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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Old Earth Defenders of the Gospel

Theistic evolutionists and other old earth apologists claim to have a high regard for the integrity of the Gospel message. They are particularly concerned for the Christian witness to sound rational, logical,and reasonable before the academic community of unbelieving scientists, and because the academic community of unbelieving scientists all accept for the most part Darwinian evolution and an Earth that is nearly 5 billion years old, the evangelist must never present a view of the Christian faith that appears illogical and foolish before this group of high caliber unbelievers. In a manner of speaking, they are their own unique mission field in which we must apply a different set of missional criteria.

Thus, Christians who hold to a literal understanding of the Genesis creation account, and thus a young age for the Earth, are a serious stumbling block for the Gospel of Christ with scientific unbelievers and should never engage them in evangelism. If they do, they will only make Jesus look stupid.

During the course of our four month long blog series on Genesis at the GTY Blog, the theistic evolutionists warned us of how we were damaging the cause of Christ with our ridiculous views of creation. They pleaded with us to stop believing this nonsense because we made ourselves appear like idiots by denying reality and defending a position that is utterly impossible to believe by any "scientist" who is knowledgeable with the evidence. The bulk of the various blog articles, along with the attending comments, are linked in this summary post so that people can get a flavor for the evangelistic zeal on the part of our TE and OEC critics.

To illustrate what I mean by missionary zeal, there was a bit of a telling exchange with one of our regular TE critics.

Our web manager, Travis, wrote up a post highlighting some comments made by the Trojan atheists at the Biologos foundation and some responses to them by a few other bloggers. As an illustration of different starting points when evaluating any scientific evidence, Travis wrote about the uniformitarian presuppositions with geology and recalled a conversation he had with a geology professor when he attended Metropolitan State College in Denver:

Geology Prof: “Well, we date the eras by the strata that belong to that era.”

Me: “How do you date the strata?”

Geology Prof: ”By the fossils embedded in each stratum.”

Me: (Now we’re getting somewhere.) “So, since carbon dating is used for recent dating, and since radiometric dating isn’t used for dating fossils, how do you determine the ages of the fossils?”

Geology Prof: “By the strata in which we find them.”

Me: “Isn’t that circular? I mean, if you date the fossils by the rocks, and the rocks by the fossils, isn’t that circular reasoning?”

Geology Prof: “Yes, I suppose it is. But that’s the best we can do.”

Just three comments deep in the meta, an old earth Gospel defender leaves the following comments:

That "conversation with a geology prof" is an strawman or urban legend taken from old YEC books. Notice how no name is provided for the geology professor. It's hard to believe it is being brought up in a blog for a top tier pastor in 2010.

He genuinely believes we are making this up. We're nothing but a den of liars and thieves. We merely have our Dr. Dino handbook opened and are running it play by play, and we all know what sort of a liar and thief Dr. Dino is. John MacArthur's reputation as a top tier pastor is on the verge of being ruined. No one thinks like this in 2010. Maybe 1982, but not now in 2010, so we have to lie and fabricate an Ergun Caneresque make-believe conversation with a non-existent geology professor.

It may be helpful for our commenter to know that many evolutionary-old earth teachers and propagandists against biblical creationism haven't received his message. The "conversation" noted above with a geology professor is not an isolated event. I can remember hearing the exact same argumentation coming from my high school science teacher, Carla Sample. She was more into biology than geology, or at least from what I can recall, but she did read from our standard Earth science text book that argued for the age of strata in exactly the same way. When I got to college at Arkansas State University, I had to take an Earth science class for basic credit. The fellow, a grad assistant whose name I don't remember at all, who taught the class was a geologist and he argued in the exact same way for dating strata. I remember the lecture because I was a brand new Christian who was thinking through the issues of creation and evolution at the time. Other friends I have spoken with have testified to similar lectures in similar science education courses. So, if our commenter is correct that such a "conversation" is a young earth urban legend, it would be helpful for him to send out a memo to the geologists teaching in our colleges.

But he goes one to provide how such a conversation would really go in our day and age"

Such a line of questioning with a true geology prof would be more like this:

"So I asked him how geologists justified the dating of the geological column, the chart that traverses time from the Cryptic era (starting from 4.5 billion years) to the Cenozoic era (up to today)."

Geology Prof: “Well, we date various sedimentary layers by applying radiometric dating to the volcanic material (e.g., lava, ash) which is interspersed between the layers. We always find particular types of fossils within layers formed within similar time spans as confirmed with radiometric dating. Therefore, we know the span of time to which each type of fossil belongs, even if a layer doesn't happen to be bounded by dateable material at it's particular location. For example, we always find dinosaur fossils within layers which fall between about 230 million years old to about 65 million years old. We have given names for the eons, eras, periods, epochs, and ages according to the types of fossils found in each one and other factors.

Me: “How do you date the strata?”

Geology Prof: ”I just told you. Material that can be dated using radiometric techniques is found in between all kinds of layers in all kinds of places. Also, radiometric techniques keep getting better and better, and we now have some techniques which don't assume a knowledge of the amount of parent material. People read these books written for mass consumption that are critical of radiometric techniques, and they think they know everything about radiometric dating. The don't understand the amount of time and effort it takes to obtain date a rock.”

Me: (Now we don't seem to be getting anywhere.) “So, since carbon dating is used for recent dating, and since radiometric dating isn’t used for dating fossils, how do you determine the ages of the fossils?”

Geology Prof: (This guy isn't listening to me - he seems to have a force field that prevents him from accepting any information that might require him to get out of his comfort zone. He sounds like one of those fundamentalist Christians -- what a terrible witness -- I don't want anything to do with his faith) “Yes, but carbon dating does tell us the age of a lot of recent things on and near the surface of the Earth. And again, we don't just data fossils by the strata in which we find them.”

Me: “Isn’t that circular? I mean, if you date the fossils by the rocks, and the rocks by the fossils, isn’t that circular reasoning?”

Geology Prof: “Groaaannnn...Yes, I suppose your thinking is circular. Your arguments always pre-suppose that evidence supporting the current consensus of geologists does't exist, then proceed to use that presupposition in your arguments for a young earth. For example, look how Woodmorappe's statement that "Common sense teaches us that 16 miles (at most) which exists, out of a total of 100 or 200 miles, is a very incomplete (geologic) column!" completely ignores current geologist's understanding of a global rock cycle involving erosion, sedimentation, plate tectonics, subduction, metamorphism, recycling into igneous rock)."

The commenter assumes a number of things with his imaginary conversation, but ultimately, his concern is with the "terrible" Gospel witness this young earth believer is giving to this man of education in his field of expertise. (As if any unbeliever knows what constitutes a "terrible" witness is in the first place). The biggest assumption is that such an educated expert would be open to the Christian faith but the young earth advocate throws a tremendous intellectual stumbling block in the professor's path by offering ignorant questions and arguments against how the consensus of geologists date rocks. The young earth apologist is telling the professor he has to abandon what he knows to be true about the history of the world and accept an entirely different view of reality that is just incredible and impossible to reconcile with the known evidence. But this assumes the unbelieving professor would be "open" to other incredible things associated with the Christian faith like armies being drowned in seas, food falling out of heaven on a daily basis, paraplegics being supernaturally restored to full health, and dead men raising from the grave.

The reality, however, is clearly the opposite and is affirmed by the biblical testimony of the fallenness of sinners. Rather than being "open" to the Gospel and the history of the world as presented by the revelation of Scripture, unbelievers, like this professor, would reject any evidence that would force him to have to renounce his unbelief and submit to the authority of God in his life.

Borrowing this illustration, the conversation between a biblical creationist and an unbelieving professor would probably go more like this:

Me: "How do you date strata?

Geology Prof: “Well, we date various sedimentary layers by applying radiometric dating to the volcanic material (e.g., lava, ash) which is interspersed between the layers. We always find particular types of fossils within layers formed within similar time spans as confirmed with radiometric dating. Therefore, we know the span of time to which each type of fossil belongs, even if a layer doesn't happen to be bounded by dateable material at it's particular location. For example, we always find dinosaur fossils within layers which fall between about 230 million years old to about 65 million years old. We have given names for the eons, eras, periods, epochs, and ages according to the types of fossils found in each one and other factors.

Me: But aren't you assuming the "readings" from the radiometric dating have been consistent for the entire history of geology?

Geology Prof: ”I just told you. Material that can be dated using radiometric techniques is found in between all kinds of layers in all kinds of places. Also, radiometric techniques keep getting better and better, and we now have some techniques which don't assume a knowledge of the amount of parent material. People read these books written for mass consumption that are critical of radiometric techniques, and they think they know everything about radiometric dating. They don't understand the amount of time and effort it takes to obtain date a rock.”

Me: (He didn't really answer my question): But sir. Again, even with these techniques, which are not as consistent as you are letting on, you're assuming a uniform decay rate that in turn assumes other a priori presuppositions about the history of the earth? You seem to suggest that yourself when you say, "which don't assume a knowledge of the amount of parent material." That's a pretty big assumption, don't you think?

Geology Prof: (This guy isn't listening to me - he seems to have a force field that prevents him from accepting any information that might require him to get out of his comfort zone. He sounds like one of those fundamentalist loons -- what a terrible witness -- I don't want anything to do with his faith. I imagine he probably believes in talking snakes, floating ax heads, food being formed out of thin air, and dead men raising to life).

“Groaaannnn...Yes, I suppose I am assuming uniformitarianism, because this is the consensus of science. Your arguments always pre-suppose that evidence supporting the current consensus of geologists doesn't exist, then proceed to use that presupposition in your arguments for a young earth. (what an ignorant fanatic).

Me: Okay, thanks for the clarification, I think?

Our commenter then provides a link to a lecture presented by a geology professor named Rob C. Thomas who provides Strategies for Dealing with Religious Fundamentalist Students in College Level Geoscience Courses. Contrary to our commenter's accusation we are burning strawmen against our opponents, Thomas's powerpoint lecture is one big strawman. All the young earth students he has ever encountered do nothing but Bible thump in his classes, shout down the teacher, write rude remarks on their essay papers, and slip creationist literature under the professor's door.

In fact, this lecture was part of a much larger symposium addressing the perceived problem of Pentecostal hill billies in school,

Is it Science? Strategies for Addressing Creationism in the Classroom and the Community.

Just by reading the various titles to the individual presentations, it is pretty clear the bulk of the presenters hold any kind of creationism, old or young, in contempt, and see the creationist movement (as well as ID) as a serious threat to higher education. This aversion to creationism in general I would bet, extends also to the Christian faith as a whole. Eugenie Scott, for example, who is a strident atheist, was one of the presenters. The only notable exception I could see was creationist, Kurt Wise, but he was probably the "one" so-called educated creationist allowed to present so the symposium wouldn't be accused of being unbalanced and not giving the other side a "fair hearing." Ironically, the titles of the lectures hint at its own fundamentalist militancy desperately defending treasured secular traditions. The need to even have this kind of symposium demonstrates the persuasive effectiveness of such creationist ministries as Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International.

Nothing in any of the abstracts of these listed presentations reveals any hint the academic community would be interested in the Christian faith if it were not for those intellectual stumbling blocks presented by young earth creationists. Rather there is nothing but dismissive snobbery of any sort of biblical creationism. They could care less about a reasonable and logical Christian faith. A belief in a divine creator doesn't belong anywhere in the realm of serious, academic science, and though individual scientists can be "religious" their faith must be taken more like a personal hobby and is to remain over in a corner somewhere out the way of any scientific procedure. No one would dare mix model railroading when doing chemical engineering. Such should be the case with religion.


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20 Comments:

Blogger P.D. Nelson said...

Fred about 25 years ago I went back to school to get a BA degree in Computer Science, as most of my credits had back in the 70's (19 not 18 there is some debate amongst my grown children) I had to take some GURs (general university requirements) one of which was a class in basic geology for a science credit. They used that same circular reasoning for dating the fossils/rocks. It's interesting to see that nothing has changed in twenty-five years.

4:37 PM, August 21, 2010  
Blogger David said...

I'm not sure that I understand. Are you saying that the argument that "the fossils are used to date the layers, and the layers are used to date the fossils" is NOT an argument that YECers use? Are you saying that it's a straw man to claim that YECers are using this argument?

Also, could you explain something for me? A volcanic layer is formed during the Flood. Once the layer is formed, the K-40 trapped in that layer begins to decay and the radiometric clock begins to tick. So, within a few orders of magnitude, what is the half-life of K-40 at this point in time, and what events will cause it to change to its current half-life?

Finally, if you're bored and want something to do, could you provide the YEC explaination for the three observations described here (Salt Deposits, Grand Canyon:Order of Deposition and Fossil Sequence)?:

http://biologos.org/blog/biblical-and-scientific-short-comings-of-flood-geology-part-3/

11:54 AM, August 22, 2010  
Blogger Lynda O said...

I noticed the mention of Metropolitan State College of Denver with interest -- where I also did my undergrad, in the 1980s (though in the business computer science program; my only science courses there were a few astronomy courses -- which had their own atheist assumptions).

I first learned about the circular reasoning used in dating the rocks, after I was saved (after college) and read "What is Creation Science?" The author (Gary Parker) mentioned, from his own experience, a similar type of conversation between teachers and students, though I think it was at the high school science level. That too would have been in the 1970s or '80s.

Naturalism, which is the real ideology of this particular type of unbeliever, has problems with everything in the Bible - not just recent creation. When as an unbeliever I unquestioningly accepted the evolutionist rhetoric, creation was part and parcel along with all other "nonsense" of myths and stories in the Bible. So as you said, it's not as though the unbeliever is really wanting to hear the truth of God's word and yet the biblical creation account told by "stupid young-earthers" is a great obstacle to them -- they've got a bigger problem with God and His miraculous work, period.

7:22 AM, August 23, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

David, I have never expected you to understand. And like the secular geologists I noted, even if I were an old earth creationist, you would still be just as hostile to the gospel as they are. You have a moral heart problem, not an evidence problem.

8:18 AM, August 23, 2010  
Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"You have a moral heart problem, not an evidence problem."

Best diagnosis ever, Dr. Fred "House" Butler!

8:29 AM, August 23, 2010  
Blogger David said...

"You have a moral heart problem, not an evidence problem."

Ok, so you don't want to address the questions. I don't blame you for that. But I think you know that the dating of rocks is not done by "circular reasoning", right?

(Odd association of Fred with House. If you're familiar with the series, you know that House is not exactly a believer.)

9:01 AM, August 23, 2010  
Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Of course I know that Dr. House is not a believer.

But that doesn't make Fred Butler's diagnosis of your condition any less true.

9:07 AM, August 23, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Ok, so you don't want to address the questions. I don't blame you for that. But I think you know that the dating of rocks is not done by "circular reasoning", right?

I understand that old earth advocates claim such a thing, but it is clear they haven't got their message across to the majority of teachers in the typical class. Or perhaps they are unclear or something when presenting their case. You may want to double your efforts in educating the educators. These are suppose to be your people teaching. What's the problem?

As for answering the question of the evidence, it would be pointless. I would present my authorities, you would present your authorities, etc, ad infinitum, ad mauseam.

9:11 AM, August 23, 2010  
Blogger David said...

"You may want to double your efforts in educating the educators."

Well, I'm all for better education of the educators, but as to whether or not the "majority" of teachers are teaching as you say, well, I'd like to see some evidence of this. A few examples of bad teaching should not necessarily be inflated to "the majority of teachers".

I don't present "authorities". I present data.

9:25 AM, August 23, 2010  
Blogger RealityCheck said...

David said

"I don't present "authorities". I present data."

You know Fred... like those rocks that have the dates written right on them so that "authorities" aren't necessary. lol

12:55 AM, August 24, 2010  
Blogger David said...

RC,

Sadly, you missed the point. The point is that I don't have to rely on authorities. I can look at the data for myself, and I can formulate my own hypotheses, and I can test my hypotheses with more data. I don't have to trust anyone. I can look at the rocks myself.

6:41 AM, August 24, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

No. RC is correct. You look at the data and you have to interpret it according to a set of presuppositions. When you make a hypothesis, you build it upon those presuppositions. Any subsequent data you use to test the previous data is also built upon those presuppositions. In other words, no data exists anywhere that isn't uninterpreted.

6:44 AM, August 24, 2010  
Blogger David said...

Fred,

All I can say is that you don't understand.

7:02 AM, August 24, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Yeah. I know. That is what is always said by God's detractors.

7:04 AM, August 24, 2010  
Blogger David said...

Fred,

Ah, a pious justification for chosing not to understand. Very clever. I like it.

7:12 AM, August 24, 2010  
Blogger DJP said...

...and Roman Catholics, Mormons, all cultists.

8:13 AM, August 24, 2010  
Blogger RealityCheck said...

No “David”… sadly… you’re the one that missed the MAIN point.

You said,

“The point is that I don't have to rely on authorities. I can look at the data for myself, and I…, and I…, I don’t… I can”

IOW, YOU have made YOURSELF… YOUR OWN ultimate authority.

8:19 AM, August 24, 2010  
Blogger David said...

I'm authority? No, I'm someone who can usually figure out if he's wrong. That's the key. If you're wrong, can you figure out that you're wrong? In that sense, there are no "authorities". There's just flawed humans trying to figure things out.

8:24 AM, August 24, 2010  
Blogger Sir Aaron said...

David's an interesting character, but offers prima facie evidence of Fred's point. Even if we all said...you're right, David, the earth is millions of years old and there's proof of it...He'd still ridicule us for believing in God.

Secondly, atheists have a remarkable cognitive disorder. Also exampled by David. TUAD makes a reference to Dr. House, which is clearly a reference to the diagnostic abilities of said Dr. and has nothing to do with the faith of either House or Fred. But David has to point out that House is an avowed atheist (like himself, of course).

You simply can't argue with a man who looks at the sky and says it clearly looks green.

7:25 PM, August 24, 2010  
Blogger Sir Aaron said...

If you look at the GTY blog, there are comments trying to compare passages in Zech to Genesis. So you have to teach those commentors the difference between the books of the Bible, literary styles, etc. before you can even get to the nitty gritty. It's terribly time consuming.

7:31 PM, August 24, 2010  

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