Is Young Earth Creationism actually scientific?

THE SCIENCE OF YEC

Now this cartoon is a bit naughty but after it I answer the question!

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The tendency to dismiss YEC as pseudoscience or antiscience overlooks
the fact that YEC emerged from a scientific culture. McCready Price and
Morris were products of a technological education, which they revered.
YECs use an extreme version that science is empirical and experimental
to support a literalistic faith. This goes beyond the witticism of Ernest
Rutherford (1871–1937), and Nobel Prize winner in 1908, who said, “All
science is either physics or stamp collecting.” Like many aphorisms it is a
half-truth, but it explains why experiment is thought to be the essence of
science. This is reinforced as many studies on the philosophy of science
focus on empirical science and ignore historical science. Historical science
includes geology and archeology which deal with unique past events not
open to empirical test. However that does not mean that historical science
cannot be tested rigorously. This extreme experimentalismis reinforced as
many, especially males, tend to have studied more physical science than
geology or biology. Also, the study of rock strata and their relationships is
observational rather than experimental, but that does notmean that it lacks
scientific rigor. This can result in the hierarchy of sciences with physics
at the top and the “soft” social sciences at the bottom and geology and
biology somewhere in-between.
In Scientific Creationism Henry Morris develops this and questions the
reliability of any historical science because past events are unrepeatable.
He states, “At the same time, itmust be emphasized that it is impossible to
prove scientifically any particular concept of origins to be true. This is obvious
from the fact that the essence of the scientific method is experimental
observation and repeatability” (Morris, 1974, p. 4) He then develops his
two-model approach. To him neither is provable as both are “faith positions”
and dependent either on the Bible or materialism. As the Bible is
true so must be “creation,” that is creation in six days. Thus brieflyMorris
presents the case for rejecting all geological and cosmological arguments
for deep time. Thirty years onMorris’s argument is still held.On a popular
level Ken Ham developed this with his question, “were you there?” about
anything relating to the deep past, which is recommended for schoolchildren,
claiming biblical support from Job 38 vs 4, “Where were you when I
laid the foundation of the earth?”

Image result for ken ham image

Similarly, John Morris of ICR says that
not once has a rock “talked to him” and explained its history. The YEC
extreme experimentalism also questions whether historical sciences can
be science, as nothing in historical science can be tested experimentally.
In a sense, that is true. However, rather than recognizing the difference
between empirical and historical science YECs aim to show that historical
science cannot demonstrate anything about the past. This would also
nullify historical arguments for the existence of Jesus Christ!
Norman Geisler and Kerby Anderson tried to resolve the problem of
“Creation and Evolution” in their book Origin Science, a Proposal for the
Creation-Evolution controversy (Geisler and Anderson, 1987). Geisler was
a witness at the Arkansas trial in 1981 and a well-respected conservative
theologian at Dallas Theological Seminary. Following the suggestions of
Bradley et al. (1984, p. 204) that a science about past singularities should
be termed origin science, the authors tried to resolve the controversy by
distinguishing between operational and origin science, and “If both evolution
and creation honor these principles, then proponents of each can
at least engage in meaningful discussion” (Blurb to book). Origin Science
dealswith the unrepeatable events of the past and operational science deals
with repeatable present events. This goes beyond the common distinction
of empirical and historical science in that there is a possibility of divine
action in origin Science. They regard geological science as dealing with
historical regularities, but singularities can be explained by special creation
or macroevolution and that scientific evidence can show “that there is a
constant conjunction between a primary intelligent cause and a certain
kind of event” (p. 17) which points to a supernatural cause. The authors
are critical of the development of a “modern naturalistic approach” in astronomy
(Descartes, Buffon, and Laplace) and geology (Lyell) and biology
(Darwin).

james-hutton-caracitureAngular Unconformity at Siccar Point, Scotland. Siccar Point, Scotland (Photo: Wikipedia “Hutton’s Unconformity”)

Hutton and his unconformity

They overstate their case as they fail to realize how close the
naturalistic geology of Lyell and much of Darwin’s biology (and geology)
is to that of their “theistic” counterparts like Sedgwick (Roberts, 2004,
pp. 280–285) and others mentioned in Chapter 4. Their conclusion is that
origin science, which allows for divine intervention is better than today’s
naturalistic historical science.
This and The Origin of Life (Thaxton, Bradley, and Olsen, 1984) has provided
much of the basis for Intelligent Design (ID), with its attack on
Naturalism. The distinction of operational and origin science is now well establishedwith
YECs and ID,with origin science nowincluding all historical
science. However despite the avowal of geological time by Geisler and
Thaxton, origin science is often used to question geological time. This is
combined with a rejection of conventional geology as uniformitarian and
naturalistic and based on the antitheistic beliefs of Lyell (in fact a theist)
and Hutton, who both had roots in the Enlightenment. The combination
of origin science and anti-naturalism in its various guises, whether YEC
or ID, provides the basis for a powerful rhetorical attack on geology and
evolutionary biology. First, all “uniformitarian” geology can be charged
with being naturalistic and secondly that as geological arguments for great
age are historical, they cannot be verified empirically. Thus deep time or the
short timescale of YEC are equally valid and both ultimately faith-positions,
based on naturalismand theismrespectively. It can also be used to dismiss
all geology, by claiming that as an evolutionary origin science its conclusions
are entirely dependent on its presuppositions,without definingwhat
those are as does the AIG speaker Paul Taylor (Taylor, 2006). Opponents
of evolution used this during the campaigns of 2002/2003 in Ohio, when
SEAO published the following statement.

Historical science. Most sciences, including chemistry and physics, are empirical
(or experimental) in nature; theories can be tested by experiments in the laboratory
and/or by observations of the world. Some disciplines, like origins science, are
historical in nature; that is, they attempt to explain events and processes that
have already taken place in the distant past. Theories in historical sciences cannot
be verified experimentally, so the explanations are always tentative. Biological
evolution (like creation and design) cannot be proven to be either true or false. The
historical nature of evolution/design theory should be explained in the standards.

Had that passed into the statutes in Ohio it would have been impossible
for conventional scientists to teach either geology or biology without
breaking the law. At present, this distinction of operational and origin science
is widely used in both ID and YEC circles, including on the teaching
of science.Many find it plausible and so; if “creation” and “evolution” are
equally valid “faith” positions, why not teach both?
Uniformitarianism has long been criticized by YEC writers. In The Genesis
Flood Morris criticises Uniformitarianism at length, and this is now a
basic tenet of YEC. When Morris wrote the book in the late 1950s, there
had been little serious study of the history of geology, except that by the
evangelical Hooykaas (1957) and the then received account of the birth of
geology was that the founders, notably Hutton and Lyell, struggled heroically
against the constraints of the church. Historians of geology have
overthrown this “heroic” understanding of the history of geology during
the last three decades (Rudwick, Bursting the Limits of Time 2004). Hutton and Lyell were only two of many geologists, rather than the founders of geology with an anti-
Christian bent. It is, of course, impossible to do any geology without a basic
assumption of the uniformity of past physical processes. Otherwise one
would simply invent changes to physical processes in the past to explain
the unexplainable.
Steve Austin greatly misuses Uniformitarianism in his comparison of
the Grand Canyon and gorges carved out Mt. St. Helens after the 1980
eruption. Mudflows carved out thirty meters gorges in soft volcanics in
one day. YECs falsely claim that uniformitarians argue that this would
have needed millions of years.

146

178

A jet of water 🙂 quickly erodes this!!

They then claimed that the Grand Canyon
could be carved out rapidly.

570

 

Featured Image -- 5288

 

This argument is found in the AIG tract The
Voice of the Volcano and might convince the uninformed, but it fails to
recognize that unconsolidated volcanic ashes can be eroded rapidly but
not the hardened rock of the Grand Canyon. This can be shown by turning
a garden hose on a pile of loose sand and then on the brickwork of the
house.
On the philosophy of science YECs make use of Thomas Kuhn’s The
Structure of Scientific Revolution. Kuhn’s thesis of paradigm shifts in scientific
theories is well known, but is not the last word. By using Kuhn’s
Paradigm Shifts writers try to demonstrate that because of the new YEC scientific
paradigm, the old evolutionary paradigmis crumbling and needs to
be replaced by a YEC paradigm. Throughout his book Creation and Change,
Genesis 1.1–2.4 in the light of changing scientific paradigm Kelly argues that
the new evidence (for a young earth) is crying out for a paradigm shift.
There is an incongruity in the YEC use of Kuhn as he reckoned paradigms
were changed because of scientific consensus rather than a closer approximation
to scientific truth. Kuhn rejected realism in science, whereas YECs
(and Dawkins) are na¨ıve realists and tend to absolutizewhat they consider
true science.

1 thought on “Is Young Earth Creationism actually scientific?

  1. Paul Braterman

    Great post. I will be blogging on experimental versus historical science, and the material here is going to be a valuable resource. as to whether there are three kinds of science (which of course may merge into each other), historical, experimental, and singularities science, I am going to need to think a lot harder about that.

    This post illustrates Ben Zomah’s aphorism that the wise learn from everyone, and is a welcome change from the common facile rebuttal of creationist philosophical positions by question-begging and insult.

    Rutherford, of course, was among the first to establish deep time by radiometric dating, and I am sure he would not have regarded that result as mere stamp collecting. As for the assumed superiority of experimental science over historical science, I don’t know if you are aware of the work of Carol Cleland, a philosopher associated with the Astrobiology Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She argues, to my mind convincingly, that where there is a difference, the advantage lies with historical science. What happened, happened, and if it seems inconsistent with the experimental science of the day (as Kelvin had shown), it must be the experimental science that requires modification

    Like

    Reply

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