With the Chesterfield County School Board's recent decision to keep intelligent design out of science textbooks, Style decided to air out some issues. We caught up with Ken Ham, president of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, and former VCU biology professor Jim Sparks, who got the boot last year for protesting a university-sanctioned text that referenced intelligent design.
Style: How old is the earth and where did it come from?
Ham: My answer would be you can't prove absolutely how old the earth is because all dating methods are based on assumptions. But if you use the Bible's history, then the Bible would suggest many thousand years old.
Sparks: [It's] approximately 4.5 billion years old . Where specifically the earth came from has to do with the swirling gases that were in our solar system that are part of the spiral galaxy that we inhabit called the Milky Way.
Can we consider the Bible an accurate source of scientific information? Is it literal or metaphorical?
Ham: From a Christian perspective, the Genesis as metaphorical means you might as well throw Christianity away and the rest of the Bible away. All of the New Testament doctrines are built on Genesis 1-11. All of the gospel message about Christ and salvation is built on Genesis 1-11. Something can't be a metaphor the first time it's used. To use something as a metaphor, it has to have a literal meaning first. So the first time sin is used, it can't be a metaphor.
Sparks: The Bible is the basis of Judeo-Christian, Western civilization. So it's useful. In terms of material reality, it's not the best source. I believe that there's both a spiritual and material reality, and not everybody does that. Most scientists are atheists; they don't believe in a spiritual reality. They just believe in a material reality, and that's all you can tangibly identify, so that's all that exists. And scientists probably spend more time pondering those questions on their own. We just don't write papers about it; we write papers about science.
What evidence outside of the Bible do we have to support creation theory?
Ham: I would say the arguments from design are arguments for a creator. [If] you want to look at the design of the cell everything has to be there to make it work. We all agree on the rules of logic. We know that "A" will never be "not A," things like that. Where did those laws come from? Why do we agree on them? In other words, it's irrational not to believe in God. If it's a chance-random universe, why should the rules stay the same? If it's a chance-random universe and your logic evolved by chance-random process, how do you know it evolved the right way?
Sparks: I wouldn't use the word "theory" when I was talking about religion, because a theory is a specific logical construct. Whereas religion is not a theory, it's a revelation. It's a different sort of thing.
What do you have to say about carbon dating, which has confirmed the existence of fossils on this planet that are tens of thousands of years old?
Ham: Carbon can only go about a hundred thousand years at the most because of the half-life of carbon-14, which is just over 5,000 years. You shouldn't find carbon-14 in fossils or coal or anything like that, but you do. You find it in all sorts of places.
Sparks: It varies, but it varies in a statistically predictable range. It's not like something will be dated 10,000 years one day and 1,000 years the next time.
Why or why not should students learn about both creationism and evolution?
Ham: We're not an organization that's demanding creation be taught in schools. In fact, if someone's an atheist, I wouldn't want them to teach creation to students because they'd teach it in a different way. What I believe is teachers should have freedom to critically analyze things as they do with all ideas.
Sparks: I would not personally recommend learning about creation as a topic, but students should be learning about religions and the fallacies that they have. And creationism could fall into that story. So I would definitely say that I think you should teach creationism, but not in science classes. S