August 23, 2014

Teachers Urged to Think Outside Evolutionary Box

Leading Adventist scientists turned
to crocodile dung, Ford cars, and a four-foot human footprint at a
conference as they appealed to 400 educators to look at scientific data with
new eyes in order to see how it supports Biblical creation.

Keith Snyder, a professor at Southern Adventist University
who has spent the past six summers digging up dinosaur bones in Wyoming, said
his work on a massive graveyard of assorted bones indicated that the dinosaurs died
in a large catastrophic event involving a lot of water.

But to reach that conclusion, he said, he had to be willing
to look at the evidence from a viewpoint other than those used by
non-creationists, who have a dozen other explanations for why dinosaurs went
extinct, including overeating, malnourishment, or poisoning.

“We need to look at data from a different worldview,” he
said Thursday during a presentation titled, “What Happened to the Dinosaurs?”
at a 10-day International Conference on the Bible and Science in St. George,

The conference, which opened last Friday, was organized by
the Seventh-day Adventist Church to affirm the faith of Adventist educators
that a literal, six-day creation week occurred just several thousand years ago
and to provide them with the latest scientific research supporting Biblical

<strong>REALLY EVOLUTION?</strong> Lucinda Hill, an ER physician who teaches biology at Southern Adventist University, invited conference participants to examine a lineup of skulls, starting with a chimpanzee skull on one end and ending with a human skull at the other. Photo credit: Larry Blackmer

Comparing Skulls and Horses

Lucinda Hill, an ER physician who teaches biology at
Southern, used two presentations on Thursday to emphasize that non-creationist
teachings such as the chimpanzee to human evolution might look convincing, but
the data could be explained through other means.

Hill invited conference participants to examine a lineup of
skulls, starting with a chimpanzee skull on one end and ending with a human
skull at the other. Hill noted that each skull featured clearly shifting
characteristics as they progressed from chimpanzee to human, such as a
gradually growing brain capacity and the emergence of a chin.

But Hill, who presented the two
sessions on behalf of her husband, the retired paleontologist Lee Spencer with
whom she has collaborated closely on research, also offered data showing
that a number of other characteristics in the skulls failed to follow a sequential
evolutionary path.

Hill used a similar lineup of horses to question conclusions
that horses, like humans, have evolved over millions of years. At a
presentation on fossil horses, Hill offered data indicating that many horse
characteristics also did not follow an evolutionary pattern.

“Just because you can see things in a sequence doesn’t mean
that they evolved,” she said. “There could be other explanations.”

To underscore her point, Hill showed a series of photos of
Ford cars, starting with Henry Ford posing in a late 1890s vehicle and ending
with a 2014 Mustang. She asked for a show of hands from audience members who
believed that the car had evolved over the past century.

She said that even though each car shared similar features,
such as wheels and a transmission, it was clear that each was the work of an
intelligent designer.

“We’re looking at relationships, not evolution,” she said.

But creationists need to take a different worldview to see
beyond the line of reasoning used by non-creationists, she said.

“You need to look at the evidence with new eyes,” she
explained in an interview on the sidelines of the conference.

Lessons in Crocodile Dung

Leonard Brand, a geologist at Loma Linda University, also
called for conference participants to use new eyes. During an introductory
presentation on the fossil record, he held up a rock.

“I have in my pocket a piece of crocodile dung — crocodile
poop,” he said as the audience laughed. “Now why would I have this in my pocket?”

He said the well-preserved fossil dung was found buried with
numerous fish and other animals in the sediment of an ancient lake. Using the
commonly accepted method of measuring one year for each layer of sediment, the
180 fine layers of sediment around the dung suggested that it had lain on the
lake bottom for 180 years, he said.

“How many of you think that this piece of crocodile poop lay
on the bottom of a lake for 180 years and is so beautifully preserved?” Brand
said. “That is really not possible. And there are innumerable fish and other
animals buried. Something is wrong with the time scale here.”

He said a growing body of research shows that fossilization
happens rapidly, not over millions of years, but many non-creationists have not
examined this evidence carefully. “They are ruled more by assumption than by
evidence,” he said.

While remaining rooted in evidence, creationists need to
seek new explanations to old questions by thinking outside the box, he said.

Did Human Giants Once Live?

But there is a limit to how far scientists — and especially
creationists — should go so they don’t risk credibility, said Raul Esperante, a
paleontologist with the Geoscience Research Institute at Loma Linda University.

Esperante, speaking at a separate presentation, cast doubt
on a common belief among creationists, including Adventists, that footprints have
been found in rocks proving Genesis 6:4, which says, “There
were giants on the earth in those days” before the flood.

He showed photos of lone giant footsteps in rock, footsteps
near dinosaur tracks suggesting that man and dinosaurs walked the Earth
together, and even an enormous four-foot (1.2-meter) footprint on the side of a rock
in South Africa.

But he said that his research into the footprints indicated
that none were authentic.

Esperante said he did not doubt that giants once lived in
the Earth because the Bible says they did. But he said there was no fossil
record supporting the Biblical account, and it would be dishonest for a
scientist to say otherwise.

“We must be honest and use evidence well,” he said. “If
something is not true, we must move on.”

He said the rule on honesty applied to both creationists and

“Everyone needs to be more rigorous and honest with
evidence,” he said.

Related links from conference

Grand Canyon Offers Adventist Teachers a Lesson on Creation

‘God’s Authoritative Voice’

Wilson: No Room for Evolutionists in Adventist Schools