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The 7,000 Year Old World

Did you say you wanted another mega-post on the Marco Rubio/Young Earth Creationism/Republicans point? Well, sorry, that’s what you’re going to get. I have views on the topic that will irritate just about everybody.

1. People who use this flap to say that people should not bring religion into politics don’t really mean what they say, or at least they don’t know what they’re talking about. As Alan Jacobs pointed out succinctly [1], what they really mean is they don’t want conservative religion in politics. There is no way to denounce religion in politics without excluding Martin Luther King Jr and the Civil Rights movement — and, before them, the abolitionists. There’s no way to denounce religion in politics without also denouncing the segregation-era Roman Catholic archbishop of New Orleans who excommunicated several Catholic Louisiana politicians because they tried to pass a law forbidding the integration of Catholic schools. I’m old enough to remember hearing older white Southerners complain bitterly about how the Northern churches overstepped their bounds with the Civil Rights movement, and didn’t realize that religion ought not to get involved in politics.

2. The media love to believe this kind of thing is an exclusively Republican problem, but Daniel Engber at Slate observes that squishiness on the creationism issue is a bipartisan phenomenon [2]. He recalls a 2008 moment when then-Sen. Obama gave more or less the same answer as Sen. Marco Rubio when a similar question was presented to him. Here is a lengthy excerpt from Engber’s analysis that you need to see:

How do these quotes stack up? It seems to me that they’re exactly in agreement on four crucial and dismaying points:

1) Both senators refuse to give an honest answer to the question. Neither deigns to mention that the Earth is 4.54 billion years old.

2) They both go so far as to disqualify themselves from even pronouncing an opinion.I’m not a scientist, says Rubio. I don’t presume to know, says Obama.

3) That’s because they both agree that the question is a tough one, and subject to vigorous debate. I think there are multiple theories out there on how this universe was created, says Rubio. I think it’s a legitimate debate within the Christian community of which I’m a part, says Obama.

4) Finally they both profess confusion over whether the Bible should be taken literally. Maybe the “days” in Genesis were actual eras, says Rubio. They might not have been standard 24-hour days, says Obama.

In light of these concordances, to call Rubio a liar or a fool would be to call our nation’s president the same, along with every other politician who might like to occupy the Oval Office. If a reporter asks a candidate to name the age of Earth, there’s only one acceptable response:Well, you know, that’s a complicated issue … and who am I to say?

That’s not to argue that Obama and Rubio are identical in mind-set (although it’s hard to tell what either thinks on the basis of his cagey public statements). It’s clear enough they differ on some scientific policies. At the same 2008 event in Pennsylvania, Obama went on to give this caveat [3]:

Let me just make one last point on this. I do believe in evolution. I don’t think that is incompatible with Christian faith, just as I don’t think science generally is incompatible with Christian faith. I think that this is something that we get bogged down in. There are those who suggest that if you have a scientific bent of mind then somehow you should reject religion, and I fundamentally disagree with that. In fact, the more I learn about the world, the more I know about science, the more I am amazed about the mystery of this planet and this universe—and it strengthens my faith as opposed to weakens it. [APPLAUSE]

So Obama believes in evolution, and presumably he’d like to teach it in the nation’s public schools, while Rubio suggests that “multiple theories” should be given equal time. But even so, both men present the science as a matter of personal opinion. Obama doesn’t say, Evolution is a fact; he says, I believe in it.

3. Ross Douthat is right: [4]

The fact that the “conservatives vs. science” framework is frequently unfair doesn’t mean that the problem doesn’t exist, or that Republican politicians should just get a free pass for tiptoeing around it. No matter how you spin it, Rubio’s bets-hedging non-answer isn’t exactly a great indicator about the state of the party he might aspire to lead. Instead, he’s contributing to the problem that the wise Jim Manzi [5] has described as follows:

The debate about evolution is a great example of the kind of sucker play that often ensnares conservatives.  Frequently, conservatives are confronted with the assertion that scientific finding X implies political or moral conclusion Y with which they vehemently disagree. Obvious examples include (X = the Modern Synthesis of Evolutionary biology, Y = atheism) and (X = increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 will lead to some increase in global temperatures, Y = we must implement a global regulatory and tax system to radically reduce carbon emissions). Those conservatives with access to the biggest megaphones have recently developed the habit of responding to this by challenging the scientific finding X. The same sorry spectacle of cranks, gibberish and the resulting alienation of scientists and those who respect the practical benefits of science (i.e., pretty much the whole population of the modern world) then ensues.

In general, it would be far wiser to challenge the assertion that X implies Y. Scientific findings almost never entail specific moral or political conclusions because the scope of application of science is rarely sufficient.

4. I was discussing this issue yesterday with a friend on the left, who challenged my claim that it’s possible for someone to be well-educated and to believe in Young Earth Creationism. I told him that I have known, and do know, a number of people who are well-educated and who nevertheless affirm this. It’s mostly a matter of cognitive dissonance, I believe. But it’s also a matter of people living in bubbles.

Here’s what I mean: I don’t know a soul — aside from scientists, science educators, theologians who work in this area, or former colleagues at the Templeton Foundation — who ever talks about the age of the earth, God, and evolution. I care about this stuff more than most people I know, but until I went to work for Templeton, I rarely gave the topic much sustained thought, except episodically, e.g., when reading newspaper stories about the controversy in this or that school system. It’s just not the sort of thing that comes up, and when it does (or when it did with me), I would tend not to engage, because the last thing I wanted to do was argue in a social situation about religion, unless I had to. Granted, for some churches, this is a very big deal, but they only really talk about it with people who already agree with them. Again, I’m speaking from anecdotal experience, but in Southern culture, a well brought up person will avoid talking about controversial issues in social situations. It is easy for me to imagine that a well-educated person who attends a church that preaches some form of creationism might never encounter someone who plausibly challenges that belief, and might never, in his reading, come across books or essays that do.

Forget science and evolution for a second. Alan Jacobs (him again!) cites a whopping example of cultural ignorance: a literary scholar’s op-ed piece in The New York Times completely misunderstanding the meaning of the phrase “the Word made flesh” with reference to Jesus Christ. Nobody on The New York Times staff caught her egregious mistake before it went into print. Jacobs, who teaches literature, writes:

There are few pages of Scripture more famous and influential than that first chapter of John. A scholar of pre-twentieth-century literature, American or European, who is unfamiliar with it is operating at a severe disadvantage. If we want to understand — truly to understand — writers and thinkers from the past, we’re going to have to go to some considerable trouble to know as much as possible of what they knew, even if it’s boring or unpalatable to us. That goes for historians and literary critics alike.

Now, I would wager that many Christians with nothing more than a high school education can tell you what that phrase means. It is hard for me to understand how anyone in American culture — Christian or non-Christian — can be well-educated without awareness of that phrase’s meaning. Yet a professor who teaches 19th century literature is not only ignorant of the metaphysical basis of the worldview that produced much of what she teaches, but moves within a cultural milieu in which nobody grasped how wrong she was, or challenged her.

Was this professor not well-educated? Are editors at The New York Times not well-educated? Of course they’re well-educated, but they are still ignorant of something very basic in this culture. I only bring this up as an illustration of how cultural context determines what a person knows, and, more crucially to the point I want to make here, it determines what a person knows he doesn’t know. This professor, and the Times editorial staff, did not think her wildly inaccurate interpretation of “the Word made flesh” might be wrong. A minute’s googling would have shown them otherwise, but they didn’t know what they didn’t know, because (presumably) nobody in their intellectual and social circles ever talks about such a thing, or challenges what they think they know about religion.

This is what I mean by many educated people not knowing enough about science (geology, biology, etc.) to know what they don’t know. It’s not because they are poorly educated. It’s because for whatever reason or reasons, they’re ignorant. The more interesting question raised by this Rubio thing is why so many Americans are so uninformed about basic science. A second and parallel question is why so many elites are so uninformed about basic Christianity, and how it informs the content of the culture in which they live (beyond their immediate circles, I mean).

5. For all that, Ross is right about the need for the Republican Party to get over its weakness on this issue. Fundamentalist doctrine on the matter is not the same thing as Christian doctrine. Well-known Christians who did not believe in a literal reading of Genesis’s creation account include St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and John Wesley. [6] [UPDATE: Not Calvin, as I previously claimed, depending on the BioLogos claim; I thank the reader in the comments section who pointed out this error — RD]. It is a myth that all Christians believed that Genesis was a science textbook until Charles Darwin called that into question. The excellent website BioLogos [7] is staffed by Christians who write about how the Christian faith and biological science can be reconciled. And, for the record, the Discovery Institute’s advocacy of Intelligent Design [8] is intellectually provocative; whether or not you agree with ID — and BioLogos does not support ID — it is a far more scientific approach to the question of human origins than Creationism.

The political point here is simply that there is no good reason for a politician of Christian conviction to hedge on this issue as a matter of faith. Yes, to reject Creationism will tick off some of the GOP base, but this is just going to have to be done. Why? Because fair or not, this issue is becoming more relevant as the population becomes more secular. As a friend wrote to me about it this morning:

[Rubio’s] remarks are disqualifying to me for the presidency for the following reason: either he really is as dense as he sounded in that statement, which is a bad sign about his intellect more generally, or he’s just saying it to placate the folks I described above, which might be worse. We had 8 years of that garbage under W. That’s why I’m now a functional Democrat — meaning: I vote Democratic for almost entirely negative reasons, because I hate what the Republican Party has become.

Democrats do this too, of course (see Daniel Engber’s column above), but the media narrative is that it is an exclusively Republican thing. This is a problem for the party, and complaining about the selective outrage of the media over it is not going to help.

6. My friend Joe Carter asks [9] of me, Ross, Pete Wehner and others who have criticized Rubio:

Douthat is Catholic, Dreher is Eastern Orthodox, and Wehner is Evangelical. Yet all three Christians think that Rubio’s mild support for Young-Earth Creationism is somewhat embarrassing.

Even though I myself believe that that the Earth is about 4 billion years old (give or take a decade), I wish these gentlemen—and others who are criticizing Rubio—would explain why their—or, I should say, our—beliefs are preferable to our fellow Christians who believe the Earth is 10,000 years old

If you pressed us to give an explanation for our explanation (without the aid of Wikipedia) we could probably say that it has something to do with radiometric dating. But even though each of these men are highly educated, I doubt they could give a sufficient explanation for how the process works, much less how it can be reliable enough to make a measurement of billions of years (I certainly could not).

In fact, I suspect that if you ask most scientists, they would be similarly stymied. Their answers—like the ones Douthat, Dreher, Wehner, and I would give—is that we have faith that the people who understand that sort of thing and have taken the measurements know what they are talking about. We may not know these people personally or even know people who know them. But we have great faith in the presumed knowledge of these people we don’t know because other people also have faith in them. Our epistemic warrant—our justification for reasonably holding such a belief—is based on our faith in what other people know.

There is nothing wrong with this type of faith-based belief. But why do we assume it is inherently superior to other types of faith-based beliefs?

Joe’s point is an interesting one, and one I endorse to a strictly limited degree. He’s completely right that I, a non-scientist whose technical knowledge of science is scanty at best, accepts the standard scientific account of the origin of life based on the authority of scientists. I also accept certain theological doctrines and reject others, even though I could not give a strong and detailed account of why, based on authority. I would point out that I often write on this blog critically of the tendency in our culture to grant science more authority than it deserves; this is called scientism.

Even so, to answer Joe’s question, I accept the verdict of science on the age of the earth because science is a mode of inquiry best suited to investigating these kinds of questions, and delivering accurate judgments. That is not to say science provides definitive, unchanging judgments: in fact, the scientific method presupposes that every scientific claim can in theory be falsified (that is, proved wrong). Scientists test and retest theories, and adjust them in light of new knowledge. Scientists may find out in the future that the scientific consensus on the biological origins of humankind are wrong (see Alvin Plantinga’s review in The New Republic of Thomas Nagel’s new book [10] on the topic). But I trust science to give us the most accurate — if incomplete! — explanation of the origins of humankind that is available to us in the present moment. It is highly improbable that the Young Earth Creationist’s account of the origins of the earth and humankind are true, with respect to the evidence, and vastly more probable that the scientific consensus on this question is true, or far more true.

Would Joe privilege a reputable Bible scholar’s explanation of atonement over a geologist’s? I bet he would. That’s why I privilege a geologist’s account of the age of the earth over a reputable Bible scholar’s.

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131 Comments To "The 7,000 Year Old World"

#1 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 22, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

A hopeful note: The judge who made the very unambiguous Dover ruling was appointed to the bench by George W. Bush.

#2 Comment By Joe mc.. Fa ul On November 22, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

On a national level, you have creationism component of the No Child Left Behind Act, inserted by Santorum and signed off by Bush.

The Texas schoolbook creationist fight would influence schoolbook purchases in all 50 states.

The “evolution caused Hitler” claims by Weikert and Klinghoffer of the Discovery Institue have negatively impacted stem cell research and research in genetically caused diseases.

Furtheremore, the general YEC distrust of science corresponds almost 100% with global warming denialism.

YEC is harmful on a number of levels. Any GOP candidate who hopes to be elected needs to disown it of face the consequences of correctly being identified as a science denialist on a par with UFO conspiracists, Birchers, anti axes and holocaust denialists– unfit for high public office.

#3 Comment By Joe mc.. Fa ul On November 22, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

Sorry “birthers” and antivaxxers. Damn autocorrect.

#4 Comment By Church Lady On November 22, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

Edward,

Church Lady is confusing two distinct questions. The first is whether evolution is historically the mechanism that accounts for the observed diversity of nature, a question about natural history. The second is whether organisms are capable of evolving in the future, a question about experimental biology. It’s quite possible to believe in the latter, but in the former. In fact, plenty of YEC advocates are perfectly happy with endorsing natural selection as a powerful mechanism for explaining why certain organisms become extinct, or why others see exploding populations in certain environments. It’s possible to believe that life will evolve in the future, without believing that it has evolved in the past.

There are several problems with this, as with many metaphysical theories about life on earth. The first is consistency. If one accepts evolutionary processes and natural selection as something that can shape our future, why not our past? Obviously for only one reason: it would contradict the Bible. That’s simply not a logical reason to create so profound a break in the consistency of one’s cosmology.

If the world as it appears today is accepted according to scientific descriptions, it stands to reason that it has been this way in the past as well. We could only contradict that if we found actual evidence that the laws of physics and biology had been different in the past, or that the history of evolution was very brief. But none of that is the case. To presume some fundamental break between past, present, and future, requires some good and sound reason for that break, and it has to be consistent with the evidence. The fossil record, geology, and everything we understand about biology, DNA, and so on, points over and over again with overwhelming consistency to a world that is billions of years old, and life forms that evolved by natural means.

To be an honest broker of the evidence, one can’t have fallen in love with one’s own hypothesis, and bend over backwards to twist every possible logical possibility to favor that hypothesis. The evidence itself has to point towards an hypothesis for it to survive critical rigor.

The fact, is the whole of everything we know about biology as a science is rooted in evolution. Without evolution, we simply don’t have any modern biology. There is nothing like an actual creationist theory of biology to resort to. Creationist theories are not scientific hypotheses, they are metaphysical beliefs held onto regardless of the evidence, which is always made to fit the belief however it is tortured and twisted. One can claim that evolutionary theory can be disregarded in the past, but accepted in the present and future, but what possible reason would one have for doing it that way, other than to somehow rescue Biblical literalism from falsification? The evidence itself certain doesn’t point in that direction.

I’m really exceptionally liberal about whacky metaphysical ideas. I am more than happy to entertain them myself, and explore them. I believe in reincarnation, for example. I am quite willing to accept as reasonable, the notion that alien ETs are out there, and have even had interactions with us, past and present. I don’t know of any irrefutable evidence for this, but I’m open-minded, and I wouldn’t be shocked if something like that were announced publically. Until then, I’m agnostic on the issue. I’m also willing to entertain the notion that Biblical stories of creation, miracles, the Flood, etc., have some real historical basis. I think myths of all kinds were primitive ways of conveying real information of a kind felt to be important to people.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll just accept any crazy ass theory out there as valid. YEC doesn’t even come close to being something I could consider real, except in some metaphysical sense as I outlined above. As a literal theory, it’s just nonsense. All metaphysical ideas really do have to have some plausible relationship to the empirical evidence. I love science fiction and fantasy, but I don’t take them seriously except as literary or even spiritual metaphors, unless they are actually founded in some kind of at ;east plausible correspondence to empirical facts.

YEC doesn’t even pass that very liberal smell test. One has to be willing to let one’s cherished ideas die, if they don’t even remotely match scientific evidence. It’s obvious that the only reason people are attached to YEC is that they equate it with their own beloved religious tradition. I can understand that. People love Jesus, and if they think they need to believe in YEC to keep loving Jesus, I say fine, go right ahead. But I’d also say the premise is absurd. There’s no way anyone has to actually believe in YEC to love Jesus. I love Jesus, and I don’t believe in that nonsense. Millions of others feel the same way. The whole Catholic Church feels that way. But there’s a certain mindset that gets stuck in this machinery of logic that’s pernicious, and unnecessarily so.

And let’s be reminded, there is still plenty of room within current scientific theory and observation for metaphysics to survive. It’s just that some metaphysical ideas don’t survive that standard, like YEC. They need to be abandoned, and we need to look at those metaphysical ideas that are at least reasonably consistent with what we do know about science, and give them a spin around the block. Or, we should stop pretending that our ideas have anything to do with physical reality, and stop arguing with scientists about them.

#5 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On November 22, 2012 @ 3:18 pm

After reading about the insanity of prohibition era, I have little faith that politics couldn’t go off the deep end on this or any other issue. So vigilance is always prudent.

#6 Comment By Turmarion On November 22, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

When YECers call me in effect a Nazi worthy of the pits of Hell, yes, I do get “intensely emotional”. Surprising, I know.

My experience has not been that. My experience has been with bourgeois and upper bourgeois people who believe this stuff, but don’t make a thing over it.

Well, you’re always the one talking about how SWPL types don’t care about working-class whites, but focus only on the bourgeois or upper bourgeois, and are therefore out of touch. I doubt that the bourgeois and upper bourgeois are going to get too exercised about religious matters in general; but it does rile up the working-class people who are the real foot soldiers for this kind of thing. Once more, Google “wedge strategy” and “wedge document”, and maybe go out and talk to some non– “bourgeois and upper bourgeois” who are YEC, check out some of their websites, the “lies from Hell” polemics, etc. In the places where this stuff has the most traction it is far from a harmless eccentricity, which is what a lot of us are ttying to tell you. If “nothing you’ve read has persuaded” you that a YEC president would be a threat to science, then I don’t know what else I can say

#7 Comment By Church Lady On November 22, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

When scientists speak casually and matter of factly about what happened billions of years ago, I take that with a grain of salt. We can’t even decide who shot Kennedy and it was FILMED.

I’m sorry, but this is precisely the kind of illogical argument that makes it impossible to take YEC advocates seriously.

The film of Kennedy’s assassination doesn’t tell us everything, but it sure does tell us a lot. It tells us that Kennedy was hit twice. It tells us he died almost instantly. It tells us precisely where his car was when it got hit. It tells us that the line of sight to Book Depository was obstructed by trees at that moment. It tells us Oswald got off a lucky couple of shots, if he was the assassin. It tells us he wasn’t abducted by aliens. It tells us the Archangel Gabriel didn’t swoop down upon him and slice his head off with his celestial sword.

It doesn’t tell us everything, because it’s only one piece of evidence. You have to look at all the evidence. And unless there’s conclusive evidence, you may never know exactly what happened, but you can rule out a lot of things.

Similarly with the earth’s history. We don’t know everything about it, but some things we know for certain. We know it had to be about 4.5 billion years old. We know it formed from the debris leftover from the formation of the Sun a little bit earlier. We know it couldn’t possibly be 10k years or less old, not even remotely possible. The evidence is very clear about that.

We also know that life formed fairly shortly after the earth came into shape, once it had cooled down somewhat. We know that life was very simple for billions of years, only gradually forming multi-celled organisms about a billion years ago.

There’s lots of things we don’t know about that whole process. We don’t know how, exactly, life began. We are still figuring out the details of evolution from the available evidence, which is not complete, but there’s a lot of things we can tell did happen, and a lot of things we can tell didn’t happen. Just as with the Kennedy assassination. Perfect knowledge about everything that happened? Extremely unlikely, until someone invents a time machine. And even then. But good enough knowledge to rule many things out. Sure.

Every piece of evidence has to fit together. Like the Zapruder film, no single piece of evidence is conclusion, but any theory of what happened has to be consistent with the evidence we do have. One thing we can say about YEC, is that it’s completely inconsistent with all the evidence we have. There is actually no evidence at all that supports it, and everything else contradicts it. There are still eccentric possibilities out there that could turn out to be true, but YEC isn’t one of them.

Example: it’s entirely possible that, like in the Prometheus movies, alien beings played a role in our evolution. There’s no evidence they did, but there are certainly ways in which aliens could have played a part, as in 2001: A Space Odyssey. And God or Gods could have played a role also. There are ways that too could be consistent with the evidence. But YEC is simply not consistent with the evidence. No way.

#8 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On November 22, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

Church Lady, thanks for responding to the Kennedy assassination post. I saw it and figured it would be best for my blood pressure if I didn’t.

As an aside, in New England we have a YEC minority who are fairly active, but so far have been unable to be effective. When I lived in New Hampshire they got elected to the local school boards and have kept on plugging. Last year and this they’ve introduced anti-evolution bills. So far they haven’t passed, but they are persistent. The link below has some details including the usual evolutionists are godless Nazi rhetoric.

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#9 Comment By CC On November 22, 2012 @ 11:47 pm

” That’s why I privilege a geologist’s account of the age of the earth over a reputable Bible scholar’s.”

Rod, there are credentialed PhD geologists who hold the young earth view. They are way in the minority, it’s true, but if you want to know the whole picture, you should get their side of the story as well.

I myself have a BS and an MS in geology, and worked for a short while in New Orleans for an oil company. I used to be an old age evolutionist, but I now hold the young earth position. There are several lines of reasoning supporting this, but the strongest evidence is the increasing pace of discovery of preserved soft tissue and C-14 in fossils presumed tens to hundreds of millions years old by radiometric dating, when those materials should have disappeared long before now.

When you have two methods of dating that profoundly contradict either other like this, the least that can be said is that the dates provided by radioisotope analysis do not pass the burden of proof of reasonable doubt.

My conclusion as a geologist is that the data are not conclusive enough to maintain with certainty that radiometric dating gives an absolute date for the age of the earth. As a Christian, I also believe that God, by His very nature, was able to create the world in any manner He desired, including that described literally in Genesis.

When you look at it, the whole Genesis account from Adam to Abraham is a coherent historical narrative, which is taken up in the New Testament when Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam. Rejecting the historicity of Genesis before Abraham puts us in the position of having real people be the descendants of metaphorical ones.

Obviously, not everyone agrees, but to me, the theologic, biologic and geologic evidence is more consistent with a young age for the earth and a single appearance of biologic kinds with built-in but limited potential for variation.

#10 Comment By Blairburton On November 23, 2012 @ 7:09 am

From Krugman’s column in the NYT this morning:

“By the way, that question didn’t come out of the blue. As speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Mr. Rubio provided powerful aid to creationists trying to water down science education. In one interview, he compared the teaching of evolution to Communist indoctrination tactics — although he graciously added that “I’m not equating the evolution people with Fidel Castro.”

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[Note from Rod: That being the case, then he deserves what he gets. Thanks for the information. — RD]

#11 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On November 23, 2012 @ 10:47 am

CC, as a geologist how would you reconcile your young Earth views with geological formations like the Grand Canyon? Given what we see about present rates of sediment deposit, how long would it take to build up nearly a mile depth of sediment, then compress into rock? How long would it take a river to then erode layers of that rock to form a structure as vast as the Grand Canyon?

If like some young Earth creationists you claim that the canyon was created fully formed (the omphalos hypothesis). How do you explain the presence of fossils with the rock? These would be fossils of animals that never existed.

Even when you discount radiological dating, the mechanisms in play suggest a vast expanse of time for such events.

#12 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On November 23, 2012 @ 11:02 am

To add to Blairburton’s comment. If you Google “Anti evolution bill” you’ll see that this is going on in many state legislatures, not just Florida and New Hampshire and not just local school boards. Given the nature of their political base, odds are high Republican lawmakers are involved.

#13 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 23, 2012 @ 11:14 am

With all due respect to poster CC, I blame an education system that permits a credentialed scientist to think it is valid to throw many decades and tens of thousands of hours of human effort into the toilet and declare, with rather obvious hubris, the theologic, biologic and geologic evidence is more consistent with a young age for the earth and a single appearance of biologic kinds with built-in but limited potential for variation.

Dear CC, you fail as a scientist as soon as you list “theology” with science. I’m sorry, but there is no polite way to phrase that.

#14 Comment By Matt On November 23, 2012 @ 12:17 pm

… the kind of people who make it to national office who are inclined to look favorably on YEC don’t make it a hill on which they are willing to die.

Almost certainly true. But, for me, I’m talking about nothing less than the basic integrity of my children’s education. That, most certainly is a hill on which I’m willing to die.

#15 Comment By CC On November 24, 2012 @ 8:25 am

Franklin Evans, don’t blame the education system—I grew up a commited old-earth evolutionist, and it wasn’t until I was deep into my Master’s thesis that I started questioning the conventional model.

I also think the origins question is one of logic, not just science, which technically is concerned solely with phenomena that can be observed by the senses. When I see that the historic consensus of the Church is consistent with a logical interpretation of geologic data, I can use both arguments to help me reach a rational conclusion about origins.

MH, I see the Grand Canyon and the sediments into which it is carved as much more problematic for the old earth model. Also, the gradualistic model of sediments being laid down slowly over large periods of time is now realized by all geologists to be severely flawed. In terms of the Grand Canyon sediments, one problem for the conventional model is that these rock layers are thick, flat, and extend for hundreds of square miles. There is nowhere on earth that such layers are currently forming. In addition, the flatness of the layers is contrary to the idea that they were laid down slowly, because erosion should have carved up their surfaces if they were exposed for a long time.

The most significant feature of the Grand Canyon, however, is that it is a water gap, a place where a river has apparently bypassed the path of least resistance and flowed into, rather than around, a topographic high, in this case, the Kaibab plateau. Water gaps are extremely problematic for conventional geologists, and the American West is full of them. I find them much more consistent with the sorts of erosional forms that would have been produced by immense amounts of water receding from the earth’s surface, overtopping and carving through temporary impoundments, possibly with the help of earthquakes.

Fossilization is perfectly consistent with the idea of a catastrophic worldwide marine transgression. It’s important to realize that much geological data is equivocal in regard to origins, depending upon the preconceptions of the researcher. For example, the fossil record can be viewed as either a record of appearance and disappearance of organisms in time, or as a record of worldwide catastrophic burial and ecological zonation.

However, there are some data that are unequivocably anomalous for the old earth position, such as the existence of preserved soft tissue and C-14 in fossils presumed tens to hundreds of millions of years old, when such material should have disappeared long ago. While different people will weigh different evidences differently, the C-14/soft tissue data seem pretty significant to me.

#16 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 24, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

CC, you know better than most that questioning the conventional model is not just something to do on a lark, but is a hallmark of science. I refer to the advent of continental drift and the debunking of the prior general theory of geology, from which we now have plate tectonics as the “king” of that hill.

The part on which I cannot agree is how you came to your conclusion. The historic consensus of the Church has been proven wrong in some very basic areas, unless you are willing to also reject modern astronomy for the geo-centric model with a film or veil that contains the visible stars; or you demand that we return to conclusions like “spontaneous generation” for flies and other insects; or you insist that some diseases are caused not by bacteria but by “vapors”, which can be treated by controlled bleeding.

Those and more were the wisdom of those times. People knew what they knew, and observed what they could perceive without technology. It has always been true, and always will be, that a component of scientific inquiry is inference, but no scientist (who is ethical and in his right mind*) will declare that inference is sufficient to debunk empirical evidence and thousands of hours of experimentation.

* As I wrote above, there is no polite way to phrase this. The Latin phrase that sums it up is quod erat demonstrandum. Religion fails to demonstrate no matter how thinly you stretch the requirements of scientific methodology.

#17 Comment By CC On November 24, 2012 @ 7:51 pm

Franklin Evans, I agree that one does not lightly forgo the common scientific consensus, although scientific revolutions always start with one, or a few, who do just that. I think perhaps you misunderstood what I was saying about my reasoning process, or perhaps I was not clear enough. I did not say that I reached my conclusion solely because of the historical consensus of the Church. Rather, it was my investigation into the biologic and geologic data that led me to the conclusion that the historic consensus of the Church was right in this instance. It was the book of Nature, not the book of God, that finally convinced me.

#18 Comment By JonF On November 24, 2012 @ 9:32 pm

RE: The historic consensus of the Church has been proven wrong in some very basic areas, unless you are willing to also reject modern astronomy for the geo-centric model

The business about astronomy is a red herring. Up until the early modern period, when the Roman Catholic Church entered a period of fierce reaction and combativeness due to the Reformation, it never occurred to any churchman to canonize the Ptolemaic system, or Aristotle’s physics either, for that matter. And in the early 17th century the Copernican system was still speculative without much evidence in its favor, and a serious error at its core (the insistence of perfectly circular orbits, which Galileo also maintained). It took Kepler’s ellipses and ultimately Newton’s theories of physics to give it all a firm grounding.

#19 Comment By JonF On November 24, 2012 @ 9:48 pm

Re: There is nowhere on earth that such layers are currently forming.

CC, that is an absurd criticism. We cannot hope to observe such formation in action because the time scale for it is too vast, exceeding not just a single life, but all human history, by orders of magnitude.
To be sure there are valid critics of gradualism, but those critiques do not point to a young Earth, but rather to punctuated equilibria: lengthy periods when not much is happening interrupted by periods when things change rather abruptly.
Also the Kaibab plateau was not always a highland. At one time it was the path of least resistance. Although that eventually changed, it was still passable and the river continued flowing there due to the sort of higher order inertia that you can perhaps best grasp under the phrase “path dependence”. Once a given pattern (whether in geology, biology whatever) is set it endures unless something really enormous– more than mere inconvenience– forces a modification. (A human-level example is the persistence of QWERTY keyboards.)

You are incorrect about soft tissues being preserved. It isn’t the tissues themselves that have lasted; rather they have under special conditions been fossilized (a physical process whereby inorganic mineral matter replaces organic matter which has failed to decay owing to special environments, notably those utterly lacking in oxygen). There are no dinosaur brains or archaeopterex feathers preserved as such; but those soft tissues have sometimes left their “ghosts” in rock.

The early Genesis material reads very clearly as an allegory (especially if one translates the proper names out of Hebrew), much more akin to medieval morality plays like “Everyman” than to, say, the later Biblical accounts of the Northern Kingdom’s fall to the Assyrians.

#20 Comment By CC On November 25, 2012 @ 8:20 am

JonF, if I’m understanding you right, you’re saying that the process of formation of layers like those in the Kaibab plateau is so slow that we can’t observe it. Assuming that’s correct, we should still be able to see the effects of that process. After all, many of the great medieval cathedrals took several generations to build, but during that timespan, people could point to the partially constructed buildings to prove that construction was ongoing.

The problem in the western US is that many sediment layers are extensive, thick, and separated by essentially planar surfaces. That is what we don’t see forming today.

Geologists routinely use modern depositional environments to interpret the formation of sedimentary layers, so I stand by my statement that the lack of a current equivalent to the sediment layers of the American West is problematic for the conventional geologic model.

Even if individual layers had formed in short periods of time separated by long periods of stasis, that intervening time of non-deposition should have resulted in much erosion, similar to what we see ongoing today. Instead, the contacts between the sediment layers are planar and horizontal for many square miles, in stark contrast to the deeply eroded present topographical surface of the western US.

Concerning water gaps, the problem with the “path dependence” model is that it doesn’t work for rivers, as experiments have shown. The authors in this study (www2.pvc.maricopa.edu/~douglass/douglass_phys_modeling.pdf) modeled the traditional hypotheses of antecedence, superimposition and headward erosion, to see how effective those mechanisms were in forming water gaps. The only method that proved unequivocally successful in forming water gaps was overflow above a barrier, such as a dam break, which is the process favored by the YEC model.

In addition, as Italian geologists Burrato and Ciucci showed in a study of the Po River in Italy, alluvial rivers are very sensitive to modest ground tilting, to which they react with deflections and changes of their sedimentation pattern. ( [13])

I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you about the preservation of soft tissues. In 2005, Dr. Mary Schweitzer first discovered what appeared to be red blood cells in dinosaur bone, and since then, more and more preserved organic matter has been discovered. It is a big controversy in the paleontologic community, for the precise reason that all evidence indicates that such tissue should NOT have survived that long. Here is a site listing peer-reviewed articles about these discoveries, including original archaeopteryx feathers: [14]. Here’s a quote from the New Scientist report on the Archeopteryx find:

“It boasts more than just… impressions of long-gone feathers. One of the world’s most famous fossils… Archaeopteryx – also contains remnants of the feathers’ soft tissue. … “It’s amazing that that chemistry is preserved after 150 million years.” … palaeontologists had long thought that only impressions remained. [But] “There is soft-tissue chemistry preserved in places that people didn’t expect it,” says [geochemist Roy] Wogelius. ”

While I agree that Genesis may be read allegorically, that doesn’t mean automatically exclude an authentic historical exegesis as well. Additionally, Jesus and the apostles didn’t regard Genesis as an allegory, but spoke of the Genesis personages as real people, and Jesus was very clear about when He spoke allegorically and when He didn’t.

Thank you for your patience with this long post—I thought your data-based comments merited a data-based response.

#21 Comment By Church Lady On November 25, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

CC is using the infamous technique of “arguing from the gaps” in our scientific knowledge. There certainly remains much that we don’t know about the geology of the earth, and the specifics of how it all formed and came together. But none of that leaves open the possibility of an earth on the order of 10,000 years of age. Not in any way shape or form. The age of any particular sedimentary layer may be open to question, but the general age of the earth, based on radioactive decay and many other factors, is simply not in doubt. Even some kind of radical breakthrough that changed everything we know about physics and geology, isn’t going to reduce that age to 10,000 years.

There’s only one force on earth that can do this: biblical literalism. And CC is viewing the entire science of geology through that prism, looking for even the tiniest crevices in our science for cracks that he can claim make the Biblical account in Genesis somehow plausible as an explanation for what science has observed. Such cracks will always exist, but even if opened, they won’t reveal the Bible behind them.

#22 Comment By CC On November 25, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

Church Lady, I’m a Catholic, not a Protestant, so personal interpretation of Scripture is not part of my faith (I’m also a she, not a he). I take my cue on interpretation of Scripture from the Magisterium of the Church, which allows investigation into the subject of origins, and which does not forbid a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11. As I explained to Franklin Evans, it was geologic evidence that finally convinced me of the validity of the young earth hypothesis.

I agree that the ultimate source of absolute dates is radiometric dating, particularly of the U-Pb and Ar-Ar series, and would add that all other dating methods rely upon radiometric dating for their baseline. However, C-14 is a proven method of dating as well, and is not supposed to be found in materials more than about 50,000 years old, and studies have indicated that soft tissues in fossils should not be found in fossils more than a few million years of age. When such materials are found in fossils dated by other radiometric methods to be tens to hundreds of millions of years old, a contradiction exists.

When alternate lines of reasoning contradict so profoundly, which should be preferred? I suggest that one answer would be to acknowledge that ages derived from radiometric dating cannot be considered probative evidence of old age because of the conflicts with other dating methods.

You can argue that the assumption of old age is the best available explanation for the both the amount of radiometric decay found in rocks and the regional correlations of dating results around the world. However, the best theory is not ipso facto a good theory. For example, the ancient Greeks’ geocentric model explained the movement of heavenly bodies, even to the point of accounting for the details of planetary motion. The heliocentric model proposed by Copernicus in 1543 was no more accurate than the Ptolemaic system, and it took over a century of further scientific advances before heliocentrists could prove that their system had more explanatory power than geocentrism.

In a similar manner, while there may be a lack of substantive alternatives to the hypothesis that radiometric dates correspond to true age, significant anomalies exist that are not easily explained away. This is not God of the Gaps reasoning, it’s acknowledgement of a fundamental problem with the paradigm. Geologists realize this, and that is why soft tissues in dinosaur bones are so controversial—ask Mary Schweitzer.

As another example of how controversial these findings are, a German scientist associated with a Catholic group, the Kolbe Center for Study of Creation, presented the results of C-14 studies in dinosaur bones this summer at an AGU/AOGS conference in Singapore. Afterward, the presentation abstract disappeared from the online program without any explanation. Fortunately, it was recorded, and you can see the presentation here: [15]

Given the uncertainty in the U-Pb and Ar series of dates, and given other evidence that is very consistent with a young earth, I think it is scientifically possible to hold the young earth view. I can also see how people can hold the old earth view, depending upon which evidences they privilege.

I would also add that, using your logic, you should also question the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, since science has never observed a man to be born of a virgin or to rise from the dead.

#23 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 25, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

CC, you are holding up your end of this argument very well, I wanted to acknowledge that. You are, though and in fact, using God in the gaps logic the moment you cite a young earth as a credible hypothesis. You cannot avoid it.

I am a nitpicker, which also means I pay attention to details and I will and do acknowledge precedence. In this case, though, I feel I am not nitpicking when you claim that scientists can choose a hypothesis depending upon which evidences they privilege.

That is simply false. It is proven false every time a paper or experimental proposal gets to a peer review and this “privileging” is uncovered. All known evidence must be covered, or a hypothesis is more at risk of being falsified in proportion to the amount of evidence being ignored or excluded.

Any attempt to view the creation model through a scientific lens uncovers a fatal flaw immediately: Science cannot and will not attempt to prove or disprove a divine Actor. You cannot call it science in any regard, nor can you hold it over your hypothesis as a cure-all. It is, first and foremost, impossible to falsify. Bypassing that by claiming logical conclusions from the evidence is tantamount to being the blind and hand-less man in the room with the elephant.

Giving it a pithy label like “intelligent design” fools no one except those who flock to it, as solace to their denial by and sometimes cruel disapprobation at the hands of science. I don’t condone the cruel part — hence my repeating the admonition that I don’t know a polite way to phrase these things — but I find it 100% compelling.

Your scientific inquiry, testing, experimental repetition and compliance with falsifiability cannot, however indirectly, trace back to any holy text let alone the Christian one. Indeed, I find it both ironic and foolish of any Catholic — whose faith is founded on miracles — to cite Scripture or its historical guardians in any matter of science. Demand respect for those citations, and your entire bedrock of faith becomes a fair target. Please, think about that.

#24 Comment By CC On November 25, 2012 @ 9:11 pm

Franklin Evans, thank you for your comment. I appreciate nitpicking, and being married to an extremely skeptical and logical lawyer, I have had my share, believe me!

When I used the word “privilege,” I was echoing Rod in the original post for this comment, when he said that he would “privilege a geologist’s account of the age of the earth over a reputable Bible scholar’s.” That’s why I originally commented, because it appeared to me that he either thought all geologists were of the same opinion on the age of the earth, or, for whatever reason, he was being selective in which geologists he wished to privilege, and I wanted to point out that not all geologists are unanimous in their interpretation of the evidence.

I agree with you completely that “All known evidence must be covered, or a hypothesis is more at risk of being falsified in proportion to the amount of evidence being ignored or excluded.” That is why I object to the dismissal or censorship of evidence that doesn’t fit the prevailing paradigm, such as the removal of the C-14 presentation from the AGU/AOGS conference program.

However, it’s important to realize the distinction between the use of evidence in operational geology and historical geology. For example, a petroleum geologist who uses seismic logs to search for a drill site is using operational geology. If he chooses to ignore the body of past experience that shows that bright spots on the seismic log often indicate oil or gas, then he’s going to suffer the consequences when the results of the well come in. However, if he makes an inference as to the age of that drill site, he is using historical geology, which is based upon assumptions, the chief of which is the reliability of radiometric dating. His guess about the age of the formation is only going to be as good as the validity of his assumptions.

When there is ambiguity about the reliability of evidence, which I believe there is in the case of radiometric dating, then a scientist is forced to make his best guess. He then puts it forth and other scientists are free to shoot it down, as they most certainly will. As you say, however, it is important to get all the evidence out there on the table.

I also agree with you that “Science cannot and will not attempt to prove or disprove a divine Actor.” However, I think science, while an important component of the search for truth, is by its very limitations unfit to be the final arbiter for all Truth. Science is concerned solely with the investigation of phenomena that can be discerned by the senses. I quote chemist Jay Wile, whose Apologia Science textbooks have been used by thousands of homeschoolers, and whose blog is for me an exemplar of the best of origins discussion on the web:

“In addition, consider the words of atheist philosopher Bradley Monton. In his book, Seeking God in Science, he says in response to the Dover decision: ‘The reason this matters is that it’s a dangerous practice to try to impose rigid boundaries on what counts as science. For example, as I will show, a consequence of [Judge] Jones’s criteria [for science] is that the aim of science is not truth…My position is that scientists should be free to pursue hypotheses as they see fit, without being constrained by a particular philosophical account of what science is.’ I agree. When you artificially constrain science to work in some narrow philosophical view (such as excluding a belief in God), it is no longer a pursuit of what is true. It is only a pursuit of what works within that narrow philosophical view.” [16]

I don’t think I have yet quoted Scripture in support of science, nor have I tried to trace any scientific inquiry back to a holy text. What I have tried to demonstrate is that, in the case of the origins debate, scientific inquiry and theological inquiry can both come to a similar conclusion.

#25 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 26, 2012 @ 9:41 am

CC,

Well put, and well taken. We both need to do some clarifying, it would seem. 🙂

I missed Rod’s early context for “privilege” for our tangent, and it’s good to bring it back, but I must also disclose some personal bias along that line: My experience of dogma — not isolating Christianity by any means — is one of conscious movement towards stagnation as the consequence of individual stability. Science is the antithesis of stagnation. Scientists who will not remain open-minded (at the least) are doomed to fade from awareness along with their chosen scientific dogma. Whether next month or next century, there will be changes. We can only guess what they might be.

I take a similar view: If all members of specialty X unanimously agree on theory A, my first reaction is “Someone there is not doing their job.” The modern lesson is Newtonian physics. It remains of practical use (your operational metaphor) but quantum mechanics has essentially replaced it. The ethical physicist will shrug (perhaps grind his or her teeth) and move along in the new direction. They all should have a sincere gratitude for that change. Those that don’t will be pushed to the margins and forgotten.

Theology is not experimental, it is experiential. It starts in the subjective and never leaves it. It has self-imposed limits for the horizon. Science, it’s true, has similar limitations, but they are both self-imposed and validly subject to being crossed when some brave scientist finds a weak spot or chink. Theology permits no such crossing.

My critique of your dependence — trust, I would concede — of Church authority (I take my cue on interpretation of Scripture from the Magisterium of the Church, which allows investigation into the subject of origins, and which does not forbid a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11.) is based on that subjectivity. Holy text is not admissable evidence in any scientific methodology of the modern era. It can be supported from the other side — the flood myths have often been traced to actual, regional events, for example — but it cannot be the conclusive theory. Those who insist on its authority do so via reverse logic. We are told this is so, and see here is the evidence to prove it. Just as you correctly remind me that not all evidence can be covered by a prevailing theory, there is a threshold of “enough” where the exceptions are tolerated… even while ethical scientists continue to explore why those exceptions exist, ready to declare the prevailing consensus wrong as needed.

On a personal note: we do not abandon things because they are not perfect or don’t always work. A general case will remain true, and our task is to determine why it doesn’t anecdotally. The most likely and common reasons are human error in measurement, or in classifying the exception. We do not respect the claims of competing cases solely on the basis of those errors for a very good reason: because those cases have already failed to be true in general. We do not jump to trade them every time an exception crops up. We do the scientific thing and suppress that human impulse, never an easy thing to do for sure. But that human element must be examined in the harsh light of reality, and while I am quite willing to trust your stated motivations as an individual, I am quite unwilling to trust a dogma and set of doctrines that starts with “Ours is the one and only doorway to truth, and all others must abandon their disagreements and dissensions at the threshold.”

In science, that violates ethics, and personally violates my conscience.

#26 Comment By Church Lady On November 26, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

CC,

Your alleged “dinosaur flesh” is just microbial slime, as the research shows:

[17]

Your “geological evidence” all falls apart on examination. It’s driven by the desire to find something, anything, that might demonstrate the Biblical YEC theory to have some semblance of reality behind it. Let me ask you an honest question: if you knew nothing about the Bible and its claims, would the scientific evidence point to a world that is 10,000 years old or less?

And let’s point out that there are far more than radiation physics that point to the age of the earth as being really old. There’s all those geological evidences of mountain ranges rising and falling, plate tectonics moving about at slow speeds, volcanic activity going on, laying deposits all over the place. That kind of activity simply can’t happen in a 10,000 year old earth. We could throw out the radionics, and still find it impossible to date the world less than many hundreds of millions and really billions of years old.

And then there’s the rest of the universe to take into account. What about the age of the sun? What about the presence of the higher elements in the sun, and the earth itself? How else could they be produced other than by supernovae explosions? How could the solar system come into being within the last 10,000 years? How could all those billions of galaxies we see in the sky, and their quadrillions of stars, come into being so quickly?

And really, why doesn’t the Bible mention all these other stars and worlds and planets out there? And why does it show all the evidence of having been around for billions of years? How can light, which travels at a fixed speed, travel the billions of light years it has traversed to show us these distant stars and galaxies, if the universe is only 10,000 years old. We shouldn’t be able to see anything more than 10,000 light years away. But we have gobs and gobs of evidence that the milky way alone is much larger than that, and that distant galaxies are far larger than that as well, and of course much further away? So how could the universe be only 10,000 old? It simply doesn’t make any sense at all given the wealth of evidence out there, within which there are of course mysteries and uncertanties, but nothing that in any way points to so young a universe.

It really doesn’t matte what your religious background is, or what you claim has motivated your views. They simply don’t hold up to even casual scrutiny, much less in depth examination. Honestly, microbial slime on fossils is all you’ve got?

#27 Comment By CC On November 26, 2012 @ 7:28 pm

Franklin Evans, thank you for your thought-provoking comments. Church Lady, you don’t appear to believe anything I say, so I don’t think any more clarification on my part will help. I will point out that your wired science reference is out of date. If you look at this site, you will find over 20 post-2008 references of verified organic material in fossils whose dates range from 65 to 417 million years old: [18]

I never expected to convince anyone of the young earth position–I’ve done enough of this to know that people don’t change their minds in the comboxes. My point in commenting was to let Rod know that not all geologists adhere to the old earth viewpoint, and to try and demonstrate the reasoning behind my position.

#28 Comment By Church Lady On November 27, 2012 @ 12:31 am

CC,

Of course I don’t believe anything you say. Science is about evidence, not taking someone’s word for it.

Here’s a more thorough article on the scientists making these discoveries:

[19]

Schweitzer finds no evidence whatsoever in her studies that there’s any dispute about the age of these fossils, which have mere remnants of fossilized fossils with traces of organic compounds, not actual preserved flesh. She is a Christian herself, but says she is horrified at the perversions some have made of her work to support YEC ideas. She merely sees this as a way of learning more about the process of fossilization, not having any bearing whatsoever on the age of the fossils, which have been determined beyond any dispute to be many millions of years old.

You can pretend there’s some kind of scientific controversy about the age of these fossils, but to actual scientists doing science, rather than theology, there isn’t. There’s no reason to presume that these kinds of fossils can’t form naturally, and be preserved this long, especially because all the evidence says that they do. Nothing about these fossils puts their age into doubt. It merely adds some interesting details into the specifics of how fossils form.

But the age of the earth isn’t dependent on the age of fossils. As I pointed out, there’s a ton of other evidence that the geological processes that created the earth must have taken many, many millions and billions of years. Can you really explain how all of that could be accomplished in 10,000 years? And I’m still awaiting an explanation of how we can see more than 10,000 light years into the universe? Or do you dispute that also?

#29 Comment By CC On November 27, 2012 @ 10:24 am

Church Lady, you still say I’m a Bible literalist even though I told you I wasn’t, so I don’t have confidence that anything I say will be taken at face value. You also have asked me many other questions, while not addressing my comment about your logic requiring that the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection not be interpreted literally, since science has not observed such phenomena. It just doesn’t seem that it will be profitable to either of us to continue discussing on this thread.

There are many places on the internet where your questions can be addressed. I would especially suggest searching the site of Creation Ministries International (creation.com), or the archives of the Institute for Creation Research (icr.org).

I myself try to make sure that my children understand all sides of the origins debate, so I have exposed them to many different sources on the subject, not just creationist ones. I also remind them that since we won’t know the full truth on this matter until we die, the most important thing is to treat all participants in this dialogue with respect and courtesy. I suspect that is one statement that you and I can both agree on!

#30 Comment By Church Lady On November 27, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

CC,

If you wish to avoid answering unpleasant questions, suit yourself. I would certainly not teach the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection in a science class as examples of how biology works. Those who choose to believe in miracles are of course free to do so, but by definition they are violations of natural law, and cannot be supported by it. If you choose to believe in the YEC, you should at least admit that it is belief in the recent, miraculous apparition of an entire universe that appears to be billions of years old, by some supernatural act of God. By definition, then, it is not a theory that the physics of the natural world could ever reveal based on evidence and scientific reasoning, because whatever processes govern its appearance, stand outside it, and are not revealed by it.

I have a younger friend who was raised by parents like yourself, who sent them to private schools that taught YEC. She believed it when she was a child, but later, as she grew up and received a wider education, came to very much resent her parents for leading her to believe nonsense like that. Now she’s a firm atheist, a Phi Beta Kappa Harvard Law student, and hostile to her parents not just religiously, but personally, for what she considers an abuse of their parenting responsibilities. Hope your family doesn’t turn out that way, but take her example as a warning. I can respect you in the ordinary human manner, but don’t pretend that the “sides” of this issue are at all equal. The natural world is what it is, and miracles are not a part of it. Pretending that they are, teaches our children a false equivalence.

#31 Comment By Science Detective On July 23, 2018 @ 4:49 pm

Age of the continents according to the Law of Entropy – Part 1:
[20]
Age of the continents according to the Law of Entropy – Part 2:
[21]
The Earth is young