AiG picks at specks in Flat-Earth cosomology

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a log in your own eye?"

Answers in Genesis ran an interesting article critiquing the Flat-Earth Movement back in June. I missed @Laura’s thread (Young-Earth and Flat-Earth views using similar rhetoric) on it the first time around, but I didn’t want to re-open it just for this.

As Laura and others have noted, the AiG piece by astronomer Dr. Danny Faulkner does a good job describing the problems with believing in a flat Earth, but all of his arguments apply equally well to a young Earth. Thus, I determined to try an experiment. I copied and pasted Dr. Faulkner’s article into a Word doc and used “find/replace” with these terms: flat/young, shape/age, "a sphere”/old, “a globe”/old, and astronomy/geology. Before anyone starts worrying about copyright issues, satire is 100% protected by Fair Use. I offer this satire not for the purpose of making a joke, but in the hope that some among the Young-Earth Movement will recognize themselves in this mirror.

Now, observe the results (emphasis mine):

How Do We Know What We Know?

Young-earthers raise an excellent epistemological question: how do we know what age is the earth? For three decades, I asked this very question of students in the first semester of my introductory geology class. The context of this question was the early history of geology. I would ask my students what age they thought the earth had. All my students would answer that the earth was old… When I asked my students how they knew the earth was old, not one student could give me a good reason…

… if one becomes convinced that the earth is young rather than being old, that is a major change in one’s worldview. If the earth truly is young, then we have been lied to about the earth’s age our entire lives. One must ask how and why this lie was created and perpetuated. Ultimately, this line of thinking leads to the conclusion that there must be a vast conspiracy about the earth’s age that has been going on for a long time. … It seems that the conspiracy to hide the earth’s true age is the motherlode of conspiracies. All other conspiracies easily are subsumed by this one.

… Why is the cosmological conspiracy believed by young-earthers all-encompassing? The answer lies in the fact that the alleged conspiracy is cosmological. Cosmology is foundational to one’s worldview. If we have been lied to about such an important, fundamental issue, then all other conspiracies are relatively small matters in comparison. Once one comes to believe that there is a vast conspiracy about cosmology, it is a relatively easy step to believe in many other sub-conspiracies.

But young-earthers typically are undeterred by such advice. They dismiss it as the mere teaching of a man. They proudly proclaim that they want to stick solely with what the Bible says. They fail to understand the importance of sound teaching taught in the very Bible they profess to uphold. God has ordained the church for several purposes, including instruction in the Scriptures. 1 Timothy 3:2 says that an overseer must be able to teach. But young-earthers frequently dismiss instruction from Godly men, insisting that they know more about what the Bible says than men who have devoted many decades to prayerful study of the Scriptures. It never occurs to young-earthers that they may be wrong in their understanding of the Bible. Nor does it occur to them that they have set themselves up as authorities on the meaning of the Bible, but their approach completely undermines the possibility of such an authority in the first place. … Some young-earthers also fashion themselves to be experts on science and the methodology of science. Consequently, they think of themselves as competent to dictate to scientists, both godly and ungodly, on how science ought to be conducted. But their definitions and practice of science appear to be formulated to make science as generally understood impossible.

Where do these young-earthers get the notion that they are capable of rewriting so many disciplines of study? This is particularly galling when one considers the limited science education that most young-earthers seem to have achieved. Their ready stock answer is that they haven’t been indoctrinated by all those years of study. These young-earthers fail to realize that without all that study, they don’t even understand what they criticize.

It is intellectually lazy for Christians in their fear to insist on a strictly literal approach to all of Scripture. Sadly, young-earthers who demand this hyper-literal approach to the Bible readily abandon it when it suits them. Ultimately, young-earthers place themselves in a position of authority while simultaneously deconstructing the idea that there can’t be any authority other than Scripture. They are blind to the fact that they have equated their understanding of Scripture with what the Bible says.

Another irony is that while young-earthers regularly dismiss any teaching on Scripture that they disagree with as mere teachings of men, they readily embrace the teachings of men with whom they agree.

This raises the question of whether the Christian version of the young-earth movement is a cult. The young-earth movement has some elements of a cult. Young-earthers insist that their understanding of the Bible is the only true meaning of Scripture, dismissing all others as the mere teachings of men at best, and at worst, the work of the devil. This is the major defining characteristic of a cult. On the other hand, a cult often denies one or more cardinal doctrines of Christianity, such as the deity of Jesus Christ. While some individual young-earthers who identify as Christian may stray a bit from orthodoxy, there is no consistent pattern of denying central tenets of Christianity among young-earthers. Furthermore, a cult usually is led by a central figure. As of yet, there is not a single person who seems to be leading the Christian version of the young-earth movement.

I have found that young-earthers readily believe almost anything that a fellow young-earther says. A young-earther comes up with a very lame argument that he posts on the internet; soon, another young-earthers endlessly repeat the poor argument, an argument that is easily refuted and often contains demonstrably false information. Yet it is nearly impossible to convince young-earthers of the folly of the claim. At the same time, young-earthers are highly resistant to any arguments for the conventional cosmology. Consequently, young-earthers have no skepticism for the claims of fellow young-earthers but have nothing but skepticism (or is contempt a better word?) for those critical of young-earth views… When young-earthers finally post the memes outside of the young-earth echo chambers, they often are surprised by the sharp, and well deserved, criticism that they encounter. Yet, the firm believers of a young earth are never deterred by this, because, as I pointed out before, young-earthers have zero skepticism of young-earth claims and impossibly high skepticism for any opposing positions.

In order to escape the delusion of a young earth, believers in such ideology must first realize that they have been duped by some very poor arguments.

So, I continue to battle this threat to biblical Christianity. I’m not interested in debating young-earthers. I don’t even try to convince them. Instead, my target audience is those who are true seekers, not those who think that they’ve already found truth in the falsity of young earth, without doing the proper research. I also provide answers to those who have seen the unfortunate effects of the young-earth movement in people that they know and love.

REMEMBER: The essay was written by a Young-Earth creationist to criticize the notions of Flat-Earth believers. Other than the global search replacements noted above, the words are Dr. Danny Faulkner’s.

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Wow.

How many cognitive biases are at play here, do you think?

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I originally did it on a lark, but the result was shocking even to me.

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I wonder how many young earth’ers who would agree flat-eartherism is silly would find this sufficiently shocking to budge their rejection of an old earth?

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I would ask some of the YEC currently here, but I wonder how @Joel_Duff, @jammycakes, or @DavidMacMillan would answer, since they deal with YEC a lot.

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I came across Danny and another major creationist leader about a month ago in a flat Earth group. For someone who doesn’t want to debate flat-earthers, he sure spends a lot of time doing exactly that. We have spoken, and often team up just for the fun of it.

It’s amazing to see. Every argument he makes can be turned right back against creationism and he doesn’t realize it.

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Wish you’d posted this eight hours earlier, Jay. I was discussing this whole point with a YEC friend on Facebook just this morning. He was arguing that “evening and morning” in Genesis 1 meant that it could only be taken literally and not figuratively or phenomenologically. I pointed out to him that AIG argues for a phenomenological reading when dealing with flat earth, solid-dome arguments, and for them to have one set of rules for interpreting what Genesis 1 has to say on the shape of the earth and another set of rules for the age of the earth is inconsistent. So far he hasn’t replied.

Of course the main point that I hammer home to YECs over and over again is the need for honest and accurate weights and measurements. It’s a point that they should (in theory at least) agree with, but most of them aren’t aware of what honest and accurate measurements actually look like in practice.

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The story of my life. A day late and a dollar short.

I agree with your argument about weights and measures, but I haven’t seen it make a dent yet. Not that you shouldn’t keep trying. All sorts of arguments bounce off the forehead …

I won’t attempt this particular exercise, but I could find examples of every single argument he makes right here on the forum.

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It won’t make a dent in hard-core YECs (some of whom flat-out don’t care, some of whom even argue that the Bible’s insistence on honesty and accuracy doesn’t apply in this case for whatever reason), but I’ve found it helps a lot with non-scientist Christians who are “on the fence” to understand where I’m coming from and what they need to look out for themselves.

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True. It goes back to Faulkner’s (twisted) point:

I’m not interested in debating young-earthers. I don’t even try to convince them. Instead, my target audience is those who are true seekers, not those who think that they’ve already found truth in the falsity of young earth, without doing the proper research.

One never really knows how many lurkers are behind the scenes, capable of being influenced.

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I enjoyed this 5 minute BBC video on conspiracy theory elements. I hope you do, too.

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Thanks for going thru the trouble to put this together, Jay. That is just astonishing.

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Despite your introduction to this, Jay, the first time I skim read this it still didn’t register with me what you’d actually done. It read so smoothly that I wasn’t thinking the article could have been about anything else other than the age of the earth.

Pretty amazing indeed. It must be a rare topic that can so neatly be interchanged with another.

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Randall Rauser enjoyed it too.

https://randalrauser.com/2019/08/flat-earth-young-earth/

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That was a good one. The video pointed out the main problems that I encounter with conspiracy theories – secrecy and control. In my experience, the more people that know a secret, the less likely it is to remain a secret. How many people would it have taken to fake the moon landing? Thousands. What are the chances that all those people involved could keep their mouths shut? Pretty much nil. The same applies to the “deep state” conspiracy.

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Yeah, sometimes people who hold to conspiracy theories are considered “distrusting,” but I think it’s actually the opposite – to believe theories like that requires way more faith in human competence than I could ever have.

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By itself, very few. That said, this is really awesome. It’s one of the clearest anti-YEC pieces written and it was made possible by a YEC but it Faulkner and other’s can’t see any problems here and are unwilling to self-reflect it is unlikely that many of their followers will either. However, I would say that this doesn’t mean that there aren’t seekers and doubters among YEC followers for whom reading a pieces like this could be an ah-ha moment. If they also have some resources that allow them to think through a better way to handle Genesis then the tandem could have some effect. I don’t think there is any piece of evidence, any magic saying, or any single person or method that can turn large numbers of YECs to reject their beliefs. It’s almost a case-by-case thing. Every conversion story hinges of a different piece of evidence or personal encounter that starts the process.

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So true. It’s like an avalanche waiting for the right trigger to send it down the mountainside. Thanks for the kind words!

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I would also add that what Jay’s experiment also shows is why YECs and other fringe movements tend to attract the same groups of followers. The same arguments that flat-eathers employ are, as Jay shows, virtually identical to those used by YECs. We could probably do the same sort of transposing of words for articles written about climate denial or anti-vaccination. Leading proponents of each these ideas may see others as being pseudoscience but they have difficulty convincing their own audience it is good, for example, to be against climate change but for vaccines. Faulkner is in an uphill battle here because YECs are teaching people to be skeptical of science in a way that leads them to fall prey to any number of other pseudoscience beliefs. \

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I wonder if you @Jay313 would consider posting this piece to the BioLogos page? I’d like my brother to read it. I don’t think he’d come to this site but perhaps if I linked him to it there he would.