Friday, 6 March 2009

A Skeptic Takes on Reasons to Believe

No room for this scenario in “skeptical” thinking. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Michael Shermer has recently been busy interacting with people who do not share his view of a universe that has not been designed. On February 25, he debated Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana of Reasons to Believe at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

Reasons to Believe (RTB) is a Christian apologetics organisation known for its attempt to combine the truth of Scripture and millions of years of earth history.

The RTB Creation Model basically accepts most of the interpretations of mainstream science (the big bang, a 4.6 billion year old earth, pre-Adamite hominids) except a Darwinian explanation of man’s descent.

Gary Whittenberger, a free-lance writer and psychologist, wrote a report of the debate for the E-Skeptic newsletter. The arguments that Ross and Rana presented failed to convince him. He obviously thinks the fine tuning of the universe can be explained away since after all it has happened.

He invokes our "ignorance of the real world" to reject the improbability of the random appearance of the physical constants that make life possible. In his words,

[We]don’t know that the individual physical constants of the universe are independent of one another. It could be that these constants, if they could be different from what they are, are totally dependent on one another.

What kind of skepticism is this? It sounds like wishful thinking.

Whittenberger also fails to grasp that the hierarchical structure of DNA resembles human language and thus speaks of design. This reminds me of an old Darwinian explanation: If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it must be – a feathered T. rex, of course. Nevertheless, he accuses Ross and Rana of

playing … the game of “Search for a Match Because You Really Want to Find It”.

However, this works both ways. Like most skeptics, Whittenberger seems to be averse to admit that he is also playing a game in which he rejects everything that smacks of design. Perhaps the real reason is that he does not want to accept the idea that there is a Designer to whom we all are accountable.

Unfortunately, the RTB model is not a true Bible-based model. Whittenberger rightly accuses Ross and Rana of cherry picking passages from Scripture that fit in with their model. Ross and Rana inflate the creation days of Genesis, re-interpreting them as eras lasting millions of years. They deny the universality of Noah’s flood and claim that Neanderthal men and other early men were soulless apemen.

Yet, these “apemen” buried their dead, left amazing cave paintings that few modern artists can match, and made tools and musical instruments. They even wore shoes.

RTB accepts the secular interpretation of the fossil record, which speaks of millions of years of animal death before Adam’s sin.

When Jesus told the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16), He warned of the danger of not accepting the truth of the Old Testament scriptures:

If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.

After all, Moses clearly stated how long it took to create the entire universe:

For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. (Exodus 20:11).

In other words, compromise is not the way to convince skeptics.

PS. Jonathan Sarfati, who has a PhD in chemistry, has written a detailed refutation of progressive creationism entitled Refuting Compromise (Master Books, 2004). His latest book By Design was published in 2008.


Whittenberger, Gary J. 2009. “Reasons To Believe” … or Not. E-Skeptic (4 March).