Swiftocracy!: Foundation for the Young Earth
For the last two weeks each of my posts have been based off requests. For more information about how that happened, look here.
“Explain your top 5 most convincing evidences that the earth is relatively young.”
Let’s not dive right into this. Let’s take a little detour first, by unpacking a little syllogism.
1. If the world was created by an non-natural process then science would never discover that fact.
2. The Christian believes that the universe was created in an non-natural process.
3. Therefore, if the Christian is correct, science will never accurately understand how the universe came to be.
If God created the universe than whatever theories the scientists come up with about the origin of the universe will be fundamentally flawed. This is because science works under the idea of “methodological naturalism.” Naturalism, as I’ve mentioned before, is the idea that there is nothing in the universe besides mass, energy, and combinations of the two. No ghosts, gods, souls, or spirits. Methodological naturalism means that as far as performing science is concerned you must behave as is naturalism is correct. Another way of putting it is to say that science is the study of the natural world and must seek natural answers for natural events. If an event is non-natural then science can’t give us a definitive answer about its nature. If a miracle occurred you could not discover it through the scientific method: the best you could do is determine that there is no current scientific explanation for the phenomenon in question. There is nothing wrong with this. Science is a tool that exists to study the world as it naturally occurs. That is its purpose.
Some people take it to mean that because science as a tool must be methodologically natural, and because science has been very successful as a tool, then naturalism must be true. This is an error. The scientific method by definition can’t tell us anything about the existence of entities or phenomena that are outside of nature. If you want to find out whether such things exist then you must find your evidence for or against outside of science. It’s foolishness to say that the sun does not exist because you cannot sense it with a seismograph or measure it with a voltmeter; after all, they’re the wrong tool for the job. Belief in the sun is not discredited no matter how accurately a voltmeter measures electrical current. In the same way belief in the supernatural is not discredited no matter how well science measures and predicts natural phenomenon.
Now this belief in the supernatural should be understood to be something distinct from what we might call “superstition.” Most superstitions make claims on how the natural world works, and thus fall under the domain of science. The belief that warts can be cured by washing with water from a silver vessel under the light of the full moon, for example, is making a natural claim: if you do X thing then result Y will occur. There is no problem with science proving such a belief to be false because it is a belief about natural events. Science has been effective at disproving superstitions, and because many people conflate the two concepts some believe that science has disproved the supernatural as well. This is a mistake. Superstitions make natural claims about natural phenomena (if you break a mirror you’ll have seven years of bad luck, animals can talk at midnight on Christmas Eve, hearing a screech owl three times in a night means someone will soon die, etc). The supernatural is a belief in non-natural phenomena (free will, a soul, God, objective morality, etc.). To continue the earlier metaphor, a voltmeter is very effective at discovering inaccurate beliefs about voltage, but it can’t tell us anything about justice.
All of this is a long way of making two little points. The first is that science, by definition, cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. The second is that if God was responsible for creating the universe, regardless of whether he did it in 6 days or not, then science alone will never give us an accurate picture of the universe’s origin. It simply can’t. Unless the universe has a purely natural explanation science is helpless to understand how it came to be. If, then, you believe that God does exist and that he did create the universe, then you must agree that the “scientific” explanation is not entirely correct. The Young Earth Creationist (YEC) and the Theistic Evolutionist should agree on this point. The main difference between the two positions is how much trust someone is willing to place in the scientist’s flawed model. Is the secular model only wrong in a few details, or completely inaccurate?
Many Christians put a lot of trust in the ability of scientists to understand what happened in the unobserved past. I would argue that much of this trust is misplaced. We can have absolute confidence in scientific theories that can be observed and experimented on today. This absolute confidence should not be extended to theories that are by their very nature unobservable and impossible to experiment upon. I laid most of this out in a previous post, so I won’t go on about it too much here. The essential point is that trying to understand events that occurred in the unobserved past is very much like trying to solve a murder. In a criminal investigation forensic (that is, scientific) evidence is important but ultimately is secondary to eyewitness testimony and deduction. CSIs can perform experiments on the physical aspects of a crime scene but they cannot experiment with the event itself. That’s why we have detectives. Science can tell us a lot about the physical artifacts we find buried in the ground, but we rely on historians to piece together what actually occurred in ancient times. In the same way scientists can examine the world around us today but they cannot examine or experiment on the past itself. The best they (and the best anyone) can do is to devise models of the past that best explain the most facts about the observable present. In other words, the theory that the world is billions of years old is, by its very nature, not as definite or reliable as the theory that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius at sea level. One has been tested and can still be tested today. The other is a model that has changed many times in the past, and will continue to change as more facts are discovered that must be accounted for.
However, as previously established, YEC is not really a scientific model as it does not follow meet the useful scientific requirement of being methodologically naturalistic. However that does not mean it is an invalid model, just that it is arguably a non-scientific model. Just because it is “unscientific” does not mean it isn’t true. All of history consists of models that are non-scientific in nature because they deal in events that cannot be observed. A historical approach that is methodologically naturalistic begs the question of whether supernatural events have ever occurred in history. The purpose of historical investigation is to determine whether an event occurred, and how; it is not to understand how the natural world works when left to its own devices. They are different fields that use different tools and have different purposes. Science’s purpose is to create a model of the natural world. History’s is to make a model of the events that have occurred on this world. YEC is in this sense a competing model to the more traditional understanding of the age and origins of the Earth.
We cannot prove either model definitively, but we can compare the two and see which model best explains the world as we know it now. Therefore the best “evidences” in favor of YEC consist of things we can observe today that are better explained by the YEC model than the traditional one.
This post is long enough as it is, and I haven’t even gotten to my evidence yet. Still I feel that this foundation was necessary before we could proceed. I will give my “evidences” starting next Wednesday, and continuing each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until I am satisfied. On Monday there will be a post about Horny Toads because of my prior Swiftocracy obligations. It should be fun.