Maybe November 16, 2013

Maybe this is why young-earth creationism is so disturbing and offensive.

Young-earth creationists will pretend that mainstream science journals are not filled with abundant evidence for evolution – the course it has taken, the processes involved, and the genetic changes that underpin it. They will point to the things that scientists do not yet know, as though gaps in our knowledge were an argument against the best reconstruction experts have been able to put together. When pieces to a puzzle are missing, it doesn’t invalidate the way you have put the pieces that you do have together, especially when they snap together naturally without force.

When it comes to young-earth creationism, however, there aren’t just gaps, there is actual abundant counter-evidence. Chalk beds formed from billions of microorganisms. Light from distant stars. Radiometric dating. Fossils. Genetic evidence for our shared heritage with other living things on this planet.

So what do young-earth creationists say when this evidence is presented to them?


They say that maybe creation took place near a white hole, with resultant time dilation. Maybe God killed and compressed the microorganisms to make the Earth look older (or punished them for humanity’s sins during the Flood). Maybe the speed of light and rate of radioactive decay have not been constant.

These are not serious proposals. They are wildly speculative and highly improbable ad hoc attempts to crowbar the evidence into their preconceptions. And yet when scientists offer a far more reasonable “maybe” that actually fits naturally into the pattern of the existing evidence, young-earth creationists treat it as evidence against mainstream science.

Maybe it is time young-earth creationists admitted that if mainstream science’s plausible “maybes” are a problem for evolution and astronomy and geology, then their own “maybes” are a bigger problem for their own stance.

And maybe it is time that those who care about truth in churches were more outspoken about the fact that young-earth creationism is detrimental to Christians’ spiritual lives – that it is training people to not care about the truth, but to instead pridefully assume they already have it, and to dismiss the well-reasoned arguments from those who know more about a topic than they do, while propping up their own preconceptions with “maybes.”


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  • David Evans

    “These are not serious proposals”

    I recently had some evidence for that. I sent the following to Answers in Genesis:

    “I have a question relating to the article “Radiometric dating: problems with the assumptions” by Andrew Snelling. He says correctly that for a particular sample the rate of uranium decay must be at least 250,000 times faster than at present. But I’ve done some calculations on the heat released and it seems to me that if the decay were that fast, a typical uranium ore would generate enough heat to melt itself in weeks or months. After it melted, the lead and uranium would separate gravitationally. Clearly, the uranium ores we see today don’t look like that.”

    I got the following answer. I’ve added the numbering:

    “Creation geologists have written plausible explanations for accelerated nuclear
    decay scenarios, especially the RATE project on ICR’s website.

    1 Accelerated nuclear decay (AND) during the instant of Creation, or during the first two days.

    2 Accelerated nuclear decay during the time of the Flood

    3 Created already having had a couple of half-lives expended. Uranium-235 has a half-life of 703.8 million years. After all, Adam wasn’t created as a baby, but as fully mature; why should not God have created other things (or all things) in nature that way during Creation week?”

    1 and 2 are clearly ludicrous as an answer to my question. To solve a problem with speeding up radioactive decay to fit it into 6,000 years, we’ll speed it up much more to fit it into the year of the Flood, or two days, or an instant. Forget about the uranium ores melting, they would have exploded.

    So it comes back to 3, the old YEC standby, creation with the appearance of age. Which can’t be disproved, but for that very reason shows that they are only pretending to engage with science.

    • This is the typical formula I’ve received from young-earthers about any scientific question I’ve ever asked, from starlight to the fossil record. First, they say, “Creation scientists have already developed many plausible explanations for x.” Then they casually mention a couple of wildly insane and completely unevidenced “what-ifs” and ignore any follow-up questions, as though their answer had been divine writ that speaks for itself.

      • dangjin

        let’s say you take a warehouse sized building and create a minature world using lights to brighten the display. you then truthfully say it took you 25 days to do it all (you’re not God and do not have his power).
        Someone comes along who doesn’t believe you or your words and does some measurements. then declares that you could not have created that minature world in 25 days because the light cast from the light fixtures takes 60 days to travel from its source to your world.
        then they create an alternative theory for your construction and get some of your supporters to go along with that and have them preach that alternative, all the while claiming to be your supporter.

        What would you think of them?

        You see creation mode is a lot different than operating function mode. think about it.

        • This is a silly comment, because we are not dealing with something that the maker of the universe said but what ancient human beings said, and then you are also failing to account for the fact that, even on your scenario, you would have to posit that the maker of the warehouse deliberately set up the lighting to mislead people and play a trick on them. Why do you keep coming here and making God out to be a liar? Why do you hate God so very much that you persist in making him look evil?

          • plectrophenax

            Yes, that’s what I find mind-boggling about some creationists – that they turn God into a trickster figure, who deliberately fools scientists into believing their own science. After all, he has planted tons of evidence for evolution, yet it’s all incorrect!

          • TomS

            And what we are dealing with is a particular modern interpretation of what the Bible says. An interpretation which became popular in the USA about 1960 or so. And – as we have gone over many times – people feel free to take an other-than-strictly-literal interpretation of the Bible about other features of the natural world, like the structure of the Solar System. I have no idea why YEC became so popular just when the scientific evidence was becoming so precise.

        • Ian

          Is someone likely to decide that light takes 60 days to come from the lamps to the floor? Wouldn’t the best approach be to flick the switch and show it is essentially instantaneous.

          Making up an infeasible story doesn’t support your point. it merely shows you have trouble distinguishing reality from fiction.

        • arcseconds

          For once, you make a very good point. It is indeed ridiculous for someone to assert that light takes 60 days to travel from a warehouse ceiling to the floor, through ordinary air at 1 atmosphere and room temperature.

          The speed of light has been accurately measured using all sorts of techniques, light is theoretically quite well understood, and the physical properties of air are well-known.

          Unless one has a really good argument (preferrably backed by solid empirical evidence) as to how, in this case, light is travelling thousands of trillions of times slower than usual, one should just ignore this sort of thing as being a thoroughly unscientific, completely implausible piece of handwaving, motivated only to support a cherished prejudice.

          There’s just one small thing — it’s not scientists that do this, it’s creationists.

        • GakuseiDon

          Dangjin, in your analogy, if the person who computed the 60 days honestly believes he has done his calculations correctly, what should he do? And what is the onus on the creator of the warehouse, who says it took 25 days?

        • Sheesh! What an incomprehensible, terrible analogy.

  • My favorite “work around” YECs use is sorting of the fossil record due to the different ability of organisms to “escape” to higher ground before the Flood overtook them. They have never quite explained, however, just how the grasses outran the Velociraptors.

    • TomS

      What interests me about any of the explanations for the ordering of the fossils which rely on other than the supernatural: Such a sorting would be a violation of the creationist version of the second law of thermodynamics.
      Any appearance of order had to be the result of intelligent design, not of merely natural forces, according to creationist principles.

  • newenglandsun

    One YEC I met said that “That’s the way God wanted it to be”.

  • Ian

    So to refute the science you have to have lots and lots of very different excuses for lots of bits of science. Each of which could sound feasible, but the idea that science got in wrong so many times, in such a consistent way… I just can’t comprehend how that can seem at all feasible.

    • dangjin

      you forget that evolution comes from those who do not believe God. much of science is done by those who do not believe God. God said not to listen to those who do not believe Him.

      what you are accepting and following is false teaching not the truth.secular scientists are slaves of the devil, why do you think they have it wrong in so many places? they do not want the truth.

      • No, evolution comes from the evidence. Comments like yours come from people who don’t believe in God, because if someone genuinely does believe in God, they will take the evidence from creation seriously, and they will care about truth enough to fact-check things they are told. You claim to believe, but your comments prove that you do not really do so. In fact, you make assertions about what “God said” so often that you clearly think that human beings, perhaps including yourself, are God, and that is a teaching that is incompatible with Christianity.

      • Ian

        Way to miss the point, care to actually respond to what I said?

      • David Evans

        I could understand a hermit in the desert saying that scientists have it wrong in so many places. What I can’t understand is you using the internet to say it. That’s the internet which would not function at all if scientists had not developed electromagnetic theory, quantum mechanics, solid state electronics, materials science, classical mechanics…. What gives you the faith that your words will be transmitted without error by a medium with such tainted sources?

        • TomS

          Indeed. Why do people who do not trust science rely on science to communicate their distrust? How do they know that what they read and write is faithfully transmitted? How do they know that there are real people out there, rather than demons tricking them? Why do they not rely, rather, on spiritual means of communication? (I think of people who believe in ESP who use non-ESP means when they want to talk about it.)

      • arcseconds

        I’ve been meaning to ask, dangjin, what are you hoping to achieve by these posts of yours?

        You don’t give arguments, you don’t engage in discussion, you don’t show the fainest attempt to understand us; you just issue trenchant insults, repeat the same points ad nauseum, and (lately) come up with these analogies that provide no added clarity. They’re just ways of repeating what we already know you believe: the Bible is to be interpreted as a science text book personally written by God on certain topics (cosmogony) but not others (meteorology). We already know that you think that, you already know that we don’t agree; dressing it up as a fable does nothing.

        No-one but a creationist would be at all impressed by your remarks, and even many of them wouldn’t like them. We’ve had many creationists here in the past who weren’t downright insulting, made some kind of an effort to engage in discussion, and actually seemed like nice people. I’m sure they’d be embarassed by your rudeness, and they (and for that matter, any Christian interested in evangelism) should be worried that you just alienate people from Jesus and give Christianity a bad name with your high-handed and insulting attitude.

        Just taking your latest offering, several of us here have had postgraduate training or better in ‘secular’ science. You’ve just announced that we’re servants of satan.

        One could describe this as insulting, but it’s really just preposterous, and it made me laugh! It’s about as absurd as accusing you as wearing a duck on your head.

        Do you really think that statements like this are likely to convince anyone? Are they going to bring anyone to Christ? Are they going to increase people’s respect for Christianity? If not, why on earth do you make them?

  • dangjin

    Didn’t read the whole thing as my first thought after reading the first paragraph or two was “how desperate are these fake Christians and their acceptance of evolution.”

    They disobey God and listen to unbelievers then find weak arguments to trash those who do believe God and His word. The problem isn’t with YEC people but with those who go against God and follow after false teaching.

    • This has got to be a parody. I mean, not reading about the weaknesses in the YEC claims, and why they are fundamentally unchristian, and then asserting the opposite without evidence.

    • Ian

      “I didn’t read this, but I know you’re wrong”

      What a perfect summary of the problem!

  • Leo O’Bannon

    AiG’s Dr. Georgia Purdom has a new book out entitled “The Galapagos Islands from a Creationist Perspective.” When I asked her on Facebook what her fellow scientists thought of the book, I was unceremoniously booted from her page. Thou shalt not question the good Doctor!

  • arcseconds

    There’s two possible young-earth creationist positions I would have some degree of respect for.

    One is the position of humility and simple faith. Such a person would say something “well, I don’t understand all this evolutionary biology and geology stuff. I put my faith in the Word of God. That tells me the cosmos, the Earth, and everything on it was created in 6 days, and that’s what I believe. I understand you guys believe differently. I wish you would trust God’s word like I do, but I guess you’ve got your complicated scientific reasons to believe in these unimaginably long time periods and undirected processes leading to the amazing panolopy of life we see before us, including us ourselves. I’m sure you must have gone wrong somewhere, because I believe in my heart that’s not the truth, but it’s all beyond me. How about we talk about Jesus and forgiveness?”

    The other is a far more sophisticated position that takes a kind of strong Kuhnian/’strong programme’ sociology of science position on scientific theory. It’s pretty much accepted in the philosophy of science that the relationship between theory and observation is a complex one, and why one should accept one theory over another or what kind of modifications are permissable in the face of awkward empirical observations is difficult to cache out. In addition, naturally there are plenty of sociological influences on the practice of science. Some scholars have detailed positions whereby science is ‘merely’ a social practice just like any other, and represents the values and predilictions of the community just like any social practice, rather than being the lone human endeavour that accesses reality.

    It would be possible to construct a defence of young-earth creationism on these grounds, saying that there’s no external, objective standard for theory construction and modification. Mainstream secular science has one set of community standards, YEC has another. It’s totally appropriate in YEC circles to defease evolutionist claims by ‘maybes’. This is no worse than the ‘maybes’ that secular science has always come up with for ‘explaining’ phenomena it’s not in a position to explain.

    I wouldn’t agree with such a position, but at least they’d have done their homework, and might be in a position to agree that, by their own lights, mainstream scientists are doing just fine.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some YECers had already done this, and you can see a bit of it in that cartoon that goes around with one person peering through ‘secular science’ and the other through ‘the holy bible’. When I first saw that, I thought ‘but… you could argue it really is like that’ before I remembered that YECers would see the Bible as an unproblematic source of truth, rather than just a cultural presumption.

    Although I guess it’s not only a bit too complex and scholastic for the rank-and-file, but the inherent ‘postmodernism’ and ‘relativism’ wouldn’t be popular.

    Anyway, it’s not what we get from most creationists. Instead we just get these incredibly unreflective, self-serving double-standards where the slightest anomaly or as-yet unexplained phenomenon spells the death knell for modern science, whereas creationists can help themselves to whatever hand-waving, unconstrained just-so stories they like.

    • Ian

      Interesting. There’s a variant of 1 I’ve come across which acknowledges that science does come up with the results it comes up with, acknowledges that the claimed results are actually genuine results, but says that the bible overrules it. So isn’t as much of a claim to ignorance. I’m not disagreeing, just adding an bit of anecdote.

      The second approach would only garner my respect if it had a theory of prediction too. I think you have to say something about prediction of observation when you talk about the cultural contingency of science. In my experience with folks who espouse such a position, prediction largely defeats most formulations of it.

      • arcseconds

        That’s interesting, thanks.

        As far as prediction is concerned, there’s a few replies they could make.

        They could point out that this emphasis on prediction and it’s presumed connection with truth are cultural tropes of modern scientific culture, and that this is historically contingent. In other cultures, including past phases of Western culture, prediction, while certainly considered to be pragmatically useful, is not given this overriding value. Rather, staying true to that which is preserved by tradition (including its claim to the status of supernatural revelation) is given more importance. They could claim that modern creationism is like this, and therefore more like most human cultures.

        They could also say prediction is not actually a guarantee of truth, and point to many examples of quite predictive scientific theories that aren’t considered to be true any more.

        If they wanted to maintain some connection with modern science, they could also quote several bona fide philosophers of science to the effect that it’s difficult to say in general when a struggling research programme has no further value and isn’t worth pursuing any further, and express hope that they will one day be predictive. They might point out that creation science is under-resourced in both money and talent compared with its mainstream alternative.

        They’d actually be right about a lot of this, although a couple of points would perhaps be being made too much of. Such a person would have a considerable degree of self-awareness about their position, instead of the self-deception that tends to mark creationists, which is one reason to give them some respect.

        Also, both positions I described, plus your variant, are admitting to a fair degree that modern science does (or may) have some good things going on, at least by its own lights, rather than trying to proclaim that by its own lights it’s an abject failure.

        • TomS

          staying true to that which is preserved by tradition
          Of course, creationists would not be comfortable with that, either. Rather, what they claim is that they have a privileged understanding of the Word of God, with a status superior to what everybody else before them had to say. There is no point in citing Augustine, for example.

        • Ian

          Yes, there are ways to fit in prediction to such a scheme. In my experience, most folks who want to make science a culturally contingent activity forget prediction at all, and get carried away from making science subjective.

          The ways of disposing with prediction you mention don’t work at all, in the context of what kinds of creationism we should respect, imho, but I’m not going to try to get you to stump for them.

    • TomS

      For someone to take the consistent position that whatever the Bible says overrides any of the secular scientific evidence they would have to embrace geocentrism. (I’m not going to insist upon a flat Earth, because the traditional interpretation of the Bible has accommodated a round Earth. Perhaps Omphalism is required.)