Friend Request

I was recently contacted on Facebook by someone I don’t know, but with whom I share mutual Facebook friends. The individual is a young-earth creationist. Since I don’t see it as appropriate or useful to have a conversation with a complete stranger privately on Facebook, I am inviting the individual to interact here if they wish to. Below is the conversation thus far – I removed the individual’s name and put his words in bold.


  • James McGrath :Do I know you?
  • Not directly, but we do have 48 mutual friends and apparently are both convicted Christians. I also run an FB site named Young Earth Christian Creationists Coalition.
  • James McGrathI am a Christian who is opposed to the promotion of pseudoscience in the name of Christianity, which does great harm. So no thank you.
  • OK. But I’d submit that old earth creationism is pseudoscience, not young earth. But regardless, in declining my friendship request, please indicate you know me because if you say you don’t, FB stupidly considers the request harassment. Your declination still will be counted and we will not be FB friends. Thanks for your cooperation in that regard.
  • James McGrathWhat are your qualifications in one of the relevant scientific disciplines? I don’t see that on your profile. Why should anyone in their right mind or who is concerned about truth listen to your views which you are seeking to peddle on Facebook, sowing dissension, making the world think that Christianity is only for liars and those who refuse to accept evidence, and setting up Christians to think that they must choose between reason and science on the one hand and their Christian faith on the other? Why would they not do better to listen to someone like Francis Collins, whose Christian character and scientific expertise are clear?
  • Collins is a compromiser. Throw away the staightforward reading of Genesis and the rest of Christian doctrine becomes undermined. Maybe the resurrection didn’t really happen for example, even though it is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. There are many scientific experts who concur with a Young Earth position. The early scientific greats also believed in a young earth, such as Newton himself and I believe Pasteur and George Washington Carver, among other luminaries. The Institute for Creation Research is full of highly credentialed scientists past and present such as Jerry Bergman (who has something like seven different science degrees), Duane Gish, Henry Morris, Russ Humphreys and a number of others such as Thomas Kindell and Don Patton who support the young earth hypothesis. An honest reading of the Bible discredits an old earth approach. My qualifications are that I understand what I read and as a practicing attorney of 35 years standing I have to be able to separate the grain from the chaff. I run the forum, I don’t dictate on it, but the young earth hypothesis is more consistent with true science. A young earth makes infinitely more sense and is consistent with Scripture without game-playing by trying to read between the lines to come up with specious gap and day-age theories. A number of scientists and pastors are on my forum.
  • Why don’t you take a look at my forum and decide for yourself if it has any merit? It doesn’t sound like you’ve really read that much on the subject but rather have subjectively followed the mainstream without question. The mainstream is evolutionary, which as far as I’m concerned is definitely anti-Christian. So the mainstream is not necessarily the most credible.
  • James McGrathYou have been misinformed about a great many things related to both the Bible and science. And you denigrate as compromisers those who understand things you have either failed to or simply have never informed yourself about. Disgraceful for anyone, but particularly shameful coming from someone who calls himself as Christian and ought to have truth as a priority.
  • So people like Newton were disgraceful? The scientists I’ve mentioned are disgraceful? What weighing of the arguments have you actually made?

    If you haven’t actually compared the relative arguments you cannot tell me that you pursue truth.

  • James McGrathI used to be a young-earth creationist, and I regret having fallen prey to the charlatans who peddle this stuff. It is precisely because I have looked into the subject in depth that I oppose young-earth creationism with every fiber of my being as a diabolical lie.

    Isaac Newton might be worth comparing to someone like Francis Collins who actually does science and is a Christian. He is not comparable to people who do nothing to advance our scientific understanding and think themselves clever or good Christians because they offer ignorant criticisms of science from the sidelines.

    If you want to interact more, you can read some of the posts on my blog about this topic and interact with me there.

    But you’d do better to read serious books on this topic, since you are clearly informed at the level of a superficial Facebook discussion, and are making pronouncements without having understood the topics about which you hold such strong opinions.

  • I’ll read your stuff, but you’re very wrong that I haven’t delved into these issues. And for every person who turns from young earth to old, there are probably 10 who are of the opposite conversion. Old earth analysis simply fails when direct comparisons are made. If you’d like to decline my friend request, go right ahead. But there are many well-read members on my forum who are highly credentialed scientists, so I know I have a lot of support. I find it amusing you think you’re the only one who can make an informed judgment.
  • I’ve just withdrawn my friend request, so I guess we’re both happy. But I suspect you haven’t really investigated the dating methods to intelligently arrive at your old earth stance.
  • James McGrathNo, I am not happy that there is someone who genuinely believes that as an armchair critic he knows a field better than the people who work in it, and is associating the name of Jesus with the lies that he is helping to circulate because he has been duped by charlatans and has not learned enough science or Bible to see through their false teachings.
  • It’s amazing to me who you call charlatans. What are your own scientific degrees that you can call people like Newton, Gish, Bergman and Humphreys charlatans?
  • James McGrathYou do not need a scientific degree to accept the consensus of scientists, do you? When someone reads the Bible, they must either read it in their own language and trust the experts in the original languages who translated it, or become such an expert in the languages that they can make their own conclusions. The problem is with people without expertise declaring the experts incompetent or part of a global conspiracy. I can’t believe I ever thought that those were more real possibilities than that I was being lied to by young-earth creationists. But I was a teenager, and it is more disturbing when adults who ought to be mature Christians, and who ought to know that many come in Jesus’ name but are deceivers, fall for this stuff with no fact-checking or suspicion.
  • It sounds like you don’t know much about the way of the world, and that’s your real problem. You’re willing to go with the herd without thinking and comparing things for yourself. With all the frauds that have occurred with evolution, from recapitulation to Piltdown Man to the ridiculous horse series, all rooted in pseudoscience, you can’t distinguish the forest from the trees yet. Mainstream science is evolutionary. Hopefully, if you recognize that, you can see that that can extend to other arenas of faith, such as young earth and old earth, and that it is really an atheistic approach to Scripture to advocate for an old earth, as well as irresponsible and inconsistent with the literal text. You sound very gullible to me. There are many agendas promoted by science and scientists are as fallible as anybody else.
  • James McGrath:  Can I then assume that you think the Earth is flat since the majority thinks it is spheroid? That you think Jesus never existed since historians agree that he did? Just going against the flow for the sake of it is sheer silliness. And if the experts are as incompetent or as dishonest as you think, then you shouldn’t be following them on any of those other things.

    There have of course been frauds and errors in science as in all domains. It has always been scientists who have exposed and corrected those. Not the sideline critics.

    If you want to continue this conversation, I will post it on my blog and we can move it there. It seems like it ought to be open for others to participate in, with opportunity for scientists to chime in.

  • You’ve drawn the ridiculous assumption that I adopt positions because they are contrarian. Piltdown Man took over 40 years to “correct,” so no blue ribbons there, and you’ve totally missed the point. Haeckel was attacked from the very start for his recapitulation nonsense but mainstream “scientists” turned the other cheek. An old earth premise is necessary to sustain the idol of evolution, but it is false. And I don’t consider mainstream experts any more authoritative than the dissident ones; their arguments still must be evaluated independently and objectively. Otherwise we’re committing the logical fallacy of “Appeal to Authority” and “Genetic Fallacy” concerning the dissidents. And you’re still not absorbing that they are susceptible to agendas and peer pressure. I would be interested in what your “scientists” say.
  • James McGrathOK, I will post this on the blog and let scientists who read it respond to you in detail. You have clearly been getting what you mistakenly think is scientific information from notorious charlatans. Didn’t it ever occur to you to fact-check their claims?

  • They give cites just like your own “scientists” do. It’s amazing to me how easily you’ve been conned.
  • James McGrathGive cites? Do you mean that they cite sources? Anyone can do that – even students who will get a failing grade because they cited sources but did not understand them.

    I will let you know where the conversation is posted on the blog once I get it up there…

  • Simon Cozens

    And this, basically, is why philosophy of science needs to be a mandatory school subject. If people have no idea how science *works* at a fundamental level, if people don’t understand the demarcation problem, if people don’t know what a “theory” is and what it means, then you’re going to get this kind of “your science is as good as mine” junk. Without understanding what science *is*, teaching scientific fact is a bit of a waste of time.

    By the way, I’ve always meant to say this on one of your YEC posts: my observation is that YEC is predominantly a North American thing. European churches seem much more at ease with science and don’t insist you have to reject scientific consensus to be a Christian, although of course there are isolated pockets. It seems on the contrary that the majority of American Evangelicals can’t reconcile evolution with their faith – why America? That just tells me that it is more a sociological problem than a scientific or theological one.

    • Lobi

      I wish that were completely so, but Australia has a strong YEC tradition and the UK is starting to get conned by their American counterparts.

      • cameronhorsburgh

        Ken Ham is one of Australia’s favourite exports! Just keep him there, will you?

        • Lobi

          I wish we could keep the whole lot of ‘em somewhere in that nice big desert we have in the middle. Lots of space to do whatever it is young Earth creationist pseudo-scientists do.

    • Jim Dew

      While it may be true that we Americans, as a group, have less understanding of the overwhelming geological evidence of our planet’s age and have more individuals who are willing to ignore the extensive libraries of accumulated scientific literature discussing the evidence for evolution uncovered by biologists, paleontologists, and researchers from every empirical discipline that strives to understand the structure and/or behavior of living creatures — we DO seem to have the most lawyers who present rhetorical arguments that deny the physical evidence and defy scientific reasoning, and extirpate the predictive power that results from combining these.

  • Anthony Lawson

    All I can say is, wow! Newton and others who predated much of the advances of science due to the work of Lyell and Darwin and can be excused for not knowing what we know today about the ancient age of the earth.The claim that there is more people turning from old earth to young earth needs to be demonstrated and is at best anecdotal. I think it be can shown that people who adopt young earth creationism do so for ulterior reasons, often due to converting to fundamentalist faith, than because of the science.

  • Just Sayin’

    Yikes, this one has the hide of a rhino. Any and all reasonable comments made to him just bounce off, because he thinks he’s heard it all before, and because he’s already slotted you into a predetermined pigeon hole labelled ‘heretic’, ‘compromiser’, ‘wishy-washy people-pleaser’, etc., etc.

  • Lobi

    I can’t imagine Newton being a good source – he didn’t believe in the trinity, and wasn’t strictly speaking a creationist at all. He believed the universe was past eternal (which produced paradoxes like the Olber Paradox).

  • arcseconds

    I’m amazed that Newton is being included here. Does this person understand that science is established by evidence, theory and argument, not by what famous people held which belief?

    As the theories and evidence for an old earth was amassed after Newton, any conclusions he made with the little knowledge he had about the relevant phenomena is pretty much irrelevant.

    • Robert

      Do these people understand that there were serious doubts about Piltdown Man, and that the hoax was gleefully exposed by the very scentists they vilify, the moment the tools to do it were developed?

      • Nick Gotts

        According to Stephen Jay Gould’s Piltdown Revisited in The Panda’s Thumb, the hoax could easily have been uncovered earlier, if the British Museum had let appropriately qualified scientists examine the originals rather than plaster casts: the staining and filing of the originals was quite crude. But also, at the time of “discovery”, the remains fit prevailing views of human evolution – that it would be “brain-led” – it was as genuine fossils of Australopithecus turned up that this view began to be questioned, and as more and more did so, Piltdown looked more and more anomalous. So, the usual complicated interactions between data, hypotheses and institutional systems, but leading inexorably to the exposure of the hoax!

  • arcseconds

    As for this ‘charlatan’ business, well, someone’s not doing science correctly.

    We’ve got the option of either thinking that a tiny minority of scientists (and a miniscule number of the relevant experts) are incompetent on this subject, or basically the entire scientific community, including virtually all the relevant experts, are incompetent.

    It’s more amazing whom he is calling charlatans….