Things are not as they seem

It’s not like God gives or withholds spiritual gifts based on our views on science/origins (or birth control, or divorce, or baptism, or whether house music belongs in the worship service, or any other peripheral issue). In the big scheme of things, I don’t think anyone has an advantage in spiritual effectiveness or potential kingdom impact based on what they think about the age of the earth. Maybe groups that already think like you will be more likely to listen to you, but in the big scheme of things, I think our Christ-likeness that is going to influence people, and no “team” has a monopoly on that.

Do medical students become better doctors by adopting your type of skepticism? I doubt it. Imagine if a doctor had x-rays, MRI’s, and biopsies all showing that you have cancer. He talks to you and says, “I don’t think we should do anything since evidence in the future might show that you don’t have cancer.” Would that be a good doctor?

What you are proposing could be said about everything and anything. It seems like a sort of cop out when someone runs into an unavoidable conclusion that they don’t like.


In order for YEC’s to be right we would have to be wrong about almost everything in almost all fields of science. We would have to wrong about basic chemistry and basic physics. It would be the equivalent of finding out that the Earth is really flat.

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In my comments on this point, I made no value judgment on those who would put themselves in this category. It sounds like you place yourself in it, too. Regardless of what disadvantages, if any, may go with this category, it has the advantage of making your position crystal clear to yourselves and others. YEC’s may not think your confidence level is warranted in the light of the word of God, but your goal is to convince them they’re wrong about the YE, so it matters less what they think of you in the beginning of your conversation with them than it does what they think in the end.

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How do you convince someone who will deny any evidence that contradicts their currently held beliefs?

Speaking only for myself, see the OP in What biblical reasons are there to accept the scientific view of the earth as billions of years old? I’d welcome any biblical evidence you could bring.

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I take it that no scientific evidence will ever change your mind, correct?

Incorrect as stated. Let me explain.

Scientific evidence is important to me. The problem is in what appear to me to be biblical obstacles to a billion-year-old earth. If I could be persuaded that my understanding of the Bible has been flawed, and that it either 1) supports a billion year old earth, or 2) is completely silent on the age of the earth, then I could fully embrace the current scientific estimate of 4.543B years.

As far as I can tell, there is plenty of scientific evidence for an old earth. As I understand it, there are multiple independent lines of evidence which support this conclusion. For you to strengthen the scientific case with yet more arguments and data would seem to me like hauling sand to the beach. What I need is relief from the biblical obstacles I face. That’s why I referred you to the thread I started.

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I like to think of it this (not unique to me by any means) way.

The are, as we all know, two types of revelation. Special (the bible) and General (creation.)
Let us stipulate, even if just for the sake of argument, that both are infallible.
Both being infallible, they cannot be in conflict–God is not a god of confusion.

There is a man-based study of special revelation, let’s call it theology.
There is a man-based study of general revelation, let’s call it science.
Both being fallible human activities, they can be in conflict.

When the conflict arises, there is only one a priori certainty: one or both of the human endeavors is wrong.

Faced with conflict, we should examine the possibility that either (our theology and/or our science) is wrong.

Examples? Luther famously mocked Copernicus, based on his (Luther’s) theological certainty of a geocentric cosmos. The scientists won that one. On the other hand, in the early 20th century the leading minds believed in a steady state universe with no beginning. Score that one for the theologians who relied on the first verse of the bible.

What’s the overall score? I don’t know, but the numbers are not large–because in the final analysis the bible says very little about science.


As Mike alludes to, the question is really not the evidence, it is the biblical interpretation. Unless that interpretation is causing duress that can be helped with clarification or reinterpretation, it is really not a problem. If it is causing angst, then lovingly suggesting ways to reconcile scripture and nature may be in order.


Then why is it incorrect for me to state that scientific evidence will not persuade you?

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Medicine is, par excellence, an example of practical science. What is fundamentally true plays second fiddle to what works within the life and experience of patients. What works best also, of course, tends to be the best science, ie that which best matches the phenomena.

For example, in my own career the treatment of back pain became far more effective as a purely biomechanical model gave way to a neurophysiological one: yet plenty of people got better whilst doctors were operating under the inferior paradigm (which in turn was based on outdated philosophical assumptions about how bodies work). And since even the new paradigm is still poorly understood, there might be a whole new ball game going on in that area in a few years time. Meanwhile, doctors do the best they can, and the wise ones don’t pretend to understand more than they do.

The issue I’m addressing, like Joshua, is nothing to do with “unavoidable conclusions I don’t like” - since I’m very happily an old earth advocate. But it’s about the epistemological limitations of science, and our ability to know the core truths about nature generally, when we can only ever experience it through the mediation of our own senses and cognitive capacities. What’s astonishing is that we can make as much sense of it as we do.


The same applies to geology and the measurement of age in rocks. It works. For example, we can look at the dating of the K/T boundary as described by Dalrymple:

There are several important things to note about these results. First, the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods were defined by geologists in the early 1800s. The boundary between these periods (the K-T boundary) is marked by an abrupt change in fossils found in sedimentary rocks worldwide. Its exact location in the stratigraphic column at any locality has nothing to do with radiometric dating — it is located by careful study of the fossils and the rocks that contain them, and nothing more. Second, the radiometric age measurements, 187 of them, were made on 3 different minerals and on glass by 3 distinctly different dating methods (K-Ar and 40Ar/39Ar are technical variations that use the same parent-daughter decay scheme), each involving different elements with different half-lives. Furthermore, the dating was done in 6 different laboratories and the materials were collected from 5 different locations in the Western Hemisphere. And yet the results are the same within analytical error. If radiometric dating didn’t work then such beautifully consistent results would not be possible.

You can actually predict the U/Pb ratio (for two different U/Pb systems) of a rock by measuring its K/Ar or Rb/Sr ratios. Three completely independent radioactive decay chains can all be predicted from each other. By your criteria, this is the best science.


Because that statement omits a critical factor in my decision: the Bible. That is, if the obstacles I see in the Bible were removed, the scientific evidence would persuade me.

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But you haven’t removed the Bible, so you can’t be persuaded by scientific evidence. So why is it incorrect to say that you can not be persuaded by scientific evidence?

Calm down. He is being very clear.

@Mike_Gantt is persuaded by the scientific evidence. He is not at all dismissing science because of the bible. Rather he is letting science unsettle his understanding of Scripture with new questions. What more could ask of him but this? The evidence in science is important and that is why he is even here on the forum asking all these questions about the Bible. These questions have already adjusted his point of view on the Bible. He is working out what he believes these things. Why rush that process?

@Mike_Gantt does appear to be terribly detailed in his understanding of the evidence for an old earth (no offense intended). This too is evidence of humility. In many ways he is taking our word for it that there is evidence for an old earth. He is trusting our account. This is wise and kind and right of him.

So calm down @T_aquaticus. Getting the “right” answer is not nearly as important as getting their in the right way. These sorts of interactions can start feeling like bullying very quickly. Please treat him with more respect.

@Mike_Gantt, if I remember right (please correct if wrong!), @T_aquaticus is not a Christian. So he may not understand why we value Scripture. So do not take his rudeness to personally. I’m just hoping the followers of Jesus here would treat you better.


I should add that this is an entirely reasonable place to be. It is the essence of science to question the most established theories. We also do not ask for other scientists to “believe in their hearts” that the earth is old. Questioning is both part of the learning process and also how science progresses at the highest levels.

Its not that there is any risk of evidence showing us the earth is young. That is why we should be okay with questioning it. The questioning process is how people discover things for themselves. The questioning process is how scientists themselves advance science.

This conversation is not about determining what is likely to be true. There are more important things much more important than the technical details of our distant past.

In my view, something more important is at play. Can we live in family across these disagreements? That is the ecclesial challenge of evolution and the age of the earth. It is the challenge we are struggling to answer well.

Science is a human effort. It is merely our best account of the world, without considering God’s action. Many informed and intelligent people will still reject evolution. If they do so in obedience to their honest understanding of Scripture, they choose the better thing. There is real danger in unwittingly pressing science if it encourages disobedience to God.
Reviewing Adam and the Genome


This is a very important distinction. The less someone values the Bible, the less patience I expect that person to show someone with a position like mine.

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This statement from Mike may clear things up:

“For you to strengthen the scientific case with yet more arguments and data would seem to me like hauling sand to the beach.”

From what I understand, Mike is saying that it doesn’t matter how much scientific evidence there is. The scientific evidence is there, but Mike still believes in a young Earth. All I am saying is that scientific evidence will not sway those who put their religious beliefs ahead of the scientific evidence.[quote=“Swamidass, post:61, topic:36282”]
So calm down @T_aquaticus. Getting the “right” answer is not nearly as important as getting their in the right way. These sorts of interactions can start feeling like bullying very quickly. Please treat him with more respect

If Mike wants to reject the scientific evidence in favor of his religious beliefs, then that is his right. There is no problem there. What I am pointing out is that there is a rejection of the scientific evidence.

I am simply pointing out that the scientific evidence has not persuaded you. I don’t know what patience has to do with it.

Our conversation started by talking about YEC’s in general, not your specific beliefs. These YEC’s include groups such as AiG:

“By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.”–Answers in Genesis

It also includes people like Kurt Wise:

“Although there are scientific reasons for accepting a young earth, I am a young-age creationist because that is my understanding of the Scripture. As I shared with my professors years ago when I was in college, if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate. Here I must stand.”–Kurt Wise

We could probably add Ken Ham and Kent Hovind to the list. I have run into many YEC’s who profess the same position.

So how do we convince them with scientific evidence? Obviously, you can’t. They have said as much.

A distinction worth making, at least for those interested in this discussion, is that Ken Ham, Kent Hovind, and even Kurt Wise (notice the “if” in his quote) claim to have scientific evidence as well as the Bible on their side. You will reject their claim that they have any scientific evidence supporting a young earth, but the only point I wanted to make is that their position is different from mine - and perhaps other YEC’s - in that I don’t claim to have any science on my side because I don’t know enough about science to make such a claim. I do not even know enough about science to weigh the scientific claims of these three men against, say, the claims of Francis Collins or of anyone else here at BioLogos.

Because Ham, Hovind, and Wise stake their positions on two authorities (science and the Bible) I do not know how much weight they assign to each - and it would probably vary by individual (50/50? 90/10?). Therefore, if I became convinced that the Bible supported an old earth or was altogether silent on the age of the earth, I would feel free to adopt the position of mainstream science because it arrives at its position irrespective of the Bible.

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