Reflections on a Young Earth Creationist’ Approach to Scientific Apologetics

A few weeks ago I was a scheduled to present several lectures as part of a course offered by Veritas Theological Seminary in Santa Ana, California.  The course title was Scientific Apologetics: The Age of the Earth.  The course was split 50/50 between speakers from Solid Rock Lectures including myself, and two prominent employees of Answers in Genesis.  However, just hours before I was to present I was informed by the seminary president that I would not be allowed to speak.  I had spent the previous two evenings listening to 11 hours of presentations by the AiG speakers and was prepared to respond to that material in addition to pulling together the strands of thought begun by my colleagues earlier in the week.

Yours truly looking reflective while a member of a panel discussion at a conference last week in Guatemala. I am probably just having a hard time answering an off-the-wall question posed by an audience member. Fortunately I was allowed to speak at this conference and had a wonderful time with a very engaging audience.

Yours truly looking reflective while a member of a panel discussion at a conference last week in Guatemala. I am probably just having a hard time answering an off-the-wall question posed by an audience member. Fortunately I was allowed to speak at this conference and had a wonderful time with a very engaging audience.

Though I was prevented from speaking – why this happened is a topic to explore in a future post – I quickly wrote out some of my reflections on the course material presented by the Answers in Genesis speakers.  I was able to have these reflections given to the students in addition to some of the other reading assignments which I had already prepared.

After returning home I examined the reflections originally written hastily in the very early hours of the morning.  I have edited them for clarity and provided a further examples.  Below I present his edited  version below as a small – 3000 word – glimpse into the world of creation apologetics.

Does the evidence point to a young earth? A few observations.   By Joel Duff

During the past week you have been presented with numerous evidences for and against a young earth.  At one moment it may seem that the evidence points one way and another moment the evidence points in a different direction.  I am sure that it must seem very confusing.  So which is it?  The straightforward reading of the evidence is clearly stacked in favor of an old earth.  However, Dr.Terry Mortenson and Dr. Andrew Snelling from Answers and Genesis while presenting evidence have steadfastly maintained the debate isn’t about the facts themselves.  Rather it is about how we interpret those facts.  We agree in principle that how we interpret facts is key to the conclusions we derive from them. However, just pointing out that there can be multiple interpretations of facts does not make all interpretations equally valid. Some interpretation are simply not supported either by the facts being interpreted or supported by additional evidence brought to bear from other sources. Furthermore, we may all have access to the same facts but if some are being ignored or we are not incorporating all the evidence into our conclusions then we ought not think that our interpretations are trustworthy.

With respect to the evidence and how it should be interpreted regarding the age of the Earth I make the following observations about the presentations made by the Answers in Genesis team:

Casting Doubt is the First Line of Defense

First, in most cases the physical evidence presented by Dr. Snelling doesn’t so much point to a young earth as it is used to show that the Earth may not be ancient.  This is not the same as building a positive case for a young earth.   Ironically, Andrew effectively demonstrated that the majority of dating methods suggest that the Earth is quite old. In many cases the dates may be older or younger than expected by conventional geologists but nonetheless much older than 6000 years.  What he has attempted to do is show that radiometric dating isn’t reliable for producing specific dates.  We – Solid Rock Lectures – believe that radiometric dating can and does yield specific dates in the majority of situations and we have demonstrated that it is possible to test the criteria – or assumptions – of these methods even while recognizing their limitations. But the point here is that no non-Christian, upon examining the hundreds of thousands of radiometric dates produced, would come to the conclusion that the rocks can’t be more than 4250 years old.  Radiometric dating is not a positive evidence for a young earth.  Dr. Snelling himself could not show any reasonable way for the radiometric dating to be positive evidence for a young earth without resorting to ad hoc hypotheses about changes in rates during the Flood to help force the dates into some conformity with a young Earth.  In other words, he has to assume a young earth and then use that assumption to interpret the radiometric data.  We will explore this presuppositionalist approach later in this article.

In effect, the strategy of young earth practitioners is to cast doubt on the validity of old earth evidence, but in most cases this does not necessitate that doubt in an absolute age of the Earth should be equated as support for a young Earth.  So where is the evidence for a young Earth?  A number of evidences for a global flood were presented.  In most of these cases those evidences again consisted of possible fulfilled predictions of flood geology theory. However, in addition to some of those being based on serious misconceptions about the geological record and geological processes, we would submit that at best these evidences suggest only the possibility of a global flood but do not require a global flood.  For example, widespread horizontal sand deposits could be interpreted as resulting from a global flood but the fact that similar sediments are formed today on continental shelves under non-global flood conditions tells us that such deposits are not smoking gun evidence that a global flood had to have occurred. Likewise, large collections of fossil bones could have occurred in a global flood but there are equally likely explanations that don’t require a global flood for their origins.

The goal of the young earth approach in their use of evidences is to promote a possible alternative reading of the evidence that may make a young earth feasible.  But their case is much like the defense attorneys case in the trial of New England Patriot’s Aaron Hernandez.  The defense, having little data that supported their client, was left to draw attention to a few minor pieces of evidence that suggested the possibility that Hernandez may not have been directly involved. In additional they tried to cast doubt on the other facts that clearly didn’t point to his innocence.  In the end, the weight of the combined evidence produced a strong cohesive case that left no reasonable doubt in the juror’s minds that he did participate in the murder of Odin Lloyd.  To grab a line from another famous trial, the creationist approach is to focus all the attention on one or two points and in Popperian fashion claim that “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”  Just create doubt and hope that doubt will lead the juror to consider their alternative interpretation.

Presuppositional Apologetics Drive Creationism

This brings me to my second observation.  We have witnessed from Dr. Mortenson and Dr. Snelling a clear presuppositional apologetic.   They have both made it clear that the starting point for “interpreting” the facts is first knowing the result you are looking for.  In my analogy above it is as if they have inside knowledge that Hernandez was absolutely innocent. While a straightforward examination of the data point strongly toward his guilt they can, in good conscience, argue on even the slimmest of evidence that he must be found innocent. They know the truth and so interpretation requires only finding a possible way to connect the dots.

For young earth creationists, the interpretation of Scripture leads them to conclude that the Earth must be young.  This foundational interpretation of biblical evidence is combined with the additional inference that all death, fuzzily defined as applying to most animals (see: Plants and the Biblical Definition of Life), must post-date Adam.  With those assumptions providing the absolute foundational truth they must stand upon, the only place that they can find to put all that evidence of the death of critters is in a Global Flood.  The Bible says nothing about the origin of rock layers directly nor does it require that a global flood even have significantly altered the entire Earth’s surface.  But the flood geology of young earth creationists is asserted to be a necessary belief if one wants to claim to take the Bible literally.

With this set of presuppositions in hand they then turn to the physical evidence.  Because God’s creation must be consistent with his Word, a view with which we heartily agree, young earth creationists can boldly claim that all the evidence must point to a young Earth since it is in fact young.    Please recognize that when the young earth creationists approaches the data to interpret these data they already know the answer, as Terry Mortenson emphatically stated, because they have the infallible Word of God backing them up.  Ken Ham clearly stated the same principle in the debate with Bill Nye when asked if there was any evidence that could be produced that would make him rethink the age of the Earth. He answered simply: No.  Ham was being very honest, there is NO evidence that could possibly point him to anything but what he already knows which is the Earth is young.  Hence, no data can say otherwise! I think there is a huge assumption here about infallible assumptions but let us leave that aside for a discussion on another day.

Young earth creationists claim to “do science” and “love science” but as Andrew Snelling tests his ideas about radionuclides in asteroids what if the results don’t come out as he predicted they would? Will he admit that the evidence can more easily be interpreted as supporting an old Earth? No, and I don’t expect him to.  He will by necessity, and without a second thought, reinterpret the data to fit a young earth by looking for any other explanation that fits his presuppositions no matter how much it may seem to be putting a square peg in a round hole.  By this means creationists can claim that there is no, and will never be, any evidence that supports an old earth. There are times they may admit the data appear to support an old earth but they believe this is only because the data have not been looked at with the right worldview glasses.  A last resort is to admit the data are hard to interpret as supporting a young earth but then say we simply don’t know enough to understand how it supports a young earth but we will someday.

Please don’t miss the importance of this point.  The evidence is interpreted with the worldview glasses of a young earth on and therefore the evidence is fit into that worldview.  In many ways we have witnessed this form of interpretation happening right here in this class and have witnessed how difficult it can be for the young earth creationists to draw up an comprehensive explanation for the physical features of the Earth that fits the data well. The radiometric dating is exceptionally difficult to fit and so we are left with “Well I wish I knew” or “God could have created various starting conditions” or “we were not there” as exasperated responses.  We are provided with attempts to cast doubt and suspicion about radiometric dating but no plausible explanation for why most dating methods do provide consistent results.  In addition, floating forests, hydrological sorting, animals running around during the Flood laying eggs and then getting washed away are all attempts to explain the accepted “facts” of the fossil record within a young earth presupposition.   In some cases the explanations are only barely plausible though in many cases we believe they are not even that. But in most cases their explanations, while possible, are not explanations that are most obvious or likely. In the young earth mind they simply must be the explanation even if they are not likely.

To reiterate, at the end of the day, the young earth approach is more about creating doubt about the Old Earth view than it is producing a strong positive view of a young earth.  But lets move on to an even more critical aspect of the YEC apologetic.

Circular Use of Evidence to Support an Evidentialist Approach of Doing Apologetics

The third observation I have builds on the second.  All of the discussion of worldview and having the “right” beginning point to interpreting the data is a tacit admission that a straightforward examination of the data doesn’t immediately point to a young earth.   YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IN A YOUNG EARTH BEFORE THE EVIDENCE WILL POINT YOU IN THAT DIRECTION.   Philosophically I don’t have a huge problem with this. After all, I identify as more of a Vantillian presuppositionalist myself when it comes to apologetics.   But here is what I find disturbing about the approach of Answers in Genesis to the age question.  Andrew Snelling and Terry Mortenson have taken a clear presuppositional view to filtering the data of general revelation.  But Ken Ham’s enterprise is built on an evidentialist apologetic approach to promoting the gospel message.  What is the stated purpose of the Creation Museum and future Ark?  To witness to the world that the claims of the Bible are true by showing the world that a global flood and a young earth are “feasible” or “possible.”  The evidence of a young earth is presented to convince the unbeliever that the Bible may be right after all, in all its teachings.   It is hoped that once the unbeliever is struck by the truth that the Bible speaks on the topic of the age of the earth they will then come to see the truth of the salvific message of the Bible.

Do you see what is happening though?  The unbeliever is told they don’t have the right glasses to interpret the data but the Creation Museum is claiming the evidence from the world shows the Earth is young.  But as we have seen the evidence only points to a young earth if you already know that the Earth is young.  These are mixed messages. Ken Ham gives talks and states that there are “hundreds of evidences” that point to a young earth.  This is factually incorrect.  Most of those evidences do not point to a 6000 year old earth but at best only suggest the possibility that the Earth that is not billions of years old even when you have your young earth glasses on.

I find it troubling that Christians are being told, or at least strongly given the impression, that all the evidence points to a young earth and that this is something they can lean upon to strengthen their faith or even find faith. In fact, if AiG is correct in their original presupposition that the earth is young I will grant that all the evidence really should point to a young earth because it must. But, as an apologetic for why one should believe the Bible you can’t use data that have been massaged to fit the Bible message to prove the Bible is correct.  This is a circular apologetic that AiG in particular is especially prone to follow.  Again, I would stress that I am not adverse to the use of presuppositional apologetics but it should not be used inappropriately.

So Does the Evidence Really Point to a Young Earth?

So again, we ask; does the evidence point to a young earth?   I think that it does so ONLY if you first assume the Earth is young and even then it only points that way very very dimly, and only if you cherry pick your starting data.   But as Christians, should we not expect more? Shouldn’t we expect that if the Earth were young that it would be obvious? Shouldn’t it be obvious even to the unbeliever even if they may want to believe the world is vastly older? Why have most people, including a large majority of Christians involved with the collection of the data being discussed, over the past several hundred years concluded that the Earth is more than 6000 years old?  Because they are atheist? Because they hate God and want to deny Him as creator?  No, because the most obvious interpretation of the vast majority of the evidence is that it points to an ancient earth.  Many, and here I disagree with Dr. Mortenson’s assessment of the history of deep time discovery, devout Christians over the past 300 years have struggled with the data that was in front of their eyes. They have worked with worldview glasses on that should have led them to believe the Earth is young but they have not been able to deny the evidence that so clearly pointed in a different direction.  They discovered the evidence and they were not being bullied by others to change their minds. They lived in environments that promoted a young earth and thus had nothing to gain by expressing doubt but doubt they did because of how obvious the evidence was that the Earth was indeed ancient.

The simplest explanation for layers of rock or vast distances of light, or millions of craters on the moon and Mars is that these must have taken a long time to have formed.  No one is going to look at these things and immediately jump to the conclusion that they are young.  Now, after they conclude they are very old they may find that this belief fits their secular worldview but their secular worldview isn’t necessarily such an overriding force that the obvious nature of thing doesn’t show forth itself.  Creation should speak of God and does point to God and the fact that creation is most simply interpreted as being ancient should mean something.  Common grace allows the non-Christian to discover many truths of God’s creation.  The average person with little background in science can see volcanoes and extrapolate in their minds how long it must have taken for them to form and thus come to the simple solution that they are old.  Now, it could be true that the past was different from today but observations and testing of that hypothesis has shown that this is not likely and would not help to explain the observed evidence around us anyway.  We should not be surprised that the world doesn’t look out and see evidence of a young Earth.

Our concern for seminary students and those that will stand and speak for God is that they must be bold where they should be bold but cautious where they need to be cautious.   They may believe, as Dr. Mortenson does, that the Earth MUST be young and therefore this data MUST be constrained to fit that worldview. But we must be careful to realize that the average person is going to be exposed to thousands of evidences in their lifetime that on the face of it or by simple common sense will lead them to conclude that the Earth may be older than 6000 years. By simply asserting that the “all the evidence points to a young Earth” and therefore you must believe, the new believer or non-Christian is placed in the position of seeing a disconnect between God’s general revelation and this command to believe.  Ironically, young earth creationists portray their view as the simple interpretation of Scripture but then turn around and deny the simple message of general revelation requiring instead a highly contorted set of assumptions and complicated theories to understand how the Earth could be young.

We need not make light of the obvious characteristics of the world which speak of great age as if we can just wave the magic wand of putting on the right Biblical glasses it will all be made clear.  The fact is that it isn’t at all made clear.  Hundreds of years of history makes it very “clear” that the evidence for a young earth is far from obvious even when you start with the belief that the evidence must support a young earth.  Why have so many great Christians “fallen away” from this truth as Dr. Mortenson pointed out?  Maybe it wasn’t that this was their one area of great weakness but rather it was because over and over again a close inspection of the physical and biblical evidence by Christians has revealed that neither absolutely demands that the Earth be young and thus the age of the Earth is left to exploration and testing.

Comments

  1. johnscorner says:

    Excellent concise summary of some key issues! Thank you.

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  2. “We agree in principle that how we interpret evidence is key to the conclusions we derive from the evidence. However, the evidence to be interpreted has to exist for any interpretation to carry any weight.” I have struggled with how to express this idea. It’s not like any interpretation is equally valid – there is truth that exists outside of our interpretations that can help determine the correct one.

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    • Yes, I’m still struggling to find a concise way of communicating these ideas. AIGs strategy is to remove the focus from the evidence and try to make it all sound as if it is just interpretation. If they can pry the discussion away from evidence they essentially make it a philosophical argument and don’t have to be bothered with bothersome facts. They have a ready way of dismissing all evidence they don’t like.

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  3. What a very useful essay — many thanks!

    It seems very odd that the people at Veritas Theological Seminary should suddenly bar you from speaking. In a way I suppose it’s a compliment, but it must have been very frustrating for you nonetheless, after you’d put in all the hard work.

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  4. jesuswithoutbaggage says:

    This is powerful! I would even say it is compelling if a person is willing to consider the evidence objectively.

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  5. As cliché as it is, you hit the nail on the head. The Earth is first assumed to be young and then the evidence is collected to fit that conclusion. In this way it gives a license to speculate at will and make ad hoc conjectures so that the evidence fits the preconceived conclusion no matter how ludicrous the explanations might be. This approach does leave a lot of people outside of YEC camp scratching their heads. On one hand, we’re told that there is evidence for a young Earth, but on the other hand we are told the evidence is there if only you would accept that it is young first!

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    • johnscorner says:

      Okay. Evolve the Universe, you have just stated things in such a way that I am emboldened to raise an issue that is tangential to the science, but central to the Answers in Genesis YECs’ concerns.

      What is their central concern? “The authority of God’s Word.”

      What is the–the–standard methodology of evangelical apologists when it comes to proof of the inerrancy of Scripture? When skeptics–even “mild” skeptics who are, more or less, on the “inside” of the evangelical world–raise questions about specific statements in the Bible that appear obviously to disagree with one another, is it not IMMEDIATELY the habit of the most devout evangelical scholars to attempt to “explain away” the problem?

      Put another way, are the AiG “scientific” apologists really doing anything DIFFERENTLY than what their biblical-theological apologist brethren do on a regular basis?

      For OECs to be fully consistent, wouldn’t they/we need to figure out some kind of consistent NON-CONCORDIST bibliology? (In case the term “non-concordist” is unfamiliar: it has to do with the suggestion, embraced by a number of [former?] evangelicals, that the Bible is informed and shaped by an ANCIENT “science” and ANCIENT cultures that are in no way compatible with modern science and modern culture. I.e., in OPPOSITION to what Joel writes [“God’s creation (interpolated: “as we understand it”–JAH) must be consistent with his Word”], we ought NOT always to expect to find some kind of agreement between the way the Bible speaks and the way we view the physical world.)

      Should it surprise us to find references in the Bible to some kind of hard “firmament” between “the waters below” and “the waters above”? The non-concordists say no. Should we be surprised when we run across references in NON-POETIC biblical texts that clearly assume a flat earth [see Matthew 4:8]? Again, the non-cordists say no. –Such “ancient science” or “ancient cosmology” should be EXPECTED.

      But then what? What kind of bibliology SHOULD we embrace?

      In essence, I hear the AiG apologists saying, “If we reject a young-earth creationist view of the Bible; if we are willing to reinterpret the ‘established’ young-earth interpretation: WHERE DO WE STOP with reinterpreting ALL of Scripture?”

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      • The theological issues are interesting but most of my criticisms are geared toward their attempts at scientific argumentation and their use of the philosophy of science. My interest in young Earth creationism has typically been more slanted to their sociology and the development of their movement starting in the early 20th century so I can better understand how this group of people came to reject many of the ideas of modern science. So, while I am not as interested in the theological debates, it would probably be worth my while to study their historical unfolding in this area.

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      • Anthony Whitney says:

        Matthew 4:8 “8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
        Sorry Johnscorner, to say the bible teaches a flat earth from this verse is grasping at straws.

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      • To Anthony Whitney: “[T]o say the bible teaches a flat earth from [Matt. 4:8] is grasping at straws.” –Okay. So we will assume that, for some reason, “all the kingdoms of the world” doesn’t refer to the [modern scientifically understood] globe, but, somehow, to a piece of real estate in which, somehow, one could see what a 1st Century middle-easterner might think of as (perhaps?) “all the INHABITED world”? –Feels like a fantastic stretch to me. But, then, let’s consider the great tree mentioned by Daniel in Daniel 4–a tree so tall that “it was visible to the ends of the earth” (4:12) or “to all the earth” (4:20). In what way, physically, can any tree be so tall as to be visible “to the ends of the earth” or “to all the earth” in a world where the earth is a globe?

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  6. Clearly, your underlying philosophy has clouded you possibly being objective in your analysis here. You assume that certain assumptions are facts, when they really are assumptions from your underlying philosophy. You essentially commit the same offenses which you contend the young earthers do. It reminds me of those, like Coyne, who bluntly state, “Neo-Darwinian evolution is a fact!” when we all know that it has not and cannot be proven using a scientific method, at all.

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    • Hi Rod, but there is the rub isn’t it. Even you can’t be objective in your comments because of your underlying philosophy.If you follow this path of reasoning you won’t end up in a good place. Actually, I was pointing out that sometimes God’s common grace intuition can’t be ignored. The simplest explanation for the evidence is old earth and you can see that by looking at 300 years of Christians who had the “right” philosophy and yet were still driven to consider that the world is old. You attempt to taint the reasoned response of 1000s of Christians who have looked at the evidence with an awareness of their biases with being like Coyne but this looks simply to be an attempt to avoid addressing the evidence yourself.

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      • We all observe the same evidence through our philosophies. At least you finally have acknowledged that you do, too. As for the “simplest explanation for the evidence is old earth”, it may seem simple for you, using your philosophy, but certainly not for me. Just observing the facts of the Mount St. Helen’s blowout is convincing that the simplest explanation for a lot of the so-called geologic column is extremely rapid catastrophes. And counting noses — “1000s of Christians” — is not very professional from a scientific standpoint.

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    • AiG systematically misdescribes scientific outcomes as inputs. They then dismiss arguments based on the agreement of different chains of evidence (such as the agreement between molecular and anatomical phylogenies) as circular reasoning, when it is in fact the opposite. They then complete the hat-trick by describing anomalies (e.g. low potassium-argon dates in rocks that have undergone reheating) as refutations, in fine disregard of their own earlier arguments.

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    • Rod: neo-Darwinian evolution as fact ” has not and cannot be proven using a scientific method, at all”. In the soil of worked out Cornish mines, you will find species of earthworm, found nowhere else, that can tolerate high doses of arsenic. Yet the arsenic mining only dates back some 200 years. So unless you invoke special creation sometime in the past 200 years, you have neo-Darwinian evolution as a fact.

      And you acknowledge this fact every time you get a new flu jab. If there were no neo-Darwinian evolution (to use your rather old-fashioned expression) then last year’s flu jab would work just fine.

      (Thinks: have I merely evoked a performance of the micro-macro mambo?)

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      • johnscorner says:

        Paul (and Rod . . . and the rest who are following this thread):

        I urge you to read Perry Marshall’s EVOLUTION 2.0 (http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/1940363802/) before you make any more statements about Darwinian or neo-Darwinian evolution. He absolutely trashes both “models.” And I am thrilled. NOT because either I or Perry are opposed to the idea of evolution, PER SE, but because he demonstrates why the whole “undirected,” “purposeless,” “random-mutation” BASE of the “neo-Darwinian consensus” is, not only totally nuts, and not only UN-scientific, but wholly ANTI-scientific. It is a fundamentalist just-so story with as little evidence FOR it–and as much AGAINST it–as is the fundamentalist anti-evolutionary story of the young-earth creationists.

        So. Now that I have thrown a neutron bomb into the midst of an otherwise relaxed crowd. . . . What does this iconoclast suggest in either or both of these venerated hypotheses’ places?

        He introduces (to those of us who are otherwise unaware) or–if you happen to be one of the rare group of people who are not specialists in the field and are, yet, aware of these things–he PRESENTS . . . at least five tools that have not only conceptual but EXPERIMENTAL evidence for the FACT that they are sources of helpful-to-the-species-in-which-they-occur and/or productive-of-new-species EVOLUTIONARY CHANGE, i.e.,
        * DNA transposition;
        * horizontal gene transfer;
        * epigenetics;
        * symbiogenesis (now we’re looking at new species; demonstrated in the laboratory); and
        * (I don’t recall that Perry produces laboratory evidence that this has produced new species, but he presents the tantalizing evidence for how and why it APPEARS new species have been created in this manner) genome duplication.

        I am wholly disappointed in Perry’s apparent wholesale buy-in to Hugh Ross’ lousy eisegesis of Genesis 1 and 2 (Appendix 2, referenced at the top of the second page in Chapter 1). Happily, Perry humbly admits that “The view [I present here] is a work in progress, but it seems to work well so far” (p. 310) and, “I have presented my best current interpretation of Genesis 1, Genesis 2, and modern science. It’s not written on stone tablets. I offer this to you provisionally. Our interpretations can and will evolve as discoveries are made. I have not even begun to explore all the different views, but so far, this is the one that makes the most sense to me” (p. 330).

        I could offer other critiques of the book. But, except for about four or five very small infelicities, the first 152 pages of the book are stellar and mind-blowing.

        I think he engages in a kind of conceptual “genome duplication” on pages 155 to 173. There are minor bits of “new material” in that section, but otherwise it seems largely repetitive of things he has covered earlier in the book. From pages 177 on, it appears that he regains his footing . . . until about pages 229-240, where, in the midst of trying to explain a $10 million research prize he and some co-sponsors are offering, I got the feeling he was repeating himself unnecessarily once more.

        By page 243, when, he seems to “get his game back,” I had lost the avid zeal for reading that I had felt throughout the first 152 pages. But, if you–like I am–are concerned not only for science, but for theology and philosophy as well, the last 38 pages of the main body of the book are well worth reading.

        For those who want a deeper discussion of one of the key issues Perry deals with, his 26-page Appendix 1, “All about Randomness,” is well worth the read.so are the much shorter appendices 3 and 4.

        FWIW.

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        • In matters of such complexity, and before deciding whether to read a massive book, one might want to examine the author’s credentials. Here are Perry Marshall’s, according to his Amazon page (yes, it is the same Perry Marshall):

          QUOTE Entrepreneur Magazine says, “Perry Marshall is the #1 author and world’s most-quoted consultant on Google Advertising. He has helped over 100,000 advertisers save literally billions of dollars in AdWords stupidity tax.” END QUOTE

          Do you have any references to reviews of this book by acknowledged scientists?

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      • johnscorner says:

        Look on the back cover (avaqilable in the “Look Inside” window on Amazon). You will see brief statements by Dr. Kwang Jeon, Editor of the International Review of Cell and Molecular Biology; Peter Saunders, codirector, Institute of Science in Society, and professor emeritus of applied mathematics, King’s College, London; Dr. Andras Pellionisz (PhD, computer technology; PhD, biology; PhD, physics) founder of Fractogene . . . and others. You can also find much longer quotes from these and others beginning on the page that appears immediately following the front cover of the “Look Inside” version of the book on Amazon. . . .

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  7. After preparing a great presentation for the seminar, you ended up not being permitted to speak at all. Obviously they don’t want to hear your side of the debate. That’s why they won’t let you speak. It’s always the creationists’ own side that matters, nothing else. What you’ve experience is so wrong and unfair to you and everyone else who wants to hear your side.

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  8. The “different interpretations” position is irrefutable because true. But it’s true because it’s useless. You can look at Hadrian’s Wall, and interpret it as something the Romans built, or you can look at it and interpret it as evidence of the stones having arranged themselves according to God’s Word. So what?

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  9. It seems you have misidentified the foundational assumption. It isn’t that the earth is young; it is that the Bible is the Word of the God who cannot lie, and therefore it must be accurate. The young earth is a conclusion from that revelation. Those who affirm the OEC and the authority of the Scripture have very great difficulty as is seen in the lengths to which they must go to try to defend both. In the end, the Genesis creation account is straightforward historical narrative, in terms of its genre. To read that as some sort of framework or poetic device flies in the face of everything we know about Hebrew grammar and syntax. The only way out is Waltke’s position when he said years ago that Moses intended 6 24-hour days, but that wasn’t what actually happened. But nonetheless, the assumption is that the Bible is right. To bail out with the claim that the Bible doesn’t intend to teach us about science is akin to an newspaper article saying 2+2=5, but it’s not really wrong because it wasn’t intended to teach math. And that assumes that Genesis wasn’t intended to teach us how the world got here, something that is a prior assumption taken to the text and then the text is read in light of the assumption. No other conclusion is possible. (Just like you accuse YEC of doing.)

    You also speak of the idea that all evidence is read in light of the young earth and any other conclusion is denied. But isn’t that true of the old-earthers? Every piece of evidence is read in light of their old earth conclusion, and anything that doesn’t fit that old earth conclusion is reinterpreted or rejected. They are completely unwilling to accept anything that doesn’t fit their old earth narrative. There is certainly a lot of complexity, and the OEC’s don’t acknowledge that, particularly the atheistic evolutionists who presuppose naturalism and are unwilling to consider any alternative despite how

    In other words, the two sides don’t seem that different. Both have their presuppositions and both interpret what they see in light of that. YEC’s are correct in that there is no historic evidence; the evidence exists now, and the overwhelming consensus on the age of the earth might be attributed to nothing other than a presuppositional bias.

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    • Every piece of evidence is read in light of their old earth conclusion

      You seem to be forgetting that the old-earth conclusion was reached because every piece of evidence pointed towards it.

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      • Anthony Whitney says:

        Sorry no. The old earth idea came about during the ‘enlightenment’ (even before depending on who you read), when they had no physical evidence at all to support it (150+ years ago). It was required to make these hypothetical biological and geological processes feasible. Why were these processes hypothesised? It allowed the removal of a Creator God. So no, the conclusion existed long before the evidence, and the vast amount of data has been interpreted in light of that conclusion ever since.

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        • “no physical evidence at all to support it?” Where did you get that idea from? Of course there was evidence. This is a very naive view of history. I’ve written about John Ray from the 1600 multiple times that grappled with the age of the Earth and though a Christian he was compelled by his observation of fossils and other geological features to consider that they world must be much older. The age of the Earth was always forced by observations that people begrudgingly excepted as pointing to a young earth rather than embracing it. Please read the actual writings of a variety of natural theologians from 1700s and early 1800s not a YEC spinning of what they said.

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    • johnscorner says:

      LAR-15: I would question the factuality of your fifth sentence (“In the end, the Genesis creation account is straightforward historical narrative, in terms of its genre”), the meaning you intend to convey by your second sentence (“the Bible is the Word of the God who cannot lie, and therefore it must be accurate”), and, then, whether your third sentence (“The young earth is a conclusion from [God’s biblical] revelation”) is a NECESSARY conclusion (based on your intended meaning in your second sentence and the problems associated with your fifth sentence).

      The key, however, is your fifth sentence. And so I will seek, here, to respond to your claim.

      * As Miller and Soden point out, in In the Beginning . . . We Misunderstood (http://smile.amazon.com/Beginning-We-Misunderstood-Interpreting-Original/dp/0825439272/),

      Genesis . . . was written more than 3,000 years ago, and it was written in Hebrew. To understand it fully, one must read it first in its original language and try to understand it in relation to its original author (Moses), in relation to its original readers (Israel recently released from slavery in Egypt), and in relation to the culture, worldview, and literary genre of the text. This is an issue in the debate on origins that is often–perhaps usually–ignored by Christians. For those who would ignore it, the meaning of the text is self-evident: “The real question involved in this debate is, Do we accept the plainest meaning of the Bible, or do we insist on a reinterpretation in light of the prevailing opinion of scientists?” The plainest meaning . . . is indeed what we want to find, but the issue is, the plainest meaning to whom? We must start with the plainest meaning to the original recipients. (p. 48)

      And when you look at those original recipients in their cultural context, you realize that the language God-through-Moses uses in Genesis 1 and 2 is not at all “straightforward historical narrative” as you and I might expect from any modern text. Not at all.

      But/and when you do consider the original recipients’ cultural context, you realize God-through-Moses is seeking to answer questions very different from what any of us modern American readers tend to ask. The historical questions themselves are different. And the answers really and truly have virtually nothing to do with the physical universe (or cosmos/cosmology) with which we are familiar. they do, indeed, have to do with the cosmos/cosmology, but they have to do with a cosmos/cosmology with which ancient Egyptians–and recently emancipated slaves of said Egyptians–were familiar.

      As Miller and Soden note, however, the cosmos/cosmology presented in the Bible is very similar to the cosmos/cosmology of Ancient Egypt, and yet it is presented in a dramatically new and different manner. FOR EXAMPLE, while one finds all the same basic “players” in the Bible as one would in the Egyptian cosmos, the “gods” of Egypt (and the “gods” of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian cosmologies) are shown to be without power (much as the Egyptian gods are embarrased in the narrative of the 10 Plagues in the Book of Exodus).

      The sun and moon are “gods” in the Mesopotamian and Egyptian contexts; but “the Genesis account does not name the luminaries and thereby does not name any of the gods of the ancient Near East, whether Mesopotamian, Egyptian, or Canaanite. While the general purposes for the luminaries are the same between the biblical and ancient Your Eastern perspectives, in the biblical account the lights are not deities. They are merely parts of God’s creation, doing his bidding and accomplishing his will. They do not have independent rule or power in creation but are completely under God’s control, doing his bidding” (p. 132).

      This is not a place for me to develop Miller and Soden’s full thesis. Their book is relatively brief and exceptionally clear. I encourage you to read it on your own. I did–and do–want to point out, however, how great the divide is between the world into which the Genesis account was released and our world today.

      But I would like to quote one more section from Miller and Soden with respect to the cultural context:

      [T]he ancient Near Eastern world did not sharply distinguish between their stories of cosmology and “history.” Neither cosmology (how the universe came to be) nor cosmology (how one understands the universe, including the relationship of the gods) in the ancient world was understood in scientific or historical terms but is symbolic, metaphysical explanations or as a means to “articulate the incomprehensible and the marvelous, while attempting to express such phenomena in a rational manner.” (p. 156) [Final quoted text is from Vincent Arieh Tobin, “Mythological Texts,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt (p. 459).]

      And finally. About those “clear” references to seven, literal, 24-hour days, listed in Genesis 1. Miller and Soden point out three “very interesting” features of those days to which I have never otherwise been directed by any other authors whose works I have read.

      “There is no known record of any other society framing creation in seven days, so the use of it in Genesis 1 does not appear to be directly dependent on Israel’s ancient Near Eastern mind-set. The use of a seven-day period of time, however, commonly appears in ancient Near Eastern mythology, legend, and cultic practice. . . . The number seven was . . . not always intended to be a literal number; instead, it carried symbolic significance, being generally understood to express the ideas of completion, perfection, or fulfillment.” (pp. 155-156).
       
      “Most translations of Genesis 1 do not accurately represent the Hebrew text when it comes to the numbering of the days of creation. Most translations refer to ‘the first day,’ ‘the second day,’ ‘the third day,’ and so on. In fact, the Hebrew text lacks the article ‘the’ on days 1 through 5. It should read as the New American Standard Bible translates: ‘And there was evening and there was morning, one day’ (v. 5); ‘And there was evening and there was morning, a second day’ (v. 8), and so on through day 5. . . . It is only when we come to day 6 that the definite article is used: ‘And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day’ (v. 31). This detail of the Hebrew text is significant because it is very unusual. The normal way of indicating the ‘first’ of anything is with the Hebrew word for ‘first’ (the ordinal) and not the Hebrew word for ‘one.’ The Hebrew phrase used here is almost always translated and understood to mean ‘one day’ in its other uses in the Hebrew Bible. . . .

      “[W]e must wonder why it is written in such an unusual way if it is to be understood as a simple consecutive twenty-four-hour period. The sixth and seventh days do have the article (‘the sixth day’ and ‘the seventh day,’ 1:31; 2:2-3), although day 7 does not use the summary formula, ‘There was evening and there was morning, day x.’ Clearly the sixth and seventh days are set apart as distinct in the listing of the days.”

      Miller and Soden note that this strangeness in the text may seem insignificant. After all, “Still tells us that there were seven days, doesn’t it?”

      “The point is,” they respond, “Genesis does not state the sequence like a Hebrew reader might have expected. Instead, it uses a very unusual way of expressing the days and makes a significant change in the last two days. It is as if the writer is telling the reader to pay attention because this is not a normal week. . . . There is clearly an intended sequence. But the arrangements may be logical (or theological), not necessarily chronological (or scientific). And perhaps there is even more significance, or a different significance. . . . The point here is the unique presentation, suggesting to the original readers something other than a normal or straightforward reading of a simple week.” (pp. 49-51).
       
      And, finally,
      Miller and Soden note that “if we’re reading [Genesis 2] independently of any other text, we would naturally assume that it is giving us a chronological timeline for creation.

      “If Genesis 2 is taken most naturally (chronologically), however, as the creation of all the plants, the animals, and the birds, then it contradicts the order of creation in chapter 1. . . . Furthermore, chapter 2 implies only one creative day. There is no reference to any other days and, in fact, the chapter begins with reference to a single day (Gen. 2:4 literally states, ‘in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens’). . . .”

      Miller and Soden note that the standard evangelical “solution” to this apparent conundrum is “simply” to “explain” that “the author intended to give a non-chronological order in chapter 2 in order to make a theological point (for example, mankind is seen as central to creation rather than as the climax).” But, say Miller and Soden, “If chapter 2 is out of order for theological reasons, why must chapter 1 be in order chronologically? The only reason for this assumption is because it makes sense to us and because we have assumed that the enumerating of the days requires it. [But i]f the lack of the article on the first five days shows us otherwise, then a strict, linear chronology of Genesis 1 is not necessarily required.”

      Ultimately, then, they conclude, “The point is that one cannot take both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 ‘literally’ without creating contradictions between the creation accounts. This is a final clue from the passage itself that it is not meant to be taken literally, or as if it is scientific information.” And then, finally, “When we come to recognize some of these clues that the original audience would have intuitively noticed, we realize that are naïvely ‘plain’ meaning was not plain in the same way to the original audience.”
      And so. IF the language God-through-Moses uses in Genesis 1 and 2 is not “straightforward historical narrative” as we modern Americans might expect, THEN the fact that “the Bible is the Word of the God who cannot lie, and therefore must be accurate” is kind of beside the point when it comes to deciding whether the Earth is old or young. And, finally, it is illegitimate to claim that “The young earth is a conclusion from [God’s biblical] revelation.” Rather, it is a conclusion from someone’s (potentially faulty) INTERPRETATION of the Bible based on that person’s (potentially faulty) ASSUMPTIONS about the intended meaning of the text of Scripture.

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      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Thanks for the review. I will be buying the book.

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      • Johnscorner, Thanks for that reponse. I think it misses some very important things and partakes of the very thing it warns against. I won’t respond to all of it. First, I would point you to Coming to Grips with Genesis, particularly the chapter by Robert V. McCabe that deals at length with the issue of the grammar and syntax of Genesis 1. I will warn you up front that if you don’t know a little Hebrew it might be overwhelming. I do read Hebrew regularly and so am able to think about Genesis 1 in a way that most cannot. If you are actually interested, that is an indispensable resource. Whether you ultimately agree or not, you can’t ignore the evidence of it. It is tough to slog through at times because it is technical, comprehensive, and detailed. But it is a necessary resource for the discussion of the Hebrew text. You can read the chapter in these two articles (http://dbts.edu/journals/2005/McCabe.pdf and http://dbts.edu/journals/2006/McCabe.pdf).

        You say that Genesis is not straightforward historical narrative, and yet everything single grammatical and syntactical feature of Genesis 1 and 2 is exactly historical narrative. Other genres do not use that form of syntax and grammar. That is why Genesis 1-2 is very easy to translate while the non-historical sections are considerably more difficult. If God-through-Moses had intended to communicate that this was something other than historical narrative, there were other ways it would have been done. This is virtually the only way to do historical narrative. It is requires special pleading to see it as anything other than historical narrative.

        On to a couple of specifics:

        1. You say that Genesis 1 is seeking to answer questions very different from what any of us modern American readers tend to ask. I wonder if you can give me the ancient source that identifies these questions. But isn’t it true that you don’t have that source? There is no place that identifies the questions that were being answered. The only source is the more modern minds who are imposing questions on the text based on their modern understanding and their modern questions. In other words, modern minds are reading the text with their own questions in mind. The text of Genesis gives us no such information. You rightly talk about how great the divide is between our world and theirs, and yet turn around and insist on forcing our world back on to theirs. There is no doubt that Genesis is part of a polemic against false gods, but it is such by virtue of its truth. We can read the Psalms, for instance, to see creation verses that give no specific day or order, etc. So it wasn’t impossible for Moses to do that, and not out of the ordinary for God to do that. He could have done that in Genesis 1 if all he wanted was a polemic against the gods of Egypt. But he didn’t do that, and we need to ask why. He did it other places, but not here. That is a major question that seems greatly overlooked.

        2. On the issue of the days and the numbering, again, see McCabe’s chapters or articles. They are very informative and corrective on this issue. You quote Miller and Soden as saying , “[W]e must wonder why it is written in such an unusual way if it is to be understood as a simple consecutive twenty-four-hour period.” Yet if you compare it to other parts of Scripture, it the most natural way to communicate consecutive 24-hour period. It isn’t unusual at all. Coming from men of their background, that is just a bizarre statement that reads like a conclusion in search of an argument. The bottom line is that it is not a convincing argument, and it misunderstands the nature of language itself.

        3. The supposed contradiction between Genesis 1 and 2 is something that also requires a precommitment to a position. There is no textual reason to see a contradiction. Genesis 2 is quite plainly a summary of certain things and a window particularly into day six. This is the type of thing that seems created out of a need to see a contradiction, not out of a need of the text. It seems alike a very superficial reading that sees a contradiction or problem.

        4. You close with speaking about “ someone’s (potentially faulty) INTERPRETATION of the Bible based on that person’s (potentially faulty) ASSUMPTIONS about the intended meaning of the text of Scripture.” Yet there seems to be no recognition of the possibility that is you (or those who agree with you) who have the faulty understanding of the intended meaning. You are treating others as if you have figured it out and everyone else has missed it. I think we need a bit more rigorous and self-conscious work on this.

        Thanks again.

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    • <>

      I agree with LAR-!5 on this. This IS the foundational assumption, and it is an erroneous assumption. Whatever the Genesis writers intended to say is really irrelevant to the science, because the whole idea that the bible has any more authority than any other collection of ancient stories is pure assumption. Yes, Old Earth Christians have difficulties in reconciling the bible with science. Why not just say, “The bible is the word of men, not of God.” ? That is what the evidence suggests. Yes, it would be much more convenient if the bible was clear and unambiguous and God miraculously intervened to ensure that it said exactly what He wanted it to say. It would be much more convenient if pi was exactly a nice round 3, or at least 22 over 7. But it isn’t either of those things. And if an omnipotent benevolent deity had implanted the biblical texts into the minds of those who wrote it down, He would surely have made a so much better job of it. Think how many of the furious and bloody Christian on Christian conflicts could have been avoided, for a start. Think how He could have avoided giving two different genealogies for Joseph, Jesus’s foster father, in Matthew and Luke, by just saying straightforwardly that Luke’s genealogy was of Mary (if that was what he intended it to mean). Think about all the dull genealogies, nitpickiing rules and savage instructions.God really doesn’t seem that good a writer, much of the time, though every now and then he shows high levels of narrative skill or poetry. Almost as if he were all sorts of different people.

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      • Apologies for the many comments, but LAR-15 arouses my interest. ” There is no textual reason to see a contradiction” between Genesis 1 and 2. How so, when in Genesis 1 we have a clearly stated order of creation with animals before man (male and female), while in Genesis 2 we have Adam, then all the animals (in an unsuccessful attempt, as I read it, to find Adam a partner), then Eve?

        That’s an ancient riddle to which I have yet to see a good solution. Here’s a modern one: If Eve were literally fashioned out of Adam’s flesh, she would have the same DNA. Yet males are XY and females XX. What’s going on?

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  10. I saw a recent comment on either the AiG or the Ken Ham Facebook page, apparently by a supporter of AiG, asking where is the dating evidence FOR a 6,000 year old Earth (rather than against an ancient one). Not sure whether AiG responded.

    Also, YECs accuse everyone else in science of operating the way they do eg ‘circular reasoning’ and re-interpreting evidence as necessary so as to reach the conclusion desired or anticipated at the outset because of the ‘worldview’ they hold to – in this case an ancient Earth. I do not believe they do.

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  11. “So where is the evidence for young Earth?” The compelling evidence is primarily from ancient chronicles. Modern science had to radically discount ancient chronicles in order to build its case in the first place since a worldwide flood was common knowledge up to the 19th century. Contemporary writers focus mainly on the Bible but there are many ancient texts which testify to the Deluge. If you’re looking for consistent dates, you won’t find them there. That is the nature of ancient writings.

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    • Many societies have flood stories, because many places have had floods. What reason do you have, other than one specific ancient text, to claim that these floods were world-wide?

      And, maybe I’m missing something, how would a worldwide flood imply that the earth on which it took place was young, anyway?

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      • The ancient stories are of worldwide floods from the perspective of various cultures. Sure they didn’t have airplanes and satellites to examine its extent but the floods changed their world. These stories also have a number of similarities which show they point to a common event.

        The worldwide Deluge is a key component of explaining how the world today is different from the most ancient world. That undermines uniformitarianism. Catastrophic natural events today show how large changes can happen in a short time. Uniformitarianism cannot be simply assumed as a “principle”.

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        • The worldwide Deluge is a key component of explaining how the world today is different from the most ancient world.

          Except that non-YECs see no need whatsoever to invoke a global Deluge in their explanations of the past — indeed, there’s very good, hard evidence that such an event never took place.

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        • TH Huxley explained in *1870* that the uniformitarian/catastrophist dispute was a piece of outmoded binary thinking.

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    • No, there aren’t lots of different accounts of the Deluge: there are lots of accounts of flooding — i.e., of local floods. By one of those lucky little coincidences, the magazine Nautilus has just this morning posted an interesting article on exactly this topic. You might care to read it.

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      • Not everyone accepts Huxley’s “explanations”. While 19th century British history is helpful to understand the background for today’s debates, it is not determinative.

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        • I think that what Paul Braterman (not me) was trying to point out to you is not the importance of Huxley but the fact that the dichotomy you seem to think is still a matter of biting debate in the scientific community was in fact debunked within that scientific community nearly a century and a half ago.

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  12. realthog has my meaning exactly. Gillman says ‘Uniformitarianism cannot be simply assumed as a “principle”.’ I say, true and we’ve known that since 1870.

    At the risk of feeding a troll, I would repeat my earlier question to Gillman: if a world-wide flood could be demonstrated, how would that be evidence in favour of a young Earth?

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  13. Preston Garrison says:

    It is a common assertion by YECs that what you conclude depends entirely on your assumptions. If this were true in more than a trivial way (if you assume that X cannot be true, you won’t come to the conclusion that it is true – well, duh.) there would be no point in doing science at all. Simply assume the answers you want, and then go to the beach, or whatever amuses you. If you know in advance that good observation, hypothesis formation and testing are not capable of deciding which hypothesis is the best, there is no point in all that expense and effort. Why bother?

    But, it isn’t true, for questions of how the universe works or for finding out the truth about events in the past. It really is possible to find out which hypothesis is most likely, although it may take a lot of work and the efforts of many smart people to get there. That is what science is, and the conclusions about the age of the earth and the common descent of living things, including us, really is quite clear for those who don’t make an assumption at the outset about what can and can’t be true.

    But these things, while complicated, are only matters of curiosity. The important thing, the gospel (sin and forgiveness,) is quite simple and doesn’t really require any long treatises or Ph.D.s That’s the best thing about the world.

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    • I once saw a UK TV programme where a scientist – Prof Colin Blakemore – asked Jason Lisle (when he worked for AiG and the Creation Museum) “why do you folks bother doing science at all?” or words to that effect. Your comments reminded me of that.

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  14. A quote from the above article: “All of the discussion of worldview and having the “right” beginning point to interpreting the data is a tacit admission that the data on the surface don’t immediately point to a young earth. YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IN A YOUNG EARTH BEFORE THE EVIDENCE WILL POINT YOU IN THAT DIRECTION.”

    In full disclosure, I’m a YEC. I want to respond to the above comment in the context of radiometric dating since it was used in this article a number of times. I think the above statement is correct, but it doesn’t highlight any point of bias or ignorance in the YEC position. Actually, I think it highlights an important role for the YEC position that no other perspective can lend. Let’s say for the sake of argument that the YECs are right; the earth is young, and traditional dating methods have been misreporting dates due to inherent confounders in the methods (such as leaky samples, accelerated decay, etc). If this is true (again, for the sake of argument), then the YECs are the only ones who will identify the flaw. We’re the only ones who are calling these methods into question. So the quote above seems to place a finger in the ribs of the YECs as if they’ve admitted an unscientific bias, when in reality we may be the only ones seeing the issue clearly. Certainly, dating methods don’t “immediately point to a young earth,” but not only is that not a reflection of the veracity of our position, it points to a potential blind spot in the OEC and secular scientists’ positions. The concern of the YEC is that certain assumptions on which science builds its methodology are leading to false conclusions, conclusions which we find problematic in light of scripture. It’s the YEC’s contention that the ultimate authority is scripture, and natural revelation is a secondary source of knowledge that should rely heavily on the former. Sure, radiometric dating methods might not lead to a young earth position unless you already believe in such, but we never would have done those experiments in the first place. We are far too uncomfortable with the idea of using today’s data to make extrapolations across purported billions of years of variables for which we can’t account. Such extrapolations are poor science if done in a thought-vacuum. It’s our high view of scripture that makes us careful scientists and as such, we are casting doubt on these methodologies and their data because that’s what scientists do when they see problematic methodologies creating dubious data. So rather than dismissing us as manufacturers of doubt, it would be most prudent to consider our concerns as important perspectives for avoiding faulty conclusions. Let’s listen to each other! Let’s work together!

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    • geologists (I know a few) spend a lot of their time looking for possible sources of error, such as the leaking samples you mentioned. if you actually read their papers (I have), they spell out the details. Creationists (I have read a lot of their stuff) point to the possible errors, and ignore all the excellent work that has been done to overcome them, as shown by the generally excellent agreement between different methods, and the fact that disagreements, when they occur, can be explained by such things as later heating episodes * for which there is independent evidence*. I can only recommend once more http://www.asa3.org/ASA/resources/Wiens.html Radiometric dating, a Christian perspective. The author is a highly esteemed physicist, and parameters he designed is now on Mars.

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      • Thanks, Paul. I’ve taken the time to review the link you sent and did not find any satisfactory responses to young earth concerns regarding dating methods. I only saw the same arguments that have been discussed and responded to in the field before. You mention that there are many papers that outline how researchers go to great lengths to overcome problems with the methods. The issue is that the confounding factors that I’m referring to would have taken place long before any geologist got to the sample to analyze it, and are therefore not controllable variables. For example, the RATE project in association with the Institute for Creation Research has demonstrated strong evidence for the existence of accelerated decay of radioisotopes, and other non-creationists groups have found that rates can be effected by the sun, ionization state and even temperature (please see citations below; this is not an exhaustive list). These studies do not appear to be mentioned in your link. The issue is that what we know about decay rates is based on a few decades or at best a century of measurement. YECs are not comfortable with the assumptions that need to be made to extrapolate those data back across a time that is millions of times greater than what has been assayed. Certainly we are not ready to dislodge our understanding of scripture based on such extrapolations. Moreover, the rate of decay is only one of the many issues that could confound the results over millions and billions of years, but scientists using and championing these techniques continue to assert that what we see over a hundred years can be assumed across a billion. Evidence is mounting that this is not the case.

        I don’t know your background, but if you’ve participated in the collection and publication of scientific results as I have, you know very well that results that do not line up with dogma are often not published or acknowledged. They are either considered to be artifacts and ignored, submitted for publication but rejected or perhaps noted in a journal some place as an aberrant finding. I have personally seen much more of the first option than either of the last two. In fact, if my field I see it on a daily basis that strange results are quickly set aside rather than followed up (funding is too limited to spend money validating things that dogma says can’t happen). As such, very few of these examples make it to the public eye compared to the number of them that are actually taking place. This would make it seem as though there are fewer incidents than there really are. Though I don’t assert it, I do suggest this could be the case in radiometric dating research, and may contribute to why people believe there is good agreement where there may not be.

        As to the idea that the separate methods agree well with each other, this is not unexpected considering that they all make the same assumption about the uniformity of the past. Their agreement could mean one of at least two thing. 1) They agree because they’ve all found the correct date, or 2) their agreement represents a unifying mechanism of bias. I suggest the second is the case. Consider how radiometric dating assumes constant rates when we’ve demonstrated otherwise, and molecular clocks assume constant mutation rates when evolving proofreading systems would have made that impossible, and we can demonstrate otherwise; still both methods are purported to agree. After all this, I return to my position that young earth creationists have identified methodological flaws that need to be considered when assessing questions such as the age of the earth, tenets of the theory of evolution, or the viability of certain exegetical conclusions.

        Citations:
        Phys. Lett. A 184:149-153, 1994
        Phys. Rev. Lett. 77:5190-5193, 1996
        Solar Phys. 272:1-10, 2011

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        • You can find my background by googling me

          Your first reference Phys Lett A 184:149, 1994 was swiftly rebutted by Wicke, Z Naturf 49(10):1259, 1994 and 50(10) 975 (1995); the reported effect, which only affected rates by a factor of +/- 1/3, was explained by oxidation of adsorbed tritium to T2O by adsorbed oxygen. Such apparent variation involving volatile materials is further discussed in JOURNAL OF RADIOANALYTICAL AND NUCLEAR CHEMISTRY Volume: 291 Issue: 3 Pages: 753-761, 2012

          Your second reference (shame on you for thinking it relevant!) Is one I have seen cited before by creationists. It is NOT the acceleration of one decay mode, but the existence of a second decay mode in the fully ionised material, which is irrelevant to geochemical conditions. It describes the accelerated decay of *fully ionized* 187Re, which will only occur under extreme high-energy conditions, as in the experiment described, and is relevant to the dating of red giants but not to what is at issue here; dating of terrestrial samples. I hope you will cease to cite it in this context.

          I have examined the RATE stuff. for evaluations see http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/rate-ri.htm and http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/helium/zircons.html Sad

          Having examined three of your sources, and found them wanting, I hope you will forgive me for not having bothered with the fourth.

          I see that you are studying biological science. It is my painful duty to tell you that as far as physical sciences are concerned, or at least radioactivity, you have either been lied to, or misinformed by others who have been lied to or who have misinterpreted or failed to properly scrutinise the alleged evidence for their young Earth creationist beliefs.

          I have now spent more time on this correspondence than I should have, so I will wish you a merry yuletide and leave it at that.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Paul, thanks for taking my post seriously. I’ve enjoyed your critique of my citations. Judging by your tone, I’ve enjoyed it more than you have. I’ll certainly consider your points and take your critiques seriously, but I’m disappointed that you didn’t comment on the more philosophical points of my arguments or review the most recent of my citations. Moreover, the rebuttal links that you’ve included regarding the RATE project do not come as a surprise. I’ve reviewed them in the past and have largely found them to employ the same logic against accelerated decay research as is applied against extrapolations of current decay rates (e.g. contamination of samples). But those critiques are not heeded by old earth or secular camps, making them much less convincing when applied to young earth research. Additionally, the tone of the rebuttals suggests a bias and indicates to me that the critics were more interested in grinding an axe than giving honest consideration of the data. In the end, the RATE group has made a number of interesting discoveries that have left many questions in addition to answering some. They make no apologies for these questions and infuse their science with the same expectation that every scientist does; namely that future discoveries will help to answer these questions.

        In the end, I’m not satisfied that you’ve debunked any ideas here given that the citations I gave were only a small sampling of those available, and you didn’t review them all or demonstrate that an unbiased review has been done of another. Nonetheless, I respect your position and look forward to future discussions.

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  15. oogity boogity says:

    Trevor,,, I am an actual geologist. With two degrees and 35 years of success in oil and gas exploration. You know, the stuff you burn in your car when you’re driving to your church of evangelical wackiness sunday night pot luk dinners?
    Several suggestions for you.. First, Buy a few science books. You’re clueless
    Second Take some science courses at an accredited university
    Third Find a new pastor
    Fourth Stop getting your”science” info from that guy in Bible study
    OR, write down all your data and research proving your YEC “theory”, send it into Scientific American for peer review and publication so you can collect your Nobel Prize.
    OR Jut shut the ignorant pie hole you cretinous Dark Ages imbecile !!!!
    Cheers from mainstream Christian National Church Councils everywhere who disagree with your ridiculous blather.Not too smart big fella.

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    • oogity boogity: Your name-calling is unbecoming and detracts from what MIGHT be a useful message. Although at least two of your ASSUMPTIONS are rather breathtaking.
      * You suggest “buy a few science books.” On the one hand, what evidence do you have that Trevor has never purchased some–or even many–science books? On the other, it would be helpful if you would suggest a few that you think might be particularly helpful and appeal to someone in Trevor’s situation? (Or is it SCIENCE texts that would really help him? Perhaps it is, rather, exegetical texts that might point out the difficulties in his and other YECs’ interpretation of the Bible?)
      * “Take some science courses at an accredited university.” –It is possible Trevor hasn’t taken any such courses. But it is also quite possible he has taken a bunch. After all, (as many in the Ken Ham camp like to point out, Answers in Genesis–has and/or has had–several scientists on staff with earned PhDs in their respective fields.

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      • Thanks for your reply to Oogity boogity. I quite agree with your comments as they are in the spirit of what I am attempting to do with this blog. As critical as I am of YEC science I don’t appreciate name calling. It serves no useful purpose.

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      • @johnscorner

        Like yourself I’m uncomfortable with oogity boogity’s rudeness. At the same time, I think you ought to look at what s/he is saying rather than at the manner of the saying. Had Trevor read a few non-wacky science books on the subject of evolution and the age of the Earth, and understood the arguments therein, then he’d not be coming out with such clunkers. Similarly if he’d taken a science in course in anything other than a fundamentalist faux-university.

        After all, (as many in the Ken Ham camp like to point out, Answers in Genesis–has and/or has had–several scientists on staff with earned PhDs in their respective fields.

        The folk at AiG like to say this, but I’ve never seen any convincing evidence that it’s (relevantly) true.

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        • johnscorner says:

          realthog: Again, I would caution against assumptions. (Maybe you know something about Trevor that I don’t. But . . . ) I didn’t see anything in Trevor’s comments that indicates either what he has or hasn’t read or what courses he has (or hasn’t) taken . . . or at what university he may (or may not) have studied.
          Reality: some of us have attended quality universities and read “the good stuff” and come away unconvinced (for any of numerous reasons), or we have attended quality universities and read “the good stuff” and been convinced at one point in time, but then felt compelled to reject the mainstream view later (again, for any of numerous reasons–though it is my impression that Ken Ham and AiG have rejected the mainstream view and have argued against it [and others have bought their vision] NOT because of science BUT because of theological and/or exe/eisegetical commitments they have made with respect to the Bible. POINT: oogity boogity’s suggestions to “read some science books” and/or “take some science courses at an accredited university” probably aren’t going to help).
          Change of subject.
          When you suggest that you have never seen evidence that AiG’s staff or associate members holding earned scientific PhD’s is “(relevantly) true”: what do you mean? That because you disagree with them, therefore their degrees are irrelevant? Or, perhaps, their degrees prove irrelevant because you have never seen them write on subjects within their actual spheres of academic expertise? Or . . . ????
          Please note: my comment about AiG’s staff members who hold earned PhDs in various scientific fields was directed SPECIFICALLY toward oogity boogity’s rather unhelpful comment to “take some science courses at an accredited university.” –My point was that there are obviously a number of people who have taken large numbers of science courses at accredited universities who have chosen to advocate for a young-earth perspective. So I wondered how he (or, as Joel notes, possibly she) thinks that “[t]ak[ing] some science courses at an accredited university” would help. It seems to me that such a recommendation assures nothing with respect to what the student will wind up believing. It is POSSIBLE that CERTAIN courses (perhaps in certain fields, or from certain professors) will MORE LIKELY yield OE v YE believers. But the outcome is far from assured.
          Whether the outcomes are assured or not, however, I would be very interested to hear what specific courses oogity boogity (or you) might like to recommend as particularly convincing from your perspective(s).
          Thanks!

          Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, oogity boogity, I think you and I could be friends :). Your post was really entertaining. I’ve read it numerous times just for fun, particularly the “cretinous Dark Ages imbecile” line… with four exclamation marks even! Also, thanks to johnscorner for trying to facilitate a reasonable discussion. I think that’s the sort of attitude that is missing in these sorts of forums, and that was really the thrust of my argument anyway. Let me just respond to oogity boogity’s kind request for me to educate myself. I did my undergraduate in nutrition science and masters in nutritional biochemistry (research thesis written on lipid metabolism) from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Now I’m completing my doctoral dissertation in Genetics and Genomic Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I’m happy to give my credentials when they’re called into question, but I’m more interested in discussing the substance of my arguments rather than stacking up my degrees. If this is not the sort of blog on which I can do that, I’m happy to look elsewhere.

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      • johnscorner says:

        Hi, Trevor. Thank you for seeking to move the conversation forward rather than descend to the level of those who attacked you! . . . Just like to note that Joel [“Natural Historian”] was not agreeing with oogity boogity’s comments. He was replying to my comment and thanked me for my “REPLY to Oogity boogity.” –One of the reasons I appreciate Joel’s blog so much is because he IS gracious and takes his readers’ concerns (and sensitivities) very seriously–on BOTH sides.
        I hope you will feel welcome. I’m sure Joel desires the same.

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      • Natural Historian, that sounds fine to me. Thanks.

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        • Hi Trevor, I have done that. Best wishes and you are most welcome here. Joel

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          • I’m sorry, Natural Historian, but, while I applaud your desire for a civil debate, I think all you’ve managed to achieve here is just another internet propaganda victory for the young-earth creationists.

            For those of us who’re trying to promote science and science-based thinking this is, as you can imagine, pretty dismal. The more these magical thinkers are pandered to (sorry, treated civilly), the more they feel empowered to erode rational thinking and miseducate our kids.

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            • Yours is not an uncommon response and I understand. Its part of the larger debate as to how much “real” scientists should engage with pseudoscience. All I can say is that my blog is for those that have been YECs or have questions about YEC and need someone to discuss these topics that isn’t just going to make fun of them. There is a place for that because, like politics, if you just say someone is wrong but don’t provide them with a reasonable and rational way to transition from one worldview to another than there is almost no chance that you will make any difference. A person can tell another they are stupid for voting for a particular candidate and it may very well be true but if no one ever listens to that persons rationale and then attempts to show them another way of thinking a change of heart is not going to happen. I will agree that for most scientists it is pointless to argue with creationists and I think there is no use in doing so. If you don’t understand the YEC viewpoint then there is no reason to have any discourse at all because you will never be able to change their minds.

              Liked by 1 person

        • One final comment; you are right in pointing out that we all tend to tune out discordant observations. This is natural, a consequence of how our minds have evolved, but something to be resisted. For this reason, Darwin suggested that naturalists should carry a notebook in which they write down observations that don’t fit expectation, because these are the ones are most likely to forget. And as Asimov pointed out, the ones that are most likely to be fruitful.

          And two small pieces of advice.When corresponding with someone who gives their full name, do your homework on them. And before citing work such as Reifenschweiler or RATE, check Web of Knowledge or other appropriate sources to see how it has been received. In particular, you can often find out how creationist claims have been analysed on talkorigns, rationalwiki, or pandasthumb

          Best wishes in your career.

          Like

      • Hey Johnscorner (should I call you John?), thanks. I have found Joel to be gracious as well. I realized my error and have made it right with him. Thanks for the hospitality!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Realthog, your first comment suggested that you were concerned that I was uneducated (or educated in “wacky” “fundamentalist” circles.” I believe I’ve demonstrated that to be a non-issue. Now your concern is that I’m a “magical thinker” who can’t play with the “science-based” thinkers. I would very much appreciate the opportunity to dispel this idea as well by engaging in some dialogue. My aim is to either advance my ideas or abandon them based on intelligent discourse. Early this morning I posted a reply to Paul Braterman regarding our discussion of dating methods. I would very much appreciate your thoughts on my science.

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