Volume 2, Number 6 November/December 1997
A bimonthly publication of the Creation Research Society.
This Web version of Creation Matters
lacks the "Creation Calendar" as well as photos and special
graphics found only in the print version. The latter is automatically
sent to members of the CRS along with the peer-reviewed CRS Quarterly.
Creation and the Flat
Bible and Earth's Sphericity
Speaking of Science Commentaries on recent news from science...
Delay of "Civilization"
Mitochondrial Eve Re-Dated?
Evolution of a Definition
by Danny R. Faulkner, Ph.D.
Danny Faulkner has a Ph.D. in astronomy and
is an associate professor at the University of South Carolinas Lancaster
Perhaps the most common ridicule that creationists receive is that
they advocate something akin to the idea of a flat earth. It is generally
believed that for most of history, nearly everyone thought that the
earth is flat. Only in the past few centuries of enlightenment, discovery,
and science have people come to realize the true shape of the earth.
Besides being a totally invalid attempt to smear by association, or
being at least an ad hominem attack, just how correct is this
"common knowledge" that the ancients believed in a flat earth?
In reality, for at least two and a half millennia all learned people
have known that the earth is spherical.
least two and a half millennia all learned
people have known that the earth is spherical
What the ancients believed
Many are surprised to find that the ancients believed in a spherical
earth, so how did the ancients determine this? Indeed, ask anyone you
know to give a reason that we know that the world is round, and it is
most likely that he or she will come up empty. Appeals to spacecraft
photos must be rejected, because the ancients did not have access to
these, nor do most people today have direct experience in space (photos
can be faked). I have found that the smug superiority that most of us
feel over ancient people begins to evaporate the more we think about
this. The ancients actually gave two very good arguments for the earth's
sphericity, and a few others not so good.
Probably the best argument that the ancients offered was the shape
of the earth's shadow during a lunar eclipse. This indicates they had
already figured out what causes a lunar eclipse. The earth's shadow
is bigger than the moon, so that only a portion of the shadow can be
seen at any moment. As the edge of the shadow moves across the moon,
it is quite obvious that the shadow's shape is circular. This is true,
no matter what the circumstances of the eclipse are. While a flat, round
object, such as a pizza pan, may cast a circular shadow, it generally
will not. If the earth were this shape, the shadow would appear round
only near midnight, and would appear elliptical closer to sunset or
sunrise. The only shape that always casts a round shadow regardless
of orientation is a sphere, from which the ancients concluded that the
earth is spherical.
A second argument involved the changing aspects of the sky as one travels
northward and southward. The North Star is found very close to the north
celestial pole, the point about which the entire sky seems to spin each
day due to the earth's rotation. This special location allows the North
Star to appear to be in the same part of the sky at all times, while
the rest of the stars seems to orbit about it each night. Since this
point lies directly over the northern horizon, the North Star can be
used to find directions, as is commonly known. What is less known is
that the angle that the north celestial pole (or approximately, the
North Star) makes with the horizon is equal to one's latitude. As one
travels north or south, this angle changes. If one travels a great distance
in latitude, such as between Florida and the Midwest, the change can
be quite noticeable. This demonstration of the earth's shape makes a
good educational project for families on vacation.
A change in latitude also results in different stars becoming visible.
In more southern locations there are stars visible in the southern part
of the sky that are never seen at more northern locations. Conversely,
there are stars near the northern horizon in northern locations that
never set, but do set at southern locations. Modern transportation makes
it possible to observe a similar effect with east or west motion. Lacking
rapid travel and accurate time pieces, the ancients could not observe
these changes as they traveled east or west, but the changes were quite
noticeable as they traveled north or south. It was obvious to them that
travel in the north-south direction must be along an arc, with the most
obvious conclusion being that the earth is spherical.
Sometimes it is argued that the ancients realized that the earth is
spherical because only the masts of ships were visible at some distance
on a large body of water. I have never been convinced of this, because
the large curvature of the earth makes it doubtful that this could be
observed without optical aid, a relatively recent invention. Perhaps
some ancients used this argument, even though they never actually observed
it, because they already knew the earth's shape, and assumed that this
phenomenon must occur, as subtle as it may be.
The moons shape
Another, but less rigorous, argument is one by analogy to the moon.
The moon is obviously round, but is it round and flat, again like a
pizza pan, or is it spherical? With a few months of observations it
becomes very clear that the phases of the moon are caused by the changing
amount of the moon that is illuminated by the sun and visible to us
as the moon orbits around the earth. Lunar phases, as observed, can
only occur if the moon is also curved in the direction of our line of
sight; that is, if it is spherical. By analogy, perhaps the earth has
the same shape as the moon.
A final argument attributed to Aristotle is spurious, but is one of
my favorites. It was noted that elephants are found in western North
Africa (recall the elephants that Hannibal of Carthage used). The troops
of Alexander the Great encountered elephants far to the east in India.
Because elephants were found far to the east and west of Greece, but
not found near Greece, Aristotle concluded that east and west must be
close to each other geographically!
The size of the earth
Even more impressive than the fact that the ancients knew the shape
of the earth is that one of them was able to measure the size of the
earth as well. Eritosthenes was born in Cyrene about BC 276, and was
educated in Alexandria and Athens. He later settled in Alexandria, where
he was the curator of the famous library there, generally considered
to be the best of the ancient world. He also wrote poetry and studied
philosophy and astronomy.
Eritosthenes noticed that at the location of modern Aswan in southern
Egypt, objects cast no shadows at noon on the summer solstice. Obviously
the sun is directly overhead at that time, and today we would say that
that location is on the tropic of cancer. At noon on the summer solstice
in Alexandria in northern Egypt, objects do cast shadows. Measurements
of the lengths of the objects and their shadows revealed that the sun's
rays made an angle of seven degrees with the perpendicular to the ground
at noon on the summer solstice. This means that the difference in latitude
between Alexandria and Aswan is seven degrees. Thus, the linear distance
between those two sites is 7/360 of the circumference of the earth.
A measurement of the distance between the two cities gave the size of
the earth directly, though there is some question of the measurement
units used, and hence the accuracy. The answer that Eritosthenes calculated
was either within ½% or 17% of the modern value.
This information from the ancient world is well known. Through the
influence of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, ancient Greek thought was
brought into the church and became the philosophical basis of western
thought. For instance, the Ptolemaic cosmology became the official position
of the church, even though scripture does not espouse that system. When
Galileo ran afoul of the authorities for teaching the heliocentric theory,
the inquisition mostly quoted Ptolemy and other ancient sources, rather
than scripture. While cosmological systems were in much dispute, the
earth's shape did not seem to have been an issue. Such a dispute would
have been quite strange, considering that Aristotelian thought was held
in such high regard, and that Aristotle clearly taught the earth's sphericity.
Nor was the shape of the earth an issue at the time of Columbus. Columbus
argued that it would be faster to get to the orient from Europe by sailing
west. His critics responded that the earth was indeed round, but that
it was far too big to sail westward to the orient in any reasonable
time; no ship could carry the provisions necessary for such a long journey.
The common impression that Columbus proved that the world is round is
completely destroyed when one realizes that he probably never sailed
farther west than Cuba, falling far short of circumnavigating the earth.
A look at any globe demonstrates that Columbus was wrong! It is much
shorter to travel from Europe to the Orient by going eastward than by
... the motivation
of these two men and
others was to demonstrate how foolish
Christian leaders were to oppose evolution.
Inventing the Flat Earth
If the earth's shape was not an issue, then why is there the common
perception that it was? Jeffrey Burton Russell has performed a great
public service in writing Inventing the Flat Earth, first published
in 1991. There were several people responsible for what Russell calls
"the Flat Earth Error." Apparently, much of our cultural understanding
of Christopher Columbus stems from an allegedly exhaustive biography
written by Washington Irving. While many do not realize it today, early
in the history of the United States there were no national heroes, given
the recent break from England. In this vacuum an American fascination
with Columbus developed, as attested by several capitals named at this
time (e.g., Columbia, SC; Columbus, OH; and the District of Columbia).
Given his reputation for embellishing good stories, Irving naturally
improved upon the story of Columbus.
Unfortunately, in Irving's account it is often difficult to tell which
parts are true and which are fictional. For instance, Irving's recorded
discussion about the shape of the earth with the learned scholars at
Salamanca was a complete fabrication. It is probably true that shortly
before the sighting of land, Columbus' crew was uneasy, but not from
fear of falling off the edge of the earth as Irving reported. Instead,
they feared being so far from land. The entire tome has taken on a quality
of history, and "The Error" reaches far beyond those who have
actually read Irving's account, for it has entered the public culture.
Russell has examined textbooks in the Stanford University collection
and discovered that during the 1880's a tremendous change occurred.
While texts prior to 1880 got the story of Columbus correct, very few
after that decade did.
The original villains in this story include some of the Enlightenment,
who desperately longed to discredit earlier centuries to prove the superiority
of their age. As a specialist in medieval history, Russell has a vested
interest in setting the record straight about the Middle Ages. They
were not quite the "dark ages" as is generally thought, a
name, by the way, that was coined to illustrate just how much better
the Renaissance was than the Middle Ages. As the late Francis Shaeffer
and others have shown, the attack on the Middle Ages during the Renaissance
was motivated by humanism. This attack was of course against God, and
continues today in the form of evolution. Russell makes it clear that
the third episode in the propagation of "the Error" occurred
when it was appropriated in the second half of the last century in a
successful attempt to discredit creationists in the raging battle over
The two people that Russell holds most accountable in accomplishing
this are John W. Draper and Andrew Dickson White. While not indicating
any sympathy with creationists, Russell very convincingly argues that
the motivation of these two men and others was to demonstrate how foolish
Christian leaders were to oppose evolution. The masterful lie was that
earlier church leaders had also opposed the belief in the spherical
earth, despite overwhelming evidence for it. By linking the earlier
fictional event to the debate of the time, it gave the appearance that
science, reason, and logic were on the side of evolution. The truly
sad thing is that this totally fabricated history persists even today,
as evidenced by the oft-stated comparison of creationists with flat-earthers.
Given the exposure of the truth, it is nothing short of shameful when
our critics attempt to tie that albatross around our necks.
It is imperative that all creationists know the true history of man's
knowledge of the earth's shape, so that this lie can be refuted easily.
It does not hurt to inform people that it was evolutionists who played
a key role in establishing "the Error."
Russell, J. B. 1997. Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus & Modern
Historians. Praeger Paperback, Westport, Conn. [A review of the
earlier edition of this book was published in the Creation Research
Society Quarterly (1994, volume 31, p. 77).]
by Paul G. Humber, M.S.
Did the Holy Spirit, in moving men to inscripturate His precious Word,
want to instruct us specifically about earth's sphericity? Perhaps in
some secondary way, but the Bible's primary purpose is to record God's
redemptive act in Christ. We are a people in deep trouble, and Jehovah
Jesus is our only hope. Information about earth's shape is not critical
for our lives. Radical heart surgery is. Deuteronomy 29:29 reads, "The
secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong
to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words
of this law."
Isaiah did report, however, that our Lord "sits enthroned above
the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers"
(Isaiah 40:22). The reference to "the circle of the earth"
here certainly does not clash with earth's sphericity, but was it the
Holy Spirit's desire to affirm as much? I am not sure. I certainly allow
for that possibility, but our Lord's sovereignty over all was and is
the primary focus.
Elsewhere, Job said that our Lord "spreads out the northern [skies]
over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing" (26:7). Perhaps
Job, seeing the sun and moon suspended in space, was affirming something
similar for the earth. In the same book, our Lord Himself said, "The
earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like
those of a garment" (Job 38:14). Could this be an oblique reference
to the earth's rotation?
My father, before departing this life, used Acts 1:8 to support the
concept of earth's sphericity: "But you will receive power when
the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (NIV).
The Authorized Version translates "ends" with a singular,
"to the uttermost part of the earth." From the point of view
of one standing on the earth, a sphere would have only one uttermost
part (at the other end of a diameter), and the Greek supports the singular
translation. Is this forcing too much on Scripture?
Maybe, but consider the Lord's treatment of scriptural detail. He stressed
the importance of jots and tittles (Mt. 5:18) and reminded people that
God said, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God
of Jacob" (Mt. 22:31-32). His point seems to hang on the present
tense of the verb, to be ("am"). These patriarchs (Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob), who physically died hundreds of years before, were
alive in spirit when God spoke these words to Moses. If our Lord placed
such weight on a single word, should not we follow that example?
May we all humble ourselves before His precious Word, study it in detail,
believe and obey it, and may Creator Christ be praised.
Speaking of Science
Commentaries on recent news from science...
by Asby L. Camp, J.D., M.Div.
Evolutionists generally date the beginning of human civilization (defined
in terms of permanent settlements, use of worked metal, and plant and
animal domestication) to around 8,000 - 10,000 B.C. See, e.g.,
Davis A. Young, "The Antiquity and Unity of the Human Race Revisited,"
Christian Scholar's Review vol. 24:4 (May 1995), 384-87. On
the other hand, they claim that humans sailed to Australia across at
least 60 miles of open ocean well over 40,000 years ago. As Ian Tattersall
writes in The Human Odyssey (New York: Prentice Hall, 1993):
"People first arrived in Australia well over 40,000 years
ago and must have crossed at least sixty miles of open ocean to
do so." (p. 146)
"[E]ven when the sea level was at its lowest point (and
at around 50,000 - 40,000 years ago it was up or down
to four hundred feet below its present level), the single landmass
formed by Australia and New Guinea was separated from the Asian
continent by at least sixty miles of ocean, and seaworthy boats
and navigational skills would have been necessary to reach it.
Such things ... speak of a remarkable degree of technological
sophistication among the ancestral Australians." (p. 148)
Some have dated the presence of humans in Australia at between 116,000
- 176,000 years ago, but even if one ignores these older dates (see
"Doubts Over Spectacular Dates," Science, vol. 278
[Oct. 10, 1997], 220-222), the evolutionist still must explain how humans
with the intelligence and technological sophistication to build seaworthy
vessels and to navigate the open ocean could fail to leave any evidence
of even rudimentary civilization for well over 30,000 years. The evolutionists'
options for explaining this apparent delay in the onset of civilization
seem to be: (a) these seafaring people did not develop any civilization
over this long period of time or (b) they did indeed develop a civilization
but the evidence either did not survive or has not been found.
As for option (a), I have a hard time believing mankind can go from
rudimentary civilization to Mars in about 10,000 years (conventional
dating) but not go from seafaring vessels to rudimentary civilization
in well over 30,000 years. As for option (b), it is an admission that
archaeology can tell us nothing definitive about the development of
civilization. It can only address what has actually been found. If that
be the case, then evolutionists should stop speaking as though the true
story of civilization is known.
Of course, a third option, not open to the evolutionist, is that the
time between the voyages to Australia and the rudimentary civilizations
they have found is much less than 30,000 years. Think they'll consider
by David A. Plaisted, Ph.D.
One of the problems creationists face in arguing for a recent creation
is the effects of the Biblical flood, which interfered with the regular
operation of physical and chemical
processes. However, we have no evidence that the Lord interfered in
such a major way with the operation of biological processes since the
Fall. Therefore, when attempting to reconstruct history, it is conceivable
that biological processes may give us a more accurate
clock than physical ones. In fact, there is so much information available
in the genetic material of organisms alive today that it should yield
a tremendous amount of knowledge about the past. Each living cell contains
millions and often billions of bits of genetic information, many organisms
have many cells, and there are a huge number of organisms alive on earth
today. This tremendous storehouse of information is now being unlocked
by gene sequencing techniques. From this information, we may even be
able to obtain a good estimate of the date of the Creation. Unfortunately,
the true import of these data is often obscured by evolutionary assumptions.
A recent study of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutation rates is of interest
in this respect [Parsons, et al., 1997. Nature Genetics
15(4):363-367]. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited almost exclusively from
mother to children. Also, it is reasonable to expect that this DNA mutates
at a constant rate. Therefore, one might expect mtDNA to provide a good
estimate of the elapsed time since the common maternal ancestor of all
human beings. Reasoning in this way, a few years ago biologists developed
the controversial (even among evolutionists) "mitochondrial Eve"
hypothesis, and estimated that this alleged common maternal ancestor
of all humans lived 100,000-200,000 years ago.
However, as is often the case, the true mutation rate of mtDNA was
not known, but was inferred based on evolutionary assumptions. Recently
this rate of mutation was measured explicitly and found to be 20 times
higher than expected. This changes the date of the "mitochondrial
Eve" to about 6,500 years ago, a figure which is obviously in much
better agreement with the Biblical record. Though these findings have
yet to be confirmed, we should look for more data of this type as more
mutation rates are measured directly.
This age of 6,500 years can be derived as follows. There is a region
in the mtDNA that is known as the "control region," and appears
to be largely without function. The recent study found that there is
about one mutation every 33 generations in part of this region. Thus
after 33 generations, two individuals would be expected to differ by
about 2 mutations in this region, since mutations could occur along
two lines of inheritance. After 300 generations, two individuals would
be expected to differ by about 18 mutations, which is nearly the value
that is observed. This puts the age of the human race at about 300 generations.
Assuming a generation time of 20 years, this is about 6000 years. Of
course, there is some uncertainty in the calculations because of random
fluctuations in the mutation rate.
The authors of this Nature Genetics article do not believe
that this mitochondrial Eve lived only 6,500 years ago.
One biologist, in another forum, attempted to explain away this discrepancy
by stating that the control region really has a function, and that the
great majority of the mutations to this region are slightly harmful
and are eventually eliminated from the population. However, this seems
unlikely, since the mtDNA has been completely mapped, and is well understood.
All the coding regions are known, and it is known for what proteins
It is interesting that this new study has not been reported in the
media. There have been no reports and cover story, for example, in Time
magazine that mitochondrial Eve may have lived 6,500 years
ago. Is this an indication of how readily the media reports discoveries
that support evolution, but largely ignores those that support a recent
by Glen W. Wolfrom, Ph.D.
[Note: This information was taken from various
sources, including Religion News Service stories and an Internet special
report from the NCSE.]
The National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) issued in 1995
their official "Statement on the Teaching of Evolution." Not
surprisingly, it is blatantly anti-creation and pro-evolution in its
message. One of the tenets was the following statement:
"The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution:
an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process
of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected
by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing
This definition of evolution in terms of an "unsupervised"
and "impersonal" process has been seized upon by creationists
as further evidence that evolution is purely naturalistic and materialistic
(i.e., it is godless). UC-Berkely law professor Phillip E. Johnson has
been particularly effective in the last few years (with major books
published in 1991, 1995, and 1997) in documenting this fact.
This brings us to the NABT annual meeting held October 8-11 in Minneapolis.
At the board of directors meeting on October 8, a letter was presented
from two "scholars" (a Notre Dame philosophy professor and
a Syracuse University religion professor) who argued against inclusion
of the words "unsupervised" and "impersonal." They
"Science presumably doesn't address such theological questions
... How could an empirical inquiry possibly show that God was
not directing evolution?"
These theistic evolutionists were obviously not arguing against evolution;
rather, they suggested that using these two words "gives aid and
comfort to extremists in the religious right for whom it provides a
legitimate target." Further, they said that eliminating these two
words would "help defuse tensions which, as things stand, are causing
problems in our collective life."
However, after a nine-hour meeting the board voted against altering
the statement. The executive director noted that changing the statement
would give the creationists just the aid and comfort the scholars had
argued against. However, the story does not end here.
NABT member Eugenie Scott (who is also executive director of the National
Center for Science Education, NCSE, a watchdog group of anti-creationists)
apparently urged the directors to reconsider, saying in a later interview
that the change in wording was "a matter of staying religiously
neutral." Just before the annual meeting was adjourned on October
11, the board reconvened and reversed its earlier vote.
Ms. Scott admitted that "it's no more proper to present naturalistic
philosophy as valid science than it is to present religiously based
arguments." Unfortunately, eliminating a couple of words from one
group's definition of evolution does not change the underlying fact
that it remains, by default, an unguided and purposeless process, and
that it is popularly presented and taught as such. Nonetheless, it is
encouraging to learn that the efforts of creationists have had an impact.
A publication of the Creation Research
Volume 2, Number 6
Copyright © 1997 Creation
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