Where are the fact checkers in Young Earth Creationist’ (YEC) organizations? And why do simple errors and profound misconceptions of science persist among their ranks? I have commented multiple times that the YEC organization Institute for Creation Research (ICR) has a self-editing problem. As I have documented (Eg. The Case of the Shrinking Comet and the Age of the Universe), their science writer, Brian Thomas, has made a habit of mangling the scientific literature making simple errors of logic you would expect to be fixed by internal peer-review process. Such internal review is crucial for an anti-establishment organization like the Institute for Creation Research or Answers in Genesis because they are so apt to ignore the peer-review of their work from outsiders such as myself.
This week ICR presented us with yet another example of internal peer-review failure. This time it shows up as a mind-boggling failure to know the scriptures themselves. I was not the first to notice this problem. The following image and the quote contained in it were brought to my attention by a Facebook user who rightly questioned the accuracy of the message being communicated.
This image has been posted on the Institute for Creation Research Facebook page in conjunction with a series of large conferences they have been promoting the past few months. A plain reading of this quote leads one to a conclusion that almost certainly is in error.
How many times did Jesus “quote” Genesis? It seems that he only quoted Genesis one time or two if you count repeated versions in the Gospels. I count 34 unique (only counted once if found in more than one gospel) quotes of Jesus from just the books of Exodus, Deuteronomy, Isaiah and Psalms. (reference: http://blog.biblia.com/2014/04/which-old-testament-book-did-jesus-quote-most/) How then can it be said that “roughly half” of Jesus’ quotes were from Genesis?
How could such an error have been made? I’m not interested here in the significance of numbers. I am interested in the cultural conditions that allow such simple errors to be promoted and even persist in the YEC literature.
At first I thought there must be a simple explanation for this error. Maybe a part-time employee of ICR just mangled the quote on the graphic and they meant to say something other than what it sounds like it says. But, this is not what happened. This quote is, in fact, a quote. It comes from the book, Creation Basics & Beyond: An In-Depth Look at Science, Origins, and Evolution. This book was authored by all of the staff of ICR and carries with it the claim that it was “written and reviewed by experts” to assure the reader that it is as “accurate as humanly possible.”
Maybe the quote in the image was taken out of context? I was so intrigued by the origin of the quote that I had to purchase the Kindle version of the book to find out for myself. Rather than alleviating my concern about the truthfulness of the meaning of the quote, the context in which the quote appears only heightens my concern about author’s knowledge of scripture.
Here is the original quote and its surrounding text from Chapter 9: How should we then interpret Genesis?, by Jason Lisle, Ph.D. and James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. (Kindle location 1443)
If you have ever read any one of the gospels, you are undoubtedly familiar with the fact that Jesus often quoted the Old Testament Scriptures. He would often respond to His critics with “it is written” and “have you not read,” followed by a relevant scriptural quotation (e.g., Matthew 4:4; 12:3). But it sometimes surprises people to learn how much Jesus quoted from the book of Genesis.
In fact, Jesus quoted from Genesis about as much as all the other books of the Old Testament combined. Roughly half of Christ’s references to Scripture were quotation from Genesis. He obviously understood the importance of origins to Christian doctrines.
Using the literal hermeneutic that YEC’s have taught me is required for reading texts I can come to no other conclusion than that Lisle and Johnson believe and intend to communicate to their audience that Jesus quoted Genesis more than any other Old Testament book. But this is untrue. Jason Lisle is a Ph.D. in physics, though in this book he portends to critique non-YEC theological positions. The second author of this chapter has a theology degree. How could these authors have written this in light of the obvious fact that Jesus only quoted Genesis one time? Surely “quote” means “quote” or does ICR have some special definitions of terms that only they are privy too?
Interestingly, the very next paragraph in Chapter 9 speaks of Genesis as being real history because Jesus referred to Moses and Moses was the author of Genesis. OK, but a reference to Moses by Jesus is not a “quotation from Genesis” as implied in this statement.
Maybe the authors meant to say that New testament authors quoted Genesis more than any other book but even that would not be true.
Whatever the source, the error is right there in the book and that error has been lifted out of the book to produce this graphic (meme) which is being used to promote the views of ICR. It’s one thing to have dubious interpretations of scripture it’s another to just be factually incorrect.
Ironically, in the introduction to the book in which this incorrect quote is found we find the following statement:
Although this book is written primarily for non-experts, it was written and reviewed by experts. This helps ensure that the book is as accurate and up to date as is humanly possible. Every contributing author is a researcher/speaker/writer in full-time apologetics ministry at the Institute for Creation Research. The writers include five Ph.D. scientists (two in biology, one in physics, one in astrophysics, one in geology), a medical doctor/professional engineer, two science writers with master’s degrees in science, and two writers with doctorates in theology.
I’ve written about the challenges of placing our faith in false “experts” (see: Dogmatic Assertions of Expertise: Having Faith in Flood Geology). ICR and AiG take every opportunity to proclaim themselves experts in areas of science and theology. For example, unlike most secular literature every chapter of this book lists the degrees next to the authors names under the chapter headings.
But what happens when the so-called experts are wrong? Who checks the experts? A serious problem, on full display here, with the insular YEC movement is that many of their experts are not experts and even if some are experts in the field they are writing about they are being reviewed by non-experts. Yet, they make the claims that their work is peer-reviewed and wish to portray their works as being vetted and more accurate than Christians who do not agree with their interpretation of Scripture. However, peer review often may consist of a biochemist writing about geology being reviewed by an astronomer.
So the content in this book was written by experts and was reviewed by experts. It should then be disconcerting that these experts can’t even catch simple factual errors. Now, I suspect the problem here may trace itself to some sloppy scholarship. It seems unlikely that either author actually did a reference search and counted up the quotations or they would have immediately recognized the problem. Rather, they probably heard this statistic about Jesus and quotes from another source they trusted. For example, Henry Morris in his commentary (Defenders Study Bible KJV) on Genesis, makes statements about how many times NT authors referred to Genesis and talks about 50% of those references coming from Genesis 1-11. Maybe Lisle or Johnson had a hazy memory of Morris. Maybe someone had a different definition of “quote” or “reference” and made some ambiguous statement about Jesus’ use of Genesis. Other creationists instinctively trust their creationist’s brothers as being trustworthy and truthful and because this information about scripture references so fit their worldview they had no reason to question its accuracy and just believed.
When it was written into this chapter, no one bothered to actually check their Bibles to see if the statement was accurate. Maybe they used the word “roughly” because maybe the original source said “many” or “some” and they just figured that meant quite a few. You see, the truth gets distorted over time when no one checks the facts.
Ok, you might say, this is an error but it is just an innocent error and is probably an isolated case. True just a single error in a book is not a big deal. It happens to all of us. It wouldn’t be a big deal if it were an isolated case. But the fact is that the entire book is filled with misconceptions and distortions of facts. These distortions take place as stories have been passed from one creationists to another without doing the due diligence of testing the statements against scripture or other original literature.
Sadly, despite all the “experts” involved in this book, very few are writing in areas in which they have any specific expertise. While most have higher degrees this alone does not necessarily qualify them as experts any more than my Ph.D. automatically confirms on me expert status in English composition as many of you can attest.
I don’t expect a public acknowledgement of this error but I would hope that ICR discontinues its use of this graphic on Facebook and in their presentations and examines themselves to find out why it continues to make these mistakes.