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The 2009 Seattle Creation Conference

Pierre Stromberg

November 9, 2009

Friday evening, October 9, Halloween came early to Seattle in the form of the fifth annual Seattle Creation Conference. The conference was put together by the same folks who provide the inimitable CreationWiki—the Northwest Creation Network. The Northwest Creation Network is run primarily by Chris Ashcraft, and his tireless efforts are a large reason why local skeptics and creationists are treated to these festivities year after year.

Anyone with only a passing familiarity with the creation/evolution debate naturally assumes that creationist objections largely have to do with Darwin’s theory and modern biology’s fondness for the theory of evolution. Within seconds of entering the conference held at the Family Life Center Foursquare Church in Mukilteo, Washington, one quickly put that assumption to rest. All major branches of science were under assault. It was a “take no prisoners” kind of night.

When I sauntered in, Institute for Creation Research (ICR) lecturer Steve Austin was indulging in his specialty, “Geology and the Global Flood” and “Catastrophic Plate Tectonics.” Austin animatedly explained to his audience how the Pangaea continent didn’t break up until the Great Flood. His calculations, if you can call them that, estimated that the continents broke apart and skidded along the surface of the earth at the rate of one meter per second before coming to rest.

Hey, I didn’t make this up. He did.

One of the audience members incredulously asked Austin how such a break up was possible. Surprisingly, Austin cited subduction as the mechanism. This contrasts with creationist Walt Brown’s assertion that subduction is impossible and hasn’t been observed.

Such strange contradictions among various creationists pose an interesting question. It’s obvious that creationists aren’t familiar with modern day scientific research, but are they even aware of each other’s?

One other odd thing about Austin’s lecture was his insistence that volcanic activity, and presumably earthquake activity, has been decreasing over time since Noah’s flood. This flies in the face of others in the conservative Christian arena, particularly those enthralled by the rapture, who insist that natural disasters are increasing as we usher in the second coming of Jesus.

Austin concluded his talk by explaining that all life could have formed in the first few days at a substantially accelerated rate before Adam and Eve took their first breaths of life. For a group who hold Genesis to such a literal interpretation, I was quite struck by how many in the creationist movement have developed an affinity for relativistic physics.

During the ten-minute break that followed, I milled about at the voluminous book stands and noticed Donald Chittick’s latest edition of The Puzzle of Ancient Man (2006). Had he finally removed all references to the Coso Artifact that had caused him such headaches years earlier? A quick scan of the book revealed that the answer was apparently yes.

Though the Discovery Institute pleads that they’re not creationists, numerous books by Discovery Institute members were present, including Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell, which coincidentally was the topic of Chris Ashcraft’s lecture on Saturday morning.

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Meanwhile, the representative at the ICR booth was exhorting me to take some free literature. Despite the 200+ in attendance, there seemed to be few takers. A small boy next to me peppered the ICR representative with questions about dinosaurs on the ark. The ICR person tried to reassure the boy that Noah was able to fit dinosaurs on the ark by taking the smallest and juveniles. The boy didn’t seem to be buying it but he smiled politely. There were definitely true believers in the audience, but I certainly got the feeling that there were more than a few folks who found the extraordinary claims just a bit too much to believe.

Then, it was onto the main show, “How Big Is God?” presented by Diego Rodriguez, a multimedia show of the heavens!

Fresno native Diego Rodriguez recently started a new creation astronomy group called the 4th Day Alliance, a clever play on the fourth day of Genesis when the Sun, stars, and planets were allegedly created. One may reasonably ask why Diego felt the need to form a creationist group dedicated to astronomy. In an introductory email to new members, he laid out his intentions in a veritable Mein Kampf of biblical science, complete with exclamation marks and full-word capitalizations:

“While most people are familiar with Charles Darwin’s theory, few realize that an even greater fight is being waged in the area of astronomy. This is because evolution, as it pertains to astronomy, doesn’t just deal with the origin of life, but with the origin of EVERYTHING! If belief in evolution is defeated in the area of cosmology and astronomy, then other forms of evolutionary belief don’t have a leg to stand on. This is why evolutionary astronomers are some of the most dogmatic philosophers in existence today. Their ENTIRE WORLDVIEW rests on the foundation of evolutionary cosmology and astronomy. This is why evolutionists often times feel most threatened by Creation Astronomy and wage the most virulent attacks against Creation Astronomers.”

And how is Diego waging this battle? By taking on local amateur astronomy clubs of course:

“There are literally hundreds of astronomy clubs around the country, but to our knowledge there is only ONE that is unapologetically Christian and that believes in the absolute truth of the Bible – the 4th Day Alliance. Astronomy clubs are responsible for teaching and introducing the public to astronomy. Unfortunately, 99.99% of the time they are teaching the myth of “billions of years” and false theories like the Big Bang. We need to turn this around. The only way to do this is for local Christian astronomy clubs to start springing up around the nation who will teach and inform their communities the truth about Creation Astronomy! Are you willing to join the battle? Are you willing to start a local Christian Astronomy club?”

And as with everything in life, these battles require money. So the 4th Day Alliance has started selling local chapter affiliate kits to enable those interested to start their very own amateur astronomy franchises.

Rodriguez seems to think that evolutionists “wage the most virulent attacks against Creation Astronomers,” but having sat through a presentation by the 4th Day Alliance and reviewing the interviews they’ve done with creation astronomers, one cannot help but feel that these attacks are self inflicted.

A vivid example is the experience of Steve Miller, former president of the Calumet Astronomical Society. Miller was under the mistaken impression that Americans who had a strong familiarity with current astronomical research would enjoy creation astronomy videos presented at the society’s regular meetings. In fact, showing these videos is what could charitably be called a “faux pas.” As Miller recounted to Rodriguez, he was promptly removed from the presidency and was out of the club in short order. Miller now runs the Indiana chapter of the 4th Day Alliance. For a taste of what his former Calumet astronomy club members experienced, feel free to review Miller’s attack on the Big Bang theory.

In light of his previous experiences, Rodriguez’s new strategy is to create a new set of amateur astronomy clubs dedicated exclusively to a literal six-days creation interpretation of the Bible. As the lights dimmed and Rodriguez began his “How Big Is God” presentation, an impending train wreck was immediately apparent.

With booming, emotional music and wide screen displays, Rodriguez took the audience through a multimedia extravaganza describing how big the universe really is. He started small with the state of Texas, and with the help of numerous videos cribbed from various sources, he made the Earth seem smaller and more insignificant as his presentation wore on.

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By the end, Rodriguez resorted to grave robbing Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” photo that Sagan had lobbied so hard to be taken before Voyager left our solar system. But that wasn’t enough. Rodriguez also aggrandized Sagan’s declaration that that pale dot represents “home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.” Rodriguez added onto that unreferenced statement that this dot represented where Jesus was born, died, and was resurrected. In light of the sheer scope of the universe he just spent an hour showing to the audience, the statement seemed almost laughably irrelevant.

Another odd thing about the presentation was Rodriguez’s use of light years to measure distances. It was clear from Austin’s presentation, the subsequent discussion regarding light taking “short cuts” in space, and Russell Humphrey’s disparate time dilation theories to accommodate the seven days of creation that creationism is in a crisis. A visit to the special section on starlight and time on 4th Day Alliance’s Web site reveals an even more jumbled mess.

Creationists realize the growing evidence of extreme ages makes a mockery of a literal interpretation of Genesis. But their four decades long fixation on such an interpretation cannot be easily overturned overnight. Doing so would accommodate dissenters like Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. So they resort to ever more desperate attempts to appeal to relativistic time differences, ludicrously rapid growth speeds, and “short cuts” through space and time.

If you’re an amateur astronomer and are looking for a diverting afternoon exploring the outer limits of human belief, a trip to 4th Day Alliance’s Web site is highly recommended.

Diego Rodriguez thinks that “evolutionists” are most threatened by creation astronomy but at this point I would strongly disagree. Due to its sheer absurdity, most amateur astronomers are unaware that creation astronomy even exists. They assume that biblical creationists haven’t taken on astronomy since the days of Galileo. The rest of us who know of the 4th Day Alliance are simply amused.

At the conclusion of the night, a final prayer was offered and the conference organizers checked once again to see if the heavens above would allow a star party with the telescopes Diego Rodriguez had brought along. Alas, God smote such plans with a cloudy night.

Pierre Stromberg

Pierre Stromberg was involved in the organized skeptic community during the 1990s in Washington State when he created the “Pacific Northwest Skeptics” group. His participation included the intelligent design battle in Burlington involving Roger DeHart, the Coso Artifact investigation, setting the record straight on Lucy's knee joint, and examination of Bob Larson's exorcism seminars.