One third of Americans say they believe in a six-thousand-year-old earth. They say they believe this because they are Christians and their Bible tells them to. But while the Bible says nothing about the age of the earth, a group of conservative Christians (Young Earth Creationists or YECs) are promoting the idea that to be a good Christian, or a Christian at all you must believe in a six-thousand-year-old earth without option. I’m not here to argue with them, but to stake out an option for Christians who want to accept the reality that there is no evidence of a young earth and overwhelming evidence of a very old earth.
I wanted to find someone who is better equipped than me presenting the evidence for an old earth but couldn’t find them; they had better things to do, so I assume. I then, started this series and said I wanted to be exhaustive in my presentation of evidence of an old earth. But the material is enormous and, by the time I’m done, I will only have presented a taste.
There are two key areas I want to address before ending this. The first one (today’s article) is intended to address the somewhat metaphysical concept that Ken Ham and other YECs have proposed and that is a difference between “Observational Science” and “Historical Science.” It is a red herring, and I will try to prove that.
Historical and Observational Science
Ken Ham, a YEC leader, describes this bifurcation in science as if it is an accepted concept by mainstream scientists. It is not. It is a concept he and other YECs have made up. While sounding smart and convincing, it makes no sense. Science is the collection of knowledge. That is how it is defined. The real technique for finding knowledge is divided into experimental science and observational science. The observational science is sometimes split into descriptive investigation and comparative investigations. But nowhere do real scientists divide their field into “Observational” and “Historical” as Ken Ham suggest, because that is nonsensical. I hope to show that in the following paragraphs.
The YECs divide science into observational and historical types for one simple reason, it creates a tremendous bias in their favor. It is like a great table tennis player who was born without arms challenging a normal payer. The person missing arms makes a rule that they both must abide by, that is they cannot use their hands during the game. This what the YECs are doing here.
The YECs define observational science as science that you, yourself can observe happening. They define historical science as events observed by someone else and if that other person is no longer alive, has written down their observation. That person is limited to witnessing the entire process of that event. So, using logical-sounding ideas, they are using a slight of hand, a trick, to eliminate the basis of most knowledge. So, what is left with in the area of the age of the earth, is what you observe and what God observed (no people were present who could record what happened) and has written down, thus the Bible. Nothing else is allowed in the discussion, severely handicapping legitimate science by an illegitimate concept.
It is important that we first define “Historical.” Historical leads to time, which leads to a metaphysical discussion to do it justice.
At first glance, most people listening to Ken Ham would assume that “historical” refers to things that happened a long time ago. But that is not fair because historical is anything in the past. Since the “present” is an abstract concept, an infinitely thin slice of the linear flow of time, everything in front of the present is the future, and everything after it is the past or historical. Even one millisecond after the present is the historical.
I must digress for a minute into a sidebar with a deeper, philosophical consideration of time. Please bear with me.
There are two primary views of time, one is real and linear, and the other is time is an illusion or myth. The monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam hold to the philosophical idea that time is real and linear, as does most of science. I only say “most” because on the cutting edge of some areas of physics and astrophysics, such in quantum physics or in the search for the unifying theory of everything, there are notions floated of a universe, while real, where time is just an illusion. But that is a very small part of science. The rest, linear and real.
Now the philosophical has been stated, let’s look closer to the practical applications of Ken Ham’s doctrine of evaluating evidence.
The Ham Doctrine, Practically Realized
I woke up this morning and felt the bed beside me. My wife, Denise, was gone. I was surprised until I remember that she said the previous night that she had to leave early for work. However, I did not witness her leaving, nor did she leave a note describing her leaving. Therefore, according to the Ken Ham claim, I have no idea why she is gone. She could have gone to work, but equally possible, she could have been abducted by criminals … or aliens. Maybe she is still there, but invisible. Since I can’t relay on any other evidence but by an eyewitness or note, that’s all I have.
Then I step out of bed. Our house, built in 1935, has a 4-inch fir wood floor in the bedroom. But I was not there in 1935 when the floor was installed, nor did any of the workmen leave a note testifying to witnessing the floor being installed in 1935, according to Ken Ham, I have no evidence that the floor is even there. While, as an amateur woodworker I can identify fir and other types of wood, since I was not there when it was installed, I can’t trust the evidence of the grains, the color of the fibers, the feel of the hardness and say it is fir. I have nothing according to Ken Ham. It could be oak, maple, tile, or even hot lava from our nearby volcano. Maybe it is not there at all and if I go to stand on it, I fall ten feet to the ground, or get burned up in the lava. No, I can’t put my hand down and feel for heat because that would be relying on evidence rather than me being an eyewitness of its installation.
CSI Gone Amuck
If we cannot use evidence gathering in crime investigation, and are totally reliant on eyewitness at the time of the crime or a guilty plea, half of all hardened criminals will go free. What may be worse, it is found that half of all convictions, based on eyewitnesses alone, are proven to be false. For various reasons, humans do not remember events accurately when they witness a crime. Experimental science has confirmed this with mock crimes and witness testimonies.
So, Betty is found stabbed to death in her bedroom. There were no eyewitnesses and no self confessions. Case closed. However, if we didn’t use the Ken Ham approach and brought in the CSI team and investigators, we would soon learn that Betty had broken up with her abusive boyfriend, Hank, two months previous. He had threatened to kill her. He bought a ticket to Mexico City, leaving the morning after the crime. His fingerprints where all over her bedroom, and this was a new apartment since their breakup. Supposedly, he had never been there. His DNA was found in the skin under Betty’s fingernails. The hunting knife used in the crime was found in Betty’s trash can and traced back to an image of Hank purchasing the same type of knife at a CCTV camera at the local Cabela’s two days previously.
To an investigator, this crime was so messy, it was a slam dunk, but it relied on a thoughtful and scientific investigation of the evidence. The same is true when we observe evidences in nature. To say we are limited only to eye witness testimonies, knowledge would be severely hamstrung and give favor to those, such as YECs, who have no evidence.
Some of you will think these illustrations are silly, I will move to something a little more in line with Ham’s use of the concept.
In the area of inconsistencies, Ham’s group, along with other YECs, say that the Grand Canyon was created in weeks by Noah’s worldwide flood. They claim the rocks bear testimony to that, because the layers, when tilted, do not crack, (I try to remember to address this next time, but here is a link for more discussion) because it was young, soft mud, not rocks when additional layers were formed. This notion was also addressed by a link to the James Applewhite’s rebuttal of “The Six Proofs of a Young Earth” which I linked on my “Age of the Earth, Part IV” post.
But wait a damn minute! No one described the forming of the Grand Canyon in the Bible, as an eyewitness who wrote down that account. No one living today was an eyewitness. So, according to the Ham doctrine, this evidence (even though wanting) can’t be used. The YECs claim that non-eyewitness can’t be used, yet they routinely draw from such evidence. They need to make up their friggin minds.
I want to give one more illustration before I close.
The Pyramid of Khufu in Egypt is considered the largest pyramid in the world by height. Standing at 481 feet, it was the tallest structure on earth for more than four thousand years. Yet, as magnificent as this structure is, there is not one word written by an eyewitness on how or when this pyramid was built. Don’t get me wrong, we know a great deal about the pyramid, including the year it was built, 2600 BC, give or take 27 years. We know how it was built, how many were involved building it, and who it was built for, who built it (likely, Hemiunu). But we have no eyewitness accounts, only evidence within the pyramid itself, by reverse engineering the structure and examining the raw materials, and some extraneous historical evidence both recorded by the Egyptians (but not eyewitnesses) and extra-Egyptian sources.
We know where the rock blocks used to build the blocks came from because they were traced back to their quarry site, by their unique mineral fingerprints. Most of the limestone came from quarry in the Giza Plateau, other limestone from Tura, and the other layer—a granite—from Aswan.
With all of that said, and it only scratches the surface of the structure (btw, I was privileged to visit that pyramid many times when I lived in Egypt, including the opportunity to climb up inside to the King’s Chamber), there is much more we know with great confidence about it.
Now, following the Ham “Observational Vs Historical science” doctrine, we would know almost nothing about the pyramid. We can’t even say how big it is, because measuring it would be evidence that wouldn’t count, unless the eyewitness (of which we have none) measured it. Not only couldn’t we identify the specific place the stones came from, but we couldn’t identify the type, not unless a witness had seen it taken from the ground. We couldn’t even say the pyramid was built of stone, because that means we would have to look at the evidence as a non-witness of its building. Could it be cultured, concrete-looking stone? Maybe it is plastic? We cannot say if confidence. Maybe it was built by the Italians, the Aztecs, the Eskimos, or perhaps, Aliens (yes, I know there is a small group who make this latter claim and have about as much evidence as the YECs).
I could go on, but I will rest my case here. I will be back with one more article about how rocks and other materials are dated. The YECs are not being honest with their followers about this. I stated before that while religious groups should be the most honest people in our society because they have an absolute mandate for honesty that the secular people don’t have, for example, while the Bible says nothing about the age of the earth, it has almost five hundred references to truth, honesty, not giving a false witness, and the harm of lies. However, religious people, when they follow religious dogmas rather than the evidence, take liberties because they see themselves as fighting for God. As I said before, in those cases, they feel the ends justifies the means.
I remember when I was involved with a parachurch organization and we were sent out to recruit naive students to watch an evangelicalistic Billy Graham movie, we were told to present it as a “free great movie with great actors,” not mentioning that we were doing this to try and convert them to Christianity (alternative motive), and certainly don’t mention it was a Billy Graham movie. I brought up the fact that I didn’t feel comfortable doing this because it felt dishonest (and some of those non-christian people sitting in the commons were my friends), to which the leader replied, “We are doing God’s work here. Lie to them!”
Thanks for reading. I type fast with a “chemo-brain” and don’t be surprised if typos are present. Mike
3 responses to “The Evidence of an Old Earth, Part IV”
“However, I did not witness her leaving, nor did she leave a note describing her leaving. Therefore, according to the Ken Ham claim, I have no idea why she is gone. She could have gone to work, but equally possible, she could have been abducted by criminals … or aliens.”
Or… (whisper) The Rapture?
(Sorry, JMJ, just couldn’t pass up such a perfect straight line.)
Have you ever heard of “Zetetic Astronomy”?
It was a Victorian era movement to Defend The Word Of GOD Against “Science” Falsely So-Called. It also was into “observational science” and ONLY “observational science” – I think the word “Zetetic” was some Greek word for Observational.
The Satanic “Science Falsely So-Called” that they were attacking?
The Earth was Round (Spherical), not Flat as Stated in The Word of God.
The descendants of the Zetetics are still around today – The Flat Earth Society.
Ah, yes, the Great Pyramid.
You know who REALLY built it? (NOT Ancient Aliens…)
According to Secrets of the Great Pyramid (a classic of Victorian Fringe Literature), GOD Built It, and encrypted in its dimensions a year-by-year Prophetic timeline of History Written in Advance – but only when measured in a special “Pyramid Inch”. Kind of like The Bible Code except with the measurements of the Great Gallery and King’s Chamber.
This book ended up the new Scripture for Victorian End Times/Mark of the Beast types, and birthed a “Secrets of the Great Pyramid” movement.
I actually had a Victorian Secrets of the Great Pyramid in my hands, in a long-ago used bookstore crawl. (To this day I kick myself for letting it get away.) The entire last chapter was a rant against The SATANIC Metric System, invented by French Illuminati as an act of Rebellion against their GOD-Ordained Ancient Regime Monarchy. The only thing I can compare that last-chapter flipout to was The Unabomber Manifesto, which kind of makes sense until the last chapter flips completely into Crazy Land.
BAIT AND SWITCH.
I remember that from Campus Crusade in the Seventies, but not quite that blatant.
Isn’t the Arabic word for that “Takkiyah”, especially the definition of “Takkiyah” used by Jihadis.? Not a theological/ethical exploration of “are there circumstances where it is permissible to not tell the truth?”, but the fanatic’s “anything is permitted if it advances Our Holy Cause. ANYTHING and EVERYTHING”.