If Young Earth Creationists are Right, then Young Earth Creationism is False!

I’ve been attempting to have a conversation with a young-earth creationist, and the interaction has once again reached the point where he makes a false dichotomy regarding the Bible: either the Bible is 100% true and reliable, or it is 100% false and completely lies.

If these are the only two options, and if fallible human beings today have no way of avoiding their ideas and beliefs being in the latter category, then surely young earth creationism must be false.

First, having made claims which have been so definitively shown to be bogus that young-earth creationist organizations have warned against making such claims, clearly young-earth creationism is not 100% true. And if the “if it’s not white, it’s black” logic of young-earth creationists is right, then young-earth creationism is false.

Also, as the relatively recent invention of Seventh Day Adventists, from where it spread to be adopted by large numbers of Protestant and smaller numbers of other Christians, this viewpoint cannot possibly be exempt from the utter falsehood that is the state of all human claims and ideas.

Unless, of course, young earth creationists are wrong about everything being either completely true or completely false…but that would require them to consider evidence, discuss issues of interpretation, and deal with nuance in a manner that the worldview of most YECs does not allow.

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  • Mike Aubrey

    James, I’m with you on this one, but I think we both know that science and scientific method is more complicated than “here are the facts.” Surely we’re less (logical) positivistic than that!

  • http://ancienthebrewgrammar.wordpress.com Robert Holmstedt

    Ditto on both of Mike’s comments. 

    But James, where do you get the energy for having these conversations at all? Whenever I find myself in the middle of one, it’s so intellectually and emotionally tiring that it is like having all the energy sucked right out of my body. I’ve given up and will spread a saner approach to the Bible through my 5 children (my new motto: if you can’t beat reason into ’em, out-populate ’em). 

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

    Thank you both for your comments. I think the cartoon can be understood in a way that isn’t outmoded and deeply problematic logical positivism. Historically, longstanding ideas such as flood geology and the fixity of species were abandoned in the academic mainstream because data accumulated that could not be made sense of within those frameworks. I don’t think that science is “just the facts” but I do think that there is such a thing data, and while more than one interpretation of the data is regularly possible, not every viewpoint is compatible with the data.

    Robert, on your further point, I see this as a sort of penance. I helped spread young-earth creationism in my teenage years, and so on the one hand my own change of mind gives me hope, and on the other, it makes me think that I ought to do what I can to spread accurate information, to counter my less helpful influence in the past.

    • aar9n

      James, I find it fascinating that you think of it as a penance; as I have been thinking the same thing about gays recently. For almost 22 years of my life (well I guess I was a kid for most of that, but still) I was homophobic, even signing the Manhattan declaration and was interviewed at a Republican meeting saying I wanted to vote for Mike Huckabee because he won’t let gays marry (unfortunately, with the internet, that will never be erased from the record), as well as telling Representative Musgrave, the maker of the defense of marriage act, that I appreciate her defense of marriage. Recently I’ve been pondering the idea of doing penance for my time as a gay hater by volunteering for GLBTQ youth centers.
      What do you think theologically of the idea of penance? A lot of Christians like to emphasis that we are forgiven freely (which I agree, we need not burden ourselves with excessive guilt) but a lot of times evangelicals seem to make it a free ride experience. Just say this quite easy prayer and well throw in a set of steak knives! All your spiritual problems and debts solved! Call now, time is limited before the rapture! Maybe this has to do with the misguided idea of penal substitution- that justice is just punishment, and that punishment was complete on the cross? Thats why I like N.T. Wright’s collaborate eschatology- that we are called to participate in making the world right; which to me means righting the wrongs we have caused society. What do you think?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

    I suppose that I ought to have put “penance” in quotes just to make sure that no one thought that I had literally gone to a Catholic church and been told by a priest in a confessional to try to help young-earth creationists grasp science. :-)

    But on a more serious note, I really like both what you said and how you put it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/benji.statham Benji Statham

    Genesis is either literal and completely false or metaphorical and possibly true