Archive for the ‘Young Earth Creation Science’ Category

war kids

Young Earthers are often accused of arguing in an “ad hoc” manner.1

Confused about what this means exactly?  I suspect young Earth critics are as well; but let’s be as fair as we can to them.  I think it’s best to construe them as accusing us YECs of being the annoying neighborhood kid who never falls down when shot.

We all know the type.  We’re playing war and we’re too poor for fancy Nerf-shooters so we use sticks for guns.  If a good stick isn’t available we’ll use fingers instead.  We point and shoot…“bang! bang! Got you!”.  But there’s always an annoying kid in the neighborhood who cries out, with all the indignation his reprobate little heart can muster:  “nuh uh! You didn’t get me!”

Ever try arguing with this kid?  His responses are a perfect illustration of ad hoc reasoning.  First, he’ll say you missed your pretend shot.  “I was aiming right at you though,” we’ll reply.  Ok, fine, so maybe he was wearing body armor?  “Yeah, but I shot you in the head”, we say.  Yeah, but what we didn’t know was that, not only was he wearing armor, he’s also Wolverine, so bullet wounds instantly heal.

Getting angry, we might play our own ad hoc game at this point and reply:  “oh yeah?  Well my bullets were adamantium-laced and can pierce Wolverine’s skull!”  Of course, our buddy is ready with something like:  “yeah, but what you also don’t know is that I’m Wolverine from an alternate universe and I have the power of a god and can’t be harmed by bullets!” 

The neighborhood kid is “tacking-on” new facts as a way to rescue an initial thesis which he refuses to give up because he’s so emotionally attached to it.  His belief that he wasn’t shot is “immune from revision”.  But furthermore, this immunity has effectively removed him from the war game all together.  In other words:  given the parameters of the game, no alternate-dimension god-like Wolverine can be allowed without ruining it.

Back to the Young Earth critics: 

I take them to be suggesting something similar.  They seem to be suggesting that Young Earthers hold to their belief in a particular historical narrative so strongly, that, to rescue it from revision, they end up having to “tack on” a long string of arbitrary and…”ad hoc” … explanatory propositions.  So many, as a matter of fact, they end up invalidating the “game” of scientific analysis all together.

In response to this sort of accusation, Dr. Bahnsen accuses the critic of “concealed ax grinding”.

“It is a pernicious idea that every truth that is significant is exclusively determined by empirical (observational) procedure, consigning the remainder of the truths (as well as all necessity) to the conventions of language. To hold such an opinion is well concealed ax-grinding.”

Well…perhaps not as “well-concealed” anymore, thanks to Dr. Bahnsen.  He’s saying some people grant revisionary immunity to the idea that “the only significant truths are those truths determined via empirical procedures”; some people also grant revisionary immunity to the idea that the Earth is very old; and some, like us Young Earthers, grant revisionary immunity to the idea that the Bible is our guide to how we interpret nature.

In terms of the Young Earth critic, what is happening is this:  he has (slyly) traded a strong emotional attachment to a Scriptural narrative for a strong emotional attachment to some evolutionary myth.  Where the Young Earther grants revisionary immunity to a literal reading of Gensis, the Young Earth critic grants revisionary immunity to whatever version of old-age mythos he holds to.  The dirty little secret here is that all parties in the discussion have a set of beliefs they will not allow to be revised.

So when a critic of Young Earth models accuses the Young Earther of being “ad hoc”, we need simply reply that all of us must argue in light of a set of basically-held beliefs…even the Young Earth critic!

If he’s philosophically savvy, he might reply (at this point) that such a move ends in skepticism for everyone and science would be an impossible enterprise.  We could never properly analyze any empirical data because we’d never know from which set of basically-held beliefs we should argue from.

At this point, all the Young Earther has to do is smile and say something like:

“…yeah, you’re right.  The only way we could do science at all is if we had some authoritative word about which set of basically-held beliefs we are to hold as immune from revision.” 

Bang! Bang! Got you! 🙂


1. While accusations of “ad hoc” reasoning are fairly common on the internet, I’ll provide two examples to clarify. The first, from Patheos blogger James McGrath:

“But when young-earth creationists add such ad hoc justifications (as they must time and time again), it inevitably involves not merely departing further from what the scientific evidence indicates, but also adding additional extrabiblical scaffolding to buttress the young-earth creationist view of “what the Bible says,” making the young-earth system as a whole resemble “what the Bible says” even less than it does now.”

The Second, from “Talk Origins” author David Matson in critique of Dr. Hovind:

“Aside from totally ignoring the last 60 years of solar science, this ad hoc argument also ignores the massive evidence relating to ancient climates. (A much larger sun in our recent geological past would have had a noticeable effect on the climate.) The creationist advocates of the Helmholtz contraction argue that their idea rules out the possibility of past geological ages. Just the opposite is true! The evidence for ancient climates, spanning millions of years, is massive and well documented; it rules out this ad hoc use of the Helmholtz contraction.”

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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.