Republican Tim Pawlenty: Young Earth Creationist?

In a recent Newsweek interview, 2012 presidential hopeful, Republican Tim Pawlenty, appears to seriously entertain young Earth creationism:

Well, you know I’m an evangelical Christian. I believe that God created everything and that he is who he says he was. The Bible says that he created man and woman; it doesn’t say that he created an amoeba and then they evolved into man and woman. But there are a lot of theologians who say that the ideas of evolution and creationism aren’t necessarily inconsistent; that he could have “created” human beings over time.

That amoeba to man part of the above comment really grates on me. Is this how a Republican approaching a scientific question grapples with it—by fretting over whether Genesis 1, written 2500 years ago, has something to say about it? I mean, seriously. Has Tim Pawlenty ever even considered the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Genesis 1 is not written as science but poetry? (For evidence of this, see here.)

And will any Republican run for president in 2012 who doesn’t entertain the idea that the Earth is younger than scientists say it is by a million-fold?  (The Earth is 5,000 million years old, not 5000 years old.)

Just asking.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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13 Responses to Republican Tim Pawlenty: Young Earth Creationist?

  1. As we usualy say here: pois é…..

  2. TomH says:

    I have a couple of questions and a critique.

    Why are you so dogmatic about the age of the earth, which is based on rate-based inferences? It seems out of character with your general philosophical caution.

    Why do you think that Genesis was written only 2500 years ago (i.e., 500BC)?

    What you have expressed in the link referenced by this post has a name–it is called “The Framework Hypothesis.” It has a number of problems:

    1. The numbers associated with the second thru seventh days of creation are ordinal, not cardinal. Hence, sequence is in view, not merely reference. We see that the necessary things were created before plants–water, land, light, and air. Plants were created before animals, which needed plants for food. There is a sequential message here, not parallelism.

    2. There are some distinctive non-parallel features. Water was created on the first day, not on the second. Separation of the waters occurred on the second day.

    3. The form of the text is primarily prose, as indicated by the predominant use of the waw-consecutive, which we typically find in historical narratives in the Old Testament. There is also a heavy dose of repetitive “boilerplate” (e.g., “and there was evening and morning, a second (third, etc.) day.), which indicates reuse–an engineering concept.

    If you want more detail, the current high mark in criticism of the Framework Hypothesis was written by Robert McCabe: Part one — and part two —

    The Framework Hypothesis isn’t tenable, prima facie.

    It takes a careful reading of Genesis 1 to get the details.

    Just sayin’.

  3. santitafarella says:


    The reason I said Genesis 1 was written about 2500 years ago is because the account shares features with Mesopotamian ideas of creation (most strikingly the conflict between Marduk and Tiamat). And I’m sure that you’ve heard of the Enuma Elish. That would put the story (in its current form) in the period of Babylonian captivity (as a response to Mesopotamian cultural exposure).

    Other issues regarding a poetic reading of Genesis:

    —Parallelism is characteristic of Hebrew poetry generally. It’s hardly surprising that you get broader structural parallelisms as well.

    —In an oral culture where most people are not literate, repetition assists memory. Once you know the structure of the Genesis story, and its repetitions of phrase, you can tell the story effortlessly. It is absurd to say that Genesis 1 is not heavily poetic. It would have been told more than read (visually), and it bears oral storytelling markers (which are poetic and rhythmic markers). To call a story like that found in Genesis 1 “prose” is to forget that we’re not in a literate prose period of history—but an oral storytelling period.

    —The links you sent me to reminded me of someone trying to deny the nose on their own face. The parallels and repetitions in the Genesis story are so striking, and so obviously beneficial to oral storytelling, that it seems truly ridiculous to deny them. The lengths that people will go to in an effort to hold onto a charished thesis absorbed in childhood is truly astonishing.

    —The fact is that reading Genesis as history is a simple genre mistake. It’s like mistaking a mockumentary for a documentary, or a scene in comedy with a moment of drama. It happens all the time, but fundamentalists have vested so much in the Genesis chapter as “history” that they cannot step away from the embarrassing misreading and see the text for what it is.


    • TomH says:


      I’ve answered some of your points below.

      –parallelism. The text of Genesis 1 doesn’t show parallelism, but sequantiality, as previously discussed, but to which you did not reply.

      –Let’s consider your assertion of an oral nature for the text. The underlying Hebrew culture was highly literate, which was necessary due to their approach to their written texts, especially the Law of Moses, which formed much of their religious identity; the prietly class (who would have had the most direct contact with Genesis) could read, as could many of the royal servants, including those who recorded the royal histories; the pervasive merchant class could always read, as could men in the prophetic movements. We _know_ that Abraham came from a city at a time when the city was literate. We _know_ that the Hebrew people have _always_ emphasized literacy for _all_ recorded history. Your assertion of an oral basis for genesis is absurd, prima facie.

      Generally, in your approach to the text of Genesis 1, you are _forcing_ your theory on the textual data, thereby distorting the textual data, rather than abducting the theory from the textual data, as I do. Your theory _cannot_ withstand comparison with the actual text. Basically, your presupposition of progress (maybe with a heavy evolutionary assumption?) is behind your genre error, which results in your hermeneutical error.


  4. santitafarella says:

    The beginning of the Enuma Elish:

    e-nu-ma e-liš la na-bu-ú šá-ma-mu
    šap-liš am-ma-tum šu-ma la zak-rat
    ZU.AB-ma reš-tu-ú za-ru-šu-un
    mu-um-mu ti-amat mu-al-li-da-at gim-ri-šú-un
    A.MEŠ-šú-nu iš-te-niš i-ḫi-qu-ú-šú-un
    gi-pa-ra la ki-is-su-ru su-sa-a la she-‘u-ú
    e-nu-ma dingir dingir la šu-pu-u ma-na-ma

    When the sky above was not named,
    And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
    And the primeval Apsû, who begat them,
    And chaos, Tiamat, the mother of them both,
    Their waters were mingled together,
    And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
    When of the gods none had been called into being.

    Wikipedia on the Enuma Elish:

  5. Marcia Earth says:

    “Is this how a Republican approaching a scientific question grapples with it—by fretting over whether Genesis 1, written 2500 years ago, has something to say about it? ”

    To be honest, I don’t think the man really thinks of it as a scientific question.

    I don’t think he understands what science is.

  6. Tom

    Why are you so dogmatic about the age of the earth, which is based on rate-based inferences?

    Bullshit. The age of the Earth is not based on “inferences”, or guesses, but is known due to measurements made by different methods ALL convergent.

  7. TomH says:


    There is compelling internal evidence in Genesis 5:1 that the family history of Adam was not transmitted exclusively orally.

    Gen. 5:1 – “”This is the _book_ of the generations of Adam….”

    The meaning of “book” is important here. Our books today are codexes–they consist of pages bound together. Before codexes, people used scrolls, and before scrolls, they used clay tablets. Scrolls had the disadvantage of being more susceptible to the elements, though they could be written on for quite a while, unlike clay tablets, which had to be penned while the clay was wet. Clay tablets also had a problem of ordering–the tablets weren’t bound together, so a system of ordering had to be incorporated into the text. Damien Mackey covers tablets along with several other issues. For more info, see

  8. santitafarella says:


    You said: “The age of the earth is always the base assumption, which is whatever the biologists say that they need.”

    That’s silly. You know that is not how it works. And the age of the universe physicists have nailed down to 13.7 billion years, I believe. In other words, they’re not guessing, but honing in on an ever more precise date.

    Face it. Our star is several generations along in the star creation business. For billions of years our Earth and our star were not even on the scene yet. And the first generation of stars had to disperse the carbon that made us possible. We are star stuff, and that took time.


    • TomH says:

      From Brush, at the referenced Henry paper:

      “Physicists as well as astronomers were tying their chronologies into the evolutionary time frame for the earth:

      ‘The conflict between physics and astronomy over the Age of the Earth was resolved in the 1950s. …[T]he conflict between physics and geology … had ended 50 years earlier with a complete reversal by the physicists [in favor of geological dates for the earth]; this time it was the astronomers who revised their estimates and suddenly switched to a much longer time scale [to avoid conflict with the geologists]. They had decided that Hubble had underestimated the intrinsic luminosities of distant stars and the Cepheid variable scale of distances had to be recalibrated; together the two corrections [read: adjustments] expanded the time scale by a factor of 4, with further increases to come in subsequent decades. By the mid-1980s, estimates of the age of the universe generally ranged from 10,000 to 20,000 m.y., safely beyond the estimates of the Age of the Earth, which had stabilized at 4500 to 4600 m.y. …According to David Raup, one result of this episode is that `geology has a curious moral authority over astrophysics’… [emphasis added]’ ” (Brush, 1989, p. 173).

      Brush, Stephen G. 1989. The age of the earth in the twentieth century. Earth Sciences History. 8(2):170_182.

      Brush is not a YEC source, to my knowledge. Henry marshalls quite a lot more evidence of this sort of thing, where biology leans on geology which leans on physics and astronomy.

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