Vision 2020: Past, Present and Future of Naturalis Historia

Eight years, 445 published articles, several million page views—what does the future have in store? God-willing, much more but before getting to that future I must express my gratitude for those who have read and shared my writing, provided feedback and challenged my thinking.

I began this blog as a way to communicate more effectively with a small group of friends that I had previously engaged in discussing questions about science and faith via email exchanges.  I knew that I needed to further test my thoughts first by taking the thoughts mostly in my head and seeing if I could convert them into written words. Then I would allow others to test my ideas and to steer me toward better and straighter paths.  I was keenly aware that writing was not one of my strengths but I knew that to be a better writer I had to write more and do so for an audience that would provide feedback.

Progress has been made toward each of these goals.  I have learned so much from the thousands of hours of research that has been required to write over 400 articles and from the feedback and continued discussion that those articles have initiated.

My writing skills—both composition and grammar—have improved dramatically over eight years of putting fingers to keyboard.  That was made apparent to me this past year as I have been revising some of my older articles.  It has been cringe-worthy to see how poorly those articles were—and in many cases still are until I can revise them—and yet encouraging to see how readily I have been able to improve their composition and grammar and in many cases with reduced word counts!  However, although I feel I have improved, effective and efficient writing is still a struggle for me.

Regular readers from the early days will no doubt have seen changes in the quality of the articles even if they may feel there is still much room for improvement.  What improvements have been made can be traced directly to multiple individuals who have graciously volunteered to provide editing services for the past several years.  A special thank you to Tim (Jesus with Baggage) who passed away earlier this year. Tim was one of the first persons to offer to edit my posts and provided many stimulating suggestions on the content of them.  During the past few years Michael Callen and Lars Cade have provided significant contributions.  I must say that without their help many of the articles I have published would never have been published at or or not had the impact that they have had. I am deeply indebted for their time, encouragement and training.  When you do observe grammatical gaffes, spelling errors and typos it is almost surely something I have hastily posted without running it past one of them first—like this post!

What does the future hold?

I have thought a lot about future directions for this blog and other projects.  I won’t reveal all my plans but I thought I would share what I have been up to recently and reveal a few projects for the next year.

For the past six months I have not been writing as actively as I once had.  This is partly due to my new duties as the director of an interdisciplinary PhD program and teaching courses with a combined 150 students.  What writing I have done has focused on taking ideas from blog posts as a springboard for academic projects and other public outlets. Here are a few of those efforts some of which I can’t say much more about until they are published.

1) I’ve submitted a National Science Foundation grant proposal with a couple of colleagues that if funded will help us improve our PhD students written and oral ability to communicate science to the general public.  I would never have imagined that I would be part of such an effort if it were not for having done so much writing for the public on my blog or having been involved with general education curriculum oversight for the University of Akron and State of Ohio.

2) I’ve submitted, had accepted with revisions, and am awaiting a decision on  those revisions, a peer-reviewed manuscript with co-authors David MacMillan and Thomas Beatman—my most recent doctoral student—titled: “Dissent with modification: How postcreationism’s hyperrapid-speciation argument opposes yet embraces evolutionary theory.”  In this manuscript we explore aspects of YEC hyperrapid speciation as taught at The Ark Encounter.  I expect this to be published in the next few months and will highlight the paper on the blog.

3) I reviewed and had an advisory role in the development of a High School biology curriculum that I am quite excited about. This is a long term project that I will have much more to say about when it becomes available.

4) I have also made considerable progress on two additional manuscripts intended for peer-reviewed journals. Both of these explore YEC hyperrapid speciation and are extensions of articles that I’ve written about here at Naturalis Historia.  I hope to submit these early in 2020.

For the first half of 2020 I have several writing projects already in progress which include:

  • A multi-part series describing the Historical Creationism interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 by Dr. John Sailhamer. This will be a completely updated version of a poorly-written series published in the early days of this blog in 2011. This time I will explore how Sailhamer’s thesis has impacted other commentators on Genesis and in many cases been improved upon by those individuals (Walton, Beale, Collins, LeFebvre) in the time since Sailhamer published the first version of Genesis Unbound in 1996.
  • An open letter to pastors and theologians on their use and misuse of social media to comment on science and politics
  • Continued exploration of young-earth creationist’ use of hyper-evolutionary mechanisms for explaining the origins of biological diversity within a young universe

Future posts (subject to change just like all my course syllabi):

  • Rewriting my popular series on the origins of the Dead Sea and how this is a particular challenge to young-earth creationists
  • A follow-up to my series on Historical Creationism that addresses common questions that I feel still have not been adequately addressed by any theistic model of origins
  • My perception of the current status of young-earth creationism in America
  • Revisions of many older posts that have content that is out-of-date or need grammatical help
  • My observations of the historical Adam debates and an outline of where I stand on the topic

You will notice a slight shift in focus away from addressing scientific discoveries and how they challenge young-earth cosmology.  It isn’t hard poke holes in the science of creation science. I could write such a post every single day and not run out of material.

I receive emails or blog comments at times asking why I waste my time responding to YEC claims.  Many have told me that it doesn’t matter how much evidence one brings to the table one cannot convince a young-earth creationist that they hold to a false and unbiblical cosmology.

My response to those comments is that I agree that evidence does not convince by itself.  As Ken Ham has said, there is no scientific evidence that could ever convince him, nor likely any other leaders or devoted followers of creation science, to re-evaluate his beliefs.  I write about errors in creation science literature not with any hope of convincing those who are unable to see. After all, most of those individuals won’t even allow themselves to read critiques such as those found on this blog.

However, I believe there are three reasons to continue to provide critiques of creation science. First, errors by creation scientists that are not responded to embolden the source of error to repeat and amplify their error in the future.  Second, responding to errors provides feedback—a form of peer-review—for the creation science community.  If creation science is honoring God through protecting His truth revealed in Genesis then they deserve to defend that truth in the most God-honoring way possible which should include desiring to be truthful in what the communicate to their followers.  If they choose to ignore feedback and continue to repeat their errors they should be held accountable for leading the flock astray.

Third and most importantly, while it is unlikely, and I would argue not even a worthy goal, that scientific evidence should be used as a primary means to persuade an individual that their interpretation of Genesis is wrong, there are multitudes of Christians who have been exposed to YEC teachings for which those teachings have never made much sense but they don’t know what else to believe. I meet with, and receive emails from, these Christians all the time.  These are seekers of God’s truth. They are people who believe in God and his revelation but can’t reconcile the teachings of young-earth apologists with either what they see in the Bible or science.   These individuals are lost and are seeking answers.  In some cases they are trapped in situations where they have been taught young-earth views as if there were no alternative but they sense that the scientific arguments they have been taught are invalid. In many cases they have never heard any alternatives and so can’t defend their growing skepticism. They are seeking critical analysis of their own YEC upbringing and that is something that this blog provides.  In other cases, these seekers concerns with young-earth creationism are centered on theology and they are seeking biblically-based responses to YEC interpretations of Genesis.  I and others seek to provide a landing ground for these seekers rather than having them only discover the answers that come from atheist and Gnostics which would undermine their faith.

These are reasons for continuing to critique and evaluate new and old YEC arguments.  However, I do feel that I am reaching the point that it is a bit senseless to respond to every single paper that YECs produce.  In most cases YEC literature is simply repeating the same claims that have already been thoroughly refuted either here or by other Christian authors.  Most of what I have written the past year amounts to recycled material which is more than sufficient to address their latest proclamations.  I have addressed nearly every major scientific claim made by YECs and I am finding there isn’t much new under the sun.  I am sure that I will find some hot new discovery that I am interested in and will write about it but I’m feel like I’m done with routine critiques of young-earth creationism.

What does deserve more attention are the theological shortcomings of the young-earth apologetic. At the end of the day, it is the errors in their interpretation of Genesis and the Bible that are the source of their misunderstanding of God’s physical creation.  I intend to devote more of my time to address these concerns in the coming year.

There is much to do. I look forward to more thoughtful and stimulating exchanges of ideas and continued grammatical revisions of this and future posts.

Blessings to you and a wonderful new year,

Joel Duff

PS. My title “Vision 2020” is a reference to a defunct website and 40-page document written in the mid-1990s by dominionist/theonomist Gary North who outlined a plan for “HOW TO RETURN CALVINISTIC PRESBYTERIAN CHURCHES TO THE WESTMINSTER ASSEMBLY’S POSITION ON THE SIX-DAY CREATION.”   This was supposed to be accomplished by 2020. This “plan” played a small part in causing me to enter into the science faith discussion and ultimately to the creation of this blog.

Comments

  1. Tony Jelsma says:

    Joel, thanks for all the work you have done on this blog. I have learned much from your writings. I want to encourage you to write on the theological shortcomings of the YEC position. I grew up YEC and, while I knew the scientific evidences against it, I didn’t feel I could go against the “clear teaching of Scripture” so I was in limbo for a couple of years. Then I read Meredith Kline’s paper on the Framework Interpretation and, while I’m not sure it’s the best interpretation, it opened my eyes to many things in Genesis that I hadn’t seen before because of the blinders of my YEC hermeneutic. That meant rejecting the YEC position did not mean rejecting Scripture. The “plain sense” approach to Genesis is the linchpin of the YEC view but it’s also its weakness.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Paul Bruggink says:

    Thank you for all of the helpful information you have provided on fossils and on the flood over the years. Happy New Year to you too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m just glad you ARE here! Having so very few fellow scientists of faith on the net, there is always the sense of aloneness–never a healthy situation. Here, I can learn as well as communicate. Bravo!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Keep up the good work Joel! I for one always enjoy your analyses of geologic evidence that refutes YECism but which most YECs largely ignore. So I hope you keep writing them, even if you put more focus on theological issues. You may have positively influenced more undecided or confused readers than you know, helping them better understand why YECism is both scientifically and Biblically unsound. After all, many readers may not take the time to leave input or feel comfortable acknowledging their abandonment of YECism.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Robert Byers says:

    God bless you in your life and fun and he will. You have some great articles i want to reread on subjects i like. Even strangely anticapating what i hope YEC progresses toward. Strange.
    You have great and good threads although some strange posting problems like in the recent glacial one. I am confident the truth will prevail and so its in the interest of truth to have more and more investigation and thought. the more the merrier. So even though, at the moment, the blog is opposed to genesis as Gods witness in writing STILL its a agent for attrition. Creationism gains by these blogs if truth is our partner and not our opponents on origin matters.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Peter Hickman says:

    Thank you for your blogs.
    I am always pleased to see a new one posted.
    As a YEC 50 years ago I gradually migrated away from it via ID (Reasons to Believe) and TE (Biologos). When appropriate I feel confident if referring YEC friends to your blogs, knowing that they are thoroughly researched, evidence-based and very readable.
    Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Phil McCurdy says:

    Thank you for your contributions. I love the insights you have provided especially in geology and earth science. I agree that it is time to move on as the real conflict is in Biblical interpretation. The science speaks for itself if people will let it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have been reading this site since pretty much its beginning. I do think the scientific explanations of the problems with YEC are useful. I doubt any scientific or theological argument will convince many true believers in YEC. I think scientific arguments (from a Christian) might reach those who nominally accept YEC by default and about the only “science” they have been exposed to are YEC arguments. Once they see that there is more out there than what they have been told, maybe they will expect more from their churches – better apologetics and a better way of understanding the Bible.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “I am sure that I will find some hot new discovery that I am interested in and will write about it but I’m feel like I’m done with routine critiques of young-earth creationism.”

    Thank you for taking your time to critique YEC claims. I understrand that you feel you want to move in another direction, but I still think it would be worthwhile to keep it up.

    Currently, it seems that one of the hottest topics in YEC research is (still) ancient soft tissue. I see blogs like Kgov and Proslogion frequently referring to recent papers published in Nature et al which appear to show that preservation of soft tissue (or remnants thereof) in bones seem to be the norm rather than the exception. For example, this one i cited frequently by YECs:

    https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms8352

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Joel – Thanks for everything, and keep it up, aimed at what you indicated. I’d like you and those reading this to know about a 2019 book, “Clearing a Path for the Gospel — A Lutheran Approach to Apologetics,” by Dr. Arthur A. Eggert (chemistry at UWMadison, retired, plus ability in Bible Hebrew & Greek), and Rev. Geoffrey A. Kieta (Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, 1993), 553 pages. “To the Christian, the source of these fossils is also clear; namely, the God of the Bible put them where we are finding them. … What we can be sure of is that it did not happen primarily by the natural processes of which we are now aware. Geologists have gathered evidence from many thousands of sites and have been able to create a model of how the world works which is consistent with the fossils being buried naturally over the course of almost a billion years. Obviously, God did not use this process, so he must have used a supernatural process or changed the rules of nature” (120-121). You can imagine that I thanked God for this, being a break in the Morris Flood-fossil Delugism of my own Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod since the 1950s. Go to: Lutheran Science Institute – for the winter-2020 edition of “LSI Journal,” with its negative review of the Eggert/Kieta book — the LSI Constitution copying the CRS position of half a century ago, that God’s Flood did it all!!! GLL

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the reference. I’ve had some interest in the various Lutheran view of creation since I have friends in both main branches of Lutheranism.

      Like

      • Hi Joel, I grew up in what became the ELCA and I am pretty sure the moderately conservative North American Lutheran Church is accepting of evolution and an old earth (while not insisting on it, either). A pastor who isn’t YEC won’t be thrown out, unlike LCMS or WELS. I searched hard for Lutheran options that are moderately conservative (don’t borrow fundamentalist things like YEC). There isn’t a NALC church in my area. I would be interested if there are any other churches, especially Lutheran, I might have overlooked.

        Like

  11. johnscorner says:

    I have appreciated your “fellowship” these last many years, Dr. Joel! Thank you for your gracious and thoughtful pursuit of truth, wherever it may be found.

    Having just read your post, I wrote to Dr North. I am grateful that you gave credit where credit was due:

    Subject: Saw this tribute to you . . .

    Dr. North:

    I thought you might be interested. In the PS to the following post, the author credits you with inspiring him to begin writing on the subject of his blog.

    https://thenaturalhistorian.com/2019/12/31/vision2020-thefutureofnaturalishistoria/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gary North and others such as James Jordan were very important influences in a church that I was a member of while in graduate school. I’ve read multiple books by both. Because their influence on the elders and pastor was so great, their views on creation were the ones I interacted with the most in cases directly with them but mostly through their many followers at the time. Without those interactions inspiring me to read and think about the topic I may never have become and active thinker and writer on the topic of science and faith. Our disagreements very much helped to refine my current thinking and there are elements of their thinking that have been useful to me over the years.

      Like

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