If you ask a physicist “Why can’t objects go faster than light? That there should be a limit doesn’t seem right to me”, he will abuse you.
He’ll start off by calling you an idiot, move to questioning your ancestry, accuse you of spreading error, denounce you as heretic; he will gather his colleagues to gaze at the strange spectacle which is you. He will belittle, bemoan, and besmirch. You will count yourself lucky if he doesn’t track down your employer and have you fired.
No. Of course not. If you question the speed of light any physicist will, if he has the time, explain as best as he can to the level of your understanding. If you don’t go away convinced, he may blame himself for being a poor communicator, or he may blame you for being thick. But he won’t hate your guts, suspect you of vile motives, and demand your views be suppressed.
Yet question him about the age of the universe, saying you think those creationists might be on to something with their theory of a young earth, and everything said above goes. Get ready for heat! The same or worse treatment awaits the poor soul questioning evolution of a biologist; whereas that same biologist will treat gently another who, say, thinks plants can understand human language.
The reason for the differences is obvious. Question a matter that can’t easily be tied to Christianity, and it’s intellectual tea-time, pinkies raised in politeness and everything. But bring up something that might support Christian religion and the cloven hoof appears. (That line courtesy of PG Wodehouse.)
This is a weakness. After all, the physicist and biologist may be missing something in their own beliefs, even if those beliefs are more-or-less true. It’s clear to most, especially those who teach, that explaining fundamentals to doubters often brings greater insight and deeper understanding to the teacher.
So let’s be nice as we question two unquestionable beliefs. Or actually only one, which acceptance causes a second to be false.
Thus let us all suppose the earth is young. Few thousand years old, top. I admit up front I doubt this and would bet against it. But some with better minds than mine believe it (listen to this lecture starting at about 35 minutes), and out of respect we’ll see what’s the best case that can be made.
The reason for the belief is, as suspected, Biblical. A simple reading and piecing together of ages, dates, and things like that comes to a figure of about 6,000 years old, plus or minus, a time made famous by Irish Archbishop James Ussher. The six days of creation were six days, not metaphors for certain lengths of time (which other Christians believe, such as Peter Kreeft; see this video starting about 30 minutes).
Now if the young earth is true—which you will recall we are here accepting—many things follow. Foremost is that evolution is chucked out. Evolution, we are told, works over long periods. Six thousand years is not long enough for neo-Darwinian evolution to function.
It had to be instead, as the Bible says, God created all creatures, dinosaurs to bacteria, in their form all at once at the beginning. Well, and this has to be so even if the earth is ancient. This is the argument of Dominique Tassot, Hugh Owen, and Peter Wilder in their paper “Creation and Time“.
To believe in evolution (some theory of it) is thus to make an error. Evolution is the creation of a new species from an old. Yet a giraffe cannot procreate a thing that is not a giraffe. It can procreate a sub-optimal or damaged giraffe, perhaps because of a genetic mutation. But its mutant progeny will still be a giraffe. If evolution were to be true, it would have to be that the progeny is of an different essence, i.e. a different species, than its parent.
That might make sense for man making a machine, a thing that has a different use than man, but it does not make sense for snails making other snails, or not-snails. To procreate a new species out of an old would be to have an effect greater than its cause, which is not possible.
Okay, fine. Evolution isn’t really that exciting anyway. (Having knowledge of it is useless to most people, even if it’s true. Many only love it because they falsely think it kicks Christianity to the curb.)
What else follows from the young earth? Well, genetics is in some pretty deep kimchi. It had to have been that Adam and Eve had sufficient progeny that, after the Fall, that progeny was able, via incest (one supposes, or by mating with human-like creatures, perhaps Neanderthals, which progeny would be human), to reproduce in sufficient number. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t be here. Or, rather, Noah wouldn’t.
After the Flood, which happened, there was only Noah and his wife, and his three sons and their wives. Maybe incest was out, but first-cousin marriages had to be in, or you wouldn’t be reading this. Some say it can be done.
Geneticists believe that there must be sufficient variation for reproduction to not peter out. That must be false. And didn’t we just see a study (which I cannot now rediscover) of some very small population below the critical level of bird (or was it an insect?) that was able to rebound? Genetics is still a new science, so it shouldn’t surprise that they still have some of the basics wrong.
Geology is now in a sad state. Where are the dinosaurs and what about all those fossils? Well, the Flood took care of both. One idea saves the concept of Pangaea, where all land on earth was together. Its breakup into continents, which did not take billions of years but only one or so fays, was one of the causes of the Flood. Imagine—do this—if over the period of a few days the entire North American continent broke up. Water works galore!
The dinosaurs, being fat, drowned. Alligators survived. The upheaval accounts for the rock formations and strange fossil depositions we see. But then we have to a better theory of oil, and of radioactivity, and even of climate. What about all those air bubbles in Antarctic and Greenland ice? That can’t be linear deposition, as believed. There must be another explanation. I don’t know what it would be.
The people (which includes us for the duration of this essay) who hold with a young earth have spent a lot of effort offering alternate explanations of geology, and of course of evolution. But they’ve also put their minds to cosmology, criticizing, for instance, the red shift. A lot more than that has to go, though: like black holes, inflation, and so forth.
You now at least have the idea.
At last we come to our homework. We have enough readers to span expertise in many sciences, all of which would be touched (many are punched) by a young earth.
What science, meaning what theories, do we have to jettison if the young earth theory is true? What are the consequences? What replacements can be imagined?
There is no point writing below “Only a fool doesn’t believe in evolution; here are all the reasons it is true.” We are supposing it is false; or, rather, we have deduced it is false if young earth is true.
So please spare us reasons why your favorite theory is true. Instead tell us how it can be false—or if it even conflicts. I once asked global-warming-of-doom believers “What would convince you your theory is wrong?” Answer came there none. This proves that, for many, that theory is an article of unimpeachable faith.
Keep in mind the Deadly Sin of Reification. Observations are not theory. The same set of observations can fit multiple theories—and that theory drives observation. We don’t search for what we don’t expect. If we throw out a theory we are not throwing out observations, but neither are we as observant as we think.
One theory, which is trivially possible, is that God created the world as the young earthers say, in six days, just as we see it. This conflicts with no observation. God’s power is infinite, and infinity is more than a big number. It would be easier for God to create the universe in six days than for you to drop a hammer on your toe (you might miss). Why God did such a thing is different than how.
Don’t bother with falsifiability, which is a red herring. A theory deduced from indubitable axioms, with no contingent parts, is a true theory and impossible to falsify. The theory of God creating the universe is not falsifiable, but that is no demerit.
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