YEC: Denying Facts or Differing Interpretations of Data?

If anyone has any other facts that you believe/know/think YEC deny, please list them. The Gould quote is an interesting one to discuss.

Why don’t you provide your accepted definition of fact because it seems to be quite different from the standard definition everyone else uses.


Another quote worth mentioning, this time from the Christian scientist Dr. Francis Collins:




something that actually exists; reality; truth:Your fears have no basis in fact.

something known to exist or to have happened:Space travel is now a fact.

a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true:Scientists gather facts about plant growth.

something said to be true or supposed to have happened:The facts given by the witness are highly questionable.

Law.Often facts. an actual or alleged event or circumstance, as distinguished from its legal effect or consequence.Compare question of fact, question of law.

Which one of those definitions do you say applies in this case? I vote for #3

“a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true:Scientists gather facts about plant growth.”

How about you?


Here’s more from S.J.Gould on the topic:

In the American vernacular, “theory” often means “imperfect fact”—part of a hierarchy of confidence running downhill from fact to theory to hypothesis to guess. Thus creationists can (and do) argue: evolution is “only” a theory, and intense debate now rages about many aspects of the theory. If evolution is less than a fact, and scientists can’t even make up their minds about the theory, then what confidence can we have in it? Indeed, President Reagan echoed this argument before an evangelical group in Dallas when he said (in what I devoutly hope was campaign rhetoric): “Well, it is a theory. It is a scientific theory only, and it has in recent years been challenged in the world of science—that is, not believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it once was.”

Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered.

Moreover, “fact” does not mean “absolute certainty.” The final proofs of logic and mathematics flow deductively from stated premises and achieve certainty only because they are not about the empirical world. Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us for a style of argument that they themselves favor). In science, “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.” I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

Evolution as Fact and Theory


Sanford denies that virologists plaque purify viruses and work with clonal isolates.

Sanford claims that influenza H1N1 is extinct.

Sanford misrepresents reassortments of influenza genome segments as mutations.

How’s that?


Facts are the product of interpreting observations. There is really no way around it. For example, I measure the mass of a rock as being 10 kg, but how did I establish that fact? It is actually an interpretation of a changing resistance within the circuitry of the digital balance I used. I can publish a DNA sequence derived from Sanger sequencing which is considered the gold standard for sequence accuracy. But is that a fact, or an interpretation? Well, it is actually an interpretation of peaks produced by fluorescence based chromatography after performing PCR with fluorescently tagged DNA terminators. It looks like this:


Even that graph is an interpretation of the incoming signals in a filter based fluorescence detector.

So what is the actual fact and what are the interpretations when it comes to DNA sequence?


Yes, I’d agree that’s probably the best definition to apply in this case, although I think #1 and #2 also work.

There comes a point where “different interpretations of data” are so divorced from the data and any recognition of reality that they might as well be called denying facts. And I would go with Gould’s definition of “fact”: “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.” And as @T_aquaticus says, all facts are interpretations. There’s a whole lot of interpretation between raw data and even so obvious a fact as a DNA sequence. You have to believe a lot of things you can’t actually see are true just to believe that cycle sequencing or PCR works.


The fact that you can’t make human population numbers fit the YEC timeline.


For starters:

  1. The consensus position of church tradition is not YEC.
  2. Gen 1-11 is not straightforward historical narrative.
  3. Many people come to non-literalistic readings without regard for (let alone subservience to) for science.

I know this thread is about science, but thought I’d chime in from the biblical-theological angle.


Well I was thinking more about scientific facts, but church history would fit a facts category.

I’m always puzzled when people bring this up or state it this way. YEC wasn’t a label until very recently in history. It seems anachronistic for people to make this claim, so then I wonder if they have good evidence. Could you characterize that in another way and remove the anachronism so I understand better how you view church tradition relating to a historical Adam, chronologies, a literal or global flood, etc?

I agree that these are facts.

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The main problem is that YEC includes the C of Creationism. And that includes a whole lot of recent hypotheses never envisioned in the premodern church. (And YEC itself has evolved over the past 50 years; see here). Also the main exegetical and hermeneutical strategy of YECs (i.e., grammatical-historical alone) is simply not what the majority of church tradition has employed or considered most important.

As far as your specific questions, the majority in church history would affirm what YECs affirm, but not with the same rigor or importance (in other words, they weren’t pressed to consider things from either an ancient Near Eastern perspective nor modern scientific findings). They assumed an historical Adam, though even Augustine allowed some wiggle room here (I get this from listening to a lecture by Gavin Ortlund at ETS in 2018). Their focus on the genealogies (they followed the Septuagint/Vulgate, which varies from the Hebrew texts) had more to do with chiliastic eschatology than some concern for history. And most presumed a universal flood (the concept of a globe was still up for debate for several centuries).

So, I think it’s best to ask what the church fathers believed about a specific question, and then to ask why. Was it more of an assumption or a conclusion after working through several competing options? Also, did they have the requisite Hebrew and ANE knowledge to wrestle with issues that often consume modern scholars (due to modern knowledge of Hebrew and the ANE milieu)?


I agree. I also agree with this:

But I think all sides of this issue should recognize that the some in the church don’t emphasize certain exegetical or hermeneutical strategies until there is a debate or disagreement on any particular doctrine or issue. Just because those strategies are used today for the issues at hand doesn’t mean they are wrong, just that if they weren’t used in the past, no one found them necessary. The historicity of the beginning of Genesis and what the chronologies have to do with it IS one of the main issues we get to wrestle with. I’m not sure whether to be glad or not it’s not circumcision, the Trinity or the natures of Christ, or anything else that’s been debated in church history. But undoubtedly there will always be issues prominent in certain periods of history, which in other times are not controversial.

Thanks. That was interesting. I could not emphasize the last paragraph more…

So I teach my students that creation is an unchanging and unchangeable doctrine while creationism, by its very nature, must constantly change and be amended. The doctrine of creation is derived from Scripture, and is as old as the biblical witness itself. Creationism is
relatively new, because it arose alongside the scientific revolution in the seventeenth century. As science developed, so did creationism, especially after Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859. I remind my students that they must keep the distinction between creation and creationism in mind as we explore the important issues at hand. We must know what to hold firmly and what must be open to revision. Our commitment to doctrine must be strong, but we should hold to any particular apologetic approach much more loosely.

But who determines what and when it is perverse? And “provisional” doesn’t fit well with the definitions of “fact” above at all.

What do you think?

Those could all be claims of truth or reality, yep. I haven’t seen the 1st or 3rd discussed.

Can’t it be BOTH denying facts and a different interpretation? As in an interpretation that does not take into account all the data, and in that sense is denying salient facts?


Yes, that is possible.

Which data do you think are not taken into account, so that salient facts are denied? Or which ones especially depending on how long your list is. :slightly_smiling_face: I am actually very curious of your view on this.

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That’s science for you. Nothing is 100% settled, but we can go with 99.9999%. Isn’t that good enough for you? If you’re confused about whether something is perverse, I could help with it.

Have you forgotten all that stuff about the age of the earth and life? And the universe, for that matter. In order to believe Jeanson, you have to ignore not only most of biology but much of physics, geology, and astronomy.

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I feel as if you’re using hyperbole to avoid engaging more critically with my response.

Um…creation science isn’t about one person. So are you concerned about the Y-chromosome data or is it just because I said the Y-chromosome could overturn the current theory?

Regarding astronomy, I was curious whether we have surveyed enough stars far away that scientists have made a prediction about how soon some will slip from our view as the expansion of the universe accelerates. It seems that should be simple; I hear YouTubers refer to that phenomenon happening all the time, but I wonder if it is observable yet or when it will be. That should be a simple test of the age of the universe.

Regarding geology, I’m just learning, but it’s interesting to hear a few critiques - rocks aren’t closed systems; Price mentioned chaos theory. But it piqued my interest when Erika / Gutsick Gibbons posted on her youtube channel critiquing creationists. She wrote that Mt. St. Helens dating doesn’t work/dates old because it’s too young for there to have been enough parent material built up (please don’t criticize my kindergarten explanation :sweat_smile:) but I thought, gosh, well what if all if it doesn’t work for the same reason? I don’t actually know the answer to that, it was just a question in my mind. Anyway, there are always assumptions in science. I’m just interested in learning what all the assumptions are.

The more I learn about biology, the more I think it leans toward creationist arguments. Their arguments on evolution seem common sense to me and I don’t even understand them fully yet. :sweat_smile: Now I’m a little concerned everyone will pile on me saying that.

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