Monday, May 21, 2018

Did Homo naledi really bury their own dead?

A modern human cemetery at Glendalough.

After my piece last week on the brain of Homo naledi, I was reminded of the recent paper in PNAS describing the classification of hominin "burial" sites.  Since that paper casts some doubt on the conclusion that Homo naledi buried their own dead, I suppose I would be remiss to not share a few comments and thoughts.

First of all, the paper by Egeland and colleagues provides a "machine learning" approach to classifying accumulations of hominin bones.  Their objective was to evaluate claims that certain hominin sites represent deliberate burial (strictly in the sense of body disposal, without any of the mortuary symbolism that would accompany modern human burial).  The idea behind the analysis is to give a computer various characteristics of these bone sites and train the computer to recognize burials.  Their results showed that modern human burial sites were recognized by the computer as distinct from accumulation of bones due to predators (like leopards eating baboons) or scavenging.  So far, so good.

Also included in their sample of hominin bone sites were three very interesting locations: Sima de los Huesos ("Pit of Bones") in Spain, Skhul (a modern human burial site) in northern Israel, and the Dinaledi chamber (where Homo naledi was originally discovered) in South Africa.  The Skhul site is notable as one where a purportedly symbolic item was buried with two of the bodies: The jawbone of a pig was buried with skeleton Skhul V and a bovine skull with Skhul IX.  Egeland and colleagues included Skhul V in their sample, but it grouped with the "Leopard Refuse" site and separately from the undisturbed modern human burials.  That's odd, since I understand Skhul is accepted as an example of an intentional burial site.

Sima de los Huesos is a remarkable site in north central Spain, representing the remains of a deep pit into which hominin bones accumulated.  With more than 5,500 skeletal elements recovered from at least 28 individuals, Sima has turned out to be one of the richest hominin fossil sites in the world (although Rising Star and Homo naledi will surely challenge that title).  Recently, DNA testing of one of the bones matched DNA from other known Neandertals.  The surprising concentration of bodies in this pit, along with the presence of a hand ax, led researchers to suggest that it was a deliberate burial site, where bodies were dropped into the ground.  In the clustering results of Egeland and colleagues, Sima de los Huesos clustered together with the Dinaledi chamber, a sample of modern human remains that had been scavenged, and a site called Misgrot Cave from South Africa, which appears to be a mass mortality site of baboons.

Based on these findings, Egeland and colleagues conclude
Our results indicate that nonanthropogenic agents and abiotic processes cannot yet be ruled out as significant contributors to the ultimate condition of both collections [Sima (SH) and Dinaledi (DC)]. This finding does not falsify hypotheses of deliberate disposal for the SH and DC corpses, but does indicate that the data also support partially or completely nonanthropogenic formational histories.
Let me see if I can translate this: They acknowledge that their findings do not falsify deliberate burial, but they say that other explanations cannot be ruled out either.  Those other explanations are burial followed by some kind of disturbance or accumulation of bones by some other means (predators, mass death, etc.).  So in other words, their study can't rule out any explanation for how the bones got there.  Interesting.

Let's think again about the context of the Dinaledi chamber, which lies at the end of an hours-long journey underground in the complete dark zone of a cave at the bottom of a 39-foot tall chute that is on average 8 inches wide.  In that chamber are almost nothing but Homo naledi bones, many of which are still in articulated pieces.  The preservation is virtually unprecedented, as indicated by some of the impossibly small bones discovered.

So I find myself frowning with great skepticism when Egeland and colleagues seriously entertain the possibility of predators messing with the bones in the Dinaledi Chamber.  Given the context, I think we can take that right off the table.  It's extremely unlikely that a predator or predators would go that far back into a dark cave with that many bodies of heavy hominins.  It would have to be a really large predator, and how could it get down into the Dinaledi Chamber and then back out again?  On the other hand, if we want to entertain the possibility that predators messed with the bones before they were deposited, then how did the bones get down there?  And how did they get their in large articulated chunks, like complete hands?  This really stretches my imagination to the breaking point.

The other possibility suggested by the analysis of Egeland and colleagues is that the Dinaledi chamber is a burial site that has been disturbed in some other way, which is actually something suggested from the beginning.  Lee Berger's team originally proposed that the bodies had been disturbed multiple times as the water level rose and fell in the chamber.  Burial would account for the strange concentration of so many individuals and so many bones in such an inaccessible location, and water disturbance would explain how the bodies became damaged and disarticulated but in a way that keeps substantial body parts (arms, legs, pieces of torsos) together.  So I'm not really surprised that Egeland and colleagues found that the Dinaledi Chamber did not look like modern undisturbed human burials, since I don't think anyone ever suggested that they would.

I remain confident that Homo naledi will turn out to be fully human, descended from Adam through Noah, and made in the image and likeness of God.  At the end of time, when we gather around the throne of God in a multitude from every people, tribe, nation, and language, I hope I'll see some of them there.  Despite the work of Egeland and colleagues, I think the burial evidence, as well as multiple baraminology studies of hominins and the recent discoveries about the brain of Homo naledi, supports my understanding of Homo naledi as human.

But if I'm wrong, that's OK too.  I find it hard to imagine alternative scenarios to explain Homo naledi, but my imagination is not the measuring rod of what is or is not true.  What I can be certain about is that creationists currently disagree about Homo naledi, so I think we should all be very suspicious of anyone who says that the mystery of Homo naledi has been definitively and finally solved.

The most exciting thing about Homo naledi is that excavation and fossil discovery is still going on.  Last I heard there were three different locations of Homo naledi bones in the Rising Star Cave.  There will be Homo naledi discoveries to last a lifetime.  Who knows what the researchers will discover?  In the mean time, I hope all creationists will be gracious and generous with each other while the data continue to roll in and we learn more about this fascinating hominin.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Cranial capacity isn't the whole story

Almost exactly a year ago, I published the graph shown above with the cranial capacity of hominins over conventional time.  I've seen this graph again and again from otherwise credible evolutionary biologists, and it's primarily used to discredit creationist claims about the uniqueness of human beings.  I guess I'm supposed to take from this that humans don't show obvious discontinuity from other (potentially nonhuman) creatures when you look only at one variable, brain size.  I've always found the graph a bit confusing because I'm not sure any evolutionary biologist would accept this as fully representative of human history any way.  And no one thinks modern humans emerged in some sort of march of progress, right?  Right?

This is NOT how evolution is supposed to work, right?

With the publication of Homo floresiensis and Homo naledi, we had two important fossils that seriously deviated from the major trend, representing late-surviving and small-brained individuals.  I was generous in my first write-up of this, noting that these were at best two out-lying points and that doesn't negate the trend.

This week, a description of the endocast of Homo naledi was published by Holloway et al. in PNAS.  Endocasts are models of the interior surface of the brain case of a skull.  They're not perfect imprints of the brain surface, but they do reveal some information about brain organization.  Now the headlines accompanying this article are fairly conservative, but a few are talking about how "human" their brains are.  The Daily Mail (a thoroughly credible news source, I'm sure) says Homo naledi could talk, which is more than the study can say for sure.

Holloway and colleagues showed a number of features of the H. naledi brain that are associated with complex behavior and social interaction and, yes, even language.  None of that automatically means H. naledi could talk, make tools, or engage in complex behavior, but it does mean that the brain of H. naledi is different in those areas from the brains of modern apes (and fossil australopiths).

What really caught my eye in their paper, though, was this closing sentence:
Brain size evolution was not a unitary trend in human ancestry, and we must work to understand a more complex pattern.
Hey, that's what I said!  Well, sort of.  I wouldn't have used the words "evolution" or "ancestry," but the sentiment is similar.

At this point, I would guess that maybe we're seeing two brain organizations that might help us creationists recognize what is or isn't human.  That would be extremely gratifying.  (I should note that Australopithecus sediba has the more ape-like brain organization, distinct from that of Homo naledi, so it'll be interesting sorting that out.)  At this point, it's still just a guess though.  We need more data!

Speaking of more data, shouldn't Little Foot be published soon?

Holloway et al. 2018. Endocast morphology of Homo naledi from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa. PNAS DOI 10.1073/pnas.1720842115.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Yes, you have to love the stubborn too

Two weeks ago, I posted some thoughts for young creationists attending ICC this year.  You can read that letter right here.

I was hoping to inspire the young people attending ICC (some for the first time) to think beyond just the intellectual or logical appeal of what happens there.  I wanted them to think about Christian virtues of loving God and loving neighbor.  I especially wanted them to think about loving neighbor in spite of their neighbor's stubbornness.  It's easy to brush people off who don't agree with you, but following God's command to love each other is most important when it's difficult.  And it can be quite difficult.

Reactions were, not surprisingly, all over the map.  The vast majority of people who wrote or responded were very positive and appreciated the reminder.  Thank you for that.

Others were more negative.  Some people think I'm a hypocrite because I of all people have no business encouraging people to try to get along.  Some people think I'm clueless about the real nature of the culture war.  Some people think I'm dangerous and leading people astray.  I hope that those reactions are unfair, but they are concerns I share, to be honest.  I don't want to be sinfully unkind to people I think are kooks, but I don't have a lot of practice with that.  I genuinely don't know how to interact with people that I am sure are utterly and fundamentally wrong about the creation/evolution debate.  I have to work on that.

I also pray fervently that I'm not leading people astray, but given the statistics of young people leaving the faith, it would be naive to say that none of my former students have fallen away.  When you expand that sample of students to include the thousands and thousands who have read things I published on my blog, then there are certainly former Christians who probably point the finger at me as part of their journey to unbelief.  That's true of everyone, really: ICR, AIG, CMI, etc.  Being a public voice risks misunderstanding and speaking into people's lives that aren't quite ready to hear or comprehend what we say.  It's tragic, but there it is.  God help us all.

As to being clueless about the culture war, that's really where we all disagree, isn't it?  I'm really sure I'm not wrong, but I don't want to be cocky about it either.   How about you?

There was one reaction in particular that I heard from several people, and I wanted to add some thoughts to maybe clarify what I wrote.  I said that the Christian community shouldn't have to deal with the rough and tumble world of truth debating as practiced in secular graduate schools.  Some people thought that was incorrect.  We should be able to stand up for truth and speak to error even in the Christian world.  Especially in the Christian world.

That's definitely true.  Looking at the letters of the apostle Paul, I see plenty of time that he forcefully confronted error, even to the point of calling out Peter himself.  He didn't pull punches either.  He delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan, so they would learn not to blaspheme.  He wished that those who insisted that converts had to be circumcised to become Christians would emasculate themselves, which in context means, "Don't stop with the circumcision.  Keep on cutting!"

But Paul got worked up for very specific reasons.  He demanded that the gospel of the grace of God not be hindered with trying to earn God's favor through keeping the Law (which is futile).  He insisted that we do nothing to threaten the unity of the church where Gentiles and Jews worshiped together.  Other issues weren't so important to him.

His famous "love chapter" in I Corinthians 13 was given in the context of disputes over spiritual gifts and how one should behave in a church gathering.  He gave fewer strong condemnations there, only admonishing us to practice our gifts wisely for the sake of other people.

In the same epistle, he addressed the controversy of eating idol meat.  On the surface, this sounds like a very simple issue: In Corinth, it was possible to purchase meat that had been sacrificed to idols.  To me, it sounds like eating such meat would be participating in idol worship, but there were Corinthians believers who did not see it that way.  Perhaps idol worship was so pervasive, it was hard to even know when you were getting meat sacrificed to idols?  Perhaps they just thought, idols aren't real, so what's the big deal?

Paul has some interesting things to say about idol meat.
...we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know (I Cor. 8:1-2).
That's a pretty strong statement about knowledge: If you think you know something, you don't know as you ought to know.  Our knowledge is incomplete.  In I Cor. 13, he says that we see through a glass darkly.  We don't know everything.  So what does that mean for standing up for truth?

Paul's reaction seems to be tied up with the reactions of the "weaker" Christians.  Paul said we were free to eat whatever meat we wanted, as long as we eat it with gratitude to God, but if it offended a weaker Christian, Paul says we shouldn't eat it.  According to Paul, "... if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble" (I Cor 8:  If Paul's freedom in Christ threatens another believer, then he is willing to give it up for the sake of that other believer.  When he says we must bear one another's burdens, he means it.

What does that mean in the context of creationism?  Does this mean I should never say anything that might offend someone?  That seems impossible.  This is a debate.  Someone, somewhere is going to be offended by anything.  More importantly, I don't think Paul is talking about just any old offense.  He's talking about making a weaker Christian fall away from the faith, or as he says, " your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died" (I Cor 8:11).  That's where we need to watch out.

First, let's be careful how we express enthusiasm for our ideas.  We all have a tendency to inflate the importance of our beliefs about creation, but nobody's soul is worth having the right or wrong idea about creation.  If you can't agree with me about creation, don't let that put you off from the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The gospel is far more important than agreeing with me about created kinds.

So what do we do about the guy who insists that the gospel is damaged if we don't accept and preach the whole truth, including geocentrism?  This is what I was talking about when I said that the Christian community should not have to practice or tolerate the secular, scientific attitude toward truth discovery.  In the academic world, we would repeat the many reasons why the earth orbits the sun and not vice versa.  We would bury them in logical, rational arguments based on evidence.  We would probably do it loudly.  We'd likely get angry when the other person doesn't listen.  It would probably descend into jokes, mockery, and scorn.  I speak from experience (on both sides).

I remember my first ICC when the name of a dinosaur hunter came up.  I don't even recall exactly what the dinosaur hunter was presenting at ICC, but it had to do with discovering living dinosaurs.  I remember a trusted colleague told me, "Oh him.  He's a nice guy.  Got some weird ideas though."  My colleague's kindness made me angry.  I remember thinking, "Weird ideas?  He's damaging the church and the testimony of Christ with his nonsense!"

But what if the real damage to the church comes not from our odd scientific beliefs but from the broken fellowship that they cause?  After all, the New Testament emphasizes over and over again that our Christian testimony is tied directly to our obedience to the Lord's command to love one another.

Even more, if we really want to claim that false scientific beliefs harm the gospel, then every Christian who ever lived has harmed the gospel.  Does that even make sense?  Has the gospel lost its force or power because Theophilus of Antioch believed in a flat earth?  Or because Augustine of Hippo believed in spontaneous generation?

Back to Paul: Since Paul discussed the issue of idol meat in I Corinthians, we may infer that we are permitted to talk about issues over which Christians disagree.  We shouldn't interpret loving the weaker Christian as a total gag order.  We can continue talking and perhaps even debating the correct answer to the great questions about creation.

But we must also follow Paul's lead in first considering the needs of the other side in the debate.  What motivates them?  Why do they choose to believe what they do?  Do we have shared values on the points about which we disagree?  How can those shared values inform the disagreement we're having?  Perhaps most importantly, how will my response to our disagreement reflect on the gospel of Christ?

I've tried to practice this recently with at least one person, and I've found it quite fascinating.  I disagree strongly with this person's take on creationism, and I know the work he's done contains errors that invalidate his conclusions.  While reading one of his articles, I was amazed to find a personal anecdote that helped me understand his entire approach to science and creationism.  No wonder we disagree!  Suddenly I found myself much less interested in the minutia of his errors (which I still think are important) and much more interested in addressing the yawning philosophical differences that probably prevent any meaningful interaction in the first place.  I still don't have a clue how to move forward from here, but I can at least see better why we disagree.  Seeing that deeper need kind of took the fight out of me.  That's got to be a start, right?

In the Resurrection, we'll all find out about all the wrong, weird ideas we believed while we were still in corruptible flesh.  Remember: Now we see through a glass darkly, but then, face to face.  If God can extend grace to cover our ignorance in the here and now, shouldn't we do the same for others?  And if God can cover us with His grace while leading us into greater understandings of truth, shouldn't we follow that example as well?

The tone of Christian debates must be different from the way the world debates things.  Somehow the call to bear each other's burdens must apply to academic debates as well.  I'm the first to admit that I haven't even tried to do this.  So maybe I should start.  How about joining me?

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

More seafaring hominins

Well, that was unexpected.  A new paper in Nature describes a butchered rhinoceros plus stone tools with a conventional date of around 700,000 years ago.  They were found in the Philippines, and they represent the oldest evidence of hominin activity in the country.  They're also additional evidence of early hominins crossing the ocean.  I posted an article last week about putative Neandertal sites in the Greek Isles and the Flores hominins (including the "Hobbit"), and now we can add the Luzon hominins.  The National Geographic piece describing the discovery also mentioned stone tools found on Sulawesi.  All of these sites point to seafaring ability pre-dating the "origin" of Homo sapiens.  I'm not surprised at all.  I don't expect humanity to be limited to modern Homo sapiens, so I should expect signs of humanity in human species other than Homo sapiens.  (Maybe I wouldn't expect them to be published in quick succession, but I shouldn't be surprised.)  On the other hand, the National Geographic author Michael Greshko would not rule out chance dispersal, even with all this evidence.  According to Greshko, "Regional tsunamis may have also washed some terrified H. erectus out to sea. As they clung to floating debris, they may have inadvertently island-hopped."  Yeah.  Seems like a stretch to me.

Ingicco et al. 2018. Earliest known hominin activity in the Philippines by 709 thousand years ago. Nature DOI 10.1038/s41586-018-0072-8.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Letter to some young creationists

Break through the wall.

It's time for the International Conference on Creationism again, and a lot of people are looking forward to it.  Before we go, I'd like to ponder the big picture, and I'm not talking about the creation model or the conference schedule.  I'm talking about the community.

When I first attended and presented at ICC, I was wet behind the ears and eager to represent what I believed to be the "best science."  (Frankly, I still believe it's the best science.)  I was fresh out of grad school, with its rough and tumble skepticism of ideas.  Every week in journal club, I had a front row seat as our professors dissected and critiqued the latest published research.  Sometimes things got testy.  Often, questions were asked that couldn't be answered.  Occasionally, they decided the paper we were discussing should never have been published.  I became accustomed to presenting arguments and evaluating them on the basis of more or less rational evaluation alone.

Young-age creationism is different, and it's different in a way that I was ill-prepared for in grad school.  I assumed that if I presented my creationist work and made a good argument, my ideas would be accepted.  Now this is going to sound stupid, but I was not fully prepared for how much theology influenced creationism.  People didn't merely accept an idea because it was persuasive or because there was good evidence.  People also have theological ideas that govern how they interpret arguments and what they think the evidence is.

Again, that seems so obvious right?  I mean, it's the International Conference on Creationism after all!  Of course theology influences things!  But that doesn't really prepare us for the reality of the disagreements that result.  Sometimes those disagreements are deep and resilient, and they seem to be so irrational.

Even within the young-age creationist world, there are hugely different ideas and camps and factions.  Most of the time, at least in my experience, we're divided by theology more than anything else.  I have one conception of God and His creation and my place in it, and someone else sees things very differently.  Some think that human depravity infects everything, and we shouldn't trust anything scientists claim.  Anyone who accepts too much of that idea must be compromising with the world.  Others are enthusiastic supporters of specific individuals, including folks like Kent Hovind, Carl Baugh, and Ron Wyatt.  They just want to promote their favorite person's ideas, and they will criticize you for criticizing them.  Some people are obsessed with evolution and exposing the lie, and they don't understand why creationists would waste their time studying moss or sandstone or other unimportant subjects.  Others are enthusiastic about science and constructing an understanding of God's creation, and they can't understand the stubborn rejection of their theories on grounds that have nothing to do with science or good theology.

Occasionally, you'll run into even bigger surprises.  I remember one year someone was passing out free books advocating geocentrism.  Another time, I had a long conversation with someone who firmly believed the key to defeating evolution was discovering living pterosaurs.  There was this one guy who talked at me for about an hour about Kirlian photography.  I say "talked at me," because I didn't get a word in edgewise.  This year, I imagine we might even stumble across some flat-earthers.

In this strange, fractionated world, we like to assume that we're part of the mainstream of creationism.  I guess it's human nature to always look for the "weakling" so we can feel better about ourselves in comparison.  "Maybe I have some weird ideas, but at least I'm not that bad!"  Meanwhile, the walls separating us remain.  Oh we try to fix that, right?  We talk to "those people" and try to get them to see the error of their ways.  The earth isn't flat.  Geocentrism isn't the only biblical option.  Dinosaurs existed.  Some of them had feathers.  And they don't listen.  So we invent new words to describe ourselves to set us off from "those people."  Or we pretend to pitch a "big tent" by defining what we can and can't talk about.  For example, ICC doesn't allow geocentrism talks.  As long as you don't do that, you're welcome!  So the big tent isn't as big as it could be.  Or should be.

At my first ICC, I remember sitting in the audience after a talk, and I got all hot and bothered when one of the questions claimed something that was false.  I got up to "ask a question," and used my time to rebut the other question.  We then got into kind of an argument.  Voices were raised.  We didn't shout, but it was pretty emotional.  I was baffled.  How could that guy say such nonsense!?  All these years later, I can't remember what we were arguing about, but I can remember how angry we both were.  I guess that should tell you something.

Now I'm entering the back half of my career, and I'm looking at this world of young age creationism with a completely different perspective.  I'm not that naive grad student any more (I hope), and I see what that clueless enthusiasm wrought.  I was taught in school to ruthlessly reject bad ideas.  That was what science was all about, but this world of young-age creationism can't abide that ruthlessness.  And now I understand that no Christian community should have to.

On the night before Christ died, the apostle John records for us his final prayer in Gethsemane.  (I guess John stayed awake just long enough to hear some of the Lord's real prayer.)  Jesus asked that God would preserve unity among the believers.  This was key to showing the world that we are truly believers.  Paul echoed that desire for unity repeatedly in his epistles.  He wrote to the Ephesians,
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (4:1-3)
The unbridled enthusiasm for science and disdain for "bad ideas" that I learned in grad school isn't compatible with this greater Christian goal of unity and community.  Don't get me wrong.  Good scholarship is valuable.  Rooting out error is important.  But none of that compares to loving your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Paul said it this way to the Corinthians:
...if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (I Cor. 3:2)
So I'm writing to you today to appeal to you to remember our greater goal. We're not here merely to understand God's creation or the errors of evolution.  We're not here just to strategize or promote our ideas.  Our most important goal must be the common bond we share in Christ Jesus.

I write these things as a person who spent twenty years as "nothing."  When I was your age, I thought I was all that and then some.  I thought I understood all mysteries and all knowledge about origins.  I thought I had all the faith in the scripture that I needed.  But I did not have love.  Instead of building bridges, I burned them.  And then nuked them from orbit.  In my enthusiasm for what I believed was truth, I ticked off just about everybody in creationism.  There are whole organizations that will have nothing to do with me.  I'm blacklisted, and I probably deserve it.

Over the past seven years, the Lord has gently led me to see things differently.  He's shown me how wrong I was, and now I have this chance to write to you.  Don't do what I did.  Somehow, we have to figure out a way to make Christ pre-eminent in what we do at ICC and everywhere else.  We have to find a way to break down our walls or at least poke a hole in them so we can communicate with each other.  We have to practice love for our neighbor - even for the geocentrists.

Take my word for it, loving your neighbor will take deliberate practice.  This isn't going to come naturally.  There will be people who casually assert that the most irrational nonsense is true.  Others will question your Christian integrity and witness because you accept something they think is a dangerous lie.  Swallowing that anger and looking for common values will seem impossible.  So remember this:  That first argument I had at ICC?  I can't even remember what it was about.  So take a deep breath and ask yourself how important this particular argument really is.  And the answer is, it isn't really that important.

Think about what would happen if we all started to do this.  What if ICC became a place where all believers were welcomed into a world much bigger and more thrilling than they've ever experienced before?  What if people could really feel the Holy Spirit at work in our midst?  What if they noticed the power of the gospel unleashed among us?  Do you really want people to see God's truth at work in young-age creationism?  Ironically, they won't see it in books or papers or presentations on creationism.  They'll see it in our love for one another, and until they see that, they can't see God's truth either.

And yes, I recognize that that seems completely counter to the regular way of doing things in science (and creationism).  That's why we need to find a different way of moving forward.  The old ways need to pass away.  The Spirit needs to fill us anew, and it needs to start with you young people.  Be better than I was.  Love your neighbor, especially when they're dumb and stubborn and fallen and sinful.  Bear one another's burdens.  Fulfill the law of Christ.

Let me leave you with one last story.  At my first ICC, I met this guy who was a bit on the obsessive side.  He was about my age, and he was very excited about something called "hardgrounds."  According to Wikipedia, a hardground is a surface "of synsedimentarily cemented carbonate layers that have been exposed on the seafloor."  So there.  Anyway, he talked and talked.  Now, I'm not a geologist, but what he was saying sounded fishy to me.  I tried to ask questions that were marginally intelligent, but he had answers and kept talking.  I'm not sure what exactly happened that night we talked, but I remember going back to my room and thinking, "That guy is obsessed with hardgrounds!"  And you know what?  Over the years, Hardground Guy became one of my best friends and staunchest allies in creationism, even though some of his colleagues encourage him to ostracize me.  He's probably reading this, and I hope he's having a good laugh at this story.  The lesson I learned from that one meeting is so important.  Don't write anyone off.  You never know what Hardground Guy is really thinking or what God is doing with him or what he might become.  Sometimes people just get excited about hardgrounds.

Please, walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  Pray for me as I try to do the same.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.