Outgrowing and Out-learning Young-Earth Creationism

Outgrowing and Out-learning Young-Earth Creationism May 9, 2012

There are a couple of interesting posts around the blogosphere related to young-earth creationism. Fred Clark has a delightful post with the title “Answers in Genesis teaches how not to read a story.” Here’s a sizable sampling:

I know, I know, picking on the young-earth creationists is too easy. Fish in a barrel and all that.

But they invite it. They’re not just wrong, but audaciously wrong. The weirdness of their conclusions becomes all the more horrifying when you try to trace the arcane routes they traveled to arrive at them.

Take for example the illiteralist fundies who sat down and calculated the hourly rainfall in the story of Noah’s flood.

This is how these folks approach this story. This is how they hear a story and how they read a story. They don’t seem to notice that the story has a narrative, themes, characters, a beginning, a middle and an end. Or if they do notice those things, they don’t care about them, because that’s not what they see as important in a story.

What they see as important are measurements, logistics and the calculating of numbers that do not actually appear in the story itself. They contemplate the buoyancy of gopher wood. They calculate the cubic cubitage of Noah’s ark, the rate of rainfall and the capacity of the firmament canopy (don’t ask).

This is a dim, illiterate and aggressively obtuse response to a story. This is ridiculousness that demands to be ridiculed.

Seriously, people, it’s a story. If you don’t know how to read stories, then you don’t know how to read.

If you don’t know how to read stories, then you become the literacy equivalent of that person who never lets you finish a joke because they’re always interrupting with irrelevant questions and thinking they’re particularly clever for pointing out that a bar stool probably couldn’t support the weight of a gorilla.

Also delightful is ex-YEC Libby Anne’s response to claims made about her by Answers in Genesis. Once again, here’s a sizable sample – and once again, I encourage you to click through and read the whole thing. The section about being afraid to expose oneself to other ideas is particularly insightful:

In the end, I didn’t “give up.” Rather, I realized I had been wrong. There’s a big difference there. And once I saw that creationism didn’t actually hold water, and that evolution was supported by the evidence, I had the intellectual honesty to change my mind. Why? Because that’s what you do when you realize you were wrong…

And that last sentence? After studying at Answers in Genesis’ knees for years, after attending their conferences and reading their literature, after searching the Bible and reading other creationist resources like the Institute for Creation Research and Henry Morris, I simply “misunderstood”? I simply had “exposure”? Dr. Purdom is wrong, very, very wrong…

I wonder if Ken Ham remembers the little girl in braids who stood in awe in his presence and eagerly asked him for his autograph all those years ago. Probably not. But that little girl, that little girl fascinated by science and ever eager to find truth, she’s still here. She’s just sitting on the other side of the fence now.

HT BCSE (also shared by Hemant Mehta)


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  • Mjschriver

    While I do not want to be cast as a YEC apologist I feel I must take some issue with the statement “What they see as important are measurements, logistics and the calculating of numbers that do not actually appear in the story itself.” As a science fiction fan I realize that the stories I read are … what is a future myth anyway? That said, as a physical scientist I really, deeply want the science in science fiction to be correct (when it is at all possible for it to be correct). So the dimensions of Ringworld, the volume of Dyson spheres and the spatial corrections in time travel are a) important to me and b) calculable with current science. It is always a delight when an author goes out of their way to make the science right even if it is only the science fanboys that will actually bother to do the calculations. So I therefore can have little objection to people who attempt the same thing with the actual numbers in the Old Testament. Then again, while I may disagree with someone on the physics in “Sunshine” it is highly unlikely that I will declare them apostate and shun them.

    • Openminded27

      If only they weren’t doing it to try to prove the fiction.

  • nanbush

    We’ve been trained, as a culture, to look for tangible, calculable facts–the measurements. The original writers and hearers of biblical narratives were not looking for facts; they were looking for meanings. Our questions would be superficial to them. The point of Noah’s story is not what animals went on an ark, or the porosity of gopher wood, or are there remnants of an ark on a mountain in the Near East. The point is, what is Israel’s relationship with Yahweh?

    • In that case the Catholic Church should have been quite happy with Galileo. After all he didn’t deny any meanings that might be found in the story of the Sun stopping still for Joshua. He was concerned only with the (tangible, calculable, superficial) factual question whether it is the Earth or the Sun that moves.

      • SteveJ0089

        In another ten, twenty, one-hundred years, this conversation including my comments, those above, and the ones to follow will evaporate like the mist of life.

        The incredible thing is that God’s message through the biblical authors will continue to spread from generation to generation.

        If evolutionists are so certain that there views are correct, why do they feel the need to berate those who are bold enough to have faith?

        I don’t pretend to have all the answers but I can say for certain that people on both sides (faith-based and science-based) need a slice of humble pie.

        No one will win converts by telling others what to believe or by making fun of them.

        • Steve, I strongly disagree that this is a matter of evolution vs. faith. There are people of faith on both sides. But for some, God is the only appropriate object of human faith, while for others, it is a particular interpretation of the Bible that is what their faith is in. When people spread misinformation about evolution in the name of faith, it actually does harm to the Christian faith, both through setting up people who have been lied to and tolds evolution is bad science who may lose their faith when they discover this simply isn’t true, and in driving others away because they associate the Christian faith with such pseudoscientific drivel as that promulgated by young-earth creationists.

          • Cpyeager

            But for the average lay believer, they do not know where to go with this issue. There is SO much information and they don’t have the time to sort it out due to life going on around them. They trust the people in the pulpit and the SS teachers, who have also gotten their info from people they trust. Most don’t know where to go for good info, and use what’s popular.

          • Indeed, and the same problem exists not only when it comes to matters of religion or science but also health care, politics, and pretty much anything one can think of. The amount of information freely available in our time is staggering and wonderful, but many still struggle – or perhaps in many cases don’t even realize the need to struggle – with critically assessing information and learning how to determine what sources are reliable.

            If the majority of Christians would listen to the majority of Christians who have some sort of qualifications in biology, the persistence of misinformation about evolution in Christian circles could probably be done away with. But unfortunately that’s now where most people turn.

            It is ironic that the Bible warns about seeking out teachers who will say what we want to hear. And yet when someone says what we want to hear – what we think the “right answers” are or should be – as Christians, very often we allow them a free pass and they fly right under the radar.

  • John C. Poirier

    I can’t say
    that I agree with Fred Clark’s narrative theory of meaning.  Is the Noah story true?  Of course not.  But did the people who weaved it together
    think it was true?  Of course they
    did.  And did those who helped it to
    become canonical literature think it was true, and did they intend it to be
    read as historically true?  Of course
    they did.  The recent attempts by
    narrative hermeneuts to make us read these stories as “just” stories are really
    dishonest in their assessment of the difference between how we read the stories
    today and how they were meant to be read. 
    Where the Bible claims to be saying how something happened, it means
    just that: that it happened.  I realized,
    of course, that the biblical authors did not anticipate people calculating the
    rate of rainfall in the flood, but they would not have thought such an endeavor
    misplaced on the grounds of the Noah story being “just” as story.

                    The problem is that
    post-conservative evangelicals are still holding on to the assumption that the
    Bible is “true” in some thoroughgoing way, so they have to redefine “truth” in
    order to allow it to be that, which in turn gives rise to the mistaken notion
    that the Bible is “true” in some “narratological” way (as opposed to some
    “historicist” way).  That’s altogether
    the wrong way to deal with the fact that the Bible contains numerous untrue
    stories.  The right way is simply to say
    that the Bible got it wrong!  (And
    there’s nothing about the structure of the apostles’ faith that closes that
    option to us – the apostles were not evangelicals!)

    Barr somewhere published an article complaining about people who say that the
    Bible’s creation accounts were not meant to be read literally.  Of course they were!  It’s just that those accounts got it wrong.

  • Alethinon61

    “It is ironic that the Bible warns about seeking out teachers who will
    say what we want to hear. And yet when someone says what we want to hear
    – what we think the “right answers” are or should be – as Christians,
    very often we allow them a free pass and they fly right under the radar.”

    I’ve had a similar complaint but from another side of the issue for some time now.  Because of the scientific community’s absolute dedication to natural causes and exclusion of anything that might even potentially touch on something beyond what is determined to be natural, most scientists will only allow themselves to “hear” (=seriously consider) arguments relating to the origin or history of life that are constructed so as to exclude potential interaction by a guiding intelligence.  This is taken to such an extreme that when intelligent, sensible people, even from among the scientific community itself, posit that humans are capable of identifying the signs of intelligence in the physical world, including the world of biology, the very notion is viewed with abhorrence, and many even seek to refute it!  It’s a bizarre age. 

    Now,  the problem isn’t the dedication to seeking natural causes in and of itself, but that this is combined with the insistence that science can provide, will provide, and, some say already has provided a satisfactory (some would say “true” or “factual”) explanation for the biological history of life.  Intelligent causation is thereby simply deemed unnecessary and ruled out as a presupposition.  Importantly, this means that if a form of intelligent design that posits God’s direct involvement in the emergence of life is true then science, based on its own self-imposed restrictions, really can’t ever provide a satisfactory explanation for the biological history of life.  In their search for the details informing the emergence of novel biological structures they’d reach a point in which they’d have to stop doing science and start doing religion.   

    Interestingly, one of the reasons that neo-Darwinsim is still a dominant theory even though many have noted it’s shortcomings is because it’s the only natural theory they have that could even potentially account for the diversity of life on this planet.  If they give up neo-Darwinism then they’d have to humbly admit that they don’t know how the vast diversity of life emerged, and this after so many have dogmatically declared that they do.  It seems very likely to me that they’ll eventually have to eat this humble pie.

    I’ve often noted that as theories go, neo-Darwinism seems more philosophical, even religio-philosophical, than scientific.  Like young-earth creationists, its proponents have their own governing presuppositions which compel them to postulate things that, IMO, seem no less silly then some of the things offered by YEC’s.