Creationists differ on use of term 'evolution'

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham has voiced disagreement with a Southern Baptist seminary professor's claim that aspects of Ham's view on animal kingdom development should be labeled "evolution."

Ham and Kenneth Keathley, a professor of theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary who wrote two blog posts about Ham in late March, also differ on whether AiG's position regarding the development of animal species is consistent with the view historically articulated by young-earth creationists -- those who believe God created the world from nothing between 6,000 and 50,000 years ago in six literal days.

Old-earth creationism, which Keathley advocates, agrees God brought the world into existence from nothing by His direct action. Old-earth creationists, however, say the earth may be billions rather than thousands of years old and that the "days" of Genesis 1 were not 24-hour periods.

At issue in the current debate is whether Ham's view that new species develop within what the Bible calls "kinds" of animals should be labeled "evolution" or "speciation." Ham rejects the label evolution because of its association with Darwinism and notions of "molecules-to-man" transition. Keathley says failing to label Ham's view evolution handicaps believers in debates with Darwinists.

Ham told Baptist Press, "I do not use the word evolution when it comes to talking about those small changes because most people, when they hear the word evolution today, think of ... Darwinian evolution."

Ham classified the title of Keathley's March 28 blog post -- "Ham Embraces Evolution" -- as "character assassination" because it misleads people about his perspective.

Noah populated the ark, Ham explained, not with all extant species but with "kinds" of animals (Genesis 6:19) -- corresponding to what modern biologists label families or perhaps orders in some instances such as Proboscidea, the order that includes all mammals with trunks.

Following the flood, all of today's species developed from these common ancestors, Ham said, a development possible "because of the incredible genetic potential God inbuilt in each kind."

In one of two AiG articles posted in response to Keathley, biologist Nathaniel Jeanson explained, "Dogs are species, and they belong to the same genus as wolves. Dogs, wolves and foxes belong to the same biological family, and all carnivores belong to the same biological order."

Keathley wrote in a March 30 blog post, "The AiG model can avoid the label of evolution only by rewriting the dictionary."

Keathley, director of Southeastern's L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, told BP in written comments, "Dr. Ham is upset that I describe his position on speciation as a version of evolution, but I'm not the first to make this observation. Many old-earth creationists and intelligent design proponents have been making this point for some time." He referenced Hugh Ross' book "A Matter of Days" and Joel Duff's website thenaturalhistorian.com.

Keathley said Ham's reticence to acknowledge the commonalities between his proposal and "some aspects" of evolutionary theory "leaves a door open for our Darwinian opponents."

"I made a point in both [blog] articles to emphasize that I agree with much of Ken Ham's proposal," Keathley said. "I, too, am a creationist who believes that Adam and Eve were the special, direct creation of God. I do not hold to common descent. I believe that God created the kinds, or major types, and these kinds act as boundaries on the amount of variation that can occur. I'm an old-earth creationist, so I don't agree with his timeline.

"But we accept speciation," Keathley continued, "so this means we accept some aspects of evolutionary theory. When we fail to make this clear, it leaves open a door for our Darwinian opponents. They show that the fossil record contains transitional forms, and then triumphantly pronounce that Darwinism is true. Because creationists have been less than clear about speciation, the average layperson is put at a terrible disadvantage."

Keathley also argued in his blog posts that AiG has begun to move away from traditional young-earth creationism. Previous young-earth creationists "allowed for variety within species" and recognized that "closely related species can interbreed," he wrote. Yet "AiG and Ken Ham have taken this idea much further" to what Keathley labeled "macro-evolution."

AiG countered that Keathley is incorrect about the history of young-earth creationism. AiG's view represents the mainstream of young-earth creationism for at least the past 70 years, Ham said.

"We haven't changed any views whatsoever," Ham said. Keathley "is stating something that we can prove is incorrect.

"For instance," he said, "all you have to do is go to the Institute for Creation Research website ... and if you'll do a search for 'speciation,' you'll find that 70 years ago this year -- that was 1946 -- Dr. Henry Morris [co-founder of the institute] was talking about speciation and was saying that the 'kind' in the Bible was broad, probably at the family level" of biological classification.

Jeanson quoted Morris as stating in 1946, "It is well to observe at this point that the Bible does not teach the fixity of species. ... Thus, it is probable that the original Genesis 'kind' is closely akin to what the modern systematist calls a 'family.' And let it be stated in no uncertain terms that there is no evidence that evolution ever has occurred or ever can occur across the kinds."

AiG scientists, Ham said, have "done a lot of research" on the limits of speciation in preparation for the opening in July of Ark Encounter, a life-size replica of Noah's ark in northern Kentucky. Such research, Jeanson wrote, follows the tradition of Morris and fellow young-earth creationist researchers John Whitcomb and Frank Marsh.

Ham said his bottom-line concern is "getting the true answer out" concerning his view.

"There have been people email me from other parts of the world saying to me, 'This guy [Keathley] is accusing you of believing in evolution. We know you don't believe in evolution,'" Ham said. "Why are they saying that except they know what the word evolution means to most people."

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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