Young Earth Creationism and Presuppositions
Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars I found this article on WorldNetDaily. Ed suggested that it didn’t require fisking, but from the Christian point of view there are a couple of things I’d like to comment on.
I love Ken Ham president of the Answers In Genesis ministry because he’s a Christian with a brain and he has the guts to defend the faith. I also love him because he drives the God-haters nuts or I should say he drives them even nuttier.
Where to start? There are so many silly things about that paragraph. First, there’s the notion that Christians with brains are rare, and thus one had to search and search until finally Ken Ham was located. Oh joy! Oh Rapture! A Christian with a brain! Well actually there are plenty of Christians with brains, and there are plenty of Christians who are willing to defend the faith, and none of them are Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis. I’m not so much commenting on Ken Ham’s IQ as I’m suggesting that he is not defending “the faith” but rather an eccentric view of Biblical interpretation that is producing misguided science. Unless “the faith” is to be equated with massive rejection of evidence over a wide variety of fields, then Ken Ham is not defending the faith. Young Earth Creationism doesn’t merely collide with geology and evolutionary biology. It collides even with archeology. There is written history that dates to before the flood date according to young earth creationists.
Christians should make no mistake. Ken Ham isn’t just after secularists. He’s opposed to Christians who disagree with him about when and how God created.
Thus Christians with brains such as Hugh Ross are excluded by Ken Ham’s viewpoint. Now I’m not arguing that Ken Ham doesn’t have the right to disagree with Hugh Ross, or with theistic evolutionists. He absolutely does. But people who look at or read about that museum in Kentucky should not imagine that it is dedicated to the general proposition that God created, or that it is a general defense of Christianity against some supposed secularist forces. It’s not. It is designed to advocate a young earth position, a position that is truly not tenable.
But Lofton continues saying that Ken Ham drives God-haters nuts. I’ve got to tell you that in general the response I get from non-Christians with whom I discuss any young earth creationists is one of extreme humor. I suggest that a response is necessarily precisely because the public discussion of the museum is so deceptive. Many Christians who actually have no problem with evolution may believe this museum is simply about generally seeing God as the creator, of seeing God’s handiwork in nature. It’s a good idea for them to hear that it isn’t.
I cannot speak for “God-haters,” as I’m not certain that I’ve met any. I certainly have met quite a number of people who would strongly oppose practically everything taught in the museum. I haven’t been there, but from what I’ve seen, I would be one of them.
What’s going on in the quoted paragraph, however, is not an attempt to accurately portray the situation, but rather to rally Christians against these imagined God-haters. There is nothing like invoking the word “atheist” to get the faithful ready to rally around. But the faithful need to consider two things. First, as Christians we’re not called to act as mobs trying to persecute those who don’t like us. The way Christians speak about atheists is, well, just not Christ-like. Second, when you’re trying to choose a rallying point to defend the faith, it’s a good idea to choose a solid one, something that is part of the essentials of the faith, and is likely to stand the test of time. Young earth creationism doesn’t meet that test.
But the great fun starts when Ham is quoted saying, “. . . all scientists have presuppositions that they start with to determine how they interpret evidence.” In support of this he notes that scientists search for answers in nature. I’m shocked! Scandalized even! Well, not so much. It seems just natural that scientists setting out to study nature would, well, study nature.
The word “presupposition” is a buzzword these days, and it gets abused more than it gets properly used. On the one hand, “you’re just basing everything you say on your suppositions” or “that’s all you can possibly see in your worldview” (nearly synonymous phrases) are used to end the discussion. Supposed simply being informed that I have presuppositions is supposed to end the discussion. On the other hand, the idea of presuppositions is dismissed entirely.
In fact, we all do have presuppositions. But we can actually identify them, and then we discuss whether they are appropriate or not. For example, if one is studying nature, one should, most likely seek one’s answers right there–in nature.
But young earth creationists are the master of the great presupposition, and many of them are the master of the denied presupposition. They presuppose that Genesis 1-11 (amongst other texts) contain narrative history and scientific statements. They assume that they should be interpreted primarily in a literal fashion. When some of them claim that they get to young earth creationism on purely scientific grounds, they are merely denying this presupposition. It is impossible to come to young earth creationism on purely scientific grounds. Anyone who claims that is simply denying their most fundamental presupposition.
If one eliminates this one presupposition, the entire young earth structure collapses. There’s simply no reason for it. It’s designed to explain things that just are not so.
Thus I find it particularly ironic (as in break the irony meter) to have a young earth creationist talk about presuppositions. We could also word this in worldviews. They would generally suppose that their worldview is simply the view that God is creator and sovereign. But that is not precisely the worldview. They must add all of those presuppositions about Genesis to their worldview. God is not just sovereign and creator. He is not just a God who reveals himself, or even a God who reveals himself to prophetic writers who produce sacred texts. He is specifically a God who reveals scientific data or historical narratives. There is no need to presuppose all of that. One can test each of those things.
Absent those unjustified presuppositions, the worldview of young earth creationists lacks any justification whatsoever.
“When some of them claim that they get to young earth creationism on purely scientific grounds, they are merely denying this presupposition. It is impossible to come to young earth creationism on purely scientific grounds. Anyone who claims that is simply denying their most fundamental presupposition.”
Can I ask which YECists claim this? Every YECist I’ve ever heard of says that we should view nature through a literal interpretation of Genesis. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any talk about getting to YEC on purely scientific grounds. In fact, this is one of the reasons why people like Ham and Morris don’t like ID – they don’t like it that ID leaves the Bible out of the question of origins.
Start with What is Creation Science? [link is to my review] by Morris and Parker. It’s easy to forget that before the attempt to get IDC in the public schools, there was the attempt to get young earth creationism in. As such, the attempt was made to support YEC on purely scientific grounds. I truly appreciate Kurt Wise in Faith, Form, and Time [again linking to my review], who states outright that he starts with scripture.
Morris and Parker think that evolution and creation are two different worldviews that ultimately cannot be confirmed or falsified by science. But they also say that these two worldviews each have a “scientific model” which can be confirmed or falsified. As far as I can recall, they don’t claim that we can “come to” either one without presuppositions. What they say is that each scientific model attempts to explain empirical data within their own frameworks and that when we evaluate each, the creation science model is confirmed and the evolution science model. They DO claim, that the each scientific model can be evaluated on the basis of the science, without referring to philosophy, but I don’t know where they claim that we could “get to” the creation science model (or the evolution science model) without presuppositions. In fact, they basically deny this in the appendix when they refer to creationism and evolutionism as theistic and atheistic models, respectively.
If you read my review of their book, you would know that I don’t take them at their word. They attempt a creation model, claiming they can do so with or without the flood. Then, of course, they discuss the flood at length. Yet for a young earth creation model (and admittedly they leave “young” out of the earlier model), the flood is an essential part, and if there was such a thing, it is obvious that it would leave substantial evidence that would have to be explained in any model.
First, I do not deny that we all have presuppositions of some sort. I do deny that most of what are called “presuppositions” exist ex nihilo, so that one can only compare models or worldviews based on those presuppositions. In fact, I said:
The problem here is that despite what they say in one place, they are attempting to place young earth creationism on the same level as the theory of evolution, thus their claim to be able to test the worldviews scientifically amounts to a claim of being able to “get to” young earth creationism on scientific grounds.
I believe their use of both “worldview” and “presupposition” is extremely deceptive, as is demonstrated in the court cases in which creationists have attempted to deny the religious element of young earth creationism.
However, since I do not have a copy of “What is Creation Science?” at hand (the one I read was from the library), let me refer to another link, this time to the Center for Scientific Creation. (Note that I am not presenting this link as proof that Morris and Parker agree with Walt Brown, but rather as a reference for my claim that some young earth creationists try to hide their presuppositions, in lieu of a reference from “What is Creation Science?”)
Brown wants a debate with a scientist that does not make reference to religion. Yet by reading elsewhere on his web site, one can easily see that his presupposition is the same as Kurt Wises’s (who honestly admits it), Morris, and Parker (who I think are much less honest about it.)
I think you are slightly confused on some of the issues. Scientific creationists DO NOT say that they came to believe in YEC because of the evidence. What they do say is that they believe that YEC can be _supported_ on the evidence alone, and believe that it can be investigated and analyzed scientifically without respect to the Bible. There is a difference between the _inspiration_ for an idea and the _support_ for an idea. Science should, in theory, criticize only the _support_, and not the _inspiration_, and it is on this basis that scientific creationism attempts to make its case (personally, I am, for practical purposes, more of a Kurt Wise persuasion, but I do think that many of the ideas of YEC are indeed supportable independently of religious authority).
Also you said:
“They would generally suppose that their worldview is simply the view that God is creator and sovereign. But that is not precisely the worldview. They must add all of those presuppositions about Genesis to their worldview.”
I think you are incorrect on what “they would generally suppose”. All YECs I know of (and I know quite a few) are adamant on Genesis being the foundation for their approach to the science.
Also, just to point out, any attempt to get ID into schools is not done by the head guys in ID (i.e. ANYONE affiliated with the discovery institute). NONE of them support mandatory teaching of ID in schools. Many of them _would_ like the biology books to recognize the parts of Darwinism which are currently either completely falsified or under heavy attack by the non-ID scientific community to be at least acknowledged rather than being passed off as unquestioned fact. Personally, if I would have known the cool stuff that happens biochemically, I would have chosen that as a profession. Instead, the Random Mutation + Natural Selection paradigm pervades the textbooks despite its failings in science starting about 40-50 years ago. It is maintained not because there is good evidence for it, but rather because without a mechanism the case for evolution doesn’t sound nearly as good.
I keep asking but no one answers – which version of the creation story should we take literally, the one in chapter 1 or the one in chapter 2?
Creationists, YECs, and IDers are all insane.
I’ve promoted this whole discussion to a new post. The trackback should appear here.
I enjoyed reading this post. Several respondents seem to want to correct Mr. Neufeld’s characterization of YECs. I think he pretty well covers the field despite the fact that creationists run the gamet from literal YEC/no science to God did it/ some science. The problem with Ham and others as pointed out in the post is that they claim that there is scientific evidence for YEC. They just do not know what they are talking about, especially about the nature of science. At every university in this nation (and throughout the world) that is not religious in nature they teach evolution. They don’t teach creationism, not because it is silly or wrong (we cannot really know that absolutely) but because it isn’t science and the examination of the evidence observed in the natural world scientifically leads us to only one conclusion – life has evolved. QED. Some imagine some great conspiracy to keep Darwin forefront but can you imagine the fame and fortune awaiting anyone who could produce real scientific evidence refuting Darwin and evolution? So if this supposed evidence really exists as one commenter insists, why hasn’t someone come forward with it and be hailed as one of the greatest scientists ever for overthrowing Darwin? We of course know the answer. As a biology teacher for almost 30 years I taught evolution and the evidence supporting it as part of teaching the nature of science. I also tried to impress upon my students that it is a false dichotomy presented by creationists to force people, especially young people, that they have to choose either evolution or God. While we don’t need a God to explain the natural world accepting evolution as scientific fact does not preclude the existence of God. It is possible God exists and uses evolution to make the living world work like he uses gravity in the physical arena. Personally, I’m an agnostic on the cusp of atheism. I could probably go to the Creation Museum someday (probably won’t waste my time) but it would be a great, great laugh and maybe worth the price of admission! Finally, why does evolution continue to trump creationism in every court case over the last 25 years? Because in a court of law it is fact and empirical evidence that is required, not BS, spin for public consumption and religious faith. That is the message from Dover. Creationists just simply cannot support their assertions with real evidence. I don’t have a problem with people who are religious. I do have a problem with people who want the rest of us to be forced to believe as they do, especially in public schools. P.S. Ron’s comment is right on – which creation story do the litteralists support, chpt 1 or 2? Thanks again, Mr. Neufeld.
Thanks for doing this. Good job, also, with the subsequent post.
very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
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