Why Young-Earth Creationism is so Implausible, in a Nutshell

Why Young-Earth Creationism is so Implausible, in a Nutshell October 30, 2013

Commenter arcseconds put it beautifully:

Doesn’t it strike you as remotely strange that the world’s scientists should accept a framework which is so obviously flawed any idiot can see through it?

I mean, if it’s really this simple, they’re either a bunch of fools, or engaged in some huge confidence trick.

The former seems contradicted by the fact they can build something like the Hubble. The later seems incredibly unlikely. It requires the sort of conspiracy theory normally attributed to shadowy, possibly non-existent groups like the Freemasons or the Illuminati, but unlike them is a completely open ‘organisation’ that virtually anyone can join simply by enrolling in a science degree at a suitable tertiary institution, or even just subscribing to a suitable journal.

I put ‘organisation’ in scare quotes because unlike the Freemasons, there is no overarching hierarchy, no way of making collective decisions, and no really effective means of punishing people for not toeing the line. You might not be able to get your creationist ideas published in peer-reviewed journals, but no-one will stop you publishing your chemistry papers because you hold unpopular opinions in other areas.

At the higher echelons of professional scientists, there are millions of people from all around the world involved, many of them are Christians or members of other faiths.

Under these circumstances, it’s really hard to see how a conspiracy could possibly work, especially as according to you it’s ‘covering up’ things which are transparently obvious.

If you cite this, please cite it using the correct format:

arcseconds (2013), Commentary , ‘Beyond Tribal Theology’, 1100332665, Exploring our Matrix, Oct. 2013.


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  • TomS

    Among the people who have to be in on the conspiracy are: The advocates of “Intelligent Design” who will tell you that they aren’t YECs – just refer to ID as “creationism” and you will hear about that; And lots of people before 1960 – like William Jennings Bryan or the Scofield Reference Bible; And Chandra WIckramasinghe, who testified for the creationists in the 1981 Arkansas trial, but said that no rational scientist would say that the world was less than a million years old.

    But I really don’t like this line of argument. I’d rather just point out that it’s a lot easier to understand the evidence for “deep time” than it is for lots of other things that are beyond doubt, from heliocentrism to quantum mechanics or the irrationality of pi.

  • WillBell

    I’ve understood this for awhile but never have I heard it explained so well.

  • lance Geologist

    I also see many saying “I agree with micro evolution but there is no evidence for macro evolution.” To which I say Macro evolution = Micro evolution plus time,as in millions of years. Unfortunately the fact that these are distinctions without a distinction will probably go over most peoples head!

    • Lee

      First they denied evolution and when the evidence became too overwhelming then they came up with micro-evolution. According to them God created “kinds” so genetic changes are limited. Not only do they not have a clear definition of what a “kind” is, they cannot come up with any mechanism that would limit genetic changes within an organism.

      So they are essentially saying that evolution is true.

      That makes as much sense as one guy I talked to who when discussing the fact that we see stars in the sky that were formed billions of years ago said that we only have proof that the speed of light is constant in our own solar system and that the Voyager probe will eventually show that the speed is different outside the solar system! WHAT???

      Anyone who comes up with such a hypothesis would have to come up with a good reason as to WHY there would be a difference!

      This is WHY YEC’s are not taken seriously. It is their own damn fault. Apparently if they don’t like real science then they just make up stuff on their own.

      • $41348855

        He thinks that the speed of light changes outside the solar system? I haven’t heard that one before. I suppose it shows how decisive the evidence from astronomy is.

        Another good example from astronomy is galactic collisions. When two galaxies collide they do it very, very slowly. If you took two pictures of a galactic collision 6000 years apart you wouldn’t notice any difference. It would be like two pictures of your fingernails taken an hour apart. So from the point of view of a young earth creationist, what looks like a galactic collision is actually a fake. It’s an arrangement of stars which looks as if it was the result of a process taking billions of years but which isn’t really.

        It could be argued that God had no choice in creating a false appearance of age. That might be difficult to dispute in some cases – trees created in the Garden of Eden which already have tree-rings, for example – but not in the case of galactic collisions. There you have a completely unnecessary and deceptive appearance of age.

        • TomS

          IMHO one must establish first the sort of thing that a person will accept as evidence, and then try to find evidence that fits that standard. That’s why I like to bring up the heliocentric model of the Solar System, and ask for what evidence they have that the Earth is a planet of the Sun
          (despite the “superficially” clear statements in the Bible to the contrary). Nobody directly observes the Sun-centered motion of the Earth: it is an inference at the end of a fairly long and complicated chain. Once one has established that that kind of inference is legitimate, it is easy to do the same with deep time and common descent.

          • $41348855

            Good point about heliocentrism. You can also use this when creationists say that evolution is only a theory. Ask them what they think of the “theory” that the earth orbits the sun. This will result in some confusion. Heliocentrism is a theory because, as you say, it can’t be directly observed; it has to be deduced.

      • JosephU

        i.) The Bible tells us:

        “And God spoke all these words: … For in six days
        the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea,
        and all that is in them,
        but he rested on the seventh day.
        Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
        See: http://www.biblestudytools.com/exodus/passage.aspx?q=exodus+20:1;exodus+20:11

        ii.) “real science” tells us time is NOT a constant.

        (iii.) Einstein’s general theory of relativity (GR), indicates that gravity distorts time.

        “Clocks at the top of tall buildings, where gravity is slightly less, run faster than those at the bottom, just as predicted by the equations of general relativity (GR).”
        Using equations of GR, “billions of years would be
        available for stars to age etc. — while less than one day is passing on earth.”

        Partial quote from:
        How can light get to us from stars which are millions of light-years away in a universe which the Bible claims is only thousands of years old
        See: http://www.christiananswers.net/q-aig/aig-c005.html

        • Just mentioning Einstein and time dilation doesn’t mean it becomes possible to say anything happened whenever you arbitrarily assert that it ought to have. You really ought to use more discernment when surfing the internet. It is very easy for such charlatans to prey on people like you.

          • Ian

            IT comes back to arcsecond’s quote. All those astrophysicists who actually do relativistic calculations, those engineers who factor in time dilation, those hundreds of textbooks and hundreds of thousands of papers on exactly how and when time changes rate and by how much — and none of them notice the obvious point that this proves a young earth.

            Yet anyone who’s read Christian Answers knows plenty enough to see how it all fits together!

            Quite staggering.

        • arcseconds

          OK, so time doesn’t pass everywhere at the same rate, it depends on your reference frame.

          So what reference frame was Genesis written from? Maybe God was in an accelerating reference frame, so only six days passed for him, while billions of years passed on Earth.

          That would explain why the Earth looks like it’s billions of years old, too.

          • Ian

            That is basically the story in that link. Only instead of an accelerating reference frame, the universe is emerging from a white hole, and the earth spends billions of years crossing the event horizon, for which only exactly six earth days pass, whereupon it emerges 6000 years ago. So creation took six earth days, but most of the universe experienced it as billions of years. Earth didn’t, because it is exactly in the center of the universe, so was the last thing to emerge from the event horizon.


          • arcseconds

            But we’re still left with the puzzle as to how the Earth looks like it’s several billion years old when really it’s only 6,000.

            My solution is much simpler: the material universe is exactly how science says it is, but for the author of Genesis, who was moving in a (sometimes, at least) accelerated reference frame, travelling fast (or in a deep gravity well) relative to the Earth.

            If we’re going to introduce accelerated reference frames to support mammoth time dilation, then why assume the Earth was in that reference frame?

          • Ian

            Well the article says that the scientific evidence is that the earth is young, but the starlight problem is the tricky bit.

            But yeah, sure, an accelerating God, why not?

          • Even Russell Humphreys admits that he cannot explain the lack of any observational evidence for any significant time dilation within the Milky Way galaxy (dozens of thousands of light-years) or with satellite galaxies such as the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). Of course, what we see in the LMC is from over 150,000 years ago – which proves that young earth creationism is wrong. Not to mention the fact that that whole YEC rhetorical trick of “How do you know? Were you there?” is also irrelevant to the fact that these things from the distant past that we observe from the distant universe are what we are literally witnessing right now – yet the young earth creationists deliberately ignore what we are witnessing today through astronomical science.

        • Lee

          From the site you gave:

          “The authority of the Bible should never be compromised as mankind’s “scientific” proposals”

          You already lost on that one. Creationists start with the conclusion and then try to make the data fit it. That is not how science works.

          I would have to say as far as the space-time-light speed assumptions that creationists are welcome to try to do their own research on that and then get them peer-reviewed. They usually do not do either.

          I am skeptical of this site because it contains a lot of misunderstanding as to what the bible says about the cosmology as the Hebrews saw it and instead puts in modern interpretations.

          Here is another quote:

          “There appears to be observational evidence that the universe has expanded in the past, supported by the many phrases God uses in the Bible to tell us that at creation he “stretched out”[11] (other verses say “spread out”) the heavens”

          This is misleading and in a moment I will show you why. Here is the full verse:

          Isaiah 40:22

          “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.”

          At first this seems to confirm your point of view but in fact it is describing a very different cosmology. We actually have Ancient Near Eastern maps that confirm what I am about to say.

          The circle refers to a flat circular earth, as opposed to a sphere which is what the earth really is. It is surrounded by ocean on all sides. Now this website talks about how this passage refers to an expanding universe. It does not. It is describing the heavens as an enclosure over the earth like a tent. A tent of course can only stretch so far. They believed that there was a solid dome over the earth containing the sun, moon, and stars.

          The dome was called the firmament (sky). From wikipedia:

          “The word “firmament” is used to translate raqia, or raqiya` ( רקיע), a word used in Biblical Hebrew. The connotation of firmness conveyed by the Vulgate’s firmamentum is consistent with that of stereoma, the Greek word used in the Septuagint, an earlier translation. The notion of solidity is advanced explicitly in several biblical passages.[4]

          The original word raqia is derived from the root raqa ( רקע), meaning “to beat or spread out”, e.g., the process of making a dish by hammering thin a lump of metal.[3][5] Raqa adopted the meaning “to make firm or solid” in Syriac, a major dialect of Aramaic (the vernacular of Jesus) and close cognate of Hebrew.[3]”

          I would encourage you to do more reading on this. Not only do we have maps depicting this but in the history of the church they interpreted the heavens in just the way I described based on scripture. They never envisioned anything resembling a vast universe.

          At any rate I would not trust any creationist site that does not even get the basics of the bible right.

        • $41348855

          Doesn’t work. According to the article, this theory allows time for stars to age but this would only apply to distant stars. It wouldn’t apply to stars in our neighbourhood. There are red giants near to us which would have taken billions of years to reach that state.

          Even if the theory did work it would still be an elaborate scheme designed to give a false impression of age.

          • $41348855

            The article also says that the earth is near the centre of the Universe. It can’t say that the earth is at the exact centre because the earth (our solar sytem) isn’t at the centre of our own galaxy. So, presumably, the effect can only apply outside our galaxy. That would mean that rest of the Universe has aged billions of years while our galaxy hasn’t. Therefore, our galaxy would have to look very different from other galaxies, which isn’t the case.

  • arcseconds

    thanks, James 🙂

    I’d like to point out that the context was a point that, if it were true, would be a transparently obvious objection to the standard view. In this particular case, the ‘problem’ was the alleged recession of the moon by 1 yard per year, which if it were consistent over time obviously precludes the Earth-Moon system being billions of years old.

    This would be accessible to anyone studying astronomy, or orbital physics.

    The argument I’ve given would also work as stated to any other completely obvious (if it were accurate) objection. I’m thinking particularly the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics one.

    It doesn’t quite work as stated for more subtle objections, although many would fall foul of a similar argument.

    • arcseconds

      It’s probably also worth pointing out that the scientific community actually was put in the position of having a physical calculation that contradicted the expected age of the earth: William Thomson, the Baron Kelvin, calculated that the Earth could be no older than a few tens of millions of years and still have such a hot interior.

      There wasn’t any cover-up then, and there wasn’t anything stopping a famous scientist from disagreeing with mainstream geology on the basis of a physical calculation.

      Kelvin, of course, is still so famous today he has a unit named after him

      • TomS

        The Baron Kelvin of Largs (I just love the full title, can’t you just picture the dignity of this Scottish baron), when he spoke about physics, was giving the establishment opinion about the epitome of science in the late 19th century. I remind you of the saying of Rutherford, who said that all of science was either physics or else stamp collecting. So whatever chemistry, geology or biology had to say took second place to what physics, in the person of Lord Kelvin of Largs, had to say.

        But there is one small problem which was pointed out (and, of course, ignored by everybody) by John Perry. Apparently Kelvin ignored a complicating factor which invalidated his calculations – this even before the discovery of radioactivity, which overturned everything.

        • Adam Crowl

          You’re right about John Perry, but wrong about radioactivity. There was an interesting paper on this very issue that’s worth a read. The problem with Kelvin’s argument was that the heat-flow behaviour he assumed was all wrong – and radioactivity does nothing to change that fact. Here’s the popularisation from “American Scientist”: http://www.es.ucsc.edu/~pkoch/EART_206/09-0108/Supplemental/England%20et%2007%20AmSci%2095-342.pdf

          • Adam Crowl

            That being said what the discovery of nuclear energy – in all its forms – did allow was a much greater age of the Sun. Prior to the discovery of “atomic energy” in the form of radioactivity there was no energy source for the Sun that could provide stable light and heat on Earth for more than ~100 million years. Kelvin’s mechanism – heat from gravitational collapse of the Sun – with a fixed final density meant an inexorable cooling in mere millions of years. The apparent hundreds of millions to billions of years inferred by geologists led several physicists to speculate about atomic energy, before its discovery.

          • arcseconds

            how is TomS wrong about relativity? It seems like he’s saying exactly what you’re saying to me.

          • Adam Crowl

            I was replying to his discussion of Kelvin, which had nothing to do with relativity.

          • arcseconds

            Sorry, I wrote ‘relativity’, i meant ‘radioactivity’.

        • arcseconds

          “Baron Kelvin, of Largs of the County of Ayr” wikipedia tells me, although of course he was made a nobleman, not born one.

          Physics is still regarded as the epitome of science, isn’t it? Genetics and molecular biology are perhaps a bit more of the flavour of the month, and physics is perhaps not as exciting at the moment as it was throughout most of the 20th century (even the (provisional) discovery of the Higgs boson means the Standard Model is still, well, the standard).

          But Albert Einstein is still popularly regarded as the greatest mind ever, and Stephen Hawking as the greatest mind living, and they’re both regarded as being almost divine. No geneticist has ever been remotely regarded like this. Charles Darwin also has some stature, of course, but I don’t think people tend to think of him as some other-worldly genius. And “it’s all physics really” still has nearly as much currency as it used to, although I think we generally try to be somewhat sophisticated and holistic when it comes to reduction these days.

          If there was still a physical reason to think the age of the Earth was much younger than geology says it is, this would still be regarded as a serious anomaly. On the other hand, if geologists came up with something that physicists thought was physically impossible, they probably wouldn’t be taken too seriously.

          Anyway, my point about Kelvin and the age of the Earth is that we do have examples in the history of science where physical arguments have been produced by respected (Christian!) physicists which contradict the old earth that geology suggests. And when this happened, there wasn’t a cover-up, some kind of consistent party line wasn’t established in order to continue to promote a materialistic worldview, or anything like that. It was taken seriously, and regarded as an anomaly that deserved an explanation.

          The fact that Kelvin got his calculations wrong doesn’t alter that point. His point about the heat of the sun was better, as he himself thought. He’s not to be blamed for not knowing about fusion, of course.

          That’s how science actually works: there’s not some sinister conspiracy keeping the received view alive. It doesn’t always work like that, of course: I’m not going to pretend scientists are flawless reasoners and the scientific community a perfect society. But they’re not the hive of corruption and incompetence that would have to obtain for the orbit of the moon to contradict the old Earth, yet only creationists have any knowledge of this.

          • Not so long ago there was a discrepancy in astrophysics in regard to the age of the universe, between estimates of the age of globular clusters and estimates of the age of the universe based on the Hubble expansion. This debate was all hashed out by scientists quite publicly. The conspiracy theory rhetoric that thrives in young earth creationist rhetoric is merely another demonstration of the pseudoscience nature of their religious enterprise.

  • Raymond

    I don’t think you can use “because they built Hubble” as an argument, because they would say it’s a hoax.

    • arcseconds

      I don’t think your average creationist is that far into reality denial.

      dangjin, do you think the Hubble is a hoax? How about the Large Hadron Collider?

      (not that I’d take dangjin to be a typical creationist)

      If someone is that far into reality denial, there’s probably no point in discussing anything with them. If the Hubble is a hoax, anything could be a hoax.

  • dangjin

    aww the ignorance of arcseconds and his faulty assumptions knows no bounds. first he assumes that secular scienitsts will tell the truth; have found the truth; are really honest and objective with no bias against the bible.

    second, he assumes that they actually got it right. with no way to verify their claims secular scientists have a great chance of being wrong (which they are anyways).

    it is tiresome to see the blind & the deceived preach a false doctrine. Origins happened only as the Bible says. secular scientists are wrong.

    • arcseconds

      No, you obviously haven’t understood my post.

      Do you agree that the moon’s orbit disproves the old earth idea? If not, then my remark isn’t directed at you.

      If you do, then I want you to explain why only you and a handful of other creationists have noticed it.

      The options seem to be as above:

      a) all scientists, especially those who study physics and astronomy, are complete fools, unable to see the simplest implications of straightforward observations.

      b) there’s a shadowy conspiracy that prevents scientists, or anyone else, from pointing out the obvious, except for a few brave creationists, who for some reason don’t get killed off or otherwise silenced by the conspiracy.

      In other words, not every scientist is a fool, so some of them do indeed notice, but something prevents them from making this information public.

      The reason why they do this need not be a noble reason. If you had a little standing in the scientific world and had even a halfway plausible story about how modern physics had missed an obvious point and were trying to cover it up, you could certainly make a name for yourself and sell a lot of books by writing an exposé.

      None of this requires me to assume that secular scientists will always tell the truth. All I need is at least one of them to tell the truth for completely selfish motives. If you think they’re all marching in lock step with what they say, it’s you that’s making assumptions that need explaining about scientists, not me.

      But I’m happy to hear why you think creationists are the only people who notice things like the moon moving away from the Earth too fast. Is there another possibility I haven’t considered?

      • TomS

        I would also note that somehow or other the scientists have managed to agree on a particular age – at least within a margin of error. Everybody agrees that the Earth is a few billion years old. There are no competing views which differ by even a small multiplier (a factor of 2 or 3 is out of the question, nobody saying that the Earth is less than a billion years old, and nobody is saying that the Earth is tens of billions of years old). How did they manage to come to this agreement? Which “alpha scientist” made the decree that everybody had to go along with?

    • Christopher R Weiss

      Ah yes… another YEC fanatic who won’t be confused by reality.

      Look at the night sky. Regardless of what you believe in terms of origins, the night sky refutes the YEC perspective.

      • Adam Crowl

        Strictly speaking, it refutes the “Young Cosmos, Young Earth” view, but there are “Old Cosmos, Young Earth” Creationists and “Old Cosmos, Old Earth, Recent Biosphere” Creationists. There’s as many Creationist accomodations of the facts as there are Creationists.

        • Christopher R Weiss

          Yes… and the more facts that humans discover, the more accommodations are required and the smaller the scope becomes for religious explanations of anything.

          • Adam Crowl

            The Bible depicts God as being the cause of the world’s processes – all of them. Creationism sells God short by restricting his efforts to some time in the past. Yet the Bible writers saw themselves as being created by God, directly. If normal processes are “God in action” then Creation shouldn’t be an exception. “Natural explanations” are descriptions of the World not proscriptions on divine action.

          • Christopher R Weiss

            The problem is that there really isn’t any evidence that “divine action” is necessary to explain anything. There are plenty of questions for which there answer is “we don’t know.” Many people use the classic god of the gaps argument to point to the necessity of god to answer these questions when “god” is no more likely than any other hypothesis.

            Often god is the least likely explanation for things we don’t know, but believers will still cling to “divine action” because other hypothesis cannot be definitively proven for questions such as how did life begin. In this example, there are multiple models that have demonstrated how life could have started, but nothing that could be called “proof.” These models more or less remove the claim that you cannot get life from non-life. However, none of these models is definitive, and this uncertainty allows believers to say “god did it” without looking as foolish as young earth creationists. Moreover, I have heard believers say that these experiments are are proof of god because they require “man” to make them happen, which shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what an experiment is intended to show.

            Your statement about “proscriptions on divine action” shows that you start with an assumption and ask to be disproven without showing your assumption is actually sustainable.

          • Adam Crowl

            You missed the point. Your terminology has created a false dichotomy – you’re effectively defining god as whatever is inexplicable. My point is that the Bible viewpoint sees only one Cause for all natural processes. Everything. No explaining is intended. Instead god is responsible for the world as we see it. Two different generas of story – explanatory stories from science and stories about who did what with whom when. The Bible is made of the latter.

          • Christopher R Weiss

            You missed my point… god is left for what is inexplicable because it doesn’t fit anywhere else.

            To make sure I am being fair to what you are you saying, are you asserting god exists or are you simply describing a conflation of the nature of the bible and the nature of science?