One Journey From YEC


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

I’d love to hear the story of how you changed you mind.

The Ministerial Vs. Magisterial Uses Of Reason (And Evolution)
(S. Joshua Swamidass) #2

A post was merged into an existing topic: The Ministerial Vs. Magisterial Uses Of Reason (And Evolution)

(Retired Professor & Minister.) #3

It is a long story. What got me questioning my Young Earth Creationism was when I began tracking down the sources cited in Morris’ & Whitcomb’s books and lectures. Often I found the authors to be very poorly informed in science and in the sources they cited. Indeed, I eventually realized that they were virtually impervious to the evidence—and I didn’t want to be. The more I dug into the evidence, the more I was appalled at their handling of both the science and the scriptures. Worse yet, I found uses of ellipsis which were downright misleading. As I applied similar skepticism to the writings of Duane Gish, I was even more appalled.

I sometimes saw audience members point out factual errors to which YEC speakers would eventually concede and then promise to correct in the next edition of their books. Yet, a month later I would hear the same YEC speaker repeat the very same erroneous claim. And when a new edition of a book would be published, the old errors remained. (In private I had my own confrontations with some of these “creation science” authorities. I found them quick to label disagreement as heresy and “proof of liberal theology.”)

What does a YEC think?
The Ministerial Vs. Magisterial Uses Of Reason (And Evolution)
(S. Joshua Swamidass) #4

It is important to qualify and specify claims like this. Sometimes it feels like we are being kind when we leave out names. However this implicates all YECs, rather than specific actors. It also is unverifiable for those that want to get the facts straight. If these were public figures, it is fair game to name them with specific details.

Can you give us some more details, hopefully with references?

(Retired Professor & Minister.) #5

In an ideal world, I would agree. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that being specific can be very costly in terms of legal bills, even though I could (and did) document my specific claims. I’m retired now and no longer have adequate legal resources available to me like I once did. (Of course, even before my retirement, I got to where I couldn’t justify wasting ministry resources on battles I didn’t consider worth fighting to that degree.)

However, in this case I frankly assumed the documentation of such events (witnessed and published by so many of us) to be so ubiquitous that they would hardly require my own additional substantiation. For example, Google “bombardier beetle” and Duane Gish and you will find many published accounts of what I witnessed.

In my case, my informal and semi-vague recollections here came with memories of incidents involving Henry Morris and Duane Gish, among others, and both men are now deceased. I don’t enjoy drawing more negative attention on my former Young Earth Creationist heroes and associates. They’ve already had plenty. (It can feel like I’m “piling on” as the saying goes.)

I also had one-on-one “backstage” conflicts with some of my YEC associates in those days arising from events I’m thinking about here. Perhaps someday I will publish them but I’ve not yet thought through all of the implications of being so specific and this sort of impromptu forum is not the best venue for that, even if I someday do get to that point.

Anyway, is just one of many websites which catalogues examples of YEC misrepresentations, contradictions, and what I with great sorrow would have to call “duplicities”. As a “creation science” speaker I was certainly guilty of helping to promote regrettable errors of science and exegesis. I hope I wasn’t guilty of conscious misrepresentations and duplicity. In any case, I prefer to correct the wrong ideas and not further sully the memory of those I once considered my comrades, allies, colleagues, and even friends by being overly specific. It is a difficult and sensitive personal issue for me because I do consider myself personally culpable for helping to bring about at least some of the damage which various aspects of “creation science” has done in creating unnecessary obstacles to the Great Commission and the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. (I especially regret my influence in that regard on many young Christians and pastors who are steadfastly Young Earth Creationist to this day and have no idea that I now totally retract much of what I taught them. If I’m overly specific about the errors of my associates, it can sound like I’m minimizing my own culpability in teaching so adamantly on topics for which I at that time—much like my colleagues—was so poorly trained and informed.)

(Retired Professor & Minister.) #6

Perhaps in the minds of some—but only if they assume that examples (or even all too frequent commonalities and habits) mean that 100% of some group must thereby be 100% guilty of such things 100% of the time. In my case I can certainly confess that I was far too often guilty of many of the same errors as my most famous heroes and associates. Unfortunately, various human foibles were far too common among many of us within the creation science community. Sometimes generalizations can be uncomfortably accurate. I can look back now in total candor and I can admit to that.

No doubt many will object to my conclusions. Yet, I can only share from my personal experience and perspective. I was there. And I was often wrong. I can’t change that now.

(Retired Professor & Minister.) #7

I could easily write a book on the topic of why I am still most definitely a Biblical creationist but not a Young Earth Creationist. (Indeed, I’m old enough to remember when a “creationist” was simply one who believed that God created everything. Now it has become a synonym for a certain kind of Young Earth Creationist in the minds of many people.)

For now I will just say that I eventually abandoned my Young Earth Creationist activism because:

(1) the more I investigated the footnotes in “creation science” publications, the more I was troubled at the cherry-picking, quote-mining, deceptive use of ellipsis, and misrepresentations of the evidence; and

(2) Young Earth Creationist arguments denying massive piles of contrary evidence seemed more and more desperate and ridiculous. Many of those arguments pretended that (a) some relatively obscure, single claim (e.g., the Polonium & C-14 in diamonds argument) outweighed countless other types of contrary evidence which were very well understood, and (b) their arguments often quoted just one YEC-affirming “authority” as if that single soundbite was enough to outweigh and debunk the entire science academy, even when that one YEC-friendly authority had no significant training or expertise in the relevant academic field. (Instead, the argument was too often a cringeworthy playground tactic of “Are you smarter than Dr. X who published/invented/discovered Y? He understands that billions of years/evolution/abiogenesis/radiometrics is bogus. Why don’t you?” Indeed, as the Internet took off, these kinds of silly arguments became not only ubiquitous in common discourse, they were repeated proudly by far too many YEC leaders who should have known better.)

When I was beginning to dissociate myself from the YEC and “creation science” world of the 1960’s/70’s/80’s, I felt like Morris, Whitcomb, and Gish were working overtime in blind denial trying to plug holes in a dyke which was becoming more and more like a porous sieve. The holes were just plain overwhelming in size and number. They couldn’t keep up other than by denying virtually every scientific discovery, every item of evidence, and the scientific method itself. Does it really seem likely that nearly every geologist, biologist, physicist, paleontologist, geneticist, genomics scientist, et al is wrong about everything that distresses some Christians?

What amazed me even more was that after the rise of the Internet-based YEC mega-ministries led by a new generation of entrepreneurs (e.g., Ken Ham), most of those same atrocious pseudo-science arguments made famous by THE GENESIS FLOOD (1962, Henry Morris & John Whitcomb Jr.) still got amplified and promoted years later like they were on steroids. Yes, most of their arguments were outrageously uninformed and illogical in 1962, but more than a half century has past and the contrary evidence is even more overwhelming. The bad arguments get recycled because, at its foundations, that kind of “creation science” simply doesn’t care about the scientific evidence. They consider the scientific evidence a threat to their favorite interpretations of Genesis and so they insist, incredibly enough, “Everybody is dealing with the same evidence. What differs is the presuppositions which bias the interpretations.” Just as there are people who say, “Everybody has their own interpretations of the Bible so you can make it say anything you want.”, they are trying to apply the same ridiculously subjective mindset to all of science.

One of my biggest problems with my former Young Earth Creationist position is that it risked a very low view of God. Dismissing massive piles of evidence implies that God is a deceiver who filled his creation with evidence for a long history which never actually existed. Why would God try to fool us into thinking that vast geologic ages existed if they didn’t? Why did God create a biological world absolutely permeated with evidence of evolutionary processes active over many many millions of years if the earth is actually just a few thousand years? I refuse to believe that that is the God I know from the Bible and from the witness of the Holy Spirit. (At least some of the YEC ministers I knew in the 1960 openly admitted that the scientific evidence was against them. I remember an IFCA preacher who openly declared that “God put dinosaur bones in the ground to confuse atheist scientists and to test the faith of His people.” At least there is a bizarre logic and honesty to that position.)

I do not blame the many outstanding Christ-followers who happen to be Young Earth Creationists for the errors, excesses, and antics of the most notorious mega-ministry entrepreneurs. (I consider them sincere but misled victims of well-moneyed, master manipulators.) I do wish that YEC writers like Dr. Todd Wood were not so severely marginalized in the YEC community. I find his honesty refreshing and if all “creation science” ministries followed his example, I think the dialogue would be far more polite, professional, and upbuilding. Sadly, he appears to be an anomaly, a voice with very limited impact.

Examining "Signature in the Cell"
(Mark M Moore) #8

Which they cannot separate from the concept of biblical authority itself. Ironically, I have discovered that many YEC do not want to be drawn into a discussion about what the text of scripture actually says. They prefer to talk about the scientific evidence. But their real concern is what it means for either a) the authority of the word if its not all about them or b) the idea that they don’t really understand everything important that there is to know about the word if it is about them.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #9

I’ve noticed that too. It is very counter intuitive and telling, to the point I insist on talking about Scripture with them.

(system) #10

(Jacob) #11

I think I have said it before, but YEC is a way some people deal with the issue of the authority of the Bible. Particularly in churches where the Bible is seen as the only authority and from there it tends to follow that a literalistic reading is the only safe way to go. A danger is that your faith is based on the authority of the Bible as you understand it. People into YEC do have I think a legitimate concern about what would happen if they abandoned such a strict literalism. I am not sure if they would reassess how they would approach the problem of authority.

(John Mercer) #12

But they don’t practice a strict literalism. They practice an extremely selective literalism.

(Joel Duff) #13

I wrote a satire piece to emphasize this “selective literalism.” YECs don’t take Joseph’s worldwide famine seriously and they should if they want to be consistent with their literalistic hermaneutic.

(Dan Eastwood) #14

I’m pretty sure that YEC missed the consistency bus a long time ago.

(Retired Professor & Minister.) #15

Yes indeed. Perhaps I already covered this point (months ago when this thread was first initiated based on my “life story”) but I’ll risk redundancy: I got very frustrated when John Whitcomb Jr. (The Genesis Flood co-author with Henry Morris) would try to deny the inconsistencies in his hyper-literal hermeneutics when I cited the following to him:

Acts 2:5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.

I asked Dr. Whitcomb if the Jews from every nation under heaven who listened to Peter’s sermon on Pentecost had indeed journeyed there from the nations in distant lands which we would call Japan, Argentina, Hawaii, Mozambique, Mexico, and the Congo regions. (I also asked if a literal reading of this verse also implied that by the first century Jewish people had managed to migrate to every nation under heaven, including the aforementioned.)

Whitcomb said that we could know the extent of the every nation under heaven in Acts 2 becuse verses 9 and 10 actually lists nations and people groups who were present for the Pentecost event.

Of course, my line of questioning was leading up to whether Noah’s Flood must be understood as global, the entire planet earth, because every creature and human under heaven was destroyed in the flood.

I asked Whitcomb similarly about the world-wide famine which brought starving people to Egypt to buy grain:

Genesis 41:57 And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.

John insisted that the context of Genesis 41 established that all the world was just the lands within a reasonable distance of Egypt and was obviously referring to the “world” the Egyptians knew. He said that the Noahic Flood pericope (Genesis 6-9) was filled with references to “universality”—and that my “attempt” to apply “irrelevant” minor details of Acts 2 and Genesis 41 was nothing but a “gotcha” attempt. He also said that we have to use “common sense” in following the “natural, obvious sense of the text.”

My attempt to follow up with requests that he define in more detail how we could know when to read a text very literally and not so literally got me nowhere. He basically refused to acknowledge there was an issue of inconsistency.

Of course, I agree with him that overall context is important and that we can’t go overboard in interpreting typical turns-of-phrase, idioms, and other common linguistic structures. We did not agree on what constitutes a “plain and simple, natural reading” of the Biblical text. Clearly, we drew “literal interpretation” boundaries very differently.

[POSTSCRIPT: I realize that many forum participants will find the above obvious and perhaps filled with redundant information. But in hopes of helping Peaceful Science appeal to the broadest possible range of visitors, I try to err on the side of careful explanation and even repeating the important themes. My posts are often longer than average and very didactic—but I’m hoping that this will maximize the number of keywords which are likely to end up in Google search results and thereby attract visitors to this forum. I believe that many inquirers who are new to these topics need reminders of the basic facts of the scripture topics. That said, thank you for your patience with my redundancies. I admit that some of my repetitions are due to my memory issues, which are part of a general decline of mental faculties with aging.]

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #16

@pnelson do you think Noah’s flood was global? Do you think Joseph’s famine was global?

What about you @J.E.S?

(John Harshman) #17

But in the case of Noah’s flood, it must apply to the whole world, because it’s an attempt to wipe out all human life, which we know was worldwide. Besides, why have all the animals come to Noah unless there was no other pool of animals to repopulate the area? Why not just tell Noah to move to someplace outside the flood zone (as Lot was instructed to leave Sodom) rather than build an ark? Only a worldwide flood makes sense. (I mean sense of the text only, of course; a worldwide flood makes no empirical sense.)

(Dan Eastwood) #18

That sentence is pure gold. I want to get it printed on a T-shirt!

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #19

What does Genesis 41 say that gets you there?

(Dan Eastwood) #20

It’s what Whitcomb says. YECs are usually adamant that the Genesis Flood covered the entire world. Here is Whitcomb himself saying “… lands within a reasonable distance of Egypt …”. as “… the ‘world’ the Egyptians knew.”