My WordPress tag reader led me to this video posted on Eric Hovind’s “Creation Today” website. This site is what Dr Dino’s website presence morphed into after the arrest and conviction of fringe creation scientists Kent Hovind. What caught my eye was that today’s video highlighted evidence of creation from thorns. I have been thinking about thorns quite a bit the last month and wrote a bit about thorns a while back (The Prelapsarian Acacia and the Good Creation: On the Origin of Thorns) so I just had to see what Hovind and friends were going to say bout the origin of thorns. I was pretty sure I knew what I was going to hear and from 6-10 minute mark in the video (HERE) I found McKay telling me that fossil thorns were proof that the world was young.
I am showing a screenshot and image from the video that gives you a sense for the argument which involves the following assumptions:
1) Thorns only came into existence after the Fall of Adam because after the Fall, God curses the ground and Genesis 3:18 says: It (referring to the ground) will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field. (NIV).
2) Any plants that have thorns must therefore have arisen after the fall of Adam.
3) There are fossils of plants that appear to have thorns, therefore these fossils, and the rocks that contain them, must have been created after the fall of Adam.
4) Adam fell only 6000 years ago and thus these fossils and rocks must be younger than 6000 years.
In a nutshell this, along with the assumption of no death before the fall, is what drives young earth creationism to claim all rocks to be young.
How can young earth creationists be so dogmatic in their assertions that thorns could not have existed in the original creation? The Bible no where provides any direct support of this interpretation of Genesis 3. Genesis 3 merely says that thorns will be produced for man making his work more difficult. How does this prove that no thorns existed for other purposes prior to the fall? The assumption seems to be based on a man-made assumption of what a good and perfect world would look like. Furthermore, this literal hermeneutic if applied several verses later creates an problem. Just two verses ealier we read that God will greatly multiply the woman’s sorrow in conception. A simple reading here would lead on to believe there was already sorrow and yet this is not how young earth creationists would ever interpret this passage. Back to thorns, I pointed out in another post that thorns can be integral parts of a “good” creation. Here we find McKay essentially saying in the video that any pointed end of a plant could not have existed prior to the fall because a sharp end could not be part of a good creation.
Adam and Eden:
But even if young earth creationists are right that Garden was a “good” creation with no pain or sorrow is it necessary to believe that the entire earth was identical to the land of Eden? In Genesis Eden is depicted as a geographical location set apart from the rest of creation. Indeed, the Garden of Eden was to be found in a specific part of Eden in the East of Eden. The Garden of Eden is frequently depicted by young earth literalists as perfect. How then was the Garden distinguished from the rest of creation? The Garden is often portrayed as a tropical paradise, presumably because lush growth represents perfection vs less growth (and food) but does that mean out side the garden the plants were less lush? Was this land somehow less good in the minds of these creationists. This is virtually never addressed in their literature. The assumptions seems to be the entire earth was a paradise despite some very clear indications from the rest of Scripture that this is not the relationship of Eden with the outside world. The key, as I recently pointed out in recommending the writings of Beale and others, is that the Garden represented the holy space in Eden which itself is a sacred space in creation. Adam had been created outside the Eden which is best seen as the chaos or from the wilderness which I and others believe is a better rendering of the term from Genesis 1.1. He was taken from the wilderness and placed into Eden, a sanctuary on earth. In Eden Adam communed as seen by his walking and talking with God in the most holy place in Eden the Garden of Eden. In Genesis we see that God, the creator, takes chaos and disorder and puts order to it. In Eden we see that he has taken the chaos (the wilderness) and made it fit/habitable for man. Man is formed out of the wilderness/chaos but established in a place of order and in communion with God – he is in the God’s temple with direct relationship to Him. There he is to tend and protect Eden. He is also to exercise dominion. He names the animals which is the function that God has taken on in Genesis 1 of naming and given functions to the parts of the world. God has made Adam his vice-reagent over the earth he has created. As long as Adam fulfilled his role he would expand that Garden until it filled the whole earth. There are many many illusions to this eschatologial goal throughout the Bible and I would direct you to Beale, Kline etc.. for more a full defense of this. Adam fails to tend and protect. He allows Satan into the Garden. Notice that Satan is a malevolent force that is already present in the world but in keeping with the image of the creation and the Garden through the whole Bible, the wilderness outside the Garden which hasn’t been transformed by Adam and his offspring is the source of Evil coming into the Garden. Adam didn’t protect Eve and the Garden in his role as priest and the devil in the form of a snake brings the wilderness into the Garden. The Garden can no longer be inhabited by Adam. Adam must leave the garden and is cast out into the the rest of the world. Being cast out of the Garden, the promised land, or outside the courtyard of the temple or of the tabernacle is always seen as being cast out into a waste land in which the blessings of God are not fulfilled. A place in which the full bounty of creation is not available to man.
Why is it that with the entire Scriptures pointing to this imagery of places outside of God’s presence are not hospitable or at least not as hospitable (physically or spiritually) are we prone to thinking that the land outside of Eden was a tropic paradise just like it was in Eden? I would assert (I say this because I don’t have time now to build my case or direct you to other resources) that a more natural reading of Genesis that takes into account the imagery of Eden in the rest of Scriptures sees Eden as a place set apart and that when Adam sinned he was cast out into the wilderness where God’s bounty (food, water etc..) and personal relationship with man would be broken. Adam would now have to contend with a world he was supposed to transform. Now rather than transforming that world into a Garden that world would effect and transform him. He still has the command to expand God’s kingdom but his efforts won’t be as productive. Much more could be said about how this fits with the rest of scriptures but here I would just point out that rather than thorns and thistles being created de novo were they were not present. The act of being removed from the Garden means the thorns and thistles of the wilderness that where already there would now really thwart man. Eves pain in conception is increased not because she didn’t experience pain but because now that conception would come with the knowledge that she would be giving birth to a person who would not enjoy the presence and goodness of God as she had in the Garden.
Thorns and their origins:
Back to the thorns themselves – the position that anything that even resembles a thorn could not possibly be present in the original creation boxes creationists into proposing rather awkward explanations for the present world. McKay on his website that supports this video talks about all thorns, spines, spikes, prickles and all other points on plants as being degraded parts of the original creation. He is right that thorns are modified stems and so for him thorns are stems that have lost their original “perfect” or “good” nature of being stems and have become “bad” thorns. As I pointed out for the acacias. Thorns might be “bad” for you or I trying to get at their fruit but the thorns provide homes for ants and are as amazing an example of natural design that works for the benefit of the organisms involved as the human eye is for us. The young earth creationist is constantly having to denigrate amazing features of this world as being the result of evil yet at the same time will use them as example of amazing design. So McKay wants us to believe that all these bad feature are “negative” evolution. They are the product of breakdown in an original good system. He makes it sound like it would be easy for genes to get degraded and then cause the stems to start making mistakes to make thorns.
To this argument of McKay’s I offer up the simple thorn bug pictured below. There are many species of thorn bugs and they all have modified outer wing casings that mimic different species of plant thorns. The function is pretty obvious, when they sit on a stem they can blend into the other stems thorns and will not be bothered by birds preying on them. If there were NO thorns in the pre-fall world (the prelapsarian state in more theological terms) what were these hundreds of species of thorn bugs doing? They have pointy casings that if they sat on bushes in great number would be very pesky for one of us trying to grab that branch. Clearly pain and inconvenience couldn’t be part of this perfect world. Also they wouldn’t need this elaborate disguise if the birds only ate fruits in that world. Like so many other creatures explained by young earth creationists, like camels with no humps because they wouldn’t need to preserve water when there were no deserts, the probably explanation would come that these bugs didn’t look like this before the fall and these thorns on their backs were pre-designed in their DNA by God who foreknew the fall was going to take place. What gets me about this argument is that McKay tries so hard to say that no new features can evolved but only degrade but here God has pre-designed DNA in order for it to produce a new feature after the fall. These “thorns” are clearly not degraded features of something else like a “good” branch becoming a sickly “thorn” but rather these thorns are complex adaptation of what was already a very well designed set of wings that would not devolve into something more complex like these thorns. There are a hundred angles to run with this from here but I will have to leave it at this for now.
Note: the featured image for this post shows cacti which have needles. Scientifically defined, needles are modified leaves whereas spines are modified stems. However, the author of Genesis may not have been referring to either of these but to a the whole plants in general. Plants such as thorny plants and thistle plants are common in deserts and being relegated to the desert it makes sense that Adam would have to contend with the plants of the desert which would not yield their fruit and leaves for food so easily.
After publishing this post I came across this short blog post that exemplified what I think are misconceptions about the Garden of Eden. Here is a quote from Dr. Mike Harmon, baptist minister writing about the location of the Garden of Eden:
If the Tigris and Euphrates mentioned are the same rivers by those names today, that would put the Garden of Eden somewhere in the Middle East, likely in Iraq. It cannot be mere coincidence that the Middle East region is where the planet was most lush—the place where the Garden of Eden was. If oil is, as most scientists believe, primarily decayed vegetation and animal matter, then this is the area where we might expect to find the greatest deposits of oil. Since the Garden was the epitome of perfection, it stands to reason that the decomposition of the earth’s most perfect and lush organic materials would produce vast stores of the earth’s best oil. (link to whole post)
I’m not sure how he came to believe that the Middle East region used to be the most lush place on the planet? Yes, there is evidence that it was much wetter there in the past but not a tropical zone. But again why is lushness the “epitome of perfection?” Is this a Biblical concept or our perception of perfection? The Bible describes the promised land as a land flowing with milk and honey as a new Eden! Fig trees, pomegranates, olive tress, grains and grapes are all symbols of the goodness of creation. These are not “lush” plants but are semi-arid adapted plants! To his point that great oil deposits are found here. Yes, there is much oil there but there is a lot of oil elsewhere and if a global flood then how does he know that the organic material wasn’t transported to this area? BTW, oil doesn’t result from decomposition of organic material as that would destroy it rather it results from transformation of organic material in the absence of decomposition but that really is a minor issue.