Hi, James -
Some thoughtful responses here thus far, and I’ll add a thought or two of my own, if that’s OK. First off, I frequently marvel at your own patience in going back & forth with some of our YEC visitors. It’s a level of patience that I certainly don’t have. I usually think of these folks, including our friend referenced in the other thread that you mentioned, as the forum’s YEC of the month. It seems like a guy like that comes along about every month to try to set the rest of us here straight. And most of them have no idea that they’re in way over their heads, dueling w/ guys like you who have worked hard for their own graduate degrees in some field of the natural sciences. And they never offer up a single original thought; the rest of us have heard it all before…many times.
But to your point, I’d submit that there’s something of a litmus test for honesty on the part of our YEC bomb throwers, and it’s this: let’s agree upon a hypothetical number for a possible age of the universe, north of which no committed YEC would allow. For example, the upper limit of an acceptable age of the universe for most YEC’s is perhaps 8,000 years, and even that assumes about a 30% aggregate math error in Archbishop Ussher’s old chronological calculations based upon the genealogies of Genesis 5 & 11, etc. So let’s take that number and double it to 16,000 years, just to stress that we’re not being cute about it, and let’s then ask a straightforward yes or no question – do you, our YEC friend, allow for the possibility in your own thinking that someone could present to you scientific evidence that is so compelling that something in the universe is north of 16,000 years old, that you would realize that you have no choice but to concede that your YEC model is wrong? Do you allow for such a possibility in your own thinking? Notice that YEC’s have set themselves up here with a really low bar. We’re not proving the validity of biological evolution or big bang cosmology, just that the universe – or something in it – is north of 16,000 years old.
How one answers that question is vital. If the answer is “no,” then one is conceding that the YEC model is not a scientific question at all, at least in that individual’s own approach. The likely reason is that that individual’s position is that any such non-YEC compatible scientific claims violate the infallible truth of God’s word. If scientific information must first pass through one’s theological filter in order to be believed or not, than the issue is not about the validity of that scientific information; it’s about the makeup of that theological filter, and thus the whole question is now a theological question rather than a scientific one. And that’s fine if one wishes to hold that position. There’s a rich discussion that can be had there, much of it centering around biblical exegesis approaches and the like. But none of it has anything to do with radiometric dating or biological evolution or transitional fossils. After all, one has just admitted that if somebody dug up millions of compelling transitional fossils next week, it wouldn’t change his mind.
But if our YEC friend answers “yes” to our question above – that is, given sufficient evidence, he or she would concede that the earth/universe are much older than the YEC model claims – the issue now becomes a scientific question, including whether such a burden of proof has been met already. And our YEC friends thus now have some pretty heavy lifting to do if they wish to provide evidence to support their own positions, and submitting them for peer review.
I suspect that if most of YEC advocates are honest, they’d answer “no” to the question at hand. It’s really a biblical exegesis issue for most of them, and all that quasi-scientific stuff put out there by AiG and the like is just window dressing. But what’s maddening is that most of the YEC’s of the month around here aren’t honest, and they effectively engage in circular arguments. I’m willing to offer up out of the gate that my own answer to the converse question is “yes” – that is, I’m willing for someone to prove to me scientifically that the universe is six or seven thousand years old. Of course there’s the caveat that they’ve got their work cut out for them.
My final thing to add here is that it’s my own position that “creation science” has been a catastrophic boondoggle for conservative protestants, going back to Henry Morris in the 1960’s. If one just reads through the Apostles & Nicene creeds as the core beliefs of the Christian faith, there’s a good bit in there that’s quite frankly crazy – a virgin being impregnated by the God who created the universe, resurrection of the dead, eternal life in some new physical bodily form – all of that’s pretty nuts if you really stop and think about it. Yet all of us who are Christians accept those things as mysteries of the faith, even though we don’t allow for similar beliefs in any other facet of our lives. For example, if the teenager across the street gets pregnant, under no circumstances are you inclined to believe that God’s behind it.
And perhaps the primary reason that we believe those crazy things is because they’re articulated in the scriptures. So if a Christian also wants to hold a YEC perspective, because he/she believes strongly that this, too is claimed in the scriptures, I really wouldn’t argue. They can simply say, “Yeah, I know the YEC position is unsupported by modern science, but so is resurrection of the dead, and we Christians all believe that.”
Yet there’s no Institute for Virgin Birth Research, nor an Institute for Bodily Resurrection Research. It’s just the creation angle that got built into this quasi-scientific enterprise, and it’s unfortunately done a good bit of harm to the church here in the States.