is simply no need for millions of years.
I was very honored to be asked to give the closing keynote presentation on the topic of the problems with evolutionary cosmology. I presented a summary of the big bang model, and then critiqued it in five areas, including its unscientific nature and the many problems published in the technical literature. I showed evidence for a young universe and how distant starlight can arrive at Earth within the biblical timescale. I concluded by showing how science is only possible because biblical creation is true.
The ICC also had panel discussions in which four experts in a given discipline debated various important issues and answered questions from the audience. The biology panel addressed the issue of baraminology – the study of animal kinds. This ongoing area of creation research attempts to assess which modern species are genuinely biologically related to each other and therefore belong to the same created kind. The geology panel focused on the topic of the location of the flood / post-flood boundary in the geologic column. Creationists have often held that the Cretaceous system corresponds to the final flood deposits, with Tertiary sediment representing post-flood deposition. But recent research has challenged this notion, placing the post-flood boundary considerably higher – though not everyone agrees.
I was invited to participate in the astronomy panel discussion along with Danny Faulkner, Russ Humphreys and Phil Dennis. Bob Hill moderated as we discussed our various ideas on creationist cosmological models. We actually agree on quite a lot. And there was some good-natured ribbing when we disagreed, which made our panel discussion lighthearted and humorous. Yes, we disagree on some things, but we really do like and respect each other. And it was great fun.
Highlights of the ICC presentations
There were too many presentations to summarize them all. And again, any individual could only attend one of the four in each time slot. But here are a few of the presentations that – for me – were the highlights. The written papers for these research projects are available on the ICC website, listed by abstract with the option to download the entire paper here: http://www.creationicc.org/icc18_abstracts.php
Dr. Joe Francis gave a fascinating presentation on the design of bacteriophages: viruses that infect bacteria. Biblical creationists understand that the world was created “very good” and would therefore not contain the disease and death of living (nephesh) organisms in our present world. What changed? Many people associate bacteria and viruses with disease. In reality, only a tiny percentage of bacteria cause disease, and then only under certain conditions. Bacteria are an essential part of the ecology. They help recycle used material back into the environment and are necessary for the mammalian biome. Dr. Francis showed how bacteriophages can actually prevent bacteria from becoming pathogenic. They can even “cloak” the bacteria to prevent an immune response. Hence, bacteriophages appear to regulate biological devices that were a part of the original “very good” creation. However, since the fall of man into sin, some aspects of creation have changed or are out-of-balance and disease has resulted.
Dr. Andy McIntosh presented research on the bombardier beetle, including the development of a manmade valve system that mimics the beetle’s spraying apparatus. The valve system on the beetle is an ingenious design, in which inlet and outlet valves must work in concert to prevent the insect from blowing itself up. An evolutionary origin would seem to be impossible. I appreciated McIntosh’s approach: learning from God’s creation and applying it to engineering. This stands in contrast to those who fallaciously insist that God must use the same principles that engineers do. God is not limited in such a way.
Dr. John Sanford spoke on the genetics of Adam and Eve. Critics have asserted that it is impossible to get the current genetic diversity of humans from only two people. (This has always struck me as absurdly self-refuting because evolutionists claim that all the genetic diversity on the planet came from one single-celled microbe!) However, such critics have fallaciously assumed a highly homozygous genome for both Adam and Eve – meaning that the instructions on each of Adam’s two DNA sets were nearly identical, and likewise for Eve. In reality, Adam and Eve likely had a large amount of heterozygosity – many differences in their two sets of DNA. Furthermore, Adam’s two sets of DNA were likely quite different from Eve’s two sets of DNA. Dr. Sanford showed that this, along with mutations, is very consistent with the current genetic diversity in the human genome. Note that Dr. Jeanson has also published on how such created heterozygosity and natural processes in animals can account for speciation in the kinds of animals that were aboard Noah’s Ark.
Dr. Tim Clarey’s work in assembling a massive database of geological information obtained from various drill sties has led to the first detailed maps of the stages of Noah’s flood on multiple continents. This has allowed Dr. Clarey to reconstruct the approximate shape of the pre-flood supercontinent. It also has provided valuable insight into the location of the flood / post-flood boundary in the geologic column.
Dr. John Baumgardner presented research on numerical models that showed how sediment was deposited during the global flood. Far from the gradual, tranquil rising of waters that many people assume, the flood was a violent, geologically catastrophic event. Dr. Baumgardner showed that erosion from tsunamis during the global flood can deposit great, laterally-extensive layers of fossil-bearing sediment.
Wayne Spencer presented a summary of the current thinking in secular models of planet migration. Physics strongly challenges the idea that planets can form, particularly in their current orbits. So secular astronomers have hypothesized that the planets formed at distances from the sun quite different from their current orbits and that these planets have migrated inward and/or outward over time. Dr. Danny Faulkner gave a presentation on the current state of creation astronomy.
Interestingly, there were several presentations on the topic of distant starlight. I was pleased to find that one of them is essentially a variation of my own ASC model. In the ASC model, I proposed that the surface of simultaneity used in Scripture is not the (isotropic) standard signal synchrony used by modern physicists, but consistent with the ancient tradition of marking celestial events by the time of their appearance. This results in incoming light arriving instantly from all directions in space, though outgoing light is slower.
Proper biblical exegesis is crucial if we are to build scientific models that correspond to reality. Dr. Barrick gave a presentation on the proper interpretation of Psalm 104:5-10, focusing on verse 8. This section of Scripture appears to poetically describe the global flood and the geologic implications thereof: namely, valleys sank and mountains rose at the end of the flood year. But some translations of Scripture render verse 8 as saying that the waters rose over the mountains and sank into the valleys – quite a different geological implication. Furthermore, some people have claimed that these verses don’t address the flood at all but apply to the creation week. However, Dr. Barrick demonstrated that context really does require this section of the chapter to be addressing the flood. Furthermore, the mountains rising and valleys sinking is the natural translation from the Hebrew, as rendered in such versions as the New American Standard Bible.
More to Come
Scientific research pertaining to biblical creation has certainly come a long way. But there is still room for improvement. Occasionally, a speaker or writer will present opinions that are not well-researched, or in a way that does not follow biblical and scientific protocol. Fortunately, ICC papers are peer-reviewed which reduces papers with fallacious reasoning and factual errors. But a few get through from time to time, just as occurs in secular literature. Such examples remind us of our biblical obligation to obtain wise counsel, which in this case would involve critiques from creationists who have expertise in the relevant field. God alone is above reproof.
On the whole, creation science has come a long way since the publication of “The Genesis Flood” in 1961. The groundbreaking research contained in that book revitalized an interest in the science of creation, and has spurred many young biblical creationists to pursue a career in science. Morris and Whitcomb had little to work with compared to today, and yet they were so right about so many things. Today, we have biblical creationists with a Ph.D. in such fields as biology, physics, genetics, geology, astronomy, astrophysics, mathematics, zoology, microbiology, and many others. Our understanding of creation has grown exponentially, and we expect this trend to continue.