Sunday, 27 March 2011

Wanting to defend the YEC position

HS writes that she is concerned about the potential effect evolutionary teaching could have on her grandchildren as they grow up. She is also surprised at the considerable buy-in to evolution by fellow Christians, and is is aware of her own shortcomings about this topic in the scientific arena.
I would like them to be better equipped to deal with it than I was. I am frustrated that I don’t think quickly on my feet, so when challenged in discussion, I am chaotic in marshalling the facts and make a real hash of defending the YEC [Young Earth Creationist/ Creationism] position. One thing I have concluded in my studies so far, is that I actually want to defend the YEC position because of what it says about God.  To me, the theology seems crucial. Yet in my studies, I have to admit there are huge obstacles to overcome.
There are several issues to cover here including
  1. Understanding creationism from a biblical perspective
  2. Understanding creationism from a scientific perspective
  3. Appreciating how one's worldview affects one's interpretive framework
  4. Dealing with theistic evolutionists
  5. Teaching children and grandchildren in an antagonistic world
Firstly, it is important to understand that while you can always increase knowledge, there will always be someone who understands more in a specific area. When you encounter a person more conversant in a specific domain is it usually inadequate for him to declare victory based on education. In esoteric topics it may be that you really lack the basics to hold a useful conversation; but the skilful person knows how to talk in mutually understood terms, clarify issues, and use appropriate analogies. Remember the knowledgeable person may hold several false assumptions. To win an argument solely on a claim of expanded information storage capacity is a hollow victory.

Next, in discussing creationism with individual theistic evolutionists there needs to be willingness by both parties to acknowledge and defend their assumptions.
Understanding creationism from a biblical perspective
Expanding knowledge here is a useful thing. As a Christian the command to grow in understanding of things spiritual means that reading material on the importance of creationism in the Christian worldview is a worthwhile effort, and for the creationist a mandatory one. If you think that creationism is a true description of reality then reading and viewing material on the biblical perspective of creationism is a sensible use of time.

It is this aspect of creationism that I am increasingly drawn to. Despite the fact I became a creationist based on scientific considerations, I now think that the biblical considerations are of greater importance. The effects of the Fall, the nature of man before the Fall, the appeal to Jesus as the second Adam, the association of sin with death; these all considerably affect how one interprets Scripture. They also argue strongly for the YEC interpretation of Genesis. Hermaneutics that attempt to marry Darwin to Genesis (either while maintaining inerrancy, or denying it) have led to major interpretative errors that are highly detrimental to Christianity. A greater understanding of these issues and how your ideas on Genesis affect exegesis is imperative to the creationist, and indeed all Christians; even if your knowledge of the science is a little lacking.
Understanding creationism from a scientific perspective
While useful, this depends on: the importance of the issue to you; the time you have to study; and, to a degree, your ability with science.

Several broad issues are useful for you to gain a thorough grasp on
  • The distinction between operational and historical science
  • Distinguishing between data and interpretation
  • Awareness of incomplete scientific knowledge
  • The importance of differential weighting of facts and beliefs
  • Awareness that the same data can be interpreted by different paradigms
  • Understanding the nature of information, and how it differs from matter
Having a good understanding of what is meant by all these statements will make an enormous difference to your approach to understanding scientific creationism.
Appreciating how one's worldview affects one's interpretive framework
It is immensely helpful when you can see the how and why people view an issue the way they do. This includes having a clear perspective on your own presuppositions. It allows you to know what is primary. It allows you to see at what points your opponent disagrees with you.

More importantly it shapes how you interpret new data, especially data that is interwoven with theory that you dispute. You can sieve out the observations and interpret them in light or your own framework. Such observations can challenge your framework, but they do so by the nature of what was observed, not because neutral observations were bundled in an anti-biblical package.
Dealing with theistic evolutionists
I think you need to consider what approach should be taken with each person. There is little doubt of my position by many in the church who know me well, even if I have not talked about creationism with them. Though I have had some conversations with a variety of people when it comes up.

Try to establish how important the issue is for them. The person who is uncertain about the topic, who could be described as a theistic evolutionist, may have little interest in the topic.

Those who are evangelistic about theistic evolution may be antagonistic. See if they will engage with creationism. Have they read creationist material directly, or just refutations of it? If you are well read in various creationist materials you may well have an idea what specifically may challenge them and lend them that book. Pray that they will be gracious with others and that God will help them understand the Bible according to God's perspective (not yours, even if you happen to think correctly).

Many may not be strongly committed to a view. Discuss various issues from scientific perspectives and scriptural ones. Show how the views of: all men are descended from Adam, curse on the world after Adam, and no death prior to the Fall; all seriously impinge on the logical conclusions of theistic evolution.
Teaching children and grandchildren in an antagonistic world
One needs to consider how best to teach you children. Parents are responsible to God for what and how they teach. This does not mean that some teaching cannot be delegated, rather that parents remain responsible for how the children are educated. It seems that in same circumstances directly teaching children and opting out of schools may be the best option. Nevertheless, teachers work for the parents whether or not they think they do. It is good for children to know this.

My children are publicly educated. I do not know if this is the best choice. We have had a relatively positive experience thus far, though there are some negative social implications of public education. What I do teach my children, when they get contradicting information from adults in authority, is that many people do not know Jesus and this can affect what they think is true. I do not diss their teachers, but explain why people can think differently. They are to respect their teachers while knowing that their teachers are incorrect in some things they teach. This is not too hard for kids to grasp. Introduce them to the idea that not all people think the same therefore some (all) people have some incorrect beliefs. If 2 teachers teach their classes mutually contradictory things then logically at least one of the teachers must be wrong. If kids realise that their teachers will be mistaken from time to time it is not difficult to challenge kids about what they are taught when the need arises. Encouraging children to pray for their teachers in this context is beneficial.

10 comments:

  1. Seems like reasonable advice to me. I'm definitely not a YEC, and I think the YEC advocates fall into a dangerous trap by insisting on placing the theological and naturalist scientific stances in opposition. But I wouldn't be too upset if my kids ended up being YEC. I'd rather they be wrong about science than wrong about theology.

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  3. I am chaotic in marshalling the facts and make a real hash of defending the YEC [Young Earth Creationist/ Creationism] position. ... I actually want to defend the YEC position because of what it says about God.

    A more nuanced defense of literal creationism is available without having to likewise defend "Young Earth" implications. One can be a biblical creationist and benefit from all that says about God and theology without concomitantly defending '6,000 years-old earth' science. One can be an "old earth creationist" and reconcile with most historical and operational science without also adopting evolution. The pivotal theological issue is the falsehood of evolution, not the age of the earth or theological creationism.

    In English, Genesis discusses "days" of creation, but that is an "English" presumption. The original Hebrew word translated "day" (24 hours) is "yom" which in Hebrew also means "age" (long, indeterminate, variable length of time); i.e., 'God created over 6 ages and rested on the 7th age' is an equally valid interpretation of the original Hebrew. The problem is that neither the "day" nor "age" interpretation can be fully reconciled with all of what Genesis says.

    One can argue both interpretations (and I have, depending on the misunderstanding I wanted to expose). For example, 'evenings and mornings' better reconcile with "days" caused by the Sun shining on a rotating Earth, but "ages" better reconcile heavens and earth created before the Sun was (4th age) and with God resting on the 7th "age" (and not starting another week, considering God is viewed as still resting from His creative acts).

    Obviously, much of our scientific observations fit much better with an old-earth "yom" = age" perspective of creation in Genesis 1 while the theology of creation before the Fall and its effects thereafter fit better with a young-earth "yom" = "day" perspective of creation. But regardless, (macro) evolution fits with neither old earth, young earth, nor even most recent discoveries of genetic science.

    The duration of creation is one of those non-essential facets of scripture in which believers of differing views can be charitable. Our salvation and unity depends on trusting Jesus for our redemption, not on the ambiguous meanings of "yom".

    Show how the views of: all men are descended from Adam, curse on the world after Adam, and no death prior to the Fall; all seriously impinge on the logical conclusions of theistic evolution.

    One could also point out that Jesus Himself was a literal creationist:
    - Mat 19:4 NASB And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE,
    - Mar 13:19 NASB "For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will.

    There can be no plausible reinterpretation of Jesus' meaning that mankind (Adam and Eve) was literally created as-is by God (did not evolve), and that all of creation (minimally, the types and kinds of fauna and flora) was likewise created by God (did not evolve from some common organism unremarked by God in Genesis).

    One can argue about the duration of time from the beginning over which God created, but one can not argue "theistic" evolution as God's mechanism without distorting the plain meaning of scripture, without arguing the Son of God was mistaken, and arguing with His direct claims to the contrary.

    Theistic evolution is premised on another theism not the Biblical God's theism, on "another gospel" not the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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  5. Hmmmm, Bethayda, the above post (and this post) were made with Firefox, while its preceeding post (now hung) was made with Opera.

    You can delete the earlier of my two posts, as it is nearly identical to the later, and also my short post at 09:38 near identical to this one (now also hung).

    Though blogger reports posts made with Opera as "saved" and soon to appear, blogger and Opera seem to increasingly conflict. So, I'll use Firefox if/when posting here.

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  6. Hung up in spam. I redirected them here then deleted as per your request.

    If you type the comment in notepad, or other, then paste, I suspect it views repeated quick attempts to post as being spam probable, especially if the data is the same. I have noted this previously when submitting a long comment broken up (for word limits) if I don't leave a long enough pause.

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  7. Hi Joshua. Not exactly certain what you mean by setting up theology naturalistic science (or was it theological science against naturalistic science?) Assuming the former, creationists would argue (legitimately I think) that certain events have several claims on them: documentary and (historical) scientific claims. They (and I) argue that the former is not subservient to the latter.

    That is, the "opposition" you mention is by nature of examining a single event thru several fields. The scientist may claim that the science is privileged, but I see no logical reason to accept this philosophical claim of privilege; and my experience of what frequently passes for science makes me less inclined to such a position.

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  8. Starwind, yes it is useful to mention that issues with the age of the earth/ universe are distinct from issues of (macro)evolution of all the genera on the earth. This is a useful and important and relatively basic fact that needs to be understood by people interested in the creationism debate.

    Obviously, much of our scientific observations fit much better with an old-earth "yom" = age" perspective of creation in Genesis 1

    I would say:

    Some of our scientific observations fit much better with an old-earth if we accept certain presuppositions and ignore data that challenges such presuppositions.

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  9. Some of our scientific observations fit much better with an old-earth if we accept certain presuppositions and ignore data that challenges such presuppositions.

    I will grant you that dating of fossiles based on carbon dating of adjacent rock has potential for significant error. I will further grant you that some science is driven by a presumption or expectation of what the findings "ought to be", rather than what the evidence actually supports, and accordingly, further revisions of established "fact" are likely forthcoming as science is dragged kicking & screaming towards correction.

    That said, the only two substantial criticisms of which I'm aware to a 13.x billion-years old universe and a 5 billion-year old earth are Setterfield's C-decay arguments and Humphrey's 'time dilation & white hole cosmology'.

    Humphrey (in 2000) claims to have refuted his critics but I've read both those criticisms and "refutations" and Humphrey just claims (alleges really) without substantiating detail of how precisely his refutation actually is made. Humphrey claims his results are correct, but Humphrey doesn't 'show his work' or demonstrate the errors of his critics (most recent in 2006).

    Setterfield's points are a bit more plausible, but the consequence (assuming he's correct) doesn't change appreciably the observed age of the universe. Setterfield himself accepts an age between 10-15 billion years.

    I last looked at these issues in 2007, so perhaps you're aware of more recent work, to which I would (as always) appreciate any later links or cites.

    While dating the age of the earth and the age of fossiles may be subject to significant revision in the future, the 13.x billion-year old universe puts the beginning of God's creative acts (the heavens and earth, light separated from darkness, i.e. "yom" 1) well outside YEC parameters, no?

    I will further grant you that "old-earth" science has yet to fully reconcile observations with the creative chronology of "yoms" 1-6 in Genesis 1, but the size and age of the universe and the earth, seem to me, are based in repeatible and ever more precise measurements, measurements whose fundamental basis has only been questioned (with detailed scientific alternatives) by Setterfield and Humphreys.

    Regardless, those questions will likely be put to rest by the SIM and Gaia astrometric satellite missions scheduled for 2010-2012 (funds permitting, lol). These satellites (like Hipparcos before them) will use simple direct line-of-sight parallax trigonometry, and not rely on indirect red-shift or speed of light measurements, to directly measure absolute distance within 10% accuracy out to 25,000 parsecs and 10,000 parsecs, respectively. Then, even allowing for Setterfield's claim of C-decay, these satellites will establish the age of nearby stars and clusters to at least 81,600 years old (as it takes that long for their most recent light to reach us), well beyond what YEC science predicts.

    To make my position clear to any lurkers, that does *not* invalidate Bethyada's view (and mine) in literal creation as recorded in Genesis. All the above argues is that literal creation, by God, in the beginning, occurred over 6 "yom" of variable and indeterminate duration, not 6 "yom" of 24 hours each. My view does raise problems, for me, in that death occurs before the fall and "evening and morning" occur before there is a Sun to shine on a rotating Earth, problems for which I have no irrefutable answer, at present.

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  10. Starwind, briefly

    Fossils are dated using metal dating on adjacent rock. Creationists would be interested in carbon dating the fossils themselves as they think they would find radiocarbon, thus suggesting the fossils are much younger than claimed.

    Humphreys then Harnett have written on creationist perspectives of the universe. Their model postulates a several billion year old universe. Setterfield postulates slowing light speed. Both models I think have some merit.

    But what is conclusive to me is that the distant starlight problem for creationists is the same as the horizon problem for stellar-evolutionists. I happily say that we lack a full understanding about the light travel problems. But because both theories have the same problem one group can hardly claim the upper hand. Is the universe enormous? Yes. Does that create a light travel problem for creationists? Yes. Does it create a light travel problem for evolutionists? Yes. Do we need to plead ignorance in this area? To a degree, yes. And if we solve the problem it may turn out to solve it for both theories. As it stands we know the universe is large but this fact does not favour a young or old universe.

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