Saturday, July 04, 2015

Is Young Earth Creationism disproven?

Even on an issue like this, absolute proof doesn't exist. For example, it's possible that God created the world in seven days, just like the Bible says it he did. However, he also put a bunch of fossils in the ground to make it look like evolution, knowing that scientists would come along and make fools of themselves by developing the Darwinian theory. The evidence is at least consistent with this possibility (though a God who did that would be hard to love). 

30 comments:

B. Prokop said...

Philosophically, the notion of YEC makes God out to be a liar. Fossils "put" in the ground (not to mention rock layers, etc.) to intentionally deceive people, is totally at odds with the notion of a God Who always speaks the Truth. Even worse is the evidence from beyond the Earth. Every (cloudless) night, we see light that has traveled for millions (heck, billions) of years before it ever entered into our telescope eyepieces.

Saint Paul tells us that we can perceive God in the things that He has made. How could this be possible, if there were outright falsehoods implanted within creation, apparently for the sole purpose of leading us astray?

If anything, YEC is disproven on philosophical grounds alone.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Victor Reppert said...

One could argue that a being who did that, however omnipotent, shouldn't be called God. We might substitute another name, one that starts with an S.

Crude said...

Bob,

Philosophically, the notion of YEC makes God out to be a liar.

This has never struck me as a good move.

Was God lying to us when we spent hundreds of years believing that the sun went around the earth, based on some pretty straightforward observation?

The idea that 'God is lying' because we came up with a theory - however plausible seeming at the time - that turned out to be false just seems poorly considered. The justification for it seems to hinge crucially on the assumption of why God would put fossils in the ground - 'to intentionally deceive' - but I think that goes out on too far of a limb.

I say this as someone who's never been a YEC or OEC.

B. Prokop said...

Crude,

There's no philosophical problem with humans believing in a Geocentric universe prior to Copernicus, because they were going by the best available evidence of the time. If fact, to anyone who's actually read the Almagest (as I have), the science behind the Ptolemaic model is damn impressive. I challenge anyone daring to belittle Ptolemy to do better, given the same tools and observations that he had.

But once better observations were available, and more productive observational tools such as the telescope, the model was adapted to fit the new evidence. What many people today, totally ignorant of the actual history of science, swallowing instead the utterly false caricatures of what in fact occurred (such as that presented in the new Cosmos series), do not realize is that the Geocentric model was never just abandoned in favor of the Heliocentric, but was rather progressively modified to fit new data. There was no single "aha" moment of overturning the old and accepting the new. Copernicus made the initial proposal, Tycho Brahe attempted to fit the new into the old, coming up with a hybrid model. Galileo, although providing invaluable telescopic observations, championed a ludicrously inaccurate model of the planets traveling in circular orbits. (He also insisted that the ocean's tides were the result of their "sloshing about" while the Earth moved about the Sun, like water in a bucket moving about while you carried it.) It wasn't until Kepler discovered his Laws of Planetary Motion that we finally arrived at a model of the Solar System that matched what is actually out there.

My point? That in the case of our understanding the Solar System, there could be no charge against God of "lying" simply because we did not have all the facts at any particular point in time. But in the case of the age of the Earth (and the universe as a whole), we do have observations that can be interpreted in no other way than that our world is billions of years old.

To argue otherwise would necessitate a claim that what is plainly observable is false. Such would be in flat contradiction to Romans 1:19-20.

(Well aware that Linton Wilson is lurking out there, scoffing at my use of scripture to make a point, I do so anyway because I do regard such arguments as valid.)

Werner Heisenberg: "The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist. But at the bottom of the glass, God is waiting for you."

Jezu ufam tobie!

Crude said...

There's no philosophical problem with humans believing in a Geocentric universe prior to Copernicus, because they were going by the best available evidence of the time.

That suffices to undercut the 'God is lying' charge in the YEC case.

In both cases you have people making models and theories given the best available evidence at the time. In both cases, the evidence is incomplete. Now, you can argue that we don't know the evidence is radically incomplete with evolution, etc. But then, we didn't know that with our geocentrist models either.

B. Prokop said...

"at the time"

When I say that YEC advocates are saying God is a liar (and I do say that), I am referring to current ones - not to people in the past. There was no good observation-based reason to believe in an old earth prior to the work of William Thomson, a.k.a. Lord Kelvin, in the mid-19th Century (a lifelong devout Christian, by the way)

And a second and far more important point - I am not talking about evolution at all, but about geologic and astronomical observations; rock layers and light from distant galaxies. There is no need to bring evolution into it. You can disbelieve in evolution (I myself am a skeptic, but not an all-out unbeliever, toward the theory) and still find the evidence from geology and astronomy to be decisive in proving that the Earth is billions of years old - regardless of how one thinks life came about or developed.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Crude said...

When I say that YEC advocates are saying God is a liar (and I do say that), I am referring to current ones - not to people in the past.

They're precisely who I'm defending.

And a second and far more important point - I am not talking about evolution at all, but about geologic and astronomical observations; rock layers and light from distant galaxies.

Same issue obtains, and the same response I gave is a problem. And I don't question these things either.

Realize that saying what I'm saying doesn't mean you have to be a skeptic towards mainstream geology and astronomy. Do as you will. The question is whether this makes God a liar. I think it's absurd to insist that God is made a liar by people coming up with provisional theories that are A) powerfully supported, but B) turn out to be false.

B. Prokop said...

I am the furthest thing from a scientismist, but I nevertheless acknowledge that some things in the physical world have been demonstrated to be true to an extent that constitutes proof. Among these are Heliocentrism, the existence of galaxies, and the size and age of the universe. No sane person can contest these things. To do so puts you in the same category as someone who doubts the existence of Antarctica, because he hasn't seen it for himself.

There is zero chance that our present understanding of the Earth and its surrounding universe being billions of years old is false - none whatsoever. This is settled fact - not a "provisional theory".

Jezu ufam tobie!

Crude said...

Among these are Heliocentrism

Heliocentrism gave way to relativity. There's no preferred reference frame, from what I've read. Funny how that one sticks around.

There is zero chance that our present understanding of the Earth and its surrounding universe being billions of years old is false - none whatsoever. This is settled fact - not a "provisional theory".

Your choices are science or dogma. Which will it be?

B. Prokop said...

I choose both! They are not only compatible, they need each other. Religion without science is superstition. Science without religion inevitably leads to Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and the Gulag.

On a completely different subject, the censorship has begun. For years now, I've been a regular commenter to articles over on the British newspaper The Guardian under a different alias. Yesterday, I posted a (fairly mild) comment critical of last week's supreme court decision. I checked today to see whether anyone had responded, and discovered the newspaper had expunged my comment because "it didn't meet standards". Now mind you, although I cannot reproduce its exact wording (since they deleted it), basically all I said was the court was mistaken in its ruling, and that it was a "stretch too far" to find any right to same sex marriage in the US Constitution.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Crude said...

I choose both! They are not only compatible, they need each other.

Yeah, I prefer my dogma in my religion and my science in my science. One major point of science's appeal was supposed to be its in principle being open to question. Once we give that up, at least have the decency to make scientists dress like shamans.

On a completely different subject, the censorship has begun.

Welcome to the land of social conservatism in the media.

Ilíon said...

"... However, he also put a bunch of fossils in the ground to make it look like evolution, knowing that scientists would come along and make fools of themselves by developing the Darwinian theory. The evidence is at least consistent with this possibility (though a God who did that would be hard to love)."

1) WHY would "a God who did that would be hard to love"? Is the God who "hardens the hearts" of those who do not desire to love and serve him also "hard to love"?

2) Who says that the fossils have to be fakes for "Creationism" to be true? DarwinDefenders, of course, and those who are cowed by them.

B. Prokop said...

Ilion,

Ignore the fossils. There is no way to reconcile billion year old light from distant galaxies with YEC. There is likewise no way to reconcile rock layers that took millions of years to form with YEC. There is no way to reconcile what we've learned from humans traveling to the Moon or from our robotic explorers to more distant parts of the Solar System with YEC. You don't need a fossil record to destroy the idea of a 6,000 year old universe. There is ample, incontrovertible evidence for a 4.5 billion year old Solar System without examining a single fossil.

I am not "cowed" by Darwinists - I think they're fools. But I do know my geology and astronomy, and they blow YEC out of the water! I myself have on numerous occasions observed the galaxies Messier 81 and 82, the light from which took 12 million years to reach us. Case closed - and Darwinism not even relevant to the argument.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Ilíon said...

B.Pushin'Scientism: "And a second and far more important point - I am not talking about evolution at all, but about geologic and astronomical observations; rock layers and light from distant galaxies."

And as you continue to refuse to understand, rock layers don't come with date tages, and "light from distant galaxies" doesn't come with JPEG metadata dating its time-in-transit. The dates that some scientists assign to these things depend upon quite questionable assumptions.

As I've specifically asked you, specifically, before -- how far from earth is the Perseus Arm of the Galaxy? Is the Perseus Arm about 6189 light years distant, as astronomers now say it is, or is it about 13,962 light years as they said until about ten years ago? And why should anyone trust that the new figure is closer to the truth of the matter than the old? For, after all, the newer, "more accurate" "measure" of the distance is merely based on a different set of assumptions.

And -- even assuming that the newer figure for the distance to the Perseus Arm is based on correct assumptions and is roughly correct -- why should anyone trust that any of them know what in the Hell they're talking about when that claim that some "light from distant galaxies" has been in transit for 13+ billion years ... based on more quite questionable assumptions?

Moreover, have any of these astronomers taken into account the (supposed) findings of quantum mechanics; specifically the "observer effect"? What if "light from distant galaxies" is, let us say, for lack of a better term, "timeless", until someone observes or measures it? What if the reason that astronomers are *always* expressing surprise at how "mature" the galaxies are from (allegedly) 13 billion light years away, and thus (allegedly) 13 billion years ago, is because they are actually observing those galaxies as they exist right now, not as they existed 13 (alleged) billion years ago.

Ilíon said...

"... light from which took 12 million years to reach us."

And why should I -- why must I, according to you -- believe that the assumptions on which that alleged measurement depends are the truth?

Ilíon said...

I belive I've also asked 'B.Pushin'Scientism' about the "Fingers of God" phenomena or effect; or, if I hadn't, I'd meant to. The "Fingers of God" are artifacts of the assumptions built into using redshift as a proxy for distance.

Crude said...

Ugh.

I was not advocating any skepticism of scientific theories here. I was making a statement about the limits, and pointing out the 'God as a liar' quip just doesn't work. If the only way to make it work is to elevate science itself to dogma, that just /illustrates/ that it doesn't work.

Steve Lovell said...

By way of an analogy which people may find helpful. When Jesus turned water into wine, the resulting wine would have had the appearance of age. It seems at least conceptually feasible that a present day expert with present day tools, had he been on the scene, could have dated such a wine to well before Jesus even existed. Such an expert would be wrong. Would Jesus be guilty of lying?

I'll let others decide whether this is a helpful illustration and what, if any, conclusions to draw from it.

Mr. Green said...

Why would it be hard to love God if some blowhards made fools of themselves? After all, ordinary scientists who understand the limits of their discipline wouldn’t be put out, and as for the loudmouths who make fools of themselves, well, Scripture repeatedly notes that God will put in their place the haughty and proud.

B. Prokop: There is no way to reconcile billion year old light from distant galaxies with YEC

Sure there is. It’s trivial for God to create the universe “already in progress”, with light already on the way, as though it had come from stars far, far away. And that’s just the easiest explanation; it’s always possible that there’s some other laws of physics which would explain everything we see today and fit it all into, say, six thousand years. You can’t say there’s no such possible interpretation because you simply have not exhaustively categorised every possible interpretation there could be, let alone ruled them all out. Science is always provisional, that’s just how it works.

Now, you can of course say that it’s “unlikely” that we’ll find any alternative that isn’t ridiculously convoluted, but that’s a far cry from saying that it amounts to any sort of lie. Crude is exactly right here: there’s no way this can count as lying on God’s part — not unless He explicitly said somewhere, “Oh, and all the evidence of science is 100% precisely what it appears to be [as of 21st century interpretations??].” After all, the evidence is that Sherlock Holmes was born, grew up, went to school, etc., and yet Arthur Conan Doyle did not write any stories about Holmes’s growing up — and since Sherlock Holmes only exists only insofar as Conan Doyle wrote about him, those things never happened. Do the implications that he did therefore make Conan Doyle a liar? Of course not — that’s just how stories go.

Likewise, God’s story nowhere claims that everything science implies actually literally happened for real at some point. In fact, the reason why some people think the world to be around six thousand years old is because (as they interpret Genesis), God explicitly said it was! If God actually tells you how old the world is, then it doesn’t matter what else you “infer” from indirect evidence. (And naturally, if those people are wrong about Genesis, then the whole point is moot anyway.)

Crude said...

That's a great example, Steve. Useful, thank you.

B. Prokop said...

Sorry folks, but I'm doubling down here. To Mr. Green: Yes, if God created light in "mid-flight" making it only appear to have been traveling for billions of years when it has only been doing so for 6000, then that would be a lie. St. Paul explicitly states that "all that can be known about God is ... clearly perceived in the things that have been made." For what you suggest to be true, then what is clearly perceived would be that God is a liar. I cannot swallow that.

And yes, science is "provisional", but there are certain things we know about nature and the universe with 99.9999999999% confidence. The fact that the Earth goes round the Sun, that the universe is billions of years old, and that the Earth itself is approximately 4 and a half billion years old, are among those things.

To deny, even to doubt such things at this point in time is frankly an embarrassment, comparable to being a flat-Earther, or to believing there are only 4 elements (air, earth, fire, and water).

And anyone who mistakenly asserts that "God told us" how old the Earth is in Genesis simply does not understand how to read differing literary types. Genesis is not a science text and was never intended to be one. The physical nature of the universe is not one of its subject matters, and it has nothing to say about the age of the Earth. Only a wooden literalist who can't tell the difference between an IKEA instruction sheet and Shakespeare's Hamlet would think that it did.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Crude said...

Do as you will, Bob. You're not giving us arguments here, so there's nothing to work with.

But I'm going to give you something.

The fact that the Earth goes round the Sun

Alright. Let's play.

With emphasis added.

Geocentrists, at this point, fall into two cases: those who use relativity to bolster their claim, and those who deny it.

Those who use relativity say that geocentrism can be right and is just as valid as heliocentrism or any other centrism. That’s correct! But the problem is that using relativity by definition means that there is no One True Frame. So if you use relativity to say geocentrism can really be Geocentrism, you’re wrong. You’re using self-contradictory arguments.


So, it turns out that no - the earth does not go around the sun. Or at least, on a modern scientific understanding, it's as valid to say the earth goes around the sun as the sun goes around the earth.

Will you say that God is a liar, now?

Mr. Green said...

B. Prokop: Yes, if God created light in "mid-flight" making it only appear to have been traveling for billions of years when it has only been doing so for 6000, then that would be a lie.

A lie is saying something that isn't true. What exactly is God saying and how is it not true, can you spell that out for us? What about when Jesus walked on water — wasn't that a lie? You can walk on water only if it's frozen, so by doing so wasn't Jesus lying about the water's being frozen when it wasn't?

St. Paul explicitly states that "all that can be known about God is ... clearly perceived in the things that have been made." [...] Genesis is not a science text and was never intended to be one.

So Genesis is not a science text but Romans is? C'mon, Paul was not making a statement about twenty-first century geophysics. (In fact, I don't recall where he ever says all that can be known about God... I'm thinking particularly about Rom. 1:20; do you have another verse in mind?) Paul knew his philosophy, however, and I daresay he had in mind something like the traditional dictum that whatever is known is first in the senses, but more specifically he is saying that there is no excuse for ignoring God and behaving immorally — you're not going to get anything about the age of the earth out of that.

God doesn't owe us physics, as though He were necessarily obliged to give us concrete, definitive evidence of every step He took through history. Why isn't it fitting for God to make the universe look old, just as it was for Him to make the miraculous wine taste old?

And as I mentioned, that's only one possibility. The other is that the scientific evidence isn't misleading, we've just got it wrong. Ridiculously unlikely, you claim? Well, if looks like a duck, it's a duck, right? Look, clearly there's the bill... unless that isn't a bill, it's rabbit ears. How do you know that there isn't a completely different, yet coherent, way to interpret all the scientific data that we have? You'll probably say that making a rabbit look like a duck or vice versa is quite limited, whereas coming up with a double meaning for the vast amount of empirical data we'd have to explain would be ridiculously complex — and I'd agree with you. But are you going to tell me that God isn't clever enough to be able to create a whole universe that isn't one enormous optical illusion?


And yes, science is "provisional", but there are certain things we know about nature and the universe with 99.9999999999% confidence. The fact that the Earth goes round the Sun, that the universe is billions of years old, and that the Earth itself is approximately 4 and a half billion years old, are among those things.

So you're saying that there is a 0.0000000001% chance that God really is a liar? I'd say there is precisely a 0% chance of that, so what you must actually mean is that there is indeed a chance that misinterpreting science does not actually make a God a liar after all. You just think there's a very low chance that we're misinterpreting it. But surely reasonable men can disagree about just how confident we should be about those implications now that we agree that it won't actually make a liar out of God either way.


And anyone who mistakenly asserts that "God told us" how old the Earth is in Genesis simply does not understand how to read differing literary types.

Of course. And the same goes for anyone who thinks that a scientific theory is God's diary.

B. Prokop said...

"What exactly is God saying and how is it not true, can you spell that out for us?"

God isn't saying anything untrue, because He hasn't done what you suggest He may have. Had He actually created light in mid-flight, then He would have been telling us one thing when the reality was something quite different.

"What about when Jesus walked on water — wasn't that a lie? You can walk on water only if it's frozen"

Not a lie at all. There were still waves (as Peter saw quite clearly), and the water was demonstrably not frozen. Jesus wasn't fooling us into thinking the water was frozen. He was telling us that He was master of the elements, of nature itself.

"You can walk on water only if it's frozen"

True for you and me, not for God. He can walk on it regardless of its temperature.

"So Genesis is not a science text but Romans is? C'mon, Paul was not making a statement about twenty-first century geophysics."

I didn't say he was. But what he most definitely was saying is that we can look at nature and confidently discover God's nature, something we wouldn't be able to do if the universe were full of deliberately planted falsehoods.

"C'mon, Paul was not making a statement about twenty-first century geophysics."

Correct, he wasn't. But hewas making the statement that people of any century could confidently assume that there were no deliberate falsehoods out there to mislead us when we observed the universe. We may get it wrong, but that would be the result of us not having sufficient data or of misinterpreting the data we have, and not of God leading us astray with things like light created in mid-flight.

"So you're saying that there is a 0.0000000001% chance that God really is a liar?"

No, I'm saying there's a 0.0000000001% chance that we're wrong about certain things, such as the (approximate) shape of the Earth or the (approximate) age of the universe.

Just like I remind myself in the phrase with which I end every posting, we can trust God.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Mr. Green said...

B. Prokop: Had He actually created light in mid-flight, then He would have been telling us one thing when the reality was something quite different.

Clearly I meant if that were the scenario — if He had, then what would he have been telling us?

True for you and me, not for God. He can walk on it regardless of its temperature.

And for you and me, we can transmit light only by generating first, from a lamp or a stellar fusion reaction. But God can create light in the middle of nowhere, already on its merry way. As you describe it, there's no difference in the situations.

But what he most definitely was saying is that we can look at nature and confidently discover God's nature, something we wouldn't be able to do if the universe were full of deliberately planted falsehoods.

Calling them "falsehoods" begs the question. What religiously relevant fact about God — the kind of thing we can learn about which Paul was speaking — would we not be able to discern if the universe happened to contain light created in mid-vacuum? (Based on your previous answer, we would be able to discover that God was Master of nature, which is completely true, and probably even religiously relevant.)

We may get it wrong, but that would be the result of us not having sufficient data or of misinterpreting the data we have, and not of God leading us astray with things like light created in mid-flight.

You didn't explain how this "leads us astray" — are you going to say that Conan Doyle, and every other author who's written a novel, are leading us astray? God is the author of creation, and He has the right — the author-ity — to tell His story in any way He pleases.


Just like I remind myself in the phrase with which I end every posting, we can trust God.

Of course. But can you trust yourself? The manner in which God created the universe is not an article of faith, but you seem pretty sure that your interpretation is definitive. Mightn't you be wrong about this particular point? (Not to mention the other point I made, that the world might be very young and not created "already in progress", if some wacky alternative physics were true.)

Crude said...

What bothers me the most about Bob's move here isn't his faith in his faith in this or that scientific theory - that seems to me like a red herring - but that it largely seems crafted to give maximal criticism/insult to YECs. It's not enough to say they're wrong, one has to find the absolute most damning and shaming insult of their views in order to change them from 'completely incorrect' to 'actually very bad people'.

I gave that up years ago.

B. Prokop said...

No, Crude. They're most definitely not bad people. Two of the the most "Christian" people I ever knew, as well as two of the most intelligent, were YEC proponents who worked for me when I was Director of the DoD Near Real Time Threat Warning network, the Integrated Broadcast System. One was my Chief Systems Integrator, who made sure that all of our intel satellites could talk to various ground stations and then relay their data to the places where it was needed. The other was in in charge of network security, a field in which I needed to trust him totally, since I knew nothing myself about the intricacies of that specialty. In addition to their expertise, these two were among the most "saintly" people I ever encountered. (If we ever veered off into "theological" discussions". they would scrupulously not count that as work time, and not bill the government.)

Jezu ufam tobie!

Crude said...

Bob,

Regardless, I think your position exaggerates this to an extreme. And I still haven't seen your answer to me regarding heliocentrism.

B. Prokop said...

Crude,

Relativity and Quantum Mechanics are two rabbit holes I don't go down anymore. I'll leave them to people who actually understand the stuff. I remember literally hours of conversation I had with a (sadly, now deceased) physicist in my astronomy club about QM, and how I always felt I understood less when we were finished. And reading a book on the subject that he recommended only made things worse!

And I also strongly suspect that other non-professionals who bring the subject up don't understand it any better than I do.

Ilíon said...

B.Pushin'Scientism: "Relativity and Quantum Mechanics are two rabbit holes I don't go down anymore. ... And I also strongly suspect that other non-professionals who bring the subject up don't understand it any better than I do."

On the one hand, it's commonly said that almost no one understands Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.

On the other hand, it's commonly said that Relativity and Quantum Mechanics more accurately describe the reality of the physical universe than does the naïve Newtonian view by which B.Pushin' is condemning the YECs as making God out to be a liar.

On the other other hand, it's said by people who claim to know what they're talking about that by the 'quantun nonlocality' effect, the same particle can exist at two locations simultaneously -- which, if true, really puts paid to the argument that "light from distant galaxies" proves YEC to be false.

====================
It seems to me that if one is going to condemn the YEC understanding of the history of the world/universe as being false because "the contradicts The Science" that "The Science" one has in mind ought to be bit more sophisticated than the naïve Newtonian clock-work universe ... which model can't even tell us, so that we can know that the statement is indeed true, how far it is from Earth to certain not-all-that-distant stars in our own galaxy.

====================
Then again, when are people ever going to learn to stop taking the pronouncements of "science" as being The Truth? "Science" isn't about getting at The Truth about the nature of reality; "science" is about building workable/useful models of reality -- truth (much less, The Truth) is not a scientific value.