What’s ahead for 'young earth creationism,' so lamented by many evangelicals?

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Weeks ago, The Religion Guy observed that “creationism” is alive and well within sectors of Islam and Mormonism. Meanwhile, there are the continuing, familiar debates among evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants (on which the late Billy Graham was carefully noncommittal).

Journalists will want to note several upcoming events that reporters could employ for updates. 

Ken Ham, the CEO of Answers in Genesis (AiG), is the star platform personality among “young earth creationists” who reject evolution and believe planet Earth has only existed for 6,000 years or so, with God directly creating all the species in six literal days. Most conservative evangelical educators today adhere to the vast eons in standard geological science and reject that chronology as an embarrassment to those who question other aspects of the evolutionary cause.  

Ham is the entrepreneur famed for Kentucky’s Creation Museum and nearby Ark Encounter, a 510-foot model designed from a literal reading of the Bible’s flood account. (Their aggressive promotion of that viewpoint is quite in contrast with D.C.’s new and high-toned Museum of the Bible, which shuns controversy.)

Reporters can catch Ham in action during six conventions held by a like-minded organization for homeschoolers, Teach Them Diligently. One may occur in your area. The first occurs March 8-10 in Nashville, followed by Rogers, Ark. (March 22-24), Atlanta (April 5-7), Mobile (May 3-5), Myrtle Beach (May 17-19) and Columbus, Ohio (June 7-9). The events are promoted by five conservative universities (Bob Jones, Cedarville, Liberty, Ohio Christian and Truett-McConnell).

Ham’s very popularity presents a big problem inside his movement, according to Joel Duff, a biology professor at the University of Akron, with a doctorate in evolution (University of Tennessee) who is also a Presbyterian Church in America layman. The Guy confesses he missed Duff’s important analysis of this when posted a year ago.

Duff says the founders of “creation science” believed in research, confident that the resulting evidence would gradually prove the case and supplant mainstream evolutionary biology and geological dating. But most younger proponents don’t undergo rigorous advanced study and research, and instead “aspire to be Ken Ham,” a popularizer, not a working scientist. (Ham has a science bachelor’s from Queensland Institute of Technology in his native Australia, did graduate study in education, and taught high school before joining the movement full-time.)

To Duff, young earthers have succeeded fairly well with preaching, publicity,  public opinion seen in polls and tourism turnouts. But he wonders where is the success “in terms of convincing scientists -- both Christian and secular -- and future scientists that young earth theories actually work and can be used as a legitimate alternative”? Eventually, he suggests, such a strategy risks collapse. Interesting.

So, here are two related events with news potential:

* The Discovery Institute avoids a “young earth” chronology but resists Darwinism by citing the probability of an “intelligent design” behind nature (which implies an undefined but divine cause). The institute is teaming up with Westminster Theological Seminary for an April 6-7 meeting in Bryn Mawr, Pa., to critique “theistic evolution” (i.e. God created by using Darwinian processes, which appear to be random).

* The godfather of evangelicals who advocate “theistic evolution” is noted human geneticist Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and founder of BioLogos.org, which lists 11 events the next few months.

 Collins is speaking at the 73rd annual convention of the American Scientific Affiliation, an organization for Bible-believing Christians working in science, at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., July 27-30 (.pdf here). Collins and others there could be interviewed about creationism’s prospects, but the meeting focuses on bioethics and biotechnology -- itself a topic worth coverage and one that indicates growing sophistication among evangelical scientists.

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