Are Lutherans (LCMS/LCC) Committed to Truth about Science?

church-sign-truth
(Photo: jessdavid82/Instagram)

I happen to be a member of a Lutheran Church Canada (LCC) congregation, and it’s really a wonderful church home. Traditional Lutheranism has a lot of beautiful and robust theology that I deeply appreciate. LCC is sort of a sister-church to Lutheran Church Missouri Synod down in the States. LCC is a lot smaller, so LCC will often reference LCMS documents as position statement that is agreed with. Apart from size, LCC and LCMS tend to be pretty similar.

One of the things that both churches agree on is a sort of Young Earth Creationism. Officially, in Lutheran fashion, they won’t say just how old the Earth is, because the Bible just doesn’t say. While I’m not a YEC myself, I can respect that their preferred interpretive method of scripture leads them to a sort of YEC conclusion. I also respect the intellectual honesty behind things like not being too specific about how young or old the Earth is.

If you don’t know, be honest about that. That’s a great rule in life. I just wish LCMS/LCC would always follow that rule when it comes to science.

It seems like the LCMS/LCC commitment to intellectual honesty goes rapidly downhill as soon as we start talking about science related to biological evolution or the age of the Earth. For example, take these statements from a document on the LCMS website called “What about. . . Creation and Evolution,” written by former synod president Dr. A.L. Barry:

“[Intelligent Design advocates’] findings have added muscle to the long-held Creationist arguments on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which, simply put, says that the way of all things, both living and non-living, is to go from a state of order to various states of increasing disorder, not the other way around.”

Decreasing Entropy
Life gets plenty energy from the sun to do stuff like grow, or evolve for that matter. This is, factually, a decrease in entropy. (By At09kg (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Of course, evolutionary biologists are well aware of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. So are first-year physics and chemistry students, who should be able to explain that none of the Laws of Thermodynamics stand in the way of evolution any more than they stand in the way of the sun heating a lake on a nice day. But Dr. Barry was clearly not a physics or chemistry student, so one must wonder why he was commenting on thermodynamics, or evolution for that matter.

Other LCMS organizations are no better. The Lutheran talk radio show/podcast Issues, Etc. has interviewed “experts” like Dr. Joel Heck on topics related to evolution and the age of the Earth, despite Dr. Heck lacking a relevant education. Here’s one example (at ~23 min) of his expertise, based on his reading of the World Book Encyclopedia:

“One article talks about the age of the fossils as determined by the age of the rocks in which the fossil is found. And then you turn to another volume and another article, and. . . uh. . . how is it that we determine the age of the rocks? Well that very next article says, well, you determine the age of the rock layers by the age of the fossils that are found in them. So this would be an example of, a classic example of, circular reasoning. You date the fossils by the age of the rocks and you date the rocks by the age of the fossils, and you don’t ever let anybody know that we’re really using circular reasoning here. “

Index fossils
Index fossils are only ever found in rock layers that radiometric dating reliably shows are from certain time periods. The time periods are always based on radiometric dates. (Photo from USGS)

Accusing professional geologists of circular reasoning, and trying to hide it, is a pretty serious charge. The host of the program does not challenge Dr. Heck. Again, a first-year geology student should be able to point out that all absolute ages in geology come from radiometric analysis. The fact is that not all layers are directly testable, so sometimes the age is sorted out as a range based on layers above and below, or based on the finding that all testable layers containing a particular fossil return a particular age. That is as linear as reasoning comes.

But Dr. Heck does not have even a first-year’s education in geology, clearly. As someone with a scientific education (Biology), it is deeply disconcerting to me that someone like Dr. Heck is interviewed on this subject at all. Or that Dr. Barry felt qualified to make statements about biology/chemistry/physics. There are other examples. It seems that no scientists with relevant qualifications are consulted any time that statements are made on behalf of LCMS/LCC that touch on these topics.

As a Christian, a Lutheran, and a scientist, it is deeply disconcerting to me that truth about science is not being taken as seriously as truth in theology.

This is not a matter of opinion. These are factual errors made on behalf of the church that could be caught by a first-year university student in a relevant discipline. This is clearly a wide-spread problem. Is the church committed to the truth enough to do something about it?

Further Reading
The equation every first-year chemistry student knows that mathematically shows entropy can decrease:  The Gibbs Free-Energy Equation

How Stratiography (The study of geological layers) actually works

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