Faced with evidence for an old universe such as starlight that has clearly taken billions of years to reach us, young-Earth creationists say, “God created the universe about 6,000 years ago, but in a mature state. Your conclusion that it is old is a matter of faith in naturalistic, uniformitarian assumptions. How do you know the speed of light or the passage of time have always been the same as they are now?”
Faced with evidence for evolution such as what we saw in the last post, creationists often reply, “You see evidence for evolution, but this could equally be the work of a Designer. Your conclusion of ‘evolution’ is a matter of faith just as much as my conclusion of ‘creation’.”
Is this true? Is the choice between mainstream science and creationism just a matter of choosing one faith or another?
At one level, yes. But let’s keep going.
If you’re just joining my story, here’s a quick catch-up. Once upon a time, I was an evangelical Christian. Although I was not a die-hard creationist, I considered creationists to be “my team” and evolutionists to be the godless “other team.” I trusted creationists because they were fellow Christians, and conservative ones at that. A decision my wife and I had to make forced me to investigate the creation/evolution issue more closely.
I hope the last few posts have given you a window into why I was appalled at how dishonest the creationist arguments turned out to have been. Now I’d like to give just a glimpse into the sort of arguments that I discovered on the side of evolution.
Most remarkable was the way completely independent lines of evidence all pointed to the same conclusion. This graph is an example. It’s from the book that opened my eyes to the power of the evolutionary explanation for life, Scientists Confront Creationism.
I’ll walk you through it, and then I’ll say why I found it so compelling.
Here’s more from Harry Frankfurt’s essay, On Bullshit.
The contemporary proliferation of bullshit also has deeper sources, in various forms of skepticism which deny that we can have any reliable access to an objective reality and which therefore reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are. These “anti-realist” doctrines undermine confidence in the value of disinterested efforts to determine what is true and what is false, and even in the intelligibility of the notion of objective inquiry.
The young-Earth creationist does believe in objective reality. In that sense, he is not an “anti-realist.” However, he most certainly does not support “disinterested efforts to determine what is true and false.”
This is a post I did not want to write. First of all, it requires me to speculate on what’s in other people’s heads, which I don’t like to do. Second, it requires me to use a mild cuss word, which makes me uncomfortable even in print. I’m posting anyway because on the first count there comes a time where you just have to say that a waddling, quacking, duck-like animal is, in fact, a duck; and on the second count the word “bullshit” happens to have no adequate synonym.
What is bullshit, and how does it differ from an ordinary lie? Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt gave a good answer in his famous essay, On Bullshit.
The bullshitter may not deceive us, or even intend to do so, either about the facts or about what he takes the facts to be. What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise. His only indispensably distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to.
In the last post, I accused creationists of being “dishonest” in the way they handle scientific evidence. That’s a serious charge, but “dishonest” is actually a fairly tame word considering the hellishness of the theology that, as they emphasize, has strict creationism at its foundation.
Yet at the everyday level, the creationists I have known are decent people. In fact, they think it’s important to proclaim truth regardless of the ridicule they may suffer in response. What could be more noble than that?
What accounts for the discrepancy between their wish to pursue truth and the epic fail of the outcome?
To a Christian, few things are more aggravating than when someone pulls a Bible verse out of context to prove a pet point, especially if that point runs counter to the larger purpose of the text.
When I read creationist literature, I assumed its authors, as fellow conservative Christians, were being just as honest with their quotations from scientific literature as they would be with the Bible. After 40 years of granting creationists this favorable assumption, it took only a few weeks of reading actual scientists’ work to see how unfounded my trust had been.
A sentence we saw in an Answers in Genesis online textbook two posts ago is a case in point.
Harold J. Morowitz, professor of biophysics at Yale, has calculated that the [probability of] formation of one E. coli bacteria in the universe at 10-100,000,000,000, or one in 10 to the power of 100 billion.
Last time, I promised that I would say something about the evolution of molecules as Step 1 in the origin of life. The creationist organization Answers in Genesis says it’s impossible for molecules to evolve, much less to evolve into life:
Natural selection cannot be the mechanism that caused life to form from matter as it can only work on a complete living organism.
Is that true? Can natural selection only operate on complete living organisms?
This post is part of a series on creationist arguments that I encountered while studying the creation/evolution issue. I wanted to learn the truth, and creationists did not help their cause as they asserted so many obvious falsehoods. Answers in Genesis’ statement above is a case in point.