How to be a Young Earth Creationist

Posted: August 9, 2014 in Young Earth Creation Science
Tags: , , , , , ,

noahs-ark

Let’s face it, few people take Young Earth Creationism seriously.  The Darwinian mythos has so permeated the Western mind that few are able to consider non-Darwinian explanations of Earth’s history.   Those of us who do are seen as quacks, oddballs, or at best, naive and uneducated.

The situation is worse when we consider that some of the most vocal proponents of Young Earth models end up being intellectually unsophisticated or cartoonish public figures.  What’s more, many associate their Young Earth Creationism with outlandish end-time views, or, as is the case with the popular Answers in Genesis, they tie politically correct rhetoric in so thoroughly with their Creationism, many conservatives are repulsed by the entire package.  Add to it all a general suspicion of academia in some fundamentalist circles, and Young Earth ideals seem handicapped out of the gate.

Despite all that, I’m a Young Earth Creationist.  I believe the Earth is something like six thousand years old, that men and dinosaurs (the really big ones) walked the Earth at the same time (on second thought, men were probably running  instead of walking), and that God destroyed the world with a giant flood that wiped out everything except for those on board Noah’s Ark.

How can I possibly believe this in light of the “overwhelming” (~ sigh ~) evidence to the contrary?  Do I shut off my mind completely?  Do I stick my fingers in my ears and hum?

Quite the opposite, actually.

Young Earth Creationists infuriate modernists so much, I can’t resist being one; further, when I sit down and read my Bible without bias, I read a simple fairy tale story.  It’s that story and the hero it describes, I fell in love with and owe my allegiance to.

But to defend Young Earth Creationism on exegetical grounds is to face a myriad of modernist seminary students, all experts in the Greek and Hebrew, and all hell-bent on putting us naive “fundamentalists” in our place.  They’ll patiently (though condescendingly) lecture us about how the words in Genesis don’t mean what they appear to mean, or that the genre of Genesis renders the entire narrative irrelevant for historical commentary.

The Young Earther, unless he’s ready to go head to head with hoards of well trained Hebrew scholars, need not take that line of defense.  It’s not that we don’t have our own Hebrew scholars; rather, the present concern is over proper interpretive method.  (We will aim to show that empirical data of the natural world does not force our understanding of Scripture; rather, Scripture should force our understanding of the data.)

So, setting aside issues of Scriptural interpretation, we need to ask: what of the science then?  To defend Young Earth Creationism on factual grounds is to wade into an endless mire of specialized debates about any given area of scientific inquiry.  The Young Earther might find himself having to be an expert in biology, astrophysics, or the finer points of geology and genetics.  He might be engaged in mathematics or astronomy.  Young Earthers have their own models in each of these fields, and debates about which model “best” adheres to the facts are always going to end up in a quagmire of specialities; and no layman can handle all that.

In fact, to try handling all that is a mistake, and this leads me to the punchline:  how can one be an intellectually sophisticated Young Earth Creationist?

It’s a matter of a slight (though necessary) epistemological flourish; a move popularized by the secular philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine in his essay “Web of Belief”, though popularized in the Reformed community by the late Greg Bahnsen.

Before laying this out, however, it’s important to set up the syllogism so everyone can clearly see what is taking place.  I browse a philosophy of religion blog from time to time, The Prosblogian.  The following is from an attempt by blogger Alexander Pruss, to defend Genesis 1-3:

Consider this argument:

1.If Christianity is right, every assertion of rightly interpreted Scripture is true.

2.Genesis 1-3 is rightly interpreted literalistically.

3.The approximate truth of our best relevant science contradicts the assertions of Genesis 1-3 when these texts are interpreted literalistically.

4.Our best relevant science is approximately true.

5.So, Christianity is not right.

As a hip modernist, Pruss repeatedly declares that the “obvious” way out of this argument is to deny (2).  What sane “hip” theist (they can’t bring themselves to use the title “Christian” in public – they must be “theists”) could do otherwise?  Nevertheless, philosophers do like being clever and playing games, and so he intends to deny (3) by offering some off-the-cuff narrative that will fit equally well with a literal reading of Genesis, as well as modern Darwinian scientific paradigms.

You can read his blog for yourself to see if you think his proffered story is at all interesting.  (While it may possibly defeat premise 3, it’s not a story anyone would take seriously, and is useful for little more than a demonstration that it is possible to defeat 3, even if no one cares to do so).

Here’s where we need to consider Quine.

As a Young Earth Creationist, I would reject (4), even though Pruss would call my doing so, “engaging in revisionist science”.  He says that as a slur, as if anyone who would disagree with contemporary scientific paradigms must be a loon, or otherwise intellectually unstable.

I’d like to make two points in response to this:

1.  Considering what we’ve learned from the Postmodernists thinkers, it’s naive to dogmatically stick within one paradigm, and act as if there is no possible explanation of the facts other than what you’ve been taught in your undergrad biology class.  It’s almost as if Pruss thinks that anyone who doesn’t live within his chosen paradigm, is mentally handicapped or something.  You can almost see these people snuff their noses and look away, chins held high, as they callously dismiss the outsider.

So, rejecting point (4) may necessarily require doing some “revision” of modern scientific paradigms, but that shouldn’t be seen as an absurdity.  Rather, it should be accepted with a spirit of Scientific inquisitiveness and curiosity; who knows what new discoveries await, outside the pre-packaged Darwinian box?

And

2.  It’s a mistake to assume that “facts” speak for themselves.  This is where Quine comes in, with his web of belief.  Suppose, after investigating the world, one of your beliefs was proven false.  We all hold our beliefs in tandem with many other beliefs, and thus, upon discovering one is false, we must change the other supporting beliefs.  Dr. Bahnsen was fond of the following illustration:

1.  We believe gods are immortal.

2.  We believe Apollo is a god.

3.  While doing scientific study on the battlefield, we empirically witness Apollo dying (after having been run through with a sword).

In this illustration, 3 is an empirical “fact” that we’ve discovered about the world.

The question is, which of the first two beliefs does (3) require us to give up?  Maybe you think, “oh, (2) must be wrong, Apollo wasn’t a god, I guess.”  But someone else may say “No, no, Apollo was a God, we were just wrong to believe in (1):  god’s aren’t immortal after all”.

Actually, there is no way of telling which premise the “fact” of (3) will cause a person to give up.  He may give up (1) or he may give up (2).  Which the person will give up and which he will keep, depends on which proposition he has more of an emotional attachment to.

The same is true (though on a much more complex level) with any “fact” the Scientific community lays before us.  Any of these “facts” can be interpreted in any number of ways, depending on the underlying emotional commitments (or biases) of the ones doing the interpreting.

Thus, we Young Earthers are fully within our rights to accept the field of scientific data, while rejecting the accepted “paradigms” through which these data are interpreted and explained; even if pretentious modernists like Pruss insult us by calling it “revisionist” to do so.

I’ll offer a very generalized illustration of how this might work:

1. A certain rock has a given ratio of potassium to argon.

2.  Potassium breaks down into argon at an even rate.

Conclusion – we can measure how much potassium is in the rock, and how much argon, and determine how old the rock is by looking at how much of the one there is vs. how much of the other.   This particular rock has a high amount of argon, and a low amount of potassium, so it must be … so many millions of years old.

Premise (1) and (2) are “scientific facts”, that no one can possibly deny, and that have (presumably) been empirically verified countless times.  What stupid Young Earth Creationist, then, could possibly deny that the rock is millions of years old?

I’ll be yer’ huckleberry.

The scientists know that argon is a gas and tends to “bubble out” of liquid magma, so when the rock cooled, it presumably had all potassium, and no argon.  Any argon content in the rock after that, is the result of potassium break-down over the years.

All of these data are most likely true – but the assumption that there was no argon in the rocks when they formed, is pure speculation.  If, for instance, a giant flood instantly hardened the rock before the argon could “bubble out”, then the scientists who assume there was no argon in it initially could potentially be off in the date by millions of years.

Is this “revisionist” science?  If it is, then it doesn’t sound so bad to me.

In any case, the Young Earth Creationist is well within his intellectual rights to reject contemporary models in favor of Young Earth models (which, however shaky or unreliable they may be, do exist and are getting better and more sophisticated by the day).

Plus, it’s just plain fun to infuriate modernists with talk of dinosaurs and man living together.

 

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Comments
  1. Charlie Liebert says:

    What is the reference to Answers in Genesis referring to?

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    • Aaron says:

      Hi Charlie, thanks for visiting my apologetics ministry.

      I’m a little surprised though that, out of the entire article, you chose to focus on the Answers-in-Genesis line. What do you make of the point I raise about Young Earthers being within our intellectual rights to reject popular Darwinian models in favor of Young Earth models?

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      • Rick Hartzog says:

        The argument that the amount of argon present in the rock at closing temperature cannot be known is incorrect. Argon-argon dating is used in conjunction with potassium-argon dating specifically for that purpose.

        Given the totality of the evidence, there is one, and only one, semi-defensible “paradigm” available to the intellectually honest Young Earther: “apparent age.” It isn’t just a matter of the ratio of potassium to argon in a particular rock; the *entirety* of the amount of radioactive decay we observe everywhere we look, the agreement between radiometric ages measured by several different radioisotopes, and the agreement between radiometric and non-radiometric measures of age leave only two possible conclusions: either the Earth and Universe really are very much older than the constraints of Young Earth Creationism can accommodate, or God created it all to look exactly as it would if it were just as old as the scientists say it is.

        And you may think it’s funny to irritate folks with your “man co-existed with dinosaurs” routine, but the totality of the evidence, for those who know what the evidence is, exposes a certain lack of intellectual integrity in anyone who makes this claim. The K-T boundary marking the extinction of the dinosaurs is one of the most securely dated events in geologic history, using *many different* radioisotopes, and they *all* show about 65 million years of radioactive decay between the iridium layer and the present day. If that amount of radioactive decay had occurred anytime within the last 10,000 years the Earth would still be in a molten state, and would necessarily push the radiometric dates for the demise of the Pleistocene megafauna up to sometime last week.

        Until creation scientists can explain the agreement between radiometric and non-radiometric indicators of age, such as why the C-14 ages for 60,000 annual varves in Lake Suigetsu grow progressively greater the deeper we go, why tephra from the varves can be assigned to certain volcanic eruptions by both their chemical signature *and* their potassium-argon ages *and* their place in the varve chronology *and* their C-14 age, and why *there is no discernible boundary* between the way the varves were forming in the very recent past and the way they were forming 10,000 years ago, there will be no need in paying the creationists the least bit of attention when it comes to their “scientific” claims and talk of “paradigms.” Either it’s old or God made it to look exactly as it would look if it really were old.

        Either way, that’s the end of “creation science,” since if God made it to look old then the creation scientists do err in claiming the evidence indicates a young age. There really isn’t any way around that. For myself, I choose to accept the evidence as it is and a non-trickster God whose Creation speaks true of its Creator.

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        • Aaron Dale says:

          What you are is a naive empiricist.

          You can quibble with my illustration all you’d like, but what you can’t do is demonstrate that there is one empirical data that “speaks for itself” and is immune from revisionary explanation.

          It’s simply not possible, no matter what the American education system teaches pupils.

          The fact is – there are simply no empirical data that are so indubitable as to demand particular readings of Scripture. Instead – Scripture is to be our guiding paradigm for how to interpret empirical data.

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          • Rick Hartzog says:

            That’s fine; your claim that the amount of argon present in the magma when it cooled cannot be known is itself an empirical claim and, as such, is empirically wrong. You yourself use empiricism in your interpretation of Scripture — the Bible never tells us what a “tree” is and you reach into your real-world experience to assign meaning to a word on a page.

            Without empiricism, when God told Jeremiah that He had made him an iron pillar and a brazen wall, you have no idea whether that should be figurative speech. For that matter, you have no idea what iron is, or what a pillar is, or walls or brass or anything.

            In other words, without empiricism you can make any claim whatsoever about what the Scripture is saying and there is nothing in the world that can prove your interpretation is wrong. And that *is* what you are talking about, you know — not Scripture itself but *your interpretation* of Scripture. But since your interpretation of Scripture can neither be falsified by real-world evidence nor justified above any other person’s particular interpretation, and since your claims about the evidence are falsified by the evidence itself, you have no business bringing up potassium-argon dating in the first place.

            And you are overlooking the fact that the Bible itself is the result of an empirical process. When the 3rd Century fathers were deciding what should and shouldn’t be included in the New Testament, they did so on the basis of empiricism — whether the real-world evidence supported the idea that the books were written by who they purport to be written by, and whether those authors were proximate to the events that are described. Without empiricism, for all you know the 3rd Century never even existed, because the Bible surely never makes mention of it.

            And I would really like to see you use Scripture to explain, from a young-earth perspective, the features of the Suigetsu varves, which do indeed have real-world physical existence. I say it can’t be done without appealing to “apparent age” — Time itself would have had to be whizzing by, covering 13 billion years in six “days,” and then magically screeching the brakes about 6,000 years ago with all the previous “apparent” events intact, including the “apparent” dinosaur fossils in the rocks and “apparent” starlight. All well and good for you and the trickster god you have created simply because you can’t forsake your interpretation of words on a page, but again, it spells the end for any valid appeals to the empiricism of “creation science.”

            Well, all well and good, I should say, except for your claim that the dinosaurs co-existed with man, because of course, without empiricism you have no knowledge of dinosaurs to begin with.

            Empiricism shows creation science to be false, and rejecting empiricism negates your need for creation science in the first place, or for any other explanation of how things happen in the physical Universe. And that leaves you right where I said in my previous post, unable to delineate the boundary between what in God’s Creation — the physical Universe — is real and what is only apparent.

            I’m not quite so naive as you might imagine, for without empiricism you have no reason to believe that the light bouncing off your Bible and entering your conciousness in a pattern suggestive of words on a page is not all just a product of that same imagination.

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  2. Aaron Dale says:

    I’m afraid you’re just not grasping the point of this post – and unfortunately, I can’t twist your arm and make you interact with the argument.

    Like

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