Exploring the wonders of geology in response to young-Earth claims...

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

The "Evolution of creationism" hits the front page in geological circles

The most recent issue of GSA Today, published by the Geological Society of America, featured an article by University of Washington Professor of Geology David Montgomery, entitled "Evolution of Creationism". Therein, Dr. Montgomery summarized the generally symbiotic growth of faith and science over the past centuries--particularly in geology. He emphasizes that before the most recent era, one could not polarize the two in academic arenas. Surprising to most readers will be that the modern Young-Earth Creationist movement represents only a relatively recent development in evangelicalism, which does not characterize previous centuries of believers.

Dr. Montgomery's article covers a most pertinent topic and should contribute positively to the discussion today. On the one hand, it offers a brief but highly informative history of the church's response to scientific discovery in the Earth sciences. This history has been documented at length in works such as Saving Darwin by Karl Giberson and The Biblical Flood: A Case Study of the Church's Response to Extrabiblical Evidence by Davis Young. However, Montgomery brings it to a new arena in a more palatable form. Now, nearly every geology/geography professor in the United States will be exposed to six pages of a far more balanced and accurate portrayal of creationism in America than the occasional courtroom fiasco, reckless politician, or Gallup poll has to offer. My personal hope is that geologists in academia will have a fresh understanding of why YEC is so prominent in America, and how better to address it in and out of the classroom. Montgomery's own suggestion is simply to teach a history of creationism proper, which he speculates few modern YEC's actually know (and I concur). He concludes the article by posing this critical question:

"How many creationists today know that modern creationism arose from abandoning faith that the study of nature would reveal God’s grand design for the world?"

If you are interested in reading the full article, it is currently available (for free!) online at the GSA Today main page (November 2012 issue). I highly suggest you read it in its entirety. Also, feel free to leave any comments here for further discussion. For example, what did you think of his portrayal of reason, faith, and the church's historical stance toward scientific study of the Earth? If you should have any trouble accessing the page/files, please contact me.

Dr. Montgomery's personal interest in the biblical flood and how it relates to the history of geology was also summarized in a recent TED talk (follow this link). It goes without saying that I would endorse the following advice from that presentation:

"I can't help but to think that portraying a fundamental conflict between science and religion is particularly dangerous today now that we really need new, creative solutions to basic social and environmental problems, if we're going to maintain civilization..."

What do you think?