Read the series so far.
Facing the Evidence
I want to move forward a bit now to the subject of evidence. Probably many of you have heard the old dictum that scientists “follow the evidence wherever it leads.” Often scientists themselves promote this idea, and others catch on and parrot it. It sounds very dignified—almost pious. And, as philosophers of science like Thomas Kuhn and Michael Polanyi have shown, it is almost totally false.
Several years ago, a well known, oft-published physicist named Robert V. Gentry published a book entitled Creation’s Tiny Mystery, which cataloged his research on Polonium 218 radiohalos. The book makes fascinating reading, and it has never been gainsaid. All the same, Gentry’s researched has been shunted to the side by evolutionists because, well, it provides compelling data for the assertion that the earth is young.
Gentry had a Seventh-Day Adventist upbringing, but was a committed evolutionist and believed in an old earth. He began his research into Polonium Halos to prove an old earth, believing these radiohalos were formed by secondary radioactivity. But his experiments proved they were not secondary, but were actually formed rapidly in the earth’s crust without any outside interference or cross-contamination. This showed that the granite rocks in which these halos were found were extremely young. The research has been caricatured and even lampooned by old-earthers of all persuasions, but never scientifically refuted. Instead, Dr. Gentry has been ostracized by the scientific establishment.
Gentry’s story is nothing new. The President of Ball State University, which has actively promoted atheism, has banned her professors from even discussing intelligent design with their students. There’s nothing like free speech! Ben Stein’s film “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” and the Discovery Institute in Seattle document many other cases of suppression of scientists who demur from the party line.
Meanwhile, more problems surface. For example, evolutionists have found soft tissue in a T-Rex skeleton supposedly 65 million years old. How can soft tissue survive for so long? Answer: it can’t. But there it is. Does this evidence persuade dinosaur experts that dinosaurs lived in recent times? That would be where the evidence led, right? But of course not. No more than ancient drawings of dinosaurs detailing even the patterns on the skin found all over the world influence them. Worldviews get in the way!
The Facts & the Interpretations Attached to Them
Think about it. Finding rapidly decaying (i.e. in 3 minutes) polonium halos in the foundational granite of the earth, which displays no traces of interference from outside sources, is a challenge to the standard models of geological formation. If Gentry is right these halos were made at the very time when the granite was formed—very very quickly! Hence, the age of the earth cannot be dated via any of the usual radiometric methods. It couldn’t be anyway, since these methods give notoriously varied dates. Moreover, fresh lava flows which have been subjected to radiometric dating produced results dating them as millions of years old!
What one does with this data depends upon the framework of interpretation permitted by the scientist. So evolutionary scientists ignore data which points away from their theories. Likewise with the dinosaur tissue, or the lack of fossil evidence for intermediate forms; or the fact that the early development of cells is “locked in” and is not amenable to mutation.
Should a scientist start with the assumption that T-Rex died out 65 million years ago? If he does, he will be looking at animal soft tissue though lenses which automatically discount recent dating. The facts are in front of him, but his interpretation of the facts, which is determined by his worldview paradigm, force the evidence into an old age scenario which is never allowed to be questioned.
For many years biologists have been saying that there has to be a large amount of DNA which is “junk” DNA. Because they believe in the Neo-Darwinian model of evolution through natural selection and mutation, that system absolutely requires trial and error in cell formation, and hence a lot of useless DNA. By contrast, for over a decade, intelligent design theorists, using their information and engineering models, have been saying that since engineers design things from the top down, they build in to their designs only those things they need. This means that if DNA had a Designer, one would not expect to find junk DNA. The projection of the I. D. proponents has been shown to be right. There is no “junk” DNA (although this is still being taught in the classroom).
Saying this does not mean we must buy into everything I. D. theorists are saying. But they deserve a hearing: a hearing they are struggling to get.
The Facts Are Mute
Yes, we’ve all heard the phrase “the facts speak for themselves.” But I hope you are beginning to see that it is not so. Evidence “lays around” waiting for an interpretation to be affixed to it. Sometimes that interpretation is right, and sometimes it is wrong. In the Christian worldview the interpretation is right if it matches what God the Creator says about His world.
If God says, for example, that there was a worldwide flood, one would expect vestiges of truth to be handed down through many flood stories. And indeed, there are well over fifty such flood stories from the ancient world, or from people groups whose history goes back to ancient times. And the geological evidence for a catastrophic deluge is enormous—though unfortunately hidden from most students! No, the facts do not speak for themselves. They require interpretation. But interpretation can be an awkward thing if the interpreter is wearing the wrong lenses.
Paul Martin Henebury is a native of Manchester, England and a graduate of London Theological Seminary and Tyndale Theological Seminary (MDiv, PhD). He has been a Church-planter, pastor and a professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics. He was also editor of the Conservative Theological Journal (suggesting its new name, Journal of Dispensational Theology, prior to leaving that post). He is now the President of Telos School of Theology.