This question is a thought experiment, asking you to think what for many of you may be the unthinkable. That is, if you believe the earth is old, but you found out today for sure that it was actually young, how would you live differently tomorrow? Conversely, if you believe the earth is young, but you found out today for sure that it was actually old, how would you live differently tomorrow.
In other words, I’m not asking whether you think the earth is old or young; I’m asking what you would change in the way you live if you found out that your position - whichever one it is - turned out to be the wrong one.
I’ve had a hard time figuring how changing my view of the age of the earth would have very much practical effect on my life. But maybe I just haven’t thought about it enough.
If you’re willing to answer this thought experiment, and that’s all it is, please answer for yourself only. That is, don’t try to be prescriptive for others; just try to be descriptive of yourself, to the degree you can imagine such a change in your thinking. And, again, the value of your answer is the same whether you’d be going from old to young, or from young to old.
A great question, as a lot of energy is spent on arguing things that really have little importance in the long run.
Should I find that my idea of an old earth is wrong, my day to day life might change little at least in the daily routine, but it would profoundly affect how I viewed God and my place in creation. I would have a sense of betrayal and abandonment, that hopefully I could work through, but it would still greatly trouble me as I wondered, “Why would God do that?” (and by that, I mean: make creation look like something it was not.) It might well lead to abandonment of the faith, assuming further revelation did not make sense of the question of “Why?”
I can understand that those who go from young to old might well feel the same way, which perhaps makes it most important that we answer the questions that arise in integrating faith with science, and not worry to much about arguing the science.
For me it was a greater sense of awe towards God’s creation than I perhaps could have ever imagined where I began to search and inquire what the real truth was afresh. There were no sacred tomes so to speak or no questions I couldn’t ask and I found myself weeping as I encountered our Creator through my study of Cosmology. With this also came a deeper sense of trust as I saw the plan of God unfolding, not just over several thousand years but over 13,800,000,000 years- with the story on Earth ending up one species (to our knowledge) having a relationship with their Creator through Jesus Christ. You can get the exact same revelation sitting and studying the prophetic utterances of the Old Testament and seeing them fulfilled in the person of Christ which I have, but then it was taken to another level.
As for evolution, I was still on the fence at this point. I came upon this one paper written by Jennifer Wiseman and one line struck me to my core (emphasis mine):
From the Intelligent Design community, they hear the message that life (and perhaps the entire universe) is too complicated to develop through natural processes alone, and therefore that God’s work requires miraculous inputs of information into the natural world. This implies that somehow natural processes must not be fully God’s processes, or that God’s work through them is somehow inadequate.
So then God revealed Himself to me in a new way in the upcoming weeks, as I began to study evolution with different eyes. That it would be okay if God used this process and to me, it was an even more remarkable claim than He could be in charge of it all.
I also recall a story about a bag of legos or something like that that gets shaken up for many years. I imagined the type of God who could let that bag of legos shake up and a detailed replica of the Eiffel tower came out. I would be certainly quite amazed as He clearly had infinite knowledge beforehand of the ways the blocks interacted and over long periods of time, ‘endless forms most beautiful’ came out. Then I imagined instead if God just simply sat there and put it together piece by piece. Still amazing of course! But there was a deeper level of trust that began to grow in my heart where God was shifting away from the magic occasional miracle worker to the God of all creation. I also began to appreciate things like my immune system and desired to start eating healthier realizing (though I already obviously knew this) that it was important what I put into my body because there were natural laws reality operated by.
The biggest impact that such a discovery would have on most people is a breakdown of trust in the people on the “wrong” side of the debate, especially if they’ve been particularly dogmatic about it, or if they should reasonably have been expected to know that their claims about the matter were untrue.
I’m not just talking theoretically here either. The fact of the matter is that even if scientists really have got it wrong, and even if the earth really is six thousand years old, there are numerous claims being made in support of such a position that are blatantly and obviously untrue. The result is that there are many, many young Christians who go on to study science only to be taught exactly how to test the assumptions of “historical science” that they had been emphatically told by their churches were untestable. They then start asking the question, “What else have you been lying to me about?”
This is why my entire position on the creation/evolution debate boils down to (a) make sure you correctly understand what you are talking about, and (b) make sure that your facts are straight. Ridiculous, clueless, or easily falsified claims just undermine the credibility of your entire Christian witness. There are good arguments and points for discussion in support of the Gospel. Don’t spoil them with bad ones.
It would probably depend on how I found out it was actually young. The possibility is not unthinkable for me in the abstract, but I’m having trouble imagining what could actually happen to produce that result. God appears in the clouds and announces it? That might have an effect on the way I live my life. But short of that . . . tough to imagine. It’s a little like being asked to imagine how I would feel if I found out tomorrow that I am and always have been an oak tree. Um, okay, I’ll try, but I’ll need a more specific scenario.
Are you kidding?! That’s just when hanging around here would really get interesting! A lot of embittered old curmudgeons struggling to relive the glory days of science while their YEC friends crowd around in their newfound hangout here and try to gently reassure everyone that it really isn’t so bad as all that.
Seriously, though … As we can see from some of the above responses this isn’t a hypothetical question. A lot of people already did this switch from young to old. To answer it for myself, I would mostly agree with Christy that day-to-day life wouldn’t change much for me. But it would impact how I try to impart certain kinds of evidence-considering attitudes to my students. The whole “here’s where evidence leads …” would definitely take on different tones … “here’s where the evidence appeared to lead …”
In some ways I think we’ve all experienced this change since childhood may universally include personal discovery that our world does have a history that unfolded before we got here. What a mind-stretcher to finally take in that education that ushers your imagination to the thousands of years of recorded history! And then many go on stretching even further to the millions and billions of years. We probably all experience something similar regarding the magnitudes of our spatial universe (which, like time, has probably stretched well beyond the elastic limits of our actual imaginations.) Great challenge!
I have appreciated the answers posted here. I am also amazed at the variation in them. That is, the answers can be plotted across a very wide spectrum from “Hardly any change at all” at one end to feelings of betrayal and possible abandonment of faith on the other…and, of course, multiple points in between.
I also appreciate that some folks have actually experienced this and can report a history. Of course, on this particular board we’d hear more of that from YEC’s who went to OEC than the other way around.
In any case, your participation has been helpful. Thanks.
Mike, my personal journey could be summarized as going from YEC to OEC, and so your 'thought expedient’ would be for me to imagine the impact on my daily life of now learning that YEC was true , not OEC. My early training–at my mother’s knee and in Catholic kindergarten via the Baltimore Catechism–was YEC tailored to the childish mind and based on a literal reading of Scripture. I had no reason to question the authority or the wisdom of any of my teachers. Even before reaching high school I learned that oftentimes Truth could not be expressed simply in black or white terms. And, as I was drawn into a career in science, I was told that an individual’s thought processes were valuable in their own right and it was OK to question some of the simpler truths I had been taught–to discover if a more mature mind could comprehend a richer meaning they might contain. Thus, by the time I reached college, I had ‘progressed’ to an OEC world view. But in no way did I feel ‘betrayed’ by those who taught me a simpler world view which was more appropriate for that time of my life.
So now, if by some inconceivable circumstance, I became convinced that YEC not OEC was indeed true, would I fee betrayed by those who urged me to think independently and pursue science as a career? Hardly!! It’s a career that has resulted in a happy life that I can believe (even if erroneously) has been productive and purposeful. If my nature/nurture combo had led me to maintain a YEC view throughout life, I might well have been just as happy–but, again, I would have no reason for feeling betrayed by my early teachers if I suddenly faced the fact that OEC was closer to the Truth.
In all honesty, it would alter a fair amount of background information I use to introduce certain topics, but wouldn’t change a great deal about most of my job. I love teaching Biology largely because I am amazed by God’s creation and want to share it with my students. If I were to learn otherwise, it would have very little impact on that amazement I try to share.
This is exactly what happened for me. As a science student, it changed everything.
I started in an insecure existence in science, but fully accepted by my family. Afterwards, I found a confident faith, and I found my voice, but it brought a sword to my family. I came to understand firsthand how those outside the gates are sometimes treated. I was exiled.
It could have a practical effect. It did for me.
In my journey, it was an opportunity to trust Jesus over my community. It has given me credibility with people outside the Church. They see that I was willing to question my beliefs and walk away from the way my family raised me. They listen more when I aks them to question their own upbringings and consider Jesus.
One of the best things about these questions is that it gives us as Christian opportunities to do the very hard thing of changing our most deeply held beliefs. This is exactly what we ask of others, and it helps to go through this ourselves.
None of this is to push you to change your mind @Mike_Gantt. My biggest concern is the danger of fixating on a side issue. I see your commitment to Scripture, and I respect that, and am not bothered by your YEC views. I think the BioLogos forum is a fine place to hash out these side issues.
However, in the Church too often this conversation becomes a litmus test for “who is taking the Bible seriously.” In your work elsewhere, I hope you can find ways to accommodate seekers and science students who think differently than you on this. Perhaps they may not even see Scripture correctly at first, but could you guide them to maturity within the context of their scientific understanding of the world?
One exercise I think is important starts from the assumption that another’s views will not change on this point. If you encountered someone like that, what type of theistic evolutionist would you want them to become like? How would you guide them to be the most faithful theistic evolutionist they could be? Certainly, God changes people, but not always on this. Identifying those models, and finding ways to serve those on the other side of the divide, especially if they are seekers or science students, is really important.
I would not live differently! Many decades ago - probably when our youngest youngest kids became adults and moved out - I quit worrying about things I can’t understand and can’t do anything about. The kids and grand kids can worry about such things.
For me it would have huge consequences for my daily life. Mostly because I would have to come up with a different career… Both my fields, astronomy and neuroscience, in their entirety support the old age of the earth and the evolutionary paradigm. All the successes of these fields testify to the validity of this paradigm. If that would somehow turn out to be bollocks, there would be no fields of research left to work in. Also, I would have to stop using GPS and the internet because these are based on the same “laws of physics”, which (in that hypothetical scenario) would have to be extremely untrustworthy.
I think a lot of people don’t realize that if the earth really was very young, a number of specific physical parameters and laws of the universe would be very different, and the universe would not look the way it does now. They think everything would look exactly as it does now. This isn’t the case.
Yes, good point. To expand on that, there is no known set of physical parameters that can fit the young-earth perspective. That’s why YECs like Danny Faulkner nowadays construct their cosmologies based on “miraculous transportation of light”. His “new” solution:
He appeals to a miracle because he knows that, otherwise, he would have to rewrite all of modern physics somehow…
To come back to the OP, the entire knowledge base of all of physics, geology, biology, et cetera would have to be reinvented somehow in the hypothetical scenario that the earth would actually be young. It would render most of known technology (which is based on physics one way or another) untrustworthy.
Also, it could mean that God just miraculously made it seem like these fields of science were getting things right, while they were dead wrong all along. That would lead us back to problems with deceitfulness and God’s character.