As mankind has progressed in their pursuit of scientific truth, the faith of the masses is sometimes challenged because what we are discovering does not always comport with what we thought the Bible said with regard to science. This has led some to apostasy, to abandon the faith, and it has led others to say that the science is all wrong and we only need to believe the Bible. This latter option is represented in what is known as young earth creationism. Of course, the young earth creationists reading this blog post will vehemently deny my characterization. They will suggest that they are taking the biblical data as their primary authority and the scientific data is made to correspond with the Bible. So if you look at science through the lens of a biblical worldview, then you are doing proper science. But is this proper science? Is young earth creationism science?
Most scientists believe that the earth is several billion years old, that the universe is 14 billion years old. Among these men, there are a number of faithful Christians who proclaim the gospel and even defend the Christian faith. They would be known as old earth creationists. But the young earth creationists who I mentioned believe that the earth is about 6000 years old. Of course, there are a number of observations that one can make that will allow us to draw the conclusion that the earth and the universe very old. So is young earth creationism science? If it is, then young earth creationists have a lot of explaining to do.
“You are assuming that the rates have always been the same.” As I indicated, there are several observations that suggest that the earth and the universe are very old. Perhaps this illustration will help. If you see me drawing a line, you know how long the line was and you know the pace at which I am drawing, then you can determine the amount of time it took me to draw the line. It is the same with the universe. The cosmic expansion of the universe and the decay of radioactive isotopes are the most common examples. By measuring the rate at which they progress, we may mathematically determine their age, just as you may mathematically determine the amount of time I spent drawing the line. But, argues the young earth creationists, “You are making an assumption. You are assuming that you have been drawing the line at the same rate of speed. You could have been drawing it faster a few seconds ago.” Now, the young earth creationists seem to have raised a legitimate second order question with regard to philosophy of science. What sort of assumptions go into the scientific method? Science is permeated with unprovable assumptions, such as the consistency of the speed of light.
But that is the nature of scientific inquiry. If we begin to question the assumptions that undergird scientific inquiry, we seem to be left in a chaotic sea of relativism. Just imagine that a man was charged with murder, and his fingerprints and DNA were at the crime scene. He could mount an argument using identical reasoning with regard to the second order philosophical question. He could suggest that they are making the assumption that his DNA and fingerprints were the same. If he is charged with shooting someone in the head, he could suggest that they are assuming that the forces of gravity were operable at that particular moment. He could suggest that they are assuming the uniformity of nature. He could suggest that scientific inquiry does not and cannot resolve this. He could raise these questions, but he would almost certainly not be acquitted. All the defendant has done is to raise questions about the fundamental assumptions that science makes, and the same can be said about young earth creationism. These assumptions are necessary, basic, and without them, science cannot function. Is young earth creationism science? I should not think so. It challenges science on a fundamental level.
Most scientists believe in an old earth. There may be a handful of scientists who believe that the earth is young, and this will sometimes lead people to think that there really are a lot of these men. But there are really not. They are just a loud minority. They are the ones who are reminding the public that they really are out there. But the fact that they are out there should not lead us to think that young earth creationism is plausible or scientific. A credentialed scientist could be led to abandon the scientific method. In fact, I would argue that this is what most of them do. For most of them admit that they allow a particular interpretation of the Bible to be the driving force behind their scientific inquiry. It is not that they independently concluded with young earth creationism by examining the data. So the fact that there are a few young earth creationists who are also scientists should not strike us as surprising.
Further, it is not just secular scientists who believe in an old earth. Men such as Dr. Francis Collins, the former head of the Human Genome Project and author of The Language of God is both a convert to Christianity from atheism and believes in an old earth. But it is not only scientists who believe in evolution that hold to an old earth. Dr. Hugh Ross, the author of Why The Universe Is The Way It Is is a scientist, an old earth creationist and denies the Theory of Evolution. Is young earth creationism science? Well, most scientists would not think so. This includes even most Christian scientists. There is but a sliver of a fraction of scientists that are specialists in a relevant field who believe in a young earth.
They do not practice methodological naturalism. Science is the search for causes in the natural world. The scientist wants to find a natural mechanism to explain a natural phenomenon. This is what is known as methodological naturalism. This should not be confused with metaphysical naturalism, which will say that the natural world is all there ever was, is, or will be. But methodological naturalism is just the search for a natural explanation. So, if God is the explanation of some phenomenon, science cannot yield that information. Science cannot test or detect God. The function or placement mechanism might give us cause to believe in God, but since God is outside of the natural world, the scientist can have little to say. They will have to pass the baton onto a philosopher or a theologian.
Young earth creationists do not engage in methodological naturalism. By introducing their interpretation of the biblical data into the conversation to resolve the issue, they will assume their conclusion. In their Statement of Faith, the largest young earth creationist ministry in the world, Answers In Genesis, says that everyone on their staff must agree that the earth is 6000 years old. However, there are credentialed scientists on their staff. As these men are conducting science, looking at the natural world, trying to discern what might have happened, they are restricted by dogma. They dare not step outside the boundaries that AiG has manufactured. If they do, they will lose their job. Is young earth creationism science? They cannot freely follow the science where it leads. They must always assume that the earth is 6000 years old. They must assume their conclusions. But that is not science.
It has no predictive capabilities. Some things are just interpretations of the data. Since most of my readers will probably be Christians, I will use the Bible to illustrate my point. John 3:5 reads, “Unless one is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Some will read “water baptism” between the lines of this text despite that is not what it says. It just says water. Water baptism is just an interpretation. Similarly, when the young earth creationists look at the Grand Canyon, they interpret it as not millions of years of erosion but a highly destructive and cataclysmic flood, forming the canyon in only a few months. This is an interpretation. The reading of John 3:5 as indicated is an interpretation. Of course, we all interpret, but the question is what we can draw from the data. Is our interpretation draw directly from the data, or is our interpretation an attempt to circumvent the data? Are we truly trying to understand the natural world, or are we trying to develop interpretations of the natural world that fit into our paradigm?
Science guards against this error. To ensure that a theory is not merely an attempt to circumvent the data, but is drawn directly from it, a theory will be measured by its’ capacity to make predictions about the natural world. Young earth creationism makes no predictions. Everything needs to be explained away or tried to fit into their paradigm. Why does the speed of light suggest that the universe is 14 billions years old? Why does the decay of radioactive isotopes suggest an old earth? All of these, and more questions, are explained away. Is young earth creationism science? Well, the young earth creationists are not trying to understand the natural world. It seems as though they are trying to fit the natural world into their paradigm.
If they love science so much, why are they always railing against it? Answers in Genesis is always putting out materials about how unreliable scientists are. They will suggest that since science is flawed in one particular area, or that science made a mistake, that we cannot trust the scientists who say that the earth is old. I am not sure what the proposed resolution to this problem is. Are they suggesting that we should all become young earth creationists, because science is flawed and we do not know the answer anyway?Are they suggesting that young earth creationists will not make mistakes during scientific inquiry? It is difficult to discern their meaning. But the theme that seems to emerge in this cartoon is that there is something that is fundamentally wrong with the processes of science. How can we believe in one aspect of science when others are so flawed? Is young earth creationism science? Well, if it were a branch or a manifestation of science, why are they so hard on science when it makes mistakes? What is the message of this cartoon, if not, “Don’t believe science!”
Why does it matter?Answers In Genesis often says that old earth creationism undermines the authority of the Bible. They are reading the straightforward, plain meaning of the Bible, while the rest of us are trying to read science into the Bible. This will lead people to have a lack of trust in the word of God and to put their faith in man rather than in God. Well, first, they are assuming that their interpretation is the correct one. Second, just because somebody differs in a particular interpretation does not mean that they are compromising the word of God. I could easily charge Answers In Genesis with being guided by their manmade tradition rather than by the word of God. For somebody to say that there is concord between an old earth and the biblical data will not destroy anyones’ faith. However, to say that there is no concord between them will destroy faith.
The young earth creationists seem to have entered into an unholy alliance with atheists who want to force us into a battle between religion and science. The young earth creationists urge us to accept religion, and the atheists urge us to accept science. Young people learning about science see this. They see that what they are learning conflicts with the Bible. Since Answers In Genesis assures them that this is the only possible interpretation, the students will be left to abandon their faith. Answers In Genesis, then, seems to foster apostasy by playing into the atheists’ hands and allowing them to win the day. Is young earth creationism science? No, and students and young people see that and they will disregard the Christian faith because of it.
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