The 4th International Conference on Creationism
|Author: Eric Blievernicht
Subject: Creation/Evolution Overviews
Date: August 3-8, 1998 (Conference)
The International Conference on Creationism (ICC) is held every four years by the Creation Science Fellowship in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. True to its name, the ICC attracts scientists, educators, and laypeople from around the world. The theme of the ICC is “Developing and Systematizing the Creation Model.”
The 1998 ICC was held at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA. There were two sets of sessions each morning and afternoon, for a total of four session periods each day. Two technical sessions ran simultaneously during each period for the entire six days. The last three days the technical sessions were joined by an Educators’ Symposium session giving attendees three choices in each period.
In addition to the day sessions a session open to the public was held each evening. A conference bookstore sold a wide variety of materials, from Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker to Henry Morris’s The Defender’s Study Bible.
Anyone interested in detailed information regarding the ICC can obtain a copy of the Proceedings from the CSF. The following is my personal trip report. It is not intended to be an “official” report of any kind and nobody else necessarily agrees with anything I say. 🙂
Note: I use the term Cataclysm in preference to the more common term Genesis flood based on my arguments in the Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, Vol. 10 (3), 1996, p. 331 (“Genesis Flood or Cataclysm?“).
Arrival and Initial Impressions
After arriving early in the evening I grabbed some food at the reception in the cafeteria and then headed for the bookstore; that’s where I spent all my free time – and money – over the course of the week. It’s amazing how many people I recognized, and how many recognized me from four years ago. It seemed like yesterday. Many of the folks introducing themselves recognized my name from my participation on CRSnet over two years earlier!
John Woodmorappe (a brilliant researcher who suffers from Tourette syndrome) was circulating with a copy of a Harper’s article in which Dr. Kurt Wise is quoted as saying something like “Most creation science is garbage” or words to that effect. He wasn’t happy. Of course, I had no way to know if Dr. Wise was quoted in context, and increasingly I agree with him. Only difference is, I wouldn’t put it quite like that to a secular reporter. And if I did, it would be in the context of pointing out I don’t think much of most evolutionary science either.
I consider J.W.’s suspicion towards Dr. Wise unfortunate, and I hope it was allayed at the conference. Although I’ve occasionally been annoyed by Dr. Wise’s less discrete comments, I wholeheartedly agree with his goals of raising the standards of the creationist community in everything from Christian love and charity to research methodology and peer review. Dr. Wise has this “bottom-feeding scum-suckers” (private joke) complete support!
I will present the highlights of the conference sessions I attended, broken down by general topic areas. For reasons of brevity I can’t go into the details very far, and I encourage anyone interested to purchase a copy of the 1998 ICC Proceedings for further information. The tragedy of the ICC is that you often have to make a choice between two good presentations scheduled at the same time. Thus, this report does not mention many of the sessions I did not attend. I did try to attend the ones I perceived to be the most significant. Note: I’ve abbreviated some of the titles of papers for the sake of parsimony.
After the conference orientation and introduction in the main auditorium the first presentation was given. One pair of presenters had to cancel, which left Dr. Dave Fouts (a Hebrew scholar) and Dr. Kurt Wise (a paleontologist) without competition for their paper, Blotting Out and Breaking Up: Hebrew Studies in Geo Catastrophism. The paper was a good example of the kind of detailed Hebrew word studies that are needed to provide a framework for the Creation model. In other words, proper study of the words provides limits in how flexible we can be with our models.
This paper, unfortunately, was part of a larger conflict. A small but vocal group of British creationists has for several years abandoned traditional flood geology, apparently for what they see as insurmountable geologic difficulties. They have claimed that the Hebrew terms used in Genesis demand a destruction of antediluvian life so complete that no trace of life, not even as fossils, would remain. Thus, they relegate the Cataclysm to the deepest pre-Cambrian strata. Fouts and Wise demonstrated this interpretation is not demanded by the text.
The following day Dr. Wise and a student of his, Matthew Cooper, presented on the subjection of creationist apologetics. The crux of their presentation was that people already know (Romans 1:19-20) in their hearts that there is a Creator God. We only need to remind them of it, not stuff it down their throats. I perceived the paper as part of Kurt’s general emphasis on greater Christian charity, less evolution-bashing, and more emphasis on developing a coherent and advanced scientific model of creation with great persuasive power.
On the last day Steve Robinson presented his talk, as a representative for the British group mentioned above. I was aware of their views from articles in the Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal a while back. Initially I was interested in their perspective, but I no longer consider their position tenable. My major observations/criticisms would include:
- Most of them lack the kind of scientific credentials needed for work anywhere near the scope they are attempting. (Mr. Robinson, one of their more prolific writers, is a tax inspector.) This makes them very reliant on evolutionary literature and the assumptions and interpretations of uniformitarianism. Yet many uniformitarian objections once raised against the Recent Creation position have since been solved; there is no absolute reason to assume the rest cannot also be solved.
- It seems clear they are not working from the Bible, but instead are reaching conclusions about the evidence and then interpreting the Bible within the constraints imposed by their conclusions. This is a backwards and, as history shows, doctrinally dangerous approach.
- They have no chrono/geologic model I am aware of – the question of how the enormous depths of fossiliferous sediments can be explained in a post-Cataclysm era simply must be answered if anyone is to take them seriously.
Robinson was criticized by Wise for presenting material in his talk that was not part of his peer reviewed paper. His paper dealt only with biblical issues, yet two thirds of his presentation was nothing but geologic challenges to a Paleozoic flood model. I think it is safe to say the Precambrian flood position lost respect in the creationist community at the ICC.
In a final paper and the ending address on the last day Dr. Wise presented his perspective on the creation movement, where we are, and where we are going. He emphasized there was a lack of truly advanced, sophisticated creation literature available for higher education. He reviewed the absolute importance of the young-age position as foundational for Christian doctrine.
Finally, he gave his opinion on where he believed we are in the development of a synthetic, scientific creation model with predictive and explanatory power. I was surprised. Given his usual severity towards himself and fellow creationists, I expected him to basically conclude, “we don’t have a model, we have barely started, let’s get our act together.” Instead he rated the creation model according to progress on model-building in six categories. In a nutshell:
- Biblical Studies. Status: Strong.
- Philosophy. Status: Middling.
- Astronomy. Status: Weak.
- Geology. Status: Strong! (Naturally this surprised me, but it is warranted.)
- Biology. Status: Weak. Prediction: Strong within four years.
- Anthropology. Status: Weak.
Wise did conclude that we needed more workers and involvement at all levels but he was clearly optimistic. There is a tremendous amount of progress being made that the lay creationist community knows virtually nothing about.
The second evening presentation was given by Dr. Paul Nelson, a professional philosopher, on the subject of the logic behind the argument for design. Reynolds demonstrated that appeals to intelligent design are neither irrational nor unscientific. In fact, appeals to design are regularly made intuitively on a daily basis, and are necessary for fields like criminal forensics and archaeology. No one questions whether these fields are valid sciences. Encouragingly, Reynolds reported that fellow design theorists are making headway in the larger scientific/philosophical community, particularly philosopher/mathematician Dr. William Dembski. Charges that intelligent design theory in origins is unscientific are no longer tenable.
Several technical papers dealing with astronomical topics were presented at the ICC. The leading topic for discussion was meteor impacts and their place in the natural history of the solar system.
The first astronomy session I attended was a review of the evidence for an impact at the K-T (Cretaceous-Tertiary) boundary, by Dr. Thomas Fritsche. In the evolutionary worldview this is popularly held to be responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. I think Dr. Fritsche, a German, was expecting an argument within the creationist community over whether there really was an impact. So far as I can tell, he was disappointed. Creationists, like evolutionists, have accepted the evidence for major earth impacts, though such ideas were anathema to the scientific community barely more than a generation ago.
Dr. Fritsche did not go into detail attempting to explain how such impacts fit into the creation model. That was left to Wayne Spencer (M.Sc.). He gave two talks, one on the evidence for impacts and one on the geophysical effects of such impacts. He concluded that there was evidence for a catastrophic event throughout the solar system which included the bombardment of earth during the Cataclysm by roughly ten to twenty thousand significant objects. These impacts may have played a role in the breakup and start of plate subduction (per the Catastrophic Plate Tectonics model) at the beginning of the Flood. Each impact would also have vaporized or physically knocked large quantities of water into the atmosphere, providing significant potential for global precipitation. This is an area for further research.
Astronomer Dr. Dan Faulkner presented a talk entitled The Current State of Creation Astronomy. He shared Wise’s views that work had barely begun in this area. He also warned that the old argument that the spiral arms of a galaxy indicated youth is probably wrong, and as other creation scientists have pointed out, the popular argument that the amount of dust on the moon indicates it is young should be tabled at least until solid conclusions about the accumulation rate can be made.
On the other hand he affirmed a number of scientific arguments for a young solar system, although he warned that creation scientists must work to stay up to date with new astronomical research as it is published. The comet decay argument, with allowances for the possibility of an “Oort Cloud” and the Kuiper Belt, remains valid. One new argument he introduced dealt with the existence of ghost rings on the moon. These rings, vestiges of impacts covered by lava released by the force of the impact, contradict the evolutionary timescale for lunar history. I refer interested readers to the Proceedings for the details on this new line of reasoning.
Dr. Robert Brown presented a paper I did not attend, also on meteorites and young-earth modeling based on radioisotopic evidence. I understand there was some controversy over this paper. A reference in Brown’s paper to an exegetical paper on Genesis by himself online indicates he is a “young-earth, old-universe” advocate (e.g., someone who believes the earth is thousands of years old, the universe, billions.)
I did not attend many of the biology sessions since I was focusing on the earth science subjects. Thus, this section is pretty light.
Mark Armitage (M.Sc.) presented a paper on The Complex Life Cycles in Heterophyid Trematodes – parasites. The parasitic life cycle does not mesh well with evolutionary predictions about life cycle survival and natural selection strategy.
Dr. Jerry Bergman presented a paper on the differences between eukaryotes and prokaryotes, with attention to the evolutionary hypothesis of endosymbiosis in which various cell organelles were once primitive free-living life forms.
Dr. Dean Kenyon presented a paper on DNA coding with attention to the “junk DNA” problem. Some fascinating patterns appear in these sections of DNA that may provide insight into any functions it may have. This paper was very technical, I won’t even try to summarize it here. It received an Honorable Mention in voting for the Best Paper award.
Dr. Kurt Wise presented a paper asking Is Life Singularly Nested or Not? He questions the necessary evolutionary assumption that life is singularly nested, instead favoring a mosaic or multiple-nesting pattern of life. In other words, patterns of similarities and differences in creatures do not following a putative evolutionary pattern of divergences from common ancestors, but rather a mosaic of similar and divergent traits on an “as needed” basis for each particular organism and niche.
Dr. Jack Cuozzo presented what I thought was one of the most fascinating papers at the conference. It detailed his firsthand research with original hominid fossils at museums around the world. The paper presented extrapolations of human cranial growth during adult life out to five hundred years of age. It was shown that Neanderthal skulls can be explained as the remains of humans who matured more slowly than modern man does, and lived to a much greater age (e.g., the biblical patriarchs of Genesis). He also showed photographic evidence of fraudulent alterations to certain hominid finds (we’re talking recent stuff here folks, not the old Piltdown hoax), and examples in which museums had displayed fossils with absolutely incorrect reconstructions, always in a manner supportive of evolution.
Dr. Alex Stewart won an Honorable Mention for his paper on global iodine deficiency disorders. He pointed out that such disorders can be better explained in a catastrophic creation model than by evolution. Most iodine present in the antediluvian biosphere would be lost in the Cataclysm, leaving us “hovering on the edge of deficiency.”
John Woodmorappe (M.Sc.) gave an excellent evening talk regarding his work Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study. This extremely detailed and well-researched book thoroughly refutes dozens of critics’ charges against the Ark story, from the most serious and thoughtful critiques to the most inane. In demonstrating solutions to critic’s conundrums Woodmorappe answered only with demonstrated, proven, low-tech methods from the appropriate fields. It will be the book on this topic for many years to come.
(See also Paleoclimatology and Radioisotope Geology sections below)
Well-known French sedimentation expert Guy Berthault gave the first evening lecture, discussing his paradigm-changing work with non-creationist Dr. Pierre Julien on the formation of strata. If there was a Nobel prize for geology these guys would get my nomination. Briefly, their experiments have shown that strata typically form in a lateral fashion, with multiple layers forming at the same time along the leading edge of the formation. They’ve also shown that bedding planes are not erosion surfaces but rather are relics of the desiccation process as water-laid sediments dry out. You really need to see their work on video understand and appreciate the importance of their work.
Jerry Akridge (B.S.) presented a paper describing the evidence for a catastrophic formation of the Little River canyon near Ft. Payne, Alabama. He gave eight lines of evidence that indicated the formation of the canyon by a large volume of flowing water, and suggested areas for further study.
Dr. Ed Holroyd presented a paper on the use of charcoal bedding in stratigraphic interpretation. This should provide another diagnostic tool for investigators of earth history and the creation model.
Dr. Mark Horstmeyer gave a talk explaining how he works with Dr. John Baumgardner in the development of supercomputer modeling of tectonic plate subduction during the Cataclysm. Incidentally, Dr. Baumgardner presented an informal talk that was squeezed in over dinner on Tuesday night. They are making progress in achieving more complete, higher-resolution studies of Catastrophic Plate Tectonics (CPT). The model now predicts and explains the presence of a cooler zone deep in the earth’s mantle. In the CPT model this cooler zone is the pre-Flood crust that was subducted and sank through the mantle. Not enough time has passed since the Cataclysm for these kilometers-thick sections of rock to heat up completely.
Dr. Steve Austin and Scott Rugg (M.Sc.) gave a paper on their study of Pleistocene lava dams in the western Grand Canyon. Contrary to uniformitarian assumptions these dams show evidence of having been formed and then breached quickly over a relatively short time scale.
Dr. Andrew Snelling and John Woodmorappe (M.Sc.) won an Honorable Mention for their work explaining The Cooling of Thick Igneous Bodies on a Young Earth. This paper refuted old-earth arguments that large quantities of igneous rocks required too much time to cool if the earth is young. They showed that the cooling time for such bodies of igneous rock is compatible with a biblical time scale.
Dr. Austin also presented an evening slideshow on Grand Canyon natural history in the creation model. A lot of good work has been done by creationists on this topic, as his talk demonstrated. I recommend the guidebook he edited (Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe) to anyone visiting the area.
Michael Oard (M.Sc.) and Peter Klevberg (B.S.) presented two papers on the formation of the Cypress Hills formation and Flaxville gravel deposits. The deposits are from source material hundreds of kilometers to the west, in the Rocky Mountains. A detailed exploration of the mechanics of transporting the material, which extends over dozens of kilometers, led to a necessarily Flood-based explanation for their origin. If this is correct than the Flood was regressing, eroding and depositing material of the late Tertiary geologic strata.
Roger Sigler (M.Sc.) and Van Wingerden (M.Sc.) discussed their field work in the Kingston range of the Mojave desert. They presented evidence supporting Michael Oard’s hypothesis that putative evidence of pre-Pleistocene “ice ages” is really better interpreted as evidence of gigantic submarine landslide and debris flow deposits during the Cataclysm.
Dr. Larry Vardiman gave a talk on his work simulating precipitation induced by hot mid-ocean ridges in a catastrophic subduction of the earth’s plates (CPT). The simulations indicated that certain regions, such as Greenland, would experience very heavy rates of precipitation (over 80 mm./day) in the immediate post-Flood era while the ridges were still hot. This supports Oard’s post-Flood Ice Age model, which involves the rapid accumulation of thick quantities of snow not too long after the end of the Cataclysm.
John Woodmorappe (M.Sc.) presented a paper on hypercanes. Hypercanes are a kind of super-tornado predicted to form over bodies of extremely warm water. During the Cataclysm they may have formed over regions such as the mid-oceanic spreading centers as the plates pulled apart and the ocean came into direct contact with great quantities of magma. Hypercanes would draw up large quantities of water in the form of ice crystals into the stratosphere, where they would be able to travel great distances before falling.
A number of papers dealing with radioisotopes and radiometric “dating” were presented at the conference. Although I do not believe we have an “offensive” apologetic in this area, we do have an increasingly solid “defensive” apologetic. In other words, I may not yet be able to show a secular radioisotope specialist that their field of work indicates a young world, but neither can we reasonably accept that radiometric dating “works” because too often it clearly does not, or gives nonsensical results.
Dr. Steve Austin and Dr. Andrew Snelling presented a paper on Discordant K-Ar Model and Isochron “Ages” for Cardenas Basalt and Associated Diabase of Eastern Grand Canyon, Arizona. They reported on their research in this area, which included more than doubling the number of published K-Ar “ages.” Their results matched previous research showing that different radiometric methods are giving consistently and dramatically different ages for the same rocks. Traditional assumptions to correlate the dates or resolve the discordances do not work in this case, leading them to propose three other explanations, all of which necessarily lead to the rejection of radiometric dating using the K-Ar method. This paper received an Honorable Mention in the voting for Best Paper.
Joseph Bielecki (M.Sc., M.Sc.) discussed the Search for Accelerated Nuclear Decay with Spontaneous Fission of U-238. This paper described constraints on hypotheses that the earth underwent a period of accelerated nuclear decay at some point in the past, to explain radiometric phenomena. “A proposed accelerated nuclear decay event in the post-Flood era creates more problems than it solves.” Such an event, if it occured, must be relegated to an earlier era.
Arnold Guikema (M.Sc.) presented his paper as a preliminary report for research he is performing into the K-Ar derived U-238 decay constant versus directly observed measurements of the constant. The two constants do not agree; Guikema’s experiment involving the counting of fission tracks from a U-238 impregnated sample of known age should provide additional data towards resolving this issue.
And last but certainly not least, Dr. Andrew Snelling won the Best Paper award for the conference for The Cause of Anomalous K-Ar Ages for Recent Andesite Flows at Mt. Ngauruhoe, New Zealand and the Implications for K-Ar Dating. Dr. Snelling reported results of his research indicating that lava flows known to be of a young historical age (i.e., observed by man) yield radiometric “ages” of 270,000 to 3.5 million years. The explanations for this phenomena may provide insight into why igneous rocks in general have a true age of thousands of years while yielding radiometric “ages” of millions of years.
I left the ICC tired but uplifted and excited. Despite the obstacles in our path the scientific community of creationists is making tremendous strides in the development and detailing of a synthetic biblical model of natural history. One shortcoming we have is that there is no established, robust way to communicate the model to lay people. That’s one reason I’ve written this report, to give people a glimpse into what is going on, and to encourage you, if you have the appropriate training, to get involved!
Even if you aren’t a scientist there are many opportunities for assistance. One great need creation researchers have is funding, so let me ask for your support on their behalf. Since they are denied government largesse, which provides billions of dollars funding evolutionary interpretations, creationists are at a serious disadvantage. Individuals, institutions and corporations need to work doubly hard to make up the difference until the tide turns. If things keep up as they have been the tide will indeed turn at some point not too far distant in the future. The evolutionary model has been a dead horse for some time now, and it is only a matter of time before all but the most dogmatic evolutionists admit the creation model is alive and healthy. When that happens a great barrier to the Gospel will have fallen. For the sake of lost souls, let’s make that happen soon!
(C)1998 Eric Blievernicht