8 years ago: Creationism Snapshot No. 1: Mr. Caruthers and Dawn Summers

July 10, 2005, on this blog: Creationism Snapshot No. 1: Mr. Caruthers and Dawn Summers

If you’ve ever seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you’re familiar with the idea. The show’s fifth season introduces Buffy’s 14-year-old younger sister, Dawn. Viewers learn, eventually, that Dawn is not really 14 years old, but was created a few short weeks earlier by magical monks. In creating Dawn’s human form, the monks also created in her — and in everyone else — the memories of her birth and childhood. Their magic created years of diaries and altered old photographs so that a family of three became a family of four and that everyone in that family believed it had always been so. Apparent-age creationists like Mr. Caruthers think of God as a larger version of those magical monks, and they think of all of us, and indeed of the entire universe, as a magical, old-seeming young thing, like Dawn Summers.

At root, there’s a deliriously strange, pot-think aspect to this view. It suggests a radical, unbridgeable, gap between perception and reality. But Mr. C. wasn’t worried about such philosophical matters. And so, even as he taught us that the world was not as it appears to be, he also taught us the science of the world we can see. As long as you don’t think too hard, apparent-age creationism allows you to pursue legitimate science, to experiment and theorize about the world as it appears to be.

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  • mattmcirvin

    It’s Philip Gosse’s approach to creationism:


    Of course, the “creation science” folks tend to reject this, since they insist that empirical evidence actually does demonstrate a young Earth. Gosse didn’t find many takers during his lifetime. It’s interesting to suppose that it’s actually a common stance among scientists who subscribe to creationist varieties of religion.

  • Christopher R Weiss

    The “just so” version of YEC is truly scary. It is like solipsism, which is considered false but impossible to disprove.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Ah, yes. The Omphalos Effect.
    Gosse proposed it, got piled on from both sides, and went into tabloid true-crime books from then on. Much less flak.

  • mattmcirvin

    I keep misidentifying him as “Edmund Gosse,” but that was his son, who described the whole episode in a very critical memoir.