Historical Adam

The Genesis 1 narrative begins with the creation of the universe and culminates with God’s special creation of Adam and Eve. Historic Christianity holds that Adam and Eve were the first two humans, uniquely made in God’s image, and that all humanity has descended from them. The biblical genealogies (both Old and New Testament), Jesus’ teachings, and Paul’s epistles all refer to Adam as a real individual.

Genetic, linguistic and pathogen studies support a historical Adam and Eve. This research indicates that humanity arose 1) recently (within the last hundred thousand years or so), 2) at a single location (close to where Bible scholars place the Garden of Eden), and 3) from a small population, arguably as small as a single pair. Much scientific work remains to be done toward refining details, but ample evidence supports the historic Christian idea that all humanity descended from two historical persons, Adam and Eve.

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Theistic Evolution

The topic of theistic evolution (or evolutionary creationism) garners lots of attention among evangelical Christians these days. RTB does not hold to this view. We believe that there are significant scientific, biblical and theological problems with theistic evolution (TE). RTB argues for more direct divine interventions than most theistic evolutionary models posit. In spite of our skepticism, we think that TE models (and others such as young-earth creation models) deserve a place at the table of ideas where they can be developed and tested. Here are some links to RTB’s position on various topics and issues that arise when discussing theistic evolution.

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Genomics

Every organism on Earth contains a genome carrying the complete set of biological information from which that creature is built. Researchers in the field of study called genomics focus on sequencing, analyzing, and comparing the genetic make-up (DNA) of various life forms. In 2003, scientists published the first complete draft of the human genome (all the hereditary information that makes a human) and began comparing it to the genomes of other organisms–viruses, bacteria, amoeboids, plants, fungi, nematodes, insects, fish and mammals.

The similarity of features such as DNA sequences and gene locations within the genomes of related organisms seem to argue for evolutionary models. But these similarities actually fit just as well within creation models. We would expect the Creator to build upon existing designs in the making of new organisms.

As researchers analyze the growing body of genetic data, the encounter increasing difficulties in their attempts to build evolutionary “trees”. For now, the genomics data remains inconclusive with respect to creation or evolution. However, the staggering advances in genomics over the last twenty years have revealed an almost unimaginable genetic complexity and sophistication.

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Junk DNA

Scientists originally applied the term “junk DNA” to any section of DNA that appeared non-functional. Through advances in genomics, the definition has shifted. The term is currently used for a section of the DNA that may have functioned in the past but no longer functions. (See Who Was Adam? for an extensive discussion of the major types of junk DNA—pseudogenes, endogenous retroviruses, SINEs and LINEs—and the mechanisms thought to have generated them.) Because some identical segments of so-called junk DNA occur in a wide range of related organisms (for example, psi GULO in multiple primates) Many researchers view it as evidence for the common ancestry of these organisms, a basic tenet of evolutionary theory.

The concept of junk DNA seems to provide strong evidence for an evolutionary model and against a creation model. Such a conclusion assumes, however, that this genetic material really is junk. A growing body of research says otherwise. Biologists and biochemists continue to find evidence of function in every class of junk DNA. It appears that even the quantity of junk DNA in various organisms has been fine-tuned for a purpose. In other words, it serves as evidence for design. Although many scientists still use junk DNA to argue for an evolutionary model, the data seems a close and comfortable fit with a creation model.

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Human & Chimp DNA Similarities

A high degree of genetic similarity (as high as 99% according to some studies) between humans and chimpanzees leads evolutionary biologists to conclude the two species share a common ancestor. However, a closer look at the genomic data presents a less certain and far more complex picture. It shows significant differences between humans’ and chimps’ gene expression and regulation—most notably in regard to brain structure.

We would expect the Creator to make use of common designs when populating the Earth with life, and yet He introduced something entirely new when He made Adam and Eve. As the only creatures “made in His image,” humans are endowed with capacities uniquely associated with spirituality. Evidences shows no indication that these capacities and behaviors emerged gradually. Instead, they seem to have appeared suddenly. RTB’s creation model accommodates the for the differences and similarities scientists see in the genomic data.

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Origin of Life

In RTB’s creation model, Genesis 1:2 describes the origin of life on Earth. Thus, we expect that life arose early in Earth’s history and persisted under hostile conditions. Additionally, this first life should appear quickly and exhibit complexity.

From 4.5 to 3.8 billion years ago, an unusually large number of comets and asteroids bombarded Earth’s surface—particularly toward the end of this period. Many of these collisions would have liquefied the crust hundreds of meters deep, nearly (if not completely) sterilizing the planet. The scientific data shows an abundance of life right after the intense bombardment ceased—in the absence of any evidence for a prebiotic or primordial soup. Multiple lines of evidences also indicate a high level of complexity for this first life.

While evolutionary models strain to accommodate this scientific data—and also struggle to explain how life can originate from non-life (called abiogenesis)—the evidence affirms RTB’s creation model.

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The Incarnation

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). This verse describes one of the most important distinctions between Christianity and all other religions. God took the initiative to reach out to us in the Incarnation. Jesus, the second person of the triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), took on a human nature (including a body) and entered our earthly life. Being fully human, Jesus was miraculously conceived in a virgin’s womb, born in Bethlehem, grew in wisdom and stature, experienced pain, suffering and humiliation, all without sin. Being fully God, the Son created and sustains the universe and ultimately holds all authority and power over it. And yet he willingly sacrificed himself to atone for the sins of humanity.

The Incarnation uniquely reveals God’s love and care for us, demonstrating his desire for a relationship with us. RTB exists to proclaim this truth far and wide so that others will trust in Jesus’ payment for their sin and receive his offer of eternal life.

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Bad Designs

Skeptics often argue for evolution and against creation by pointing to “bad designs” in nature. They say that if an all-knowing, all-powerful creator made life, these “inferior” or even “leftover” features would not exist. However, a closer study of the frequently used examples of bad designs reveals a different picture. They typically fall into one of three categories predicted by RTB’s biblical creation model:

1. Unappreciated good designs. These are revealed as good by further and closer investigation. Examples include the inverted retina in vertebrate eyes and the giant panda’s thumb.

2. Intentional sub-optimization.  In these cases, one or more aspects of the organism or system is not optimized so that the whole system or organism works properly. The 30% inefficiency in protein synthesis provides an example.

3. Decay from optimal. An initially well-designed system decays due to the operation of the laws of physics. Deviants of the universal genetic codes illustrates this process.

Any example of a so-called bad design in nature deserves deeper study to see if it fits into one of these three categories.

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Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Other Natural Disasters

Natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions often make big headlines. These powerful events sometimes cause dramatic physical changes to the Earth. They may also cause suffering and death. As Christians, our appropriate response to the people and animals affected by such events is to offer practical, compassionate assistance. Additionally, we need to address the question of whether a loving God would allow these things.

Part of that response acknowledges that the forces behind these “natural disasters” play a critical role in Earth’s capacity to support life. Typically these events are natural consequences of life-essential processes. For example, earthquakes result from plate tectonic activity which provides for necessary nutrient recycling. What’s more, without this activity Earth’s water would quickly disappear, making life on Earth impossible. Another part of the response acknowledges that the pain and suffering resulting from such events often traces back in some degree to human error, such as unwise planning, corruption, or failure to head warning signs.

Given the physical laws established by God for our benefit, the frequency and intensity of earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters are actually optimized our good. The physical laws are a temporary but crucial component in God’s redemptive plan for humanity.

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Dinosaurs

Since dinosaurs were first given a name (“terrible lizards”) in 1841, they have fascinated people. Our testable creation model says God created dinosaurs to roam the Earth roughly 230 million years ago, and many different types of these creatures dominated the landscape. Their time on Earth ended when a 6 mile-wide asteroid impacted Earth 65 million years ago. Some Christians say the Leviathan and Behemoth mentioned in Job refer to dinosaurs, but we disagree. Because  humanity arrived on Earth much later, no biblical author would have had contact with dinosaurs. The most popular scientific model claims dinosaurs evolved into birds, but we reject this view also. Instead we argue that both birds and dinosaurs were specially created by God to fill the livable environments available on Earth during their respective eras.

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Global Warming

RTB takes the position that the surface temperature of Earth is warming and human activity plays a role in the warming. While the scientific literature clearly supports this position, most discussion of global warming (or climate change) occurs in a politically charged arena. Consequently, we should keep a number of scientific, political and theological points in mind when discussing the topic.

Scientific points:

  1. Measurements clearly show that Earth has been warming over the last hundred years.
  2. A substantial body of evidence indicates human activity contributes to this warming.
  3. Many scientists regard the consequences of global warming as already dire and irreversible. RTB maintains that the scientific evidence is not so clear on how severe a problem the warming is or on the best ways to address it.

Political points:

  1. Much of the “scientific discussion” in the public arena is actually politically driven (both for and against global warming), with supporters selecting their favorite scientific evidence.
  2. When having a political discussion, understand that a person’s worldview plays a major role in the position a person will take.
  3. To properly address the “global warming problem” we need a diverse set of solutions that span the political spectrum.

Theological points:

  1. God is the creator and sustainer of the universe (and Earth in particular) and will accomplish His purposes. That does not mean we can neglect our care for creation.
  2. God commanded humans to care for and rule over creation, being careful to avoid worshiping the Earth or giving it higher priority than humanity.
  3. God has structured creation in such a way that the best solutions will both provide for humanity AND care for Earth.

Above all, in debating the different solutions to global warming, apply the golden rule. Treat others (and their arguments) the way you want to be treated—even when the debate gets heated.

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Four part series with paleoclimatologist Kevin Birdwell.

  • Part One: What happened with climate-gate? Is the globe warming? Is the scientific process working?
  • Part Two: How do humans impact the greenhouse gases? The ocean circulations? How do climate models work and are they useful? Understanding the importance of cloud cover.
  • Part Three: Evidence for climate change. Are global warming and climate change the same thing? How does the Sun affect climate change? How do we respond to the public discussion? What will happen in the next decade? Are there limits to global warming?
  • Part Four: How legitimate is the “hockey stick”? How dramatic is the projected warming compared to the past temperatures? What are the dominant human contributions? How do we find the best solution?

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Multiverse

The term multiverse carries many different meanings and anyone discussing the scientific research about the multiverse should understand these distinctions. Currently the most popular versions of the multiverse suggest universes entirely separate (with different physical laws) from ours. These may form as a consequence of inflation that operated early in our universe, or they may result from quantum mechanical processes. Two things remain clear: our universe shows overwhelming evidence of a beginning and exhibits compelling evidence of fine-tuning for life. Whether the multiverse exists or not, research into this fascinating topic has made the case for a Beginner and a Designer of the universe more robust.

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Hominids

RTB’s biblical creation model identifies “hominids,” Neanderthals, Homo erectus and others, as animals created by God. These extra-ordinary creatures walked erect and possessed enough intelligence to assemble crude tools and even adopt some level of “culture.” The RTB model maintains that the hominids were not spiritual beings made in God’s image. RTB’s model reserves this status exclusively for Adam and Eve and their descendants (modern humans).

The model predicts many biological similarities will exist between the hominids and modern humans but also significant differences. The greatest distinctions between modern humans and the hominids can be seen in their cognitive capacity, behavior patterns, technological development, and culture, especially artistic and religious expression.

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Exoplanets

Scientific advances over the last two decades allow astronomers to detect planets orbiting stars outside our solar system. These objects are known as extrasolar planets, or exoplanets for short. As astronomers study the hundreds of exoplanets already discovered, evidence for Earth’s rare (or possibly unique)  characteristics for supporting advanced life continues to grow. News reports often claim a particular exoplanet is Earth-like or “habitable.” Such announcements typically reflect a “minimalist model” for habitability, namely the assumption that where liquid water exists, life will inevitably exist. RTB’s testable creation model proposes that life requires far more exacting criteria than just liquid water.

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