Is All YEC Really Pseudoscience?

I have noticed that the labels of “pseudoscience” etc. have been thrown around quite a bit lately (being applied to YEC and ID etc.) I would submit that this terminology is counterintuitive to an inclusive discussion, and that we should consider discouraging it on the forums. By “discouraged,” I do not mean that all posts disparaging ID and YEC should be deleted from the forum. What I do mean is that people should be encouraged to discuss their specific issues with these paradigms (and their reasons for rejecting them) instead of simply writing them off as “pseudoscience.” That approach strikes me as a much more friendly and inclusive way, would you agree?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this idea!

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Not all YECs rely on pseudoscience because many YECs are merely “theological” and are just not engaged in science. That might even be a rational position. Not having seen the evidence against their position, perhaps not even caring about the age of the earth, they might have no rational reason to reconsider their position.

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And I totally agree with this. I also recommend @Joel_Duff and @jammycakes work on this:

  1. Evidence and the Age of the Earth

  2. Lake Varves, Volcanic Ash, and the Great Isaiah Scroll

  3. GPS, Radiodating, and Plate Tectonics

  4. The 10 Best Evidences for a Young Earth

They do a good job both explaining precisely why scientists think the earth is old, and also explaining examples of dishonesty in YEC science. Of course, a few scientific YECs are honest too. We have discussed Todd Wood here, and also John Sanford.

Sanford and I had an interesting discussion about this when he was in STL. He noted that “evolution, whether it is true or false, is a very powerful idea.” He is right. He acknowledges that the evidence against it is ambiguous, which is a surprising and important concession in YEC compared to the typical bellicosity.

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When I engage YECs in discussion (and not just here), I try to avoid using the term “pseudo-science”. I prefer a more friendly discussion.

Much of YEC does not attempt to look like science, so “pseudo-science” is not even close to applicable in that case. I’m more inclined to think of it as theology, perhaps bad theology, but it is not up to me to pass judgment on another person’s theology.

When a YEC argues something like flood geology, that does begin to look like pseudo-science. However, I still try to avoid that term, because using it would sour the discussion.

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From the best of YECs (e.g., Todd Wood, Kurt Wise, Paul Garner), what i hear is that the Bible becomes part of the data set for their understanding of “science.” What is the reasonable response to this?

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I think i can contribute here.
the purpose of organized creationism and so YEC, who I am, is to use science. thats our motive.
So we think we do because we try and its not hard. science is just being careful about conclusions and so caqreful about investigation.
Accusing creationism(s0 of pseudoscience is attacking our credibility.
Its worth only as far as the accusation is made on evidence.
Its just historic dismissing of a oppoenent. It will not wrk.
YEC and ID present themselves as based on science and we reach successfully enough people though wanting more.
Error in science is not false science but simply error.
Make your case Id/YEC is wrong. wE make our case.
Its being exclusive to deny RIGHT OUT THE GATE ID and YEC as fake science.
creationism is too famous, historic, and well founded .
Its not peaceful. I don’t care but many Christians would as being more sensitive.

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@Robert_Byers how do you define “science”?

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Yes, that seems correct. And from their perspective, I don’t see it as unreasonable.

Philosophers give a pretty good account of how to form beliefs based on evidence. But, as far as I can see, they do not have a satisfactory account of what should be accepted as data (evidence).

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I think this is really helpful as they are acknowledging that Scripture is part of how they come to their conclusions about the age of the earth. This fundamentally much more honest than any claim that it is the “evidence” in nature that so clearly demonstrates the earth is young. Moreover, this opens the door for some more useful conversations. So I would respond:

  1. Considering Scripture in questions about the physical world is legitimate. It makes sense for Christians to include Scripture as part of how we make sense of the world, whether or not this is accepted in mainstream science.

  2. With this on the table we can ask: If Scripture is evidence and they interpret it as the earth being young, what is the process and rules by which they can question and improve their interpretation of Scripture? Especially if there is an obvious error according to their own hermeneutical rules, how could they correct it? Would they correct it?

  3. If they found error in the YEC interpretation of Scripture, according to the rules laid out, would they face repercussions for going public about it? Would they still be willing to correct the error?

I’ve asked these questions to some leading YECs and recieved interesting answers, that I won’t repeat here. What I can say is that according to their own rules of interpretation they usually cannot justify their certainty in a young earth. I think it makes most sense to press on this rather than the science. A few examples:

  1. They often teach (literally!) that God made the earth “perfect” when he actually only made it “very good.”

  2. They often are fearful of repercussions from other YECs from breaking the line, rather than allowing Scripture to correct the YEC interpretation (and YEC organization often work hard to nurture this fear).

  3. They cannot produce good Scriptural evidence (beyond conjecture) against people outside the garden, even though a high proportion of YECs in the pew naturally gravitate to this idea using their own hermeneutic. Taking a literal hermeneutic, the confusion (and even contradiction) is very thick in how they handle Nephilim, and Numbers 13:33.

  4. They cannot produce a strong argument why A Telling in Six Ordinary Days is unacceptable, even if it is false in their mind. If it is consistent with Genesis, they should not be able to exclude it.

  5. They often argue that Genesis 1 teaches God created everything directly, when literally this i not what it says. Rather, it literally teaches that the “land and sea brought forth plants and animals” of (possibly) “many kinds,” with no reference to “reproducing according to their kind.”

  6. Faced with these, I tell them that I trust God’s word over mans word. I’m not subject to their fallible interpretation, and trust Scripture more. I ask them at what point and what way they allow Scripture to correct their fallible interpretation. Several times, in response, hey have said (privately) that if this is what TE was they might not have problem with it.

I could go on. The point is that even under their own hermeneutic (except when it begs the question), they cannot justify certainty in a 6,000 year old earth. Even granting that days are ordinary days, the cannot justify certainty here either.

Privately, some YECs have acknowledged at least some of this is true when they pressed, but publicly they will not say anything. Why? There is a great deal of fear here. That is why it is good to keep reminding them, including publicly, that we trust God’s word over their fallible interpretation. There is no need to challenge their hermeneutic to make this point. Right now, in places like AIG and ICR, there is no way to even discuss mistakes in their interpretation. The doctrinal statements carry more authority than Scripture, and that is where we should focus to see movement on their end.

A couple detours I avoid:

  1. Correcting their hermeneutic. That is beside the point, because their own hermeneutic fails.

  2. Arguing for the authority of science or man’s word. The issue is that YEC organizations are trying to pass off man’s word as God’s word. We subject to Scripture, not to them.

  3. Arguing against concordism or for an old earth, instead of against their unquestioned allegiance to a fallible interpretation.

  4. Convincing them to agree with me about the age of the earth or evolution.

In the end, our beliefs about the age of the earth are not ultimately that important. The cultic tendencies in many YEC communities however need to be called into account. Walls do come down as they recognize that their are legitimate positions other than their own.

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Thanks for joining.

I don’t think that the term pseudoscience is helpful, and I do think there are honest YECs.

I agree and I’m not doing that.

Here is one thread to engage in detail: The 10 Best Evidences for a Young Earth.

You ask us to make our case that YEC science is wrong. This thread shows exactly what you asked. More disturbingly, @jammycakes shows clear examples of dishonesty in AIG’s 10 best evidence. In your view, is God honored by falsehood? At what point are you willing to clean house? If your weights are unfair, why should we trust you?

At the very least, even if YEC is ultimately true, it would build trust to clean house and decry the bad arguments in your own camp. I was raised YEC, and it was discovering this that convinced me I could no longer trust YEC science. Now that I affirm evolutionary science, I continue to argue against bad arguments for evolution. Do the same, and you will build trust across the camps. Why not?

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@swamidass thx for the details here. It matches many of my convos with YECs, which I focus primarily on the “bsst.” Honestly, my relationship with the likes of Wood, Wise, and Garner (among others) alone makes me suspicious of the normal AiG and ICR folks (though I find Jeanson to be honest even if honestly naive). Despite my interactions, I remain dumbfounded by the confidence these top-of-the-line YECs have in their interpretation of Genesis, which I find to be naive. Though they’ve treated me personally with respect, I have not seen any sense of “what if” in their posture. It’s as if their level of confidence in biblical interpretation is so secure that no amount of reason and argumentation will assuage. Unfortunately, circumstances (quite related to my view on creation) has removed me from having these more normal, on-going relationships and discussions. Perhaps if we get the ETS 2019 session to go, we can pick this up again.

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We should, but want to emphasize that YEC is a populist movement that has honed its rhetoric. They usually win hands down on rhetoric. It is really important to meet them on that same ground, speaking their language, so they can understand us.

For that reason, emphasizing this is important:

Right now, most people who challenge them get up on side issues. The key stone here is asking them to live up to their own rhetoric, and (truthfully) demonstrating we are living out their values by asking how to correct their fallible interpretation with Scripture.

The rhetoric here, I find is very important. @deuteroKJ, have you found any other good rhetorical approaches?

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It is not naive in my view. It serves a purpose. It is functional in their context, and the only way they can move from it is if we provide an alternative of greater functional value. Do you see what I mean?

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I understand the need for qualification and reticence. but ETS is probably close to 50% YEC, so we should have some YEC representation on the panel. Don’t worry, we can find some good reps of the position so it doesn’t turn into “Gish galloping”!

My use of “naive” may be too cavalier. You’re right…they are more purposeful.

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Here is one we certainly should include: @pmcelliott. Did you see his comments on a Genealogical Adam?

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Another to include would be Hans Madume or @pnelson. I’m sure Geoff Fulkerson can recommend some too.

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Let’s talk privately both pre- and post ETS 2018. I think we could come up with a fantastic session & panel for 2019.

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This is definitely a big question to untangle in the public forums as well as the professional literature. Alvin Plantinga probably has the most distinguished voice, academically and popularly, as to how one can unlock the Scriptures as an evidence base or data set with which to engage the natural sciences (with special emphasis on the biological sciences). His argument is broad enough to work with TE/EC, ID, YEC, and Swamidass (since he insists on being distanced from all those other positions) :smile:

This part of my comments also follow what I said @deuteroKJ

What I always try to remind my YEC brethren about is that the very same methodology(ies) they use to show the problems with an old earth are actually the same methodologies they employ to verify (scientifically) the Scriptures they trust so faithfully. Strong YEC proponents love to bring forward problems with any individual test of age, e.g., radio carbon dating, but never take them as calibrated against all the other age tests employed, e.g., tree rings, ice cores, star light, etc… The problem is that YEC proponents are all the more willing to employ the very same data when something in Biblical archeology unearths something pertinent to the Biblical narrative as understood by YEC proponents – What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander! Or at least a deserves a more careful conversation…

This is important in that it appears to me at least that PeacefulScience.org is attempting this in a fashion that is more hospitable to overall inconsistencies. We can heatedly, yet peacefully, disagree about that which fundamentally separates us all politically, denominationaly, scientifically, culturally, whatever…

In that sense, this forum is NOT attempting to approach the internet landscape as that of Jesus and the temple in that none of us think we have the character/qualities of Jesus to actually clean the temple. We come to understand and argue so that we can be better ambassadors to our own contingencies about the “others” that actually exist “out there” – even that rascally @Patrick :laughing:

I have no idea what this means!

Okay, I take back a little about what I mentioned before about not taking the Jesus account of cleaning house. This blog is an open historical record of what all are talking about. IF this panel comes to be, it should be noted that at least @swamidass and @deuteroKJ have made perfectly clear the “tactic” they are going to employ. The strategy is not something “done in a corner,” but open to all to see. What I’m suggesting is something akin to the OT prophets being fulfilled in Jesus. Josh and Ken have declared their overall motives and strategies to conversing about this issue, COULD other websites and conversations follow suite?

@pmcelliott From a slightly biased perspective, ummmm… YES!

Playing on the putting it in the open in order to test the “prophets,” did you guys know that the EPS (Evangelical Philosophical Society) meets the week before in the same venue as the ETS. This, I have been told, is so that those who have any crossover can make both sessions. It seems that this topic of the Genealogical Adam and perhaps the tension between the different factions (RTB, AiG, BioLogos, etc) might make for an interesting session at the EPS as well… I’m throwing this out there for @deuteroKJ and @swamidass but also for any others out there reading – it might be worth setting something up at the Evangelical Philosophers conference to discuss. I am NOT currently a member, but have been planning to join for the last 5+ years! I can investigate the procedure, but would like to open it up to a larger community first.

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For me, that makes their approach rational but it doesn’t make it science. A distinguishing feature of modern science is that the ultimate arbiter in the scientific endeavor is empirical data about the physical world. Accepting data from the Bible is not consistent with that approach, especially since the biblical data trumps all other in practice.

Now, that doesn’t make YEC necessarily pseudoscience. As has been pointed out, most YECs don’t really interact with science or outright reject it. I do think ‘pseudoscience’ is a reasonable description when YECs go through the motions of science in order to reach a pre-determined conclusion that has nothing to do with empirical evidence. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything to be gained by using the term in debate or discussion: few of us want to hear unvarnished assessments of ourselves from anyone.

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But some are purposefully dishonest. And when they are being dishonest, they are spreading pseudoscience.
Science is evidence based, so when they discard or purposely manipulate the data to make your claims, isn’t that false science? A responsibility of science (and scientists and science reporting institutions) is to be self-correcting. When new data or new findings challenge, supersede, or falsify previous findings (or unsupported claims), it is the responsibility of those scientists to speak up.

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