I got acquainted with Ariel Roth as a writer, but I also got to meet him as a human being. I discovered neither fanaticism nor nervousness, neither doubt nor ideological speech in Roth, an octogenarian who still looks in detail at each new subject appearing on the agenda of the debate between evolution and creation. He maintains an unflagging desire for honesty and a rational evaluation of the evidence.
For Roth, reason does not exclude faith. It is rational to leave room for faith too, he believes. “Man must not give up science to believe in the Bible.” And if we talk about blind faith, which we often come across in the evolutionists’ tirades against creationists, Roth calmly states that “more blind faith is actually needed – that kind of faith which is not based on evidence – to believe in evolution than in creation.”
After finishing his PhD in zoology at the University of Michigan, Ariel A. Roth worked for thirty years as a researcher in various fields in which science and religion are intertwined. He taught at Andrews and Loma Linda Universities and was the director of the Geoscience Research Institute between 1980 and 1994.
I invited Dr Roth to comment on the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, which took place on the 14th of February 2014. I was very interested in the opinion of a scientist who has studied the matter at hand for some decades. To start off, Dr Roth shared my feeling that the widely promoted debate was disappointing when evaluating the contribution both participants made.
N.I.: What is historical science and what is empirical science and how legitimate is the difference between the two? At the same time, what is the relationship between them?
A.R.: Historical science is a relatively widespread and accepted concept. Simpson, a world-renowned evolutionist, from Harvard University, accentuates the difference between empirical science (science based on sensory perception and experimenting) and historical science (referring to those aspects of science which are hard to test and to predict).
Bill Nye was wrong when suggesting that historical science does not exist, and his argument that all that is observable is historical ignores the accepted use of terms by scientists.
N.I.: Is historical science based on prejudice? Or is it at times enough to say that historical science does not offer the only possible interpretation?
A.R.: Historical science is not necessarily based on prejudice. It may be good, but because it does not operate with something you can observe, it’s much more easily subjected to presuppositions. Both evolution and creation tend to rather fit in the category of historical science because we are not able to scientifically observe macro-evolution or creation.
N.I.: In the debate, Ham referred to the philosophical aspect of the controversy, while Nye touched upon subjects which he considers to simultaneously be a source of evidence for evolution and a challenge for creationists. How do creationists respond to these challenges?
A.R.: Yes, Nye first approached the aspect of the geological column, which indicates that the Earth is very old. Many creationists deny its validity. But there are creationists, like many of my colleagues (from the Geoscience Research Institute – ed.), who accept it as being valid. In the model of the deluge, most probably, the coral Nye was talking about would be considered a fast accumulation during the deluge. I offered many more details on this in the book Origins (pages 255-257).
Then, Nye’s repeated affirmation that one will never find mixed fossils in the classification of the geological strata, suggesting the existence of a long evolutive process, is an exaggeration. I wrote about this subject in chapter 10 of the book Origins. There is for sure a certain classification of fossils, but any paleontologist can tell you that when they come across a fossil at another level, what they do is to extend the area attributed to certain fossilized evidence. Also, we sometimes come across formations which contain mixed fossils, from the ocean and the dry land. A few types of organisms like brachiopods and starfish are found across a large part of the geological column.
On the subject of human skulls’ diversity, which would support evolution, it is useful to read chapter 3 of Casey Luskin’s book, Science and Human Origins. I believe there might be an error in the table classifying skulls in the aforementioned book. In general, creationists tend to classify many skulls as inferior to the ones of Homo erectus and not belonging to humans. There are good reasons to question the validity of Homo habilis. After all, why are ancient writing, history, archeological discoveries, such as the pyramids, aqueducts and roads, all so recent if Homo sapiens populated the earth for hundreds of thousands of years as the theory of evolution suggests?
When it comes to the immense diversity of species which Nye invokes in favor of the long evolutionary time span, I know no solid information source on this subject. The maximum number of species varies considerably and is often exaggerated, especially when it comes fossil species. The paleontologists’ desire to discover new species may encourage the acceptance of false new species. Approximately 1.5 billion live species have been described in specialized literature, the vast majority being insects. There probably have been also around 300 000 fossil species described. Some suggest we will discover other billions of species if we include all types of bacteria in the soil and oceans, with all their little differences. However, as Ham pointed out, it was not necessary that all these be present on Noah’s ark. Sea animals were not on the ark. Many creationists exclude insects, as well, because they could have survived on the floating vegetation and anyway, insects wouldn’t have taken much space. If Nye were more familiar with creationist literature, I suppose he would be more cautious in his affirmations regarding the number of animals present on the ark. Creationists usually speak about some thousands or tens of thousands of animals on the ark.
Nye also spoke about the creationists’ inability to make scientific predictions. Creationists, however, can make many scientific predictions. The model of creation requires the existence of clear differences between animal groups and we can see they exist. Another prediction claims we should not be able to find a clear erosion between geological strata if these were to have settled quickly during a deluge. And, indeed, this phenomenon can be proven. The explosion of the number of fossils in the Cambrian era is exactly what a creationist model would have predicted we would find in the geological column.
Finally, the explanation of the evolution of the sexual organs for diminishing the number of parasites completely overlooks the main problems the evolutionist model is faced with when attempting to explain the evolution of sexual organs. Asexual reproduction is much more suitable for a fast, direct evolution. And then, why would the reproductive system have evolved into something less efficient, with less specific genes? The following question is also problematic for evolution: what appeared first, the complex process of creating sperm or the process of creating an ovule? Both are useless taken separately and do not have any value when it comes to survival. How do we, in this case then explain this “evolution”?
N.I.: The age of the Earth and the Big Bang were two major subjects in the debate. Does Scripture constrain us to adopt a radical position in this respect (that is to declare that the Earth is 6 000 years old and to reject the Big Bang)?
A.R.: I do not believe the Bible constrains us to adopt Ham’s model about a young Earth, nor does it exclude the possibility that the matter on earth (not life) might have been here long before creation. Some might argue that the Bible speaks of a barren and empty land before the creation week (Genesis 1:1-2). Apparently the actions in the creation week do not start before the “God said” intervention (Genesis 1:3). Also, in Genesis the creation of water is not mentioned. “The sea” from Exodus 20:11 might refer to the organization, on the third day of creation, of the already existing water before the creation week.
N.I.: Nye accused Ham of claiming that the natural laws have changed. Does the creationist model imply such a claim?
A.R.: There are a number of creationists who try to counteract radiometric dating with the idea that God changed the decomposition rates of radioactive elements during the deluge and I assume this is what Nye meant by “changing the natural laws”. There are creationists who disagree with this idea. Personally, I know of no evidence that might suggest that God did this. My preoccupation is that this kind of speculation places creationists in the position of people rejecting firsthand scientific data, devaluing reason and endangering communication with the scientific society. Too many speculations uselessly place creationists in the same boat with speculating evolutionists.
N.I.: What are the biggest challenges for creationists and does the existence of such challenges prove that evolution has won or are there similar challenges for evolutionists?
A.R.: In my opinion, the most important challenges creationism is faced with are the ones regarding the fossil ratio (which I discuss in chapter 10 of the book Origins), radiometric dating, the intrinsic suffering in nature, as well as the presence of predators and parasites. Evolution does however not get to win at all on this account. On the contrary, the challenges evolution faces are much more numerous and difficult. The biggest challenges for them are questions like: where did the laws allowing for matter to appear came from? How can one explain that the four fundamental constants in physics have exactly the value they should have in order to enable life to exist? How could life have appeared spontaneously when, even in its most simple form, it is still extremely complex? Evolutionism has failed to provide a plausible mechanism for the gradual evolution of thousands of complex biological systems, like the eye or photosynthesis. Where do consciousness, morality, reason and religion come from? You cannot find these things just by looking at matter. Major species (phyla divisions) suddenly appear in the fossil ratio in the Cambrian period (Cambrian explosion). The long geological eras are too short to accommodate evolution’s improbabilities. According to recent erosion rates, continents should have been consumed one hundred times over the billions of years proposed for Earth’s existence. The lack of erosion in the case of paraconformities questions the geological time. The extremely frequent sedimentary formations are what we would expect to emerge after a deluge, like the biblical one, and not the effect of long and slow geological changes.
In my book Origins, I examine subjects such as proofs for evolution and creation, the deluge, the strong and weak points of scientific methods, but also the measure in which the Bible can be considered a trustworthy document. My conclusions show that the biblical model of a recent creation leaves one with far less unanswered questions than any other model or perspective which is situated somewhere between the two poles, like progressive creation or theistic evolution.
N.I.: Nye drew a parallel between science and the investigation of a crime. Is this perspective correct? And if so, up until what point?
A.R.: I believe the parallel is not bad, but there are a series of nuances. It somehow matches what the apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:21: “but test them all; hold on to what is good.” This shows the Bible and scientific thinking are not that different. We all seek the truth (reality).
N.I.: Nye suggested that evolutionists create a model based on observation and the presumption that there is no supernatural cause of things. Creationists, he suggests, cannot propose a scientific model which would work based on observation and offer predictions. How do you comment?
A.R.: Nye was wrong here. Creationists test their different models the same way evolutionists do. Creationist models can offer predictions, just as evolutionist models do. However, creationist models can be far more complicated because they are open to a far larger scope of possible causes, not limiting themselves to simple materialistic ones.
The discussion I had with Dr Roth was far more complex than I was able to render in the space allocated for this interview. For instance, I asked Dr Roth to list the errors the two participants in the debate made. His answer was very extensive and could form a separate article. We invite you to continue to study and research this subject which has such significant implications for the understanding of the origin and purpose of our existence.
Norel Iacob is Editor in Chief of ST Network and Semnele timpului.