Lynchburg, VA— Most of the 2,000 people at the 2005 Creation Mega-Conference, being held here at Liberty University this week, appear to be middle and upper middle class; the conferees are overwhelmingly white and many have brought along their whole families. When organizers poll the audience for "Christian leaders," about 200 people stood up; a poll of attendees with "graduate degrees" brings another 300 or so to their feet. Participants hail from as far away as Alaska and California, and cars in the parking lot are tagged from New York, Michigan, Iowa, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Alabama and Texas. The attendees are clearly engaged, enthusiastic, and sincere.
Keynote presentations in Liberty University's Vines basketball arena are professionally produced using a wide array of high tech gadgets; they're far more slick than the presentations I usually see at scientific conferences. The presenters know they are speaking to the already converted; the emphasis is on cheerleading and providing ammunition for the good fight against the purveyors of godless materialistic evolutionism. The chief impresario of the Mega-Conference is Ken Ham, president of the Answers In Genesis (AiG) ministry headquartered across the river from Cincinnati in Hebron, KY. The purpose of AiG is to uphold the authority of the Bible from the very first verse. And lest you think that no one's paying attention, Ham notes that AiG's website gets 1.6 million visitors per month.
The creationists here at the Mega-Conference make it crystal clear that they are no namby-pamby Discovery Institute intelligent designers nor are they mere progressive evolutionists. As David Dewitt, associate professor of biology and head of the Creation Studies Center at Liberty University succinctly explains, "We believe that Adam and Eve were real people and that God created everything in six 24 hour days."
Romanian geologist Dr. Emil Silvestru "debunks" the notion that the earth had existed for millions of years in his talk "Rocks Around the Clock: The Eons That Never Were." In place of the scientific view that the earth is around 4.5 billion years old Silvestru offers a six thousand year "young Earth" chronology:
Creation—six 24-hour days
Lost World—1700 years—no big mountains, no plate tectonics
Flood—370 days—creation of high mountains, deep oceans, sedimentary rocks, plate tectonics form continents
Ice Age—1000 years
Post Ice Age—3000 years and counting.
Fossils are explained by Flood hydrology which covered over billions of animals and plants during the global inundation. Christian musician (and dinosaur sculptor) Buddy Davis even sings a praise song in the evening that sums up the situation. The chorus goes like this:
Billions of dead things
Buried in rock layers
Laid down by water
All over the earth. Well, there really was
A world wide flood
Just look at
The stoney curse
With billions of dead things
Buried in rock layers
Laid down by water
All over the earth.
In addition to his musical offerings, Davis is sculpting 40 different dinosaurs for AiG's Creation Museum which is slated to open in 2007. Dinosaurs play a surprisingly big role in modern creation science. For example, AiG's opening webpage features a graphic of Apatosaurus dinosaurs mingling with a herd of modern antelopes. Apparently, the comic strip featuring the prehistoric cave man Alley Oop chasing after dinosaurs was actually a precise look into humanity's past. In fact, AiG's president Ken Ham has written a lavishly illustrated children's book Dinosaurs of Eden (2001) which shows Adam and Eve and Noah and his kin frolicking with all manner of dinosaurs. One particularly charming illustration shows Flintstones-style ancient humans saddling up dinosaurs and camels as pack animals. Relying on local legends, the book even suggests that dinosaurs survived as "dragons" in England as late as 1405 AD.
I was surprised to learn from the theologian John Whitcomb, co-author of the seminal creationist book, The Genesis Flood (1961), that Noah's ark carried 1,000 different kinds of dinosaurs as well as all of the other species. Whitcomb's book has sold more than a quarter of a million copies in English. The conferees revere Whitcomb—he is the only speaker so far who has merited standing ovations.
Whitcomb doesn't just take godless evolutionists to task; he is also critical of Christians who accept progressive creationism or intelligent design. Progressive creationism as represented by Dr. Hugh Ross fails because Ross accepts (1) the Big Bang; (2) that animals were supernaturally and periodically created over many millions of years; (3) that Adam's rebellion did not introduce death into the animal kingdom for the first time; and (4) that the Flood was local to Mesopotamia.
Whitcomb reproaches the leaders of the intelligent design movement for believing that evolutionism can be defeated without any reference to the Bible or the Creator of the World. He agrees with them that tax supported schools need to be purged of the errors of evolutionism, but he then rhetorically asks a very pointed question: "Are people believing in Christ their Lord and Savior as a result of hearing the message of intelligent design scholars?"
Like Whitcomb, Ken Ham brooks no compromises and dismisses the soft-headed idea that "you can believe in millions of years so long as God was involved." Why not? Again because that implies that death and disease occurred before there was "sin." In Genesis, Adam and Eve and all the animals were vegetarians (Genesis 1:29–30) and there was no death or disease. God pronounced his Creation "very good." It was perfect. Then Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:6) thus introducing death and disease into the universe for the first time. (I can't help but note that it might have been better had the pair eaten the fruit of the Tree of Life before snacking on fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.)
Ham also rejects the Big Bang. Why? Because Genesis explains that God created the waters and the Earth on the third day of Creation (Genesis 1:9) and THEN the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of Creation (Genesis 1:16). In a sly rhetorical move, Ham then notes that the New Scientist recently published an article about how some secular scientists are beginning to question the Big Bang hypothesis for the beginning of the universe. "I thought I was reading a creationist article," quips Ham to an appreciative audience. "The Big Bang is presented as fact in our public schools, yet secular scientists are beginning to question it."
As a historical note, the Big Bang was devised by Jesuit scientist Georges Lemaitre in 1927. Two years later astronomer Edwin Hubble confirmed that most galaxies are flying away from one another. Lemaitre thought the Big Bang cinched the argument for a universe created at a specific time by God. Whether or not the Big Bang holds up under scrutiny is a scientific question. The nature of science is skepticism—if solid new data calls into question the theory, then the theory will have to be revised.
Scientific creationists have a different understanding about the proper way to interpret facts and phenomena. In his talk "What's the Best Evidence that God Created," Carl Kerby explains, "You should allow the Word of God to drive your understanding of the evidence." Ham tells a story of how, during one of his lectures at a college, a professor yelled out "The Bible is not a science textbook." To which Ham replied, "I'm glad the Bible is not a science textbook because science textbooks change every year." What he doesn't mention is that they change because human knowledge advances and old theories are replaced by better ones.
However, the longer I listened the clearer it became that creationism is not about science. It's about morality. Specifically, creationists worry that biological evolution undermines people's moral beliefs, leading to lawlessness, family breakdown, homosexuality, pornography, and abortion. The real heart of creationism is existential dread.
Philip Bell, former British cancer researcher and now fulltime creationist, in his talk "Ape Men, 'Missing Links' and the Bible," explains, "If Adam is your ancestor then you were created specially and have a purpose in life. If evolution is true, we are descended from ape-like animals with no morality, no aesthetic sensibility and no soul." If evolution were true, Bell tells the conferees, then "you would have no purpose for your existence."
In his welcoming remarks, the Reverend Jerry Falwell similarly declares, "If we don't understand the young earth and how God created it in six 24-hour days, then our values are skewed. If we believe that we evolved from a blob of protoplasm, we have zero values then... If we evolved, then there was no Fall in the Garden and there is no sin and no need for redemption and Christ's death was unnecessary and meaningless."
But there is hope according to Falwell, "I recall the election in 2004. Hollywood was against us. The media were against us. The universities were against us. And despite them all the church of Jesus Christ put George W. Bush back in the White House. We're on the winning side; we are going to win because we have the truth. We have the inerrant word of God. We have the Genesis account of Creation. The biblical account is the believable one. The creation debate is being won."
Given recent polls, I fear that the Reverend Falwell may well be right.
Tomorrow I will report on such topics as "Hubble, Bubble, Big Bang in Trouble" and "Fossils, the Flood and the Age of the Earth."