CREATION AND SCIENCE CONFERENCE - DUBLIN

15th March 2018

Mention the words, creation and science together in a sentence, and you have the ingredients for a serious debate. The quality of this debate can vary from explosive mud-slinging, to quibbling over arcane scientific details that are only accessible to truly committed scientific minds.

Conference participants
The conference was attended by pastors from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Church of Christ, and church members
It was to frame the debate in constructive and accessible terms that pastors and a handful of church members from across Ireland and Northern Ireland met in Dublin on 6 March for a conference on Creation and Science.

Joining them around the table were four distinguished scientists: Dr. Alastair Noble from the Centre of Intelligent Design in Glasgow; Professor John Walton from the School of Chemistry at the University of St. Andrews; Dr. Robert Beckett a scientist and Evangelical Presbyterian minister from North Belfast who is connected to the organisation, Answers in Genesis and Dr. Mart de Groot, previous director of the Armagh Observatory. All four scientists have a professed commitment to affirming the Biblical story of creation in a way that also engages constructively with science.

Each presentation acknowledged the difficulty that the scientific method poses. “At the heart of current scientific method today, lies a commitment to the philosophy of naturalism,” said Mart de Groot. “In simple terms, this means that scientists are only interested in the basic constituent parts of the universe: mass, energy, time, motion. They do not allow for any interference or input from outside. As Christians we still believe in a God who is separate from the universe, who can interfere if he wants to – a God who can choose to let axes float on water.”

Dr. Robert Becket
Dr. Robert Becket is a minister in North Belfast. He is part of the international organisation, Answers in Genesis
Robert Beckett raised some of the big questions that life poses, “Who am I? Where Do I come from? Is there life after death? What are my responsibilities in life?” He said, “In Ireland for centuries there has been a traditional answer that the Bible gives, that affirms that there is a God who made us and gave us a purpose and responsibilities in life and that we are accountable to God for how we live.” People did not like this answer, and “Evolution has become an alternative answer to these big questions. It says that God did not create you. It all happened by chance. It took millions of years for this to happen. And if this is the case, the purpose of life and morality becomes relativized.”

The presentations made it clear that these scientists believed that there was a compelling truth in the Biblical story of the origins and purpose of life on earth. This does not mean, however that one completely discounts science. Each of the scientists seem to have found enough evidence in the practice of their scientific professions to affirm their belief in the claims of Scripture, and that undermines some of the stridently anti-theistic claims of science.

Dr. Alastair Noble is a scientist and educator linked to the Centre of Intelligent Design in Glasgow
Dr. Alastair Noble is a scientist and educator linked to the Centre of Intelligent Design in Glasgow

Here the conversation did become technical at times. John Walton, spoke about his experience in the field of chemistry. He described some of the thinking around the concept of Chemical Space which tries to estimate the staggeringly large number of compounds that can possibly be formed from all the chemical elements and compounds in the world. “The amount of protein polypeptide chains of modest length – perhaps 250 units - that you can derive from combining 20 natural amino acids, for example, exceeds 10 to the power of 325. Given this huge potential for various combinations it is really hard to think that a random process in a primordial soup could locate and make just the right, comparatively small selection of special molecules that are needed to set in motion living organisms”

Alastair Noble’s presentation was filled with quotations from highly respected scientists who concluded that evolutionary theory falls short on giving fully convincing explanations for the origin of life. He also outlined several specific cases where scientific research seems to incontrovertibly point to evidence of design in the workings of life. One of the key areas of research that offers such evidence is in the extremely sophisticated mechanism that DNA uses to transfer all that is needed for life to exist and to replicate itself. As he summarised the literature on the topic, he concluded that “DNA must contain the mind of God.”

Mart de Groot is an astronomer and previous director of the Armagh Observatory
Dr. Mart de Groot is an astronomer and previous director of the Armagh Observatory
A conclusion that was reiterated by more than one presenter was that recent scientific research has opened many questions that point to gaps in some of it’s most sacred theories of origins. With careful scientific reasoning it is possible to point out these anomalies without even needing to mention what the Bible teaches about a topic. This points to a glimmer of hope, even when science is overtly hostile to any mention of God and God’s plan for creation.

Each of the presenters made passionate pleas for the church to engage with science and to encourage the study of science. Robert Becket said that our young people often do not know what questions to ask to bring their faith into conversation with science. Alastair Noble quoted research by the Discovery Institute that 79% of American pastors address science and faith issues approximately once a year. But only 1% of youth pastors ever address science and faith issues. Evidence is that 60 to 70% of young Christians drop out of church in their 20’s. Could we arrest such a drop-out rate somewhat by providing quality tuition and resources that help young people find meaning and purpose in belief of a creator God?

The Seventh-day Adventist church in Ireland is planning to take one step to live up to this challenge in April this year. One 21 and 28 April congregations across the Island of Ireland will be screening a recent documentary with the title “Is Genesis History?” in a European premier. The documentary features Del Tackett as he explores places where science and the Bible affirm each other.

You can be part of this event. Follow the Facebook page and share the information with your friends. Or sign up for tickets to any of the screenings in your area by visiting the website: www.genesisperspectives.info. Not all the venues are listed on this page yet, but as soon as they are confirmed they will appear on the page for the event.

[Weiers Coetser]


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