Insights from hindsight: resolving seeming conflicts of science and Scripture

Abstract

            How do we resolve conflicts between science and the Bible? In some apparent conflicts clear understanding can only come with the passage of time, after time and study provide a more balanced perspective on the issue, and a clearer view of the relationship between science and faith.  I suggest this process goes through three stages:  Stage 1.  Conflict and confusion;  Stage 2.  Research in science and deeper Bible study, with hindsight;  Stage 3.  Resolution and insight.  The paper discusses this process, with examples, illustrating an approach to resolution that maintains Scripture as our reliable guide, while also respecting the scientific process.    

 

The challenge

            The Christian understanding of the Bible has suffered a series of challenges from scientific conclusions throughout history.  Copernicus disturbed the long accepted geocentric understanding of the universe with his theory of an earth that turns on its axis and revolves around the sun.  Then Galileo ended up in house arrest because of his advocacy of Copernicus’s novel idea that didn’t square with beliefs of the church.  If that wasn’t enough, Darwin shook up the Christian world with his claims that species aren’t fixed, but evolve through time.  Along the way it appeared the earth isn’t flat after all, there are two conflicting creation accounts in Genesis, and Moses was wrong about the universe being like an upside down bowl holding the stars up in  the sky.  Joshua 10:13 makes claims about God disturbing the movements of the sun just so the Israelites can win their battle.  How can we believe that, when the heavenly orbits are so clearly consistent and reliable? 

            Now in the 21st century we are faced with radiometric dating over millions of years, ice cores with tens of thousands of annual layers, a fossil record showing evolution of life forms, and archeological evidence claiming the biblical Exodus didn’t happen, at least not the way the Bible describes it.   

This long series of conflicts between the Bible and science has, for many individuals, shaken their confidence in the reliability of Scripture.  Can we trust its message about history?  And if its claims about history are not factual, what about its claims of a new earth to come?

The scholarly Christian world is rapidly coming to a consensus that the story of a literal creation and worldwide flood, a few thousand years ago is only a myth; life has evolved through the millennia, and evil did not result from sins by Adam and Eve, but was just a part of the evolution process.  Is this shift of belief inevitable, or have many scholars missed something?  A central issue is the relationship between faith and science.  Especially, how can we evaluate conflicts between science and the Bible without letting our personal biases derail our better judgment? 

 

A conceptual framework to address the challenge     

I suggest that careful study of science, the Bible, and the historical and sociological context of the conflicts, with the benefits of hindsight can bring greater clarity to our understanding of the conflicts and their solution.  In some conflicts clear understanding can only come later, after time and study provide a more balanced perspective.  

We will begin with Galileo.  The Galileo affair is often portrayed as exhibit A, illustrating the dangers of allowing Scripture to influence our understanding of science, and showing how science corrects theologically biased ideas about nature.  During Galileo’s lifetime the geocentric theory, with the sun orbiting around the earth, was still standard science, and also orthodox Christian belief.  In that context some Bible texts appeared to support the geocentric theory, with the sun moving and the earth standing still.1

It may have been difficult for them to see through these texts and the church dogmas associated with them.  For us, long after Galileo, we have the benefits of hindsight, along with much more knowledge of the relevant science and the historical and biblical context.  In Ps 19:6 and Eccl 1:5 the sun rises and moves across the sky.  We still use the same expressions about the sun rising and setting.  We know the sun doesn’t “rise;” it doesn’t move in relation to us, but such expressions simply describe how it appears to us.  It seems they were using similar expressions in the same way.  Other Bible texts describe the earth as established; it will not move.  But if we consider the immediate context of these statements, they are not within descriptions of cosmology;  they are in chapters with the theme of the greatness or majesty of God (PS 93:1; 104:5) or a song of praise to God (I Chron 16:30), and the descriptive statements about the earth are simply incidental to the theme of the chapter.  The theme of Ps 119 is praise of God’s law, including the laws that establish the earth and make it stand. 

Before Copernicus and Galileo there was no reason to wonder whether these verses were making a scientific claim about cosmology or just describing how things looked from our position on earth.  Now we can evaluate that.  Before Copernicus their understanding of cosmology and a simple description of the heavens seemed to be in agreement – the earth stood still.  However, from our perspective today, several hundred years later,  we see it differently.  We can better understand the Bible texts in their immediate context, and recognize that they simply describe appearances in the same way we do today.  They are not theoretical scientific statements.  It is evident from the historical context that the geocentric theory in fact came from Greek philosophy, not from a deep understanding of the Bible.2  Those Bible texts are not descriptive creation accounts, in contrast to Genesis 1.  We can also see that Galileo’s difficulties arose more from conflicts within science, religious politics affecting Pope Urban III, and from Galileo’s own abrasive personality than from any real conflict between science and the church.  Other astronomers of that time were discussing the heliocentric theory without sharing Galileo’s fate.3   According to one historian, one of the most common myths about the Galileo affair is that “he was condemned by the Catholic church for having discovered the truth,” and this myth is “used to justify the incompatibility between science and religion.”  He concludes that “this thesis is erroneous, misleading, and simplistic.”4

These things were probably not readily understandable three centuries ago, but our increased knowledge of the situation, with the benefit of hindsight, allows us to gain better insights into the Galileo affair.  There are some things we can learn from that historical episode.  It alerts us to the dangers of basing our interpretation of Scripture on current scientific beliefs, as the church did in the pre-Galileo era.  We can now see that science really did improve our understanding of the Bible, because it showed the errors of Greek cosmology that were being read into the Bible and suggesting untenable interpretations of texts whose meaning was not so clear at that time.  We can also learn to be more careful to respond to seeming conflicts by more careful study to see if we might also be reading something between the lines of the Bible that actually is not there.

 

I suggest there were three stages in our understanding of the Galileo affair:  

Stage 1.  Conflict and confusion

                        Stage 2.  Research in science and deeper Bible study, with hindsight

                        Stage 3.  Resolution and insight

 

This three stage process expands on the meaning of a diagram I have previously used to describe a constructive approach for the integration of religion and science.5

 

 

In the process represented in this diagram, science does not test religious concepts, or vice versa.  But on the other hand, science and religion are not kept isolated from each other.  Instead, conflicts are analyzed in the thinking process called the Interface.  Seeming conflicts between Scripture and science challenge us to more careful study of both, seeking a resolution of the conflict.  The addition I am now making highlights the benefit of hindsight in finding a resolution.  It is possible that considerable time must pass before we can adequately understand the context and resolution of some conflicts, moving from conflict (stage 1) through research (stage 2), to resolution (stage 3) in a thoughtful interface between scientific and biblical interpretations.  Today, after much experience with this process, we can in some issues, move through the process faster.

            Revelation and the created universe both came from the same Creator God, but we don’t adequately understand either one.  The method of study described here allows use of a coherent methodology for examination of both sources of evidence. 

 

Science correcting biblical interpretation

            There are other historical conflicts in which science also improved our understanding of the Bible.  In Darwin’s time it was thought that every animal and plant species was created fixed and unchangeable.  Darwin’s theory challenged this concept of fixity of species, and appeared to weaken confidence in the Bible.  Now with the benefit of careful study and the perspective of hindsight we can see that nothing in the Bible can be legitimately claimed as evidence for fixity of species.  None of the wording in Genesis is specific enough to say whether species are fixed or changeable.  Fixity of species was another idea traceable to Greek philosophy, not to the Bible.  In the 19th century this conflict generated much confusion, but now we can see that science has improved our biblical understanding by showing that species do change, and by alerting us to notice that the Bible rejects large-scale evolution, but does not proclaim fixity of species.  It does not say that species, like the Mexican free-tailed bat, the Grevy Zebra, the Galapagos Mockingbird, and the Sycamore tree never change. 

Other Bible-believing scientists in Darwin’s day had already come to the conclusion that organisms do change, and they limited the change to within created kinds, perhaps within families.  Even Linnaeus, who is generally described as an advocate of fixity of species, gradually recognized evidence of change, not only of new species, but finally deciding that change may have extended to the family level.  Darwin apparently was unaware of the work of these scientists.6

            Another example comes from the work of early 20th century creationist George McCready Price.  Price rejected geologists’ claims of glaciation and of geological overthrusts, in which mountain-sized masses of rocks were thought to have been pushed up, or thrust over the top of younger rocks.  He didn’t think these geological claims were consistent with his belief in the biblical creation.7  At that time he did not have access to sufficient information to resolve that conflict any other way.  Now, with the benefit of more research and hindsight we can recognize that the Bible never spoke to these issues at all, and Price was just hanging on to his limited human ideas.  Science helped others to recognize the reality of more extensive glaciers in the past and of overthrusts.  We can now realize that it is not surprising for a global geological catastrophe to result in mountain-sized overthrusts and episodes of unbalanced climate.  These ideas, in reality, never were a genuine conflict between science and the Bible.  

            In these cases science helped us rid ourselves of ideas that came not from the Bible at all, but from elsewhere (e.g. from Greek philosophy or our limited geological knowledge) and were read into the Bible, between the lines, without our being aware of what we were doing.  Also our Bible study reveals that heliocentrism, speciation, glaciation and geological overthrusts are not in conflict with the Bible themes of the Great Controversy and salvation history.  The claims of science on these issues are generally realistic and are not contrary to any biblical belief .8  These issues have gone through stages 1 and 2, and are now, for us, in stage 3 – resolution.  Careful research, with benefit of the wider perspective provided by hindsight, has revealed that they are not in conflict with the Bible.

 

Careful study, with hindsight, eliminates some false conflicts

            Three items mentioned early in this paper have had a little different historical background.  One of these concerns the two creation stories.  Study of the Hebrew text reveals that the two creation accounts are not in conflict, but are complementary.  For example, Genesis two is talking about the origin of agricultural plants, not the general creation of plants described in Genesis one.9  This removes the supposed conflicts between the sequence of events in Genesis one and two.

It has often been claimed that Christians all through the Middle Ages believed in a flat earth, and that the Old Testament accepts a false, archaic concept of cosmology – describing the sky as an inverted bowl, sitting on the flat earth, with the stars held in place by this bowl.  However, historical research has now shown that the Christian scholarly community always knew the earth was round, and never did believe in a flat earth.10  The idea that Christians had advocated a flat earth was invented by certain 19th century scholars, and unfortunately became widely and uncritically accepted.

The myth of the Old Testament belief in the archaic, inverted bowl cosmology has had a similar history.  In Old Testament times there actually wasn’t any particular theory about cosmology.  It was in the 19th century that some scholars advocated their theory of the Old Testament upside-down bowl cosmology.  Many scholars now think the Bible advocates this supposed error, but that is another concept that has been “read into” the Bible, and is not supported by more careful study.11

            In these three cases the conflict originated not directly from science or from the Bible, but from erroneous claims by scholars that the Bible was scientifically incorrect.  Research is now bringing resolution by showing that the Bible and Bible-believers actually didn’t hold the beliefs that some claimed they did, or that Genesis did not contain the contradictions that some claimed.

 

Confidence in the Bible yields insights for science

            In some cases we have described, like cosmology and fixity of species, our growing scientific understanding improved our interpretations of the Bible.  Now we will turn to other situations in which the conflict (stage 1) was resolved or is being resolved (stages 2 and 3) in the opposite direction - confidence in the truth of the Bible has resulted in better insights for science.  In these cases seeming conflicts between science and the Bible suggested new hypotheses for scientific study, which have resulted in successful scientific research and publication of insights that might not have occurred otherwise. 

In this type of research we do not attempt to explain supernatural actions by science, as some critics have claimed.  However, if a miracle (e.g. divinely caused, catastrophic global flood) had a detectable effect on our earth (e.g. rapidly formed sediments), we should be able to find evidence for that, especially if we are willing to benefit from what the Bible tells us.12        

            If the 1960’s and early 1970’s the fossil forests in Yellowstone National Park were commonly portrayed as exhibit A showing that the Bible is wrong about time – the evidence in Yellowstone demanded a very long time, for that one fossil deposit alone, in addition to many other geological formations.  It was believed that over a hundred forests grew, one above another, with each forest being killed in turn by volcanic deposits.  Each forest would take up to a thousand years to grow and then be killed before the next forest could begin to grow on top of its buried remains.  However, research efforts by creationists accumulated evidence that the forests did not grow one after the other as was claimed.13  It is more likely that the process involved transport of dead trees into their position of burial by volcanic flows.

            The Coconino Sandstone (SS) in northern Arizona is interpreted as an accumulation of ancient desert sand dunes, which have been cemented into sandstone.  The only fossils in the Coconino SS are fossil animal tracks.  These tracks have been argued to be evidence supporting the desert origin of the Coconino sand deposits.  However this evidence was investigated because of a desire to understand how the Coconino SS fits into a global flood process.  The evidence resulting from this research can only be explained if the vertebrate animals made their tracks while entirely underwater.14

            At the bottom of the Coconino SS, where it rests on top of the red mudstone of the Hermit Shale, are cracks in the top of the Hermit Shale.  These cracks are up to 25 feet (8 meters) deep, and are filled with the white Coconino Sandstone.  In the geological literature these are described as mud cracks, or desiccation cracks, caused by the drying of the aquatic mudstone deposit when the climate changed and the area became a desert.  This resulted in mud cracks that were filled by the sand of the Coconino SS.  This scenario has a number of problems, but conventional geologic theory did not stimulate anyone to question it.  Now research motivated by the biblical account of a global flood has demonstrated that the cracks are not desiccation cracks.  The Hermit Shale was covered by the Coconino sand, and some time later the white Coconino sand, still uncemented, was injected down into the red mudstone, apparently because of pressure resulting from earthquake activity.15

            In Peru the Miocene/Pliocene Pisco Formation contains many thousands of fossil whales, buried in thick sediments composed of the skeletons of microscopic diatoms, and in sandstone.  Previous study by geologists and paleontologists interpreted the sediment as slowly accumulating, with sediment only a few centimeters thick being added each thousand years.  Then a group of Bible-oriented creationists began to study this accumulation of fossil whales.  They became quickly aware of something that did not catch the attention of previous researchers.  The whales and other fossil vertebrates are exquisitely preserved, and this is not possible unless the dead animals were quickly buried, so that each whale was buried in weeks or months, not thousands of years.16

            There are other examples that could be added to this list, and together these research projects, published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, demonstrate that a biblical worldview can open our eyes to scientific insights that others could have found, but didn’t.  I argue that confidence in the Bible, if combined with careful scientific research procedures, can result in scientific advance, not in spite of, but because of trust in the Bible account of origins and its history of life on earth.17

            On the other hand, there are in geology and paleontology other phenomena that cannot at this time be explained by a Bible-based belief in short-age geology (the theory of only a few thousand years between creation and the present).  They seem to indicate that such a short time for life on earth isn’t possible.  Thus these are issues that are in stage 1 – conflict.  What should we conclude from this?  There are at least two possibilities.  We could conclude that the Bible is wrong, and there have been millions of years of evolution.  An alternative is to make a prediction that there are scientific discoveries yet to be made, that will cause a reinterpretation of these lines of evidence.  For some phenomena we have discussed, continued research has already brought them through stage 2 to stage 3, and the seeming conflicts with Scripture have been resolved.  Do we have reason to hope for more of this type of progress, or have we reached the end of the line for stage 3 solutions?  This will be considered in the next section.

 

Bible-based predictions, on phenomena that are still in stage 1

            At the top of our list of stage 1 phenomena we will have to put radiometric dating.  Creationists have done some interesting work on this issue, but much of the body of evidence and theory is still in direct conflict with a time scale of a few thousand years for life on earth.  How should we relate to this?  To answer that we will first of all need to deal with a very foundational question – since science gave us better understanding of the Bible in study of the geocentric theory and of fixity of species, why not allow radiometric dates to show us that the Bible was wrong about geological time?  Why take a different approach to radiometric dating?

There is a significant difference between the implications of fixity of species and the implications of conventional geological time.  There is nothing in the Bible that conflicts with the theory that species can change, within limits.  In contrast, the implications of geological time are very different. 

Extensive study of the Bible confirms its central message - the story of the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan and its imbedded message of salvation through Jesus.  Christianity is not based on theory, but is based on a series of connected events in history.  God created the universe sinless and without evil, pain and suffering, or death.  God gave humans and angels the gift of free will, even though he knew what it would cost him if we rebelled.  Lucifer, the highest angel in God’s government, did rebel and became Satan.  Satan led Adam and Eve to also rebel, opening up the earth and humans to the influence of Satan and the evil he has brought upon us.  Because of our sin, we need a redeemer, and Jesus lived and died to defeat Satan’s plan to grasp control of the universe.  The resurrected Jesus provides that ultimate gift of salvation and eternal life in a recreated world without sin and evil.  This series of events is a brief description of the Great Controversy.18

            The  Great Controversy and salvation story holds together only if moral evil (human greed, murder, theft e.g.) and natural evil (suffering and death from volcanoes, storms, and earthquakes) are the result of human sin.  If life evolved over millions of years before Adam and Eve sinned, then moral and natural evil are not intruders in the universe, but were an integral part of God’s creation process.  Efforts to contrive a way out of this logic have not been successful.  For example, William Dembski tries to make evil the result of human sin, even though humans and sin (in the standard geological model) did not exist until after millennia of death and evil on earth.19  This simply illustrates the desperate efforts necessary if we reject a recent literal creation but don’t wish to put the blame for evil on God. 

Although there isn’t space here for a full discussion, I will argue that the theory of large-scale evolution, with its millions of years for life on earth, is in direct conflict with Bible Christianity and the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan.  If a literal one-week creation is not true, then there were eons of evil, suffering, disease, natural evil, and death on earth before the existence of any humans or any human sin.20  Also if the time scale in the Bible is not true, that undermines confidence in the truth of other parts of Scripture.  These are among the reasons many of us hold to the biblical time scale and reject an evolution process that produces the major types of organisms.

Trying to fit together two contradictory stories doesn’t work.  If there was no Garden of Eden and fall of Adam and Eve into sin, we have no rational reason to believe in the salvation story.  If there was no literal creation by God, there is no real basis for worship.  The reason God is worthy of our worship is because He is our Creator.21

            Our attempts to develop scientific models of earth history must account for events in the biblical Great Controversy theme. These events include the 7-day creation of life forms (before the entrance of sin and evil on earth) and rapid geological processes (including a global flood catastrophe) producing the geological record with its fossil evidence of complex life on earth, all within the last few thousand years.22  This is the Biblical scenario that we seek to harmonize with our geological hypotheses.  Naturalistic science will reject this approach, but our goal is not simply to follow the crowd, but to search for better answers to our questions.

Before accepting radiometric dating with its millions of years, go back to the Interface in our diagram.  The process illustrated in that diagram doesn’t allow science to dictate our theology, or vice versa.  Rather, the conflict between the standard geological time scale and a straight forward reading of Scripture can challenge us to more careful study of both science and the Bible.  We are still in the conflict stage (stage 1) in this assessment of the issue of geological time, but there is reason to search for a different result, rather than accept the geological time scale.  Our faith does not depend on resolving this conflict in our life time, but we have a God-given opportunity to look for a solution.  Why do scientists spend their lives doing research?  It is to search for insights and solutions.  Why should Christian scientists do less?

I suggest God has a time table for what scientific solutions it will be good for us to have, and when.  The disciple Thomas was reminded that those with more faith were blessed by that faith, but Jesus also cared for Thomas, and God will reveal more evidence to us when it will be good for us, just as he did for Thomas.23

            Radiometric dating is still in stage 1, with some stage 2 research.  We have not resolved the conflict, but we can make a prediction as to what we believe the outcome will be.  I predict, based partly on faith (religion) and partly because of evidence (science) that some time in the future new evidence will show (science) that we are now seriously misinterpreting the radiometric data, and it actually gives only relative age, not age in years.  Scientists who take this prediction seriously will be in the best position to understand the new evidence when and if it appears (science) before Jesus returns to earth.24

            Here are some additional predictions: ice cores will be found to not be annual layers, some types of stromatolites (dome-like structures built up laminae after laminae by living microorganisms) are not biological structures, but are produced by an entirely different process, and additional features of the Coconino Sandstone will be shown to be incompatible with production by desert dune processes.  Also new understanding of the fossil record will eventually reveal that it did not result from evolution of major life forms, as it now appears to.  New archeological evidence will sooner or later support the truth of the biblical account of the Exodus.  Rather than being problems for the Bible, the conflicts that led to these predictions (predictions from faith + science, in the Interface) can be clues to productive research (science) that can be done, with new scientific insights to be found.  There are many more predictions like these that can be made.  If our best friend, Jesus, gives us faith-based clues that can lead to scientific discoveries, the search is irresistible! 

            What if some of these predictions are falsified by future research?  What would be the implications of that?  There are at least three possibilities.  1) For some items on the list (stromatolites?), we may not be ready yet to make accurate predictions, just as Galileo and his colleagues were not ready to understand cosmology and the Bible.  2) Evidence, at some point, can appear to falsify a prediction, when the evidence actually is not adequate to do so.  This is fairly common in science.  3)   If some of these predictions were truly falsified, and life was shown to be from evolution over many millions of years, then Christianity would be falsified.  Christianity makes claims about history, and science can attempt to address some of these claims.  Should this make us afraid to do research?  I say no, because God’s word is trustworthy.  If we have confidence in the Great Controversy and salvation history we can make these predictions without fear or apology, as long as we don’t settle for quick answers, but maintain the Bible as our foundation.

In addition to the examples we have discussed, some other phenomena already are yielding evidence that is problematic for conventional scientific theories of origins.  In other words they represent progress in the stage 2 research process, moving closer to stage 3.  We can predict that further research based on confidence in Scripture will continue to move them toward stage 3, resolution and insight.  For example there are biochemical reasons for believing that large-scale Darwinian evolution, producing new types of organisms with new body types and significant new biological information is not possible.  New types of organisms can only be created by intelligent design.25  I predict that increasing evidence will, in time, firmly establish this principle for anyone not fully committed to naturalism. 

Other research in progress reveals reasons for doubting the long time spans in the standard geological time scale.  These include many fossil assemblages, like the Peruvian fossil whales, that had to be buried rapidly to account for their preservation.  Study of levels in the geological column (fossil record) that are presumed to represent many millions of years with no sedimentary deposits (paraconformities), reveals that they don’t show evidence of the passage of such long time periods (Roth).26  If millions of years had elapsed at these intervals, they should show much more evidence of erosion and other features that normally occur with the extensive passage of time.  The evidence is most consistent with a very short time span during their formation.  Additional research on a more detailed level is applying a similar concept to individual rock layers, and also raising doubts about the slow accumulation of these rocks.

 

Objectivity and bias control

Could research motivated by faith perspectives introduce a bias into that research?  Of course it could, since any worldview, religious or scientific, can introduce a bias.  Leaving religious perspectives out of our science does not solve this problem.27  Careful research, with acute awareness of different viewpoints on the subject and the quality control provided by publication, when feasible, in peer-reviewed literature can manage those biases.  If there are biases that remain, they will in time become evident with the insight that often comes with hindsight.

The process of thought and discovery described here seeks actively to integrate faith and science in a cohesive search for truth.  There are attempts to hold on to both the Bible and conventional scientific theories by keeping science and religion in separate compartments, rather than seeking an integration.28  These efforts typically result in science providing the facts and religion seeking meaning from ancient myths and legends.  However, when two sources address the same topic and give opposite answers, they cannot both be true, and it doesn’t help to pretend that we can hold on to both and still be logically coherent.         

           

A role for imagination

            Lets now discuss Joshua’s long day.  Certainly this is going too far, to actually think that the sun stood still that long, in spite of the totally predictable, finely balanced and very complex pattern of movement of the heavenly bodies.  But on the other hand, how much do we know about the options that an infinite God has at his disposal?  And maybe that sun trick wasn’t so disruptive after all.  If I try to imagine how it could be done if I had no physical limits, but was not allowed to influence the movement of the sun or moon or the earth, here is a speculative suggestion.  A system of giant mirrors could be used to deflect the sun’s image, so that from a human perspective the sun did stand still.  Then later the mirrors could slowly move the sun back into its normal schedule.  Did God do it that way?  Of course we have no idea (God is certainly much more creative than us), but this scenario just illustrates how utterly futile it is for finite humans to think we can decide what God can or cannot do.  He created the “laws of nature” and he knows how to use them to accomplish his will.

 

Conclusions

            We could make a long list of present and historical conflicts between science and the Bible, much longer than the list we have been discussing here.  We could then list them according to which stage they are currently in.  Some would be in stage 1, still in the conflict (and maybe confusion) stage.  Others are in stage 2, actively being studied with progress towards resolution.  Others are in stage 3 – they were once thought to be genuine conflicts, but diligent, honest Bible study and scientific research has revealed that there is no conflict at all.  The seeming conflict has been resolved and new insights gained. 

The real issue is not whether science falsifies the Bible, or whether we can prove our beliefs (finding silver bullets), but rather where is each issue in this three stage process from conflict to resolution.  I make this claim partly on faith, but partly from the experience of watching this process for several decades, as a variety of issues moved through the three stages to stage 3, and then we discovered new issues that took their place in stage 1 and began their journey through the three stages. 

Some conflicts, like the Galileo affair have taken considerable time and hindsight to reach stage 3.  But with experience in applying the thinking process described above as the Interface, it becomes easier to recognize the potential for new predictions that can be pursued by thorough research, toward resolution.  If we make the Bible our standard, the Bible is not on trial but becomes the means of leading us toward new scientific findings.  Scientific interpretations are not tested directly by the Bible (see the figure earlier in this paper), but the Bible provides the trustworthy foundation that facilitates finding areas in science that need reexamination.

When we encounter a seeming conflict between Scripture and science, this directs our attention to the aspect of scientific interpretation needing reexamination.  This begins the journey from stage 1 toward stage 3.  That journey will require careful Bible study to be sure we haven’t misunderstood its message.  Meanwhile, we pursue analysis of the science to seek alternate hypotheses and predictions that can be examined with scientific research (stage 2).  This may be a challenging process, which is to be expected in the exploration of new territory.  When a new explanation for the data is found, and it stands up to critical scrutiny, we have reached stage 3.        

            Incorrect scientific ideas often do get corrected by science, without help from Scripture, but the process described here can give us an advantage and considerably speed up the process.  This is especially true in the study of origins, which is especially affected by the dominant scientific philosophy of naturalism, which cannot accept any explanations that depend on, or even imply divine involvement in earth history.  If we allow the Bible to open our eyes to new ideas, we can have an advantage in seeing things in nature that others don’t see because of their naturalistic bias. 

 

References

 

M. Finocchiaro, The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1989).

N. Hetherington, (ed.) Encyclopedia of Cosmology: Historical, Philosophical, and Scientific Foundations of Modern Cosmology (New York, NY: Garland Publishing, 1993).

3  J. Gribben, Science: A History (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2002).  M. Dorn,  Das Problem der Autonomie der Naturwissenschaften bei Galilei  (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2000).  W. Milan,  Galileo: the strange facts in a famous story  (Explorezone.com/columns/space/1999/august_galileo.htm  1999).  M. Finocchiaro, The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1989).

M. Finocchiaro, The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1989) p. 5.

5L. R. Brand,  Faith, Reason, and Earth History: A Paradigm of Earth and Biological Origins by Intelligent Design.  2nd edition.  (Berrien Springs, MI:  Andrews University Press,  2009).   L. Brand, Beginnings: Are science and Scripture partners in the search for origins?  (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press,  2006).  A lay-person oriented book on creation and evolution.

6P.  Landgren,  On the origin of ‘species’: Idealogical roots of the species concept.  In S. Sherer, ed., Typen des Lebens (p. 47-64)  (Berlin: Pascal-Verlag [Studium Integrale], 1993).

7  H. W. Clark,Crusader for Creation  (Boise, ID: Pacific Press, 1966).  G. M. Price,The New Geology (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 1923).  G. M. Price,  Illogical Geology  (Los Angeles: The Modern Heretic Co., 1906).

8According to mainline science, some of these processes require long time periods.  However, whether this is correct is not a settled matter.

9  R. Younker, God’s Creation: Exploring the Genesis Story  (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 1999).    R. Younker, Genesis 2: a second creation account? P. 69-78 In: J. T. Baldwin (ed.)  Creation, Catastrophe, and Calvary  (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Assoc., 2000).  R. Younker, How can we interpret the first chapters of Genesis, P. 69-77 In: H. Rasi and J. Gibson (eds.) Understanding Creation (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2011).

10  S. J. Gould, 1994.  The persistently flat earth. Natural history, v. 103, (Mar. 1994): 12, 14–19.    J. B. Russell, Inventing The Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1997).

11  R. W. Younker, The myth of the solid heavenly dome: another look at the Hebrew  (Raquia).  Andrews University Seminary Studies (In press). 

12  L. R. Brand,  2009.  Faith, Reason, and Earth History: A Paradigm of Earth and Biological Origins by Intelligent Design.  2nd edition  (Berrien Springs, MI:  Andrews University Press, 2009).  

13  H. G, Coffin,The organic levels of the Yellowstone petrified forests. Origins 6(2):71-82 (1979).  H. G. Coffin, Orientation of trees in the Yellowstone petrified forests.  Journal of Paleontology 50:539-543 (1976).  H. G. Coffin, Erect floating stumps in Spirit Lake, Washington.  Geology 11:298-299 (1983).  H. G. Coffin, Erect floating stumps in Spirit Lake, Washington; reply.  Geology 11:734 (1983).  A. V. Chadwick, and T. Yamamoto.  A paleoecological analysis of the petrified trees in the Specimen Creek area of Yellowstone National Park, Montana, USA.  Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 45:39-48 (1984).

14  L. Brand, L. Field and laboratory studies on the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) vertebrate footprints and their paleoecological implications.  Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 28:25-38 (1979).  (Reprinted in: Terrestrial Trace Fossils.  W. A. S. Sarjeant, ed.,  Benchmark Papers in Geology, 76:126-139 [1983]).  L. Brand, Reply: fossil vertebrate footprints in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) of northern Arizona: evidence for underwater origin.  Geology 20:668-670 (1992).  L. Brand, Variations in salamander trackways resulting from substrate differences.  Journal of Paleontology 70:1004-1010 (1996).  L. Brand and T. Tang,  Fossil vertebrate footprints in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) of northern Arizona: evidence for underwater origin.  Geology 19:1201-1204 (1991).

15  J. H. Whitmore, J. H. and R. Strom,  Sand injectites at the base of the Coconino Sandstone, Grand Canyon, Arizona (USA).  Sedimentary Geology, 230:46-59 (2010).

16  R. L. Esperante-Caamano,  L. R. Brand, A. Chadwick, and O. Poma,  Taphonomy of fossil whales in the diatomaceous sediments of the Miocene/Pliocene Pisco Formation, Peru.  pp. 337-343 In: De Renzi, M., M. Alonso, M. Belinchon, E. Penalver, P. Montoya, and A. Marquez-Aliaga (eds.).  Current Topics on Taphonomy and Fossilization   (International Conference Taphos 2002.  3rd Meeting on Taphonomy and Fossilization, Valencia, Spain).  Brand, L., R. Esperante, A. Chadwick, O. Poma, and M. Alomia.  2004.  Fossil whale preservation implies high diatom accumulation rate in the Miocene-Pliocene Pisco Formation of Peru.  Geology, 32:165-168.

17L. Brand,  How do we know what is true?  Journal of Adventist Education, 73 (2):16-23 (December 2010/January 2011).  L. R. Brand,  Faith, Reason, and Earth History: A Paradigm of Earth and Biological Origins by Intelligent Design.  2nd edition.  (Berrien Springs, MI:  Andrews University Press, 2009).  

18 E. G. White, The Great Controversy (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 1911).

19  W. A. Dembski,  The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World  (Nashville, TN:  B & H Publishing Group, 2009).

20  L. Brand,  A biblical perspective on the philosophy of science.  Origins, Number 59: 6-42 (2006).  (grisda.org)

21  Revelation 4:11. 

22  E. G. White, The Great Controversy (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 1911).

23  John 20:24-29.

24  L. R. Brand,  Faith, Reason, and Earth History: A Paradigm of Earth and Biological Origins by Intelligent Design.  2nd edition.  (Berrien Springs, MI:  Andrews University Press, 2009).  A. Roth, Origins: Linking Science and Scripture (Silver Spring, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1998).   

25  S. C. Meyer,  Signature in the Cell.  (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2009).  L. Brand, The Scope and Limits of the Evolutionary Process.  A chapter in a book from Andrews University, Faculty Faith (in press).  M. J. Behe,  Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution  (New York: The Free Press, 1996).  M. J. Behe, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism.  (New York, N.Y: Free Press, 2007).  L. P. Lester, and R. G. Bohlin.  The Natural Limits to Biological Change.  2nd ed.  (Dallas, TX: Probe Books; Word Publishing, 1989).

26  A. A. Roth,  Those gaps in the sedimentary layers.  Origins 15:75-92 (1988).  (grisda.org) 

27  N. Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2005).

28  e.g.  see S. J. Gould, Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life.  (New York: Ballantine Publishing Group, 1999).

 







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Sat, 10/25/2014 | Los Angeles Adventist Forum
October Adventist Forum
Ronald E. Osborn, Ph.D., A 2014-2016 Mellon Postdoctoral Fell ow in the Peace and Justice Program at Wellesley College (Boston), and a 2 015 Fullbright Scholar to Burma/Myanmar, Formerly an Adjunct Faculty Membe r in the Dept. of International Relations at USC, and in the Honors Progra m at UCLA. Topic: "Death Before the Fall?: A Conversation with Ronald Osbor n."

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