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User:Philip J. Rayment/The Gretchen Question: Response

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This is an essay by Philip J. Rayment.
Please comment only on the talk page.

A response to Awc's essay, "The Gretchen Question"

Philip J. Rayment

Although Awc is one of the more objective evolutionists on this site, his essay The Gretchen Question betrays his deep ideological commitment to atheistic thinking.[note 1]

Except where otherwise indicated, quotes are from Awc's essay.

Where faith meets reason, or creationism meets science, the Gretchen question, in my opinion, is the age of creation.

Right here Awc shows that his views are atheistic ones, contrasting "faith" with "reason" and "creationism" with "science". What this view prefers not to acknowledge is that Christianity provides the basis for both reason and science. Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. Reason is based on faith. Christians have faith that God created us in His image, which includes us being thinking, rational, people. So we reason because we have the faith that God made us to reason.

Science and creationism are also not mutually exclusive. Science was started by creationists, because they believed, from God's "dominion mandate" to Adam that we had the right to study God's creation, because God expected us to study his creation, because we are people capable of reasoning, and because they believed that God created consistent laws (of nature). See Science#Philosophy for more on this.

Awc is, however, correct to realise that the age of the earth is the "Gretchen question", as biblical creationists have long believed themselves, which is why biblical creationists have long been referred to as young earth creationists.

A literal reading of the Bible yields an age for the earth of around 6,000 years ... whereas radioactive dating says the earth is 4.5 billion years old. That is why the age of the earth is important. If we can’t literally accept what the Bible says about the age of the earth, then why should we literally accept what the Bible says about anything? No wonder the age of the earth is such an issue for those who oppose Christian values in the West.— Tasman Walker, creationary geologist[1]

All the other questions that are hotly debated—the sequence of events during creation, the origin of plant and animal types, the world-wide flood, the history of the Israelites, prophecies, contradictions in the Bible, the delay of the second coming, ...—all of these are interesting diversions, but don't add anything substantial to the debate.

Awc is correct to note that most of those things are not related to the age of the earth, but the world-wide flood is relevant, as the "deep time" of secular history is contained within the sedimentary layers formed during that flood.

If the Earth is billions rather than thousands of years old, then the Bible cannot be read according to the principles that creationsist apply.

This is correct, but what is hidden in there is that this demonstrates the fallacy of views such as theistic evolution. The "principles that [creationists] apply" is the principle that the text is to be understood the way the author meant it to be understood, which is the way that the original readers would have understood it. Which is also the way that most people reading it today understand it. What this means is that the Bible clearly does teach that the world is only about 6,000 years old, and all attempts to "interpret" it to make it compatible with mainstream scientific thinking are eisegesis, that is, reading something into the text that is not there.

If the Earth is thousands rather than billions of years old, then the entire edifice of science crumbles.

Again, Awc's atheistic thinking is apparent, in that he equates billions of years with the entire "edifice of science". In fact, billions of years is only applicable to some scientific disciplines, and even then, is not a requirement of most of those disciplines (an obvious exception being evolution itself). This is clear from the historical fact that (as mentioned above) science was founded by biblical creationists, and remains dependent on biblical belief.

Creationists hold to 6,000 years, or at the outside 10,000. Scientists hold to an age of about 13 billion years,…

Awc again shows his bias by contrasting creationists with scientists, as though they are two mutually-exclusive groups. This is simply false. To be much more objective he should have said something like "Creationary scientists hold to 6,000 years. Evolutionary scientists hold to an age of about 13 billion years". But such an objective statement does not have the "spin" of giving the impression that creationists are not scientists.

…a figure over which there is no longer any dissent in the professional literature…

Awc follows his previous false inference with a false claim, justified (presumably; he doesn't try) by (a) ignoring that the mainstream professional literature is clearly biased, as has been well documented, and (b) engaging in the tactic of "special pleading" that considers only the mainstream literature as "the" professional literature. In fact, thanks to the bias of the mainstream peer-reviewed journals, creationists have had to establish their own peer-reviewed science journals, but to someone like Awc, these don't count, because they are creationist, and therefore have agendas, and are therefore not objective! Of course atheistic scientists never have agendas, do they?

Any line of evidence requiring that the age be less than several billion years is a strike against the scientific consensus.

This assumes that there is a "consensus" among scientists on this issue, a very questionable assumption. What constitutes "consensus"? Consensus is not unanimity, but precisely what constitutes consensus is not clear. Those who claim consensus on this generally seem unwilling to define it in a testable way. Yet the claim that essentially all scientists agree on this issue (as opposed to a large majority agreeing) has no firm basis in hard evidence. In fact the best evidence I know of is the Gallup Poll that showed that 1 in 20 scientists in the United States believe that God created man within the last 10,000 years.[2]

Another reason that the age of creation is the crucial question is that there are many indications of the age of the universe and the things in it, and many of these arguments are rather straightforward, being based on physics. Geology is inherently much messier than physics, and biology is much, much messier than geology. Consequently a good physics argument will always trump a good geological argument, and a good geological argument will always trump a good biological argument.

The unstated presumption that this means that radiometric dates are clear cut is not warranted. Radiometric dating methods are not based solely on physics, but in significant part on assumptions, including about past geological events. This is the point long made by creationists that science does not have the past to test, so dating methods necessarily rely (in part) on one's views about the past. That is, views precede the claimed "evidence" (the dates), contrary to the evolutionary view that the evidence precedes the views.

The very fact that scientists disagree on the value or accuracy of such dates is evidence that dating is not a straightforward excercise. In the Radioactive dating article, Awc has attempted to justify various redatings, but can't avoid that redatings were undertaken. That is, they are not the clear-cut, indisputable, evidence that Awc is here pretending them to be. They are, instead, fraught with questions about their veracity, and the fact that scientists who are beholden to a naturalistic ideology and therefore to long ages might eventually come to some sort of consensus on which dates are acceptable (sorry, "accurate") doesn't change this.

The case for evolution is very strong, even unavoidable…

Actually, contrary to this assertion, it's very weak. It cannot explain the origin of the massive amounts of meaningful information in living things, the fossil record fails to provide the predicted transitional forms, characteristics of living things fail to conform to a "family tree" of life with so-called convergent evolution being rampant, other predictions have been falsified but adherents refuse to see these as falsifications, and today even leading evolutionists—not just creationists—are questioning whether natural selection has anything like the ability it's claimed to have.

…if a creationist is not convinced by the evidence for an old Earth, then he will never, ever be convinced by the evidence for evolution. On the other hand, if somehow incontrovertible proof is found that evolution did not or can not occur, that wouldn't change the evidence for an old Earth.

Of course, the "Gretchen Question" is also a key one for evolutionists. If they are not convinced by the evidence for intelligent design of living things, they will never be convinced by the evidence for a young Earth with a global flood. On the other hand, if somehow incontrovertible proof is found that the Earth is young, then even evolutionists would be forced to admit that there was not enough time for evolution to occur. The age of the Earth is also a crucial question for evolutionists. In fact it was the long ages of Hutton and Lyell that paved the way for Darwin in his evolutionary views.

Evolution absolutely requires an old Earth (although an old Earth is not sufficient by itself). Biblical creation requires a young Earth to be consistent with the Bible, but not to rule out evolution. Even if there was somehow incontrovertible proof for an old Earth, naturalistic evolutionists would still face the problem of explaining the origin of life itself, the enormous variety of living things, and the origin of two genders, among other things.

In summary, although he is correct in pointing out that the age of the Earth is a vital question for creationists, Awc has demonstrated a blatant bias in his arguments (despite being one of the more objective critics of biblical creation) and his arguments consequently fail to be objective.

Note

  1. Even someone who is not an atheist can think atheistically. Atheistic thinking refers to thinking that has it's logical basis in atheism, not specifically to thinking done by atheists.

References

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