How does one arrive at a young earth view?

(Lisa) #1

For a seminar I am leading in a few weeks…

Does anyone arrive at a YEC view from science rather than by already having that interpretation of Genesis? In other words, is there anyone that ever looked at the earth and thought it actually looked young (like in modern times with what we know about geology etc)? If not, do YECs admit this is the case? (I think someone like Todd Wood might admit this but I’m assuming AiG would not.)

Also, where might I find statistics on the % of people that fall into a YEC, OEC, EC, ID view…ideally broken out by lay people, scientists and theologians :slight_smile:

(Phil) #2

Lisa, you can goggle polls on evolution belief, and it will return lots of results. The problem I have with polls, is their accuracy, depending on wording, etc. I suspect that many evangelicals when polled will state they believe in a young earth just because that is the expected answer they are give to retain club membership. I wonder how many YEC claimants when looking at a Dino fossil that is labeled 100 million years old, think it is cool and amazing rather than a misrepresentation. But that is just me musing.

(Lisa) #3

I definitely see that in the homeschool community. YEC is the default view and it’s partly because that’s the curriculum almost everyone is using. I don’t think many people set out to find a YEC science curriculum, they just want something “Biblical” and go by word of mouth. When you start asking people, some are adamantly young earth but quite a few are actually sort of indifferent and are just using YEC curriculum because everyone else is (not that they’re unhappy with it, they just feel like a “Christian” text would be better than a “secular” text…which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be the case for science texts in general).

So I think you’re probably right about why evangelicals lean so YEC in polls…I just need to find some numbers for scientists and theologians. Obviously scientists (whether Christians or not) are overwhelmingly fine with evolution. I don’t know if there’s data for theologians…what I’m getting at is someone trained in Biblical interpretation…maybe just pastors in general? I’m hoping they have a less concordist view of Genesis.

I talked to someone from one of the Southern Baptist seminaries and his rough estimate of SBC theologians was 1/3 YEC, 1/3 OEC, 1/3 EC. That was an off the cuff answer but he’s a professor and dean at Southeastern so he has some idea.

(Phil) #4

Interesting to see what you come up with, or what folks help you with here. I’ve read several places that seminary convinces more people to accept EC than science does, presumably due to broadening knowledge of biblical interpretation.

(Casper Hesp) #5

Hi Lisa!
I had the same question when I was preparing for a talk I gave recently at an evangelical university here in the Netherlands. For scientists you could use the Pew study cited in this article:

Statement 2 there shows that 98% of AAAS scientists in 2014 believe that humans and other species evolved over time. This includes all kinds of scientists and engineers. I think if you would ask only PhD biologists for example you would arrive at a stunning >99.99999%. Would be fun to get real numbers on that.

For theologians, you could go by the official statements of leaders of Christian denominations. According to this source I found, 67% of US Christian denominations (weighted by number of members) are officially OK with evolution.

(Bruce Holt) #6

Hi Lisa,

If you haven’t already come across this, you’ll likely be interested to read about the research by Jonathan Hill that BioLogos funded and published a few years ago: National Study of Religion and Human Origins.

The full report is 83 pages, but you can find some summary thoughts. I did an article search for Jonathan Hill, and here are a few of the results that seem relevant to your questions.

The Recipe for Creationism (Hill’s reflections on his research)
What Americans Think and Feel about Evolution (refers to Hill’s survery, as well as surveys by Gallup and Pew)
What the New Pew Study Actually Reveals (addresses the perception of conflict between science and religion)

I’m sure there is plenty more out there, but I hope these are helpful to you.

I am praying that the seminar will generate some helpful reflection and conversation in your CC community, and I hope you’ll give some updates in the Homeschool Forum as things progress.

Kind Regards,


(Jon Garvey) #7

Phil - one ASA researcher points out how badly worded surveys can give entirely false impressions. For example, one survey gave as one of their “origins position” choices something to the affect that “man was created specially within the last 10,000 years.”

It’s easy to assume that anyone answering that would be a YEC, but it would actually include Catholics who believe in an old earth but a specially created Adam, both mainstream Catholic teaching, and it would also include sophisticated Homo divinus views that are entirely conventional on biology, but believe the Adam story represents the conferring of imago dei or some covenantal spiritual role upon one or more humans in relatively recent history.

Another factor (which you hint at) is that those not committed to studying the matter (and quite a few of those who are) can easily hold contradictory views - one reason the choices given often add up to more than 100% of people. Many churches (certainly here in the UK) are just not bothered, so a Christian could happily accept Genesis as literal history, fossils as millions of years old and products of evolution, and never have even seriously considered whether they fit together.

To attempt an answer to Lisa’s first question, I think the problem is that nobody in real life comes to the matter of the age of the earth without some suppositions. Small children probably have no idea whether the earth is young, old or middle aged until they start having adult ideas instilled in them. Remember that ancient Babylonians dealt in at least hundred of thousands of years of civilisation; that many Greeks believed the earth was literally eternal, and that after that to mainstream Christians for 2000 years it looked pretty young - including scientists like Robert Boyle who considered Archbishop Ussher’s chronology an impeccable piece of science.

Nobody learns about potassium-argon dating before they’ve already had a decade or two of dinosaurs and “My First Astronomy Book” to make them accepting of the science, or alternatively implicit or overt Sunday School literalism and trips to replica Arks to be suspicious of orthodox science when they encounter it, and dig into Creation Science.

(Phil) #8

Great observations. I often have blinders on and fail to recognize my own presuppositions. As to the question of whether anyone independently comes to the conclusion of a young earth, it is as you state it is a loaded question, as no one really has an independent viewpoint, though historically we see geologists and others in the 1700s and 1800s with a pretty blank slate of presuppositions agree that the earth was old based on their observations, though they had no way to tell them how old. Perhaps that would be one way to answer the question as best we can.

I occasionally read of those in the YEC camp who report a change from old earth to young earth belief, but that seems to be due to acceptance of young earth theology, not of acceptance of young earth science.

(Jon Garvey) #9

Agree Phil. To clarify, I wasn’t suggesting that there is no evidence for an old earth, but merely that the day-to-day world doesn’t scream either “New!” or “Old!” - it takes the kind of cumulative scientific evidence that started with 18th century geology to tip the balance - but of course, most ordinary people have no idea of the arguments for that any more than they can explain the evidence for heliocentrism, and accept it (or sometimes reject it) on authority.

So you’re probably right that it’s only a new a faith commitment that’s strong enough to put people at odds with the cultural consensus - Creation Science is more likely to be used as support for that than as an evidential game changer.

In one sense Creation Science, like heresy, has some value, in that even overwhelmingly well-supported beliefs like deep time are bound to face some anomalous or contradictory evidence. Not only does the existence of “opposition” trigger work to explain the anomalies that may add to knowledge in itself, but being reminded of such anomalies ought to keep us humble enough to question even our basic scientific assumptions. Nullius in verba, as somebody said.