Is Genesis all literal, all allegory, or somewhere between?

Discussion in 'Sacred Scripture' started by ZachT, Jun 27, 2021.

  1. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    No, I'm seeing clearly now. The early church fathers were all darwinians and the scientific hypotheses in fashion in 2021 is and has always been the proper rule of faith. Quite right. My mistake.
     
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  2. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Darwin hypothesized that new species evolved slowly and gradually. Supposedly he wrote in his book that if transitional fossils (showing the development between, say, an amphibian and a mammal, or some such) were not found within 50 years, his hypothesis would have been proven wrong. Well, those types of fossils have not been found. So the proponents of macroevolution switched to an assumption that mutations must have occurred which amounted to sudden transitions... for example, if an amphibian one day gave birth to a mammal (just an off-the-cuff example again). This obviates the need to find a whole bunch of transitional fossils, but the question becomes: wouldn't there have had to be not one but two such mutation (one male, one female) occurring at the same time frame, so the new life form could reproduce?

    Macroevolution also is forced to suppose that new, more intricate physical organs and systems managed to occur through these punctuated transitions. A creature was born with eyeballs (complete with the cones, rods, and features necessary to provide effective eyesight) to parents with none. Or at the least, they must suppose that eyeballs gradually became more intricate and effective over many generations. Either way, this runs counter to the normal way of things in this world; entropy dictates that natural things tend to go from a high state of order to a lower state of order (greater disorder). Decay is normal. Systems become more random, not less so. Yet macroevolution proponents would have us believe that a dead group of chemical substances in a primordial soup somehow (through a jolt of electrical energy, perhaps) formed the first single-celled organism, that this type of single-celled organism (after multiplying after its kind) evolved into simple multi-celled organisms, which evolved eventually into ever more sophisticated life forms with complex, specialized features.

    I've always felt that it takes a great deal of faith to believe in this hypothesis. Those who deny the existence of a Creator must have something to believe in, though; they need some way of explaining the origin of life, apart from God, or else they'd have the truth nagging at them.
     
  3. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    How very droll. :laugh: :tiphat:
     
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  4. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    I have always felt the the theory of evolution is a very good argument for the existence of God.

    Every the gets rusty soggy or mouldy and runs downhill. Something that flies in the face of this must surely require external intervention
     
  5. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    BTW one of the nice things about Coyne’s book is that he discusses transitional forms in detail and gives example after example of the ones that have been found in the fossil record. The fact that Darwin predicted this and that they were subsequently found is one of the most impressive confirmations of his theory.
     
  6. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I recognize the sarcasm, but even so, @ZachT did address these issues in a previous post:

    “At that time there was no evidence the Earth was millions of years old, and only very spurious evidence that civilisation was older than 6000 years old that was trivial to dismiss. So it makes sense he, and all other church fathers, took the age of the Earth/Human Civilisation to be 6000 years old. But he also says if he was shown evidence that the Earth was millions of years old he would change his interpretation to be less literal, rather than stick his head in the sand and refuse to accept he read the passage wrong. We don't hold the church fathers to be omnipotent, of course they didn't believe in evolution, they predate Darwin by 1200-1600 years. That they didn't write in favour of a modern scientific realisation doesn't mean they didn't give us the tools to interpret scripture in light of it.

    “I'm happy to not weigh every word Augustine wrote as gospel. But I'm going to discount the things I disagree with through reason. Augustine was wrong on the age of human civilisation - we have undeniable evidence humans have been on this Earth with buildings and communities for longer. Augustine was not wrong on nature being an extension of Truth.”


    We aren’t debating whether evolution happened or whether the Earth is considerably older than 10,000 years. Both questions have been settled decisively in the affirmative. What we are discussing is what hermeneutical rules are necessary to ensure that the message of the biblical texts is properly preserved while at the same time ensuring the harmony of those interpretations with truths known from other disciplines. What @ZachT said is correct: the Church Fathers were neither strict literalists nor did they anticipate modern fundamentalism’s obsession with historicity. There’s no reason to just reject the traditional approach out of hand unless you’re unwilling to consider any interpretation that deviates from your presuppositions. But then, that’s not really exegesis, is it?
     
  7. ZachT

    ZachT Well-Known Member

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    Well nothing I've said in this thread should make that clear, but if that's what the Holy Spirit reveals to you then you do you.
     
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  8. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I went to Amazon, thinking maybe I should buy Jerry Coyne's book and see for myself what he wrote. I changed my mind after reading the topmost review:
    If you are like me and honestly researching the subject of evolution (intelligent or no intelligent design), no matter where the truth leads you it probably not best to start here for an evolutionary perspective unless you want to understand historical arguments that have evolved or fallen to the wayside.

    After researching many compelling arguments I too often found that science now questioned the author's argument or the assumptions were more biased than the author admitted. Case in point, he argued that retroviruses are parasitic devices that alter DNA and that they had done so in the same places in chimpanzees and in humans. The argument being for a common ancestor, because the probability that this occurred in both the human and chimpanzee independently is improbable and that a creator would have no reason to do so as it produced 'junk DNA.' Now science has found that this 'junk DNA' has governing functions within our genome. Now the argument could be turned around as a testament to design.

    To be fair, some contrary evidence to his arguments probably did not exist at the time. However, he did not even try to present a fair and opposing viewpoint to most of his arguments.

    Truly, it can be hard finding critical thinkers (attempts to be unbiased, fair and balanced) on either side of the evolutionary argument. Is it too much to ask for an author who is secure enough in their position (or not...honesty is good) to present both sides of the evolutionary argument and admit when they do not have a good answer to strong arguments that oppose their viewpoint. How about two respected, unsensational and opposing view science trained authors write a book together!!! I'd pay for that.
    Another reviewer (who gave it 5 stars!) wrote, "the entire book is geared towards trying to convince Creationists they are wrong." Meh... I'll pass.
     
  9. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    BTW I encourage anyone who is genuinely interested in learning about the science to read Coyne’s Why Evolution is True. I have read it cover-to-cover many times along with plenty of other works on the subject, and can honestly say it is the best book of its kind that I have ever come across. Because fundamentalists and evangelicals have been very effective at spreading misinformation about evolutionary theory (and of which misinformation I myself was formerly a victim unfortunately), Coyne understandably takes the time to examine those objections in light of the current state of the available evidence when appropriate. Public schools also do a very poor job of teaching the subject, and the book is intended as an antidote to that problem, for educators and interested non-specialists alike. He does an excellent job of explaining the theory, and presenting the different lines of evidence that support it. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is everything a book like that should be.
     
  10. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I'd like to share another review (two stars) of Coyne's book, in case anyone's on the fence. (Emphasis added by me.)

    Why Evolution is True repeatedly and confidently makes the claim that evolution is undeniably a fact, but that declaration is never supported by doing what science does best: explain how. That is, when it comes to explaining the diversity in nature, the book never elucidates what is obligatory for Darwin’s theory to be plausible: the precise mechanism of how natural selection acts step-by-step via interaction with the code of life, DNA. Of course, this is absolutely necessary for a theory that supposes to explain the diversity of life. Subsequently, what you are left with is a book that champions a theory which simultaneously explains everything while explaining nothing at all. Furthermore, Coyne does not make an inference from the evidence but begins with a central assumption (that evolution is true) and then looks back in search for confirmatory “proof.” The search unfairly ignores some legitimate objections (e.g., natural selection only preserves genes that exist—hence the “engine” for genetic variability, mutation, is ultimately chance. Chance is insufficient to explain the genetic diversity necessary for speciation) and never interacts with some glaring omissions (e.g., the abrupt appearance of fossils in the Cambrian explosion) that seriously challenge gradualistic evolution.

    As Coyne writes himself, “the theory of natural selection has a big job—the biggest in biology. Its task is to explain how every adaptation evolved, step by step, from traits that preceded it” (pg. 119). Let’s be reasonable. Does any author have to explain every adaption? Of course not. But how about just one? Why Evolution is True fails to do that. Coyne does a wonderful job of doing many other things like properly defining and clarifying often-misunderstood terms; giving a snapshot of embryology and the diversity of life in dissimilar geographic areas; and providing a succinct description of what the fossil record is, what it tells us and what it’s limitations are. Coyne’s dilemma is by no means a lack of evidence. He provides plenty of it, just none that specifically answers the book’s title. Consequently, to get from the data presented to “evolution is true” requires a huge leap based on a lot of untested (and probably untestable) speculation. This is evidenced by the overflowing use of terms like, “likely” “probably” “might” “could” “should” and “maybe.”

    In regards to Coyne’s reliance on the fossil record, no one will doubt that history proves life has changed. Fossils can tell you that because they preserve bones. What they can’t preserve is the environment that supposedly caused those changes, or the effects of organisms being conscious agents. It’s always easier to document change than to understand the causes behind those changes.

    We are now living in the 21st century, and science has progressed by leaps and bounds relative to when Darwin wrote Origin of Species more than 150 years ago. Modernity has afforded us a wealth of new understanding about how life works, so the burden of explanation for evolution increases exponentially as our understanding of life extends deep, deep down to the biochemical level. Unfortunately, Why Evolution is True does not lighten the burden.

    In the end, this is a book with grand scientific pretensions that is heavy on ideology and very light on the actual science that supports the title. The vitriol aimed against creationists alone is very off-putting and thus makes Why Evolution is True read like a philosophical polemic instead of a book concerned exclusively with empirical science. (The science, after all, is objective and has no feelings). I can’t recommend this book to anyone because when it comes to the scientific truths, it ignores the big 21st century discoveries most relevant to Darwin’s 19th century theory.
    From the sound of it, if one is predisposed to belief in macroevolution, this book undoubtedly will confirm those beliefs.
     
  11. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Or, people could just try actually reading the book (or others like it) for themselves rather than let others make up their minds for them. Anybody can repost Amazon reviews, and those are worth what it cost to post them. There's no substitute for actually reading the full argument. No reasonable person would recommend reading a Cliff's Notes summary of the Bible to an inquirer rather than reading the Bible itself, and books on science - especially books on science - deserve the same level of open-mindedness and objectivity. If the issue is as serious as many people claim it is, then it deserves to be treated seriously, and that means interacting with actual published literature, and not just a couple of paragraphs same random person posted on the internet. To assign blame to Coyne for debunking misinformation in the process of presenting the theory to a non-specialist readership is just gaslighting. If you want to really get to know a given field, the best thing to do is to read published works by actual specialists in that field. One could also start with Darwin's original work and then go from there. On the Origin of Species is one of the truly great books in its own right and is well worth reading even today. It's never a bad thing to get to know a great mind.
     
  12. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    Rexlion, don’t waste your money buying a copy, you should be able to get it from a library like I did.
     
  13. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    I HAVE read “Why Evolution is True” and my conclusion was that it could sound convincing to someone who has little knowledge of the other side of the debate, but fails to answer the strong arguments of young earth creationists. In other words it fails to show what the title says.

    It’s some time now since I read it and I don’t have a copy now so it is difficult to quote actual examples. However his definition of evolution from the book is readily available.

    "Life on earth evolved gradually beginning with one primitive species—perhaps a self-replicating molecule—that lived more than 3.5 billion years ago; it then branched out over time, throwing off many new and diverse species; and the mechanism for most (but not all) of evolutionary change is natural selection." [Jerry Coyne, 2009]

    Now note “—perhaps a self-replicating molecule—“. A single molecule, even if self replicating through a chemical reaction, can not be considered as living. So Coyne at least includes abiogenesis as part of evolution.
     
  14. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    We’ll have to agree to disagree here. In my younger years I was actually pretty deep into the Young Earth Creationist movement, which at that time was arguably a minority position within the mainstream evangelicalism I was raised in. James Dobson, Billy Graham, and Norman Geisler, among others, all at the very least believed in an old Earth (in fact, I can’t think of a single prominent apologist at that time who didn’t), and for the most part accepted some version of theistic evolution. I read all the books (and I do mean all of them), attended the lectures, used YEC-specific Study Bibles exclusively, and even met and had detailed conversations with some of the movement’s leaders. I’m not an outsider to the debate.

    What I found over time as I got older is that one has to go up against the established findings and well-supported methods in a lot of other disciplines, not just biology, in order to hold YEC. General relativity, radiometric dating, geology, plate tectonics, etc., are all things that YEC is committed to rejecting outright. Eventually the critical mass of opposing evidence became too great and I was forced to admit that the universe, and the Earth by implication, were in fact quite old. But there were still holdovers from my YEC days. I recognized YEC was untenable at that point but I wasn’t aware of the positive evidence for Darwin’s theory. I read others - such as the evangelical, Dr. Francis Collins, to try to find some of those answers, and eventually came across Coyne’s book by accident. All I was looking for at that point was an explanation of the theory itself and a presentation of the evidence for it, which is all that Coyne’s book is attempting to do.

    What I realized in reading the book is that I had been lied to. YEC claims there are no fossils of transitional forms, for example, which is false. YEC apologists in my experience didn’t deal with lines of evidence like oceanic vs. continental islands at all, which is one of the more interesting confirmations of Darwin’s theory. YEC apologists consistently treat Darwinism as an inductive inference from available data rather than as a scientific hypothesis (with testable predictions) that subsequently acquired - and continues to acquire - confirmation. The reason YEC apologists didn’t understand or accurately present the science is because they didn’t understand science itself, or were intentionally misrepresenting it. That this seems to dovetail with a lot of other anti-science positions that have since become “culture war” issues that these same people in general publicly espouse, is not an accident.

    If one is a committed YECer and has identified that position as something essential to your faith, there are enough psychological barriers in place that one will nitpick Coyne’s book at every point he differs from YEC ideology, to the extent that you will come away from the experience not actually understanding what his arguments even were, let alone finding them persuasive. It is not possible to use evidence to convince someone who firmly believes in an alternative and unfalsifiable explanation for that evidence. However, if you’re a person who was in my position, who accepted the validity of modern science, understood that the Bible is not a science textbook, and accepted the traditional Christian position that scriptural interpretation should be in harmony with science, then Coyne’s book is one of the better books one can read if one is looking for an explanation of evolutionary biology and the various lines of relevant evidence for it. The book is about science. Coyne himself is an incompatibilist when it comes to science and religion, and he devotes an entirely separate book, Faith vs. Fact, to deal with the more philosophical issues involved in that position. As Coyne himself makes clear, one need not endorse his incompatibilist stance in order to accept the science and practice a religion in good faith. If that’s your goal, you will likely enjoy his book. There are others as well, that do much the same thing.
     
  15. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Old earth creationism and macroevolution are not inextricably linked. If old earth creationism is true, that does not prove macroevolution took place.

    If Coyne is correct about gradual macroevolution taking place over eons, there should be clear evidence showing the earliest life forms by themselves in the lowest rock stratum, followed by progressively more complex, evolutionarily linked fossils of life forms in the next strata, and up and up through the layers in the same manner. It's not enough to find some variations that look like they could be transitional forms, if those life forms' locations in the rock layers do not also conform to the progression of time. From what I've read, the lowest strata contain what amounts to an 'explosion' of life forms; complex and simple plants and animals appear in the fossil record pretty much simultaneously. If this is true, the wide varieties of fossilized life forms we find are indicative of creation followed by entropy losses, as the bulk of differentiated species died out over time... in other words, the exact opposite of evolution would have been taking place as the earth 'winds down' from a state of high order to states of ever greater disorder.

    My son tends to believe in old earth creationism, and he's studied it at much greater length than I've ever had time for. In a past discussion I had with him, he commented that we don't know how long the "days" of creation actually were, and they might have been millions or billions of years; we also don't know for sure whether perhaps God allowed Lucifer and his bunch to use the earth as their playground for eons prior to Adam & Eve's creation, and perhaps they did things to distort for their own amusement the life forms God had made.

    Belief in old earth creationism opens the door to much conjecture. But my points are these:
    (1) the evidence for an ancient earth does not preclude creation,
    (2) the evidence for an ancient earth does not prove macroevolution from lower life forms to higher ones,
    (3) the evidences for an ancient earth and for upward-spiraling macroevolution are most heavily used by faithless people, as they look for a way to 'prove' in their own minds that life could have come forth apart from a Creator, and
    (4) when Christians fall for the unproven assumption that macroevolution is the explanation for the development of higher life forms, they lend their support to a belief system that denies God (even if they personally do not deny Him).
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2021
  16. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    Is it evidence of antiquity or evidence of the completeness and complexity of God's creative work?
     
  17. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    1. Absolutely True
    2. Correct, and these refer to Natural Selection, and is in part what led to Darwin's theories on The Origin of the Species. The fact that it is called the Theory of Evolution, does not mean that it has been proven, but rather this is one theory that conforms to the data that has been observed and collected.
    3. And yet, these arguments must make some allowance for the Law of Natural Regression. In fact it is in the face of the law hard to see how you could argue for a lack of a Creator, as it would seem that there is a need for some additional component, force or energy, to allow for the advance and progression.
    4. Not necessarily so. It is in my view, entirely credible and reasonable, to accept the basic tenets of evolution, based on the evidence that has been collected, there is some good support for the theory. It does however remain a theory and not a fact.
    It is my general position that if Evolution is true (and I suspect it may be) it actually adds to the evidence for God. Many people seem to want to argue for God, creator of a static creation, however that really does match what we have. Moltmann ( if memory serves me correctly) argued for God being creator, not simply for God as the retired creator. Evolution then simply serves as evidence that God is continuing to create.

    When we recite the Nicene Creed we say, something like, We believe in One God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. At some stage we all need to make the decision if this simply refers to what God did, or to what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do.

    The world was thrown into significant alarm when Galileo suggested that terra-centricity simply no longer was a sustainable position, and that Copernicus' idea heliocentricity was indeed correct or at least more correct.
     
  18. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    One of the problems with citing the fact of evolution as evidence for or against the existence of a Creator is that natural selection is a non-teleological process. Most of the animal species (among the ones we even know about) that have existed on Earth gradually evolved the way they did only for their descendants to go extinct. Other lines of descent actually lost features only for their descendants to gradually regain them. The first land-dwelling animals evolved from water-dwelling animals, but the fossil record also indicates that whales subsequently evolved from land-dwelling mammals. The existence of species of flightless birds is another example of this. None of this makes very much sense on the assumption that these species were created independently and perfectly adapted to their environment by an all-wise and omnipotent Creator with a perfect plan. It doesn’t even make sense on the assumption that they were merely designed by a finite (but still very powerful) being that was limited to working with the tools and materials at Its disposal. An omnipotent Creator would not need to adapt his creatures to the environment he had created. So the dilemma we are left with is that adaptation is evidence against a Creator, while failures of adaptation (e.g., extinctions) are evidence against a finite Designer. This is an even bigger problem for Young Earth Creationism than it is for either Old Earth Creationism or Theistic Evolution, because the amount of time involved should have given rise to far fewer extinctions than what we actually see in the fossil record. Failures of design that occurred that quickly don’t bode well for a Young Earth hypothesis (unless the hypothesized Designer were also “young”).

    If we were nevertheless to say that either the fact of evolution or its theoretical explanation (natural selection) is somehow evidence for the existence of God, that would seem to imply that a hypothetical future theory that disrupted the current understanding would be evidence against the existence of God. So, the progress of science would result in increasingly greater certainty about the non-existence of non-empirical objects. That isn’t what science actually does - science will never be able to prove or disprove the existence of love, or justice - nor is that the direction I would think one wanting to support theism would want to travel.

    A species is simply a group of organisms that is genetically similar enough to allow for interbreeding (i.e., with the result being non-sterile offspring). The only difference between microevolution and macroevolution is merely that one results in differences within a species whereas the other results in new species (i.e., distinct groups that are genetically similar but no longer have the ability to interbreed). The processes themselves are identical. There is nothing “extra” to macroevolution. It simply occurs mostly over spans of time that are too long for us to directly observe (though there are exceptions).

    The processes of natural selection and genetic drift are ultimately based on knowable chemical processes and are subject to the same physical laws as everything else in the universe. There is no known violation of the Laws of Thermodynamics in evolution, nor does evolution represent some kind of “upward movement” toward something. It would be very problematic if we were to suppose that a scenario of theistic evolution required regular “injections” of new energy into the universe to make the process of evolution work. Such would assume that only the regular violation of the First Law could explain the non-violation of the Second Law. This is arbitrary and rests on a misunderstanding either concerning entropy (for one thing, entropy is even greater in an open system than in a closed one), evolution, or both. Modern physics however assumes neither law can be violated as an axiom, and if either, it would be further evidence against either a Designer or an Omnipotent Creator, depending on which direction one took it.

    I’m not aware of any development over the last 200 years that should lead us to revise Kant’s conclusion that none of the traditional theistic proofs are successful. Evolution is thus theism-neutral, at least as regards the existence of God.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2021
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  19. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Yes, evolutionary theory is directly contradictory to the Bible's message of all things having been created by Almighty God.

    But in regard to the creation of all things by God, evolution is anti-theistic. And it makes untruths of the Bible statements in Genesis and John 1.

    These are stated as if they are proven facts, but they are not proven. They are theoretical suppositions. Theoretical suppositions must bow to the truths found in the written word of God.

    Gen 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
    Gen 1:20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.”
    Gen 1:21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
    Gen 1:22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.
    Gen 1:24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so.
    Gen 1:25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

    John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
     
  20. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    They are proven, whether you admit that or not. There are fossil records of many species that do
    not exist today. You are welcome to provide an alternate explanation as to how and why that would be the case. The existence of flightless birds, for example, is not some unproven presupposition: ever heard of penguins?

    And the interpretation of Scripture is precisely the point at issue, not the certainty being assumed. The Bible is not a science textbook, nor was it intended to be. The contrary assumption is just (deliberately) ignorant fundamentalism, nothing more. Your response is nonsense, as usual. :thumbsup:
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2021