Earlier this evening, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham had a debate over creation as a valid model for the origin of man. The recorded debate can be viewed online; the remainder of this assumes that you have seen it. I felt that, all in all, the debate went well. Nothing is perfect, though, and Monday-morning quarterbacking - well, that’s probably what a good portion of the Internet is for, so here we go.
(Full disclosure - I have rather strong beliefs on this topic, which will probably come out in these thoughts. I’m doing my best to be impartial, but that’s kind of how bias works; you don’t know you’re doing it.)
I was glad that the debate occurred at all. For a long time, mainstream science has marginalized or even ridiculed anyone who dares to disagree with Darwin. While, toward the end of the debate, I feel that both men missed opportunities to answer each other’s questions or assertions, the debate itself was a great first step towards understanding. Personally, I learned something from both men. I hope the model is repeated, maybe on stage again, but in the day-to-day lives of all those who love learning about our world and universe.
The question of the debate (I guess it can’t be called a resolution, as it wasn’t a declarative statement) was “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” Were I scoring the debate the way we were scored back in high school, they’d both get a few dings for topicality, but they’d probably also get a pass on them, as most of their discussion was at least tangentially related. Also, the Ken Ham presentations of the gospel and Bill Nye’s appeals to voters and taxpayers seemed to balance out.
Building off my first thought - Bill Nye almost kept the snark turned off. Somehow, “creation” became “Ken Ham’s model” that was from “the Bible as it was translated into American English”; both these were repeated often, and are where the snark came through just a bit. Both of these are also distortions; the model being debated is the Biblical model, not the “Ken Ham Theory of the Origins of Species”, and I’m pretty sure that creationism (as opposed to evolution) was developed based on a Bible that had been translated to Shakespearean English. I completely get that Bill may not understand the whole “history as history, poetry as poetry, prophecy as prophecy” thing; a good number of Christians don’t understand that! Those two changes, though, struck me as unnecessary spin.
Ken Ham made a moderately convincing argument. Yes, the Bible is the source for the model whose viability was being debated, but for those who do not recognize it as absolute truth, I feel that a stronger scientific argument should have been made. He failed to address two key arguments made by Bill Nye, the main one being the predictive capabilities of creation science. There are arguments to be made here, the easiest of which is that creation as the origin of life does not contradict natural laws, so creation has no effect on the predictive nature of currently-observable science. Every time Bill asked for predictive science, Ken responded with confirmational science. It’s kinda cool, if you’ve ever studied it, but it doesn’t answer the question.
The age thing gets its own thought. One of Bill’s main arguments is that what we observe today couldn’t have come to be in 4,000 years, and Ken never really answered that either. This, too, has a pretty easy explanation (that requires no more faith than creation already requires); if God created Adam as an adult, does it not make sense that He would also create the earth with age? Created 6,000 years ago is not the same thing as 6,000 years old. And, several times Ken said that the dating process was flawed, but he never provided a specific example of one that he felt was better, and why that is. What reason do we have to believe that the atoms behaved differently then than they do now?
Presentation-wise, and particularly during the Q&A, I believe Bill had the edge. His responses were more directed at the actual questions. Ken gets dinged here for completely avoiding one question. He spent the first 1:30 of his two minutes dissecting the assumption behind the question, then stopped talking; what’s the answer? This was also where they started talking past each other, when I felt that they could have addressed the others’ assertions more directly.
Bill Nye’s explanation of science was pretty awesome, IMO. I loved his description of the search for knowledge, trying to fill in the gaps, eager to find something that contradicts what we thought. I hope the climate “scientists” were watching. (Disclosure - even I can tell that the preceding sentence contains a little bias.)
I understand the format, so I understand why some of the detail I was looking for wasn’t there. But, as I mentioned above, while Ken’s line “You know, there’s a Book…” was funny, mainstream science is not going to be convinced with “because God said so.”
(More disclosure - this is the part where I stop trying to be objective.)
A belief in Creation as the origin of the universe is not incompatible with science. Ken started to make this point, but didn’t really see it through, and if Bill had made the point, it would have contradicted his dire characterizations of what would happen if we teach people about it. There is a lot in our world that scientists of all beliefs have in common; theologically, we call this common grace. “The sun shines on the just and on the unjust.” I’ve said before that I do not have enough faith to believe in evolution as an answer for the origin of the universe. There are things for which we simply cannot find physical proof in this world; what mainstream science often cites as proof is extrapolation, which assumes facts not always in evidence. (I’m not against extrapolation as a technique; I’m against the belief that gives a 100% answer.) My praise for Bill’s description of science applies here as well. Yes, as Christians, we believe we know what’s coming at the end; but, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have the same curiosity about His creation that the rest of the world has.
To be sure, this is one of the big worldview issues, from which many other issues proceed. Take abortion as an example. If we are created by God as creatures in His image, and He makes laws for His people that state that anyone who causes a miscarriage through striking a woman should be killed (Exodus 21:22-24), we probably shouldn’t kill babies in the womb. If we evolved by chance from a big bang, though, abortion is just “survival of the fittest” (particularly as Bill described it, in a way I’d never heard it described before) - the baby didn’t fit.
As I said at the top, I’m glad the debate was held; I hope this is the first of many dialogues with people of faith around many issues. I’m convinced that neither “side” has an accurate idea of the arguments on the other “side,” and changing that is an important first step in turning back the polarization and coarsening we’ve been witnessing for decades.
(Each year, the Sunday closest to January 22, the date of the passing of Roe v. Wade, is observed as “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” in many churches.)
Ten years have brought us a long way. The 7th post on this blog observed 2004’s Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This year brings us to the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand in the United States.
As America has become more politically polarized, her views on abortion have as well. However, there is a growing trend against abortion, particularly the more barbaric late-term procedures, which are now only approved by those blinded by their insistence on how much of a “right” it is. A recent Time cover read “40 Years Ago, Abortion Rights Activists Won an Epic Battle with Roe v. Wade: They’ve Been Losing Ever Since,” and Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, thoroughly dissected that article. And, there are some truly heartening statistics for those who value life:
Four states have only one abortion provider in the entire state
24 states have passed 90 laws restricting abortion since 2010
Some states require parental notification for minors seeking abortion
Some states impose waiting periods and/or counseling before an abortion can be obtained
30 states do not fund abortions via Medicare
The number of those who self-identify as “pro choice” is down to 41%
However, as Dr. Mohler so adeptly points out, abortion is far from the “rare” its proponents claim they want to see. 50 million abortions have been performed since Roe passed, and we are at the point where 1 in 3 women have had an abortion by the time they make 45.
Science is helping the pro-life cause. I covered a good bit of this about a year and a half ago. Ultrasound has given us a window into prenatal development, and psychology and psychiatry have identified post-abortion depression as much more common than postpartum depression per incident.
Interestingly enough, the most damage to the pro-life cause in the past year came from two pro-life national office candidates. I covered both thoseguys at the time (the latter also citing Dr. Mohler - what can I say, he agrees with me a lot!), and since that is where our movement faltered this year, I believe this is where our focus should be. Our participation in the debate should keep the following Scripture in mind:
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world…” - Matthew 5:13-14a (ESV)
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ…” - Ephesians 4:15(ESV)
As Christians advocating for God’s way of handling His creation, we must remember who we are. Salt can make a meal pop; however, salt can also overpower, and can be painful when ground into an open wound. Akin and Mourdock were the latter, coming off as callous and uncaring, much like those who still support “partial-birth” abortion come across to us. Light illuminates, but it can also blind. I left the entirety of Ephesians 4:15 there to show it in its context, but the first part of that verse is the key. We know this works; the “crisis pregnancy center” didn’t even exist before Roe v. Wade, and now they outnumber abortion providers. Their popularity is due to the care that pregnant and scared women can receive from these organizations. They don’t beat the women over the head with their “mistakes” of pregnancy or of seeking an abortion; they offer counseling, ultrasound, and support through pregnancy, childbirth, and the first few months of motherhood. They show a better way, and many women are choosing that path.
While progress against abortion is good, there is an the assault on the sanctity of human life from the other flank. “Assisted suicide” has been making the news already this year. In late 2012, two brothers in Belgium asked to be euthanized and eventually found a doctor who agreed, despite their condition not being consistent with even a liberal interpretation of the “unbearable pain” that law requires. North of our borders, Quebec looks to become the first Canadian province to legalize assisted suicide, not through legal changes, but through medical characterization of the procedure.
Both the Belgium law and the Canadian guideline revisions have advocates claiming that they will be applied narrowly; it sounds like they want it to be “safe, legal, and rare.” Where have we heard that before? Belgium and Canada both have government-run health care systems, so the government has a financial interest to maximize its investments in the system. Right now, it’s a long jump to allow someone to be euthanized because they have no hope of recovery, and keeping them alive is expensive. With the Belgian brothers, and this change in health guidelines in Canada, that jump became half as long. I’m certainly not accusing the advocates of these laws of wanting to kill people; I’m sure to them, this is just them trying to help people in pain. I can guarantee, though, that in 30 years, very few of these people will still be around, and the next generation will have been reared in a society where it’s perfectly normal to choose when you die. At that point, faced with looming deficits, it’s a very small leap to see mandatory euthanasia based on medical evaluation. The slope isn’t terribly slippery, but it’s a slope nonetheless.
This illustrates the root of the disagreements many of us pro-lifers have with these laws, guidelines, and procedures. The disagreement is one of worldview. We see human life as precious, from the moment of conception through natural death, being conferred that status by God’s declaration and unique grace to us within His creation. Human life alone is described as being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14); its offspring described as a “reward” and having many as a “blessing” (Psalm 127:3-5); prohibited from being killed (Exodus 20:13); offered salvation from our fallen state (John 3:16); and promised reuniting with God (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) or judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). God has made it pretty clear how He views the part of His creation that was made “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27).
If we lived in a society that agreed with this worldview - well, I probably wouldn’t be writing this. However, we do not, and the society in which we do live has an answer to each of those points.
Creation? No, we just evolved - somehow - big bang, amoeba, something - and there definitely was not intelligent design!
Lots of children are a good thing? No, that would interfere with our careers; let’s delay that, scrape their beginnings off our womb if they’re not convenient; there will be time for that later, right?
Murder? Don’t try to force your religion on u… wait, if there aren’t any laws against murder, then I could be murdered… OK, you can have that one.
Salvation? I’m a good person (hey, I don’t murder!), why would I need to be saved?
Judgment? But wait, doesn’t your own Bible say “Judge not, that you be not judged?”
We’re made in God’s image? Well, now you’re on to something - if God is in each one of us, doesn’t that make us all God? Then, what I want to do must be God’s will, because it’s my will!
This brings us back to the Akin/Mourdock problem. Simply asserting our views (then asserting them more loudly) is not going to be a very effective way of convincing others. We should keep in mind that not only does our society hold those conflicting views, they also claim to value tolerance above all else - except for tolerating us, interestingly; they have been raised to believe that we are hateful people who just want to control people’s lives and force our religion down everyone’s throats. Compounding the issue, some of our forebears actually did go about things this way, particularly over race.
So, is it just futile? Of course not. I believe the answer is three-fold.
We must advocate with words. We must choose those words wisely, but we must use words. These words should be loving, condemning the practice of abortion while offering love, compassion, and forgiveness to those who have had them, realizing that it is but by the grace of God that we have not made (or are not still making) the same decisions. Use words honestly – where science supports an argument, use it; where it doesn’t apply, don’t try to shoe-horn it into applying.
We must back up these words with actions. Crisis pregnancy centers, as mentioned above, have been hugely effective in not only preventing abortions, but for education and support. The film To Save a Life showed another angle of being pro-life, taking an interest in others to prevent suicide; though I didn’t mention it above, suicides are also up this past year. Be involved with food banks, shelters, or other organizations that show we care for life when those lives are going through rough times. Be involved with senior’s activities. Pick a place and plug-in; put feet to your words.
We must be vigilant. We must not give up the fight against legislation or policies simply because we haven’t had time for the first 2 points above to be effective. We must continue to pray; we have the Creator of human life on our side.
Changing the culture seems like an overwhelming task, and it truly is a monumental one. However, the size of the task does not relieve us of our responsibility to be salt and light, and to work towards making it a place where all life is valued, from the moment of conception through natural death.
Only a month late (when I originally wrote the bulk of this - now it’s more like 8 months late), this is the 8th annual “Sanctity of Human Life” post. It’s going to be a long one; please don’t TL;DR it. There’s too much to this topic to do it justice in 5 paragraphs, and putting it out in parts would invite debate and assumptions about the parts I’d left out. This post is free of my typical snark, and also free of (atypical for me) hyperbole; I am completely serious, and have reviewed my words to ensure they are the ones I intended to use. The premise is simply this - abortion is morally wrong (which we now know, given advances in medical science), and as such, should not be legal nor easy to obtain.
Let’s start with the framework within which I view the issue. I believe that man was created by God and placed here on this planet to live for His glory, and that He has given us the earth for our pleasure and enjoyment. I believe that evil exists in this world, that bad things happen, and that actions have consequences. I generally believe (though not always) in erring on the side of caution. I believe that, as God’s creation, all life is sacred. I believe that God has enabled man to discover many beneficial things in the area of medicine and health care, and I believe that He expects us to use this knowledge within the framework and principles laid out in His Word.
(I fully realize that many of you reading this may not agree with that framework. Feel free to debate about what appears below, but the above paragraph contains things that, for me, are past debate. I’ve heard the arguments against it, and I’m simply unconvinced.)
In looking back through my archives, the post entitied “Abortion: A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Passed” was my 5th post on this blog. In this post from 2003, I mentioned (without citing) the medical advances that had happened since 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision. This page has a good description of what happens day-by-day. At 21 days (3 weeks), the heart begins beating. With ovulation occurring 14 days after menstruation starts, and another 14 until it’s due to start again, a woman would likely not even realize she’s late before her baby’s heart is beating. 9 days later, at 30 days, this heart is circulating its own blood supply, completely separate from the mother’s, thanks to the placenta. Day 35, we’ve got a 5-fingered hand, and on day 40, we have brain waves. By one and one-half menstrual cycles, we’ve gone from nothing to a beating heart and brain waves.
Let’s look at what happens up to 12 weeks, which is when pretty much anyone who approves of abortion thinks it’s OK. The liver starts making blood cells, and the brain is controlling the limbs in week 6. Week 7 brings the jaw, tooth buds, and eyelids. Week 8, and I quote, “the fetus has everything found in a fully developed adult,” including stomach acid and a complete nervous system. Fingerprints, fingernails, and hair appear in week 9. In week 10, “the fetus can bend, stretch, make fists, open hands, lift its head, squint, swallow and wrinkle its forehead.” Week 11 brings urination, and in week 12, the baby is breathing amniotic fluid, has sleep/awake cycles, and does exercises. All this knowledge has been gained due to ultrasound technology and other study.
Now, God, morality, and everything else aside - read those descriptions again. Does that sound like an unviable tissue mass? Sure, it’s dependent upon its mother for sustenance, but how is that different from a newborn baby? It isn’t - and that’s what we’ve learned. It’s not a blob of cells that represent an inconvenience, it’s a new creation that has been entrusted to the mother. Even without counting abortion, an estimated 25-33% of pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth (according to HopeXchange, an organization that help people cope with these types of losses). With numbers that high, it would seem to me that the tissue masses that are unviable are taking care of things themselves.
Respect for life is one of this country’s core principles; “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are inalienable rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. Laws against murder are nearly universal, even in countries that cannot claim the God-seeking history that ours can. It is simple human nature that reasonable humans understand - it is wrong to take the life of another without cause. (This is not to imply that I am anti-death penalty or anti-military; there are limited times when life-taking can happen in a moral way.) With science again backing up Scripture, we see that the developing fetus is simply a pre-born baby that is being knit together in its mother’s womb.
So now, let’s look at the whole “safe, legal, and rare” thing, a phrase used by many pro-choice supporters to describe their desired state of abortion. It’s a given that “safe” doesn’t apply to the unborn baby - they suffer near 100% fatalities. (Yes, near.) But is abortion as we know it today safe for the mother?
A recent study in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that abortion accounts one in ten of every adverse mental health issue women face as a whole, correlating to greater-than-double risks for alcohol abuse and suicide, and triple risks for marijuana use. Melissa Clouthier has a great summary of this study, as well as some commentary.
Recent medial studies have found that there is an increase in breast cancer risk for those who have had abortions, similar to those who have given birth prematurely (before 32 weeks). The reason is that the cells that the body produces during the early stages of pregnancy are immature, cancer-prone cells, which mature during the final two months of pregnancy.
There are many risks to the uterus as well. Risks of uterine perforation, cervical lacerations, and placenta previa all increase due to the trauma on the internal lining of the uterus.
Now, childbirth brings its own complications, to be sure; I don’t mean to imply that birth is completely safe. However, birth does have the advantage of being how our bodies are designed to work. Given the risks, I believe abortion is unsafe for both mother and baby.
We’ve established unsafe; how about legal? We know that Roe v. Wade “legalized” abortion, but there are still laws regarding its practice. Different states have different laws; nearly all states permit abortion through the first trimester, and some allow it through the second trimester. Few permit it in the third trimester, and there is now a Federal law against “partial-birth abortion,” a practice so abhorrent I’m not even going to describe it here. But, do its practitioners follow these laws? Some do; others, like Kermit Gosnell (link gone) do not, and Lila Rose has made a career exposing the unethical and often illegal practices at the nation’s #1 abortion provider, Planned Parenthood.
Hmm - we’re 0 for 2.
How about rare? Well, let’s look at the statistics. In 2008, there were 1.2M, down a little from the previous year; however, births were also down 2%, to 4.2M births. So, we prevented 22% of the pregnancies from resulting in births. I would not consider something that happens between a fifth and a quarter of the time rare, and I don’t think anyone else would define it that way either. What it comes down to is this: if it’s safe and legal (as we’ve been told, and those who question are ridiculed), it won’t be rare.
Now, let’s contrast this with the opening paragraphs. Abortion is not safe; it kills the baby, and causes health problems from the ex-mother. It’s not rare; it occurs in over 1 out of 5 conceptions. As a person with the beliefs I laid out above, this is an absolute no-brainer. God created our bodies to reproduce; it’s a natural consequence of the act that leads to conception. The easiest way to avoid conception is to avoid intercourse (also advocated in Scripture for those who are not married), and the fruits of that intercourse are, time and time again, referred to as gifts from God.
As an American, I see 20% of two generations now cut down before they breathed their first breath. I see counselors having a very easy time convincing people not to have abortions, simply by using ultrasound to show these ladies the life that is living inside them. I hear of post-abortion counseling groups with waiting lists. Have we aborted the person who was to find the cure for cancer? The scientist who was to determine how to produce food in desolate regions? The person who was to invent the flying car? Who can say what the long-term consequences have been for our folly of convenience.
It’s not safe. If it’s made illegal, only then can we hope to make it rare.