Good Mythical Morning is a YouTube channel run by two guys, Rhett and Link. They are popular among teenagers, including a lot of Christians. They have made references in the past that have given the impression that they are Christians.
Recently they did two podcasts, totalling almost four hours, deconstructing their faith. So far I’ve only listened to the first episode where Rhett deconstructs his faith. I thought part of his story was interesting in the way it touched on YEC, OEC, and Theistic Evolution and Biologos.
In some ways it fits the sort of narrative TEs and OECs tell about the potential damage of YECs. But in other ways it doesn’t fit that narrative. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem as if Rhett ever adopted YEC, but quickly went to OEC and from there to TE, but this involved him in a method that led him to skepticism of OT generally and then of Jesus.
I’m interested to know what some of you here think of the following. (Also, what do you think of his description of chromosome 2?)
Below is a transcript of the relevant part and context of episode 226. If you’d like to listen to it yourself it’s available on any podcast service or on YouTube as “Ear Biscuits.”
(Please note that the transcript was automatically generated by a program and it contains all the awkward starts and stops that occur in conversational speech. I have only made minor corrections where a word was mis-transcribed or a period misplaced. I didn’t attempt to edit the interruptions or stutters or make any big changes to sentence structure. The transcript starts at the 14:46 mark of the podcast.)
Rhett: Okay, um, I have always been a naturally skeptical person. So, even in the midst of a very vibrant Christian faith, I would have doubts. You know, I’d hear a little something about how the Bible came together. You know how the 27 books in the New Testament were kind of put together and the way that you know, the Canon came together and I would be like this doesn’t seem as clean as maybe I thought that it might have been.
I would think a little bit about the resurrection of Jesus and I’d be like, that’s, that’s that’s a tough thing. It’s a tough thing. But, but that’s the whole point its tough. I have faith. I you know, and what I would typically do is I would like have these sessions where I would sort of rederive my faith.
But also I would do what I think a lot of Christians do, which is that when you have a doubt about something, you go and you read a Christian expert, you know? We call it apologetics in Christianity. Somebody who can basically defend the faith. These are smart people who have, who can, you know, they can read Hebrew and Greek and they, they’ve been to seminary, they’ve written books and they spend their life studying this stuff. And they put out a lot of material, that–and they’re smarter than me and they are more knowledgeable than me.
So what I would do is I would just go and I would find somebody who was smarter than me and they would be like, “Oh, no, it’s, it’s very reasonable to believe this. There’s a very good reason to believe this.”
And that would kind of plaster over my doubt in that particular area for a while.
Link: What time frame are you referring to? Are you talking about adulthood? Are you talking about as a kid?
Rhett: This probably started in high school, was happening a lot in college, and it has happened ever since.
But in college, I met some people who were really interested in the book of Genesis, and we’re specifically what you call a young earth creationist. So this is someone who believes that the book of Genesis is literal history. And that the implication from that is that the world is between six and ten thousand years old, that’s when this whole thing began. Along with that comes the idea that Noah’s Flood. Like Noah and the ark, that’s a true story. And the entire world was flooded, like, you know, a few thousand years ago. All the animals were on a boat and then every single layer of sediment that you see with all the fossils and everything in it is a result of that flood.
And this this isn’t a small group of people. This is, there’s a large group of people in evangelical Christianity who believe this, still believe this. I never thought about this. My parents didn’t really care much about these particular issues, right. It wasn’t something that like we grew up being taught
Link: It wasn’t taught in our youth group. A lot was being taught
Link: on a multiple times a week as we were involved, but we didn’t tackle this issue.
Rhett: But it was I was like, “I haven’t really thought about this. Let me look into this” And again, I’m going to do this multiple times in the story today. I’m going to tell you that I looked into something and then I’m not going to give you an exhaustive or extensive–there’s a couple places I’m going to go into that but here’s not one of them because I just don’t have time.
But long story short, when I looked into this, I basically learned that no matter what scientific discipline, you start from, the evidence points overwhelmingly to a world that is very old–billions of years old, to be specific. And basically, the world doesn’t really make sense unless it’s ancient. I mean, there’s so many things about the world that don’t make sense.
Now to just a couple of helpful books that were helpful for me, there’s lots of places you can see all this stuff but these are both from a Christian perspective. First one was Creation and Time by Hugh Ross, which kind of takes a little bit more look at the astronomical aspect of this. And then another one that gets more into geology is The Bible Rocks and Time, which is an incredible resource that if you’re interested in this, I suggest that you read.
But basically, this was learning that there was all this evidence that kind of pointed pretty clearly to the earth being old and then realizing that there was a really large contingent of Christians who just denied that and didn’t believe that.
It was alarming. It was alarming for a couple reasons. I mean, first of all, maintaining that young earth view, it requires sort of dismissing or reinterpreting a lot of evidence that has been gathered, right. And you got this, this sort of this big umbrella of Christianity. And the whole idea is that we’ve got the truth. The whole point is we have the ultimate truth, right? As Christians, you know, God has revealed the ultimate truth to us, this is what I believed. But yet within that camp, there are these two wildly different perspectives on basically the entire natural world.
And I was like, something about this is alarming because this isn’t as clean as I thought it was. So I was unsettled. But I was still a Christian. I mean, I wasn’t, the core of my Christian belief was still very much intact, still believe that the Bible was completely true. And I believe that there was a pretty easy way to reconcile this old earth view, they call it, with a literal interpretation of Genesis in the Bible.
And of course, I still knew that evolution wasn’t true. I knew evolution hadn’t happened, right? Because what I knew is that Adam and Eve had to be real. Adam and Eve had to be real because so much comes from them being real. That’s the fall. That’s where the fall happens. And the fall is the reason that we have Original Sin. And Original Sin is why we need a savior. It was like, you can’t get rid of that story. Plus, Genesis presents all this stuff straight from Adam and Eve and you go through all the generations. Even the Gospel of Luke, the genealogy of Jesus features Adam.
So this, if you don’t believe in Adam and Eve, like where do you start believing it? Right? So I knew that that wasn’t I couldn’t let go with that.
Link: There was definitely a, there’s a pervading thought that I had that evolution is just something you stay away from. And if you don’t want to get into it, don’t get into it. Just, just it’s a, it’s a problem. So don’t, and it’s not right, so don’t worry about it.
Rhett: And not even, beyond that I thought evolution just didn’t make sense on its face. It seemed completely illogical. In fact, it seemed desperate
Link: if you did start to think about it
Rhett: It seemed like it’s so, it’s so non intuitive to, it was so non intuitive to me at the time that it just felt like a desperate attempt for someone who didn’t believe in God to try to explain the wonderful creation that we had. You got to have something. Well, if God didn’t do it, you got to come up with some rand- you got to come up with something. And evolution was the best thing that they had to offer. And that was it for me.
And of course, I had read all the books about, you know, evolution not being true. I was I was into that. In fact, I would sit down and I would argue with people and convince people who believed in evolution that evolution didn’t happen. I loved doing that. I can make people doubt that pretty easily. Of course, I had never looked at the evidence for evolution. I had read books about it written by people who didn’t believe in it. That’s what I had done. And I could roll those arguments out with the best of them.
Then in 2006, I read a book called The Language of God by Francis Collins. Now, Francis Collins is currently the head of the National Institutes of Health. He’s a geneticist who headed up the Human Genome Project when they mapped the human genome there at the end of the 90s. The subtitle of the book is a scientist presents evidence for belief.
This is the kind of thing that I lived for. I loved it when someone who was a scientific mind, who was respected by the world would come out and basically do this, make it reasonable to be a Christian, to show you that your faith was reasonable and smart people believe this. I ate this stuff up. So I got into this book I dove right in.
Now, pretty early in the book, Collins starts talking about the undeniable evidence for evolution, evidence that humans evolved from a common ancestor with apes. And I was like, Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold up, y’all. What this guy’s a Christian? What? I know that’s not true.
And, of course, because he’s a geneticist, he’s he’s focusing on DNA, and sort of the, you know, the molecular evidence for this. So one thing that he talked about was sort of Earth shaking to me. This–and this is going to get technical so please hold on–and that is this idea that the second chromosome in people is a fused chromosome.
So the second chromosome is fused. According to evolutionary theory, we’re closely related to great apes, and mostly closely, most closely related to the chimpanzee. Now all great apes have 24 pairs of chromosomes, right? But we, if you’ve ever been to 23andMe you know this, we have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Now, chromosome fusion, where literally, like, a pair of chromosomes fuses directly on top of another pair of chromosomes is not totally uncommon. It happens at about 1 in 1000 births, right. It can result in some issues sometimes, but it’s not always the case.
So if apes and humans are closely related, like evolution suggests, then it seems that a common ancestor to both humans and apes had his or her chromosomes fused together. Okay? So all right, do we see this in the DNA? Like what do we see in the DNA? Well, in humans, the second chromosome appears to be a fusion of two great ape chromosomes. First, there are two sections of chromosome two that correspond directly to two separate chromosomes in apes.
Let me give an analogy if you’re having trouble following this. DNA is basically an instruction manual on how to build something, how to build an organism, right? So let’s just simplify this and just say that this book is 24 pages long. And let’s say on page two are the instructions on how to make a hand and on page three are the instructions on how to make a foot. And so that’s what you see when you look at a chimpanzee. But then when you look at a human, you see that it goes from page two to page four, and there is no page three. But then you look closely at page two and realize that It’s page two and page three glued on top of each other. And you see the instructions for the hand and the instructions for the foot on this long page two. Does that make sense?
Rhett: That’s a simple explanation or a simple analogy for kind of understanding this.
Link: This is why our feet and hands are stuck together.
Link: And apes’s are not.
Rhett: Again, this is a grossly simple, simplified analogy but it does help to understand it.
Now, but Furthermore, there are these things called telomeres at the end of chromosomes, which basically are these like redundant material that basically protects the DNA structure, right? So you, so think of it like you’ve got a header and a footer on a page, right? So there’s always a header and there’s always a footer on a page. And if you were to take two pages and glue them together, in the middle of those two pages, there would be a header and a footer glued together, right? If you take two pages and you glue them on top of each other, like a really long page.
Rhett: A header and footer would be touching each other. Well, we see two telomeres, two vestigial telomeres directly on top of each other in the middle of the second chromosome. Right? So all the evidence is pointing to these things being fused.
Now. This, the reason this rocked my world so much is because I was familiar with the argument that, you know, almost 99% of our DNA is the same as chimpanzees. I, everybody knows that because the human genome has been mapped. But the, you know, the creationist answer to that is well, yeah, I mean, God is making, he’s using the same building materials to make similar things. It’s his prerogative how he does it. So of course, you’re going to look at these, this instruction manual, you’re going to see that yeah, it’s kind of the same, and then it’s sort of different in some key ways. Like God, that’s God’s prerogative, why can’t he do that?
But that doesn’t seem like an adequate explanation to why it definitely feels like and looks like and seems to be very conclusive, that we actually have the same chromosomes and they’ve been fused. That doesn’t seem like consistent with the idea that this is just God’s prerogative.
But that wasn’t the only thing. I was so interested in this particular thing, this DNA evidence because I heard about the fossils and all that stuff. But this DNA stuff just seemed, this is like how we decide court cases, right. And this, this, this is how we convict people. This is how we can find out if somebody actually committed a crime. This is definitive stuff. And then I learned about retroviruses. So essentially, there are certain RNA viruses that when you become infected with them, they actually insert a copy of themselves into your DNA. So you can look at your DNA and you’d be like, “Oh, you got that virus at that time.” And then occasionally, these viruses, or this sort of retrovirus inside your DNA will be passed down to your children. And that’s, that means it’s endogenous, its in your genes.
Well, we actually see the we share these endogenous retroviruses with the organisms that we are closely related to. And the more closely related you are to them, the more retroviruses you have in common.
Now, let me, again to take this, this manual, this instruction manual analogy further. Let’s say you look at page 19 of a chimpanzee manual and you see, oh, halfway down on page 19 there’s a coffee stain, like somebody spilled coffee on the manual. But it looks like a copy of a coffee stain like somebody, there was an original, and there was a coffee stain and this seems like a copy of that, like somebody ran it through a Xerox machine. And then you look at a human instruction manual, and on page 19, you see the same exact copy of the same exact coffee stain in the same exact place.
Link: There’s, why, why would God do that you’re thinking.
Rhett: And so then you think, well, it seems to me that the most logical conclusion is that these are, these two manuals come from a common manual, that there’s an ancient common ancestor that is the ancestor to both humans and great apes. And this is what you see.
And these are just two small pieces of DNA evidence. And I’m not going to go into any more details. But let me just say that the main thing that this did for me is I had been told a lot of things about evolution, I had been told things growing up. And now I was questioning those things. Because I’d been told that there’s no there’s no real evidence. This is a desperate attempt to try to come up with some harebrained theory to just explain things. And I’m like, but this DNA stuff is pretty freakin conclusive. I can’t imagine another way to, now I’m not saying there aren’t explanations for this. I’m not saying you can’t go to a creationist website and find that they, it’s not like they don’t know about this. They have an answer. I’ve read the answer. I find the answer to not be compelling in the least.
But let me just say, this made me just question like, all this stuff. You’ve been told all this stuff, like, I had been told that there were no transitional fossils. There were no transitional forms. There’s no transition between this animal and this animal? Well, it turns out, there’s a lot of them. There’s a lot of very convincing ones. I’d been told that there were really no vestigial structures that there’s nothing on your body or an animal’s body that’s like a sign of something that’s no longer being used. There’s always a use for it. And we keep finding those use for it. Well, it turns out, there’s lots of examples of vestigial structures. In fact, there’s many structures that there’s no other way to properly understand them other than them being vestigial–meaning that they’re from the past. They’re no longer in use.
Essentially, every criticism of evolution that I had held on to to justify my unwillingness to believe in it turned out to be a misconception or a misrepresentation of the facts.
And so after reading a bunch of books, talking to a lot of people, not. Listen, I didn’t want to believe this. I’d spent my whole life not believing this and not wanting to believe this. But I kind of was just faced with this: that evolution was by far the best explanation for what we what we actually see in the real world.
If you’re interested any further reading on this, there’s a really good wiki entry called chromosome two, which breaks this down with resources is very well referenced. And there’s a wiki entry called evidence of common descent that kind of gets into this. And I’m going to make some more recs at the end.
But let me just say, I didn’t want to believe this. It was incredibly problematic. And there were plenty of Christians who I, very smart Christians, smarter than me, who didn’t believe in it, who I could have just I could have stayed in that camp. But I just, in my heart, I didn’t feel like it, I felt like I had to follow the truth. I thought that my, the truth had to be more important than my commitment to my beliefs. It had to be more important than my ideology.
And I want to say that about, there’s these plenty of Christian apologists, and Christian, you know, smart Christian people, you, I would say just creationist who deny evolution. I don’t think that they’re being deliberately deceptive. I want to be clear about that I don’t think these people are sitting around like, “Oh we see these facts and we’re going to misrepresent them, because we’re going to lie about this.” I think that they’re good people. But I think that they’re so committed to their belief system, that they have become impervious to pretty straightforward information about this subject.
But the thing that that did for me is I had placed a lot of faith, not just in God, but in these people who helped me understand why I believe what I believed, from an intellectual standpoint, right. I had a very real, emotional, personal, spiritual relationship with God that I was practicing. But there was this intellectual foundation that I would, whenever I had a doubt I would kind of retreat to this intellectual foundation. And all of a sudden, those people I had been trusting in, I began to doubt that I had been shown the truth or told the truth about other things, right.
Link: So get to this answer in due time as you’ve planned it, but I guess my question is, when you came to grips evolution, was it just “Okay, now I’m going to incorporate that into my faith.”
Link: Because I know there’s people thinking, well, you could, you can understand and accept the process of evolution and still have faith. I mean,
Rhett: Well, yeah, so exactly.
Link: You’re not an atheist. All of a sudden, right.
Rhett: I was I was very unsettled. But then I was like, well, hold up. I mean, Francis Collins, the whole point of the book,
Rhett: is that he believes in God, because of what he seen in the DNA. And he’s a Christian. He’s an evangelical Christian. And he believes in evolution.
Link: He presented it as that was God’s creative process, was
Rhett: involved this stuff.
Rhett: Not to mention, you know, one of the most respected and revered philosophical Christian minds of all time, CS Lewis, was a, you know, was a theistic evolutionist. And so I knew I was in good company. No. So I was like, this doesn’t mean I’m not a Christian. This just means that I’m a little disappointed in the way that this subject has been misrepresented by so many Christians.
But again, my goal was, let’s get, let’s, let’s stick with the truth. All truth is God’s truth. I’m not going to be scared of the truth. God’s in control. He’s the one who’s established this entire universe. I shouldn’t be afraid to poke and prod at any of this stuff, right.
So that was when I kind of got into this world of theistic evolutionists Christians. There’s a good book that I read, called Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds of Faith and Biology–a guy who believes in evolution but as a Christian. That was a helpful book for me. And then I got really involved or wasn’t involved, but I spent a lot of time at the website Biologos, which is essentially a group of Christian scientists. And there’s a bunch of articles there. It’s still active. I haven’t been there a long time, but I checked recently it’s still there. They’re still doing a lot of things.
But things get pretty complicated at this point, like once I started looking into this. So I’m going to give you the short version, if you can believe that this is the short version. But basically, what you run into is that there’s sort of two camps within people who sort of accept evolution.
One camp believes that Adam and Eve are still real, and that they are either a special creation or they’re sort of the result of the process, but they’re actually real historical people because they need to be real and historical in order for the fall and then the gospel to kind of make sense.
Got to be honest. I didn’t did not find, all of those arguments felt really tenuous and just felt like you guys are, you know that you have to have you have to have Adam and Eve and so you’re sort of inserting them in in a way that isn’t, they’re not really fitting as a little, you know, square peg round hole situation.
Link: I remember the Tim Keller book, Reason for God, I remember discussing that at that time and that being, as I remember it, his position.
Rhett: Yeah. And this is problematic, though, because I didn’t basically that was I just don’t think there’s a way that Adam and Eve were real as presented in the Bible. But like I said earlier, you know, they’re presented in the genealogy of Jesus in the book of Luke, so, what, what’s the deal, y’all? You know, I’m saying this, this was, this is a problem. This is a problem.
But what this did, again, I just felt like this doubt was kind of creeping beyond the point of creation and it was creeping into the Old Testament itself, because that’s the way the story goes. You got Adam and Eve and then you got a story that begins with them and moves on all the way down to Abraham and Moses and David. You know, you got, it’s all part of a system.
So again, I had been told, there was something I’d been told about the Old Testament. And that was, the Old Testament is always supported by archaeological evidence. I’d heard that from so many Christians. So you know, sometimes they, they, they see something in the Bible, and well, there’s no evidence for that. And then they dig a little bit deeper and they’re like, “Oh, we found the evidence,” or they find that, basically the idea that the Bible is always vindicated because the Bible is completely true in everything that it touches upon.
But when I really looked into it, I started realizing that that’s not true. That’s not really the case.
Just, just a few things. I’m touching on some quick things.
Why is there no Egyptian historical record of the Israelites captivity? Two million people. They kept great records. Why are they not, why is there no record of them? Why is there no archaeological evidence of the Exodus? Basically, this massive group of people wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. They’ve looked for hun- over 100 years. They’ve looked. No evidence. Why does the modern archaeological evidence call Joshua’s conquest of Canaan into question? Why is there good reason to believe that the Israelites arose not out of conquest or force, but by simply branching off of the Canaanites? And those are just a few things. But there are some pretty major events that all of a sudden I was like, “No, this isn’t well supported. This is, this isn’t, outside of the Bible these things are not well supported.” I was even further troubled, right.
And so I’m, I’m losing my faith in the Old Testament, but I’m also losing my faith in those same Christian thinkers who have said all this stuff, that like guys, you, “This is solid as a rock. You can stake your entire life. These truths and they’re always be vindicated.”
So I was I was in crisis at this point. But here’s, but here’s what I said. I said, “Does this Old Testament stuff really matter? Like, is this really what this is all about? Isn’t isn’t the important thing, Jesus, right? If this is about a relationship with Jesus, does this Old Testament stuff, first of all, okay, maybe there’s no archaeological evidence for this stuff. Maybe there’s no historical evidence of, but you can’t really make an argument from nothing. It’s like just the the absence of evidence is not necessarily an argument against something. So these things could have happened. We just haven’t found that, we haven’t found them yet. But we can still have faith and believe them. And plus, like I said, isn’t this just about Jesus?”