27 November 2007

Young Earth Creationism in the Dispatch

The Columbus Dispatch recently carried two brief but very good columns, which were written by Astrophysicist Tom Statler of Ohio University, rebutting Young Earth Creationism.

The first (Oct. 23, 2007, Science Sec., p. 15) addresses the "starlight problem." If the Universe is only a few thousand years old, how do we see stars and galaxies so distant that light requires millions of years to travel from them to Earth? The speed of light is interconnected with many other constants of nature; altering it, Dr. Statler reminds us, would cause alterations in chemistry, biology, and radiation so radical that life, as we know it, would be impossible.

The second (Nov. 20, 2007, Science Sec., p. 16) ask the question that must be asked of all purported scientific hypotheses, "What testable predictions has it made?"


Darius and Elisabeth said...

While I'm not arguing for one position or the other, aren't you (and Statler) forgetting other options? For example, say the earth and stars and sun were created "aged" so that light was instantly everywhere. Obviously, if God just created everything in its most basic form, Abraham would not have known about stars. So, either the Bible is wrong and God didn't create everything in a week (though it's a bit ambiguous regarding what was here prior to Creation, so perhaps the earth, planets, and stars already existed in some form) or He did by making everything appear aged (i.e. light from stars already visible on earth). Neither of these options have been proven or really have any evidence for them except reason and logic and our knowledge of physics (which can be honestly used to come to either conclusion).

Or perhaps, as I mentioned above, the earth already existed in some form some time before Creation, which would explain why it appears old (because it is).

Thus, I would say it is just as meaningless for you, as a Christian, to claim that the world and universe are really old as it is for Young Earth Creationists to promote their agenda as the "gospel" truth. We really have no idea, and probably never will, as I can't see how any evidence will ever come to light (no pun intended) that would prove either hypothesis.

Luke C. said...

The "other option" of the Universe appearing much older than its true age is called Omphalos theology. I am not forgetting it, and Statler probably is not. However, it is rarely advocated by Young-Earth Creationists. The Institute for Creation Research, Answers in Genesis, and Chuck Colson all claim that scientific evidence discredits the claim that Earth is billions of years old.

If we accept Omphalos theology, then when astronomers observe supernovae, they are seeing the illusory death of a star that never actually existed. How do you reconcile this apparent deception with a God who calls himself The Truth?

Strictly speaking, I cannot disprove this option. Similarly, I cannot disprove the claim that we are all in The Matrix or the claim that you are a very sophisticated android. The most I can say is that these claims are unscientific because they do not make testable predictions. They are designed to preclude the possibilty of experimental or observational testing. Thus, they are unworthy of the title "hypothesis."

My claim is not meaningless. My claim is that the experimental and observational evidence we have about the Universe is most consistent with the Big Bang Theory, which says that the Univers is several billion years old.

Darius and Elisabeth said...

Then what do we do with faith? Is the Bible only true as long as it agrees with reason and science (as we currently know it)? If so, then what is faith? God clearly states that He created the everything, and it took him 6 days to do so (though Genesis is unclear as to whether or not He had prepared portions of creation in advance).

Furthermore, take other portions of Scripture that don't match with reason or "science." For example, Jonah being swallowed and spit out by a big fish or whale. Reason tells us that it couldn't have happened that way. So where reason lacks, faith fills.

Another example is the Flood... today's scientific community mostly ignores the possibility of a big Flood, opting instead for "ice ages" (even though the evidence for it is overwhelming). Yet the Bible is quite clear on this matter, never once mentioning anything that hints at the Flood being only allegorical (Christ himself mentioned it).

Furthermore, population growth rates show us that it would be quite possible to take around 4000 years to go from 8 people to 6 billion. Compare this with what we should have for a population if humans actually came into existence hundreds of thousands of years ago: trillions of humans.

Luke C. said...

You raise and important question. What should I do with my faith (or my interpretation of scripture) when it seems to blatantly contradict the overwhelming empirical evidence?

On the one hand, I do not want to denigrate scripture or accuse God of deception. On the other, my honesty and scientific integrity compel me to state that the overwhelming evidence is in favor of an Earth that is billions of years old. Until other evidence is discovered, I cannot retract that.

My best resolution is that those passages that have been interpreted to imply a young Earth are either misinterpreted or poetic in the same way as the Bible's use of the word sunrise. The sun does not rise, but centuries ago you may have been just as critical of me for suggesting that Earth rotates.