Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Response From an Embarrassingly Ignorant Young Earth Creationist

I was listening to Dr. William Lane Craig’s recent podcast where he was commenting on a discussion between theistic evolutionist, Francis Collins, and atheist Richard Dawkins. You can listen to it here.

At 7:51 Craig said, “…over 50% of evangelical pastors think that the world is less than 10,000 years old. Now when you think about that… that is just hugely embarrassing… This is just scientifically nonsense and yet this is the view that the majority of our pastors hold. It’s really quite shocking when you think about it.”

Well, I’m not a pastor, so perhaps I’m not quite as embarrassing. But what I find embarrassing is Dr. Craig’s apparent ignorance regarding the epistemic problems with scientific conclusions. He says two things that demonstrate some incoherence in his understanding of revelatory epistemology:

At 3:54, “I would agree… that you ought to exhaust the naturalistic hypotheses first before opting for a supernatural hypothesis.”

At 13:24, “With regard to Christian faith and practice I would say you need first and foremost to do your biblical hermeneutics responsibly and objectively. You need to not interpret the Bible in light of modern science, but to interpret it according to what its original author and original audience would have understood. That’s the first and foremost task is to interpret the Bible objectively and correctly. Then the second task will be trying to integrate what we learn from the Bible with the worldview of modern science so as to have a sort of synoptic worldview that takes into account all that we’ve learned, not only from divine revelation, but from God’s revelation in nature – in the book of nature. And then we will build a synoptic sort of worldview that makes the best sense of the data.”
It’s this incoherence that makes Dr. Craig a prime example of something Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, said in a recent interview. It’s worth listening to, which you can do here.

Continuing with Dr. Craig’s podcast, he goes on to say at 9:35,

“What would hurt the Bible would be if the Bible intends for us to believe that the world is only 10,000 years old and therefore comes into conflict with the best evidence of modern science. That’s what would hurt the Bible. What would not hurt the Bible would be if it could be shown that the Bible doesn’t take a position on how long the universe has been around. Then it wouldn’t be damaged by scientific evidence, or the geological age of the earth, or the age of the universe.”

Then Craig knocks Francis Collins for believing in theistic evolution. What difference does Craig see in the science that he feels supports an old earth and the science that is used to support evolution? From a scientific standpoint, they are equally unscientific if for no other reason than they have not been observed and cannot be tested. Those aren’t the only things wrong with the science, and I’ve already pointed to problems with the science behind the age of the earth in previous articles.

He continues in his incoherence by agreeing with Bill Nye (the Science Guy) that we should not teach our children about a young earth, but he believes that we should teach our children about the controversy surrounding evolution:

At 15:45, “I would not disagree with [Bill Nye] that we ought not to teach our children that the world is only 10,000 years old. I think that that’s not something that the Bible imposes on us, and it’s not supported by modern science, so I would agree that… we shouldn’t teach that to our children. But we should certainly teach them that there is a Creator of the universe who is God and who brought the universe into being and designed it in such a way as to support the existence of human life. And with regard to how human life and biological complexity came to be on this planet, I think we need to teach the children the controversy; teach them the various views that are held today so that they are conversant with the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution and can discuss it even more intelligently than their peers with regard to its pros and cons. And then teach them a range of alternatives that are available for the objective Bible-believing Christian today.”

But I want to go back and explain a little further how his comments about biblical hermeneutics are incoherent. If you take the first chapter of Genesis at face value without considering any modern scientific thought, you must conclude that days it refers to are solar days. If we look at the scientific investigation used to date the earth as very old, every last conclusion regarding the age begins with the assumption that the earth is very old. The scientific discovery is employed to determine how old. You can’t do radiometric testing on rocks without assuming the ionic percentages that made up the rocks at the time they were formed, which you assume was millions of years ago. You can’t construct a geologic column unless you assume that the layers were deposited over millions of years. Therefore, in order to use the conclusions of scientific endeavors such as these to controvert a plain reading of the biblical text and substitute a figurative reading of it, you have to assume that plain reading is inaccurate a priori.

Scientists are just as adamant that macro-evolution is just as certain as an old earth. The only reason Craig can say that the science behind old earth is beyond reproach where macro-evolution is not is because the text of the Bible can more easily be subverted to agree with an old earth than it can with macro-evolution. Perhaps another reason he gives is found is this comment:

At 8:37, “…the young people in their congregations [of pastors who hold the view that the Bible teaches a young earth] are convinced that the pastor is right that the Bible teaches this, but they are convinced by their geology teacher or the earth science teacher that the world is older than that, that means ‘give up the Bible and walk away from the Christian faith’.”

So does Dr. Craig mean that we need to be old earthers so that our young people won’t leave the church? It’s not clear that he means this, but I see no good reason for saying it otherwise.

Finally, it seems that Craig misses the fact that the modern scientific industry is founded on an assumption that the Bible isn’t true.

At 3:08, “But here he takes the rather cheeky position that the reason that they opt for the multiverse is to avoid a Creator which is, in fact, what Stephen Hawking has actually said in his book, The Grand Design.”

You can’t harmonize a Biblical worldview with conclusions that are founded on an assumption that the Bible isn’t true. There is a way to do science that recognizes the veracity of the Bible. This is where science was historically rooted. But the modern scientific academy rejects any but science that makes naturalistic assumptions. Craig acknowledges this on one level, but then tries to mix it with how to understand the Bible on the other. This is the most egregious error in his thinking.


  1. Jim why do YEC ignore the fact the earth is already created and present in verse two of Genesis? There is never a creation day described for the creation of the earth or all of the chemical elements and molecules that it consists of. Also in Job 38 God describes the angels singing as he makes the earth using a process of measuring and laying a cornerstone. Thus, the angels were created and eath was fashioned before the first day "let there be light" ever occurs. This renders the discussion about solar days irrelevant. It also discredits the attempt to add genealogies up to set a date for creation. So the embarrassing is part is that YEC seem to prefer a tradition to the scripture, you don't need science to see the error of young earthism - it is an embarrassment.

    1. IssacharLogos,
      Condescending much? Why do non-YEC ignore the fact that there is a consistent hermeneutic that easily answers the questions you ask?

  2. Where is the scientific evidence for a young earth?

  3. The good news is that I don't have to re-invent the wheel here. Here are a couple of lists:

    The first, from Creation Ministries is a fairly long list.

    Not all of those are the best evidences. Answers in Genesis has a short list of the best evidences.

    There is value in evidence. However, evidence is necessarily limited epistemologically to likelihoods. One's initial assumptions govern the method for calculating the likelihood of any scientific test or analysis of data. Unless one is capable of analyzing the data from all possible points of view, then one must mitigate confidence in the figures based on his or her own bias. If one were able to calculate likelihoods from all possible biases, then one's confidence would be mitigated by the uncertainty of which bias is the correct one. The only one who doesn't need an epistemology of discovery is the One who generates all knowledge.

    The honest thing is to be explicit about one's bias. My personal bias is that I start with the One who gives us both a special revelation of himself that is approached only through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the known historical context of the human authorship of that revelation, as well as natural revelation that can be approached through scientific and similar organic enterprises. The former is limited only by our level of sanctification and the latter is limited as I have outlined above.

    1. "What difference does Craig see in the science that he feels supports an old earth and the science that is used to support evolution? From a scientific standpoint, they are equally unscientific if for no other reason than they have not been observed and cannot be tested."

      How can mere measurements be unscientific? Do you have reason to doubt the accuracy of the dating techniques in this age of technology and great scientific advances. The earth appears old. Even the YEC affirm that. Maybe it's because it is old. After all, why would God trick us with a creation that appears old when it isn't. This seems grossly out of character. BTW, I am a Christian and do not believe in macroevolution. I also find Bill Dembski's these quite compelling on the retroactive view of the fall of Adam. I do believe in a literal Adam and Eve and original sin.

    2. Actually, there is reason to doubt the accuracy of dating techniques. They rely on some pretty significant assumptions. Just to name a few of the bigger ones:

      1. It requires the assumption that the resultant ion was not present at the inception of the substance being radiometrically dated. If there were any resultant ion present in the sample, than all bets are off.

      2. It requires a relative continuity of the passage of time on a subatomic level. There are problems with this as quantum physics is based on massive temporal shifts on the quantum level.

      3. The statistics are dubious given the extremely small sample size represented as a relatively short period of time extrapolated out to millions of years. Any small deviation would throw the date off significantly.

      4. We have to assume that God created only using natural processes. In other words, in order to claim that the results are in any way revealing, we have to claim that God didn't work a miracle to create the universe. Lets say we test the wine that Jesus made at the wedding at Cana. What would it reveal as far as the age of the wine? Good wine is well-aged. Yet this was created in a moment. You can't detect a miracle using only natural means.

      Therefore, the "appearance" of age is actually not based on a rock-solid scientific foundation. Having said that, you have to define what it means to appear old. Is the science adequate to give us that definition?

  4. It also seems that many old-earth creationists forget that General Revelation or God's 'Book of Nature', is limited to observations that are the same for all people through all of time. So while all can wonder and learn from the night sky as seen by the human eye, scientific observations from the Hubble telescope in the 21st century don't count.