Ask a Pastor Ep. 47 - Science and the Bible (Part 1)
Welcome to Ask a Pastor, a podcast from Orchard Hill Church! Have you ever had a question about the Bible, Faith, or Christianity as a whole? Submit your question and one of our pastors will answer on the program. New episodes every Wednesday.
This episode our Senior Pastor, Dr. Kurt Bjorklund, talks with Geologist, Dr. Steve Austin, about some topics related to science and the Bible.
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This is an auto-generated transcript. Please excuse any errors.
Kurt Bjorklund: Hi, welcome to Ask a Pastor. Today I'm joined by Dr. Steve Austin. Dr. Austin has been a part of Orchard Hill for several years now along with his wife Kelly, who's one of the pediatrician specialists at Children's Hospital. And Dr. Austin has been a professor of geology, is that correct, at-
Steve Austin: At Cedarville.
Kurt Bjorklund: At Cedarville. And how many years did you do that?
Steve Austin: I've done it for the last 10 years. I've been adjunct faculty at Cedarville.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay. And where did you do your schooling initially to learn all this?
Steve Austin: I did my PhD at Pennsylvania State University here in Pennsylvania, although most of my time is spent in the southwestern United States.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay. So very good. Got the PhD from Penn State. So, outstanding. So, Steve is an expert on geology, world-renowned. That's not an area that a lot of us know who's world-renowned, so I'm going to say it for him. He wouldn't tell you that. But I know enough about just that area of expertise that he is somebody who's very highly regarded in terms of understanding geology and how it ties into creation and Christianity.
Kurt Bjorklund: And so we've had some questions that have been asked around the areas of science. We thought Steve would be an outstanding person just to talk to. Here is one of the questions, and we'll start with this. It says, "Although I consider myself a Christian and believe that all things were created by God, I have often wondered how we reconcile scientific findings with that thought. There have been dinosaur bones found throughout the world. There has been evidence found of the existence of prehistoric man. There has been evidence found of primitive humans who existed many thousands of years ago throughout the world. How and where do all of these discoveries fit in with God's creation of Adam and Eve and the first garden of Eden?"
Kurt Bjorklund: Now, there's more questions here. Let's just start with that and then we'll come back, because that's probably plenty to talk about. So, as somebody who studied these things, understands a lot around them, what would be your Cliff Note version, because I know you could write a book about this, but what would be at least in a few paragraphs, how would you address that?
Steve Austin: What I would like to do is take you to the bones themselves, to Carnegie Museum, or let's go to the wall at Dinosaur National Monument and let's talk about the dinosaurs buried there, or let's go to Olduvai Gorge in Ethiopia and Kenya. Let's go look at the layers where ape and human fossils are found. But we can't do that or don't do that. We instead spend our talking about what people say about dinosaurs and what people imagine about ape men and that type of thing.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay. So what would we find if we went and saw these bones with you?
Steve Austin: Well, if you went to to see them with me, you would come away believing there's a lot of mythology around dinosaurs and around ape men. And I'm the boy that wanted to build brontosaurus, the great sauropod dinosaur. Over my life and my career is basically dealing with sediments and rocks and fossils, and I wanted to build a brontosaurus. When I got the parts list, I realized there was something wrong with the brontosaurus part list. They had the wrong head on the body of apatosaurus, and it led to an incorrect understanding of what brontosaurus was.
Steve Austin: And then I thought that there was a Jurassic Park back there, that these dinosaurs lived in that Jurassic Park. And I imagined it was a different world than we have today. It was like there were no mammals. It was a separate geologic age. And back then, maybe 147 million years ago, this park existed and a very different kind of place. And it was imaginary. And so what I need to do is I need to feed my brain the the nutrients of science to combat the myth, the Jurassic Park myth.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay. So what I'm hearing you say is that the idea of the dinosaur is largely myth and that a close study of the bones and the actual evidence would show that. Is that a correct statement of what you just said?
Steve Austin: Dinosaurs are real.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay.
Steve Austin: Okay. Dinosaurs really existed, but the habitat and all the attachments that go along with it are largely speculative.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay.
Steve Austin: And it was not a calm and placid sea or a swamp that buried them. It wasn't a separate geologic age with no grass, that type of thing. It's a very different kind of a thing. And so that's what I've learned about dinosaurs. And then when I go and actually look at a dinosaur deposit, they're buried massively by catastrophic flooding. And obviously it looks like some kind of flood overcame the dinosaurs. It's not a calm and placid swamp, okay, and so that's the takeaway about dinosaurs.
Kurt Bjorklund: So from your vantage point, again, what I'm hearing is dinosaurs existed but were washed away by the flood, which would obviously fit well with the biblical account of a flood, taking those created beings from roaming the earth, so to speak, and not being present everywhere today.
Steve Austin: Yeah.
Kurt Bjorklund: Would that be-
Steve Austin: That's the way I like to think about it.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay.
Steve Austin: So a global flood, like mentioned in the bible, forms a framework for me to think about dinosaurs and about dinosaur data and it helps me explode the myth that's associated with the dinosaurs and the story about dinosaurs.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay. So, you said you were the kid who wanted to build the models and follow it all out. I was not that kid. I was the opposite kid who wanted to get out of science class as fast as I could. So, it was never a passion area for me as a kid. Help somebody like me understand in terms that I could grasp, how if I'm not somebody who says I'm ready to just take the biblical account as being normative, and I hear all of these scientists, and I put it in air quotes, not to belittle it but to say it's something that seems to be the predominant thought of the scientific community in our country, that there's this prehistoric age filled with dinosaurs, and some of this evolutionary concept. Help somebody who's not steeped in the science just begin to answer that question of how then do you from a science standpoint and a biblical standpoint come to a different conclusion?
Steve Austin: Well, I would say question the dogma and the myth that's around us, and do that by getting to know dinosaurs and dinosaur deposits directly. In other words, if you go to Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, you could see the wall that was excavated to make the display in the Carnegie Museum. And so once you know the context in which the dinosaurs come from, you can construct your own understanding of dinosaurs and place it within the biblical framework of Earth history.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay. So, what what you're saying is just the evidence just points to maybe not millions of years old dinosaurs, but as dinosaurs thousands of years back.
Steve Austin: I like that. I like that way of thinking.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay. Okay. So, in this this question, there's really the question of how ... It says, "How and where do all of these discoveries fit in with God's creation of Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden?" So, again, what you're saying is they fit perfectly because the geological facts have a shorter time frame than what a lot of times, I think you used the word myth, is that it's that it's farther back.
Steve Austin: So I think a dinosaurs are part of the original creation and go back to creation week, and they're part of God's marvelous creation, and they were taken out by the global flood. They probably didn't survive because of the conditions we have today.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay.
Steve Austin: They're part of God's original creation, and he called it very good. Dinosaurs were part of that original creation, and somehow that's been corrupted. And part of that was involved with the global flood.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay. So, again, somebody who maybe hasn't studied this a lot or it's not necessarily a passion area, when they hear somebody say science says that dinosaurs, millions of years old, you said go see the wall that it was excavated from and all of that, what would be the thing that you would see that would be most compelling that would say this isn't millions of years old? Because I think that's your argument, if I'm hearing you correctly, that it's not millions of years old, that it's thousands. So it fits in the biblical framework if you wanted to use that framework. So, for somebody, again, like me, who hasn't spent a lot of time ... I mean, I took a college geology class years and years ago. I don't remember much. Help me understand why I would say I don't believe the dating that I've been told.
Steve Austin: Okay. Well, if you go look at the dinosaur deposit, there's not little tags on the fossils saying how many millions of years old they are. That's an interpretation that's made from the overall context of what's called the Jurassic.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay.
Steve Austin: The Jurassic is supposed to be an age. And so how old is that age? Well, it keeps changing. And what I was told as a kid, it keeps changing, and so who's got the right age for the Jurassic, that kind of thing. Is it millions of years old? But the takeaway is, as you look at the deposits where dinosaurs or fossils are found, they're catastrophically buried, and you can understand water burial and the way that dinosaurs are entombed, and you can understand that. That's easy to grasp. And so I see a flood taking out dinosaurs as a take home kind of thought. And yeah, get to know the dinosaur deposits, the sediments that are around the dinosaur deposits and you'll understand and comprehend that.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay. Because if you look at that, what I'm hearing you say then, is that it's an interpretation of the data that can easily be interpreted, maybe even more favorably be interpreted as the catastrophic tomb accelerating some of the carbon dating or things that people use to get to those numbers?
Steve Austin: Right. And so yeah, we see the dinosaurs and we need to understand the context around the dinosaurs and how they are buried. And as we come to that, we'll understand that the dinosaurs are part of a catastrophic flood. It's always been a mystery to evolutionists how dinosaurs disappeared and what was was going on there. Think about creation, the fall and the flood, the framework of scripture, and you can put dinosaurs in that way of thinking. It works.
Kurt Bjorklund: Okay. From a geological perspective, what else is significant for somebody who again, hasn't maybe spent a lot of time in that world to understand that's helpful to faith? What besides kind of this issue and saying maybe the dating isn't as airtight as it's presented, what else would be significant for somebody to understand about geology and how it ties into understanding or validating Christian faith?
Steve Austin: Well, let's talk about the issue of people, especially college students. When a college student who has been part of a Christian family goes onto university, they often, about two thirds of them, leave their faith behind as they move on, and why is it that they leave their faith? It's usually some type of science, science issue, or perception of the cultural agendas that are out there. And one of the most influential is the scientific illustration of ape to man, that transition, and that ape parade as I call it, Australopithecus to genus homo, the ape parade illustration is probably the single scientific illustration has been most persuasive to our culture to argue against Adam in our ancestry. In other words, it's ape, not Adam. And that story, we need to go beyond and look at it in detail.
Steve Austin: I think that there are real apes, fossil apes and there's fossil men, but there is no transition between ape and men. Australopithecus, the supposed ancestor of modern man, has been told in an incorrect way and Australopithecus are supposedly this upright, walking ape that is supposed to be our ancestry. It's almost certainly exploded now because we find human fossils with those ape-like fossils in Africa and elsewhere. And so neanderthal was not our ancestor. He's part of our genome. Okay. And Australopithecus are separate from us, okay, and so genus homo is real man. And so we're seeing no ape in our ancestry. We have Adam in our ancestry.
Steve Austin: The modern field of genomics, the study of the human genome, which is exploding right in front of us with this data that's all in front of us, it's at war with the idea that ape and our ancestry, okay, and genomics argues that humans are related to just a few people, and maybe Adam, in our ancestry directly. And probably, our ancestry goes back to Noah and the survivors of the flood in the ark. So there's three sons of Noah and those are probably the source of the human genome is right there.
Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah. Yeah. That's good. You mentioned the college student who grew up in a Christian home or in a church who kind of abandons faith in college due to science. I think that happens without a doubt. I think a lot of times what happens is it starts with a desire not to have the constraints of what they perceive to be faith, and then science provides an alternative explanation to say I'm questioning my faith, and since I'm questioning my faith, now I'm not bound by it because there's science that says something different.
Kurt Bjorklund: And that's why I think having a clear answer to scientific questions actually really matters, because once you start down that path of saying, "I don't want to be constrained by this faith," and that's unfortunately such a poor way to look at it, that faith is constraining, because it's the opposite in reality. But I often find that, at least in my work with people, that the intellectual abandonment usually follows a moral abandonment of faith rather than the other way around. But what happens for some is if they're able to answer the scientific questions, the intellectual questions, well, then they say, "Okay, this really is something solid that I'm going to base my life on," rather than say, "I don't want to believe that."
Steve Austin: Yeah. I'm with you on that. I think that's correct. Now, I'm opposite of that. I was schooled very early in evolution and dinosaurs and I started questioning the science behind what I was learning and I made a discovery that Christian faith is real and it integrates my science and makes a consistent-
Kurt Bjorklund: Makes it make sense all the way across the board.
Steve Austin: It makes sense out of the world that I see. I would hope that those students who question their faith, that they go beyond and question the science as well and come back to this understanding or integration of their, of their faith and their worldview.
Kurt Bjorklund: And I think this is probably one of the key points here, and that is faith does not require people to check their minds. In fact, it does the opposite. It invites questions, scrutiny, observation, and your faith, when it is questioned and explored will actually become more robust, not less robust, because you'll start to say the world that we see, that we observe, makes most sense when you put it together with our understanding of the scriptures, not less sense.
Steve Austin: I agree. Yes. And so church is the place to talk about ape man fossils and dinosaur graveyards and that kind of thing. We need to integrate our teaching of the bible with the culture. And that includes the science and the things that we have today.
Kurt Bjorklund: Absolutely. And certainly what we try to do here at Orchard Hill is say there's no topic that we want to be off the grid because we all live in a world that's asking and answering these questions. And if the church doesn't address them, then you say, "Well, the church must not have an answer to this." And that's an unfortunate place for people to-
Steve Austin: Well, we have an incredibly good answer to dinosaurs and we have an incredibly good answer to ape man in your past. It's Adam in your past and it's a flood and dinosaurs. Science is exciting from that point-of-view. And so as a scientist, I can integrate my faith and my science together in a whole way.
Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah. Well, great. Dr. Steve Austin. thank you. If you have questions for Ask a Pastor, you can send them to email@example.com and we'll be happy to address them in upcoming episode, coming podcast. Thanks for spending part of your day here and thinking about these things.