he astronomer Hugh Ross has had a great impact on many churches and individuals in recent years. His organization, Reasons to Believe, coordinates his many speaking engagements and publishes a newsletter called Facts and Faith. He has written six popular level books on the Bible, science, and apologetics.1,2,3,4,5,6 The secret of Ross’s appeal is that he claims that
modern science has confirmed many things about the origin and history of the
world that the Bible had previously told us. This gives some believers spiritual
encouragement and a great deal of intellectual satisfaction.
To accomplish this harmonization of the Bible and science,
Ross has embraced much of what modern science has to say about origins. In short,
Ross supports the big bang theory, the 4.6 Ga (1 Ga = 109 years)
age of the earth, and virtually all of what establishment paleontology claims
about the history of life on earth including the order of appearance of different
groups. In fairness to Ross, it should be emphasized that he does reject the
concept of biological evolution, opting instead for progressive creation.
Ross argues that science alone can drive men to the correct
understanding of our origin and hence see the necessity of a Creator. But this
assumes that fallible men using a man-made (and hence fallible) methodology
(sciencein particular origins science7) with an incorrect postulate (atheism)
can come to the truth about God. It would be most unexpected and illogical for
a system of thought to reach a conclusion that is in contradiction to one of
the basic postulates of that system.
This paradox underscores Ross’s greatest misconception of how
modern science works vis-à-vis the question of origins. As Johnson
has pointed out, modern science, even origins science, by its very nature starts
with the assumption of materialism.8 This assumption excludes consideration
of any metaphysical reality, and leads to such quotes as those of the late Carl
Sagan, ‘The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever
will be.’9 This assumption is blatantly atheistic. That does
not mean that all, or even most, scientists are atheists. It merely means that
the total exclusion of any possibility of a Deity makes most of modern science
an atheistic enterprise, at least tacitly.
Ross brings the question of a Deity into the discussion rather
late, which makes God an ad hoc insertion. This also fails to correctly
estimate the true atheistic nature of science as practised today. This is best
illustrated by Ross’s use of the big bang model as a large part of his apologetic,
which will be explored later.
Van Bebber and Taylor have reported on the questionable biblical
teachings of Ross.10 While this
has alerted some to Ross’s theological problems, many in the church resist that
message, primarily because they are convinced that Ross has overpowering scientific
arguments for an old earth and universe to which the Bible must be accommodated.
Of course, accommodating the Bible to science is the exact opposite of what
many intend, but this is what I have observed. Most theologians, pastors, and
laymen lack the expertise to adequately evaluate Ross’s scientific claims. Most
critiques of Ross have taken the approach of attacking his theological position,
because this is obviously the root of his problem. But are the scientific arguments
of Ross as powerful as many seem to think?
This paper will examine some of the scientific claims of Hugh
Ross, particularly in his discipline of astronomy. While science is the primary
emphasis here, it is important to mention a few theological issues as well.
It will be shown that in both science and theology, Ross often grossly overstates
his case and handles information incorrectly.
General and Special Revelation
Psalm 19:1-4 and Romans 1:19-20 state that the world around
us indicates that there is a Creator. This limited information of God that the
physical world impresses upon the minds of men is often called general revelation,
as opposed to the special revelation of the Bible. Both reveal some information
about God, but Ross elevates what the physical world reveals nearly to the level
of Scripture itself. This is called the dual revelation theory. It is
argued that since God is the author of both books, the Bible and the book of
nature, the two must necessarily agree. Ross has expanded the dual revelation
theory to the point of likening nature to the sixty-seventh book of the Bible.11
There are several problems with this approach. First, the Bible
never makes such a claim for nature. While the two passages mentioned above
state that God’s existence can be inferred from nature, they hardly elevate
nature to the level to which Ross insists it must be raised. Ross lists a number
of other biblical texts that supposedly support his position on dual revelation.12 An examination of all of those verses reveals that
they do no such thing: they generally give fewer specifics than Psalm 19 and
Romans 1. The equation of nature as the 67th book of the Bible is
an inference that Ross has made. Any systematic study of Scripture involves
inferences, but those inferences must be continually compared to other passages
to check their legitimacy. This is particularly sobering in light of the warning
of Revelation 22:18 against adding to the words of the Bible. Such a major expansion
of God’s revelation should be very carefully scrutinized. Ross has overstated
his argument for the dual revelation theory, and the many passages used to allegedly
make his case illustrate his attempt to win the reader’s support with a blizzard
The second problem is the specific attributes of God that Ross
claims can be deduced from general revelation. Ross has given a list of seven
such attributes.13 The first
attribute claimed, that God exists, comes straight out of Romans 1. Romans 1
also states that God’s mighty power may be inferred from nature, which appears
to be part of Ross’s attribute number two. While Romans 1 only mentions these
two attributes, Ross continues with four or five more, including such items
as God’s perfection, justice, love, and mercy. Since neither Romans 1 nor Psalm
19 in any way mention those attributes in the context of general revelation,
Ross must have gleaned them from elsewhere. The most obvious source is the rest
of the book of Romans and the Bible, which illustrates the gross inadequacy
of general revelation. General revelation is sufficient to draw man’s mind to
the thoughts of a creator; but to really know God, one must turn to special
This inadequacy of general revelation is clearly illustrated
by the entire Psalm 19. The first four verses discuss the declaration of God’s
glory by the heavens, and the next two expand on the sun’s role in the heavens.
Verse three is translated in the KJV (and similarly in the NIV) as,
‘There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard,’
which is usually understood to refer to the universality of their message. Three
of those words are in italics in the KJV, indicating that they are not in the
original Hebrew. It is possible that verse three actually should read, ‘no
speech nor language, their voice is not heard.’ This is the sense
of the translation of the NASB, NJB, and NRSV. In other words, what may be emphasized
here is that the message of the heavens is non-verbal and unwritten. Such communication
is quite limited, which is why the remainder of the Psalm is so important. The
final seven verses delineate what the Law and the Prophets can do. The seventh
verse alone states, ‘The law of the Lord is perfect,
converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.’
Notice that this is far more specific and powerful than any claim made for general
The truly important things about God that one must know can
be found only in Scripture. Ross obviously knows these things from Scripture,
and he attempts to imprint them onto general revelation. Scripture does not
support this. Indeed, it appears contrary to clear teaching of Scripture
if Ross were right, there would be no need for missionary activity, contrary
to Rom. 10:13 ff. In his zeal to make a strong case, Ross has grossly overstated
this argument. At best, this is sloppy logic and exegesis, and his equation
of general and special revelation is seriously flawed.
A third problem for the dual revelation theory is the question
of what constitutes data in either case. If the facts of nature and the facts
of the Bible must agree, then what are the facts of either domain? We can agree
that the 66 canonical books of the Bible are the facts of special revelation,
but what are the facts of nature? Ross would have us accept the interpretations
of the majority of scientists as the ‘facts’ of science or nature. But new ‘facts’
or interpretations of science are discovered every day, while old ‘facts’ are
just as often discarded. The history of science is littered with the wrecks
of ideas that were at one time considered to be ‘true’, but have long since
fallen out of favour. Elevating this body of knowledge with its changing character
to the same level as the Bible should alarm all Christians who are committed
to the authority of Scripture.
A fourth problem is Ross’s slick exchange of science for nature.
Ross argues as follows. There are two books: the book of nature and the Bible.
God is the author of both, so both must agree. So far this seems reasonable.
Then Ross subtly equates science for nature, from which one could infer that
science and the Bible should be equated in authority. Most of Ross’s intended
audience would have abandoned him had he made such a claim, because this is
precisely the sort of equation that most liberals have made. Science is the
(man-made) way that we have to study nature. If Ross wants to make the correct
analogy, it should be to exegesis, which is the (man-made) way of studying the
Bible. It is not clear whether Ross consciously made this slippery switch. More
likely, this swap escaped his notice. If that is so, then such a logical fallacy
would cast doubt on his competence.
Fifth, Scripture teaches that the creation is cursed (Gen.
3:17-19, Rom. 8:20-22), but Scripture itself is ‘God-breathed’ (2 Tim. 3:15-17). So how can a cursed creation
interpreted by a fallible methodology of sinful humans determine how we interpret
the perfect, unfallen Word of God? As the systematic theologian Louis Berkhof
‘...Since the entrance of sin into the world, man can
gather true knowledge about God from His general revelation only if he studies
it in the light of Scripture, in which the elements of God’s original self-revelation,
which were obscured and perverted by the blight of sin, are republished, corrected,
and interpreted. ...
Some are inclined to speak of God’s
general revelation as a second source; but this is hardly correct in view
of the fact that nature can come into consideration here only as interpreted
in the light of Scripture.’14
Ross’s general sloppiness in handling Scripture was greatly
demonstrated by an address that he recently gave at Dallas Theological Seminary.
In that address he stated:
‘Therefore it allows me to make
an interesting paraphrase of John 3:16, if you’ll permit“For God
so loved the human race that He went to the expense of building a hundred
billion trillion stars and carefully shaped and crafted them for sixteen billion
years so that at this brief moment in time we could all have a nice place
to live.”’ 15
Anyone even remotely familiar with John 3:16 is struck by the
glaring omissions of this paraphrase. No mention is made of such important terms
as ‘only begotten (Greek monogenes =
unique, special)’ ‘Son,’ ‘believe,’ ‘not perish,’ and
‘everlasting life.’ This is either blasphemy to the point of heresy
or gross carelessness of the first rank.
It is almost inconceivable that Ross really believes this,
so one must conclude that he was shooting from the hip. Assuming that that is
the case, then it appears that Ross is guilty of dealing with Scripture in a
cavalier manner, which is precisely my point. Ross has received a virtual free
ride from many pastors and apologists despite these sorts of outrageous views,
primarily because these Christian leaders have been intimidated by his scientific
pronouncements. But his science is full of errors, contrary to what many believe.
His sloppy handling of Scripture and manner of gross overstatement are unfortunately
his method of operation in science as well.
Problems with the ‘Day-Age’ Theory
Most of Ross’s intended audience know little about science,
so they will accept his pronouncements on scientific issues without much question.
This deference to the supposed impressive science permits him to play loosely
with biblical texts. Like any other ‘day-age’ proponent, Ross believes that
the days of the creation week were long periods of time. Of course, there are
numerous textual problems with the day-age theory that are discussed elsewhere.17,18
Another major problem is that the ordering of the events of
Genesis does not even agree with the pronouncements of modern science, with
which day-age theorists are so eager to harmonise. To answer this difficulty,
Ross appeals to overlapping days.19 For instance, the creation of plants was on the
third day, before the creation of animals on days five and six. But the plants
that are specifically mentioned as being created on day three are flowering
plants, plants that according to most scientists appeared very recently. This
would seem to place these plants during day six when creeping things were created.
Ross explains this by claiming that it is the first appearance of plants that
is important, hence their mention so early on day three. On the other hand,
Ross claims that birds and fish are mentioned on day five, despite the fact
that this makes no sense in terms of the usual order that modern science claims.
Does Ross reject modern science on this? No, he argues that day five overlaps
partly with days three and four, and probably six as well. It is interesting
that the details of Ross’s teaching on this are not found in references 2-5.
His latest book contains some details,20
but the greatest details are found in his audio tapes and pamphlets, which enjoy
far less circulation and publicity than his books.
Ross repeatedly shuffles the events of creation to claim that
those events that occurred on different days did not, while those events that
occurred on the same day actually happened at different times. Under such contrived
rules of interpretation the motif of a six-day creation, if you will, begins
to collapse. What would have happened to the ancient Hebrews if they would have
applied this reasoning to their week (Exodus 20:8-11)? They could have concluded
that if they rested during some of the first six days of the week, then they
could have worked on the Sabbath. After all, the Lord had overlapped his actions
during the days of the creation week, so why could not they? It is obvious that
such an attitude would have been an affront to the Lord of Creation. In like
fashion, so is Ross’s ‘overlapping days’ notion.
Ross’s pronouncement that the book of nature (science) is akin
to the 67th book of the Bible is frightening enough. Yet the manner
in which he cavalierly reinterprets Scripture to match what ‘science’ says, clearly
demonstrates that he really holds ‘science’ in higher esteem, contrary to Berkhof’s
Equally frustrating is Ross’s claim that modern (uniformitarian)
science has borne out the claims of the Bible about origins. Both of these practices
amount to deceptive advertising. When one really examines his claims, it is
obvious that Ross can only achieve the harmonization he desires by conducting
surgery on the biblical account of creation. Unfortunately, most people in his
intended audience never grasp what he has done. In retailing, this sort of practice
is known as ‘bait and switch.’
Looseness with Lexicons
Ross’s poor scholarship extends to biblical studies as well.
For instance, Van Bebber and Taylor have shown that Ross has cited lexicons
and word books to support his claims to meanings of Hebrew words, when in reality
those references say exactly the opposite of what Ross claims.21
From this one can only conclude that either Ross is dishonest or that he is
a careless and incompetent researcher. Neither possibility should be palatable
to those who rely upon his apologetics. The biggest puzzle is why so many Christian
leaders and seminary professors have not abandoned him already.
Ross’s Big Bang Apologetic
Before turning to scientific issues, it would be good to briefly
discuss the biblical issues surrounding one of the main thrusts of Hugh Ross’s
apologetics, the big bang. His argument has some similarity to that of Robert
Jastrow more than two decades ago in his book, God and the Astronomers.16
Jastrow pointed out that throughout time, most people have believed that the
universe had always existed. Only in the 20th century and with the rise of the
big bang model have most people come to believe that the universe had a beginning.
Of course this one point is in agreement with what Christian theologians have
supposedly said all along, which is the whole point of Jastrow’s book. While
Jastrow is an agnostic, he found it fascinating that modern science has grudgingly
come into agreement with the Bible on that one issue. Ross goes beyond Jastrow
and argues that the big bang model is in perfect agreement with the biblical
account of creation.
Ross makes much use of the principle of causality in conjunction
with the big bang to argue for God’s existence. Causality means that any event
that occurs (an effect) has some cause. Let A be a cause, and B be its effect.
Then logically one can say that A causes B. All effects in turn become causes
of new effects, and so forth. At any time there are countless chains of cause
and effect that are parallel and intertwined with one another. Conversely every
effect must have a cause. Logicians and philosophers have long recognized that
in the distant past there may have been an ‘uncaused cause.’ That is, there
was a cause that was not the effect of an earlier cause, and from which all
subsequent cause and effect relationships descended. There are philosophical
debates on causality that cannot be covered here.
Of course many would identify the uncaused cause as God. However,
in an eternal universe there would be no need of an uncaused cause, because
cause and effect would have been operating over all time. This avoidance of
an uncaused cause may have been the appeal that the eternal universe had in
Western thought. As Jastrow and Ross point out, the big bang theory posits that
the universe had a beginning, so that an infinite chain of cause and effect
relationships is no longer tenable. Jastrow and Ross disagree on the identity
of the uncaused cause. Ross certainly identifies it as the God of the Bible.
Jastrow would insist that the big bang was the uncaused cause. He is not alone:
many other scientists share this assessment, as shown below.
Ross also claims that many astronomers have been led to a belief
in a personal Creator because of the big bang model, but he fails to mention
any names. To the contrary, the biggest names in cosmology today could be described
as agnostics or pantheists at best. Most are avowed atheists, so for Ross to
mislead people in this way is unconscionable. Much speculation and theoretical
research has been expended in developing a way in which the universe could come
into existence strictly by natural processes consistent with the physical laws
operating in the universe. The majority agrees that the most promising mechanism
is the view that the universe arose as a quantum fluctuation, with no supernatural
The quantum fluctuation theory of the big bang will not be
elaborated here. Suffice it to say that following the Heisenberg uncertainty
principle of quantum mechanics, there can be trifling violations of the law
of conservation of energy, provided that the violations exist for very short
periods of time. The smaller an energy violation, the longer that the violation
can last. In this view, the total energy of the universe is precisely zero,
so the violation (the universe) could exist forever. Astrophysicists must very
cleverly devise ways in which the total energy of the universe can be zero.
While this idea is not universally accepted, and there are major logical problems
with it,22 it is the obvious trend of current research.
There are other non-theistic possibilities that leading big
bang cosmologists have explored. The inflationary model of the universe is a
related topic. Alan Guth, the author of this idea, has stated that ‘In
the context of inflationary cosmology, it is fair to say that the universe is
the ultimate free lunch.’23 Some models postulate a number
of inflationary universes. These seem to suggest that the universe has a ‘frothy’
structure so that new (potential) universes pop into existence through quantum
fluctuations. Most of these cease to exist very quickly, but occasionally some
undergo rapid expansion (inflation), and in the process separate from our universe.
Just as our universe gives birth to new universes, ours was birthed by an earlier
one (without the need of a deistic midwife). This obviously becomes a metaphysical
exercise, but the theory does allow our finite universe to be a small link in
an eternal chain, so that a Creator is again unnecessary.
Any read of the plethora of popular books about the big bang
reveals just how out of step Ross is on the point of theism and the big bang
theory. It is very clear that in God and the Astronomers, Jastrow does
not endorse theism but only comments that Christian and Jewish theologians were
apparently right all along on the question of whether our universe had an origin.
While Hawking24 and Davies25 frequently use the word ‘God’, it is quite obvious
that they have an entirely different definition of the word than Christians
do. Their God (or more properly, god) is identical to how Einstein used the
term. All three use ‘god’ to mean some order imposed upon the physical universe.
No matter what Ross claims, their views are completely contrary to the personal
God of the Bible. Many other scientists who have written on the topic, such
as Weinberg26 and Rees27 pretty much remain silent about the topic of a deity.
The obvious implication is that most of these researchers and writers view a
Creator as totally unnecessary.
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the big bang model
(philosophy) that Ross and other Christian apologists who embrace the big bang
have. The big bang is the ultimate atheistic, purely physical, totally naturalistic
explanation. Russell Humphreys has pointed out a very important popular misunderstanding
of the big bang by Ross and other popular writers. The ‘big bang’ is actually
based on a non-scientific assumption called the cosmological principle,
which states that an observer’s view of the universe depends neither on the
direction in which he looks nor on his location. That is, the earth is nowhere
Biological evolution is an attempt to explain life apart from
a creator, and Ross rightly rejects this, though his alternative of progressive
creation is fraught with problems. Geological evolution does the same for the
earth, and Ross seems to accept all of it, although it is intimately related
to biological evolution. The big bang model is an attempt to explain the origin
of the universe apart from a Creator, though Ross and others fail to see this.
Contrary to what Ross claims, nearly all big bang cosmologists are not theists
and are very vocal about their beliefs (or disbeliefs). Most would view the
introduction of a Creator at some point as an ad hoc assumption. For
Ross to mislead his readers by claiming that they have accepted a personal Creator
String theory in the Bible?
When presenting an argument, Hugh Ross frequently overstates
his case. A good example can be found in his fourth book, Beyond the Cosmos.
Some of my observations on the work have been previously published in a book
review.29 In this book, Ross uses a very current idea called
string theory to explain a number of theological problems. String theory postulates
that there are six dimensions of space in addition to the normal three dimensions.
These extra six dimensions are not directly observable today, but according
to the theory they do have effects upon the interaction of elementary particles
and the structure of the universe. The theory was devised to explain some features
of the universe. The problem is that there is as yet no confirming evidence
that this theory is true. The theory is controversial, and there are competing
theories. The highly speculative nature of the theory would not be grasped by
most people who read Ross’s book, because Ross presents it as if it is well
Assuming that string theory is true, Ross concludes that God
must work in these extra dimensions. Ross further argues that there must be
at least one extra time dimension in which God works, for a total of at least
eleven dimensions at God’s disposal. This extra-dimensionality becomes the thesis
of Beyond the Cosmos. Since God is working in extra dimensions and especially
the extra time dimension, God has an infinite amount of time during each instant
to accomplish His many tasks. This supposedly enables God to hear the prayers
of millions of believers simultaneously and for Jesus to have suffered for each
person individually during His crucifixion. Ross also claims that this extra-dimensionality
explains other difficult topics such as the Trinity, omnipresence, and predestination.
Besides the questionable status of string theory, there are
several problems with Ross’s approach here. It seems presumptuous to the point
of arrogance to suggest that only in the latter twentieth century have we learned
enough to finally grasp some of the theological issues raised and supposedly
answered by Ross. Ross argues that Augustine made a mistake and took nearly
everyone afterwards with him in concluding that God operates outside of space
and time. Instead, Ross insists that God must operate within space and time,
which necessitates the additional dimensions. Ross’s claims on this matter seems
to suggest that God is somehow confined by time. Of course God can operate in
or out of time as He chooses, so why would He confine Himself to operate within
one of His own creations? Even a self-described Ross-supporter, the philosopher/apologist
William Lane Craig, has severely criticised Ross’s teachings on this:
‘... I have been mystified by evangelicals’
apparently uncritical acquiescence to some of the positions advocated in this
book [Ref. 4].
‘... I find his attempt to construe
God as existing in hyperdimensions of time and space and to interpret Christian
doctrines in that light to be both philosophically and theologically unacceptable.’
Misunderstanding General Relativity
Beyond the Cosmos also contains some scientific errors
that illustrate how poorly Hugh Ross handles scientific issues. For instance,
Ross states that general relativity (GR) does not allow for any absolute reference
frame with which to measure velocities.31 This is probably one of the most
common incorrect but popular beliefs about GR. Mach’s principle, which is one
of the basic assumptions of GR, states that the velocity of an object may be
measured unambiguously with respect to the sum of the rest of the material in
the universe. Thus this frame of reference constitutes the preferred frame for
the universe. Classically, this preferred frame of reference has been distant
stars or galaxies. With today’s understanding of cosmology, it is believed that
the 3 K cosmic background radiation (CBR) represents the preferred frame
of Mach’s principle. Anisotropy in the CBR has enabled us to measure our speed
through space with respect to this frame. It is quite surprising that Ross does
not realize this.
In his book Creation and Time, Ross commits other blunders
that call into question his competence. He discusses the claim that the existence
of comets is an argument for a recent origin for the solar system32
(an issue I have recently reviewed33). Amazingly, Ross dismisses this argument by insisting
that comets have an interstellar origin. That is, comets are not part of the
solar system but merely pass through the inner solar system from time to time.
Interstellar comets would enter the solar system with hyperbolic orbits and
speeds exceeding the escape velocity, but this is not observed. Therefore while
this answer has been entertained in the past, virtually no astronomers accept
it today. Nearly all astronomers believe that comets come from either the hypothetical
Oort cloud or from the Kuiper belt. It is almost inconceivable that an astronomer
would not know this. Since Ross places so much store in the consensus view of
astronomers, it would behove him to better understand that view before attacking
The Creator and the Cosmos contains several obvious
errors or misstatements, despite having undergone revision in 1995. For instance,
Ross garbled the discussion of observational evidence (via gravitational lensing)
that dark matter may consist of MACHOs (MAssive Compact Halo Objects).34
First, Ross has the first 10-m Keck telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope
(HST) playing key roles in this discovery. In fact, most of the work was done
with much smaller telescopes wholly dedicated to the study. The largest telescopes
in the world cannot be tied up in time-consuming programs such as this one.
Second, Ross stated that MACHOs were detected in the Large Magellanic Cloud
(LMC), a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. In reality, the MACHOs were believed
to be in the Milky Way or between the Milky Way and the LMC. What confused Ross
was the fact that the objects that were lensed were stars in the LMC. If Ross
had carefully read just the titles of the articles that he referenced on this
topic, he should have been able to figure this out.
Fine-tuning of the UniverseRoss’s Overstatements
In discussing how finely balanced the expansion of the universe
must be to permit the existence of life, Ross states that the expansion rate
‘... cannot differ by more than one part in 1055 from the actual
rate.’ 35 Ross gives
no reference for this figure, so one is left to guess where he got this nonsense.
In the 1990s, there has been a major debate on the value of the Hubble constant,
H0, which measures the expansion rate of the universe. For a while
it appeared that we might not know H0 within a factor of two, though
the situation appears to have improved a bit. Still, it would seem that if it
were thought that the expansion rate could not vary by over one part in 1055
for life to exist, we would have to know the expansion rate with that precision.
The value of H0 continues to be revised by amounts far larger than
one in 1055.
The stakes in the controversy over the value of H0
have been high, because an increased Hubble constant leads to a younger universe.
For a while it appeared that globular star clusters were older than the universe.
In The Creator and the Cosmos, Ross ignores the astronomers who have
presented evidence of higher values of H0. Teams led by Wendy Freedman
and Michael Pierce have given strong cases for this. Yet in discussing new measurements
of H0, Ross does not mention these, but opts instead to rely solely
upon his good friend Allan Sandage,36
who is one of the leading figures arguing for a lower value of H0.
Such gross oversimplification and overstatement of his case is all too common
with Ross. Another example is his handling of COBE (COsmic Background Explorer)
data.37 Ross states that the
observed inhomogeneities in the cosmic background radiation (CBR) found ‘...
were just what astrophysicists thought they would find.’ The truth
is that the COBE was designed to detect the temperature fluctuations that astrophysicists
expected, but that the original COBE data showed a perfectly smooth distribution.
It was not until some very high-powered statistical techniques were applied
to the data that much lower than originally expected fluctuations were found.
At that point, big bang models were recalculated to ‘predict’ the data. How
this shows perfect harmony with theory and observation as Ross claims is a mystery.
In discussing the moon, Ross states that the moon at 4.25 Ga
is younger than the earth at 4.59 Ga,38 hence they could not have formed at the same time.
But this confuses several things. The oldest accepted radiometric ages for lunar
rocks are about 4.25 Ga, but the oldest accepted terrestrial rocks have ages
of about 3.95 Ga. How is this explained? Both bodies are thought to have undergone
geological activity, so that no primordial rocks exist on either one. The earth
is obviously more geologically active, so its oldest rocks are expected to be
younger than the moon’s oldest rocks. Therefore the correct raw numbers as accepted
by most scientists indicate just the opposite of what Ross concludes. If there
are no primordial rocks on the earth, whence comes the 4.59 Ga age for the earth?
That age comes from radiometric dates of a certain class of meteorites, from
which the age of the solar system, and most of the bodies in it, has been inferred.
So Ross has mixed two very different figures here. The facts have been so garbled
that it questions his competence.
On the next page, Ross briefly discusses the currently accepted
scenario for the origin of the moon.39 This theory suggests that the earth formed as a
single body, but that early in its history the earth suffered a collision with
another body that was a significant fraction of its own size, possibly twice
the mass of Mars.40 The earth
absorbed most of the colliding body, while the remaining debris was blasted
into orbit to eventually coalesce into the moon. Ross states that this was a
‘head-on’ collision. In physics, a head-on collision is one in which the paths
of the centers of mass of the bodies intersect. Alternatively, the angle of
incidence for the incoming body is perpendicular to the surface of the impacted
body. Ross is wrong: this scenario requires that the impacting body approach
the earth at a glancing angle. Only for a glancing collision is enough material
ejected with the proper trajectory to form the moon (although there are still
unsolved problems with excess angular momentum40).
One must ask whether Ross merely misunderstood the origin scenario or if he
does not know what a head-on collision is. The former possibility suggests sloppiness;
the latter suggests incompetence.
Ross’s Oral Oversights
Ross’s books are generally well polished and have obviously
been edited. However, his pronouncements in public addresses and on-air presentations
are much less guarded. Davidheiser41 and Sparks42 have documented a number of scientific blunders
made by Ross in these other venues. Those blunders will not be overly elaborated
here, but a few must be mentioned. Sparks demonstrated numerous and monstrous
errors of math and values of exponentials.
On a number of occasions Ross has stated that DNA is either
made of proteins or is itself a protein. This error appeared in the first edition
of The Fingerprint of God, but was corrected in the second edition.
Ross has completely botched the story of the peppered moths
of England. He has called them butterflies, and said that they were green. The
latter gaffe is apparently because he misunderstands the nature of the moths’
alleged evolutionary advantage, thinking that the moths were supposed to be
found on foliage rather than trunks of trees. It is common for evolutionists
to blow the story of the peppered moths,43 but Ross has exceeded them all.
Ross has said that average human eyesight is three times better
than it was 2,000 years ago. This is another example of an absurd and unfounded
claim made entirely without documentation.
Ross also claimed that the Pacific Ocean basin is the scar
left from when the moon was formed by separation from the earth. That is a very
old idea that was discarded decades ago. Today, the Pacific Ocean basin is explained
entirely by plate tectonics. These blunders and outdated ideas are inexcusable
for a scientist. That is ironic, because Ross often dismisses his creationist
critics for supposedly not having the credentials to adequately understand science
Both Davidheiser and Sparks show the sloppy manner in which
Ross approaches science and facts in general. One illustration dealing with
astronomy will demonstrate this. A few years ago, Hugh Ross and Duane
Gish were guests on James Dobson’s popular radio program, Focus on the
Family. During the discussion, the question of star formation came up. Gish
questioned the possibility and observations of star formation today. In his
response Ross, blithely stated that ‘ ... we see star
formation in real time. You can take your pair of binoculars out tonight and
watch it. It’s actually happening.’44
That is a blatantly false statement that no other astronomer would endorse.
Perhaps what Ross meant to say was that with a pair of binoculars anyone could
see regions in space where stars are thought to be forming now. Most astronomers
today would consider that statement to be true. However, that is not what Ross
said. He was either being very sloppy or incompetent. In either case his statement
certainly misled many people.
Ross’s Book Blunders
While Ross’s biggest blunders occur in public addresses, even
his books contain some careless errors. For instance, his most recent book places
the Scopes trial in 1927,45 not correctly in 1925. Subtler, but equally troubling
examples, of bungling abound. For instance, Ross recently claimed that the current
71 to 29 percent ratio of water-to-land surface on the earth ‘...
has been theoretically and observationally demonstrated to provide the maximum
possible diversity and complexity of life.’46 No reference was given for this statement, so it
is impossible to determine where Ross discovered this ‘fact’ or if indeed he
incorrectly handled it as well. Given the many variables involved in determining
such a thing, it is difficult to conceive that one could reach such a conclusion
theoretically. But even more troubling is the assertion that this has been ‘observationally
demonstrated’. Short of observing a large number of earth-like worlds with various
water-to-land ratios and counting the flora and fauna on each, just how could
such a thing be demonstrated observationally? In the same book Ross writes that
‘ ... theory and observations
both confirm that all planets start with opaque atmospheres.’47 Again, no references were given, but short of directly
observing the birth and development of a large number of planets, how could
this be observationally tested? To some these may seem like petty objections,
but these sorts of misstatements are common in Ross’s works.
Ross’s Personal Testimony
Ross’s testimony is contained in nearly all of his books. The
elements are essentially this. Ross was raised in a moral, but not Christian,
or even religious, family. As a teenager, he became very interested in science.
At the age of 15, he concluded that the big bang must be true, and that the
existence of the world demanded that there be a Creator, so he began a study
of religions. He decided that the one true religion should be self-consistent
and that it should agree with the natural world. He began reading the Bible,
starting with Genesis, and he saw that it alone met the requirements of being
the one true religion. He found that the Bible contained no errors or contradictions,
which led him to salvation through the blood of Jesus.
This story reflects the statements of Romans 1 regarding what
is called natural revelation, and we can rejoice in his salvation. But Ross
claims that as a teenager he was struck with how well the Genesis account agreed
with what he knew that science had revealed about the origin of the world. That
is difficult to believe. Nearly everyone who reads the Genesis creation account
for the first time comes away with the strong impression that the Bible and
‘science’ have serious disagreements about origins. That is why there are so
many different ways in which harmonization is attempted.
Much of Ross’s harmonization is very similar to that of the
late Peter Stoner, who had a popular level book that enjoyed broad readership
about the time that Ross was a teenager.48 Could it be that Stoner influenced Ross? If so,
why does Ross fail to acknowledge this? Interestingly, Hugh Ross wrote the foreword
to the progressive creationist book by Stoner’s grandson, which echoes Ross’s
scientific sloppiness, egregious eisegesis, and general Scriptura sub scientia
approach.49 Ross clearly implies that he came to his understanding
of Genesis solely by his own reading of the passage. If there were any other
influences that guided him, then his repeated omissions go far beyond merely
Just a few of the incorrect and untrue statements of Hugh Ross
have been explored. The concentration here has been on scientific issues. Others,
such as Van Bebber and Taylor,10 and Kelly,18 have
documented many of Ross’s outrageous biblical assertions, which demonstrate
that Ross’s poor scholarship extends to biblical studies as well.
Dishonesty or incompetence? It is difficult to say. While I
cannot decide which explanation best characterizes Ross, I am very concerned
with his inability to correctly handle factual information. On many occasions
Ross has greatly bungled information. On other occasions he has appeared to
have a total disregard for the truth. Some have found that when Ross is informed
of his gaffes, he blithely goes on as if he never heard the criticism. There
seems to be no accountability. Ross frequently overstates his arguments. There
are very serious problems with his biblical studies and questions about his
scientific competence. I hope that the issues raised here will cause those who
entertain Ross’s teachings to re-examine his pronouncements. Contrary to what
many believe, Ross’s case is riddled with errors. Those who agree with his approach
to Genesis should be embarrassed with the extent of his sloppy work.
See also: Exposé of NavPress’s new Hugh Ross
book by Jonathan Sarfati
Ross, H., Genesis One: A Scientific
Perspective, Wiseman Productions, Sierra Madre, California, 1983. Return
Ross, H.N., The Fingerprint of God,
Promise Publishing, Orange, CA, 1989. Return to text.
Ross, H.N., Creation and Time,
Navpress, Colorado Springs, 1994. Return to text.
Ross, H.N., The Creator and the Cosmos,
Navpress, Colorado Springs, 1995. Return to text.
Ross, H.N., Beyond the Cosmos,
Navpress, Colorado Springs, 1996. Return to text.
Ross, H.N., The Genesis Question,
Navpress, Colorado Springs, 1998. [See review by Jonathan Sarfati,
from CEN Tech. J. 13(2):
22-30, 1999Ed.] Return to text.
The science of originsunrepeated events
(singularities) of the pastis contrasted with operation sciencerepeatable
regularities in the presentin more detail in Normal, L., Geisler, N.L.
and Anderson, J.K., Origin Science: A Proposal for the Creation-Evolution
Controversy, Baker books, Grand Rapids, MI, 1987. Return to text.
Johnson, P.E., Reason in the Balance,
InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1995. Return to text.
Sagan, C., Cosmos, Random House,
New York, p. 4, 1980. Return to text.
Van Bebber, M. and Taylor, P.S., Creation and Time:
A report on the Progressive Creationist book by Hugh Ross, Eden Productions,
Mesa, AZ, 1994. Return to text.
Ross, Ref. 3, p. 56. Return to text.
Ross, Ref. 3, p. 57. Return to text.
Ross, Ref. 1, pp. 181-182. Return to text.
Berkhof, L., Introductory volume to
Systematic Theology, pp. 60, 96. Return to text.
Ross, H.N., Dallas Theological
Seminary Chapel Service, 1997. Return to text.
Jastrow, R., God and the Astronomers,
Norton, 1978. Return to text.
Van Bebber and Taylor, Ref. 10. Return to text.
Kelly, D.F., Creation and Change: Genesis 1:1-2:4 in the light of changing scientific paradigms, Mentor (Christian Focus Publications), Ross-shire,
UK, 1997; see review by Wieland,
C., CEN Tech. J. 12(2):152-154,
1998. Return to text.
Ross, Ref. 1, p. 12. Return to text.
Ross, Ref. 6, pp. 38-53. Return to text.
Van Bebber and Taylor, Ref. 10, pp. 84-91.
Return to text.
If God Created the Universe, then Who Created God?
CEN Tech. J. 12(1)20-22,
1998. Return to text.
Guth, A.H., The Inflationary Universe,
Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1997. Return to text.
Hawking, S., A Brief History of Time,
Bantam, New York, 1988. Return to text.
Davies, P., The Mind of God, Simon
and Schuster, New York, 1992. Return to text.
Weinberg, S., The First Three Minutes,
Basic Books, New York, 1977. Return to text.
Rees, M., Before the Beginning,
Addison Wesley, Reading, MA, 1997. Return to text.
Starlight and Time, Master Books, Green Forest, AR,
USA, 1994. Return to text.
Book review of Beyond the Cosmos, by Hugh Ross, CRSQ 34:242-243,
1988. Return to text.
Craig, W.L., Hugh Ross’ extra-dimensional
deity: a review article, J. Evang. Theol. Soc. 42(2):293-304,
1999; quotes on pp. 193,304. Amazingly, Craig calls Ross ‘evangelicalism’s
most important scientific apologist’, which, as shown here, is hardly
flattering about Craig’s own scientific competence. Return
Ross, Ref. 5, 35. Return to text.
Ross, Ref. 3, pp. 116-117. Return to text.
Comets and the Age of the Solar System, CEN
Tech. J. 11(3):264-273, 1997. Return
Ross, Ref. 4, pp. 37-38. Return to text.
Ross, Ref. 4, p. 116. Return to text.
Ross, Ref. 4, pp. 42-43. Return to text.
Ross, Ref. 4, pp. 24-26. Return to text.
Ross, Ref. 6, p. 31. Return to text.
Johnson, Ref. 8, p. 32. Return to text.
Shigeru I., Canup, R.M. and Stewart,
G.R., Lunar accretion from an impact-generated disk, Nature
389(6649):353-357, 1997; comment by Lissauer, J.J., It’s not easy
to make the moon, same issue, pp. 327-328. [See also The Moon: The light that rules the nightEd.] Return
Davidheiser, B., Creation, Time, and
Dr. Hugh Ross, self-published, La Mirada, CA, 1998. Return to text.
Sparks, B., Pers. comm., 1999. Return to text.
See Wieland, C., Goodbye, peppered
moths: A classic evolutionary story unstuck, Creation 21(3):56,
1999. Return to text.
Text of the Focus on the Family
radio broadcast on August 12, 1992. The transcript may be found at: <http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/gish-ross-debate.html>
(on a pro-evolution and mainly atheistic website). Return
Ross, Ref. 6, p. 88. Return to text.
Ross, Ref. 6, p. 38, Return to text.
Ross, Ref. 6, p. 26. Return to text.
Stoner, P.W., Science Speaks,
Moody, Chicago, 1958. Return to text.
Stoner, D., A New Look at an Old Earth,
Resolving the conflict between the Bible and science, Harvest House,
Eugene, OR, 1997. See reviews of the 1992 edition by DeYoung, D., Creation Res. Soc. Quarterly 31(2):94,
1994; Garner, P., Origins 21:17-19, 1996most of their
criticisms apply equally well to the 1997 edition. Return to text.
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